Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 26

Russian forces are pressing ahead with their military operation in Ukraine to counter what they call a “threat” to their national security from the pro-West Ukrainian government. Kiev and Russia’s Western adversaries call the operations an “invasion”. The situation is fluid in Ukraine right now with both sides claiming victories on the battlefield. Iran Front Page brings you the latest developments on the ground live as they unfold in Ukraine.

Zelensky says any compromises with Russia will require a referendum

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said any compromises agreed with Russia to end the war would need to be voted on by Ukrainians in a referendum.

“The people will have to speak up and respond to this or that form of compromise. And what they (the compromises) will be is the subject of our talks and understanding between Ukraine and Russia,” he stated in an interview published by public broadcasting company Suspilne.

Contentious issues may include territories occupied by Russian forces, including Crimea, or security guarantees offered to Ukraine by countries in lieu of NATO membership, he added.

Biden tells US businesses to ‘harden’ defences against Russian cyber threat

President Joe Biden has asked US businesses to “immediately” strengthen their defences against potential cyber attacks from the Russian state.

In a statement, Biden said: “If you have not already done so, I urge our private sector partners to harden your cyber defences immediately.”

Biden cited “evolving intelligence that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyber attacks”.

US ambassador demands Moscow consular access

The US ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, used a meeting with the Russian government to demand that Moscow abide by international law and called for guaranteed consular access to US citizens detained in Russia.

State department spokesman Ned Price told reporters it was “completely unacceptable” that the US has been denied consular access to detained American citizens in Russia.

Western leaders agree to remain united on Ukraine

The leaders of the US, UK, Germany, France and Italy spoke to each other via telephone on Monday, where they agreed on the importance of remaining united over Ukraine.

The White House said President Joe Biden hosted the call, which lasted just under one hour, with his fellow leaders to “discuss their coordinated responses to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine”.

A statement from the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office announced: “The leaders reaffirmed the importance of the unity of purpose and action shown in the face of the war in Ukraine and its repercussions.

“In the face of the grave humanitarian emergency, the leaders pledged to coordinate efforts to help the Ukrainian population fleeing the conflict or those stranded at home,” the statement added.

US, EU allies to coordinate on China in NATO, G7 meetings

The United States and its allies will discuss Beijing’s position vis-a-vis Russia at an extraordinary NATO summit, meeting of the Group of Seven economies, and a European Council summit on Thursday.

“During his visit to Brussels, President Joe Biden will coordinate with our EU partners on all aspects of our response to President Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine, and this includes the concerns we share with the EU if China provides material support to Russia,” a senior Biden administration official said.

European nations and the United States have been trying to convince Chinese officials not to back Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and to push Putin for a cease fire.

EU agrees 5,000-strong response force in defence push

The European Union has approved a new defence strategy designed to increase the bloc’s capacity to act, including setting up a 5,000-strong rapid reaction force.

“It’s not the answer to the Ukrainian war, but it is part of the answer,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said at a meeting of the bloc’s foreign and defence ministers.

The plan had been in the pipeline for two years but underwent a last-minute rewrite to increase the focus on the threat from Russia after Moscow invaded Ukraine.

EU foreign ministers have also reached an agreement Monday to double the bloc’s military aid to Ukraine, reaching a total of €1 billion ($1.1 billion).

Red Cross: One in three Ukrainians will require humanitarian assistance

One-third of the Ukrainian population will require humanitarian assistance, Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has stated.

An estimated 18 million people are expected to be in need of assistance in the coming days and weeks.

“The devastating reality of Ukraine is that the needs are growing every day. Amidst increased violence and a disrupted supply chain, delivering essential goods in many parts of the country is getting harder — not easier,” Rocca noted from the Romanian capital Bucharest.

Ukrainian official: 2 children in critical condition as families fleeing Mariupol come under artillery fire

Two children are in a critical condition after cars carrying families came under artillery fire on the road between Mariupol and Zaporizhzhia, a regional official in eastern Ukraine claimed.

Oleksander Starukh reported heavy shelling around the frontline separating Russian and Ukrainian forces Monday, in a statement on his Telegram channel.

Three children from Mariupol who had escaped the besieged city with their family came under fire as they were traveling through Polohivsky district, Starukh said, leaving one child in a critical condition.

A second child traveling with their family is also in a critical condition after their car came under fire in the village of Kamianske.

Shelling in Ukraine kills 21 rescue workers and injures 47

Twenty-one Ukrainian rescue workers have been killed and 47 have been injured so far due to shelling by Russian troops, said the deputy head of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, Roman Prymush, during a news briefing with Ukrinform on Monday.

