Saturday, May 18, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 390: Putin, Xi to discuss China’s peace plan for Ukraine war

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine in February 2022 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Wagner group head claims his forces control 70% of Bakhmut

The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has said that his forces control more than half of the embattled eastern Ukraine town of Bakhmut, the stage for the longest battle of Russia’s offensive.

“At the moment, Wagner units control around 70 percent of the city of Bakhmut and are continuing operations to complete the liberation of the city,” Yevgeny Prigozhin stated in an open letter to Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Russian and Ukrainian forces have invested heavily in the battle for Bakhmut, even though analysts say the city carried little strategic value.

Ukraine announced the battle for the industrial town is key to holding back Russian forces along the entire eastern front.

Ukraine’s grain harvest likely to fall in 2023: Ministry

Ukraine’s 2023 grain harvest is likely to fall to 44.3 million tonnes from 53.1 million in 2022 as less acreage is sown due to the Russian invasion, according to a forecast by the Ukrainian agriculture ministry.

Ukraine is a major global grain and oilseed producer and exporter, but its production and exports fell sharply after Russia occupied a swathe of Ukrainian territory and blocked key Black Sea ports in the second half of last season.

In peaceful 2021, Ukraine harvested a record 86 million tonnes of grain in peaceful 2021.

“The reduction in grain sowing acreage, coupled with the projected decline in average yields caused by rising prices of key inputs, will affect harvest volumes,” the ministry added.

G7 not likely to revise price cap on Russian oil this week: EU officials

Group of Seven Nations are not likely to revise a price cap on Russian oil this week, two European Union officials have told Reuters.

The G7 was due to revise the price cap put in place in December in mid-March, but the officials said EU countries’ ambassadors were told by the European Commission over the weekend there is no appetite among the G7 for an imminent review.

The cap on Russian seaborne crude exports was set at $60 per barrel, a level designed to sit below the market price and therefore curb the revenue Moscow can receive from selling oil, while keeping it flowing to avoid a global supply shock.

Brent crude oil was trading at around $73 per barrel on Monday.

Russia’s revenues from oil and gas exports dropped by nearly 40 percent in January as a result of price caps and Western sanctions, the International Energy Agency said last month.

US State Department report highlights Russian government’s war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine: Blinken

The State Department’s human rights report this year highlights the war crimes and other atrocities committed by Russia in Ukraine which have resulted in “massive death and destruction,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken writes in the report’s preface.

“There were credible reports of summary execution, torture, rape, indiscriminate attacks, and attacks deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure by Russia’s forces in Ukraine, all of which constitute war crimes. The Russian government engaged in the forced deportation of civilians from Ukraine to Russia, often following a harsh and abusive “filtration” process, and there were numerous reports of forced deportations and adoptions of children from Ukraine,” the report says.

The report comes just days after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia. It says that “thousands” of Ukrainians have been subject to forced deportation to Russia.

Russia’s authoritarian political system is “dominated by President Vladimir Putin,” the report added. But it does not draw specific connections between Putin and the war crimes committed in Ukraine.

The report highlights the Kremlin’s efforts to shut down dissent, specifically highlighting the government’s “severe suppression of free expression and media,” use of “excessive force and other harsh tactics” to detain antiwar protestors, and specific efforts to penalize students who voiced opposition to the war.

“According to human rights organizations, hundreds of university students were expelled during the year for their political views. For example, on March 9, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reportedly ordered Saint Petersburg State University to expel 13 students who participated in antiwar protests,” the report says.

The report added that Russian law enforcement officers used “torture, including sleep deprivation, as a form of punishment against detained opposition and human rights activists, journalists, and critics of government policies

Do not be fooled by any tactics by Russia that China supports: Blinken

President Xi Jinping’s trip to Russia this week in the wake of the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin suggests China does not think Moscow should be held accountable for its atrocities in Ukraine, the US secretary of state says.

“The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the war on its own terms,” Antony Blinken told reporters.

He stated the US welcomes any diplomacy for a “just and durable peace” but raised doubts that China was safeguarding the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Ukraine.

“Any plan that does not prioritise this critical principle is a stalling tactic at best or is merely seeking to facilitate an unjust outcome. That is not constructive diplomacy,” Blinken added.

US authorises $350m in new military aid to Ukraine

The US has authorised another round of military aid for Ukraine valued at $350m, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says.

