Ukraine latest updates: 2,187 residents killed in Mariupol

Ukraine news from March 13: About 100 aerial bombs have been dropped on Mariupol as Russian forces blockade the city, authorities say.

Explosion in an apartment building in Mariupol
About 100 aerial bombs have been dropped on Mariupol, Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24 [Evgeniy Maloletka/AP]
  • Russian and Ukrainian officials have suggested talks might yield positive results within days, despite battles raging on.
  • The city council of besieged Mariupol has said 2,187 residents have been killed since the start of Russia’s invasion.
  • Authorities in Lviv say the Russian military launched a deadly air strike targeting a Ukrainian base in Yavoriv near the Polish border, killing at least 35 people.
  • People in Kyiv are scrambling to escape, with the bulk of Russian ground forces about 25km (16 miles) from the centre of the Ukrainian capital.
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia might use chemical weapons in Ukraine and that such a move would be a war crime.
  • The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine is nearing 2.7 million, according to the United Nations.


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These were the updates for March 13:

Ukraine says more than 5,550 people evacuated from front-line cities

More than 5,550 people have been evacuated from front-line cities on Sunday via nine humanitarian corridors, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a video statement.

She added 3,950 were evacuated from towns and cities in the Kyiv region.

China says priority is to stop Ukraine crisis getting out of control

China’s priority is to prevent the tense situation in Ukraine from getting out of control, its embassy in the United States said, responding to media reports that Moscow had asked Beijing for military equipment.

“The current situation in Ukraine is indeed disconcerting,” spokesperson Liu Pengyu said in a statement.

“The high priority now is to prevent the tense situation from escalating or even getting out of control.”

Kyiv confirms talks with Moscow on Monday

Video-conference talks will take place on Monday between Ukraine and Russia, Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and part of the negotiating team, has said.

His statement on Twitter confirmed an earlier statement by Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for the Russian presidency.

IAEA concerned about Chornobyl safety despite reparations

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has expressed concern over the safety of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), despite news of the resumption of external electricity supplies following the reparation of a damaged power line.

“This is a positive development as the Chornobyl NPP has had to rely on emergency diesel generators for several days now,” IAEA Director General Grossi said. “However, I remain gravely concerned about safety and security at Chornobyl and Ukraine’s other nuclear facilities.”

The plant is working on back-up diesel generators and will be reconnected to the Ukrainian electricity grid in the morning on Monday, according to IAEA.

The UN nuclear watchdog also said staff operating radioactive waste facilities at Chernobyl had stopped carrying out safety-related repairs due to exhaustion, since they have not been relieved since Russia seized the site last month.

Ukraine using AI’s facial recognition during war

Ukraine’s defence ministry has begun using Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology, the company’s chief executive told Reuter.

After the US startup offered to uncover Russian assailants, combat misinformation and identify the dead, Ukraine is receiving free access to Clearview AI’s powerful search engine for faces, letting authorities potentially vet people of interest at checkpoints, among other uses.

Clearview, which had not offered the technology to Russia, said it had more than 2 billion images from the Russian social media service VKontakte at its disposal, out of a database of over 10 billion photos total.

ICRC warns Mariupol facing ‘worst-case scenario’

The Red Cross is warning of a “worst-case scenario” for hundreds of thousands of civilians in the besieged city of Mariupol unless warring parties agree to ensure their safety and access to humanitarian aid.

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, said in a statement that residents “have endured a weeks-long life-and-death nightmare”.

“Dead bodies, of civilians and combatants, remain trapped under the rubble or lying in the open where they fell,” Maurer said. “Life-changing injuries and chronic, debilitating conditions cannot be treated. The human suffering is simply immense.”

The Geneva-based humanitarian agency called on the parties to agree on the terms of a ceasefire, routes for safe passage, and to ensure the deal is respected. It offered to act as a neutral intermediary in negotiations.

