Ukraine latest updates: Russia says first phase of war near end

Ukraine war news from March 25: Russian general says Moscow will push to fully capture eastern region of Donbas.

A man walks behind a crater created by a bomb and in front of damaged houses.
A man walks behind a crater created by a bomb and in front of damaged houses following a Russian bombing earlier this week, outskirts Mykolaiv, Ukraine, Friday, 25, 2022 [Petros Giannakouris/AP Photo]
  • Ukrainian and Russian officials have offered pessimistic assessments over their talks so far.
  • Moscow says the first phase of its “military operation” in Ukraine is mostly complete.
  • The United States and European Union have announced a new deal aimed at curbing Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.
  • US President Joe Biden visits Poland as he concludes his diplomatic trip to Europe.
  • UN nuclear watchdog says staff members at Chernobyl’s radioactive waste facilities have not been rotated in four days.
  • Mariupol officials, citing witnesses, say about 300 people were killed when a theatre in the besieged southeastern port city was bombed by Russian forces on March 16.

This live blog is now closed. Thank you for joining us. For the latest news on March 26, go here.

Here were the updates for March 25:

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Ukraine says 7,331 people were evacuated from cities on Friday

A total of 7,331 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Friday, a senior official said, more than double the 3,343 who managed to escape the previous day.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in an online post that 2,800 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol using private transport.

Macron to hold talks with Putin over Mariupol evacuation initiative

Macron has said he will hold talks with Putin in the next 48-72 hours regarding the situation in Ukraine and an initiative to help people leave the besieged city of Mariupol.

The French president said he is coordinating efforts with Greece and Turkey and hopes to convince Russia to allow the evacuation.

“There was a concrete discussion today with the mayor of Mariupol. We are coordinating and we will then negotiate with the Russians,” Macron told reporters on Friday.

“I will have a conversation with President Putin in the next 48 to 72 hours to finalise the details and modalities. It is urgent,” he added.

EU to Russia: ‘War crimes must stop immediately’

European Union leaders have urged Russia to fully respect its obligations under international law and abide by the recent order by the International Court of Justice that told Moscow to withdraw from Ukraine.

“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine grossly violates international law and is causing massive loss of life and injury to civilians,” the leaders of the 27-nation EU said in a joint statement.

“Russia is directing attacks against the civilian population and is targeting civilian objects, including hospitals, medical facilities, schools and shelters. These war crimes must stop immediately.”

No reason to accept demands for rouble payments for Russian gas: France’s Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron has said there was no reason for his country to accept a demand from Russia to pay in Russian roubles for Russian gas.

Putin had said earlier this week that Russia will seek payment in roubles for gas sold to “unfriendly” countries, raising alarm about a possible gas crunch in Europe.

Macron told a news conference in Brussels that “texts show it is forbidden” to make such demands for payments in the rouble.

Biden compares Russia’s invasion to Tiananmen Square

Biden has compared Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to China’s crushing of protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Biden praised Ukrainians for showing “backbone” in their resistance against Russia, giving the example of “a 30-year-old woman standing there in front of a tank with a rifle”.

“I mean, talk about what happened to Tiananmen Square. This is Tiananmen Square squared,” he said.

Read more here.

‘Russia sticks to ultimatums,’ Ukraine’s foreign minister says

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has underscored the difficulties in talks with Russia to end the war, saying that there has not been a consensus in the negotiations with Kyiv demanding a ceasefire as Moscow “sticks to ultimatums”.

“To stimulate a more constructive approach we need two things: more sanctions and more military aid for Ukraine,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Russian missiles target Ukrainian Air Force command in Vinnytsia, military says

The Ukrainian Air Force has said that Russian cruise missiles hit several buildings while attempting to attack the Air Force’s command in the Vinnytsia region, southwest of Kyiv.

“The consequences of the missile strike by the occupiers are being clarified,” it said in a statement.

Chernobyl staff members have not been rotated in four days, IAEA says

Staff on duty at Chernobyl’s Russian-held radioactive waste facilities have not been rotated in four days, and Ukraine cannot say when that will change because of fighting in the town where many of them live, the UN nuclear watchdog has said.

