Plus, Fistfights Over Cooking Oil in Turkey, Lithuania Stops Vaccines for Bangladesh, and more.
The big story: Zelenskiy frustrated with NATO as US VP arrives in Poland
What happened: Some evacuation corridors open for civilians to flee Ukrainian towns during today’s ceasefire deal, but reports are mixed on whether escape routes are working. Only the corridor of the city of Sumy seems completely open, with cars full of civilians managed to flee, according to the governor there, reports Reuters. However, there is no corridor out of Mariupol, which the Red Cross says is suffering “apocalyptic” conditions. The inhabitants of the city are in search of food and water; escape routes and ceasefires are failing there, as well as in Enerhodar in the south, Volnovakha in the southeast, Izyum in the east and several towns around the capital of Kiev, AP reports. Previous evacuation corridors have been bombed by the Russian army.
More context: US Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to arrive in Poland today amid controversy over the supply of jets to Ukraine, CNN reports. To Washington’s surprise, Poland yesterday proposed that its fleet of MiG jets be handed over to the United States so that they can be delivered to Ukrainebut washington rejected the idea, fearing to provoke Russia by such direct aid. Harris will attempt to resolve the diplomatic blunder while assuring the region of NATO’s commitment, the report said.
To note: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is so frustrated with the lack of NATO support that he is give up hope for Ukraine to become a member of NATO, according to bne Intellinews. “I calmed down on this issue a long time ago after we understood that NATO was not ready to accept Ukraine,” Zelenskiy said in an interview yesterday, adding that NATO was “afraid of controversial things” and “fear of confrontation with Russia.” Zelenskiy said the Ukrainian deaths would be “NATO’s fault” due to the alliance’s refusal to implement a No-fly zone on Ukraine.
News from the Regions
Central Europe and Baltic States
- Lithuania canceled its shipment of coronavirus vaccines for Bangladesh on the country’s position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, reports The Week. Bangladesh, which had more than 1.9 million coronavirus cases and 29,089 deaths as of March 7, abstained in voting at the United Nations General Assembly last week to condemn the invasion. However, the country’s foreign ministry said that Bangladesh supports The territorial integrity of Ukraine. “If you read the wording of the resolution, it is not to stop the war, but to blame someone,” Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said on Sunday, according to the Daily Star. “We want peace. We don’t want war… So we expect the UN charter to be respected,” he said.
- Two US Navy destroyers in the Black Sea worry Russia, reports Interfax. The Russian National Defense Control Center announced on March 7 that the Russian military had begun monitoring US destroyers that entered the Black Sea from the Baltic sea. Ships of the Russian Baltic Fleet conducted air defense exercises in the presence of two destroyers. “The practical exercise involved the crews of a total of approximately 15 Baltic Fleet surface vessels,” the center said, adding that the drills were part of “a planned training exercise for s ‘to train to defend the coast of the Kaliningrad region amid a threat of missile strikes’. by simulated enemy naval units from the Baltic Sea.
- Western efforts to stabilize regional relations after Russia’s attack on Ukraine could lead to Romania, Slovakia, Greeceand Spain finally recognize Kosovo as a sovereign state, reports BIRN. An analysis, also on the BIRN website, indicates that Kosovo’s independence was used by Russia in its military takeovers of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and Russia literally cited Kosovo in Crimea’s written declaration of independence when Russian forces invaded the Ukrainian peninsula in 2014. This supposed independence didn’t last long; Crimea was later annexed to the Russian Federation, BIRN notes.
Eastern Europe and Russia
- Why “Z”? An analysis by The Economist traces the propaganda uses of Symbol “Z” found on Russian military tanks and other vehicles during the invasion of Ukraine, but notes that no one is quite sure why the symbol is used. The best guess is that it means “zapad”, meaning “west” in Russian, although the Russian Cyrillic alphabet does not use the symbol. But the ‘Z’ now officially represents support for the Russian invasion: Russian state broadcaster RT is sale of “Z” t-shirts, a Russian athlete put one on his jersey, and the Ministry of Defense suggested that it stands for “za”, meaning “for” in Russian, as in “for victory”. Use of the letter in media campaigns did not begin until several days after the invasion began, suggesting that The Russian Propaganda War was as badly planned as much of their invasion turns out to be, notes The Economist.
- A double Russian-American citizen was charged with espionage in the United States, reports CNN. The criminal complaint says Elena Branson, who returned to Russia in 2020, allegedly “sought to spread Russian propaganda” as part of her “I love Russia” campaign run by the program apparently funded by Moscow. New York Russian Center. His alleged activities included responding to a 2016 request from a Russian minister to try to arrange a meeting with donald trump, then Republican presidential candidate. Branson was charged on Tuesday with acting unlawfully as an agent of the Russian government, failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act and conspiring to commit visa fraudas well as other costs.
- Trade between the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is unlikely to be able to offset the economic effects of unprecedented sanctions against Russia, according to an analysis by Eurasianet. Five ex-Soviet states – Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstanand Kyrgyzstan – constitute the free trade area and customs union of the EAEU which was created in 2014 alongside the EU single market. Some had speculated that working with the rogue countries could allow Russia to circumvent the restrictions, but for a variety of reasons – some financial, some geographical – make that unlikely. Belarus is also facing increased penalties himself. “China is the only country that could effectively circumvent the Western-led sanctions regime if that were the case,” says Eurasianet.
- The Russians flee to Armeniadespite an upsurge in its border conflict with Azerbaijan. Thousands of Russians, many of them tech workers, have moved to Armenia since new economic sanctions against Russia began, according to a report on the Asbarez website. The young Russians of the capital Yerevan mostly cite economic reasons for their decision to leave Russia, while others said they left to protest President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. “I came here to avoid work problems and to be sure to have a calm mind,” said Ilya Kornienko, who arrived on Monday. About the invasion, he said: “It’s sad. I have relatives on both sides. Meanwhile, the Armenian forces today fired at Azerbaijani army outposts in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, where Russian troops are temporarily stationed, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported, according to Turkish news site Yeni Safak.
- People fight in Turkish supermarket aisles on bottles of vegetable oil as fears of a shortage have spread amid the effects of economic sanctions against Russia, reports bne Intellinews. Turkey imports 900,000 tonnes of sunflower oil per year, of which around 65% comes from Ukraine and Russia. As inflation in Turkey continues to soar, the government has warned the media against “media coverage of food prices that is misleading and causes panic among the public”. After the videos of bickering customers gone viral, Turkish police have begun investigating social media accounts containing “provocative” messages about vegetable oils.