Status: 03/29/2022 08:03 am
For the first time in nearly three weeks, representatives of Ukraine and Russia are speaking directly to each other today. They met in Istanbul – mediated by Turkish President Erdogan. He sees a “positive direction”.
Representatives of Russia and Ukraine want to hold direct talks in Istanbul today for the first time in almost three weeks about a ceasefire in Ukraine. The talks are expected to last until Wednesday. According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky, key issues include “security guarantees and neutrality” and Ukraine’s “nuclear-free state.” Ukraine’s neutrality is one of Russia’s key demands. Zelenskyj said on Sunday that his government would “fully” examine the issue.
Initial talks at the ministerial level in Antalya, Turkey on March 10 failed to bring any definite progress towards a ceasefire in Ukraine. The talk then continued via video conference. Both sides in the conflict have recently described it as “tough”.
Guleba is skeptical
Before the talks began, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister also expressed doubts about their chances of success. “If we see that they are ready for serious, substantial talks and symmetrical agreements, things will move forward,” Dimitrov Kuleba said. “If it does repeat their campaign, the negotiations will fail again.”
The minimum goal of the Ukrainian side is to improve the humanitarian situation in cities such as Mariupol, which are besieged by Russian troops. The desired target is a permanent ceasefire. Guleba again pointed to the red lines of the Ukrainian government: “We have not exchanged people, land and sovereignty. Our position is firm.”
“Putin is the one who has refused so far.”
Prior to the meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he had been in telephone contact with Ukrainian President Zhelensky and Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin, and that things were moving in a “positive direction”.
The goal of the Turkish government is a direct meeting between Putin and Zhelensky. Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said: “We believe that only through such a meeting can the war be brought to an end. “President Zelensky is ready for that. So far, Putin has refused.”
Conflicting parties as a source
Information on war, shelling and casualties provided by the official organizations of the Russian and Ukrainian conflict parties cannot be directly verified by an independent body in the current situation.
Russia invaded Ukraine about five weeks ago. Fighting has been going on in Ukraine for the past few hours. According to Zhelensky, the Ukrainian military has won, but the situation remains tense.
In his evening video speech, Zhelensky said that the Russian occupiers had been pushed back from the city of Irfin, a suburb of Kiev. However, “too soon to talk about security in this part of our region”. The Russians continued to control the northern part of Kiev. The situation is “very difficult” in Chernihiv, Sumy, Karkiv, Donbass and southern Ukraine.
British intelligence: Wagner mercenaries in eastern Ukraine
According to the British Secret Service, the private Russian security firm “Wagner Group” has been relocated to eastern Ukraine. They will use more than 1,000 mercenaries, including senior leaders of the organization, to carry out combat operations, the UK Defense Ministry said in an update citing intelligence information. Due to heavy casualties and a largely stagnant invasion of Ukraine, Russia was largely forced to reassess Wagner personnel for Ukraine at the expense of operations in Africa and Syria.
The “Wagner Group” is considered Russia’s “shadow army”. It is associated with crisis areas such as Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic and most recently Mali. The mercenaries have been accused of committing grave human rights abuses, including torture and targeted killings. Denies any connection with the Kremlin mercenaries.
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