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Russia-Ukraine updates: Abramovich attends peace talks after suspected poisoning

Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Russian forces are continuing their attempted push through Ukraine from multiple directions, while Ukrainians, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, are putting up “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The attack began Feb. 24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation.” Heavy shelling and missile attacks, many on civilian buildings, continue in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, as well as major cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Mar 29, 7:26 pm
Zelenskyy says Russia still has ‘significant potential’ to continue attacks

In his latest national address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians to stay vigilant and warned that Russia still has “significant potential” to continue its attacks.

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The comments come after Russia claimed it would move forces away from Kyiv and Chernihiv and the latest round of in-person peace negotiations kicked off in Turkey.

Zelenskyy said there were positive signals that came out of Tuesday’s talks in Istanbul and that Ukraine is willing to continue the negotiation process, but that his country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be guaranteed.

“There can be no compromise on sovereignty and our territorial integrity. And there will not be any,” he said.

The president called for sanctions targeting Russia to be intensified amid continued shelling.

“The question of [lifting Russian] sanctions cannot even be raised until the war is over, until we get back what’s ours and until we restore justice,” he said.

-ABC News’ Fidel Pavlenko

Mar 29, 7:01 pm
Ukraine outlines proposals for new system of security guarantees

Ukraine outlined proposals for a new system of security guarantees for their country during talks with Russia in Turkey on Tuesday, officials said.

Ukraine is seeking security guarantees comparable to NATO’s collective defense clause, Article 5, in that in the event of an attack on Ukraine, “guarantor countries” would be legally obligated to provide arms and impose a “no-fly” zone over Ukraine, according to David Arakhamia, the head of Ukraine’s negotiation team. The security guarantees would “not work temporarily” in the currently occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and Crimea, the government said.

The suggested list of guarantors includes permanent members of the UN Security Council — the U.S., Great Britain, France, China and Russia — as well as Turkey, Germany, Canada, Italy, Poland and Israel.

In exchange, Ukraine’s would “undertake not to deploy foreign military bases, foreign military contingents on its territory, not to join military-political alliances, and military exercises on the territory of Ukraine will be possible with the consent of the guarantor countries,” the government said.

It is “fundamentally important” that a potential treaty does not deny Ukraine’s right to join the European Union, Oleksandr Chalyi, a member of the Ukrainian delegation, said in a statement.

Negotiations with Russia will continue in the next two weeks, and Ukraine has already begun consultations with all countries they would like to see on the guarantor list, according to Chalyi.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Mar 29, 2:30 pm
Biden says ‘we’ll see’ if Russians will follow through on moving forces away from Kyiv, Chernihiv

President Biden on Tuesday expressed skepticism regarding Russia’s claim that its forces will move away from Kyiv and Chernihiv.

“I don’t read anything into it until I see what their actions are. We’ll see if they follow through on what they’re suggesting,” Biden said during a joint press conference with Singapore’s prime minister.

Biden also commented on the ongoing negotiations in Turkey between Ukraine and Russia and said there is consensus among Western allies to “see what they have to offer.”

“But in the meantime, we’re going to continue to keep strong sanctions. We are going to continue to provide the Ukrainian military with their capacity to defend themselves and we are going to continue to keep a close eye on what’s going on,” Biden said.

-ABC News’ Justin Gomez

Mar 29, 2:16 pm
Rocket strike on Mykolaiv government building leaves 12 dead, 33 injured

A rocket strike on a regional administration building in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv killed 12 and injured 33 people, according to Ukrainian State Emergency Services.

Emergency services said 18 people were rescued from the rubble.

According to state officials, the strike occurred Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. local time. Search and rescue operations are still underway.

-ABC News’ Natalya Kushnir

Mar 29, 2:14 pm
Top military commander says US will likely need more troops in Europe, may become permanent force

Gen. Tod Wolters, the top U.S. military commander in Europe, met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill Tuesday, telling them he expects he’ll need more U.S. troops and it’s possible they may become a permanent force in the country.

