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Live updates: Council of Europe expels Russia from human rights body

Associated Press Wednesday, 16 March 2022, 05:40 Last update: about 7 months ago

WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is citing Pearl Harbor and the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in appealing to the U.S. Congress in his country’s fight against Russia.

Zelenskyy said by livestream at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday: “We need you right now.

Zelenskyy has been rallying support against Russia’s crushing invasion. Wednesday’s speech is among Zelenskyy’s most important as he pushes the U.S. to do more than it has pledged so far.

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President Joe Biden has resisted Zelenskyy’s requests to send warplanes to Ukraine, which would risk escalating the war with Russia. Instead, Biden is expected to deliver an address later Wednesday announcing $800 million in additional security assistance for Ukraine.

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PRAGUE — The Czech Republic’s Prime Minister, Petr Fiala, who visited the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv together with his Polish and Slovenian counterparts, said the Ukrainians urgently need weapons to have a chance to face the invading Russian troops.

“Ukraine these days and weeks needs above all arms supply,“ Fiala said on Wednesday at a Prague airport after returning from Tuesday's visit.

He said such supplies have to be delivered quickly by as many countries as possible and have to be massive.

It must be done in days,“ Fiala said.

“We have to realize that (the Ukrainians) do also fight for our independence, for our freedom and we have to support them. That’s the reason why we traveled there, to show them they’re not alone.“

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WARSAW, Poland -- Ukrainian refugees in Poland stood in long queues on Wednesday, the first day they were allowed to apply for a national identification number which will give them access to public services such as medical care and education.

Huge lines formed in Warsaw and other cities. The government deployed 1,000 clerks nationwide to process their requests.

Almost 1.9 million Ukrainian refugees have crossed Poland’s border since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. While some head on to other countries, many are choosing to stay in Poland, where they often have family ties and share cultural similarities with the neighboring Slavic nation.

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has signed into law a set of measures to help the refugees.

It allows them to legalize their stay for 18 months and gives them many other rights usually reserved for citizens and permanent residents of the country. It makes it easier for Ukrainians to receive the ID number, to work and access benefits, healthcare and education, and even to receive monthly cash bonuses for children under age 18.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian children have been registered at Polish schools.

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JERUSALEM — The speaker of Israel’s parliament says the Ukrainian president will make a speech to legislators next week.

Mickey Levy said President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address will be held via video conference on Sunday at 6 p.m.

In a statement from his office Wednesday, Levy said it would be “an honor” to hear Zelenskyy speak “at this difficult time facing the Ukrainian people.”

Israel is one of the few countries to have good working relations with both Ukraine and Russia.

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STRASBOURG, France — The Council of Europe has expelled Russia from the continent’s foremost human rights body in an unprecedented move over its invasion and war in Ukraine.

The ministerial committee of the 47-nation organization said in statement Wednesday that “the Russian Federation ceases to be a member of the Council of Europe as from today, after 26 years of membership.”

The decision comes on the heels of weeks of condemnation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Earlier this week, the group’s parliamentary assembly already initiated the process of expulsion and unanimously supported Russia's expulsion.

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MOSCOW — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says a “business-like spirit” is emerging at talks with Ukraine that are now focused on a neutral status for the war-torn country.

“A neutral status is being seriously discussed in connection with security guarantees,” Lavrov said Wednesday on Russian channel RBK TV. “There are concrete formulations that in my view are close to being agreed.”

He didn’t elaborate, but said “the business-like spirit” starting to surface in the talks “gives hope that we can agree on this issue.”

Russia’s chief negotiator in the latest round of talks with Ukraine, which started Monday and are set to continue Wednesday, said earlier the sides are discussing a possible compromise idea for a future Ukraine with a smaller, non-aligned military.

“A whole range of issues tied with the size of Ukraine’s army is being discussed,” Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said, according to Russian news agencies.

There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian officials. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday that the country realizes it can’t join NATO. Ukraine’s bid to join the Western military alliance has been a sore point for Moscow.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is begging for prayers and protection for the children of Ukraine as the Vatican intensifies its appeals for peace while still refraining from condemning Russia by name for its invasion.

Francis met with Italian school children in St. Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday and urged them to think of their Ukrainian counterparts who are hungry, cold and have been forced to flee their homes.

Francis has stepped up his criticism of the war but has refrained from condemning Russia by name. That is evidence of his aim to keep open a dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church and reflects the Vatican’s tradition of not calling out aggressors amid its efforts to position itself as a possible mediator.

