Russian authorities plan to introduce a register of people linked to “foreign agents”

Negotiators resumed talks to end Russia’s 37-day war on Ukraine as aid groups struggled to get food and supplies to the besieged city of Mariupol and Ukrainian forces were repelling Russian troops from the capital and another northern town.

The new round of talks on April 1 comes four days after Russian and Ukrainian negotiators first met for face-to-face talks in Istanbul.

“We are continuing discussions via videoconference,” Russia’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said. Telegram. “Our positions on Crimea and Donbass have not changed.”

The new round of talks comes after Russian and Ukrainian negotiators held face-to-face talks in Istanbul on March 28.

Before talks began, Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia said Turkey and Germany had offered to serve as security guarantors in any eventual deal.

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Turkey’s president earlier expressed optimism about the talks, although there were few indications of major progress.

In Mariupol, a local official said Russia continued to block aid from entering the city despite promising to open a humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to escape.

The port on the Sea of ​​Azov was devastated by some of the heaviest urban fighting of the war; thousands are thought to have been killed and several thousand more fled.

Ukrainian officials said a convoy of 45 buses was heading to Mariupol to bring aid and leave with residents who have been trapped for weeks in the city with little food, water and other supplies.

Petro Andryushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said in a message on Facebook that the city remained closed on April 1 to the relief convoy.

“The city remains closed to entry and very dangerous to exit by private transport,” Andryushchenko said.

In the north, Ukrainian forces have taken over the villages of Sloboda and Lukashivka near the northern city of Chernihiv and located along the main supply routes between the city and Kyiv, British military intelligence said on April 1.

“Ukraine also continued to carry out successful but limited counterattacks to the east and northeast of Kyiv,” the UK Ministry of Defense said.

Chernihiv and kyiv have been subject to continued air and missile strikes despite Russian claims of reduced activity in those areas, the ministry added in a statement. declaration.

The Ukrainian military said in its April 1 daily update that some Russian forces north of kyiv were retreating towards the border with Belarus.

The Russian columns include buses, trucks and vans, which were stolen by Russian forces, the Ukrainian military said, blaming Russian forces for taking looted property.

Western officials played down suggestions that Russian forces were pulling back, saying they were likely repositioning and resupplying – and possibly preparing for a new offensive in the eastern Donbass region.

Russian officials, meanwhile, accused Ukraine of mounting a helicopter attack on a fuel depot in the Russian town of Belgorod, not far from the border in early April. Ukrainian defense officials declined to comment directly on the reports.

If confirmed, it would be the first Ukrainian airstrike on Russian soil.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed his troops’ advances in his daily video address late March 31, but warned of “battles ahead” in Donbass and Mariupol.

Zelenskiy also said he was stripping two generals of their ranks for unspecified infractions.

“At the moment I don’t have time to deal with all the traitors, but gradually they will all be punished,” he said.

Across the continent, European buyers of Russian gas had to start paying in rubles on April 1 after Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to suspend gas contracts unless countries paid in Russian currency – a demand that several European countries have rejected it.

But despite the standoff, Russian energy giant Gazprom said pipelines were still sending gas west on April 1.

There will be 104.4 million cubic meters of gas pumped to Europe on April 1, Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said in comments reported by the Interfax news agency. This is almost the maximum daily amount allowed by current contracts.

The announcement says shipments are continuing despite threats from the Kremlin to turn off the taps unless payments for the gas start coming in rubles.

European governments have said they will study a mechanism putin put in place allowing customers to send foreign currency to a designated account at Russia’s Gazprombank, which would then return rubles for gas purchases.

Several European governments say Putin’s demand for payments in rubles would constitute a breach of contracts.

As the issue of gas payment headed for confrontation in Europe, US President Joe Biden launched the largest ever release from the US oil reserve – 1 million barrels per day – to relieve Americans during filling their reservoirs.

Oil prices fell after Biden’s announcement, which he said was aimed at tackling soaring gas prices sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, announced on April 1 that he would lead a support and assistance mission to Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant “as soon as possible”.

“This will be the first in a series of such nuclear safety and security missions in #Ukraine,” Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a statement. Tweeter the 1st of April.

Earlier, Grossi said he was “extremely concerned” after Russian forces took control of several Ukrainian nuclear sites, including Chernobyl, where one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents occurred in 1986.

Grossi is expected to hold a press conference later on April 1 upon his return to Vienna.

With reports from the Russian service of RFE/RL, Reuters, AP and AFP

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