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Ukraine leader seeks to allay fears over separatist regions

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday called on the nation not “to give in to provocations” after protests broke out against giving war-ravaged separatist-held territories in the east broad autonomy.

More than a 1,000 protesters rallied in central Kiev on Wednesday after Ukrainian, Russian and separatist negotiators this week agreed on a roadmap for the regions held by Kremlin-backed rebels.

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The peace plan envisages special status for such territories if they conduct free and fair elections under the Ukrainian constitution.

The announcement sparked anger in Ukraine where broader autonomy for the separatist-held regions remains an explosive issue. A new rally is planned for Sunday.

The Ukrainian conflict between Kiev forces and Russian-backed fighters broke out in 2014 and has since claimed more than 13,000 lives.

“I respect the constitutional right of every Ukrainian to protest, I hear you and trust me — I will never betray Ukraine,” Zelensky said in a video address to the nation on Thursday.

The 41-year-old president, who came to power in May, implored Ukrainians to keep a cool head and not to “give in to manipulations and provocations of some individuals.”

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“They really want to use you,” he said without being specific.

He said all of society would be involved in drawing up new legislation on the status of the separatist-held territories known locally as Donbass.

“All of us understand that Donbass is Ukraine,” he said.

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Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin could meet for the first time as early as this month in talks aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The provisional agreement of a plan for the separatist-held regions was a key condition set by Moscow for a meeting.

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Such a meeting would also be attended by French President Emmanuel Macron, who has been spearheading the drive for peace in Ukraine, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It would be the first such summit since 2016.

The roadmap for the separatist-held Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic has been dubbed “the Steinmeier formula”, after the former German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who proposed it.

Some see it as a potential compromise between Kiev and Moscow but many critics fear the West has tired of Ukraine’s long-running crisis and will push Zelensky to make damaging concessions to Russia.

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Zelensky’s predecessor Petro Poroshenko has called the plan “Putin’s formula”, claiming it essentially endorses the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s de-facto control of eastern Ukraine.

Image: AFP / SAUL LOEB


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‘I didn’t say Easter’: Trump tries to explain why he backtracked on reopening the economy

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President Donald Trump has inevitably backtracked on reopening the country by Easter, saying it was "aspirational."

Last week the president proclaimed that he wanted packed churches on Easter Sunday, which is April 12.

"I'd love to have it open by Easter," Trump said. "I would love to have that. It's such an important day for other reasons, but I'll make it an important day for this too. I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter."

"Wouldn't it be great to have all the churches full?" Trump added. "You'll have packed churches all over our country. I think it'll be a beautiful time."

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Trump accuses New York hospitals of ‘hoarding’ masks and ventilators without evidence

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President Donald Trump went off on a rant accusing hospitals, doctors and nurses of hoarding equipment and intentionally exaggerating the things they need.

Speaking in the Rose Garden Sunday, Trump asked, "How do you go from 10 to 20 to 300,000 masks? Where are the masks going, are they going out the backdoor?"

Indeed, the masks are going in the trash after they're used. The masks are one-use masks, which Trump said he wants to be able to sanitize them so people can reuse them.

"They have to look into that in New York," Trump said, noting that he heard they went from 10,000 masks to 300,000 masks.

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New Yorkers shocked as they watch coronavirus medical tents go up in Central Park

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Residents of New York were shocked to look out their windows and see white tents going up in the north meadow of Central Park in New York on Sunday.

"Not sure if I find this more reassuring than terrifying," New York Times reporter Katie Rosman confessed on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/katierosman/status/1244380630873407495

"We’re told patients will initially be coming from the Mount Sinai Health System. This buildout is apparently an exact replica of an emergency field hospital that Samaritan’s Purse opened on March 20 in northern Italy," New York One reported.

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