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Zelenskyy ready to negotiate directly with Putin as bombing intensifies in Mariupol: Live Ukraine updates – USA TODAY

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is prepared to negotiate a deal directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war that he said has left cities across his country bombed beyond recognition.

Authorities in Kharkiv said the Russian assault in that area has been intensifying with 84 artillery strikes were reported in 24 hours. In beleaguered Mariupol, Russian aircraft dropped two more heavy bombs Tuesday, City Council said in a social media post. 

“The enemy continues to cynically destroy Ukrainian Mariupol,” the post said. “The city suffered even more damage.”

Zelenskyy spoke to Italian lawmakers on Tuesday, telling them Mariupol had been utterly destroyed in the Russian onslaught. 

Since the war began less than four weeks ago, about 3,780 residential buildings have been partially damaged, and 651 homes destroyed across the country, the Ukraine Emergency Service said.

In an interview with Ukrainian television channels, Zelenskyy said he would be willing to discuss a commitment from Ukraine to not seek NATO membership in exchange for a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Russian troops and a guarantee of Ukraine’s security. 

“It’s a compromise for everyone: for the West, which doesn’t know what to do with us with regard to NATO, for Ukraine, which wants security guarantees, and for Russia, which doesn’t want further NATO expansion,” Zelenskyy said.

He also repeated his call for direct talks with Putin – without them, it remains unknown whether Russia even wants to stop the war, Zelenskyy said.

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LATEST MOVEMENT: Mapping and tracking Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army said it forced Russian troops out of Makariv, a strategically important Kyiv suburb, after a fierce battle. The regained territory allowed Ukrainian forces to retake control of a key highway to the west and block Russian troops from surrounding Kyiv from the northwest.

But Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Russian forces battling toward Kyiv were able to partially take other northwest suburbs – Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin – some of which had been under attack almost since Russia’s military invaded late last month.

Latest developments

► Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was convicted of fraud and contempt of court and sentenced to nine years in a maximum security prison on Tuesday. He rejected the allegations as politically motivated.

► A second superyacht belonging to Chelsea soccer club owner and Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has docked in a resort in southwestern Turkey. Turkey is not applying sanctions on Russia that have led to seizures of multiple oligarch-owned yachts around the world.

► Four children being evacuated were among those wounded Monday when Russian forces shelled along a humanitarian border, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address.

►Russian troops used stun grenades and fired in the air Monday to break up demonstrators in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson.

►Zelenskyy is set to virtually deliver his address to the Japanese parliament on Wednesday to rally international support for his country’s fight against the Russian invasion.

Kremlin quiet on rising casualty count

Estimates of Russian military casualties vary, but even conservative figures by Western officials are in the low thousands. Ukraine has estimated Russian losses at more than 15,000. Russia has not given an update since it said March 2 that 498 soldiers had been killed in action. Russia’s pro-Kremlin Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, citing the Defense Ministry, briefly reported Monday online that almost 10,000 Russian soldiers had been killed. The report was quickly removed, and the newspaper blamed hackers. The Kremlin declined comment Tuesday.

Some Russian journalists abandon jobs, blame war and Putin

A former Paris-based Europe correspondent for Russian state-controlled Channel One said Tuesday she resigned this month due to the war and voiced fears she’ll be accused by the Kremlin of being “a highly paid spy.” Zhanna Agalakova, one of several Russian journalists to quit in recent days, told a press conference in Paris that “I cannot do this job anymore … I left Channel One specifically because the war started.”

Two journalists have left rival NTV – Lilia Gildeyeva had worked for the channel as a presenter since 2006 and Vadim Glusker had been with the network for almost three decades. At RT, formerly Russia Today, Maria Baronova was the highest-profile of several resignations. The former chief editor told the BBC that Putin had destroyed Russia’s reputation – and that the economy was dead too.

Ukrainian refugees arrive at border ready to restart lives

The U.N. refugee agency says more than 3.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, an exodus prompting Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II. 

With Russian munitions destroying cities and troops tightening a stranglehold, more displaced persons leave each day. They arrive at the border with only a bag of personal possessions and clothing, mostly women and children queuing in bitter cold for shelter, food and transport to destinations unknown. 

Yet the uprooted Ukrainians may have advantages over millions who fled World War II and other past military conflicts. 

An international refugee aid system developed at the end of World War II is more coordinated than at any time in history. Nonprofit relief agencies are bigger and more organized. And, at least for now, the Ukrainians are being welcomed into neighboring nations. Read more here.

Dennis Wagner

Russia increases military flights, senior US official says

Russian forces have increased the number of military aircraft sorties over Ukraine in the past two days, a senior U.S. defense official said. The official said Russians have done up to 300 sorties – a combat mission of an individual aircraft – in the past 24 hours.

Most of the flights involve air-to-ground strikes, mainly on stationary targets, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the military’s assessment.

Russia has much more aircraft than Ukraine but has yet to take air superiority over the country.

– Celina Tebor

Biden confirms Russia used hypersonic missiles in Ukraine

President Joe Biden confirmed Russia’s use of hypersonic missiles in Ukraine, warning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “back is against the wall,” which means he could resort to using more severe tactics as the war stretches into another week.

Speaking at the Business Roundtable’s CEO Quarterly Meeting on Monday, Biden said Russia used the fast-flying missiles “because it’s the only thing that they can get through” Ukrainian defenses. He called it a “consequential weapon” that’s “almost impossible to stop.”

“There’s a reason they’re using it,” Biden said.

Russia has said it twice used its Kinzhal aviation missile system to strike targets in Ukraine. Hypersonic missiles can move at five times the speed of sound or more. The Russian military said these missiles are capable of hitting targets at a range of more than 1,200 miles, or roughly the distance from New York City to Kansas City.

– Courtney Subramanian

Holocaust survivor killed in Ukraine after Russian shelling hits his home

A 96-year-old Holocaust survivor was killed last week in a Russian bombing in his home city of Kharkiv, Ukraine. The victim, Borys Romanchenko, survived the Nazi concentration camps at Buchenwald, Peenemünde, Dora and Bergen-Belsen during World War II. The Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation confirmed Romanchenko’s death confirmed on Twitter Monday.

The foundation said Romanchenko’s granddaughter told them the multi-story building he was living in was hit by Russian shells, adding they were “deeply disturbed” by the news of his death.

– Jordan Mendoza

Contributing: The Associated Press

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