Ukraine-Russia news from March 23: US gov’t assesses Russian forces committed ‘war crimes’ in its invasion of Ukraine, says troops targeted civilians.
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Here were the updates for March 23:
The first shipment from a new $800m arms package for Ukraine that United States President Joe Biden authorised last week will start flying out of the US in the next day or so, and will not take long to reach Ukraine, a senior US defence official has said.
The official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, did not specify which systems would be included in the first shipments to Ukraine but said priority would be given to the kinds of defensive weapons already being used by Ukrainian troops.
“We are already aggregating stocks in the United States and we’re getting ready to ship them over there,” the official said.
A total of 4,554 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Wednesday, a senior official has said, considerably fewer than the number of people that managed to escape the previous day.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said in an online post that 2,912 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol in private vehicles. On Tuesday, he said 8,057 people had managed to escape from cities across the country.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that he was prepared to hold up the dialogue with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, over the war in Ukraine.
“There is uncertainty”, Macron told broadcaster M6, citing the possibility of Russia’s using “unacceptable” arms or attacking neighbour countries.
Speaking about the upcoming top-level meetings of Western allies in Brussels, Macron said: “We, the French and Europeans, will do everything to stop this war without entering it.”
Russia’s communications regulator has blocked Alphabet’s Google News, accusing it of allowing access to what it calls fake material about the country’s military operation in Ukraine, the Interfax news agency has said.
The agency did not give details.
Nestle is to halt the sale of a wide range of brands in Russia, including KitKat chocolate bars and Nesquik, amid Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s criticism of the world’s biggest food company for its continued presence in the country.
The products affected include pet food and coffee, and make up the “vast majority of volume and sales” in Russia — which totalled 1.7bn Swiss francs ($1.82bn) in 2021, a Nestle spokesperson said.
The Swiss company had already halted non-essential imports and exports to Russia and had also stopped all advertising and capital investment in the country and said it would donate profits from Russia to Ukrainian relief efforts.
Zelenskyy said Nestle had not done enough to live up to its “Good Food, Good Life” slogan by continuing to operate in Russia.
Nestle also said that it stands with the people of Ukraine and its 5,800 employees in the country.
United States national security adviser Jake Sullivan has laid out some broad guidelines about the types of Chinese support for Russia that would warrant a response from the United States, after warning Beijing last week of potential dire consequences.
Sullivan said US sanctions enforcement will look closely at whether China facilitates settlement of Russian payments or attempts to counter export controls passed since Russia invaded Ukraine.
The US is looking out for companies that are “attempting to backfill in response to the export controls that we have imposed,” Sullivan said. If Chinese companies or others “choose to backfill”, the US has tools to ensure that can’t happen, he added.
In terms of payments, Sullivan said, the US and its G7 allies are looking for and will respond to “systematic efforts, industrial-scale efforts to try to reorient the settlement of financial payments and so forth”.
Russia has told Washington it would throw out a number of American diplomats in response to a move by the United States to expel Russian staff from the permanent Untied Nations mission, the Interfax news agency has said.
The agency also cited the foreign ministry as telling the US that any hostile actions against Russia would provoke a decisive response.
The United States will announce a package of Russia-related sanctions on political figures and oligarchs on Thursday while US President Joe Biden meets with NATO leaders on Ukraine, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan has said.
Sullivan, speaking to reporters as Biden headed to Brussels for the NATO summit, said G7 leaders will also agree on Thursday to coordinate on sanctions enforcement and plan to issue a statement.
He also said officials will have more to say on Friday about European energy issues.
The United States government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in its invasion of Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.
“Since launching his unprovoked and unjust war of choice, Russian President Vladimir Putin has unleashed unrelenting violence that has caused death and destruction across Ukraine … Russia’s forces have destroyed apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, critical infrastructure, civilian vehicles, shopping centers, and ambulances,” Blinken said in a statement.
“Our assessment is based on a careful review of available information from public and intelligence sources.”
“As with any alleged crime, a court of law with jurisdiction over the crime is ultimately responsible for determining criminal guilt in specific cases,” he said.
Britain’s Boris Johnson intends to use a meeting of G7 and NATO leaders on Thursday to work with partners to “substantively increase defensive lethal aid to Ukraine”, the prime minister’s office has said following a call with the Ukrainian president.
“Leaders would look to address Ukraine’s requests and ensure President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy is in the strongest possible position in ongoing peace talks,” the spokesperson for Johnson’s office added.
The mayor of Kyiv has said one person was killed and two seriously wounded after shells hit a shopping centre’s parking lot in a northern district of the Ukrainian capital.
“The enemy continues to fire at the capital,” mayor Vitali Klitschko said in an online post.
Russia denies targeting civilians.