“This military assistance package includes more ammunition for US-provided HIMARS [mobile rocket launchers] and howitzers that Ukraine is using to defend itself, as well as ammunition for Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, HARM missiles, anti-tank weapons, riverine boats, and other equipment,” Blinken said in a statement.

Goal is to send ‘significant amount of munitions’ to Ukraine: Germany

EU member states have reached an agreement on the joint procurement of ammunition for Ukraine, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said on the sidelines of a meeting in Brussels.

“Today, we will sign the respective documents,” he told reporters.

He added that Germany would also open its national framework contracts because speed was of the essence.

“Our goal has to be to ship a significant amount of munitions to Ukraine before the end of this year,” Pistorius continued.

Xi ‘convinced’ Russians support Putin

China’s President Xi Jinping tells his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in talks at the Kremlin that he is “convinced” that Putin enjoys the Russian people’s support ahead of a presidential election scheduled for next year.

“Thanks to your strong leadership, Russia has made significant progress in achieving the prosperity of the country in recent years,” Xi told Putin through an interpreter.

“I am sure that the Russian people will strongly support you in your good endeavours,” he added.

Xi also called Putin his “dear friend”, and Putin used the same term with his guest.

The Chinese president also thanked Putin for what he said was his support for China and said Beijing should have close relations with Moscow.

Putin tells Xi that he has looked at China’s peace proposal

President Vladimir Putin tells Xi Jinping at the Kremlin that he has looked at China’s proposals for a resolution of the Ukraine conflict and he views them with respect.

Speaking at informal talks at the start of Xi’s state visit to Moscow, Putin also stated that Russia was “slightly envious” of China’s rapid development in recent decades.

UK hopes China will press Putin on ‘atrocities’

The United Kingdom says China should back up its support for the respect of territorial integrity and demand that Russia end its war in Ukraine.

“We hope President Xi uses this opportunity to press President Putin to cease bombing Ukrainian cities, hospitals, schools, to halt some of these atrocities that we are seeing on a daily basis,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said as Xi and Putin meet in Moscow.

EU to supply Ukraine with artillery ammunition over next 12 months

European Union countries plan to supply Ukraine with a million rounds of artillery ammunition over the next 12 months, officials say as EU defence and foreign ministers meet in Brussels.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the decision would “bolster Ukraine’s capabilities”.

He wrote on Twitter: “More artillery ammunition for Ukraine as fast as possible. This was the main focus of today’s EU Foreign Affairs Council. I anticipate the swift adoption of big decisions which will bolster Ukraine’s capabilities on the battlefield.”

Ukrainian town of Avdiivka could become another Bakhmut: Military

Russian forces continue efforts to cut off the town of Avdiivka — north of the city of Donetsk — and it may soon become “a second Bakhmut,” the Ukrainian military says.

“The enemy is constantly trying to surround the town of Avdiivka. I agree with my colleagues from the UK that Avdiivka may soon become a second Bakhmut — it is true,” Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskyi, a military spokesperson, told Ukrainian television Monday.

But he added that Russia is “suffering quite serious losses,” claiming that it is using “the last of its reserves.”

“Over the past day, the enemy lost about three companies/rotas of personnel. All of these attacks are the same type. The enemy attacks from the same position, very predictably. So our guys manage to defend their positions,” he continued.

There are about 2,000 civilians remaining in Avdiivka, according to Ukrainian officials. Several children had been evacuated, and over the past three weeks alone, 150 people had left the town, Vitaliy Barabash, head of Avdiivka Civil-Military Administration, told local TV channel Espresso.

Ukraine expects Beijing to use influence over Russia

Kyiv expects China to use its influence on Russia to end the war in Ukraine, Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko stated.

“Ukraine is following the Chinese President’s visit to Russia closely,” Nikolenko said in a statement to Reuters shortly after China’s Xi arrived in Moscow for talks with Putin.

“We expect Beijing to use its influence on Moscow to make it put an end to the aggressive war against Ukraine,” Nikolenko added.

Kyiv says any negotiations surrounding a peace deal must involve a full withdrawal of Russian troops and respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

“We stand ready to engage in a closer dialogue with China in order to restore peace in Ukraine in accordance with the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, and the latest UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) resolution on this matter,” Nikolenko continued.

Russia opens criminal case against ICC

Russia’s Investigative Committee announced it had opened a criminal case against the International Criminal Court [ICC] prosecutor and judges who issued an arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin on war crimes charges on Friday.

