Moscow ‘preparing to annex Ukraine territory’, Putin’s rare trip abroad obtains Iran approval

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24 in what it calls a “special military operation” to ensure its own security.

Russia is now also attempting to take control of broadcasting towers, he said.

At the same time, Kirby said the US in the next few days would announce a new weapons package for Ukraine as it engages Russia in fierce battles in eastern Ukraine.

It will be the 16th such drawdown of money approved by Congress and allocated under presidential authority, he said.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden greet Olena Zelenska, spouse of Ukrainian’s President Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House on Tuesday.Credit:AP

The package is expected to include US mobile rocket launchers, known as HIMARS, and rounds for Multiple Launch Rocket Systems as well as artillery munitions.

The US has provided $US8 billion ($11 billion) in security assistance since the war began, including $US2.2 billion in the last month.

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Washington would impose sanctions on officials involved in representing themselves as proxy officials, Kirby said. He predicted these proxies would to try to hold “sham referenda” seeking to legitimatise Russian control as soon as September.

Ukraine’s parliament dismissed the domestic security chief and prosecutor general on Tuesday, two days after Zelensky suspended them for failing to root out Russian spies.

Ivan Bakanov was fired from his position at the helm of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) by a comfortable majority, several MPs said on the Telegram messaging app.

The head of Zelensky’s political faction said Iryna Venediktova had also been voted out as prosecutor general.

Zelensky later announced he had fired one of the SBU’s deputy heads but gave no details. In a late night video address, he also said he had appointed five new regional SBU directors.

In a statement published on Telegram minutes before his dismissal was confirmed, Bakanov said “miscalculations” had been made during his tenure, but that he was proud of his record.

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During his Iran visit Putin also met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss a deal that would resume Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports, now blockaded by Russia. Putin said that not all the issues had been resolved yet on grain shipments, “but the fact that there is movement is already good.”

It was Putin’s first in-person meeting with a NATO leader since the invasion and was a pointed message to the West about Russian plans to forge closer strategic ties with Iran, China and India to help offset Western sanctions imposed over the invasion.

The trip shows how isolated Russia has become, Kirby said.

In Moscow, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said that any peace in Ukraine would be the way Moscow wanted it.

“Russia will achieve all its goals. There will be peace – on our terms,” said Medvedev, who is now deputy head of the Kremlin’s Security Council.

Putin on Wednesday said Moscow did not see any desire from Ukraine to fulfil the terms of what he described as a preliminary peace deal agreed to in March.

Putin, speaking to reporters in televised comments after the visit to Iran, said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were offering to mediate.

Asked about a possible meeting with Zelensky, Putin said Kyiv had not stuck to the terms of a preliminary peace deal he said had been “practically achieved” in March, without elaborating.

Negotiations took place then, with both sides making proposals but without a breakthrough. At the time, Zelensky said only a concrete result from the talks could be trusted.

Reuters

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