Kremlin says next Russia-Ukraine talks to take place on Monday

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has said talks between Russia and Ukraine will resume on Monday, the RIA news agency reported.

Peskov said talks were not taking place at the moment, contrary to an earlier statement by Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych.

Ukraine presidential adviser says talks with Russia going on ‘right now’

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych has said talks between Ukraine and Russia are ongoing, with the situation around the besieged city of Mariupol a particular focus for Ukrainian authorities.

“Talks are continuing right now,” he said in an interview on national television.

Arestovych added Ukraine had enough troops deployed in Mariupol to prevent its capture by encircling Russian forces.

‘Stop attacks on healthcare’ in Ukraine: UN agencies

The World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have issued a joint statement calling for an immediate stop to attacks on healthcare in Ukraine.

“Today, we call for an immediate cessation of all attacks on healthcare in Ukraine,” they said. “These horrific attacks are killing and causing serious injuries to patients and health workers, destroying vital health infrastructure and forcing thousands to forgo accessing health services despite catastrophic needs.”

Ukraine says power has been restored to Chernobyl power station

Power has been restored to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which means cooling systems can operate normally and not have to use a backup system, according to Ukraine’s atomic energy ministry.

The ministry made the announcement in an online post. Ukraine had earlier warned of an increased risk of a radiation leak if a high-voltage power line to the plant were not repaired.

Ukraine president visits wounded soldiers in hospital, awards medals

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stepped outside his residence for the first time since war erupted to visit wounded soldiers in hospital and award medals.

“Get well. I wish you strength. You are great guys!” Zelenskyy is heard saying to the patients in a morale-boosting video posted on social media.

So far, pictures and footage of the president had shown him only in his office or official residence.

Photos: Curtain closes on Paralympics as China and Ukraine star

Beijing’s winter Paralympic Games has closed following a ban on Russian and Belarusian competitors – and after stellar performances from athletes from host nation China and from war-torn Ukraine.

At the “Bird’s Nest” stadium in the capital on Sunday, China handed the Paralympics flag to Italy’s Milano Cortina, which is gearing up to stage the games in four years.

See the pictures here.

Russia says Yavoriv strike hit ‘foreign mercenaries’

Russia has said the strike on a Ukrainian base in Yavoriv, near the Polish border, killed “up to 180 foreign mercenaries” and destroyed a large amount of weapons supplied by outside nations.

Russian Defence Ministry Spokesperson Igor Konashenkov told a briefing that Russia would continue its attacks against foreign citizens who had joined Kyiv’s army, which he called foreign mercenaries.

Ukrainian regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy earlier had provided a different death toll, saying 35 people had been killed.

Kurt Volker, a former United Nations ambassador to NATO, told Al Jazeera that the attack was a sign that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “getting more reckless”.

“He knows it was risky, just 20 kilometres north he could have hit Poland,” which is a NATO member, Volker said. “It’s reflecting a very dangerous and I think a very desperate state of mind.”

US says Russia will pay ‘severe price’ in case of chemical attack

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has warned that Russia will pay a “severe price” if it launches a chemical weapon attack on Ukraine.

Sullivan told CBS’s Face the Nation programme that the United States and its allies were consulting closely about the increasing threat of a chemical weapons attack and were communicating directly with Moscow to warn against any such move.

“The use of weapons of mass destruction would be a shocking additional line that Putin is crossing in terms of his assault on international law and international norms,” he said.

Sullivan also warned that any attack on NATO territory would trigger a full response by the Western alliance.

Turkey, Greece agree to improve ties amid Ukraine conflict

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis have agreed in talks on Sunday to improve ties, as both seek regional stability after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Despite the disagreements between Turkey and Greece, it was agreed at the meeting to keep communication channels open and to improve bilateral relations,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

“Turkey and Greece have a special responsibility in the changing European security architecture with Russia’s attack on Ukraine.”

Russia showing signs of interest in Ukraine talks: US

Russia is showing signs of a willingness to engage in substantive negotiations over Ukraine, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has said.

