Russia, Ukraine trade accusations over Black Sea naval mines

 Russia, Ukraine trade accusations over Black Sea naval mines


Russia says it will reduce military activity and Ukraine calls for “international” accord to guarantee security as both sides cite progress in Istanbul peace talks held on 34th day of the military conflict.

The regional government headquarters of Mykolaiv, Ukraine, following a Russian attack, on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.
The regional government headquarters of Mykolaiv, Ukraine, following a Russian attack, on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.
(AP)

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Russia, Ukraine trade naval mines accusations

Russia and Ukraine have traded accusations about the naval mines that have been set adrift in the Black Sea, threatening shipping.

The Russian military alleged that the Ukrainian military has used old naval mines to protect the coast against a Russian landing and some of them have been ripped off their anchors by a storm and left adrift.

Russian Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev reaffirmed that “the threat of Ukrainian mines drifting along the coastline of Black Sea states remains” and the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry responded in a statement, accusing Russia of using Ukrainian mines it seized after the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s the Crimean Peninsula and setting them adrift to “discredit Ukraine before international partners.”

The Turkish Defence Ministry said on Saturday that a naval mine was spotted near the Bosporus and neutralised. It said the mine was of an old type but didn’t say to whom it belonged.

Ukraine leader sees ‘positive’ signals from talks with Russia 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he sees “positive” signals from Ukraine-Russia peace talks held in Istanbul, but vowed that Kiev will not “decrease our defence efforts.”

“We can say that the signals that we hear from the negotiations are positive, but those signals do not drown out the explosions or Russian shells,” Zelenskyy said in a video address.

Zelenskyy also expressed skepticism about Moscow’s stated plan of a military scaleback, saying: “We will not decrease our defense efforts.”

‘We’ll see,’ Biden says after Russia vows scale back of Ukraine offensive

US President Joe Biden has adopted a wait-and-see posture after Russia announced it would scale back its offensive on two Ukrainian cities.

“We’ll see. I don’t read anything into it until I see what their actions are. We’ll see if they follow through on what they’re suggesting,” Biden told reporters at the White House alongside Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“Let’s just see what they have to offer.”

Russia says de-escalation not a ceasefire

Russia’s promise to scale down military operations around Kiev and northern Ukraine does not represent a ceasefire and talks on a formal agreement with Kiev have a long way to go, Moscow’s lead negotiator in peace talks has said.

Russian negotiators gave an undertaking to sharply scale back military activity around Ukraine’s capital Kiev and the northern city of Chernihiv, in the most tangible sign yet of progress towards a peace deal.

“This is not a ceasefire but this is our aspiration, gradually to reach a de-escalation of the conflict at least on these fronts,” Vladimir Medinsky, head of the Russian team, said in an interview with the TASS news agency.

Putin tells Macron ‘nationalists’ in Mariupol must lay down arms

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Ukrainian “nationalists” in the embattled city of Mariupol must lay down their arms as he discussed the conflict with French leader Emmanuel Macron, the Kremlin said.

The two presidents spoke by phone after Russian and Ukrainian delegations held face-to-face talks in Istanbul more than a month after Putin sent troops to Ukraine.

The Kremlin said the two leaders had discussed the results of the talks and the humanitarian situation in Ukraine.

Blinken urges Russia to withdraw troops from Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged Russia to immediately stop its offensive and withdraw its force from Ukraine.

“What I can say is this: There is what Russia says, and there is what Russia does. We’re focused on the latter. And what Russia is doing is the continued brutalisation of Ukraine and its people. And that continues as we speak,” Blinken said in a joint press conference in Rabat with his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita.

Sanctioned oligarch Abramovich seen at Russia-Ukraine talks

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has been seen on the sidelines of negotiations between Kiev and Moscow in Istanbul aimed at ending Russia’s attacks in Ukraine.

Abramovich has been “ensuring certain contacts between the Russian and Ukrainian sides,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, but is not an official member of the delegation.

