At least 1,300 Ukrainian soldier dead, admits Volodymyr Zelensky; fourth round of talk to be held 14 or 15 March

Ukraine is also working with Israel and Turkey as mediators to finalize a location and framework for peace negotiations with Russia, according to an advisor to the Ukrainian president

As the Ukraine-Russia war entered its 18th day on Sunday, the Russian side has said that negotiators were making headway at talks to resolve fighting in Ukraine, while Volodymyr Zelensky has continued to encourage fighters to keep up their morale.

Here’s a look at the all the major developments of the day:

Russian aggression

According to AFPfor the first two weeks of the war, Russia’s forces had focused on eastern and southern areas of Ukraine, but in recent days they have moved to the centre, striking the city of Dnipro.

The Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk military airfields in western Ukraine were hit on Friday, while overnight Saturday-Sunday, missiles struck a military training ground in Yavoriv near Lviv, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Poland.

Regional governor Maxim Kozitsky said 35 people were killed and 134 injured in the attack on the base, which had been a training center for Ukrainian forces with foreign instructors, although the US said the Americans had left.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told ABC News that Russia was “clearly, at least from an air strike perspective… broadening their target sets”.

Meanwhile in Kyiv, only the roads to the south remain open and the city is preparing to mount a “relentless defence”, according to the Ukrainian presidency.

City authorities have set up checkpoints and stockpiling of food and medicine.

The northwestern suburb of Bucha is entirely held by Russian forces along with parts of Irpin, Ukrainian soldiers at the scene told AFP.

Britain’s defense ministry said Saturday that Russian forces were about 25 kilometers from Kyiv and that a column north of the city had dispersed, reinforcing the indication of an attempt to encircle it.

However, the Russians are encountering resistance from the Ukrainian army to both the east and west of the capital, according to AFP journalists on the spot.

Ukrainian soldiers said they believe the Russians have overestimated their resources, in terms of troops and equipment, and underestimated those of their opponents.

“They have to camp in villages in temperatures of nearly minus 10 Celsius at night. They lack provisions and have to raid houses,” said one soldier, Ilya Berezenko, 27.

Meanwhile, Russian troops have destroyed 3,687 Ukrainian military infrastructure facilities so far, Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying on Sunday. And “Around 1,300” Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since the start of the invasion, Zelensky said, giving the death toll for Ukraine’s forces for the first time.

Moreover, Russian soldiers arrested Ukrainian mayor, Yevhen Matveyev, head of the city of Dniprorudne in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, according to foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Ukrainian resistance

Zelensky has insisted the Russians will not win, saying in a video address late Saturday that “they do not have such spirit. They are holding only on violence. Only on terror”.

Meanwhile as Russia continues to close in on Kyiv a troop of Ukrainian soldiers are keeping up morale by firing a constant barrage of artillery at the Russians. Their shelling has so far stopped Moscow’s tanks entering Kyiv from the east. And they hope that the enemy forces, which have struggled to take large cities, will eventually get bogged down.

Around 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since the start of the invasion, Zelensky said on Sunday giving the death toll for Ukraine’s forces for the first time. While the United Nations said that at least 579 Ukrainian civilians have been killed, stressing that its figures were probably much lower than reality.

A US video journalist was killed and another journalist was injured on the day when they were attacked by Russian forces in Ukraine.

The police force said on its official website that Russian troops opened fire on the car of Brent Renaud and another journalist in Irpin near the capital. It said the injured journalist was being taken to a hospital in Kyiv.

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of using phosphorus chemical bombs in the eastern Donbas region, while a separate air strike on a monastery sheltering wounded civilians 30.

International law prohibits the use of white phosphorus shells in heavily populated civilian areas but allows them in open spaces to be used as cover for troops.

Oleksi Biloshytsky, head of police in Popasna, around 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Lugansk city, said late on Saturday that Russian forces had used the chemical weapon in his area.

