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The area near the regional administration building, which city officials say was hit by a missile attack, in central Kharkiv, Ukraine, on March 1.VYACHESLAV MADIYEVSKYY/Reuters

Western sanctions will never make Russia change its position on Ukraine, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.

Responding to a barrage of Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: “They are counting on forcing us to change our position. This is out of the question.”

Peskov told reporters that President Vladimir Putin had been briefed on a first round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials on Monday but it was too early to judge the outcome.

There were no plans for talks between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he said, adding that Moscow still recognized Zelensky as Ukraine’s leader.

Zelensky, he said, could prevent further casualties if he gave the command to lay down arms.

Ukraine has refused to surrender and its forces have put up strong resistance to Russia’s assault from the north, east and south, which Moscow describes as a special operation to demilitarize and “de-nazify” the country – a justification dismissed by Kyiv and the West as war propaganda.

Peskov dismissed allegations of Russian strikes on civilian targets and the use of cluster bombs and vacuum bombs as fakes. He categorically denied that Russia had committed war crimes.

Ukraine says large numbers of civilians have been killed. Peskov said, without providing evidence, that Ukrainian nationalist groups were using people as human shields.

Peskov declined to comment on whether the Kremlin considers the capital Kyiv to be under the control of Nazis, referring the question to the Russian military.

Russian artillery bombarded residential districts of Ukraine's second largest city Kharkiv on Monday as Moscow's invading forces met stiff resistance from Ukrainians on a fifth day of conflict. Also on Monday, President Volodymyr Zelensky made a plea for immediate membership of the European Union.

Reuters

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