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  • Writer's pictureParley Policy Initiative

Ukraine-Russia Ceasefire Negotiations: Chapter VIII

This article looks at the seventh chapter of ceasefire negotiations between Russia and Ukraine that occurred from November 2022 to February 2023. For the latest on the ceasefire negotiations, see the running tracker here. Read about Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter VI, and Chapter VII.


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Chapter VIII Summary: The long winter proved to be a time for reconstitution of forces on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides. For Russia, this meant an entrenchment of occupation armies while pursuing ways of signaling escalating costs to Ukraine and its partners in the form of continued missile strikes against civilian infrastructure, nuclear deployment to Belarus, and threats of scrapping the Black Sea Grain Initiative. For Ukraine, this period witnessed comprehensive diplomatic efforts to gain expanding weapons and materiel support while shoring up support for both Ukraine's proposed "peace formula" and its forthcoming push to oust Russian occupiers. Throughout this period, it was not a question of if the Ukrainian counteroffensive would begin in earnest, but when.

 

24 February:

  • On the one year anniversary of the war, the Chinese government publishes its 12-point peace proposal, calling for a ceasefire, consideration of Russian security interests, humanitarian provisions for Ukraine, prisoner exchanges, and the removal of unilateral sanctions against Russia. [Read more about China's 12-point peace plan here.]

 

25 February:

  • The Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry announces its endorsement of China's 12-point peace plan. The government expresses that "it is worthy of support to stop the bloodshed based on the principles of the United Nations, based on the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of the state."

 

26 February:

  • Belarusian partisans damage a Russian A-50 at an airfield near Minsk. The Lukashenko administration initiates an investigation to find the perpetrators of the attack without formally acknowledging the incident.

 

27 February:

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. The two discuss the U.S. pledge for USD 9.9 billion in direct budget support to Ukraine in 2023, U.S. assistance with the International Monetary Fund, and postwar reconstruction plans.

 

28 February:

  • The IAEA issues a situation update for conditions at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. The IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhia (ISAMZ) reported that around 20 “detonations” could be heard on 27 February, followed by a temporary loss of its external power supply. This once again raised concerns of attacks against the nuclear facilities. The IAEA renews its call for establishing safety and security zones around nuclear facilities.

 

1 March:

  • Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak announces that Russia will reduce oil output by 500,000 barrels per day beginning this month. He adds that Russia made the choice voluntarily without consulting with the OPEC+ countries.

 

2 March:

[Ukraine] doesn't strike at [the Russian Federation's] territory. Ukraine is waging a defensive war to de-occupy all its territories. This is an axiom. Panic & disintegration processes are building up in RF, reflected by an increase in internal attacks on infrastructure facilities by unidentified flying objects.

  • At the G20 Foreign Ministers meeting, Sergey Lavrov blames the West for causing a food crisis and blocking full implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. [Note: the parties are currently negotiating to extend the Initiative beyond its expiry this month]

 

3 March:

  • Ukraine and Russia 17 fallen Ukrainians are returned for an undisclosed number of Russians. In total, the parties have negotiated the return of 1,426 Ukrainian remains since the invasion began.

 

4 March:

  • Ukraine's Main Directorate of Intelligence for the Ministry of Defense reports that Russian occupation authorities are withholding pensions for residents who do not carry Russian passports in Donetsk.

 

5 March:

  • Ukrainian forces repulse 95 Russian attacks in five areas. The General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces reports the following:

The Russian Federation is focusing its main efforts on conducting offensive operations on the Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Shakhtarsk fronts. Our warriors repelled over 95 enemy attacks yesterday on these fronts, including in the areas of Bilohorivka and Nevske (Luhansk Oblast), and Zaliznianske, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Bakhmut and Ivanivske (Donetsk Oblast).

The enemy keeps violating the norms of international humanitarian law and continues to attack and shell civilian facilities and residential buildings, trying to destroy the critical infrastructure of our country.

Yesterday, the enemy carried out 27 airstrikes and 4 missile strikes, as well as deployed multiple-launch rocket systems to fire more than 70 times. The threat of Russia launching missile strikes throughout Ukraine remains high.

 

6 March:

  • Founder of the Wagner mercenary organization Yevgeny Prigozhin criticizes the Russian government for failing to deliver munitions to the frontlines. He states, "I'm knocking on all doors and sounding the alarm about ammunition and reinforcements, as well as the need to cover our flanks...If everyone is coordinated, without ambition, screw-ups and tantrums, and carries out this work, then we will block the armed forces of Ukraine. If not, then everyone will be screwed."

 

7 March:

  • In correspondence with Reuters, a senior Ukrainian government source reveals that Ukraine has started online talks with partners on extending the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The current extension is set to expire on 18 March.

