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Russia and Ukraine looking for compromise in peace talks



Russia and Ukraine looking for compromise in peace talks

KYIV/LVIV, Ukraine, March 16 (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine both emphasized new-found scope for compromise on Wednesday as peace talks were set to resume three weeks into a Russian assault that has so far failed to topple the Ukrainian government.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said the talks were becoming “more realistic”, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there was “some hope for compromise”, with neutral status for Ukraine – a major Russian demand – now on the table.

The Kremlin said the sides were discussing status for Ukraine similar to that of Austria or Sweden, members of the European Union that are outside the NATO military alliance.

Three weeks into the invasion, Russian troops have been halted at the gates of Kyiv, having taken heavy losses and failed to seize any of Ukraine’s biggest cities in a war Western officials say Moscow thought it would win within days.

Ukrainian officials have expressed hope this week that the war could end sooner than expected – even within weeks – as Moscow was coming to terms with a lack of fresh troops to keep fighting.

Talks were due to resume on Wednesday by video link for what would be a third straight day, the first time they have lasted more than a single day, which both sides have suggested means they have entered a more serious phase.

“The meetings continue, and, I am informed, the positions during the negotiations already sound more realistic. But time is still needed for the decisions to be in the interests of Ukraine,” Zelensky said in a video address overnight.

On Tuesday, Zelenskiy had hinted at a possible route for a compromise, suggesting Ukraine would be willing to accept international security guarantees that stopped short of its longstanding hope for full admission to the NATO alliance.

Keeping Ukraine out of NATO was long one of Russia’s main demands, in the months before it launched what it calls a “special operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine.

“The negotiations are not easy for obvious reasons,” Lavrov told media outlet RBC news. “But nevertheless, there is some hope of reaching a compromise.”

“Neutral status is now being seriously discussed along, of course, with security guarantees,” Lavrov said. “Now this very thing is being discussed in negotiations – there are absolutely specific formulations which in my view are close to an agreement.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a demilitarised Ukraine with its own army, along the lines of Austria or Sweden, was being looked at as a potential compromise. They are the biggest of six EU countries that are outside NATO.

“This is a variant that is currently being discussed and which could really be seen as a compromise,” Peskov was quoted as saying by RIA news agency.

The head of Ukraine’s negotiating team, Zelenskiy’s aide Mykhailo Podlolyak, tweeted ahead of Wednesday’s resumption of talks that Ukrainian military counteroffensives had “radically changed the parties’ dispositions”.

A woman with a child evacuates from a residential building damaged by shelling in Kyiv
Resident walks through debris next to a building that was hit by shelling in Kyiv
A residential building damaged by shelling is seen in Kyiv


A resident walks through debris next to a building that was hit by shelling, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 16, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas PeterRead More

In an intelligence assessment released on Wednesday, Britain said Russian forces were trapped on roads, struggling to cope with Ukrainian terrain and suffering from a failure to gain control of the air.

“The tactics of the Ukrainian Armed Forces have adeptly exploited Russia’s lack of maneuver, frustrating the Russian advance and inflicting heavy losses on the invading forces,” it said.


Europe’s biggest invasion since World War Two has destroyed some Ukrainian cities and sent more than 3 million refugees fleeing abroad.

The streets of the capital Kyiv were largely empty on Wednesday after authorities imposed a curfew overnight. Several buildings in a residential area were badly damaged after what appeared to be a Russian missile was shot down in the early hours of Wednesday, residents and emergency workers said.

There was no immediate word on casualties as a specialist rescue team searched for signs of life amid the rubble. Surrounding streets were covered with broken glass from hundreds of windows shattered in a wide area. What appeared to be a motor from the missile lay twisted on the roadside.

Still, Ukrainian forces have withstood an assault by a much larger army. Zelenskiy said Ukrainian troops had killed a fourth Russian major general in the latest fighting. Reuters was not immediately able to verify his statement.

“The occupiers were not successful today, although they threw thousands of their people into battle, in the north, in the east, in the south of our state. The enemy lost equipment, hundreds more soldiers. A lot of dead Russian conscripts, dozens of officers.”

Ukraine said about 20,000 people had managed to escape the besieged port of Mariupol in private cars, but hundreds of thousands remain trapped under relentless bombardment, many without heating, power or running water.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said it was not clear whether the humanitarian corridor to the city would open on Wednesday. She said 400 staff and patients hostage was being held hostage at a hospital Russian forces had captured in Mariupol on Tuesday.

The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia were due home on Wednesday after an overnight journey out of Kyiv by train. They met Zelenskiy in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday in the first visit of its kind since the war began, a symbol of the Ukrainian administration’s success so far in withstanding the Russian assault.

