When Vladimir Putin visited Crimea on the ninth anniversary of the region’s annexation, Ukraine thanked Turkey and the UN for extending Ukraine’s grain deal for 120 days. Here is the update on the news about the war in Ukraine for this Saturday, March 18, 2023.
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A controversial Ukrainian grain deal
The subject of negotiations for several weeks, the extension was announced on Saturday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who welcomed the extension of an agreement “vital for the global food supply”, threatened by the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The agreement was due to expire on Saturday evening. Neither the United Nations nor Ankara gave details on the length of the extension.
It was Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov who was the first to say that the extension had been approved for a period of 120 days, in line in particular with the wishes of the Turkish authorities.
“The Black Sea Grain Initiative is being extended by 120 days. We thank Antonio Guterres, the United Nations, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, (Turkish Defense Minister) Hulusi Akar and all our partners for confirming this agreement.” he said on Twitter.
But Moscow quickly contradicted him, assuring that only a 60-day extension had been decided. “We see statements from various parties that the ‘cereal deal’ has been extended for 120 days”said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. “We repeated that several times […] the Russian side had informed all stakeholders that the agreement was extended for 60 days”she added, quoted by the Russian agency Interfax.
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Earlier in the day, the Ukrainian Air Force claimed that Ukraine, particularly the Lviv region in the west, was the target of a night attack by Iranian-made drones.
Russia, which launched an invasion of Ukraine just over a year ago, regularly pounded the country’s infrastructure, depriving the population of electricity and water.
“At around 9pm on March 17, 2023, Russian invaders attacked Ukraine with Iranian-made Shahed-136/131 kamikaze attack drones”, according to a statement broadcast on Telegram. Eleven of the 16 drones were “destroyed,” the military assured.
The attacks were launched from the Sea of Azov and from Russia’s Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine to the north, she added.
The Lviv (west) region was particularly targeted. “At around 1 a.m., our region was attacked by Shahed 136 suicide drones”said the regional governor, Maksym Kozytski.
Vladimir Putin in Crimea
This Saturday, March 18, was also the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. On this occasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise trip to the region, the day after an international arrest warrant was issued against him.
This is the Kremlin master’s first trip to Crimea since the outbreak of the Russian offensive in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, which brought Russia a series of harsh international sanctions, in addition to those already imposed after the 2014 annexation.
Arriving in Sevastopol, home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, Vladimir Putin notably attended the opening ceremony of an art school for children in the company of the local governor, Mikhail Razvojayev, according to footage broadcast by public television channel Rossia-1 .
This city is only about 240 km from Kherson, a southern Ukrainian city that was taken by the Kiev army in November after the withdrawal of Russian troops, and this relocation of Vladimir Putin is also the first to be carried out in a place so close. front line. “Our president Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin knows how to surprise. In the good sense of that word”wrote on Telegram Mikhail Razvojayev.
According to him, a children’s art school was to be inaugurated on Saturday with the participation of the Russian leader via video conference.
“But Vladimir Vladimirovich came in person. Himself. The driving. Because on a historic day like today, he is always with Sebastopol and his people.”said Mikhail Razvojayev.
Russia annexed Crimea on March 18, 2014, following a referendum that was not recognized by Kiev and the international community.
If Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in January that he intended to take back Crimea – “our earth” – with weapons, Moscow does not stop insisting that the “Crimea is Russian”who refused to be the subject of possible peace negotiations.
Vladimir Putin, whose last visit to Crimea dates back to November 2021, has been the target since Friday of an arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing him of a war crime of “illegal deportation” of Ukrainian children.
Also on this anniversary of the annexation of Crimea, pro-Kremlin activists protested in Moscow on Saturday in front of the embassies of 20 countries considered “unfriendly” by Russia, marking the ninth anniversary of the annexation of the Crimea. Crimea. , according to a youth movement.
These countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and France, “Support Ukraine […] and actively supply lethal weapons to the Ukrainian regime”explained the movement “Molodaïa gvardia” (“The young guard”) in a press release.
“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and (US President Joe) Biden plan to take back Crimea using these deadly weapons” to the Russians, the chairman of the movement, Anton Demidov, assured during a demonstration in front of the United States embassy.
The rally in front of the US embassy was attended by about 400 activists holding signs reading “The United States, you sow death”, “Crimea with Russia forever”. According to an AFP journalist, about 200 of them stood in front of the British embassy. According to the movement, there were a total of 5,000 pro-Kremlin activists.
Russian strikes in Kramatorsk
Also on Saturday, two people were killed and eight injured by Russian “cluster munitions” attacks in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, the city’s mayor announced.
“Russia continues to rule terror. Consequences of the shelling of Kramatorsk with cluster munitions: 2 dead and 8 injured, 3 of them seriously”Mayor Alexander Gontcharenko said on his Facebook page.
A dozen residential buildings and 14 municipal facilities were damaged, he said.
AFP journalists heard a dozen near-simultaneous explosions shortly before 4 p.m. and saw smoke billowing from a park in the south of the city.
Shortly afterwards, another dozen explosions of the same type were heard in a residential area about 2 km from the first attack.
In the park, a woman died on the spot from her injuries caused by shrapnel.
A taxi driver was seriously injured in the residential area.
The Pope and the Refugees from Ukraine
Finally, on Saturday, Pope Francis welcomed thousands of refugees brought to Europe by Christian organizations through humanitarian corridors, acknowledging their desire to “living free from fear and uncertainty”.
During an audience in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican, the 86-year-old pope thanked the organizations that helped the refugees and stressed that the reception “the first step towards peace”. Of the 6,000 who were able to reach Europe thanks to them, many refugees were taken in “humanitarian corridors” founded by Christian organizations since 2016.
This system, initiated by the Sant’Egidio Catholic community in Italy and then adopted in France and Belgium, involved refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Libya and Ukraine.
“Each of you deserves attention for the difficult history you have lived”said the pope to the refugees. “You have shown a determination to live free from fear and uncertainty”.