The resignation of Kremlin special envoy Anatoly Chubais over the invasion of Ukraine is encouraging but is unlikely to shake Russian President Vladimir Putin’s firm grip on power, a Western official has said.
The official said that the resignation of Chubais was a “significant statement” but added he was “relatively high up on the list” of people who might make such a step.
“I think it’s encouraging that there are senior members of the Russian political class that are doing such things, but it doesn’t lead me to a conclusion that this is in any way undermining the security of Putin and his regime, given the iron grip that he holds together with those at the centre of his power,” the official said, on condition of anonymity.
“But nonetheless, I think it is an encouraging statement that such a figure would make this move.”
Close Russian ally Belarus has told Ukraine to cut its diplomatic presence in the country citing unfriendly actions and meddling in its internal affairs, drawing Kyiv’s condemnation and promise of a “proper” response.
The Belarusian foreign ministry said in a statement that an unspecified number of Ukrainian diplomats would have to leave within 72 hours and the Ukrainian consulate in the city of Brest would be closed due to a lack of staff.
“We consider such actions of Belarus as another unprovoked unfriendly step,” said Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko.
He said 12 diplomats had been ordered to leave, but the ambassador would stay with sufficient staff in Minsk to continue consular services.
“Ukraine will not leave the actions of Belarus without a proper response, which we will announce later,” he said in a statement.
Sweden will provide Ukraine with an additional 5,000 anti-tank weapons, the TT news agency has quoted the Swedish defence minister as saying.
Sweden has already sent 5,000 anti-tank weapons, along with other military materiel to Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the conflict in Ukraine by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the Kremlin has said.
Bennett “shared his assessment of the situation around Ukraine, taking into account his contacts with leaders of a number of foreign countries, and expressed several ideas in relation to the ongoing negotiations”, the statement said.
European Union leaders may discuss Russia’s demand that “unfriendly” countries pay in roubles for Russian gas sales at a two-day summit in Brussels starting on Thursday, a senior EU official has said.
“This can be discussed,” the official said, adding that leaders may assess whether Moscow’s request would threaten the effectiveness of EU sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he had spoken with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had assured his support for Ukraine ahead of upcoming NATO, G7 and EU summits.
“Received assurances of his [Johnson’s] support on the eve of tomorrow’s important meetings. Discussed the course of hostilities and defense assistance to Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said on Twitter.
Thursday’s NATO summit in Brussels is expected to unlock additional aid for Kyiv, including equipment to help Ukraine protect against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats.
Had a phone conversation with @BorisJohnson. Received assurances of his support on the eve of tomorrow’s important meetings. Discussed the course of hostilities and defense assistance to Ukraine. We will win together.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) March 23, 2022
NATO estimates that between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in a month of fighting in Ukraine, a senior official within the alliance has told The Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity.
The official said the estimate was based on information from Ukrainian officials, releases from Russia – intentional or not – and intelligence gathered from open sources.
Ukraine says more than 15,000 Russian troops have been killed since Russia launched its invasion. Moscow’s only official toll so far – released on March 2 – put the number of its forces killed at 498.
Russian mass-market Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper on Tuesday accused hackers of planting fake news on its website after a report briefly appeared there saying nearly 10,000 Russian soldiers had been killed in Ukraine. The article was deleted within a few minutes of being published.
French companies including carmaker Renault and retailer Auchan must leave the Russian market, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told French lawmakers.
“Renault, Auchan, Leroy Merlin must stop being sponsors of the Russian war machine, stop financing the murder of children and women, of rape,” he said in an address to France’s parliament delivered via video link. “French companies must leave the Russian market.”
At Zelenskyy’s request, the MPs also observed a minute of silence in tribute to the victims of the war in Ukraine.
The UN’s International Labour Organization has said it will halt all technical cooperation with Russia until it stops its war in Ukraine, further isolating Moscow on the world stage.
Click here to read more.
Analysts say the Kremlin may have been inspired to recruit foreign fighters in response to a similar step taken by Ukraine itself – and they warn of ominous consequences.
Read more here.
The Kremlin has confirmed to Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency that a top Russian official has resigned, saying he did so of his own accord.
Earlier, the Reuters news agency, citing two unnamed sources, reported that special envoy Anatoly Chubais, an architect of Russia’s post-Soviet economic reforms, has stepped down over the war in Ukraine and left Russia.
If that is the case, his decision would signal the highest-profile protest by a Russian figure against the invasion yet.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has addressed reporters ahead of the US-led alliance’s emergency meeting on Thursday. Here are some of his remarks.
🔴 LIVE SOON (14:00 CET)
Press conference ahead of tomorrow’s extraordinary Summit of #NATO Heads of State and Government #NATOSummit
📍 @NATO HQ, Brussels https://t.co/stSKceZyrl
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) March 23, 2022
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has said that after delays in deliveries, further supplies of Strela missiles were on the way to Ukraine.
