Peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv will resume on Friday, as part of new efforts to help Mariupol residents flee the beleaguered and devastated city.
Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia said on Thursday the talks would continue via video, focusing on the peace framework presented by kyiv during a face-to-face meeting in Istanbul this week, which Moscow described as constructive.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has further raised the diplomatic stakes amid negotiations, signing a decree requiring foreign buyers to pay in rubles for Russian gas from Friday or have their energy contracts terminated – a demand that Germany , France and the United Kingdom immediately rejected and Berlin called it blackmail.
A humanitarian corridor is expected to open from 10 a.m. on Friday to allow civilians out of the beleaguered port city of Mariupol, and a convoy of 45 Ukrainian buses set off to try to deliver humanitarian supplies and to get trapped civilians out, the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister said. says Iryna Vereshchuk.
The convoy was due to enter the city on Friday morning after Russian promises of a limited ceasefire along the road from Mariupol to the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia.
This decision follows “a personal request from the French President and the German Chancellor to Russian President Vladimir Putin”, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Repeated efforts to set up humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of up to 170,000 people who remain in Mariupol, which has suffered four weeks of shelling and dwindling supplies, have failed. Ukraine has accused Russian forces of bombing supposedly safe roads outside several combat hotspots, Moscow claims.
On Thursday evening, Volodymyr Zelenskiy reiterated his warning that Russia was bracing for “powerful strikes” in the Donbass region after appearing to retreat from an assault on kyiv. He called the withdrawal of Russian forces near kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy a tactic. The Pentagon also said that Russia could reposition some of its forces to send them to Donbass.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Russia was withdrawing its forces from Georgia to bolster its invasion of Ukraine in a move it said was unplanned and “revealing of the unexpected losses it suffered during the invasion.” “.
The US and UK have suggested Putin is growing increasingly frustrated, with US President Joe Biden saying Putin “seems to be isolating himself” and noting “there are indications he has fired or put some of his advisers under house arrest,” without citing evidence.
White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said the war had been a “strategic disaster” for Russia and that she was “working to redefine the original objectives of their invasion”.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Putin was “not the force he was” and was “now a man in a cage he built himself”.
Despite ongoing talks, there is growing Western skepticism about Russia’s intentions in the talks, more than five weeks after its invasion of Ukraine. There has been no real sign of the partial military withdrawal in northern Ukraine he promised as a goodwill gesture, suggesting the Kremlin could buy time.
Kyiv’s chief negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak, however, insisted the Kremlin was considering Ukraine’s proposals, which included an international treaty under which Ukraine would remain neutral, with its security guaranteed by third countries.
In other developments:
The UN’s atomic watchdog is investigating Ukrainian allegations that Russian soldiers occupying the Chernobyl nuclear power plant left after receiving heavy doses of radiation. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it could not confirm the claims made by Ukraine’s state-owned power company Energoatom and was seeking an independent assessment.
Australia is to send Bushmaster armored vehicles to Ukraine following a speech to MPs by Zelenskiy. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: ‘We will send our armored vehicles, Bushmasters… and we will fly over them in our C-17s [aircraft] to make sure they can be there to support [Ukraine].” Morrison suggested more help would follow.
EU and Chinese leaders will meet on Friday for a first summit in two years, with Brussels keen to get assurances from Beijing that it will not supply arms to Russia or help Moscow circumvent Western sanctions. EU officials close to preparations for the summit said any aid to Russia would damage China’s international reputation and jeopardize relations with its main trading partners – Europe and the United States.