Russia-Ukraine war: World's leaders search for a way out

Flurry of diplomacy comes amid faltering ceasefires to allow evacuation of civilians

A placard is held up during an anti-war protest called 'Stand with Ukraine' in central Brussels, Belgium.  Reuters
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International leaders have resumed efforts to find a way to end the military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, more than 10 days after Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to invade the former Soviet republic of 43 million people.

Ukraine was gripped by one of the worst humanitarian crises in Europe since the 1990s civil war in the former Yugoslavia, with the largest exodus of people fleeing conflict since WW2, according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

"More than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine have crossed into neighbouring countries in 10 days — the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II," he tweeted.

On Sunday, Pope Francis joined leaders calling for an immediate end to the violence, saying "negotiation and common sense must prevail. And that international law be respected once again."

On Sunday, ceasefires to allow for the evacuation of at least 200,000 civilians in Mariupol and Volnovakha collapsed amid incessant artillery and rocket attacks, as the International Committee of the Red Cross called for both sides to return to negotiations.

On Saturday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would seek to rally the international community to make a “renewed and concerted effort” to end the war and pursue diplomatic paths to de-escalation.

Mr Johnson will host Canadian and Dutch leaders Justin Trudeau and Mark Rutte at Downing Street on Monday “for discussions on how to turn these commitments into a concerted campaign of solidarity with Ukraine".

On Tuesday, Mr Johnson will speak with the leaders of the so-called Visegrad (V4) group of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Writing in The New York Times, Mr Johnson said diplomatic efforts in the lead-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were doomed to fail and it was now “sinking further into a sordid campaign of war crimes and unthinkable violence against civilians”.

Pianist travels hundreds of kilometres to Ukraine-Poland border to comfort refugees with his music

Davide Martello, 40, an Italian man living in Germany, plays the piano at a temporary accommodation centre in Korczowa, Poland, March 3, 2022.  REUTERS / Yara Nardi         TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Other world leaders sought to mediate between both sides. Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday his country would continue to assist in finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis, even if the chances of success were small.

Mr Bennett spoke to his Cabinet hours after he returned from a surprise meeting with Mr Putin in Moscow.

He then travelled to Germany for talks with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Mr Bennett revealed no details from his talks with the Russian leader, but called the country’s mediation efforts “our moral duty”.

Earlier, his office said he and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke by phone on Sunday morning, the third such call between the two leaders over the past day.

Israel has good relations with both Russia and Ukraine.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Mr Putin to declare a ceasefire, open humanitarian corridors and sign a peace agreement, his office said.

In a statement after a one-hour phone call, the Turkish presidency said Mr Erdogan told Mr Putin that Turkey was ready to contribute to a peaceful resolution of the conflict and that a ceasefire would ease concerns over the humanitarian situation.

Third round of talks

Ukrainian negotiators said a third round of talks with Russia on a ceasefire would go ahead on Monday, although Moscow was less definitive.

In a televised address on Saturday night, Mr Zelenskyy called on people in areas occupied by Russian troops to fight.

“We must go outside and drive this evil out of our cities,” he said, vowing to rebuild his nation.

Mr Putin repeated that he wanted a neutral Ukraine that had been “demilitarised” and “denazified,” and likened Western sanctions “to a declaration of war”.

Also on Saturday, Mr Zelenskyy held talks with US President Joe Biden, as Washington said it was in talks with Poland to supply fighter jets to Ukraine's air force.

Putin says Ukraine putting its sovereignty 'in question’

Putin says Ukraine putting its sovereignty 'in question’

The Biden’s “administration is surging security, humanitarian, and economic assistance to Ukraine and is working closely with Congress to secure additional funding”, he told Mr Zelenskyy, the White House said.

Russia warned the EU and Nato to stop the “pumping of state-of-the-art weapons systems” into Kyiv, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, according to RIA.

Updated: March 07, 2022, 4:57 AM