He said both sides have approved his role.

UK sceptical after Russia says will scale back fighting

Britain’s government has reacted coolly after Russia said it intended to scale down fighting around two Ukrainian cities following peace talks in Türkiye.

“We will judge (Vladimir) Putin and his regime by his actions and not by his words,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.

“We don’t want to see anything less than a complete withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory.”

Russia, Ukraine hold ‘meaningful’ talks in Istanbul

Russia will “radically” reduce its military activity in northern Ukraine, including near the capital Kiev, after “meaningful” talks in Istanbul, Moscow’s negotiators have said.

“Given that the talks on the preparation of an agreement on the neutrality and non-nuclear status of Ukraine have moved into a practical field…a decision has been made to radically, by several times reduce the military activity in the areas of Kiev and Chernihiv,” Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin said.

Chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said there had been a “meaningful discussion ” at the talks and that Ukrainian proposals would be put to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia thanks Türkiye for mediation efforts 

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has said her country is “thankful” to Türkiye for its mediation efforts over the Ukraine conflict.

At a press briefing in Moscow, Zakharova said Russia is “thankful” to Türkiye “for the mediation role, the mediation efforts that the leadership of this country was ready to provide for the Russian-Ukrainian negotiations and the settlement of the situation.”

Zakharova noted that compared to the Western line of putting sanctions against Russia, Türkiye has taken “a balanced and independent position,” has not joined the restrictive measures, adhered to the Montreux Convention and kept open its airspace for Russian aviation.

Russia accuses US of massive ‘cyber aggression’

Russia has accused the United States of leading a massive campaign of “cyber aggression” behind hundreds of thousands of malicious attacks a day while Russia has troops in Ukraine.

The foreign ministry said media, critical infrastructure and life support systems had been targeted, with the unprecedented scale pointing at US and NATO-trained special forces as well as hackers acting on behalf of Kiev’s western sponsors.

“The sources of attacks will be identified and the attackers will inevitably be held accountable for their actions in accordance with the law,” the Russian statement said.

Belgium orders 21 Russian diplomats to leave

Belgium has decided to expel 21 Russian diplomats for activities related to espionage or unlawful influence peddling.

The diplomats were given two weeks to leave the country, foreign affairs spokeswoman Elke Pattyn said.

Ireland kicks out four Russian diplomats

Ireland has said it expelled four Russian diplomatic officials amid reports that Moscow’s embassy in Dublin had become a hotbed of espionage and surveillance.

Foreign minister Simon Coveney said “four senior officials have been asked to leave the state” for engaging in activities “not…in accordance with international standards of diplomatic behaviour”.

Dutch to expel 17 Russians for alleged spying

The Netherlands is expelling 17 Russian diplomats who were “secretly active” as intelligence officers, the Dutch foreign ministry has said.

“Today, the ambassador of Russia was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs” and informed of the expulsion, the Hague-based ministry said in a statement.

“The reason is that there is information…showing that the persons concerned, accredited as diplomats, are secretly active as intelligence officers,” it said.

Russia expels diplomats from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia

In a tit-for-tat move, Russia has expelled several diplomats from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the ambassadors of the Baltic States were summoned to the ministry building and expressed “a strong protests” in connection with “provocative and unjustified” expulsion of the Russian diplomats.

Accreditations of four employees of the Lithuanian Embassy, three of the Latvian Embassy, and of three representatives of the Estonian Embassy and the Pskov Office of the Consulate General of Estonia in St.

Orthodox patriarch denounces ‘atrocious’ operation in Ukraine

The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians has denounced Russia’s operation in Ukraine as an “atrocious” act that is causing enormous suffering.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I didn’t mention Russia by name in comments made during a visit to Warsaw after meeting with Ukrainian refugees. Poland has accepted the largest number of people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.

“It is simply impossible to imagine how much devastation this atrocious operation has caused for the Ukrainian people and the entire world,” Bartholomew said at a news briefing.

