Ukraine is preparing to negotiate "without preconditions" with Moscow. This morning a Russian delegation travelled to Belarus to meet with Ukrainian representatives in what would be a first step towards ending the Russian invasion. However, little is expected from this meeting as Russia continues to bomb Ukraine and tightens its siege on Kiev.
Despite Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky's refusal to meet with Moscow in Belarus, the meeting will finally take place in Belarus. According to the Ukrainian leader, "we agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet with the Russian delegation without preconditions on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border near the Pripyat River". Zelenksy continues to call for Ukraine's 'immediate' integration into the EU.
This situation, aggravated after Putin decreed to "put his nuclear forces on alert" and ordered a new convoy of hundreds of military vehicles, remains the scene of an unprecedented invasion. Ukraine is trying to resist, led by a Zelensky who has won the respect of the world, ready to stand up to the Russian troops, even though their military forces are objectively far inferior.
"The enemy expected an easy road, but they found a real hell". Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said. "Putin does not understand that he is at war not only with the Ukrainian armed forces, but with the Ukrainian people," he said.
Putin's nuclear threats and psychological warfare are now colliding with Western reactions. In addition to the significant sanctions packages that the EU has adopted, countries such as Germany have reacted militarily. In a speech in the Bundestag, Scholz announced an "extraordinary appropriation" of 100 billion euros for the German armed forces. This is the first time Germany has approved this measure after almost two decades of constant refusals to increase its defence budget.
Furthermore, for the first time in its history, Europe has agreed to finance 500 million euros to supply a third country with weapons of war. According to the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, it was decided 'to use our capabilities to provide weapons, lethal weapons, lethal assistance to the Ukrainian army, to the value of a 450 million support package, and a further 50 million for non-lethal supplies, such as fuel and protective equipment'.
Borrell also stated that they will send fighter jets, "we are not just talking about ammunition. We are providing more important weaponry for a war," he said. This would be in response to requests from Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba, who said that "there is a need for military aircraft that Ukrainians can fly".
Putin's threats have also led the EU to agree within four days to implement "massive measures" against Russia. Europe is thus beginning to isolate the Kremlin as it refuses to budge and calls European reactions "abusive" and "aggressive".
Moreover, the consequences of the sanctions are already beginning to show their first results. According to the European Central Bank, the European subsidiary of the Russian bank Sberbank is on the verge of bankruptcy. According to the European institution, in the near future the bank "will not be able to pay its debts" after experiencing "significant deposit outflows as a result of the reputational impact of geopolitical tensions".
Alongside this, European ministers have agreed to exclude several Russian banks from the SWIFT system and blocked financial transactions with the ECB, a step that has never been taken before. "More than half of the Russian Central Bank's reserves will be frozen, as they are held in establishments in G7 countries," said Borrell.
On the other hand, the G7 countries (United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States) met via a video conference where they demanded that Russia "immediately stop the attacks on Ukraine, its population and civilian infrastructure, and rapidly withdraw its troops". They also warned that they will not recognise "any change of status" in Ukraine that is carried out by force.