 

8 March:

  • Ukraine and Russia conduct another negotiated prisoner exchange. 130 Ukrainians are returned for 90 Russians. [Note: Russian ombudsperson Tatyana Moskalkova claims that the Ukraine side rejected a 160-for-160 proposal but did not disclose why.]

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Kyiv. There, the leaders discuss prisoner exchanges and the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. This is Guterres's third visit to Ukraine since the invasion began last year; comparatively, he has been to Moscow once to negotiate the original Black Sea Grain Initiative agreements.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres joins President Volodymyr Zelensky for a press conference following their meeting in Kyiv, 8 March 2023 (photo via Ukraine's presidential office)

 

9 March:

  • In a press interview, Head of Ukraine's Presidential Office Andriy Yermak expresses confidence that Ukraine will receive security guarantees at the NATO summit scheduled for July. He states, "There will definitely be security guarantees, now we no longer hear 'no' when we talk about them. Now the question is who will be the first to sign them with us. I believe that it is quite possible to sign such a document in Vilnius." Of note, he acknowledges that China is no longer under consideration as a guarantor state. The list is currently anchored on NATO members, with Australia being the notable outlier.

  • At the board of governors meeting of the IAEA, Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi reports on the status of nuclear facilities in Ukraine. He states the following:

I want to report that this morning at around 5am local time Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant lost all off-site power when its last remaining 750 kilovolt line was disconnected, its only remaining back up 330 kilovolt line having been damaged a few days ago and under repair.


As a result all 20 of the site’s emergency diesels generators were activated. The site’s essential power is now being provided by eight of those diesels with the rest now in standby mode. And there is enough diesel on site for 15 days of operation. The two out of six units that were in hot shutdown are moving to cold shutdown.

This is the first time the site has lost all power since 23 November 2022 and follows reports of missile strikes across Ukraine overnight.


Our ISAM teams on all the other NPPs in Ukraine have reported back to us this morning. At South Ukraine NPP there are reported losses of power lines but there are sufficient remaining available to provide off-site power if required. The other operating NPPs Khmelnytskyy and Rivne NPPs have not been directly affected though the plants have been managing power levels in accordance with grid requirements. Similarly, there are no reports of Chornobyl NPP being affected.


However, yet again Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is running on emergency diesels – the last line of defence. This is the sixth time – let me say it again SIXTH time - that ZNPP has lost all off-site power and has had to operate in this emergency mode. Let me remind you – this is the largest nuclear power station in Europe. What are we doing? How can we sit here in this room this morning and allow this to happen? This cannot go on.

 

10 March:

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky hosts Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin in Kyiv. The leaders issue a joint statement that declares not only continued cooperation in response to Russian aggression against Ukraine, but deepening ties between the two countries.

  • The Swiss government reaffirms its position that it will not allow the export of ammunition and weapon systems produced in Switzerland to Ukraine. The government states the following via press release:

The Federal Council has taken note of the parliamentary debate on the re-export of Swiss-manufactured war materiel by third countries. It reaffirms its position against authorising the re-export of war materiel. This position is based on the War Materiel Act but also on the values held by Switzerland, its neutrality, tradition of humanitarian aid, commitment to international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions, and its international practice of mediation in the service of peace. Switzerland's tradition of neutrality does not equate to indifference towards Russia's aggression against Ukraine, which is why Switzerland has repeatedly and strongly condemned this aggression and demanded the cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the entire territory of Ukraine. Switzerland also supports the European Union's sanctions.

 

11 March:

  • Following the meeting between the Ukrainian and Finnish heads of government, officials walk back Prime Minister Sanna Marin's comments that Finland could provide Ukraine with fighter jets. Defense officials from the country state that they cannot spare any of their existing fleet, but insinuate that it might be possible once they are replaced by new F-35s.

 

12 March:

  • Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar asserts that he believes the Black Sea Grain Initiative will be extended beyond its 18 March expiry. In an interview with domestic media, he states the following:

Both sides of the deal demonstrate a positive approach. We believe that this process will have a positive outcome. We are convinced that the deal will be extended after March 18...Yes, there are some minor difficulties in the implementation of the agreements, but both the Russian side and the Ukrainian side and the UN are working together. In general, the agreements are being implemented without any negative developments. As for us, we want the deal to continue. I believe that Russia and Ukraine, based on the results of our contacts, also think that it is necessary to continue this work

 

13 March:

  • Officials from Russia and the United Nations meet in Geneva to negotiate the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The Russian delegation is led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin, and the UN side's lead delegates are Martin Griffiths, the Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief and Secretary General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Rebeca Grynspan. Following the round of negotiations, Vershinin announces the following:

The Russian side, noting the package nature of Istanbul agreements suggested by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, does not object to the next renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative after lapse of the second deadline on March 18 but for 60 days only...barriers remain on the path of Russian agricultural exporters...Sanction exemptions for food and fertilizers declared by Washington, Brussels and London do not actually work.

