Ukraine considers Russian neutrality demand ahead of new talks

  • New in-person talks are set to take place this week, Ukrainian and Russian officials have confirmed; Turkey says the meeting will be held in Istanbul.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy discloses his government is “carefully” considering a Russian demand of neutrality ahead of the talks.
  • US President Joe Biden says he was not calling for regime change in Russia during a speech in which he said President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power”.
  • NATO is not aiming to remove Putin from power, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.

Here are the latest updates:

Ukraine says Russian forces near Chernobyl could pose new radiation threat

A senior Ukrainian official has accused Russia of “irresponsible” acts around the occupied Chernobyl power station that could send radiation across much of Europe, and urged the United Nations to dispatch a mission to assess the risks.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russian forces were “militarising” the exclusion zone around the station, site of the world’s worst civil nuclear accident in 1986.

Russian forces, she said, were transporting large amounts of old and badly maintained weapons, creating a risk of damaging the containment vessel constructed around the station’s wrecked fourth reactor.

And Russian forces were preventing firefighters from bringing under control large numbers of fires in the zone, she said.

“In the context of nuclear safety, the irresponsible and unprofessional actions of Russian servicemen present a very serious threat not only to Ukraine but to hundreds of millions of Europeans,” Vereshchuk said on her Telegram account.

“We therefore demand that the UN Security Council adopt immediate measures to demilitarise the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl station as well as dispatching a special mission to eliminate the risks of any repeat of the Chernobyl accident resulting from the actions of Russian occupying forces,” she said.

Biden says he was not calling for regime change in Russia

United States President Joe Biden has said he was not calling for regime change in Russia when he said that President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power”.

When asked by a reporter in Washington, DC, whether he was calling for regime change in Moscow, Biden said: “No”.

Biden made the initial remarks last week during a speech in Poland, in which he also called Putin a “butcher” and said the world must prepare for a “long fight ahead”. Several US officials have since stressed that Biden was not calling for regime change in Moscow.

US President Joe Biden speaks during an event in Warsaw, Poland
Biden made the comments during a fiery speech in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday [Slawomir Kaminski /Agencja via Reuters]

NATO not seeking regime change in Russia: Scholz

The NATO military alliance is not aiming to remove Vladimir Putin from power, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said, a day after US President Joe Biden branded Putin a “butcher” and said he “cannot remain in power”.

It “is not the objective of NATO, nor that of the US president”, Scholz told German public broadcaster ARD.

“I’ve had the chance to talk at length with him at the White House and we have also discussed these questions,” he added.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz looks on
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said NATO was not seeking regime change in Moscow [File: Christophe Gateau/Pool via Reuters]

Ukraine to insist on territorial integrity in new Russia talks

Ukraine will insist on sovereignty and territorial integrity at the next round of negotiations with Russia, President Zelenskyy has said.

“Our priorities in the negotiations are known: sovereignty, territorial integrity of Ukraine are beyond doubt,” he said in a video address. “Effective guarantees of security are a must. Obviously, our goal is peace and return to normal life in our country as soon as possible.”

Germany eyes buying missile defence system

Germany is considering purchasing a missile defence system to shield against a potential attack from Russia, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.

“This is certainly one of the issues we are discussing, and for good reason,” he told public broadcaster ARD when asked whether Germany might buy a defence system.

“We need to be aware that we have a neighbour who is prepared to use violence to enforce their interests,” he added.

In the same interview, the chancellor also addressed Germany’s decision to become more energy independent and said it would have to accept higher energy costs.

Scholz said it would not help to keep Germany’s nuclear power plants running longer, but he noted that the timing of the country’s plan to exit from coal was dependent on how quickly it made progress in expanding renewable energy.

INTERACTIVE- Which countries rely most on Russian oil AJLABS

Russia blockades Ukraine’s Black Sea coast: UK military intelligence

Russia is maintaining a distant blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast which is effectively isolating Ukraine from international maritime trade, the United Kingdom’s military intelligence has said.

Russian naval forces are also continuing to conduct sporadic missile raids against targets throughout Ukraine, the Ministry of Defence added.

Ahead of new talks, Zelenskyy considers Russian neutrality demand

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said his government is “carefully” considering a Russian demand of Ukrainian neutrality, a key point of contention as negotiators for both sides prepare for a fresh round of talks aimed at ending the brutal month-long war.

“This point of the negotiations is understandable to me and it is being discussed, it is being carefully studied,” Zelenskyy said during an interview with several independent Russian news organisations.

Read more here.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends an interview with some of the Russian media via video link.
Zelenskyy spoke to journalists from several Russian media outlets [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters]

Russia plans a ‘Korean scenario’ for Ukraine: Intelligence chief

Russia is considering “a Korean scenario” for Ukraine and splitting the country in two after failing to seize the capital Kyiv and overthrow its government, the Ukrainian military intelligence chief has said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “will try to impose a dividing line between the unoccupied and occupied regions of our country”, General Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Ministry of Defence’s Intelligence Directorate, said on Sunday as reported by the ministry’s Telegram account.

Read more here.

Next round of negotiations to be held this week

Russian and Ukrainian negotiating teams will meet for talks in the Turkish city of Istanbul, the Turkish and Russian presidents have agreed.

No dates were given for the meeting. Ukrainian negotiator Davyd Arakhamia said talks would resume on Monday, while Russian delegation leader Vladimir Medinsky said they would kick off on Tuesday.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine. Read all the updates from Sunday, March 27 here.

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