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War in Ukraine, Day 45 | Zelensky ready to continue talks with Russia

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(Kyiv) Ukraine is “always ready” to hold talks with Russia, stalled after atrocities were uncovered in liberated Ukrainian towns and despite an imminent offensive in the east, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

What you need to know

  • Ukraine is “always ready” to negotiate with Russia, according to its president Volodymyr Zelensky;
  • Ukrainian leader calls for ‘strong global response’ after Kramatorsk train station bombing;
  • Missile strike that hit country’s east railway station on Friday killed 52 people;
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson traveled to Kyiv on Saturday where he met his Ukrainian counterpart;
  • Over 4.4 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion;
  • An international fundraiser raised 10.1 billion euros to support Ukraine.

“Ukraine has always said that it is ready for negotiations and will seek any possibility to stop the war. At the same time, we are unfortunately seeing preparations for major, some say decisive, battles in the east,” Zelensky said during a press conference with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer. He was visiting Kyiv and Boutcha, near the Ukrainian capital, which has become a symbol of the atrocities of the Russian invasion.

We are ready to fight and at the same time seek diplomatic ways to stop this war. At the same time, we always envisage a dialogue.

Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine

The last session of direct Russian-Ukrainian talks was held on March 29 in Istanbul, during which Ukraine detailed its main proposals for an agreement with Moscow, including its “neutrality” in exchange for an international agreement to ensure its safety.

“In the East and in the South, we observe a concentration of weapons, equipment and troops which are preparing to occupy another part of our territory”, underlined Mr. Zelensky.

Asked about the scenarios for such an offensive, he said that they would depend on “several factors”: “on our strength, the speed of our partners to provide us with weapons, and the will of the Russian leader [Vladimir Poutine] go further “.

“A firm global response”

Mr Zelensky earlier called for “a firm global response” after the deadly bombardment of a train station in eastern Ukraine, in Kramatorsk, where civilians were gathered to flee the area for fear of a Russian offensive, a massacre that sparked strong Western outrage.

“This is another Russian war crime for which everyone involved will be held accountable,” Zelensky said in a video message, referring to the missile strike on Friday that killed 52 people, including five children, according to a final report from the local authorities.

“World powers have already condemned Russia’s attack on Kramatorsk. We expect a strong global response to this war crime,” he continued.





US President Joe Biden has denounced a “horrible atrocity” committed by Moscow, and French diplomacy a “crime against humanity”.

Moscow denied being responsible for the strike, saying it did not have the type of missile that would have been used, before denouncing a Ukrainian “provocation”.

A senior US Department of Defense official dismissed the arguments of Russian authorities.

“I note that initially they reported a successful strike, and that they retracted only after reports of civilian casualties,” said the official.

The Russian Ministry of Defense had indeed announced earlier Friday that the Russian army had destroyed with high precision missiles “weapons and other military equipment in the stations of Pokrovsk, Sloviansk and Barvinkove”, localities all located not far from Kramatorsk, the “capital” of the part of Donbass still under Ukrainian control.


PHOTO FADEL SENNA, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The remains of a missile that hit the Kramatorsk station, where it is written “for our children”.

The governor of the province of Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko, quoted by the Interfax agency, assured that it was about a missile of the Tochka U type, with cluster munitions.

The missile fell around 10:30 am, at a time when candidates for evacuation have been gathering for days by the hundreds in the city’s train station to flee the Donbass, now a priority objective for the Russian army.

AFP journalists saw at least 30 bodies in body bags or under tarpaulins. The sidewalks were stained with blood, abandoned suitcases, stuffed animals and food littered the platforms.


PHOTO ANDRIY ANDRIYENKO, ASSOCIATED PRESS

On the forecourt, the remains of a missile were still visible: one could read in Russian “For our children”. A recurring expression of pro-Russian separatists in reference to their children killed since the first Donbass war, which began in 2014.

In the station, a woman, traumatized, was looking for her passport in the abandoned belongings.

“I heard like a double explosion, I rushed against the wall to protect myself. I then saw people bleeding into the station, bodies all over the ground, I don’t know if they were injured or dead. The soldiers rushed to tell us to evacuate the station, I left everything here”.

On Saturday morning, evacuations of civilians continued by road. Minibuses and vans came to pick up dozens of survivors of the bombing who spent the night in a Protestant church in the city center, not far from the station, AFP journalists noted.


PHOTO ANDRIY ANDRIYENKO, ASSOCIATED PRESS

An elderly woman waits for a minibus to leave Kramatorsk on April 9.

Arrived Friday in Ukraine for a support visit, accompanied by the head of EU diplomacy Josep Borrell, the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, for her part denounced a “despicable attack”.

The two went to Boutcha, near Kyiv, a city symbol of the atrocities of which Russia is accused.

Dozens of corpses wearing civilian clothes, some with their hands tied behind their backs, were discovered in this locality, 30 km from the Ukrainian capital, in early April after the departure of Russian forces.

“My instinct tells me: if this isn’t a war crime, what is a war crime,” said Mr.me von der Leyen after this visit. “We saw with our own eyes that the destruction in this town was aimed at civilians. Residential buildings are not military targets”.

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