“Ukraine informed the International Atomic Energy Agency today that there had been no rotation of technical staff at [Chernobyl] since 21 March and it did not know when it might next take place,” the IAEA said in a statement.

Pope leads global prayer for peace between Russia and Ukraine

Pope Francis has led the world’s Catholic bishops in praying for peace between Russia and Ukraine, saying the world had forgotten the tragedies of the 20th century and was still menaced by nuclear war.

Francis presided at a service in St Peter’s Basilica where he prayed for the protection of all humanity, “especially Russia and Ukraine”.

In a separate homily before reciting the prayer, Francis spoke of “scenes of death” in which “bombs are destroying the homes of many of our defenceless Ukrainian brothers and sisters” and of “a cruel and senseless war that threatens our world”.

The pope posted several messages in English, Russian and Ukrainian on Twitter on Friday stressing peace and forgiveness.

Mexican president downplays US general’s claim of Russian agents in Mexico

Mexico’s president has said he has no information about comments from a US general that Russian intelligence agents are based in Mexico, and reiterated Mexico’s non-interventionist stance.

“We don’t have information on this,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said, adding that the government would not impede any foreigner from carrying out legal activities.

“Mexico is a free, independent, sovereign country … We’re not going to Moscow to spy on anybody, nor to Beijing … nor to Washington,” he said on Friday.

US Air Force General Glen VanHerck had told a Senate hearing on Thursday that Russia’s military intelligence service has its “largest portion” of members in Mexico.

Erdogan, Zelenskyy discuss Ukraine-Russia talks: Turkish presidency

Turkish President Erdogan has spoken by phone with his Ukrainian counterpart Zelenskyy, and the two leaders discussed the situation on the ground in Ukraine as well as the stage reached in negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow, Erdogan’s office said.

Erdogan told Zelenskyy that he had emphasised at this week’s NATO summit his support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the statement said.

Ankara has hosted ceasefire talks, positioning itself as a mediator between Moscow and Kyiv.

‘No one is going to surrender Mariupol,’ Ukraine’s top security official says

Ukrainian forces still control the besieged port city of Mariupol and no one will surrender it, Ukraine’s top security official Oleksiy Danilov has said.

“Mariupol is holding on, and no one is going to surrender Mariupol,” Danilov said in televised comments.

Biden heads to Warsaw

Biden has left the Polish city of Rzeszow, after meeting with US troops and representatives of aid organisations, to fly to the capital Warsaw.

Biden’s visit to Poland gave him a chance to underscore the US commitment to protect a key NATO member on Ukraine’s doorstep and to thank Poles for welcoming refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion.

“Hundreds of thousands of people are being cut off from help by Russian forces and are besieged in places like Mariupol,” Biden said earlier. “It’s like something out of a science fiction movie.”

US sees Russia focusing on eastern Ukraine: Official

The United States assesses that Russia is prioritising eastern Ukraine’s Donbas, as opposed to Kyiv, in what could be an effort to build leverage in negotiations and cut off Ukrainian forces in the east from the rest of the country, a senior US defence official has said.

Russia said earlier that the first phase of its military operation was mostly complete and it would focus on completely “liberating” Ukraine’s breakaway eastern Donbas region.

The US defence official also said Russia was looking to send reinforcements from Georgia.

Ukrainian forces still control Mariupol city, says regional governor

The governor of Ukraine’s Donetsk region has said Ukrainian forces still control the besieged southern city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.

Speaking on national television, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said around 65,000 people had so far fled the city in private vehicles or on foot although official efforts to organise mass evacuations under temporary ceasefires have mostly failed.

Biden suggests he wanted to visit Ukraine

Biden has suggested that he wanted to visit Ukraine but was unable to because of the security situation there.

“I’m here in Poland to see firsthand the humanitarian crisis, and quite frankly, part of my disappointment is that I can’t see it firsthand, like I have in other places,” Biden, speaking alongside his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda, said.