 

14 March:

 

15 March:

  • U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu about the MQ-9 incident over the Black Sea. He calls the episode "part of a pattern of aggressive risky and unsafe actions by Russian pilots in international airspace."

  • The 10th meeting of the "Ukraine Defense Contact Group" (aka "Ramstein Format") concludes takes place via video teleconference; around 50 countries participate in the forum aimed at coordinating the provision of armament and other security assistance to Ukraine.

 

16 March:

  • Polish president Andresz Duda announces that his country will give Ukraine four MiG-29 fighter jets in the coming days.

 

17 March:

  • The International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin and one other Russian official for the forcible deportation of children from Ukraine. The full ICC statement is available for download below:

20230317_Statement from ICC Prosecutor on the issuance of arrest warrants against Russian
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Download • 92KB
  • Slovakia confirms that it will provide Ukraine with 13 MiG-29 fighter jets.

 

18 March:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula nine years after its illegal annexation.

 

19 March:

  • Vladimir Putin travels to the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol via helicopter. This is his first trip to the illegally annexed territories of Ukraine, reportedly to review reconstruction efforts.

 

20 March:

 

21 March:

  • Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida makes an unannounced visit to Kyiv. There, he and Volodymyr Zelensky sign a joint statement on upgrading the Japan-Ukraine relationship to a "special global partnership." Kishida's visit means that all the G7 heads-of-government have visited Kyiv since the start of Russia's invasion.

 

22 March:

  • Director General Rafael Grossi explains that the parties are no longer negotiating a demilitarized zone around Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant; rather they are focused on establishing limited ceasefire provisions for the area.

 

23 March:

  • President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks via video teleconference at the regular meeting of the European Council taking place in Brussels. He lays out five factors that are prolonging a conclusion to the war:

    1. The delay in supplying the Ukrainian army with long-range missiles and modern aircraft

    2. The delay in the adoption of new tough sanctions packages

    3. The delay in the implementation of the Ukrainian Peace Formula

    4. The delay in organizing the "peace summit" per the Ukrainian Peace Formula

    5. The delay in Ukraine's integration into the European Union

 

24 March:

  • Ukraine unilaterally repatriates Russian prisoners who are seriously wounded or ill with facilitation by the International Committee of the Red Cross. This is done in accordance with the Articles 109 and 110 of the Geneva Conventions.

 

25 March:

  • In an interview with state media, Vladimir Putin announces that he intends to deploy tactical nuclear missiles in Belarus. The two countries had telegraphed this possibility as early as February 2022 when the Belarusian government amended its constitution to allow for nuclear sharing, but observers note that this announcement is likely done as escalation aimed at deterring additional support to the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

 

26 March:

  • The government of North Macedonia agrees to return 12 Mi-24 helicopters that it had previously purchased from Ukraine.

  • IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi announces that he is on his way to Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. He states the following via social media:

On my way to Zaporizhzhia NPP to assess first-hand the nuclear safety & security situation at the facility. I will continue my efforts to protect the nuclear plant during the ongoing military conflict, & lead our next regular rotation of [IAEA] experts to & from the site.

Rafael Grossi (center) stands with other IAEA personnel ahead of their trip to Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (photo via Twitter @rafaelmgrossi)

 

27 March:

  • The UN Security Council fails to adopt a Russia-drafted resolution on convening an international investigation into the Nord Stream incident (explosion in a section of the underwater gas pipeline). It receives three votes in favor (Brazil, China, and Russia) and 12 abstentions. The draft text was co-sponsored by Belarus, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Nicaragua, Syria, and Venezuela.

  • Ukrainian partisans injure the police chief in Russian-occupied Mariupol with a car bomb. The detonation occurred when the official was a few meters away from the car, leaving him alive but concussed. This attack comes just more than a week after Vladimir Putin visited the city.

 

28 March:

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Director General Rafael Grossi and other IAEA officials at Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant in the Zaporizhzhia region. This facility is a primary source of external power for the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and has undergone shelling from Russia forces several times since the start of the war. Grossi is heading to Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant next with an intent to travel to Russia after that.

 

29 March:

  • Head of the Ukraine’s Presidential Office Andriy Yermak chairs a meeting with members of the government’s working group on Ukraine's participation in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The meeting focuses on a draft law on the liability of legal entities for international bribery as an anti-corruption mechanism aimed at satisfying the conditions for Ukraine’s participation in the OECD Working Group on Bribery.

 

30 March:

  • The Ukrainian Infrastructure Ministry announces that Japan has pledged to provide Ukraine with a $400 million grant for reconstruction.

