Russian Officials “Live In Their Own Reality,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Says After Failed Talks
Top Ukrainian and Russian diplomats met for the first time today over the conflict, which is now in its third week with no signs of abatement.
Despite Russian forces making slower than expected advances and having suffered significant losses, both in personnel and materiel, along with crippling international sanctions, the Kremlin seems determined to push ahead with its war in Ukraine. In turn, there are growing concerns that Russia's military will only step up the brutality of its operations, especially the bombardment of encircled cities, to try to achieve its goals, in spite of increasing international condemnation. Just today, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Dmytro Kuleba said that top Russian officials appeared to "live in their own reality" after talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, which failed to produce any meaningful movement toward a diplomatic resolution to the conflict.
Readers can first bring themselves fully up to speed on the conflict in Ukraine, which has now entered its third week, with our previous rolling coverage here. Now let's move on to the latest news.
POSTED: 12:20 PM EST—
Kuleba and Lavrov met today, as had been planned, in the Turkish resort city of Antalya on the Mediterranean Sea. Turkish authorities described the meeting as civil, but both sides came away making clear that no substantial agreements had been reached. This was the highest-level meeting between representatives of the two countries' governments since the conflict began on February 24.
At a press conference following the talks, Kubla described them as "both easy and difficult,” easy because Lavrov simply reiterated Russia's long-standing positions and assertions, and difficult because there seemed to be no real room to negotiate. The Ukrainian Foreign Minister made similar comments in subsequent interviews and in a post on Twitter.
"Russia is not in a position at this point to establish a cease-fire. They seek a surrender from Ukraine," he said. "This is not what they're going to get. Ukraine is strong, Ukraine is fighting."
At a separate press conference, Lavrov more or less confirmed Kubela's comments, stressing that his country's core goal remained a "friendly, demilitarized Ukraine" that would not present any threats to Russia. He also disputed that Russian forces had struck a children's hospital in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. He claimed, despite the clear evidence to the contrary and without providing any of his own, that it was not in use as a medical facility at the time and had instead been turned into a fighting position. Russia's Foreign Ministry is now actively pushing this entirely unsupported narrative amid mounting accusations that the strike qualifies as a war crime. The United Nations has now assessed that more than 1,500 civilians have died or been wounded across Ukraine in the fighting so far, mostly from Russian artillery and air strikes.
Beyond that, Russia's top diplomat repeated a wholly unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine provoked the current conflict and that Russia had not attacked first. There were a number of purported provocations in the lead-up to the invasion, many of which were quickly debunked.
This is, of course, all in line with an established playbook that Russia has utilized on multiple occasions in the past in response to criticism and condemnation over its participation in certain international conflicts and other malign activities. It is one that the U.S. government, among others, had warned the Kremlin would employ even prior to the invasion of Ukraine.
What's more interesting is that Ukraine's Kuleba said that Lavrov made all of the same claims behind closed doors without the press being present.
“Unfortunately, I can confirm that the Russian leadership, including Minister Lavrov, live in their own reality,” he said in a subsequent interview with CNBC. “In our talks, behind closed doors and in the absence of the media, he told me looking in my eyes that the pictures of pregnant women being taken from under the rubble of the maternity house are fake, that they hit the maternity house as a military target because the Russian military was absolutely sure that it was under the control of Ukrainian army."
Kuleba added that it seemed as if Lavrov did “not have a sufficient amount of authority to make any deals today.” The Ukrainian Foreign Minister said he had hoped to secure a 24-hour ceasefire and real guarantees regarding the establishment of a humanitarian corridor for civilians in Mariupol to evacuate through.
Ukrainian authorities say that it remains effectively impossible for non-combatants to escape that city, which continues to be subjected to heavy air and artillery strikes. Evacuations from other cities in areas where fighting has become particularly severe are ongoing.
Both sides have, in principle, left open the possibility of further talks. Lavrov also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had not explicitly rejected appeals from Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky for a face-to-face meeting.
Kuleba and Lavrov also met separately with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over issues and concerns relating to the continued operation of nuclear sites in Ukraine. Ukraine is home to a substantial amount of nuclear infrastructure, including the site of the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the latter of which is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
A video shot by a drone, which reportedly shows Russian armor bunched up and being ambushed in the city of Brovary northeast of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, has emerged online. The exact circumstances behind what is seen in the video and when it was shot remain unconfirmed.
A new video has emerged reportedly showing a strike by one of Ukraine's Turkish-made TB2 armed drones against a Russian Buk-series surface-to-air missile system.
The video below reportedly shows a Russian warship off the coast of Ukraine's Black Sea port city of Odesa firing a missile.
In the face of repeated reports that Russian forces are suffering from significant logistical issues, the Russian Ministry of Defense has released the video below that it claims shows field kitchen and refueling operations in support of forces in Ukraine.
The Japanese government is sending helmets and bullet-proof vests to Ukraine, adding to the stream of foreign military and other assistance heading to the country.
In the face of massive international sanctions, Russia's Finance Minister Anton Siluanov says the country will tap into its gold and foreign exchange reserves to service its sovereign foreign debt. However, those payments will be made in rubles, the value of which has been collapsing, rather than foreign currency.
The Ukrainian government has passed a law that allows for the seizure of property from Russian government entities and Russian nationals in Ukraine without compensation.
We will continue to update this post with new information until we state otherwise.
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