Russia-Ukraine updates: Hungary says it would not arrest Putin
All the updates as they happened on March 23.
This live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. These were the updates on the Russia-Ukraine war on Thursday, March 23.
This live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. These were the updates on the Russia-Ukraine war on Thursday, March 23.
- Hungary says Vladimir Putin would not be arrested if he enters the country after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president on war crimes charges.
- Kyiv says its troops will launch a counterattack in Bakhmut “very soon” and accuses Wagner Group mercenaries of planning to deport residents of the besieged city to Russia.
- Slovakia has handed over the first four MiG-29 fighter jets it has pledged to donate to Ukraine and the rest of the planes are to be delivered in the coming weeks, its Ministry of Defence says.
ICC concerned by Russia’s ‘threats’ over Putin warrant
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has expressed concern over “threats” from Russia following its issuing of a war crimes arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin.
The ICC’s statement of concern on Wednesday came after former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to hit the war crimes court in The Hague with hypersonic missiles. It also followed Russia’s top investigative body opening a criminal case against ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan as well as the judges who issued the warrant for Putin.
Read the full story here.
EU leaders endorse supply of more ammunition to Ukraine
European Union leaders have endorsed a plan to supply a million artillery shells to Ukraine over the next year.
“We need to support Ukraine to defend itself, we need to continue to show solidarity and avoid any sign of fatigue,” European Parliament head Roberta Metsola said during the EU summit in which UN chief Antonio Guterres also participated.
Officials say Ukraine is burning through shells at a faster rate than its allies can produce them, prompting a renewed search for ammunition and ways to boost production, which requires more money.
The EU earmarked 1 billion euros for the swift supply of shells – and possibly missiles – from existing stocks and another 1 billion euros for joint orders by EU countries for more rounds.
Ukrainian army retracts report on Russian pullout from Kherson town
The Ukrainian army has withdrawn a previous report saying Russian forces have left the town of Nova Kakhovka in the southern Kherson region. Russians are still there, it said.
“Information about the alleged withdrawal of the enemy from this settlement was made public as a result of incorrect use of available data,” The army said on Telegram.
What are depleted uranium munitions the UK is sending to Ukraine?
The United Kingdom government has announced it will provide Ukraine with armour-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium – a byproduct of the uranium-enrichment process needed to create nuclear weapons.
The rounds retain some radioactive properties but cannot generate a nuclear reaction like a nuclear weapon would, Edward Geist, a nuclear expert at research organisation RAND says. But the ammunition does carry risks even if it is not a nuclear weapon.
Here is a look at depleted uranium munitions.
Ukraine army says Russians left town in Kherson region
Russian forces have left the town of Nova Kakhovka in the southern Kherson region, the Ukrainian military’s General Staff has said.
“As of 22nd March 2023, all units of the occupying army that had been deployed in the town of Nova Kakhovka in Kherson region, have left the city,” the General Staff said in its evening report outlining conditions on the front lines.
Volodymyr Saldo, a Russian-installed official in the town, denied the report. “I officially declare that all Russian military personnel in Nova Kakhovka, as well as in other places of deployment on the left bank of the Dnipro (Dnieper), remain in their place,” he said on social media.
The town is located on the east bank of the Dnieper River, where Russian forces redeployed last November after abandoning positions on the west bank in the face of a counter-offensive by Ukrainian troops.
Zelenskyy tells EU ‘delays’ in jets could extend conflict
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told EU leaders that “delays” in sending fighter jets and long-range missiles could extend the war, an EU official told AFP.
Zelenskyy addressed a summit of his EU counterparts via video link and welcomed an EU plan to send Kyiv 1 million artillery shells over the next 12 months.
But the president insisted delays in supplying jets and long-range missiles could drag out the conflict, the EU official said.
Zelenskyy also urged leaders to impose more sanctions on Moscow, speed up work on Ukraine’s EU membership bid and increase support for a peace plan proposed by Kyiv.
How did the West view Xi and Putin’s meeting?
Xi and Putin met this week to reaffirm China and Russia’s economic ties and strengthen relations between the two powers.