 

31 March:

  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko calls for an unconditional peace in the conflict. He states that Minsk is prepared to mediate a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine, noting that “It is impossible to defeat a nuclear power. If the Russian leadership understands that the situation threatens to cause Russia's disintegration, it will use the most terrible weapon. This cannot be allowed.”

  • All NATO members’ parliaments ratify Finland’s accession, completing the final requirement for the Scandinavian country to become a full-fledged member. Meanwhile, Sweden’s negotiations with Turkiye over its accession are ongoing, with an aim to be completed by the next NATO summit scheduled for July this year.

 

1 April:

 

2 April:

  • Russian propagandist Vladlen Tatarsky is killed in an explosion at a St. Petersburg cafe. 24 others were hospitalized with six in critical condition. Russian authorities announce that they are investigating the incident as a "high-profile murder."

 

3 April:

  • Partisans execute an attack in the occupied city of Melitopol, injuring a well-known collaborator. Maksym Zubariev, who exiled Mayor Ivan Fedorov described as “one of the first to cooperate with the enemy," is injured in a car bomb.

 

4 April:

  • Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Burak Akçapar discusses implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Vershinin. Russia only agreed to a 60-day extension of the deal in March, making 17 May the next negotiating deadline.

 

5 April:

  • IAEA Director General Rafael M. Grossi meets with Russian officials in Kaliningrad to negotiate ceasefire provisions for Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. This comes after his meetings with Volodymyr Zelensky visit to the facility last week.

  • Polish President Andresz Duda announces that his government will deliver at least 14 MiG-29s to Ukraine.

 

6 April:

  • Ukraine's state-owned defense conglomerate Ukroboronprom and the Polish Armaments Group reach an agreement on the joint-production of 125 mm tank munitions. This deal not only secures closer ties between Ukraine and Poland, but helps fulfill a key need for Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

 

7 April:

 

8 April:

  • 31 deported children return to Ukraine after being forcibly deported from occupied areas. The “Save Ukraine” non-governmental organization assisted in this return, the fifth since the start of the invasion. An estimated 19,500 children have been forcibly deported since February last year.

 

9 April:

  • Poland's Deputy Agriculture Minister states that the country will suspend grain imports from Ukraine until July. This announcement comes amidst domestic protests over the impact that the influx of Ukrainian grain is having on local market prices.

 

10 April:

  • Ukraine and Russia conduct another negotiated prisoner exchange. 100 Ukrainians are swapped for 106 Russians. The current pace of repatriations for 2023 has been one exchange per month.

 

11 April:

  • A video surfaces of Russian soldiers executing a Ukrainian POW, drawing international outcry. In response, President Volodymyr Zelensky states the following:

The execution of a Ukrainian captive…This is a video of Russia as it is. This is a video of Russia trying to make just that the new norm. Everyone must react. Every leader. Don't expect it to be forgotten. We are not going to forget anything. The defeat of Russian terror is necessary.

 

12 April:

  • Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal met with the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Shmyhal and Austin discussed the urgent needs of Ukraine's Armed Forces. Shmyhal urged the US to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets.

 

13 April:

  • The Russian Foreign Ministry clearly articulates the concessions it seeks in exchange for extending the Black Sea Grain Initiative beyond the 18 May expiry, stating the following:


 

14 April:

  • Ukraine and Russia conduct another negotiated remains repatriation. The bodies of 82 fallen Ukrainians are returned for an undisclosed number of Russian remains.

 

15 April:

  • Russian state media announces that five Ukrainians detained in occupied Melitopol will be transported to Russia to be tried for ‘terrorism’. This move comes after a spate of partisan activity in the illegally annexed territories of Ukraine.

 

16 April:

  • Ukraine and Russia conduct another negotiated prisoner exchange. The repatriation occurs on Orthodox Easter as 130 Ukrainians are returned for an undisclosed number of Russians.

 

17 April:

  • In an interview with Ukrainska Pravda, Ukraine’s Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets states that 86% of Ukrainian POWs have been tortured in some capacity. He asserts the following:

We are opening our own proceedings for each released serviceman and we are recording facts that once again confirm the inhuman treatment of prisoners of war. Regarding torture, according to our information, 86% of those who came back from captivity reported direct physical torture. This, by the way, was established not only by us, but also by the international human rights mission of the United Nations. They have approximately the same numbers.

 

18 April:

  • The Kremlin announces that Vladimir Putin traveled to the illegally annexed territories of Kherson and Luhansk on Monday, 17 April. There, he reportedly received reports from military commanders on the situations in Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia.

