Update 18 March

18 mars, 2022

Russian troops have increased their attacks in western Ukraine, launching a six-missile attack on Lviv, close to Poland. On 17 March, Russian forces made little territorial progress but continued shelling Ukrainian major cities, targeting also civilians. Ukrainian forces carried out local counterattacks.

In the west of Ukraine, the Mayor of Lviv stated that Russian forces launched six missiles targeting an aircraft repair plant on the morning of 18 March, nearby Lviv airport. The aircraft repair plant was not in use and no casualties have been reported. According to Ukrainian authorities, two of the Russian missiles were intercepted by air defence systems.

In northern Ukraine, indiscriminate attacks on the outskirts of Kyiv have continued mainly by rocket and missile fire. Russian forces main effort is to take over Kyiv. A Ukrainian Defence Ministry official stated that Russian forces are still expected to attempt to enter the city centre of Kiev in the coming days, even if Russian troops have not made big advances. Zythomyr Oblast has also been shelled, especially in the north of the region where an important logistic hub is located nearby Korosten.

In the east, Ukrainian forces pushed back Russian forces in the vicinity of Kharkiv and reported the killing of a Russian regimental commander. At least two people have been killed and six injured after a missile attack in Kramatorsk, according to the Head of the Donetsk Regional Administration.

In the southern Ukraine, Russian forces have made territorial advances near Mariupol and have increased targeting residential areas of the city. It is estimated that approximately 80 percent of residential buildings have been damaged in Mariupol and 30 percent cannot be repaired. It is estimated that 1,300 Ukrainians remain trapped under the rubble of Mariupol Drama Theather. However, 130 people had been rescued. According to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister, almost 800 private cars have left Mariupol on March 17, and more than 2,000 people managed to reach the city of Zaporizhzhia. In addition, a cyber-attack on 17 March blocked access to several local and regional Odesa sites. The webpages showed pro-Russian messages.

Developments in Russia

On 18 March, The Central Bank of Russia held its monetary policy steady and maintained its key interest rate at 20%, but warned of considerable uncertainty as the economy undergoes a ”large-scale structural transformation.” On the same day, several media outlets also reported that Russia had made $117 million in bond payments, managing so far to avoid its first default on foreign debt since 1918. However, billions more are due within weeks, and how long the Kremlin will manage to avoid a default remains unknown.

On 17 March, the former Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev said the United States had stoked ”disgusting” Russophobia in an attempt to force Russia to its knees and that ”Russia has the right to put all of our brash enemies in their place”. Medvedev’s words indicate that the more aggressive tone from the Kremlin, that Putin showed in his speech earlier this week, will continue.

Ukraine – Russia talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called Turkish President Erdogan to present his demands for a peace deal with Ukraine. The demands can be broadly divided into two parts, according to Turkish presidential aide Ibrahim Kalin, four of which are considered relatively easy for Ukraine to accept, he said. These include:

  • Ukrainian declaration of neutrality and reassurances that it will not join NATO.
  • Ukraine undergoing a disarmament process as to not pose a threat to Russia.
  • Protection of Russian language in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian reassurances of a “denazification” of the country.

According to Vladimir Putin, the rest of the demands will require face-to-face talks between him and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, something Zelensky has previously expressed openness to. The Turkish aide did not specify the rest of the demands, but they are likely to refer to Ukrainian recognition of Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine as Russian.

International reactions

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stated on 18 March that Poland plans to send an official request for a NATO peacekeeping mission in Ukraine to the next NATO summit, scheduled for 24 March. Two other neighbouring countries that have further hardened their stance towards Russia are Latvia and Lithuania, whose respective parliaments on 17 March supported separate statements on the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, both where notably addressed to UN member nations and not NATO.

British communication regulator Ofcom has decided to revoke the license of Russian state owned media broadcaster Russia Today. The move comes in light of Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor’s recent restrictions of foreign media.

German Finance Minister Robert Habeck resists the call for an immediate and total halt to energy imports from Russia, saying that ”the next step” in the form of a ban on Russian oil and gas imports will be possible once supply chains have been secured.

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