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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement renewed his call for an end to violence as Ukraine marked 100 days of Russia's war.
"I renew my call for an immediate halt to violence, for unfettered humanitarian access to all those in need, for safe evacuation of civilians trapped in areas of fighting and for urgent protection of civilians and respect for human rights in accordance with international norms," Guterres said in a statement on Friday.
He said the conflict has already killed thousands of people and displaced millions of others, and that the war has "resulted in unacceptable violations of human rights and is inflaming a three-dimensional global crisis – food, energy and finance – that is pummeling the most vulnerable people, countries and economies."
Guterres said the United Nations is "committed to the humanitarian effort" but ultimately, negotiations and dialogue will be necessary to resolve the conflict.
"The sooner the parties engage in good-faith diplomatic efforts to end this war, the better for the sake of Ukraine, Russia and the world," he said.
The Ukrainian military says fighting continues in the east of the country, specifically in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Officials said Russian forces are intensifying their attacks as they try to advance from several directions and take more of the area.
Ukraine's military says that Russian units are being reinforced on the approaches to Sloviansk, and have had "partial success" in the ongoing combat in the eastern city in the Donetsk region.
The General Staff said Friday that Russian forces are preparing to resume an offensive towards Sloviansk. It said that the Russians are concentrating a force of up to 20 battalion tactical groups in the area. The Russians had tried to launch an attack on two towns north and northwest of Sloviansk — Barvinkove and Sviatohirsk ��� but had been unsuccessful, the General Staff said.
In the south, Ukrainian forces say they have made significant progress during an offensive against Russian positions in the region of Kherson.
Here's what else to know:
- Battle in the east: The UK Ministry of Defence expects Russia to take control of the whole of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine within the next two weeks. The ministry said that after failing to take Kyiv, Moscow has changed its strategy in Ukraine to focus on the Donbas.
- 100 days of war: Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov assessed the results of the war in Ukraine so far, saying "certain results" have been achieved and work will continue until all goals are met. He continued to call it a "special military operation." Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message that Ukrainians have been defending their country for 100 days against Russian aggression and that "victory shall be ours." Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Friday the scale of the destruction in Ukraine due to Russia's invasion “defies comprehension.”
- Potential for ceasefire: The US and its allies are placing a renewed emphasis on the need for a negotiated settlement to end the war. US officials have in recent weeks been meeting regularly with their British and European counterparts to discuss potential frameworks for a ceasefire. When asked whether Ukraine needs to cede part of its territory to achieve peace and end the Russian invasion, US President Joe Biden told reporters Friday in Delaware: “I’m not going to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do." Biden did add that it “appears” at some point there will need to be a “settlement” between the two countries, adding “what that entails, I don’t know.”
- Sanctions: The European Council has formally adopted the sixth package of sanctions against Russia. The Council said the sanctions impact areas such as oil embargo, broadcasting, export restrictions and consulting restrictions.
- OSCE members call for another fact-finding mission: Forty-five member states in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have once again called for a fact-finding mission into human rights abuses, war crimes and potential crimes against humanity being committed in Ukraine. This is the second time the Moscow Mechanism — the OSCE's procedure to investigate human rights abuses — has been invoked since Russia's war in Ukraine began on Feb. 24.
- Impacts of military sonars: Injured and dead dolphins have been washing up on the coast of the Black Sea after being hurt or killed by powerful military sonars, according to researchers in Ukraine. Several studies in the past have confirmed that these types of sonars are harmful to marine life.
Here's a look at the areas Russians control in Ukraine:
Staring down the prospect of an extended stalemate in Ukraine, the US and its allies are placing a renewed emphasis on the need for a negotiated settlement to end the war as the conflict grinds into its 100th day with no clear victory in sight for either side.
US officials have in recent weeks been meeting regularly with their British and European counterparts to discuss potential frameworks for a ceasefire and for ending the war through a negotiated settlement, multiple sources familiar with the talks told CNN. Among the topics has been a four-point framework proposed by Italy late last month. That framework involves Ukraine committing to neutrality with regard to NATO in exchange for some security guarantees, and negotiations between Ukraine and Russia on the future of Crimea and the Donbas region.
