Russia-Ukraine war latest: Zelenskiy calls on west to supply planes, tanks; Biden says ‘butcher’ Putin cannot remain in power – live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Russia-Ukraine war latest: Zelenskiy calls on west to supply planes, tanks; Biden says ‘butcher’ Putin cannot remain in power – live” was written by Helen Livingstone (now); Vivian Ho ,Nadeem Badshah, Kevin Rawlinson, Tom Ambrose and Rebecca Ratcliffe (earlier), for theguardian.com on Sunday 27th March 2022 02.50 UTC

Video posted by the Guardian’s Shaun Walker shows the devastation wrought by the Russian campaign against the town of Mariupol:

There have been a number of reports that Ukrainian forces have retaken a number of towns across the country.

The Kyiv Independent newspaper reported that two small towns, Poltavka and Malynivka, in the south-eastern region of Zaporizhzhia had been liberated while earlier it reported that the town of Trostyanets in the northern region of Sumy had been regained.

CNN also reports that it has geolocated and verified several videos showing Ukrainian troops back in control of a number of villages in Sumy as well as Vilkhivka, a settlement roughly 32 kilometres from the Russian border in Ukraine’s northeast.

Some images from around Ukraine on Saturday:

Smoke rises after a Russian airstrike on Lviv.
Smoke rises after a Russian airstrike on Lviv.
Photograph: Pavlo Palamarchuk/Reuters
People taking shelter in Lviv look at their phone after a second set of blasts was heard in the city, just across the border from Poland. The missiles hit as US president Joe Biden visited Poland.
People taking shelter in Lviv look at their phone after a second set of blasts was heard in the city, just across the border from Poland. The missiles hit as US president Joe Biden visited Poland.
Photograph: Cheney Orr/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock
A Ukrainian police officer is overwhelmed by emotion after comforting people evacuated from Irpin on the outskirts of Kyiv.
A Ukrainian police officer is overwhelmed by emotion after comforting people evacuated from Irpin on the outskirts of Kyiv.
Photograph: Vadim Ghirdă/AP
A Ukrainian serviceman walks past a burnt-out car in the village of Krasylivka outside Kyiv.
A Ukrainian serviceman walks past a burnt-out car in the village of Krasylivka outside Kyiv.
Photograph: Marko Đurica/Reuters
A collapsed building in the besieged city of Mariupol.
A collapsed building in the besieged city of Mariupol.
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Updated

Here’s a bit more from Ukrainian president Zelenskiy’s speech earlier, in which he warned Russia its invasion was only working to “derussify” Ukraine, where Russian is widely spoken.

By the way, we talked today with our military in Mariupol, with our heroes who defend this city, in Russian,” said the president, himself a native Russian speaker.

“Because there is no language problem in Ukraine and there never was.

But now you, the Russian occupiers, are creating this problem. You are doing everything to make our people stop speaking Russian themselves. Because the Russian language will be associated with you. Only with you.

With these explosions and killings. With your crimes. You are deporting our people. You are bullying our teachers, forcing them to repeat everything after your propagandists. You are taking our mayors and Ukrainian activists hostage. You are placing billboards in the occupied territories with appeals (they appeared today) not to be afraid to speak Russian.

Just think about what it means. Where Russian has always been a part of everyday life, like Ukrainian, in the east of our state, and where you are turning peaceful cities into ruins today.

Russia itself is doing everything to ensure that de-russification takes place on the territory of our state. You are doing it. In one generation. And forever. This is another manifestation of your suicide policy.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency has expressed concern for workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, after Russian forces on Saturday seized the town of Slavutych, where many people who work at the reactor live.

In a statement, the agency said director general Rafael Mariano Grossi,

Remained concerned about the ability of staff at the Chornobyl NPP to regularly rotate and return to their homes in the nearby city of Slavutych to rest. There has been no staff rotation at the NPP for nearly a week now, the [Ukrainian] regulator said …

The regulator said the last staff rotation was on 20-21 March, when a new shift of technical personnel arrived from Slavutych to replace colleagues who had worked at the Chornobyl NPP since the day before the Russian military entered the site, where radioactive waste management facilities are located. There was ‘no information when or whether’ a new change of work shift would take place, it said.

In the north-eastern city of Kharkiv, where a nuclear research facility has reportedly been damaged once again, the IAEA cited the Ukrainian regulator as saying “shelling was for a second day preventing measures to dispose of an unexploded [nearby] rocket”.

“Its nuclear material is subcritical and the radioactive inventory is low,” the IAEA continued. “Personnel at the facility were maintaining the operability of the nuclear installation’s equipment and radiation was within ‘standard limits’. However, it was not possible to restore off-site power to the facility due to the shelling, the regulator added.”

After the White House backpedalled on comments by president Joe Biden that appeared to call for regime change in Russia, prominent Putin critic and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov has called the US administration “pathetic”.

When a regime is repressive, murderous, dictatorial, and led by someone who has committed war crimes in multiple countries, including his own, what else should be hoped for and worked toward than regime change?” he wrote in the first of a series of tweets.

“When the President is right, the White House should stick with him instead of fumbling to apologize to a murderous dictator for speaking the truth. It’s pathetic,” he continued.

“Biden isn’t Trump, requiring an English to English translator! No dictator is legitimate. Don’t backpedal when you are right and in the right. Don’t play diplomatic games with a mass murderer.

In a possible shift on a plan to transfer Soviet-era fighter jets from Poland to Kyiv to boost Ukraine’s firepower in the skies – rejected earlier this month by the Pentagon as too not “tenable” – Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, says the US no longer objects, according to AFP.

“As far as we can conclude, the ball is now on the Polish side,” Kuleba said in written comments to the newswire after a meeting with US president Joe Biden in Warsaw.

Biden, who was winding up a whirlwind visit to Poland after holding a series of urgent summits in Brussels with Western allies, met both Kuleba and Ukrainian defence minister Oleksii Reznikov in an emphatic show of support for Kyiv.

US president Joe Biden (R) meets Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, second from left, and Ukrainian defence minister Oleksii Reznikov, left.
US president Joe Biden (R) meets Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, second from left, and Ukrainian defence minister Oleksii Reznikov, left.
Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Both ministers had made a rare trip out of Ukraine for the face-to-face talks, in a possible sign of growing confidence in their battle against Russian forces.

In the UK Ministry of Defence’s latest intelligence update, it says Russia has continued strikes across Ukraine, including on “many targets in densely populated civilian areas”.

It also said Russia continued to rely on so-called stand-off munitions – missiles launched from a distance – “in order to reduce their aircrafts’ exposure to Ukrainian air defence forces.”

“US reporting of up to 60% failure rates of these weapons will compound Russia’s problem of increasingly limited stocks forcing them to revert to less sophisticated missiles or accepting more risk to their aircraft,” it continued.

Zelenskiy calls on US and Europe to supply planes and tanks

In his nightly address to the Ukrainian people and the world, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has called on the US and Europe to supply more planes, tanks, anti-missiles defences and anti-ship weaponry, arguing that Europe’s own security was at stake.

