Flags are seen on a table before Russian-Ukrainian talks, in Belarus. - Sputnik International

LIVE UPDATES: Moscow, Kiev Reach Progress on Ukraine's Neutral Status, Russian Negotiator Says

The bill is one of several working its way through Congress aimed at what US officials say is "imposing costs" on Russia and Belarus for the special operation being conducted in Ukraine. The measures include legislation to exclude Russia from international organisations and expand sanctions enforcement to foreign subsidiaries of US companies.
Russia launched an operation in Ukraine on 24 February after the breakaway Donbass republics appealed for help in defending themselves against the Ukrainian military. In response, Western nations have rolled out a comprehensive sanctions campaign against Moscow.
While peace talks are underway between Russia and Ukraine, Western nations are continuing to pump Kiev with weapons. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has requested that they supply Kiev with air defence systems, after the United states rejected the idea of declaring a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
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18:59 GMT 18.03.2022
Biden Tells Xi About Implications of Support for Russia's Ukraine Operation
US President Joe Biden in a call with President of China Xi Jinping has laid out implications and consequences should Beijing decide to provide material support to Russia during the latter's military operation in Ukraine and in violation of sanctions, the White House said on Friday.
""[Biden] described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians."
18:53 GMT 18.03.2022
Biden in Call With Xi Underscored Support for Diplomatic Resolution to Ukraine Crisis
US President Joe Biden in a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday underscored support for a diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine crisis, the White House said.
"The conversation focused on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine ... The President underscored his support for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis," the statement said.
18:47 GMT 18.03.2022
Russian MoD: Moscow Informed Kiev It is Ready to Let Militants Leave Mariupol Via Humanitarian Corridor to Save City and Civilians
18:43 GMT 18.03.2022
Biden Says His Video Call With China's President ZI 'Went Well', CNN Reports
US President Joe Biden said Friday that his video call with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss bilateral issues and the Russian military operation in Ukraine "went well."
"President Biden, who just passed me in the West Wing, tells me his nearly two hour call with President Xi ‘went well’," CNN White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins said via Twitter.
18:21 GMT 18.03.2022
Russian Negotiator: Zelenskyy Advisor’s Call for ‘Rail War’ May Harm Talks
The call of Alexey Arestovych, adviser to the head of Volodymyr Zelensky's office, to wage a so-called rail war on Russia may severely damage the negotiation process between Moscow and Kiev, Russian presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky said on Friday.
On Thursday, Arestovych called for a "rail war" in southern Ukraine and Belarus aiming to destroy the routes for relocating Russian forces.
"I believe that this sort of extreme figures can severely damage the negotiation process and the minimal sprouts of understanding between our delegations," Medinsky said.
Medinsky added that he does not want to comment on Arestovych’s claims, but stressed that his speeches can be interpreted "as a direct call for terrorism."
The term "rail war" usually refers to guerrilla actions to disrupt railroads aiming to disable troops, equipment and supplies deliveries.
18:10 GMT 18.03.2022
Russian MoD: Ukraine Intends to Blast Hospital in Dnepropetrovsk While Russian Plane Passing
Ukrainian Security Service officers have planted mines at a hospital building in the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk, planning to detonate it when a Russian plane passes over, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Friday.
"According to reliable information we have, Ukrainian Security Service officers in Dnepropetrovsk, having evacuated staff and medical patients, have booby-trapped one of the buildings of the city hospital No. 2," Konashenkov said at a briefing.
The detonation of the hospital is planned during the passage of any Russia aircraft over Dnepropetrovsk, he added.
"First of all, I would like to draw the attention of Western media representatives who arrived in Dnepropetrovsk. Russian aviation did not and does not have any combat missions to strike the hospital building or other buildings in Dnepropetrovsk," Konashenkov added.
17:15 GMT 18.03.2022
UN Spokesperson to Sputnik: Guterres, Russian Envoy Meet to Discuss Situation in Ukraine
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia met on Thursday to discuss the situation in Ukraine, United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told Sputnik.
"If I told you they spoke about the situation in Ukraine it would not be a scoop," Dujarric said. "That’s what the meeting focused on."
16:03 GMT 18.03.2022
Xi Tells Biden All Sides Should Support Russia-Ukraine Dialogue
All sides should support a dialogue between Russia and Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping told US President Joe Biden on Friday.
"All parties should jointly support the dialogue and negotiations between Russia and Ukraine," Xi said, as quoted by the Foreign Ministry.
According to Xi, the ongoing dialogue and prevention of civilian casualties remain the main priority in Ukraine.
15:47 GMT 18.03.2022
Zelensky to Virtually Address French Parliament on March 23
