LIVE Russia-Ukraine crisis: Zelensky insists on need for meeting with Putin

Meeting with Putin “in any format” is needed to stop the war in Ukraine, says Zelensky

By Team KT

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. — AFP
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. — AFP

Published: Mon 21 Mar 2022, 6:37 AM

Last updated: Tue 22 Mar 2022, 1:53 AM

Russian troops stepped up their bombardment of Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol on Sunday, bombing an art school where officials say 400 people were sheltering.

Hours after the strike, Russia demanded that Ukrainians in the besieged city lay down their arms in exchange for safe passage out of town. Ukrainian leaders quickly rejected the offer.

Mariupol continues to bear some of the war’s greatest suffering. On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of war crimes over its siege, describing the attack on the city as “a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come.” In his nightly address to the nation, Zelensky said Ukraine is interested in peace, and that ongoing talks with Russia are “necessary.”


Here's the latest of all top developments on March 21:

1.44am: Zelensky insists on need for meeting with Putin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday that a meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin “in any format” is needed to stop the war in Ukraine.

“I believe that without this meeting it is impossible to fully understand what they are ready for in order to stop the war,” Zelensky said in an interview with the Ukraine regional media outlet Suspilne.

11:45pm: US has not explored options for Biden to visit Ukraine

The White House has not explored options for US President Joe Biden to visit Ukraine during his upcoming trip to Europe, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.

Psaki also noted that during his trip this week, Biden plans to ask Polish President Andrzej Duda what more the United States can do to support its humanitarian efforts to deal with fallout from the war in Ukraine.

11:40pm: US defence secretary to accompany Biden to NATO, Poland

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will accompany President Joe Biden in Europe this week for talks at NATO headquarters in Brussels and in Poland as allies respond to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the Pentagon said on Monday.

Austin just returned from Europe on Saturday after a week of meetings with NATO allies.

11:39pm: EU split on Russia oil sanctions, mulls other steps

The European Union’s foreign ministers disagreed on Monday on whether and how to slap sanctions on Russia’s lucrative energy sector over its attack on Ukraine, with Germany saying the bloc was too dependent on Russian oil to decide an embargo.

The EU and allies have already imposed hefty measures against Russia, including freezing its central bank’s assets.

But targeting Russian energy exports, as the United States and Britain have done, is a divisive choice for the 27-nation EU, which relies on Russia for 40% of its gas.

More details here

11:25pm: U.N. General Assembly likely to vote again this week on Ukraine

The United Nations General Assembly is expected to vote this week to call out Russia’s attack on neighbouring Ukraine for creating a “dire” humanitarian situation, urge aid access and again demand Moscow stop fighting and withdraw its troops.

It will be the second time the 193-member General Assembly votes on the Ukraine crisis since Russia launched what it calls a “special military operation” on Feb. 24 to destroy Ukraine’s military infrastructure.

Ukraine, the United States and Western allies are looking to improve on the 141 yes votes cast to adopt a March 2 General Assembly resolution that deplored Russia’s “aggression against Ukraine.” Russia, Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea and Syria voted no, while 35 states - including China - abstained.

10:05pm: Western leaders agree they must remain united over Ukraine

The leaders of the United States, Germany, France, Britain and Italy spoke to each other by telephone on Monday and agreed on the importance of remaining united over Ukraine, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office said.

“The leaders reaffirmed the importance of the unity of purpose and action shown in the face of the war in Ukraine and its repercussions,” the statement said.

“In the face of the grave humanitarian emergency, the leaders pledged to coordinate efforts to help the Ukrainian population fleeing the conflict or those stranded at home,” it added.

10pm: Ukrainian governor says shells hit evacuation buses, 4 children wounded

Graphic showing the advance of Russian troops in Ukraine as of March 20, 20:00 GMT. Photo: AFP
Graphic showing the advance of Russian troops in Ukraine as of March 20, 20:00 GMT. Photo: AFP

The governor of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region said buses evacuating civilians from front line areas were hit by shelling on Monday and four children were wounded in separate incidents.

Reuters could not confirm the report independently. Russia denies targeting civilians.

“Four children were taken to hospital,” Oleksandr Starukh said in an online post. He blamed Russian forces.

9:50pm: Russia ramps up air, naval activity in Ukraine war, says Pentagon

Russia is boosting air and sea military operations as it struggles to turn the tide of war in Ukraine, where the “dexterity” of the defense mounted by Kyiv is stalling the attack, the Pentagon said Monday.

The Kremlin is “desperate” to increase its momentum in a war in which its troops have grown “frustrated and flummoxed” by a resistance that has shown durability despite being outmanned and outgunned, a senior US defense official said.

President Vladimir Putin’s forces have ramped up their sorties over and near Ukraine, flying more than 300 missions in the past 24 hours, with Kyiv likewise increasing their own air operations in a bid to deny Russia superiority in the skies, the official told reporters.

8.13pm: Kyiv mayor says stricter curfew imposed due to shelling threat


The mayor of Kyiv said on Monday a new, longer curfew was being introduced in the Ukrainian capital because the authorities expect further shelling by Russian forces.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko had earlier on Monday announced a “reinforced curfew” in the Ukrainian capital from 8pm (1800 GMT) until 7am on Wednesday. Parts of the city have come under fire repeatedly from Russian forces.

“The reason for the curfew is linked to the likelihood of new shelling,” he said later on Monday on national television.

7.03pm: Biden has put US-Russia ties ‘on the verge of rupture’: Moscow

Russia on Monday summoned the US ambassador in protest after President Joe Biden branded Russian leader Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” for Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, saying he had endangered ties.

