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Ukraine war latest: Ukraine signs long-term security agreement with Netherlands

by Kateryna Hodunova and The Kyiv Independent news desk March 1, 2024 10:54 PM 8 min read
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (L) and President Volodymyr Zelensky shake hands after signing a long-term security agreement between the Netherlands and Ukraine on March. 1, 2024, in Kharkiv. (President of Ukraine)
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Key developments on March 1:

  • Rutte signs Dutch-Ukrainian long-term security agreement in Kharkiv
  • Military: Ukraine partially retakes ground near Avdiivka while Russia pushes toward Chasiv Yar
  • Defense Ministry: Ukraine downs 13 Russian aircraft in February
  • Russian proxy says air defense active in occupied Crimea amid reported explosions
  • WSJ: Russia's peace terms include Ukraine outside NATO, smaller military, 2022 document shows.

President Volodymyr Zelensky and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte signed a 10-year agreement on security cooperation between Ukraine and the Netherlands in Kharkiv, Zelensky announced on March 1.

"The document includes 2 billion euros in military aid from the Netherlands this year, as well as further defense assistance over the next ten years," Zelensky said.

"It also prioritizes the provision of air defense, artillery, sea, and long-range capabilities, with a particular emphasis on strengthening Ukraine's air force."

The Netherlands joins the U.K., Germany, France, Denmark, Italy, and Canada, which have signed similar deals to help Ukraine repel Russia's aggression based on a pledge made by the Group of Seven (G7) last July.

Rutte is reportedly the leading contender to become the next NATO Secretary General when the mandate of Jens Stoltenberg ends on Oct. 1, after 10 years in the role.

Under Rutte, the Netherlands has taken a proactive role in supporting Ukraine, for example by spearheading the fighter jet coalition and pledging to deliver 24 F-16 jets to Ukraine.

Rutte told journalists on Feb. 26 that the Netherlands will provide 100 million euros ($108.5 million) in aid to support Czechia's plan to procure hundreds of thousands of ammunition rounds for Ukraine from outside the EU.

Military: Ukraine partially retakes ground near Avdiivka while Russia pushes toward Chasiv Yar

Russia has ramped up attacks in the Avdiivka sector, but Ukrainian forces continue to hold ground and have even retaken some lost positions, General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, the commander of the Tavria group of forces, said on Telegram on March 1.

Ukraine was forced to withdraw from Avdiivka, a key front-line city in Donetsk Oblast, on Feb. 17 and from other nearby villages soon after. Russia has intensified offensive actions along the front as Ukraine's Armed Forces face serious ammunition shortages due to delays in U.S. aid.

According to Tarnavskyi, Russian forces are increasing artillery strikes and infantry assaults near Avdiivka while calling up reserves. The Ukrainian general described the situation as "dynamic," as Ukraine's forces retook lost ground in some areas and set up additional firing positions and observation points.

Over the past day, Ukrainian troops repelled 25 Russian attacks in the Avdiivka sector, the commander said, killing or wounding 319 soldiers and destroying 36 pieces of equipment.

Moscow's troops have also been focusing their efforts near Chasiv Yar, a city west of occupied Bakhmut.

The Khortytsia group of forces' spokesperson, Illia Yevlash, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that Russia accumulated a large force in the sector and is currently launching a "powerful thrust" toward Chasiv Yar.

Russia sees the city as crucial for further advances toward Kostiantynivka, Kramatorsk, and Sloviansk, Yevlash said.

"Preparations for Chasiv Yar's defense have been underway for a long time, even when the enemy captured Bakhmut," Yevlash noted, adding that the city is protected by minefields and anti-tank barriers.

Russian forces are trying to find weak spots in the defenses and focus efforts there to break through, according to the spokesperson.

Defense Ministry: Ukraine downs 13 Russian aircraft in February

Ukraine's Armed Forces shot downed 13 Russian aircraft in February, the Defense Ministry reported on March 1.

This is the biggest number of planes Ukraine managed to destroy in a single month since October 2022, according to the ministry.

The 13 aircraft downed in February include 10 Su-34 fighter jets, two Su-35 fighter jets, and one A-50 early warning and control aircraft, the report said.

"We are grateful to our soldiers for their efficient work. And to our partners - for strengthening the air defense capabilities of Ukraine," the ministry said.

Earlier on Feb. 29 Ukraine shot down three Su-34 jets in a single day, Air Force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat confirmed to the Kyiv Independent. Each plane is estimated to cost around $36 million.

Russia has decreased the usage of A-50, as it lost two aircraft of this type in January and February, Ihnat said on television on Feb. 27.

One A-50 aircraft costs around $330 million.

