Chris Lange, FISM News
Today marks 100 days since Russia invaded Ukraine in a war that has gripped the world with near-daily images and reports of death, destruction, and displacement. Stories of courage and kindness have also emerged, piercing the darkness with ephemeral bursts of light amid the ugliness of a brutal conflict with no end in sight.
The war has served to unite the West in censure of Russia’s unmitigated brutality as the world bears witness to corpses in the streets of Bucha; bombings of a maternity hospital and a theater-turned-shelter in Mariupol; targeted shelling of humanitarian corridors; and the ruthless torture, murder, and kidnapping of tens of thousands of Ukrainians.
Amid the chaos and carnage, an unlikely figure has led Ukraine through the drawn-out conflict and become the face of resistance to the rest of the Western world. Comedian-turned-president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, quickly achieved hero status to many around the world when he refused to abandon his country in the early days of the invasion, despite an offer from President Biden to fly him to safety.
Dressed in military fatigues, Zelenskyy in his nightly video addresses has inspired remarkable patriotism and courage among his fellow countrymen, and his aggressive pursuit of assistance from the West has resulted in unprecedented sanctions on Russia and a global outpouring of humanitarian and military assistance for Ukraine.
Zelenskyy’s greatest challenge, however, may still lie ahead. The leader is now facing a challenge to keep the spotlight on his beleaguered nation as news of the conflict is gradually replaced by other headlines and interest begins to wane.
Grain shipment negotiations
Russian naval forces will guarantee grain shipments to the Mediterranean Sea only if Ukraine removes mines from its coastal waters, CNN reported.
“It is crucial that the Ukrainian representatives clear the coastal waters from mines,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday, adding that “everything that depends on [Russia] is guaranteed.”
“If this problem is solved … then on the high seas, the Russian naval forces will ensure the unhindered passage of these ships to the Mediterranean Sea and further to their destinations,” Lavrov added.
The war in Ukraine has significantly disrupted grain supplies, resulting in shortages that have led to fears of a global food crisis as prices of grains and fertilizer soar.
On Friday, Zelenskyy said that Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s main export routes through the Azov Sea and the Black Sea has held up 22 million tons of grain, representing roughly half of the country’s grain export supply.
Earlier this week, Zelenskyy said the blockades have increased the threat of famine in countries that are dependent on the grain and could further cause a migration crisis, adding that “this is something the Russian leadership clearly seeks.”
Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing and selling its grain to other countries, including Turkey. Ukraine’s ambassador to Ankara, Vasyl Bodnar, said Kyiv had sought help from Turkish authorities in identifying and capturing those responsible for the sale and those who buy the goods.
The Kremlin has rejected the accusations and continues to insist the West has caused the food crisis and that they are not blocking any ports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday assured Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow will support an “unimpeded” export of grain from Ukrainian ports, according to a Kremlin readout of a call between the two leaders. Putin also said that Russia is prepared to “export significant volumes of fertilizers and agricultural products” only if the sanctions placed on the country “are lifted,” according to the readout.
EU formally approves Russian oil embargo
The European Union on Friday formally approved an embargo on Russian oil.
EU headquarters said Russian crude oil will be phased out over the next six months and other refined petroleum products over eight months. Landlocked countries including the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia, will be given “a temporary exception” in light of their dependence on Russian supplies
Bulgaria and Croatia will also get “temporary derogations” for certain fuel products. The embargo means that roughly 90% of Russia’s oil exports to Europe will be halted by year’s end, according to EU leaders.
The alliance also agreed to sanction major Russian banks and broadcasters. Moscow’s largest bank, Sberbank, along with other top banks in Russia and Belarus are currently blocked from using the SWIFT system for international bank transfers.