Friday, March 1, 2024

Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 367

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

EU blacklists 121 Russian entities, individuals in new sanctions package

The European Union (EU) approved the 10th sanctions package against Russia that blacklists 121 individuals and legal entities, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell announced on Saturday.

The new sanctions package against Russia blacklists 121 individuals and legal entities, imposes new major restrictions on imports and exports and bans Russian propaganda media outlets, Borrell wrote on Twitter.

Zelensky adviser dismisses China’s peace plan and warns time running out

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky, has dismissed China’s “unrealistic” proposal to end the conflict.

Beijing should not “bet on an aggressor who broke [international] law and will lose the war”, Podolyak tweeted.

The Chinese government’s 12-point position paper on Ukraine was released on Friday morning, on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion. In it, Beijing called for peace talks while urging all parties to avoid nuclear escalation and end attacks on civilians, in a statement which appeared to maintain its stance that the west was fuelling the conflict and which analysts dismissed as anodyne.

The paper, for which Ukraine was not consulted, was cautiously welcomed by Kyiv.

“China started talking about Ukraine, and that’s not bad,” Zelenskiy said during a press conference on Friday

“It seems to me that there is respect for our territorial integrity, security issues,” he added.

Podolyak noted on Friday that any plan to end Russia’s war in Ukraine must involve the withdrawal of Moscow’s troops back to Ukraine’s 1991 borders at the time of the Soviet Union’s collapse.

G20 ‘failing to reach consensus on war in Ukraine’

A meeting of finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the Group of Twenty (G20) leading economies in Bengaluru, India, will likely end today without a joint communique, because there was no consensus on how to describe the conflict in Ukraine, according to delegates.

The US and its G7 allies have pushed to demand the communique squarely condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting, US treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, said, “I think there has to be a statement in the communique condemning Russia’s war. It’s something that I think is absolutely necessary.”

Russia, which is a member of the G20, refers to its actions in Ukraine as a “special military operation”, and avoids calling it an invasion or war.

India has been reluctant to be caught between Ukraine’s western allies and Russia and other countries supporting Moscow, such as China. The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, kicking off the meetings on Friday, avoided mention of Ukraine.

India and China were also among the nations that abstained on a UN vote to call for Russia to immediately and unconditionally withdraw from Ukraine.

India is pressing the meeting to avoid using the word “war” in any communique, G20 officials have told Reuters.

A senior source stated negotiations over the communique were difficult, with Russia and China blocking proposals by western countries.

Macron: China’s engagement in peace in Ukraine is a “good thing”

France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, has said China’s engagement in peace in Ukraine is a “good thing”.

Macron told reporters that he would visit China in early April, in part to seek Beijing’s help with ending the war.

“China must help us put pressure on Russia so that it never uses chemical or nuclear weapons, (an effort) which China has already made, and that it stops its aggression as a precondition for talks,” he added.

Biden dismisses China’s proposed peace plan

US President Joe Biden dismissed China’s proposed peace plan for the war in Ukraine on Friday, suggesting its implementation would only benefit Russia.

“If [Vladimir] Putin is applauding it, so how could it be any good?” Biden said in an interview with ABC News.

“I’m not being facetious. I’m being deadly earnest,” he added.

“I’ve seen nothing in the plan that would indicate that there is something that would be beneficial to anyone other than Russia if the Chinese plan were followed,” Biden said.

Beyond his criticism of the peace plan, Biden outright rejected the notion of China negotiating peace in the war, calling it irrational.

“The idea that China is going to be negotiating the outcome of a war that is a totally unjust war for Ukraine is just not rational,” Biden added.

Biden also weighed in on the possibility of China providing lethal weapons to Russia, which US officials have warned of in recent days.

Biden declined to outline the consequences of China arming Russia, but suggested China would face the same “severe sanctions” as any other country or entity that has supplied weapons to Russia.

China’s Foreign Ministry announced Friday that the country takes a “responsible approach” to military exports and does not provide arms sales to conflict areas. The statement comes a day after a German media outlet claimed Beijing is negotiating with Moscow to supply drones.

Biden also said there’s no evidence “so far” that China will militarily back Russia in Ukraine, while warning any support would have economic ramifications for Beijing.

Asked if he was worried China would fight with Russia, the president stated he spoke to Chinese leader Xi Jinping about the issue and about the economic consequences during the summer.

“And I said, ‘Look, it’s not a threat. It’s just a statement,” Biden noted as he departed the White House.

“When in fact, Europeans saw what was happening, and Americans saw what was happening in Russia and Europe, guess what? Six other corporations pulled out and left — they didn’t want to be associated with it. I said, ‘You [Xi], told me that the future of China rests on investment from the Western world — that matters.’ I said, I’d just keep an eye on there’s no evidence he’s done it yet,” he continued.