With U.S. troop levels in Europe now at 100,000 from 60,000 just a few months ago, Wolters said it’s very likely that the number of troops could continue to rise depending on the situation in Ukraine.

“My suspicion is we’re going to still need more,” Wolters said. “And obviously, there’s always a mix between the requirement of permanent versus rotational and there are pluses and minuses of each one. We’ll have to continue to examine the European contributions to make a smart decision about where to go in the future.”

Wolters praised Ukraine’s military and its ability to stall Russian military operations through the weapons systems provided by the U.S. military.

When asked if the U.S. had overestimated the Russians and underestimated Ukraine’s defensive capability, Wolters said in part, “When this crisis is over with we will accomplish a comprehensive after-action review in all domains and in all departments and find out where our weak areas. Where it makes sure that we can find ways to improve and this could be one of those areas.”

-ABC News’ Luis Martinez

Mar 29, 1:22 pm
Some troops moving away from Kyiv but US believes it’s ‘redeployment, not a withdrawal’

The U.S. is seeing some movement of Russian troops away from Kyiv, as Russia has suggested, but the White House does not view this as a withdrawal but rather a “redeployment,” a White House official told ABC News.

“We’re seeing some movement of troops away from Kyiv, which could be an indication of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin having to adjust his original plan,” a White House official said. “But no one should read too much into an adjustment — should momentum build, Russia could change its plans again at any moment, or this could just be a regroup.”

“No one should be fooled by Russia’s announcements. We believe any movement of forces from around Kyiv is a redeployment, not a withdrawal, and the world should be prepared for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine,” the official added.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Mar 29, 12:22 pm
1st superyacht owned by a Russian national seized in UK waters

The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency said it’s seized a superyacht owned by a Russian national — worth around $49.92 million — in Canary Wharf in London.

The National Crime Agency’s statement doesn’t identify the Russian national but says the owner deliberately registered the ship to a company based in Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean. The agency also said the ship carried Maltese flags, allegedly to hide its origins.

British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the seizure “turned an icon of Russia’s power and wealth into a clear and stark warning to Putin and his cronies.” Shapps said the seizure proves “we can and will take the strongest possible action against those seeking to benefit from Russian connections.”

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Mar 29, 11:33 am
4 European countries expel dozens of Russian officials

Belgium announced Tuesday its decision to expel 21 Russian intelligence officers.

The officers were working for the Russian embassy and consulate in Brussels and were allegedly involved “in espionage and influence operations threatening national security,” Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes said in a statement on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands said it has expelled 17 Russian intelligence officers. The officers were in The Netherlands under diplomatic cover, Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said in a statement on Twitter.

Ireland confirmed it has asked four senior Russian officials to leave the country.

“This is because their activities have not been in accordance with international standards of diplomatic behaviour,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said in a statement posted to Twitter. “The Government continues to believe that diplomatic channels between Ireland and the Russian Federation should remain open.”

The Czech Republic also announced its decision to expel one Russian diplomat from the Russian embassy in Prague. The individual was requested to leave the country within 72 hours.

“Together with our Allies, we are reducing the Russian intelligence presence in the EU,” the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Twitter.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Mar 29, 10:29 am
Russia says talks were ‘constructive,’ Ukraine says more countries will be involved

Tuesday’s talks in Istanbul between Ukraine and Russia have concluded.

Russian delegation head Vladimir Medinsky told reporters the talks were “constructive.”

Meanwhile, Alexander Chaly of the Ukrainian delegation told reporters that talks will continue, and in two weeks they plan to involve other countries in the negotiation process.

Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia said he believes enough has been covered to now involve the presidents of Ukraine and Russia in the talks.

Medinsky noted, “As a result of today’s substantive conversation, we have approved and offer a solution, according to which a meeting between the heads of state is possible simultaneously with the initialing of the agreement.”

