Any agreement with Russia will be put to referendum says Zelensky

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A distraught Donbass resident looks at the damage caused by the shelling of her village by Ukrainian militants

UKRAINIAN President Volodymyr Zelensky says any agreement that would be yielded from the peace talks with Russia that are aimed to end the conflict would be put to a referendum in Ukraine.

‘I explained it to all the negotiating groups: when you speak of all these changes (in a future accord) and they can be historic… we will come back to a referendum,’ Zelensky told Suspilne, a Ukrainian internet news site.
‘The people will have to weigh in on certain kinds of compromise,’ Zelensky added, noting that what the compromises cover are part of the negotiations with Moscow.
He reiterated that Kiev would not join NATO, a sticking point to the conflict, because its member states ‘are afraid of Russia.’
On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a ‘special military operation’ aimed at ‘demilitarisation’ of the restive Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine.
In 2014, the two regions declared themselves new republics, refusing to recognise Ukraine’s Western-backed government.
Announcing the operation, Putin said the mission was aimed at ‘defending people who for eight years are suffering persecution and genocide by the Kiev regime.’
Delegations from Kiev and Moscow have been negotiating since the onset of the Russian military campaign.
‘Of course, it is not an easy thing to come to terms with while the war is going on, while civilians are killed, but we would like to say that momentum is still gained,’ Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
No new agreements
on corridors
On Tuesday, Ukraine said its efforts to evacuate civilians from besieged towns and cities were focused on Mariupol.
‘We are focusing on evacuations from Mariupol,’ Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
Moscow has set a deadline for Kiev to surrender the city of Mariupol. It has also promised safe passage to Ukrainian nationalists in the besieged city, on the condition that they lay down their arms.
Kiev, however, has rejected Russia’s demands. It says giving up the city is out of the question.
Vereshchuk announced a list of places from where civilians would be evacuated, but that did not include Mariupol.
She also did not announce any new deals with Russia on creating ‘humanitarian corridors’ to allow safe passage for residents.
Russia stops peace treaty talks with Japan
Also on Tuesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced that Moscow has halted the peace treaty talks with Japan over the disputed Kuril islands, known by Tokyo as the Northern Territories, citing Japan’s ‘openly unfriendly positions and attempts to damage the interests of our country.’
‘Under the current conditions Russia does not intend to continue negotiations with Japan on a peace treaty,’ the ministry said in a statement.
Russia also decided to withdraw from talks with Japan about joint business projects on the disputed islands and ended visa-free travel by Japanese nationals.
The statement comes as the East Asian country joined Western countries and imposed sanctions against Moscow over the military operation in Ukraine.
The Russian decision angered Tokyo, with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida describing it as ‘unfair’ and ‘completely unacceptable’.
The Kuril Islands, located in the Sea of Okhotsk, lie fewer than 10 kilometres from Japan’s Hokkaido, consisting of Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan, and Habomai.
Following Japan’s surrender in World War II, the strategic islands were taken over by the Soviet army in the final days of the war.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the four islands were incorporated into the Russian Federation but Japan continues to lay claim to the islands.
According to a joint declaration signed in 1956, the Soviet Union agreed to return two of the islands provided that a bilateral peace treaty is signed. Japan refused to sign such an agreement, insisting on the return of all four islands.

  • The US is planning to deliver to Ukraine medium anti-aircraft systems taken from its own stockpile of Soviet military hardware, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing unnamed US officials.

The anti-aircraft systems were obtained through a clandestine programme to study them and teach American troops how to counter them. Ukrainian forces are trained in the use of these systems, which they have operated for decades.
At least some of the supplies will be withdrawn from the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, officials told the newspaper, adding that C-17 Globemaster cargo planes recently flew to a nearby airfield in Huntsville.
Washington ‘is hoping that the provision of additional air defences will enable Ukraine to create a de facto no-fly zone,’ the newspaper said. NATO members have repeatedly rebuffed Kiev’s call to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, stating that it would draw them directly into the hostilities and could lead to a world war.
The list of equipment slated for delivery does not include the S-300 long-range missiles, the report said. The US reportedly purchased at least one such battery from Belarus in the 1990s in a clandestine operation. But Washington plans to supply shorter-range 9K33 Osa systems, according to WSJ sources.
Last Wednesday, CNN’s Jim Sciutto reported that the US and NATO allies were going to send to Ukraine an array of Soviet air defence systems with capabilities better than the shoulder-launched Stinger missiles delivered in the hundreds in the weeks before the Russian attack.
He was referring to a potential deal with Slovakia, which later confirmed it was willing to share its own S-300 systems with Ukraine. Slovakia’s defence minister, Jaroslav Nad, told a news conference last Thursday that he discussed the plan with his visiting US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, and that his country wanted to receive ‘a proper replacement’ first.
The Russian military reported destroying multiple Ukrainian S-300 batteries over the nearly month-long attack. One of the stated goals of the Russian incursion is to demilitarise Ukraine and ensure that it will not pose any threat to the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, which Moscow recognised as independent states prior to the attack.
Moscow has warned that it will consider convoys delivering arms to Ukraine as legitimate targets for its armed forces. The WSJ didn’t explain the proposed logistics of the delivery of the US-owned anti-aircraft systems.

  • The Yemen Petroleum Company (YPC) says the Saudi-led war coalition has confiscated yet another emergency fuel ship bound for the Red Sea port of Hudaydah, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis which has been tightly controlled by Saudi Arabia.

The company announced that the vessel was impounded despite being inspected and holding entry permits from the United Nations.
‘To further tighten the noose around the Yemeni people, the Saudi-led aggression (coalition) detained the second emergency ship “Sea Door”, despite being searched and have obtained entry permits from the UN,’ YPC spokesman Issam al-Mutawakel said, Yemen’s al-Masirah news network reported on Tuesday.
He added that the seizure clearly ignored the Yemeni people’s suffering from the lack of fuel in the impoverished war-wracked country.
The number of confiscated vessels en route to Hudaydah rose to three, including two fuel tankers, Mutawakel said.
Over the past one and a half years, the Saudi-led coalition has held dozens of ships, blocking Yemen’s much-needed fuel imports amid a crippling siege.
The act of maritime piracy has deteriorated the humanitarian situation in Yemen, while much of the country’s vital sectors, including hospitals as well as electricity and water services, have already come to a halt.
More than 23 million Yemenis face hunger, disease, and other life-threatening risks as the country’s basic services and economy are collapsing, according to the UN Office for Humanitarian Coordination (OCHA).
Saudi Arabia launched the devastating war against Yemen in March 2015 in collaboration with a number of its allies and with arms and logistics support from the US and several Western states.
The objective was to return to power the former Riyadh-backed regime and crush the popular Ansarullah resistance movement, which has been running state affairs in the absence of an effective government in Yemen.
The war has stopped well shy of all of its goals, despite killing tens of thousands of Yemenis and turning the entire Yemen into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Yemeni forces have continued to grow stronger in the face of the Saudi-led invaders, advancing toward strategic areas held by Saudi-led mercenaries, including Ma’rib province, and conducting several rounds of counterstrikes against Saudi Arabia and the UAE in recent months.