Russia’s UN Envoy Says No Plans to Occupy Ukraine; 2nd Round of Peace Talks on Cards | Key Developments

February 28, 2022 0 Comments

Even as Russia and Ukraine began talks on the Belarus border on Monday, Russian envoy to the United Nations said Moscow had no plans to “occupy” its neighbour. The two countries are planning to hold a second round of talks amid demands of ceasefire at the ‘emergency session’ of the United Nations General Assembly.

The Russian offensive against Ukraine continued on the fifth day since February 24, with the UN saying at least 102 civilians in Ukraine had been killed since with a further 304 wounded, but the real figure was higher. More devastating western sanctions on Russia sent the rouble tumbling by 30% against the dollar, with the Kremlin also taking safeguards. Moscow’s major financial institutions were cut off from western markets.

Here are the top developments of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in its fifth day now, which according to the UN, has displaced over half a million people from war-torn Ukraine:

Second round of conflict talks: After the first round of talks came to an end, Moscow and Kyiv have decided to begin a “second round” of conflict talks, according to Ukrainian negotiator as the delegations returned to their capitals for consultations.

Russia says no plans to occupy Ukraine: At an emergency session of the UNGA, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, said Russia has no plans to occupy Ukraine. “The occupation of Ukraine is not part of our plans. The purpose of this special operation is to protect people who have been subjected to abuse and genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years. For this, it is necessary to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine,” Nebenzya said, as per news agency ANI. The session opened by observing a minute of silence for those killed in the conflict. “We call on Russia to respect international law; call on all UN members not to recognise the two separatist self-proclaimed entities (Donetsk and Luhansk),” said an EU representative at UNGA meeting, adding that the bloc will continue to stand by Ukraine and give all financial and humanitarian aid.

The representative said, “Russia has turned its back on peace. We call on Russia to de-escalate and avoid any action that can risk nuclear power plants in Ukraine. Russia should cease its operation and withdraw its forces.”

Russia, meanwhile, countered this by saying it had not begun these hostilities, and that they had been unleashed by “residents and dissenters of Ukraine”. The country said it was seeking to end the war.

Ceasefire talks: Ceasefire talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials began on the Belarusian border even as Russia faced deepening economic isolation. Talks began with the aim of an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian forces, the Ukrainian president’s office said. It was not clear if any progress could be made after Putin put Russia’s nuclear-armed units on high alert on Sunday. President of UNGA Abdulla Shahid also called for an immediate ceasefire and full return to diplomacy and dialogue at an emergency session to address the conflict. He voiced grave concern about the situation and ongoing military action in Ukraine.

Senior advisers for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and US President Joe Biden also agreed to intensify efforts for talks between Ukraine and Russia to yield a ceasefire, Turkish media reported. In a call, Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s chief adviser, and US national security adviser Jake Sullivan discussed the invasion and other regional issues, the private Demiroren News Agency (DHA) and others cited a statement as saying. “It was agreed to intensity joint efforts for peace talks being held between Ukraine and the Russian Federation to yield results and for a ceasefire to be achieved,” the statement said, according to DHA.

Putin speaks to Macron: Russian President Vladimir Putin told French President Emmanuel Macron that demilitarisation of Ukraine and western recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea were the keys to ending the fighting. He said a solution to Ukraine was possible only if Russia’s security interests were considered, as per news agencies Sputnik and AFP.

Ukraine applies for EU membership: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed an application for the membership of Ukraine in the European Union, the country’s Parliament announced. “Our goal is to be with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be equal… I am sure we deserve it,” he said in a video shared on social media.

The human cost so far: Dozens of people were killed in Russian rocket strikes on Kharkiv, Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said. The UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said at least 102 civilians in Ukraine have been killed since February 24, with a further 304 wounded, but the real figure is feared to be “considerably higher”. More than half a million people have fled to neighbouring countries, as per the UN.

