The Russian and Ukrainian governments on Friday signalled an openness to negotiations even as authorities in Kyiv urged citizens to help defend the capital from advancing Russian forces in the worst European security crisis in decades.
Ukraine and Russia will consult in coming hours on a time and place for talks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s spokesman Sergii Nykyforov said on social media, offering the first glimmer of hope for diplomacy since the invasion began, Reuters reported.
The Kremlin said earlier it offered to meet in the Belarusian capital Minsk after Ukraine expressed a willingness to discuss declaring itself a neutral country, but that Ukraine had proposed Warsaw as the venue. That, according to Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov, resulted in a “pause” in contacts.
“Ukraine was and remains ready to talk about a ceasefire and peace,” Nykyforov said in a post on Facebook. “We agreed to the proposal of the President of the Russian Federation.”
But U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Russia’s offer was an attempt to conduct diplomacy “at the barrel of a gun”, and that President Vladimir Putin’s military must stop bombing Ukraine if it was serious about negotiations.
The diplomatic overtures stood in stark contrast to events unfolding on the ground and Putin’s harsh rhetoric against Ukrainian leaders, including a call for a coup by the country’s military.
Kyiv residents were told by the defence ministry to make petrol bombs to repel the invaders, and on Friday evening witnesses reported hearing artillery rounds and intense gunfire from the western part of the city. The sound of frequent artillery fire, apparently some distance from the city center, continued in the early hours of Saturday.
Zelenskiy filmed himself with aides on the streets of the capital, vowing to defend Ukraine’s independence.
“Tonight, they will launch an assault. All of us must understand what awaits us. We must withstand this night,” he said in a video address posted to his Telegram channel, Reuters reported. “The fate of Ukraine is being decided right now.”
Some families cowered in shelters after Kyiv was pounded on Thursday night by Russian missiles. Others tried desperately to get on packed trains headed west, some of the hundreds of thousands who have left their homes to find safety, according to the United Nations’ aid chief.
After weeks of warnings from Western leaders, Putin unleashed a three-pronged invasion of Ukraine from the north, east and south on Thursday, in an attack
that threatened to upend Europe’s post-reported heavy fighting there.
Amid the chaos of war, a picture of what was happening on the ground across Ukraine – the second largest country in Europe after Russia itself – was slow to emerge.
Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter that there had been heavy fighting with deaths at the entrance to the eastern cities of Chernihiv and Melitopol, as well as at Hostomel.
“Glory to our defenders, both male and female, glory to Ukraine,” he said, flanked by the prime minister and advisors in a video posted to confirm he was in the capital.
Witnesses said they had heard explosions and gunfire near the airport in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, close to Russia’s border.
Ukraine’s military said Russian troops had been stopped with heavy losses near the northeastern city of Konotop, Reuters reported.
Britain’s defence ministry said Russian armoured forces had opened a new route of advance towards the capital after failing to take Chernihiv.
Ukraine said more than 1,000 Russian soldiers had been killed so far. Russia did not release casualty figures.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart and condemned reported civilian deaths, including those of Ukrainian children.
Six Pakistan Army officers killed in Balochistan helicopter crash
Six Pakistan Army officials, including two majors, have been killed in a helicopter crash in Balochistan.
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said on Monday the helicopter crashed during a mission near Khost in Harnai, Balochistan.
“All six personnel on board, including two pilots, have embraced shahadat,” the military’s media affairs wing said.
The ISPR has released details about the cause of the crash which comes just over a month after a similar incident occurred in Balochistan.
On August 1, a Pakistan Army helicopter with six people on board, including Commander 12 Corps Lieutenant General Sarfraz Ali, lost contact with the air traffic control in Balochistan’s Lasbela district.
A day later, the wreckage of the helicopter was found near Musa Goth. All personnel on board had been killed.
North Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of US VP Harris visit
North Korea fired a ballistic missile towards the sea off its east coast on Sunday, ahead of planned military drills by South Korean and U.S. forces involving an aircraft carrier and a visit to the region by US Vice President Kamala Harris, Reuters reported.
South Korea’s military said it was a single, short-range ballistic missile fired from near the Taechon area of North Pyongyan Province just before 7 a.m. local time and flew about 600 km (373 miles) at an altitude of 60 km and a speed of Mach 5.
“North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile is an act of grave provocation that threatens the peace and security of the Korean peninsula and international community,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
According to Reuters after the launch, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Kim Seung-kyum and the US Forces Korea Commander Paul LaCamera discussed the situation and reaffirmed their readiness to respond to any threat or provocation from North Korea, it added.
South Korea’s National Security Council held an emergency meeting to discuss response measures and condemned the launch as an apparent violation of the U.N. Security Council Resolutions and an unjustifiable act of provocation.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who arrived in Seoul late on Saturday from a trip to Britain, the United States and Canada, was briefed on the launch, the presidential office said.
Japan’s Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Japan estimated the missile reached maximum altitude at 50 km and may have flown on an irregular trajectory. Hamada said it fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone and there were no reports of problems with shipping or air traffic.
Many of the short-range missiles tested by North Korea in recent years have been designed to evade missile defences by manoeuvring during flight and flying on a lower, “depressed” trajectory, experts have said.
“If you include launches of cruise missiles this is the nineteenth launch, which is an unprecedented pace,” Hamada said.
“North Korea’s action represents a threat to the peace and security of our country, the region and the international community and to do this as the Ukraine invasion unfolds is unforgivable,” he said, adding that Japan had delivered a protest through North Korea’s embassy in Beijing.
The US Indo-pacific Command said it was aware of the launch and consulting closely with allies, in a statement released after the launch, while reaffirming US commitment to the defence of South Korea and Japan, read the report.
“While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launch highlights the destabilising impact of the DPRK’s unlawful Weapons of Mass Destruction and ballistic missile programs.”
US aircraft carrier arrives in South Korea as warning to North Korea
A US aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea on Friday for the first time in about four years, due to join South Korean ships in a military show of force aimed at sending North Korea a message, Reuters quoting officials said.
USS Ronald Reagan and ships from its accompanying strike force docked at a naval base in the southern port city of Busan.
According to Reuters its arrival marks the most significant deployment yet under a new push to have more US nuclear-capable “strategic assets” operate in the area to deter North Korea.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has pushed for more joint exercises and other displays of military power as a warning to North Korea, which earlier this year conducted a record number of missile tests after talks failed to persuade it to end its nuclear weapons and missile development.
Observers say Pyongyang also appears to be preparing to resume nuclear testing for the first time since 2017, read the report.
North Korea has denounced previous US military deployments and joint drills as rehearsals for war and proof of hostile policies by Washington and Seoul.
The visit is the first to South Korea by an American aircraft carrier since 2018. That year, the allies scaled back many of their joint military activities amid diplomatic efforts to engage with North Korea, but those talks have since stalled and Pyongyang this month unveiled an updated law codifying its right to conduct first-use nuclear strikes if necessary to protect itself.
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