“This [the weaponry] is what our partners have. This is what is covered with dust at their storage facilities. After all, this is all for freedom not only in Ukraine – this is for freedom in Europe,” he said.

“So who runs the Euro-Atlantic community? Is it still Moscow because of intimidation?” he added.

Referring to those who are defending the besieged port city of Mariupol, he continued:

I wish at least a percentage of their courage to those who have been thinking for 31 days how to transfer a dozen or two of planes or tanks …

Ukraine cannot shoot down Russian missiles using shotguns, machine guns, which are too much in supplies.

And it is impossible to unblock Mariupol without a sufficient number of tanks, other armored vehicles and, of course, aircraft. All defenders of Ukraine know that. All defenders of Mariupol know that. Thousands of people know that – citizens, civilians who are dying there in the blockade.

The United States knows that. All European politicians know. We told everyone. And this should be known as soon as possible by as many people on Earth as possible. So that everyone understands who and why was simply afraid to prevent this tragedy. Afraid to simply make a decision.”

Updated

Summary

Hello, I’m Helen Livingstone, taking over the blog from my colleague Vivian Ho. Here’s a summary of what’s been happening over the past 24 hours:

  • US president Joe Biden condemned Vladimir Putin as a “butcher” who could no longer stay in power in a historic speech in Poland. Biden appeared to urge those around the Russian president to oust him from the Kremlin, although US officials later said he had been talking about the need for Putin to lose power over Ukrainian territory and in the wider region.
  • As he spoke, Russian missiles rained down on Ukraine’s most pro-western city, just 40 miles from the Polish border. The timing of the attacks, only the third on west Ukrainian targets since the war began, and the closest to Lviv’s city centre and its residential areas, was clearly designed to send a message to the White House.
  • The Kremlin has again raised the spectre of the use of nuclear weapons in the war with Ukraine. Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president who is deputy chairman of the country’s security council, said Moscow could use them to strike an enemy that only used conventional weapons.
  • The comments prompted Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, appearing by video link at Qatar’s Doha Forum, to warn that Moscow was a direct threat to the world. “Russia is deliberating bragging they can destroy with nuclear weapons, not only a certain country but the entire planet,” he said.
  • Ukrainian troops are reporting that Russian forces are deploying white phosphorus against them near the eastern city of Avdiivka. While these reports cannot be confirmed, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Nato leaders earlier this week that Russia had used phosphorus bombs that had killed adults and children.
  • Russian forces seized Slavutych, a northern town close to the Chernobyl nuclear site on Saturday and took its mayor, Yuri Fomichev, prisoner. However, after failing to disperse the numerous protesters in the main square on Saturday – despite deploying stun grenades and firing overhead – the Russian troops released the mayor and agreed to leave.
  • The Institute of Mass Media in Ukraine has documented 148 crimes against journalists and the media since the start of the Russian invasion. It said five journalists had been killed, six had been captured or kidnapped and seven had been wounded.
  • The Ukrainian parliament has confirmed a fresh Russian attack on the nuclear research reactor in Kharkiv. In a tweet, it quoted the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate as saying, “It is currently impossible to estimate the extent of damage due to hostilities that do not stop in the area of the nuclear installation.”
  • Tens of thousands of people gathered in central London to express solidarity with the people of Ukraine. After a rallying call by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for people everywhere to protest against the bloodshed by taking to the streets, Trafalgar Square was transformed into a sea of yellow and blue.
  • Experts in the UK have warned that the country’s Homes for Ukraine scheme risks operating as “Tinder for sex traffickers”. The warning comes as evidence emerges that UK-based criminals are targeting women and children fleeing the war.

Updated

An updated tally on the total deaths of civilians in Ukraine thus far, according to the United Nations:

It is 1am in Ukraine and Ukrainian troops are reporting that Russian forces are deploying white phosphorus against them near the eastern city of Avdiivka.

While these reports can’t be confirmed, this is not the first time Ukraine has talked about Russia using white phosphorus in the invasion. This week, Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Nato leaders that “there were phosphorus bombs, phosphorus Russian bombs”. “Adults were killed again and children were killed again,” he said.

White phosphorus is used in war for a number of reasons – when a munition containing it explodes, the chemical inside creates a thick white cloud that many countries have utilized as a way to create a smokescreen for cover or to send a signal to troops.

But white phosphorous burns at the extremely high temperature of 800C or above, meaning that it could burn straight through to the bone if it were to come into contact with human flesh. It can also enter the bloodstream with prolonged exposure and poison organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys and cause multiple organ failure. The smoke created by the substance itself can also damage the lungs.

When asked about Zelenskiy’s comments on Russia using phosphorus bombs, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia “has never violated international conventions”.

For more on if Russia’s possible use chemical weapons – and how Nato would respond – read more here:

Updated

The Institute of Mass Media in Ukraine has documented 148 crimes against journalists and the media since the start of the Russian invasion:

  • 5 journalists killed
  • 6 captured or kidnapped
  • 7 wounded
  • 19 cybercrimes
  • 10 shellings of television broadcast towers
  • 5 shellings of journalists
  • 11 threats
  • 6 shutdowns of Ukrainian broadcasting
  • 4 blockings of internet access to media
  • 4 seizures and attacks on media outlets
  • 1 disappearance of a journalist

Updated

British foreign minister Liz Truss says the UK could lift sanctions imposed on Russian individuals and companies if Russia withdraws from Ukraine and commits to “no further aggression”, the Telegraph is reporting.

The British government has so far imposed sanctions on banks with total assets of £500bn ($658.65bn) and on oligarchs and family members with a net worth of more than £150bn pounds.

Sanctions could be lifted in the event of “a full ceasefire and withdrawal”, said Truss.

“What we know is that Russia signed up to multiple agreements they simply don’t comply with. So there needs to be hard levers. Of course, sanctions are a hard lever,” she said.

“Those sanctions should only come off with a full ceasefire and withdrawal, but also commitments that there will be no further aggression. And also, there’s the opportunity to have snapback sanctions if there is further aggression in future. That is a real lever that I think can be used.”

Updated

In the latest tally on the destruction wrought so far in Ukraine, the Ukraine minister for communities and territories development is reporting that Russian troops have destroyed an estimated 4,500 residential buildings, 100 businesses, 400 educational institutions and 150 health facilities.

Joe Biden sparked some concerns when he said in his fiery speech today in Poland that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power”. Some said that statement skewed uncomfortably close to calling for a regime change, despite Biden’s foreign policy being firmly against a US-involved regime change. The White House immediately had to walk his statement back, saying that his point “was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region”.

This newest development is sure to raise some eyebrows in Moscow as well: a White House readout said that Biden took a phone call on Air Force One with democratic opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya of Belarus.

During the phone call, Biden thanked Tsikhanouskaya for attending his speech in Warsaw and “underscored the continued support of the United States for the Belarusian people in defending and advancing human rights, including freedom of expression, and free and fair elections”.

