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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Explosions rock Kyiv as Ukraine-Russia talks set to continue

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arge explosions thundered across Kyiv earlier on Tuesday as officials from Russia and Ukraine were set to engage in another round of diplomatic talks.

Shortly before dawn, several blasts rocked the capital while Russia pressed its advance on multiple fronts.

Elsewhere, a convoy of 160 civilian cars left the encircled port city of Mariupol along a designated humanitarian route, the city council reported, in a rare glimmer of hope a week and a half into the lethal siege that has pulverised homes and other buildings and left people desperate for food, water, heat and medicine.

The latest negotiations, held via video conference, were the fourth round involving higher-level officials from the two countries and the first in a week. The talks ended on Monday without a breakthrough after several hours, with an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky saying the negotiators took “a technical pause” and planned to meet again on Tuesday.

The two sides had expressed some optimism in the past few days. Mykhailo Podolyak, the aide to Mr Zelensky, tweeted that the negotiators would discuss “peace, ceasefire, immediate withdrawal of troops & security guarantees”.

Previous discussions, held in person in Belarus, produced no lasting humanitarian routes or agreements to end the fighting.

In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that while the Biden administration supports Ukraine’s participation in the talks with Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin would have to show signs of de-escalating in order to demonstrate good faith.

Overall, nearly all of the Russian military offensives remained stalled after making little progress over the weekend, according to a senior US defence official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessment. Russian troops were still about nine miles (15 kilometres) from the centre of Kyiv, the official said.

The official said that Russian forces have launched more than 900 missiles but that Ukraine’s airspace is still contested, with Russia not achieving total air superiority.

Ukrainian authorities said two people were killed when the Russians struck an airplane factory in Kyiv, sparking a large fire. The Antonov factory is Ukraine’s largest aircraft plant and produces many of the world’s biggest cargo planes.

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