“According to the Geneva Convention, shelling or other threats to rescuers at the time of rescue operations are considered a war crime. We record all these cases, the materials on each of them are transferred to the relevant bodies, which will provide a legal assessment of such actions, will identify the perpetrators involved,” Prymush stated.

He noted that the detention of rescuers by Russian forces is also a violation of the Geneva Convention.

Prymush added it will be the subject of proceedings in international courts, which are already underway.

Zelensky: Ukraine will not accept Russian ultimatums to end war

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Ukraine will never bow to ultimatums from Russia, and cities such as Kyiv, Mariupol and Kharkiv will never accept Russian occupation.

Speaking during an interview with the Ukrainian broadcaster Suspilne, Zelensky stated: “We have an ultimatum with points in it. ‘Follow it and then we will end the war’. Ukraine cannot fulfil the ultimatum.”

Russia’s largest airport turns to furlough and job freezes as sanctions hit

Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, the largest in Russia, announced that it has furloughed a fifth of its staff and frozen new recruitment as passenger traffic plummeted as a result of Western sanctions.

“From March 16, some employees of Sheremetyevo International Airport were furloughed,” it said, adding that affected staff would be paid two-thirds of their wages.

The airport closed two of its five passenger terminals on March 15 and has taken one of its runways out of service, citing “enforced restrictions on international air transport”.

The company has also temporarily frozen all its investment projects.

Privately-owned Ural Airlines, one of Russia’s largest carriers, also announced last week that it had been forced to furlough some of its staff.

US: Russians beginning to have “inventory issues” with precision missiles

Russian forces are beginning to have “inventory issues with precision-guided munitions,” a senior US defense official told reporters on Monday.

Precision-guided munitions refer to missiles that target a specific location, as opposed to “dumb bombs,” which do not have the technology to focus on a specific target.

The inventory issues around their precision-guided munitions supply are why “you’re seeing the increasing use of what we would call dumb bombs,” the official added.

Some of their precision-guided munitions are “failing to launch, or they’re failing to hit the target, or they’re failing to explode on contact,” the official said.

They have used “quite a bit” of their “cruise missile, air launch cruise missile” supplies and have seen a significant “number of failures” of those munitions, the official added.

Ukraine FM calls Russian troops ‘war criminals’ after Kherson protests

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has responded to reports of a crowd of peaceful protesters being shot at in the seized southern city of Kherson by calling Russian servicemen “war criminals” in a Twitter post.

US President Joe Biden had refrained from using the term, which has legal implication, until last week.

Civilians rallied in Kherson despite pressure from the Russian occupiers who took over the city on March 3.

Report: US sending secretly acquired soviet air defence systems to Ukraine

The United States is sending secretly acquired Soviet air defence equipment to Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The report said, citing US officials, that the Soviet air defence equipment includes SA-8, which the United States acquired so it could examine Soviet technology at the time.

The US Department of Defence declined to comment on the matter, the report added.

Russia refuses to discuss peace treaty with Japan

Moscow is refusing to continue negotiations on peace treaty with Japan over Tokyo’s sanctions against Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Monday.

Moscow explains missile strike on Kiev mall

The Russian Defense Ministry has released a video, claiming it shows Ukrainian rocket artillery using civilian buildings as cover before hiding inside a Kiev shopping mall.

The site was destroyed overnight in a missile strike, which the Ukrainian authorities described as an indiscriminate bombing of a civilian target.

“On March 21 during the night, a high-precision long-distance weapon was used to destroy a battery of Ukrainian multiple rocket launcher artillery and the base where they stored ammunition, in a defunct shopping center,” Major-General Igor Konashenkov told reporters.

The Russian military spokesman added that Ukrainian troops had been using the Vinogradar neighborhood as a base of operations, showing surveillance footage to that effect.

Ukrainian DM accuses Russia of ‘state terrorism’

Russia is conducting “state terrorism” in Ukraine and will go on to attack other countries, Ukraine’s defence minister said.

Speaking alongside British Defence Minister Ben Wallace during a visit to London, Oleksii Reznikov stated 150 Ukrainian children had been killed since Russia invaded, with more than 400 schools and kindergartens and more than 110 hospitals destroyed.

“This is a state terrorism. That is why (the) Kremlin must be stopped, because it will go further. It will attack other countries,” Reznikov added.

Russia denies targeting civilians.

UK: It’s time for Putin to admit invasion of Ukraine was wrong

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has called on Vladimir Putin to “admit he has been wrong” about his invasion of Ukraine and said it was time for the Russian president to “leave Ukraine and to help Ukraine get back to normal”.

