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Russia sees 'no desire in Ukraine' to reach legitimate solution to conflict: Envoy

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A view of the square outside the damaged local city hall of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on March 1, 2022. (Via AFP)

Russia says it witnesses "no desire on the part of Ukraine" to try to find a legitimate and balanced solution to the problems between the two countries.

Gennady Gatilov, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, made the remarks during an interview with a Lebanese TV station on Tuesday, Russia’s Ria Novosti news agency reported.

Gatilov said Russia "supports diplomacy based on respect for the positions of all countries and equality, but for now we don't see that."

The two sides have been at odds since 2014, when the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea voted in a referendum in favor of joining Russia.

The problems escalated after pro-Russians in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine broke away from the mainland in the same year.

They declared the regions new republics, refusing to recognize a Western-backed Ukrainian government that had overthrown a democratically-elected Moscow-friendly administration.

More than 14,000 people have been killed so far across the regions as a result of the conflict that ensued between the Ukrainian military and the rebels.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” aimed at “demilitarization” of the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics. Announcing the operation, Putin said the mission was aimed at “defending people who for eight years are suffering persecution and genocide by the Kiev regime.”

In order to find a solution to the conflict, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators held a first round of talks on Monday, but made no substantial progress, merely agreeing to meet again.

‘Russia hits Kiev’s television tower’

Reports said Russia struck the Ukrainian capital of Kiev’s main television tower, which lies in the heart of the city, on Tuesday night.

Ukraine alleged that as many as five people died during the purported strike that also knocked out some state broadcasting.

Russia to retaliate US expulsion of diplomats

The United States expelled 12 diplomats from Russia’s United Nations’ mission in New York on Monday as the conflict raged.

The US alleged that the expelled diplomats were "intelligence operatives," who had been "engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security."

Late on Tuesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova vowed that Moscow would not let the punitive measure go unpunished, saying that Russia will reply in kind.

The US’s action, she said, "will not remain without a proper reaction and an answer - not necessarily symmetrical."

Biden speaks to Ukraine's Zelensky

US President Joe Biden spoke on the phone with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky for more than 30 minutes, the White House reported.

Tweeting afterwards, the Ukrainian president said the call featured “anti-Russian sanctions”—which Washington has been indulging in since the launch of the Russian operation—“and defense assistance to Ukraine.”

Zelensky made the comments hours before Biden was due to address a joint session of Congress.

The White House said the pair discussed the US’s sustained help for Ukraine, including ongoing deliveries of “security assistance” and “economic support.”

The White House has asked Congress for a whopping $6.4 billion for Ukraine.

EU discusses cutting Russian banks off SWIFT

The European Union, which has joined the US’s sanctioning spree against Russia, was also reported by Bloomberg to be discussing potential exclusion of seven Russian banks from the SWIFT financial-messaging system.

Given Europe’s heavy dependence on Russian energy imports, “cutting Russia off SWIFT had long been seen as a no-go for several European countries,” but this changed after Russia launched the operation against Ukraine, the website reported.

The 27-nation bloc would, however, spare Sberbank, Russia’s biggest lender, and Gazprombank, a bank partly-owned by Russia’s gas giant Gazprom.

Google targets Russia's RT

Separately, Google removed the Russian state media outlet Russia Today from its news search tool.

The American search engine alleged that the move was aimed at “stopping the spread of misinformation and disrupting disinformation campaigns online."

RT's deputy editor-in-chief Anna Belkina said the move was evidence that "establishment" Western companies are "terrified of a mere presence of any outside voice for the fear of losing their historically captive audience, if that audience encounters a different perspective."

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