Putin Meets With Erdogan, Turkish Leader Emerges As Most Likely Peacemaker
“Our goal is to continue the momentum that has been achieved and bring an end to the bloodshed as soon as possible,” Erdogan said just before his meeting with Putin, referring to earlier agreements he helped seal.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin met Thursday in Astana, Kazakhstan, with the world holding out slim hope of a peace deal to halt the war in Ukraine.
The two sides in the war currently appear too far apart to even begin negotiations, but Erdogan has maintained regular contact with both Moscow and Kyiv, establishing himself as an indispensable diplomatic resource for trying to halt the bloodshed in Ukraine and eventual help orchestrate a peace accord.
Speaking just before his encounter with Putin, Erdogan said Turkey’s aim is to orchestrate a ceasefire. “Our goal is to continue the momentum that has been achieved and bring an end to the bloodshed as soon as possible,” the Turkish leader said, referring to earlier agreements he helped seal.
Erdogan noted that the impact of the war is being felt around the world: “We are all closely experiencing the effects of the crisis in Ukraine on a regional and global scale,” he said. “I always say that a just peace can be established with diplomacy, that there are no winners in war and no losers in equitable peace.”
Meeting in front of cameras Thursday, Putin said he proposed to Erdogan creating a new "gas hub" in Turkey to redirect energy supplies toward Europe that have been diverted from the Nord Stream pipeline. Erdogan did not comment on the proposal, though he repeated his vow to help facilitate a previous deal in July to recommence the export of Ukrainian grain.
What Is Erdogan’s Plan To Stop The War In Ukraine?
The Turkish President’s approach to try to orchestrate a deal has been to try to seal specific agreements to lay the groundwork for a broader truce, such as the accord signed in Istanbul in July to resume Ukrainian grain exports, as well as the largest prisoner exchange of the war.
Erdogan, whose country is a NATO member but also counts Moscow as a strategic partner, has sought to expand Turkey’s influence on the global stage.
After his most recent encounter with Putin at a summit last month in Uzbekistan, Erdgoan said he thought the Russian President was eager to sign a truce. Of course, since then Putin has actually escalated the war with a mass mobilization and this week’s missile attacks against Ukrainian cities.
As for the specific terms of any eventual final accord, Erdogan was asked by U.S. public television network PBS if Russia should be allowed to keep any territory conquered since February’s invasion, and whether that should be part of a peace deal; Erdogan replied: "No, and undoubtedly no." It’s not clear whether he also included territory held by Russian-backed separatists since 2014, or the Crimean peninsula, both of which Kyiv has insisted be returned to Ukraine.
Barrage Of Russian Strikes Across Ukraine
A fourth straight day of deadly Russian airstrikes on Ukrainian civilian and infrastructure targets continued Thursday, with more than 40 towns and cities reportedly hit.
According to Ukrainian military officials, a "kamikaze" drone crashed into Bucha, the town north of Kyiv that became infamous as the site of suspected war crimes against civilians.
Although there were no casualties on first inspection, the head of Kyiv region police Andrii Nebytov said the attacks targeted the region’s infrastructure.
This attack comes after at least seven people were reported killed and at least eight injured Wednesday in an attack on a market in the eastern town of Avdiivka. Pavlo Kyrylenko, Donetsk regional military head, said the strike in the Ukrainian-controlled town took place at a busy time.
Vitalii Kim, the head of the Mykolaiv Regional State Administration, also announced on Telegram that the city of Mykolaiv was subjected to a mass Russian shelling on Wednesday night. "A five-story building was hit. An 11-year-old boy was found under the rubble. The child spent 6 hours under the rubble. He is currently receiving medical assistance. The search for 7 more people is ongoing," the message reads.
Volunteers from the Red Cross Society of Ukraine are working on the site, emergency medical teams, law enforcement officers and emergency teams are also responding.
NATO To Beef Up Ukraine’s Air Defense And Support
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg urged NATO Allies to provide air defense systems to Ukraine; he said it was now the "top priority" at the current NATO Defense meeting and the U.S.-led Contact Group for Ukraine in Brussels.
"The horrific indiscriminate attacks against Ukrainian cities […] demonstrate the urgent need for more air defense for Ukraine," said Stoltenberg.
He added that NATO should increase its support for Ukraine and provide it with different types of air defense systems, including some that can take down ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as drones both short- and long-range.
The U.S. is set to provide Ukraine with $4.5 billion in budget support in the coming weeks, Reuters reports, while separate reports over the past 24 hours confirm additional military backing from the UK, France, the Netherlands and Canada.
Ukraine Joining NATO Would Lead To World War III, Says Russian Official
Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Alexander Venediktov said that the admission of Ukraine into NATO would lead to World War III.
In an interview with Russian state media site TASS, he called Ukraine's application for an accelerated entry into NATO "rather a propaganda move […] Kyiv is well aware that such a step would mean a guaranteed escalation to a third world war," Venediktov said. “We are aware that, despite statements about not being involved in the events in Ukraine, the real actions taken by Westerners indicate that they are a direct party to the conflict."
NATO Scrambling Jets On Financial Times Front Page
Today’s edition of the Financial Times features fighter jets from the Polish Air Force taking part in a NATO exercise, as Alliance members pledge to help the country strengthen its air defense support.
Zelensky Compares Kharkiv To Bucha, Says Ukraine Needs $55 Billion To Rebuild
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the recently liberated region of Kharkiv region is “just as terrible” as the remains of Irpin and Bucha, two towns where mass graves were discovered after Russian troops were forced to retreat. Russia denies that its forces have committed war crimes.
Zelensky, speaking to finance ministers at the annual meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington on Wednesday, said Ukraine needs about $55 billion to rebuild critical infrastructure such as schools, housing and energy facilities destroyed in the war, urging international donors to increase their financial aid contributions.
UN General Assembly Overwhelmingly Condemns Russia’s Annexation
The United Nations General Assembly has voted in overwhelming majority to condemn Russia's plans to annex the four Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
Although mostly symbolic, the resolution sees the highest number of countries voting against Russia since the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine: 143 countries voted to condemn the annexation, 35 abstained, while Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Nicaragua opposed the vote.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted that he was "grateful to 143 states that supported historic #UNGA resolution.”
Putin Offers Europe To Turn Gas Tap Back On
Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to resume gas supplies to Europe through parts of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that were not damaged by apparent sabotage in September. He also proposed an alternative supply route through Turkey. "The ball is in the EU's court. If they want to, then the taps can be turned on, and that's it," he said.
Since September 26, four leaks were discovered in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, leaks that U.S. President Joe Biden called a "deliberate act of sabotage."
Germany responded by saying that it would not accept Russian gas via Nord Stream 2 pipeline, as the gas and its pipeline had become sources of controversy in the Ukraine crisis.
Amnesty Report Accuses Latvia Of Abusing Migrants On Border With Belarus
At the Belarus-Latvia border
A new report by rights group Amnesty International details alleged abuses of power, ill-treatment and even torture from Latvian border authorities against migrants trying to cross from Belarus. The Baltic state had declared a state of emergency last year, suspending the right to seek asylum in four border areas.
“The Latvian authorities have left men, women and children to fend for themselves in freezing temperatures, often stranded in forests or held in tents,” said Eve Geddie, Amnesty's Director of the European Institutions Office.
Latvia’s government has denied the use of undue force.
Amnesty pointed out in its report that Latvia’s treatment of migrants coming from Belarus was very different from the “swift mobilization” the country deployed to welcome more than 35,000 Ukrainian refugees.
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