“I can clearly say that further Strela deliveries are on the way,” Baerbock told the Bundestag lower house of parliament, citing the missiles that had historically been in the inventories of the former Communist East German army.
“We are one of the biggest weapons suppliers in this situation,” she said. “It doesn’t make us proud but it’s what we must do to help Ukraine.”
Russia plans to switch its gas sales to “unfriendly” countries to roubles, President Vladimir Putin has said.
“Russia will continue, of course, to supply natural gas in accordance with volumes and prices … fixed in previously concluded contracts,” Putin said at a televised meeting with top government ministers.
“The changes will only affect the currency of payment, which will be changed to Russian roubles,” he added.
Putin said the government and central bank had one week to come up with a solution on how to move these operations to the Russian currency and that gas giant Gazprom would be ordered to make the corresponding changes to gas contracts.
Russia’s list of “unfriendly” countries, which corresponds to those that imposed sanctions, includes the US, European Union member states, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada and Ukraine, among others.
The United Kingdom’s defence ministry has called on YouTube to remove footage from its online platform of a hoax call to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace that London claims was doctored by the Russian state.
“I am confident you would not wish to be a conduit for Russian propaganda or be in any way associated with the potential consequences of this type of media manipulation,” a letter posted on Twitter by the ministry said.
The move came after footage of Wallace speaking to a hoaxer posing as Ukraine’s prime minister was posted on the YouTube channel of Russian prankster duo Vovan and Lexus.
We are calling on YouTube to help us support Ukraine by taking down videos doctored by the Russian state and disseminated to try and sap the morale of a people fighting for their freedom 🇺🇦
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) March 23, 2022
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that any use of chemical weapons by Russia in Ukraine would invoke “far-reaching consequences”.
“Any use of chemical weapons would totally change the nature of the conflict,” he told reporters at a news conference at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, adding such a move “would be a blatant violation of international law”.
Stoltenberg also said that leaders of the 30-member state alliance were set to agree on delivering extra support for Ukraine to deal with any chemical and nuclear threats at Thursday’s summit.
“Tomorrow, I expect allies will agree to provide additional support, including cybersecurity assistance as well as equipment to help Ukraine protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats,” he said.
The United States president has reiterated his concern that Russia may use chemical weapons in Ukraine as it seeks to make breakthroughs in the weeks-long conflict.
“I think it’s a real threat,” President Joe Biden told reporters as he departed the US for Europe.
Russian forces have bombed and destroyed a key bridge in the encircled city of Chernihiv, regional governor Viacheslav Chaus has said.
The destroyed bridge had been used for evacuating civilians and delivering humanitarian aid. It crossed the Desna River and connected the city to Kyiv.
But Chaus pledged its destruction would not prevent aid from reaching Chernihiv. “We will provide the city with food and everything needed,” he said in a message posted on the Telegram messaging app.
Local authorities in the city warned on Tuesday that it has no water or electricity, and called the situation there a humanitarian disaster.
Belarus has told some Ukrainian diplomats to leave the country and is closing its neighbour’s consulate in the city of Brest, according to a report by the country’s state news agency, Belta.
On Tuesday the Belarusian security service, the KGB, accused eight Ukrainian diplomats of espionage.
Russia has used Belarusian territory as a staging post for its invasion of Ukraine.
Poland’s interior minister says Warsaw has expelled 45 Russian diplomats suspected of spying on the country.
“Poland has expelled 45 Russian spies pretending to be diplomats,” Mariusz Kaminski tweeted. “We are dismantling the Russian special services network in our country.”
Russian Ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreyev confirmed the expulsions, telling reporters that the individuals concerned had been given five days to leave Poland.
“There are no grounds for these kinds of accusations,” he added, noting that Russia reserved the right to take retaliatory measures.
Greenpeace activists have swum in front of a vast Russian oil tanker in the Baltic Sea to protest against imports of Russian oil into the European Union.
The bloc and its allies have imposed hefty sanctions against Moscow, including freezing its central bank’s assets, but measures directly targeting oil and natural gas were not included.
“In week four of Putin’s war, there are still ships arriving into Europe from Russia, carrying oil that is financing Putin’s war in Ukraine,” Greenpeace said in a statement.
The organisation urged EU politicians to unite on a ban during upcoming summits on Thursday involving the bloc, NATO and the Group of Seven (G7).
Kyiv has said that talks with Russia aimed at ending the war are encountering “significant difficulties” after several rounds of discussions have so far produced no ceasefire or permanent peace deal.
