Zelensky again calls for peace talks with Moscow
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for meaningful peace and security talks “without delay” with Moscow, which instead asks for a text to be discussed as an essential condition for a summit with Putin. For Zelensky, in a video message posted on Facebook, a meeting with Putin “is the only chance for Russia to reduce the damage caused by its mistakes”, in the wake of its invasion. “It’s time to meet, it’s time to talk, it’s time to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, Russia’s losses will be such that the country will take several generations to recover,” he added. “We have always insisted on negotiations,” said the Ukrainian president, “we have always proposed dialogue and solutions for peace. Not only during the 23 days of invasion.” For the Russian chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, the delegations of the two countries must prepare and agree on the text of a treaty, which would later be initialed by the foreign ministers and approved by the governments. “Only then,” concludes Medinsky, “will the possibility of a summit be discussed.”
Putin praises Russian military at massive Moscow rally
President Putin has addressed a 203-thousand-crowd at Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, praising the Russian military and emphatically saying that “we will implement all our plans”. Celebrating the eighth anniversary of the reunification of Crimea with Russia, Putin touched on patriotic themes to boost public support for the war, which he calls a “special military operation” and claimed was launched as a defensive measure. The Russian president also quoted the Bible: “There is no greater love than giving one’s soul for one’s friends.” He accused the West of “trying to fracture our society… to provoke a civil conflict in Russia by means of the fifth column; the goal is Russia’s collapse.” He called for a “self-purification” to rid Russia of internal war critics and accused the West of “cancelling” Russia on the world stage.
€12K Loro Piana parka for Putin
The ‘made in Italy’ look of Vladimir Putin did not go unnoticed on the stage of the Moscow stadium, wearing a dark blue parka by Loro Piana, the brand specializing in articles in cashmere. According to international media, the jacket is worth about 1.5 million rubles, over €12,000.
Biden urges Xi not to back Russia
US President Joe Biden described to China’s president, Xi Jinping, in a phone call yesterday what he called “the implications and consequences” if Beijing provides material support to Russia as it attacks Ukrainian cities and civilians. The White House said that during the phone call, which lasted nearly two hours, Biden outlined the views of the United States and its allies on the crisis and detailed efforts to prevent and then respond to the invasion, including by imposing costs on Russia. He underscored his support for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis. An earlier statement from the Chinese foreign ministry quoted Xi as telling Biden that conflicts and confrontations were in no-one’s interest. “The top priorities now are to continue dialogue and negotiations, avoid civilian casualties, prevent a humanitarian crisis, cease fighting and end the war as soon as possible. The Ukraine crisis is something that we don’t want to see.”
Russians push to centre of Mariupol
Residents of besieged Mariupol remain on the brink as Russian forces continue to push into the southern port city. The mayor confirmed to the BBC that gun battles had reached the centre of the city. Up to 400,000 people have been trapped in Mariupol for over two weeks, though Ukrainian officials say nearly 5,000 managed to escape on Friday. The city has been under a bombardment that has cut electricity, heating and water supply. More than 80% of the city’s residential buildings are said to be either damaged or destroyed. Ukrainian officials said late on Friday that Mariupol had lost its access to the Sea of Azov.
45 dead in raid on Kharkiv barracks
At least 45 people died in a missile attack on Ukrainian army barracks in the southern city of Mykolaiv. The barracks were used to train local soldiers in the city which curbed a major Russian offensive along the Black Sea coast. Mykolaiv experienced weeks of intense bombing after Russian troops were pushed back from the city.
Fleeing Ukrainians pour into the EU
The number of Ukrainian refugees to the European Union is destined to rise to at least five million, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said during a media conference with his Dutch counterpart Wopke Hoekstra. “The Ukrainian crisis – he stressed – urgently requires us to make progress in the negotiations on the new pact on migration and asylum, continuing the discussions on migration reform in the EU, which received strong impetus under the French presidency.”
European football draws
Champions League quarter-final draw: Chelsea v Real Madrid; Manchester City v Atletico Madrid; Villarreal v Bayern Munich; and Benfica v Liverpool. Champions League semi-final draw: Manchester City or Atletico Madrid v Chelsea or Real Madrid; and Benfica or Liverpool v Villarreal or Bayern Munich (The two-leg quarter-finals will take place on 7 and 14 April, the semi-finals are on 28 April and 5 May with the final in Sevilla’s Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium on Wednesday, 18 May.)
Europa League quarter-final draw: RB Leipzig v Atalanta; Eintracht Frankfurt v Barcelona; West Ham v Lyon; Braga v Rangers. Europa League semi-final draw: RB Leipzig or Atalanta v Braga or Rangers; and West Ham or Lyon v Eintracht Frankfurt or Barcelona. (The first legs will be played on Thursday 7 April, with the second legs a week later. The two-leg semi-finals are on 28 April and 5 May with the final in Tirana, Albania on Wednesday, 25 May.)
Europa Conference League quarter-final draw: Bodo Glimt v Roma; Feyenoord v Slavia Prague; Marseille v PAOK Salonika; and Leicester v PSV Eindhoven. Europa Conference League semi-final draw: Leicester or PSV Eindhoven v Bodo Glimt or Roma; and Feyenoord or Slavia Prague v Marseille or PAOK Salonika (The first legs will be played on Thursday 7 April, with the second legs a week later. The two-leg semi-finals are on 28 April and 5 May with the final in Tirana, Albania on Wednesday, 25 May.)