• Ukrainian intelligence chief predicts guerrilla warfare
  • Zelenskiy calls for more Western military hardware
  • Russia-backed region signals possible referendum
  • Blinken says US has no regime change strategy in Russia

LVIV, Ukraine, March 27 (Reuters) – Ukraine is ready to go neutral and compromise on the status of the eastern Donbass region under a peace deal, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday. even as another senior Ukrainian official accused Russia of aiming to cut the country in two.

Zelenskiy delivered his message directly to Russian journalists in a video call that the Kremlin preemptively warned Russian media not to report, saying any deal must be guaranteed by third parties and subject to a referendum. Read more

“Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go,” he said in Russian.

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But even as Turkey is poised to host talks this week, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov has said Russian President Vladimir Putin is aiming to take over eastern Ukraine.

“In fact, it’s an attempt to create North Korea and South Korea in Ukraine,” he said, referring to the division of Korea after World War II. Zelenskiy urged the West to give Ukraine tanks, planes and missiles to help repel Russian forces.

In a call with Putin on Sunday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed to hold talks this week in Istanbul and called for a ceasefire and better humanitarian terms, his office said. Ukrainian and Russian negotiators have confirmed that face-to-face talks will take place. Read more

Senior US officials on Sunday sought to clarify that the United States has no policy of regime change in Russia, after President Joe Biden said at the end of a speech in Poland on Saturday that Putin “cannot not stay in power”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden simply meant that Putin could not be “qualified to go to war” against Ukraine or anywhere else. Read more

After more than four weeks of conflict, Russia has failed to seize any major Ukrainian city and signaled on Friday that it was scaling back its ambitions to focus on securing the Donbass region, where separatists backed by Russia have been fighting the Ukrainian army for eight years. years.

A local leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic said on Sunday that the region could soon hold a referendum on joining Russia, just as happened in Crimea after Russia seized the Ukrainian peninsula. in 2014.

Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to break with Ukraine and join Russia – a vote that much of the world refused to recognize.

Budanov predicted that the Ukrainian army would repel the Russian forces by launching a guerrilla offensive.

“Then there will remain a relevant scenario for the Russians, how to survive,” he said.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesman also dismissed talk of any referendum in eastern Ukraine.

“All fake referendums in the temporarily occupied territories are null and void and will have no legal validity,” Oleg Nikolenko told Reuters. Read more

‘CRUEL AND ESSENTIAL’

Moscow says the goals of what Putin calls a “special military operation” include the demilitarization and “denazification” of its neighbor. Ukraine and its Western allies call it a pretext for an unprovoked invasion.

Ukraine described previous negotiations as “very difficult”, some of which took place in Belarus, an ally of Russia.

The invasion devastated several Ukrainian cities, caused a major humanitarian crisis and displaced around 10 million people, almost a quarter of Ukraine’s population.

Tatyana Manyek, who crossed the Danube by ferry to Romania on Sunday with other refugees, said residents of her hometown of Odessa were “very scared” but she would have been left without her daughter.

“It would be very difficult to provide the child with basic living conditions. That’s why we decided to leave,” she said, hugging a pet dog.

In his Sunday blessing, Pope Francis called for an end to the “cruel and senseless” conflict. Read more

CALL TO ARMS

Zelenskiy demanded in a late-night televised address on Saturday that Western nations return military hardware that was “gathering dust” to stockpiles, saying his country only needed 1% of NATO aircraft and 1% of its tanks. Read more

Western nations gave Ukraine anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles as well as small arms and protective equipment, without offering heavy armor or aircraft.

Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said Russia had started destroying Ukrainian fuel and food storage centers. Appearing to confirm this, Russia said its missiles destroyed a fuel depot as well as a military repair plant near the western city of Lviv on Saturday. Read more

Ukraine was staging small counter-offensive actions as Russian forces tried to encircle its forces in eastern Ukraine, a Ukrainian presidential adviser said.

The United Nations has confirmed 1,119 civilian deaths and 1,790 injuries across Ukraine, but says the true toll is likely to be higher. Ukraine said on Sunday that 139 children had been killed and more than 205 injured so far in the conflict.

Ukraine and Russia agreed on Sunday on two “humanitarian corridors” to evacuate civilians from frontline areas, including allowing people to drive out of the southern city of Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna said. Vereshchuk.

The encircled port, located between Crimea and eastern areas held by Russian-backed separatists, has been devastated by weeks of heavy shelling. Thousands of residents are sheltering in basements with little water, food, medicine or electricity.

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Reporting by Reuters journalists in Mariupol, Natalia Zinets and Maria Starkova in Lviv, Jarrett Renshaw in Warsaw and Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Guy Faulconbridge in London and Matthias Williams; Written by Aidan Lewis, Crispian Balmer, Lincoln Feast and Lawrence Hurley; Editing by William Mallard, Gareth Jones, Frances Kerry and Daniel Wallis

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