“The Russian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case against the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Ahmad Khan” and several ICC judges, the Investigative Committee said.

Turkish gas hub will take time: Kremlin

Russia announced that work to create a planned “gas hub” in Turkey was a complex project that would require time.

President Vladimir Putin proposed the idea of a Turkish gas hub last year as European countries moved to sharply cut their imports of Russian gas in response to the invasion.

“It is clear that this is quite complicated work, it is a rather complex project which, unfortunately, cannot be implemented without time shifts, without technical or other problems,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“Such situations are inevitable in relation to the Turkish hub. We will follow it, we will continue to work with our Turkish partners,” he added.

Putin says Russia will provide grain to Africa for free

President Vladimir Putin stated on Monday that Russia would provide grain to African countries for free if the Black Sea grain deal is not extended in May.

Speaking to delegates at a Russia-Africa parliamentary conference, Putin said that only a tiny amount of grain exports unblocked under the deal had reached Africa and that the fulfilment of Russian conditions for the deal’s renewal was in Africa’s interest.

Moscow also announced it would not agree to renew the grain deal in May unless issues around the Swift financial messaging system are resolved, and other restrictions are lifted.

On its website, the Russian foreign ministry said Moscow had decided to limit the deal’s extension to 60 days, until May 18, over what it called “a lack of progress… on normalisation of domestic agricultural exports”.

EU’s chief diplomat hopes bloc will agree joint ammunition procurement for Ukraine

The European Union’s foreign policy and security chief Josep Borrell has said that he hopes the bloc will agree a joint ammunition procurement deal for Ukraine on Monday.

“Together, foreign affairs and defense (ministers) will, I hope, finish the agreement on providing ammunition to Ukraine,” he told reporters.

The chief diplomat warned of “difficulties” in continuing to supply arms to Ukraine if an “important decision” was not reached on Monday.

EU defense ministers earlier this month provisionally agreed a €2 billion ($2.1 billion) plan to purchase 155-millimeter artillery shells, and send more artillery rounds to Ukraine from EU countries’ existing stockpiles. A final decision is expected on Monday on the sidelines of the meeting of EU foreign and defense ministers in Brussels.

Speaking in Stockholm on March 9, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said his country needed one million rounds of ammunition “as soon as possible” to deter Russian forces.

The Russia-Ukraine war marks the first time the EU has supplied lethal weapons to a third country, underscoring the extent of the threat it believes Moscow poses to its security.

With the Ukraine war now in its second year, the EU — alongside the United States and the United Kingdom, Kyiv’s other two main backers — has reaffirmed its solidarity with Kyiv.

That solidarity has translated into further commitments on military spending. In early February, the bloc announced that it would inject another €545 million ($575 million) into its €3.6 billion ($3.8 billion) military assistance fund for Ukraine.

And in January, Germany, France, Poland and the UK agreed to supply modern battle tanks to Kyiv, responding to a longstanding call by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, despite fears that such a move could inflame the West’s tensions with Russia.

In Moscow, Xi reiterates willingness to work with Putin to “safeguard international order”

In a statement released Monday as he arrived in Moscow for a three-day visit, Chinese leader Xi Jinping reiterated his willingness to work alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin to “safeguard the international order.”

“China and Russia are both major powers in the world and permanent members of the UN Security Council, playing an important role in international affairs. In the face of a turbulent and changing world, China is willing to continue to work with Russia to firmly safeguard the international order,” the statement read.

It added, “I look forward to exchanging in-depth views with President Putin on bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of common concern during the visit, so as to draw a blueprint for China-Russia strategic coordination and practical cooperation in the new era.”

Ukraine says any Chinese peace plan must begin with Russian withdrawal

As Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Moscow, Ukraine has reiterated that any future peace plan must be predicated on the complete withdrawal of Russian forces from all Ukrainian territory.

China last month called for both sides to agree to a cessation of hostilities in a 12-point position paper outlining a “political settlement of the Ukraine crisis,” which it issued on the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale war.

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said Monday that the formula for the successful implementation of China’s “Peace Plan” would require Moscow to restore Ukraine’s “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”

“The first and foremost point is the surrender or withdrawal of Russian occupation forces from the territory of Ukraine in accordance with international law and the UN Charter,” Danilov said on Twitter.

