Polish Black Hawk Helicopter Brings Ukrainians To Talks With The Russians

The meeting is the second of its kind along Ukraine’s border with Belarus with the stakes only increasing as Russia takes more territory.

byMar 3, 2022 12:21 PM
Polish Black Hawk Helicopter Brings Ukrainians To Talks With The Russians
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Ukrainian and Russian forces have continued to engage each other across multiple fronts as the eighth day of the Kremlin's invasion winds on. At the same time, diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict, or at least get the parties to agree to a ceasefire, have been ongoing. Unfortunately, there are growing signs that any such deal is unlikely to come quickly. Our latest news on the conflict can be found below, but you can get fully up to speed on how the situation has continued to unfold in our preceding rolling coverage here.

The Latest:

UPDATE—

We have concluded our updates to this story and are continuing our rolling coverage of the conflict in Ukraine here.

POSTED: 1:10 PM EST—

The second round of talks between Ukrainian and Russian representatives in Belarus is now over. The two sides say have agreed to a plan to establish humanitarian corridors through which aid can flow and to help civilians evacuate areas of heavy fighting. Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to President Zelensky said that "unfortunately, we still don't have the results Ukraine needs" after the meeting, which did not produce a general ceasefire or any apparent movement toward a broader settlement of the conflict.

Video also shows that two Polish Black Hawks flew the Ukrainian delegation to Belarus, not one.

While the talks were happening, Putin addressed his country, saying that "I will never abandon my conviction that Russians and Ukrainians are one people." He also blamed Ukraine, without providing any evidence, of using civilians and foreigners as "human shields" in apparent response to growing criticism and outrage over indiscriminate Russian attacks on cities in the country.

Putin, who insisted that the invasion is going according to plan, despite the evidence to the contrary, separately lauded the efforts of Russian forces in Ukraine and said that families of personnel who die in the fighting will receive composition in the amount of 7 million rubles. At the current official rate of exchange, that amounts to around $65,000, but the value of Russia's currency has been plummeting amid growing sanctions.

Zelensky has now challenged Putin to meet him directly. The Ukrainian president also made a quip about the Russian leader's recent and unexplained penchant for using very long tables and sitting far away from foreign and domestic officials during recent meetings. 

In the meantime, new pictures and video showing Ukrainian forces burning four Tunguska mobile air defense systems has emerged online. This represents the loss of important short-range air defense capability for Russian units and the vehicles also appear to have been abandoned, pointing to reported logistical problems. 

Another video has appeared on social media showing volunteer Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces personnel destroying an abandoned Russian truck full of ammunition with a rocket-propelled grenade.

Ukraine's state-run defense conglomerate Ukroboronprom says that some of its subsidiaries are now working to restore captured Russian vehicles and other weaponry to working order for re-use by the country's own forces.

POSTED: 12:20 PM EST—

A Polish Black Hawk helicopter has brought the Ukrainian delegation to the second round of talks with Russian representatives in Belarus, near the Ukrainian border. The helicopter does not have any clearly visible national insignia but does have a paint scheme and visible number on the tail boom that match up with an S-70i variant known to be in service with the Polish military's special operations community. 

It's not immediately clear exactly how or why the Ukrainians arranged this flight. A Belarusian helicopter had flown to the first round of talks last week. It is certainly possible that the Ukrainians demanded that a third party provide this support in order to ensure the safety of their negotiators. Ukrainian authorities claimed earlier this week to have foiled an assassination plot against President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Online flight tracking software had picked up Black Hawks flying near the Polish-Ukrainian border earlier, but these appear to be U.S. Army helicopters that have been seen flying in the same general area over the past few days. It's unclear if any of that activity is related to preparations for these talks. The U.S. State Department had previously announced plans to regularly shuttle diplomatic personnel between the Ukrainian city of Lviv and a site in Poland for security reasons even before Russia launched its invasion.

Regardless, what may come of today's talks between the Ukrainian and Russian governments, which have now started, very much remains to be seen. There have been reports earlier that Ukrainian representatives were seeking to at least secure an agreement on a corridor through which humanitarian aid could flow into the country.

The start of these talks follows a call earlier today between Russian President Vladimir Putin and France's Emmanuel Macron. An aide to Macron said that the call, which Putin initiated, left his French counterpart extremely concerned that "worse is to come" in the conflict and that the Russian president is intent on capturing all of Ukraine.

Fighting is certainly ongoing across the country amid these talks. The city of Chernihiv has been subjected to a particularly significant bombardment by Russian forces today.

A senior U.S. defense official said earlier that Ukraine's capital Kyiv and the eastern city of Kharkiv continue to be bombarded by Russian forces, but a convoy to the north of the former remains "stalled." They said that the southern port city of Mariupol is still in Ukrainian control and could not confirm or deny the capture of Kherson.

The same senior U.S. defense official confirmed indications that Russian forces appeared to be moving into position for a push against the port city of Odesa on the Black Sea. The conflict has made that body of water hazardous to commercial ships, with Estonian-owned, Panama-flagged cargo ship MV Helt sinking today after an explosion, which may have been caused by a mine. One of its crew died in the incident and four more are missing.

Overall, the Russian military has now committed approximately 90 percent of the forces it had arrayed around Ukraine prior to the invasion and has fired 480 ballistic and cruise missiles at targets in the country, according to the Pentagon. However, those latter strikes have still failed to neutralize Ukrainian air and missile defense capabilities or helped Russian forces secure air superiority. A video had appeared earlier showing Ukrainian aircraft conducting strikes on Russian targets.

There are no indications that Russia has deployed any significant number of additional personnel to join the invasion force beyond what had already been amassed, or the involvement of Belursian forces, according to the U.S. military. At the same time, a senior U.S. defense official admitted today that cloud cover in the region had limited the ability by "overhead" intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems to gather information about the situation.

A picture reportedly showing part of a Russian 3M14 Kalibr cruise missile that was shot down by Ukrainian air defenses has emerged online.

Additional evidence continues to emerge online indicating that losses and supply chain issues have had serious negative impacts on the morale of Russian troops in Ukraine. In addition, there are signs that Russia may have taken or is seeking to take steps to conceal how many personnel have actually deployed in support of the invasion, possibly to conceal casualties or otherwise obscure the exact nature of the "special military operation." There have been steady reports of how insulated Putin kept planning for this conflict, which appears to have then come as a surprise even to many relatively senior government officials and lawmakers.

Imagery of average Ukrainians towing away Russian military vehicles continues to appear online. One video that emerged today shows a tractor pulling a UR-77 engineering vehicle capable of firing a mine-clearing line charge (MICLIC). The system has also been used in the past to attack structures in urban settings, including in Syria.

Bloomberg has reported that Russia's Federal Security Service, better known by the acronym FSB, has drafted plans for public executions and the violent suppression of protests and other civil disobedience in Ukraine. While this remains largely unconfirmed, it is in line with previous reports that the U.S. Intelligence Community had information indicating that the Kremlin had prepared a list of notable Ukrainians who would be killed or detained en masse as part of the ongoing "special military operation."

A group of Russian lawmakers has proposed legislation that would automatically force anyone arrested for protesting the invasion of Ukraine into the country's military and then have them sent to the front. It is important to note that this draft law has not been passed yet and was proposed by members of a minority political party. At the same time, the resolution that pressed Putin to recognize two breakaway regions of Ukraine as independent countries, a decision that subsequently laid the foundation for the current conflict, was initially put forward by a political party that is not part of the ruling coalition.

We have concluded our updates to this story and are continuing our rolling coverage of the conflict in Ukraine here.

Contact the author: joe@thedrive.com

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