 

19 April:

  • Ukraine and Poland conclude two days of negotiations to unblock the transport of Ukrainian grain. Last weekend, Poland halted shipments owing to local protests (over concerns of effects on the Polish market), but the two sides agreed to reopen transit through the country starting the night of 19 April. The breakthrough in negotiations alleviates concerns that the Kremlin could exploit the situation with Poland in its negotiations with Türkiye, Ukraine, and the UN over the Black Sea Grain Initiative that is set to expire next month if the four parties cannot agree on another extension.

 

20 April:

  • Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visits Kyiv for the first time since the beginning of the Russian invasion. Senior Ukrainian official Andriy Yermak states that NATO membership is the ultimate security guarantee and remains a key goal for Ukraine. Jens Stoltenberg states that all NATO members agree that Ukraine will one day be part of NATO.

 

21 April:

  • During an interview aired on French television, Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye calls into question the sovereignty of former Soviet bloc countries like Ukraine. When asked specifically about Crimea, he states that Crimea was historically part of Russia and had been offered to Ukraine by former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Lu's remarks draw the ire of several members of the international community while undermining China's push for influence in the peace process.

 

22 April:

  • Representatives from dozens of countries once again gather for a meeting of the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group ("Ramstein format"). This is the eleventh meeting of its kind and focuses on provision of tanks and artillery to support the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signs two decrees to impose sanctions against 40 individuals and 382 legal entities with ties to Russia.

 

23 April:

  • The G7 Agriculture Ministers produce a joint communique after convening for discussions in Miyazaki, Japan. The statement condemns the impact of Russia's war of aggression and calls for the extension and expansion of the Black Sea Grain Initiative:

We continue to condemn in the strongest terms Russia’s illegal, unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine and are appalled and saddened by the tragic human loss and suffering it continues to cause. We are deeply concerned about the devastating impact the war is having on food security globally, not least through price spikes in grains, fuel and fertilisers, which is disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable. We recognize the importance of the EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes, President Zelenskyy’s Grain from Ukraine Initiative and the UN and Türkiye-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI). In this context, we strongly support the extension, full implementation and expansion of BSGI. We condemn Russia’s attempts to use food as a means of destabilization and as tool of geopolitical coercion and reiterate our commitment to acting in solidarity and supporting those most affected by Russia’s weaponization of food. We will continue to design our restrictive measures against Russia to shield population in need from unintended consequences by ensuring food and fertilizers are carved out.

 

24 April:

  • UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres hands Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a letter addressed to Vladimir Putin with ideas on how to expand implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. He expresses that similar letters were delivered to Türkiye and Ukraine. He also addressed Russia's concerns over implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Russian Federation and the Secretariat of the United Nations on promoting Russian food products and fertilizers to the world markets, delivering a progress report and reiterating the UN's commitment to continue working on issues related to that part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

  • Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning walks back Ambassador Lu Shaye's comments from 21 April, stating that China respects the sovereignty of all ex-Soviet republics. She clarifies that there has been no change in China's position. [Note: China does not formally recognize Crimea as Russian territory]

 

25 April:

  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba publishes an op-ed arguing that NATO must establish a concrete timetable for making Ukraine a full-fledged member, arguing that "ambiguity is Putin's best ally."

 

26 April:

  • For the first time since the start of the Russian invasion, China votes in favor of a UN General Assembly resolution ("Cooperation between the United Nations and the Council of Europe") that includes a passage recognizing "the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine."

  • Ukraine and Russia conduct another negotiated prisoner exchange. 40 Ukrainians are returned for 40 Russians. A total of 2,279 Ukrainian prisoners have been repatriated since the Russian invasion began last February.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has his first phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began last year. Regarding the call, Zelensky posts the following via social media:

 

27 April:

  • Partisan operators kill another collaborator in illegal annexed territories of Ukraine. Former police chief-turned-collaborator Oleksandr Mishchenko is killed in an explosion in the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

 

28 April:

  • UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres discusses the Black Sea Grain Initiative with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The two discuss ways to guarantee the improvement, expansion, and extension of the Black Sea Initiative (the Ukraine side of the agreement) and the improvement of the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Russian Federation, the United Nations, and the Republic of Türkiye (the Russian side of the agreement).

 

29 April:

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with Horizon Capital investment company Lenna Koszarny and international investors from eight countries: the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, as well as from two international organizations. The Horizon Capital hedge fund pledged $254 million to the reconstruction of Ukraine.

 

30 April:

  • Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar states that representatives from Russia, Turkiye, and Ukraine will meet at the Deputy Minister level to negotiate extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Meanwhile, the Russian government has demanded the following before it agrees to another extension: (1) connection of Rosselkhozbank back to SWIFT; (2) resumption of supplies of agriculture equipment, components, and service maintenance; (3) lifting of restrictions on insurance and reinsurance for goods & transport; (4) lifting the ban on Russian access to ports; (5) resumption of operation of the Tolyatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline; and (6) unfreezing of foreign assets and accounts of Russian companies related to production & transportation of food and fertilizers.

