Day 31 Russia Ukraine crisis: As it happened

Civilians trying to leave the besieged southern port of Mariupol reportedly had to leave in private cars

By Team KT

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Published: Sat 26 Mar 2022, 6:31 AM

Last updated: Wed 21 Dec 2022, 8:49 AM

Russian forces appear to be shifting their focus from Ukraine’s capital to the contested Donbas region, possibly signalling a new phase of the war.

The Russians seem to be prioritising what Moscow calls the liberation of the Donbas region over a ground offensive aimed at Kyiv. Russian-backed separatists have controlled part of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine since 2014.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials say a strike on a theatre last week in the besieged city of Mariupol killed about 300 people in the deadliest single attack since the invasion started a month ago.

During a nightly video address, President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed again Friday to Russia to negotiate an end to the war but said Ukraine would not agree to give up any of its territory for the sake of peace.


Russian army says will focus on "liberation" of Donbas

Ukraine says Russia talks "very difficult"

France summons Russian envoy over "unacceptable" tweets

President Joe Biden was in Poland on Friday to pay tribute to a country that has taken in more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees who were forced to flee their homes.

Here's the latest of all top developments on March 26:

11:50pm: Rocket attacks hit Ukraine’s Lviv as Biden visits Poland

Several rockets struck the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Saturday while President Joe Biden was visiting the capital of Poland, whose border is just 45 miles away. The powerful explosions frightened a city that had been a haven for hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the Russian assault on other parts of Ukraine.

Thick black smoke rose from the first blast site on the city’s northeastern outskirts for hours before a second set of explosions was reported.

Ukraine said Saturday its forces had recaptured the north east town of Trostianets, near the Russian border, one of the first towns to fall under Moscow’s control in its month-long invasion.

“The city of Trostianets in the Sumy region has been liberated from Russian occupation troops,” the Ukrainian defence ministry announced on social media citing the 93rd Brigade.

“The Russian army fled Trostianets leaving behind weapons, equipment and ammunition,” the defence ministry statement said.

It published images showing Ukrainian soldiers and civilians among heavily damaged buildings, and what appeared to be abandoned Russian military equipment along with a sign post to the town.

8:40pm: Five wounded in strikes on west Ukraine city Lviv

At least five people were wounded Saturday in two strikes on the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, the regional governor said, in a rare attack on a city that has escaped serious fighting since Russian troops invaded last month.

"There were two missile strikes within Lviv," the regional governor Maksym Kozytsky said, adding that, "according to preliminary data, five people were injured."

6:28pm: Georgia's breakaway region sends troops to Ukraine

Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia has sent troops to Ukraine to "help protect Russia", its leader said on Saturday, as Moscow's military campaign in the neighbouring country entered its 31st day.

"Our guys are going to fulfil their military duty with a proudly raised banner," the leader of South Ossetia, Anatoly Bibilov, said on Telegram.

5.36pm: Kyiv mayor cancels Sunday curfew

The mayor of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on Saturday cancelled a curfew he had announced just hours earlier for the next day without providing further explanation.

“New information from the military command: the Kyiv curfew will not enter into force tomorrow,” mayor Vitali Klitschko announced on Telegram.

More details here

3.48pm: Biden meets top Ukrainian ministers in Warsaw

Joe Biden on Saturday met in Warsaw with two Ukrainian ministers in the first face-to-face talks between the US president and top Kyiv officials since Russia's invasion began.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov made a rare trip out of Ukraine in a possible sign of growing confidence in the fightback against Russian forces.

2.40pm: Kyiv mayor says Ukraine military imposes longer curfew

A longer curfew in the Ukrainian capital will be imposed from 2000 local time (1800 GMT) on Saturday until 0800 local time on Monday, the mayor of Kyiv said.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in an online post that the decision was made by the Ukrainian military, without giving further details.

1.00pm: Mariupol mayor says discussed civilian evacuations

The mayor of the besieged city of Mariupol said on Saturday he had spoken to France’s ambassador to Ukraine about options for evacuating civilians, after French President Emmanuel Macron said he would propose to Russia a plan to help people leave.

Speaking on national television, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said the situation in the encircled city remained critical, with street fighting taking place in its centre.

12.45pm: Ukraine says 10 humanitarian corridors agreed for front line areas

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said agreement has been reached on the establishment of 10 humanitarian corridors on Saturday to evacuate civilians from front line hotspots in Ukrainian towns and cities

Speaking on national television, she said civilians trying to leave the besieged southern port of Mariupol would have to leave in private cars as Russian forces were not letting buses through their checkpoints around the southern port city.

Reuters could not independently verify this information.

11.41am: Ukraine says Russia’s war kills 136 children so far

AFP Photo / State Emergency Service of Ukraine / handout
AFP Photo / State Emergency Service of Ukraine / handout

The war in Ukraine has killed 136 children so far, Ukraine’s office of the prosecutor general said on Saturday in a message on the Telegram app, adding that the number of wounded children stood at 199.

12.24pm: Ukraine president makes surprise appearance at Doha Forum


Ukraine’s president made a surprise video appearance Saturday at Qatar’s Doha Forum, calling on the energy-rich nation and others to boost their production to counteract the loss of Russian energy supplies.

Volodymyr Zelensky called on the United Nations and world powers to come to his aid, as he has in a series of other addresses given around the world since the start of the war Feb. 24. He compared Russia’s destruction of the port city of Mariupol to the Syrian and Russian destruction wrought on the city of Aleppo in the Syrian war.

“They are destroying our ports,” Zelensky said. “The absence of exports from Ukraine will deal a blow to countries worldwide.”

11.22am: Away from bombs, Ukrainians make new home in German town

Many of the over three million people who have fled Ukraine have sought refuge in neighbouring Poland.

But some have chosen to head westwards.

And many who have landed up in Germany have found themselves taken in by German families like Bilger’s, who have opened their homes to help Europe’s biggest economy cope with a huge influx.

More details here

10.38am: Western sanctions won’t sway Kremlin, says Russia’s former president Medvedev

"You cannot take a stand against the state in such a difficult situation, because this is treason."

9.07am: Biden to call on ‘free world’ to stand against Putin in Poland speech


US President Joe Biden will argue in a speech in Poland on Saturday that the “free world” opposes Russia’s attack on Ukraine and that there is unity among major economies on the need to stop Vladimir Putin, the White House said.

After three days of emergency meetings with allies of the G7, European Council and Nato, and a visit with US troops in Poland, Biden will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

6.57am: UK to provide Ukraine with 2 million pounds in essential food supplies

The United Kingdom will provide Ukraine with essential food supplies worth 2 million pounds, the UK Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

“The UK is set to provide PS2 million in vital food supplies for areas of Ukraine encircled by Russian forces, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss confirmed today,” the statement read.

More details here

6.15am: Russia signals less ambitious goals in Ukraine war

Russia signalled Friday it may dial back its war aims to focus on eastern Ukraine after failing to break the nation’s resistance in a month of fighting and attacks on civilians, including up to 300 feared killed in the bombing of a theatre.

The possible shift came as President Joe Biden visited elite US troops serving with Nato just across the border in Poland and France’s Emmanuel Macron proposed an internationally backed evacuation of civilians trapped in the bombarded city of Mariupol.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the February military operation to destroy Ukraine’s military and topple pro-Western President Volodymyr Zelensky, bringing the country under Russia’s sway.

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