The most important information in brief:
- Agreement on humanitarian corridors for civilians
- Germany: ringing of bells and demonstrations
- EU grants refuge to refugees
- Germany wants to deliver more weapons
- Steinmeier visits NATO troops in Lithuania
- Ukraine: Mariupol still fiercely contested
A week after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Kyiv and Moscow have agreed to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from war zones, according to Ukrainian sources. This is the only result of a second round of talks with Russia, Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podoliak said on Twitter after the end of the talks on the Belarusian-Polish border.
“The second round of talks is over. Unfortunately, the results that Ukraine needs are not yet available,” wrote Podoliak. A first round of negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian representatives in Belarus on Monday ended without a result. Before the talks began, Kyiv had called for an immediate ceasefire, among other things.
Before the second talks in Belarus, the Russian head of state Vladimir Putin had confirmed his country’s demands for the demilitarization of Ukraine and its neutral status in a telephone call with French President Emmanuel Macron. At the same time, Putin threatened new demands. Any attempt by Ukraine to delay negotiations will result in Russia making more demands, the Russian Presidential Office quoted Putin as saying. According to information from Paris, the initiative for the call came from Putin.
Ringing of bells and demonstrations in Germany
As a sign against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the bells of many places of worship throughout Germany rang for seven minutes in solidarity with the Ukrainians. Among others, the Cologne Cathedral, the Cathedral in Münster or the Cathedral in Essen participated, as it was said on request. The European Association of Cathedral Master Builders called for the bells to ring “every minute for one day of this senseless war” from 12:00 p.m.
Tens of thousands of mostly young people also followed a nationwide and global protest call by the climate protection initiative Fridays for Future. In Hamburg, a large crowd gathered at Spielbudenplatz and the Reeperbahn. “Hamburg came together today to show solidarity,” said Luisa Neubauer from Fridays for Future in an emotional speech.
According to the organizers, 120,000 people came together in the Hanseatic city. The police had initially reported 20,000 participants.
Several thousand schoolchildren also demonstrated in Berlin’s government district against Russia’s war in Ukraine. They gathered with banners and signs in front of the Reichstag building. The police estimated the number of participants at around 5,000, Fridays for Future spoke of 11,000.
Protection status for Ukraine refugees in the EU
The EU states have agreed on a protection status for refugees from Ukraine. As EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson announced on Twitter, the interior ministers of the member countries in Brussels agreed to the temporary admission of people. Johansson spoke of a “historic decision”. The protection status is initially intended for one year and can be extended to a total of three years. According to Johansson, Ukrainian citizens who are fleeing the war in their home country can quickly and unbureaucratically receive a residence permit in the EU without having to go through an asylum procedure. This regulation does not apply to nationals of third countries. After their arrival on EU territory, these people would be taken to their home countries, said the interior commissioner.
According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the Russian attack on Ukraine triggered the fastest mass exodus of the 21st century: In the first week of the war, around a million people left the country – that’s around two percent of the 44 million inhabitants. In the end, according to UNHCR estimates, there could be four million or even more seeking refuge in other European countries.
Poland has so far taken in the most refugees from Ukraine, with more than half a million people, followed by Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia and Romania. UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi wrote on Twitter: “It is time for many more millions in Ukraine to put the guns down so that life-saving humanitarian assistance can be delivered.”
More weapons from Germany
According to information from the German Press Agency, the Economics Ministry has approved the delivery of 2,700 Strela anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine. These are weapons of Soviet production from former stocks of the National People’s Army (NVA) of the GDR. Germany had previously changed course in the Ukraine crisis and equipped the armed forces of the country attacked by Russia with heavy weapons. The federal government decided on Saturday to deliver 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 “Stinger” surface-to-air missiles from Bundeswehr stocks to Ukraine as quickly as possible.
Federal government officials said on Wednesday that the “Stinger” and rocket-propelled grenades had been handed over to Ukraine. In addition, the NATO partners Netherlands and Estonia were approved to supply Ukraine with weapons that were manufactured in Germany or in East German stocks.
Georgia and Moldova want to join the EU
Like the Ukraine, the ex-Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova now want to join the EU. Moldovan President Maia Sandu signed a corresponding motion. A statement said: “In the current difficult situation, we must act quickly and clearly to ensure a European future, freedom and democracy for our citizens.” As announced, Georgia also submitted an application.
However, the EU Commission is calling for the EU heads of state and government to deal with Ukraine’s request first. Ultimately, it is the EU countries that decide whether to join the European Union.
Russians 20 kilometers from Kyiv
The Ukrainian troops are under heavy pressure in a number of places in the country. According to the Ukrainian General Staff, Russian troops have set up bases north and northwest of Kyiv, 20 to 30 kilometers from the city limits. In the east of the city, Russian troops are only about 50 kilometers away from the city limits and are moving towards the suburb of Brovary.
The suffering of war – according to Ukrainian sources, this picture was taken after an air raid on a suburb of Kyiv
Former Ukraine Deputy Justice Minister Sergei Petukhov told DW that the people in the Ukrainian capital were well prepared and wanted to defend Kyiv. “There is no panic,” said Petukhov. It is clear that Russia “expected a quick victory in a nice little war – it completely failed”. The Russians would not win the war even if their forces captured Kyiv or captured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “I think the Russians miscalculated, because nobody will stop the resistance.”
Ukraine: Mariupol still fiercely contested
According to the Ukrainian general staff, the north-eastern Ukrainian cities of Chernihiv and Sumy will continue to be besieged. In the Kharkiv region, the city of Balakliya with its large ammunition depot was still fought over. According to media reports, the small town of Izyum on the border of the Kharkiv and Luhansk regions has also come under fire.
Ukraine did not confirm Russia’s reported encirclement of the southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. The big city will continue to be fought hard. Power outages and water shortages shaped everyday life. Mariupol is considered strategically important because the port city is located between the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia, and the so-called People’s Republics in the Donbass, which Russia has destabilized. If it came under Russian control, it would make it easier for Russian troops to unite.
The General Staff also warned of a possible Russian landing operation near the southern Russian port city of Odessa. Four DropShips would move towards the Ukrainian coast.
The city of Cherson in central southern Ukraine was the first major city to fall to Russian troops on Wednesday. Regional head of administration Gennady Lakhuta wrote on Telegram that Russian “occupiers” were in all parts of the city and were “very dangerous”. The city is considered strategically important because of its port. Unverifiable videos on social media are said to show military columns in the city area.
Steinmeier visits NATO troops in Lithuania
During a visit to Lithuania, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier assured the NATO countries in Eastern Europe of Germany’s unlimited support. “Alliance solidarity applies without ifs or buts,” said Steinmeier at the multinational NATO base in Rukla, Lithuania.
“Germany has taken a big step by supplying arms to Ukraine and has broken with some old certainties,” said the Federal President. This also includes the “significant increase” in the defense budget announced by Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda welcomed this as a “historic decision”. He referred to the threat to his country, which borders the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and Russia’s ally Belarus.