In Beijing’s 12-point document, China’s Foreign Ministry called for a resumption of peace talks, an end to unilateral sanctions, and stressed its opposition to the use of nuclear weapons — a stance Xi communicated to Western leaders last year.

The plan is part of Beijing’s latest efforts to present itself as a neutral peace broker, as it struggles to balance its “no-limits” relationship with Moscow and fraying ties with the West as the war drags on.

But Beijing’s claim to neutrality has been severely undermined by its refusal to acknowledge the nature of the conflict — it has so far avoided calling it an “invasion” — and its diplomatic and economic support for Moscow.

Chinese leader arrives in Moscow

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has landed in Moscow for a three-day visit where he will meet with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, according to state media TASS.

It is the first time China’s leader has visited his neighbor and close ally since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Kremlin says Putin and Xi will discuss peace in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin will discuss the topic of Ukraine peace with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Moscow, the Kremlin said Monday.

“One way or another, the topics which are touched upon in [Beijing’s peace] plan, of course, will inevitably be touched upon during the exchange of views on Ukraine [between Putin and Xi],” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“Of course, exhaustive explanations will be given by President Putin, so that [Chinese] President Xi Jinping can get a first-hand view of the current situation from the Russian side,” he added.

Putin and Xi are expected to have an “informal but very important” meeting Monday afternoon Moscow time, according to Peskov.

“The heads of state will raise the most pressing issues at their discretion,” he continued.

Xi is expected to meet with Putin after 4:30 p.m. local time (9.30 a.m. ET) Monday.

ICC decision a sign of ‘clear hostility’ against Russia: Kremlin

The Kremlin said that the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to issue an arrest warrant for Putin was a sign of the “clear hostility” that exists against Russia and against Putin personally.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia was reacting “calmly” and was continuing its work.

“We are witnessing such a number of clearly hostile displays against our country and against our president,” Peskov stated at a regular news briefing.

“We note them, but if we took every one to heart, nothing good would come of it. Therefore we look at this calmly, note everything attentively and continue to work,” the spokesperson added

Russia is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, meaning the warrant has no legal force in the country.

However, the move could affect Putin’s travel to any of the 123 countries that do recognise the ICC’s jurisdiction.

US supplying arms to Ukraine, not China: Beijing

China’s foreign ministry announced that it was the United States, not the Chinese, who were supplying weapons to the Ukrainian battlefield.

Spokesperson Wang Wenbin made the remarks at a news briefing in response to a question regarding US sources saying that Chinese ammunition has been used in Ukraine and fired by Russia.

China says ICC should “avoid politicization and double standards” following Putin arrest warrant

China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take an “impartial stance” and “avoid politicization and double standards,” after it issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes.

“The International Criminal Court should uphold an objective and impartial stance, respect the jurisdictional immunity enjoyed by the head of state in accordance with international law, exercise its functions and powers prudently by the law, interpret and apply international law in good faith, and avoid politicization and double standards,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters during a regular briefing.

The ICC issued arrest warrants on Friday for Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova for an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia — a practice the Russian government has defended as saving them while denying that the deportations are forced.

The move has already made history by making Putin the first head of state of a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to be issued with an arrest warrant.

The charges are also the first to be formally lodged against officials in Moscow since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine last year.

The Kremlin on Friday rejected the arrest warrants as “unacceptable,” arguing that it is not subject to the ICC’s decisions.

Xi pitches China as Ukraine peacemaker on eve of trip to Russia

Ahead of his state visit to Russia Monday, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has praised Beijing’s growing ties with Moscow while also attempting to present China as peacemaker in the Ukraine war.

In an article published in Russian state media, Xi said China and Russia had “cemented political mutual trust and fostered a new model of major-country relations”.

“The bilateral relationship has grown more mature and resilient. It is brimming with new dynamism and vitality, setting a fine example for developing a new model of major-country relations featuring mutual trust, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation,” Xi wrote.

On Ukraine, Xi put China forward as a positive force for peace, crediting Beijing’s approach as “constructive in mitigating the spillovers of the crisis and facilitating its political settlement.”

Xi’s attempt to present China as a neutral peace broker comes as Beijing struggles to balance its “no-limits” relationship with Moscow and fraying ties with the West.

Last month, China’s Foreign Ministry released a position paper on the Ukraine war that called for a resumption of peace talks, an end to unilateral sanctions, and stressed Beijing’s opposition to the use of nuclear weapons — a stance Xi communicated to Western leaders last year.

