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Ukraine Crisis

Zelensky to Russia: hold peace talks or suffer for generations



Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Saturday (March 19) for comprehensive peace talks with Moscow to stop its invasion of Ukraine, saying it would otherwise take Russia “several generations” to recover from its losses in the war.

Now is the time for meaningful talks. That was the message from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to Moscow on Saturday (March 19) as he called on Russia to stop its invasion.

This is the only chance for Russia to reduce harm from its mistakes, he said.

Adding that it would otherwise take Russia “several generations” to recover from the war.

Since President Vladimir Putin launched the assault on February 24, Russian forces have taken heavy losses and their advance has largely stalled.

But they have laid siege to cities, blasting urban areas to rubble.

And in recent days have intensified missile attacks on scattered targets in western Ukraine, away from the main battlefields in the north and east of the country.

The port city of Mariupol has been hit particularly hard.

Officials there say fighting has reached the city center and that heavy shelling has prevented humanitarian aid from getting in.

In cars with smashed windows, held together by tape, these evacuees managed to escape the besieged city, arriving in Zaporizhzhia.

”There is no Mariupol,” this lady says, adding she had sat in a cellar for 10 days with no water or electricity.

“Our homes are destroyed. Bombs landed in the yards, and in every flat the windows were blown out. So we took our parrot, the dog, and together with the whole family we got in the car and drove. There were lots of people dying on the streets, dead bodies were lying on the streets.”

Efforts to evacuate civilians were also underway in the eastern region of Luhansk, its governor said on Saturday.

“A ‘regime of silence’ has been agreed for March 19”, Serhiy Gaidai said in a message on Telegram, adding a humanitarian corridor had been opened.

Luhansk lies in Ukraine’s coal-rich Donbass region that has been partly controlled by Russia-backed separatists since 2014.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Saturday it had used hypersonic missiles to destroy a large weapons depot in Ukraine’s western Ivano-Frankivsk region.

Missiles also destroyed Ukrainian military radio and reconnaissance centers near the port of Odessa, the Interfax news agency quoted the ministry as saying.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports.

Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine “a special operation” to “demilitarize” and “de-Nazify” its southern neighbor.

Kyiv and Moscow reported some progress in talks this week towards a political formula that would guarantee Ukraine’s security, while keeping it outside NATO — one of Russia’s main demands.

Though each side has accused the other of dragging out the talks.

Louisa Naks reports via our partners at Reuters

Ukraine Crisis

Zelensky’s hometown in Russian crosshairs



Ukraine said on Wednesday that Russia might be building a strike force to target Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy’s hometown

Ukraine has warned that Moscow could be preparing new offensive operations in southern Ukraine.

Russia occupies broad stretches of Ukrainian territory in the south of the country,

Much of which Russia captured early on in the war after it launched its February 24 invasion.

Ukraine has also said that Russia has begun to assemble a military strike force – and may be aiming for Kryvyi Rih – the hometown of the Ukrainian president.

“It’s also quite likely that the enemy is preparing a hostile counter-offensive with the subsequent plan of getting to the administrative boundary of Kherson region”

Ukraine southern military command

However, Ukraine has also said it was to mount a counter-offensive to regions of Ukraine that Russia currently holds.

Kryvyi Rih is a steel-producing town around 50km (30 miles) from the southern frontline of the war.

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Ukraine Crisis

Grain vessel allowed to leave Ukraine waters



A cargo vessel carrying grain for export has been permitted to leave Ukrainian waters via the Black Sea in a rare Russia-Ukraine agreement

The vessel, named “Razoni” under a Sierra-Leone registration left the port of Odesa bound for Lebanon, carrying 26,000 tonnes of grain on board.

It’s the first cargo vessel that’s been permitted to carry cargo on the Black Sea following an export agreement between Ukraine and Russia that was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations.

Russia and Ukraine account for a third of the world’s global wheat supply between them.

But Russian blockades of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast as well as the ongoing war have meant exports have plummeted – leading many nations to worry over interrupted food supplies.

Crew aboard the vessel spoke of their concerns about sea mines.

“To be honest, I am scared from the fact that there are naval mines. This is the only thing that I fear during this trip, as for the other things, we are used to them as sailors.”

Abdullah jendi, junior engineer aboard razoni

But they also spoke of their joy at being allowed to sail through.
Junior engineer Abdullah Jendi said it was a great feeling.

“Everyone on the ship was very happy,” he said. “I can say that it was the best feeling we have had in 2022.”

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Ukraine Crisis

Russia cuts down European gas supply



Russia cuts gas capacity to Europe to a fifth of normal supplies, sending prices soaring and EU nations agreeing to voluntary rationing

Russia has cut down supplies of gas via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany to a fifth of its usual capacity.

Gazprom, Russia’s state run energy and gas firm, has blamed the current reduction on a turbine that was undergoing repairs in Canada.

But the German government has said there’s no technical reason for the current supplies to be limited.

It comes as the European Union member states agreed to voluntary rationing of gas supplies – aiming for a 15 per cent reduction in gas usage between August and March next year.

But the agreements have been messy, with many exemptions being granted for several EU nations where a 15 per cent reduction is not feasible.

Moscow says that the recent spike in gas prices is down to Western sanctions, and that it’s not responsible for the price hike – insisting it is a reliable business partner when it comes to gas.

But critics of Moscow say that it’s using blackmail, holding supplies of gas hostage as a weapon of war.

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