“The negotiations are continuing online. They are proceeding with significant difficulties because the Ukrainian side has clear and principled positions,” the AFP news agency quoted Ukraine’s lead negotiator, Mykhailo Podolyak, as saying.
Reports have suggested that Moscow’s requests may include Kyiv committing to not seeking NATO membership, undertaking a disarmament process, ceding territory in eastern Ukraine and recognising the Crimean Peninsula – annexed by Russia in 2014 – as formally part of its neighbour.
To read more on the negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv, click here.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged Japan to ramp up pressure on Russia with a trade embargo in an unprecedented direct appeal to the country’s parliament.
“You were the first in Asia who really began to put pressure on Russia to restore peace, who supported sanctions against Russia, and I urge you to keep doing this,” Zelenskyy told MPs by video link in a gesture never previously accorded to a foreign leader.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida later said he planned to unveil more support measures for Ukraine and strengthen Tokyo’s sanctions against Russia.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych has said he expects the active phase of the Russian invasion to be over by the end of April, claiming the Russian advance has already stalled in many areas.
Speaking on Ukrainian television, Arestovych said Russia had already lost 40 percent of its attacking forces, and also played down the prospect of Russia waging nuclear war.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a massive humanitarian crisis and sent millions of refugees fleeing to neighbouring and other states in search of safety.
The images of lives uprooted, and those staying behind in a bid to save their country from Moscow’s forces, have shocked the world.
Click here to view a selection of them.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in direct talks not to use biological or chemical weapons in Ukraine, according to a report by German newspaper Die Zeit.
Russian assertions that Ukraine was developing such weapons or that the United States wanted to use them seemed “like an implicit threat that Putin himself is considering using such weapons”, Die Zeit quoted Scholz as saying.
“That’s why it was important to me to tell him very clearly and directly: That would be unacceptable and unforgivable,” Scholz told the newspaper.
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Kyiv, says several neighbourhoods within the Ukrainian capital have come under attack in the past 24 hours.
Moscow is increasingly relying on attacks with “missiles, rockets and artillery” because of its “ground offensive being stalled,” he said.
“They want to put pressure not just on the front lines but on the city [of Kyiv] itself,” Khan added.
The Kremlin’s spokesman has said it is vital to apply a new law that could see journalists jailed for up to 15 years if they are deemed to be deliberately spreading false information after investigators opened a criminal case against a prominent reporter.
Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the specific case of journalist Alexander Nevzorov, who investigators have accused of deliberately spreading knowingly false information about the actions of the Russian military in Ukraine.
But when asked about Nevzorov’s case, Peskov said the new law had to be applied because of what he described as an acute information war being waged against Russia.
To read more on the legislation, click here.
EU companies affected by sanctions imposed on Russia will be eligible for up to 400,000 euros ($442,000) of state support under loosened state aid rules, the bloc’s executive arm has announced.
Companies in the agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture sectors can access up to 35,000 euros ($38,750) while businesses facing a liquidity crunch can get state guarantees on loans and subsidised loans, the European Commission said.
Meanwhile, firms facing soaring energy costs will be eligible for state aid covering up to 30 percent of their costs, capped at two million euros ($2.2m).
The European Commission, which also acts as the bloc’s competition enforcer, had two years ago relaxed its state aid rules, allowing governments to pump trillions of euros into companies hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kremlin’s spokesman has cautioned that any possible contact between the Russian military and NATO forces could have grave consequences after Poland last week said the alliance should send peacekeepers to Ukraine.
Dmitry Peskov said Warsaw’s idea was “reckless and extremely dangerous”.
“Any possible confrontation between our troops and NATO forces could have clear consequences that would be hard to repair,” he told reporters.
Ukraine’s president will address the Swedish Parliament via video link on Thursday, the body has said.
The speech will start at 09:55 GMT, the Swedish parliament added in a statement.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has addressed politicians in an array of countries in recent weeks as he attempts to rally international support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s onslaught.
Russia’s foreign minister has warned NATO against sending peacekeepers to Ukraine, saying it could lead to a direct confrontation between Russia and the transatlantic military alliance.
Poland said last week that it would formally submit a proposal for a peacekeeping mission in Ukraine at a NATO summit set to take place on Thursday.
“I hope they understand what they are talking about,” Sergey Lavrov told staff and students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
“This will be the direct clash between the Russian and NATO armed forces that everyone has not only tried to avoid but said should not take place in principle.”
Ukraine’s central bank has asked the SWIFT global payments network to switch the Russian central bank off from its financial messaging system.
“We hope for your support and assistance in order to save the lives of thousands of Ukrainians and protect the sovereignty of our country,” Kyrylo Shevchenko, the bank’s governor, said in a statement.
For more information on SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, click here.
Poland’s special services have asked the country’s foreign ministry to expel 45 Russian diplomats, according to a spokesman.
