As war rages, Russia and Ukraine agree to talks – POLITICO

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Ukrainian and Russian peace negotiators agreed to meet near the Belarusian border on Sunday, after Russian military forces reportedly suffered heavy losses but still made advances on the battlefield – trying to break through to Kiev, the capital, and to seize larger swaths of the Donbass to the east.

But even when interim talks were announced, there was no declaration of an immediate ceasefire in Europe’s first full-scale war in decades.

The peril only increased when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his nuclear forces to be put on a higher state of alert, while complaining bitterly of Western economic sanctions and military aid from the EU. NATO to Ukraine, even though Putin is the one who started the war.

Putin’s implied threat came amid a flurry of other developments, including Ukraine submitting a formal appeal for intervention to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and EU foreign ministers agreeing in an emergency conference call to fund the supply of arms to Ukraine and help organize the logistics to get them there.

EU countries have already started mobilizing a giant arsenal for Ukraine, including anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft systems and rocket launchers, as well as medical supplies and financial assistance. On Sunday, EU countries also began closing their airspace to Russian passenger planes, in an accelerated effort to isolate the country.

The announcement of direct peace talks on the fourth day of all-out war in Ukraine signaled that the Kremlin was feeling some pressure and had potentially miscalculated that Ukraine’s military and government would quickly collapse.

Putin had long refused direct negotiations with Ukraine to settle the eight-year war in the Donbass, which Russia had organized and financed. And initially, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy rejected the offer of peace talks, saying Moscow had set preconditions that effectively amounted to Ukraine’s full surrender.

A spokesman for Zelenskiy said the response in Moscow was the same expletive Ukrainian marines used to insult a Russian warship before they were all killed. But on Sunday afternoon there was an agreement to be met at a checkpoint near the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, and Ukrainian officials said all preconditions had been dropped.

The announcement follows another curious development: the escape, or release, from house arrest in Kiev of Viktor Medvedchuk, a wealthy businessman and pro-Russian politician who is one of people closest to Putin in Ukraine. Medvedchuk had been confined to his home since Ukrainian prosecutors charged him with treason last year.

The fierce fighting continued on Sunday. But even as Russian troops entered Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, in the northeast, and appeared poised to grip Kiev and its 3 million people, Ukrainian officials described a series of Russian losses in personnel and equipment.

Some 4,300 Russian soldiers were killed or wounded and 46 military aircraft, 146 tanks and 706 armored vehicles were destroyed, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said at a press conference in the afternoon. “Hundreds of Russian soldiers became prisoners of war,” Kuleba said, noting the data was preliminary given that battles were ongoing.

“Ukraine is not falling,” he said, thanking his allies for their support and urging them to continue. “We are bleeding, but we continue to defend ourselves successfully.”

Zelenskiy, who continued to command the war effort on Sunday unshaven and dressed in military green, posed for a selfie with Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, who tweeted itwriting: “It is impossible to break our defenders.”

The determined and optimistic, if exhausted, resilience expressed by Ukraine’s leadership was a stark contrast to the strident and bitter one of Putin, who appeared in another highly staged Kremlin video with his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu , and the chief of the general staff of the Russian army, Valery Gerasimov.

“Senior officials from major NATO countries are allowing aggressive statements against our country,” Putin scolded, a day after Germany and other European countries said they would speed up shipments of weapons and other military aid to help Ukraine repel the Russians.

“Therefore, I order the Minister of Defense and the Chief of the General Staff to transfer the deterrent forces of the Russian army to a special combat mode,” Putin said.

It was not the first time in recent weeks that Putin reminded the world that he had the power to use weapons of mass destruction. At a press conference following a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Putin complained that Ukraine did not accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea and claimed that Kiev had intent to retake the peninsula by military force.

If that happened and Ukraine became a member of NATO, Putin said, there would be war. “We also understand that Russia is one of the main nuclear states,” Putin said, raising his finger to a French reporter as he spoke. “There will be no winners and you will be drawn into this conflict against your will.”

And in declaring his military invasion of Ukraine, Putin warned other countries not to interfere, saying: “The consequences will be such as you have never seen in all your history.” Some military experts have expressed concern that Putin seems increasingly isolated and irrational, and that he might take rash actions to avoid military defeat.

As the war and accompanying commentary unfolded in real time on social media, there seemed to be a growing consensus among analysts that the Russian military had made key strategic missteps and was suffering. much greater losses than expected, especially given its advantage in troop numbers and sophisticated weaponry.

Russia’s main objectives appeared to be to encircle Kiev with the aim of overthrowing the government and driving forces south of Kharkiv and north of near Mariupol near the Sea of ​​Azov, cutting off Ukrainian forces that were massed in the Donbass to fight the separatists there. .

But in attempting to achieve these goals, the Russian military was confronted by surprisingly strong and determined Ukrainian forces, which seemed to operate from the outset with guerrilla-type tactics.

At the same time, there have been signs of deepening public apprehensions about the war in Russia, where there have been hundreds of arrests of anti-war protesters in recent days.

Ukraine, meanwhile, has sought to reach ordinary Russians directly. The Interior Ministry announced that it had set up a telephone service called “Come back alive from Ukraine” for Russian women worried about their sons, husbands and boyfriends who had been sent to war.

Separately on Sunday, Zelenskiy’s office announced the formation of a new unit, the International Territorial Defense Legion of Ukraine, which will be made up of foreigners who want to fight for the country.

“Foreigners willing to defend Ukraine and the world order within the framework of the International Territorial Defense Legion of Ukraine, I invite you to contact the foreign diplomatic missions of Ukraine in your respective countries,” Kuleba said. . Twitter. “Together we defeated Hitler, and we will defeat Putin too.”

The call for foreign soldiers follows a wave of willpower on behalf of Ukraine, including from hackers and other cyber experts who have taken up their keyboards in an effort to weaken Russia and undermine his military operation.


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