Kremlin dismisses talk of progress in peace talks
No progress in peace talks -Kremlin: Russia has thrown into doubt recent optimism surrounding the ongoing peace talks to end the war in Ukraine, with the Kremlin yesterday saying that negotiations have not made significant progress, according to Reuters. Several senior Turkish figures said at the weekend that the two sides are close to agreeing on most of the major issues. But Kremlin spokesperson Dmity Peskov has played down the chances of agreement, telling reporters yesterday that “there has been no significant progress so far.”
Another potential obstacle to an agreement: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said yesterday that any peace agreement will need to be voted on by the Ukrainian people in a referendum, according to Reuters. Should the vote go ahead, people could be asked to vote on the key areas of dispute between the two nations, including Ukraine’s aspirations to join Nato and the future status of Crimea and the Donbas.
Russia tells US relations “on the verge of rupture” over Biden war criminal comment: Russia summoned the US ambassador in Moscow yesterday to tell him that President Joe Biden’s description of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal” last week had pushed the bilateral relationship to breaking point, the Russian Foreign Ministry said yesterday.
ON THE GROUND-
Conditions are worsening in Mariupol — but surrender is still a no-go: Mariupol rejected yesterday Russia’s demands that its forces lay down their arms, in exchange for allowing food, medicine, and other humanitarian aid to enter the city, Bloomberg reported. The Russian ultimatum had also promised a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians, but these were shut down after Moscow’s demands were rejected. Conditions in the city are now “very difficult,” with food and medicine in short supply and frequent power outages, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, according to Reuters.
Ukraine could lose USD 6 bn in grain revenues as Russia continues to blockade its Black Sea ports, a senior industry figure told Reuters. Around 100 vessels carrying tonnes of wheat and corn are currently stranded in the country's ports, according to maritime officials.
Russia has banned Facebook and Instagram for encouraging “extremist” activities, in the first use of the country’s draconian law targeting “extremism” against a foreign tech company, Bloomberg reported. Regulators had already blocked access to the two Meta-owned social media platforms earlier this month.