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Russia-Ukraine crisis latest news updates: Putin ready to hold talks with Kiev

New Delhi : Amid ongoing military operations by Russia on Ukraine, Kremlin on Friday said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to send a delegation of high-ranking officials to Minsk to hold talks with Kiev. Here are the top developments on Russia-Ukraine tensions: NATO has issued a statement stating that it will continue to coordinate closely with relevant stakeholders and other international organisations including the EU. "We've deployed defensive land&air forces in eastern part of the Alliance&maritime assets across NATO area. We've activated NATO's defence plans to prepare ourselves to respond to a range of contingencies &secure Alliance territory including by drawing on our response forces," NATO This comes with Ukraine is under significant pressure, as Russian forces appear to be closing in on Keiv. They have entered the Obolon district in the north of the city, just a few miles from its center, according to the Ukrainian defense ministry as reported by CNN. The units of the Lugansk People's Republic in the Severodonetsk direction rapidly advanced to a depth of 12 km. The grouping of troops of Donetsk People's Republic in direction of Volnovakha advanced 11 km deep into the defence of nationalist battalions: Russian Defence Ministry The units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have completed blocking Chernihiv city. On February 24, Armed Forces of the Russian Federation carried out a successful landing operation in the area of Gostomel airfield in suburbs of Kiev, " Russian Defence Ministry said. Zelensky has not directly proposed neutral status but has signaled a willingness to discuss it, while insisting his country be provided security guarantees. As per media reports, speaking during Friday's meeting of his Security Council, Putin claimed that most Ukrainian military units are reluctant to engage Russian forces. He said the units offering resistance are mostly volunteer battalions made up of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists but offered no evidence for his claims. "Russia is ready to negotiate with Ukraine at a high level," Putin said, cited by Sputnik News Agency. Meanwhile, Beijing supported the settlement of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine through dialogue, the Chinese President said. "Recently, the situation in eastern Ukraine has been changing rapidly, which has attracted increased attention from the international community... China supports the settlement of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine through negotiations," Xi was quoted as saying by the CCTV. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had said earlier in the day that Moscow is ready for negotiations on Kiev at any moment. "We are ready for negotiations. At any moment, as soon as the armed forces of Ukraine respond to the call of our president (Vladimir Putin), stop resisting and lay down their arms. No one is going to attack them, no one is going to oppress them, let them return to their families," Lavrov said. Belarus stands ready to do everything possible to help bring peace to Ukraine, Press Secretary of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Anatoly Glaz told reporters commenting on the possibility of arranging peace talks in Minsk. "We reaffirm our commitment to make every effort to bring back peace to Ukraine, to stop the bloodshed between the fraternal Slavic peoples," tweeted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus. "Belarus has always pushed for using diplomatic means and negotiations to address any issues," said Glaz. He recalled the work of the tripartite contact group in Minsk. Back then all the parties expressed gratitude to Minsk for its efforts. "In the current situation, we just have to do everything we can. In this regard, if the parties reach an agreement, we will be ready to provide any assistance and do everything in our power," Anatoly Glaz emphasized. Meanwhile, European Union leaders have been considering the "nuclear option" of removing Russia from SWIFT, a high-security network that connects thousands of financial institutions around the world, following the invasion of Ukraine."The sanctions that we've proposed on all their banks are of equal consequence, maybe more consequence than SWIFT," Biden said, referring to the latest round of sanctions he announced today. The Foreign Minister of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday urged the West to ban Russia from SWIFT in a tweet. Earlier on Thursday, Moscow on Friday claimed to have destroyed 118 military facilities of Ukraine's military infrastructure in a counter-offensive operation by the groupings of troops of Donetsk and Lugansk with fire support from the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. "During the special military operation, the Russian Air Force destroyed 118 military facilities of Ukraine's military infrastructure, including 11 military airfields, 13 command posts and communication centres, 14 S-300 and Osa anti-aircraft missile systems, 36 radar stations," tweeted Russian Embassy in India. Today at 10:30 am at the entrances to Chernihiv, Hostomel and Melitopol there was heavy fighting. People died, informed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Meanwhile, Sweden on Friday provided military, technical and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. "Grateful to @SwedishPM for her effective support. Building an anti-Putin coalition together!" tweeted Zelensky. Indian embassies in the neighbouring countries of Ukraine have organized massive evacuation operations for the Indian citizens. The Indian Embassy in Warsaw issued an urgent advisory for its citizens who desire to be evacuated via Poland and said, "Indian nationals arriving at the Poland-Ukraine border by public conveyance i.e. by bus or taxi, are advised to make for the Shehyni-Medyka border crossing, not Krakowiec crossing." The Ministry of External Affairs Camp Offices are now operational in Lviv and Chernivtsi towns in western Ukraine. Additional Russian speaking officials are being sent to these Camp Offices. Officials are assisting Indian citizens who reach these cities and will facilitate their departure from Ukraine through adjoining border crossings. A group of around 40 Indian medical students of Daynlo Halytsky Medical University, Lviv walk towards the Ukraine-Poland border for evacuation. They were dropped around 8 km from the border point by a college bus. Also, the Embassy of India in Bratislava has stationed officials at the Slovak-Ukraine border to provide essential assistance to Indian nationals who might cross over to Slovakia from Thursday. Meanwhile, Dmytro Kuleba, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine chided European leaders for their hesitancy in taking economic sanctions against Russia. "To some European leaders who are still hesitant: each year at commemorative events you say 'Never again'. The time to prove it is now. Russia is waging a horrific war of aggression in Europe. Here is your 'never again' test: BAN RUSSIA FROM SWIFT and kick it out of everywhere," tweeted Kuleba. He said that he spoke to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and urged him to ban Russia from SWIFT. "Another call with my American friend and counterpart @SecBlinken on the need to use all US influence on some hesitant European countries in order to ban Russia from SWIFT. We also discussed the further supply of defensive weapons to Ukraine," tweeted Kuleba. On Thursday night, units of the Russian Airborne Troops took full control of the territory in the area of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. An agreement was reached with the servicemen of a separate battalion of protection of the nuclear power plant of Ukraine on joint security of the power units and the sarcophagus of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, said the Russian Defence Ministry release. US President Joe Biden, in his address to the nation on Thursday (local time), said that removing Russia from the SWIFT international financial system is always an option but not one Europe wishes to take now. "It is always an option, but right now, that's not the position that the rest of Europe wishes to take," Biden said during a press conference at the White House.

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