Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had a "long and meaningful" phone call Wednesday, their first known contact since Russia invaded Ukraine over a year ago, and Beijing appointed an envoy to pursue a "political settlement." The hour-long call came two months after Beijing, which has long been aligned with Russia, said it wanted to act as a mediator and a month after Xi visited Moscow. The call also coincided with indications that Ukraine is readying its forces for a spring counteroffensive.

Zelenskyy was upbeat about the conversation, which offered him the chance to insert his views into what had been a bilateral dialogue between Moscow and Beijing. Russian President Vladimir Putin is eager to keep Xi close as a counterweight to the United States, which has sided with Ukraine. "I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine's ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations," Zelenskyy said on Facebook.

British lawmakers approved a sweeping bill that will dramatically curb migrants' ability to seek asylum in the U.K., despite critics' allegations that it breaks international law. Members of the House of Commons voted by 289 to 230 to back the Illegal Migration Bill, which the Conservatives government says will deter tens of thousands of people from trying to reach the country in small boats across the English Channel each year.

It now goes to the House of Lords, where it faces strong opposition - though the unelected upper chamber of Parliament can only amend, not block, the legislation. The large Conservative majority in the Commons ensured its passage there, despite opposition condemnation and claims legislators had not had enough time to scrutinise the legislation. "This government has sought to railroad this deplorable, disgusting bill through the House of Commons," said Stephen Flynn of the opposition Scottish National Party.

Sudanese families were massing at a border crossing with Egypt and at a port city on the Red Sea, desperately trying to escape their country's violence and sometimes waiting for days with little food or shelter, witnesses said. In the capital, Khartoum, the intensity of fighting eased on the second day of a three-day truce, and the military said it had "initially accepted" a diplomatic initiative to extend the current cease-fire for another three days after it expires Thursday.

The initiative, brokered by the eight-nation East Africa trade bloc known as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, would also include direct negotiations between the military and the Rapid Support Forces, the paramilitary group it has been battling since Apr. 15. There was no immediate comment from the RSF on the initiative, which, if accepted by both sides, would mark a major breakthrough in more than a week of intense international diplomacy. The two rivals, army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan and RSF commander Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, have until now seemed determined to vanquish the other.

US President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol reached a new deal that includes plans to deploy a US nuclear submarine in South Korea. The agreement is an attempt by the US to show support for South Korea and to help deter attacks from its neighbour, North Korea. In return, South Korea has agreed not to pursue a nuclear weapons programme. The deal, called the Washington Declaration, will strengthen US-South Korea co-operation, Biden said.

He spoke during a news conference on Wednesday alongsideYoon, who is in Washington this week to talk about a host of issues, including the war in Ukraine, climate change, cyber co-operation and nuclear power. Yoon said the Washington Declaration - the centrepiece of this week's state visit - marked an "unprecedented" step to enhance extended deterrence, a commitment from the US to deter attacks and protect US allies using its military power, including nuclear weapons.

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