Russia-Ukraine Conflict: Zelensky agrees to talks as Putin puts nuclear deterrence forces on high alert

The Russian invasion of Ukraine entered its fourth day on Sunday with an obdurate Vladimir Putin pressing on the attack, Kyiv putting up a s...

The Russian invasion of Ukraine entered its fourth day on Sunday with an obdurate Vladimir Putin pressing on the attack, Kyiv putting up a stiff fight and the West keeping up the pressure on Moscow through political and economic sanctions.

Let's examine all the major developments of the day:

Russian troops enter Kharkiv, repulsed

Russian troops on the day targeted fuel and gas facilities in Kiev and Kharkiv. They entered Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv in the east of the country. The city witnessed heavy street fights with the Russian army taking over the city temporarily. Eventually, Ukrainian soldiers were able to wrest the city back from them.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian soldiers continued to keep Russian soldiers at bay in Kyiv.

Ukraine at the negotiation table

The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy agreed to peace talks with Russia following a phone call with Belarus leader, Alexander Lukashenko. Initially he refused tover Minsk being the venue, as he called it the ‘launchpad of Ukrainian invasion’.

Later, Kyiv and Moscow agreed to meet at Ukraine's border with Belarus.

Zelenskyy has also urged world powers to scrap Russia’s voting power at the United Nations Security Council, saying Russian actions in his country verged on “genocide”.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba demanded harsher sanctions for Moscow at a press conference broadcast online. He said "We will not surrender, we will not capitulate, we will not give up a single inch of our territory".

Speaking on Putin putting his nuclear arsenal on alert, he said "(Moscow) suffered losses and realised their plan did not go as it was designed, their blitzkrieg failed, Russia started speaking with the language of ultimatums, saying they are ready to talk with preconditions".

Russia

President Vladimir Putin ordered his defence chiefs to put the country's nuclear "deterrence forces" on high alert on Sunday and accused the West of taking "unfriendly" steps against his country.

Meanwhile, a senior US defence official said Russia had deployed two-thirds of the combat forces it had amassed on the border before the invasion — an estimated total of 150,000 troops. However, Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of the province of Chechnya who commands some of Russia’s most feared units, said Russia’s tactics were not working according to Financial Times.

Countries across Europe and beyond join hands

Following Britain, Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Romania on Sunday, Austria, Germany,  France, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Italy, Spain, Malta, Portugal, North Macedonia and Canada closed their airspace to Russian aircraft.

The EU on Sunday not only closed its airspace to Russia but also announced new sanctions and banned Russian State media outlets broadcasting in the bloc.

Additionally, several countries including Finland, Germany, the US, Czech Republic, Portugal, Greece and Roman agreed to send more assistance to Ukraine in forms of weapons and funds.

Japan on Sunday also agreed to join Western nations in removing selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system, said the country's prime minister Fumio Kishida.

YouTube on Sunday blocked certain Russian media channels from monetizing their videos, among other restrictions. This was followed by Google restricting Russian State media from earning money on its platforms

Ukraine's government managed to raise almost $8 million in cryptocurrencies after posting appeals on social media for donations of bitcoin and other digital tokens.

On Monday, the UN Security Council will vote to convene a rare "emergency special session" of the 193-member General Assembly on Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It will be the 11th such emergency session of the General Assembly since 1950.

India

As many as 688 Indian nationals returned India on Sunday from Ukraine on board three Air India evacuation flights from Romanian capital Bucharest and Hungarian capital Budapest.

Civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said that approximately 13,000 Indians are still stranded in Ukraine and the government is making efforts to bring them back as soon as possible.

India has brought back a total of 907 stranded citizens from that country since Saturday when the first evacuation flight from Bucharest with 219 people on board landed in Mumbai under Operation Ganga.

IndiGo too has joined the evacuation operations. It will operate two flights to Budapest to bring back Indians who are stranded in Ukraine, according to an official. The flights will be operated on Monday and Tuesday from Delhi. They will first fly to Istanbul and then to Budapest in Hungary. In the return leg, the flights will come to Istanbul and then to Delhi.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a high-level meeting on the Ukraine crisis on Sunday. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was part of the meeting which was also attended by top government officials.

On the day, the ministry of external affairs set up a dedicated Twitter handle and 24x7 Control Centres to assist in the evacuation of Indian nationals through the border crossing points with Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovak Republic.

The Indian Embassy in Ukraine issued two advisories, with the first asking Indian nationals to use the railways for evacuation followed by one asking them not to venture out during curfew hours.

Ukranians continue to flee

The UN’s refugee agency says the latest count of Ukrainians arriving in neighbouring countries stands at 368,000 and continues to rise. Poland's government on Saturday had said that more than 100,000 Ukrainians had crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border in past 48 hours alone. More than 50,000 have also crossed into Hungary and Romania, with 16,000 more going into Moldova, according to Al Jazeera reports.

However, later in the day the EU commissioner for crisis management said Russia's war on Ukraine has displaced "over seven million people.”

Russian casualties mount

Meanwhile, Russian forces have lost about 4,300 servicemen during their invasion of Ukraine, deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar said on Sunday, adding however that the number was being ascertained. She also said on her Facebook page that Russian troops lost about 146 tanks, 27 aircraft and 26 helicopters.

The Russian army too admitted that there were "killed and injured" soldiers among its troops in Ukraine on the fourth day of its invasion, but did not mention how many died.

While threre is no official toll in Ukraine, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) "As of 5:00 p.m. on 26 February, (UN human rights office) OHCHR reports at least 240 civilian casualties, including at least 64 dead."

Protests continue

More than 100,000 people attended a Ukraine solidarity march in Berlin on Sunday, with many protesters dressing in the blue and yellow colours of the Ukraine flag. In Russia too anti-war activists took to the streets from Serbia to Moscow.

Haunted by its post-war guilt, Germany has always treaded lightly and quietly on the world stage when it comes to conflicts. But on Sunday Germany dramatically reversed its ban on lethal weapons exports to conflict-zone by announcing huge shipments to Ukraine and later Olaf Scholz said 100 billion euros will be earmarked for investments for the army in 2022 alone.

Europe's biggest economy will also "from now on — year after year — invest more than two per cent of gross domestic product in our defence," said Scholz.

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India World News: Russia-Ukraine Conflict: Zelensky agrees to talks as Putin puts nuclear deterrence forces on high alert
Russia-Ukraine Conflict: Zelensky agrees to talks as Putin puts nuclear deterrence forces on high alert
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