Russia and Ukraine advance in dialogue while Russian attacks intensify | International

The Russian Army has intensified attacks against several Ukrainian cities this Wednesday. In kyiv, the bombings have caused the collapse of a 12-storey residential building and another of 9 floors, causing at least two injuries, according to the Ukrainian State Emergency Service. The attacks have been repeated in besieged Mariupol, where the Ukrainian authorities denounce that Russian troops have taken 400 doctors and hospital patients hostage, as well as in Zaporizhia (southeast of the country).) and the surroundings of Odessa (southwest). Despite this, the representatives of Russia and Ukraine continue to negotiate a way out of the conflict and begin to bring their positions closer together. The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, has assured this Wednesday that there are several issues in which the agreement could be close, such as the neutral status of Ukraine. According to Kremlin sources cited by France Presse, Sweden and Austria could be a model of neutrality. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, pointed out on Tuesday night that the meetings will continue in the coming days and that “the positions in the negotiations sound more realistic.”

In the early hours of this Wednesday, at least three strong explosions were heard in the west of the capital, an area that had already been a military target the day before. There are at least two people injured and 35 have been evacuated from the attacked residential building, which has collapsed, in a city that is in full curfew and where the attacks are focused on civilian targets. The bombed-out Ukrainian capital received on Tuesday the risky visit of three heads of government from EU countries – Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia – to meet with Zelenski, who thanked the gesture of support. “Your visit to kyiv in these difficult times for Ukraine is a clear sign of support,” he said through his official Telegram channel, in a message accompanied by a video of the meeting. The three leaders are now back on EU territory.

One of the cities hardest hit by Russia is Mariupol, a city located on the Black Sea that has been suffering from a situation of human catastrophe for days. There, Ukraine denounces that the Russian Army “has taken hostage doctors and patients, and has taken at least 400 people from houses near the basement of the hospital,” explained the Ukrainian Parliament’s human rights committee in a statement on Tuesday. release. Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk said Wednesday that Russian troops are firing from there and has called for the release of the hostages.

Precisely from Mariupol some 20,000 people managed to escape the previous day through the humanitarian corridors, but “hundreds of thousands” remain in the streets in a critical situation. Before the war, the city had about 450,000 inhabitants. The city is a key piece for Moscow to link the Crimean peninsula, illegally annexed in 2014, with the pro-Russian separatist zone of Donbas, in the east of the country.

Russian forces have also attacked civilian targets this Wednesday in the city of Zaporizhia, in the south of the country, as reported in his Telegram account Oleksandr Starukh, military official of the administration of the region of the same name. In Zaporizhia is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, under Russian control after the expulsion of the Ukrainian forces from the complex with an attack that put the safety of its reactors at risk, last Friday. According to Starukh, the missiles launched on Wednesday by Russian troops hit the area of ​​the Zaporizhia-2 train station and the area where the city’s botanical garden is located. For now, there is no record of victims.

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This morning, Russian forces launched several attacks on the Odessa region, one of Putin’s priority objectives and essential to consecrate his advance on the southern flank. Moscow has several warships deployed in the Black Sea and controls the navigation of the waters. The regional defense spokesman, Sergei Bratchuk, affirms that, after trying to damage and eliminate military and critical infrastructure with missile attacks, Putin’s troops are now seeking with the latest attacks to prepare for a possible offensive and “discover” and “identify” the Ukrainian defense system. “The enemy is working to break the air defense system. Identify it and then destroy it. It’s hard, but we endure. And, I hope, that it will continue to be so, ”adds Bratchuk.

Mijailo Podoliak, the main adviser to the Ukrainian president, has reported, for his part, on his social networks that the Ukrainian Army is carrying out a counteroffensive against the Russian forces “in various operational areas”. “This radically changes the positions of the parties,” he added, without giving further details.

closer to agreement

Despite the fact that the military offensive continues to intensify, the negotiation between Russia and Ukraine seems closer this Wednesday than the day before. Russian Minister Lavrov has pointed out that both countries are now closer to reaching agreements on some commitments, such as the neutrality status of kyiv, that is, not joining NATO, a red line for Moscow. “I am guided by the assessments of our negotiators. They say that negotiations are not easy for obvious reasons. However, there is hope of reaching a compromise,” Lavrov said. However, he has also added to Russian television RBC that other important issues remain to be discussed, such as the use of the Russian language in Ukraine and “freedom of expression” in the former Soviet republic.

“There are a number of formulations of the agreements with Ukraine on the status of neutrality and security guarantees that have been on the verge of being achieved,” Lavrov maintained, lamenting that his Ukrainian counterpart, Dimitro Kuleba, “did not present new ideas ” during the trilateral contact held last week in Turkey. “After an hour and a half of meeting and despite the fact that I remembered on three or four occasions that I wanted to hear something that was not in the public sphere, he did not present new ideas.” Lavrov has considered that the United States has a decisive role in defining the position of the Ukrainian authorities and has stated that they are not seeing on the part of that country any interest in resolving the “conflict” “quickly”.

Mijailo Podoliak, adviser to the Ukrainian Presidency, has also referred to his country’s status of neutrality, in a statement to Interfax Ukraine. “We understand our partners’ intent to remain proactive in the negotiation process. Hence the words about the ‘Swedish’ or ‘Austrian’ model of neutrality”, he said this Wednesday in reference to those two countries, Sweden and Austria, members of the EU but not of NATO. “But Ukraine is currently at war with Russia. Therefore, the model can only be ‘Ukrainian’ and only for legally verified ‘security guarantees’. And there are no other models or options”, Podoliak insisted.

For his part, the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, deepened this Tuesday night in the idea that Ukraine will never be part of the Atlantic Alliance. After days of demanding, without results, that NATO impose a no-fly zone over the country to prevent air attacks by the invading Russian forces, the president has stressed that citizens are beginning to realize that the country depends on itself himself and the help of his allies. He has also charged against the Alliance and has warned that other countries may be the next to suffer from Russian aggression. “Ukraine is not a member of NATO. We get it,” he has said. “For years we have heard about the so-called open door, but we have already heard that we must not enter. That is how it is and we must admit it”, Zelenski resigned himself in a videoconference meeting with the leaders of the member countries of the Joint Expeditionary Force.

Meanwhile, the judges of the United Nations International Court of Justice (ITJ) rule on Wednesday on the precautionary measures requested by Ukraine to “stop Russian military activity” in the country. kyiv requested these urgent measures a few hours after the Russian invasion, on February 24. Ukraine alleges that Moscow has twisted the notion of genocide against the Russian-speaking population of the Ukrainian region of Donbas, located in the east of the country, to justify aggression. The ICJ has no means to force Russia to comply with its decisions. However, the imposition of precautionary measures against Moscow would represent a boost to the legitimacy of Ukraine’s position and a new international condemnation of the invasion ordered by the Kremlin. Russia has not appeared at the hearings in this case, held last week in The Hague.

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