But some Western countries remain sceptical of Moscow and Beijing’s close relationship.
“In part as a result of having this very different worldview than we do, they have a marriage of convenience,” United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“I’m not sure if it’s conviction.”
Al Jazeera’s Inside Story speaks to experts about how the West sees Xi and Putin’s meeting.
NATO chief dismisses complaints over ammunition containing depleted uranium
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has dismissed Russian complaints about Britain’s announcement that it will send Ukraine ammunition containing depleted uranium.
On Wednesday, Moscow warned of a “serious” escalation of the Ukraine crisis if London sends Kyiv the armour-piercing rounds.
“NATO allies are following international rules and international law in everything they do in their support for Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told the AFP news agency.
“The dangerous thing is the war, which is taking thousands of lives,” he said at the operational launch of a new fleet of NATO-EU refuelling planes at a Dutch airbase.
“The most important thing that can be done to reduce risks is for President Putin to stop the war.”
Sweden to seek explanation from Hungary over NATO bid
Sweden’s prime minister says he will seek an explanation from Hungary on why the ratification of his country’s NATO membership is being delayed while Finland’s is expected to be approved next week.
“I’m going to ask why they are now separating Sweden from Finland,” Ulf Kristersson told public broadcaster Sveriges Radio. “These are signals we have not received before, so I’m absolutely going to raise this with Orban today.”
Helsinki’s and Stockholm’s NATO applications were accepted simultaneously at a June summit of the military alliance, but the bids need to be ratified by all 30 NATO members, and Turkey and Hungary have yet to do so.
Orban’s ruling Fidesz party has said parliament will ratify Finland’s bid on Monday but “will decide on the case of Sweden later”.
Earlier on Thursday, the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee approved Finland’s NATO bid.
Doctors Without Borders finds mass destruction of health facilities in Ukraine
The international medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) reveals in a new report the widespread destruction of health facilities in Ukraine due to Russia’s invasion.
MSF has warned the warring countries to uphold “international humanitarian law and their obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure”.
“Despite requests to work on both sides of the frontline, MSF is only able to operate in areas under Ukrainian control, and our observations are limited to those areas,” MSF said in a statement.
“The use of landmines is widespread in frontline areas, but to see them placed in medical facilities is shocking: a remarkable act of inhumanity,” said Vincenzo Porpiglia, project coordinator for MSF activities in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region. “It sends a clear message to those who come in search of medicines or treatments: Hospitals are not a safe place.”
Turkish parliamentary committee approves Finland’s NATO bid
The Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee has approved a bill ratifying Finland’s bid to join NATO, state broadcaster TRT Haber reports.
The bill still needs to be approved by the parliament’s general assembly.
Sweden, which applied to join the bloc simultaneously with Finland, has yet to be approved by Turkey.
Western sanctions target ordinary people: Russian PM
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Western sanctions against Moscow target ordinary people.
“At the very beginning, the West tried to assure us that the sanctions were not directed against our citizens. And then there were no illusions about this, but now even a person far from global politics understands that the main goal was the Russian people,” Mishustin said in an address to the State Duma.
He said Moscow was hit by sanctions of unprecedented scale that, as a result, provoked mass unemployment.
“Russia’s opponents were unscrupulous in means. Blasted Nord Stream gas pipelines. Froze our accounts, switched off [the] system of international payments, tried to block all banks and other economic activities,” he said.
Who controls what?
Here are four maps we update daily, charting the latest war developments.
Slovakia delivers four MiG-29 jets to Ukraine
Slovakia has delivered the first four MiG-29 jets it pledged to donate to Ukraine, with the remaining planes to be delivered in the coming weeks, the Slovak Defence Ministry said.
Slovakia last week joined fellow NATO member Poland in announcing the delivery of jets to Ukraine.
In total, Slovakia said it would donate 13 of the Soviet-made planes.
Finland will not send Hornet jets to Ukraine
Finland’s defence minister said he did not want to donate Hornet fighter jets to Ukraine, despite Kyiv’s request.