“Such statements by the American president, which are not worthy of a high-ranking statesman, have put Russian-American relations on the verge of rupture,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The statement said ambassador John Sullivan had been handed a formal letter of protest over “recent unacceptable statements” made by Biden.

6.26pm: Russian court bans Facebook, Instagram after Meta found ‘extremist’

A Russian court on Monday banned Facebook and Instagram in the country after finding Meta Platforms Inc “extremist”, TASS news agency reported.

Russia has already banned Facebook for restricting access to Russian media while Instagram was blocked after Meta said it would allow social media users in Ukraine to post messages urging violence against Russian President Vladimir Putin and troops Moscow sent into Ukraine on February 24.

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

More details here

5.28pm: UN says 925 civilians killed in Ukraine since conflict began


The UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Monday it had recorded 2,421 civilian casualties in Ukraine - 925 killed and 1,496 injured - as of midnight on March 20.

4.44pm: Russia’s security service urges immediate Meta ban

Russia’s FSB national security service asked a court Monday to “immediately” ban US tech giant Meta, accusing it of working against Moscow’s interests during its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The court was considering a request by prosecutors to designate Meta — the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — as an “extremist” organisation and ban it.

4.25pm: Russia says it has enough sugar and buckwheat to meet domestic demand

“As in 2020, I want to reassure people: We are fully self-sufficient in both sugar and buckwheat. There is no need to panic-buy these goods. There is enough for everybody. Panic-buying only destabilises the production network.”

2.51pm: Kyiv mayor announces new curfew

yiv mayor Vitali Klitschko announced a new curfew for the Ukrainian capital later on Monday that would last until Wednesday morning.

The curfew “will begin at 8pm and last until 7am on March 23,” former boxing champion Klitschko wrote on Telegram.

“Stores, pharmacies, gas stations” and other establishments will not be open and only vehicles with special permission will be able to move about the city, he wrote.

1.05pm: Josep Borell comments on Russian assault at meeting of EU foreign ministers

“What’s happening now in Mariupol is a massive war crime, destroying everything, bombarding and killing everybody.”

12.40pm: Meta asks Russian court to dismiss proceedings in ‘extremism’ case - reports


Meta Platforms Inc on Monday asked a Russian court to dismiss proceedings in a case brought by state prosecutors demanding that the U.S. tech giant be labelled an “extremist organisation”, Russian news agencies reported.

The TASS news agency reported from the courtroom that Meta had asked for more time to prepare its position and had also questioned the court’s authority to implement a ban on its activities.

12.02pm: Ukraine says no agreement reached to evacuate Mariupol civilians on Monday

Agreement has been reached on creating eight humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from besieged towns and cities on Monday but the city of Mariupol is not among them, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

She said efforts to reach Mariupol with humanitarian supplies continued to fail.

11.38am: Ukraine finally rotates workers at Chernobyl, IAEA says

Ukraine has managed to rotate staff working at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant for the first time since Russia seized it last month as it attacked its neighbour, the UN’s nuclear agency said.

Ukraine told the International Atomic Energy Agency that around half of the staff were “finally” able to return to their homes on Sunday after working at the Russian-controlled site for nearly four weeks, IAEA director general Rafael Grossi said.

Those who left were replaced by other Ukrainian staff, Grossi said in a statement late Sunday.

“It is a positive — albeit long overdue — development that some staff at the Chernobyl NPP have now rotated and returned to their families,” Grossi said.

11.11am: At least six dead in overnight bombing of Kyiv mall

At least six people were killed in the overnight bombing of a shopping centre in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, an AFP journalist said Monday, with rescuers combing the wreckage for other victims.

More details here

10.47am: Zelensky says Jerusalem right place for peace talks

"This is the right place for finding peace. If this is possible."

10.21am: UK says bulk of Russian forces more than 25km from centre of Kyiv

Ukrainian servicemen ride on tanks towards the front line with Russian forces (AFP)
Ukrainian servicemen ride on tanks towards the front line with Russian forces (AFP)

Russian forces advancing on Kyiv from the north-east have stalled and the bulk of its forces remain more than 25 kilometres from the centre of the city, British military intelligence said on Monday.

More details here

8.03am: Ammonia leak contaminates area in east Ukraine

An ammonia leak at a chemical plant in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sumy has contaminated an area with a radius of more than 5 kilometers (3 miles), officials said early Monday.

Sumy regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyy didn’t say what caused the leak.

The Sumykhimprom plant is on the eastern outskirts of the city, which has a population of about 263,000 and has been regularly shelled by Russian troops in recent weeks.

Authorities urged people in Sumy to breathe through gauze bandages soaked in citric acid.

7.25am: Ukraine rejects Russian ultimatum to surrender Mariupol

Ukraine has rejected an ultimatum to surrender the besieged port city of Mariupol to Russian forces, its deputy prime minister told Ukrainian media Monday.

“There can be no talk of surrendering weapons. We have already informed the Russian side of this,” Iryna Vereshchuk told Ukrainska Pravda newspaper.

“It’s a deliberate manipulation and it’s a real hostage situation,” she added of the demand.

Russia gave the city an ultimatum late Sunday, urging its defenders to surrender before 05:00 am on Monday.

More details here

6.32am: Biden to visit Poland on Europe trip this week

President Joe Biden has added a stop in Poland to his trip this week to Europe for urgent talks with NATO and European allies, as Russian forces concentrate their fire upon cities and trapped civilians in a nearly month-old attack on Ukraine.

Biden will first travel to Brussels and then to Poland on Friday to meet with leaders there, press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Sunday night.

More details here

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