Meanwhile, Francis is to celebrate a Mass on Friday during which he will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in a ritual that holds deep significance for the Catholic faithful. According to tradition, one of the so-called secrets of Fatima concerns the consecration of Russia to “the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” prophesizing that peace will follow if the consecration is done.

St. John Paul II performed the consecration on March 25, 1984, and Francis will repeat the gesture 38 years later. On the same day, Francis’ chief alms-giver, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, who recently returned from a humanitarian mission to Ukraine, will celebrate a consecration Mass in Fatima, Portugal, the site of the early 20th century Marian apparitions that formed the basis of the “secrets of Fatima.”

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DUBAI — Ambulances and trauma and emergency surgery supplies are on their way to Ukraine from Dubai, via Poland.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday sent the shipment from their warehouses in the United Arab Emirates on two chartered flights provided for free by the government.

These were the third and fourth flights by the WHO to be sent to Ukraine through Dubai and were carrying 36 tons of medical supplies, including medicines for noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes or hyper-tension.

The International Humanitarian City, a Dubai-based hub, has so far sent a total of 36 shipments worth approximately $4 million in response to the Ukraine emergency. They have included trauma and emergency supplies, shelter and food.

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WARSAW, Poland — The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia have returned safely from a visit to Kyiv, as invading Russian forces menace the embattled Ukrainian capital.

The visit was meant to show support for Ukraine as it endures heavy bombardment.

The leaders met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday to send the message that Ukraine is not alone and that they support the nation’s aspirations to one day join the European Union.

They went ahead with the hours-long train trip despite worries within the European Union about the security risks of traveling within a war zone.

Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller said Wednesday morning that they had returned safely to Poland.

Officials had not given details about their schedule for security reasons.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Ukraine is not going to join NATO “any time soon,” after the country’s president acknowledged Ukraine would not become part of the Western military alliance.

President Vladimir Putin has long depicted Ukraine’s NATO aspirations as a threat to Russia, something the alliance denies.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday that Ukraine realized it could not join NATO, his most explicit acknowledgment that the goal, enshrined in Ukraine’s constitution, was unlikely to be met.

It came as Russia and Ukraine held a new round of talks, with Zelenskyy saying Wednesday that Russian demands were becoming “more realistic.”

On Wednesday, Johnson — one of the most vocal Western supporters of Ukraine — said “the reality of the position” is that “there is no way Ukraine is going to join NATO any time soon.” But he said the decision had to be for Ukraine to make.

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LVIV, Ukraine — Satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC analyzed by The Associated Press show a suspected Ukrainian strike on the Russian-held Kherson International Airport and Air Base set several helicopters and vehicles ablaze.

The images Tuesday at the dual-use airfield show thick black smoke rising overhead from the blazes. At least three helicopters appeared to be on fire, as well as several vehicles. At a pad further away, other helicopters appeared damaged from an earlier strike.

The Ukrainian president’s office said that fighting had continued at Kherson airport on Tuesday, with “powerful blasts” rocking the area during the course of the day. They said they were assessing damage in the area, without elaborating.

Kherson is about 450 kilometers (275 miles) southeast of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

Meanwhile, satellite images Tuesday of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, showed no damage to the site’s six reactors after Russian forces engaged in a firefight to seize the facility. Zaporizhzhia is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and the fighting raised fears about safety there.

Zaporizhzhia is about the same distance and direction as Kherson from Kyiv. Residents in the region are building barricades and setting up firing positions.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said some 4,000 vehicles left Mariupol in the first major evacuation from the besieged southern city, but most of the convoy spent the night on the road out toward Zaporizhzhia.

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NEW YORK — Russia’s Defense Ministry reported fighting near the separatist-held eastern regions Wednesday but did not comment on Russian military activity elsewhere.

Defense Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov claimed Russian forces have destroyed 111 Ukrainian aircraft, 160 drones and more than 1,000 tanks or other military vehicles since the start of what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The Russian military’s daily public statements on the war focus almost exclusively on fighting in the separatist-held Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and on Ukrainian military targets, without acknowledging attacks on civilians.

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KHARKIV, Ukraine — Hospital workers in Ukraine’s second-largest city find themselves on two frontlines, battling COVID-19 in intensive care units as war rages outside.

The Kharkiv Regional Clinical Infectious Diseases Hospital, the city’s leading facility for treating virus patients throughout the pandemic, has barricaded its windows and is adapting every day.

