Russian-Ukrainian peace talks end, further explosions near Kyiv

Russian-Ukrainian peace talks end, further explosions near Kyiv
Credit: Belga

Five days after Russia started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the leaders of the countries are meeting for peace talks on the Belarusian border. Overnight, explosions were again reported in several Ukrainian cities, including in Kyiv and Kharkiv.

Follow the most important developments here. The latest updates appear highest on the page.

EU imposes sanctions on top Russian officials [21:47]

The European Union has added 26 more individuals to its sanctions lists, targeting prominent Russian officials and oligarchs. Those on the list include Igor Sechin, CEO of Russian state oil company Rosneft, billionaire Alisher Usmanov, and Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

The EU has also sanctioned several journalists which it accuses of spreading anti-Ukrainian propaganda.

Russia warns against supply of weapons to Ukraine [21:12]

Russia's Foreign Ministry has warned that those supplying Ukraine with weapons will "bear the responsibility" if they are used against Russia's invading forces, according to Reuters.

The Foreign Ministry also vowed a "harsh response" to the sanctions put in place by the European Union.

Shell, BP to exit joint ventures with Russian gas monopoly Gazprom [20:42]

Shell and BP are selling Russian assets and ending joint ventures with Russian gas monopoly Gazprom in line with Western sanctions on Russia. Shell will exit its joint ventures with Gazprom, which the Guardian estimates are worth around €2.7 billion. Shell is also set to end its participation in the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which it holds a 10% stake in.

On 28 February, BP exited its stake of €12.5 billion in Russian state-owned oil company Rostneft following pressure from the UK government.

FIFA, UEFA suspend Russia from all football competitions [20:16]

Both the Russian national team and domestic clubs will no longer be able to compete in major football tournaments such as the World Cup and the UEFA Champions League, until further notice. Russia will miss its play-offs for the 2022 FIFA World cup and will not be able to compete in this summer's Euro 2022 competition.

Moscow football club Spartak has also been kicked from the Europa League and will not play RB Leipzig, who will go on to the quarter-finals. UEFA has also announced that it has broken off its sponsorship agreement with Russian gas monopoly Gazprom.

Explosions heard near Kyiv again [19:37]

Various foreign media report that heavy explosions can again be heard in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. The air raid sirens are also said to be going off in the city.

Footage, shared on social media by the Ukrainian Parliament, taken at around 18:40 local time (17:40 Belgian time) shows an explosion.

Public Health asks hospitals to prepare to receive Ukrainian patients [19:25]

The Federal Public Health Service has sent a letter to hospitals asking them to prepare to receive patients from Ukraine, wrote Artsenkrant and was confirmed to the Belga News Agency.

"We want to prepare for possible medical evacuations. These evacuations may involve various target groups: Ukrainians, Russians, other nationalities, military and/or civilians," said the letter that Marcel Van der Auwera, head of the Emergency Assistance Department at the FPS Public Health, sent to Belgian hospitals on Friday.

"The transfer of the first patients will not be happening anytime soon, but it is our intention to be ready when the demand comes," Van der Auwera clarified to Belga. "The first patients will probably also be received by countries in the region. Only when there are larger numbers will a European air bridge be used."

In a first wave, some 150 beds could be made available for patients all over Belgium. "They do not necessarily have to be war victims. They can also be, for example, kidney or cancer patients for whom treatment cannot be continued."

Zelenskyy signs application to join European Union [18:57]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has signed an official application to become a member of the European Union on Monday, announced the Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal. "This is the choice of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. We more than deserve it," he tweeted.

On Facebook, Zelenskyy's chief of staff Andrij Sybiha said that "history is being created now," and added that the documents are currently on the way to Brussels.

Belgian Centre for Cybersecurity asks hackers not to attack Russian sites [18:39]

The Centre for Cybersecurity Belgium (CCB) asks Belgian hackers and IT professionals not to attack Russian websites, explaining that the Russian regime "can use this to justify a much more serious counter-attack."

In recent days, there have been several online attacks on numerous official Russian websites. Earlier on Monday, hacker group Anonymous claimed responsibility for a cyberattack against several Russian media, including the website of the state news agencies Tass and Ria Novosti.

"We also hear Belgian hackers announce that they would bombard Russian websites with DDOS (Distributed Denial-Of-Service) attacks," the CCB wrote on its website. "We certainly do not want to encourage this. Hacking is illegal and such attacks are probably just pinpricks for the Russian regime."

Belgium reportedly withdraws embassy staff from Kyiv [18:08]

Belgium is reportedly closing its embassy in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, according to reports in De Standaard. The three expats who originally staffed the embassy had been reinforced by two additional employees for some time.

For security reasons, they had been working from the better secured French embassy, the Foreign Affairs Ministry announced on its website. Now that France has also decided to withdraw its personnel – something that nearly all European countries started doing – the Belgian diplomats are also said to be returning home.