Polish security spokesman Stanislaw Zaryn said the individuals were alleged to be working for Russia’s secret services under the cover of diplomatic work.
Reuters quoted an unnamed government spokesman as saying the Russian ambassador to Poland had been summoned to the foreign ministry over the case and decisions on further steps would be announced after the meeting.
Russia’s foreign ministry was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying it would retaliate if its diplomats were expelled.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged foreign ministers from Muslim-majority nations to help end Russia’s war in Ukraine, appealing also to China’s top diplomat to join the effort.
Read more here.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has urged China not to support Russia after its invasion of Ukraine and to join efforts to bring peace to Ukraine.
Speaking to the Italian parliament, Draghi also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not appear to be interested in agreeing to a ceasefire that could allow negotiations to end the conflict to succeed.
Russia’s defence ministry says its forces have hit a Ukrainian arms depot outside the country’s northwestern city of Rivne, destroying an arsenal of weapons and equipment.
The ministry said it had struck the depot on Tuesday using high-precision, long-range weapons fired from the sea.
There was no immediate reaction to the claim from Kyiv.
A leading ally of Putin has accused the US of aiming to humiliate, divide and ultimately destroy Russia, and vowed the country would never allow that to happen.
Dmitry Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012 and is now deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said such a plan – if ever achieved – could have catastrophic results for the world.
“Russia will never allow such a development,” he said on Telegram.
The head of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) will raise “pressing humanitarian issues” in Ukraine during a visit to Moscow, the aid agency has said.
Peter Maurer is in Moscow for two days of talks with senior Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who he is set to meet on Thursday.
“Mr Maurer plans to speak about the pressing humanitarian issues to be addressed to alleviate the suffering of people affected by the conflict in Ukraine,” the ICRC said.
The agency added that it was seeking to increase respect for international humanitarian law and within its mandate as a neutral intermediary to “address humanitarian issues and facilitate dialogue between all sides”.
I’ve arrived in Moscow to continue @ICRC’s discussions with the Russian authorities.
I’ll be raising pressing humanitarian issues and the alleviation of the suffering of people affected by conflicts in Ukraine and other contexts. https://t.co/P8jiA8X7nw
— Peter Maurer (@PMaurerICRC) March 23, 2022
Kyiv has agreed to a deal with Russia to set up nine humanitarian corridors through which civilians can be evacuated, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister has said.
Iryna Vereshchuk said in a Facebook post that the routes would be opened in the Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kyiv and Luhansk regions.
She did not announce any safe corridor out of the heart of Mariupol, saying instead that people wishing to leave the city would find transport in nearby Berdyansk.
The governor of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine says an agreement has been reached on a local ceasefire in order to allow for the evacuation of civilians trapped by fighting.
Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram that the ceasefire would come into force at 9am local time (07:00 GMT).
Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office says 121 children have been killed and 167 others wounded since Russia launched its invasion.
A nine-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy were among the most recent victims, according to the office’s statement, which was posted on Telegram.
Both were reportedly killed in the Ukrainian-controlled part of the eastern Donetsk region.
The statement added that on March 17, a Russian soldier killed a man in front of his 14-year-old son in the occupied Kyiv suburb of Bucha. The boy is wounded and is currently undergoing treatment, it said.
It also said that more than 220 schools and 155 kindergartens have been damaged by shelling.
The mayor of the besieged northern city of Chernihiv has told local media that Russian servicemen are deliberately targeting civilians, hospitals and schools, adding that foreign forces almost encircled the city and their shelling had destroyed power and water supplies.
As a result, “about 40 people are buried daily,” Vladislav Atroshenko told the Censor.net publication. “Before the war, we usually buried eight.”
He also reportedly said that only a handful of volunteers have managed to get to the city via little-known roads in swampy areas with medicines for hundreds of wounded Ukrainian servicemen in city hospitals.
Zhang Hanhui, China’s ambassador to Moscow, has told about a dozen business heads to waste no time and “fill the void” in the local Russian market, according to Bloomberg, quoting the Russia Confucius Culture Promotion Association’s official WeChat account.
While the summary made no mention of sanctions or sanctions compliance, Zhang described the situation as an opportunity, Bloomberg said.
Read more here.
Oleg Ustenko, an economic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has said Russia’s frozen assets and central bank reserves, according to Ukraine’s foreign allies, have reached an estimated value of $300bn.
Ustenko told Al Jazeera that the assets could be used for the reconstruction of Ukraine, adding: “However, this is not enough, as every new day of war increases the price we need for reconstruction.”
“Our priority right now is to allocate the frozen Russian assets – meant for war – for reconstruction instead,” the adviser said.
