Update (2120ET): In a Thursday conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly outlined the conditions for ending his invasion of Ukraine. According to a BBC report, a Turkish official who listened to the call between the two leaders said that Putin would end his invasion if several conditions are met including a promise that Ukraine will remain neutral and not join NATO.
Erdogan's leading adviser and spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said Russia is also calling for Ukraine to undergo a disarmament process to mitigate threats to Russia in the future as well as legal protections for the Russian language in Ukraine. Additionally, Putin reportedly desires promises related to the "Denazification" of Ukraine.
Putin, according to the report, is also asking for face-to-face negotiations with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to hammer out his demands which Zelenskyy has previously stated he is not opposed to.
According to Kalin, there were other conditions Putin listed that he did not go into much detail about but he believes they will involve territories that have broken away from Ukraine in the eastern Donbas region.
The report states that it is "assumed" Putin will ask Ukraine to give up territory in the east and formally recognize that Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, is a part of Russia.
The demands are in line with previous reporting that stated Putin has told Ukrainian officials he will end his invasion if six major conditions are met. News of Putin’s willingness to negotiate an end to the war comes as his invasion enters its fourth week.
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Update(1553ET): President Joe Biden in a Thursday St. Patrick's Day luncheon event on Capitol Hill called called Vladimir Putin a "murderous dictator" and "pure thug" - in his harshest words yet for the Russian leader since the start of the Ukraine invasion. Biden called Putin "a murderous dictator, a pure thug who is waging an immoral war against the people of Ukraine."
In separate remarks just before that event, the US president had described "Putin's brutality and what he's doing and his troops are doing in Ukraine is just inhumane."
In another big development an American citizen has been killed in Ukraine - a first - reportedly amid Russian shelling of the northern city of Chernihiv. Both the US and Ukrainian governments are confirming, with the State Department saying "We offer our sincerest to the family on their loss." The statement said, "Out of respect to the family during this difficult time, we have no further comment."
According to Fox News:
Local police said that James Whitney Hill, 68, was killed during heavy Russian artillery shelling against civilians in the city of Chernihiv, according to The New York Times. His identity was confirmed by Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also confirmed that the American citizen was killed.
A 68-year-old American man was killed in a Russian assault on Chernihiv, a city northwest of Kyiv, local authorities in the city said. He and his partner, who is Ukrainian, had traveled to the city so she could be treated for multiple sclerosis.https://t.co/NkUyXAXobN— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 17, 2022
Blinken in an Thursday press briefing also said:
“Today, we have a strong sense of what Russia could do next,” Blinken said in remarks from the State Department. “We believe that Moscow may be setting the stage to use a chemical weapon and then falsely blame Ukraine to justify escalating its attacks on the Ukrainian people.”
The American had left the below last social media post, according to Fox....
On Wednesday Biden had called Putin "a war criminal" - which the Kremlin responding by saying the US president's words were "unforgiveable" and that Washington is bent on stoking "disgusting Russophobia".