Level of destruction in Ukraine ‘abhorrent, unacceptable’: Red Cross

The level of death, destruction, and suffering inflicted on Ukraine’s civilians is “abhorrent and unacceptable,” the Red Cross has said.

At least 1,179 civilians have been killed in Ukraine and 1,860 injured since the start of the fight between Russia and Ukraine on February 24, according to estimates by the UN, which cautioned that the true figure is likely far higher.

More than 3.9 million Ukrainians have also fled to neighboring countries, with millions more displaced inside the country, according to the UN refugee agency.

Biden to discuss Ukraine conflict in phone call with European leaders

US President Joe Biden will discuss the Russian operation in Ukraine in a phone call with key western European allies, the White House has said.

Biden convened the call for 1315 GMT with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy “to discuss the latest developments regarding Russia’s operation in Ukraine,” a spokesman said.

Britain to boost military presence in Arctic

Britain plans to increase its military presence in the Arctic, British Defence Dinister Ben Wallace has said, amid increased concerns among NATO allies about Russia following its offensive in Ukraine.

Britain would commit militarily “to deeper integration, interoperability with countries such as Norway” to protect the seas of the North Atlantic, Ben Wallace told a news conference in Bardufoss, northern Norway.

“We are going to effectively, permanently, have a…Marine strike group permanently…active in the Nordics,” he said, adding the force would likely rotate between Norway, Sweden and Finland.

ICRC calls on Ukraine, Russia to agree safe evacuations

The International Committee of the Red Cross has exhorted Ukraine and Russia to agree on safe evacuation of civilians from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol and other frontline areas, where vitals are running out, and delivery of aid.

Asked about Ukrainian accusations of forced deportations of Mariupol residents to Russia, ICRC director-general Robert Mardini said that his agency had no direct information.

“People are caught and trapped in the line of fire. And it is happening unfortunately in many places today in Ukraine, not only in Mariupol,” Mardini said at ICRC headquarters in Geneva.

UK detains Russian-owned superyacht in ‘warning’ to Putin

Britain has detained a Russian-owned, $50-million superyacht boasting a fresh-water swimming pool, in what it called a “warning” to Moscow of the consequences for its operation in Ukraine.

The impounding of Phi, the first superyacht ever to be held in British waters, comes after the UK sanctioned hundreds of Russian individuals and entities in recent weeks over the Kremlin’s offensive.

Authorities held the vessel, which was docked at Canary Wharf in London, after the “combating kleptocracy” unit of the National Crime Agency (NCA) uncovered that its ultimate owner was a Russian businessman.

Rouble surges 10 percent on Ukraine-Russia talks progress

The rouble, which fell sharply following Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, has surged by more than 10 percent against the dollar following progress in talks between Moscow and Kiev.

The Russian currency stood at 85.42 rubles to the dollar at around 1245 GMT. It had plunged to an unprecedented level of 150 to the greenback in recent weeks.

Oil prices sink as supply fears ease on Ukraine talks

Oil prices have shed more than five percent as apparent progress in peace talks between Moscow and Kiev eased Russian supply concerns linked to the Ukraine conflict.

European benchmark Brent crude dived 6.6 percent and New York’s WTI oil slid 5.2 percent as traders tracked face-to-face Istanbul talks aimed at resolving the nearly five-week-old Ukraine conflict.

Turkish FM sees ‘meaningful progress’ after Ukraine-Russia talks

The Turkish foreign minister hailed the latest round of Russia-Ukraine peace talks in Istanbul, saying Tuesday’s meeting achieved “the most meaningful progress since the start of negotiations.”

Speaking at a press conference, Mevlut Cavusoglu said he was pleased to see increasing “rapprochement” between the two sides at “every stage.”

On the peace talks being held in the Turkish metropolis, Cavusoglu said: “It is an indication of the trust of the parties in Türkiye.”

Kiev calls for ‘international’ accord to guarantee security

Ukrainian negotiators at conflict talks with Russia in Türkiye have said they are calling for an international agreement under which other countries would serve as guarantors of Ukraine’s security.

