Day 366 of the Invasion of Ukraine: 1 Year of Russian Terror and Ukrainian Perseverance
Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:
The UN General Assembly called for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine
The UN General Assembly passed a resolution by a large majority calling for an end to hostilities in Ukraine and the withdrawal of Russian forces from there.
In favor of the resolution, which is non-binding, 141 countries voted in favor and seven against.
The document calls for "an immediate end to attacks on Ukraine's critical infrastructure and deliberate attacks on civilian targets" and also to increase "support for diplomatic efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine."
Before the UN General Assembly, the Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kostadin Kojabashev demanded that Russia withdraw all its forces and military equipment from the sovereign territory of Ukraine.
The resolution clearly shows support for Kyiv a year after the Russian invasion, but for Russian Deputy UN Representative Dmitry Polyansky, the vote is "in vain" and will "continue the Ukrainian tragedy", as his post on Twitter makes clear.
The document was adopted with 32 abstentions, one of the countries in that category being China. This comes a day after China's top diplomat Wang Yi visited Moscow and sent signals of deepening relations with Moscow. China voted for the fourth time with an "abstention" on such resolutions since Russia's invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
At the same time, Mali voted “in favor” of Russia for the first time. The Washington Post notes that this once again shows a partnership between the West African country and Moscow. The publication adds that earlier this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited the country "where Russian mercenaries are being used to help fight Islamist insurgents."
China announced a familiar position instead of a plan for peace in Ukraine after a visit to Russia
China has demanded a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine with gradual de-escalation, an end to Western sanctions, the establishment of humanitarian corridors and the withdrawal of civilians. The 12-point text, repeating many of Beijing's well-known positions, appeared on its foreign ministry website exactly a year after Russia invaded Ukraine.
"Nobody gains from conflict and war," the Foreign Office statement announcing the position said. It echoes most of the known positions of Beijing, which insists it is neutral despite its declared "boundless" friendship with Russia, and was published a day after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Moscow. A week ago at the Munich Security Conference, expectations of a new Chinese proposal emerged following Wang's comments.
According to a Ukrainian representative, before reporters of various media (including AFP) on the condition of anonymity, the plan was not prepared in consultation with Ukraine. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba explained that "basic elements" were shared with his country during a meeting in Germany earlier this week.
The plan also talks about "respecting international law" and respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, a year after Russia invaded Ukraine and months after it annexed four of its regions. With the document, China insists on its image as a neutral peace broker despite US accusations that it is considering providing weapons to Russia and other Western criticism that it does not even use the word "invasion".
It appeared hours after the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling on Moscow to withdraw its forces from Ukraine - with very few votes in favor of Russia. G7 leaders are expected to meet to discuss providing more aid to Ukraine and the United States to announce new sanctions.
“We expect China to be more active in its support for Ukraine, and currently it does not support Kyiv’s efforts. The country should work with both Russia and Ukraine, and we see that it is not doing the latter,” Reuters quoted the Ukrainian chargé d'affaires in Beijing Zhana Leshchynska. According to her, however, the text is a "good sign" - words Kuleba also used to describe the initiative a few days ago.
"This is not a peace proposal", but it will be studied, and it can be seen as a "good sign" if it is for Ukraine, said the head of the European delegation in China. Jorge Toledo told diplomats that China must fulfill its obligations under the United Nations charter in the face of Russian aggression.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said a day earlier that Washington would refrain from making an assessment for now, but expressed doubts about China's neutrality given its relationship with Russia.
Some experts have pointed out that the position is completely absent from complicated issues such as the fate of Crimea and the status of Donbas, which Russian President Vladimir Putin once again declared to be part of Russia's "historical borders" this week.
What exactly does China offer?
1. Respect for the sovereignty of all countries - to observe the principles of international law, independence and territorial integrity (this point is obviously in support of Ukraine).
2. To abandon "Cold War thinking" - the security of some should not be at the expense of others, nor the "strengthening or expansion of military blocs", but to take seriously the "legitimate interests and security concerns of all countries" (seemingly aimed at NATO's presence in Eastern Europe and Russia's demands).
3. Cessation of hostilities and resumption of "direct dialogue" as quickly as possible so as to gradually de-escalate the situation.
4. Continue peace talks - the international community must commit to the "right approach" to promote negotiations and help the parties "open the door to a political solution".
