Fri, 22 Sep 2023

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had held "productive talks" with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Tuesday. The visit came as China's President Xi Jinping met Russian leader Vladimir Putin for a second day of talks in Moscow. Follow our blog to see how the day's events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

This live blog is no longer being updated. For more of our coverage on the war in Ukraine, please click here.

12:30am: IMF staff reaches agreement with Ukraine for $15.6 bln program

The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday it has reached a staff-level agreement with Ukraine for a four-year financing package worth about $15.6 billion, offering the country needed funds as it continues its battle against Russia's invasion.

The agreement, which must still be ratified by the IMF's board, follows months of negotiations between IMF staff and Ukrainian authorities. The IMF said its executive board is expected to discuss approval in the coming weeks.

8:29pm: US dismisses China mediation on Ukraine as not 'impartial'

The United States does not see China as capable of being an "impartial" mediator between Moscow and Kyiv over the war in Ukraine, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday.

"I don't think you can reasonably look at China as impartial in any way," Kirby told reporters.

6:23pm: Zelensky says 'waiting for answer' after inviting China to talks on Ukraine

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that Kyiv has invited China to talks and is waiting for an answer from Beijing, as Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts China's Xi Jinping in Moscow.

"We offered China to become a partner in the implementation of the peace formula. We passed over our formula across all channels. We invite you to dialogue. We are waiting for your answer," Zelensky told a press conference, adding that: "We are receiving some signals, but there are no specifics yet".

6:06pm: Russia, China voice 'concern' over NATO's Asia presence

Russia and China have expressed "concern" over NATO's growing presence in Asia, according to a declaration signed by Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Moscow on Tuesday.

"The parties express great concern over the ongoing strengthening of NATO's ties with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region on military and security issues," China and Russia said in the declaration.

5:44pm: Russia will 'react' if UK provides tanks, uranium ammunition to Kyiv, Putin says

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow would be "forced to react" if Britain gives Ukraine military supplies, including armour piercing ammunition which contain depleted uranium.

"The United Kingdom ... announced not only the supply of tanks to Ukraine, but also shells with depleted uranium. If this happens, Russia will be forced to react," Putin told reporters after talks at the Kremlin with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

5:12pm: Xi says China backs 'peaceful settlement' of Ukraine conflict

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday that Beijing had an "impartial position" on the conflict in Ukraine and that it supported a "peaceful settlement" through dialogue to solve the conflict, RIA news agency said.

Xi, speaking through a translator after talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin concluded, said talks with the Kremlin leader had been "open and friendly".

Chinese state media reported that the two leaders stressed the need for "responsible dialogue" to steadily solve the Ukraine crisis.

Xi and Putin agreed the "legitimate security concerns" of all countries must be respected and that confrontation between camps should be avoided, Chinese state media reported.

The Russian side reaffirmed its commitment to resuming peace talks as soon as possible, according to Chinese state media, following the conclusion of talks between Xi and Putin in Moscow.

4:50pm: Putin says Chinese peace proposals can be used in Ukraine when Kyiv is ready

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday Chinese peace proposals could be used as the basis for settling the conflict in Ukraine when Kyiv and its Western allies are ready, the RIA news agency reported.

"Many of the provisions of the peace plan put forward by China...can be taken as the basis for a peaceful settlement when Kyiv and the West will be ready for it," Putin said after talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. "However, so far we have not seen such readiness on their part."

4:33pm: Japan PM expresses 'strong indignation' visiting Ukraine's Bucha

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday expressed strong "indignation" during a visit to Bucha, a town near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv where Russian forces were accused of widespread atrocities.

"As I step foot in Bucha today, and witness all the brutality that took place here, I have a strong sentiment of indignation," he said in translated remarks.

3:51pm: China must listen to Ukraine on peace plan, says NATO chief

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday urged Beijing to take into account Ukraine's conditions for peace with Russia, as China's President Xi Jinping met Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Putin told Xi he was open to discussing a 12-point position paper put forward by Beijing on the conflict, which includes a call for dialogue and respect for all countries' territorial sovereignty.

"It is for Ukraine to decide what are acceptable conditions for any peaceful solution," Stoltenberg said at a press conference, pointing out that China had failed to condemn Moscow's invasion.

"China therefore needs to start to understand Ukraine's perspective and engage with President (Volodymyr) Zelensky directly if it wants to be serious about peace."

The head of the Western military alliance said China's paper included some positive elements, including emphasising nuclear safety, protecting civilians and territorial integrity.