Wallace, speaking at a press conference with the Ukrainian minister of defence Oleksii Reznikov at the Ministry of Defence in London, stated: “President Putin assumed that Ukrainians would welcome him as a liberator; he was wrong.”

“He assumed that his army was invincible; he was wrong,” he stated, adding, “And he assumed that the international community would not stand strong together; he was wrong.”

“It’s time now for President Putin to admit he has been wrong, put right the wrongs he has done to the people of Ukraine, leave Ukraine and to help Ukraine get back to normal,” he continued.

Wallace noted that Putin’s “illegal” invasion of Ukraine has left the Ukrainian people “suffering horribly” at the hands of the Russian military, who have targeted civilians and infrastructure.

Senior NATO official: Neither side backing down in conflict

A senior NATO intelligence official said on Monday that signs are pointing to a stalemate emerging in Russia’s war on Ukraine, with Russian ground forces remaining stalled and Russian combat aircraft unable to achieve air superiority over Ukraine.

“If we are not in a stalemate already, we are rapidly approaching one,” the official told reporters during a briefing at NATO headquarters.

“And it’s quite a thing to say when you consider the disparity in strength when this fight began,” the official continued.

“You don’t get to this point if you didn’t make a series of mistakes,” the official added.

The official noted a stalemate is particularly dangerous, however, given how Russia has resorted to using less precise, more brutal weaponry against civilian targets since its campaign stalled.

“Will Ukrainians give up? No. And they have been very clear they will not give up,” the official stated.

“So what happens when you have these two forces running on each other in this way?” the official asked.

Russia is not backing down either, despite their losses, the official said.

In the last few days Russian forces have continued to assemble reinforcements and attempt to improve the logistical support in both Kyiv and the southern operational directions, the official noted.

The Belarusian government, meanwhile, is “preparing the environment to justify a Belarussian offensive against Ukraine,” the official added.

Ukrainian officials have been warning publicly that Belarus might join the war.

It remains NATO’s assessment that Russia’s top goal is still to capture the Ukrainian capital and force a change of government there, as well as force Ukraine to adopt a neutral position with NATO and demilitarize.

“I don’t think [Putin] has backed off any of his goals,” the official stated.

Russia bans Facebook and Instagram

A Moscow court on Monday banned Facebook and Instagram in Russia as extremist organizations, after the platforms, owned by US-tech giant Meta, allowed online hate speech against the country’s nationals.

The judge had rejected a request by Meta’s lawyers to stop or delay the proceedings against the social media giant.

Russian troops open fire at protesters in Kherson

Russian forces have fired on a crowd of protesters in Kherson, wounding several people, according to local media reports.

Footage posted on social media appeared to show demonstrators gathering in the southern Ukrainian city’s main square.

The sound of automatic gunfire could be heard and people were seen running.

Ukraine calls on China to play ‘important role’ in ending war

Ukraine has called on China to play an “important role” in resolving the war with Russia.

“We share Beijing’s position on the need to find a political solution to the war against Ukraine and call on China as a global power to play an important role in this effort,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.

He added that Ukrainian-Chinese relations have been “based on mutual respect, understanding and benefit” for “decades”, and urged Xi Jinping’s government to “find a political solution” to the conflict.

US sees increased Russian naval activity in northern Black Sea

The US has seen increased Russian naval activity in the northern Black Sea, according to a senior US defense official.

The official said that the US believes some of the shelling around the Ukrainian city of Odesa has been coming from these warships, but that there is still not an indication of an imminent amphibious assault against Odesa.

Russia has more than a dozen warships in the northern Black Sea, including amphibious ships, surface combatants, a minesweeper, and patrol boats, the official added.

Ukrainian defence minister accuses Moscow of lying about troop death toll

The number of Russian troops killed in Ukraine far exceeds the Kremlin’s official death toll, Ukraine’s defence minister has claimed.

“The Kremlin no longer knows how to explain the things that are happening,” Ihor Reznikov wrote on Facebook.

“After all, these days, they buried more soldiers in the regions of Russia than they officially acknowledged their losses. Lies no longer help them, but the truth scares,” he added.

Kyiv says at least 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed during Russia’s incursion, a number that dwarfs the toll of 498 provided by Moscow on March 2 – the only time it has provided figures for its losses to date.

Moscow: Biden’s remarks about Putin put US-Russia ties on verge of being severed

The Russian Foreign Ministry handed a note of protest to the US Ambassador John Sullivan on Monday over Joe Biden’s comments about Vladimir Putin – remarks that, according to Moscow, put the relations between the Kremlin and the White House on the verge of being severed.

