Russia-Ukraine latest updates: US accuses Russia of ‘war crimes’

Ukraine news from March 17: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says war crimes have been committed in Ukraine.

A man walks near a block of flats, which was destroyed during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged port city of Mariupol
A man walks near a block of flats destroyed during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he agrees with President Joe Biden that ‘war crimes’ have been committed in Ukraine.
  • Officials say at least 21 people were killed and 25 injured when Russia shelled a school and a cultural centre in Merefa, near Kharkiv.
  • Rescue efforts in Mariupol continue as authorities search for survivors after strike hits theatre building where hundreds had been sheltering.
  • One person was killed and three injured when debris from a downed rocket hit a Kyiv apartment block, as Russian forces press in on the capital.
  • Ukraine says Russia attacked a theatre and a pool facility in Mariupol where “hundreds” of civilians were sheltering. Moscow denies the claim.


This live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. You can follow all the latest updates on the Russia-Ukraine crisis on our new blog.

These were the updates on March 17:

WHO says it has 43 verified attacks on healthcare in Ukraine

The World Health Organization has verified 43 attacks on healthcare in Ukraine that have killed 12 people and injured dozens more, including health workers, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the United Nations Security Council.

“In any conflict, attacks on healthcare are a violation of international humanitarian law,” Tedros told the 15-member council, without specifying who was to blame for the attacks.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine [David ‘Dee’ Delgado/Reuters]

White House cites ‘high concern’ that China may provide Russia with weapons

The White House has said it had “high concern” that China could provide Russia with military equipment to aid its invasion of Ukraine, and President Joe Biden would be candid and direct in an upcoming phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said China’s failure to denounce Russia’s actions “speaks volumes”.

Russian TV protester resigns, turns down asylum offer

Russia’s Channel One editor Marina Ovsyannikova says she has quit her job but refused to accept an asylum offer in France after publicly challenging the Kremlin’s narrative about the war in Ukraine on live TV.

Ovsyannikova was detained and rapidly fined 30,000 roubles ($290) for barging onto the set of flagship Vremya (Time) evening news on Monday holding a poster reading “No War” and “They are lying to you here”.

Read more here.

Russia making no meaningful efforts in Ukraine peace talks, Blinken says

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that Russia was not making serious efforts in negotiations with Ukraine to end the war.

“On the one hand, we commend Ukraine for being at the table despite being under bombardment every minute of the day,” Blinken said.

“At the same time, I have not seen any meaningful efforts by Russia to bring this war that it is perpetrating to a conclusion through diplomacy.”

US citizen killed in Ukraine, Blinken confirms

An American citizen has been killed in Ukraine, Blinken has confirmed without offering further details.

The US Department of State has repeatedly advised Americans against going to Ukraine – including to volunteer in the fight against Russian forces – while also urging US citizens already in the country to leave immediately.

Russia may stage chemical weapon attack and blame Ukraine, Blinken says

Russia may stage a chemical attack to escalate the war against Ukraine, Blinken has said, noting that Washington accurately predicted the Russian invasion weeks before it started.

“We believe that Moscow may be setting the stage to use a chemical weapon, and then falsely blame Ukraine to justify escalating its attacks on the Ukrainian people,” Blinken told reporters at the US State Department.

The top US diplomat also said Washington believes that Moscow will bring in mercenaries from foreign countries to fight in the conflict. He added that Russia will “systematically” kidnap local Ukrainian officials to replace them “with puppets”.

Blinken accuses Russia of committing ‘war crimes’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

“Yesterday, President Biden said that – in his opinion – war crimes have been committed in Ukraine. Personally, I agree,” Blinken told reporters.

“Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime. After all the destruction of the past three weeks, I find it difficult to conclude that the Russians are doing otherwise.”

Still, Blinken said US State Department experts are in the process of documenting and evaluating potential war crimes to help international efforts towards accountability.

Ukrainian firefighters extinguish a blaze at a warehouse after a bombing in Kyiv
Ukrainian firefighters extinguish a blaze at a warehouse after a bombing in Kyiv, Ukraine [Vadim Ghirda/AP Photo]

Photos: Mariupol residents escape besieged, devastated city

While fighting in Mariupol continues, residents have evacuated through the district controlled by the forces of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk.

A statement from the city council said that about 30,000 residents had managed to escape so far since Monday, but more than 350,000 remained.

See the pictures here.

Russia launches over 1,000 missiles since start of invasion, US official says

Russia has fired more than 1,000 missiles at Ukrainian targets since the start of its invasion, which has now entered its fourth week, a senior US defence official has said.

Russia’s Putin does not want peace, Italian prime minister says

Russian President Vladimir Putin does not want peace and it is possible that further sanctions might be needed against Moscow to try to end the conflict in Ukraine, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said.

“On Putin’s part there is no willingness for peace. There is a willingness for war,” Draghi told reporters.

