Russia says 'some progress' being made in talks with Ukraine

"Some progress has been made," Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova said during a press briefing, referring to three rounds of talks with Kyiv. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia said on Wednesday (March 9) that negotiations with Kyiv to resolve the Ukraine conflict were making headway and underscored that Moscow's troops were not working to topple the Ukrainian government.

"Some progress has been made," Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova said during a press briefing, referring to three rounds of talks with Kyiv.

Ukrainian and Russian officials have been meeting on the Belarus-Poland border for talks to end fighting.

Ms Zakharova said another round of talks will be focused on humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians.

She also said Moscow does not intend to occupy Ukraine or overthrow its government.

The army's aim is "not to occupy Ukraine, or the destruction of its statehood, or the overthrow of the government", she said. "It is not directed against the civilian population."

President Vladimir Putin has said he sent in troops to Ukraine in order to "de-Nazify" the country.

Since Russian troops went in on Feb 24, they have advanced into the country and shelled Ukraine's main cities, forcing thousands to flee.

Moscow said it is not to target civilian areas, despite widespread evidence otherwise.

During the briefing, Ms Zakharova accused Kyiv authorities of blocking efforts to evacuate civilians.

"Information about humanitarian corridors is deliberately not communicated to the population," she said.

"Persons wishing to leave for Russia are forced to evacuate in the Western direction," she said.

Russia and Ukraine have agreed a day-long ceasefire on Wednesday around a series of evacuation corridors to allow civilians to escape fighting.

Moscow said this week it would set up evacuation corridors, but Kyiv said the proposed routes were unacceptable because some led to Russia.

Ms Zakharova claimed that around two million Ukrainians want to be evacuated to Russia.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, has estimated the total number of Ukraine refugees at as many as 2.2 million.

Follow The Straits Times' live coverage on the Ukraine crisis here.

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