According to the General Staff, Ukraine has downed a total of 345 Russian planes since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Ukraine destroyed 13 Russian military aircraft in 2 weeks. How?
Ukraine reported the downing of 13 Russian warplanes within the last two weeks, among the highest Russian Air Force losses since the early days of the full-scale invasion. This list includes 10 Su-34 fighter bombers, two Su-35 fighter jets, and one more rare A-50 military spy plane. Another A-50 ai…

Russian proxy says air defense active in occupied Crimea amid reported explosions

Air defense was active in Sevastopol in occupied Crimea, the Russian proxy leader in the city, Mikhail Razvozhayev, said on March 1 amid reports of explosions, urging people to stay in shelters.

Blasts could be heard in Sevastopol, Yevpatoriia, and near Simferopol in occupied Crimea, Suspilne and local Telegram channels reported, citing local residents.

According to the Crimean Wind Telegram channel, there was a successful hit against the Hvardiiske airbase not far from Simferopol. Suspilne also said that explosions were heard near Hvardiiske and that smoke could be seen above a bridge.

"The military is working to destroy aerial targets," Razvozhayev said on his Telegram.

Crimean Wind wrote that smoke could be seen over a bay in Sevastopol, publishing accompanying footage.

Razvozhayev claimed that smoke visible in Sevastopol is the "(Russian) military using standard means of camouflage," claiming that no damage was recorded.

The Kerch Bridge and the Dzhankoi checkpoint in Sevastopol have been closed, Ukrinform reported.

How has Crimea changed after 10 years of Russian occupation?
Editor’s Note: The names of Crimea’s former and current residents cited in this article were changed to protect their identity amid security concerns. When Ukrainians talk about Crimea, they often talk about memories. For many, this peninsula surrounded by the Black Sea was a place where they spent

The Kyiv Independent could not verify the claims, and Ukrainian officials have not publicly commented on the incident.

In recent months, Ukraine has intensified its attacks on occupied Crimea, targeting Russian military assets in and around the Black Sea.

Ukrainian forces damaged at least three Russian military aircraft at the Belbek military airfield near Sevastopol on Feb. 2, Ukraine's military intelligence agency confirmed.

WSJ: Russia's peace terms include Ukraine outside NATO and smaller military, 2022 document shows

A peace plan proposal drafted during Russian-Ukrainian negotiations in 2022 would see Ukraine turn into a militarily neutered country, permanently vulnerable to Russian aggression, the Wall Street Journal reported on March 1 after reviewing the document.

The proposals illustrate the tough concessions Kyiv would have to take to conclude the 2022 talks, which ultimately failed as Ukraine began turning the tide in the war and Western support poured in.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Moscow's plans have largely remained the same. As Ukraine faces an increasingly precarious position in the war, compared by some to the first days of the full-scale invasion, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin allegedly signaled a willingness to restart peace talks on his terms.

According to the 17-page document dated April 15, 2022, Ukraine would be allowed to seek EU membership but not entry to NATO or any other military bloc. Ukraine's Armed Forces would have to be reduced to a certain size, no foreign weapons would be stationed on its territory, and Crimea would remain de facto in Russian hands.

Russia would see Ukrainian forces limited to 85,000 troops, 342 tanks, and 519 artillery pieces, while Ukrainian negotiators wanted 250,000 troops, 800 tanks, and 1,900 artillery pieces, according to the document.

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Russia also reportedly wanted to limit the range of Ukrainian missiles to 40 kilometers (25 miles).

Moscow pushed for the Russian language to be treated on par with the Ukrainian one in Ukraine's government and courts, a condition that Ukrainian negotiators did not agree with, the WSJ said.

The status of eastern regions occupied by Russia since 2014 was to be agreed on in a meeting between President Volodymyr Zelensky and Putin. The meeting did not take place.

The treaty would be guaranteed by foreign powers, including the U.S., the U.K., China, France, and Russia. These countries would be given responsibility to defend Ukraine's "neutrality" if it were violated, the WSJ wrote. Russia reportedly aimed to add Belarus to the list of guarantors, while Ukraine wanted to include Turkey.

Ukraine has previously received similar assurances from Russia, the U.S., and the U.K. in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which called for international assistance if Ukraine "should become a victim of an act of aggression" in exchange for the country relinquishing its nuclear arsenal. Russia broke this treaty in 2014 by illegally occupying Crimea and part of Donbas.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently offered to host a new round of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.

Ukraine repeatedly said the peace talks should be held on the basis of its 10-step peace formula, which includes a full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. Moscow has rejected this proposal.

Ukraine works with Switzerland to organize a global peace summit in the Alpine country. Over 160 countries will be invited to discuss Kyiv's peace formula and create a joint document on what needs to be done to restore the country’s sovereignty.

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