Battle for the cities: Blasts were heard before dawn in capital Kyiv and in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, Ukrainian authorities said. But attempts made by Russian ground forces to capture major urban centres were repelled, they added. The Ukrainian General Staff said Russian forces were focusing on Chernihiv city, northeast of Kyiv, and parts of Donetsk region in the east among other areas.

Russia’s defence ministry, meanwhile, the country had taken over towns of Berdyansk and Enerhodar in Ukraine’s southeastern Zaporizhzhya region as well as the area around the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, Interfax reported. But, Ukraine denied that the nuclear plant had fallen into Russian hands.

Weapons and an EU awakening: The NATO is providing Ukraine with air-defence missiles and anti-tank weapons, said chief Jens Stoltenberg. The EU, meanwhile, agreed for the first time to jointly finance weapons deliveries to a third country to help Ukraine fend off the invasion, said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. European defence ministers met via video-conference on Monday to coordinate the deliveries of the arms, which began to arrive in Ukraine over the weekend. The EU will use a special fund, set up in March 2021, called the European Peace Facility (EPF) to pay for the arms. The facility has a total of 5 billion euros ($5.59 billion) to be provided directly by EU countries proportionate to the size of their gross national income until 2027. It sits outside the EU budget. The EU will provide 450 million euros for weapons for Ukraine and 50 million euros for non-lethal equipment. Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Czech Republic have agreed to provide various arms and ammunition.

The Kremlin has accused the EU of hostile behaviour, saying weapons supplies to Ukraine were destabilising and proved that Russia was right in its efforts to demilitarise its neighbour.

Devastating western sactions: Crude oil jumped and the rouble plunged nearly 30 per cent to a fresh record low after more devastating sanctions were imposed against Russia, including blocking some banks from the SWIFT international payments system. Energy major BP also made the decision to quit the oil-rich country, being seen as the most aggressive move yet by a company in response to Moscow’s invasion.

In response, Russia’s central bank announced a slew of measures to support domestic markets as it scrambled to manage the fallout from the sanctions. The Western decision to freeze Russia’s hard currency reserves could have devastating consequences. The Central Bank also ordered a slew of measures to help the banks cope with the crisis by infusing more cash into the system and easing restrictions for banking operations. This led uneasy people to line up at banks and ATMs.

Russia blocks media outlets, others hacked: Websites of several Russian media outlets were hacked, with a message condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine appearing on their main pages, while others were blocked by the Russian authorities over their coverage of the war. Russia’s state communications and media watchdog Roskomnadzor blocked several Russian and Ukrainian media outlets over their coverage of the invasion. Russia’s magazine The New Times, which has been openly critical of the Kremlin, was blocked for reporting details about Russian military casualties in Ukraine which the Russian defense ministry has not disclosed.

Protests have been held around the world against the invasion, including in Russia, where almost 6,000 people have been detained at antiwar demonstrations, the OVD-Info protest monitor said. The UN Human Rights Council agreed on Monday to Ukraine’s request to hold an urgent debate this week on the invasion after Kyiv’s ambassador told the Geneva forum that some of Moscow’s military actions “may amount to war crimes”.

PM Modi chairs high-level meeting: The Centre decided to send four Union ministers to the neighbouring countries of Ukraine to coordinate the evacuation process. The decision to send Hardeep Puri, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kiren Rijiju and VK Singh as “special envoys” of India to coordinate the evacuation process was taken at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also held another high-level meeting in the evening on Ukraine, government sources said. Official sources said Modi spoke to all four ministers personally to convey the decision that they will be coordinating evacuation efforts on the ground from the countries in Ukraine’s neighbourhood. Scindia will take care of evacuation efforts from Romania and Moldova while Rijiju will go to Slovakia, sources said, adding Puri will go to Hungary and Singh will be in Poland to manage the evacuation.

Don’t reach borders directly, MEA tells Indians: The ministry of external affairs told Indians stranded in Ukraine to not go to the borders directly and coordinate with authorities by moving to western parts of the country and seeking shelter in nearby towns. MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the evacuation process on the Hungary border was being expanded and a new route has opened through Moldova.

(With agency inputs)

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