“My view as Finland’s defence minister is that we need these Hornets to secure our own country,” Antti Kaikkonen told a news conference in Helsinki.
“I view negatively the idea that they would be donated during the next few years. And if we look even further, my understanding is that they begin to be worn out and will have little use value left,” he said.
Finland is replacing its old Hornet fleet with F-35 fighters it ordered in 2021, but the delivery is still two to three years away.
Finland will, however, send three more Leopard 2 tanks, Kaikkonen told a news conference.
Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 393
Click here for a roundup of the key events from day 393 of the war.
Wagner Group forces are deporting residents in Bakhmut: Ukraine
According to the Ukrainian government, forces from Russia’s Wagner Group of mercenaries are allegedly deporting residents from the suburbs of Bakhmut.
The Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said, “Militants forcefully take local residents to captured areas of [the] Luhansk region, where they are filtered. After that, they are deported to Perm and other remote regions of the Russian Federation.”
The statement added that this is a “typical story” where Ukrainians are deported under evacuation and “assimilated” in Russian areas.
Hungary says it will not arrest Putin despite ICC warrant
Hungary would not arrest Putin if he enters the country, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff says.
Gergely Gulyas said the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, has not been built into the Hungarian legal system.
“We can refer to the Hungarian law, and based on that, we cannot arrest the Russian president … as the ICC’s statute has not been promulgated in Hungary,” Gulyas said.
He said Hungary’s government “had not formed a stance” on the ICC’s arrest warrant for Putin on war crimes charges.
“These decisions are not the most fortunate as they take things towards further escalation and not towards peace,” Gulyas said. “This is my personal subjective opinion.”
Orban has been a longtime ally of Putin’s. Since the start of the Ukraine war, he has condemned Russian aggression but not Putin. Hungary has also not sent weapons to Ukraine and has insisted on maintaining economic and diplomatic ties with Russia.
Russian leaders should be tried in absentia: Ukraine
Russian leaders should be put on trial for the invasion of Ukraine even if they cannot be arrested and brought to court in person, Kyiv’s top prosecutor says.
Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin spoke to the Reuters news agency as international support is growing for the creation of a special tribunal that would prosecute Russian leaders for the invasion.
The special tribunal should go after “the highest political and military leadership, including Putin, for the crime of aggression,” Kostin said during a stopover in The Hague after meeting with the chief prosecutor of the ICC, which issued an arrest warrant for Putin last week.
“I believe that it could be [held] in absentia because it’s important to deliver a matter of justice for international crimes even if perpetrators are not in the dock,” he said.
Zelenskyy promises to ‘restore everything’ in Kherson visit
Zelenskyy has posted footage of a visit he has made to the Black Sea port of Kherson, where he has promised to “restore everything” in a city that Russia occupied for eight months.
The Ukrainian leader said on Telegram that he discussed providing electricity during his visit to Kherson, which fell to the Russians a year ago and was retaken in November.
“We considered the restoration of electricity supply in the de-occupied territories and the repair of equipment destroyed due to Russian shelling,” he said.
“We have to ensure full restoration and protection of our energy sector,” he wrote.
Moscow does not expect transparent Nord Stream investigation: Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow does not expect an investigation into the Nord Stream gas pipeline explosions to be transparent.
Moscow has repeatedly complained that it has not been informed about Denmark, Germany and Sweden’s investigation into the unsolved explosions, which Moscow has called an act of “international terrorism”.
The blasts in September shut down the two Baltic Sea pipelines, built to carry Russian natural gas to Europe.
Poland seeks additional EU funds for its arms buys for Ukraine
Poland is seeking an additional 240 million euros ($261m) in EU funding to refinance military purchases for Ukraine, the Polish prime minister says.
“Poland has already received about 200 million zlotys [$45.5m] to refinance arms purchases for Ukraine,” Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters in Brussels ahead of an EU summit.
“We want to … obtain 240 million euros, another billion zlotys, for Poland.”
Estonian PM against weakening Russian sanctions
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has spoken out against weakening Russian sanctions, which Moscow has demanded in return for extending a deal that allows Ukraine to export grain across the Black Sea.