Russia has now fired over 1000 missiles into Ukraine in Pentagon's count. Status of operations remains stalled, except for naval activity near port city of Odessa— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) March 17, 2022
Some of the latest wire headlines:
- WHITE HOUSE SAYS IT IS A HIGH CONCERN OF THE U.S. THAT CHINA MAY PROVIDE RUSSIA WITH MILITARY EQUIPMENT
- WHITE HOUSE SAYS BIDEN, IN CALL WITH CHINA'S XI, WILL HAVE OPPORTUNITY TO ASSESS WHERE XI STANDS ON RUSSIA IN UKRAINE
- WHITE HOUSE SAYS FACT CHINA HAS NOT DENOUNCED WHAT RUSSIA IS DOING SPEAKS VOLUMES
- U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE BLINKEN SAYS BIDEN WILL MAKE CLEAR TO XI THAT CHINA WILL BEAR RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY ACTIONS IT TAKES TO SUPPORT RUSSIA'S AGGRESSION
- U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE BLINKEN SAYS CONCERNED THAT CHINA IS CONSIDERING DIRECTLY ASSISTING RUSSIA WITH MILITARY EQUIPMENT
- U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE BLINKEN SAYS WE WILL NOT HESITATE TO IMPOSE COSTS ON CHINA
- GERMANY WILL SEND MORE TROOPS TO NATO'S EASTERN FLANK: BAERBOCK
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Update(11:30ET): Regional media correspondents are reporting that Ukraine is seeking Turkey's help in advancing high level talks toward a possible Ukraine-Russia ceasefire deal, to include a meeting between Putin and Zelensky, however unlikely this might be. According to Middle East Eye:
Ukraine wants Turkey as one of the guarantors of a possible deal with Russia, Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu says, who is visiting Kyiv right now. "Russia has no objection to this," he says. Ukrainian foreign minister Kuleba says Kyiv sees Turkey among the guarantor powers.
"Erdogan had a phone call with Putin today," Cavusoglu said. "Putin and Zelensky should meet" - though given there's been no significant pause in Russia's advance on the battlefield, an actual Putin-Zelensky meeting seems a far fetched scenario at this point.
Also on Thursday the Kremlin has lashed out at Washington, expressing outrage over the waves of US-backed sanctions which have served to isolate Russia economically and diplomatically - now far beyond even the height of Iran sanctions. "Russia warned the United States on Thursday that Moscow had the might to put the world's pre-eminent superpower in its place and accused the West of stoking a wild Russophobic plot to tear Russia apart," Reuters reports. The report described further:
Dmitry Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012 and is now deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council, said the United States had stoked "disgusting" Russophobia in an attempt to force Russia to its knees.
"It will not work - Russia has the might to put all of our brash enemies in their place," Medvedev asserted.
Undated video of Ukrainian Su-25 aircraft reportedly attacking a Russian military column. It appears one drops a bomb before the second crashes. This most likely occurred in Kherson. https://t.co/8kx6XTxMOM pic.twitter.com/2fu83P1Tj1— Rob Lee (@RALee85) March 17, 2022
According to a growing chorus of Western national security pundits, Russia has now by its third week of the Ukraine invasion lost a staggering amount of troops and equipment - also in the wake of fresh NY Times reporting that claims that some 7,000 Russian troops may have been killed, though these numbers remain impossible to confirm...
"Conservative" U.S. intel estimates suggest 7,000+ #Russia soldiers have been killed in #Ukraine in 3 weeks -- which'd imply ~20,000-25,000 also injured.— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) March 17, 2022
That's more losses than the U.S. suffered in #Iraq & #Afghanistan from 2001-2021.
I mean, WOW.https://t.co/l0CrjAbvTA https://t.co/TfXBHXML0M
Below are some of the latest wire headlines:
- WESTERN OFFICIAL SAYS THOSE WHO HAVE SEEN PUTIN'S REMARKS WOULD BE FORGIVEN FOR THINKING HE IS NOT IN A MOOD TO COMPROMISE
- U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY AUSTIN SAYS A UKRAINE NO-FLY ZONE MEANS YOU ARE IN A CONFLICT WITH RUSSIA
- U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY SAYS DOES NOT HAVE ANY ANNOUNCEMENTS ON NEW AIR DEFENSES, WHEN ASKED ABOUT POSSIBLE S-300S
- AUSTIN: DRONES EFFECTIVE IN COUNTERING RUSSIAN FIRE
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The past two days saw reports of "progress made" in ongoing Ukraine-Russia ceasefire talks, but a Kremlin spokesman shot that down as "wrong" while still affirming that discussions are continuing Thursday.
