LIVE Russia-Ukraine crisis: Moscow to expel a number of American diplomats

The news agency also cited the foreign ministry as telling the United States any hostile actions against Russia would provoke a decisive response

By Team KT

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Published: Wed 23 Mar 2022, 6:38 AM

Last updated: Wed 23 Mar 2022, 10:23 PM

Talks between Ukraine and Russia are confrontational but moving forward, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday, as the West plans to announce more sanctions against the Kremlin amid a worsening humanitarian crisis.

Intense Russian air strikes are turning besieged Mariupol into the “ashes of a dead land”, the city council said on Tuesday, as street fighting and bombardments raged in the port city.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s incursion into Ukraine has forced more than 3.5 million to flee, brought the unprecedented isolation of Russia’s economy, and raised fears of wider conflict in the West unthought-of for decades.

Here's the latest of all top developments on March 23:

10.18pm: Russia to expel a number of American diplomats -Interfax

Russia told Washington on Wednesday it would throw out a number of American diplomats in response to a US move to expel Russian staff from the permanent UN mission, Interfax news agency said.

The agency also cited the foreign ministry as telling the United States any hostile actions against Russia would provoke a decisive response.

9.06pm: Kyiv mayor says one killed, two wounded in carpark shelling

The mayor of Kyiv said one person was killed and two seriously wounded on Wednesday 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.

8.17pm: Russian minister urges public not to stockpile medicines

Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko on Wednesday urged people not to buy extra supplies of medicines as many fear shortages and price hikes due to Western sanctions over Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine.

“I want to tell the public: you don’t need to stock up,” Murashko said during a televised cabinet meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

“The suppliers say that deliveries are continuing as planned,” he stressed.

Murashko said that monitoring of pharmacies had found that “there were shortages of a number of drugs”, which he linked to panic buying.

8.09pm: Sweden to provide Ukraine with 5,000 more anti-tank weapons - TT news agency

Sweden will provide Ukraine with an additional 5,000 anti-tank weapons, TT news agency quoted the Swedish Defence Minister saying on Wednesday.

Sweden has already sent 5,000 anti-tank weapons, along with other military materiel to Ukraine.

7.03pm: Hackers are targeting European refugee charities -Ukrainian official

Hackers are targeting European charity groups working to help Ukrainian refugees fleeing the country following Russia’s attack, a senior Ukrainian cybersecurity official said on Wednesday.

Victor Zhora, the deputy chief of Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection, did not provide much further detail. His comments follow a report published earlier this month that alleged that unidentified hackers were trying to disrupt European government personnel involved in the managing the massive flow of refugees out of the country.

“We suppose that this is another proof of the spread of cyberwar to NATO countries,” Zhora told reporters.

6.31pm: Putin says Russia will switch gas sales to roubles for ‘unfriendly’ countries

Russia plans to switch its gas sales to “unfriendly” countries to roubles, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday, responding to a freeze on Russia’s assets by foreign nations over events in Ukraine that he said had destroyed Moscow’s trust.

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 said.

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.

5.29pm: Biden seeks new sanctions, help for Ukrainians in Europe

I think it’s a real threat.”

4.27pm: Italy wants pressure put on China at EU summit

Italian Premier Mario Draghi says the European Union must engage with China to make sure it is working actively to mediate peace in Ukraine and does not show any support for Moscow's attack on its neighbor.

Draghi told Parliament on Wednesday that the EU summit with China on April 1 must underline the bloc's expectations that Beijing will be a constructive and authoritative player for peace.

Draghi said: "It's fundamental that the EU is compact in keeping open spaces for dialogue with Beijing so that it contributes in a constructive way to the international mediation effort."

He added: "We must repeat our expectations that Beijing abstains from actions supporting Moscow and participates actively and authoritatively in the peace effort."

3.40pm: Ukraine says talks with Russia ‘difficult’

“The negotiations are continuing online. They are proceeding with significant difficulties because the Ukrainian side has clear and principled positions.”

3.33pm: Poland expels 45 Russian diplomats for espionage

Poland on Wednesday said it had expelled 45 Russian diplomats for espionage, an allegation immediately dismissed as baseless by Russia’s ambassador to Poland.

Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski made the announcement on Twitter.

“Poland has expelled 45 Russian spies pretending to be diplomats,” he wrote. “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.

1:48pm: Ukraine’s president asks Japan to increase sanctions pressure on Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked Japan on Wednesday to increase sanctions pressure on Russia by introducing a trade embargo on Russian goods.

Addressing the parliament in Tokyo via video link, Zelensky thanked Japan for leading the way among Asian countries in condemning Russia’s attack on Ukraine and introducing sanctions.

More details here

“Responsible states unite to protect peace. I am grateful to your state for its principled position at such a historical moment, for real assistance to Ukraine. 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.”

1:30pm: Russia accuses US of hindering Ukraine talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday accused the United States of seeking to hinder Moscow’s talks with Ukraine aimed at ending the almost month-long conflict.

“The talks are tough, the Ukrainian side constantly changes its position. It’s hard to avoid the impression that our American colleagues are holding their hand,” Lavrov told students in Moscow.

"The Americans simply see it as disadvantageous for them for this process to finish swiftly, they are counting on continuing to pump up Ukraine with weapons. Western countries want to play some kind of intermediary role but we have red lines”.