Norway to bring Ukrainian refugees from Moldova, elsewhere, PM says

The Norwegian government has said it will bring 2,500 Ukrainian refugees to Norway from Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries.

In addition, 550 refugees in need of medical care, plus 2,200 of their family members, would also be given the opportunity to come, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told a news conference.

“Moldova has asked for help … and Norway will contribute. In addition, we want to bring in some of the most vulnerable refugees that this terrible war has caused,” Store said.

Sticker shock: OECD warns Ukraine war to push prices even higher

War in Ukraine will stunt global growth and disrupt already-snarled supply chains, pushing prices higher, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has warned.

Read more here.

EU says dependence on fossil fuels is funding Russian ‘war chest’

The European Union’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels is financing Russia’s “war chest”, the bloc’s environment policy chief has said.

“I don’t need to go deep into our dependency on fossil fuels, and how many billions every year we pay to [the] Russian war chest,” EU Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevicius told a news conference in Brussels.

“The less we’re dependent, the better it is for us,” he said, referring to Europe’s reliance on energy from Russia, which provides 40 percent of the bloc’s gas.

INTERACTIVE - Russian gas imports in 2019

Influx of Ukrainians will become big challenge for Germany, Scholz says

The growing number of Ukrainians seeking refuge in Germany will become a “big, big challenge”, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.

Speaking after talks with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, Scholz said that despite the challenge it should be relatively easy to help Ukrainians settle in given that they don’t need visas to enter Germany and they have automatic access to healthcare and education as well as language and integration courses.

German police have so far registered just under 190,000 Ukrainians who have fled Russia’s invasion of their country.

More than 3.2 million people have fled Ukraine, more expected to leave

About 3.2 million people have fled Ukraine, according to data released by the United Nations.

While the numbers arriving in the front-line states – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova – have slowed in recent days, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he expected a “bigger wave” next week.

“The war is not subsiding, but spreading; and as it spreads, there is the risk that next week will see the arrival of more people in Hungary, presenting us with a huge challenge,” he said in a video posted on his Facebook page.

“They are not only fleeing from areas threatened by war, but also from war zones themselves.”

Mariupol officials say number of possible casualties at theatre is unclear

Authorities in Mariupol have said it was still not possible to estimate the number of potential casualties from what they said was an air strike on a theatre where hundreds of people were believed to have been sheltering.

“Yesterday and today, despite continuous shelling, rubble is being cleared as much as is possible and people are being rescued. Information about victims is still being clarified,” the city council said in an online statement about Wednesday’s incident.

It provided no figures on the number of people rescued.

People walk near blocks of flats, which were destroyed during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Where is the Russia-Ukraine war heading?

Russia’s war on Ukraine has entered a fourth week, as increasingly harsh rhetoric from Western powers towards Russian President Vladimir Putin fails to stop attacks in several cities.

According to the United Nations, more than 600 civilians have died – but the real figure is feared to be higher.

Meanwhile, Russia-Ukraine talks aiming for a peaceful solution continue as reports grow of Russia’s military becoming bogged down.

Here are five scenarios as to how the situation may develop.

UK says freezing tax cooperation with Russia and Belarus

The United Kingdom has said it was suspending the exchange of tax information with Russia and Belarus.

“The UK is freezing tax cooperation with Russia and Belarus by suspending all exchange of tax information with them,” Financial Secretary to the Treasury Lucy Frazer said in a written statement to Parliament.

“The suspension of tax information exchange will ensure the UK is not supplying Russia and Belarus with information that could lead to an increased tax benefit or yield for them.”

Slovakia says willing to provide Ukraine S-300s if NATO fills gap

Slovakia’s defence minister has said that his country is willing to provide Ukraine with S-300 air-defence systems if NATO allies find a substitute, but his visiting US counterpart told reporters he had nothing to announce on that.

UK grants Ukrainian refugees free access to healthcare

Britain will allow Ukrainian war refugees immediate access to its publicly-funded healthcare system free of charge, the department of health and social care has said.

“It’s our moral duty to ensure any Ukrainian arriving in England, after being forced out of their home country by the Russian invasion is able to access the healthcare they might need, without worrying about the cost,” Health Minister Sajid Javid said in a statement.

INTERACTIVE_RefugeesDAY22 - March17_ 3 million

Moscow regrets suspension of Russian-European Mars mission

Moscow regrets the “bitter” decision by the European Space Agency to suspend a Russian-European mission to land a rover on Mars over the Kremlin’s Ukraine offensive, Russia’s space chief has said.

“This is a very bitter [decision] for all the enthusiasts of space,” Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, said on Telegram, calling it a “shame”. He added that Moscow will “conduct this research expedition on our own”.

‘Very big gap’ remains in peace talks between Russia and Ukraine

Ukraine and Russia are taking peace talks seriously but a very big gap remains between the two sides, Western officials have said.

“Both sides are taking them seriously but there is a very, very big gap between the positions in question,” one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Those … who saw [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin addressing the nation yesterday would be forgiven for thinking that Russia was not in [a] compromising mood,” another official said.

