Polish human rights activists say Belarus government won't let the asylum-seekers turn back
Ukraine’s cities were under relentless Russian fire as Nato leaders met in Brussels to discuss the alliance’s next steps
Ukraine’s cities stood under relentless Russian fire on Thursday, as President Volodymyr Zelensky asked Nato leaders gathered in Brussels to provide unlimited aid — including planes, tanks and other weapons — saying his country is “defending our common values.”
US President Joe Biden and Western allies pledged new sanctions against Russia and more humanitarian aid for Ukraine, but their offers fell short of the more robust military assistance Zelensky requested. Western leaders have suggested they were treading carefully to avoid escalating the conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders.
Ukraine also accused Moscow of forcibly taking hundreds of thousands of civilians to Russia so they could be used as “hostages” to pressure a surrender. But Russia says it’s evacuating civilians of their own free will.
12.05am: Ukrainians fighting to retake Kherson, Pentagon says
Ukrainian forces have launched a counter-offensive in Kherson, the country's only major city seized by Russian troops, and it is once again "contested," a senior US defence official said Friday.
"The Ukrainians are trying to take Kherson back, and we would argue that Kherson is actually contested territory again," the Pentagon official told reporters.
"We can't corroborate exactly who is in control of Kherson but the point is, it doesn't appear to be as solidly in Russian control as it was before," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
8.53pm: Ukrainian forces still control Mariupol, says regional leader
The governor of Ukraine’s Donetsk region on Friday said Ukrainian forces still controlled the besieged southern city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.
Speaking on national television, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said around 65,000 people had so far fled the city in private vehicles or on foot although official efforts to organise mass evacuations under temporary ceasefires have mostly failed.
8.22pm: Russian army says will focus on ‘liberation’ of Donbas
The Russian army said Friday that the first phase of its military campaign in Ukraine was over and troops would now focus on the complete “liberation” of the country’s eastern Donbas region.
“The main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been completed,” said Sergei Rudskoi, chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of Russia’s armed forces.
8.15pm: Russia signals scaling back of Ukraine aims as Biden visits Poland
US President Joe Biden came up-close to the war in Ukraine Friday as Russia appeared to row back on its vaulting ambitions, after a month of dogged resistance by Ukrainian forces backed by ever-rising Western support.
Biden visited Poland after forging a new set of measures with the EU designed to lessen Europe's dependence on energy imports from Russia's sanctions-hit economy.
6.31pm: Biden in Poland to see US troops, Ukraine refugees
President Joe Biden will hear directly from US troops stationed near Poland's border with Ukraine on Friday and learn about the growing humanitarian response to the millions of Ukrainians who are fleeing to Poland to escape Russia's assault on their homeland.
Biden planned to meet with members of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division, who are serving alongside Polish troops. He arrived Friday afternoon at the airport in Rzeszow, the largest city in southeastern Poland, where some US troops are based about an hour's drive from the Ukrainian border.
5.57pm: Russian negotiator says Moscow, Kyiv making little progress on key issues
Russia and Ukraine are coming closer to an understanding on secondary issues at peace talks but there has been limited progress on the key questions, Moscow negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said on Friday, the Interfax news agency reported.
“Negotiations have been going on all week, from Monday to Friday, in video conference format, and will continue tomorrow,” Interfax quoted Medinsky as saying. “On secondary issues, positions are converging. However on the main political issues, we are in fact treading water.”
5.26pm: Ukraine claims another Russian general killed
Kyiv announced Friday its forces had killed a high-ranking Russian military official, the latest in a series of claims against the leadership of Moscow’s forces one month into their attack of Ukraine.
In a video statement, presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych said Ukraine forces had killed the senior Russian military official during fighting in the south of the country, near Kherson.
Ukrainian forces “killed commander of the 49th Russian Southern District Army, General Yakov Ryazantsev, in a strike on Chornobayivka near Kherson,” he said.
5.06pm: Putin says West trying to cancel Russian culture including Tchaikovsky
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said the West was trying to cancel Russian culture, including the works of great composers such as Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Dmitry Shostakovich and Sergei Rachmaninov.
Today they are trying to cancel a whole thousand-year culture, our people.
4.25pm: Allies turn off Russian energy, Ukraine fears 300 dead in theatre
The United States and EU announced Friday a new drive to wean Europe off Russian gas imports and so choke off the billions in revenues that are fuelling Moscow's ruinous war against Ukraine.
A clearer scale of the ruin emerged from Ukraine's besieged port city of Mariupol, which a month into the invasion now resembles scenes of Russian cities razed by the Nazis in World War II.
3.10pm: Russia denies breaching international law with phosphorus bombs
Russia on Friday said it had “never” violated international law, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of using phosphorus bombs in his country.
“Russia has never violated international conventions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, referring any further questions to the defence ministry. He did not provide any details.
2.23pm: Kremlin says ‘nothing terrible will happen’ if Russia is expelled from G20
The Kremlin said on Friday that nothing terrible will happen if the United States and its allies succeed in expelling Russia from the Group of Twenty (G20) major economies because many of the G20’s members are at economic war with Moscow anyway.
"The G20 format is important, but in the current circumstances, when most of the participants are in a state of economic war with us, nothing terrible will happen."