Before the weekend, Belgium already advised all its residents to leave Ukraine. After Russia's invasion last week, Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès already indicated that a safe evacuation could not be guaranteed.

A team of Belgian consular workers will now be dispatched to the Ukrainian border with Poland, Slovakia, and Romania to help fleeing Belgians to access limited consular support, according to a post on the Belgian Federal Public Service of Foreign Affairs' website.

Hungary to block transit of arms through its territory to Ukraine [17:57]

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, during a visit to Kosovo on Monday, announced that Hungary will not allow lethal weapons to transit Hungary to Ukraine.

The minister stated that this was in order to "to ensure the security of Hungary." Szijjarto stated that he feared that weapons travelling through the country may become "targets of hostile military action."

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has long kept close ties to Russia, with European critics stating that Hungary has slid towards authoritarianism under Orban's rule.

'Negotiations between Ukraine and Russia end' [17:33]

The negotiations between the Ukrainian and Russian delegations on a ceasefire – which started around noon on Monday – have ended, reports the Russian state news agency Tass, citing confirmation from "a source who took part in the meeting."

The talks place on the banks of the Pripyat River, in the Belarusian region of Gomel. The delegations will reportedly now return to their respective countries and meet again later for a second round of negotiations.

Ukrainian government receives thousands of applications for 'foreign legion' [17:10]

Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar has announced that Ukraine has received thousands of applications from foreign volunteers.

In an appeal on Sunday published to the website of the Ukrainian President's Office, Volodymyr Zelensky called on "friends of peace and democracy" to travel to Ukraine to take up arms against Russia.

The Ukrainian government has now established what it calls an "international legion", comprised of western volunteers who have travelled to Ukraine through its land borders with the European Union.

International volunteers have played a pivotal role in Ukraine's war against Russia and its proxies since 2014, with fighters joining the ranks of the Ukrainian military from Belarus, Georgia, Russia, the US, UK, France, and others.

Translation: We are building an international legion. President Zelensky announced the formation of a new unit- the "International Legion." We already have several thousand requests from foreign citizens who wish to join the resistance against the Russian occupiers and to protect world security from the Putin regime.

Putin promises Macron 'willingness to commit' to sparing civilians [16:54]

French President Emmanuel Macron spent an hour and a half on the phone with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, and asked him to stop the attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure and to keep the roads safe, the Elysée Palace announced on Monday afternoon.

According to Macron's press release, Putin "confirmed his willingness to commit to this end." Macron also called for respect of international humanitarian law and the protection of the civilian population as well as the delivery of aid.

Earlier today, the governor of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, announced that at least 11 people were killed in Russian bombardments of residential areas in the city, adding that he fears "dozens of deaths."

Belgian 'core cabinet' and army chiefs meet tomorrow morning [16:32]

On Tuesday morning at 08:00, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo will convene the so-called 'core cabinet' (made up of De Croo and the seven Vice Prime Ministers) to discuss the situation in Ukraine. For the military part of the discussion, Chief of Defence Michel Hofman and head of the military intelligence service ADIV Wim Robberecht, have also been invited.

In the past few hours, De Croo has already consulted with a number of European colleagues, such as Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, as he announced on Twitter. "We discussed the current security situation following the Russian aggression in Ukraine. Sweden and Finland are NATO's closest partners. We are united in our commitment to keeping Europe safe."

De Croo also spoke with Klaus Iohannis, the Romanian President, about "further coordinating [their] actions as EU and NATO partners to respond to Russia's brutal military aggression in Ukraine." As previously announced, Belgium is also sending 300 soldiers to Romania as part of NATO's Rapid Reaction Force, aiming to strengthen the eastern flank of the alliance.

Lastly, De Croo also spoke with European Council President Charles Michel about the situation in Ukraine and the economic sanctions the European Union imposed on Russia on Friday and last weekend.

Latvia to allow citizens to volunteer to fight in Ukraine [16:16]

Latvia will allow its citizens to voluntarily fight in Ukraine against the Russians, as the country's parliament approved a legal framework for this on Monday.

In practice, this means that citizens who want to, can now go to Ukraine without risking persecution when they return. Candidates must register as reservists with the Latvian army before leaving for Ukraine.

Russia bans airlines from 36 countries [15:24]

On Monday, Russia barred airlines from 36 countries – such as Belgium, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy and Canada – from using Russian airspace, announced Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsiya.

The ban is a reaction to the strict package of sanctions the EU imposed on Russia over the weekend, including the closure of its airspace to any Russian aircraft. The United States, however, continues to allow Russian air traffic and vice versa.

"In accordance with the norms of international law, as a response to the ban of European states on the operation of flights of civil aircraft operated by Russian air carriers and/or registered in Russia, a restriction has been introduced on the operation of flights by the air carriers of 36 states," Rosaviatsiya reported.