She also called for the Group of Seven to tighten a cap on Russian oil prices to reduce the income the Kremlin uses to fight the war in Ukraine.
“We know that Russia is earning less from the oil,” she said upon arriving in Brussels for talks with other EU leaders. “… We see the economic sanctions, including the oil price cap, are having an effect on the Russian economy and their ability to fuel the war machine.”
“We should continue with that,” she said, adding, however, that Estonia would agree to raise the cap should oil prices rise.
Russia regains control over Kreminna approaches: British MoD
According to a daily British Ministry of Defence update, “heavy fighting” has continued on the Luhansk front line since the beginning of March.
“Russia has partially regained control over the immediate approaches to Kremina town, which was under immediate Ukrainian threat earlier in the year,” the ministry’s update said.
“In places, Russia has made gains of up to several kilometres. Russian commanders are likely trying to expand a security zone west from the defence lines they have prepared along the higher ground and integrate the natural obstacle of the Oskil River,” it added.
The ministry also found that in the northeast of Ukraine, Russian forces are keeping a defensive position as commanders “probably fear” that it’s a place where Ukraine could launch a counterattack.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 23 March 2023.
Find out more about Defence Intelligence's use of language: https://t.co/Abxa9sU1iq
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/XpuSn2ERQG
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) March 23, 2023
Any attempt to arrest Putin is a ‘declaration of war’: Medvedev
Any attempt to detain President Vladimir Putin after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest would amount to a “declaration of war”, former Russian President and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says.
“Let’s imagine – obviously this situation will never be realised, but nevertheless, let’s imagine that it was realised – the current head of the nuclear state went to a territory, say Germany, and was arrested,” Medvedev said.
“What would that be? It would be a declaration of war on the Russian Federation,” he said in a video posted on Telegram.
“And in that case, all our assets – all our missiles, etc – would fly to the Bundestag, to the chancellor’s office,” said Medvedev, who now serves as deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council.
The ICC issued the arrest warrant on Friday, accusing Putin of the war crime of deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.
EU leaders and UN chief to discuss war in Ukraine
European Union leaders will discuss the war in Ukraine, including food supplies and sanctions, with UN chief Antonio Guterres, diplomats and officials say.
Secretary General Guterres will be a guest at an EU summit in Brussels, days after the renewal of a deal brokered by the UN and Turkey on the safe export of Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to provide leaders with an update on the situation on the ground via video link.
“We will, as always, reaffirm our unwavering commitment to assist Ukraine,” declared Charles Michel, president of the European Council of EU leaders.
The leaders will also announce a plan agreed upon by foreign ministers on Monday to send a million artillery shells to Ukraine over the next year.
China’s Xi to meet Spanish counterpart to boost support as mediator
Chinese President Xi Jinping has invited Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to Beijing for a state visit as Xi tries to boost support for China’s peace proposal for Ukraine.
Spain’s Minister for the Presidency Felix Bolanos confirmed late on Wednesday that Sanchez would visit China on March 30-31, citing Xi’s “possible mediation in the war in Ukraine” as a critical reason for the visit.
Spain takes over the EU’s rotating presidency in July, with Sanchez portraying Madrid as a staunch NATO ally of Ukraine.
Xi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week to promote Beijing’s peace plan for Ukraine, which Putin said could be a basis for ending the conflict.
Ukraine to launch Bakhmut counterattack ‘very soon’: General
Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut will launch a counterassault “very soon”, Ukraine’s top ground forces commander said.
On Telegram, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi said Russia’s Wagner mercenaries “are losing considerable strength and are running out of steam”.
“Very soon, we will take advantage of this opportunity, as we did in the past near Kyiv, Kharkiv, Balakliya and Kupiansk,” he said, listing Ukrainian counteroffensives last year that proved turning points in the war.
On Monday, the Wagner chief published a letter to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, saying Ukraine aimed to cut off his forces from Russia’s regular troops, demanding Shoigu act to prevent this and warning of “negative consequences” if he failed.