The US president earlier called his Russian counterpart a “war criminal”.

The ministry slammed the remark as “unacceptable” and “unworthy of a statesman of such high rank”, warning Washington that further unfriendly actions would receive a harsh and decisive response.

Additionally, the foreign ministry said that the issue of Russian diplomatic missions’ work in the US has been raised with the American ambassador.

“During the discussion of bilateral issues, the Ambassador was acutely confronted with the issue of ensuring normal working conditions for Russian diplomatic missions in the United States, including guarantees for their uninterrupted functioning”, the Russian Foreign Ministry added.

At least 925 civilians killed in Ukraine

The UN’s human rights office (OHCHR) says it has confirmed at least 925 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia began its invasion on February 24, but warned the true toll is likely to be “considerably higher”.

Another 1,496 civilians have been injured as of midnight on Sunday amid Russia’s onslaught, according to OHCHR’s figures.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” the organisation announced in a statement.

“OHCHR believes that the actual figures are considerably higher, especially in Government-controlled territory and especially in recent days, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration,” it added, citing several areas, including Mariupol.

Ukraine says all of its ports remain closed to ship traffic

All Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea and Azov Sea remain temporarily closed to ships seeking to enter or exit, according to Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry.

Ukraine’s military suspended commercial shipping at the country’s ports soon after Russia launched its invasion on February 24, stoking fear of supply disruptions.

EU will ramp up financial support for military supplies for Ukraine

The European Union will increase financial aid and delivery of weapons to Ukraine, German Finance Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Monday ahead of a special Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

“We will increase financial means for the purchase of military goods to 1 billion euros, in order to make clear, we stand with full solidarity on Ukraine’s side, we stand for the protection of the civil population in Ukraine,” Baerbock told journalists.

Germany will also ensure that weapons sales from German producers will be carried out as quickly as possible.

“Ukraine needs further weapons,” she stated, without providing any further details due to security concerns.

“This is about life and death, we are in the middle of a war and therefore absolute caution is needed about stating which weapons are to be delivered and where,” Baerbock added.

“We are experiencing the Russian government continuing to escalate its rhetoric with regard to nuclear weapons as well as NATO territory,” she continued.

Baerbock also pointed out that the alliance must prevent the war spreading to other countries. “We have a responsibility towards Ukrainians, but we also have a responsibility towards 450 million Europeans and those that are NATO members,” she added,noting, “We cannot take the responsibility that there will be more acts of war in other countries.”

“We work on consequently closing sanction loopholes,” she said.

“Those who benefit from this war“ must be sanctioned, including their family members, Baerbock stated.

Zelensky appeals to Germany to help save Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made an appeal to Germany to save the capital city of Kyiv, in a televised address to the nation on Monday.

Kyiv, used to be called a “new Berlin,” similar in its spirit of “openness, emotion, freedom in the squares, sincerity of the people, clubs and parties,” Zelensky said.

“Now Kyiv is closed. It is silent in anticipation of a new air raid siren that will force people into shelters,” he continued.

Zelensky played a 20-second clip of an air raid siren, calling it a sound Ukrainians have been hearing “for hours, days and weeks.”

“The sound of the siren is something Ukrainians live with, work with and try to sleep. They treat their wounds; they give birth to babies and die,” he added.

Both Europe and Germans specifically “have the power” to place pressure on Russia, Zelensky said, adding that without “your trade, your companies and banks Russia will not have the money to fund this war.”

He reiterated calls from Ukraine to close European ports to Russia, relinquish Russian energy sources and cut off the supply of goods to Russia.

“I am sure that peace is possible. But you must act to reach it. Each of you in Germany, in Europe. So that Kyiv could be called a new Berlin again, so that our streets and our squares are as safe as yours,” Zelensky noted.

WHO: 6 additional attacks occurred on Ukrainian health care facilities

The World Health Organization has reported six additional attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine on Sunday.

On Twitter, the WHO said there have now been 52 verified attacks on health care in the past 25 days since Russia invaded Ukraine.

“This is unacceptable,” it tweeted, adding, “Health care must always be protected.”

Ukraine state nuclear company unable to monitor radiation levels around Chernobyl

Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom warned on Monday that radiation levels around the occupied Chernobyl nuclear plant risked rising because its radiation monitoring system and forest fire-fighting service were not working.

Soon after launching an invasion on February 24, Russian forces took control of the territory around the now-defunct power plant that was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986.