“We want an international mechanism of security guarantees where guarantor countries will act in a similar way to NATO’s article number five – and even more firmly,” Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia told reporters after talks with a Russian delegation.

Russian assault on Mariupol a ‘crime against humanity’: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the Russian siege of the port city of Mariupol constituted a “crime against humanity”.

“What the Russian troops are doing to Mariupol is a crime against humanity, which is happening in front of the eyes of the whole planet in real time,” Zelenskyy told the Danish parliament in a video address.

He accused Russian forces of blowing up shelters despite knowing that civilians were hiding in them.

Russia has achieved main initial goals in Ukraine: Defense chief

Russia has said that it has achieved its main goals for the first stage of its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

“The combat potential of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has been significantly reduced, which allows us to focus our main attention and efforts on achieving the main goal – the liberation of Donbass,” Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting with senior commanders in Moscow.

Shoygu said Ukraine’s military had suffered significant losses, while Russia gained air supremacy, almost entirely destroying Ukraine’s air defence system.

At least 7 dead, 22 injured in Mykolaiv attack: Zelenskyy

At least seven people have been killed and 22 injured in a Russian strike on a regional government building in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

“As far as we know now seven people were killed, 22 were wounded and people are still going through the rubble,” Zelenskyy said in a video address to the Danish parliament.

Ukraine: Talks focusing on security guarantees

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that the talks under way with Russia in Istanbul are focusing on security guarantees for Ukraine and hopes of a ceasefire.

Mykhailo Podolyak told Ukrainian media that there are “intensive consultations going on regarding several important issues, the key among those is an agreement on international security guarantees for Ukraine.” He said that “only with this agreement can we end the conflict in a way that Ukraine needs.”

He adds that “the second block of issues is a cease-fire so that we could resolve all the humanitarian problems which have piled up and which require urgent resolutions.”

Turkish vessels, aircraft on alert for drifting sea mines: Akar

Türkiye’s mine hunter vessels and maritime patrol aircraft are closely monitoring waters off Turkish coasts in the Black Sea region to detect and defuse drifting sea mines, the country’s defence minister has said.

After a Cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara, Hulusi Akar commented on the threat of drifting sea mines suspected to be moving towards Türkiye as well as Bulgaria from the shores of Ukraine.

“Our mine hunter vessels and naval patrolling ships are all vigilant,” he said, adding the detected mines would be eliminated immediately as measures were already taken by the Turkish army.

Russia accuses US, allies of hacking 

The Russian Foreign Ministry has said that the United States and its allies are involved in hacking Russian data and infrastructure.

The ministry said in a statement that “the US and its satellites are undertaking a massive cyber-operation against our country.” It also said the US and other NATO members had trained Ukrainian hackers and blamed what it said was an effort by Ukraine to recruit international hackers.

The ministry said that the attacks include stealing Russians’ personal data, putting pressure on the economy and spreading “fake information” about the Russian military.

UN helps up to 900,000 people in Ukraine

UN aid agencies have managed to help up to 900,000 people in Ukraine so far, but they must be guaranteed safe passage by the concerned parties to be able to do more, a spokesperson has said.

“That’s good but it’s far from enough,” Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told a briefing, calling for safe passage for aid workers and convoys.

Separately, Jarno Habicht, the representative for the World Health Organisation in Ukraine, said 72 people had been killed and 40 people injured in 74 attacks on health care facilities so far in the conflict.

Ukraine resumes evacuations after Russian ‘provocations’

Ukraine has said it had reopened humanitarian corridors and evacuated civilians from affected regions after a one-day pause over what Kiev called possible Russian “provocations”.

“Three humanitarian corridors were agreed for today,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a video statement.

The first corridor will be from the battered city of Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia using private cars, with Mariupol residents who had made it to Berdyansk also joining, she said. A second corridor will travel from the Russian-occupied town of Melitopol to Zaporizhzhia and the third from Energodar.