But he warned any ceasefire that does not respect Ukraine's sovereignty "will only be a way to freeze the war and to ensure that Russia can reconstitute, regroup and reattack"

3:41pm: Russia opens criminal case against Nobel Prize-winning group's co-chair

Russian authorities have launched a criminal case against Oleg Orlov, the co-chair of the country's top human rights organisation Memorial, for "discrediting" the army, the group said Tuesday.

The announcement came after security officials raided the homes of multiple Memorial employees including Orlov, 69, and co-founder Yan Rachinsky, 64, earlier in the day.

"A case was launched against Orlov," said Memorial, which was disbanded by the Russian authorities in 2021.

Memorial established itself as a key pillar in civil society by preserving the memory of victims of communist repression and campaigning against rights violations in Putin's Russia.

The raids took place after investigators accused Memorial staff of allegedly including World War Two-era Nazi collaborators on their list of victims of political terror, the organisation said.

Memorial, Russia's most renowned rights group, received the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize with Belarus's jailed activist Ales Bialiatski and Ukraine's Centre for Civil Liberties.

2:57pm: Ukraine to boycott fencing competitions over Russia invasion

The Ukrainian fencing federation has announced it will boycott any competition which includes Russian and Belarusian athletes because of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war there.

The decision was taken at an "emergency meeting" of the federation, it said in a statement issued Monday.

"It was decided not only not to take part in duels with Russian and Belarusian athletes at competitions of any level, but also for our athletes, coaches and judges not to participate in competitions in which Russian or Belarusian athletes are competing," said the statement.

The Ukrainian federation also said it intends to contest the "illegal and shameful decision" of the FIE, the world body, earlier this month to allow Russian and Belarusian fencers to return to international competition.

The FIE does not have the final decision on participation at next year's Olympics in Paris as this will be "subject to possible recommendations or future decisions of the IOC".

Ukraine's decision, however, will have an impact on their fencers' chances of reaching the Games as qualifying will run from April until March 2024 when Russians and Belarusians will be allowed to compete.

2:50pm: Ukraine amends 2023 budget to channel more funds for defence

Ukrainian parliament voted on Tuesday to amend the 2023 state budget, raising spending by a record amount as Kyiv seeks additional funds for arms and military salaries following Russia's invasion.

Lawmakers voted to increase budget spending by 537.2 billion hryvnias ($14.7 billion) this year, the finance ministry said.

"In line with the proposed changes, total funds for the security and defence sector will reach 1.67 trillion hryvnias. That's 26.6% of GDP," Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said.

Government officials have previously said Ukraine spent 1.48 trillion hryvnias on its defence sector last year.

2:24pm: Seven out of 30 allies met NATO military spending target in 2022

Seven out of 30 allies met NATO's military spending target in 2022, the alliance's chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday, one country less than in 2021 before Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Stoltenberg told reporters in a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels that the alliance originally had expected two more countries to meet the goal.

"But because GDP has increased more than expected for a couple of allies, two allies that we expected to be at 2% are now slightly below 2%," he said.

2:20pm: 'Inevitable' Ukraine victory to reshape region says Georgia's jailed ex-leader

Georgia's jailed ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili said Tuesday that Ukraine's victory in its war with Russia is a foregone conclusion and will change for good the region long dominated by Moscow.

"Ukraine's inevitable win will completely change the situation in Georgia and in the region," Saakashvili told AFP in written notes sent through his lawyer, adding that the West must "get ready" for Russia's disintegration.

1:54pm: Japan PM Kishida pays respects at Bucha as part of Ukraine visit

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday visited Bucha, where Russian forces were accused of massacring civilians during their weeks-long occupation of the Kyiv-region suburb last year.

An AFP journalist in the town outside the Ukraine capital reported Kishida had arrived as part of an official visit that Ukraine's foreign ministry described as "historic".

1:33pm: Xi, Putin begin talks at Kremlin, reports Russian state media

China's President Xi Jinping arrived in the Kremlin on Tuesday to begin formal talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, images broadcast by state-television showed.

Xi entered the Kremlin on a red carpet and was greeted in a grand ceremonial hall by Putin and a delegation of senior Russian officials and a military brass band, which played the anthems of both countries.

12.53pm: Russia blames Ukraine for drone attack on oil station in border region

Russia on Tuesday accused Kyiv of a drone attack on an oil pumping station in the southern Bryansk region on the border with Ukraine, according to the regional governor.

"The Armed Forces of Ukraine, using a UAV, attacked the territory of the Novozybkov oil pumping station of Transneft. There were no casualties," governor Alexander Bogomaz said on social media.

10:40am: Gazprom supplies daily gas record to China, Russia says

Russian energy giant Gazprom said Tuesday it had reached a daily record in gas volumes supplied to China through the Power of Siberia pipeline, during a state visit to Russia by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

On Monday, "Gazprom delivered requested volumes and set a new historical record for daily gas supplies to China," the company said in a statement, ahead of formal talks between Xi and Vladimir Putin.

10:33am: Ukraine says Russian cruise missiles destroyed in Crimea

Ukraine said Tuesday that Russian cruises missiles were destroyed in a blast on the Crimean peninsula that was annexed by Moscow in 2014, but denied responsibility for the "mysterious" incident.

"An explosion in the town of Dzhankoi in the north of temporarily occupied Crimea destroyed Russian Kalibr-NK cruise missiles as they were being transported by rail," Ukrainian military intelligence said in a statement on social media.

Russian investigators had earlier said that air defence systems repelled a drone attack at Dzhankoi and that debris from the incident damaged a shop and home and left one person injured.

"The targets of all downed drones were civilian objects," the Investigative Committee added in its statement.

10:13am: Constantinople Orthodox Church may establish presence in Lithuania to rival Moscow church

The leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church said on Tuesday he will work with Lithuania's government to potentially establish a new branch in the Baltic nation to ensure that believers would no longer be under the sole supervision of Moscow.

"Today a new perspective opens before us along with the possibility to work together for the establishment of (a branch) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (of Constantinople) in Lithuania," Patriarch Bartholomew told reporters in Vilnius.

Lithuania's government said some of the country's Orthodox believers, including Ukrainian refugees, object to the current organisation, which is a unit of the Russian Orthodox Church.

10:10am: Xi tells Russian PM China to 'prioritise' ties with Moscow

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday during a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin described Beijing and Moscow as "great neighbouring powers" and "strategic partners," saying China would "prioritise" ties with Russia.

Xi said Chinese Premier Li Qiang would "continue to prioritise the all-round strategic partnership between China and Russia", adding that: "we are great neighbouring powers and comprehensive strategic partners".

9:19am: Xi says invited Putin to visit China this year

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Tuesday that he had invited his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to visit China this year, ahead of a second round of talks between the two leaders in Moscow, Russian news agencies reported.

"Yesterday I invited President Putin to visit China this year at a time that is convenient for him," Xi said at a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

9:06am: Ukraine waiting for confirmation of Zelensky call with China's Xi

Kyiv is waiting to hear if a call will take place between Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in an interview published on Tuesday.

"I don't know, we are waiting for confirmation," Vereshchuk said when asked whether a call between the two leaders will take place. "That would be an important move. They have things to say to each other," Vereshchuk told the Corriere della Sera Italian daily.

7:00am: Japan says PM Kishida to visit Ukraine, meet Zelensky in show of solidarity

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will visit Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Japan's foreign ministry said on Tuesday, with broadcaster NHK showing Kishida boarding a train at the Polish border town of Przemysl. Kishida, as a member of the Group of Seven nations, will voice solidarity and support for Ukraine following Russia's invasion more than a year ago, the ministry said.

Kishida will show "his respect for courage and perseverance of the Ukrainian people standing up to defend their homeland", the foreign ministry said in a statement.

5:46am: Putin and Xi talks to continue Tuesday

Vladimir Putin and his "dear friend" Chinese leader Xi Jinping planned more talks on Tuesday after a Kremlin dinner where the isolated Russian president curried favour with his most powerful ally in the face of Western opposition to the war in Ukraine.

Coming just days after an international court accused Putin of war crimes, Washington denounced Xi's visit, saying it showed Beijing was providing Moscow with "diplomatic cover" to commit more crimes.

According to Rana Mitter, Professor of history of modern China at Oxford University, Beijing is trying to suggest that China may be "a new type of peacemaker in the world" and "that it's able to have conversations that traditional powers like the United States or Western Europe are unable to have".

2:14am: Ukraine says explosion in Crimea destroyed Russian missiles

Ukraine's defence ministry said on Monday that an explosion in Dzhankoi in the north of the Crimean peninsula destroyed Russian cruise missiles intended for use by Russia's Black Sea fleet.

A Russia-installed official in the peninsula, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014, said the blast was caused by drones laced with sharpnel and explosives and targeted civilian sites.

One person was injured.

A statement by the intelligence directorate of Ukraine's defence ministry said: "An explosion in Dzhankoi city in the north of temporarily occupied Crimea destroyed Russian Kalibr-KN cruise missiles as they were being transported by rail".

The statement on social media said the missiles, designed to be launched from surface ships in Russia's Black Sea fleet, had an operational range of more than 2,500 kms (1,550 mile) on land and 375 kms (233 miles) at sea.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP & Reuters)

Originally published on France24

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