Although Russian forces are advancing more slowly than expected and have suffered significant losses, both in personnel and equipment, as well as crippling international sanctions, the Kremlin seems determined to continue its war in Ukraine. In turn, there are growing fears that the Russian military will only escalate the brutality of its operations, particularly the bombardment of encircled towns, in an attempt to achieve its objectives, despite growing international condemnation. Just today Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry Dmytro Kuleba said senior Russian officials appeared to be ‘living in their own reality’ after talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov went nowhere to any significant movement towards a diplomatic resolution of the conflict.
Readers can first catch up on the conflict in Ukraine, which has now entered its third week, with our previous coverage continuing here. Now let’s get to the latest news.
POSTED: 12:20 PM EST—
Kuleba and Lavrov met today, as planned, in the Turkish resort town of Antalya on the Mediterranean Sea. Turkish authorities described the meeting as civil, but the two sides left saying that no substantial agreement had been reached. It was the highest-level meeting between government representatives of the two countries since the start of the conflict on 24 February.
In a press conference after the talks, Kubla described them as “both easy and difficult”, easy because Lavrov simply reiterated Russia’s long-standing positions and assertions, and difficult because that there didn’t seem to be any real room for negotiation. Ukraine’s foreign minister made similar comments in later interviews and in a Twitter post.
“Russia is not in a position at this stage to establish a ceasefire. They demand a surrender from Ukraine,” he said. “That’s not what they’re going to get. Ukraine is strong, Ukraine is fighting.”
In a separate press conference, Lavrov more or less confirmed Kubela’s comments, stressing that his country’s main goal remained a “friendly, demilitarized Ukraine” that posed no threat to Russia. He also disputed that Russian forces struck a children’s hospital in the beleaguered Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. He claimed, despite clear evidence to the contrary and without providing any of his own, that it was not being used as a medical facility at the time and had instead been turned into a fighting position. The Russian Foreign Ministry is now actively pushing this fully unsupported narrative amid mounting accusations that the strike is being branded a war crime. The United Nations has now assessed that more than 1,500 civilians have been killed or injured across Ukraine in the fighting so far, mostly from Russian artillery and airstrikes.
Beyond that, the head of Russian diplomacy repeated a totally unfounded claim that Ukraine caused the current conflict and that Russia did not attack first. There were a number of alleged provocations before the invasion, many of which were quickly debunked.
All of this is, of course, in accordance with an established playbook that Russia has repeatedly used in the past in response to criticism and condemnation of its participation in certain international conflicts and other nefarious activities. It is the one that the US government, among others, had warned the Kremlin would use even before the invasion of Ukraine.
What is more interesting is that Ukrainian Kuleba said that Lavrov made all the same statements behind closed doors without the press present.
“Unfortunately, I can confirm that Russian leaders, including Minister Lavrov, are living in their own reality,” he said in a later interview with CNBC. “During our interviews, behind closed doors and in the absence of the media, he told me looking me in the eye that the photos of pregnant women taken under the rubble of the maternity ward are fake, that they hit the maternity ward as a military target because the Russian army was absolutely sure that it was under the control of the Ukrainian army.”
Kuleba added that it looked like Lavrov ‘didn’t have enough authority to make deals today’. Ukraine’s foreign minister said he had hoped for a 24-hour ceasefire and real guarantees regarding the establishment of a humanitarian corridor for the evacuation of civilians in Mariupol.
Ukrainian authorities say it remains effectively impossible for non-combatants to escape from the town, which continues to be subjected to heavy airstrikes and artillery. Evacuations from other towns in areas where the fighting has become particularly heavy are underway.
Both parties have, in principle, left open the possibility of further talks. Lavrov also said Russian President Vladimir Putin did not explicitly reject calls from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for a face-to-face meeting.
Kuleba and Lavrov also met separately with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on issues and concerns related to the continued operation of nuclear sites in Ukraine. Ukraine is home to a significant amount of nuclear infrastructure, including the site of the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the latter being the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
A video shot by a drone, which shows Russian armor grouped and ambushed in the town of Brovary, northeast of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, has been posted online. The exact circumstances behind what is seen in the video and when it was shot remain unconfirmed.
A new video has emerged showing a strike by one of Ukraine’s Turkish-made TB2 armed drones against a Russian Buk-series surface-to-air missile system.
The video below allegedly shows a Russian warship off the Ukrainian port city of Odessa firing a missile.
In the face of repeated reports that Russian forces are suffering from significant logistical problems, the Russian Ministry of Defense has released the video below which it says shows field kitchen and refueling operations in support forces in Ukraine.