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Russian envoy welcomes proposal for Russian-Ukrainian meeting in Turkey

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Gennady Gatilov, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, has welcomed a Turkish proposal to set up a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in Turkey next week, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Friday.

Gatilov, who is also Russia’s former deputy foreign minister, was quoted as telling Anadolu in Geneva that a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba would be “a good thing.”

“Any discussions are good. Any diplomatic movements are good. If it takes place, it is OK,” said Gatilov.

Such a meeting could be held at the ministerial level during the Antalya Diplomacy Forum (ADF), which is scheduled to take place on March 11-13 in Turkey’s Mediterranean resort city of Antalya, Anadolu said.

“We would like to bring the Ukrainians and the Russians together, at least at the ministerial level,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had said earlier at a news conference after an extraordinary meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

“We would be happy if the Antalya Diplomacy Forum would be instrumental in this. It seems there are allies and foreign ministers and representatives of international organizations who want to meet with Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of this forum,” he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, which quickly turned into a full-scale invasion, and has drawn international outrage, with the EU, US and the UK, among others, implementing tough financial sanctions on Moscow and condemnation at the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council.

Moscow has been further isolated, with its planes barred from flying in European, US and Canadian airspace.

The UN had recorded at least 752 civilian casualties as of March 1 across Ukraine, with 227 killed and 525 injured, including scores of children.

More than 1.2 million people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries since the start of the Russian invasion, according to the UN refugee agency.

In a second round of peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv on Thursday, the two sides agreed on creating humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians.

Russia declared a partial ceasefire on Saturday to allow humanitarian corridors out of the Ukrainian cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha, Russia’s defense ministry said.

“From 1000 am Moscow time (0700 GMT), the Russian side declares a ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to leave Mariupol and Volnovakha,” Russian news agencies quoted the ministry as saying.

However, Russian forces continued to shell Mariupol on Saturday, despite agreeing to the ceasefire just hours earlier, throwing an attempted mass evacuation of civilians into chaos, BBC reported Saturday morning.

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