Day 36 Russia-Ukraine Crisis: As it happened

Death toll rises to 20 from strike on regional HQ in Mykolaiv

By Team KT

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This aerial view taken near Kyiv on March 30, 2022 shows a destroyed house in the village of Lukianivka. Photo: AFP
This aerial view taken near Kyiv on March 30, 2022 shows a destroyed house in the village of Lukianivka. Photo: AFP

Published: Thu 31 Mar 2022, 6:47 AM

Last updated: Mon 15 Apr 2024, 8:46 AM

Russian forces pounded the outskirts of Kyiv and a besieged city in northern Ukraine, a day after Moscow promised to scale down operations there in what the West dismissed as a ploy to regroup by attackers suffering heavy losses.

Russia’s defence ministry said its forces were regrouping near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv to focus on other key areas and complete the “liberation” of the breakaway eastern Donbas region. Russia is shelling nearly all cities along the frontline separating Ukrainian government-controlled territory from areas held by Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donetsk region, the regional Donetsk governor said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he discussed specific defensive support with US President Joe Biden in an hour-long call on Wednesday.

The number of Ukrainians fleeing abroad is now above four million, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said.

Here's the latest developments on March 31:

12am Russians have left Chernobyl nuclear power plant: Ukraine officials

Russian troops have left Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear power plant after weeks of occupation, officials in Kyiv said Thursday.

"There are no longer any outsiders on the territory of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant," Ukraine's state agency in charge of the Chernobyl exclusion zone said on Facebook.

1150pm: Ukrainian communities in US prepare to support refugees

As the United States prepares to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees following Russia’s invasion of their country, existing communities in cities like Sacramento and Seattle are already mobilizing to provide food, shelter and support to those fleeing the war.

The federal government hasn’t said when the formal resettlement process will begin, but Ukrainian groups in the U.S. are already providing support to people entering the country through other channels, including on visas that will eventually expire or by flying to Mexico and crossing over the border.

1015pm: Zelensky thanks Turkey for readiness to guarantee Ukraine’s security

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan for Turkey’s readiness to provide security guarantees to Ukraine in a call on Thursday, Zelensky wrote on Twitter.

Ukraine’s president also wrote that the two leaders “agreed on further steps towards peace.”

Turkey hosted peace talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations on Tuesday, where the Ukrainian side proposed a system of security guarantees by several third countries, including Turkey.

9:20pm: Ukraine says one killed in Russian strike on evacuation convoy

One person was killed and four seriously wounded when Russian forces shelled an evacuation convoy outside the northern Ukrainian city of Chernigiv, officials in Kyiv said Thursday.

“Five buses came under direct fire from the enemy as they tried to get to the surrounded city to evacuate people,” Ukraine’s ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said on Telegram.

“There were only civilian volunteers on the buses. As a result of the shelling, one person is dead, four were gravely injured.”

Denisova said Russian forces were “denying any chance of evacuating peaceful citizens from besieged Chernigiv, essentially holding tens of thousands of people hostage without food, water or heat.”

More details here

8:25pm: Russian forces leaving Chernobyl after radiation exposure

Russian troops began leaving the Chernobyl nuclear plant after soldiers got “significant doses” of radiation from digging trenches at the highly contaminated site, Ukraine’s state power company said Thursday as heavy fighting raged on the outskirts of Kyiv and other fronts.

Energoatom, the operator, gave no immediate details on the condition of the troops or how many were affected. But it said the Russians had dug in in the forest inside the exclusion zone around the now-closed plant, the site in 1986 of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

The troops “panicked at the first sign of illness,” which “showed up very quickly,” and began to prepare to leave, Energoatom said.

8pm: Ukraine’s battle fronts are shifting - interior ministry adviser

The southern city of Mariupol and a “corridor” between two eastern towns, Izyum and Volnovakha, are becoming the key battlefronts in Ukraine, an interior ministry adviser said on Thursday.

“(Russia) is withdrawing forces in the Kyiv region, but it’s too early to say that the same is happening in the Chernihiv region,” adviser Vadym Denysenko said.

