Ukraine, Russia to hold discussions; Belgium sends more weapons

Ukraine, Russia to hold discussions; Belgium sends more weapons
Ukrainian military on the front line. Credit: Belga

It has been four days since Russia started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and while Russian troops have invaded more areas across the country, they are reportedly not making the progress they had planned.

This article covers the developments of Sunday 27 February. The latest updates on Monday 28 February can be found here.

In its latest intelligence update, the British defence ministry wrote that Russian forces are not making the progress they had planned, as they are suffering from logistical challenges and strong Ukrainian resistance, while reportedly also sustaining casualties.

It added that fighting in Kyiv had been at a lower intensity than on the night of Friday to Saturday, however, Russian troops have now entered the country's second-largest city in the Northeast, Kharkiv, where exchanges of rocket artillery were followed by heavy fighting in the streets.

Near Kyiv, where buildings, including flats, had been hit by missiles on Friday night, shells hit the radioactive waste disposal site of the Kyiv branch of “Radon Association" during the night, according to Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A missile also hit the Vasilkov oil depot of the BRSM company.

More than 200,000 Ukrainians have fled their country because of the Russian invasion, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The number of Ukrainian refugees in neighbouring countries is rising rapidly; on Saturday morning it was still about 120,000.

Ukraine to meet Russian delegate [15:50]

Hours after rejecting its request to meet in Belarus, Ukraine has agreed to meet a Russian delegation at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border.

T office of President Zelensky confirmed in a statement on the Telegram messaging app that the two sides would meet at an unspecified location. A precise time for the meeting has not yet been given.

On Sunday, Russia renewed its request to negotiate with the Ukrainians. The Russian presidential spokesperson said a delegation of representatives of the "foreign and defence ministries and other departments, including the presidential administration, arrived in Belarus for negotiations."

'Putin exists in parallel reality,' foreign minister says [15:30]

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba addressed the media on Sunday afternoon for an update of the ongoing crisis in the country and referred to a previous video statement from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"In his video address, he unloaded a series of false claims including bizarre claims of Ukraine committing alleged genocide which have zero factual evidence. He also called for demilitarisation and de-Nazification of Ukraine, which shows he exists in a completely parallel reality," Kuleba said.

He added that Ukraine's ability to fight back and resist the invasion exceeded Putin's expectations of the country, and stressed that in the first four days, Russia has not achieved any strategic goals. "We are bleeding, but we are inflicting disastrous losses on the enemy," he said.

Kuleba cited the losses on the Russian side — 4,300 soldiers killed or wounded in action — but said that heavy fighting continues and that Russia was able to move forward in the northeast, east and south of the country.

Putin demands preparing of Russia's nuclear weapons [15:10]

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has ordered for nuclear forces to be put on high alert on Sunday in response to what he called “aggressive statements” by leading NATO powers, according to reports from AP News.

This order signifies that the country's nuclear weapons are prepared for increased readiness to launch, increasing the possible threat that the current tensions will turn into nuclear warfare.

“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country,” Putin said in televised comments.

Russia's deterrent forces are a set of units whose purpose is to deter an attack on the country, "including in the event of a war involving the use of nuclear weapons," according to the defence ministry.

Belgium to send more weapons to Ukraine [14:50]

Belgium will send 5,000 machine guns and 200 anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed on Sunday. The news comes one day after De Croo stated some 2,000 machine guns would be sent to the country in light of the Russian invasion.

"Ukraine has the right to defend itself against this Russian invasion. That's why we will provide an additional 3,000 automatic weapons and 200 anti-tank weapons" he said.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian armed forces continue to gather forces for the defence of their capital Kyiv, with the focus to block the Russian attack in the north and northwest of the city. Mobilisation is underway across the country.

The Ukrainian army estimates that 4,300 Russian soldiers have been killed since the offensive began on Thursday.

Ukraine files lawsuit against Russia with International Court of Justice [12:20]

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky announced the country has filed a lawsuit against Russia to the United Nation's International Court of Justice (IJC) at the Hague, in the Netherlands. The court settles disputes between states regarding international law.

Ukraine has submitted its application against Russia to the ICJ. Russia must be held accountable for manipulating the notion of genocide to justify aggression," he wrote on Twitter.

"We request an urgent decision ordering Russia to cease military activity now and expect trials to start next week," he added.

The request follows claims from Zelensky that Russia’s actions bear the marks of “genocide," as it includes the bombing of, among others, kindergartens, residential areas and non-military infrastructure zones.

