Russia-Ukraine war: what we know on day 88 of the invasion

Moscow considers prisoner swap for Putin ally; Russia bans 963 Americans including president Biden from entering the countrySee all our Russia-Ukraine war coverageUkraine has suggested it is willing to resume talks with Russia as Moscow claimed to have taken full control of the besieged city of Mariupol. Speaking to a television channel on Saturday, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that “discussions between Ukraine and Russia will undoubtedly take place”. “Under what format I don’t know … but the war will be bloody, there will be fighting and [it] will only definitively end through diplomacy.” The Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, responded by blaming Ukraine for stopping the talks. The last discussions between the two sides took place on 22 April, according to Russian news agencies.Russia is considering giving up Ukraine fighters captured in Mariupol for Viktor Medvedchuk, a detained ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin. “We are going to study the possibility,” said Leonid Slutsky, a senior member of Russia’s negotiating team on Ukraine, speaking from the separatist city of Donetsk in south-eastern Ukraine, the RIA Novosti news agency reported. Russia banned 963 Americans, including president Joe Biden, from entering the country. The list also includes the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, and the CIA chief, William Burns.Biden signed a funding bill that will provide nearly $40bn (£32bn) in aid to Ukraine.Zelenskiy met Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, and described the meeting as “important and meaningful”. Portugal later announced an agreement to provide €250m ($264m) in financial aid to Ukraine.The Ukraine president also had a phone conversation with Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, and says he stressed the importance of more sanctions on Russia and unblocking Ukrainian ports.Russia destroyed a Ukrainian special-operations base near Odesa, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port, as well as a significant cache of western-supplied weapons in northern Zhytomyr region, Russia defence ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday. There was no confirmation from the Ukrainian side.Ukraine ruled out a ceasefire or concessions to Moscow. Zelenskiy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Kyiv would not accept any deal with Russia that involved ceding territory. He said making concessions would backfire on Ukraine because Russia would hit back harder after any break in fighting. “The war will not stop [after concessions]. It will just be put on pause for some time,” Podolyak, Ukraine’s lead negotiator, told Reuters on Saturday. “They’ll start a new offensive, even more bloody and large-scale.”Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan, who has objected to Sweden and Finland joining Nato, held phone calls with the leaders of the two countries on Saturday and discussed his concerns about terrorist organisations. Turkey surprised its Nato allies last week by objecting to the two countries’ accession to the military alliance, but western leaders have expressed confidence that Ankara’s objections will not be a roadblock for the membership process.Russia’s state gas company, Gazprom, halted gas exports to Finland, which refused Moscow’s demands to pay in roubles for Russian gas after western countries imposed sanctions over the invasion.Canada has imposed sanctions on the Russian-born billionaire and newspaper proprietor Alexander Lebedev. The former KGB agent is the owner of UK newspapers the Evening Standard and the Independent. Continue reading...

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