Strongman Kadyrov says ‘thousand’ Chechen volunteers headed to Ukraine

A thousand Chechen volunteers are on their way to fight for Russia in Ukraine, Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has said.

Kadyrov, whose security forces have been accused of numerous abuses, said on Telegram that one of his relatives, Apty Alaudinov, “is leading a thousand volunteers from the Chechen republic heading to take part in the special operation of denazification and demilitarisation of Ukraine”.

Red Cross chief calls on warring parties to allow aid into Mariupol

The International Committee of the Red Cross has called on the warring parties to allow safe passage out of besieged Mariupol and allow aid in, the organisation’s head Peter Maurer said.

The ICRC had to leave the city on Wednesday, Maurer told a news conference, because its staff had “no operational capacity any more”, but the organisation would be making arrangements to bring aid “as soon as we have a safe way”.

The ICRC was also still seeking access to prisoners of war from both sides in the conflict, adding captured troops should be treated with dignity and not exposed to “public curiosity”.

G7 to step up support for Moldova, other countries near Ukraine

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi has said the Group of Seven advanced economies had agreed to step up support for Moldova and other countries near Ukraine, as they try to cope with an influx of Ukrainian refugees.

Hayashi’s comment to reporters came after an online meeting of the G7 foreign ministers.

Erdogan offers to host Putin and Zelenskyy for talks

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has offered in a phone call with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to host him and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy for talks, according to his office.

The statement said Erdogan told Putin that agreement on certain issues could require a meeting between the leaders. Erdogan also said a lasting ceasefire could lead the way to a long-term solution, it said.

Ukraine war will lead to food crisis in next 12-18 months, France’s Macron says

The war between Ukraine and Russia, two of the world’s top crop producers, will likely lead to a food crisis in the next 12-18 months in Africa and the Middle East, French President Emmanuel Macron has said.

At least 21 dead after shelling of east Ukraine town, local officials say

At least 21 people were killed and 25 were injured when Russian forces shelled a town in eastern Ukraine, local prosecutors have said.

Artillery fire earlier hit a school and a cultural centre in the town of Merefa outside the city of Kharkiv, regional prosecutors said in a post on Facebook. Of the wounded, 10 people are in serious condition.

Firemen work to extinguish a fire at an educational institution hit by shelling in the town of Merefa in the Kharkiv region [State Emergency Service of Ukraine/AFP]

‘Flashback’: Ukraine war revives painful memories for Afghans

While Afghans sympathise with Ukrainians whose lives have been upended by the violent whims of a foreign power, they are also frustrated by the massive outpouring of international solidarity and support that was never extended to Afghans or other non-European victims of war.

Read more here.

Ukraine wants security guarantees from Turkey as part of any peace deal

Ukraine wants Turkey to be among countries offering security guarantees to it as part of any deal with Russia to end the war, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said after meeting Turkey’s foreign minister.

Speaking at a briefing after the talks in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, Kuleba said Turkey was also helping to set up direct talks between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Rescuers carry the body of a person who was killed by shelling, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Chernihiv, Ukraine [Reuters]

Russian-European Mars mission suspended over Ukraine war: ESA

A Russian-European mission to land a rover on Mars has been suspended due to the sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and its “tragic consequences”, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

“We deeply deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine,” the agency said as it confirmed the suspension of the ExoMars mission.

Russia Mars
This undated artist’s rendition provided by the European Space Agency shows the ESA ExoMars robot on Mars [Thiebaut/ESA-AOES medialab via AP]

Turkey says hopes for humanitarian ceasefire in Mariupol

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that he hoped for a humanitarian ceasefire in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, where he said more than 100 Turkish citizens were still located.

In a joint news conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Lviv, broadcast on Turkish television, Cavusoglu said he had proposed a 24-hour ceasefire to be monitored by humanitarian groups.

Turkey Ukraine
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (left) and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba (right) give a joint press conference following talks in Lviv, Ukraine [Fatih Aktaş/Anadolu]

Canada imposes sanctions on 22 Belarusian officials

Canada has said it was imposing sanctions on 22 senior officials of Belarus’s Department of Defence for supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Just as Canada is imposing severe sanctions on the Russian regime, Belarusian leadership must also be held accountable for enabling and supporting Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked attacks,” Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to take further action.”

Germany says 187,428 refugees arrived from Ukraine

German police have recorded 187,428 refugees from Ukraine as having arrived in the country as of Thursday, the Interior Ministry tweeted.

“Most of them are women, children and old people,” it added.

Biden, China to speak Friday on Ukraine, competition: White House

United States President Joe Biden will hold a call on Friday with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and will discuss managing competition between the two countries as well as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the White House said.

India to study sanctions impact for a payment mechanism with Russia

India will study the impact of western sanctions against Russia while devising a payment mechanism to settle its trade with Moscow, India’s finance ministry spokesperson said.

Arindam Bagchi said India imports the bulk of its oil and is always exploring all possibilities in the global energy markets.