 

1 May:

  • President Zelensky issues a presidential order designating the delegation that will participate in Ukraine's Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. This move is designed to cement economic cooperation with key partners across the globe, particularly outside of Europe.

  • International media outlets reveal that the South African government is working to convince Vladimir Putin to attend the forthcoming BRICS Summit in Pretoria via Zoom. A South African government commission had determined that if Putin were to travel to the country, they would be compelled to arrest him given the outstanding warrant for war crimes issued by the International Criminal Court.

 

2 May:

  • Head of Ukraine's Presidential Office Andriy Yermak meets with domestic and foreign journalists, where he discusses security guarantees for Ukraine. He reiterates Ukraine's intent to join NATO and the need for bridging security guarantees until NATO accession can happen:

We see an opportunity to make these guarantees real, and they should be in place before Ukraine joins NATO. We also want to receive a political signal that will clearly establish Ukraine's future in NATO today, and there will be no turning back. It will only be a matter of time

 

3 May:

  • Wagner Group leader states that the Ukrainian counter-offensive had effectively begun in the southeastern areas currently under Russian occupation.

 

4 May:

  • Leader of the Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin posts a video online of him standing in front of deceased combatants screaming at Russian government and military officials. He shouts the following:

Shoigu! Gerasimov! Where are the f***ing shells!? Look at them, you b***hes...you sit in expensive clubes...your children make YouTube videos...you think you have the right to dispose of their [Wagner fighter] lives...they came here as volunteers and died so you could gorge yourselves in your offices.

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky visits the International Criminal Court. He thanked the ICC for its efforts and renewed his call for the formation of a tribunal. He posts the following via social media:

...And only one institution is capable of responding to the crime of aggression: a Tribunal! We need not something hybrid that can formally close the topic, not some compromise that will allow politicians to say that the case is allegedly done...But a true, full-fledged justice. That's why we insist on the Special International Tribunal to be created. When there is a tradition of inevitable punishment for aggression, then there will be a tradition of guaranteed non-repetition of aggression.

 

5 May:

  • Officials from Ukraine, Türkiye, Russia, and the UN meet in Istanbul for Black Sea Grain Initiative negotiations. They deliberated technical matters ahead of the Deputy Minister-level meeting scheduled to take place next week.

  • Russian-backed officials in occupied Zaporizhzhia order the evacuation of non-combatants from several cities in anticipation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. Renat Karchaa, an adviser to the director general of Russia's Rosenergoatom state-affiliated power company states that the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is functioning as normal:

The ZNPP is operating as usual, no evacuation measures linked with the relocation of employees are either being taken or planned. As of now, we have no information so that we could specify plans and the sequence of actions in the context of the decision of the acting region governor. The plant’s employees continue to work as usual...There is no panic among the employees. They continue to work routinely. Their families are all right. Our further plans will depend on objective changes in the situation.

 

6 May:

  • Ukraine and Russia conduct another negotiated prisoner exchange. 45 Ukrainians are swapped for 3 Russians in the repatriation.

 

7 May:

  • Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov declares via social media that his forces will replace withdrawing Wagner troops in Bakhmut--meant to happen by 10 May.

  • Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin posts a video claiming that Wagner forces will quit participating in the fighting owing to casualties and lack of materiel support. Whether this is a genuine statement or threat to compel the Kremlin is yet to be seen.

 

8 May:

  • The International Committee of the Red Cross confirms that Russia destroyed its warehouse in Odesa with a missile strike.

 

9 May:

  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is spirited away following the Russian Victory Day parade where he fell ill. [Note: Despite rumors of his death, Lukashenko reappeared a few days later in Minsk.]

 

10 May:

  • Deputy Minister-level representatives from Russia, Türkiye, and Ukraine begin negotiations in Istanbul to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Turkish officials indicated that (1) they are pursuing an extension of at least 60 days and (2) the Turkish state-owned Ziraat Bank may be ready to execute transactions for sales of Russian grain and fertilizers to satisfy the Kremlin's demands for reconnecting the Russian Agricultural Bank to the SWIFT system.

 

11 May:

  • Leader of Wagner PMC Prigozhin publishes a letter stating that he will remain in Bakhmut after receiving promised munitions from the Kremlin. He mocks Sergey Shoigu by asking him to visit Bakhmut.

 

12 May:

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky renews his call for attention and action towards sanctions imposition and enforcement. He highlights that he has approved five new sanctions packages, and urges the international community to put pressure on Russia and block attempts for sanctions evasion.