Hospital director Dr. Pavel Nartov said air raid sirens go off multiple times daily, forcing fragile patients into the hospital’s makeshift bomb shelter. Handling ICU patients on ventilators is the most difficult and dangerous part of the process, but also the most crucial, given the dangers of exposing oxygen tanks to bombings and shrapnel, he said.

“Bombing takes place from morning into night. Thank God a bomb has not yet hit our hospital. But it could hit at any time,” he told The Associated Press.

Kharkiv has been under sustained fire from Russian forces since the outbreak of the war, with shelling hitting residential buildings and sending masses of people fleeing.

Ukraine’s official daily COVID-19 cases reached record highs in February but have declined since Russia invaded amid the chaos of war. COVID-19 concerns have fallen by the wayside as people focus on fleeing the fighting.

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TOKYO — U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel praised Japan Wednesday for standing with the U.S. and other Western nations in announcing its latest sanctions to oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Emanuel noted Japan’s ban on the exports of about 300 goods to Russia and Belarus, including semiconductors and communications equipment, as well as its stripping Russia of its most favored nation trade status.

“Japan’s actions demonstrate its steadfast commitment to stand in unity with the United States, our allies and partners in Europe and around the world, and the Ukrainian people,” he said.

The U.S. also welcomed Japan’s recent decision to freeze the assets of 17 more Russian politicians, tycoons and their relatives. The number of Russians targeted by Japan’s sanctions that freezes their assets now totals 61.

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KYIV, Ukraine — A plume of smoke was seen rising up over western Kyiv on Wednesday morning after shrapnel from an artillery shell slammed into a 12-story apartment building in central Kyiv, obliterating the top floor and igniting a fire, according to a statement and images released by the Kyiv emergencies agency.

The neighboring building was also damaged. The agency reported two victims, without elaborating.

Russian forces have intensified fighting in Kyiv suburbs, notably around the town of Bucha in the northwest and the highway leading west toward Zhytomyr, the head of the Kyiv region Oleksiy Kuleba said Wednesday.

He said Russian troops are trying to cut off the capital from transport arteries and destroy logistical capabilities even as they plan a wide-ranging attack to seize Kyiv.

Twelve towns around Kyiv are without water and six without heat.

Russia has occupied the city of Ivankiv, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Kyiv, and controls the surrounding region on the border with Belarus, Kuleba said.

Across the Kyiv region, he said, “Kindergartens, museums, churches, residential blocks and engineering infrastructure are suffering from the endless firing.”

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LVIV, Ukraine — Russian warships around midnight fired missiles and artillery at the Ukrainian sea coast near Tuzla, to the south of Odesa, Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said.

“They fired a huge amount of ammunition from a great distance,” he said on Facebook.

Gerashchenko said Russia wanted to test Ukraine’s coastal defense system.

He said there was no attempt to land troops. He didn’t say whether any of the shelling hit anything.

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LVIV, Ukraine -- Ukraine said a fourth Russian general has been killed in the fighting.

Maj. Gen. Oleg Mityaev died Tuesday during the storming of Mariupol, said Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko, who published a photo on Telegram of what he said was the dead officer.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported the death of another Russian general in his nighttime address but didn’t name him.

Mityaev, 46, commanded the 150th motorized rifle division and had fought in Syria, Gerashchenko said.

There was no confirmation of the death from Russia.

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The employee of Russian state television who was arrested after interrupting a live news program by protesting the war in Ukraine said she was not allowed to sleep in police custody and was interrogated for 14 hours.

“These were very difficult days of my life because I literally went two full days without sleep, the interrogation lasted for more than 14 hours and they didn’t allow me to contact my family and close friends, didn’t provide any legal support,” Marina Ovsyannikova said after she was released.

Ovsyannikova, an employee of Channel 1, walked into the studio during Monday’s evening news show with a poster saying “stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here.” In English, it said “no war” at the top of the poster and “Russians against the war” at the bottom.

In a video recorded before her action, she urged Russians to join anti-war protests and said that “Russia is the aggressor country and one person, Vladimir Putin, solely bears responsibility for that aggression.”

She was fined 30,000 rubles (about $270) on charges of organizing unsanctioned actions for her call to take part in demonstrations against the war.

The state news agency Tass said Ovsyannikova was fined for the video, not for her appearance during the news show.

She remains under investigation for that on-air protest, Tass said, citing a law enforcement source. Tass said Ovsyannikova is being investigated under a new law against the dissemination of “deliberately false information” about the use of Russian armed forces, which carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

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LVIV, Ukraine -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said early Wednesday that Russia’s demands during negotiations are becoming “more realistic” after nearly three weeks of war. He said more time was needed for the talks, which are being held by video conference.