Wednesday afternoon saw for the first time Presdient Biden when asked by a reporter call Vladimir Putin a "war criminal". Peskov weighed in on the provocative words, saying this characterization was "unforgiveable". And according to Bloomberg:
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a Financial Times report of substantial progress in talks with Ukraine was "wrong" but that the discussions will continue on Thursday. He blamed Kyiv for dragging its feet on negotiations, saying Ukraine’s government was "in no rush." Ukraine dismissed the Financial Times report on Wednesday, saying significant issues remained.
"I don’t know if they are already underway but they are expected [to take place] on various tracks," Peskov said of Thursday talks. He said contacts are expected to be held today," according to state media.
"Our delegation, led by [Presidential Aide Vladimir] Medinsky, maintains contact with experts and government agencies, it’s ready to work around the clock, it has made its willingness clear. Unfortunately, we don’t see similar enthusiasm from the Ukrainian side," the spokesman added. Zelensky himself acknowledged negotiations as "fairly difficult" while the Kremlin said it's ready to reach peace but "on our terms" - meaning it's still seeking a military solution on the ground in Ukraine.
Further Zelensky said the following in a US media interview:
Zelensky says Russia has crossed "all the red lines": Asked in an NBC interview on Wednesday if a chemical attack by Russia would be a red line that would prompt the US to become more actively involved in combat, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said, "I believe that Russians have already crossed all the red lines when they started shelling civilians." Russia has already killed more than 100 children, Zelensky said, adding: "I don’t understand the meaning of red lines. What else should we wait for? For letting Russians kill 200, 300 or 400 children?"
Coming off Zelensky's Tuesday address to Canadian parliament, and Wednesday speech to US Congress - wherein he urged a no-fly zone in both - the Ukrainian leader addressed Germany parliament on Thursday, delivering a similar message, while invoking Holocaust imagery and references. This also as the Group of Seven foreign ministers hold a virtual meeting to discuss the crisis.
US intelligence is being cited in Thursday reports to say Russia has suffered huge military losses, though the allegation is unconfirmed...
Staggering. US intel estimating around 7,000 Russian troops killed in Ukraine, 21,000 wounded. That's industrial-scale carnage. https://t.co/EzDo6xUg6v— Paul McLeary (@paulmcleary) March 17, 2022
Further Bloomberg details of the battlefield situation that "Ukraine’s military said Russian strikes continued on infrastructure sites and on densely populated areas of cities. But it said the Kremlin’s forces remain bogged down on the ground." However, "Russia said its troops were advancing through the town of Sievierodonetsk in the Luhansk region in the east."
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has castigated Western press reports for what she described as a "distorted picture" of the reality of the Russian military operation in Ukraine. She also said Moscow is not seeking to remove Ukraine's statehood.
"Let me stress once again what both the Western mass media and the Western establishment refuse to see: this operation is not targeted at the civilian population. It does not pursue the aim of seizing the country’s territory, ruining its statehood or ousting the current president. We keep saying this again and again," she described to a news briefing.
Interestingly the statement constituted among the clearest denials so far that Russia is seeking full regime change in Kiev, also amid conjecture that it will seek a permanent occupation or even annexation of the country.
"The Western media are forming an absolutely distorted picture of current events. They disinform their own population. They are a propaganda tool in the hands of their politicians," Zakharova said.
The #US has provided #Ukraine with $2.7 billion in military assistance in the years since 2014 to prepare the army for a confrontation with #Russia and is still sending over $1 billion weapons for #Ukrainians to fight and die in a war we know what but not when will be the end. pic.twitter.com/RRskyJL2K5— Elijah J. Magnier 🇪🇺 (@ejmalrai) March 17, 2022
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports amid speculation over whether or not Moscow made its dollar bond interest payment in rubles, "Russia’s Finance Ministry said a $117 million interest payment due on two dollar bonds had been made to Citibank in London amid mounting speculation that the country is heading for a default. Russia had until the end of business Wednesday to honor the coupons on the two notes. The ruble gained for a sixth day in Moscow trading, while the country’s stock market remains shut."