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War in Ukraine. Daily update. Day 27 [10.00 am, 22.03.2022 🇬🇧🇪🇸🇭🇷🇦🇪🇮🇹🇯🇵🇬🇷🇬🇪🇫🇷🇷🇴🇸🇪🇩🇪🇹🇷🇱🇻🇨🇿]

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Negotiations. Negotiations between the official delegations of Ukraine and Russia on March 21 lasted an hour and a half. Further work continues in subgroups on political, legal, social aspects of the agreement. Currently, the negotiation teams do not reveal any details of the potential agreements. The Kremlin says that no significant progress has been achieved, accusing Ukraine of stalling peace talks by making their proposals unacceptable to Russia. Ukraine has said it is willing to negotiate but will not back down on key issues or accept Russian ultimatums. Meanwhile, President Zelenskyi mentioned in the interview to the national public media, that the major points of the agreement can only be decided by the national referendum. However, at the moment, it seems quite impossible to hold a referendum, while martial law is still in place.  

Foreign policy. EU. Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission called the situation in Ukraine a “war crime”: “We consider that what’s happening in Ukraine is a war crime, a massive war crime committed by the Russian armed forces against Ukrainian people”. On March 21, the Council of the EU formally approved the Strategic Compass – an unprecedented plan of action for strengthening the EU’s security and defense policy by 2030, which includes (1) increasing EU’s deployment capacity and improving military strength; (2) strengthening its ability to anticipate, deter and respond to current and fast-emerging threats and challenges, and safeguard the EU’s security interest; (3) enhancing member states’ defense expenditures; (4) strengthening cooperation with strategic partners and bilateral cooperation with like-minded countries. ‘This Strategic Compass will enhance the EU’s strategic autonomy and its ability to work with partners to safeguard its values and interests’, – the official press-release states. 

Japan. Russia has announced withdrawal from peace treaty talks with Japan and froze joint economic projects related to the disputed Kuril islands because of sanctions imposed by Tokyo over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. From the very first weeks of the war, Japan has been raising the unresolved issue of the Kuril Islands, Japan’s Northern Territories. Over the years, the territories’ status has been a hot topic since Russia occupied them during World  War II. 

Sanctions.  Further sanctions against Russia are on top of the EU’s agenda this week, however certain fatigue is in the air. Poland and Baltic states, call for tougher sanctions, namely trade embargo with Russia, as well as targeting the oil and gas sector. Germany is signaling support for taking a pause to “review the effect of the sanctions imposed so far”, says Politico. Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, saysThe question on an oil embargo is not a question of whether we want or don’t want it. It’s a question of how much we depend on oil and it’s different between different European member states and that’s why it’s important that we talk together about resilience and how we can reduce our dependence on those countries that do import oil”. US President Joe Biden warned about new indications of possible Russian cyberattacks, that could be one of possible Kremlin-ordered responses to crushing sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine. 

Cities under the attack. A Russian missile strike on Sunday night at Kyiv shopping mall turned it into a smoldering ruin. At least eight people were killed, though the toll is likely to rise because of the devastating explosions there. The destroyed mall’s cost equals 41 mln EUR of investments. In occupied Trostyanets, Sumy regions, Russian troops keep robbing apartments and houses, killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure. Occupants regularly use local people as a human shield to hide behind from the Ukrainian army. Russians have stolen the last available ambulance from the city hospital leaving no medical transport available there. The Children’s hospital in Severodonetsk, Donetsk region, was destroyed by Russian troops who caused the roof of the building to go up in flames. Russian troops fired at the evacuation buses heading from Mariupol. As a result, 4 children were injured. They were taken to hospital. One child is in serious condition. For the first time since the beginning of the war, Zhytomyr region was shelled with BM-21 (Grad). Village Selets was attacked, 4 people were killed. The same military machinery was used against the city Zelenodolsk,  Zelenodol near Kryvyi Rih. Four missiles were launched at Rivne region, three of them were destroyed with air defense systems. The Russian military struck Avdiivka, Donetsk region, with new Tornado-C MLRS missiles. 15 buildings were destroyed as a result of the attack. 

Yesterday 8057 people were evacuated through humanitarian corridors, 3007 were evacuated from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia. Local authorities announced that more than a half of the population of the city of Chernihiv left the city. Out of 285 000 citizens around 130 000 remained. Russian troops have used white phosphorus ammunition in Kramatorsk, Donetsk oblast

Read the story of the Associated Press team ‘20 Days in Mariupol: the Team that Documented City’s Agony’. The team was the only international journalists left in the Ukrainian city, and has been documenting its siege by Russian troops for more than two weeks. 

Abductions. Russia maintains its strategy of abducting the local authorities and activists. Over the last few days, the troops kidnapped the mayor of Berislav, Kherson region along with a local activist. Tsyrkunivsk Head of the village council, Kharkiv region was abducted directly from his own house. Foreign Minister Kuleba stated that around two thousand children were taken from Mariupol to Russia. As confirmed by his spokesperson “On 19 March alone, Russia forcibly relocated 2389 children from Donbas. Abducting civilians is strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law”. In Melitopol, journalists from local media “Melitopolskie vesti” were abducted, but later released. 

Peaceful rallies. Russia placed 600 riot policemen around Energodar to control any upcoming rallies. From the very first days, local citizens have been actively taking to the streets to protest against the city’s occupation by Russian troops. This riot police’s sole mission is to prevent further acts of resistance by even the smallest of crowds. At a peaceful rally in Kherson, the Russian military used force against people protesting against Russian aggression injuring some of them.

Assets management. Poland intends to cancel present restrictions related to property rights in order to allow confiscation of Russian property within the country. Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and partners have uncovered dozens of assets tied to Russia’s ruling class. For years, ruling elites were hiding their assets offshore and registering them under different names, therefore this project is aimed at finding the real owners and their assets. Proving the ownership of yachts, mansions, and planes is not easy, since their owners often take pains to keep them hidden. This website contains information about assets with clear evidence of their ownership. 

Cyber frontline. Russia keeps on shutting down any sliver of information about their war in Ukraine that appears in the media. Russian court ruled that Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, is an extremist organization and banned it from operating on Russia’s territory. Meanwhile, Anonymous, a hacktivist group, gave 48 hours to 40 international organizations that cooperate with Russia, to leave the country. The group called on the businesses to reflect on this and withdraw from Russia, as their taxes are financing Putin’s regime.

Disinformation. Police in the German city of Bonn have reported the spread of a video on the Internet of an alleged attack by Ukrainians on a 16-year-old Russian-speaking volunteer in the Euskirchen area, which experts assess to be a fake aimed at inciting hostility. Pro-Kremlin media “Komsomolskaya Pravda” published an article stipulating Russian losses in the war against Ukraine. The indicated numbers, 9,861 Russian soldiers killed and 16,153 wounded, are more realistic than the previously announced by Russian authorities. However, after a while, all the figures were deleted. 

Stories from the war. 96-year-old Borys Romanchenko, who survived 4 Nazi concentration camps, was killed by Russian missile in his own Kharkiv apartment during the heavy shelling of the city by Russians. 

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