On the 34th day of the war, the resistance fight of the Ukrainian army continues, despite the persistent Russian bombing, including on fuel depots. The fourth round of negotiations took place in Istanbul on Tuesday, with Ukraine demanding unconditional security guarantees, a ceasefire, effective decisions on humanitarian corridors and compliance by all parties with the rules of war.
On the other side, Russian deputy minister of Defence, Alexander Fomin announced “a radical reduction of military action” in Kyiv and Chernihiv zones, as TASS and BBC announced. He argued the decision was made to “increase mutual trust for future negotiations, to agree and sign a peace agreement with Ukraine.”
Russia’s deputy defense minister says Moscow has decided to “fundamentally cut back military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernigiv” in order to “increase mutual trust for future negotiations to agree and sign a peace deal with Ukraine.” pic.twitter.com/2qDYOzAzDp
— max seddon (@maxseddon) March 29, 2022
Also on Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made a televised appearance for the first time in more than two weeks, saying Moscow could now focus on its key goal, the release. Donbas, because the main goals of the first phase of the war were met, and Russian forces “significantly reduced” the fighting power of the Ukrainian army.
However, on the 34th day of war, Russian troops continued to pose a significant threat to Kyiv, given its artillery capabilities and the fact that the Ukrainian military has been able to locate and fight attacks in the northwestern part of the city, the British military intelligence reported on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
Russia’s offensive in Ukraine seems to be focusing on fuel depots near Kiev in recent days. At least 10 such facilities were bombed. The most recent – the Rivne fuel depot, as announced by the governor of the region. And the Russian army is talking about two other bombed-out warehouses in the Zhitomir region. Moscow’s troops are blocked in several parts of Ukraine and have not made a significant advance, a US defense official was quoted as saying by CNN. He claims that the Russians have fired more than 1,300 missiles since the beginning of the war.
Russian military forces fired rockets on the city of Kharkov in the Kharkov region on Monday, destroying several houses, Ukrainian officials were quoted as saying by the BBC. The Kharkov regional prosecutor’s office said in a message on the Telegram that the attack had injured seven people. Officials recovered the body of a person from the rubble.
At the same time a Russian rocket struck the regional administration building in the southern Ukrainian port city of Nikolaev on Tuesday, and 11 people were trapped under rubble, Governor Vitali Kim said. As a result of the incident, at least 7 people were killed and 20 were injured.
While the city of Irpin has been recaptured by the Ukrainian army, the surrender of the port of Mariupol to the Russians is imminent, according to British experts from the Royal United Services Institute quoted by the BBC.
— Defence of Ukraine (@DefenceU) March 29, 2022
On the other hand, a propaganda video with Russian troops posted on Telegram claims Melitopol is no longer part of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian military says it has repulsed seven Russian attacks in the past 24 hours in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, according to Nexta. Ukrainian soldiers destroyed 12 tanks, 10 infantry fighting vehicles and 3 other Russian army vehicles. At the same time, Russian army officers were killed.
Meanwhile, Ukraine is expected to open three humanitarian corridors on Tuesday, the Ukrainian deputy prime minister was quoted as saying by Reuters. The evacuation of civilians was suspended on Monday, due to security risks.
Ten million people have fled Ukraine because of Russia’s war, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Those who remain live in difficult conditions. In Kharkiv, thousands of people have spent the last month in subway shelters, the BBC reports.
At the same time, 144 children have been killed so far and more than 220 have been injured in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office said, adding that the numbers are likely to be much higher, as deaths in Mariupol have not yet been confirmed. The bombings also affected 773 schools, 75 of which were completely destroyed, the prosecutor’s office said.
Moreover, British Foreign Minister Liz Truss accused that Vladimir Putin’s forces are abducting Ukrainian politicians, activists and journalists because Russia is failing to meet its military targets.
Truss condemned the “heinous tactics” revealed by the Ukrainian human rights organization ZMINA, which claims to have identified dozens of people who were abducted and thousands more deported to Russia.
The British foreign minister says Vladimir Putin is resorting to “desperate measures” as British military analysts believe the Russian invasion has suffered from a lack of momentum, poor logistics and low morale. “Putin continues to use hateful tactics against the people. Ukrainian government, including the abduction of innocent civilians.”
The Wagner Group brings in over 1,000 mercenaries
Wagner paramilitary group deployed troops in eastern Ukraine, according to the Ministry of Defense in London. In total, the organization will bring in more than 1,000 mercenaries, including members of the leadership echelons. Due to the massive losses and the blockade on the front, Russia was probably forced to relocate Wagner’s mercenaries from Syria and Africa to bring them to Ukraine, according to the British Ministry of Defense.
