January 29, 2023

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Russian forces seize two cities in Ukraine, Interfax says, as ceasefire talks begin

Russian forces seize two cities in Ukraine, Interfax says, as ceasefire talks begin

  • Russian-Ukrainian talks imminent on Belarus border
  • The United Nations says more than 360,000 refugees have fled Ukraine
  • BP has given up Rosneft’s stake, written off $25 billion

Kyiv/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian forces have seized two small cities in southeastern Ukraine and the area around a nuclear power plant, but have faced stiff resistance elsewhere as Moscow’s diplomatic and economic isolation deepens, Interfax news agency reported on Monday.

The Ukrainian presidency said that after four days of fighting and a Russian advance that was slower than some had expected, a Ukrainian delegation arrived at the border with Russia’s ally Belarus for ceasefire talks with Russian representatives. It was not clear if any progress could be made.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday launched the biggest attack on a European country since World War Two, and put Russia’s nuclear deterrent on high alert Sunday in the face of a barrage of Western-led reprisals.

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The Ukrainian authorities said that explosions were heard before dawn on Monday in the capital, Kyiv, and in the eastern city of Kharkiv. They added that attempts by Russian ground forces to seize major urban centers were repelled.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces had captured the towns of Berdyansk and Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhya region in southeastern Ukraine, as well as the area around the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, Interfax reported. She added that the factory’s operations continued normally.

Ukraine denied that the nuclear plant had fallen into the hands of Russia, according to the news agency.

Pavlo Kirilenko, the head of the Donetsk regional administration, said on television on Monday that battles raged around the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol all night.

He did not say whether the Russian forces had gained or lost any territory or provided any number of casualties.

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At least 102 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Thursday, and 304 others have been wounded, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Monday, but the true figure is feared to be “much higher”. Read more

Russia has fired more than 350 missiles at Ukrainian targets since Thursday, a senior US defense official said, some of them hitting civilian infrastructure.

“They seem to adopt the siege mentality that any student of military tactics and strategies would tell you, when you adopt siege tactics, it increases the possibility of collateral damage,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.


The Russian ruble fell nearly 30 percent against the dollar on Monday, after Western countries on Saturday unveiled sweeping sanctions that include blocking some Russian banks from using the international SWIFT payment system.

Russia’s central bank scrambled to manage the fallout from the expanded sanctions, saying it would resume buying gold on the domestic market, launch a borderless repurchase auction and ease restrictions on banks’ open foreign currency positions.

It also ordered brokers to prevent foreigners from trying to sell Russian securities. Read more

China reiterated its opposition to the sanctions. China has refused to condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine or describe it as an invasion and has repeatedly called for negotiations.

Japan and South Korea said they would take part in the measure to prevent some banks from operating SWIFT. South Korea, a major exporter of semiconductors, said it would also ban the export of strategic materials to Russia. Read more

The European Central Bank said several European subsidiaries of Sberbank Russia, majority owned by the Russian government, have failed or are likely to fail due to their reputational cost of the war in Ukraine. Read more

Britain said on Monday it was taking further action against Russia in coordination with the United States and the European Union, effectively separating major financial institutions in Moscow from Western markets. Read more

The giants also took action, with British oil giant BP, Russia’s largest foreign investor, saying it would give up its stake in state oil company Rosneft. (ROSN.MM) At a cost of up to $25 billion. Read more


Protest observatory OVD-Info said escalating protests have been organized worldwide against the invasion, including in Russia, where nearly 6,000 people have been arrested in anti-war protests since Thursday. Read more

As Western governments mobilize more support for sanctions against Moscow, diplomatic maneuvering has continued with the Vatican’s joint effort by offering to “facilitate dialogue” between Russia and Ukraine. Read more

The United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday approved Ukraine’s request for an urgent discussion this week on Russia’s invasion, minutes after a Kyiv envoy told the Geneva Forum that some of Moscow’s military actions “may amount to war crimes”.

The 47-member council adopted the motion by 29 votes to five, including Russia and China, with 13 abstentions after Russia’s Ambassador Gennady Gatilov called for a no vote.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday asked the European Union to allow Ukraine to gain membership immediately.

“Our goal is to be with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be equal. I’m sure that’s fair. I’m sure we deserve it,” he said in a video speech circulated on social media.

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The White House said US President Joe Biden will host a call with allies and partners on Monday to coordinate a unified response.

The United States said Putin is escalating the war with a “dangerous rhetoric” about Russia’s nuclear status, amid indications that Russian forces are preparing to besiege major cities in the democratic country of about 44 million people.

A UN aid agency said nearly 400,000 civilians, mostly women and children, had fled to neighboring countries as rockets fell.

Russia describes its actions in Ukraine as a “special operation” that it says is designed not to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbor’s military capabilities and seize what it considers dangerous nationalists.

NATO partners are providing Ukraine with air defense missiles and anti-tank weapons, NATO President Jens Stoltenberg said in a tweet on Monday.

Germany, which has already frozen an undersea gas pipeline from Russia, said it would dramatically increase defense spending, abandoning decades of reluctance to match its economic power with military influence. Read more

The European Union has closed all Russian aircraft from its airspace, as has Canada, forcing Russian airline Aeroflot to cancel all flights to European destinations until further notice. Read more

The European Union has also banned Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik.

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Additional reporting by Aleksandr Vasovich in Kyiv; Natalia Zenets and Matthias Williams from Lviv; Alan Sharlish in Medica, Poland; Fedja Grulovic in Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania; other Reuters offices including Moscow; Writing by Humira Pamuk, Stephen Coates, Simon Cameron Moore and Nick McPhee; Editing by Lincoln Fest, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Philippa Fletcher

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.