Russia said on Tuesday it would scale down operations in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions. NATO’s chief said on Thursday this was a regrouping rather than a withdrawal.

5:35pm: Heavy fighting rages near Kyiv as Russia appears to regroup

Cars are stopped at a roadblock set by civil defense men at a road leading to central Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 28, 2022. Photo: AP
Cars are stopped at a roadblock set by civil defense men at a road leading to central Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 28, 2022. Photo: AP

Heavy fighting raged on the outskirts of Kyiv and other zones Thursday amid indications the Kremlin is using talk of de-escalation as cover while regrouping and resupplying its forces and redeploying them for a stepped-up offensive in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an early morning video address that Ukraine is seeing “a buildup of Russian forces for new strikes on the Donbas, and we are preparing for that.”

More details here

5:31pm: Ukraine sees Russia changing tactics to more long-range attacks around Kyiv

Russian forces around Kyiv have lost their offensive capacity and are changing tactics to favour long-range attacks more than direct fighting, the deputy chief of staff of Ukraine’s ground forces said on Thursday.

Speaking in an online video address about the defence of the capital, Oleksandr Gruzevich said: “The enemy has almost exhausted its offensive potential, but the forces that remain around Kyiv are not small.”

5:15pm: Zelensky says, peace ‘more valuable’ than Russian diamonds, gas

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday told Belgian parliament that achieving lasting peace in Ukraine was more valuable than Russian gas or diamonds.

“There are those for whom Russian diamonds that are sometimes sold in Antwerp are more important,” Zelensky said in a video address to Belgian lawmakers, referring to the historic diamond market in Belgium’s port city.

“There are those for whom Russian diamonds that are sometimes sold in Antwerp are more important. Peace is more valuable than diamonds, than Russian ships in the ports, than oil and gas — so help us"

4:35pm: Death toll rises to 20 from strike on regional HQ in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv

Twenty people have been confirmed killed as a result of Tuesday’s rocket strike on the regional administration building in Ukraine’s southern city of Mykolaiv, the local emergency service said on Thursday.

“Rescuers pulled 19 bodies from under the rubble, and one person died in intensive care,” it said in a post on Facebook.

Twelve people were originally estimated to have died in Tuesday’s attack, which blasted a hole in the side of the building in central Mykolaiv.

3:05pm: Ukraine wants Red Cross cooperation on Ukrainians relocated to Russia

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Thursday he was working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the return of Ukrainians who have been “abducted or forcibly relocated” to Russia.

Ukraine has accused Russia of forcibly deporting thousands of Ukrainian civilians to Russia since attacked on Feb. 24. Russia has said it is conducting civilian evacuations from Ukrainian frontline areas.

3pm: Russia has destroyed most of Ukraine’s defence industry

Russia has destroyed almost all of Ukraine’s defence industry, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said on Thursday in a video address where he welcomed the terms of a proposed peace deal as a win for Ukraine.

“They have practically destroyed our defence industry,” Arestovych said.

He said under a peace agreement discussed with Russia on Tuesday, Ukraine would be protected from future threats by international security guarantees that Russia would not be able to veto.

“This is an ideal agreement that improves our position several times over in a fundamental way,” he said.

12:30pm: Ukrainian president requests Australian armoured vehicles

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed directly to Australian lawmakers Thursday for more help in its war against Russia, including armored vehicles and tougher sanctions.

He called for Russian vessels to be banned from international ports.

"We need more sanctions against Russia, powerful sanctions until they stop blackmailing other countries with their nuclear missiles,” Zelenskyy said through an interpreter.

Zelensky specifically asked for Australian-manufactured Bushmaster four-wheel-drive armored vehicles.

More details here

You have very good armed personnel vehicles, Bushmasters, that could help Ukraine substantially, and other pieces of equipment

12:05pm: Red Cross warehouse damaged in Mariupol

A Red Cross warehouse in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has been struck amid intense Russian shelling of the area.