Zelenskiy was due to address the U.S. Congress later on Wednesday by video link, having made similar appearances in parliaments across Europe. The White House said U.S. President Joe Biden would make his first visit to Europe since the invasion next week to discuss the crisis with NATO allies.

The conflict has brought economic isolation upon Russia and the economic cost was fully exposed on Wednesday, as its sanctions-ravaged government teetered on the brink of its first international debt default since the Bolshevik revolution.

Moscow was due to pay $117 million in interest on two dollar-denominated sovereign bonds it had sold back in 2013, but it faces limits on making payments and has talked of paying in roubles, which would trigger a default. 

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Turkish Property Market Soars to Unprecedented Heights, Out of Reach for Most Turks



Turkish Property Market Soars to Unprecedented Heights, Out of Reach for Most Turks
Dall E 2 and Bdtelegraph

Rapid rent increases and property prices in Istanbul have reached staggering heights, rendering even ordinary properties unaffordable for most Turks. Over the past two years, the cost of real estate per square meter in the city has skyrocketed by over 480%, according to consulting firm Endeksa. Adjusted for inflation, housing prices in Turkey as a whole rose by 51% last year, surpassing all other major economies, as reported by a study conducted by the Bank for International Settlements.

The primary factors driving this surge are reckless interest-rate cuts and resulting inflation, both stemming from the policies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These developments have encouraged individuals with access to credit to invest in property as a means of preserving their wealth. Foreign buyers, particularly Russians, have also played a role in driving up prices, especially in Istanbul and along the Mediterranean Riviera.

The destructive earthquakes that struck southern Turkey earlier this year, claiming the lives of over 50,000 people, have had further repercussions. The estimated 3 million individuals displaced by the disasters have relocated to other parts of the country, leading to an abrupt spike in demand. 

Concerns about a potentially devastating earthquake in Istanbul, which lies just north of a significant fault line, have caused the prices of newer and safer buildings in the city to surge. Interestingly, according to a recent study by Bahcesehir University’s Center for Economic and Social Research, the neighborhoods farthest from the fault line have witnessed the highest price increases.

While one might anticipate a burst in this property market bubble, even recent policy changes may not be enough to bring the market back to reality. On June 22nd, Turkey’s central bank implemented a policy U-turn by increasing the benchmark interest rate by 6.5 percentage points. However, analysts suggest that prices will continue to rise, albeit at a slower pace, as long as inflation expectations remain high.

Unfortunately, inflation expectations remain persistent. The recent interest rate hike deemed insufficient to make a substantial impact, failed to alleviate pressure on the Turkish lira, which swiftly plummeted by 3% against the dollar within an hour of the decision. Since President Erdogan’s reelection on May 28th, the currency has depreciated by 18%. This, along with a recent 34% increase in the minimum wage, on top of a 55% increase six months prior, is expected to sustain inflationary pressures.

As the Istanbul property market continues its meteoric rise, it poses significant challenges for ordinary Turks struggling to find affordable housing. The government may need to implement further measures to address the growing housing affordability crisis and curb excessive speculation. Meanwhile, investors and analysts closely monitor the market, anticipating a potential adjustment in the future, albeit at a more moderate pace of growth.

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U.S. formally declares that Myanmar’s army committed genocide against Rohingya minority




WASHINGTON, March 21 (Reuters) – The United States formally determined that Myanmar’s army committed genocide and crimes against humanity in its violence against the Rohingya minority, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, warning that as long as a military junta was in power nobody in the country would be safe.

Announcing the decision, which was first reported by Reuters on Sunday, Blinken said the attacks against Rohingya were “widespread and systematic” and that evidence pointed to a clear intent to destroy the mainly Muslim minority. read more

The determination could bolster efforts to hold the Myanmar generals accountable and help prevent further atrocities, U.S. officials believe. Activists welcomed the move but called for concrete actions like tougher sanctions on the junta.

In his speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the top American diplomat readout tragic and chilling accounts of victims, who had been shot in the head, raped and tortured.

Myanmar’s armed forces launched a military operation in 2017 that forced at least 730,000 Rohingya from their homes and into neighboring Bangladesh. In 2021, Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup.

“Since the coup, we have seen the Burmese military use many of the same tactics. Only now the military is targeting anyone in Burma it sees as opposing or undermining its repressive rule,” Blinken said.

“For those who did not realize it before the coup, the brutal violence unleashed by the military since February 2021 has made clear that no one in Burma will be safe from atrocities so long as it is in power,” he added.

Days after U.S. President Joe Biden took office, Myanmar generals led by Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power on Feb. 1, 2021, after complaining of fraud in a November 2020 general election won by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. Election monitoring groups found no evidence of mass fraud.