But Beijing’s claim to neutrality has been severely undermined by its refusal to acknowledge the nature of the conflict — it has so far avoided calling it an “invasion” — and its diplomatic and economic support for Moscow.

Western officials have also raised concerns that China may be considering providing Russia with lethal military assistance, an accusation denied by Beijing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday praised China for its “readiness to make a meaningful contribution to the settlement of the [Ukraine] crisis” in an article published on the Kremlin website.

The article, written for a Chinese audience and titled “Russia and China: A Future-Bound Partnership,” celebrated the recent deepening of ties between the two countries.

The Russian leader also blamed Ukraine for the failure of peace talks and took aim at the NATO alliance.

“Unlike some countries claiming hegemony and bringing discord to the global harmony, Russia and China are literally and figuratively building bridges,” he stated, adding, “I am convinced that our friendship and partnership based on the strategic choice of the peoples of the two countries will further grow and gain strength for the well-being and prosperity of Russia and China.”

Biden administration skeptical of Xi’s intentions ahead of his summit with Putin

US President Joe Biden has said he was planning to speak “soon” with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

But before his staff even began planning for the call, another meeting was taking shape: The Chinese government announced Xi plans to travel Monday to Russia for a three-day summit with President Vladimir Putin, as Xi works to cast himself as a potential peacemaker in the Ukraine war.

In Washington, officials view Xi’s intentions with deep skepticism; China has refused to condemn the war and instead claimed Moscow was provoked into invading Ukraine. After China announced Xi’s visit to Russia by saying he was traveling “for the sake of peace,” the White House worked to preempt attempts to frame the Xi-Putin meeting as a peacemaking mission, suggesting any framework offered by Beijing would be weighted toward Russia and bad for Ukraine.

“As they begin to plan out their agenda, we certainly want to express how concerned we would be by any proposals from (China) that would … be one-sided and reflect only the Russian perspective,” said John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council.

He stated such a Chinese proposal could include some type of ceasefire, which he said would merely provide a way for Russia to regroup before launching a reprisal.

“A ceasefire now is effectively the ratification of Russian conquest,” he added.

The Putin-Xi summit itself did not come as a surprise to the White House, since there have been reports such a meeting could occur for weeks. Still, there remain deep concerns the “no limits” partnership Xi and Putin have cemented during previous meetings could deepen during face-to-face talks.

And there is a growing fear that further Chinese intervention in the conflict would fundamentally change the battlefield dynamics – or at least prolong the war at a moment when political appetite in the West for supporting Ukraine is being tested.

Ukrainian officials slam Putin’s Mariupol trip, saying he presented a distorted view of city

The Ukrainian government blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s surprise visit to the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said it was fitting Putin visited Mariupol under the cover of dark.

“As befits a thief, (Putin) visited Ukrainian Mariupol, under the cover of night,” the ministry wrote on Twitter.

“First, it is safer. Also, darkness allows him to highlight what he wants to show, and keeps the city his army completely destroyed and its few surviving inhabitants away from prying eyes,” it added.

Separately, Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, slammed the “cynicism” and “lack of remorse” shown by Putin’s visit.

“The criminal always returns to the crime scene,” Podolyak said on Twitter, adding “the murderer of thousands of Mariupol families came to admire the ruins of the city & graves. Cynicism & lack of remorse.”

The Kremlin has emphasized the surprise nature of Putin’s visit to Mariupol overnight, with a spokesperson claiming parts of the visit were “spontaneous.”

It came just days after the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova, stemming from an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.

Kremlin says parts of Putin’s Mariupol visit were “spontaneous”

Parts of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine were “spontaneous,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists during a call Sunday.

Footage released by Russian authorities showed Putin visiting Mariupol and meeting seemingly surprised residents.

According to Peskov, Putin spoke to local residents of an apartment complex and decided to visit one of the apartments, per the invitation of one of the residents.

“Initially, the president only had planned to visit the residential complex. Putin’s exchange with residents and visiting an apartment were not planned. It was absolutely spontaneous,” Peskov claimed.

Peskov said the trip happened overnight. It is not clear exactly when it took place, although on Saturday Putin visited Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of its annexation.

