Biden plans Europe trip for Ukraine summit next week as refugees top 3 million

Armed police officers walk past the Artem factory in Kyiv after it was hit by shelling as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues
Armed police officers walk past the Artem factory after it was hit by shelling as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 15.
REUTERS/Thomas Peter

By Pavel Polityuk, Natalia Zinets and Omer Berberoglu

U.S. President Joe Biden will travel to Europe for an extraordinary NATO summit on Ukraine next week as the refugee tally from the invasion hit 3 million and Russian air strikes on Tuesday hit targets in Kyiv.

Moscow has not captured any of the 10 biggest cities in the country following its incursion that began on Feb. 24, the largest assault on a European state since 1945. But local authorities said Tuesday’s bombardments on Kyiv killed at least five people.

Buildings were set ablaze and people were buried under rubble in the capital city. About 2,000 cars left the southern port city of Mariupol, location of the worst humanitarian crisis, the local council said.

Just over 3 million have now fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations, with over 1.8 million arriving in neighboring Poland. Its prime minister and those of Slovenia and the Czech Republic were in Kyiv on Tuesday to show solidarity.

NATO leaders will meet at the military alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on March 24 to discuss the crisis that has prompted fears of wider conflict in the West unthought-of for decades.

“We will address Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, our strong support for Ukraine, and further strengthening NATO’s deterrence & defence,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter.

Biden will be in attendance, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

“His goal is to meet in person face-to-face and talk about and assess where we are at this point in the conflict,” she said.

Asked if Biden would also visit in Poland, do something tied to Ukrainian refugees or meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Psaki declined to comment, saying trip details were still being worked out.

Russia calls its actions a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin has also called its neighbor a U.S. colony with a puppet regime and no tradition of independent statehood.

Talks between Russia and Ukraine via a video link resumed on Tuesday. Ukrainian officials played up hopes the war could end sooner than expected, saying Moscow may be coming to terms with its failure to impose a new government by force.

In a hint of a possible compromise, Zelenskiy said Ukraine was prepared to accept security guarantees from the West that stop short of its long-term objective of joining NATO. Moscow sees any future Ukraine membership of the Western alliance as a threat and has demanded guarantees it will never join.

“If we cannot enter through open doors, then we must cooperate with the associations with which we can, which will help us, protect us… and have separate guarantees,” said Zelenskiy.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to predict progress in the talks. “The work is difficult, and in the current situation the very fact that (the talks) are continuing is probably positive,” he said.


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