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The US supports Zelenskyy’s efforts to negotiate with Putin

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Senior US officials are backing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s efforts to negotiate a peaceful end to the Russian invasion of his country, as they continue to accuse Russian forces of targeting civilians in a manner that would amount to war crimes.

“We supported the negotiations that President Zelenskyy attempted with the Russians,” Linda Thomas GreenfieldUS Ambassador to the United Nations said CNN, though she was quick to try to tone down expectations. “And I use the word ‘attempted’ because the negotiations seem to be one-sided and the Russians have not committed themselves to a negotiated settlement and a diplomatic solution… But we still hope that the Ukrainian efforts will end this brutal war.” “

Zelenskyy told CNN on Sunday that “we cannot end this war without negotiations,” a day after he called for direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the conflict.

“Russian forces came to exterminate us, to kill us,” he said through an interpreter. “If there’s even a 1 percent chance of stopping this war, we have to do it.”

Zelensky’s pleas come as Ukrainian officials on Sunday accused Russia of bombing an art school in the besieged city of Mariupol where hundreds had taken refuge. Zelenskyi said in a daily speech that the attack would “go down in history” as a war crime.

“The terror that the occupiers inflicted on the peaceful city will be remembered for centuries to come,” said Zelenskyy.

In a Telegram statement on Saturday, Mariupol City Council said “several thousand” residents had been taken to camps on Russian territory. Thomas-Greenfield said she could not confirm the reports, but added that it would be “ruthless for Russia to force Ukrainian citizens into Russia and put them in concentration and prison camps.”

US officials have criticized Russian attacks on hospitals, schools and other infrastructure since they launched their invasion on February 24. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Sunday accused Putin of targeting “cities, communities and civilians” because “he has not been able to achieve the goals as quickly as he wants to achieve them.”

Austin said that Putin’s tactics were “disgusting” and that deliberate attacks on civilians would constitute war crimes. His comments echoed those of President Biden, who called Putin a “war criminal” last week. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said Thursday that “deliberate attacks on civilians are a war crime. After all the destruction over the past few weeks, it’s hard for me to conclude that the Russians are doing it differently.”

US and Western officials are also concerned that Putin could order the use of chemical and biological weapons. To lay the groundwork for such an attack, the Kremlin “made false allegations that the US is supporting Ukraine’s chemical weapons program,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

“This is a false flag attempt by the Russians,” she said. “They are advancing what they may intend to do. We’ve seen it before. They are the ones who used chemical weapons. They used them in Syria. They used chemical weapons against their own people. And we are concerned that they may use chemical weapons in Ukraine.”

The United Nations have called that in Ukraine so far nearly 900 civilians have been killed and more than 3 million people have fled the country, sparking a refugee crisis. Allies are scrambling to deal with the potential humanitarian catastrophe while increasing pressure on Putin to withdraw his forces.

Biden plans to travel to Brussels to attend an emergency NATO summit to discuss measures the alliance can take to further counter Putin. Since the invasion, the US and its allies have imposed severe economic sanctions on the Kremlin, restricted imports of Russian oil and restricted airspace for Russian commercial air travel. Hoping to bolster Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian attack, the US and NATO members have increased the flow of arms, humanitarian supplies and financial aid to Kyiv.

Biden, while emphasizing US commitments to defend NATO countries against any Russian attack and to strengthen their troop presence in Europe, said he would not send troops to Ukraine. US officials believe such a move would likely spark a broader conflict.

Zelensky has invited Biden to Kyiv, a trip ruled out by Thomas-Greenfield and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Sunday. in one tweetPsaki said the NATO summit “will focus on continuing to rally the world in support of the Ukrainian people and against President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, but there are no plans to travel to Ukraine.”

The invasion did not go as Putin and his military commanders had hoped. Much of the fighting across the country has come to a standstill, according to experts and US officials.

A report from the Institute for the Study of Wara Washington think-tank published on Saturday noted that “Ukrainian forces have defeated the first Russian campaign of this war.”

“The initial Russian campaign to seize the capital and major cities of Ukraine and force regime change failed,” the report said.

https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-03-20/zelensky-warns-of-ww3-if-negotiations-fail The US supports Zelenskyy’s efforts to negotiate with Putin

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