New talk of compromise from both Moscow and Kyiv on a status for Ukraine outside of NATO lifted hope on Wednesday for a potential breakthrough after three weeks of war, but the hostilities, including the killing of civilians, continued on the ground.
In other notable developments of the day, the UN’s top court asked Russia to end the invasion, the Biden administration announced an unprecedented military aid package for Ukraine and Russian attacks on a convoy fleeing the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol claimed the lives of civilians.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said negotiations were becoming “more realistic”, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said proposals now being discussed were “close to an agreement”.
For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was ready to discuss neutral status for its neighbour. But he also said Russia would achieve its goals in Ukraine and would not submit to what he called a Western attempt to achieve global dominance and dismember Russia.
The military operation was “going to plan,” he said in a televised address.
On the ground, the 21st day of the conflict saw more bloodshed as Russian forces besieged and bombarded cities.
The United States said Russian forces had shot and killed 10 people waiting in line for bread in the city of Chernihiv. It did not cite evidence of the attack and Russia did not comment on the allegation, made in a US Embassy statement.
Ukraine also said that Russian rocket attacks on a convoy fleeing the besieged port city of Mariupol had claimed the lives of civilians, including children, after earlier strikes targeted a nearby hub for displaced people.
“Today at around 3.30pm (1330 GMT), a column of civilians being evacuated from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia was fired on by inhuman Russian occupiers,” the Ukrainian military said, adding that “the number of victims is being clarified”. Three weeks into the conflict, Russian troops have been halted at the gates of Kyiv, having taken heavy losses and failing to seize any of Ukraine’s biggest cities in a war Western officials say Moscow expected to win within days.