Both Russia and Ukraine appear more optimistic ahead of another scheduled round of peace talks – even as Moscow continues its assaults on Kyiv and other major cities.
With Moscow’s ground advance on the Ukrainian capital stalled, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said a neutral military status for Ukraine was being “seriously discussed” by the two sides.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia’s demands for ending the war were becoming “more realistic”.
Negotiations are under way. Pic: Turkish Foreign Ministry/Handout via Reuters
According to the Financial Times, a 15-point plan to end the fighting has been drawn up.
This includes a ceasefire and a Russian withdrawal, with Kyiv having to accept neutrality and curbs on its armed forces.
Citing three sources involved in the negotiations, the FT said Ukraine would have to give up its bid to join NATO – something Mr Zelenskyy has already hinted at.
It would also have to promise not to allow foreign military bases or weaponry into the country in exchange for protection from allies such as the US, UK and Turkey.
But the status of Ukrainian territories taken by Russian forces in 2014 could be a major stumbling block for an agreement.
Putin says threat to Russia from Kyiv ‘was real’
Mr Lavrov said “the business-like spirit” starting to surface in the talks “gives hope that we can agree on this issue”.
“A neutral status is being seriously discussed in connection with security guarantees,” he said on Russian channel RBK TV.
“There are concrete formulations that in my view are close to being agreed.”
Russia’s chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, said the sides were discussing a possible compromise idea for a future Ukraine with a smaller, non-aligned military.
Even if Ukraine does not join NATO, the bloc has already decided it must strengthen its defences.
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “We need to reset our military posture for this new reality.
“Ministers will start an important discussion on concrete measures to reinforce our security for the longer term, in all domains.”
Earlier Mr Zelenskyy went before the US Congress via video and, invoking Pearl Harbour and 9/11, pleaded with America for more weapons and tougher sanctions against Russia, saying: “We need you right now.”
Russia President Vladimir Putin has insisted the operation in Ukraine is unfolding “successfully, in strict accordance with pre-approved plans”.
However, he added: “We are ready for talks.”
The key updates on Wednesday:
o Zelenskyy says peace talks ‘more realistic’ – as European leaders risk train ride to Kyiv to offer support
o Johnson meeting controversial Saudi leader in bid to end ‘addiction’ to Russian oil
o Zelenskyy addresses US Congress, as NATO defence ministers meet in Brussels
o Fox News cameraman and Ukrainian journalist killed near Kyiv
o More than 122,000 Britons have now registered interest for refugee scheme
He also described Western sanctions against Russia as “aggression and war with economic, political, information means”.
At the same time he said the West has failed to wage “an economic blitzkrieg” against Russia.
“In effect these steps are aimed at worsening the lives of millions of people.
Meanwhile, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Russia to stop its invasion “immediately”.
The judges added Russia must also ensure that other forces under its control or supported by Moscow should not continue the military operation.
It follows a case brought by Kyiv to the ICJ claiming Russia violated the 1948 Genocide Convention by falsely accusing Ukraine of committing genocide and using that as a pretext for the ongoing invasion.
Original Source: news.sky.com
WHO Estimates 15m People Have Died Directly or Indirectly From COVID – More Than Double Official Death Toll
The World Health Organisation estimates that 15 million people worldwide have now died of coronavirus – or as a result of its impact on health services.
WHO data shows the number of excess COVID mortalities to be somewhere between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021. This is more than double the official death toll of around six million.
Excess mortality refers to the number of people who have died of the virus either directly or indirectly by being unable to access health services for other conditions.
The figures were compiled using country-reported data and statistical modelling, the WHO said.
There were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, the UN body said on Thursday.
Most excess COVID deaths (86%) happened in Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to the figures.
Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of deaths, with 28% occurring in upper-middle-income countries and 4% in low-income ones.
Some 68% of all excess deaths worldwide happened in just 10 countries.
There was a higher rate for men (57%) than there was for women (43%), with more excess deaths among the elderly than younger generations.
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WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented: “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems.
“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”
Original Source: news.sky.com
Pope Francis Seen Using Wheelchair for the First Time for Mobility Reasons
The Pope has been pictured using a wheelchair – the first time he’s used one in public due to the knee pain that’s made it hard for him to walk and stand.
Francis, 85, was wheeled on stage and helped into a seat during an audience with a group of nuns and religious superiors from around the world at the Vatican.
He appears to be having a flare-up of sciatica, a nerve condition he suffers with that he’s called his “troublesome guest”.
The Pope has had to cancel or cut short activities several times in the last month because of pain in his right knee.
He was pictured in a wheelchair last July after major intestinal surgery, but this is believed to be the first time he’s used one in public due to his mobility problems.
Before Thursday’s event, he was able to walk the roughly 10 metres or so from the side entrance of the stage to his seat with some help.
He recently received some injections to try to relieve the pain but has continued to struggle.
His impaired movement was apparent over Easter when he attended but did not take charge of masses at St Peter’s Basilica, instead delegating a cardinal or archbishop to preside.
During a trip to Malta in April he was also pictured using an elevator platform to get on and off the plane.
Original Article: news.sky.com
Woman Pulled Alive From Rubble Six Days After Building Collapsed
A woman has been found alive in the rubble of a building that partially collapsed almost six days earlier, Chinese state media has said.
The unidentified woman has become the 10th survivor and was rescued shortly after midnight today, about 132 hours after the rear of the six-storey building suddenly caved in, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported.
The woman was conscious and told rescuers how to pull her out without causing further injury, Xinhua added.
Teams had used dogs and hand tools as well as drones and electronic life detectors in the search.
All the survivors were reportedly in good condition after being treated in a hospital and it is thought intermittent rain showers over the last few days may have helped their chances of survival without food or water.
At least nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse of what Xinhua has described as a “self-built building”.
This includes its owner, on suspicion of ignoring building codes or committing other violations.
Three people in charge of design and construction were also held, along with five others who allegedly gave a false safety assessment for a guest house on the building’s fourth to sixth floors.
The building also housed residences, a cafe and shops.
An aerial photo shows the site of the collapsed residential building in Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province
There has been increase in the number of collapses of self-built buildings in recent years.
Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for additional checks to uncover structural weaknesses.
Following the building collapse at the weekend, he urged for more victims to be found in the rubble “at all costs”.
Poor adherence to safety standards, including the illegal addition of extra floors and failure to use reinforcing iron bars, is often blamed for similar disasters.
China also suffers from decaying infrastructure such as gas pipes that has led to explosions and collapses.
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