5. To resolve the humanitarian crisis - opening of humanitarian corridors to bring civilians out of conflict zones and deliver aid there with UN coordination, operations not to be politicized.
6. Protection of civilians and prisoners of war - the exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine is supported.
7. Nuclear power plant safety guarantee - China supports the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in assisting the process.
8. Reduction of strategic risks - opposing even the threat of using nuclear weapons (Russia has hinted at such) and the production, development and use of chemical and biological (Russia accused Ukraine that the US has biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine).
9. Facilitating the export of grain - in practice, it is proposed to upgrade the deal agreed with the help of Turkey and the UN for the supply of grain through the Black Sea, signed in the summer.
10. End the imposition of "unilateral sanctions" - sticking only to measures approved by the UN Security Council (where China has veto power, along with Russia).
11. Stabilization of industrial and supply chains - not to use the economy for political purposes.
12. Promotion of post-conflict reconstruction - here China expresses willingness to "provide assistance and play a constructive role".
Zelensky: This was a year of pain, suffering, faith and unity
A year of pain, suffering, faith and unity - this is what President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on his Telegram channel on the occasion of the one-year anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Ukrinform reported.
"On February 24, millions of us made a choice: not a white flag, but a blue and yellow flag. Not flight, but confrontation. Clash with the enemy. Resistance and struggle. It was a year of pain, suffering, faith and unity. And this is the year of our invincibility. We know this will be the year of our victory!" - emphasized Zelensky.
The president released a video dedicated to the struggle of Ukrainians against the Russian army.
Rishi Sunak insists on Ukrainian strikes in Russia's rear
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will call on the Group of Seven (G7) to help Ukraine hit Russian forces in the rear, for which he will push for an urgent increase in arms supplies to Kyiv. This was stated in a message released by the prime minister's office on the eve of his conversation with the leaders of Germany, Italy, Canada, the United States, France and Japan, which is scheduled for today, February 24.
"The prime minister will call on international partners to help Ukraine deal damage to Russian forces behind the front lines of the conflict during today's G7 meeting," Downing Street 10 said, explaining that the communication would take place via video conference. In particular, as noted in Sunak's office, he intends to "present convincing arguments in favor of supplying long-range weapons" to Ukrainian forces, the statement quoted by local and foreign media said.
In addition, the British Prime Minister will "reiterate his offer of British support to countries" that express their willingness to transfer fighter jets to Kyiv.
A year of war in Ukraine: Support for Kyiv, condemnation for Moscow and new sanctions
Today, the war in Ukraine enters its second year. The country's allies have pledged to continue their support for Kyiv.
Amid ongoing fighting in eastern and southern Ukraine, the country's allies around the world showed their support on the first anniversary of Russia's invasion.
Paris illuminated the Eiffel Tower in the colors of the Ukrainian flag - blue and yellow, and people draped in Ukrainian flags gathered for a vigil in London.
In Brussels, the buildings of the European Union were lit up in similar colors. The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution that once again demands Russia immediately end the war. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the vote.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on the occasion of the anniversary that the war must be brought to such an end that the entire "cycle of Russian aggression" that began with the attack on Georgia 15 years ago would be broken forever.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the US would provide Ukraine with an additional billion in military aid and said the G7 would announce new sanctions later today that would also affect countries that are helping Moscow by circumventing sanctions against it.
The United States will impose its own massive new sanctions package against Russia, to be announced today.
In an interview with public broadcaster ZDF, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that "Russian President Vladimir Putin must understand that his military goals in Ukraine are unattainable."
Scholz expressed concern that the conflict will be prolonged, but he was adamant that Germany and the West in general will support Kyiv as much as necessary, without this leading to an escalation of the conflict. Delivery of fighter jets "doesn't make any sense at the moment", Scholz was categorical.
The chairman of the foreign policy committee in the Bundestag, Michael Roth, said that the war in Ukraine will not end soon. According to him, peace talks at this stage would only mean that Kyiv surrenders to Russia.
1 year of war and an "insult to our collective conscience"
The US is calling for more international support for Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wants to see China's peace plan, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called the Russian invasion "an affront to our collective conscience".