“Efforts are still needed, patience is needed,” he said in his nighttime video address to the nation. “Any war ends with an agreement.”

Zelenskyy, who is to address the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, thanked President Joe Biden and “all the friends of Ukraine” for $13.6 billion in new support included in a spending measure that Biden signed.

He appealed for more weapons and more sanctions to punish Russia, and repeated his call to “close the skies over Ukraine to Russian missiles and planes.”

He said Russian forces on Tuesday were unable to move deeper into Ukrainian territory and continued their heavy shelling of cities.

Over the past day, 28,893 civilians were able to flee the fighting along nine humanitarian corridors, although the Russians refused to allow aid into Mariupol, he said.

 

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LVIV, Ukraine -- Russian troops seized a hospital in Mariupol and took about 500 people hostage during another assault on the southern port city late Tuesday, regional leader Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

Russians troops drove 400 people from neighboring houses into Regional Intensive Care Hospital, Kyrylenko said on the messaging app Telegram. About 100 doctors and patients also are believed to be inside, he said.

The troops are using those inside the hospital as human shields and are not allowing anyone to leave, he said.

“It’s impossible to leave the hospital, they are shooting hard,” Kyrylenko said.

Kyrylenko said the main building of the hospital has been heavily damaged by shelling, but medical staff are continuing to treat patients in makeshift wards set up in the basement.

He called on the world to respond to these “gross violations of the norms and customs of war, these egregious crimes against humanity.”

The Ukrainian army’s General Staff says Russian troops are trying to block off the city from the western and eastern outskirts of the city. “There are significant losses,” it said in a Facebook post.

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WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden will announce on Wednesday that the U.S. is delivering $800 million in new military assistance to Ukraine, according to a White House official.

Biden is expected to detail the assistance during a speech on the situation in Ukraine.

The money will come out of $13.6 billion in additional military and humanitarian aid allocated for Ukraine in a broader $1.5 trillion government spending measure that Biden signed on Tuesday.

With the new round of aid, Biden will have committed $2 billion in assistance to Ukraine since taking office.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is also scheduled to deliver video remarks to Congress Wednesday morning.

While officials are anticipating that Zelenskyy could once again call on the U.S. and West to send Ukraine fighter jets or help establish a “no-fly” zone, the Biden administration is looking to send Ukraine “more of what’s been working well,” including anti-armor and air defense weapons, according to the official who was not authorized to comment and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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LYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian forces on Tuesday evening repelled an attack on Kharkiv by Russian troops, who tried to storm the city from their positions in Piatykhatky, a suburb 15 kilometers (9 miles) to the north, the head of the Kharkiv region said.

The Ukrainian army was able “to push the enemy back beyond its previous position,” Oleh Synehubov said on the messaging app Telegram. He called it a “shameful defeat.”

There was no information about casualties on either side.

After dark, Russian forces increased their shelling of the eastern city, Ukraine’s second largest. On Tuesday morning, Synehubov had said Russian troops the previous night had fired more than 60 missiles at the historical center of the city.

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a resolution seeking investigations of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his regime for war crimes over the invasion of Ukraine.

Senators late Tuesday passed the resolution, which says the Senate strongly condemns the “violence, war crimes. crimes against humanity” being carried out Russian military forces. The measure does not carry the force of law, but encourages international criminal court investigations of Putin, his security council and military leaders.

“These atrocities deserve to be investigated for war crimes,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

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LVIV — A funeral service was held Tuesday in Lviv for four Ukrainian soldiers killed in a Russian attack on a training base in Yavoriv in western Ukraine. The attack on Sunday killed at least 35 people.

Ukrainian soldiers shouldered the caskets into the sanctuary of Church of the Most Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and placed them on bases.

Burials were held Tuesday for three soldiers, Oleg Yaschyshyn, Serhiy Melnyk and Rostyslav Romanchuk.

The fourth soldier, Kyrylo Vyshyvanyi, was previously buried in his hometown of Duliby in the Lviv region. Vyshyvanyi’s family buried his younger brother, Vasyl, on March 4.

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KYIV, Ukraine — A top Ukrainian negotiator says talks with Russia will continue Wednesday.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who spoke to Russian negotiators via video link on Monday and Tuesday, described the talks as “very difficult and sticky.”