Russian strike hits government building

A Russian strike battered the regional government building in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, the regional governor has said.

The Telegram channel of the regional governor, Vitaliy Kim, showed a gaping hole in the centre of the building. 

Kim said most people escaped the building and rescuers were searching for a handful of missing people.

Russia destroys dozens of religious buildings in Ukraine

Ukraine’s military said Russia has destroyed more than 60 religious buildings across the country in just over a month.

In a post, the military said the Orthodox church — the country’s majority religion — was the most affected but that mosques, synagogues, Protestant churches and religious schools were also destroyed.

In a map provided by the military, the destruction appears concentrated around Kiev and in the country’s east.

Bloomberg suspends operations in Russia, Belarus

Bloomberg News has said it suspended its operations in Russia and Belarus.

The financial news company said customers in both Russia and Belarus will be unable to access any of Bloomberg’s financial products including terminals, data licenses, data feeds and electronic trading platforms.

Trading functions for Russian securities were disabled in line with international sanctions, it said. Earlier, Bloomberg suspended the work of its journalists in Russia and removed Russian stocks from its global equity indexes.

Erdogan: Russia, Ukraine both have ‘legitimate concerns’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Russian and Ukrainian delegations due to resume face-to-face talks that “both parties have legitimate concerns.”

Türkiye believes a just peace has no losers, prolonged conflict not in anyone’s interest, Erdogan said. “As members of the delegations you have taken on a historic responsibility. The whole world is awaiting the good news that will come from you.”

Ankara has displayed a fair approach protecting rights, laws, sensitivities of both Russian, Ukrainian sides in all international platforms, Turkish president added.

Russia still poses significant threat to Kiev: UK

Russia poses significant threat to Kiev through their strike capability even though Ukrainian forces continue localised counter attacks to the north west of the city, British military intelligence has said.

Russian forces have maintained their offensive on Mariupol with continuous heavy shelling of the city, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement. “However the centre of the city remains under Ukrainian control.”

Elsewhere, Russian forces are maintaining blocking positions while attempting to reorganise and reset their forces, it added.

UN chief wants Ukraine humanitarian ceasefire

The United Nations chief has launched an initiative to immediately explore possible arrangements for “a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine” in order to allow the delivery of desperately needed aid and pave the way for serious political negotiations to end the month-long Russian offensive.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he asked Undersecretary-General Martin Griffiths, the head of the UN’s worldwide humanitarian operations, to explore the possibility of a ceasefire with Russia and Ukraine. He said Griffiths has already made some contacts.

Guterres told reporters he thinks “this is the moment” for the United Nations “to assume the initiative.”

Since Russia’s assault on Ukraine on February 24, he said there has been a “senseless loss of thousands of lives,” displacement of 10 million people, systematic destruction of homes, schools, hospitals and other essential infrastructure, “and skyrocketing food and energy prices worldwide.”

Russian tactics in Ukraine ‘repeat’ of Syria war

Amnesty International has slammed “war crimes” in Ukraine, as the civilian toll continues to rise after Russia’s offensive, likening the situation to the Syrian war.

“What is happening in Ukraine is a repetition of what we have seen in Syria,” Agnes Callamard, secretary general of the global rights watchdog, told AFP news agency at the launch of the rights group’s annual report on the state of human rights in the world.

“We are beyond indiscriminate attacks. We are in the midst of deliberate attacks on civilian infrastructure,” she said, accusing Russia of turning humanitarian corridors into “death traps”. “We see the same thing here, just as Russia did in Syria”. Callamard said the rights lobby group’s “observation at this point, is a rise in war crimes,” she said.

Amnesty’s director in Eastern Europe Marie Struthers concurred, telling a separate briefing in Paris that researchers in Ukraine had “documented the use of the same tactics as in Syria and Chechnya,” including attacks on civilians and the use of arms prohibited under international law. 

For live updates from Monday (March 28), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies





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