Exactly one year has passed since the start of the war. A year of land battles, airstrikes, known and unknown military and civilian casualties, arms deliveries and various sanctions against Moscow. Torn from within, supported from without, maintaining its high spirit at the cost of everything - this is what Ukraine looked like in the last 12 months
24.02. 2022 - on this day, the invasion of the Russian army into Ukraine began. The Russian president presented it as a "special military operation to protect Donbas".
"The goal is to protect the people who have been subjected to harassment and genocide by the Kyiv regime for 8 years"
The first airstrikes were against Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa.
"We will hand out weapons to anyone willing to defend their country," said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky back then.
The world community reacted strongly.
"Russia's target is not only Donbas, nor only Ukraine, but stability in Europe, as well as the entire world order," said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EC.
Sanctions were imposed on Russia, and international business left the country.
Millions of Ukrainians sought salvation outside their homeland, and Europeans forced them with open hearts.
The 12th month of war has not produced predictions of peace, but promises of heavy opposition on the front lines. At the Munich Security Conference, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was eloquent.
"To win the war, Ukraine needs more artillery, armored vehicles and stronger air defenses. Now is the time to double our military support"
The EU - united in its support for Ukraine, but too divided on how to implement it
A year after the Russian invasion, the EU is united in its support for Ukraine, but too divided on how to implement it and just as hard to reach compromises on sanctions against Russia. The latest evidence is the unreached agreement yesterday between the member states on the 10th sanctions package.
"If Putin sought to divide the EU, weaken NATO and fracture the international community, he has achieved the exact opposite. We are more united than ever and we will hold on to this war, which it is clear we will win. United we are and will remain united" - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has been repeating these words continuously in one form or another since the beginning of the war. The same message is echoed by the member countries after each meeting of their leaders, but behind this echo the situation looks different.
The division comes when two topics are discussed - sanctions against Russia and the supply of weapons to Ukraine. The first kills with each new sanctions package, including the latest tenth, still non-existent. Especially in the energy sector. And especially from Hungary.
"Now the idea of an oil embargo and sanctions has appeared without answering the questions related to the security of energy supplies for Hungary. The situation we are in is difficult and it was created by the Commission. The responsibility today is not to achieve agreement is entirely hers. Energy is a complex issue and first requires solutions, then sanctions. Until now, the approach in the first five packages was exactly the opposite - sanctions first, and then we started thinking about the consequences and looking for solutions," reads the critical position of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
However, the concerns of the Hungarian Prime Minister, expressed at the end of May, were supplemented only three days later by a new claim, which can hardly be explained with serious consequences for his country - to remove Patriarch Kirill, who is cited as one of the ideologues, from the sanctions package of the war in Ukraine. A step that continues in behavior and from the last sanctions package, from which Orban requested the exclusion of four people. Which leaves us for homework to look for the answer to the question of how their presence in it would threaten the security of Hungary.
Bulgaria placed itself in the same orbit and with the same arguments. President Rumen Radev:
"We cannot accept a sanction in nuclear energy, because it will directly affect our nuclear energy sector. There is no way it will happen. If necessary, we will impose a veto."
The reluctance to provide military aid to Ukraine also had a particular impact on the strengthening of Bulgarian-Hungarian relations:
"It is a bloody war. We hear less and less the voices of peace. We only hear the voices of the guns. We only hear calls for victory, without anyone being able to define what victory means."
Thus, the two countries turn out to be the biggest peace-lovers in the EU and even surpass the traditionally neutral Finland and Sweden, which, instead of waving Picasso's dove, applied for NATO membership. Moreover, Finland announced that it would deliver Leopard tanks to Ukraine even before it became a de facto part of the Alliance. A hawk, indeed, against the backdrop of decades-long members Bulgaria and Hungary.
However, the geopolitical realities are far more complex and go beyond the EU. The NATO accession protocols of Finland and Sweden have not been ratified not only by Hungary. Turkey found a reason to ask for its own before letting the two countries into the Pact, namely, that they return to it, in their words, between 100 and 130 terrorists who are on their territory.
When two great powers, on the same continent, exchange blows, no one is immune. But neither side has hit their opponent's Achilles' heel yet. Russia has not been able to crush the EU by cutting off energy supplies, and the Union has not yet pushed its economy to the point of collapsing to the point of stopping the war. "Sanctions are working", they claim from Brussels, but they immediately add that their real result takes time. How much remains a mystery for now. But it is not a mystery that the end is not in sight at all - neither as a date nor as a result.