Ukraine parliamentarian says 130 rescued from Mariupol theatre

Some 130 civilians have so far been rescued from the bombed-out theatre in Mariupol, according to a Ukrainian parliamentarian.

“Good news that we need so urgently. The air raid shelter under the theatre of Mariupol has stood up to it. Around 130 people have already been saved,” Olga Stefanishyna wrote on Facebook.

“It’s a miracle,” she said, describing how rescue workers are removing rubble to free other survivors.

Ukraine has started 2022 spring grain sowing: Deputy minister

Ukraine has started sowing spring grain in some areas but no mass sowing campaign has yet started, Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotskiy has told Reuters.

He said it was not yet possible to forecast how much grain would be sowed in Ukraine.

Kremlin: Negotiations continue online

Negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow are continuing online, according to the Kremlin.

“Work is continuing,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Interfax news agency.  “Our delegation is making great efforts and showing far more willingness than our Ukrainian counterparts.”

Russia’s conditions were “extremely clear, spelled out and fully brought to the attention of the Ukrainian negotiators”, Peskov said.

France says Russia ‘pretending to negotiate’ in Ukraine talks

Russia is pretending to negotiate with Ukraine, while pursuing the invasion of its neighbour in line with a brutal strategy it has used elsewhere, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said.

“Unfortunately we’re still facing the same Russian logic – making maximalist demands, wanting Ukraine to surrender and intensifying siege warfare,” Le Drian told newspaper Le Parisien.

“Just as in  and Aleppo (in Syria), there are three typical elements – indiscriminate bombardment, so-called humanitarian “corridors” designed to allow them to accuse the other side of failing to respect them, and talks with no objective other than pretending that they are negotiating.”

UK very disappointed with India’s stance on Ukraine: Trade minister

The United Kingdom is very disappointed with India’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but still regards it as an important trading partner, UK Trade Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan has said.

Asked if India’s stance would impact trade talks with Britain, Trevelyan said: “We are very disappointed. We continue to work with Indian partners.”

“India is an incredibly important trading partner for the UK … we will continue to work with countries around the world to make sure that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is unable to fund this war in the future,” she told reporters.

Russia is rethinking its approach: Analyst

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Frank Ledwidge, senior lecturer in military capabilities and strategy at the University of Portsmouth, said Russia’s attack “has, in military terms, culminated”.

“Essentially, that they’ve gone as far as they can with the logistics and weaponry they brought into the country – that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s stalled,” he added.

“What we’re seeing now is what’s called an operational pause as they start to get, in colloquial terms, their act together, which they have not had largely due to very poor planning assumptions in the early part of the campaign.

“So they’d be working frantically to try to get weapons and get their planning sorted out and to understand where does it go next. And of course, Ukrainians have a say in that, which is why we are starting to see counterattacks by Ukrainian armed forces that seem to be having some effect.”

UK to deploy Sky Sabre missile defence system in Poland: Minister

Britain will deploy its Sky Sabre missile system in Poland, its defence minister said during a visit to Warsaw, as NATO moves to beef up the security of its eastern flank in view of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We are going to deploy the Sky Sabre medium-range, anti-air missile system to Poland with about 100 personnel to make sure that we stand alongside Poland, protecting her airspace from any further aggression by Russia,” Ben Wallace told a news conference.

Ukraine’s president says 1991 borders must be recognised: Adviser

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has not altered his position that Ukraine’s international borders must be recognised as they were when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said.

“His main position has not changed,” Arestovych said on national television.

Kremlin: Many people in Russian are showing themselves to be traitors

The Kremlin has said that many people in Russia were showing themselves to be traitors and pointed to those who were resigning from their jobs and leaving the country.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov made the comments a day after President Vladimir Putin delivered a stark warning to Russian “traitors” who he said the West wanted to use as a “fifth column” to destroy the country.

Zelenskyy urges Germany to tear down new Russian ‘wall’ in Europe

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on Germany in an emotional video address before the German parliament to help destroy a new “wall” Russia is erecting in Europe.

“It’s not a Berlin Wall – it is a wall in central Europe between freedom and bondage and this wall is growing bigger with every bomb” dropped on Ukraine, Zelensky told MPs.

“Dear Mr Scholz, tear down this wall,” he implored, calling on German Chancellor Olaf Sholz and evoking US President Ronald Reagan’s 1987 appeal to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.

“Give Germany the leadership role that you in Germany deserve.”

Survivors emerge from bombed theatre: Lawmaker

A Ukrainian lawmaker says there are survivors from the attack on a Mariupol theatre where civilians were taking shelter from the Russian onslaught.

“After a terrible night of uncertainty, on the morning of the 22nd day of the war finally good news from Mariupol! The bomb shelter has held,” wrote member of parliament Serhiy Taruta on Facebook.

“People are coming out alive!” he said, noting that removal of the rubble had begun.

More than 1,000 people were earlier said to have sought safety in the theatre at the time of the bombing.