Ukraine is not directly involved in those discussions, despite the US commitment to “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.” US and Ukrainian officials said the US has not been pressuring Ukraine to commit to a certain plan or directly pushing them to sit down with the Russians.
Still, there is some confusion about what kind of framework the US would consider appropriate to bring to the Ukrainians for further discussion.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas Greenfield told reporters earlier this week that the Italian framework is “one of those initiatives that we certainly would love to see bring a conclusion to this horrific war and the horrific attacks on the Ukrainian people.” But two US officials told CNN that the US actually does not support the Italian proposal.
In any case, US and western officials tell CNN that there is a growing concern that if the Russians and Ukrainians don’t get back to the table and work out a deal, the war will drag on – potentially for years.
Read the full story here:
Russia is not standing in the way of Ukrainian grain exports, President Vladimir Putin said, calling such accusations a “bluff” in an interview with the state TV channel “Russia-1."
“This is a bluff. And I will explain why. The world produces about 800 million tons of wheat per year. We are told that Ukraine is ready to export 20 million tons. It's only 2.5%,” Putin said in an interview.
Some background: Leaders around the world have been sounding the alarm as Russia's months-long blockade of Ukrainian ports is increasing the risk of a global food crisis and famine in some parts of the world.
Two weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, the prices of key agricultural products produced in the region have skyrocketed. The biggest problem is wheat, a pantry staple. Supplies from Russia and Ukraine, which together account for almost 30% of global wheat trade, are now at risk. Global wheat prices hit an all-time high earlier this week.
At the same time, Russia also appears to be ramping up its efforts to steal large quantities of Ukrainian grain, as CNN has previously reported. Russian forces are also stealing farm equipment and thousands of tons of grain from Ukrainian farmers in areas they have occupied, as well as targeting food storage sites with artillery, multiple sources have told CNN.
Russian units have tightened their grip on parts of the rich agricultural regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine, the sources said. Sowing operations in many areas have since been disrupted or abandoned.
“We do not prevent the export of Ukrainian grain. It can be exported through ports that are under the control of Ukraine,” Putin said.
“But we did not mine the approaches to the ports! Ukraine did. I have already said many times: let them clear the mines and let ships with grain go out,” he said. “We guarantee their passage without any problems."
Ukraine has accused the Russians of placing mines in the Black Sea.
Putin also suggested that the Ukrainian grain should be exported through Belarus, Romania, Hungary, and Poland, but any traffic through Belarus would involve the West lifting sanctions against its government, which is Russia’s closest ally.
Putin also said that Russia has almost completed demining of the Ukranian ports under its occupation.
"There is another possibility (for the export of grain). These are through the ports of the Sea of Azov - Berdyansk, Mariupol which are under our control. We are ready to ensure the smooth export, including Ukrainian grain, through all these ports,” Putin told “Russia-1” state TV channel.
“We are already completing mine clearance that Ukrainian troops have mined there. The work is being completed, we will create the necessary logistics," Putin said.
This week, for the first time since the Russian invasion, a merchant ship left Mariupol for the Russian port of Rostov-on-Don.
Putin also said that Russia is ready to increase its own grain exports to 50 million tons in 2022-2023.
“In the current agricultural year 2021-2022, we will export 37 million tons of grain, and for 2022-2023, I think we will raise this export to 50 million tons,” he said in an interview with a state TV channel.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a phone conversation Friday with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg regarding the request of Sweden and Finland to join NATO.
President Erdoğan stated that Turkey's security concerns regarding Sweden and Finland's membership requests are based on "legitimate grounds," according to the statement from the Presidency's Communications Directorate,
He also emphasized that both countries should make it clear that they have stopped supporting "terrorism," that they have lifted the sanctions against Turkey, and that they are ready to show alliance solidarity, the statement added.
