10 million have fled their homes in Ukraine — UN
By AFP – Mar 20,2022 –
An Ukrainian child looks out of a tent while waiting for relocation after crossing the Ukrainian-Romanian border in Siret, northern Romania, on Saturday (AFP photo)
ISTANBUL/ KYIV — Turkey on Sunday said Russia and Ukraine made progress on their negotiations to halt the invasion and the two warring sides were close to an agreement.
“Of course, it is not an easy thing to come to terms with while the war is going on, while civilians are killed, but we would like to say that momentum is still gained,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in live comments from the southern Turkish province of Antalya.
“We see that the parties are close to an agreement.”
Cavusoglu this week visited Russia and Ukraine as Turkey, which has strong bonds with the two sides, has tried to position itself as a mediator.
Ankara hosted the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine in Antalya last week.
Cavusoglu said Turkey was in contact with the negotiating teams from the two countries but he refused to divulge the details of the talks as “we play an honest mediator and facilitator role”.
In an interview with daily Hurriyet, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the sides were negotiating six points: Ukraine’s neutrality, disarmament and security guarantees, the so-called “de-Nazification”, removal of obstacles on the use of the Russian language in Ukraine, the status of the breakaway Donbass region and the status of Crimea annexed by Russia in 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly appealed for peace, urging Russia to accept “meaningful” talks for an end to the invasion.
“This is the time to meet, to talk, time for renewing territorial integrity and fairness for Ukraine,” he said, in his latest video posted on social media on Saturday.
Turkey said it was ready to host a meeting between Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities claimed on Sunday that Russia had bombed a school sheltering 400 people in the besieged port of Mariupol, as Moscow said that it had again fired hypersonic missiles in Ukraine, the second time it had used the next-generation weapon on its neighbour.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the siege of Mariupol, a strategic mostly Russian-speaking port in the southeast where utilities and communications have been cut for days, would go down as a war crime.
The war in Ukraine, which Russian President Vladimir Putin launched on February 24 to stamp out the pro-Western leanings in the ex-Soviet country, has sparked the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, felled Russia-West relations to Cold War-era lows, and is wreaking havoc in the world economy still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Yesterday, the Russian occupiers dropped bombs on art school No 12,” the Mariupol city council said on Telegram on Sunday, adding that around 400 women, children and elderly people had been sheltering there from bombardments.
“Peaceful civilians are still under the rubble,” it said, adding that the building had been destroyed.
City authorities also claimed that some residents of Mariupol were being forcibly taken to Russia and stripped of their Ukrainian passports.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday that Moscow had again fired its newest Kinzhal [Dagger] hypersonic missile, destroying a fuel storage site in the southern Mykolaiv region.
The strike would mark the second time the sophisticated weapon was used in combat, a day after Russia said it used it to destroy an underground arms storage site in western Ukraine close to the border with NATO member Romania.
Humanitarian conditions continued to deteriorate in the mostly Russian-speaking south and east of the country, where Russian forces have been pressing their advance, as well as in the north around the capital Kyiv.
Aid agencies have warned they are struggling to reach hundreds of thousands of people trapped by the invading Russian forces.
10 million flee homes
Aid agencies are struggling to reach people trapped in cities ringed by Russian forces where the UN says the situation is “dire”.
Some 10 million people inside Ukraine have fled their homes to escape the fighting, the head of the UN refugee agency said on Sunday.
More than 3.3 million of them have fled abroad, sparking Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II, while a further estimated 6.5 million have been displaced inside the country, according to the UN.