2.18pm: Officials say 300 died in Mariupol airstrike
The government of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol says 300 people died in a Russian airstrike on March 16 on a theatre being used as a bomb shelter.
The post Friday on the city government Telegram channel cited eyewitnesses for the toll of “about 300.” It was not immediately clear whether emergency workers had finished excavating the site or how the eyewitnesses arrived at the horrific death toll.
When the theatre was struck, an enormous inscription reading “CHILDREN” was posted outside in Russian, intended to be visible from the skies above.
Soon after the airstrike, Ludmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian Parliament’s human rights commissioner, said more than 1,300 people had been sheltering in the building.
12.27pm: Thousands flee city near Ukrainian international airport
About 20,000 people have answered appeals to flee the Ukrainian city of Boryspil, which is near an international airport, Boryspil Mayor Volodymyr Borysenko said on national television on Friday.
He urged others to evacuate, saying the large number of civilians in villages nearby made it difficult for Ukrainian troops to clear Russian forces from the area.
Boryspil international airport is about 30 km (19 miles) east of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
12.13pm: Russia says destroyed largest military fuel storage site in Ukraine
Russia said on Friday it had destroyed the largest remaining military fuel storage site in Ukraine, hitting it with the Kalibr sea-based cruise missiles.
“On the evening of March 24, Kalibr high-precision sea-based cruise missiles attacked a fuel base in the village of Kalynivka near Kyiv,” the Russian defence ministry said.
11.51pm: Half the population of Kharkiv has fled
About half the population of the eastern city of Kharkiv has left, and food and other essentials are dwindling for those who stay behind. A line formed Thursday at an apartment block as neighbours waited for aid from the Red Cross.
“Among those who stayed, there are people who can walk on their own, but many who cannot walk, the elderly,” said Hanna Spitsyna, who distributed the food to the sound of explosions behind her.
Kharkiv has been under siege by Russian forces since the start of the military operation, with relentless shelling that has forced people to sleep in metro stations and in basements.
9.07am: France ‘stepping up’ work to prevent escalation of war, says Macron
“We have decided to step up the work to prevent escalation and organise ourselves in case it happens. We are acting on the need to continue adapting our posture to the new strategic circumstances caused by the war in Ukraine and its consequences."
8.50am: Russia fires missiles at Ukraine military unit
Russian forces fired two missiles late Thursday at a Ukrainian military unit on the outskirts of Dnipro, the fourth-largest city in the country, regional emergency services said.
The strikes destroyed buildings and set off two fires, it said, while the number of those killed and wounded was still being established.
Dnipro is west of the regions along the Russian border that have been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
8.35am: Russian ex-president says Western sanctions won’t sway Kremlin
It is 'foolish' to believe that Western sanctions against Russian businesses could have any effect on the Moscow government, Russian ex-president and deputy head of security council Dmitry Medvedev was quoted as saying on Friday.
The sanctions will only consolidate the Russian society and not cause popular discontent with the authorities, Medvedev told Russia’s RIA news agency in an interview. Some sanctions have specifically targeted billionaire businessmen believed to be close to President Vladimir Putin.
“Let us ask ourselves: can any of these major businessmen have even the tiniest quantum of influence of the position of the country’s leadership?” Medvedev said. “I openly tell you: no, no way.”
7.21am: Zelensky reassures Ukraine in nightly address
“It is already night. But we are working. The country must move toward peace, move forward. With every day of our defence, we are getting closer to the peace that we need so much. We are getting closer to victory. We can’t stop even for a minute. For every minute determines our fate, our future, whether we will live.”
7.11am: Russia to open humanitarian corridor for foreign ships
Russia on Friday claimed to open a humanitarian corridor to allow foreign ships to leave Ukrainian ports, said Ukraine’s local media outlet The Kyiv Independent on Friday.
“The supposed corridor would be 3 miles wide an open from 8am to 7pm on March 25. Earlier, Russia claimed there were drifting mines in the Black Sea,” wrote the media outlet.
6.36am: Face recognition tech joins Ukraine war
Ukraine is employing face recognition technology to identify attacking Russian troops killed on its soil, a complex and unprecedented avenue for software already seen as problematic, experts said Thursday.
The embattled nation uses details resulting from the process to try to track down and notify the families of the dead, in an act Ukraine says is aimed at piercing Russia’s war information filter.
6am: Zelensky asks EU leaders for quick membership
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked EU leaders for working together to support Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia, including Germany’s decision to block Russia from delivering natural gas to Europe through the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
But he lamented that these steps weren’t taken earlier, saying there was a chance Russia would have thought twice about attacking.
He then appealed to the EU leaders, who had gathered Thursday in Brussels, to move quickly on Ukraine’s application to join the bloc. “Here I ask you, do not delay. Please,” Zelensky said by video from Kyiv. “For us this is a chance.”
5.45am: Four weeks of war scar Russia's economy
Russia's military operation in Ukraine on February 24 sparked sweeping sanctions that ripped the country out of the global financial fabric and sent its economy reeling.
A month on, Russia's currency has lost a large part of its value and its bonds and stocks have been ejected from indexes. Its people are experiencing economic pain that is likely to last for years to come.
Polish human rights activists say Belarus government won't let the asylum-seekers turn back
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