Chris Lange, FISM News
Talks between delegates from Russia and Ukraine Tuesday appear to have resulted in at least some progress in terms of negotiating an end to the war, according to reporting by the Associated Press.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the option of Ukraine possibly accepting a neutral military status had been “seriously discussed” during talks he described as “businesslike.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also conceded some progress, saying Russia’s demands are becoming “more realistic.” Both sides have agreed to continue talks aimed at ending the conflict.
🇺🇦 President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that negotiations with Russia "sound more realistic", but there is still more work to be done.
— euronews (@euronews) March 16, 2022
Despite the positive development, Russian forces intensified their attacks in and around Ukraine’s capital overnight. A 12-story apartment building in central Kyiv was slammed by an artillery shell, completely destroying the top floor and igniting a fire that filled the air with huge plumes of black smoke. The Kyiv emergencies agency said there were two victims without specifying if they were injured or killed. Many of the apartment’s residents were likely sheltering elsewhere for the night.
Fighting also intensified in the suburbs of Kyiv, particularly around the town of Bucha in the northwest and along a highway leading west toward Zhytomyr, according to Kyiv’s governor, Oleksiy Kuleba, as reported by the Associated Press. Kuleba said Russian troops are attempting to block transport arteries to the capital and destroy logistical capabilities in preparation for a broad and overwhelming attack to seize Kyiv.
The capital was placed under a 36-hour curfew Tuesday as a result of intensifying attacks and the deaths of three war correspondents, American journalist Brent Renaud, Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, and local producer Oleksandra Kuvshynova. Fox reporter Benjamin Hall was also badly wounded on Monday and remains in intensive care at an undisclosed medical facility.
Kuleba also reported that, across the Kyiv region, “kindergartens, museums, churches, residential blocks and engineering infrastructure are suffering from the endless firing.”
A senior U.S. Department of Defense official speaking on condition of anonymity said Moscow has intensified attacks on civilian targets inside Kyiv with long-range fire but noted that their ground forces have failed to make much progress around the country. Russian troops remained roughly nine miles from the center of the capital overnight.
Nearly 30,000 escape Mariupol; others taken hostage in hospital
Tens of thousands of residents trapped in one of Ukraine’s hardest-hit cities for two weeks, Mariupol, managed to flee through nine humanitarian corridors on Tuesday. Zelenskyy said a total of 28,893 civilians escaped. Russians have refused to allow aid into the city to assist those who remain, leaving civilians without food, water, and electricity.
The positive news was soon tempered by reports that Russian forces seized the city’s Regional Intensive Care Hospital, forcing roughly 400 nearby residents into the building for use as human shields. The hospital had already suffered significant damage, and around 100 patients were being treated in makeshift wards in the basement of the building. They, too, are now trapped inside the building.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, the city of Kharkiv was rocked by a powerful explosion overnight while airstrikes and shelling by ground forces continued. It has also been reported that Russian naval ships opened fire on a town south of Mariupol on the Azov Sea as well as one near Odessa on the Black Sea.
Second Ukrainian city official abducted
Yevhen Matveyev, mayor of Dniprorudne, a city in the Vasylivka Raion of Zaporizhzhia Oblast, has become the second Ukrainian government official to be captured by Russian forces, according to Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba.
Matveyev’s abduction on Sunday followed the March 11 capture of Ivan Fedorov, mayor of the nearby city of Melitopol. Multiple news outlets have circulated a video of his capture in which Federov can be seen with a bag over his head as he is led away from his office by armed soldiers. A short time later, the Russian-backed Luhansk regional prosecutor announced that the mayor had been placed under investigation on terrorism charges.
Melitopol has been occupied by Russian forces since late February, and Federov had encouraged resistance among its residents, some of whom have bravely staged protests in front of government buildings demanding his release.
President Zelenskyy on Saturday urged Western nations in communication with Moscow, including Germany, France, and Israel, to help him free Fedorov, saying in an address, “I’ll talk to whoever I need to talk to in order for our people to be freed,” according to a Fox News report.
Biden to Travel to Europe
The White House, meanwhile, announced that President Biden will travel to Brussels, Belgium next week for a special NATO summit set to take place March 24. There, according to a readout of a statement by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, the President will “discuss ongoing deterrence and defense efforts in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine” and “reaffirm our ironclad commitment to our NATO Allies.” The President will also attend a previously-scheduled face-to-face meeting with his European counterparts to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.