As a result, the system monitoring radiation levels in the 30-km (19-mile) so-called exclusion zone in the forests around the plant is currently not working, Energoatom said in a statement.

“There is no data on the current state of radiation pollution of the exclusion zone’s environment, which makes it impossible to adequately respond to threats,” it added.

UN: Nearly 3.5 million Ukrainians flee country

Nearly 3.5 million Ukrainians have now fled the country following Russia’s invasion, the United Nations said Monday, praising neighbouring countries for showing overwhelming compassion towards their “extreme plight”.

More than 10 million people – over a quarter of the population in regions under government control – are now thought to have fled their homes, including the millions of internally displaced people.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, announced 3,489,644 Ukrainians had fled the country since Russia invaded on February 24 – a figure up 100,600 on Sunday’s update.

Ukraine claims Russia has lost 15,000 personnel

Russia has lost 15,000 personnel and 1535 armoured vehicles, Ukraine’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs has claimed.

Russia cites previous warning as Ukrainian radicals in Sumy stage chemical false flag

Ukrainian nationalists in the city of Sumy last night staged a chemical false flag that Russia had warned about previously, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Monday.

In the city of Sumy, the Ukrainian nationalists staged a pre-planned provocation the Russian Defense Ministry warned of beforehand several days ago. According to the Sumy regional administration there was a leak of ammonia from the Sumykhimprom chemical plant. The leak posed no risk to the city’s residents, because the air masses were moving away from the city, Konashenkov added.

He recalled that back on March 19 the Russian Defense Ministry warned the Ukrainian nationalists had planted mines at the chemical plant with the aim of staging a provocation and accusing Russia of an alleged use of chemical weapons.

“The Russian army has not planned or delivered any strikes against Ukrainian facilities that manufacture or keep in store poisonous chemicals. The locations of all such facilities and information of poisonous substances in Ukrainian territory were obtained when the Russian army seized combat documents of the Ukrainian national guard’s 4th brigade,” he said, adding that Kiev’s nationalist regime would be directly responsible for any likely incidents involving Ukrainian warehouses of poisonous chemicals.

British PM considers surprise Kiev visit

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to make a “lightning” visit to Kiev, even though his own security services are “having kittens” over the proposed stunt, the Daily Mail reported on Monday, citing a Whitehall source.

Johnson has publicly expressed his desire to support the Ukrainian leader in any way possible. His government, however, is skeptical that meeting him in person in Kiev would be advisable at this moment, according to the report.

“If you set aside the security concerns, which are considerable, the question is whether there is anything additional you could achieve by visiting in person, or whether it would just be a show of solidarity, and whether that is a sufficient goal in itself,” the source was quoted as saying.

Ukraine’s Odesa accuses Russia of attacking city outskirts for the first time

Authorities in Odesa accused Russian forces of carrying out a strike on residential buildings in the outskirts of the Ukrainian city early on Monday, the first such attack on the Black Sea port city.

The city council announced there were no casualties although the strike caused a fire.

“These are residential buildings where peaceful people live,” Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov was quoted as saying.

Russia denies targeting civilians.

Kyiv mayor announces curfew from Monday evening to Wednesday morning

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has announced a “reinforced curfew” in the Ukrainian capital from 8pm local time today (18:00 GMT) until 7am (05:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

Klitschko said shops, pharmacies and petrol stations would not open on Tuesday.

“I ask everyone to stay at home – or in shelters when the alarm sounds,” he added.

Zelensky calls on Europe to halt all trade with Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on European leaders on Monday to cease all trade with Russia in an effort to pressure Moscow to halt its nearly month-long military assault on his country.

“Please do not sponsor the weapons of war of this country, of Russia. No euros for the occupiers. Close all of your ports to them. Don’t export them your goods. Deny energy resources. Push for Russia to leave Ukraine,” Zelensky stated in a video address.

EU sees high risk of child trafficking as 3.3 million Ukrainians flee to Europe

The European Union’s migration commissioner warned on Monday that Ukrainian children were in danger of being trafficked they flee their country from the Russian invasion.

Ylva Johansson told a news conference in Estonia that about half of 3.3 million Ukrainians who had fled to EU countries since the start of the war were children.

Ukraine has a high number of orphans and children born through surrogate mothers who had not been picked up by their parents. That increased the risk that they could be abducted or become victims of forced adoptions, she said.

“There is a huge risk of vulnerable children being trafficked,” she added.