He also said: “We strongly believe that our allies in Europe and the US should impose many harsh sanctions on Russia. This is not just related to the economic gains and benefits and it does not just mean that we no longer have trade exchanges like before, but it also should mean that the current status must change. And this is a civil side of things that they must adhere to.”
Russian shelling hit an apartment building in the town of Rubizhne in the Ukrainian-controlled part of Luhansk, according to the region’s governor.
Two children and one adult were killed as a result, Serhiy Haidai wrote on Facebook.
“The shell exploded on the fifth floor. Rescuers found three people killed, including two children,” he wrote, adding that shelling also caused multiple fires at a textile factory, a college and several apartments.
Putin intends to attend a Group of 20 (G20) summit being hosted by Indonesia later this year, Russia’s ambassador in Jakarta has said, following calls by some bloc members for the country to be barred from the group.
“Not only G20, many organisations are trying to expel Russia … the reaction of the West is absolutely disproportional,” Ambassador Lyudmila Vorobieva told a news conference.
Russian forces have released a Ukrainian official and a journalist who had been held captive for days, according to local media reports
Serhiy Kirichko, a local official in the Sumy region, was released on Tuesday after being detained in a basement for a week, the news outlet Ukrinform reported, citing a local politician.
Viktoria Roshchina, a journalist with Ukraine’s Hromadske channel, was released on Monday after nine days in captivity, the television station announced.
📣 Journalist Victoria Roshchina, missing in #Ukraine since 12 March, is on her way to be reunited with her relatives! Held captive by Russian forces, she was forced to record a video stating that she had been treated well and they had saved her life. pic.twitter.com/SJ8SAWl7hG
— RSF (@RSF_inter) March 22, 2022
Concern is growing over the whereabouts of Ukrainian photojournalist Maksym Levin, who was last heard from days ago while taking pictures at a combat zone in Kyiv.
Markiyan Lyseiko, a friend of Levin’s, told the Institute of Mass Information that he had last heard from the photojournalist on March 13.
Lyseiko said that “intense fighting” had broken out in the area that Levin had gone to work at, and said he feared the photojournalist could have been “wounded or taken prisoner by the Russian military”.
🚨ALERT: RSF is concerned by the disappearance of Ukrainian photojournalist Max Levin near Kyiv, #Ukraine. His friend Lyseyko received his last message on 13/03 from a combat zone in Vychhorod where he was reporting. He worked for @Reuters @BBCWorld @AP_Images & @HromadskeUA. pic.twitter.com/EC35u1WCdJ
— RSF (@RSF_inter) March 22, 2022
Vietnam Airlines will temporarily suspend regular flights from Hanoi to Moscow starting from March 25 until further notice, according to the state-run Vietnam News Agency (VNA).
The suspension was to review procedures, requirements and regulations related to flight operations in Russia, VNA reported.
The two countries have close ties dating back to the Soviet era and Vietnam has not so far condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian Investigative Committee has launched a criminal probe against a prominent journalist for spreading what it called “fake” information about the country’s armed forces, according to the Interfax news agency.
The committee said Alexander Nevzorov “knowingly published false information” about a Russian attack on a maternity hospital in Mariupol on his Instagram page as well as on a YouTube channel.
The #Russian Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against journalist Alexander Nevzorov
He said this in his telegram channel pic.twitter.com/cJLtdSJRz0
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) March 22, 2022
Nevzorov, a former politician, has previously described Russia’s actions in the besieged city as “terrorism”.
Russia’s parliament earlier this month passed a law making public actions aimed at “discrediting” Russia’s army illegal and banning the spread of “fake news”.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence says the possibility exists that Belarus’s army may join the Russian invasion, but its intelligence indicates that “a large number of personnel and some commanders are refusing to participate” in the war.
In a Telegram post, the ministry said Russian forces – due to a lack of success in their ground offensive – are now aiming for the “total destruction of critical infrastructure” in Ukraine.
It added that 100 Russian personnel were killed on Tuesday.
Al Jazeera could not verify the claims.
Nikos Dendias, the Greek foreign minister, has announced that he intends to make a trip to besieged Mariupol to deliver humanitarian aid.
The minister said he sent a note to the “Ukrainian side asking for the facilitation of the delivery of humanitarian aid in Mariupol and another note verbale to the Russian side asking not to obstruct it”.
“I intend to accompany this aid in person, in coordination with the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mr [Peter] Maurer, with whom we are already in contact.”
Dendias did not say when he plans to go to Mariupol
Authorities in Ukraine have accused Russian forces of “looting and destroying” a new laboratory at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant that among other things works to improve the management of radioactive waste.
The state agency responsible for the Chernobyl exclusion zone said the laboratory contained “highly active samples and samples of radionuclides that are now in the hands of the enemy, which we hope will harm itself and not the civilised world”.
