For six days, a full-scale war launched by Russia against Ukraine continues at the very heart of Europe.
- OPERATIONAL SITUATION
On early morning of 24 February, after a series of air and missile attacks, the Russian troops have invaded Ukraine from the territory of Russia, Belarus and the temporarily occupied parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk regions and Crimea. Until now, these attacks continue, simultaneously from East, South, and North (including the territory of Belarus).
The main directions of Russia’s invasion are Kyiv (with the key goal to change Government to a pro-Russian one), Kharkiv (second largest city of Ukraine close to the border with Russia), southern regions of Ukraine adjacent to Russia-occupied Crimea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, as well as the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
None of the key goals was achieved by Russia. The Russian troops failed, for instance, to reach administrative boundaries of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, which it attempts to seize for its self-proclaimed entities in the occupied parts of Donbas.
Still, Russia took control over the airport in Berdiansk, the towns of Berdiansk, Henichesk and Nova Kakhovka, as well as the Serpent (Zmiinyi) Island in the Black Sea. A number of cities, including the city of Kherson are currently under attack.
Russia uses its best military units to attack Ukraine. As of now, two thirds out of all forces deployed to Ukraine’s borders before the beginning of invasion, have already been sent to attack (60 out of 90 batallion tactical groups). Other reserve units are waiting on the border with Ukraine.
Russia fires cruise and operational-tactical missiles (180 as of 28 February) at military positions and cities, attacks with aviation, tanks and artillery, sends subversion and reconnaissance groups, which mark residential buildings in preparation for the air attacks and attack civilian infrastructure. Amphibious landing is being prepared to the coastal regions of Ukraine.
The Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station was seized. Due to the active movements of Russian heavy military vehicles through the Chornobyl exclusion zone, the radiation level has increased.
The territory of Belarus is actively used by Russia for its military purposes: missiles are launched, and the airfield network is used for transportation of personnel and cargo. Despite Lukashenka’s statements, the direct engagement of Belarus armed forces remains highly probable. There are already the first reports on Belarus troops crossing the border with Ukraine.
These are war crimes committed against Ukraine and its people. Belarus or any other country responsible for providing assistance to Russia’s invasion into Ukraine will bear responsibility together with Russia in accordance with the international law and will be similarly internationally isolated as Russia.
Pretending to conduct a ‘counter-terrorist operation’, Russian military vessels currently are blocking the access of civil ships to the North-Western part of the Black Sea along Ukraine’s shoreline. The Russian war ships have deliberately attacked two civil vessels in the Black Sea under the third country flags (Panama and Moldova) approaching Ukraine, which constitutes a flagrant violation of the international law of the sea.
In violation of the International Convention of the Safety of Life at Sea, the humanitarian aid mission (the rescue ship ‘Sapphire’) was captured and detained by Russian warships in the Serpent (Zmiinyi) Island area. Two other Ukrainian civil ships were de facto pirated by Russian warships under the pretext of a ‘security check-up’ in the course of the so-called ‘counter-terrorist operation’.
The web-sites of the governmental institutions of Ukraine suffer from cyber attacks. The «sleeping» sabotage groups continue their attempts to sew panic among the civilian population through social networks and other means of on-line communication. The activity of Russian technical intelligence unit, which directed local sabotage groups, had been terminated in Mariupol.
Faced with Ukraine’s resolve to defend itself, President Putin has ordered Russia’s nuclear-deterrence forces to be put on alert. The fate of Europe is being determined now in Ukraine: if Putin does not meet proper response, if he is not stopped now, he will move further, putting all European states under severe risk.
The Russian propaganda speculates about Ukraine preparing a ‘dirty bomb’, which is merely a sick fantasy. Ukraine does not possess nuclear weapons or materials for it, and does not conduct any work to create or acquire them. We are a responsible member of the NPT.
- UKRAINE’S RESPONSE
In response to the full-scale war launched by Russia, Ukraine has activated its right for self-defence according to the Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
Tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens have already joined the territorial defence units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This number is only growing.
The Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine had given orders to inflict the maximum possible losses to the aggressor.