Satellite pictures from Planet Labs PBC analyzed by The Associated Press on Thursday show clear damage to the warehouse’s roof along the Kalmius River near its mouth on the Sea of Azov. A red cross had been painted on the top of the warehouse.

At least one hole from suspected shelling could be seen in an image taken March 21. Some four holes in the roof were clearly visible in images taken Wednesday. The red cross had been on the warehouse’s roof from at least late August 2021, according to satellite images.

11:50pm: Turkey says oligarch Abramovich ‘sincerely’ working to end war

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich (C, 2nd row) during the first Russia and Ukraine face-to-face talks in weeks at Dolmabahce palace in Istanbul.Photo: AFP
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich (C, 2nd row) during the first Russia and Ukraine face-to-face talks in weeks at Dolmabahce palace in Istanbul.Photo: AFP

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who is sanctioned by European nations over Russia’s atatck on Ukraine, was “sincerely” working to end the war.

He has been liaising between Kyiv and Moscow since the incursion began on Feb. 24, Cavusoglu said.

Abramovich made a surprise appearance at Ukraine-Russia negotiations in Istanbul on Tuesday.

11.00am: Ukraine's Zelensky tells Australia more Russian sanctions needed

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Australia's parliament on Thursday that new and stronger sanctions against Russia were needed to increase the pressure on Moscow over its attack on his country.

Australia has supplied defence equipment and humanitarian supplies to Ukraine, as well as imposing a ban on exports of alumina and aluminum ores, including bauxite, to Russia.

AP file
AP file

It has imposed a total of 476 sanctions on 443 individuals, including businessmen close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and 33 entities, including most of Russia's banking sector and all entities responsible for the country's sovereign debt.

10.15am: Convoy of buses trying to reach trapped civilians in Mariupol

A convoy of Ukrainian buses set out for the southern port city of Mariupol on Thursday to try to deliver humanitarian supplies and bring out trapped civilians, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

She said 45 buses were on their way to Mariupol after the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed Russia had agreed to open a safe corridor.

The city mayor said this week that up to 170,000 residents were trapped in Mariupol with no power and dwindling supplies.

9.45am: UK military intelligence says Russian shelling, missile strikes continue in Chernihiv

Russian shelling and missile strikes have continued in Chernihiv despite Russian statements indicating an intended reduction of military activity around the area, British military intelligence said on Thursday.

Russian forces continue to hold positions to the east and west of Kyiv despite the withdrawal of a limited number of units, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement. "Heavy fighting will likely take place in the suburbs of the city in coming days."

Heavy fighting continued in Mariupol, a key objective of Russian forces, the ministry said, adding that Ukrainian forces remain in control of the centre of the city.

7.55am: Moscow announces Mariupol ceasefire Thursday to evacuate civilians

The Russian defence ministry announced a local ceasefire Thursday to allow civilians to be evacuated from Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol.

A humanitarian corridor from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, via the Russian-controlled port of Berdiansk, would be opened from 10 am (0700 GMT), the ministry said Wednesday.

7.45am: Russia considers presence of any US, NATO military infrastructure in countries bordering Afghanistan unacceptable, says Russian FM Lavrov

7.24am: UK spy chief says Putin advisors fear telling truth on Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s advisors fear telling him the truth about his “failing” Ukraine war strategy, the head of Britain’s top communications spying agency said Thursday.

Putin had “massively misjudged” the incursion, the director of Britain’s intelligence agency GCHQ Jeremy Fleming said in a prepared speech to the Australian National University in Canberra.

We’ve seen Russian soldiers — short of weapons and morale — refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft.

6.44am: Ukraine preparing for new Russian offensive in the east, Zelensky says

Ukrainian forces are preparing for new Russian attacks in the east of the country as Moscow builds up its troops there after suffering setbacks near the capital Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday.

Russia’s attack on its neighbour, now in its fifth week, has driven around a quarter of Ukrainians from their homes and brought Russian-Western tensions to their worst point since the Cold War.

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