Overview:

  • Black Sea shipping corridor at center of meeting in Istanbul
  • NATO applauds Sweden as it becomes its 32nd member
  • Lithuania prepares aid for Kyiv including artillery shells
  • UK foots a $416M bill for more British-made drones for Ukraine
  • Russians keep pushing forward marginally in Luhansk region

Peace talks and grain corridor on the agenda awaiting Zelensky in Turkey on Friday

President Volodymyr Zelensky will visit Istanbul on Friday to discuss the resumption of a safe shipping corridor in the Black Sea in talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The office of Erdogan said in a statement that the summit will take place on Friday afternoon in the Dolmabahce Palace, and will touch on the subject of peace talks, as well.

“President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his guest Zelensky will discuss in detail the course of the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia, the latest developments regarding the continuation of the Grain Corridor Agreement, the search for permanent peace in the region, and relations between Türkiye and Ukraine,” the statement reads.

Zelensky last visited Turkey in July 2023. Ukraine’s relationship with Turkey is complicated, as Ankara retains diplomatic contacts with Moscow, and is heavily reliant on Russian energy. However, Erdogan was able to broker a grain corridor deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, until Russia pulled out of the deal in July 2023.

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Swedish prime minister says that his is a small country but understands geopolitical stability “more than most”

“It’s a victory for freedom today. Sweden has made a free, democratic, sovereign and united choice to join NATO,” said Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, as his country officially became the 32nd member of the Alliance.

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Due entirely to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Sweden broke some 80 years of neutrality (regarding the Kremlin) and decided to apply to become a NATO member after witnessing Moscow’s expansionist appetite.

After overcoming initial resistance from Russia-friendly member states Hungary and Turkey (the latter of whom also had concerns with Sweden’s perceived protection of Kurdish residents considered terrorists by Ankara), the Swedish Prime Minister ceremonially handed over the last of the NATO documentation on Thursday, at the State Department in Washington.

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“It is a major step but, at the same time, a very natural step,” Kristersson said at the State Department, during a televised address to his Swedish audience. “We are a small country,” he said, “but we understand more than most the importance of the greater world beyond our borders.”

Lithuania to send much-needed artillery sells

State news agency Ukrinform highlighted a Lithuanian Defense Ministry announcement on Thursday that the Baltic nation is now shipping a batch of assistance for Kyiv that includes 155mm artillery ammunition, which Ukraine said is in serious need.

 “We are sending the supplies Ukraine currently is in the direst need of. We hear them and our assistance continues,” Minister of National Defense Arvydas Anušauskas said.  

“Besides the military equipment and weaponry, Lithuania also contributes to Ukraine’s defense with active training its military personnel, medical treatment and rehabilitation for injured soldiers, expert consultations, inputs in Ukraine assistance funds,” the Ministry’s statement reads.

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UK Defence Ministry allocates money for about 10,000 next-gen drones

British Defence Minister Grant Shapps announced Thursday that London is dedicating £325 million ($416 million) to purchase 10,000 latest-tech drones for Ukraine. The announcement was made during a meeting with President Zelensky in Kyiv, the British government’s website reported.

“I am ramping up our commitment to arm Ukraine with cutting-edge new drones coming directly from the UK’s world-leading defense industries – straight from the factory floor to the frontline. I encourage international partners to join the UK in this effort,” Shapps said.

The overall package will deliver 1,000 attack versions researched and developed in the UK, as well as surveillance and maritime drones. 

Operations: Luhansk region

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported on Thursday that Russian forces marginally advanced northeast of Kupyansk on Thursday, amid continued positional fighting on the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.

Geolocated footage published on March 7 appears to show that Moscow’s troops pushed forward in the northern outskirts of Synkivka (northeast of Kupyansk) while fighting continued southeast of Kupyansk near Tabaivka; west of Kreminna near Terny and Yampolivka; and south of Kreminna near Bilohorivka.

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