Ukraine-Russia War: Live updates on Putin, Zelensky and more
KYIV, Ukraine — As Russian forces descended on the Ukrainian capital and officials put the death toll at more than 350 civilians since the invasion began, the two countries agreed on Sunday to sit down for talks “without preconditions”, but hopes were low for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Even as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to send a delegation to meet Russian officials near the border with Belarus, he made it clear that he didn’t expect much. He refused to accept any conditions or concessions ahead of the talks, making it clear he would not give Russia the upper hand after its unprovoked attacks.
Even in the run-up to the talks, satellite images showed a miles-long convoy of hundreds of Russian military vehicles heading towards Kiev.
Mr. Zelensky, who was not planning to attend the talks, tried to contain expectations.
“I don’t really believe in the outcome of this meeting,” he said, “but that they are trying to make sure that no Ukrainian citizen doubts that I, as president, have not tried to stop the war”.
As world leaders worked to isolate Moscow and inflict heavy economic pain on the invasion, Russia showed little apparent interest in de-escalation.
President Vladimir V. Putin, denouncing the West’s “aggressive” actions, said he had asked his defense minister and his top military commander to put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert. Not only are Western countries imposing “illegitimate sanctions” against Russia, Putin said, “but senior officials from key NATO countries allow themselves to make aggressive statements against our country.”
The United Nations Security Council responded by voting to convene a rare special session of the General Assembly – only the 11th time since 1950. Eleven of the 15 members of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution.
In Ukraine, Russian forces were moving south, threatening a major port, and north, where they continued on their way to Kiev.
But Ukrainian officials took some satisfaction from Russia’s call for talks, which came as its forces met far more resistance than expected, failing to quickly seize the capital, Kyiv.
“The enemy expected an easy ride, but had real hell,” Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said. The Russian leadership, he said, “does not understand that they are at war not only with the Ukrainian armed forces, but with the entire Ukrainian people”.
But international military experts have warned that the war is young.
They noted that Ukrainian forces are scattered, with only limited ammunition, and that thousands of better trained Russian soldiers have yet to be thrown into the fight. The worry is that Mr Putin could adopt tougher tactics, including bombing cities, if his forces bog down.
The call for talks also came as the European Union moved to impose tough new economic sanctions on Russia and announced a total closure of EU airspace to Russian aircraft.
The measure will exclude not only Russian airlines, but also private jets chartered by Russia from the airspaces of the 27 member states, virtually banning Russians from European skies.
In central Ukraine, Russia appears to be trying to cut off the main Ukrainian military forces, which were defending the old line of contact with the enclaves of Donetsk and Lugansk, to prevent them from moving towards the capital and obtaining supplies of from Western countries. allies by land through Poland.
Russian troops, at least for a time, also closed in on the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, according to videos and photographs analyzed by The New York Times. Footage showed Ukrainians firing rockets at Russian troops, as well as burning Russian military vehicles and others ransacked by Ukrainian forces.