Volodymyr Zelensky will speak to the French parliament from Kiev by videolink on March 23, Richard Ferrand, the president of the French lower chamber, said on Friday.
“Mr. Volodymyr Zelensky @ZelenskyyUa, President of the Republic of Ukraine, will speak from Kiev to the National Assembly on Wednesday March 23 at 3 p.m. [14:00 GMT],” he tweeted, reiterating the legislature's support for Ukraine.
15:46 GMT 18.03.2022
EU Countries Requested Over $550Mln in Funding for Weapons to Ukraine, Source Says
EU countries have already asked the European Union for more than 500 million euros ($550 million) in armaments funding for Ukraine, and the issue of coordinating additional funds is being studied, a high-ranking European source told reporters in Brussels.
The commission has already received requests for more than 500 million euros, he said.
The source explained that a specially created commission was studying the requests received from the EU countries and then will begin to compensate for the costs.
He recalled that during the EU summit in Versailles, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell had proposed to allocate an additional 500 million euros to help Ukraine.
In late February, the European Union decided to finance assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine in the amount of 500 million euros for the first time.
15:45 GMT 18.03.2022
State Department: Sanctions on Russia Not Designed to Be Permanent
The sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine are not intended to be permanent, a senior State Department official said on Friday.
"Sanctions are not designed to be permanent and they are a tool," the official said. "If we do see the results that we are trying to achieve in terms of an end of Russia’s aggression and restoration of Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty and territorial integrity, then our hope would be that - many of the tools that we are using - that we would also see an end to those tools."
15:44 GMT 18.03.2022
Russian Negotiator: Moscow and Kiev are 'Half-Way There' on Issue of Ukraine's Demilitarisation
Moscow and Kiev have reaches progress on several issues during the negotiations, including Ukraine’s neutral status and non-entry to NATO, the head of the Russian delegation at the talks, presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky, told reporters on Friday.
"The issue of the neutral status and non-entry of Ukraine to NATO is one of the key points of the negotiations, this is the point on which the parties have brought their positions as close as possible," Medinsky said.
The negotiator added that some nuances on Ukraine’s security guarantees remain.
"The nuances related to what security guarantees Ukraine receives in addition to the existing ones, in case of refusal to join the NATO bloc," Medinsky said, adding that the sides are "half-way there" during talks on Ukraine’s demilitarization.
In addition, the official said that discussions about a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky will be appropriate after sides agree on a deal.
15:27 GMT 18.03.2022
15:01 GMT 18.03.2022
White House Says Biden's Video Call With Xi Jinping Has Ended After 1 Hour 50 Minutes
US President Joe Biden’s call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday ended at 10:53 a.m. EST (14:53 GMT) and lasted one hour and 50 minutes, according to a pool correspondent, citing the White House.
The call began at 9:03 a.m. EST (13:03 GMT). The two leaders were expected to discuss bilateral issues and the Russian military operation in Ukraine as Washington warns Beijing against supporting Moscow.
14:57 GMT 18.03.2022
US Working to Expand Coalition of Countries Imposing Anti-Russia Santions, State Dept. Says
The United States is working on expanding the coalition of countries that introduce sanctions against Russia, a senior US State Department official said on Friday.
“In addition to taking additional measures alongside our European and G7 partners, we are working to expand the coalition of countries adopting these measures alongside us,” the officials said.
14:50 GMT 18.03.2022
Refugees leaving Mariupol - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.03.2022
Situation in Ukraine
Situation in Mariupol Dire, Residents Lack Food, Electricity, Sputnik Correspondent Reports
14:47 GMT 18.03.2022
China's Xi Says No One Interested in Conflicts in World
Peace is the most important value of the global community, and no one is interested in conflicts, Chinese President Xi Jinping told US President Joe Biden on Friday.
"Conflicts and confrontations are not in anyone's interests. Peace and security are the values that the international community should cherish most of all," Xi said, as quoted by China Central Television.
Xi also told Biden that the United States and China need to make efforts to maintain global peace.
"The crisis in Ukraine is not what we would like to see," Xi added.
14:25 GMT 18.03.2022
UN Does Not Have Mandate, Technical Capacity to Probe Ukraine Biolab Claims
The United Nations has neither the mandate nor the technical capabilities to investigate claims about the existence of biological programs in Ukraine, UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu said on Friday.

"The United Nations currently has neither the mandate nor the technical operational capacity to investigate this information," Nakamitsu said.
14:19 GMT 18.03.2022
Kremlin Spokesman Explains Interruption of Putin's Speech at Crimean Spring Concert
Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov has explained that the broadcast of Putin's speech at the Crimean Spring concert at Luzhniki was suddenly interrupted due to technical failure.
14:10 GMT 18.03.2022
Xi Tells Biden US, China Need to Make Efforts to Maintain Global Peace
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