Cyberattack on Ukrtelecom
Ukrtelecom, one of the largest telecom service providers in Ukraine, was the target of a powerful cyber attack on Monday, officials in Kyiv were quoted as saying by CNN. The cyber attack has been “neutralized” and the company is working to bring the business back to normal parameters. The company says that the priority now is to ensure the functioning of services for the Ukrainian army. Ukrainian Special Communications and Information Protection Service Blames Russia for Cyber Attack.
Negotiations, 4th round
As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Allied powers to tighten sanctions on Russia, while Russia said it is working on a set of measures to restrict the entry of “unfriendly” citizens into the country, a fourth round of Russian-Ukrainian negotiations started today in Istanbul, Turkey.
The negotiations lasted 4 hours, with occasional breaks.
Ukraine demanded unconditional security guarantees, a ceasefire, effective decisions on humanitarian corridors and compliance by all parties with the rules of war, wrote on Twitter Mihailo Podoliak, adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, who attended the talks.
Unconditional security guarantees for Ukraine, ceasefire, effective decisions on humanitarian corridors and humanitarian convoys, observance by the parties of the rules and customs of war. Difficult negotiations for peace in our country. Istanbul round right now… pic.twitter.com/SUTAQrAhA2
— ??????? ??????? (@Podolyak_M) March 29, 2022
Earlier in the morning, the Ukrainian delegation arrived at the Dolmabahce Palace where the talks are taking place. According to Nexta, the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich was also seen on the spot, as mediator.
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) March 29, 2022
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also attended the negotiations.
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) March 29, 2022
Before this round of talks, a senior US official has said Putin does not appear ready to compromise. Ukraine’s neutrality and the status of the disputed areas in the east could be on the negotiating table, but Kyiv rules out ceding territory or sovereignty. Ukraine’s most ambitious goal in talks in Turkey is a ceasefire agreement, as Ukraine’s foreign minister had previously said.
“The minimum plan is, first of all, to obtain humanitarian issues, and the maximum is to obtain a ceasefire and a lasting agreement on it. The President of Ukraine has given clear instructions to our delegation: we do not negotiate people, land or sovereignty. These are not subject to negotiation. Here, our position is reinforced concrete, supported by international law and the armed forces of Ukraine, by international sanctions that have been applied to Russia and by the weapons that have been given to us to deter the aggressor,” said the Ukrainian FM Dmitro Kuleba.
In his turn, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for new sanctions against Russia in his talks with Western leaders, including with British PM Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. He also talked to Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau, Italian PM Mario Draghi, and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliev.
Zelensky said people should not die for certain states to find the courage to send weapons to Kyiv. “Fear always makes you an accomplice,” he told The Guardian.
“If anyone is afraid of Russia … that makes them responsible for the catastrophe created by Russian troops in our cities,” he added. “Are we waiting for chemical weapons? Do we who are alive have to wait? Doesn’t everything the Russian army does and everything it has already done deserve an oil embargo? ”
Russia on using nuclear weapon, attacking NATO states
Russia would only use nuclear weapons if there was a threat to it and not as a result of the war in Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by CNN. “Any result of the operation is, of course, not a reason to use nuclear weapons,” Peskov said.
“We have a security concept that clearly states that only when there is a threat to the existence of the state in our country can we use and will actually use nuclear weapons to eliminate the threat to the existence of our country,” he said.
On the other hand, four people who are aware of talks between the two sides for a ceasefire told the Financial Times that Russia would be willing to accept Ukraine’s accession to the EU if it renounces NATO and remains non-aligned militarily.
At the same time, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that Russia’s plans did not include blows to or invasion of NATO member states, “unless it is forced to do so.
“We don’t want to think about that,” he said in an interview with PBS, after being asked if such a situation could arise. Peskov stated that “if this is not done under conditions of reciprocity”, that is, if “it does not force us to do this”.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman also said Russia was concerned about NATO forces on its borders, accusing the North Atlantic Alliance of ignoring Moscow’s “numerous warnings” about it.
In a separate note, Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday called on the ambassadors of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to announce the expulsion of some of the country’s diplomats, according to TASS and RIA news agencies.
The decision comes after Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania expelled 10 Russian diplomats in a coordinated move earlier this month, and it is a reciprocal measure, agencies say. On March 18, Lithuania expelled four diplomats, while Latvia and Estonia each expelled three.
At the same time, the Netherlands announced today that they had expelled 17 Russian intelligence agents who were accredited as diplomats, based on information from their own security services.
Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said the government was ready for any retaliation from Moscow.