 

13 May:

  • Volodymyr Zelensky travels to Italy and the Vatican City where he meets with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Pope Francis. This was Zelensky's first meeting with the Pope since Russia's invasion began last year.

 

14 May:

  • While visiting Germany, Voldymyr Zelensky and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz sign a joint declaration. A key inclusion in this declaration is Germany's support for Ukraine's accession to NATO.

 

15 May:

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky continues his engagements across Europe, visiting Germany, France, and then the United Kingdom. At each stop, he gains additional commitments for armament and materiel support to Ukraine's counteroffensive.

 

16 May:

  • South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announces that he gained concurrence from both Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky for the dispatch of an African leaders peace mission to Russia and Ukraine.

 

17 May:

  • UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres confirms that Russia has agreed to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative for another 60 days. He states the following: "I welcome the confirmation by the Russian Federation to continue its participation in the Black Sea Initiative for another 60 days."

  • Chinese envoy Li Hui completes his visit to Kyiv from 16-17 May where he discussed ending the war in line with China's 12-point peace plan. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Li that Ukraine will not accept any proposal that involves the loss of territory or freezing of the conflict.

 

18 May:

  • Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential office, announces that he briefed Chinese envoy Li Hui on the 10-point "Ukrainian Peace Formula." He expressed his government's interest in China’s support in the implementation of that peace formula.

 

19 May:

  • The Ukrainian government confirms that President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the G7 summit in Hiroshima.

  • President Zelensky makes his first-ever visit to Saudi Arabia. There, Zelensky meets Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who expresses Saudi Arabia’s willingness to mediate peace between Russia and Ukraine.

 

20 May:

  • Volodymyr Zelensky arrives in Japan to attend the G7 Summit. He flew from Saudia Arabia via French aircraft and will soon join the series of meetings with other world leaders.

  • Ukrainian Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets states that Ukrainians who took Russian passports under pressure will not be punished. He states, “If you cannot leave [occupied territories] for various reasons, and in order to survive, you are forced to get a Russian passport–take it and survive.”

 

21 May:

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky proposes to hold “the Summit of the Peace Formula” in July, coinciding with the 500th day of the war. Zelensky issued this proposal at the conclusion of the Hiroshima Summit with G7 and other heads of government.

 

22 May:

  • The Free Russia Legion claims that it had "liberated" the border village of Kozinka with the Russian Volunteer Corps and entered the neighboring Graivoron town.

 

23 May:

  • Deputy Head of the Presidential Office Iuliia Sokolovska meets with Counselor-Head of Peace and Human Rights Program at the Embassy of the Swiss Confederation Gaetan Vannay and Peace and Human Rights Project Coordinator at the Embassy of the Swiss Confederation Nataliia Sorokina. They discuss assistance to Ukraine in the creation and development of registries related to the abuse and forcible deportation of Ukrainian children. According to the Presidential Office, measures to create relevant registries and information exchange tools are being implemented in the framework of the Electronic Governance for Accountability and Participation (EGAP) project, funded by Switzerland and implemented by the East Europe Foundation in cooperation with the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine and the Innovabridge Foundation.

  • Following his overseas engagements, President Volodymyr Zelensky travels to the front to meet with Ukrainian forces. He visits Marines positioned in Vuhledar, Donetsk Oblast.

Volodymyr Zelensky bows his head with Marines in Vuhledar, 23 May 2023 (photo via Ukraine's Presidential Office)

 

24 May:

  • China’s embassy in Moscow confirms that special envoy Li Hui will visit Russia on 26 May. Li has been on a five country trip (including Ukraine) to push China's 12-point peace plan for ending the war.

 

25 May:

  • Ukraine and Russia conduct another negotiated prisoner exchange. 106 Ukrainians are swapped for an undisclosed number of Russians. This brings the total to 2430 prisoners repatriated to Ukraine via negotiations since the Russian invasion began.

  • Russia and Belarus sign documents defining the procedures for storing Russian nuclear weapons in Belarusian territory. This paves the way for the two countries to implement Vladimir Putin’s 25 March announcement that Russia would deploy its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. Construction of the necessary storage facilities are scheduled to be complete by 1 July.

  • Head of Ukraine's Presidential Office Andriy Yermak discusses developments from the G7 summit with former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh. Fogh is the co-chair for the International Working Group on Security Guarantees for Ukraine--and effort aimed at gaining commitments for postwar security guarantees in

 

26 May:

  • The Governor of Russia's Belgorod Region states that he came under fire multiple times in the town of Shebekino. Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov asserts that the town was shelled on five separate occasions, with one killed and three wounded.