“There was a very compact group of cars with the president. In one of them, he himself was a driver. And the cars drove around Mariupol — and the president drove around the city, looked at everything — completely adhering to all the traffic rules,” Peskov continued.

Peskov added that Putin’s trip to a military headquarters in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don was also not planned. The president attended one of the military report sessions there, the spokesperson said.

The Russian president’s overnight visit to Mariupol marks his first trip to Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region since the start of Russia’s invasion.

Putin and the Kremlin are known for creating carefully choreographed outings designed, in part, to showcase the president’s strength.

Ukrainian officials have slammed the visit as a cynical ploy and akin to a criminal returning to the crime scene “under the cover of night,” using darkness to hide signs that Mariupol was subject to some of the war’s worst atrocities.

News of the trip comes shortly after the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova, stemming from an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.

Ukraine ceasefire ‘unacceptable’: White House

Washington is firmly opposed to a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has said, branding any peace initiatives “unacceptable” in the current situation.

The senior White House official made the remarks on Sunday in an interview with Fox News.

Kirby touched on the upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, stating that should any peace initiatives come out of their meeting, Washington would reject them.

“What we have said before, and we’ll say it again today, that if coming out of this meeting, there’s some sort of call for a ceasefire, well, that’s just going to be unacceptable because all that’s going to do… is ratify Russian’s conquest to date,” Kirby stated.

Moscow and Beijing have been “increasing their cooperation and their relationship” lately, the official added, asserting that the two nations have joined to undermine and “rewrite” the so-called “rules of the game globally.”

Russia and China “are two countries that are chafing against this international rules-based order that the United States and so many of our allies and partners have built up, since the end of World War II,” he continued.

International arrest warrant should be complied with: Ukrainian officials

Mykhailo Podolyak, the adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said that “the international warrant must be complied with” in a tweet on Sunday.

He continued: “It is symbolic that Germany was the first to make it clear that if ‘suspect Putin VV’ appears in their jurisdiction, he will be arrested immediately.”

On Friday, International Criminal Court judges issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin over alleged war crimes along with his children’s rights commissioner for the “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children.

Andriy Kostin, Prosecutor General of Ukraine, said that President Putin “has the official status of a suspect in the commission of an international crime.”

“The world has received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and that its leadership and accomplices will be brought to justice,” Kostin added.

Kostin, in a statement released on Telegram, said that the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office “has submitted more than 40 volumes of materials to the ICC – more than 1000 pages.”

“In total, the proceedings in which the Prosecutor General’s Office provides procedural guidance have documented the deportation of more than 16,000 children from Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, and Kherson regions,” Kostin added.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson: Russia is open to “serious proposals” for diplomacy from West and Ukraine

Russia would consider “really serious proposals” from Western nations and Ukraine regarding a possible end to the war, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson.

“We have repeatedly stated that we are open to really serious proposals from the West and Ukraine for a political and diplomatic solution to the crisis, but the language of ultimatums is unacceptable for us,” Maria Zakharova wrote in a Telegram post.

Zakharova condemned Ukrainian officials, including Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, for not being willing to sit down at the negotiating table.

Zakharova’s comments followed a tweet from Kuleba on Thursday in which he said he discussed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s 10-point peace formula with Chinese officials.

Zakharova called Zelensky’s peace plan “nothing more than a set of ultimatums and demands from Russia that are disconnected from reality” and claimed the purpose of his proposal is “to achieve the capitulation of Russia with the help of the West.”

According to Zakharova, an integral part of a sustainable peace plan should include the abolition of sanctions and international recognition of Russia’s declared annexation of Ukrainian territories.

While Ukrainian officials have said they will continue to sound out the possibility of peace negotiations, Zelensky has not entertained the possibility of giving up any Ukrainian land, nor dropping efforts to join NATO and the European Union.

Zelensky told journalists in February that he will not negotiate with Putin, saying, “It is not the same man. There is nobody to talk to there.”

Zelensky imposes sanctions on hundreds, including Syrian President

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree Saturday to sanction hundreds of individuals, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to a Ukrainian government statement.

The decree, which approved a proposal by the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, imposes sanctions primarily on Russian citizens and legal entities. But the list also includes other prominent names such as Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal аl-Mekdad and Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of Iran Major General Mohammad Bagheri.

The statement added that the sanctions — which order a halt on trading operations and restrict or completely ban shipping resources, flying or otherwise traveling through Ukraine — will be imposed for 10 years.

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