Ukraine Latest: Xi, Putin to Discuss Blueprint for Ending War

China announced that Xi Jinping will travel to Russia on a three-day state visit starting on Monday, his first trip there since Kremlin forces invaded Ukraine and a strong show of support for President Vladimir Putin.

(Bloomberg) — China announced that Xi Jinping will travel to Russia on a three-day state visit starting on Monday, his first trip there since Kremlin forces invaded Ukraine and a strong show of support for President Vladimir Putin.

Xi and Putin are expected to discuss Beijing’s 12-point blueprint for ending the war, a document dismissed by most Western governments. The Kremlin confirmed the visit, saying it was at Putin’s invitation.

Turkey is poised later on Friday to approve Finland’s bid to join NATO, a step toward further transforming Europe’s security landscape. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto in Ankara to green-light the Nordic country’s application, leaving Hungary as the final hold out.

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Key Developments

  • Xi to Visit Russia for First Time Since Putin Invaded Ukraine
  • Slovakia Will Send Entire Fleet of MiG-29 Jets to Ukraine 
  • US Says Video of Drone Encounter Shows Russia ‘Flat-Out Lying’
  • Turkey Set to Allow Finnish NATO Entry as Erdogan Meets Niinisto
  • Ukraine Crop Deal Renewal Still Unresolved a Day Before It Ends

(All times CET)  

Kyiv Nightly Curfew to be Shortened (2:02 p.m.)

Ukraine’s capital will shorten its nightly curfew and extend operating hours for shopping centers and public transport as of March 26, mayor Vitali Klitschko told reporters on Friday. 

The curfew at that point will last for five hours instead of six, from midnight to 5 a.m. 

Sunak Spokesman Says UK Wants China to Play ‘Genuine’ Role (1:21 p.m.)

A aide to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK would “obviously welcome” China if it “wants to play a genuine role in restoring sovereignty to Ukraine,” as Xi Jinping prepared for a three-day vusit to Russia. 

“We have called on them before to use their influence over Russia to try and encourage Putin to withdraw his troops from Ukraine,” Sunak spokesperson Jamie Davis told reporters. 

However, any plan “not predicated on Ukraine’s sovereignty and self-determination is not a peace deal at all,” Davies added.  

Scholz Says Ukraine Needs ‘Security Guarantees’ (11:30 a.m.)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Ukraine will need “security guarantees” after the war is over, even as he warned the government in Kyiv and its allies that they should be prepared for a “prolonged” conflict.

“The discussion about the form of such guarantees has been going on for months,” Scholz was quoted as saying Friday by the Handelsblatt newspaper. “But for that, there must first be an end to hostilities and a withdrawal of Russian troops,” the German leader said, adding that “all other questions follow on from that.”

Germany Mulls Training of Ukrainian Pilots (11:20 a.m.)

Germany is looking into training Ukrainian fighter-jet pilots and could quickly pave the way for Poland to re-export MIG-29 fighters to Ukraine if they’re from stocks from the former East Germany, according to a lawmaker from the ruling coalition.

“Germany should participate in efforts to train Ukrainian pilots, for example with lessons in flight simulators,” said Marcus Faber, a lawmaker from the Free Democrats. Germany is unlikely to send any of its Tornado fighters to Ukraine as they’re relatively difficult to maintain and spare parts are also lacking, Faber added.

Russia to Give Medals to Drone Incident Crew (10:30 a.m.)

The pilots of the Su-27 fighters involved in the crash of a US drone over the Black Sea this week will get medals, according to the Defense Ministry in Moscow.

Sergei Shoigu, the minister of defense, formally nominated them for what his ministry called “preventing the violation” of the expanded airspace that Russia has claimed during its invasion of Ukraine. The US accused the pilots of “dangerous, reckless, and unprofessional behavior in international airspace.”

Latvia Bans 35 Russians Over War Support (10:40 a.m.)

Latvia’s Foreign Ministry placed 35 Russian citizens on a blacklist for supporting “Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.”

The people on the list “will be prohibited from entry to Latvia for an indefinite period of time,” the ministry said in a statement. “Support for atrocities perpetrated by the Kremlin regime means complicity with the crimes committed,” it added.

Slovakia Sending 13 Soviet-Era Jets (10:15 a.m.)

Slovakia will send its entire fleet of Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine. 

The eastern NATO member state will send all 13 of its MiG-29 jets – grounded since August and in various states of readiness – at an unspecified date, Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad told reporters in Bratislava. 

The announcement comes a day after Poland said it will send four Soviet-era fighter jets to Kyiv in the coming days. Both nations are responding to pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has persistently demanded warplanes as essential to driving back the Russian invasion.

Read more: Slovakia Will Send Entire Fleet of MiG-29 Jets to Ukraine 

Battle for Bakhmut Continues (10 a.m.)

Russian forces supported by Wagner Group operatives have established footholds in the center of Bakhmut while Ukrainian troops continue to hold out in the west of the city, according to the latest UK defence intelligence update. 

“More broadly across the front line, Russia is conducting some of the lowest rates of local offensive action that has been seen since at least January 2023,” the defense ministry said in a series of tweets.

 “This is most likely because Russian forces have temporarily depleted the deployed formations’ combat power to such an extent that even local offensive actions are not currently sustainable.”

Zelenskiy Vows War Crimes Will be Prosecuted (9 a.m.)

Zelenskiy vowed that Russians who have committed war crimes in Ukraine will be held to account and said legal work is already underway to “bring justice closer” and “punish this aggressor in the same way as the aggressors of the past were punished.”

“The day will come when all the perpetrators of war crimes against Ukrainians will be brought to justice in the halls of the International Criminal Court and national courts,” Zelenskiy said in his evening address.

He said he spoke with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and met with Latvian Premier Krisjanis Karins in Kyiv Thursday and thanked them for their support for Ukraine’s defense.  

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