Belarus is one of the few allies that Russia has right now. Under Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, reports of torture and mass arrests of political dissidents have been widespread. In December, Tsikhanouskaya’s husband was sentenced to 18 years in prison for challenging Lukashenko, charged with organizing mass unrest and inciting social hatred as he campaigned to run for president.

Tsikhanouskaya took his place on the ballot in August’s presidential elections that ended in accusations of vote rigging, mass street protests, and a bloody crackdown on opposition.

Updated

In Prague today, a striking protest:

Activists pour red paint on the stairs of the Russian embassy in Prague.
Activists pour red paint on the stairs of the Russian embassy in Prague.
Photograph: Michal Čížek/AFP/Getty Images
The red paint is to symbolise the blood of the victims of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Some 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion a month ago, the UN said.
The red paint is to symbolise the blood of the victims of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Some 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion a month ago, the UN said.
Photograph: Michal Čížek/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Ukrainian prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova has some numbers on journalists who have been killed or injured since the start of the Russian invasion:

Kharkiv is likely Ukraine’s second most-shelled city after Mariupol, with bodies stacked in the courtyard of morgues and missiles and rockets raining down each day.

But its people are resilient, digging deep within themselves to keep the city clean and morale high.

“We are scared, but we need to show people that the situation is under control and every day we are getting closer to victory,” governor Oleh Synyehubov, told the Observer.

Read more about Kharkiv here:

Updated

Update on Slavutych: the mayor of the small town near the Chernobyl site has made an address saying that though the city is now officially under Russian occupation, the city’s residents met its occupiers with a mass protest and vowed to keep the city Ukrainian.

The Ukrainian parliament has confirmed the attack on the nuclear research reactor in Kharkiv.

Nuclear research reactor in Kharkiv hit by Russian shelling

The Kyiv Independent is reporting that the nuclear research reactor in Kharkiv has been hit by Russian shelling.

In Slavutych, a northern town close to the Chernobyl nuclear site, unarmed residents met the incoming Russian troops with a mass protest.

Earlier today, the town of 25,000 residents was surrounded by Russian troops and its mayor, Yuri Fomichev, taken prisoner. After failing to disperse the numerous protesters in the main square on Saturday – despite deploying stun grenades and firing overhead – the Russian troops released the mayor and agreed to leave.

Read more here:

Updated

US to provide additional $100m to Ukraine

Reuters is reporting that the US intends to provide Ukraine with an additional $100m in civilian security assistance.

The funds would go toward building the capacity of the Ukrainian ministry of internal affairs with a view to “border security, sustain civil law enforcement functions, and safeguard critical governmental infrastructure,” said Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state.

An outdoor concert in Lviv was cut short as air raid sirens sounded – and soon afterwards the city was hit by missiles, wounding at least five. Lviv, in western Ukraine, is about 40 miles from the Polish border and has so far been spared the fighting and devastation experienced in cities located closer to Russia.

 

Mayor: nobody killed in Saturday missile strikes on Lviv

Nobody was killed in the missile strikes on Lviv today, according to Andriy Sadovyi, the mayor of Lviv.

Reuters is reporting that the missiles were fired from the Sevastopol in Crimea. Maksym Kozytskyy, the governor of the Lviv region, said that the strikes hit a fuel depot and a defence facility.

Though no one was killed, five people were wounded.

Updated

With the Russian invasion now firmly in its second month, Ukrainians fear that the northern city of Chernihiv will be the next Mariupol when it comes to death and destruction.

The Associated Press is reporting that, just like Mariupol, Chernihiv is similarly blockaded and pounded from afar by Russian troops, leaving the city’s remaining residents terrified with each blast and bodies lying uncollected in the streets.

“In basements at night, everyone is talking about one thing: Chernihiv becoming (the) next Mariupol,” 38-year-old resident Ihar Kazmerchak, a linguistics scholar, told the Associated Press via a cellphone with a dying battery.

“Food is running out, and shelling and bombing doesn’t stop,” he said.

Chernihiv is located between the Desna and Dnieper rivers, straddling one of the main roads that Russian troops invading from Belarus used on 24 February for what the Kremlin hoped would be a quick hit onward to the capital, Kyiv, just 147km (91 miles) away.

More than half of the city’s 280,000 residents have fled, with the mayor, Vladyslav Atroshenko, estimating the death toll from the war to be in the hundreds. This week, Russian bombs destroyed the city’s main bridge over the Desna on the road leading to Kyiv and rendered the remaining pedestrian bridge impassable, thus cutting off the last possible route for people to get out or for food and medical supplies to get in.

Updated

According to Reuters, a White House official has already responded to say that Joe Biden was not calling for a regime change in Russia with his comment that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power”.

Updated

Russia has responded to Joe Biden’s remarks that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power”:

In his speech tonight, Joe Biden took a strong stance in saying that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power”. Some critics see this simple phrase as straying into the dangerous realm of calling for a regime change, while others are cautioning those critics to remember Biden’s penchant for off-the-cuff remarks.

Joe Biden also said Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power”, appealing to the Russian people against the killing of innocent civilians, and telling Ukraine that the US stands with them.

He told a cheering crowd: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power. God bless you all, and may God defend our freedom and may God protect our troops.”

And quoting Pope John Paul II, he said: “Never, ever give up hope, never doubt, never tire, never become discouraged. Be not afraid.”

President Biden also sent a direct message to the people of Russia to say they are not the “enemy”.

A free public transport scheme for Ukrainian refugees will be introduced in Northern Ireland.

Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon made the announcement on Saturday, confirming that all Ukrainian refugees arriving in Northern Ireland will be able to receive free public transport from their point of entry to a final destination.

The temporary scheme will begin on all Translink bus and rail services from 30 March, PA reports.

Mallon said: “In the last few weeks, many Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have been forced to make the heart-breaking decision to leave their homes and their loved ones behind in search of safety.

“While many of those refugees are staying in neighbouring countries, some will be travelling to Northern Ireland to join family members or their host family.”

Updated

Sanctions have been sapping Russia’s strength and its currency has been reduced to rubble, President Biden added.

He said: “As a result of these unprecedented sanctions, the rouble almost was immediately reduced to rubble.”

To applause, the American leader added: “That’s true by the way – it takes about 200 roubles to equal one dollar.”

He added: “These international sanctions are sapping Russia’s strength, its ability to replenish its military and its ability to project power.

“And it is Putin, it is Vladimir Putin, who is to blame. Period.”

Biden’s speech in Poland has now concluded.

Updated

Joe Biden said Russia had been “bent on violence” and insisted there was “simply no justification or provocation” for the invasion.

The US President said: “There is simply no justification or provocation for Russia’s choice of war.

“It’s an example of one of the oldest human impulses, using brute force and disinformation to satisfy a craving for absolute power and control.

“It’s nothing less than a direct challenge to the rule-based international order established since the end of World War Two.”

Issuing a message to the people of Ukraine, President Biden said: “We stand with you – period.”

Updated

President Biden also accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of issuing “obscene” lies when falsely claiming he was working to de-nazify Ukraine with his invasion.

