Last week Russia’s military appeared to for the first time since the invasion began a month ago set limits to the scope of what it hopes to achieve in terms of territorial gains. On Friday Russia’s first deputy chief of the General Staff Sergei Rudskoi said the following as quoted in Interfax: “Our forces will focus on the main thing – the complete liberation of Donbas.”
And now President Zelensky and his military intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, are charging Russia with seeking to split Ukraine in two, akin to North and South Korea. “The occupiers will try to pull the occupied territories into a single quasi-state structure and pit it against independent Ukraine,” Budanov said in an official Defense Ministry statement. According to the AP, “He predicted that guerrilla warfare by Ukrainians would derail such plans.”
With the focus of Russian operations currently in the south and the east of the country, Budanov described that Russian forces “will try to impose a dividing line between the unoccupied and occupied regions of our country. In fact, it is an attempt to create North and South Korea in Ukraine.”
As Ukraine-Russia ceasefire talks continue Monday, Zelensky is emphasizing the territorial integrity of Ukraine will be maintained. “Our priorities in the negotiations are known. Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are beyond doubt,” he said in a Sunday evening televised address.
“Effective security guarantees for our state are mandatory,” he said. “Our goal is obvious — peace and the restoration of normal life in our native state as soon as possible.”
Speaking in Russian to a group of Russian journalists which seemed to be a direct signaling to Moscow, he added of Ukraine’s readiness to further dialogue toward a withdrawal of all troops: “…security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go for it. This is the most important point.”
Talks are expected to resume this week in Turkey from March 28 through March 30. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in his latest statements mentioned Serbia as a possibility to host high-level talks; however, which would likely not be seen as a “neutral” territory by Kiev and the West.
Mariupol before and after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and war that has all but destroyed the city pic.twitter.com/ane6A812k7
— Alex Plitsas 🇺🇸 (@alexplitsas) March 28, 2022
“Moscow is ready to consider various venues for talks with Ukraine, including Belgrade, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with the Serbian mass media on Monday,” TASS reported Monday. The report detailed:
When asked whether Belgrade could host negotiations between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations, Lavrov noted that now an agreement has been reached to organize a meeting in Istanbul, “a geographical location, in respect of which the possibilities of both sides coincide.”
“We will be ready to consider other venues, including Belgrade,” he said.
Meanwhile, more and more Russian flags have been observed going up in and around Mariupol, which appears still on the brink of total takeover by Russian forces amid fierce fighting.
And despite indications that Russia is most heavily focused to the east, Ukraine authorities say that Russian forces have continued to surround the capital of Kiev, as fighting is ongoing in the suburbs and it’s believed the Russians are trying to choke off supply lines.
Russian TOS-1A thermobaric MLRS reportedly firing on Ukrainian positions in Kamyanka. 2/ pic.twitter.com/39pvEUou4M
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) March 27, 2022
“The enemy is trying to make a corridor around Kyiv and block transport routes,” Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar announced in televised remarks. She said there are no signs on the ground that Russia has given up in attempts to capture Kiev.
She said: “The defense of Kyiv continues. Ground forces, Air Assault Forces, special operations forces, territorial defense are involved. Kyiv residents are also very active in the defense of Kyiv. It is very difficult for the enemy. But we must speak honestly: the enemy is not letting up attempts to seize Kyiv after all. Because taking Kyiv essentially means taking Ukraine. So that is their goal.”