Biden says Ukraine “doesn’t need F-16s now”

US President Joe Biden told ABC News on Friday that Ukraine “doesn’t need F-16s now,” despite reporting that Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have, in recent days escalated their public lobbying campaign for the US-made fighter jets, arguing they need them urgently to defend against Russian missile and drone attacks.

“Look, we’re sending him what our seasoned military thinks he needs now. He needs tanks, he needs artillery, he needs air defense, including another HIMARS,” Biden told ABC News’ David Muir.

“There’s things he needs now that we’re sending him to put them in a position to be able to make gains this spring and this summer going into the fall,” he added.

Pressed on Zelensky’s calls for the US to provide the fighter jets, Biden told Muir: “There is no basis upon which there is a rationale, according to our military now, to provide F16s,” adding “I am ruling it out, for now.”

Earlier Friday, Biden balked when asked by CNN’s Jeremy Diamond what he told Zelensky during his visit to Kyiv about the possibility of providing F-16s, responding: “That’s a private discussion.”

Biden National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said during a town hall Thursday the F-16s came up during the US president’s surprise trip to Ukraine.

“F-16s are not a question for the short-term fight. F-16s are a question for the long-term defense of Ukraine and that’s a conversation that President Biden and President Zelensky had,” Sullivan added.

European Union approves 10th round of sanctions against Russia

The European Union has approved a 10th round of sanctions against Russia, the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU said on Friday.

“It’s one year since Russia’s brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine, today, the EU approved the 10th package of Russian sanctions,” the presidency wrote on Twitter.

The Swedish Presidency of the EU added the new sanctions package has imposed “the most forceful and far-reaching sanctions ever to help Ukraine win the war.”

The package includes:

  • Targeted restricted measures against individuals and entities supporting the war, spreading propaganda or delivering drones used by Russia in the war
  • Measures against Russian disinformation
  • Tighter export restrictions regarding dual-use and technology

“The EU stands united with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. We will keep supporting Ukraine, for as long as it takes,” the presidency continued.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson tweeted that he welcomed the EU’s agreement on its 10th round of sanctions.

“To keep unity in support for Ukraine is the number one priority for the Swedish EU Presidency,” he wrote.

EU foreign policy chief predicts Russian economy will suffer in war’s second year

As the war enters its second year, the European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said Russia’s economy will experience more difficulties due to Europe largely cutting out Russian gas and continued sanctions.

“Last year, Russia could cut a lot of money because of the high prices of energy, and we were still very much dependent on Russian gas imports,” Borrell told CNN’s Isa Soares on Friday.

“But that’s over, Europe is no longer consuming Russian gas. We were 40% dependent, now we are only 6% dependent. No Russian oil,” he added.

“From an economic point of view, Russia is going to pay a big price for this war. The sanctions work, but they work slowly,” he continued.

When Russia’s war broke out, Western countries hit back with unprecedented sanctions to punish Moscow and pile pressure on President Vladimir Putin. Russia’s economy did weaken as a result, but also showed resilience. As demand for Russian oil fell in Europe, Moscow redirected its barrels to Asia.

The European Union — which spent more than $100 billion on Russian fossil fuels in 2021 — has made huge strides in phasing out purchases.

The bloc, which dramatically reduced its dependence on Russian natural gas last year, officially banned most imports of Russian crude oil by sea in December. It enacted a similar block on refined oil products this month.

Nearly 1 in 10 Ukrainian hospitals damaged in Russian attacks: Report

More than 250 attacks during Russia’s invasion last year left nearly one in 10 Ukrainian hospitals damaged, some repeatedly, according to new analysis by investigators from the United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland and Ukraine published Tuesday.

The analysis is a joint undertaking of five nongovernmental organizations: eyeWitness to Atrocities (eyeWitness), Insecurity Insight, the Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR), Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and the Ukrainian Healthcare Center (UHC).

Nearly 200 medical workers, who at the time of war are protected under international human rights laws, were either killed, injured, kidnapped or arrested, the collaboration between the NGOs revealed.

Researchers documented 707 health care attacks between February and December 2022, including damage to facilities, such as strikes by ground-launched explosives, and other attacks, such as looting, denial of access to health care and disruption of patients’ access to utilities necessary for medical care.

US intel suggests China is leaning toward sending drones and ammunition to Russia: Sources

US intelligence suggests the Chinese government is considering providing Russia with drones and ammunition for use in Ukraine, three sources familiar with the intelligence tell CNN.

It does not appear that Beijing has made a final decision yet, the sources stated, but negotiations between Russia and China about the price and scope of the equipment are ongoing.

Since invading Ukraine, Russia has repeatedly requested drones and ammunition from China, the sources said, and Chinese leadership has been actively debating over the last several months whether or not to send the lethal aid.

US officials have collected information in recent weeks that suggests China is leaning toward providing the equipment.

The US and its allies last week began publicly warning about China’s potential military support to Russia in an effort to deter Beijing from moving ahead with it and becoming a pariah on the world stage, US officials added.