The US president said: “Today, Russia has strangled democracy and sought to do so elsewhere, not only in his homeland.

“Under false claims of ethnic solidarity, he has invalidated neighbouring nations.

“Putin has the gall to say he’s de-nazifying Ukraine. It’s a lie, it’s just cynical – he knows that.

“And it’s also obscene. President Zelensky was democratically elected, he’s Jewish, his father’s family was wiped out in the Nazi holocaust and Putin has the audacity – like all autocrats before him – to believe that might will make right.”

Updated

Biden said that Nato is a defensive alliance and it has never sought Russia’s demise.

He added that “swift and punishing” costs are the only solutions that will get Russia to change its course.

The US president, Joe Biden, said we must “steel ourselves” for a “long fight ahead” in Russia’s war with Ukraine.

Speaking in Poland, Biden said: “In this battle, we need to be clear-eyed. This battle will not be won in days, or months either. We need to steel ourselves for the long fight ahead.”

Updated

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko has told thousands of protesters in central London, including politicians and celebrities, to “keep together” with Ukraine.

Klitschko, a former world heavyweight boxing champion, speaking from a military bunker, told the crowd on a big screen near Nelson’s Column: “We defend right now the same principles.

“Please keep together with our country, keep together with Ukraine.”

In an online post, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy said no residential buildings had been hit by the strikes in the city which he said had set fire to a industrial facility storing fuel.
Reuters witnesses in central Lviv saw heavy black smoke rising from the northeast side of the city and a strong smell of burning filled the air. Men huddled together on the street to watch a plume of dark smoke rising behind an apartment block. Most residents appeared to stay indoors, peeking out from behind curtains as others hurried past on the road carrying their bags.

Professional clown Serhii Shershun has swapped the big top for a checkpoint in Kyiv.
More used to juggling and miming, the 50-year-old now totes a machine-gun as part of Ukraine’s huge mobilisation of civil defence volunteers. “I am against the enemy coming to my land and killing my people, my friends, my children, and the women – it’s not right,” he told AFP. Going by the professional name of ShiSh, Shershun says his wife is also a clown while his sons are taking up the trade as well, one as a juggler and the other at circus school.

We were on tour, we lived a peaceful life, we made people happy, and suddenly… it stopped,” added Shershun.

Smoke rises in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv following Russia’s attacks.
Smoke rises in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv following Russia’s attacks.
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

People shelter underground following explosions in Lviv, western Ukraine.
People shelter underground following explosions in Lviv, western Ukraine.
Photograph: Nariman El-Mofty/AP

US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, will travel to Israel on Saturday and will meet with Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett, Blinken’s office said, in a visit that could be dominated by discussion of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Bennett has been trying to mediate an end to the month-old Russian invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reports.

Updated

Comments by the US president, Joe Biden, about his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin narrow the prospects for mending ties between the two countries, Tass news agency cited a Kremlin spokesman.

President Biden referred to Putin as a “butcher” during a visit to Nato ally Poland and said he was not sure Russia was changing its strategy in Ukraine, despite getting bogged down in some areas, Reuters reports.

Updated

Five people wounded after two rocket strikes hit Lviv

Five people were wounded after two rocket strikes hit Ukraine’s western city of Lviv on Saturday, regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said.

Local authorities told residents to seek shelter in the wake of the powerful blasts on the city’s outskirts.
“There have been two rocket strikes within the (city) limits of Lviv,” Kozytskyy said in an online post. Earlier he had reported three powerful explosions in the eastern edge of Lviv, Reuters reports.

Summary

Here’s a summary of the most recent developments:

That’s it from me. Thanks for reading. My colleague Nadeem Badshah will be taking over.

Thousands have gathered in central London to express solidarity with the people of Ukraine, who the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said had endured “unimaginable pain and suffering” over the past month.

Following the rallying call by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, for people everywhere to protest against the bloodshed by taking to the streets, large crowds assembled in the capital to show support for the embattled country.

On their route through London, demonstrators marched beneath Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace message on a huge electronic billboard in Piccadilly, many waving the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag as they passed.

The advance of Russian troops means large-scale evacuations from the war-scarred town of Chernihiv are no longer possible, its mayor has said.

The northern town has been a centre of fighting between Russian troops and Ukraine’s army. Earlier this week, city officials said Russian troops had deliberately targeted a key bridge linking the northern town with the capital, Kyiv, restricting opportunities to leave.

Agence France-Presse reports that the local mayor, Vladislav Atroshenko, has said: “City officials can no longer arrange humanitarian corridors or evacuate the wounded,” adding that a pedestrian crossing leaving the city was under “constant” attack from Russian troops.

“We are deciding on how to get the seriously injured out by any means. We can’t operate on them locally,” he said, saying some 44 people, both military and civilians were in need of medical attention.

He said that more than 200 civilians had been killed in the city since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24, and that 120,000 remain in the city of an estimated pre-invasion population of nearly around 280,000.

Ukrainian prosecutors earlier this month said 10 people were killed by Russian forces earlier while waiting in a line to collect bread in the northern city.

Updated

 

Russian oligarchs are welcome in Turkey but must abide by international law in order to do any business, Reuters quotes the Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu as saying.

Turkey has strongly criticised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but opposes sanctions imposed by its Nato allies on principle. Speaking at the Doha Forum international conference, Çavuşoğlu said:

If Russian oligarchs … or any Russian citizens want to visit Turkey, of course they can. If you mean whether these oligarchs can do any business in Turkey, then of course – if it is legal and not against international law – I will consider it. If it is against international law, then that is another story.

Two superyachts linked to the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich have docked in Turkish resorts, Reuters reports. Western governments have targeted Abramovich and several other Russian oligarchs with sanctions as they seek to isolate the Russian president Vladimir Putin and his allies over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Updated

The US president, Joe Biden, was in the region just over the Polish border to meet US troops shortly before the strikes.

The west of Ukraine has, until now, been lightly touched by the war, with attacks limited to strikes on a military base and an aircraft work shop.

Russia’s strike on Lviv during a presidential visit will be taken as a message to the US president, who called Putin a “butcher” during his visit to Poland. The Kremlin suggested it was focusing its efforts on eastern Ukraine on Friday but the attacks will raise fresh fears that Moscow has ambitions across the country.

Updated

Lviv hit by multiple missile strikes

Lviv has been hit by multiple missile strikes, Daniel Boffey writes from the western Ukrainian city. Smoke is bellowing across the city’s horizon. It appears that there were three missiles, with one landing close to the city’s communications tower. A spokesman for the military administration of Lviv region said:

There were three powerful explosions near Lviv on the side of Kryvchytsy, now there is an air alarm, so keep calm and be in shelter.

It appears that one of the targets may have been an oil refinery around a mile east of Lviv’s city centre. Igor Zinkevych, an official from Lviv’s city council, said:

There have been three powerful explosions near Lviv … Everyone should keep calm and stay indoors.

