The General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces anounced that the main tasks of the special military operation's first stage have been completed in general.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict continues on Friday as relevant parties are working to broker a peaceful solution. Following are the latest developments of the situation:
Lavrov slams all-out sanctions spree, says West’s values ‘aren’t worth a red cent’
A total war has been declared against Russia. The West is not concealing that the goals of its policy are aimed at suffocating and devastating the Russian economy, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday.
"Today, a genuine hybrid war, a ‘total war' has been declared against us. This term, which was exploited by Hitler’s Germany, is now pronounced by many European politicians when talking about what they want to do with Russia. The goals are not concealed, they are publicly announced, that is to destroy, devastate, ruin, and suffocate the Russian economy and Russia as a whole," Lavrov stressed.
The foreign minister lashed out at this "sanctions spree", pointing out that it is becoming clear that all values that those in the West have been preaching to Russia, like freedom of expression, a market economy, the sanctity of private property and the presumption of innocence, are not worth a red cent.
U.S. plans to impose sanctions on Russian companies serving the military
The Biden administration is preparing to sanction Russian companies it says are providing goods and services to the military and intelligence services, including dual-use components, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing officials.
The sanctions, which are to be introduced next week, could include Sernia Engineering LLC and Sertal LLC, linked to arms and special equipment companies. The newspaper reminds that they were previously included in the list of companies to which the export of sensitive technologies is prohibited, but with which it was allowed to maintain business relations.
Nevertheless, according to the sources, the sanctions, combined with export control restrictions, cut off access to foreign-made computer chips, financing and components necessary for their production inside Russia.
Among the companies included in the new sanctions list are the software and communications technology development company NII-Vektor JSC, the major Russian microchip manufacturer Mikron JSC, and the computer firm T-Platforms.
The newspaper's sources note that export restrictions already imposed on these companies will be expanded by banning any financial transactions with them.
The possibility of imposing sanctions against iGrids, which develops software for automated control systems for Russia's power grids, is also being considered.
Macron says he expects to have a conversation with Putin in the next few hours
French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday that he plans to have a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the coming hours to discuss, among other things, the humanitarian operation in Mariupol.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday that he plans to hold a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the coming hours to discuss, among other things, the humanitarian operation in Mariupol.
"We decided yesterday to launch an exceptional humanitarian operation (in Mariupol - IF), about which I will have the opportunity to talk to Putin in the next few hours," Macron said at a press conference.
Later, the French leader also added that his conversation with the Russian president could take place "within 48 to 72 hours" to "agree on the details" of the humanitarian operation.
Macron noted that "we have already had very concrete discussions with the mayor of Mariupol and the Ukrainian authorities."
"The faster the better," the French president pointed out, referring to the humanitarian operation in Mariupol.
The day before, he announced that France and Turkey were planning to conduct a joint humanitarian operation in Ukraine, such as in Mariupol, together with other countries.
US designates Kaspersky Lab software as a security threat
The Federal Communications Commission of the United States added products of Russia’s Kaspersky Lab software company and two Chinese companies into its list of equipment and services that pose a security threat, the watchdog said on Friday.
"The Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau today added equipment and services from three entities - AO Kaspersky Lab, China Telecom (Americas) Corp, and China Mobile International USA Inc. - to its list of communications equipment and services that have been deemed a threat to national security, consistent with requirements in the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019," the commission said in a press release.
According to the updated list, the designation applies to "information security products, solutions, and services supplied, directly or indirectly, by AO Kaspersky Lab or any of its predecessors, successors, parents, subsidiaries, or affiliates."
In June 2020, FCC resolved to designate Chinese telecoms companies Huawei and ZTE as a threat to the US national security. An appeal from Huawei and ZTE to review the decision was later rejected. On March 12, 2021, the regulator added China’s Hytera Communications Corp., Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. and Dahua Technology Co. to the list.
Serbia interested in signing of gas contract with Russia quickly, President Vucic says
Serbia is interested in signing a long-term gas contract with Russia as soon as possible, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Friday.
