UN Secretary-General António Guterres wants to hold talks in Kiev to secure the extension of the Ukrainian-Russian grain agreement and avert worsening hunger in the world. Guterres will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday, eleven days before the end of the agreement. In the war zone, Ukraine and Russia are still fighting bitterly over the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut - and neither side wants to give way.
Last summer's grain agreement between Ukraine and Russia is considered one of the few diplomatic successes since the Russian invasion of the neighboring country in February 2022. The two major exporters, mediated by the United Nations and Turkey, agreed on controlled grain exports despite the war to allow three Ukrainian Black Sea ports. The UN wanted to alleviate the global grain shortage.
The agreement was initially valid for 120 days until November and was extended once by four months until March 19. Now the UN is pushing for another extension. Guterres landed in Poland on Tuesday to travel from there to Ukraine. According to information from the German Press Agency, a further trip to Russia is not planned. Before the first extension, the negotiations had been tough.
Federal government calls video shocking
Since the beginning of the week, a video showing the alleged shooting of a man in a Ukrainian uniform by Russian-speaking men has provided new emotional fuel between the warring parties. The Ukrainian leadership reacted with horror. The federal government also described the alleged shooting of a Ukrainian prisoner of war as shocking. "If that's authentic, then that would be a war crime," said a spokesman for the Foreign Office.
In the past, videos have surfaced of Ukrainian soldiers shooting Russian prisoners. Moscow had criticized this as a war crime. These videos are difficult to verify.
Ukraine and Russia speak of high losses of the opponent
In eastern Ukraine, fighting continues to focus on Bakhmut, a town of once 70,000 people considered highly symbolic by both warring factions. After months of fighting, Russia expects a sense of achievement from the conquest, but also a further advance towards the major cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. This would make a complete conquest of the Donetsk region more likely. To thwart this, Ukraine does not want to give up the destroyed city. Both sides attest to each other's high losses, both have supply problems.
"The liberation of Artemovsk (Russian name of Bakhmut) continues," said Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow. He spoke of 11,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed or injured in February. Although Kiev has admitted its own losses, the attackers' failures are significantly higher. The Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Resnikov put the number of casualties of the Russian attackers in Bakhmut at up to 500 men per day.
Poland plans to hand over ten more Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine this week, Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak announced. In addition, a service center for tanks delivered to Ukraine will be set up in Poland. But the main problem is the lack of spare parts, Blaszczak noted. He expects his German colleague Boris Pistorius (SPD) to influence German industry so that spare parts for Leopard tanks are supplied.
Stoltenberg: Urgent need to increase aid to Ukraine
Shortly before a meeting of EU defense ministers in Sweden, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed the need for additional military aid to Ukraine. The urgent need to increase and maintain support was discussed, Stoltenberg said on the sidelines of talks with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Stockholm. "It's become a war of attrition, so it's also a battle for logistics." It is important that production is now increased.
In this context, Stoltenberg welcomed the fact that EU countries are working on joint procurement of ammunition. NATO has had joint procurement for years, he said.
Kyiv and Moscow exchange prisoners
As a result of another exchange, more than 200 Ukrainians and Russians were released from captivity. The Ministry of Defense in Moscow informed about 90 Russian soldiers who are to be flown from Ukraine to Moscow for medical treatment. In Kiev, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Andriy Yermak, reported that 130 compatriots had returned. Among them are 87 defenders of the port city of Mariupol, which has been occupied by Russia for almost ten months, it said. Another 35 fighters were taken prisoner near Bakhmut and Soledar in eastern Ukraine.
China calls for peace talks
China again pushed for peace talks. However, the "legitimate security interests of all parties must be respected," said Foreign Minister Qin Gang in Beijing. Quin Gang also emphasized: "China did not create the crisis. It is not a party in the crisis and has not supplied weapons to either side." He was responding to warnings from the West.
China had already called for a ceasefire and peace negotiations in a position paper in February. Critics complained that China did not propose a withdrawal of Russian troops from occupied territories in Ukraine.
Concern about the acceptance of refugees
In Germany, the indirect consequences of the war continue to cause headaches - the energy supply and the accommodation of refugees. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that after the start of the war Germany had managed to make itself independent of fossil fuels from Russia. The energy transition will succeed.
The German Association of Cities appealed to the federal government to also provide its own accommodation for the short-term accommodation of refugees. Municipalities in Baden-Württemberg emphasized that the distribution had to be reorganized. Otherwise, it is to be feared that people will accept less and less people in need of protection.