Window for diplomacy opens, but Putin puts nuclear forces on high alert amid fresh EU sanctionsReading Time: 3 minutes
On the evening of Sunday, 27 February, as Russian President Vladimir Putin had put his nuclear forces on high alert, Ukraine’s government agreed to talks in Belarus with Russian officials. Al Jazeera reported that President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv would send a delegation of officials to Ukraine’s border with Belarus for talks “without preconditions”. However, the President stated in a video address: “I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try.” Russia floated the idea of holding peace talks with Ukraine’s government in Belarus on Saturday.
On Sunday morning, one of President Zelensky’s advisers claimed that the country’s armed forces were largely still in control of Ukrainian territory; Ukraine’s defence ministry reported that it had taken out 146 tanks, 27 planes and 26 helicopters, while 4,300 Russian soldiers had been killed.
Meanwhile, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in their meeting on Sunday night EU foreign ministers had given the go-ahead to EU funds to help finance weapons and other supplies for Ukraine, new sanctions and efforts to counter Russian disinformation. Of the defence funding, he said earlier: “These aim to finance the supply of lethal material to the heroic Ukrainian army, which is fighting with fierce resistance against the Russian invaders and provide urgently needed non-lethal supplies, such as fuel,” wrote Al Jazeera. Earlier, the German government announced it would provide lethal weapons to Ukraine, while EU officials said they intended to put together a plan that would allow all 27 EU countries to send armaments to Ukraine.
BP says it will divest its 20% Russia’s Rosneft, West unveils new sanctions
EU Reporter writes that oil and gas supermajor BP will exit its 20% shareholding in Russia’s Rosneft and senior BP officials will resign from Rosneft’s board. BP chair Helge Lund noted that BP had operated in Russia for over 30 years, but that “this military action” represented a “fundamental change”, making BP’s involvement with the company impossible.
In the late afternoon of 26 February, Germany and Western allies unveiled a new, third sanctions package, agreeing to cut Russia out of the SWIFT global payment system. Al Jazeera writes, “The actions are aimed at preventing Putin from using USD 630 billion in central bank foreign currency reserves to fund the invasion of Ukraine and to defend a plunging rouble.” The sanctions will target individuals and institutions in Russia and elsewhere that support the war against Ukraine, according to a spokesperson.
The US government also imposed sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and several of his ministers on Saturday, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The US Treasury Department wrote, “It is exceptionally rare for the Treasury Department to impose sanctions on a leader. President Putin joins a very small group that includes despots like Kim Jong Un, Alexander Lukashenko and Bashar al-Assad.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said there were loopholes that needed filling in the coming EU sanctions package to exclude Russia from the SWIFT payment system, also calling on Brussels to fully ban Russian oil and gas.
Tit-for-tat airspace restrictions, displaced persons go to Ukraine’s neighbors
With some of the EU’s major airlines having cancelled their flights to Russia, the EU announced it was closing its airspace to Russia on Sunday. This was after various countries in Central and Eastern Europe, such as the Baltic states and Slovenia, had closed their airspace to Russian aircraft, with Russia reciprocating with a flight ban of those countries over its territory.
Notes from Poland wrote on Saturday that Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda, said Ukraine should be given fast-track accession to the European Union. Duda tweeted, “Candidate status should be granted immediately and accession negotiations initiated at once after that. Ukraine should also have access to EU funds for reconstruction.”
Slovenia expressed similar sentiments today, with Slovakia’s Prime Minister Eduard Heger and President Zuzana Caputova saying they would support Ukraine’s EU accession, writes Slovak Spectator. After agreement in a Sunday session of parliament, Slovakia said it would send EUR 4.5 million worth of air defence systems and anti-tank missiles worth to Ukraine.
By Sunday, UNHCR was reporting that over 360,000 people had fled the hostilities in Ukraine; the EU expects that more than 7 million will be displaced in total. Thousands are fleeing across Ukraine’s border into Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland. Romania said it would send another aid package to Ukraine, reported Nine O’ Clock.ro, which writes that Bucharest will send military equipment, food, water and medicine to the tune of EUR 3 million.