Kremlin on possible Putin-Zelensky meeting: Leaders have nothing to iron out yet

“So far, no significant progress has been made. So far, [it is early] to talk about the meeting of the two presidents, they will simply have nothing to iron out. There are no agreements that they can commit to,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

Every actor in the world should now use their influence on Kiev to make it more willing to reach agreements, the spokesman added.

“Actually, the choice of a place for some such hypothetical meeting is a secondary issue, although we are certainly grateful to all those countries that declare their desire to help such a negotiation process,” he noted.

Moscow will not put on pause its military action against Ukraine while conducting peace talks with Kiev, Peskov continued.

At least eight people killed in Russian attack on Kyiv shopping center

At least eight people have been killed in a Russian attack on a shopping center in the Podilskyi district of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, according to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General.

A shopping center and cars in an adjacent parking lot caught fire following Russian shelling in Kyiv’s Podilskyi district, Ukraine State Emergency Service said late Sunday, adding that 63 firefighters worked to extinguish the flames that had reached as high as the third and fourth floors of the shopping center.

“As a consequence of the enemy missile strike and the resulting fire, a shopping mall was destroyed, windows in the nearby residential buildings and the vehicles parked in the vicinity were damaged,” the Prosecutor General stated in a post in its Telegram channel.

The Prosecutor General suggested the number of fatalities could rise, adding that the number of the dead was based on preliminary information.

EU: Putin committing ‘massive war crime’ in Mariupol

Russia’s attack on the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol is “a massive war crime”, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said at the start of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

“What’s happening now in Mariupol is a massive war crime, destroying everything, bombarding and killing everybody,” he added.

Mariupol has been shattered by bombardment and cut off from power, water and food deliveries for three weeks.

Kremlin says Russian oil embargo would hurt Europe

The Kremlin has warned the European Union it will be hit hard should it impose an embargo on Russian oil.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters such a move would harm the bloc’s energy balance.

Some European Union foreign ministers are pushing for an oil embargo as part of further sanctions against Russia, in an effort to punish Moscow over events in Ukraine.

EU foreign ministers to discuss sanctions on Russian oil sector

The European Union’s foreign policy chief has noted the bloc’s foreign ministers will discuss imposing more sanctions on Russia, including measures targetting the country’s oil sector, during talks later today.

“The ministers will discuss that,” Josep Borrell told reporters ahead of the meeting in Brussels, responding to a question whether measures against Russian oil exports would be talked about.

Ukraine: Situation in Mariupol ‘very difficult’

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister has described the situation in Mariupol as “very difficult” after Kyiv rejected a Russian ultimatum to surrender the city.

“Of course we rejected these proposals,” Iryna Vereshchuk stated, adding, “The situation there is very difficult.”

Moscow had offered to open humanitarian corridors for evacuations from Mariupol from 10am Moscow time (07:00 GMT) had the surrender proposal been accepted.

Russian military says it carried out cruise missile strikes against targets in Ukraine

Russian forces fired air-launched cruise missiles early Monday at what Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman, described as a Ukrainian military training center in Nova Lyubomyrka, in Ukraine’s northwestern Rivne oblast.

In a statement, Konashenkov claimed the strike inflicted dozens of casualties.

Separately, Konashenkov said cruise missiles also destroyed an ammunition depot and the headquarters of a mechanized brigade near the western village of Selets, without providing additional details.

Vitalii Koval, head of the Rivne regional administration, announced in a statement on Telegram that two Russian missiles struck the territory of a military training ground. He added that a special commission was investigating and details would be released later.

Russian forces have made a series of strikes in recent days employing cruise missiles and hypersonic missiles, launched from outside Ukrainian territory.

Moscow says it has not attacked any Ukrainian chemical industry facilities

Russian Defence Ministry says that Russia does not plan to and has not attacked any chemical industry facilities in Ukraine, according to the Interfax news agency.

France: Ukraine war could lead to global food crisis

The war between Ukraine and Russia, two of the world’s top crop producers, might lead to a food crisis “on the global” scale, according to French farming minister Julien Denormandie, who spoke ahead of an EU agriculture meeting.

EU ministers will discuss the food situation with their Ukrainian counterpart in a video call, he added.

UK: Russia likely to prioritize encircling Kyiv over the coming weeks

Russian forces are likely to prioritize attempting to encircle Kyiv over the coming weeks, the UK Ministry of Defence said in its latest intelligence update on Monday.

“Despite the continued lack of progress, Kyiv remains Russia’s primary military objective,” the ministry announced, and “heavy fight continues north of Kyiv.”

Russian forces advancing on the capital from the northeast have stalled, while forces advancing from the direction of Hostomel city to the northwest have been repulsed by “fierce Ukrainian resistance,” the ministry noted.

