Russia wants deal clarified before talks begin

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MOSCOW — Russia’s foreign minister says the presidents of Russia and Ukraine could meet for talks only after the key elements of a potential deal are negotiated.

Sergey Lavrov said Monday that “the meeting is necessary once we have clarity regarding solutions on all key issues.”

Lavrov’s comments follow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s statement that he’s ready to discuss Ukraine’s neutrality and security guarantees with Russian President Vladimir Putin to secure peace “without delay.” Zelenskyy added that only a face-to-face meeting with Russia’s leader could end the war.

Russian and Turkish negotiators are set to hold another round of talks in Istanbul, Turkey on Tuesday to try to draft an agreement.

Speaking in an online interview with Serbian media, Lavrov alleged that Ukraine only want to “imitate talks” while Russia needs specific results that would be secured by the countries’ leaders.

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KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

Ukraine seeks face-to-face talks with Russia to secure peace “without delay”

Holocaust survivors flee from Ukraine to Germany for safety

Ukrainian welders turn donated vehicles into army transport

— Ukraine war threatens food supplies in fragile Arab world

The Oscars have moment of silence, and a plea, for Ukraine

— ‘My personal tragedy’: Ukrainians brace for an attack on Odesa

— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

BEIJING — China says the U.S. should take seriously Beijing’s concerns about punishing economic sanctions against Russia.

China, which has what it calls a “no limits” partnership with Moscow, has strongly objected to the sanctions, saying they will worsen the global economic outlook without bringing an end to the conflict.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing Monday that China and other nations believe “people of all countries have no responsibility to pay for geopolitical conflicts and great power games.”

“The problem now is not about who wants to help Russia bypass sanctions, but about the normal economic and trade relations between countries, including China, and Russia have been unnecessarily damaged,” Wang said.

“We urge the U.S. to take China’s concerns seriously when dealing with the Ukraine issue and relations with Russia, and not to damage China’s legitimate rights and interests in any way,” Wang said.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — European Union judicial coordination agency Eurojust says it has helped Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine to establish a joint investigation team to probe war crimes, crimes against humanity and other crimes committed in Ukraine.

The Hague-based agency said Monday that the three nations signed an agreement on Friday establishing the team. Eurojust says it provided legal and technical support.

Eurojust says the main aim of the team is to “support the gathering of evidence and its swift and secure exchange between partners, as well as the transmission of information and evidence.”

Eurojust adds that the team will help the three nations cooperate with International Criminal Court prosecution office, which also has opened an investigation in Ukraine.

Within the first month of Russia’s war against Ukraine, Polish prosecutors said they had collected some 300 witness testimonies from refugees pouring over the border.

Joint investigation teams help nations pool resources and knowledge during complex international investigations. The Netherlands and other countries set up such a team to investigate the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch brewing giant Heineken says it is pulling out of Russia amid Moscow’s ongoing war against Ukraine.

The company said Monday that its business in Russia “is no longer sustainable nor viable in the current environment. As a result, we have decided to leave Russia.”

It said it is seeking an “orderly transfer of our business to a new owner in full compliance with international and local laws.”

Heineken will continue to pay its 1,800 staff in Russia through the end of the year. The company says it will not profit from the sale of its Russian operations and expects to take a 400 million-euro ($438 million) charge as a result.

Amid international outrage and sanctions that followed Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the Netherlands-based brewer halted new investments and sales to Russia and ended production, sales and advertising of its Heineken brand beer there.

The company said Monday that it continues to “hope that a path to a peaceful outcome emerges in the near term.”

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s defense ministry says military teams are working to disable a second naval mine that was detected floating off Turkey’s Black Sea coast.

On Monday, the ministry said Underwater Defence Teams that were dispatched to the site off the coast of Igneada, near the border with Bulgaria, had managed to secure the mine and were now working to “neutralize” it.

On Saturday, authorities closed the Bosporus — the landmark waterway between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara — to traffic as a precaution as the Turkish coast guard responded to reports of a drifting mine-like object which was later “neutralized.”

The sighting of the explosive devices follows warnings that mines laid at the entrances to Ukrainian ports could break free in heavy weather and cross the Black Sea.

On March 18, Turkey issued a Navtex alert advising ships to keep a “sharp look out” and report any possible mines that had drifted from ports such as Odesa.

