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Day 24: Ukraine’s Zelensky calls for talks with Putin

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)
In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kiev, Ukraine, on March 18, 2022. (Via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine enters its 24th day.

“This is the time to meet, to talk, time for renewing territorial integrity and fairness for Ukraine,” Zelensky said in a video posted to Facebook on Saturday.

“I want to be heard by everyone, especially in Moscow,” he said, adding, “Otherwise, Russia’s losses will be such, that several generations will not recover.”

Delegations from Kiev and Moscow have been negotiating since the onset of the Russian military campaign. The latest round of talks opened on Monday.

Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian delegation, who said the two sides have come closer to an agreement on a neutral status for Ukraine, noted on Friday that a meeting between Putin and Zelensky is possible after the teams finalize a draft treaty to end the hostilities that receives a preliminary approval from the countries’ governments.

The Ukrainian military imposed a 38-hour curfew in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, starting at 1400 GMT on Saturday and ending early on Monday.

"Do not go outside at this time!" deputy mayor Anatoliy Kurtiev said in an online post.

The regional capital has become an important point of transit for some of the 35,000 people estimated to have fled the besieged Mariupol city in the southeast.

Kinzhal hypersonic missiles used for first time

Russia's defense ministry said it used Kinzhal hypersonic missiles to destroy a weapons storage site in Ukraine's west.

Russia has never before admitted using the high-precision weapon in combat. State news agency RIA Novosti said it was the first use of the Kinzhal hypersonic weapons during the conflict.

"The Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse containing missiles and aviation ammunition in the village of Deliatyn in the Ivano-Frankivsk region," the Russian defence ministry said Saturday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has termed the Kinzhal (Dagger) missile "an ideal weapon" that flies at 10 times the speed of sound and can overcome air-defense systems.

The Kinzhal missile was one of an array of new weapons Putin unveiled in his state-of-the-nation address in 2018.

Deliatyn, a village in the foothills of the picturesque Carpathian mountains, is located outside the city of Ivano-Frankivsk.

The region of Ivano-Frankivsk shares a 50-kilometre long border with NATO member Romania.

On Friday, Britain’s defense intelligence chief claimed that Russia was shifting to a “strategy of attrition” after it has, he said, failed to take control of major cities in Ukraine since the military campaign began.

He claimed that the war of attrition “will involve the reckless and indiscriminate use of firepower. This will result in increased civilian casualties, destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure and intensify the humanitarian crisis”.

Russia has denied targeting civilians during the military operation.

Lavrov says Ukraine is US’ ‘biggest’ bio lab project

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that newly discovered documents have showed that the United States runs hundreds of biological laboratories near Russia, adding that Ukraine could be its largest bio-laboratory project.

"Those (biological) laboratories have been created by the United States all over the world, more than 300 laboratories in various countries, many of them on the perimeter of the Russian Federation in the former Soviet republics, including Ukraine," Lavrov said in an interview with RT.

“Ukraine is probably the biggest project for the Pentagon.”

Noting that the issue constitutes “a clear threat to international peace and security”, Russia’s top diplomat said, "So we will be insisting on this issue to be picked up by the Biological Weapons Convention, but also by the Security Council.”

His statements come a day after Moscow said Russian specialists have reviewed documents from the Ukraine laboratory on the implementation of a "secret project" by Washington. The documents are related to a study of transmitting diseases to humans.

Chinese envoy calls for clarification about bioweapons labs

The report raised concern of China, once a victim of chemical and biological weapons, which called on relevant parties to provide clarification about the issue.

"In this regard, relevant parties should take a responsible approach. Russia has further revealed newly discovered relevant documents. The party concerned should respond to questions, and offer timely and comprehensive clarifications to remove the doubts of the international community," Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the United Nations, told a UN Security Council meeting on the biological security issue in Ukraine on Friday.

He stressed that "and on this issue, no double standards should be applied", he added.

The Chinese envoy reiterated that Beijing stands for the complete prohibition and destruction of all weapons of mass destruction, including biological and chemical weapons.

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