Updated

US offers Ukraine further military support

Joe Biden has risked the wrath of Vladimir Putin by offering Ukraine extra military support as Russian troops appeared to struggle to hold even the territory it has secured since the invasion began, Daniel Boffey and Shaun Walker write.

The US president’s pledge over “further defence cooperation” was said to have been made during a meeting with Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, in Warsaw on Saturday.

Biden’s administration has already made available $1bn worth of military lethal weapons, including Stinger anti-aircraft systems Javelin missiles, light anti-armour weapons.

Volodmyr Zelenskiy has been pushing the US to also facilitate the transfer of MiG-29 fighter jets from Poland but the White House is yet to be convinced by the Ukrainian president’s arguments, fearing a widening of the conflict.

The Kremlin had hinted on Friday that it may be scaling back its war ambitions, saying it was close to completing the “first phase” of its military campaign and would now focus on the complete “liberation” of Donbas in eastern Ukraine.

Speaking to the Guardian, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskiy and the lead negotiator in talks with Russia, said he did not believe that the Kremlin was downgrading its war aims. Describing the siege of Mariupol as a tactic to sow psychological terror and exhaustion, he said:

They had poor operational planning, and they realised it was advantageous for them to surround cities, cut off the main supply routes, and force people there to have a deficit of food, water and medicines.

Updated

Biden meets Ukrainian government ministers to discuss action against Putin

The US president, Joe Biden, and his secretaries of state and defence, Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin, have met Ukraine’s foreign and defence ministers, Dmytro Kuleba, and Oleksii Reznikov, to discuss Ukraine’s military, diplomatic and humanitarian situation, the White House has said.

Officials said the talked over “US efforts to rally the world in support of Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression, including through the president’s meetings this week in Belgium and the significant military and humanitarian assistance the United States is providing to Ukraine”. The White House added:

They discussed further efforts to help Ukraine defend its territory. They also discussed the United States’ ongoing actions to hold President Putin accountable for Russia’s brutal aggression, in coordination with our allies and partners, including through the new sanctions actions announced by the president in Brussels on 24 March.

Updated

Poland is taking a “significant” responsibility in the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, the US president, Joe Biden, said during a visit to Warsaw on Saturday, adding that the world should help lessen the burden.

Biden also told his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, he views Nato’s article 5 guarantee of mutual defence between member-states as a “sacred” commitment, Reuters reported.

Joe Biden during his meeting with the Polish president at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, 26 March 2022.
Joe Biden during his meeting with the Polish president at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, 26 March 2022.
Photograph: Marcin Obara/EPA

That’s it from me, Tom Ambrose, as I hand back to my colleague Kevin Rawlinson. I’ll be back tomorrow morning but goodbye from me for now.

Updated

Nastia arrived at the Warsaw bus station late at night with nowhere to go. The 25-year-old had made the difficult decision to leave her home and family in Vinnytsia oblast in west-central Ukraine.

Russian missiles had destroyed Vinnytsia’s airport, but her father could not leave because he is of fighting age, nor could her mother because she needed to care for Nastia’s two grandmothers, who are too sick to travel, Susie Armitage reports.

Now in Poland, terrified and unable to reach her mother, Nastia used Telegram to message someone who might be able to help: Caitlyn Simmons, a former Peace Corps volunteer who had been Nastia’s English teacher a decade earlier.

From her home in Columbus, Ohio, Simmons booked her former student a hotel room for the next day, then kept her company over Telegram while she passed a lonely night at the bus station. In the morning, Nastia’s first stop was the US embassy.

Updated

“Decide who you are with” Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the European Council, pointing to a choice that is becoming increasingly hard to avoid, as the sheer violence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine crystallises the division of the world into two camps.

The camp that stands with Russians is becoming easier to define with every passing day of the war. The colour-coded scoreboard at the UN general assembly in recent weeks, recording the votes on resolutions deploring the attack and calling for a ceasefire, could not have been clearer.

Among the 193 member states represented on the board, there have only been five pinpricks of red opposing the motion: Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Eritrea – a tight club of autocracies and totalitarian regimes with appalling human rights records.

They have been surrounded by a sea of green, the at least 140 countries who have supported expressions of rebuke at the world’s parliament.

Most of them are democracies, underlining one of the themes of Joe Biden’s foreign policy outlook, that the world is approaching a decisive struggle between democracy and autocracy, whose outcome is uncertain and therefore requires the active engagement of democratic nations.

Updated

Ukraine’s new agriculture minister, Mykola Solskyi, said on Saturday that Ukraine’s ability to export grains was getting worse by the day and would only improve if the war with Russia ended.

Speaking in a televised briefing, Solskyi said Ukraine, one of the world’s top grain producers, would normally be exporting 4-5 million tonnes of grain per month – a volume that has fallen to just a few hundred-thousand tonnes.

He said:

The impact [on global markets] is direct, dramatic and large. And it continues.

Every day the situation will become more and more difficult.

Updated

Ukraine has received additional security pledges from the United States on developing defence cooperation, its foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said on Saturday.

“We did receive additional promises from the United States on how our defence co-operation will evolve,” Kuleba told reporters, the Reuters news agency reported.

Joe Biden participates in a meeting with the Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, second from left, and the Ukrainian defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov.
Joe Biden participates in a meeting with the Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, second from left, and the Ukrainian defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov.
Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Hello. I’m Tom Ambrose and will be with you for the next hour or so.

Updated

Russia reasserts right to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine

The Kremlin again raised the spectre of the use of nuclear weapons in the war with Ukraine as Russian forces struggled to hold a key city in the south the country.

Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president who is deputy chairman of the country’s security council, said Moscow could strike against an enemy that only used conventional weapons while Vladimir Putin’s defence minster claimed nuclear “readiness” was a priority.

The comments on Saturday prompted Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in an appearance by video link at Qatar’s Doha Forum to warn that Moscow was a direct threat to the world.

Russia is deliberating bragging they can destroy with nuclear weapons, not only a certain country but the entire planet.

Russia has approximately 6,000 nuclear warheads – the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world. In an interview on Saturday, Medvedev said Russia’s nuclear doctrine did not require an enemy state to use such weapons first. He said:

We have a special document on nuclear deterrence. This document clearly indicates the grounds on which the Russian Federation is entitled to use nuclear weapons. There are a few of them, let me remind them to you.

Number one is the situation when Russia is struck by a nuclear missile. The second case is any use of other nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies. The third is an attack on a critical infrastructure that will have paralysed our nuclear deterrent forces. And the fourth case is when an act of aggression is committed against Russia and its allies, which jeopardised the existence of the country itself, even without the use of nuclear weapons, that is, with the use of conventional weapons.

Medvedev added that there was a “determination to defend the independence, sovereignty of our country, not to give anyone a reason to doubt even the slightest that we are ready to give a worthy response to any infringement on our country, on its independence”.

Updated

The UK’s defence attaché, Air Vice-Marshal Mick Smeath has said Russian forces are continuing to avoid urban warfare in favour of bombarding civilian areas of the cities they are attacking.

The Ministry of Defence’s defence intelligence says Russia continues to besiege a number of major Ukrainian cities including Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol.

