Biden says Putin can’t remain in power; cruise missiles hit Lviv. Key highlights

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‘May hold vote on joining Russia’

The head of Ukraine’s Lugansk separatist region said Sunday it may hold a referendum on becoming part of Russia, after Moscow sent troops into its pro-Western neighbour.

“I think that in the near future a referendum will be held on the territory of the republic, during which the people will… express their opinion on joining the Russian Federation,” Russian news agencies quoted Leonid Pasechnik as saying.

“For some reason, I am sure this will be the case,” he said.

Russia launched its military action in Ukraine in late February, saying it was acting in defence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics in the country’s east.

Russia Seizes Rare Swiss Watches

Russian agents seized millions of dollars worth of Audemars Piguet watches in Moscow in an apparent retaliation for Swiss sanctions banning luxury goods exports, Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag reported.

The pricey watches were seized from the firm’s local premises by special agents from Russia’s FSB, the newspaper said, citing people familiar with a confidential Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs memo.

Switzerland, home to many of the world’s top watch brands, abandoned its traditional neutral stance and matched European Union sanctions banning the export of luxury goods to Russia earlier this month in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken: US not seeking Russian regime change

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the U.S. is not trying to topple Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite its harsh condemnations of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken spoke a day after President Joe Biden said of Putin during a speech in Warsaw: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

At a news conference in Jerusalem, Blinken said Biden’s point was that “Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else.”

He said the U.S. has repeatedly said that “we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia, or anywhere else for that matter.”

“In this case, as in any case, it’s up to the people of the country in question. It’s up to the Russian people,” Blinken said.

Biden calls for Putin’s ouster 

U.S. President Joe Biden called for the ouster of Vladimir Putin, an unscripted and revealing aside that risks feeding the Russian president’s narrative that the conflict is in fact an effort to remove him from power, not simply to stop his invasion of Ukraine.

Biden took the stage in Warsaw on Saturday evening to deliver one of the most consequential speeches of his presidency, evoking Ronald Reagan among the Cold War foes of Soviet domination and warning the world to steel for a long battle in the fight for Ukraine against Putin.

He closed his address with an eyebrow-raising comment: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

30,000 Ukrainian refugees reach France

Some 30,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in France, with half of them travelling through the country to other places such as Spain, French housing minister Emmanuelle Wargon said Sunday.

Wargon told Franceinfo radio the government was preparing to welcome 100,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

France has been granting temporary European Union stay permits to Ukrainian refugees, which allows them to have access to schools and to work in the country.

Before the war, the Ukrainian community in France numbered 40,000.

Ukraine’s Lviv hit with cruise missiles

Russia struck military targets in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv with high-precision cruise missiles, the Russian defence ministry said on Sunday.

Russia hit a fuel depot being used by Ukrainian forces near Lviv with long-range missiles and used cruise missiles to strike a plant in the city being used to repair anti-aircraft systems, radar stations and sights for tanks, the ministry said.

“The armed forces of the Russian Federation continue offensive actions as part of the special military operation,” the ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

With agency inputs

 

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