Ukraine’s First Round Of Talks With Russia Ends Without A Ceasefire Agreement
A Russian rocket artillery barrage hit the city of Kharkiv, killing dozens of its residents, while the negotiations were ongoing.
The first round of talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations near the Belarusian border has ended without any apparent movement toward a ceasefire. Fighting continued while the talks were going on, with the Russian military launching a particularly brazen rocket artillery barrage on the city of Kharkiv that caused numerous civilian causalities. This is not necessarily an auspicious start for these talks, especially when taken together with reports that President Vladimir Putin has reiterated his maximalist demands for what Ukraine has to do to end the conflict.
What follows here is the latest information on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which we will update on a rolling basis until otherwise stated as part of our ongoing coverage. You can get details about what has been happening as the conflict progresses through its fifth day here.
UPDATED: 3:30 PM EST —
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is pressing the West to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, an idea that has been floated recently. However, NATO officials, among others, have all but ruled this out. "We have no intentions of moving into Ukraine neither on the ground or in the airspace," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told MSNBC on Monday.
A no-fly explicitly requires the parties enforcing it to be prepared to shoot down hostile aircraft, as well as destroy ground-based air defenses and potentially other forces. NATO or any other foreign party imposing such a zone over Ukraine would run an extremely high risk of triggering a broader regional or even global confrontation with Russia.
Right now, according to the Pentagon, the U.S. and Russian governments do not even have a formalized deconfliction arrangement to ensure deliveries of military and other aid can proceed without incident into Ukraine.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby has warned today against making "sweeping conclusions" about the state and capacity of Russia's military, saying that "they have suffered setbacks but we shouldn't assume they will stay set back." He added that "Mr. Putin still has at his disposal significant combat power," including in the Black Sea.
New video footage has emerged that claims to show a TB2 strike on a Russian train carrying fuel for military forces in Ukraine. "Ukraine inflicting substantial damage on Russia’s supply lines with Bayraktar TB2 Turkish made unmanned combat aerial vehicles," U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who is the ranking member of his party on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has Tweeted out.
Turkey has now officially closed the two straits that link the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea to warships from any country in response to the conflict in Ukraine, citing its authorities in the Montreux Convention.
UPDATED: 2:05 PM EST —
Maxar has released additional satellite imagery from earlier today, including a shot showing destroyed vehicles on a bridge in Irpin, which lies west of Kyiv. U.S. military officials previously highlighted how Ukrainian forces have been destroying bridges, among other things, to stymie the advance of Russian units.
A video has emerged that reportedly shows a Ukrainian servicemember or member of the country's volunteer Territorial Defense Forces engaging a Russian vehicle broadcasting a propaganda message in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv. Though this video is unconfirmed, there were reported sightings of examples of the ZS-88, a rare variant of the BTR-80 wheeled armored personnel carrier fitted with speakers and other equipment for psychological warfare operations, on trains headed toward Russia's borders with Ukraine in January.
Yesterday, a video had emerged showing a reported drive-by Molotov cocktail attack on a Russian BTR-series wheeled armored vehicle by either Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force members or average civilians in the southern city of Berdyansk. A second video of that incident, which appears to have been taken inside the vehicle from which the Molotovs were thrown, has now appeared online. This reflects the kinds of resistance in Ukraine that Russian forces may increasingly face if they make greater gains in the country, something The War Zone has previously discussed.
For its part, the Russian Ministry of Defense has now released an official video, seen below, which it says shows various helicopters, including Mi-24/35 Hind and Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopters, operating in Ukraine. The clips include strike footage of what appear to be attacks on vehicles and structures.
The Pentagon says that, while it continues to take Putin's comments seriously, that it has not seen "any specific muscle movements' following the Russian President's order yesterday putting his country's strategic nuclear forces on a state of heightened alert.
Finland, which like Sweden is known for its largely neutral foreign policy, has joined with its Scanadnainv neighbor in announcing that it will be sending weapons and other military aid to Finland. These shipments will include unguided anti-tank rocket launchers and assault rifles, as well as ammunition for the latter. Support for joining NATO is also surging in both countries.
The Scandinavian country of Norway has followed many of its fellow NATO in pledging to send military aid to Ukraine.
Shell has now joined BP in severing ties with Russian energy companies as sanctions and other pressure mounts. Other foreign energy and other large global industrial concerns with major ties to entities in Russia could follow suit.
Poland's Foreign Minister says his country will support Ukraine's bid to join the European Union.
UPDATED: 1:10 PM EST —
Almost immediately following reports that talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials had ended, separate reports of new missile and/or air strikes against targets near Kyiv began to appear. There are unconfirmed reports that at least one missile targeted an air defense command and control facility.
Satellite imagery from commercial provider Maxar from earlier in the day shows a massive Russian convoy, spread out across approximately 17 miles, north Kyiv. A total curfew is now indefinitely in place in Ukraine's capital from 7 PM to 8 AM.
The Russian government claims to have captured the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which lies around 100 miles northeast of Crimea. Zaporizhzhia is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and one of the top 10 largest such facilities in the world.
The Ukrainian military has put civilian casualty figures. A total of 352 civilians, including 14 children, have died in the fighting so far, according to the official statement.
The impacts on average Russians of crippling international sanctions are beginning to become apparent. The Moscow Metro system is reportedly no longer accepting Apple Pay or Google Pay, forcing riders to scramble to find cash to pay for fares.