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GENEVA — The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says it has recorded 1,119 civilian deaths and 1,790 people injured since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The UN agency said Sunday most casualties were caused by use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes. It said it believes actual figures are “considerably higher,” given delays in obtaining information and in corroborating the reports.

Of those killed, 224 were men, 168 women, 15 girls and 32 boys. The sex of another 52 children and 628 adults has not yet been determined.

The report said allegations of many civilian casualties in the besieged southern city of Mariupol and in Volnovakha, Izium, Popasna, Rubizhne and Trostianets were still being corroborated and are not included in the latest totals.

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LONDON — Russian forces have made no significant progress in the past 24 hours amid continuing supply problems and aggressive resistance from Ukrainian fighters, U.K. defense officials say.

Poor morale and a lack of momentum have compounded the problems facing Russian forces, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in its latest intelligence briefing.

Heavy fighting continues around Mariupol as Russian forces try to capture the port on the Sea of Azov, which connects to the Black Sea, the ministry said in a briefing posted on Twitter.

Earlier, the ministry said Russia was maintaining a blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, cutting off maritime trade with the country. The Russian navy is also launching “sporadic” missile strikes against targets in Ukraine, the ministry said.

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BEIJING — China’s ambassador to the U.S. says that of all parties concerned in the Ukraine, only China has Russia’s ear.

Qin Gang’s comments to the Phoenix Television channel, which has close ties with China’s ruling Communist Party, come as Beijing’s tacit support for Moscow is receiving increasing scrutiny from Washington and others.

China has refused to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or even refer to it as such. It has also vigorously opposed punishing economic sanctions imposed on Moscow by the West.

Qin said China was uniquely positioned to help peacefully resolve what he called “the crisis.”

“Now, all parties concerned are in serious confrontation with Russia except China. Only China has the ear of Russia,” Qin told the channel’s “Talk With World Leaders” program in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

Qin blamed NATO’s eastward expansion for having provoked Russia. “Russia feels duped by NATO on its eastward expansion. It feels threatened and cornered,” Qin said.

While Beijing claims it is impartial in the conflict, Chinese state media has repeated false and unsupported claims made by Moscow.

Phoenix has itself received attention for embedding a reporter with Russian troops who has produced a steady stream of pro-Moscow reports.

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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s priorities at the Ukrainian-Russian talks in Turkey this week will be “sovereignty and territorial integrity,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told his nation Sunday in his nightly address.

“We are looking for peace, really, without delay,” he said. “There is an opportunity and a need for a face-to-face meeting in Turkey. This is not bad. Let’s see the outcome.”

This week, he said, “I will continue to appeal to the parliaments of other countries” to remind them of the dire situation in besieged cities like Mariupol.

Zelenskyy also told independent Russian journalists Sunday that his government would consider declaring neutrality and offering security guarantees to Russia, repeating earlier statements. That would include keeping Ukraine nuclear-free, he said.

He told the reporters that the issue of neutrality — and agreeing to stay out of NATO — should be put to Ukrainian voters in a referendum after Russian troops withdraw. He said that a vote could take place within a few months once Russian troops leave.

Russia quickly banned Zelenskyy’s interview from being published. Roskomnadzor, which regulates communications for Moscow, issued the ban Sunday, saying there could be action taken against the Russia-based media outlets that took part, which included “those that are foreign media outlets acting as foreign agents.”

Zelenskyy responded by saying Moscow was afraid of a relatively short conversation with journalists. “It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic,” he said, according to the Ukrainian news agency RBK Ukraina.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says that neither NATO nor U.S. President Joe Biden aim to bring about regime change in Russia.

Biden said of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a speech on Saturday that “this man cannot remain in power.” The White House and other U.S. officials rushed to clarify that Biden wasn’t actually calling for Putin to be toppled.

Asked during an appearance Sunday on ARD television whether Putin’s removal is in fact the real aim, Scholz replied: “This is not the aim of NATO, and also not that of the American president.”

Scholz added: “We both agree completely that regime change is not an object and aim of policy that we pursue together.”

Asked whether Biden made a dangerous mistake with his comment, Scholz replied: “No.” He said that “he said what he said” and Secretary of State Antony Blinken also had clarified that he wasn’t talking about regime change.

Scholz last month announced a big increase in German defense spending. On Sunday, he confirmed a report by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the government is considering acquiring a missile defense shield along the lines of Israel’s “Iron Dome.”

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