"It is disadvantageous for our country to pay in rubles. [Russian presidential press secretary] Dmitry Peskov was honest with us and responded immediately. Europe consumes around 15 billion cubic meters of gas, but America and Qatar cannot offer more. There is a shortage of gas and it is necessary to hold negotiating with the Russians. But, obviously, Europe will try to become independent from Russian gas and it will not be an easy task. It is necessary for us to sign a contract with Gazprom as soon as possible, he said in an interview with the RTS television channel.
Negotiations on a ten-year gas contract between Serbia and Russia are expected to kick off in the near future and Serbia hopes for a gas price from 600 to 850 US dollars per 1,000 cubic meters, Dusan Bajatovic, Serbijagas director general, said earlier.
President Vucic said earlier that at the talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin he did not want to sign a gas contract setting the price at 400 US dollars per 1,000 cubic meters but now he would rush to do it.
Following Putin’s talks with Vucic in Sochi on November 25, Russia agreed to keep the gas price for Serbia at 270 US dollars per 1,000 cubic meters in the next six months. Further on, Russia promised to offer Serbia "exclusive," as Vucic described them, terms under a long-term contract.
Since January 1, Gazprom has been using a new route to pump gas to Serbia - via Turk Stream and further on across Turkey and Bulgaria.
Russian operation to continue until goals achieved. On Friday, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia's special military operation in Ukraine will continue until all tasks set by President Vladimir Putin are fulfilled.
"These targets are related to the future of Ukraine: the status of Ukraine as a neutral state, a state that does not pursue an anti-Russian policy, a state that is not militarized, and a state as our normal neighbor," he said, recalling that his country launched the special military operation a month ago primarily because these goals were not achieved through diplomacy.
Previously, Sergei Rudskoy, first deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, anounced that the main tasks of the first stage of the military operation have been completed in general, and the combat potential of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has been significantly reduced.
The Russian military will "concentrate on the main thing -- the complete liberation of Donbass," Rudskoy, said.
No Moscow-Kiev deal with Russian concerns unaddressed: negotiator. An agreement between Moscow and Kiev can only be reached if all of Russia's major concerns are addressed, head of Russia's negotiation team Vladimir Medinsky said Friday.
"We insist on a comprehensive treaty. In addition to the neutral status of Ukraine and guarantees of its security, the pact should include a number of positions vital for our country... Otherwise, the conclusion of an agreement is unlikely," he stressed.
According to the official, the Ukrainian side is primarily concerned about obtaining security guarantees from third parties in the event that Ukraine does not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which is "a completely understandable position."
#Russian media report:— Shooter (@Nfe5o1Z) March 25, 2022
During a combat mission near #Kiev, a group of servicemen of the #RussianArmedForces took under their control an enemy checkpoint. During the operation, 67 servicemen of the Armed Forces of #Ukraine were captured, most of them officers. #UkraineRussiaWar pic.twitter.com/fT4ZLAxEVH
Medinsky noted that there has been a convergence of views on minor issues during the ongoing negotiation process, but not much progress has been made on major political matters. He believes that the Ukrainian side is trying to slow down the peace talks to coordinate positions with third parties.
Pentagon sends US$800 million in 'security aid' for Ukraine. On Friday, a U.S. Defense Department official said the third shipment of the 'security aid' package arrived in Eastern Europe.
“Yes, another flight arrived in the region today. A couple initial shipments have been sent to the region. I don't know about whether they've actually been prepared for shipment by ground into Ukraine, but they've arrived from the U.S. into Europe… Over the next three days, there will be an additional three flights.”
"Extreme" Anti-Russian Plan is proposed by Poland, Slovenia, and Czech Republic. These countries prepared a ten-point plan which comprises disconnecting all Russian banks from SWIFT, exclude Russia from all international organizations, suspend visas for all Russian citizens, and impose sanctions on members of the ruling United Russia party, and cutting off payments for oil, gas and coal as soon as possible, blocking Russia's sea and land movements, and imposing sanctions on "the entire business environment."