Ukraine asks Japan for satellite data amid Russian invasion

Ukraine is asking Japan for high-quality satellite imagery to help it fend off Russian troops, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

Japanese governments and private companies operate satellites that have the ability to capture detailed images day and night, and through clouds and other obstructions in the atmosphere.

The Japanese government will carefully consider whether providing such data to Ukraine is politically acceptable or allowed under the current legal framework, the report said without citing sources.

UAE keen to cooperate on energy security with Russia: Foreign minister

The United Arab Emirates is keen to cooperate with Russia on bolstering global energy security, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said.

The UAE official said in televised comments that he planned to discuss the crises in Ukraine, Syria, Yemen and Iran during his visit to Russia.

Russia says talks with Ukraine continue via video link

Talks between Russia and Ukraine continue via video link, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.

According to Zakharova, the parties are discussing military, political and humanitarian issues.

Russia lost 14,000 servicemen: Ukraine’s defence ministry

Ukraine’s defence ministry says that Russia has lost some 14,000 servicemen, including about 200 in the past 24 hours.

It also said that Ukrainian forces destroyed 444 Russian tanks, 1435 armoured vehicles, 86 planes, 108 helicopters, 11 drones and three ships.

It said the figures were approximate and their verification was “complicated” by the high intensity of the fighting.

Russia’s defence ministry has reported the death toll only on March 2, saying that 498 servicemen had been killed in Ukraine. There is no way to verify the claims of both sides.

China rejects US accusation it is not acting in line with UN charter

The Chinese foreign ministry says it firmly rejects US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s comment that China’s unwillingness to condemn Russia is inconsistent with China’s position on the United Nations charter.

China always believes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states should be upheld, said Zhao Lijian, spokesperson at the Chinese foreign ministry, at a regular press conference.

In an interview with NPR news on Wednesday, Blinken said the fact that China “has not stood strongly against” Russia’s aggression in Ukraine flies in the face of China’s commitments as a permanent member of the UN Security Council responsible for maintaining peace and security.

“It’s totally inconsistent with what China says and repeats over and over again about the sanctity of the United Nations charter and the basic principles, including the sovereignty of nations,” Blinken said.

Ukraine says it downed Russian planes, helicopters and a drone

Ukraine’s Air Force says in a statement posted on Facebook that it has shot down three Russian Su-30M bombers, one Su-34 bomber and one plane that yet has to be identified.

It also said that two helicopters and one drone were shot down, while air defence forces shot down one more Su-34 bomber and one more helicopter.

Russia will put its enemies in their place: Medvedev

Russia has the might to put enemies led by the United States in their place and Moscow will foil the West’s Russophobic plot to tear the country apart, Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev said.

Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012 and is now deputy secretary of Russia’s security council, said the US had stoked “disgusting” Russophobia in an attempt to force Russia on its knees and then rip it apart.

“It will not work – Russia has the might to put all of our brash enemies in their place,” Medvedev said.

Losses mount in Chernihiv: Governor

The bodies of 53 residents of Chernihiv have been delivered to the embattled city’s morgue after heavy bombardment and shelling, according to a Ukrainian defence official.

“We suffer great losses,” regional administrator Vyacheslav Chaus said in a video posted on Facebook. “We will avenge and kill for every citizen we lost.”

The northern Ukrainian city of 280,000 lies close to the border with Moscow-friendly Belarus, which was used as a springboard for the Russian invasion that began on February 24. The city has a sizable ethnic Russian minority.

Ukraine hopes nine safe routes will open

Ukraine hopes to evacuate civilians through nine “humanitarian corridors” on Thursday from cities including the encircled port city of Mariupol, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

Russian gov’t sites facing ‘unprecedented’ cyberattacks

Russian government websites are facing unprecedented cyberattacks and efforts are being made to filter foreign web traffic, the TASS news agency cited the digital ministry as saying.

Russian government entities and state-owned companies have been targeted over events in Ukraine, with the websites of the Kremlin, flagship carrier Aeroflot and major lender Sberbank among those to have seen outages or temporary access issues in recent weeks.

Interior minister: ‘No safe place in Ukraine’

Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky has said that Russian spies and diversion groups are omnipresent throughout Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, there are no places in Ukraine without an obvious military threat. We can’t name a region where there has been no shelling or where we haven’t found diversion groups,” he was quoted by the Unian news agency as saying.

He said that such groups or fire spotters are detained almost daily in Kyiv and are present even in the western Ukrainian regions where hostilities have been limited to rare cruise missile strikes on strategic sites such as military bases or airports.

“The problem is everywhere,” Monastyrsky said.

Polish PM calls on EU, US leaders to visit Kyiv

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has urged the leaders of European Union countries, the United States and the United Kingdom to visit the Ukrainian capital to show solidarity.

He told German tabloid Bild’s Thursday edition that US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and other EU government leaders should travel to Kyiv, and look into the eyes of the women and children there and help them to save their lives and their independence.

