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Russian forces keep advancing amid more sanctions; over 2.2M leaves Ukraine


MOSCOW/NEW YORK/LONDON – Western powers and peacekeepers doing every effort for peace and harmony as the continued Russia-Ukraine war causing grave concerns and increasing uncertainties in a world that has already been ravaged by two years by the Covid-19 pandemic and the nonstop of a war pushing more people die and suffer.

The world leaders despite having frequent meetings to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict are adding fuel to the fire by imposing economic sanctions on Russia including its oligarchs and firms. Number of leading companies severed trade with Russia. What seems to be certain, though, is that neither war nor harsh economic sanctions will lead to a lasting solution to the current crisis. A diplomatic solution is the only way out.

Moscow accuses Washington of “declaring economic war as the United States bans Russian oil imports, “cutting the main artery” of Russia’s economy, with Britain saying it will do the same by the end of this year, and the European Union slashing gas imports by two-thirds agreed to add more Russian oligarchs to the sanctions blacklist, and to cut three Belarusian banks from the global SWIFT payments system. A corporate boycott grew too, with Dutch brewery Heineken and Universal Music joining McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Starbucks among the big brands to suspend business in Russia.

Moreover targeting more oligarchs EU adds 14 more Kremlin-linked Russian oligarchs and more than 146 senators to its sanctions blacklist, tightens controls on cryptocurrency transfers and targets Russia’s maritime sector over the war in Ukraine. Britain impounds a private jet reportedly linked to Russian oligarch Eugene Shvidler.

Ratings agency Fitch downgrades Russia’s sovereign debt rating again, saying a default is “imminent”. Like other major ratings agencies, Fitch had already slashed Russia’s rating earlier this month to “junk” status, or the category of countries at risk of not being able to repay their debt.


As the crisis worsens in Ukraine, humanitarian and security aid is flowing into the country, but financial support to keep the government running also is critical. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) board recently approved a $1.4 billion emergency package for Kyiv, which it said would provide “critical financial support” needed to “mitigate the economic impacts of the war.” There are reports that US lawmakers pass a $14-billion aid package for Ukraine with Canada pledging more military equipment.

There are also reports that Spain is well placed to help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian gas imports with its undersea pipeline links to Algeria and vast network of liquified natural gas terminals. But this option would require massive investment to create pipelines to take gas from Spain to other European countries. The European Commission set a target earlier to cut the EU’s Russian gas imports by two thirds by the end of the year.

Russia on Thursday accused the United States of funding research into the development of biological weapons in Ukraine, as Moscow stepped up its campaign to gain control of key Ukrainian cities.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a televised briefing that “the purpose of this — and other Pentagon-funded biological research in Ukraine — was to establish a mechanism for the stealthy spread of deadly pathogens.”

Washington rejects Russian claims it is involved in bioweapons research in Ukraine, and warns Russia could be preparing to use chemical or biological weapons in the war.

According to latest reports, power is entirely cut to the Chernobyl power plant, site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986. The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, warns that the plant, now in Russian hands, is no longer transmitting data but says it sees no “critical impact on safety”.


US intelligence chiefs say Russian President Vladimir Putin is “angry and frustrated”, warning he is likely to “double down and try to grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties.” The Pentagon says it estimates between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the nearly two-week-old invasion. Russia admitted to 498 killed on March 2.

Russian army admitted for the first time that conscripts were taking part in Moscow’s military advance in Ukraine, after President Vladimir Putin vowed only professional soldiers were there.

Since Moscow poured in troops to Ukraine on February 24th, there have been widespread reports of young conscripts fighting in the pro-Western country, with mothers of conscripts taking to social media to look for their sons and rights groups saying they were inundated with calls from conscripts’ families.

Also Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz discussed diplomatic ways to settle the Ukraine conflict and the implementation of humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians, the Kremlin said.

“In the context of the developing situation around a special military operation to protect Donbas, various political and diplomatic efforts have been discussed, in particular a third round of talks between a Russian delegation and representatives of the Kyiv authorities,” the Kremlin said in a statement, referring to eastern Ukraine.

The Pentagon rejects a Polish offer to deliver its Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets to a US base in Germany, to be eventually handed over to Ukraine, fearing a wider conflict with Moscow. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky pleads, “Look, we’re at war! Send us the planes.”



Huge influx

The UN says at least 2.2 million people have fled Ukraine, with more than half now in Poland. It has called the exodus Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II.

Moscow and Kyiv agree a 12-hour ceasefire to allow civilians to flee five badly battered areas including around Kyiv, with 5,000 making it out of Sumy near the Russian border.

Others hope to escape what the Red Cross calls the “apocalyptic” situation in the besieged southern port of Mariupol, which has been without water and power for nine days.

Russia and Ukraine agreed to open more humanitarian corridors to evacuate terrified civilians from bombarded cities, while new concerns emerged over the Chernobyl nuclear plant after a power cut.


Moscow had vowed to respect a 12-hour truce starting at 9:00 am to allow civilians to flee six areas that have been heavily hit by fighting, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

For the first time the corridors included Irpin, Bucha and Gostomel, a cluster of towns on the northwestern outskirts of Kyiv that have been largely occupied by Russian forces.


Latest developments

Fears are mounting that Kyiv will be encircled, with AFP seeing Russian troops pressing closer to the capital. Here are the latest developments:

Ukraine accuses Russia of a “war crime” over a devastating attack on a children’s hospital in besieged Mariupol, with Washington branding the bombing “barbaric”. At least 17 staff are injured with footage showing the wounded streaming from the destroyed building past burning cars and a giant crater. Earlier at least 10 people are killed as Russian military “opened fire” on homes and other buildings in the eastern Ukrainian town of Severodonetsk, a local official says.


Some 1,207 civilians have been killed in the 10-day Russian siege of the port, its mayor says. The Red Cross calls the situation there “apocalyptic” after more than a week without water, power or heat. Safe routes out have repeatedly come under attack.

Some 35,000 civilians are evacuated from other Ukrainian cities during a 12-hour ceasefire, with President Volodymyr Zelensky hoping three more corridors will open Thursday for Mariupol, Volnovakha and Izium.

Two women and a 13-year-old boy are killed overnight in the bombing of Velyka Pysarivka village near the badly hit northern city of Sumy close to the Russian border.

The United States deploys two new Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries in Poland to protect its frontline NATO ally.

Fearing a wider conflict, the Pentagon definitively rejects a Polish offer to give its Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss calls on the G7 to ban Russian oil imports, after the US and Britain said they were “cutting the artery” of the Russian economy. But fellow G7 members France, Germany, Italy and Japan are wary of such a move.


The UN’s atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, says it is not receiving updates from either Chernobyl or Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plants, both of which are now in Russian hands. But it says there is “no critical impact on safety” at Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986, from a loss of power there.

With input from AFP and China Daily


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