 

27 May:

  • Head of Ukraine's Presidential Office Andriy Yermak asserts that Ukrainian officials will not sit down at the negotiating table with Russia as long as there are Russian forces on Ukrainian soil:

No such a force exists today that can make the Ukrainian society and the state leadership to talk to the Russians as long as the Russian troops are stationed on our territory.

  • Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podolyak responds to Galuzin's comments, stating Ukraine's position on conditions for ending hostilities:

Immediate withdrawal of all troops from the sovereign territory of Ukraine. Final recognition of the collapse of the USSR and full sovereignty of the post-Soviet countries. Extradition of war criminals and authors of war. Fixing the demilitarization zone (buffer zone) on the territory of the RF [Russian Federation]. Reduction of offensive weapons (missiles with extended range). International conference to organize control over the nuclear arsenal of the RF. A legally fixed program of reparation payments, including a voluntary renunciation of Russian assets seized in other countries in favor of Ukraine.

In order to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace, Ukraine must return to a neutral non-aligned status, fixed in the 1990 Declaration of State Sovereignty, and refuse to join NATO and the EU. The new territorial realities that have developed as a result of the realization of the right of peoples to self-determination must be recognized...An important element of the settlement is the protection of the rights of Russian-speaking citizens and national minorities. At the legislative level, the state status of the Russian language should be fixed. It is necessary to achieve observance in Ukraine of fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom of religion.

 

28 May:

  • In response to the mass use of Iranian-produced Shahed drones in the war, President Volodymyr Zelensky asks the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) to impose additional sanctions against Iran for 50 years, according to the draft resolution following the National Security and Defense Council decision. The draft resolution includes a complete ban on trade with Iran, investments, and transferring technologies, as well as the cessation of Iranian transit across the Ukrainian territory and the freeze of Iranian assets in Ukraine.

  • Overnight, Russia executes its largest drone attack against Kyiv, sending over 50 drones in the nighttime and early morning hours to strike the city. Ukrainian forces are successful in downing 36 of them, identifying them as Russian-operated Shahed-136/131 drones imported from Iran.

 

29 May:

  • Vladimir Putin signs a bill into law that allows for authorities in the illegally annexed territories of Ukraine to hold elections. Previously, Russian law prohibited holding votes in territories that were under martial law. The law also provides for the "forced and controlled movement of citizens from the territory where martial law is imposed to territories where martial law is not imposed," sparking concerns that the occupation authorities will simple move dissenters before the planned elections in September this year.

 

30 May:

  • Ukraine and Russia conduct another negotiated remains repatriation. The remains of 79 fallen Ukrainians are exchanged for an undisclosed number of Russian remains.

 

31 May:

  • During a UN Security Council meeting, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi laid out 5 core principles for safety and security at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. The Russian state-operated Rosenergoatom described it as a "set of good wishes."

 

1 June:

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky participates in the European Political Community Summit in Chișinău, Moldova. There, he advocates for an international peace summit anchored in the Ukrainian Peace Formula. He states the following:

In war, there is an aggressor and there is a victim. There is the one who starts the war and enters the territory of another state. A peace plan cannot be prepared by the aggressor - it is prepared by those who have suffered. The war is on our land, so the Peace Formula can only be ours...People from other continents do not stand aside, but want to join in to end the war. They have every right to put forward their initiatives, and we will be grateful if they come to us, not imposing, but offering. This is a dialogue...Not Russia via some country, because we can immediately see the pattern. It is preferable that the maximum number of countries from different parts of the world be involved in our peace summit. This is very important...When you involve the whole world and show that one country is isolated because of its aggression, that everyone will unite despite different interests simply against war, against aggression, against authoritarianism... That is why I strongly support this format.

 

2 June:

  • Responding to a question on the Telegram SNS platform, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin accuses "representatives of the Russian Defense Ministry" of emplacing mines along the exit routes from Bakhmut. The Wagner soldiers had been withdrawing from the city as Chechen soldiers under Ramzan Kadyrov move in, but Prigozhin's accusation highlight the growing competition within Russia's military ranks.

  • During his speech in Helsinki, Secretary of State Antony Blinken lays out the U.S. position on principles for a just and lasting peace in Ukraine. Relevant excerpt from the speech included below:

 

3 June:

  • During his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto delivers his government’s proposal for achieving a ceasefire and setting the foundation for peace. It is composed of five core elements:

    • First, a ceasefire that stops hostilities at the current battle line.

    • Second, the withdrawal of forces 15 kilometers each from the battle line to establish a 30-kilometer-wide demilitarized zone.

    • Third, the establishment of a United Nations monitoring and observer force.

    • Fourth, the immediate deployment of this observer force along the new demilitarized zone.

    • Fifth, UN-organized and executed referenda in the occupied territories of Ukraine to offer residents an option for self-determination on whether to remain part of Ukraine or to secede to Russia.


 


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