Russia and Ukraine agreed to create humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of the population, as well as the delivery of food and medicine to areas where hostilities are taking place. This is the only publicly announced result of the second round of negotiations between the delegations of the two countries, which took place on Thursday on the territory of Belarus. On the same day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invited his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to meet in person and discuss all differences. Meanwhile, Moscow believes that Kyiv is deliberately delaying the negotiation process, counting on further Western assistance.
A day later
“Unfortunately, we did not get the results we expected. And the only thing I can say is that we discussed the humanitarian aspect in detail,” Mikhail Podolyak, adviser to the head of the presidential office of Ukraine, said on Thursday after the second round of negotiations with the Russian delegation. The meeting took place in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, not far from the Belarusian-Polish border. Mr. Podolyak read out the official communiqué following the meeting.
According to the document, the parties reached an understanding on the joint provision of humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of the civilian population, as well as for the delivery of medicines and food to the places of the most fierce fighting.
In areas where the evacuation of the population will take place, a temporary ceasefire is possible for the duration of the humanitarian operation. To this end, channels of communication and interaction will be organized in the very near future, and appropriate logistics procedures will be formed.
The agreement on the creation of humanitarian corridors was also confirmed by the head of the Russian delegation, aide to the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Medinsky. He called it “substantial progress.” According to Mr. Medinsky, in general, three issues were discussed at the talks: military, international humanitarian and future political settlement. “The positions are absolutely clear, they are written down on points, on some of them (obviously, humanitarian issues.— “b”) managed to find mutual understanding,” he said. It is assumed that the third round of negotiations will take place at the beginning of next week – this, in any case, was announced by Mikhail Podolyak.
Meanwhile, while negotiations were underway in Belarus, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a somewhat cheeky manner, invited his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to a direct dialogue. “I’m a normal man, sit down with me, talk, what are you afraid of?” Mr. Zelensky said during a press conference. “I am ready to discuss all issues, I know them deeply, all those places that we are talking about: about Ukraine, about the problems of the Russian language – I don’t see it, about Donbass, occupied or not occupied, about the status of Donbass, about the DPR and LPR, about what is happening … I know where to find these points so as not to fight … Just don’t talk to us like a country of a different sort, ”he added.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin has reason to believe that the Ukrainian delegation is deliberately delaying the talks, Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Thus, the second round of Belarusian meetings began a day later than expected. On Wednesday, when the Russians had already arrived in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, a member of the Ukrainian delegation, head of the parliamentary faction of the ruling Servant of the People party David Arakhamia wrote on Facebook that the meeting place could be changed. As a result, the negotiations took place in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, but they started on Thursday only at 17:50 Moscow time. And it lasted less than three hours. As during the first round, which took place at the beginning of the week in the Gomel region, the Ukrainian delegation traveled to Belarus through Poland using helicopters.
Moscow believes that the United States is to blame for the delay in negotiations. “When President Zelensky asked for negotiations, President Putin immediately agreed and sent a delegation. Then President Zelensky changed his mind. The Americans probably told him not to rush. Then they (representatives of Ukraine. – Kommersant) nevertheless said: no, we will come, ”said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service Sergey Naryshkin spoke in the same vein: “Washington very much hopes that we will get bogged down in this operation and perish, and they will be able to quietly deal with the “cleansing” of the Middle East, Eurasia and the Asia-Pacific region. It will not happen”.
Sergey Utkin, head of the IMEMO RAS Strategic Assessments Group, in an interview with Kommersant, also admitted that the time for negotiations could indeed be delayed on purpose, and in general suggested that it was still difficult to expect serious progress from these meetings. “Ukrainians, feeling the support of the West and many other countries, expect that Russia will understand what a hole it is in and back down. Russia is making demands that are unlikely to be accepted in a situation where the Ukrainian armed forces retain the ability to resist, and the majority of the Ukrainian population clearly rejects the Russian presence. Apparently, so far, both sides do not believe that their situation has worsened enough to abandon the proclaimed requirements and principles, ”the expert said.
Surrounded but not taken
On Thursday, news from the fronts testified to the “continuing ability of the Ukrainian armed forces to resist”.
On the eighth day of the “special operation” of the Russian troops in Ukraine, the main actions again unfolded around Kyiv, Kharkov and Mariupol – three cities that the Russian military surrounded, but did not take by Thursday evening.
“The city of Grocery (Kharkov region) was liberated from nationalist battalions.— “b”), – said at a briefing the representative of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation Igor Konashenkov. – In Borodianka (Kyiv region. – “b”), where units of Ukrainian nationalists are located along with equipment in residential areas, civilians can safely leave the settlement through a specially designated corridor in the direction of Berestyanka. In addition, as Major General Konashenkov said, “as a result of a long-range high-precision strike, a reserve technological radio and television center in the Lysaya Gora area in Kyiv, which was used by the SBU for psychological operations against Russia, was disabled.” At the same time, the representative of the Ministry of Defense assured that “there are no victims and destruction of residential buildings.”
They talked about the situation around Kyiv and in the Ukrainian General Staff. There they again assured: the offensive of the Russian army was stalled due to lack of resources. “In Polissya (part of Ukraine along the Belarusian border.— “b”) the invaders concentrated their main efforts on the Kiev direction, they suffer losses among personnel and equipment, but do not leave attempts to block Kyiv from the south and south-west directions. In the direction of Korosten (Zhytomyr region, north of Kiev.— “b”) the enemy suffered significant losses and stopped,” the Ukrainian military said in a statement.
In the Donbass, Russian troops, as well as groups from the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR), continue their offensive to the west.
“The grouping of troops of the Luhansk People’s Republic, with fire support from the Russian armed forces, continued offensive operations and took control of the Yarovaya-Krasny Liman-Privolye road direction,” said Igor Konashenkov. And the forces of the DPR, together with the Russian military, have already begun to occupy the villages of the Zaporozhye region (this was announced by the Russian Defense Ministry).
According to Major General Konashenkov, “the units of the armed forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic narrowed the encirclement of the city of Mariupol,” but there were no reports of the capture of the city by Thursday evening. The Ukrainian General Staff commented on this in their favor: “In the Donetsk region, Mariupol is steadfastly holding on, the administrative borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions have not been reached.” Which, on the whole, does not contradict Russian reports: Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, as well as the north of the Luhansk region, have not yet come under the control of the Donbass republics.
To support its own army, Ukraine began the formation of the International Legion. For volunteers, according to the decree of Vladimir Zelensky, visas are even temporarily canceled.
Igor Konashenkov did not leave this news unattended. “US military intelligence has launched a large-scale campaign to recruit PMC contractors (private military companies.— “b”) to be sent to Ukraine. First of all, employees of the American PMCs Academi, Cubic and DynCorp are recruited,” he said. “Only last week, about 200 mercenaries from Croatia arrived through Poland, who joined one of the nationalist battalions in southeastern Ukraine. On Thursday, the Defense Attaché at the Croatian Embassy in Moscow was summoned to the Russian Ministry of Defense. Igor Konashenkov warned that foreigners who take part in the fighting in Ukraine will not be eligible for POW status. “The best thing that awaits foreign mercenaries upon arrest is criminal prosecution,” he concluded.