The armed forces crushed an uprising against their coup, killing more than 1,600 people and detaining nearly 10,000, including civilian leaders such as Suu Kyi, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an advocacy group, and setting off an insurgency.

Blinken’s recognition comes after two earlier State Department examinations failed to produce a determination on the atrocities, which U.S. officials had only referred to as “ethnic cleansing” until now.

“There is no doubt that being allowed to get away with genocide of the Rohingya encouraged the military to think it could get away with holding a coup as well,” said Tun Khin, a Rohingya activist who heads the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK and attended Blinken’s address.

Rohingya refugees cross the Naf River with an improvised raft to reach to Bangladesh in Teknaf
Rohingya refugees cross the Naf River with an improvised raft to reach to Bangladesh in Teknaf, Bangladesh, on November 12, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain/File Photo

“Accountability for Rohingya genocide will not just help protect the Rohingya, it will help protect all the people of Burma.”


In response to the coup, the United States and Western allies sanctioned the junta and its business interests, but have been unable to persuade the generals to restore civilian rule after they received military and diplomatic support from Russia and China.

Advocates say Monday’s declaration, which does not automatically unleash any punitive measures but carries political weight, could help judicial efforts worldwide to hold the junta accountable, but say more action needs to follow.

Washington should work through U.N. bodies to push for accountability while also extending sanctions to target the foreign currency reserves Myanmar’s junta gathers from oil and gas revenues, said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

“The Myanmar military will continue to commit atrocities so long as other governments fail to impose measures to hold them accountable,” Sifton said.

Blinken on Monday announced $1 million in new funding for a U.N. investigation on Myanmar and said the United States has shared information with Gambia connected to its case at the International Court of Justice, where it has accused Myanmar of genocide.

Monday’s announcement comes after more than four years of examinations by the State Department, including a 2018 report prepared with outside lawyers that surveyed more than 1,000 Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh.

Three-quarters of those surveyed had witnessed the military kill someone and more than half witnessed acts of sexual violence, Blinken said, adding the findings “demonstrate that these abuses were not isolated cases.”

Blinken also recalled the experience of his stepfather, Samuel Pisar, who was sent to the Nazis’ first concentration camp at Dachau a dozen years after it was built – an example of how the groundwork for genocide is laid over years or even decades.

An exhibit at the museum showed how Rohingya had their rights and citizenship “methodically stripped away” over many years, Blinken said.

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Moscow says it will let Ukrainian civilians flee – to Russia



Ukrainian's are fleeing their country as the Russia started invasion

LVIV/IRPIN, Ukraine, March 7 (Reuters) – Ukrainian officials said a bread factory had been hit by a Russian air strike on Monday as the country’s negotiators assembled for talks with Russian officials after previous rounds that brought no respite in the conflict.

The bodies of at least 13 civilians were recovered from the rubble after a factory in the town of Makariv in the Kyiv region was hit, local emergency services said. Five people were rescued off the 30 believed to have been there at the time. Reuters was not immediately able to verify the reported attack.

Russia earlier offered Ukrainians escape routes to Russia and its close ally Belarus on Monday after weekend evacuation ceasefire attempts failed. In the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, hundreds of thousands of people remained trapped without food and water under regular bombardments.

A Ukrainian negotiator urged Russia to stop its assault on Ukraine, which the United Nations said had sent 1.7 million people fleeing to Central Europe.

“In a few minutes, we will start talking to representatives of a country that seriously believes large-scale violence against civilians is an argument,” Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter. “Prove that this is not the case.”

Under the Russian offer, a corridor from the capital Kyiv would lead to Russia’s ally Belarus, while civilians from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second biggest city, would be directed to Russia, according to maps published by the RIA news agency.

“Attempts by the Ukrainian side to deceive Russia and the whole civilised world…are useless this time,” the Russian defence ministry said after announcing the “humanitarian corridors”.

A spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the Russian proposal was “completely immoral”.

“They are citizens of Ukraine, they should have the right to evacuate to the territory of Ukraine,” the spokesperson said.

A day earlier, Reuters journalists had witnessed people trying to flee the town of Irpin near Kyiv getting caught in Russian shelling.

On Monday people picked their way over the twisted ruins of a large bridge in Irpin, with river water rushing just beneath them.

“It’s like a disaster. The city is almost ruined and the district where I’m living (there are) no houses which were not bombed,” a young woman leaving with her children told Reuters.

Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians. It calls the campaign it launched on Feb. 24 a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and remove leaders it describes as neo-Nazis. Ukraine and its Western allies call this a transparent pretext for an invasion to conquer a nation of 44 million people.

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