Russian President Vladimir Putin praised his country’s troops at a huge flag-waving rally in Moscow as Russian forces strike Ukrainian cities from a distance again, pounding the capital of Kyiv and the country’s west. The war is now in its fourth week. Russian troops have failed to take Kyiv — a major objective in their hopes of forcing a settlement or dictating Ukraine’s future political alignments — but have wreaked havoc and devastation.
The UN migration agency says the fighting has displaced nearly 6.5 million people inside Ukraine, on top of the 3.2 million refugees who have already fled the country. Ukraine says thousands have been killed.
The head of the Russian delegation in talks with Ukrainian officials says the parties have come closer to an agreement on a neutral status for Ukraine — one of the key Russian demands as its offensive continues. Vladimir Medinsky said Friday that the sides also have narrowed their differences on the issue of Ukraine dropping its bid to join NATO.
But Mikhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, tweeted: “Our positions are unchanged. Ceasefire, withdrawal of troops & strong security guarantees with concrete formulas.”
The United States and its allies have put a slew of sanctions in place aimed at crippling the Russian economy. Hundreds of international companies have announced that they are curtailing operations in Russia, and those who remain are under pressure to pull out.
Pope Francis on Friday denounced what he called the “perverse abuse of power” in Russia’s war in Ukraine and called for aid for Ukrainians whose identity, history and tradition are under attack. Francis’ comments were some of his strongest yet in asserting Ukraine’s right to exist as a sovereign state.
Aid agencies are ramping up their efforts to deliver relief supplies to civilians affected by the fighting and refugees who have fled Ukraine. The Polish city of Rzeszow, about 100 km from the Ukrainian border, has become a humanitarian hub for the region.