- by theguardian
- 20 Mar 2023
The CIA director, Bill Burns, met his Russian counterpart in Ankara on Monday in a rare high-level meeting, but the US insists it is not engaged in secret peace talks with Moscow without Ukrainian officials being present.
The Russian newspaper Kommersant first reported that a meeting was taking place between the US and Russia in Ankara, and said Naryshkin would be present. The newspaper said it did not know the purpose of the discussion.
The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said he could neither confirm nor deny reports, before the US confirmed that Burns, the person normally used by Joe Biden for backchannel discussions, would be present at the meeting.
Minutes before Zelenskiy arrived, nearby shelling could be heard in the centre of Kherson and blasts of artillery gunfire echoed over the city. Heavy fighting continues across the region, as Ukrainian troops are likely to attempt consolidating control of the western bank in the coming days.
After two nights of jubilation following the liberation of their city, on Sunday Kherson residents began to assess the extent of the damage wreaked by the Russian occupation, with many homes still without electricity and water.
On Sunday, Zelenskiy accused Russian soldiers of war crimes and of killing civilians in Kherson.
Thousands of mines, tripwires and unexploded shells have been left by the troops. The retreating Russians comprehensively destroyed all critical infrastructure including communications, electricity, water, heat, a 100-metre-tall TV tower and at least four bridges.
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