Moscow, Kyiv plan 'second round' of conflict talks

March, 01/2022 - 10:59

Negotiators from Ukraine and Russia will return to their capital cities for consultations and have plans for fresh talks, both sides announced on Monday after meeting for their first talks since the outbreak of war last week.

 

Members of delegations from Ukraine and Russia, including Russian presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky (second left), Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak (second right), Volodymyr Zelensky's "Servant of the People" lawmaker Davyd Arakhamia (third right), hold talks in Belarus' Gomel region on Monday, following the Russian military operation in Ukraine. — AFP/VNA Photo

MOSCOW — Negotiators from Ukraine and Russia will return to their capital cities for consultations and have plans for fresh talks, both sides announced on Monday after meeting for their first talks since the outbreak of war last week.

"The delegations are returning to their capitals for consultations and have discussed the possibility of meeting for a second round of negotiations soon," Ukrainian negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak said.

"We agreed to keep the negotiations going," the Russian delegation head, Vladimir Medinsky said.

Russia shelled the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv as it pressed on with its military operation on Tuesday.

After their first talks since the war started failed to secure a breakthrough on Monday, Russia continued to target residential areas and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a global ban on Russian planes and ships.

"We must close entry for this state in all ports, all canals and all the world's airports," he said on Facebook.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had earlier outlined Moscow's demands for ending the invasion, including recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea and Ukraine's demilitarisation.

French leader Emmanuel Macron spoke by phone with Putin and said it was necessary to immediately cease fire in Ukraine where Russian armed forces are conducting a military operation, the Elysee Palace said on Monday.

"In connection with the start of negotiations between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations, the President of the Republic asked that the following be observed on the ground: a cessation of all strikes and attacks on civilians and their places of residence, the preservation of all civilian infrastructure, ensuring security on highways, especially south of Kiev," the Elysee said in a statement. The statement asserts that Putin "assured he was willing to commit himself on these three counts."

The Russian Defense Ministry said earlier that Russian troops are not targeting Ukrainian cities, but are incapacitating Ukrainian military infrastructure with precision strikes, and therefore there are no threats to the civilian population.

The Chinese government has urged the parties to the conflict in Ukraine to return to the path of negotiations and implement a political settlement on the Ukraine crisis, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular briefing on Monday.

"We call on all parties to return to the path of diplomatic negotiations and a political settlement as soon as possible. We also suggest undertaking a comprehensive settlement of the Ukraine problem through negotiations and consultations," he said.

He also noted that China is monitoring the situation in Ukraine and took note of Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to put Russian deterrence forces on special alert.

"We call on all parties concerned to demonstrate calmness and restraint and to avoid further escalation," he stressed.

Instead, the world has responded with an intensifying diplomatic, economic, cultural and sporting backlash, with Moscow coming under fire at the UN General Assembly and the International Criminal Court (ICC) opening a war crimes investigation.

"I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to believe that both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Ukraine" since 2014, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement.

Russia also faced urgent calls at an extraordinary UN General Assembly debate to end its "unprovoked" and "unjustified" assault, which has provoked a massive diplomatic, economic, cultural and sporting backlash.

Inside the General Assembly hall on Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pleaded: "The fighting in Ukraine must stop. Enough is enough."

It followed Putin's phone call with Macron where the Russian leader "stressed that a settlement is possible only if Russia's legitimate security interests are unconditionally taken into account", said the Kremlin.

Fighting continued during the dialogue, with at least 11 people killed by Russian attacks in Kharkiv and Russian missile fire on several residential buildings.

Explosions were also reported in and around Brovary, a city on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv.

Russian fire killed several civilians, including children, in Kharkiv and Russian armoured vehicles and tanks are "everywhere" around the city, said mayor Igor Terekhov, quoted by Ukrainian media.

More than 350 civilians, including 14 children, have been killed during the invasion, Ukraine says, while more than half a million people have fled the country.

In Kyiv, many were preparing for a fresh assault with makeshift barricades dotting the streets.

The Russian army urged Ukrainians to leave Kyiv "freely" on one highway out ahead of what is an expected Russian offensive to capture the capital.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it was "gravely concerned" as Russian forces advanced towards Ukraine's largest nuclear plant, strongly warning against any military action that could threaten the Zaporizhzhia facility.

 

A Russian ruble coin is pictured with US dollar bills and a one dollar coin in Moscow. Russia's ruble hit its lowest level against the dollar for more than two years, a day after the latest round of punitive US sanctions took effect. The ruble's value dropped to 69 against the dollar for the first time since April 2016, when the shocks from the first Western sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine were still being felt. — AFP/VNA Photo

Ruble plummets

Western nations have moved to increasingly isolate Russia, with the United States expelling 12 members of Moscow's UN mission from America for being "intelligence operatives".

Canada announced a ban on Russian oil imports on Monday.

The European Union and its allies were also preparing more sanctions against Russia in the coming days to "raise the cost" of war in Ukraine, an aide to Macron told reporters.

And Turkey said it would implement an international treaty to limit ships passing through the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits, a move requested by Ukraine to block the transit of Russian warships.

The Russian ruble crashed to a record low as sanctions imposed by the West over the weekend had an immediate impact in Moscow, forcing the central bank to more than double its key interest rate to 20 per cent.

Putin also announced emergency measures intended to prop up the ruble, including banning residents from transferring money abroad.

Long queues

Long queues for groceries snaked through the streets of Kyiv on Monday after a strict 36-hour military curfew was lifted and volunteer militias learned how to make home-made explosives.

Meanwhile many Russians raced to withdraw cash.

Western defence officials and the Kyiv government say Ukrainian troops have so far kept the country's major cities out of Russian hands despite incursions in the capital and Kharkiv over the weekend.

However the small southern city of Berdyansk has been occupied, Ukraine said.

Moscow claimed it had "gained air superiority over the entire territory of Ukraine", while accusing Ukrainian troops of using civilians as human shields.

However Olivier Kempf, a security analyst at the Foundation for Strategic Research think tank, said that Russian forces were "not bogged down".

"This is war, so there are difficulties. They may have logistics issues. But regardless of what we're told, they are making progress," he said.

"Only in video games do you conquer a country in two days."

Kicked out of World Cup 

The weekend featured a momentous series of announcements from Europe, with Germany unveiling a historic change to its defence policies, and the EU saying it would buy and supply arms to Ukraine, the first such move in its history.

On Monday the European Union said it would add Russian oligarchs and the Kremlin's spokesman to its sanctions blacklist while traditionally neutral Switzerland said it would adopt the bloc's sanctions.

However the EU poured cold water on Zelensky's request for "immediate" membership to the bloc, saying the process to join takes years.

The response from the world of sports also gathered steam, as Russia was expelled from the World Cup and the country's clubs and national teams were suspended from all international football competitions "until further notice", FIFA and UEFA said.

Poland has taken in more than half of the 500,000 people who have fled Ukraine, according to the UN.

Katerina Zaporojets, a laboratory worker from the central city of Cherkassy, said it took her 24 hours to arrive at the western Shegyni border post – and she will likely wait another 48 hours before crossing.

"The trip was really hard," the 31-year-old said. "It's calmer here, but the drive was really scary." — AFP/TASS