Ukraine war: Zelenskyy calls for direct talks with Putin as Macron warns 'worst is yet to come'

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By Alasdair Sandford  & Alesksandar Brezar  with AP, AFP
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a damaged city center after Russian air raid in Chernigiv, Ukraine, March 3, 2022.
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a damaged city center after Russian air raid in Chernigiv, Ukraine, March 3, 2022.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Dmytro Kumaka

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for direct talks with Putin, arguing "it is the only way to stop this war."

"We are not attacking Russia and we do not plan to attack it. What do you want from us. Leave our land," he said.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian and Russian negotiators agreed to create humanitarian corridors in a second round of talks held Thursday at the Belarusian border.

It comes after French President Emmanuel Macron said he believes "the worst is yet to come" from Russia's bloody campaign in Ukraine after a long phone call with Vladimir Putin on Thursday, according to the Elysée.

The Russian leader made clear his "great determination" to continue the military onslaught with the objective of "taking control" of the whole country, the French president's office said. See more in our blog post below.

Russian forces have continued to bombard Ukrainian cities, seizing the southern port of Kherson and encircling Mariupol on the Azov Sea. More video evidence has emerged of massive destruction in residential areas.

Follow our live blog below for the latest updates:


Thursday's key points: 

  • The second round of Ukrainian-Russian talks took place at Belarusian border. Both counties agreed to create "humanitarian corridors".
  • In new videos, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has praised Ukrainian resistance for "destroying the enemy's plans", claiming it is taking a toll on the morale of Russian soldiers.
  • Zelenskyy also called for direct talks with Putin, arguing "it is the only way to stop this war".
  • Putin meanwhile talked with the French leader. Macron said he believes "the worst is yet to come" and that Putin said that the invasion is going  "according to the plan" .
  • Russian forces are reported to have taken control of their first major city, Kherson in the south. The mayor said late on Wednesday there were "no Ukrainian armed forces in the city".
  • Mariupol on the Azov Sea has also witnessed intense shelling, with hundreds feared dead. Electricity and phone connections are largely down, and homes and shops are facing food and water shortages..
  • The Russian army has been bombing Kyiv but its long military convoy remains outside the capital. Authorities in Kharkiv said the city was bombarded all night. 
  • Russia's foreign minister has said Moscow will continue with its military operation "to the end".
  • Latest UN figures say one million refugees have crossed into neighbouring countries since the invasion began. The UN's refugee agency describes it as an "exodus".
  • The International Criminal Court has said it will "immediately proceed" with an investigation into potential war crimes and crimes against humanity, after receiving referrals from 39 countries.
  • Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from the Winter Paralympic Games for their countries’ roles in the war in Ukraine -- a reversal of the earlier decision made on Wednesday.

Did Eastern Europe's Russia warnings fall on deaf ears?

For years, political leaders across central and eastern Europe have warned about the immediate dangers posed by Russia and now -- amid Moscow's invasion of Ukraine -- some blame western Europeans for not heeding those warnings.

A day after Russia attacked, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy lashed out at the apparent lack of western support provided to his government, despite Russian troops massing on Ukraine’s borders for months.

Several central and eastern European leaders, who for years have been warning about the dangers posed by Russia, were equally scathing.



Canada holding charter plane carrying Russian nationals

Transport Minister Omar Algabra said the plane is being held at Yellowknife airport, in northwest Canada.

Russian tanks near 'biggest nuclear power plant in Europe'

The Ukrainian government said that "about 100 units of Russian armoured vehicles entered Energodar."
"Tanks approached the NPP by 4 km. This is the biggest Nuclear Power Plant in Europe. Locals are fiercely resisting," it added, calling on Westerncountries to "close the Sky over Ukraine. Protect Ukraine’s nuclear power plants from threats and prevent Chernobyl 2".

Sweden summons Russian officials after fighter jets fly near Gotland island

Sweden's government says it will summon Russian officials to protest after four fighter jets violated its air space.

Stockholm says that four Russian aircraft briefly flew over Swedish airspace on Wednesday, east of the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea.



US sanctions Usmanov, Shuvalov and 6 others

The White House has added eight Russian people to its sanctions list including Alisher Usmanov and Igor Shuvalov — which were hit by UK sanctions also — and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
The US is also targeting the oligarchs' family members.
The WHite House confirmed that Usmanov's superyacht, one of the world's largest, was seized by Germany.

UK announces sanctions against Russian oligarchs Alisher Usmanov and Igor Shuvalov

The government described them as "two of Russia's leading oligarchs with significant interests in the UK and close links to the Kremlin."
It added that the two men are worth a combined $19 billion (€17.2 billion).

Estonian-owned cargo ship sinks after explosion in Black Sea

An Estonian-owned cargo ship has sunk off the coast of Ukraine after an explosion in the Black Sea.
Ukrainian officials had said earlier this week that Russian sailors had captured the ship during the invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine and Russia agree to create humanitarian corridors

Ukrainian and Russian negotiators held their second round of talks in Belarus.
Mykhailo Podoliak, the adviser to the head of the Ukrainian President's Office said that "unfortunately, the results Ukraine needs are not yet achieved."
"There is a solution only for the organization of humanitarian corridors," he added. 

EU countries agree to host Ukrainian refugees under exceptional protection scheme

Faced with the greatest human exodus since the end of World War II, the European Union has agreed to trigger a never-before-used directive to grant temporary protection for Ukrainians fleeing the military aggression waged by Russian forces.

The Temporary Protection Directive circumvents the traditionally overburdened asylum procedure and offers a quick and simplified path to access protection across the EU.

Ukrainian refugees will be given residence permits to stay inside the bloc for at least one year, a period that will be automatically extended for a further year. Member states can then decide to prolong the exceptional measure by one more year if the war continues to ravage the country.

Although Ukraine is not part of the passport-free Schengen Area, its nationals are entitled to visa-free travel for up to 90 days. The EU's scheme intends to offer a lasting solution once the 90-day limit is exhausted.


Additional sources • Reuters