“The proposed format is like this: first an agreement will be drafted, then the agreement will be approved by the negotiators and signed by the foreign ministers at a meeting, and then the possibility of a meeting between the heads of state will be discussed in order to sign this agreement,” Medinsky said.

Ukrainian officials said a military alliance of other countries — including the U.S. — needs to be created to provide security protections to Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed skepticism about the talks, saying he would leave it to the Ukrainians to characterize any progress.

Mar 29, 9:41 am
Russia says talks are constructive, Ukraine says more countries will be involved in negotiation process

Tuesday’s talks in Istanbul between Ukraine and Russia have concluded.

Russian delegation head Vladimir Medinsky told reporters the talks were constructive.

Alexander Chaly of the Ukrainian delegation told reporters that negotiations will continue, and in two weeks they plan to involve other countries in the negotiation process.

Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia said he believes enough has been covered to now involve the presidents of Ukraine and Russia in the talks.

Medinsky noted, “As a result of today’s substantive conversation, we have approved and offer a solution, according to which a meeting between the heads of state is possible simultaneously with the initialing of the agreement.”

“The proposed format is like this: first an agreement will be drafted, then the agreement will be approved by the negotiators and signed by the foreign ministers at a meeting, and then the possibility of a meeting between the heads of state will be discussed in order to sign this agreement,” Medinsky said.

Ukrainian officials said a military alliance of other countries — including the U.S. — needs to be created to provide security protections to Ukraine.

Mar 29, 9:07 am
Biden to speak with leaders of France, Germany, Italy, UK

President Joe Biden will hold a call at 9:15am ET Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson to discuss the latest with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the White House.

Macron is also set to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

Mar 29, 9:01 am
Russia claims it’s ‘drastically’ decreasing military activity near Kyiv, Chernihiv

Russian forces are “drastically” decreasing military activity around Kyiv and Chernihiv to try to improve trust and aid further talks with Ukraine, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Col. Gen. Alexander Fomin told reporters.

“Due to the fact that the negotiations on elaborating a treaty on Ukraine’s neutrality and nuclear-free status, as well as on providing Ukraine with security guarantees are shifting to the practical field, and taking into account the principles discussed during today’s meeting, the Russian Defense Ministry has decided to decrease its military activity in the areas of Kyiv and Chernihiv drastically in order to increase mutual trust and create conditions required for further negotiations and for achieving the ultimate goal of reaching an agreement on and signing of the aforementioned treaty,” he said.

Mar 29, 8:54 am
Over 3.9 million refugees have fled Ukraine: UNHCR

More than 3.9 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24, according to the latest figures from the United Nations Refugee Agency.

The tally from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) amounts to just over 8.8% of Ukraine’s population — which the World Bank counted at 44 million at the end of 2020 — on the move across borders in 34 days.

More than half of the refugees crossed into neighboring Poland, UNHCR figures show.

Mar 29, 8:27 am
Russia says ‘special military operation’ to continue until ‘objectives are achieved’

Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine will continue “until the objectives are achieved,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday.

Shoigu claimed that Russian troops are “actively providing humanitarian assistance to the population of” the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics as well as Ukraine.

“As many as 684 humanitarian operations have been completed and 6,079 tons of cargo have been supplied to 210 populated localities,” Shoigu said at a teleconference.

Mar 29, 8:24 am
Deadly missile strike leaves gaping hole in Mykolaiv government building

Russian forces struck Mykolaiv’s regional state administration building on Tuesday morning, Ukrainian authorities said.

A video posted on Telegram by Mykolaiv Oblast Gov. Vitaliy Kim and verified by ABC News shows the moment the building was hit. A live webcam over the southern city of Mykolaiv captured the missile crossing the camera. Moments later, smoke from an explosion fills the screen.

Another video posted on Facebook by the State Emergency Service of Ukraine and verified by ABC News shows a gaping hole in the building where the missile hit. At least seven people were killed and 22 others were injured. Search and rescue operations are ongoing, according to the State Emergency Service.

