Rabia Rasool is pursuing her bachelor's in economics and social sciences from the Lahore School of Economics.
Due to the Russia-Ukraine war, more and more Russian and Ukrainian soldiers are dying every day. Civilians are losing their lives, cities are being bombarded, and millions of Ukrainians are compelled to take refuge in other countries. The sanctions on Russia, the ongoing anti-war protests in Russia, and the Russia-Ukraine peace talks seem to have failed to put this war to an end.
Fall of Mariupol
Let’s take a look at the latest updates on the ongoing war. According to the estimates of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) around 3.5 million people had to flee Ukraine. Additionally, about 3.6 million people have been displaced within Ukraine. Overall, about 10 million Ukrainians had to leave their homes, which is around the 23% of the total population of the country.
As per the reports of UNHCR around 902 civilians have died as of the 27th of March; this is just an estimated number as the UN body has revealed that the actual number would be much higher. The city which has suffered the greatest devastation due to this war is Mariupol, the southeastern city of Ukraine which has been under attack for the past three weeks, Civilians are losing their lives. Schools, shopping malls, residential areas, and hospitals are being bombarded. It is estimated that around more than 2,300 people were killed in Mariupol alone.
While addressing the Doha Forum on 27th March, French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian called Mariupol “the new Aleppo”—the Syrian city which was completely destroyed in the Syrian civil war. Greek diplomat Manolis Androulakis, on his return from Mariupol, had said, “what I saw, I hope no one will ever see.” The situation in the city seems like a dreadful scene from an apocalyptic movie.
Russia is desperately after Mariupol and the reason is its strategic location. Mariupol is a coastal city; on its right lie the Russian-occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, and on its left are Russian-occupied Crimea and Kherson. Russia is trying hard to get control of all the important cities but somehow the Ukrainian soldiers have stood steadfast in protecting the remaining cities, as much as possible. Hence, making it difficult for Russia to further invade the country.
This would have been good news for Ukraine but sadly, the Russian government is still bombing these areas as well the ones it can’t get access to. The casualties are very high in these regions as well. Civilians are being killed, and schools and cities are being destroyed there as well. One such city, Zhytomyr, in the west of Kyiv, saw some terrible attacks by Russian soldiers.
Increasing Sanctions Against Russia
On the 18th of March, the Russian military dropped six missiles on the aircraft repair plant in Lviv. Even though there were no causalities then but the strategic significance of this city is very important as it’s quite close to the border of Poland. Since Poland is a NATO member state, if the situation of the war remains like this, it might lead to a more concerning international response. Canada and the US have already imposed heavy sanctions against Russia.
Many other countries, including Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore, have also teamed up against Russia and imposed sanctions on it. In fact, Russia is the most sanctioned nation on Earth in recent times. If the situation remains unchanged, Russia may end up isolated, like North Korea, from the rest of the world. Even a country like Switzerland, which has been traditionally accepted as a neutral country due to its non-participation in any form of war, has declared sanctions against Russia. However, despite all these sanctions, Putin’s war on Ukraine is raging on.
The Return Of Chernobyl
Russian forces captured Chernobyl on 24th February 2022. It’s one of the most radioactive places on earth. If you take a look at the Chernobyl exclusion zone in northern Ukraine, it is approximately thousands of miles near the border of Belarus. Though the meltdown of the power plant occurred back in 1986 and the damaged nuclear reactor was encased in cement, the affected areas are still highly radioactive.
Just after a month the Russian forces have given control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant back to Ukraine after the Russian troops in that area suffered radiation poisoning and moved two convoys of troops to Belarus. The departure of Russian troops from that region has also been confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Even though the IAEA has not been able to confirm the level of radiation the Russian troops were exposed to during their operation in the region, the watchdog is now putting efforts to send support to Chernobyl.
Russia-Ukraine Peace Talks
The first round of face-to-face Russia-Ukraine peace talks was held in Turkey on March 29th. Previously, all the negotiations between both nations, during this ongoing war, were on video calls. The negotiations started off with the statement of President Erdogan, “It is up to the two parties to put an end to this tragedy.”
The whole world is waiting for the good news but we must remember that the negotiations won’t be easy because there is someone who wants to continue this war. On 28th March, the Wall Street Journal reported that a Ukrainian peace negotiator and Roman Abramovich – a Russian billionaire – showed symptoms of poisoning. Their eyes had turned red and their skin started peeling off. Fortunately, they are out of danger but the real question is, who tried to poison them? Who doesn’t want both parties to end the war? Were they really given poison or is it just another conspiracy theory?
Is a Ceasefire Agreement Possible?
According to the news reports, Russia and Ukraine are ready to compromise, to some extent, to bring peace and end the war. Prior to the Russia-Ukraine peace talks, the compromise offer laid down by the Ukrainian president, Zelensky, included a neutral, non-nuclear Ukraine which won’t join NATO as well. He was ready to compromise on some territories as well. If the war stopped where it is, Ukraine has promised not to recapture the separatist-controlled areas in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk, which are now Russian-controlled.
On the other hand, Russia also agreed to compromise on some grounds. According to a Financial Times report, Russia would allow Ukraine to join the European Union and won’t interfere as long as Ukraine doesn’t join NATO. The report claims that the Ukrainian officials agreed to this and that they weren’t very interested in joining NATO.
Now the question is if everything is clear then what’s preventing the Russian war in Ukraine from ending? There are mainly two problems. The first one is Putin himself; as per reports, he doesn’t want to compromise in any way. The second problem might arise over negotiating territories. Some say that the Russian conflict with Ukraine will end up in Ukraine being split into two countries, with Putin dividing the southeastern part of Ukraine and wanting it to be acknowledged as a separate country. Though the peace talks in Turkey have concluded with no resolution to Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, it is expected of Ukraine to negotiate to some extent, but will Zelensky allow Ukraine to be divided? That is the most important question.
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