In an interview with the programme Fox News Sunday, Sherman said the United States is putting “enormous pressure” on Russian President Vladimir Putin to agree to a ceasefire and to allow the creation of humanitarian corridors to permit civilians to escape.

“That pressure is beginning to have some effect. We are seeing some signs to have real, serious negotiations. But I have to say … so far it appears Vladimir Putin is intent on destroying Ukraine,” Sherman added.

US warns China of consequences if it helps Russia evade sanctions

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has warned Beijing that it will “absolutely” face consequences if it helps Moscow evade sweeping sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

“We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing, that there will absolutely be consequences,” Sullivan said in an interview with CNN. “We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country, anywhere in the world.”

Sullivan is expected to meet China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Rome on Monday as part of a broader effort by the world’s two largest economies to maintain open channels of communication.

More than 2.6 million flee Ukraine war: UN

The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine is nearing 2.7 million, according to a United Nations tally.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said there were 2,698,280 refugees who had fled Ukraine so far, 100,700 more than the last count on Saturday.

Initial UN estimates estimated four million people could flee the war. That figure is likely to be revised upwards, the UN refugee agency said.

INTERACTIVE_RefugeesDAY18 - March13_ 2.6 million
(Al Jazeera)

2,187 residents killed in Mariupol since start of war

The city council of besieged Mariupol has said 2,187 residents have been killed since the start of Russia’s invasion on February 24.

“In (the last) 24 hours, there were at least 22 bombings of the civilian city. Over 100 bombs have been thrown on Mariupol already,” it said in an online statement.

Russians fire warning shots at protesters in seized city: Report

Russian troops have fired warning shots as thousands demonstrated in the southern city of Kherson, which was seized by the Russian army earlier this month, a local broadcaster reported.

Waving national flags and chanting “Kherson is for Ukraine” and “Glory to Ukraine”, several thousand protesters gathered in a show of defiance on the central Freedom Square, the Suspilne Kherson public broadcaster reported.

Protesters marched down a central boulevard past a line of Russian armoured vehicles marked with the “Z” symbol, a witness video posted by Suspilne Kherson on Telegram showed.

Livestreamed footage shows protesters taking to the streets in Kherson.
Livestreamed footage shows protesters taking to the streets in Kherson [via Reuters]

Russian troops attempting to block off Kyiv

Russian troops are trying to block off Kyiv from the east, in addition to other access points, as part of their siege on the capital, the Ukrainian army has said.

Russian units had crossed the E95 route in the direction of the suburbs Brovary and Boryspil, while to the northwest and northeast of the city, Russia was gathering forces for an advance.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Kyiv, said the streets of the capital were empty as people bunkered down. Everyone is “preparing for the worst and hoping for the best”, Khan said.

Russia and Ukraine give brightest assessment yet of progress in talks

Russian and Ukrainian officials have suggested talks might yield positive results within days.

“We will not concede in principle on any positions. Russia now understands this. Russia is already beginning to talk constructively,” Ukrainian negotiator and presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in a video posted online.

“I think that we will achieve some results literally in a matter of days,” he said.

RIA news agency quoted a Russian delegate, Leonid Slutsky, as saying the talks had made substantial progress.

“According to my personal expectations, this progress may grow in the coming days into a joint position of both delegations, into documents for signing,” Slutsky said.

Nearly 125,000 civilians evacuated, aid on the way to Mariupol: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president says nearly 125,000 civilians have been evacuated through safe-passage corridors, while a convoy with humanitarian aid is on its way to the besieged city of Mariupol.

“The main task today is Mariupol. Our convoy with humanitarian aid is two hours away from Mariupol. Only 80km [left],” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address.

“We’re doing everything to counter occupiers who are even blocking Orthodox priests accompanying this aid, food, water and medicine. There are 100 tonnes of the most necessary things that Ukraine sent to its citizens,” Zelenskyy said.

Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol was running out of its last reserves of food and water, the city council said, adding that Russian forces blockading the city continued to shell non-military targets.

American journalist shot dead in Irpin

An American journalist has been shot dead and another wounded in Irpin, a northwest suburb of Kyiv.

Papers found on the American reporter’s body identified him as 50-year-old video documentary shooter Brent Renaud, of New York.

A New York Times identity card was among the papers, leading to reports he worked for the paper, but the US daily said he was not working for it at the time of his death.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Kyiv, said “Irpin is an active front line at the moment.”

Russian forces are aiming to take over the towns of Irpin and Bucha and to use them as launchpads for further attacks on the capital, Khan said.

Read more here.

Ukraine human rights ombudswoman accuses Russia of using phosphorus munitions

Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman accused Russia of using banned phosphorus munitions in an overnight attack on the town of Popasna in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region. The statement could not be verified.

The ombudswoman, Liudmila Denisova, shared a photograph purporting to show the alleged attack, but did not say if Ukraine had concrete evidence.

“The bombing of a civilian city by the Russian attackers with these weapons is a war crime and a crime against humanity according to the Rome convention,” she said in an online statement.

Bus full of Ukrainian refugees overturns in Italy; one dead

A bus carrying about 50 Ukrainian refugees overturned on a major highway in northern Italy at dawn on Sunday, killing one person, Italian firefighters said.

Italian state TV said there were also five people injured, but none of the injuries was serious, in the accident on the A14 autostrada near Forli’, a town in the Emilia-Romagna region in northeastern Italy. It said the rest of those aboard were safely evacuated.

Italy’s Interior Ministry said the bus had set out from Ukraine and was heading south to Pescara, an Adriatic port city, when it overturned. Some 35,000 Ukrainians refugees who fled war in their homeland have entered Italy, most of them through its northeastern border with Slovenia.

What caused the bus to overturn was under investigation.

More than 250 detained in Ukraine protests across Russia

Russia detained more than 250 people for protesting against Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

OVD-Info, which monitors arrests during protests, said police had detained 268 people during demonstrations in 23 Russian cities.

An AFP journalist present at a protest in the capital Moscow witnessed at least a dozen arrests and said police were taking away anybody without press papers.

Last weekend, police arrested more than 5,000 protesters across Russia. Protesters risk fines and possible prison sentences by taking to the streets.

Read more here.

Police officers detain a woman during a protest against Russian military action in Ukraine.
Police officers have detained demonstrators protesting against Russian military action in Ukraine. [AFP] (AFP)

Pope calls Ukraine invasion ‘armed aggression’

Pope Francis has issued his toughest condemnation yet of the war in Ukraine, saying the “unacceptable armed aggression” must stop.

Speaking during his Sunday blessing to thousands of people in St Peter’s Square in Vatican City in Rome, Francis also said the bombing of hospitals and other civilian targets was “barbaric” and with “no valid strategic reason”.

“In the name of God I ask you: stop this massacre!” he said, adding that Ukrainian cities risked “being reduced to cemeteries”.

At least 35 people killed in attack on Ukraine base, says Lviv governor

At least 35 people have been killed and 134 wounded in a Russian air strike on a large Ukrainian military training ground near the Polish border, according to the regional governor of the western Lviv region, Maksym Kozytskyy.

The previous death toll announced was nine.

More than 30 Russian cruise missiles targeted the sprawling training facility that is less than 25km (16 miles) from the closest border point with Poland.

Qatar calls on all parties to ‘exercise restraint’ over Ukraine

Qatar’s foreign minister has called on all parties to “exercise restraint” and to avoid further escalation over Ukraine in a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart, according to a Qatari foreign ministry statement.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani told Ukraine’s Dmytro Kuleba that Qatar urged “all parties to exercise restraint, resolve disputes through constructive dialogue and diplomatic methods, and to settle international disputes by peaceful means,” the statement said.

Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani talked to his Ukrainian counterpart [File: Tom Finn/Reuters]

Russia’s Gazprom continues gas shipments via Ukraine

Russian natural gas company Gazprom has said that it was continuing gas shipments via Ukraine.

The shipments’ volume stands at 109.6 million cubic metres, up from 109.5 million a day earlier, the company said.

More than 25 ambulances seen around attacked Ukraine base: Reuters

Nineteen ambulances with sirens blaring have been seen driving from the direction of Ukraine’s Yavoriv military base near the Polish border, Reuters news agency reported, after local officials said the facility was hit by a Russian air strike.

A further seven ambulances were seen driving towards the facility after what appeared to be the westernmost attack of the war.

‘Shameful’: UK’s response to Ukraine refugee crisis criticised

Displaced Ukrainians have reported endless red tape and delays while applying for visas in the United Kingdom.

They say the British government sometimes requires them to wait weeks or travel hundreds of kilometres to centres in Ukraine or neighbouring countries to submit biometric data.

Read more here.

Lviv governor says nine killed in Russian attack on base

The governor of Ukraine’s Lviv region has said that nine people were killed and 57 others were wounded in an air strike on a military facility in the country’s west.

Foreign military instructors worked at the Yavoriv military facility near the Polish border that was hit by the attack, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said, but it was not clear if any were present at the time.

Smoke rises amid damaged buildings following an attack on the Yavoriv military base.
Smoke rises amid damaged buildings following an attack on the Yavoriv military base. [@BackAndAlive/via Reuters]

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: List of key events from day 18

As Russia’s attempt to invade Ukraine enters its 18th day, we take a look at the main developments that took place in the last 24 hours.

Read more here.

Red Cross: Mariupol residents don’t have access to water

Mariupol in eastern Ukraine has been cut off from the rest of the world for almost two weeks and no one is allowed in or out amid intense fighting, with vehicles full of aid waiting in the outskirts of the city.

Jason Straziuso of the International Committee of the Red Cross told Al Jazeera that there are thousands of families in dire conditions without water in Mariupol.

“Even our team is collecting water from streams … but how does everyone do that … especially if you are elderly,” he said.

Russian army attempt to surround Ukrainian forces in east: UK intelligence

Russian forces are attempting to surround Ukrainian forces in the east of the country as they advance from the direction of Kharkiv in the north and Mariupol in the south, according to Britain’s defence ministry.

“Russian forces advancing from Crimea are attempting to circumvent Mykolaiv as they look to drive west towards Odesa,” the ministry said in an intelligence update posted on Twitter.

NATO chief says Russia may use chemical weapons: German paper

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said Russia might use chemical weapons following its invasion of Ukraine and that such a move would be a war crime, according to an interview in German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

“In recent days, we have heard absurd claims about chemical and biological weapons laboratories,” Stoltenberg was quoted by Welt am Sonntag as saying, adding that the Kremlin was inventing false pretexts to justify what could not be justified.

“Now that these false claims have been made, we must remain vigilant because it is possible that Russia itself could plan chemical weapons operations under this fabrication of lies. That would be a war crime,” Stoltenberg was quoted as saying.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says there are absurd claims about chemical and biological weapons laboratories in Russia [File: Hannibal Hanschke/Pool via AP]

Air strike launched on army base near Poland: Lviv authorities

An air strike has been launched on a Ukrainian military base Yavoriv in the west of the country near the Polish border, according to the Lviv regional military administration.

“The occupiers launched an air strike on the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security. According to preliminary data, they fired eight missiles,” the administration said in a statement.

The centre, less than 25km (16 miles) from the Polish border, did not say whether it had been hit. It said it would release details later.

Zelenskyy warns Russia it will have to raze Kyiv to take it

Zelenskyy has warned Russian forces they face a fight to the death if they try to occupy the capital Kyiv, as air raid sirens again woke residents on Sunday morning.