He said that “there are fundamental contradictions,” but added that “there is certainly room for compromise.”

The talks via video link this week follow three round of negotiations in Belarus that have failed to produce any visible progress.

Both Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have voiced cautious optimism but haven’t spelled out any details of talks.

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KYIV, Ukraine — A senior Ukrainian official says about 20,000 people have managed to leave the besieged port city of Mariupol.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a deputy head of office of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the evacuees left Mariupol in private vehicles via a humanitarian corridor on Tuesday.

He said that 570 of some 4,000 vehicles that left the city have reached the city of Zaporizhzhia some 260 kilometers (160 miles) northwest while others will spend the night in various towns along the way.

Mariupol, a strategic port city of 430,000 on the Sea of Azov, has been besieged by Russian troops for more than 10 days, facing heavy shelling that has killed more than 2,300 people and left residents struggling for food, water, heat and medicine.

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WASHINGTON — Russian ground troops have made limited progress over the last 24 hours in their effort to seize major cities in Ukraine, a senior defense official said Tuesday.

And as deadly airstrikes continue, the U.S. has seen indications that Russia may believe it needs more troops and supplies than it has on hand in the country, and is considering ways to get resources brought in, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. military assessments.

The official did not elaborate on the indications, and said that as of Tuesday, however, there has been no actual movement of reinforcement troops currently in Russia going into Ukraine.

According to the official, Russian ground forces are still about 15-20 kilometers (9-12 miles) northwest of Kyiv and 20-30 kilometers (12-19 miles) east of the city, which is being increasingly hit by long-range strikes. The official said Ukrainian troops continue to put up stiff resistance in Kharkiv and other areas.

Russia has launched more than 950 missiles so far in the war, and both Russia and Ukraine still retain about 90% of their combat power, the official said.

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MEDYKA, Poland — Refugees continued to pour into Poland on Tuesday at a border crossing connecting Ukraine to the Polish village of Medyka.

Ludmila Deslichenko, 41, traveled from Cherkasy in central Ukraine.

“We would like to go back home as soon as the war ends and when there’s peace,” Deslichenko said. “It was very terrifying. There were bombs during the day, also rockets, everywhere in Ukraine. There were a lot of explosions. As soon as it calms down and the war is over, we will go back.”

Oksana Voloshen, 59, said she crossed the border to buy groceries to bring back to Mostyska in far western Ukraine.

“We have nothing in the shops,” she said.

Nicolas Kusiak, who leads NGOs and volunteers at the Medyka border crossing, said that while they’re seeing mostly refugees entering Poland, some are headed the other way.

“We have a lot of military, ex-military from all over the world, the (United) States, U.K., Germany, Denmark, even Poland, joining the international legion,” Kusiak said.

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KYIV, Ukraine — A senior aide to Ukraine’s president says that Russia has softened its stance in the talks over a possible settlement.

Ihor Zhovkva, a deputy chief of staff to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Tuesday that the talks between Russian and Ukrainian representatives have become “more constructive” and Russia has changed tone and stopped airing demands for Ukraine to surrender — something Russia had insisted upon during earlier stages of talks.

Three rounds of talks in Belarus earlier this month have been followed by video calls between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators, including the one on Tuesday.

Zhovkva said that Ukrainian representatives feel “moderately optimistic” after the talks, adding that it would be necessary for Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet to make major progress.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s foreign minister is traveling to Moscow as part of efforts to secure a cease-fire.

Mevlut Cavusoglu would hold talks in Moscow on Wednesday before traveling to Ukraine for talks on Thursday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday.

In a televised address following a Cabinet meeting, Erdogan also said the Polish President Andrzej Duda would be visiting Turkey on Wednesday for talks expected to focus on the crisis.

Last week the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers met on the sidelines of a diplomacy forum organized by Turkey, although their talks failed to produce a breakthrough.

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s Parliament has approved a NATO plan to deploy up to 2,100 troops on Slovak territory following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The plan is part of the NATO initiative to reassure member countries on the alliance’s eastern flank by sending forces to help protect them.

Germany is supposed to contribute the biggest number of soldiers, up to 700, to the multinational battlegroup. The Czech Republic follows with 600 and the U.S. will send up to 400. The Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia will also contribute troops.

Their deployment together with the Patriot air defense system will increase the defensive capabilities of Slovakia’s armed forces.

The alliance stationed troops in the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — and Poland after the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula by Russia. After Russia attacked Ukraine, NATO decided to boost its presence along the entire eastern flank by deploying forces in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.

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