Russian forces are proving reluctant to engage in large scale urban infantry operations, rather preferring to rely on the indiscriminate use of air and artillery bombardments in an attempt to demoralise defending forces.

It is likely Russia will continue to use its heavy firepower on urban areas as it looks to limit its own already considerable losses, at the cost of further civilian casualties.

Biden arrives in Warsaw for talks

The US president, Joe Biden, has arrived at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw for talks with his counterpart the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, that will focus partly on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The presidents of the USA and Poland stand during the national anthems
The presidents of the USA and Poland stand during the national anthems
Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Biden has been arguing that the “free world” opposes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and that there is unity among major economies on the need to stop Vladimir Putin.

His trip to Warsaw includes meetings with the Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, and its defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov – his first face-to-face meeting with top Ukrainian officials since the start of the war.

Updated

Last week, we reported on the death of the Ukrainian gay rights activist Elya Shchemur, who was killed during Russian shelling in Kharkiv. Her colleagues at NGO Women’s Association Sphere have been in touch with a statement in her memory.

On 17 March 2022, the 22nd day of the escalation of the Russian military invasion in Ukraine, the body of the activist of KharkivPride and the volunteer of feminist and LGBT+ movements Elvira (Elya) Shchemur was retrieved from the rubble of the Kharkiv administrative building.

We started our work in 2020. Together, we staged a number of Pride performances in the city. Since then, Elya was actively involved in the preparation of different actions, fearlessly participating in public events.

She was sincerely devoted to our common goal and kept on fighting for human rights in Ukraine.

Our last common action was the “Hell Nicholas” (opposed to St Nicholas) at the General Consulate of the Russian Federation in Kharkiv, where we presented an antimilitary message from the LGBT+ community to President Putin.

Elya joined the volunteer unit, started helping barely an hour into the invasion and died at its headquarters as a consequence of the bombing of Kharkiv city centre.

We will remember Elya as energetic, motivated, positive and certainly inspiring. She will remain in our hearts this way.

Elya Shchemur, who died in Kharkiv
Elya Shchemur, who died in Kharkiv.
Photograph: KharkivPride / Sphere NGO

Updated

The US president, Joe Biden, is scheduled to give a major speech on the Ukraine crisis in Warsaw on Saturday, where he is expected to argue that Europe, Nato, and the world’s economies are unified against Russian aggression.

Biden’s speech will probably meet an extremely receptive audience in a country whose history has made it pro-American, pro-Nato, and vigilant against Russia. Appeals to the “free world” are not viewed as cynically here as they sometimes are in western Europe. Freedom is a hard-won and fragile achievement in Poland, though the country’s commitment to liberal democracy has been tested in recent years by a tide of rightwing populism and reactionary Catholicism; the president Andrzej Duda’s governing Law and Justice party has been hostile to LGBT rights and independent media and tightened control over the judiciary.

Over the past several months, the US has bolstered its eastern European allies with the temporary deployment of thousands of additional US troops in Poland, Germany, and Romania. After some strains in its relationships with the US and the European Union in recent years, Poland – which already hosted numerous American and Nato military bases and is a cornerstone of Nato’s eastern front – is enjoying a centre-stage position.

The US and Poland have sometimes disagreed about the best way to support Ukraine. Earlier this month, the US rejected a Polish proposal to send Soviet-era MiG fighter planes to Ukraine via American bases, which the White House viewed as too potentially escalatory.

Similarly, when Jarosław Kaczyński – a Polish politician considered even more influential than President Duda – recently suggested that Nato deploy a peacekeeping force to Ukraine, Washington quickly and quietly swept the idea off the table.

This is Biden’s second day in Poland. After stopping in Brussels to announce a plan to curb Europe’s dependence on Russian energy, Biden arrived on Friday in Rzeszów, a Polish city about an hour’s drive from the Ukrainian border, where he spoke to American paratroopers and received a briefing on the humanitarian crisis. He is scheduled to meet Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw.

Against most evidence to the contrary, the Russian military recently declared it has achieved the first phase of its war aims in Ukraine; observers have interpreted that statement as a possible sign that Russia is looking for a way to wind down the war.

Updated

Western officials believe the Kremlin has lost eight high-level military officers since the invasion began; seven of whom have been killed. They are:

  • Maj Gen Andrey Mordvich: killed in action
  • Maj Gen Oleg Mityaev: killed in action
  • Lt Gen Yakov Rezanstev: killed in action
  • Maj Gen Vitaliy Gerasimov: killed in action
  • Maj Gen Andrei Sukhovetsky: killed in action
  • Maj Gen Andrey Kolesnikov: killed in action
  • Gen Magomed Tushaev: killed in action
  • Gen Vlaislav Yershov: sacked

Updated

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

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

Updated

The Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu attends a meeting on the military-industrial complex and Russian arms production
The Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, attends a meeting on the military-industrial complex and Russian arms production
Photograph: Russian Defence Ministry/AFP/Getty Images

The Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, has been seen chairing an army meeting and discussing weapons supplies in a video posted by his ministry, Reuters reports; the first time he had publicly been shown speaking for more than two weeks.

In the video, uploaded on social media, Shoigu said he had discussed issues related to the military budget and defence orders with the finance ministry. Shoigu, who is overseeing what Russia calls its special military operation in Ukraine, said:

We continue ahead-of-schedule delivery of weaponry and equipment by means of credits. The priorities are long-range high-precision weapons, aircraft equipment and maintenance of engagement readiness of strategic nuclear forces.

The meeting was attended by top Russian army officials; including the chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, who also had not been seen in public recently.

Shoigu appeared on screen in a video clip of a meeting between the president, Vladimir Putin, and his security council on Thursday, but was not shown speaking. Prior to that, he had not been seen in public since 11 March, fuelling speculation about his whereabouts, Reuters reports.

Updated

Kharkiv is facing perhaps the most intense Russian shelling campaign outside Mariupol. Civilians in Ukraine’s second largest city say they are being punished because troops held off Russian forces. Emma Graham-Harrison and Isobel Koshiw tell their stories:

Russians approach Chernobyl disaster site

Russian forces have taken control of the town of Slavutych, where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live, the governor of Kyiv region Oleksandr Pavlyuk has said.

According to Reuters, he said said Russian troops had occupied the hospital in Slavutych and kidnapped the mayor. The news agency said it could not independently verify the reports.

On Friday, Ukraine said its troops had repulsed a first attack by Russian troops closing in on the town.

The Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk holding a press conference in Kyiv earlier this month
The Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk holding a press conference in Kyiv earlier this month
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

An agreement has been reached on the establishment of 10 humanitarian corridors on Saturday to evacuate civilians from frontline towns and cities, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said.

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.

The Reuters news agency reported that it could not independently verify this information. Ukraine and Russia have traded blame when humanitarian corridors have failed to work in recent weeks.

Updated

Lubkivskyi said he believes Kyiv’s forces could seize back Kherson, the first major city the invading forces took control of.