Belgium closes airspace to Russian airlines [11:35]

Belgium has decided to close its airspace to all Russian airlines in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and in line with decisions already made by other airlines and countries, including Finland, Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Germany.

The news was confirmed by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Saturday. "Our European skies are open skies. They're open for those who connect people, not for those who seek to brutally aggress," he said.

Russia also announced on Sunday it was closing its airspace to airlines linked to or registered in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Slovenia, in retaliation for similar measures taken by those countries to punish Moscow after the invasion of Ukraine. The ban will also apply to transit flights.

Europe's largest airline, Lufthansa, announced on Saturday it would suspend all flights to and over Russia for seven days due to the Russian military's invasion of Ukraine. Dutch airline KLM is also cancelling its flights to Russia for at least a week and will avoid flying over the country.

Ukraine president 'ready for talks with Moscow', but not in Belarus [10:40]

Ukraine's president Zelensky on Sunday rejected a Russian proposal for talks in Gomel, Belarus, as a rear base for the invasion of Ukraine, due to the country's involvement in Russia's invasion of the country. He added "any other city" outside Belarus would be suitable.

"Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, Istanbul, Baku. We have proposed them all. And any other city would suit us as long as they don't fire rockets at us from their territory," Zelensky said in an online video in which he addressed citizens of Ukraine.

During his statement, he also addressed Belarusians in the speech, adding that "if there were no offensive actions from your territory, we could have talked in Minsk."

Already on Friday, Russia had said it wanted to negotiate with the Ukrainians but only in Belarus, and it repeated this request on Sunday. A delegation of representatives of the "foreign and defence ministries and other departments, including the presidential administration, arrived in Belarus for negotiations with the Ukrainians", according to the Russian presidential spokesperson.

Invasion of Kharkiv [09:45]

Street fighting is underway in Kharkiv, meaning Russian troops have now reached two of Ukraine's major cities. Authorities have reported a "breakthrough" by Moscow's troops, according to reports from Belga News Agency.

The fighting has been going on since the morning with abandoned or burning light armoured vehicles visible in the streets, while sporadic gunfire and explosions echoed through the largely deserted city as residents hid in their homes.

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The governor of the Kharkiv region, Oleg Sinegoubov, had earlier announced a breakthrough of Russian "enemy vehicles" in the city near the Russian border, which has 1.4 million inhabitants. "The Ukrainian armed forces are eliminating the enemy," he added.

However, the National Police has since stated on its Facebook page that Russian soldiers have surrendered to state bodies and local governments in the region, and called on other Russian soldiers to lay down their arms and surrender.

"We appeal to all authorities to carefully record such cases, take away weapons and provide Russian prisoners with temporary shelter," the National Police said.

The southern town of Nova Kakhovka has also been captured by the Russians, its mayor confirmed, while Russians claim to have surrounded the cities of Kherson and Berdyans'k.

Belgium gives additional €3 million for humanitarian aid [09:20]

Belgium's Minister of Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir announced on Saturday morning that Belgium is releasing an additional €3 million for immediate humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine.

This comes on top of the resources that Belgium is already giving through international funding, such as the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), to which the country is contributing €17 million.

"I am very concerned about the situation in Ukraine. Every day we see the situation getting worse. More than 100,000 people have already fled and more will follow. The damage is enormous," Kitir said.

"I have therefore decided to release an additional €3 million to provide direct assistance to the people of Ukraine. In this way, we are taking care of the most urgent needs. We will not leave them in the lurch."

The UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs OCHA estimates that in two months there will be 7.5 million internally displaced people in Ukraine, 18 million people affected by the conflict and 12 million people in need of health care.

Russian banks removed from SWIFT [26/2; 23:30]

The leaders of the European Commission, as well as France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States announced further economic measures in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in a statement on Saturday night.

"We are resolved to continue imposing costs on Russia that will further isolate Russia from the international financial system and our economies," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated.

Many Ukrainians are looking to withdraw money. Credit: Belga

These measures include the removal of several Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), the world’s largest global interbank payment system acting as an intermediary and executor of financial transactions between banks.

"This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally," von der Leyen said.

Russia’s central bank's assets will be paralysed, in essence meaning Putin will lose access to his so-called war chest, according to the statement. Von der Leyen added that the EU and its partners are working to prohibit Russian oligarchs from using their financial assets on their markets, specifically by limiting the sale of citizenship—so-called golden passports.

Coverage of the previous days can be found here. 

This article was last updated on 27 February at 15:50.

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