In practice, the restrictions will affect the air carriers of Austria, Albania, Anguilla, Belgium, Bulgaria, British Virgin Islands, Great Britain, Hungary, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Denmark (+ Greenland, Faroe Islands, Territorial Sea), Jersey, Ireland, Iceland , Spain, Italy, Canada, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, France, Croatia, Czech Republic, Sweden and Estonia. Flights from these countries can be performed with a special permit issued by the Federal Air Transport Agency or the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Earlier on Monday, Brussels Airlines already reported that an airspace closure by the Russians would cause little inconvenience to the airline, as the company currently does not offer flights to Asia.

NATO Secretary-General to visit Poland and Estonia tomorrow [14:19]

On Tuesday 1 March, the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will travel to Poland and Estonia to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine, NATO announced in a press release.

In Poland, the Stoltenberg and Polish President Andrzej Duda will visit the Łask Military Airbase. In Estonia, he will visit the Tapa Military Base together with the Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

First Belgian convoy with military equipment arrived in Ukraine [14:07]

The first Belgian convoy with military protection material has arrived in Ukraine, a spokesperson for Belgian Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder confirmed to various news outlets. The promised weapons, just like the 300 soldiers, will also leave shortly.

Additionally, Belgian King Philippe will visit the Military Staff Headquarters in Evere (Brussels) on Tuesday 1 March. He will be briefed on the situation in Ukraine and Belgium's role, the Palace announced on Monday. He will be accompanied by Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès.

Over 100 civilian deaths, more than 300 injured, says UN [12:40]

Between Thursday morning and Sunday night, the United Nations have recorded 406 civilian casualties, including 102 killed (including seven children) – and 304 injured in Ukraine.

"Most of these civilians were killed by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and airstrikes," said UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet in a briefing on Monday. "The real figures are, I fear, considerably higher."

In the meantime, millions of civilians, including vulnerable and older people, are forced to huddle in different forms of bomb shelters, such as underground stations, to escape explosions, she stressed.

"UNHCR reported that 422,000 people have fled the country – and many more are internally displaced. My thoughts go out to them and to all those across the world who suffer," Bachelet said.

Russia claims control over Ukrainian airspace, two cities and nuclear power plant, says Russia [12:17]

Russian troops reportedly took the Ukrainian cities of Berdyansk and Enerhodar in the southeast of the country. Both cities are under Russian control, Russian Defence Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said on Monday. Additionally, he stated that Russia has also acquired control over the whole of Ukrainian airspace.

Konashenkov also said that the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhya (the largest in Europe) has been taken by Russia, but the Ukrainian nuclear state company Energoatom denies that the Russians have taken control of the nuclear power plant.

On its website, Energoatom "officially declares that Russian propaganda media reports that the invaders allegedly took control of the Zaporizhzhya NPP are a cynical fake," adding that all four nuclear power plants are under the control of Ukraine and operate normally.

Important to note is that Russian (and Ukrainian) military claims can currently not be independently verified.

Zelenskyy asks for immediate EU-membership for Ukraine [11:32]

In a video message, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the European Union to immediately accept his country as a member state. He wants the EU to do this through "a new special procedure," adding that "I am sure that this is fair. I am sure that this is possible."

On Sunday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke in favour of Ukraine's joining the EU. "They are one of us and we want them in the European Union," she told Euronews.

Ukraine has been working towards accession to the Union for some time, and the intention has been enshrined in the country's constitution since 2019. Zelenskyy also asked about NATO membership on Friday, but has not yet received a response.

Russia and Ukraine hold peace talks in Belarus [11:20]

The announced peace talks between Russia and Ukraine are taking place on Monday around noon. The Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a picture of the room where the meeting will take place on its social media channels.

Both delegations have arrived – by helicopter – at a secret location in Belarus in the region of Gomel (near the Ukrainian border). The talks were initially supposed to start on Sunday, but they were postponed due to logistical problems at the Ukrainian delegation.

Russian delegation leader Vladimir Medinsky said that "his delegation is ready to negotiate until an agreement is reached," according to the Russian Interfax news agency.

In an earlier video message, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that he does not expect the peace talks with Russia to lead to a permanent solution, but that he hopes for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian army. Zelenskyy himself is not physically present at the talks, but his Defence Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, is at the table.

Belgium advises against travelling to Russia [11:03]

Belgium has adapted its travel advice for Russia, as the Foreign Affairs Ministry announced that travelling to the entire Russian Federation is "not recommended." Belgian residents who currently are in Russia are urged to "consider whether [their] presence is necessary or leave the country temporarily."

As of today (Monday 28 February 2022), the Belgian airspace is also closed to aircraft coming from the entire Russian Federation, meaning that it is currently not possible to fly directly from the Russian Federation to Belgium.

Direct air traffic from Russia to and from most other European airports is no longer possible either, but a number on indirect flights with stopovers in the Middle East, Central Asia or even further transit airports currently remain possible.

"However, there is always a risk that these connections will also be interrupted at some point," Foreign Affairs warned on its website. Belgium's full advice for travelling to or from Russia – including information on how to contact the embassy – can be found here.

Coverage of the previous days can be found here.

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