The bulk of Russian forces remain more than 15 miles (25 kilometers) from the center of the capital, the ministry added.

Russia’s Gazprom says it continues gas exports to Europe via Ukraine

Russian energy giant Gazprom has announced it was continuing to supply gas to Europe via Ukraine in line with requests from European consumers.

The company added the requests stood at 104.7 million cubic metres for March 21.

Oil jumps as EU mulls Russian ban, Saudi refinery output hit

Oil prices jumped $3 on Monday, with Brent above $110 a barrel, as European Union nations consider joining the United States in a Russian oil embargo, while a weekend attack on Saudi oil facilities caused jitters.

Brent crude futures climbed $3.44, or 3.2%, to $111.37 a barrel by 0443 GMT, adding to a 1.2% rise last Friday.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose $3.54, or 3.4%, to $108.24, extending a 1.7% jump last Friday.

EU prepares fifth package of sanctions against Russia

The European Union is developing a fifth package of sanctions against Russia due to the situation around Ukraine, Reuters reported on Monday referring to diplomatic sources in the EU.

“We are working on a fifth round of sanctions and many new names are being proposed,” a source said.

European Union governments will consider whether to impose an oil embargo on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine as they gather this week with US President Joe Biden for a series of summits designed to harden the West’s response to Moscow.

EU governments will take up the discussion among foreign ministers on Monday, before Biden arrives in Brussels on Thursday for summits with NATO’s 30 allies, as well as the EU and in a Group of Seven (G7) format including Japan.

Diplomats announced a Russian chemical weapons attack in Ukraine, or a heavy bombardment of the capital Kyiv, could be a trigger for an energy embargo.

Death toll from fire in Kyiv rises to four

Ukraine’s emergency services say at least four people have died in the fire in Kyiv’s Podilskyi district. One person was wounded, it added.

The blaze was caused by “enemy shelling,” it announced.

HRW: Invasion could worsen food crisis in ME & N. Africa

The Russian invasion of Ukraine could worsen the food crisis in the Middle East and North Africa, the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned in a statement Monday.

“Both Ukraine and Russia are leading exporters of agricultural products to many Middle Eastern and North African countries, and disruptions related to the war are already exacerbating already-rising food prices and deepening poverty,” the statement said.

“Global food chains demand global solidarity in times of crisis,” stated Lama Fakih, the executive Middle East and North Africa director at HRW.

“Without concerted action to address the supply and affordability of food, the conflict in Ukraine risks deepening the world’s food crisis, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa,” Fakih added.

The Ukrainian government banned exports on key agricultural goods, including wheat, corn, grains, salt and meat, according to a cabinet resolution that passed on March 9.

HRW announced even if the supply chain disruptions are resolved soon, the problems would likely continue “because farmers are fleeing the fighting and the conflict is destroying infrastructure and equipment.” The fighting could also diminish the coming harvest.

Washington: US can further broaden sanctions against Russia

In an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes, US Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh discussed how America has the ability to expand its sanctions against Russia, including reaching “the commanding heights of the Russian economy.”

“We can broaden our sanctions. Take the measures, take the sanctions we’ve already applied, apply them in more targets. Apply them to more sectors,” he said.

“More banks, more sectors that we haven’t touched,” he added.

Asked what that might entail, Singh said, “Well, the commanding heights of the Russian economy. It’s mostly about oil and gas, but there are other sectors too. I don’t wanna specify them, but I think (Russian President Vladimir) Putin would know what those are.”

Singh described the impact of sanctions from the US and allies on the Russian economy, saying they’ve prompted Putin to take “some desperate measures.”

“He’s self-isolating his economy. Russia is now on a fast track to a 1980’s-style Soviet living standard. It’s looking into an economic abyss and that is that is the result of Putin’s choices and I can see from his reaction, that’s where it’s headed,” Singh continued, adding, “This is Putin’s war. These are Putin sanctions and this is Putin’s hardship he’s putting on the Russian people.”

Ukraine calls Russia’s actions in Mariupol “a chapter from WWII”

Oleg Nikolenko, Ukraine Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, called Russia’s actions in Mariupol on Sunday “a chapter from WWII.”

“First they came to destroy the cities, bombing hospitals, theaters, schools, and shelters, killing civilians and children. Then they forcibly relocated the scared, exhausted people to the invader’s land. A chapter from WWII? No – the actions of the Russian army, today in Mariupol,” Nikolenko wrote.

The Mariupol City Council announced Saturday residents are being taken to Russia against their will by Russian forces. Russia denied the accusations Saturday.