“If they decide to carpet bomb and simply erase the history of this region … and destroy all of us, then they will enter Kyiv. If that’s their goal, let them come in, but they will have to live on this land by themselves,” Zelenskyy said late on Saturday.

Saying about 1,300 Ukrainian troops had been killed, he urged the West to get more involved in peace negotiations.

Zelenskyy warns against ‘pseudo-republics’

Russia is trying to create new “pseudo-republics” in Ukraine to break his country apart, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said in his nightly address to the nation.

Zelenskyy has called on Ukraine’s regions, including Kherson, which was captured by Russian forces, not to repeat the experience of Donetsk and Luhansk. Pro-Russian separatists began fighting Ukrainian forces in those eastern regions in 2014.

“The occupiers on the territory of the Kherson region are trying to repeat the sad experience of the formation of pseudo-republics,” Zelenskyy said. “They are blackmailing local leaders, putting pressure on deputies, looking for someone to bribe.”

City council members in Kherson, a southern city of 290,000, on Saturday rejected plans for a new pseudo-republic, Zelenskyy said.

“Ukraine will stand this test. We need time and strength to break the war machine that has come to our land,” he said.

UK to pay people $450 a month to open their homes to Ukraine refugees

The United Kingdom will pay people to open their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion as the government moves to deflect anger about its response to the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

The new scheme, called “Homes for Ukraine”, will let refugees from the war come to the UK even if they do not have family ties, the government said.

The country will pay people 350 pounds ($456) a month if they can offer refugees a spare room or property for a minimum period of six months.

Medical train carries Ukrainian children with cancer

About 60 children – cancer patients from Ukraine – have boarded a medical train in a Polish town, bound for hospitals in Warsaw and elsewhere.

Medical workers carried some young patients in their arms, on stretchers and in a wheelchair at a station in Medyka, near the Ukrainian border.

“Some of them will require oxygen, will require some form of intensive care, and some have COVID-19 and have to be kept separate from others,” said Dominik Daszuta, an anaesthetist from Warsaw Hospital. He said the train has transported 120 children with cancer so far.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says at least 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine in the two weeks since the Russian invasion started.

Ukraine says people who died in Russian attack on convoy not in evacuation corridor

The seven women and children who Ukraine says died when Russian forces attacked a convoy escaping a village in the Kyiv region on Saturday were not – as previously stated – in an agreed-upon evacuation corridor, the defence ministry said.

Ukraine’s intelligence service initially said those who died outside Peremoha had been in a “green corridor” agreed with Russia.

A defence ministry statement later said people had in fact tried to escape by themselves, “so they began evacuating without the ‘green corridor’ agreed by the parties”.

Inside Story: Is Facebook abandoning its hate speech policy?

Meta Platforms Inc, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, could soon be banned in Russia as an “extremist organisation”.

The Russian move comes in response to Meta announcing a change in its hate speech policy, allowing violent posts in some instances.

There is now a partial exception when the targets are Russian soldiers in Ukraine. Users are even allowed to call for Putin’s death.

But what are the consequences of this change in policy?

Ukraine says Russia plans to control Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant: IAEA

The United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has said it was told by Ukraine that Russia was planning to take full and permanent control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s biggest, but that Russia had later denied this.

“The President of Ukraine’s nuclear power plant operator Energoatom, Petro Kotin, said in a letter to the Director General that around 400 Russian soldiers were ‘being present full time on site’ [at Zaporizhzhia],” the IAEA said in a statement.

The IAEA said the Ukrainian regulator had also informed it that efforts to repair damaged power lines at the Chernobyl nuclear plant were continuing and that diesel generators were providing backup power to systems relevant for safety.

Ukraine president says he spoke to Israeli PM, discussed prospects for peace talks

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he has spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and discussed the prospects for peace talks to end the conflict with Russia.

Zelenskyy made the announcement in a tweet and also said he had asked Bennett for help in freeing the mayor of the city of Melitopol, whom Ukraine says was abducted by Russian forces.

