Delegations from Russia and Ukraine are expected to hold talks in Belarus on Thursday, a second round of face-to-face discussions since the Russian invasion eight days ago.
In a video address to the nation early Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Ukrainians to keep up their resistance, but didn’t comment on whether the Russians have seized any cities.
“They will have no peace here,” Zelenskyy said, calling on the Russian soldiers to “go home” and describing them as “confused children who have been used.”
His comments come as Russia acknowledged for the first time since the start of the invasion that nearly 500 Russian troops have been killed in the fighting and around 1,600 wounded. Ukraine has not released a similar casualty figure for its armed forces.
Ukraine’s State Emergency Service has said more than 2,000 civilians have died, though it was impossible to verify the claim. The UN human rights office said it had recorded the deaths of 136 civilians, including 13 children, in Ukraine since the start of the invasion on Feb. 24.
Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency said 1 million people have fled Ukraine since Russian forces invaded last week. It marks the swiftest exodus of refugees this century. Also, the UN General Assembly has condemned the invasion and called on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.
Here’s a look at key things to know about the conflict:
The Ukrainian president’s office said Wednesday evening that the country’s delegation was on its way to the second round of talks with Russia since the invasion began, but it didn’t say when it was expected to arrive.
Vladimir Medinsky, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aid and the head of Russia’s delegation, told reporters the Ukrainians were expected to arrive Thursday for the talks in the Brest region of Belarus, which borders Poland.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said earlier Wednesday that his country was ready for talks to resume, but he noted that Russia’s demands hadn’t changed and that he wouldn’t accept any ultimatums.
WHAT ABOUT VIOLENCE IN UKRAINE?
Zelenskyy’s office reported a powerful explosion Wednesday night between the Southern Railway Station and the Ibis hotel in Kyiv. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry is located near that area.
Two cruise missiles hit a hospital in the northern city of Chernihiv, the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN quoted the city’s chief health administrator, Serhiy Pivovar, as saying. The hospital’s main building was damaged and authorities were working to determine the casualty toll, he said.
And in Mariupol, at least one teenager died and two more were wounded by apparent Russian shelling. The boys’ families said they had been playing soccer near a school.
Russia’s 40-mile-long (64-kilometer-long) convoy of tanks and other vehicles remains outside the capital, Kyiv. The city has been struck by deadly shelling.
Russia says troops have taken the Ukrainian port city of Kherson. The Ukrainian military denies this. Russian forces have also been bombarding the country’s second-biggest city, Kharkiv, and laid siege to two strategic seaports.
WHAT IS THE HUMANITARIAN SITUATION?
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi wrote on Twitter that an exodus of 1 million refugees from Ukraine to neighboring countries has unspooled over the past seven days. This amounts to more than 2% of Ukraine’s population, though some of those fleeing Ukraine are citizens of other countries.
The UN agency has predicted that up to 4 million people could eventually leave Ukraine, but cautioned that even that projection could be revised upward. The World Bank counted Ukraine’s population at 44 million at the end of 2020.
The EU Commission says it will give temporary residence permits to refugees fleeing the violence and allow them to study and work in the 27-nation bloc. The move would need the approval of member states, which have already expressed broad support.
A CONDEMNATION AND WAR CRIMES INVESTIGATION
The UN General Assembly voted Wednesday to demand that Russia stop its offensive in Ukraine and withdraw all troops, with nations from world powers to tiny island states condemning Moscow. The vote was 141 to 5, with 35 abstentions.
US President Joe Biden said the vote “demonstrates the extent of global outrage” at Russia’s assault on its neighbor.
The resolution deplored Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine “in the strongest terms.” General Assembly resolutions aren’t legally binding.
The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor opened an investigation Wednesday into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in Ukraine, dating back to 2013 and covering the current conflict. Prosecutor Karim Khan said he did so after 39 of the court’s member states requested an investigation.
Ukraine and Russia, however, are not among the International Criminal Court’s 123 member states.
ARE SANCTIONS HURTING RUSSIA?
In Washington, the White House announced additional sanctions against Russia and Belarus, including extending export controls that target Russian oil refining and entities supporting both countries’ militaries. The US is also joining Europe and Canada in closing off its airspace to Russian airlines.
Additionally, Airbus and Boeing said they would cut off spare parts and technical support to the country’s airlines. The French-based Airbus and US-based Boeing’s aircraft account for the vast majority of Russia’s passenger fleet.
The sanctions also threaten ultra-wealthy Russians who own properties across Europe and send their children to elite European private schools. Some have begun, albeit tentatively, to speak out.
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich confirmed Wednesday he’s trying to sell the Premier League Chelsea soccer club, with a price tag of at least $2.5 billion floated. He said net proceeds from the sale will be donated to benefit all victims of the war in Ukraine.
Ordinary Russians are also feeling the impact of the sanctions, from payment systems that won’t operate and problems withdrawing cash to not being able to purchase certain items.
Also, in a stunning reversal, Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from the Paralympics Games for their countries’ roles in the war in Ukraine. The International Paralympic Committee announced the about-face less than 24 hours after it had said it would allow the athletes to compete when the Games open on Friday as neutral athletes with colors, flags and other national symbols removed.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war between Russia and Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.