Stoltenberg also drew attention to the need to meet the expectations of Turkey, an important ally, it said.
Turkey, which joined the alliance three years after it was established in 1949 and has the group's second-largest army, has said it won't support the membership bids unless its demands are met.
Erdoğan accused the two countries of harboring members of the separatist militant Kurdistan's Workers Party, also known as PKK.
The PKK, which seeks an independent state in Turkey, has been in an armed struggle with that country for decades and has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union.
A French man has died during fighting in Ukraine, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday.
The statement offered condolences to the man's family.
“We would like to recall that Ukraine, in its entirety, is a war zone. In this context, it is formally discouraged to go to Ukraine, whatever the reason,” the statement added.
The foreign ministry didn’t specify details on why the man was in Ukraine or when and where exactly he was killed.
He is the second French citizen killed in the war in Ukraine in less than one week. French journalist Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff was killed in eastern Ukraine on Monday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall, who is also chair of the African Union, discussed the ongoing food and grain crisis, as well as economic and humanitarian cooperation, during a meeting in the Russian city of Sochi on Friday, according to the Kremlin.
During the meeting, which took place at Putin's Sochi residence of Bocharov Ruchei, Putin told the AU chair that "Africa's political role in the international arena, in general, is growing" and "we believe that Africa as a whole and its individual states, with which we traditionally have very good, without any exaggeration, friendly relations, have great prospects."
"On this basis we intend to further develop our relations with Africa as a whole and with its individual states," Putin said, according to a transcript by the Kremlin.
Sall told Putin "we have high hopes for our cooperation, including bilateral cooperation between Russia and the African continent, but we are also here today to talk about the crisis and its consequences," according to a transcript by the Kremlin.
"As you know, a number of countries voted in favor of resolutions within the United Nations, and it should be noted that the position of the African continent is very diverse and, despite great pressure, many countries still did not condemn Russia's position," Sall said.
"We have really high hopes, and I came here today to tell you that even countries very far from the site of the ongoing conflict are experiencing its consequences," Sall said.
Sall also said that sanctions against Russia have further exacerbated the situation, as they have halted access to grains, and especially wheat, from Russia.
Sall said he hopes the AU and Russia can work together on resolving those issues, as they have "consequences for food security in Africa."
The Ukrainian military says Russian units are being reinforced on the approaches to Sloviansk as they prepare to resume an offensive toward the eastern city.
Neighboring Kramatorsk is the largest urban area in Donetsk still under Ukrainian control.
The General Staff said Friday the Russians are concentrating a force of up to 20 battalion tactical groups in the area. The Russians had tried to launch an attack on two towns north and northwest of Sloviansk — Barvinkove and Sviatohirsk — but had been unsuccessful, the General Staff said.
It's unclear whether the Russians have taken further territory to the east of Sloviansk after winning control of the town of Lyman late last month. The Ukrainian side says Russian forces have used artillery in two areas closer to Sloviansk — Shchurove and Brusivka.
In Severodonetsk, the General Staff said battles continue: "Under cover of artillery fire, the [Russians] stormed residential areas in the eastern part of the city. [The enemy] has partial success."
But the Russians had made no headway in their efforts to advance on other settlements in the pocket of territory that Ukrainian forces continue to defend — that includes Bakhmut, Soledar and Lysychansk. Once again, the General Staff said, the Russians had tried to cross the Siverskiy Donets River and "to create conditions for its crossing by the main forces of the force."
The river has proven to be a major barrier to Russian forces.
Fighting has picked up north of Kharkiv, where Ukrainian forces have regained territory in recent weeks. The General Staff reported that Russian forces were trying to "restrain the advance of our troops in the direction of the State Border. [The enemy] continued to fire on units of the Defense Forces using aircraft, artillery, multiple rocket launchers, mortars and tanks."
Russian action included an airstrike by Mi-8 helicopters at the positions of Ukrainian troops in the areas of the settlements of Slatyne and Dementiivka, rural settlements north of Kharkiv.
This post has been updated.