Putin puts nuclear forces on high alert as Ukraine agrees to talks with Russia – National

The latest as of 12.24 p.m. ET Sunday:

  • Sweden will send military aid to Ukraine, including anti-tank weapons, helmets and body armour, Swedish Prime Minister Andersson said Sunday
  • The EU has joined Canada in shutting down its airspace to Russian airlines
  • The EU will fund supplies of weapons to Ukraine and ban some pro-Kremlin media outlets in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his military command to put nuclear-armed forces on high alert

After weeks of tensions, officials from Ukraine and Russia will hold talks, Ukrainian president’s office has confirmed, as Moscow’s invasion that has rocked several parts of the country and killed hundreds of civilians entered a fourth day.

The talks, the first since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, would be held without preconditions at an unspecified location on the Belarusian border, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said in a statement on Sunday.

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“We agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet with the Russian delegation without preconditions on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River,” the statement said.

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The announcement came as Russian forces rolled into Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv.

A fierce battle was underway Sunday in Kharkiv, where Russian troops blew up a natural gas pipeline before daybreak, according to the Ukrainian state agency.

“The Russian enemy’s light vehicles have broken into Kharkiv, including the city centre,” regional Governor Oleh Sinegubov said, urging civillians to remain inside.

Heavy fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces erupted in Kharkiv following intensive overnight exchanges of rocket artillery, U.K.’s Ministry of Defense said in an update on Twitter.

Click to play video: 'Russia-Ukraine conflict: Sirens sound in Kyiv as Ukrainian forces battle Russia outside city'

Russia-Ukraine conflict: Sirens sound in Kyiv as Ukrainian forces battle Russia outside city

Russia-Ukraine conflict: Sirens sound in Kyiv as Ukrainian forces battle Russia outside city

Until Sunday, Russian troops had remained on the outskirts of Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million about 20 km (12.4 miles) south of the border with Russia, while other forces moved their offensive deeper into Ukraine.

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Meanwhile, in the capital Kyiv, where a curfew has been extended until Monday, clashes have subsided and Ukrainian forces were resisting the Russian offence.

“Russian forces are continuing to advance into Ukraine from multiple axis but are continuing to be met with stiff resistance from the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” Britain’s defence ministry said.

As of Sunday, both Kyiv and Kharkiv remained in Ukrainian hands. The Kremlin said its troops were advancing “in all directions”.

Women pass by the apartment block in 6A Lobanovsky Avenue which was hit with a missile on February 26, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Getty Images

After weeks of warnings from Western leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine on Thursday from the north, east and south.

Putin has justified the invasion, saying “neo-Nazis” rule Ukraine and threaten Russia’s security – a charge Kyiv and Western governments say is baseless propaganda.

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On Sunday, Putin ordered his military command to put nuclear-armed forces on high alert, asserting at a meeting with his top officials that leading NATO powers had made “aggressive statements”.

Putin, in giving the nuclear alert directive, cited not only statements by NATO members but the hard-hitting financial sanctions imposed by the West against Russia, including the Russian leader himself.

The alert means Putin has ordered Russia’s nuclear weapons prepared for increased readiness to launch.

Airspace ban

As Europe’s largest ground war since the Second World War rages on, a Russian delegation of military officials and diplomats arrived in neighbouring Belarus offering talks with Ukraine.

Zelenskyy said his country was open to peace talks but had earlier rejected Russia’s offer, saying Belarus had been complicit in the invasion and instead suggested alternative locations.

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Putin hasn’t disclosed his ultimate plans, but Western officials believe he is determined to overthrow Ukraine’s government and replace it with a regime of his own, redrawing the map of Europe and reviving Moscow’s Cold War-era influence.

In response to the Russian aggression, the United States, Canada and other NATO allies have sent weapons and other aid to Ukraine, which is not a NATO member. They have also slapped Russia with a string of economic sanctions, freezing the assets of Russian businesses and individuals including Putin and his foreign minister.

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On Sunday, Canada, Germany, France, Spain and Italy joined the U.K., the Nordics and Baltic states in shutting their airspace to Russian planes.

“Effective immediately, Canada’s airspace is closed to all Russian aircraft operators,” Canada’s Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said on Twitter

“We will hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked attacks against Ukraine.”

— with files from Reuters and the Associated Press 

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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