The heads of Russian and Ukrainian diplomacy met this Thursday in Turkey, for the first time since the start of the Russian invasion two weeks ago, one day after the terrible attack on a pediatric hospital in the city of Mariupol, which left at least three dead, including a girl.
The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and the Ukrainian, Dmytro Kuleba, met in the presence of their Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Cavusoglu, in Antalya, a Turkish seaside resort in the south of the country.
This is the first meeting between two high-level officials from Ukraine and Russia since the start of the Moscow offensive exactly two weeks ago.
It is also Lavrov’s first trip abroad since the invasion of Ukraine began and the harsh international sanctions against Russia were imposed.
But the expectations of this meeting are limited.
Kuleba explained, in a statement from his ministry, that he will insist on “three key points” during the negotiation with Russia: “A permanent ceasefire, an improvement in the humanitarian situation in Mariupol, Kharkiv, Sumy, Volnovakha and other Ukrainian cities, and a withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine.”
These four cities are besieged by Russian attacks and numerous civilians are trapped in them.
So far, the talks between Kiev and Moscow have achieved local truces and the establishment of humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians. But Russia has been accused of not having respected these agreements.
The Turkey meeting illustrates the efforts of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country is a member of NATO, to become a mediator in this crisis.
“We are working so that this crisis does not turn into a tragedy,” Erdogan declared on Wednesday.
Turkey’s meeting comes a day after the bombing of a children’s hospital in Mariupol, in the southeast of the country, a strategic port on the Sea of Azov that is besieged by Russia.
At least three people, including a girl, perished in the attack, according to the latest balance of the municipal authorities communicated on Thursday.
Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky, who called the bombing a “war crime,” released videos showing the destruction of the site.
The images caused worldwide revulsion. The White House denounced a “savage” use of force and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the attack “immoral.”
The bombardment occurred when women were giving birth in the hospital, an official from the military administration of the Donetsk region told AFP.
This Thursday, the Kremlin said that it will ask the army for information about this attack.
More than 1,200 people have been killed in Mariupol since the Russian military siege began nine days ago, according to municipal figures.
On Wednesday, in its latest official balance, the UN estimated that 516 civilians were killed and 800 wounded in Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion, which also caused the forced departure of more than two million people from the country.
In recent hours and according to the Ukrainian General Staff, Russian forces continue to advance to “surround Kiev”, also attacking on other fronts, such as the cities of Izium, Petrovske, Sumy, Ojtyrka and the Donetsk region.
To the northeast of the capital, important columns of smoke rose this Thursday morning, according to AFP journalists.
Humanitarian corridors were reopened Thursday morning to allow the evacuation of civilians in areas heavily affected by the fighting, where civilians have been hiding in basements and makeshift shelters for days.
On Wednesday, at least 35,000 civilians were evacuated from Sumy, Enerhodar and areas near Kiev, according to figures reported by Zelensky.
Since the beginning of the invasion, the United States and its NATO partners have supported Kiev but have avoided getting directly involved in the conflict. On Wednesday, Washington definitively rejected Poland’s offer to deliver fighter jets to Ukrainian troops.
However, the US House of Representatives has adopted a new federal budget that includes an allocation of nearly $14 billion for Ukraine.
It is about humanitarian aid, but also arms and ammunition for Kiev, it must now be voted on in the Senate before being signed into law by President Joe Biden.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also approved emergency aid of 1.4 billion dollars for Ukraine on Wednesday.
This Thursday, the Russian Ministry of Defense accused the United States of having financed a biological weapons program in Ukraine and said that it had found evidence of it in Ukrainian laboratories.
“The goal of these Pentagon-funded biological research in Ukraine was to create a mechanism for the secret spread of deadly pathogens,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
In Russia, Western sanctions are beginning to weigh on the population. The last foreign companies to leave the country were Japanese video game giants Sony and Nintendo.
This Thursday, the British government announced new sanctions against Russia, which will affect seven oligarchs, including Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea FC, which he recently put up for sale.
These punitive measures include an asset freeze, a ban on dealing with British individuals and companies, and a travel ban.
And this Thursday, the leaders of the European Union (EU) will meet in Versailles, in France, to discuss the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, from the point of view of security and energy.