Radionuclides are unstable atoms of chemical elements that release radiation.
Al Jazeera could not verify the allegation.
A Russian air raid on the Ukrainian capital’s Obolonskyi district has killed one person and wounded three, according to city authorities in Kyiv.
The raid on Tuesday set fire to two buildings and one truck, the Kyiv City Military Administration said on Telegram.
There was no immediate response from Moscow. It denies targeting civilians, however.
Reuters has reported that the US and its Western allies are assessing whether Russia should remain within the G20 following its invasion of Ukraine.
The agency cited sources involved in the discussions.
“There have been discussions about whether it’s appropriate for Russia to be part of the G20,” Reuters quoted a senior G7 source as saying. “If Russia remains a member, it will become a less useful organisation.”
The British Ministry of Defence says civilian populations in Russian-occupied cities in Ukraine are continuing to protest against Russian control, suggesting that Moscow’s efforts to subdue residents through propaganda “have so far failed”.
“Russia will probably respond to these failures by employing increasingly violent and coercive measures in an attempt to suppress the Ukrainian population,” it warned.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 22 March 2022
Find out more about the UK government’s response: https://t.co/t4kzbdIMpc
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/IQQRj6X7IA
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) March 22, 2022
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says Russian forces have taken captive 11 bus drivers and four rescue workers who were heading to Mariupol to evacuate civilians.
The convoy was following an “agreed route” near the town of Mangush, close to Mariupol, she said.
“This is an agreed corridor, we have agreed it with the Red Cross, and now people are being held hostage. It is reported that the vehicles will be taken away, and people may or may not be let free,” she added.
A US defence official has told reporters that Russia’s combat power has declined below 90 percent of its pre-invasion levels for the first time since its assault on Ukraine began.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, did not provide evidence.
His assessment suggests heavy losses of weaponry and growing casualties on the Russian side.
The US had estimated that Russia assembled more than 150,000 troops around Ukraine before the February 24 invasion, along with enough aircraft, artillery, tanks and other firepower for its attack.
Germany’s parliament has paid tribute to Boris Romanchenko, a Ukrainian man who survived several Nazi concentration camps during World War II but was killed last week during an attack in the city of Kharkiv.
Legislators held a moment of silence in memory of 96-year-old Romanchenko and other victims of the war.
Romanchenko “survived four concentration camps and was now killed in the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine,” finance minister Christian Lindner said.
“His fate shows both the criminal character of Russian policy and why Germany is showing solidarity with Ukraine, why we must show solidarity.”
“His death reminds us that Germany has a special historical responsibility towards Ukraine.”
The German Parliament falls silent in memory of Boris Romanchenko, who survived several Nazi concentration camps, but was killed last week during an attack in Kharkiv. He was 96. pic.twitter.com/SEqx7amSxr
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) March 22, 2022
Reuters says the US only admitted seven Ukrainian refugees from March 1-16 and is drawing up plans to allow in more people.
A new initiative set to launch this week will speed up visa processing for relatives of US citizens and permanent residents. it said, citing a person familiar with the matter.
The effort will also detail more staff to handle applications for a temporary status known as “humanitarian parole”, it added.
Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations who spoke to reporters in New York earlier, had a “stark message” for Russia, according to a UN statement.
“This war is unwinnable,” he told Moscow. “Sooner or later, it will have to move from the battlefield to the peace table. This is inevitable. The only question is: How many more lives must be lost?”
He added: “The war is going nowhere fast. For more than two weeks, Mariupol has been encircled by the Russian army and relentlessly bombed, shelled and attacked. For what? Even if Mariupol falls. Ukraine cannot be conquered city by city, street by street, house by house.”
The UN chief also called for urgent talks, saying there was “enough on the table” for an immediate ceasefire.
Watch a recording of his remarks below.
UN Secretary-General @antonioguterres speaks to journalists on the situation in #Ukraine https://t.co/Q2yN8vbIh0
— UN News (@UN_News_Centre) March 22, 2022
The US Department of State says four Ukrainian children have been flown to a hospital in Tennessee after their cancer treatment was disrupted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
It pledged to help with “special cases”, noting that paediatric oncology departments in Europe – where most Ukrainian refugees are fleeing to – were beginning to reach their limits.
Children are among the most vulnerable in a crisis. We are humbled to help airlift 4 Ukrainian pediatric oncology patients in need of urgent, highly specialized treatment to @StJudeResearch. These kids will safely resume critical cancer therapy disrupted by Russia’s aggression. pic.twitter.com/2d3OTAg7IZ
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) March 22, 2022
The US and EU have slammed a new sentence handed down to jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, calling it a “sham” and another example of Russia’s widening crackdown on dissenting voices amid its invasion of Ukraine.
