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Zelenskyy Renews Diplomacy, Biden Makes Air Defenses a Priority

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stepped up diplomacy over Russia’s invasion of his country, holding talks with the leaders of the United States, Turkey and France amid protracted fighting on the eastern front of the nine-month war.

While Zelenskyy has held frequent talks with US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan since Russian forces invaded in late February, it is rare for him to hold such discussions in a single day.

“We are constantly working with partners,” Zelenskyy said in his late-night video address, adding that he expects some “important results” in the coming week from a series of international events that will focus on the situation in Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will convene an online meeting with G7 leaders and European Union foreign ministers on Monday to try to agree new sanctions against Russia and additional aid or arms deliveries to Ukraine.

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Successive Russian missile and drone attacks have destroyed much of the country’s energy infrastructure, leaving millions of civilians without electricity or heat at a time when temperatures are below freezing.

Zelenskyy said he had thanked Biden for the “unprecedented defense and financial” assistance the United States had provided and spoke of Ukraine’s need for effective air defense systems to protect its people.

“We also appreciate the help the United States is providing to restore Ukraine’s energy system,” he said.

He said that Ukraine would participate in the G7 meeting and that, after the call, kyiv had “coordinated our positions with the United States.”

In a later statement, the White House said Biden stressed that the United States was making efforts to boost Ukraine’s air defenses as a priority.

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More sanctions

The energy crisis also formed a key part of Zelenskyy’s earlier discussions with France’s Macron and Turkey’s Erdogan.

Zelenskyy described his conversation of more than an hour with Macron as “very significant” and that it covered “defence, energy, economy, diplomacy”.

Meanwhile, he also thanked Turkey for providing shelter for Ukrainian children and deploying hundreds of generators in cities across the country.

The Ukrainian president also said he and Erdogan discussed the possible expansion of the grain export deal that opened Ukrainian ports for exports in July after a six-month de facto Russian blockade.

Turkey, which mediated peace talks in the early months of the war, worked with the United Nations on that agreement.

Erdogan’s office said the Turkish leader also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday and called for a quick end to the conflict.

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Putin warned last week of a protracted war, speaking of Moscow’s near complete loss of confidence in Western countries which he said would make an eventual deal on Ukraine much more difficult to achieve.

Macron has defended diplomacy in the conflict, but has puzzled Kiev, some allies and the Baltics with what they see as his mixed messages: that it was up to Kiev to decide when to negotiate with Moscow, but also that security guarantees were needed to Russia. .

EU foreign ministers will discuss a ninth sanctions package that could add nearly 200 more people and entities to the EU sanctions list, as well as an additional 2 billion euros ($2.11 billion) for deliveries. of arms to Ukraine.

Ships waiting in the Bosphorus to be inspected under the UN Black Sea grain initiative
The grain deal agreed in July was part of the discussion between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. [Yoruk Isik/Reuters]

There are no ongoing peace talks and no end in sight for the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War II.

Moscow shows no sign of being willing to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and pre-war borders, saying the four regions it claims to have annexed from Ukraine in September are part of Russia “forever.”

The kyiv government has ruled out granting land to Russia in exchange for peace.

On the ground in Ukraine, soldiers are entrenched along the eastern front line amid continued shelling and Zelenskyy said over the weekend that Russian strikes had left the eastern city of Bakhmut in ruins. from Ukraine.

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The situation “remains very difficult” in several frontline cities in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, which together form the provinces of industrial Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have fought in Kiev since 2014.

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