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Ukraine conflict: Russia says military operation will stop ‘in a moment’ if Ukraine meets its conditions

A Ukrainian soldier looks at a civilian crossing a blown-up bridge in a village, east of the town of Brovary, on March 6, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Russia says it will halt the military operation in Ukraine instantly if Kiev meets Moscow’s list of conditions, as the deadly conflict is still underway for the twelfth day.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on Monday that Ukraine was "told that all this can be stopped in a moment."

On the issue of neutrality, Peskov said what Kiev needs to do is to “make amendments to the constitution according to which Ukraine would reject any aims to enter any bloc. This is possible only by making changes to the constitution."

Peskov also ensured that Russia was not seeking to make any further territorial claims on Ukraine.

"We really are finishing the demilitarization of Ukraine. We will finish it. But the main thing is that Ukraine ceases its military action. They should stop their military action and then no one will shoot," he added.

He said that Ukraine needs to “recognize that Crimea is Russian territory,” and Donetsk and Lugansk are “independent states. And that’s it. It will stop in a moment.”

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree recognizing the breakaway Lugansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine as independent republics.

Russia prepared the list of its demands as delegations from Moscow and Kiev are set to meet on Monday for a third round of talks in Belarus.

Top Russian, Ukrainian diplomats to meet in Turkey

In the meantime, top diplomats from Russia and Ukraine have agreed to meet at a forum in southern Turkey on Thursday.

The meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, was announced by Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday.

"God willing, we will hold this meeting at a trilateral format in Antalya on Thursday" on the sidelines of a diplomatic forum in Turkey, Cavusoglu said Monday in comments published in the official Anadolu news agency. 

Russia's Foreign Ministry also confirmed the meeting. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russia's TASS news agency that an agreement for the three-way meeting was reached during a telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "on the initiative of the Turkish leader."

Kuleba had said on Saturday he was open to talks with Lavrov, but only if they were "meaningful."

Turkey, a NATO member, has called Russia's military campaign in Ukraine as unacceptable even as it opposes sanctions against Moscow.

"We especially hope that this meeting is a turning point and ... an important step towards peace and stability," said the top Turkish diplomat.

The military conflict has so far displaced more than 1.5 million people in what the United Nations has described as the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

Ukraine rejects Moscow-proposed corridors to Russia, Belarus

Russia on Monday announced new "humanitarian corridors" to transport Ukrainians trapped in Kharkiv, Kiev, Mariupol and Sumy to Russia and Belarus.

Ukraine, however, rejected the proposal, saying it “is not an acceptable option.”

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that the Ukrainians "aren't going to go to Belarus and then take a plane to Russia.”

Russia made the offer after efforts to transport civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol failed when both Moscow and Kiev accused each other of violating the ceasefire they agreed on Friday.

Hundreds of thousands of people are trapped without food and water in the port city, where there is also no electricity.

Russian army spokesman Igor Konashenkov said local ceasefires had begun at 0700 GMT to allow civilians to escape.

But Ukraine has raised doubt over the safely of the corridors, which take Ukrainian civilians into Russia or its ally Belarus.

Ukraine thwarting humanitarian corridors: Russia

In response, Russia says that Ukraine refuses to comply with agreements to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians.

“Attempts by the Ukrainian side to deceive Russia and the whole civilized world … are useless this time,” the defense ministry said in a statement.

“They are citizens of Ukraine, they should have the right to evacuate to the territory of Ukraine,” it added.

Moscow would also provide an airlift from Kiev to Russia.

Russia accuses Ukraine of ‘war crime’

Russia's chief negotiator in talks with Ukraine has also accused Ukraine of blocking humanitarian corridors for civilians.

“The nationalists who have seized positions in cities continue to hold civilians there," Vladimir Medinsky said Monday.

He accused Kyiv of using the civilians as "a human shield" which he said was “undoubtedly a war crime."

Medinsky added the latest round of talks between the warring countries, taking place on the Poland-Belarus border, are focused around the corridors.

Safe passage urgently needed: UN

Meanwhile, the UN said hundreds of thousands of people inside Ukraine have been cut off from life-saving aid due to the military encirclement of cities.

"Reliable and predictable 'windows of silence' and 'safe passage' are urgently needed to relocate people whose lives are at risk and provide life-saving humanitarian relief supplies," said a bulletin from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Monday.

It said trucks carrying humanitarian aid were also stuck in Kherson, southern Ukraine, adding that they were unable to enter due to ongoing clashes.

Supplies of water and essential medicines were also running out in some other places and oxygen reserves for COVID-19 patients and others were also running "desperately low," it added.

Medinsky further said that the Russian side would "try again with the Ukrainian side to discuss the operation of the humanitarian corridors that we promised." 

He said the corridors are "open" and that the Russian army had stopped firing in the area of the evacuation routes.  

The Russian army listed evacuation routes from Kiev as well as Mariupol, Kharkiv and Sumy.

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