The Russian troops are suffering heavy losses. As of morning 1 March, they constitute around 5700 personnel (killed and wounded), 200 captives, 29 aircrafts, 29 helicopters, 198 tanks, 846 armored vehicles of different types, 77 artillery systems, 24 MLRS, 305 trucks, 60 fuel cysterns, 7 anti-aircraft systems, 3 UAVs, 2 vessels.
President Zelenskyy announced creation of a new military unit named «International Legion» for those wishing to join the ranks of Ukrainian servicemen defending Ukraine. Thousands of requests from foreigners have already arrived. Visa-free regime was temporarily introduced for the candidates.
Ukraine has submitted its application against Russia to the ICJ. Ukraine filed a case against the Russian Federation at the International Court of Justice, and a request for the Court to issue an order of provisional measures against Russia. Ukraine seeks an emergency hearing and an order by the Court that Russia must cease its unlawful attack on Ukraine. Russia will have to answer for its behavior at the World Court in the Hague. The Court has jurisdiction to hear Ukraine’s case, and to order emergency measures, on the basis of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Russia must be held accountable for manipulating the notion of genocide to justify aggression. We request an urgent decision ordering Russia to cease military activity now and expect trials to start next week.
The European Court of Human Rights has decided to indicate to the Government of Russia to refrain from military attacks against civilians and civilian objects, including residential premises, emergency vehicles and other specially protected civilian objects such as schools and hospitals, and to ensure immediately the safety of the medical establishments, personnel and emergency vehicles within the territory under attack or siege by Russian troops.
On 24 February, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine approved President’s decision to impose the martial law on the entire territory of Ukraine for a period of 30 days with the aim to ensure Ukraine’s defence, public safety and national interests.
Due to this, some constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms may be temporarily restricted (Articles 30-34, 38, 39, 41-44, 53 of the Constitution of Ukraine: inviolability of the place of dwelling, privacy of correspondence, interference in personal life, freedom of movement, freedom of thought and speech, freedom of views and beliefs, elections, peaceful assemblies, right to property, right to entrepreneurial activity, right for labor activity, right to strike, right to education). The temporary restrictions on the rights and legitimate interests of legal entities will also be imposed.
Regional, Kyiv city state administrations and local self-government bodies must establish defence councils and provide assistance to the military command in introducing and implementing measures of the martial law.
A curfew was introduced in a number of Ukrainian cities including Kyiv. Due to the high number of subversion and reconnaissance groups, the capital of Ukraine had to keep uninterrupted curfew since Saturday evening till Monday morning.
- HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
Faced with military defeats on the ground, the Russian troops began indiscriminate shelling of Ukrainian cities with missile strikes and heavy artillery.
In particular, on 28 February and 1 March, the city of Kharkiv was intensively shelled, leaving dozens of innocent civilians killed and wounded. There were no military purposes to commit this crime against humanity. President Zelenskky stressed that after these shellings, Russia must be considered a terrorist State.
International Criminal Court Prosecutor, Karim A.A. Khan QC, took the decision to proceed with opening an investigation into the situation in Ukraine as rapidly as possible.
Russia’s missiles and air strikes bear indiscriminate character. Ukrainian cities and residents suffer. As of 28 February, 352 people including 16 children were killed and 1684 people (116 children) wounded in Ukraine during five days of the Russian invasion. The number of injured civilians keeps growing, many people have lost their homes.
Such towns as Schastya and Stanytsia Luhanska near Luhansk, or Volnovakha in the Donetsk region, are now nearly destroyed.
Russians keep attacking kindergartens and orphanages, thus committing war crimes and violating the Rome Statute. Hospitals and mobile medical aid brigades are also targeted by the Russian shellfire and the sabotage groups, working in Ukraine’s cities and towns.
According to the UN data, as the result of the war, 677 thousand Ukrainians were forced to leave their homes and to move abroad, more than 160 thousand became IDPs.
The objects of critical civilian infrastructure are targeted. Russia’s missiles have in particular hit the radioactive waste disposal site near Kyiv (no leaks detected so far), fuel and gas stations throughout Ukraine (including the fuel base in Vasylkiv, Kyiv region, with major environmental damage), and Mykolaiv airport.