A Russian court on Tuesday sentenced Navalny to nine additional years in a maximum-security prison on fraud and contempt of court charges, as well as a fine of 1.2 million roubles ($11,500).
Read more here.
Ukraine’s president has accused Russian forces attacking Mariupol of thwarting attempts to evacuate civilians from the port city.
“As of today, there are about 100,000 people in the city in inhuman conditions, completely blockaded, without food, without water, without medicines, subject to constant shelling, constant bombardment,” he said.
Ukraine’s president says peace talks with Russia to end the war were tough and sometimes confrontational but added “step by step we are moving forward”.
“We are continuing to work at different levels to encourage Russia to move towards peace … Ukrainian representatives are participating in talks that are taking place virtually every day. It’s very difficult, sometimes confrontational,” said Zelenskyy. “But step by step we are moving forward.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has discussed “efforts to fortify NATO’s Eastern Flank” in a call with the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the State Department has said.
“The Secretary reaffirmed the need for a strong and united Transatlantic response to the Russian government’s war against Ukraine and welcomed ongoing work to strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defense,” spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
Important discussion with @JensStoltenberg today on reinforcing NATO’s deterrence and defense. @NATO Leaders will meet this week to underscore our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and commitment to NATO’s collective defense.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) March 22, 2022
French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated France’s support for Ukraine in a call with his Ukrainian counterpart on Tuesday, Macron’s office has said.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to virtually address French legislators on Wednesday to demand more support amid Russia’s invasion.
In recent weeks, the Ukrainian leader has addressed legislators in the US, Canada, UK, Italy, Germany and Israel.
Brazilian-Ukrainian striker Junior Moraes, who returned to Brazil to join Corinthians, has said his mind is far from sport.
The 34-year-old Moraes, who obtained Ukrainian citizenship three years ago, said he fears for his friends and colleagues amid Russia’s invasion.
Moraes played in Ukraine for most of the last decade, scoring dozens of goals for Metalurg Donetsk, Dynamo Kyiv, and most recently Shakhtar Donetsk. He has played 11 matches for the Ukrainian national team.
“I can’t smile in a way I would like to. I think I will only do that once this war is over,” a tearful Moraes said during a press conference in Sao Paulo.
Macron has discussed peace talks between Russia and Ukraine and called for a ceasefire in a phone call with Putin, according to the French presidency.
The call, which was the eighth between the two leaders since the invasion began, lasted for an hour, Macron’s office said.
It added that the French president, who last spoke with Putin on March 18, also raised concerns about the situation in Mariupol, calling for the siege on the strategic port city to be lifted.
The Kremlin has pushed back against Western assertions that Russia’s invasion is facing setbacks, with its spokesman reiterating that the offensive is going as planned.
“We’re speaking about a special military operation that is going on, and it is going on strictly in accordance with the plans,” Peskov told CNN.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova has said evidence shows that Russia is committing “genocide” in its siege on the strategic port city of Mariupol.
Ukrainian officials have said 100,000 civilians are currently trapped in Mariupol, encircled and under relentless shelling.
“What now I see in Mariupol, it’s not about war, it’s about genocide,” Venediktova told the AFP news agency. “Theatres of war have some rules, some principles. What we see in Mariupol, [is] no rules at all,” she added.
Russia’s security policy dictates that the country would only use nuclear weapons if its very existence were threatened, Peskov has told US broadcaster CNN.
The Kremlin spokesman made the comment in an English-language interview when asked whether he was confident that the Russian president would not use nuclear weapons.
“We have a concept of domestic security and it’s public, you can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used. So if it is an existential threat for our country, then it [the nuclear arsenal] can be used in accordance with our concept,” he said.
“There are no other reasons that were mentioned in that text.”
Russia has failed to achieve its goals in Ukraine, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has said, warning that despite the apparent Russian setbacks, the war will not end “easily or rapidly”.
Sullivan said Russia had set three objectives for itself when it started its invasion: subjugating Ukraine, enhancing Moscow’s power and prestige, and dividing the West.
“Russia has thus far manifestly failed to accomplish all three objectives. In fact, it has thus far achieved the opposite,” said Sullivan.
Read more here.
Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.
Read all the updates from Tuesday, March 22 here.
As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its 28th day, we take a look at the main developments.
ILO suspends cooperation with Russia, except when related to humanitarian assistance, until it halts its war on Ukraine.
Zelenskyy praised Japan for its stance against Russia, as he seeks UN reforms to face global security challenges.
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Ukraine latest updates: Russia committed ‘war crimes’, US says – Al Jazeera English
Ukraine-Russia news from March 23: US gov’t assesses Russian forces committed ‘war crimes’ in its invasion of Ukraine, says troops targeted civilians.