An image posted on Twitter by Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security (Stratcom) also showed the destroyed building.

Mar 29, 7:44 am
Macron to speak with Putin on Tuesday

French President Emmanuel Macron will speak via telephone with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, according to the Elysee Palace.

Their phone conversation is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Paris time.

Mar 29, 7:02 am
Kremlin confirms Abramovich’s involvement in peace talks

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is taking part in Russian-Ukrainian negotiations at the approval of both parties, although he is not an official member of the Russian delegation, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

“Abramovich has been engaged in ensuring certain contacts between the Russian and the Ukrainian side,” Peskov said during a daily call with reporters Tuesday. “He is not an official delegation member.”

“Nevertheless, he is also present on our side in Istanbul,” Peskov added, referring to the peace talks currently underway in Turkey’s capital.

Abramovich’s participation in the negotiations has been endorsed by both sides, according to Peskov.

Peskov said it will be clear “today or tomorrow whether [the talks] hold some promise or not.”

Mar 29, 6:59 am
Ukrainian soldiers patrol streets of Irpin after claims of liberation

Ukrainian soldiers were seen patrolling the streets of Irpin on Tuesday, following claims that the besieged Kyiv suburb has been “liberated” from Russian forces.

Video released by the Ukrainian military and verified by ABC News shows their troops driving through Irpin, a northwestern suburb of Kyiv where some of the heaviest fighting near the Ukrainian capital has taken place.

Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn announced in a video posted to Telegram on Monday that “Irpin has been liberated.”

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government released video on Tuesday showing elderly people who had been evacuated from Irpin arriving in Kyiv, where they reunited with their families.

The footage purportedly shows 86-year-old Irpin resident Olga Molchanova being embraced by her daughter and son. Molchanova’s adult children had evacuated Irpin earlier via a humanitarian corridor, but their parents refused to leave at the time, according to Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security (Stratcom).

“Recaptured by Ukrainian army, Irpin remains too dangerous for civilians to stay,” Stratcom said in a post on Twitter alongside the video.

Mar 29, 6:16 am
Abramovich attends peace talks after suspected poisoning

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich is taking part in Tuesday’s in-person negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian delegations in Turkey’s capital, a Turkish presidential source told ABC News.

Abramovich is the owner of the English professional football club Chelsea. The U.K. government has included him among the wealthy Russians targeted in recent sanctions.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, that Abramovich and two Ukrainian negotiators suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning after peace talks in Kyiv in early March.

A Turkish presidential source told ABC News that Abramovich suspected he was poisoned after experiencing eye problems.

Turkish officials confirmed there is a discussion regarding the food protocols during Tuesday’s negotiations in Istanbul.

Mar 29, 6:12 am
Ukraine warns delegation not to eat or drink at talks

Ukraine is warning its delegation against eating or drinking while attending in-person peace talks with Russian negotiators, amid fears of potential poisoning.

“I advise to everyone who’s going to any negotiations with Russia, not to eat or drink anything, and also not to touch any surfaces,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a statement Tuesday.

The warning came a day after The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources, that Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and two Ukrainian negotiators had suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning following peace talks in Kyiv in early March.

Mar 29, 3:22 am
Talks between Russia, Ukraine begin in Turkey

The latest round of in-person peace negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian delegations kicked off in Istanbul on Tuesday morning, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in attendance.

Erdogan addressed both sides with a brief speech before the talks began.

“Establishing a cease-fire and peace as soon as possible will be to everyone’s benefit. We think that we’ve entered a period where we need to achieve concrete results from negotiations,” Erdogan said. “As members of the delegations, you’ve taken on a historic responsibility. The whole world is awaiting the good news that will come from you.”

Footage showing the start of the meeting was broadcast by Russian state-backed television channel RT.

Tuesday’s negotiations are taking place in Dolmabahce Palace in the Besiktas district of Turkey’s capital, according to Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu Agency. It’s the first face-to-face talks to take place between Russia and Ukraine in more than two weeks.

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