Ukrainian missiles target Crimean shipyard; Zelenskiy denies western leaders are pressuring him to negotiate with Russia

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Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, reaffirmed his stance that this is not the time to negotiate with Russia, and he also denied that any western leaders were pressuring him to do so. Zelenskiy also rejected remarks by his own commander-in-chief that the war had reached a stalemate.

Talks are under way to outline what Ukraine might have to give up to secure a peace deal with Russia, US news channel NBC reported earlier, citing a senior US official and another former senior official who briefed the network about the tentative plans.

The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, arrived in Kyiv on Saturday ahead of a report the EU is expected to present next week about Ukraine’s progress in its membership bid. She said the EU would stand by Ukraine “for as long as it takes” and that the country had made “excellent progress” towards EU accession.

Ukraine attacked Russia’s shipyard in the Crimean port city of Kerch on Saturday, damaging one ship, the Russian defence ministry said. Of 15 missiles fired, 13 were destroyed in the air, while one hit a ship, said the ministry. It did not give the ship’s name. A Ukrainian official said the Russian Navy stationed one of its most modern ships there; a carrier of the Kalibr cruise missile.

Russian forces are now focused on capturing Avdiivka’s coking plant, according to the town’s mayor Vitaliy Barabash. He said audio transmission intercepts had revealed that Moscow was now seeking to secure it. But UK intelligence suggests that Russia has incurred heavy losses in its assault on the Donbas town.

Ukraine said it has filed criminal charges against Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox church, in absentia for “justifying” Russia’s invasion. Moscow’s most influential spiritual leader, a fervent supporter of president Vladimir Putin, has called the war a historic battle against the “forces of evil”.

Zelenskiy appointed a new commander of the country’s special forces, a unit known for conducting military operations in Moscow-held territories, but the officer replaced in the shuffle said he had not been told why.

Ukraine’s newly appointed head of the defence industry says he is working tirelessly to ramp up local arms production and wants to turn the country into a weapons production hub for the west.

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