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War in Ukraine | The conflict escalates again

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After 10 days of a conflict that got bogged down, a “catastrophic humanitarian situation” reigns in Mariupol, a port city in southern Ukraine besieged by the Russian army. The resumption of talks between Russia and Ukraine is scheduled for Monday, but the negotiations already seem doomed, say some experts.

Limited access to drinking water, no electricity or heating: the situation in Mariupol is a humanitarian disaster, Laurent Ligozat, emergency coordinator for the NGO Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine, told AFP.

“It is imperative that this humanitarian corridor, which could have been created [samedi]but which was not really put in place because of the non-respect of the ceasefire, is being put in place very quickly to allow the civilian populations, the women and the children to leave this city”, he said.


PHOTO EVGENIY MALOLETKA, ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

Smoke rising from buildings in Mariupol after Russian strikes last Friday

The evacuation had been postponed after the announcement of a ceasefire. But the Russian offensive resumed on Saturday. Moscow accuses the Ukrainian side of refusing to extend the temporary cessation of fighting and preventing civilians from leaving Mariupol.




Les forces russes se rapprochent de Kyiv, malgré la résistance ukrainienne. Plusieurs immeubles résidentiels ont été touchés par les bombardements, notamment à Tcherniguiv, à 150 km au nord de la capitale.

Le président ukrainien a annoncé samedi que les forces ukrainiennes avaient lancé une contre-attaque autour de Kharkiv. La ville du nord-est est aux prises avec plusieurs attaques russes depuis le début du conflit.


PHOTO OLEKSANDR LAPSHYN, REUTERS

Centre sportif détruit par un bombardement à Kharkiv, deuxième ville en importance de l’Ukraine

Dialogue voué à l’échec ?

Une troisième ronde de pourparlers entre la Russie et l’Ukraine est prévue lundi, alors que les efforts diplomatiques se multiplient à l’international.

Les deux premières rondes de pourparlers n’ont pas abouti à un arrêt des combats, mais elles ont permis la création de couloirs humanitaires. « Or, on voit bien ce qui s’est passé à Marioupol [samedi]. It didn’t work at all,” summarizes Vladyslav Lanovoy, assistant professor of public international law at Laval University.


PHOTO ANATOLII STEPANOV, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A Ukrainian forces soldier waits in a shelter for the shelling in the Lugansk region to cease.

“There is not much hope of progress for Monday’s negotiations,” says Aurélie Campana, full professor of political science at Laval University.

“The only micro-hope is that the humanitarian corridors can be renegotiated,” adds the expert. Respecting humanitarian corridors would allow civilians to be evacuated and human casualties to be reduced.

However, there is no indication that Vladimir Putin is ready to compromise.

At the negotiating table, Putin’s entourage remains ultranationalist, in favor of the annexation of Crimea.

When we send people of this profile to negotiate, we already know that there will be no compromise.

Aurélie Campana, full professor of political science at Laval University

The Russian president only considers dialogue once all his demands have been accepted. It is in particular a question of a neutral and non-nuclear status for Ukraine and its compulsory demilitarization, summarizes the expert.

According to Mr. Lanovoy, Putin is adopting hard-line rhetoric with no real intention to negotiate. “He doesn’t want talks. He imposes his conditions. »


PHOTO ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO, REUTERS

Pro-Russian troops drive a tank on the outskirts of the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk.

Early on Sunday, Vladimir Putin also warned that Ukraine could lose its “statehood” if it continued to refuse to submit to Russian demands.

In particular, Moscow is calling for a “neutral and non-nuclear” status for Ukraine and its demilitarization, which Kyiv considers unacceptable.

Putin’s warning

Vladimir Putin has shown himself to be intractable: anyone who tries to impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine will be considered a party to the conflict.

In order not to provoke a direct confrontation with Russia, NATO refused a request to this effect made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday.


PHOTO SERGEI SUPINSKY, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

In Kyiv on Saturday, a billboard urged NATO to “close the skies”. “Today, Ukrainians do not ask, they implore,” it read.

A predictable decision, according to Andrea Charron, director of the Center for Defense and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba.

If a NATO member or ally attacked Russia, the Kremlin would interpret such an offensive as a NATO attack on the country.

Such an operation is extremely complex. It is impracticable if Russian planes are not attacked from Ukrainian territory. In the past, no-fly zones have been established to protect civilians from attacks by their own government.

[Si on instaurait une zone d’exclusion aérienne]would be a third nation interfering in a conflict between two countries. The chances of success of such an operation are less. We would have the perfect conditions for a Third World War.

Andrea Charron, Director of the Center for Defense and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba

Vladyslav Lanovoy believes that economic sanctions will eventually weigh in the balance. The effects on the Russian economy will be felt as the country closes in on itself. But that won’t end the short-term shelling.


PHOTO ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO, REUTERS

Pro-Russian soldiers in the Donetsk region

“We are witnessing more of a progression of the conflict than a de-escalation. In the short term, Ukraine must be sent more weapons of all types to the front. If we miss this opportunity, it will progress, ”says the professor.

Mediation of Israel

Diplomatic actions increased on Saturday.

The head of the Israeli government, Naftali Bennett, visited Vladimir Putin, before meeting the same day with Volodymyr Zelensky.


PHOTO MICHAEL KAPPELER, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left), and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz

So far, Mr. Bennett has not joined in the concert of international condemnations of the Russian invasion of Ukraine launched on February 24, underlining the strong ties that unite Israel with Moscow and Kyiv.

Shortly after this mediation, he went to Berlin to meet the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz.

The Ukrainian president also announced that he had discussed with US President Joe Biden “security issues”, “financial support for Ukraine” and “continued sanctions against Russia”.


PHOTO DIMITAR DILKOFF, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A man bids farewell to his loved ones, who are leaving Kyiv on an evacuation train.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Moldova on Saturday evening. Mr. Blinken should reassure the small country, fractured by a pro-Russian dissident region, Transnistria, on the western border of Ukraine.

Some analysts believe that the territory could be used as a rear base in the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army.

Earlier, the head of American diplomacy had traveled to the border of Poland and Ukraine to meet there with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kouleba.

With Agence France-Presse

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