Cannes 11 March 2022 (11h40).
by Mark Porter
Diplomatic talks between Ukraine and Russia crashed in failure this morning (Thurs), dashing hopes for a dial down to the fighting and the increasingly horrific humanitarian crisis, spelling the end of any chance of an exit strategy to a conflict about to enter its third week – a conflict that has killed hundreds, and displaced millions.
Speaking from the Turkish resort of Antalya, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said “we did not make progress” in reaching a cease-fire, but “agreed to continue efforts to seek a solution to the humanitarian issues on the ground.”
“I will be ready to meet again in this format if there are prospects for a substantial discussion and for seeking solutions,” Mr. Kuleba added.
But Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, indicated that Moscow’s position on the invasion it launched 14 days ago appeared if anything to be hardening.
“We are not planning to attack other countries,” he told reporters. “We didn’t attack Ukraine, either.” He was repeating the curiously illogical Russian mantra that the country was forced to conduct a “special military operation” in Ukraine for its own safety.
“Like saying Jews were herded into Auschwitz to keep them warm,” said one Ukrainian observer.
Here’s a quick resume of what has happened in the past 14 days: Russian missiles and artillery have killed hundreds of civilians. Their actions have has set in motion the worst refugee crisis since World War II and forced millions more to seek shelter in cramped, airless spaces and basements. Whole towns have been destroyed, city blocks reduced to rubble, schools bombed and nuclear facilities compromised.
The last significant bombing was on Wednesday when a huge bomb blew up a maternity unit and children’s hospital in Mariupol. The Russians accused the Ukrainians of a false flag operation, of doing it themselves to garner sympathy. A tried and tested Russian gambit that would be, in different circumstances, laughable.
The citizens of Mariupol are currently cutting down trees for fuel and digging trenches for mass graves in the city, which has been encircled by Russian forces for nearly a week.
In further developments, the British government today (Thurs) imposed sanctions on two of Russia’s biggest oligarchs, Roman Abramovich, the owner of the Chelsea soccer club, and Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire aluminum magnate with ties to Putin.
♦ The leaders of the European Union member states will meet on Thursday in Versailles, France, 103 years after world leaders gathered there to sign the treaty that ended the First World War. They are expected to discuss Ukraine’s appeal to join the bloc as well as increasing the energy crisis.
♦ The U.S. House approved its spending bill, which includes about $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine. The money is almost evenly split between military and humanitarian aid and is more than twice what was originally proposed.
♦ More companies are pulling out of Russia, including the hotel chains Hyatt and Hilton. Hitachi said it was suspending exports to Russia and pausing manufacturing.