I believe that today the city will be fully under the control of Ukrainian armed forces. We have finished in the last two days the operation in the Kyiv region so other armed forces are now focused on the southern part trying to get free Kherson and some other Ukrainian cities.

An adviser to the Ukrainian defence minister remains sceptical over the Kremlin’s claims but has said the invading forces do appear focused on the east of the nation now. Markian Lubkivskyi has told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

We cannot believe the statements from Moscow because there’s still a lot of untruth and lies from that side. That’s why we understand the goal of (Vladimir) Putin still is the whole of Ukraine.

And the last information we got from the ground, a lot of attacks from the air from Ukrainian cities. That’s why I can’t say the information coming from Moscow is correct, because we see a difference.

We can see now that the enemy is focused on the eastern part of Ukraine but we are ready for any kind of attacks in different Ukrainian places.

In the UK, a government minister has warned that Moscow’s claims should be treated sceptically after hints at a possible scaling back of the conflict. Representing the UK government, the policing minister Kit Maltouse told BBC Breakfast:

I’m not qualified to say, but what I do know is there’s an awful lot of misinformation and disinformation flying around in this awful conflict. And we need to take care that what first appears may not in fact be the truth. Let’s hope there may well be a cessation of hostilities as soon as possible.

He said refugees have arrived in the UK through the homes for Ukraine scheme, but said the number would not be published until “next week”. He said 20,100 visas had been granted through the extended family route, with another 35,000 “in the process”.

The government has been heavily criticised for its reluctance to take in Ukrainians seeking refuge and for placing much of the burden of dealing with the issue on individuals.

Updated

Summary

It’s now 10.10 am in Ukraine. Here is a recap of where the crisis now stands:

  • Joe Biden will argue that the “free world” is united in its efforts to support the Ukrainian people, in a speech to be delivered on Saturday during his visit to Poland. Biden will also talk of efforts to hold Russia accountable “for its brutal war” and defend “a future that is rooted in democratic principles”, the White House said in a statement.
  • In a video address on Friday night, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said his country’s forces had “dealt powerful blows” to Russian troops, adding that their success in repelling attacks was leading the Russian leadership “to a simple and logical idea: talk is necessary.” He reiterated Ukraine’s terms, including sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  • Earlier, Russia’s defence ministry said the first phase of its military operation was “generally” complete, and that its forces would focus on the “liberation” of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. The comments prompted speculation that Russia is scaling back its ambitions.
  • Russia also said 1,351 of its soldiers have died in combat. Zelenskiy has claimed at least 16,000 Russians have been killed.
  • The UK’s ministry of defence warned on Saturday morning that it appeared likely Russia “will continue to use its heavy firepower on urban areas as it looks to limit its own already considerable losses, at the cost of further civilian casualties.” Russia continues to besiege a number of major Ukrainian cities including Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol, it said.
  • According to a briefing by a US official on Friday, Russia does not at the moment appear to be pursuing a ground offensive towards Kyiv. The official added: “They are digging in, they are establishing defensive positions, they don’t show any signs of being willing to move on Kyiv from the ground.” Airstrikes on Kyiv, however, were ongoing.
  • The immense human cost of the war has continued to mount. The Russian invasion has killed 136 children so far, while a further 199 children have been injured, according to an update posted on Facebook on Saturday by the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office. It is not possible to verify these figures. The UN rights office on Friday said that it had confirmed 1,081 civilian deaths and 1,707 injuries.

I’m now handing over to my colleague in London, Kevin Rawlinson.

Updated

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has called on energy producing countries to increase output so that Russia cannot use its oil and gas wealth to “blackmail” other nations, reports Reuters.

Addressing the Doha Forum international conference via video link on Saturday, Zelenskiy said no country is insured against shocks from disruptions to food supply happening because of Russia’s invasion of his country.

Updated

Russian ex-president and deputy head of the security council Dmitry Medvedev has said western sanctions against Russian businesses will not influence Moscow or prompt popular discontent.

Reuters has published a summary of his comments, which were made in an interview with Russia’s RIA news agency:

The west has imposed an array of sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, but one month into the war, the Kremlin says it will continue the assault until it accomplishes its goals of Ukraine’s “demilitarisation and denazification”.

“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.”

Medvedev said there are several grounds under which Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons, including an attack on the country or encroachment on infrastructure as a result of which Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces would be paralysed.

That demonstrated Russia’s “determination to defend the independence, sovereignty of our country, not to give anyone a reason to doubt even the slightest that we are ready to give a worthy response to any infringement on our country, on its independence,” he said.

However, negotiations – even in the most difficult situations such as those around Ukraine – are Moscow’s preferred path to proceed, he added.

Medvedev said opinion polls showed three-quarters of Russians supported the Kremlin’s decision to carry out a military operation in Ukraine and even more supported the president, Vladimir Putin.

While downplaying the economic impact of sanctions, Medvedev said the Russian government would have to find “adequate solutions” on its own to spur the development of the aircraft, automotive and IT industries, among others.

Updated

The UK ministry of defence has posted its latest intelligence update, warning that Russia is likely to continue to use heavy firepower on urban areas “as it looks to limit its own already considerable losses”.

Here is the MoD’s latest analysis:

  • Russia continues to besiege a number of major Ukrainian cities including Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol.
  • Russian forces are proving reluctant to engage in large-scale urban infantry operations, rather preferring to rely on the indiscriminate use of air and artillery bombardments in an attempt to demoralise defending forces.
  • It is likely Russia will continue to use its heavy firepower on urban areas as it looks to limit its own already considerable losses, at the cost of further civilian casualties.

Updated

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has killed 136 children, says Ukraine’s prosecutor general

The war in Ukraine has killed 136 children so far, while a further 199 children have been injured, according to an update posted on Facebook by the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office. It is not possible to verify these figures.

On Friday, the UN rights office said that it had confirmed 1,081 civilian deaths and 1,707 injuries in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion.

Updated

Ukraine’s defence ministry has said its forces have continued to defend the capital, Kyiv, against Russian attacks, and claimed Russian troops were struggling to “maintain the necessary pace of combat and achieve the ultimate goal of the war”.

In a statement, the ministry said Russian forces were facing challenges in replacing personnel and supplies, due partly to international sanctions. Russian equipment was in a poor condition after being kept in long-term storage, it said.

Airstrikes by Russian forces had continued, however, the ministry added.

In the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, it claimed Ukrainian forces had destroyed eight Russian tanks, as well as shooting down three planes and three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

These claims have not been verified.

Updated

Ukraine has ‘dealt powerful blows’ to Russian forces – Zelenskiy

In a video address on Friday night, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said there must be serious conversations to end the war.

He reiterated Ukraine’s terms, including sovereignty and territorial integrity, and underlined that conditions should be “fair”.

Zelenskiy thanked Ukrainians who have fought against the Russian invasion, stating: “Over the past week, our heroic armed forces have dealt powerful blows to the enemy, significant losses.” He said more than 16,000 Russians have been killed, including commanders. Russia says 1,351 soldiers have died in combat.

