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Ukraine updates: China wants peace talks, Xi tells Zelenskyy

April 27, 2023

China said that it would send representatives to Ukraine and hold talks with all parties. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the conversation with his Chinese counterpart "long and meaningful."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at press briefing in front of NATO and Ukrainian flags
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that his conversation with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping was "long and meaningful." Pictured is an archive photo of Zelenskyy at a NATO press briefing.Image: Alina Yarysh/File Photo/REUTERS

Chinese President Xi Jinping told Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy that China was "on the side of peace" during a Wednesday phone call.

"On the issue of the Ukraine crisis, China has always stood on the side of peace and its core position is to promote peace talks," Chinese state broadcaster CCTV cited Xi as saying.

The Chinese leader said that his call with Zelenskyy showed China's "objective" and "impartial" position on international affairs. Xi said that Beijing will send special representatives to Ukraine and hold talks with all parties to the conflict.

China published a 12-point position paper on ending the war in Ukraine in February. Beijing presents itself as a neutral mediator in Ukraine while also maintaining a "no limits" friendship with Moscow.

Xi said China "will neither watch the fire from the other side, nor add fuel to the fire, let alone take advantage of the crisis to profit". He told Zelenskyy that negotiations were the only "way out" of the conflict.

Zelenskyy called the talks with his Chinese counterpart "long and meaningful."

"I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine's ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations," he tweeted.

Zelenskyy announced that Pavel Ryabikin would be Ukraine's new ambassador to China following the call. The newly-appointed envoy previously headed the ministry of strategic industries of Ukraine.

Ukraine has not had an ambassador to China since February 2021.

Meanwhile, the White House welcomed the phone call between Zelenskyy and Xi, but said it was too soon to tell whether it would lead to a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine.

France said it "encourages all dialogue" that can "contribute to a resolution of the conflict" that is "in line with the fundamental interests of Kyiv" and international law.

The German government called the phone call between Zelenskyy and Xi "a good signal." As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has a "special responsibility to end Russia's illegal war of aggression against Ukraine," a government spokesperson said.

Brussels also welcomed the conversation. "It is good that the call between Presidents Zelenskyy and Xi finally took place and that the communication channels are open," a senior EU official said.

Will China rescue Russia's economy?

Here are some of the other headlines concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Wednesday, April 26:

Norwegian diplomats expelled from Russia

At least 10 Norwegian diplomats have been ordered to leave Russia, Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ragnhild H. Simenstad said.

Norway said the move was "an act of revenge" in response to the Norwegian government expelling 15 Russian diplomats on accusations of spying earlier this month.

Norway's ambassador to Moscow was informed that diplomats at the embassy in Moscow "have been declared undesirable in Russia."

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the ambassador had been summoned to protest Norway's decision to expel Russian diplomats. The ministry added that it will take other measures in response to "unfriendly actions by Oslo."

Simenstad added that Norway's diplomats in Russia carry out ordinary diplomatic work. 

'The future of Ukraine and Moldova is within the EU,' says Michel

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, told DW in an interview that the European Union will continue to support Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.

"The Ukrainians made the choice to resist. They're extremely courageous. And that's why our duty, our responsibility is to do everything we can in order to assist, to support them," he said.

The politician thinks that the future of Ukraine and Moldova is within the EU. "This is a very clear plan for the future of the European continent," Michel said.

He stressed that Russian victory cannot be an option. "We do everything in order to guarantee the territorial sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine. It means the victory of Ukraine," the politician said.

Michel added that Putin had caculated on war fatigueand the European Union proving unable to stay united in its support of Ukraine. "We took Putin and the Kremlin by surprise because we are able to stick together," he said.

According to Michel, only a few months ago, European nations were broadly reliant on Russian fossil fuels but now had successfully reduced their dependencies. "The goal is to end those dependencies on Russian fossil fuels," he added.

Is Ukraine right to worry about war fatigue in the EU?

Ukrainians will get arms in time for counteroffensive, US general says

Ukraine's military will get the weaponry it needs in time for an upcoming counteroffensive against invading Russian forces, the top US general in Europe told Congress.

General Christopher Cavoli, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, cited as an example that more than 98% of combat vehicles promised to Ukraine had already been delivered.

"I am very confident that we have delivered the material that they need, and we'll continue a pipeline to sustain their operations as well," Cavoli told a hearing at the House Armed Services Committee.

Kremlin warns it could widen foreign company asset seizures

The Kremlin warned that Russia could widen the list of foreign companies subject to temporary asset seizures in case of the "expropriation" of Russian assets abroad.

The comments came after President Vladimir Putin signed a presidential decree approving the takeover of operations of two Western energy groups in Russia — Finland's Fortum and Germany's Uniper — and threatened to do the same with others.

"If necessary, the list of companies could be expanded," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, a day after Putin signed a decree allowing asset seizures.

"The aim of the decree is to create a compensation fund for the possible adoption of retaliatory measures against the illegal expropriation of Russian assets abroad," he said. 

The new legislation means that owners will not be deprived of their property but will "no longer have the right to make management decisions," according to Rosimushchestvo, the Russian federal agency named as the "temporary manager" of assets seized.