11:46am: 9 humanitarian corridors agreed for Wednesday - Ukrainian deputy PM

Agreement has been reached to try to evacuate civilians trapped in Ukrainian towns and cities through nine “humanitarian corridors” on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

Signalling no agreement had been reached with Russia to establish a safe corridor form the heart of Mariupol, she said people wishing to leave the besieged port city would find transport in nearby Berdyansk.

11:44am: ‘Prove you’re with us’: Zelensky’s rousing calls to Western MPs

When rallying British MPs, he reaches for Churchill. When addressing the US Congress, he invokes Pearl Harbor. When beamed into the Bundestag, he conjures the threat of a new Wall in Europe.

On March 22, he tells lawmakers in Italy, long a top holiday destination for rich Russians, to stop being a playground for Russia’s elite.

“Don’t be the place that welcomes these people,” he urges.

“We must freeze them all: freeze their properties, their accounts, their yachts, from Scheherazade to the smallest,” he says referring to a mega yacht docked on the Tuscan coast.

11:11am: Local ceasefire agreed for Ukraine's Luhansk region

Map of Ukraine showing cities under attack or under Russian control - Photo: AFP
Map of Ukraine showing cities under attack or under Russian control - Photo: AFP

The governor of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine said agreement had been reached on a local ceasefire to evacuate civilians trapped by fighting.

Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging app that the ceasefire would come into force at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT).

10:54am: Ukraine prosecutor’s office says 121 children killed in war

People holding flags and shining lights from their mobile phones pose next to candle lightings reading 'Children , save Mariupol' during a rally against Russia's attack on March 22, 2022 in Prague. Photo: AFP
People holding flags and shining lights from their mobile phones pose next to candle lightings reading "Children , save Mariupol' during a rally against Russia's attack on March 22, 2022 in Prague. Photo: AFP

The war in Ukraine has killed 121 children so far, the office of the prosecutor general said on Wednesday in a message on the Telegram app, adding that the number of wounded children stood at 167.

Reuters could not immediately verify the details.

9:47am: UN taking up 3 resolutions on Ukraine humanitarian crisis

The United Nations will face three resolutions Wednesday on the worsening humanitarian situation in Ukraine after Russia decided to call for a vote on its Security Council resolution that makes no mention of its attack on its smaller neighbor.

The General Assembly is scheduled to start considering two rival resolutions Wednesday morning — one supported by Ukraine and Western nations that makes clear Russia is responsible for the escalating humanitarian crisis and the other sponsored by South Africa that doesn’t mention Russia.

The Security Council will vote on the third resolution, which is sponsored by Russia and widely criticized for not referring to its attack on Ukraine. Russia had canceled a council vote on the measure last Friday as diplomats predicted it would be overwhelmingly defeated, with many abstentions and very few “yes” votes when at least nine are needed for approval along with no vetoes.

8:16am: Biden seeks new sanctions, help for Ukrainians in Europe

The future of Europe hanging in the balance, President Joe Biden will huddle with key allies in Brussels and Warsaw this week as the leaders try to prevent Russia’s war on Ukraine from spiraling into an even greater catastrophe.

Biden embarks Wednesday on a four-day trip that will test his ability to navigate the continent’s worst crisis since World War II. There are fears that Russia could use chemical or nuclear weapons as its attack becomes bogged down in the face of logistical problems and fierce Ukrainian resistance.

More details here

7:45am: Ukraine says Russia seized relief workers in Mariupol convoy

Ukrainian leaders accused Russia of seizing 15 rescue workers and drivers from a humanitarian convoy trying to get desperately needed food and other supplies into the bloodied port city of Mariupol, which also came under naval attack after weeks of air and land strikes.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy estimated that 100,000 civilians remained in Mariupol, scene of some of the war’s worst devastation, as Russia presses a nearly month-old offensive by bombarding cities and towns. Those made it out described a shattered city.

More details here

6:39am: Russians destroy Chernobyl laboratory

This Maxar satellite image taken and released on March 10, 2022 shows an overview of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine. Photo: AFP
This Maxar satellite image taken and released on March 10, 2022 shows an overview of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine. Photo: AFP

Russian military forces have destroyed a new laboratory at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant that among other things works to improve management of radioactive waste, the Ukrainian state agency responsible for the Chernobyl exclusion zone said Tuesday.

The Russian military seized the decommissioned plant at the beginning of the war. The exclusion zone is the contaminated area around the plant, site of the world’s worst nuclear meltdown in 1986.


6:33am: 'Hellscape' in Mariupol

Almost 100,000 people are trapped among the ruins of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, facing starvation, thirst and relentless Russian bombardment, President Volodymyr Zelensky said as the UN sharpened demands for Moscow to end its “absurd” and “unwinnable” war.

Tens of thousands of residents have already fled the besieged southern port city, bringing harrowing testimony of a “freezing hellscape riddled with dead bodies and destroyed buildings”, according to Human Rights Watch.

More details here


6:30am: Kremlin has denied that Russia’s attack has stalled

Asked on CNN what Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved in Ukraine, he said: “Well, first of all not yet. He hasn’t achieved yet.” But he insisted the military operation was going “strictly in accordance with the plans and purposes that were established beforehand.”

Peskov reiterated that Putin’s main goals were to “get rid of the military potential of Ukraine” and “ensure that Ukraine changes from an anti-Russian center to a neutral country.”

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