Putin speeds up Ukraine invasion by pronouncing peace talks dead

President Vladimir Putin snuffed out any hope of diplomacy to end the fighting in Ukraine and ordered Russia to advance militarily, as Western nations rushed to help the Kiev government defend itself.

Speaking on a conference call on Saturday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Kiev had refused to hold negotiations, after the two sides failed to agree on a format or a place for talks. “Because the Ukrainian side actually refused negotiations, the main Russian forces resumed their advance in accordance with the plan of the operation,” he said, declining to provide further details.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak called Peskov’s comments a “tact”, saying Russia was trying to put diplomacy “in a bind before the talks even started”, according to Interfax. The president “categorically rules out any ultimatums and conditions,” he said.

The negotiations were first launched on Friday shortly after Chinese President Xi Jinping urged Putin in a call to begin talks with Ukraine. But success has always seemed unlikely given Russia’s insistence on surrendering the Ukrainian army and removing the elected government, while carrying out a full-scale invasion of its neighbour. Nor was there any sign that the Russian offensive ever ceased, as argued by Peskov.

Russia struck Ukraine’s military infrastructure overnight with weapons, including cruise missiles, and took control of the city of Melitopol, according to a Defense Ministry statement carried by the Interfax newswire. Ukraine claimed to have repelled the Russian invaders who intended to overthrow the government in the capital.

In a video apparently filmed on a Kiev street and posted to Twitter and Facebook, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said a large amount of “false information” was circulating on social media alleging he had called on Ukrainian troops to drop the weapons and that the evacuation was in progress.

“We will not give up any weapons,” Zelenskiy said. “We will defend our country.

As the war entered its third day and casualties mounted, a shocked world drove up the costs to the Kremlin of its aggression. The European Union, United States, United Kingdom and others have already passed punitive sanctions against Russia, including against Putin and those around him, sending Russian markets and the rouble down.

The 27-nation EU has moved closer to backing Russia’s exclusion from the SWIFT financial messaging system, a drastic measure that would damage Europe’s economy and that of its EU members as well as ‘in Moscow. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda met Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Saturday in a bid to overthrow one of the last holdouts to the EU agreement on the measure.

In a sign of Moscow’s isolation, China has distanced itself from Russia, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying the situation in Ukraine “is something China doesn’t want to see”, adding that it was ” absolutely imperative” that all parties show restraint.

Pledges of aid to Ukraine poured in. US President Joe Biden has authorized the State Department to provide $600 million in immediate assistance to Ukraine, including $350 million in military funding.

The Netherlands will send 200 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles as soon as possible, in addition to other military aid approved earlier this month. The Czech Republic will send machine guns, sniper rifles, handguns and ammunition in addition to the 4,000 artillery shells already agreed. Belgium is sending fuel and 2,000 small arms, while Slovakia, which shares a border with Ukraine, is sending shells and fuel. Germany said it would deploy troops to Slovakia to set up a Patriot anti-aircraft missile system on its territory.

“It is very important that tangible military aid now reaches Ukraine,” Nauseda from Lithuania said before meeting Scholz. “The sanctions are important, but the sanctions will have a real and tangible impact on the behavior of Russia only for a certain time.”

As the war raged, Russia’s media regulator ordered ten mostly independent media outlets to suppress reports of alleged civilian casualties and attacks on cities by Moscow forces in Ukraine, as the Kremlin seeks to control the narrative of its invasion. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko earlier said Russian forces were in areas of the capital, although Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said its forces still controlled the city.

“Ukrainian troops are repelling air strikes, they destroyed military transport planes carrying Russian paratroopers, continue to wage systematic combat,” the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff posted on Facebook.

Putin said he invaded Ukraine to prevent it from drawing closer to NATO, the Western military alliance, and to force it to “demilitarize”.

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