Delegations from Russia and Ukraine are expected to hold talks in Belarus on Thursday, a second round of face-to-face discussions since the Russian invasion eight days ago.
In a video address to the nation early Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Ukrainians to keep up their resistance, but didn’t comment on whether the Russians have seized any cities.
“They will have no peace here,” Zelenskyy said, calling on the Russian soldiers to “go home” and describing them as “confused children who have been used.”
His comments come as Russia acknowledged for the first time since the start of the invasion that nearly 500 Russian troops have been killed in the fighting and around 1,600 wounded. Ukraine has not released a similar casualty figure for its armed forces.
The U.N. human rights office says at least 227 civilians have been killed and 525 wounded in Ukraine since the start of the invasion on Feb. 24. Ukraine’s State Emergency Service has said more than 2,000 civilians have died, though it was impossible to verify the claim.
Meanwhile, the U.N. refugee agency said 1 million people have fled Ukraine since Russian forces invaded last week. Also, the U.N. General Assembly has condemned the invasion and called on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.
Here’s a look at key things to know about the conflict:
Russia’s foreign minister says Moscow is ready for peace talks as another meeting by Ukrainian and Russian officials is expected to take place in Belarus Thursday.
Ahead of the meeting, Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Moscow that Russia will press its military action in Ukraine until achieving its goals, chiefly the “demilitarization of Ukraine” but added that it will be up to Ukrainians to choose what government they should have.
Talks are expected to be held in the Brest region of Belarus, which borders Poland.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said earlier Wednesday that his country was ready for talks to resume, but he noted that Russia’s demands hadn’t changed and that he wouldn’t accept any ultimatums.
WHAT ABOUT VIOLENCE IN UKRAINE?
Overnight explosions heard by Associated Press reporters in the capital Kyiv were missiles being shot down by Ukraine’s air defense systems, according to the city’s mayor.
Russia’s 40-mile-long (64-kilometer-long) convoy of tanks and other vehicles remains outside the capital, Kyiv. The city has has been struck by deadly shelling.
Russia says troops have taken the Ukrainian port city of Kherson. The Ukrainian military denies this. Russian forces have also been bombarding the country’s second-biggest city, Kharkiv, and laid siege to two strategic seaports.
WHAT IS THE HUMANITARIAN SITUATION?
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi wrote on Twitter that an exodus of 1 million refugees from Ukraine to neighboring countries has unspooled over the past seven days. This amounts to more than 2% of Ukraine’s population, though some of those fleeing Ukraine are citizens of other countries.
The U.N. agency has predicted that up to 4 million people could eventually leave Ukraine, a country with a population of 44 million.
The EU Commission says it will give temporary residence permits to refugees fleeing the violence and allow them to study and work in the 27-nation bloc. The move would need the approval of member states, which have already expressed broad support.
GLOBAL CONDEMNATION AND WAR CRIMES INVESTIGATION
The U.N. General Assembly voted Wednesday to demand that Russia stop its offensive in Ukraine and withdraw all troops, with nations from world powers to tiny island states condemning Moscow. The vote was 141 to 5, with 35 abstentions.
The resolution deplored Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine “in the strongest terms.” General Assembly resolutions aren’t legally binding.
Still, China has insisted it will continue trade with Russia and has refrained from criticizing the war in Ukraine. Hungary, meanwhile, said Thursday it will not allow any arms shipments bound for Ukraine to cross its territory.
HOW ARE SANCTIONS IMPACTING RUSSIA?
In Washington, the White House announced additional sanctions against Russia and Belarus, including extending export controls that target Russian oil refining and entities supporting both countries’ militaries. The U.S. is also joining Europe and Canada in closing off its airspace to Russian airlines.
Additionally, Airbus and Boeing said they would cut off spare parts and technical support to the country’s airlines. The French-based Airbus and U.S.-based Boeing’s aircraft account for the vast majority or Russia’s passenger fleet.
German Volkswagen Group decided to halt all its business activities in Russia, including that of subsidiary Skoda Auto, which is halting car production in its two Russian plants and all exports to Russia.
Similarly, Swedish furniture retailer Ikea says it is closing its operations in Russia, pausing all export and import in and out of Russia and Belarus, a decision that will have “a direct impact on 15,000 IKEA co-workers.” The Stockholm-based H&M clothing retailer also said it will temporarily pause all sales in its Russian stores and temporarily close its shops in Ukraine.
HOW ARE RUSSIANS BEING AFFECTED?
The sanctions threaten ultra-wealthy Russians who own properties across Europe and send their children to elite European private schools. Some have begun, albeit tentatively, to speak out.
French authorities on Thursday said they seized a yacht linked to Igor Sechin, a Vladimir Putin ally who runs Russian oil giant Rosneft, as part of EU sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich confirmed Wednesday he’s trying to sell the Premier League Chelsea soccer club, with a price tag of at least $2.5 billion floated. He said net proceeds from the sale will be donated to benefit all victims of the war in Ukraine.
Ordinary Russians are also feeling the impact of the sanctions, from payment systems that won’t operate and problems withdrawing cash to not being able to purchase certain items.
Formula One canceled the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi in September and canceled contract with race.
Russian and Belarusian athletes are now banned from the Paralympics Games for their countries’ roles in the war in Ukraine when the Games open on Friday.