He said Ukrainians were fighting for the values of Europe and the western world.

UK military intelligence says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has largely stalled

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has largely stalled on all fronts, with Russian forces suffering heavy losses and making minimal progress on land, sea or air in recent days, British military intelligence said.

“Ukrainian resistance remains staunch and well-coordinated,” the UK’s Ministry of Defence said. “The vast majority of Ukrainian territory, including all major cities, remains in Ukrainian hands.”

Downed missile hits Kyiv apartment block, kills one

At least one person was killed and three others wounded after the remains of a downed missile hit a residential building in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Ukraine’s emergency service said.

The 16-storey building was struck at 5:02am local time (03:02 GMT), it said in a statement, adding that 30 people have been evacuated so far and a fire has been put out.

Hungary PM flags arrival of “bigger wave” of Ukraine refugees next week

Hungary expects a “bigger wave” of refugees to arrive from Ukraine next week, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on a video posted on his Facebook page.

Visiting a border crossing point near Hungary’s border with Romania and Ukraine, Orban said more guards would be posted there next week to handle an increased number of refugees.

Orban, who faces elections on April 3, did not say why he expected more refugees next week. Over the past week, the number of Ukrainian refugees arriving in Hungary has fallen substantially.

Russia’s military lost 7,000 soldiers in three weeks: NYT

US officials have told the New York Times that Russia’s military has lost more than 7,000 soldiers in its three-week invasion of Ukraine.

The officials cautioned that the number is inexact, and compiled through analysis of news media, Ukrainian figures, Russian figures, satellite imagery and perusal of video images of Russian tanks and troops that have come under fire.

Ukraine says 13,500 Russian personnel have been killed while Russia put the death toll at 498.

Ukraine publishes list of museums, churches destroyed in Russian invasion

Ukraine’s ministry of culture has published a preliminary list of sites destroyed or damaged in the Russian invasion.

It includes the Museum of Ukrainian Antiquities in Chernihiv, the Kharkiv National University, as well as the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Zhytomyr.

Putin’s “real goal is to destroy the Ukrainian nation, culture, history and identity,” the ministry said.

Ukraine official says peace talks now focusing on Russian presence in separatist regions

An official in Zelenskyy’s office has told The Associated Press that the main subject under discussion at the Russia-Ukraine peace talks was whether Russian troops would remain in separatist regions in eastern Ukraine after the war and where the borders would be.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks, said Ukraine was insisting on the inclusion of one or more Western nuclear powers in the negotiations and on a legally binding document with security guarantees for Ukraine.

In exchange, the official said, Ukraine was ready to discuss a neutral status.

Ukraine urged to respect the rights of prisoners of war

Human Rights Watch says Ukrainian authorities should stop posting on social media and messaging apps videos of captured Russian soldiers that expose them to public curiosity, “in particular those that show them being humiliated or intimidated”.

Three Panama-flagged ships hit by Russian missiles in Black Sea

Panama’s Maritime Authority says three Panamanian-flagged ships have been hit by Russian missiles in the Black Sea since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

One ship sank, the maritime authority said in a statement, but there were no casualties reported.

The two others remain afloat with damages.

Combined they have about 150 crew members of various nationalities who have not been allowed to leave, said Noriel Arauz, director of the maritime authority.

Bombed Mariupol theatre sheltering at least 500 civilians: HRW

Human Rights Watch says the Mariupol theatre hit during an alleged Russian attack was sheltering at least 500 civilians.

“Until we know more, we cannot rule out the possibility of a Ukrainian military target in the area of the theatre, but we do know that the theatre had been housing at least 500 civilians,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“This raises serious concerns about what the intended target was in a city where civilians have already been under siege for days and telecommunications, power, water and heating have been almost completely cut off.”

Satellite images show damage in Kharkiv, Chernihiv

A satellite image shows craters from artillery impact near a residential area, in Kharkiv, Ukraine March 16, 2022.
A satellite image shows craters from artillery impact near a residential area, in Kharkiv, Ukraine on March 16, 2022 [Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters]
A satellite image shows fires and damage in a residential area, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 16, 2022.
A satellite image shows fires and damage in a residential area, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on March 16, 2022 [Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters]
A satellite image shows a damaged Olympic sports training center, in Chernihiv, Ukraine, March 16, 2022.
A satellite image shows a damaged Olympic sports training centre, in Chernihiv, Ukraine, on March 16, 2022. [Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters]

EU official calls for evacuation of babies from surrogate mothers in Ukraine

Ylva Johansson, the EU commissioner for home affairs, has called for the evacuation of babies from surrogate mothers in Ukraine as their intended parents cannot travel to Ukraine.

“Surrogate mothers that gave birth to babies right now, these babies cannot be picked up […] and they are a bit in a limbo,” the commissioner said.

“From my point of view, there is a huge need of evacuations for these children,” she said.