Among other infrastructural and industrial damage are the following: the blown-up bridges (Stoyanka on Kyiv-Zhytomyr highway, between Bucha and Irpin) and the water dam on the border to Crimea. The objects of logistic infrastructure (bridges, airports) and water reservoirs remain among the targets (Vyshhorod dam, which could lead to destroying other ridges of the cascade in Kaniv, Kremenchuk, etc up to an accident on Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant).
AN-225 ‘Mriia’, the worldwide known biggest Ukrainian transport airplane was burned by the aggressor.
An architectural landmark in Chernihiv, one of the few historical buildings from 1930s, has been demolished by Russia’s missile attack. About 25 paintings by Ukrainian artist Mariia Prymachenko have been lost in the fire resulted from the aggressor’s attacks.
Russian military aggression kills not only Ukrainians but threatens thousands of foreigners who are staying in Ukraine. We regret that while they had been warmly welcomed in our country, nowadays Russian invasion put their lives at high risk.
We deeply regret that a student from India has become a victim of the shelling by the Russian armed forces in Kharkiv. The Chinese citizen was also injured in another Ukrainian city because of Russia’s deadly attacks. We call on all foreign governments to demand from President Putin that he immediately stops his war in Ukraine. This will allow us to stabilize the situation and focus more on the safety and security of the population, including foreigners. We reiterate that there is no discrimination based on the race or nationality, including when it comes to the crossing of the state border by foreign citizens. Given the extreme security conditions, the first come first served approach applies to all nationalities, with certain humanitarian exceptions allowed for women and children.
Ukrainian underaged children are crossing EU/Ukraine border without parents (together with adult friends/relatives) and without powers of attorney from the parents. This may raise issues with EU authorities (medical, legal, other). In this regard we request decisionmakers in EU countries to provide clarifications/instructions to EU institutions in order to secure free movement of and assistance to such underaged persons and their guardians.
- DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS
The world supports Ukraine. The international coalition in defense of Ukraine and peace continues to grow. As of 28 February, there were 86 countries and 13 international organizations.
Ukraine has terminated diplomatic relations with Russia.
We have also recalled our Ambassadors in Kyrgyzstan and Georgia for consultations following the unfriendly steps done by these countries against the backdrop of Russia’s military invasion (justifying Russia’s aggression by Kyrgyzstan and position on sanctions and volunteers by the Georgian government).
We call our partners to follow our example and to expel Russia’s ambassadors immediately. We deem it unacceptable to maintain diplomatic relations with the aggressor state, which openly attacks neighboring country without any reason. The international organizations must consider banning Russia’s membership for blatant violations of international law.
On 25 February 2022, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has adopted the decision to suspend the Russia`s rights of representation in the Committee of Ministers and in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. 42 delegations voted “in favour”, 2 «against», 1 «abstained», 1 «not voting», and 1 delegation absent. It is the first decision of an international organization adopted as a result of the Russian Federation’s full-scale open armed aggression against Ukraine. It has become the de-facto recognition by the European political circles of their mistake to allow the Russian delegation back to the PACE in June 2019.
Russia vetoed the UN Security Council draft resolution demanding troop withdrawal from Ukraine, cosponsored by 81 UN Member States. At the same time, Russia was not supported by a single member of the Security Council. 11 of the 15 members of the UNSC voted in favour while India, China and the United Arab Emirates abstained from the vote.
On 27 February, the UN Security Council on request of USA and Albania has adopted resolution under the special procedure “Uniting for peace” requesting emergency special session of the General Assembly to consider Russian invasion to Ukraine. The vote once again demonstrated isolation of Russia in the Council. At the same time, since it was procedural vote Russia was unable to veto the resolution. The UN General Assembly meeting is scheduled for 28 February.
We call on all states to support the draft resolution to stop Russian invasion, which is to be adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
UN Secretary-General announced the appointment of Amin Awad as UN Crisis Coordinator for Ukraine. Mr. Awad will lead the coordination of all UN efforts, including its humanitarian response.
Russia’s diplomatic isolation continues. On 1 March, when Minister Lavrov was delivering his speech to the UN HR Council meeting, dozens of delegations left the hall in protest.
