EU leaders urge Russia to guarantee corridors
EU leaders have asked Russia to “fully respect its obligations under international humanitarian law. Moscow must guarantee safe and unhindered humanitarian access to victims and internally-displaced persons in Ukraine and allow safe passage for civilians who want to leave”. This is stated in the declaration issued at the end of day 1 of the Versailles summit, which also requires the Kremlin “the safety and protection of Ukrainian nuclear plants, guaranteed with the assistance of the International Atomic Energy Agency. We also ask Russia to cease its military action and withdraw all military forces and equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine immediately and unconditionally. “
‘No fast-track EU membership for Ukraine’
The EU cannot fast-track Ukraine’s membership application. “There is no such thing as a fast track,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said upon arrival to the EU summit at France’s Versailles Palace. Ukraine was hoping to join the EU as soon as possible amid Russia’s invasion. Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia all applied to be part of the EU last week. The situation in Ukraine and international issues related to the conflict are on the table of the Versailles summit. Observers said EU leaders are also divided over a new Recovery to face the effects of the war and the ban on imports of Russian gas, oil and coal. The summit ends this afternoon.
Russia asks for UN Security Council meeting over ‘bio-labs’
Russia has claimed the United States was conducting biological weapons research in ‘bio-labs’ across war-torn Ukraine – assertions that leaders in Washington and Kyiv have called “absurd”. Russian diplomat Dmitry Polyanski has requested the UN Security Council to discuss the alleged research at a meeting today. Russia’s Defence Ministry claims the US spent $200 million on Ukrainian labs for a purported “bio-weapons programme”. Russia claims its troops uncovered evidence during Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which he calls a special military operation. “This is exactly the kind of false flag effort we have warned Russia might initiate to justify a biological or chemical weapons attack,” Olivia Dalton, a spokesperson for the US Mission to the UN, told Fox News.
China: ‘Very worried, avoid escalation’
China “is deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine and hopes that peace can return as soon as possible”. Speaking at the final media conference of the annual session of parliament, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that Beijing “will work with the international community to avoid further escalation. We support normal cooperation with all parties on the basis of mutual respect and win-win relations. “
Putin ‘failed to divide us’ but is to blame for gas hike – Biden
US President Joe Biden said Thursday that the US was taking steps to ease what he called “Putin’s price hike at the pump” and said the country stood united against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He told supporters in a speech at the Democratic National Convention Winter Meeting that Russian President Vladimir Putin miscalculated how much international resistance his invasion would face. “Putin failed to divide us … Putin was counting on a divided NATO, a divided West and quite frankly a divided America – but he got none of that,” Biden told the cheering crowd. “In fact, he’s now facing a more united, energised, resolute NATO and the West than he ever imagined,” Biden said.
Putin calls sanctions ‘illegitimate’
President Vladimir Putin has told a government meeting that Russia was adhering to its obligations on energy supplies after the US banned Russian oil imports. Putin said Western sanctions against Russia were not legitimate, and Western governments were deceiving their own people. Russia would calmly solve its problems, he said. Speaking at the same meeting, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Russia had taken measures to limit outflow of capital and that the country would service its external debts in roubles.
Schroeder in Moscow to meet Putin
‘Politico’ reports former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is in Moscow to meet President Putin. According to ‘Bild’, neither the German government nor the SPD knew about this meeting. The visit comes after talks in Istanbul with a Ukrainian politician who is a member of the country’s delegation for peace talks with Russia, the sources told Politico.
Russian forces 3 miles closer to Kyiv
Russian forces have moved three miles closer to Kyiv, despite Ukrainians fighting back “very, very well” around the capital city, a US defence official told CNN. The official said it was “very difficult to predict with any certainty how long it was going to take the Russians to move closer to the city, and eventually to get in there.
Russian military train spotted in Kherson region
A Russian armoured military train has been spotted on a rail line in the southern Kherson region in the last 24 hours. The footage, verified by CNN, shows a number of gun cars, armoured train engines, and at least one bulldozer moving west. The train was spotted approximately 160 km away from a separate armoured miltiary train that was seen headed towards Melitopol. Russian forces seized control of Kherson last week.
1,207 bodies removed from streets of Mariupol
The bodies of 1,207 dead Ukrainians have been collected from the streets of Mariupol, Deputy Mayor Serhiy Orlov told the BBC, saying officials did not know how many have been killed in the city in total. Mariupol, a southern city on the coast of the Sea of Azov, has been under Russian siege for days, with no access to water or food supplies. The city’s morgues have become full, and officials began Wednesday to bury the dead in mass graves.
Red Cross: situation in Mariupol is ‘increasingly dire’
Mariupol residents are in an “increasingly dire and desperate” situation, with hundreds of thousands of people lacking food, water, heat, electricity, and medical care, the International Committee of the Red Cross has. “Many people in Mariupol have reported having no food for children,” Red cross official Sasha Volkov said. “People started to attack each other for food. People started to ruin someone’s car to take the gasoline out. All the shops and pharmacies were looted four to five days ago.”
Road signs at Russian embassies get Ukraine make-over
In the United States, Lithuania and beyond, streets close to Russian embassies are beginning to look a little different following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A mock road sign paying tribute to Ukrainian President Zelensky sprang up outside the Russian embassy in D.C. on Wisconsin Avenue on Sunday, with activist Claude Taylor telling HuffPost that the temporary sign was erected as a “small symbolic act” to show solidarity with Ukraine. While the D.C. “road sign” was a symbolic act by protesters, some European countries are officially changing the current addresses of Russian embassies on their turf. In Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, the Russian embassy can now be found on “Ukrainian Heroes’ Street”. In Latvia, the road leading directly to the Russian embassy has been officially renamed “Independent Ukraine Street”. In Scotland, Alex Cole-Hamilton, who leads the Scottish Liberal Democrats, wants Melville Street in Edinburgh renamed “Zelensky Street” while in London’s Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, campaigners want the street where the Russian Embassy is located to be called “Zelensky Avenue”. And it’s not just street names around the world that are undergoing temporary and permanent makeovers. A popular bar on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, where many Russians and tourists drink, recently rebranded, changing its name from “Putin’s Pub” to just “Pub.” On social media, many applauded the pub’s decision to rebrand, with many united in their hope that the owners would heed their new name suggestion: “Zelensky Pub”.