Russia Continues Its Assault on Ukraine
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the French president’s office. The call, initiated at Macron’s request, reportedly lasted 1 hour 45 minutes and was the fourth time they had spoken since the Russian invasion of Ukraine 11 days ago.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the call, Erdogan reportedly called for Russia to move toward a cease-fire in Ukraine, to open humanitarian corridors for the Ukrainians and to sign a peace agreement. The conversation during which Erdogan offered to mediate an end to the crisis lasted for an hour, according to reports, and comes hours after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met in Moscow with Putin.
Turkey is a member of NATO and has close relations with both Ukraine and Russia; Turkey also shares maritime borders with the two warring countries in the Black Sea. Erdogan reportedly also has spoken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The planned evacuation of Ukrainian civilians from the port city of Mariupol was canceled for the second day on Sunday as Russian forces continued to fire on the southern Ukrainian city despite Russian promises that it would open a humanitarian corridor for the civilians, the New York Times reported.
A convoy of buses had set out from the central Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhya, a three-hour drive from Mariupol, to pick up the civilians, who have been under attack for several days and are running low on food and water, and have been cut off from fuel to heat their homes.
The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) tweeted a statement on Sunday stating that evacuation attempts in Mariupol had again failed.
Putin, meanwhile, blamed Kyiv for the failed evacuation, AFP reported.
Ukrainian authorities had said they planned to evacuate over 200,000 people from Mariupol.
Andriy Ignatov, a representative of the Mariupol City Council, on Sunday told CNN that: “The city administration of Mariupol is working on getting the green corridor, our government is working on all levels, so let’s hope that today the whole convoy can make it. Because we were getting ready to do it yesterday, but unfortunately our enemy or opponent did not let us evacuate people, although people were already getting in lines ready to evacuate. I hope today we’ll have a breather that will allow us to evacuate civilians.”
The United Nations refugee agency estimates that some 1.5 people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, tweeted on Sunday: “More than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed into neighbouring countries in 10 days — the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke on Sunday morning with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, his office announced. It is the third conversation between the two leaders in the last day. The conversations come after Bennett traveled to Moscow on Saturday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was Putin’s first meeting with a world leader since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 10 days ago.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was scheduled to speak on Sunday by telephone with Putin. Turkey, which shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea and has good ties with both countries, has offered to host peace talks between the two sides. Erdogan reportedly will tell Putin to stop his country’s invasion of Ukraine and to allow the humanitarian corridors to operate unimpeded.
Delegations from Russia and Ukraine will hold a third round of talks on Monday, both sides announced on Sunday. It is not known where the talks will be held. Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia made the announcement in a Facebook post; he did not provide any other details. Russian negotiator Leonid Slutsky also reportedly confirmed that the talks would be held.
A second round of talks on Ukraine’s border with Belarus was held on Thursday, when Russia agreed to open humanitarian corridors to allow civilians out of some combat zones; there has reportedly been some delay in opening these zones.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on his citizens to take to the streets and to continue to oppose Russia’s invasion of their cities. In a video address on Sunday morning, Zelenskyy praised Ukrainian citizens for their resistance, and called on them to continue.
“It is a special heroism to protest when your city is occupied. Even temporarily,” he said. “When you don’t have a weapon and in response you receive gunshots. And you don’t run. When you don’t have armor and an armored personnel carrier is coming at you. And you do not move aside.”
He had a similar message on Saturday, posting on Facebook: “Every meter of our Ukrainian land won by protest and humiliation of the invaders is a step forward, a step towards victory for our entire state. This is a chance to live. Ukrainians! In all our cities where the enemy entered. Feel it. Go on the offensive!”
US President Joe Biden called Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday night and they spoke for some 30 minutes. The White House announced the call and provided a readout of the conversation.
“President Biden highlighted the ongoing actions undertaken by the United States, its allies and partners, and private industry to raise the costs on Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. In particular, he welcomed the decision this evening by Visa and Mastercard to suspend service in Russia,” the readout said.
Biden also highlighted the administration’s “security, humanitarian, and economic assistance to Ukraine” and said that he is working closely with Congress to secure additional funding,” according to the readout.
“President Biden reiterated his concern about the recent Russian attack on a Ukrainian nuclear power plant, and he commended the skill and bravery of the Ukrainian operators who have kept the reactors in safe condition. The leaders also discussed the recent talks between Russia and Ukraine.”
Zelenskyy tweeted about the call: “As part of the constant dialogue, I had another conversation with @POTUS. The agenda included the issues of security, financial support for Ukraine and the continuation of sanctions against Russia.”
The Biden-Zelensky call came hours after the Ukrainian president held a video call with the US Congress, during which he requested more assistance, including fighter jets and the imposition of a no-fly zone over his country.
Visa and Mastercard announced Saturday evening that they will suspend operations in Russia. Visa said that in the next few days any Visa card issued in Russia will not work outside of the country, and that cards issued outside of the country will not work inside Russia. Mastercard, which has operated in Russia for 25 years, issued a similar announcement. Total net revenue for both Visa and Mastercard in Russia was about 4% of its total.
Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett returned to Israel on Sunday morning after an unexpected flurry of diplomatic activity. Bennett on Saturday traveled to Moscow, where he held a three-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Israeli government minister Zeev Elkin accompanied Bennett to assist with translation, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. No details about the meeting were released.
It was Putin’s first meeting with a world leader since the start of his invasion in Ukraine.
Following his meeting with Putin, Bennett also spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “The Prime Minister of Israel @naftalibennett called me after his meeting with Vladimir Putin. We continue the dialogue,” Zelenskyy tweeted.
Bennett is coordinating his efforts with the United States, France and Germany, Ynet reported, citing an Israeli official.
Bennett traveled from Moscow to Berlin, where he updated German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on his progress.