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Ukraine president Zelenskiy to address Australian parliament

President Zelenskiy addressed the US Congress via video on 17 March

The Ukrainian president will make a speech to the Australian parliament's lower house on Thursday, two hours before the opposition leader's budget reply.

The government has confirmed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will address Australia's parliament in the House of Representatives at 5.30pm AEDT on Thursday via video link.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese will make opening remarks before the president speaks. 

Senators will be invited to the lower house to listen to the president's address.

The speech will take place two hours before Mr Albanese's budget reply. 

Australia has been among a network of countries seeking to pressure Russia to pull out of its invasion of Ukraine. 

President Zelenskiy has urged Western nations to toughen sanctions quickly against Russia, including an oil embargo, to stop Moscow from having a free hand to escalate its measures against his country.

The Guardian reports today that Russia has been accused of staging videos that appear to show Ukrainian soldiers shooting three Russian prisoners of war in the legs. Ukraine has committed to investigating the video footage. Oleksiy Arestovych, who is an adviser to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, says that if the claims of torture turn out to be correct then it would amount to "absolutely unacceptable behaviour".

The footage emerged as Ukrainian forces claimed major successes on Monday, including the recapture of Irpin, a town located on the north-west outskirts of Kyiv.

Ukraine has reacted with scepticism to Russia's promise in negotiations to scale down military operations around Kyiv and another city as some Western countries expect Moscow to intensify its offensive in other parts of the country.

Talks took place in an Istanbul palace more than a month into the largest attack on a European nation since World War II that has killed or injured thousands, forced nearly four million to flee abroad and pummelled Russia's economy with sanctions.

The invasion has been halted on most fronts by stiff resistance from Ukrainian forces who have recaptured territory even as civilians are trapped in besieged cities.

Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin told reporters.

"In order to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations and achieving the ultimate goal of agreeing and signing (an) agreement, a decision was made to radically, by a large margin, reduce military activity in the Kyiv and Chernihiv directions.

He made no mention of other areas that have seen heavy fighting, including around Mariupol in the southeast, Sumy and Kharkiv in the east and Kherson and Mykolaiv in the south.

Russia had started moving very small numbers of troops away from positions around Kyiv in a move that was more of a repositioning than a retreat or a withdrawal, the Pentagon said. Spokesman John Kirby told a news briefing:

"We all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine. It does not mean that the threat to Kyiv is over."

Britain's Ministry of Defence said:

"It is highly likely that Russia will seek to divert combat power from the north to their offensive in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east."

Russia calls its assault a "special operation" to disarm and "denazify" Ukraine. The West says it launched an unprovoked invasion.

Some analysts noted Russia's promise to reduce fighting mostly covered areas where it had been losing ground.

Under Ukraine's proposals, Kyiv would agree not to join alliances or host bases of foreign troops, but would have security guaranteed in terms similar to Article 5, the collective defence clause of the NATO alliance.

Negotiators named Israel and NATO members Canada, Poland and Turkey as countries that may give such guarantees. Russia, the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy could also be involved.

The proposals, which would require a referendum in Ukraine, mention a 15-year consultation period on the status of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014.

The fate of the southeastern Donbass region, which Russia demands Ukraine cede to separatists, would be discussed by the Ukrainian and Russian leaders.

Kyiv's proposals also included one that Moscow would not oppose Ukraine joining the European Union, Russia's lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said. Russia has previously opposed Ukrainian membership of the EU and especially of NATO.

Medinsky said Russia's delegation would study and present the proposals to President Vladimir Putin.

US President Joe Biden discussed with allies more financial aid of up to $US500 million ($A670 million) for Ukraine, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters.


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