Toll from attack on Chernihiv bread line rises to 13

The number of civilians killed in an alleged Russian attack on a bread shop in the city of Chernihiv has risen to 13, according to Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform.

The outlet quoted a local police official, Volodymyr Nidzelsky, saying that “13 civilians and dozens of people were injured” in the attack.

Nidzelsky also said police investigators were working “at the scene of the war crime”.

Ukraine says Russians bombed a second Mariupol facility sheltering pregnant women and children

Authorities in Ukraine say the Russian military launched an air raid on a second Mariupol facility where women and children were sheltering on Wednesday.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration, said “only civilians” were sheltering at the Neptune Pool.

“Now there are pregnant women and women with children under the rubble. This is pure terrorism!”

Top auction houses cancel Russian art sales in London

Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonhams have cancelled sales of Russian art in London in June, due to Western sanctions on Russia.

“We are absolutely rigorous about following the present sanctions, and are monitoring closely for any updates to the lists,” Sotheby’s said in a statement.

Christie’s also said it had cancelled its June sale of Russian art, citing factors including the uncertainty of the war and complex logistical and legal requirements related to sanctions.

Bonhams did not provide a reason for its decision.

Zelenskyy says he wants ‘real guarantees’ for Ukraine

Ukraine’s president says his priorities at the continuing peace talks with Russia “are crystal clear”.

They are “end of the war, security guarantees, sovereignty, restoring territorial integrity, real guarantees for our country, real protection of our country”, Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

The president also warned that Russian forces faced losses that would exceed those in Afghanistan and Chechnya combined.

UK warns Russia ‘likely resorting to less precise weapons’

The British Ministry of Defence says Russia’s failure to control Ukrainian airspace means it has probably expended far more stand-off air-launched weapons than originally planned.

“As a result, it is likely Russia is resorting to the use of older, less precise weapons, which are less militarily effective and more likely to result in civilian casualties,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

What weapons is the US sending to Ukraine?

The new arms and equipment Biden announced for Ukraine earlier includes S-300 long-range missile defence systems that can strike fighter jets that are much further away, according to AFP.

The US is also giving Ukraine 100 Switchblade drones, which are essentially camera-equipped, remote-controlled flying bombs that can be directed by an operator.

Other arms include 800 Stingers, which are shoulder-mounted infrared anti-aircraft missiles and 2,000 Javelins, also shoulder-mounted weapons that have proven particularly effective at defeating Russian tanks’ anti-missile defences.

‘Thank you for not abandoning me’: Freed Melitopol mayor

Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of Ukraine’s Melitopol who was freed in a swap deal for nine captured Russian soldiers, has thanked Zelenskky for securing his release.

A video posted on social media showed Zelensky speaking to Fedorov on the phone and telling him he was “happy to hear the voice of a man alive”.

Fedorov replies he is “much better”.

“Thank you for not abandoning me. I will need one or two days to recover and then I will be at your disposal to contribute to our victory,” he says.

France warns Russia against use of chemical weapons

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says Paris would consider Russia responsible for any use of chemical or biological weapons in the war in Ukraine.

“If chemical or bacteriological attacks took place in Ukraine, we’d know who would be solely responsible for them. It would be Russia,” Le Drian told French newspaper Le Parisien in an interview.

“The use of unconventional means would constitute an intolerable escalation and would lead in response to absolutely massive and radical economic sanctions, without taboos,” he added.

US says Russian troops still stalled outside Kyiv

Russia continues to make little tangible progress across most of Ukraine, and Russian forces are still stalled outside Kyiv while continuing to bombard the capital city with missiles, a senior US defence official has said.

One key development has been increased Russian naval activity in the northern Black Sea, where ships were shelling suburbs of Odesa, the Associated Press cited the official as saying.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it is not clear what the Russians intend to do, but the shelling could be the start of preparations to launch a ground assault on Odesa.

Ukraine swapped nine Russian soldiers to free detained mayor: Interfax

Ukraine has handed over nine captured Russian soldiers to secure the freedom of the mayor of the southeastern city of Melitopol, who was detained last week, the Interfax Ukraine news agency has reported.

The office of President Zelenskyy earlier said mayor Ivan Fedorov had been released but gave no details.

“Ivan Fedorov was released from Russian captivity … For him, Russia received nine captured soldiers who were born in 2002 and 2003. These are actually children,” Interfax Ukraine quoted Zelenskyy’s press aide Darya Zarivnaya as saying.

Western countries call for UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine

The United Kingdom, United States, France, Albania, Norway and Ireland have called for a United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine, Britain’s mission to the UN has announced.

“Russia is committing war crimes and targeting civilians,” the mission wrote on Twitter. “Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine is a threat to us all.”

The AFP and Reuters news agencies, citing diplomatic sources, reported that the emergency session will take place on Thursday.

UN urges advanced countries to offer protection to all refugees

The UN refugee agency has welcomed the response by advanced countries to the Ukrainian refugee crisis and urged them to act in a similar way towards refugees from other war zones, regardless of nationality, race or religion.