Some 13,000 Ukrainians evacuated from cities on Saturday, deputy PM says

About 13,000 people were evacuated from a number of Ukrainian cities on Saturday, said Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, almost twice the number who managed to get out the previous day.

Vereshchuk said in an online message that no one had managed to leave the besieged city of Mariupol and blamed obstruction by Russian forces. Moscow had earlier accused Ukrainian forces of intentionally trapping people there.

Amsterdam’s Orthodox clergy split from Moscow Patriarch

The clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Dutch city of Amsterdam has announced it will split from the Moscow church because of threats to them over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a statement posted to its website, it said that after a meeting “the clergy unanimously announced that it is no longer possible for them to function within the Moscow Patriarchate and provide a spiritually safe environment for our faithful”.

It was “with a heavy heart” that the four priests of Saint Nicholas of Myra in Amsterdam had reached their decision, they said.

Sweden official dismisses Russian NATO warning

Sweden’s foreign minister has dismissed fresh warnings from Russia that the Nordic country’s joining NATO would lead to retaliatory measures from Moscow.

Foreign Minister Ann Linde told Swedish news agency TT “Russia has nothing to do with our independent decisions”, referring to Stockholm’s possible move to join NATO.

Russia’s Interfax news agency on Saturday quoted a Russian Foreign Ministry official saying the possible accession of Sweden and neighbouring Finland to NATO would have serious military and political consequences.

Satellite images show fires, severe damage to residential buildings in Mariupol

Satellite images taken on Saturday morning showed extensive damage to civilian infrastructure and residential buildings throughout the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, a private United States company said.

Maxar Technologies said fires were seen in the western section of the Black Sea port city and dozens of high-rise apartment buildings had been severely damaged. The images could not be independently verified.

Mariupol is facing what Ukraine says is a “humanitarian catastrophe”, with more than 1,500 civilians killed over 12 days.

A top Russian officer described the situation in the country in similarly stark language.

“Unfortunately, the humanitarian situation in Ukraine is continuing to deteriorate rapidly, and in some cities, it has reached catastrophic proportions,” said the head of the Russian National Defence Control Centre, Mikhail Mizintsev.

The UN has cited reports of “looting and violent confrontations” among civilians over the few resources available.

A satellite image shows a close up view of apartment buildings before the Russian invasion in Ukraine, in the western section of Mariupol, Ukraine
A satellite image shows a close-up view of apartment buildings before the Russian invasion in Ukraine, in the west of Mariupol, on June 21, 2021 [Maxar Technologies/via Reuters]


A satellite image shows a multispectral close up view of apartment buildings and fires, in the western section of Mariupol, Ukraine
A satellite image shows the same buildings in Mariupol on March 12 [Maxar Technologies via Reuters]


A satellite image shows a multispectral view of fires in an industrial area, in the western section of Mariupol, Ukraine
A satellite image shows a multispectral view of fires in an industrial area, in the western section of Mariupol, Ukraine [Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters]

Russia-Ukraine war military dispatch: March 12, 2022

Kyiv is braced for an all-out Russian assault as fighting intensifies on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital.

Air raid sirens were sounded in almost all regions of Ukraine on Saturday. The cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remain surrounded and are under heavy Russian bombardment.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow will treat Western arms shipments to Ukraine as legitimate military targets.

Here were the main military developments on Saturday – the 17th day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

US rushing $200m worth of weapons for Ukraine

The US has said it would rush up to $200m in additional small arms, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine, as Ukrainian officials pleaded for more equipment to defend against heavy shelling by Russian forces.

US President Joe Biden on Saturday authorised the additional security assistance, the White House said, paving the way for the “immediate” shipment of fresh military equipment to Ukraine, a senior administration official said.

Biden’s decision brings total US security aid provided to Ukraine to $1.2bn since January 2021, and to $3.2bn since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine, according to senior administration officials.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

Read all the updates from Saturday, March 12, here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies