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Russia reveals harsh demands for ending war as talks begin; Ukraine calls evacuation routes 'unacceptable': Live updates

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 3/7/2022 John Bacon and Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY
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Russian and Ukrainian delegations began talks Monday in Belarus aimed at ending the nascent war that has brought ruin to vast areas of Ukraine's largest cities.

Two previous attempts to negotiate an end to the conflict, now in its 12th day, proved fruitless. 

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday revealed Russia's harsh demands: Ukraine halt its military activity, change its Constitution to include neutrality so it can't join the EU or NATO, recognize Crimea as Russian territory and recognize independence for the separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.

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Russia's military said it would cease fire and open humanitarian corridors in several Ukrainian cities Monday but continued to pound residential areas of the battered cities  of Kyiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv and Sumy. Ukraine Defense Secretary Aleksey Danilov said Russia "violates the agreements reached, blocks the opening of green corridors, does not allow humanitarian supplies – but at the same time tries to create a false picture of a 'joyful meeting' of the occupiers by local residents."

A resident uses a dustpan and broom to clear debris, as another looks out of the destroyed front of a room, in a multi-story building that was badly damaged as a result of Russian missile explosion after it was shot down over the city by Ukrainian air defense on March 6, in Kramatorsk on March 7, 2022. © ANATOLII STEPANOV, AFP via Getty Images A resident uses a dustpan and broom to clear debris, as another looks out of the destroyed front of a room, in a multi-story building that was badly damaged as a result of Russian missile explosion after it was shot down over the city by Ukrainian air defense on March 6, in Kramatorsk on March 7, 2022.

Some of the evacuation routes actually would funnel civilians toward Russia or its ally Belarus, a plan that Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk called unacceptable. U.K. Europe Minister James Cleverly agreed, saying that "evacuation routes into the arms of the country that is currently destroying yours is nonsense.” 

Latest developments:

►The U.S. is among 48 nations whose governments have committed "unfriendly actions" against Russia, the Kremlin says. Russian citizens, companies and government bodies that owe money to those countries can pay debts in rubles, the decree says.

►Russian banks are looking into issuing cards that operate on a Chinese payment system after American Express, Visa and Mastercard cut off services in Russia citing the invasion.

►Italian Premier Mario Draghi expressed little hope that peace talks will result in an end to the war. Russia will continue to pound Ukraine until “the country has surrendered, probably installs a friendly government and defeats the resistance. That’s what the facts demonstrate.”

►President Joe Biden was discussing the latest developments in a secure video teleconference today with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

►The death toll of the conflict has been difficult to measure. The U.N. human rights office said at least 364 civilians have been confirmed killed since the Feb. 24 invasion, but the true number is probably much higher.

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VISUALS: Mapping and tracking Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Biden conferring with France, Germany and England on Ukraine

Biden was conferring via video teleconference Monday with the leaders of France, Germany and England, has worked for weeks in close consultation with European allies over how to respond to Russia’s aggression. Macron, pressing ahead with diplomatic efforts to end the war, spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, their fourth conversation since Russian forces attacked Ukraine on Feb. 24. 

Macron's office said the Putin call focused primarily on the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear plants. Macron told Putin these facilities must not be targeted by a Russian offensive, and Putin said he does not intend to attack the plants, Macron's office said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will go to Paris on Tuesday to hear from Macron, who holds the European Union's rotating presidency.

Russian and Ukrainian officials planned to meet Monday for a third attempt at negotiations. While Russia announced it would cease fire and open humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to leave Ukraine, it has continued to attack some Ukrainian cities.

Maureen Groppe

War brings chaos to adoption plans

International Adoption Net told USA TODAY that numerous U.S. families hoping to adopt from Ukraine have seen the process placed on hold because Ukrainian courts are closed. Daniel Nehrbass from Nightlight Christian Adoption said his agency had 11 families waiting to adopt 20 children from Ukraine, but that process has now halted. The State Department says it has asked the Ukrainian government to expedite new birth certificates and passports for all adopted children that require them. 

"It's time to think about allowing these children to have refugee status in other countries," Nehrbass said. 

Callie Carmichael

Ukrainian couple marries amid invasion

A Ukrainian couple exchanged vows Sunday near a checkpoint on the outskirts of Kyiv amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Lesia Ivashchenko and Valerii Fylymonov, Ukrainian territorial defense members, said they have been together for more than 20 years. Their 18-year-old daughter watched the ceremony on a video call. The bride carried flowers and wore a white veil during the ceremony.

"We decided – who knows what will happen tomorrow – we should get married in front of the state, in front of God," said Ivashchenko, the bride. 

Fylymonov, the groom, said, in a video translated by The Guardian that they live in "challenging times... that’s why it is better do it sooner than later.” Read more here.

Marina Pitofsky

EU official warns refugee total could reach 5 million

The number of refugees who have fled Ukraine surpassed 1.7 million on Monday, and an EU official warned the number would likely reach 5 million. More than 1 million have crossed the border into Poland, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

EU foreign affairs policy chief Josep Borrell called on mobilizing “all the resources” of the bloc of 27 nations to help countries welcoming the refugee. "If they continue to bomb Ukrainian cities in an indiscriminate manner, we can expect 5 million migrants," EU foreign affairs policy chief Josep Borrell said. "Not migrants, we can't call them migrants. These are exiled people."

36 hours with a team building a field hospital in Ukraine

USA TODAY spent 36 hours with a team of overseas nurses, engineers and logistics personnel invited by Ukraine's authorities to build a field hospital for emergency and specialized trauma care in Lviv. It is being established to serve an expected wave of people – military and civilian – impacted by Russia's assault on Ukraine as Moscow counters resistance to its invasion with more firepower. The location of the planned hospital is on the fringes of Lviv in western Ukraine – identified as a potential capital if Kyiv falls to the Kremlin.

"I've set up hospitals in war zones, and we've deliberately marked ones that have been bombed and we've left them unmarked and gotten bombed," said Ken Isaacs, the American who is leading the effort to construct the hospital. "When an airplane wants to bomb you, they bomb you." Read more here.

Kim Hjelmgaard and Jessica Koscielniak

Russia snubs UN court hearings in case brought by Ukraine

Russia has snubbed a hearing at the United Nations’ top court into a legal bid by Kyiv to halt Moscow’s devastating invasion of Ukraine. A row of seats reserved for Russian lawyers at the International Court of Justice was empty Monday morning as the hearing opened. The court’s president, American judge Joan E. Donoghue, said Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands informed judges that “his government did not intend to participate in the oral proceedings.” The hearing went ahead without the Russian delegation.

The International Court of Justice is opening two days of hearings at its headquarters, the Peace Palace, into Ukraine's request for its judges to order Russia to halt its invasion. Ukraine is scheduled to present its arguments Monday morning and Russia has the opportunity to respond on Tuesday.

A decision is expected on the request within days, though that does not mean Russia would abide by any order the court might issue.

Blinken travels to Baltic states

Blinken has begun a trip to the three Baltic states that are increasingly on edge as Russia presses ahead with its invasion of Ukraine. The former Soviet republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are all members of NATO and Blinken aims to reassure them of the alliance’s protection. Since the invasion of Ukraine last month, NATO has moved quickly to boost its troop presence in its eastern flank allies.

Blinken’s Baltic tour opened Monday in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, where support for Ukraine’s resistance to the invasion government is palpable with signs of solidarity with Ukrainians in many businesses and on public buildings and buses.

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New Zealand will rush through a new law to sanction Russia

New Zealand's government said Monday that it plans to rush through a new law that will allow it to impose economic sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Unlike many countries that have already introduced sanctions, New Zealand's existing laws don't allow it to apply meaningful measures unless they're part of a broader United Nations effort. Because Russia has U.N. Security Council veto power, that has left New Zealand hamstrung.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the new legislation would allow it to target people, companies and assets connected to those in Russia associated with the invasion, including oligarchs. It would allow New Zealand to freeze assets and stop superyachts or planes from arriving.

The bill will be specific only to the Ukraine invasion but could allow New Zealand to impose sanctions on countries seen to be helping Russia, such as Belarus.

Australian missiles on the ground in Ukraine

Australia’s prime minister says Russia and China’s closer relationship is opportunistic rather than strategic. Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday labeled the alliance an “Arc of Autocracy” and said Russia and China would prefer a new world order to the one that has been in place since World War II.

Morrison has criticized Beijing’s failure to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s expansion of trade in Russian wheat while other countries are imposing sanctions. Australia last week promised Ukraine $50 million in missiles, ammunition and other military hardware to fight Russian invaders.

“Our missiles are on the ground now,” Morrison said Monday.

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Contributing: The Associated Press

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Russia reveals harsh demands for ending war as talks begin; Ukraine calls evacuation routes 'unacceptable': Live updates

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