Ukraine and Russia will attend face-to-face talk in Turkey this week as the Ukrainian foreign minister expresses optimism that the first meeting will lead to ceasefire agreement and end of military campaign.
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"The minimum program will be humanitarian questions, and the maximum program is reaching an agreement on a ceasefire," Dmytro Kuleba said on national television when asked about the scope of the latest round of peace negotiations that are due to take place in Turkey on Tuesday.
Kuleba’s comments were accompanied by TV footage showing a Ukrainian delegation that arrived in Istanbul for the negotiations with the Russian side.
Pointing to Tuesday’s peace talks, a senior US State Department official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Putin does not appear ready to make compromises to end the war.
Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said that he doubted "there will be any breakthrough on the main issues."
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said talks so far had not yielded any substantial breakthroughs but it was important that they continued in person. Peskov declined to give more information, saying that to do so could interfere with the process.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was preparing to restrict entry into Russia for nationals of "unfriendly" countries, which include Britain, all European Union states and the United States.
"A draft presidential decree is being developed on retaliatory visa measures in response to the unfriendly actions of a number of foreign states," Lavrov said in televised remarks. "This act will introduce a number of restrictions on entry into Russia."
The top diplomat provided no elaboration on the precise measures being taken as part of the presidential decree.
Russia expanded the list of what it calls "unfriendly" countries after the West slammed unprecedented sanctions on Moscow following Putin's announcement of the military operation in Ukraine.
The list includes the United States, Australia, Canada, Britain, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, all EU member states and several others.
Russian carriers have been banned from the airspace of the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States, and travel to and from Russia is currently limited.
The Kremlin spokesperson announced that Russian investigators would look into a video circulated on social media that purported to show Ukrainian forces mistreating captured Russian soldiers.
Peskov said the video contained "monstrous images" and needed to be legally assessed, and that those who took part in what he described as torture needed to be held responsible.
Asked about the video during an interview on Sky News, Ukraine's Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said it could not be taken at face value.
"We need proof," she said. "If militaries from the Ukrainian side are guilty, we will investigate them and take them to court."
Earlier, senior Ukrainian officials had portrayed the video as a fake.
"Currently, no one can confirm or deny the veracity of this video. It's not known where it's happening, or who the participants are," military spokesperson Oleksander Motuzyanyk said.
Sergii Nykyforov, a press spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, also said the video must be assessed "in the context of both real and information wars," without further elaboration.
Ukraine’s presidential aide described the humanitarian crisis in the besieged city of Mariupol as "catastrophic", with thousands dead as the Russian military operation in the country entered its second month.
At least 5,000 people have already been buried in the southern port of Mariupol, according to a senior Ukrainian official who said as many as 10,000 may have lost their lives.
"The burials stopped 10 days ago because of continued shelling," Tetyana Lomakina, a presidential adviser now in charge of humanitarian corridors, told AFP by phone.
Ukrainian officials said Russian attacks near Kiev cut power to more than 80,000 homes, underscoring the peril facing the capital city despite an apparent retreat in Moscow's war aims to focus on eastern Ukraine.
"To capture Kiev is essentially a captured Ukraine, and this is their goal," warned Ukraine's deputy defense minister Ganna Malyar, who said Russia was "trying to break through the corridor around Kiev and block transport routes."
Ukraine's Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said the country's soldiers had reclaimed the strategically vital Kiev suburb of Irpin from Russian troops by sweeping the area block-by-block.
Ukrainian forces also recaptured Mala Rogan, a hamlet on the outskirts of Ukraine's second-largest city Kharkiv in the northeast.
"We each carried 50 kilos of materials on our backs, we had Javelins," said Valery, a sergeant who took part in the Kharkiv operation, referring to the US anti-tank weapons.
"The battle lasted around 10 hours. We caught the Russians by surprise. They were in the basements where they tried to hold out. We gave them a chance to surrender. Too bad for them...," said Valery.
He said nearly 180 Russian soldiers were in the village altogether.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said in televised remarks late Monday that the country’s military forces had "liberated" the Kiev suburb of Irpin.
"In fact, this is now happening in parallel: the armed forces are advancing, the police are advancing, and immediately a sweep is going on completely through the streets... Therefore, the city has now been liberated, but it is still dangerous to be there," Monastyrsky said.
The town's mayor, Oleksandr Markushin, had earlier announced on his Telegram channel that Russian troops had been driven out of the town.
The main checkpoint on the road to Irpin from the outskirts of Kiev was open again on Monday following the announcement by the town’s mayor.
US President Joe Biden said his latest remark about Putin and that the Russian leader should not remain in power reflected his own moral outrage, not an administration policy shift.
"I wasn't then nor am I now articulating a policy change. I was expressing moral outrage that I felt, and I make no apologies," Biden told reporters at the White House, adding that prior to the remark, made in a speech in the Polish capital of Warsaw on Saturday, he had visited with families displaced by Russia's military campaign in Ukraine.
At the end of the speech in Warsaw, Biden said Putin "cannot remain in power," with the US administration officials rushing to clarify afterward that the White House was not advocating for regime change in Russia.
Biden said he was "not walking anything back" by clarifying the remark. Asked whether the remark would spur a negative response from Putin, Biden said, "He’s going to do what he’s going to do."
A German Interior Ministry spokesperson said individuals who display the letter "Z" in Germany to symbolize support for Russia's military campaign in Ukraine could be liable for prosecution.
The letter Z has been used as a marking on Russian military vehicles taking part in the conflict and has been adopted by Russians supporting the war.
"The letter Z as such is of course not forbidden, but its use may in individual cases constitute an endorsement of the Russian war of aggression," the spokesperson said.
"The Russian war of aggression on Ukraine is a criminal act, and whoever publicly approves of this war of aggression can also make himself liable to prosecution," the spokesperson added.
"The federal security authorities have an eye on this, and in this respect, we welcome the announcement that several federal states will also examine in individual cases whether this could be a criminal act and to take action accordingly.”
The interior minister for the German state of Berlin said earlier that city authorities would jump on cases of the Z symbol being used to endorse Russia's military operation, following announcements by Bavaria and Lower Saxony that they too would punish such acts.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense says Russia's Wagner Group has been deployed to eastern Ukraine, claiming that over 1,000 mercenaries would likely join the war.
"Russian Private Military Company the Wagner Group has deployed to eastern Ukraine," the MoD said in a tweet. "They are expected to deploy more than 1,000 mercenaries, including senior leaders of the organization, to undertake combat operations."
The Pentagon also said on Monday that it would be sending six naval aircraft to Germany, along with about 240 personnel to help support them.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the additional aircraft being sent later in the day were not in response to a specific Russian action and would bolster NATO readiness.