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Russian, Ukraine delegations meet for talks in Belarus as casualties climb on both sides



Casualties were climbing on both sides and a second round of negotiations began Thursday as Russia’s ferocious assault on Ukraine entered a second week.

Officials were meeting in Belarus, where Ukrainian delegation member David Arakhamia said his country’s minimum goal was to agree on “humanitarian corridors” for cities being pounded by missiles, the Kyiv Independent reported. Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded Ukraine accept “demilitarization,” declare itself neutral and drop its bid to join NATO.

Earlier Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke by phone with Putin for 90 minutes and now believes “the worst is yet to come,” a Macron aide told France24. Putin reportedly vowed to conduct an “uncompromising fight” in Ukraine.

Russia has acknowledged that nearly 500 of its troops have been killed in the fighting and about 1,600 wounded. Ukraine, which has not released casualty figures for its own armed forces, has estimated Russian troop losses at up to 9,000.

Ukraine’s State Emergency Service has said more than 2,000 civilians have died, though it was impossible to verify the claim. The U.N. human rights office said it had recorded 227 deaths, including 15 under the age of 18, and 525 injured, since the start of the invasion on Feb. 24.

Most major cities are under siege, and southern cities along the Black Sea and Sea of Azov were primary targets as Russia’s campaign threatened to cut off sh. Gov. Hennadiy Lahutasaid the government building in the Black Sea port city of Kherson was seized by Russian troops. Troops were also bearing down on Mykolaiev, 40 miles to the northwest and home to almost half a million Ukrainians, The New York Times reported.

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