According to the Russian state media outlet, RIA Novosti, Russian Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev stated nearly 60,000 residents of Mariupol have “found themselves in Russia in complete safety.”

Zelensky: Siege of Mariupol a ‘terror that will be remembered for centuries to come’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has noted Russia’s siege on the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol is a “terror that will be remembered for centuries.”

“To do this to a peaceful city… is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come,” Zelensky stated.

The Ukrainian leader has previously called Russia’s actions in Mariupol “war crimes.”

The Mariupol city government announced over the weekend that Russian forces “illegally took people” from a sports club where thousands were sheltering, mainly women and children.

Two villages in area affected by ammonia leak

Dmytro Zhyvytskyy, the governor of Sumy, says the villages of Novoselytsya and Verkhnya Syrovatka are within the area contaminated by an ammonia leak.

He added people within the affected area are recommended to take immediate shelter underground and if ammonia is detected, to breathe through gauze bandages soaked in citric acid.

Odesa reports increase in Russian drone sightings

A Ukrainian official in Odesa stated Russia has started “utilising unmanned aerial vehicles in urban areas of the region”.

But Maksym Marchenko, head of the Odesa Military Administration, noted that the “current situation in the region is quiet”.

Ukraine rejects Russia demand for Mariupol surrender

Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, has rejected a Russian call for Ukrainian forces in the besieged city of Mariupol to lay down their arms, saying “there can be no question of any surrender”.

In comments to Ukrainska Pravda, Vereshchuk stated the Russian forces were demanding a surrender before allowing the evacuation of civilians.

She described the demand as “real hostage-taking”.

Ammonia leak reported at chemicals plant in Sumy

A Ukrainian official is raising the alarm over an ammonia leak at a chemicals plant in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy besieged by Russian troops.

Dmytro Zhyvytskyy, the governor of Sumy, said the leak was reported at 04:30 local time (02:30 GMT) at the Sumykhimprom plant and that the area within a five-kilometre radius around the plant was hazardous.

He did not say what had caused the leak.

Later, Zhyvytskyy noted “there is no threat” to the city of Sumy from an ammonia leak at a nearby chemical plant because the wind is blowing away from the city.

He stated that the leak at the Sumykhimprom plant is contaminating an area with a radius of 2.5 km (1.5miles), and not five kilometers as previously thought.

The Sumykhimprom plant is on the eastern outskirts of the city, which has a population of about 263,000 and has been regularly shelled by Russian troops in recent weeks.

One person reported dead in Kyiv shelling

At least one person was killed in the shelling of residential houses and a shopping area in Kyiv’s Podil district, according to Mayor Vitali Klitschko.

He said rescue teams were putting out a large fire at the shopping centre.

IAEA calls for more Chernobyl staff to be rotated soon

About half of the staff who have been working at the radioactive waste facilities at Chernobyl since Russian forces seized it last month have been relieved by other Ukrainian staff, the UN nuclear watchdog announced.

“They were there for far too long. I sincerely hope that remaining staff from this shift can also rotate soon,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi said in a statement.

Ukraine’s nuclear regulator informed the IAEA that the rotation had begun on Sunday morning, the agency added.

Deadly shelling in Chernihiv; air raids in Zhytomyr

Ukrainian media have claimed at least two people were killed in Chernihiv on Sunday when an artillery shell hit their car.

Ukrainska Pravda cited a witness as saying that the two men were out delivering water to the city’s residents.

Separately, Ukraine’s emergency services reported that an air raid in Zhytomyr wounded three people and damaged 13 buildings.

Russia calls on Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms in Mariupol

Russia says Ukrainian forces should surrender in the eastern port city of Mariupol.

“Lay down your arms,” Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, the director of the Russian National Center for Defense Management, stated in a briefing distributed by the defence ministry.

“A terrible humanitarian catastrophe has developed,” Mizintsev continued, adding, “All who lay down their arms are guaranteed safe passage out of Mariupol.”

Russian warships in Caspian Sea join in bombardment of Ukraine

The Caspian Flotilla has joined the bombardment of Ukraine from 600 miles away, as Russian warships fire new Kalibr cruise missiles from a second sea.

The long-range shelling strategy means the Russian Navy is now engaged in the war from both the Caspian Sea and Black Sea.

Russia claims it is advancing towards Mariupol

The Russian army has advanced a further 12km into eastern Ukraine and reached the border of the settlement of Nikolske near Mariupol, Ministry of Defence spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed, according to the news agency Interfax.

There was no confirmation from the Ukrainian side.

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