The US has warned China of "serious consequences" if it violates sanctions against Russia
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned China that there will be "severe consequences" if it violates sanctions against Russia, notes The Hill, which covers the work of the US Congress, the presidency and the executive branch.
During the G20 meeting in India, Janet Yellen said that providing material support or any other assistance to Russia that is not in line with the sanctions is very troubling and the US will continue to "make clear to the Chinese government, companies and banks what are the rules in terms of sanctions and the serious consequences they will face for breaking them".
The warning to China comes as tensions between the US, China and Russia have been rising in recent weeks. The Chinese balloon that recently entered US airspace has strained relations between the two countries, and tensions between Russia and the Biden administration have grown further following Russia's decision to freeze its participation in the arms control treaty.
And as the fighting in Ukraine continues, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the US is expected to offer another billion in support to Ukraine in the coming months.
Zelensky: We would like to meet with China
President Volodymyr Zelensky said yesterday that he wants a meeting with China, which is expected to announce a peace plan for Ukraine this week. According to him, Kyiv has already sent this signal to Beijing at the level of diplomats.
"It would be desirable for Ukraine to meet with China... We, at the level of diplomats, conveyed this signal to China. We would like to meet China. This is in Ukraine's interest," Zelensky said during a briefing with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who visited him yesterday.
Zelensky noted that he has not yet seen the Chinese plan to end the war, but considers its very appearance a positive fact.
"I have not seen the document, there are some elements. It is too early to diagnose this document. In general, the fact that China started talking about Ukraine is very good," the president said.
China has refrained from criticizing Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine, saying it is taking an "objective and fair position".
The peace plan contains points proposed by Kyiv, but also those dictated by the friendly relations between Beijing and Moscow, the website HB reported yesterday, citing a Ukrainian official who wished to remain anonymous.
Beijing's official position paper contains several points previously formulated by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his 10-point plan to end the war, the Ukrainian news site said, citing its source as "a senior source in the Ukrainian government." it relied on intelligence and diplomatic channels. He did not specify how many and which of Zelensky's proposals are in the Chinese plan.
Zelensky presented his ten points in a video address to the G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, last November. They included the restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity, the withdrawal of Russian troops, the release of all prisoners, a tribunal for those responsible for the aggression, and ensuring the safety of Ukraine.
Given Beijing's close ties with Moscow, part of the Chinese document may not sit well with Ukraine, the source told HB. Although China has consistently maintained the position of Ukraine's full sovereignty, the country's leadership is unlikely to offer Russia a complete withdrawal of its troops from Ukraine following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the publication commented. In addition, the Chinese plan may also contain a call to end Western military aid to Kyiv.
Wang Yi, China's most junior diplomat, announced his country's initiative during last weekend's Munich Security Conference in Germany.
NATO warns China against providing military aid to Russia
NATO is seeing signs that China is considering supplying arms to Russia, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday, as quoted by Reuters.
"We have not seen shipments of lethal aid from China to Russia, but we have seen signs that they are considering and possibly planning to do so," Stoltenberg told the agency.
The NATO secretary general added that the US and other allies are warning Beijing not to support Russia's illegal war.
Stoltenberg recalled that China is a member of the UN Security Council and that Russia's war against Ukraine violates the UN Charter.
“The basic principle of this charter is to respect the integrity of other nations and not to invade another country with hundreds of thousands of troops. Of course, China should not be a part of this,” he said.
On February 19, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that Beijing was considering providing support to Russia, including arms and ammunition. US Permanent Representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned China against this, calling the move "crossing a red line".
China's foreign ministry said the United States "has no right to give advice" to it about possible arms supplies to Russia and accused it of helping Ukraine. The department then said that the Russian-led war was "spinning out of control".
Today, the Russians are already using Chinese dual-use or civilian equipment at the front, in particular Mavic drones and the AeroScope drone detection system, HB writes.
According to the site, Moscow also smuggles microcircuits and microchips through China. In January, the US imposed sanctions on a Chinese company for providing satellite images of Ukrainian territories to the Russian private military company Wagner, whose forces are fighting in the Donbas.
Several other Chinese companies were penalized for violating the ban on certain goods exported to Russia, US officials said. The US believes that China continues to covertly supply Russia with non-lethal military aid - uniforms and body armor.
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