The provision of drones and ammunition — which would likely be for small arms like handheld weaponry rather than larger artillery, the sources noted — would mark a significant escalation of China’s support for Russia, which to date has been largely limited to Chinese companies providing non-lethal equipment like helmets, flak jackets and satellite imagery.

Zelensky says he wants to meet with Xi

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that he would like to hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

When asked at a Kyiv news conference how he plans to bring the countries that are geopolitically removed from Ukraine to his side, Zelensky said that he plans to meet with Xi.

“I believe that would be beneficial for both our states and for the security in the world, he continued, adding that “China and Ukraine have a lot of trade turnover.”

China has given no indication that a meeting between Xi and Zelensky is possible.

“It’s not just a question of war. We are countries that are interested in maintaining an economic relationship,” Zelensky continued, adding, “As far as I know, China respects territorial integrity, historically, has respected it and therefore must do whatever they can for the Russian Federation to leave our territory because that would mean respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The president also said that it is necessary to respect international law and the United Nations Charter, and if China agrees with this, then it means it supports the “peace formula” put forward by Ukraine, which calls on Russia to leave every part of what is internationally recognized as Ukrainian territory.

Zelensky earlier said “we need to work with China” if the country can respect international law and territorial integrity.

On Friday, China announced it is willing to play a constructive role in resolving issues between Ukraine and Russia.

In a new document addressing the war in Ukraine, China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday called for a resumption of peace talks, an end to unilateral sanctions, and stressed its opposition to the use of nuclear weapons — a stance Xi communicated to Western leaders last year.

The 12-point paper is part of Beijing’s latest efforts to present itself as a neutral peace broker. Beijing’s claim to neutrality has been severely undermined by its refusal to acknowledge the nature of the conflict — it has so far avoided calling it an “invasion” — and its diplomatic and economic support for Moscow.

Russia praises China’s peace plan, blaming Ukraine and West for lack of negotiations

Russia’s Foreign Ministry voiced appreciation Friday for the Chinese peace proposal on Ukraine, saying Moscow is open to achieving the goals of its so-called “special military operation” through political and diplomatic means.

In the newly released position paper, China’s Foreign Ministry called for a resumption of peace talks and an end to unilateral sanctions, and stressed its opposition to the use of nuclear weapons.

“We share Beijing’s views,” Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

It went on to call Kyiv’s “documented refusal” to negotiate the “main obstacle” to a peaceful settlement.

China’s 12-point proposal has been met with skepticism by Ukraine’s allies because of its refusal to acknowledge the nature of the conflict – it has so far avoided calling it an “invasion” – and its diplomatic and economic support for Moscow.

But Russia praised “the sincere desire” of China to contribute to the settlement of the conflict in Ukraine by peaceful means. And it said that Moscow shares concerns with its Chinese colleagues about “unfair competition and economic warfare” being leveled against Russia.

The Russian statement said the prospect of peace would rest, in part, on the cessation of Western weapons flowing into Ukraine, and “on the recognition of new territorial realities,” in an apparent allusion to Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian territories in defiance of international law.

What China’s proposal says: In its newly released plan, China reiterates calls for a political settlement to the Ukraine conflict, even as it faces increasing pressure from the United States and its allies over its growing partnership with Moscow.

“Conflict and war benefit no one. All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiraling out of control,” the paper reads.

“Dialogue and negotiation are the only viable solution to the Ukraine crisis,” the authors said, adding that China will play a “constructive role.”

“The security of a region should not be achieved by strengthening or expanding military blocs. The legitimate security interests and concerns of all countries must be taken seriously and addressed properly,” according to the paper.

China does not have credibility to offer ceasefire: NATO

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says Beijing does not have credibility to propose a ceasefire in Ukraine.

Indicating that China is not impartial, Stoltenberg pointed out that it had signed an agreement with Russia only days before the invasion of Ukraine a year ago.

“China doesn’t have much credibility because they have not been able to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine,” he added.

World Bank announces $2.5bn additional financing for Ukraine

The World Bank has announced an additional $2.5bn in financing for Ukraine, aimed at supporting essential services and core government functions.

The development lender has mobilised more than $20.6bn in emergency financing for Ukraine to date.

“One year into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the world continues to witness the horrific destruction inflicted on the country and its people,” stated World Bank President David Malpass in a statement.

Zelensky urges top US general to help speed up arms supplies

President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, to increase the speed of weapons deliveries to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s president stated at a news conference on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion that his main tasks include calling for more arms from Kyiv’s allies, including long-range weapons, tanks and aircraft.

G7 says it is taking action against countries supporting ‘Russia’s war’

The Group of Seven (G7) is taking action against third-country actors “materially supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine”, the bloc says in a statement, reaffirming its support for Ukraine.

“We call on third-countries or other international actors who seek to evade or undermine our measures to cease providing material support to Russia’s war, or face severe costs,” stated the group consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, the United Kingdom and United States.

“To deter this activity around the world, we are taking actions against third-country actors materially supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine,” it added.

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