POSTED: 12:30 PM EST —
Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti has reported that both sides in today's talks did identify key areas for continuing negotiations and laid out potential ways to resolve those issues. In addition, the two sides have agreed, at least in principle, to a second round of talks at an underdetermined point in the future. However, the delegations did not agree to any sort of immediate ceasefire, as many had hoped might come from this meeting. The Associated Press has reported similar details about the outcome of these talks, or lack thereof, coming from the Ukrainian side.
It had earlier been reported that Ukrainian officials had demanded that all Russian forces withdraw from all parts of the country, including the long-occupied Crimean peninsula and breakaway areas of the eastern Donbas region, as part of any ceasefire plan, citing comments from the deputy head of Ukraine’s Presidential Office, Oleksii Arestovich. However, Arestovich later clarified that these were his personal opinions. Putin has consistently said that the government in Kyiv would have to agree to cede Crimea and recognize the two portions of Donbas as independent countries, as the Kremlin has already done, among other things, in order to bring the conflict to an end. He reiterated these very stipulations to French President Emmanuel Macron in a call today.
Videos and pictures continue to emerge showing the Russian military's rocket artillery strikes on the city of Kharkiv earlier today and their aftermath. There are strong indications that at least some of those were 300mm types with cluster munition warheads fired by BM-30 Smerch launchers.
There is separate evidence that Russian strikes on Kharkiv have involved aircraft dropping unguided bombs, another largely indiscriminate form of attack.
A U.S. defense official has now said that the Russian military's current plan appears to be to encircle Kharkiv and adopt siege tactics against the city until it capitulates. They added that this, coupled with efforts in the south to create a landbridge between occupied Crimea and the Donbas, could be part of a wider effort to take control of a larger section of eastern Ukraine.
Experts and observers have pointed out that the indiscriminate use of unguided weapons in Kharkiv, an urban area full of civilians, could well constitute war crimes, and this adds to already growing reports of Russian forces carrying out attacks without regard for innocent bystanders. It has also been pointed out that Kharkiv has long been a very Russian-friendly city in Ukraine with a significant population of both Russian-speaking Ukrainians and ethnic Russians, exactly the people the Kremlin claims to be protecting with its invasion of Ukraine.
The scenes from Kharkiv are certain to further inflame much of the Ukrainian population at large. There have already been scenes of open defiance to Russian occupiers by average Ukrainians in various areas of the country, including today in the southern city of Berdyansk. There has been a steady stream of stories of individuals from all walks of life who have taken up arms or are otherwise planning to resist as part of Ukraine's growing volunteer reserves. The government in Kyiv is also welcoming in foreigners who want to help in the country's defense, saying that it has established a special unit with its volunteer Territorial Defense Forces to help organize these individuals.
Though there have been many reports in recent days that Russian forces have seen their advances slowed for a variety of reasons, including logistical issues, they have continued to push into Ukraine and fighting is ongoing across the country. A senior U.S. defense official said today that many Russian units appear to be running out of gas, but what is unclear is if they are actually outrunning their supply lines or if there are other factors at play. Ukraine's Defense Ministry said earlier today that Russian forces were attempting to resupply.
Separately the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that the Kremlin was attempting to use heavy bomber sorties to somehow block the growing flow of weapons and military aid from the country's international partners, especially those in Europe. American officials say they have not seen Russia make any attempts to hamper these shipments, which continue to flow to Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials added that Russian forces were still trying to neutralize the country's airbases using stand-off missile strikes. The Pentagon has since said that the Russian military still has yet to achieve air superiority in Ukraine, despite having now fired more than 380 ballistic and cruise missiles at targets inside the country.
The ability of Ukrainian aircraft to continue flying means that they can challenge Russian planes and helicopters, provide close air support, and seek to strike other targets, including convoys carrying critical supplies. Pictures and videos are increasingly emerging that reportedly show strike footage from Ukraine's Turkish-made TB2 armed drones as they destroy various targets, including mobile surface-to-air missile systems and supply trucks.
The European Union appears to have walked back statements from a senior official yesterday that said the bloc was actively working to facilitate the transfer of unspecified fighter jets to Ukraine, something you can read more about here. Any such aircraft would help Ukraine ensure that the skies over the country remain at least contested. A spokesperson for the organization has now said that Ukraine made such a request, but that it has not been approved yet. Poland and Bulgaria, two countries that seemed to be best positioned to send aircraft to Ukraine, have reportedly declined to do so.
U.S. officials continue to assess that the Russian military has been "frustrated" in efforts to achieve its goals on its set timetable, especially around Kyiv, and that the Kremlin has now deployed three-quarters of the troops it had arrayed around Ukraine in recent months prior to the invasion. Independently verifiable figures remain difficult to obtain, but there have clearly been not-insignificant losses on both sides so far. Ukraine claims to have killed 5,300 Russian troops so far and to have destroyed dozens of aircraft and armored vehicles.
There have been reports that additional Belarusian forces are now preparing to join the invasion in Ukraine, but the Pentagon says it has seen no indications of this so far. U.S. defense officials also say that can't confirm the deployment of units from the semi-autonomous Russian republic of Chechnya, despite its leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, publicly announcing plans to do so and pictures and video showing some of its forces already on the ground.
In the meantime, members of the international community continue to work to isolate Russia economically and politically. Various countries, including the United States, announced expanded sanctions targeting Russia's access to various international banking sectors today. Ukrainian President Zelensky has now also appealed to join the European Union as soon as possible, perhaps through some unique mechanism given the country's circumstances.
We will continue to update this post as more information comes available.
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