“We welcome this tremendous reception and solidarity exhibited towards refugees in recent days and hope this might inspire some reflection and a shift from some of the toxic narratives and policies we have seen in a number of contexts,” the Reuters news agency quoted Kathryn Mahoney, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as saying.

Ukraine says Russia attacked Mariupol theatre sheltering civilians

Russian forces have bombed a theatre in the besieged city of Mariupol where hundreds of civilians were sheltering, Ukrainian officials have said, even as the sides signalled optimism over continuing talks to end the war in Ukraine.

There was no immediate word on deaths or injuries in what the Mariupol city council said was an air strike on the theatre. The Ukrainian foreign ministry said many people were trapped in the building and accused Russia of committing a war crime.

Russia, Belarus banned from multi-sport European Championships

Athletes from Russia and Belarus have been formally banned from the multi-sport European Championships in August.

Organisers of the August 11-21 championships in Munich said they supported decisions by officials from the nine individual sports not to invite Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials. They have followed guidance from the International Olympic Committee.

“We are united in our condemnation of Russia’s war on Ukraine,” organising committee chairman Libor Varhanik said.

Canada formally removes Russia’s RT from Canadian television

Canada has banned TV service providers in the country from distributing Russian state-owned television channels RT and RT France, saying the programming was not consistent with Canadian standards.

Major Canadian cable operators had already dropped RT from their channel lineup shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Timeline: Week three of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

The third week of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has seen Russian forces continue to bombard several cities including Mariupol, Kharkiv and the capital, Kyiv, as Washington and its allies imposed further sanctions on Moscow.

For a summary of the major events of the third week of the war in Ukraine, click here.

UN Security Council to vote Friday on Russian proposal

The UN Security Council will vote on Friday on a Russian-drafted call for aid access and civilian protection in Ukraine, but diplomats say the measure is set to fail because it does not push for an end to the fighting or a withdrawal of Russian troops.

The draft resolution also does not address accountability or acknowledge Russia’s invasion of its neighbour, the Reuters news agency reported.

“Their resolution calls for parties to respect international humanitarian law, but leaves out the fact that Russia is committing war crimes,” said Britain’s UN ambassador Barbara Woodward.

Kremlin slams Biden for calling Putin a ‘war criminal’

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has called Biden’s characterisation of Putin as a war criminal “unacceptable and unforgivable rhetoric”, the Tass news agency said.

“He is a war criminal,” Biden told reporters in Washington, referring to the Russian leader.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki later said the US president was simply answering a “direct question”.

“We have all seen barbaric acts, horrific acts by a foreign dictator in a country that is threatening and taking the lives of civilians, impacting hospitals, women who are pregnant, journalists, others,” she told reporters.

War going according to plan, Putin says

Despite US assertions that Russia is facing major military and logistic setbacks in its invasion of Ukraine, Putin has said the operation was unfolding “successfully, in strict accordance with pre-approved plans”.

Putin said the West’s “economic blitzkrieg” against Moscow has failed, while admitting the situation is “not easy” for Russians.

France opens probe into Fox News journalist’s death

French prosecutors have opened a war crimes probe into the death of Franco-Irish Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, the country has announced, after Zakrzewski was fatally shot near the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

France’s specialised anti-terror prosecutors will investigate possible charges of causing “deliberate harm to a person protected by international law” and a “deliberate attack against a civilian who was not taking part in hostilities”.

French prosecutors routinely open cases into the violent deaths of citizens overseas.

Photos: Russian bombardment leaves Ukraine’s Kharkiv in ruins

At least 500 people have been killed in the city of Kharkiv since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the regional emergency service has said.

Ukraine’s second-largest city, located in the country’s northeast, has been subjected to relentless bombardment by Russian forces for weeks.

See photos of the devastation in Kharkiv here.

Ukraine negotiator says reported draft peace plan reflects Russian requests

Ukraine’s top negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak has said a draft 15-point peace plan described by the Financial Times reflects the requests of the Russian side.

Podolyak said on Twitter that Ukraine has its own positions, including “a ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian troops and security guarantees from a number of countries”.

Talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators to end the war in Ukraine are continuing, as leaders in both countries said on Wednesday that there appeared to be room for compromise to reach an agreement.

On Moscow visit, Turkey’s top diplomat says war must stop

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who will visit Ukraine on Thursday, has said the war must stop and offered to pursue diplomatic efforts to arrange a lasting ceasefire.

Speaking alongside his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Cavusoglu said, “The war must stop, people must not die. I came here to Moscow with this understanding today.

“We have shared our concerns in a sincere way and done our part to ease tensions and open the stage for diplomacy,” he said. “We would like to host this [Putin-Zelenskyy] meeting when the situation comes to that point … for a lasting ceasefire.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu
Cavusoglu was in Moscow on Wednesday [File: Maxim Shemetov/Pool via Reuters]

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

Read all the updates from Wednesday, March 16 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies