Immediate Cease-fire And Troop Withdrawal, Ukraine Asks


  • Negotiators for Kyiv and Moscow are holding talks in Belarus but expectations are not high
  • Before the meeting, President Zelensky urged Russian troops to lay down their weapons and called for immediate EU membership
  • On the fifth day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, people in Kyiv are emerging from their homes after a weekend-long curfew
    Russia doubles its interest rate to 20% as its currency plunges and experts warn of a possible run on banks
  • The UK’s defence secretary says Russia could indiscriminately bomb cities as frustration with the campaign grows
    The north-eastern city of Chernihiv faced heavy shelling overnight, but remains in Ukrainian hands
  • Reports suggest Belarus – a close Russian ally to Ukraine’s north – is going to deploy its own soldiers to fight

Delegations from Kyiv and Moscow were meeting in Belarus, but President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed little hope that talks would end the fighting. Russia showed no sign of de-escalating even as its economy staggered under sanctions, reports the New York times.

Switzerland will freeze Russian assets

Switzerland, a favorite destination for Russian oligarchs and their money, announced on Monday that it would freeze Russian financial assets in the country, setting aside a deeply rooted tradition of neutrality to join the European Union and a growing number of nations seeking to penalize Russia for the invasion of Ukraine.

After a meeting with the Swiss Federal Council, Switzerland’s president, Ignazio Cassis, said that the country would immediately freeze the assets of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail V. Mishustin and Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, as well as all 367 individuals sanctioned last week by the European Union.

Switzerland said it was departing from its usual policy of neutrality because of “the unprecedented military attack by Russia on a sovereign European state,” but expressed a willingness to help mediate in the conflict. It also joined European neighbors in closing its airspace to Russian aircraft, except for humanitarian or diplomatic purposes. But said it would evaluate whether to join in subsequent E.U. sanctions on a case-by-case basis.

Mr. Lavrov, who was scheduled to be in Geneva on Tuesday to address the United Nations Human Rights Council, will no longer make the trip because of the flight ban, Russia’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva said on Twitter.

Swiss national bank data showed that Russian companies and individuals held assets worth more than $11 billion in Swiss banks in 2020. As a hub for the global commodities trade, Switzerland also hosts numerous companies that trade Russian oil and other commodities.

The decision came amid mounting condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which saw thousands of antiwar protesters march in Bern, Switzerland’s capital, over the weekend. Demonstrators chanted for an end to “Putin’s war” and criticized the government’s initially cautious response to the crisis.

Switzerland cherishes a reputation for neutrality that has established Geneva as a home to the United Nations and a host to peace talks in numerous conflicts, including the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Recently, Geneva was the venue for last year’s summit between President Biden and Mr. Putin.

Ukrainians hold talks with Russia

The Treasury Department announced a freeze on Russian Central Bank assets. Delegations from Kyiv and Moscow were meeting for talks in Belarus, even as Ukraine said dozens were killed in a Russian rocket attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.

With a three-mile-long convoy of Russian military vehicles pressing down on Kyiv, a Ukrainian delegation met counterparts from Russia on Monday in Belarus, even as President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine expressed little hope that talks would bring an end to fighting that has killed more than 350 civilians since the Russian invasion began.

Mr. Zelensky, who was not attending the meeting, said that Ukraine would push for “an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of troops,” according to a statement from his office, which came as the Ukrainian army and citizen volunteers fought to repel Russian advances on multiple cities for a fifth day. In other developments:

  • The value of the ruble plunged by more than 25 percent against the dollar on Monday after the United States, Europe and other nations took steps to exclude some Russian banks from international transactions by removing them from the SWIFT financial messaging system.
  • President Vladimir V. Putin told military leaders to place Russia’s nuclear forces on alert in response to the “illegitimate sanctions” imposed by the United States and the European Union, which announced a total closure of the E.U. airspace to Russian aircraft.
  • Russian forces carried out missile strikes across Ukraine overnight, according to Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to the head of the president’s office. His office reported strikes in Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Zaporizhzhia and Chernihiv. There were no further details immediately available in terms of casualties.

‘Dozens of victims’ in heavy rocket attack on Kharkiv, Ukraine says

Ukrainian officials on Monday accused Russian forces of launching a barrage of rockets on a residential neighborhood in Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, killing dozens of civilians, just as Ukrainian and Russian officials were preparing to meet for talks in Belarus.

Kharkiv has been subjected to massive grad shelling,” Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, wrote in a text message, referring to a type of rocket attack. There were “dozens of victims,” he added, but the number of casualties could not be independently confirmed.

Videos posted to Telegram on Monday and verified by The New York Times show heavy rocket attacks taking place in a northeastern neighborhood of Kharkiv. Other footage shows a large plume of smoke, indicating a possible explosion, rising from nearby residential apartment buildings.

Russian forces positioned around the perimeter of Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine, have been shelling its outlying areas for days, but have been largely kept at bay by Ukrainian forces.

The bombardment on Monday followed attempts by Russian forces on Sunday to enter the city. Part of that push took place in the same area of the city where the rocket attack reportedly occurred.

South Korea offers humanitarian assistance

The South Korean government said on Monday that it will provide $10 million in emergency humanitarian assistance to help the Ukrainian government, people and refugees “facing a severe crisis due to the illegal invasion by Russia.”

In a new sign of isolation for Russia, the International Olympic Committee said Monday that it would urge organizers of major sporting events to “not invite or allow the participation” of athletes from Russia or Belarus. But there are some exceptions, as usual with the I.O.C., Russia already faced limits on its Olympic participation because of past doping violations.

As more people arrive in Lviv from the eastern reaches of Ukraine, the stories they share are growing increasingly dire. Vitaliy Matukhno, 23, traveled two days in a crowded evacuation train from the Luhansk region, near the Russian border, where his parents still live in the town of Lysychansk. He said there is no running water in the town because all the pipes have been damaged in heavy fighting, and that many of the 100,000 residents have fled. “Everything is destroyed,” he said.

India said it would send humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, including medicine, in response to a request from Kyiv. The move came as India tries to remain engaged with Ukraine and its Western allies while not angering Russia, a historic partner. Earlier, India abstained from a procedural vote calling for an emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the Russian invasion.

Read the updates here. 

Read also: Russia attacks Ukraine 

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Source: The New York Times and BBC


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