“The armed forces continue to repel enemy attacks, in the south of the country, in Donbas, in the Kharkiv direction and in the Kyiv region,” Zelenskiy said. “By restraining Russia’s actions, our defenders are leading the Russian leadership to a simple and logical idea: talk is necessary. Meaningful, urgent, fair.”

 

Updated

Biden to argue the ‘free world’ is united in support of Ukraine during Poland speech

The US president, Joe Biden, will say that the “free world” opposes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and that there is unity among major economies on the need to stop Vladimir Putin during a speech in Poland on Saturday, reports Reuters.

Biden will meet with the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, on Saturday, following three days of meetings with allies of the G7, European council and Nato.

Reuters has further detail:

Biden, who took office last year after a violently contested election, vowed to restore democracy at home and unite democracies abroad to confront autocrats including the Russian president and China’s leader, Xi Jinping.

Putin’s 24 February invasion of Ukraine, which Russia calls a “special operation”, has tested that promise and threatened to inaugurate a new cold war three decades after the Soviet Union unravelled.

In what US officials were billing as a major address in Poland, Biden “will deliver remarks on the united efforts of the free world to support the people of Ukraine, hold Russia accountable for its brutal war and defend a future that is rooted in democratic principles”, the White House said in a statement.

Biden and Duda will also meet privately to discuss security matters, including questions over how to arm Ukraine.

Updated

Here are some images from the past 24 hours in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

In Kharkiv, residents have faced continued Russian shelling, including of civilian buildings, according to the local authorities. On Friday, a video appeared to show civilians shelled while receiving humanitarian aid in the city.

Volunteers help an elderly woman to go downstairs to a bomb shelter in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Friday, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Volunteers help an elderly woman to go downstairs to a bomb shelter in Kharkiv on Friday.
Photograph: Efrem Lukatsky/AP
People sit inside a subway car, parked in a station being used as a bomb shelter, as Russian attacks continue in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Friday, March 25, 2022.
People sit inside a subway car, parked in a station being used as a bomb shelter.
Photograph: Felipe Dana/AP

US officials said on Friday Russian forces appear to have halted their ground offensive aimed at capturing the capital, Kyiv, and were focused on gaining control of the Donbas region in the south-east.

Photographs captured by Associated Press show damaged buildings, including an Orthodox Church, at Yasnohorodka, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv. The Ukrainian army stopped the advance of the Russian army in the area, according to AP.

Damage is seen inside a Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Yasnohorodka, a rural town where the Ukrainian army stopped the advance of the Russian army, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/ (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Rubble inside a damaged Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Yasnohorodka.
Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP
A member of the Ukraine territorial defense unit prepares to go to the front line in Yasnohorodka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/ (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A member of a Ukrainian territorial defence unit prepares to go to the frontline in Yasnohorodka.
Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Some 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion a month ago, according to the UN.

A child refugee fleeing the war from neighboring Ukraine with her family reacts as she sits in a bus after crossing the border by ferry at the Isaccea-Orlivka border crossing, in Romania, Friday, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
A Ukrainian child smiles from a bus after crossing the Romanian border by ferry.
Photograph: Andreea Alexandru/AP

Updated

Joe Biden will spend a second day in Poland on Saturday, where he will meet with the president, Andrzej Duda, and give a speech on Russia’s invasion.

On Friday, a senior US defence official briefed reporters in Warsaw on the state of the war. Here’s a recap of the key points:

  • The US has observed more than 1,250 missile launches since the start of the invasion.
  • It appears that the Russians are at the moment not pursuing a ground offensive towards Kyiv, but “they are digging in, they are establishing defensive positions, they don’t show any signs of being willing to move on Kyiv from the ground”.
  • The US is still observing airstrikes on Kyiv, but nothing on the ground “in keeping with our assessment of a couple of days ago that they are going to prioritise the eastern part of the country”.
  • “We’re seeing the Ukrainians really go now on the offence around Kyiv. That includes to the west of it … The Russians are in a defensive position around Kyiv on the ground.”
  • Asked if the US has seen indications that Vladimir Putin has become more reckless in his tactics as Russia has not achieved its goals, the senior official said: “You can see for yourself how they have tried to make up for the fact that they haven’t been able to move well on the ground by the increasing use of airstrikes and missile strikes and artillery strikes on population centres.”

You can read the full remarks from the background briefing here.

Updated

On Friday, Russia’s defence ministry said the first phase of its military operation was “generally” complete, and that its forces would focus on the “liberation” of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Has President Vladimir Putin scaled back his ambitions in Ukraine? He has previously stated his aim was to “denazify” the government and “liberate” the Donbas.

Associated Press has the following analysis:

The dug-in defensive positions taken recently by some Russian forces near Kyiv indicate a recognition of the surprisingly stout Ukrainian resistance.

On the other hand, Russian forces might be aiming to continue the war with a narrower focus, not necessarily as an endgame but as a way of regrouping from early failures and using the Donbas as a new starting point, one US analyst said.

AP writes that Russian forces are under great pressure in many areas of the country, and that US and others are accelerating their transfer of arms and supplies to Ukraine.

A month of fighting has left Russian forces stalled in much of the country, including on their paths toward Kyiv. A senior US defence official said Russian ground forces in the past few days have shown little interest in moving on Kyiv, though they are keeping up airstrikes on the capital.

“At least for the moment, they don’t appear to want to pursue Kyiv as aggressively, or frankly at all. They are focused on the Donbas,” the official said.

Updated

Hello, it’s Rebecca Ratcliffe with you as we continue our live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

It’s now 6am in Kyiv. Here is a summary of how the crisis currently stands:

  • In a video address late on Friday night, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, reiterated the need for peace talks and said his country’s forces had delivered “powerful blows” to Russia. “By restraining Russia’s actions, our defenders are leading the Russian leadership to a simple and logical idea: talk is necessary. Meaningful, urgent, fair,” he said, adding Ukraine would not give up territory.
  • The Russian defence ministry earlier said the first phase of its military operation was “generally” complete, saying the country will focus on the “liberation” of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. The comments appeared to suggest a downgrading of its objectives.
  • Joe Biden is visiting Poland, in a show of support for eastern European states. He will meet with the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, on Saturday, as well as with Ukrainian refugees and the Warsaw mayor, Rafał Trzaskowski, to discuss relief efforts. Poland has received more than 2.2 million refugees from Ukraine.
  • The immense human toll of the war continues to escalate. The UN said a confirmed 1,081 civilians had died and 1,707 had been injured, with the real toll expected to be significantly higher.
  • Authorities in Mariupol have said as many as 300 people were killed in a Russian bombing of a theatre last week, putting a death toll for the first time on the deadliest single attack since Moscow launched its invasion.
  • Putin on Friday signed into law a bill introducing jail terms of up to 15 years for publishing “fake” information about any of Russia’s actions abroad. On Friday, he also claimed the west was supposedly discriminating against Russian culture, comparing the treatment of Russian cultural figures to that of the “cancelled” Harry Potter author JK Rowling.

Updated

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