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Russia, Ukraine agree to temporary ceasefire in areas where civilians are evacuating

Mykhailo Podolyak
Posted at 4:33 AM, Mar 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 16:05:45-05

MOSCOW — The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the second round of peace talks with Russia ended with both sides agreeing to a temporary ceasefire in areas where civilians are evacuating.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also confirmed that the two sides agreed to allow safe passage for civilians.

Putin has claimed that Ukrainian nationalist groups are preventing civilians from leaving.

The Russian leader said the groups were also using civilians as shields, taking up firing positions to provoke the Russian retaliatory fire. Putin's claim couldn't be independently verified.

The Russian military says it has only struck military facilities and hasn't targeted residential areas, a claim that has been contradicted by the abundant evidence of massive casualties and damage to residential areas of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chernihiv and other cities in Ukraine documented by The Associated Press.

Prior to negotiations Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would continue to press its effort to destroy Ukraine's military infrastructure, which the Kremlin claims is threatening Russia.

Lavrov said that Russia would insist on provisions that Ukraine will never again represent a military threat to Russia. He said it would be up to Ukrainians to choose what government they should have.

Lavrov voiced regret for civilian casualties during the Russian action in Ukraine, which started last week, and insisted that the Russian military is using only precision weapons against military targets.

He tacitly acknowledged that some Russian strikes could have killed civilians, saying that "any military action is fraught with casualties, and not just among the military but also civilians."

Thursday's negotiations marked the second time Russia and Ukraine have met for peace talks since war broke out last week. Initial negotiations Monday ended after five hours with no agreements other than to meet again.

Meanwhile, the U.N.'s top human rights body is holding an urgent debate on the possibility of creating a panel to investigate any abuses during Russia's war with Ukraine.

The meeting is set to culminate in a vote Friday on whether to set up a three-person expert panel following Russia's invasion last week.

The vote by the 47-member-state body, which counts Ukraine and Russia as members, offers a bellwether of international sentiment about the Kremlin's invasion. It comes a day after the U.N. General Assembly in New York voted 141-5, with 35 abstentions, to demand an immediate halt to Moscow's attack on Ukraine.

The panel would seek to collect and analyze evidence that could be used by a court, such as the International Criminal Court, which has already launched its own investigation over Russia's invasion.