“It’s what the Nazis called a ‘flaming onion’ and that’s what the Russcists (amalgamation of ‘Russians’ and ‘fascists’) are dropping on our towns. Indescribable suffering and fires,” he wrote on Facebook.

It was not immediately possible to verify the comments.

Further south, bombs struck the Svyatogirsk monastery, where nearly 1,000 civilians were sheltering at the weekend, wounding 30 people, the Ukrainian public prosecutor said at the weekend.

And on Saturday night, a train evacuating people from the Donbas to the western city of Lviv was shelled, according to Donetsk military commander Pavlo Kirilenko.

One person was killed and another wounded, he said.

As for people fleeing Ukraine, almost 2.7 million people have fled the war and more than 100,000 of them in the past 24 hours, the UN said. More than half have gone to Poland.

India

The ministry of external affairs on Sunday announced that the Indian Embassy in Kyiv will be temporarily relocated to Poland due to the deteriorating security situation in the western part of the war-torn country amid Russian aggression.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday chaired a high-level meeting to review India’s security preparedness and the prevailing global scenario in the context of the ongoing conflict.

“The prime minister briefed on the latest developments in Ukraine, including the details of Operation Ganga to evacuate Indian nationals, along with some citizens of neighboring countries, from Ukraine,” according to official sources.

Modi directed that all possible efforts should be made to bring back the mortal remains of Naveen Shekharappa, who died in Kharkiv.

On the other hand, a PIL has been filed in Supreme Court seeking directions on the issue of admission and continuation of studies in the country by Indian medical students recently evacuated from war-hit Ukraine. The plea also sought directions to the Center to provide a medical subject equivalency orientation program for admitting them into the Indian curriculum.

Global diplomacy

The UN will have multiple meetings this week about Russia’s war in Ukraine. On Monday, the Security Council will discuss the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Polish foreign minister Zbigniew Rau is expected to speak during the session, one of the diplomatic sources told AFP. Although this is an annual meeting, it will place special focus on the war in Ukraine and will likely see fresh calls for peace.

US President Joe Biden on the day authorized 200 million dollar in additional military equipment for Ukraine. Washington has already authorized 350 million dollar of military equipment – ​​the largest such package in US history.

However, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday that Washington had no plans to have US military forces operating in Ukraine, but the United States would defend “every inch” of NATO territory, while increasing assistance to Ukrainian fighters, including through provision of anti-aircraft weapons.

He said the United States and its allies would continue to escalate pressure on Russia and warned that any moves by China or others to provide a lifeline to Russia or help them evade Western sanctions would “absolutely” result in consequences.

Meanwhile Pope Francis issued a plea again for an end to the “massacre” in Ukraine, saying there is no justification for attacks on civilians.

Russian and Ukrainian officials gave their most upbeat assessments yet on Sunday of progress in their talks on the war in Ukraine, suggesting there could be positive results within days. Separately, US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman said Russia was showing signs of willingness to engage in substantive negotiations about ending a conflict in which thousands have died.

Added to this a fourth round of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine are likely to be held on 14 or 15 March, said Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the head of the administration under President Volodymyr Zelensky, as per The Kyiv Independent.

He added that Ukraine is working with Israel and Turkey as mediators to finalize a location and framework for peace negotiations with Russia. “When it is worked out, there will be a meeting. I think it won’t take long for us to get there,” he said on national television.

public outrage

Since the outbreak of the war on 24 February people across the world have held rallies protesting the invasion. On Sunday, more than 750 people were arrested in cities across Russia for protesting against Moscow’s invasion. According to AlJazeeraindependent monitoring group OVD-Info said police had arrested at least 756 people during demonstrations in 37 Russian cities – with about half of them in the Russian capital Moscow.

It was also reported that Russian troops fired warning shots at peaceful protesters in the southern city of Kherson as thousands held demonstrations.

Anti-war protests were also staged in Warsaw, London and the German cities of Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Stuttgart.

With inputs from agencies

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