Czechs put Russian Patriarch Kirill on sanctions list over Ukraine

The Czech government has made the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, the first person on its national sanctions list due to his support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said.

Kirill was listed by his civil name of Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev on the sanctions roster, which is posted on the Foreign Ministry's website.

His inclusion means he is barred from entry to the Czech Republic, a European Union and NATO member country, and banned from any financial transactions with Czechs.

"His frequent public remarks supporting the war in Ukraine, justifying atrocities committed by Russian troops there, those are all clear evidence that can be publicly found," Lipavsky told a televised news conference.

Patriarch Kirill is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin and has strongly backed the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in which tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions driven from their homes.

Italy's Meloni urges quick start of Ukraine's EU entry talks

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni urged European allies to accelerate Ukraine's European Union membership bid. Her comments came as Rome hosted a bilateral conference on the war-torn country's reconstruction attended by hundreds of Italian and Ukrainian businesses. 

"The future of Ukraine must include an always wider capacity of integrating with the European dynamics and institutions," Meloni said in joint statements with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on the sidelines of the conference. 

"The smartest way to thank Ukrainians for what they are doing is to accelerate their chance of being part of the European institutions. We need to acknowledge Kyiv's enormous efforts to reform its system and bring it closer to targets required by the EU Commission," Meloni added, urging a quick start of negotiations needed to grant Ukraine full EU membership.

Italy's Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said the conference attracted over a 1,000 companies, including hundreds from Ukraine. He stressed that the Italian initiative was part of a wider process, with both Germany and France already holding their own bilateral conferences with Ukrainian firms in October and December, respectively, while G7 countries launched a Donor Coordination Platform in February.

Moscow says Kyiv, allies undermining peace attempts

Russia's Foreign Ministry has accused the Ukrainian government of undermining attempts to reach a negotiated settlement of the conflict.

"The Ukrainian authorities and their Western minders have already shown their ability to mess up any peace initiatives," the ministry said.

Moscow highlighted what it called "the readiness of the Chinese side to make efforts to establish a negotiation process."

The ministry said that Ukraine had rejected "any sensible initiatives aimed at a political and diplomatic settlement."

"The eventual consent to negotiations is conditioned by ultimatums with obviously unrealistic demands," it said.

Ukraine's government has said that it would negotiate with Moscow only following the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory.

'No progress' towards Black Sea grain deal — Russian envoy

Moscow hasn't seen "any progress" towards meeting conditions it set for a Black Sea grain deal, a top Russian envoy has said.

Gennady Gatilov, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said: "So far we haven't seen any progress."

The Black Sea Grain Initiative has been in place since July 2022. It allows for the export of Ukrainian grans.

Gatilov said that Moscow appreciated "the efforts of the UN" and believed the organization was "trying to do its best."

Nonetheless, the envoy said that Russia had only been hearing "promises."

"I don't know whether they will be able to achieve sufficient progress in the time left."

Russia has set a number of conditions for the extension of the grain deal, including allowing the Russian Agricultural Bank to reconnect to the Swift payment system.

Moscow also demanded that supplies of agricultural machinery, spare parts and services resume, and obstacles to granting Russian ships insurance and access to foreign ports be lifted.

Ukraine, Russia exchange dozens of POWs

Ukraine has retrieved 44 prisoners of war from Russian custody, Ukrainian presidential advisor Andriy Yermak says.

Yermak wrote in a Telegram post that among those recovered were 42 soldiers and two civilians.

The official claimed that some prisoners of war had sustained injuries from torture.

Meanwhile, Russia's defense ministry said that 40 Russian soldiers had been returned from Ukrainian custody.

"All those released are being provided with the necessary medical and psychological assistance," the ministry said.

Kyiv condemns Russian 'blackmail' on Chernobyl anniversary

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of using nuclear power plants to "blackmail" the world.

He made the comments on the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

"Thirty-seven years ago the Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster left a giant scar on the whole world," Zelenskyy said in a Telegram post.

"Last year, the occupying power did not just invade this power station. It again put the world in danger," he said.

"We have to do everything to prevent the terrorist state from using nuclear power stations to blackmail Ukraine and the world," Zelenskyy declared.

On February 24, 2022, Russian forces took over the Chernobyl site. They withdrew from the decommissioned plant a month later.

Ukraine has accused Russian forces of looting and exposing themselves to radiation by digging trenches inside the exclusion zone.

In southern Ukraine, Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of shelling the site of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Kuleba says NATO lacks 'political will' for Ukraine to join alliance

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has accused NATO of lacking the "political will" to allow his country to join the defense alliance quickly. 

"Everything is possible when there is political will," he said in an interview with US broadcaster CNN. The diplomat referred to the recent accession of Finland, which he said was unimaginable not long ago. 

"As long as Ukraine remains outside NATO, there will be a risk of repeated Russian aggression against Ukraine," Kuleba underlined. 

In an article published by Foreign Affairs, Kuleba called on NATO members to "stop making excuses and start the process." He recalled the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, at which Ukraine had already been granted the prospect of membership.

At the upcoming NATO summit in Lithuania's capital Vilnius in July, Kiev expects concrete membership commitments from the military alliance.

dh, sdi/jcg (AFP, AP, Reuters)