Russian population as well as Belarus people is protesting against attacking Ukraine. Thousands of Russian citizens in more than 50 Russian cities have already been detained for participating in peaceful protests. Detentions are also widespread in Belarus.
It is critical to keep informing Russian and Belarusian citizens on the aggressive war conducted without their consent against Ukraine by their leaders. This should be done in particular through social networks, which remain the only source of information for many people in the conditions of state-run massive propaganda in the Russian and Belarusian media.
- ACTIONS BY THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
Ukrainian people are dying for the freedom of Ukraine and Europe. We have been waiting at the open door for a long time. We asked about NATO membership — and heard no answer.
We now need international legal guarantees of security, a clear European perspective, coupled with the swift and effective actions.
On 28 February, President of Ukraine signed an official application for the EU membership for Ukraine within new urgent procedure. Nine EU countries have already supported this initiative. On 1 March, the President and Head of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine have addressed European Parliament requesting granting Ukraine the EU candidate status.
We count upon the proper reaction by the international community to Russia’s aggression. We are grateful to our partners, who have provided and continue to provide additional support in a variety of ways:
- for the decision of Turkey to block the access of Russian warships to the Black Sea,
- for introducing the ban on Russian air vessels in the airspace (36 countries: EU, UK, Canada, Switzerland, Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Norway, Albania, Iceland),
- for arms, military equipment and ammunitions sent over to us by our partners,
- for the humanitarian support and refugee camps provided for the citizens of Ukraine,
- for fuel supplies (Azerbaijan’s SOCAR).
We appreciate the unprecedented strongest sanctions already imposed by many countries throughout the world, which in particular cover 70% of Russia’s banking sector. They severely undermine Russia’s economic and financial capacities to continue its aggression.
The sanctions are already working: Russian currency has drastically depreciated and reached maximum low historic level. The Russian government had to ban the sale of shares of Russian companies by foreigners to prevent further panic.
We expect the world to immediately strengthen the sanctions further in order to stop Russia.
Full cutting Russian Federation off the SWIFT still remains an effective counter-action to be implemented. Allowing certain banks to avoid them would only enable those under sanctions to circumvent them. We call on our partners to adopt appropriate decision immediately.
We also call to fully cut off Visa and Mastercard services in Russia. This has already been done for those banks, on which the sanctions had been imposed. This process needs to continue.
As Lukashenko’s regime has joined Putin’s war against Ukraine, he and his proxies must be severely sanctioned as well. Those already imposed sanctions against Belarus legal entities must be further expanded.
We urge the international community to show solidarity with Ukraine by:
- the immediate imposing of additional massive (severe) coordinated sanctions against Russia.
- Russia`s isolation and exclusion from all possible international fora.
- the introduction of a full-flagged trade embargo on Russia including in oil and gas sector.
- closure of ports for Russian vessels. The UK Government has already asked all UK ports not to provide access, and the prohibiting legislation will be introduced soon. Other states should follow. We also call on all states to detain Russian flag vessels in the ports due to the military attacks of Russia on commercial vessels in the Black Sea.
- supporting Ukraine with weapons, protective equipment, ammunition, fuel, and whatever else necessary to counter the biggest army in the continent.
- providing Ukraine with financial support.
We call on the international organizations to provide us with humanitarian assistance and to register all cases of violation of the provisions of international and international humanitarian law.
We are grateful to the wide Ukrainian community abroad, which joined the Government of Ukraine in delivering the truth on Russia’s war in Europe. Anti-war demonstrations held by citizens of many nations throughout the world demonstrate strong support to Ukraine in defending against Russia.
Any war inevitably ends with negotiations. They must be based on common sense and be such that a fair solution can be worked out in the interests of the people and the national statehood of Ukraine. President Zelenskyy categorically rejects any unacceptable conditions and ultimatums for Ukraine. The key issues on the table are a ceasefire and troops and weapons pullback from Ukraine’s territory.
On 28 February, the first round of Ukrainian-Russian negotiations was held at the Ukrainian border with Belarus, against the backdrop of shellings continued by Russia on Ukrainian cities. After the consultations in the capitals, the second round is supposed to take place.
The situation keeps changing very fast. We will keep you informed.