“They will not let me – understandably I guess – cross the border and take a look at what’s going on in Ukraine.”

Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden during a briefing on humanitarian efforts for Ukraine, at Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport, in Jasionka, near Rzeszow, Poland, March 25 [Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

Ukraine, Russia voice pessimism over talks

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says negotiations with Russia aimed at ending the conflict are “very difficult” and vowed Kyiv would not back down on its demands.

“The Ukrainian delegation has taken a strong position and does not relinquish its demands. We insist, first of all, on a ceasefire, security guarantees, and [the] territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Kuleba said.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky as saying the two sides were making little progress on key issues.

Medinsky also said Moscow believed Kyiv was trying to stretch out the negotiations.

Earlier, Turkish broadcaster NTV and others cited President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying progress had been made on several key points. Ankara, which enjoys good relations with both Moscow and Kyiv, has been attempting to position itself as a mediator between the two sides.

Is Central Asia loosening ties with Russia?

After Uzbekistan’s unexpected pro-Ukraine statement, analysts say traditional regional dynamics could be shifting.

Read more here.

France summons Russian envoy over controversial cartoon

Russia’s ambassador to France has been summoned to the French Foreign Ministry over a controversial Twitter post.

The Russian embassy in Paris on Thursday posted a picture depicting a body lying on a table called “Europe” with characters representing the US and EU jabbing needles into it. It later deleted the tweet, but also appeared to have liked other tweets highlighting its original post.

“These posts are unacceptable. We made that clear today to the Russian Ambassador,” France’s foreign ministry said in a statement sent to the Reuters news agency.

“We are trying to maintain a demanding channel of dialogue with Russia and these actions are completely inappropriate.”

Russia’s governing party opens office in Mariupol, local authorities say

Russia’s governing United Russia party has opened an office in Mariupol, the city’s council has said, citing reports by local residents.

The office is located in the city’s Metro shopping centre, the council said in a Telegram post.

“According to Mariupol residents who remain in the city, the … [office] distributes party newspapers, agitates for Russia, and also issues cards of the Phoenix mobile operator, which has been operating in the occupied territory of Donetsk since 2014,” it added.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the city council’s claims.

Russian troops ‘on the defensive in many areas’, Zelenskyy adviser says

Russian forces are not motivated to fight in Ukraine and are now “on the defensive in many areas”, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

Oleksiy Arestovych also claimed in a video briefing posted on Telegram that many Russian troops were refusing to join the offensive after hearing of fellow soldiers being killed in huge numbers in Ukraine.

Switzerland adopts more EU sanctions against Russia

Switzerland’s government says it has adopted more EU sanctions against Russia after pledging to act in step with the bloc as it moves to financially punish Moscow.

“This means that all measures contained in the EU’s fourth package of sanctions have been implemented,” the country’s cabinet said in a statement.

However, the cabinet said it had decided not to implement the EU measure of March 1 suspending the broadcasting of Russian media outlets Sputnik and Russia Today.

“Despite the fact that these outlets are used to spread targeted propaganda and disinformation by the Russian Federation, the Federal Council is of the opinion that it is more effective to counter untrue and harmful statements with facts instead of preventing them from being broadcast,” it added.

A man is seen near a board showing currency exchange rates in Russia's Saint Petersburg
Sweeping sanctions imposed on Russia have hammered the country’s economy and sent its currency, the rouble, plunging in value [File: Anton Vaganov/Reuters]

Dozens of Ukrainian officials, journalists detained, disappeared: UN

Dozens of Ukrainian officials, journalists and activists have been detained or forcibly disappeared by invading Russian forces, the UN has warned, saying that some cases resembled “hostage-taking”.

The UN’s human rights office (OHCHR) said it had documented the arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of 22 local Ukrainian officials, 13 of whom had subsequently been released, since Moscow launched its attack.

At least 15 journalists and civil society activists “who vocally opposed the invasion” in several regions had also been taken, Matilda Bogner, OHCHR’s representative in Ukraine, said in a statement.

“This does seem to be a pattern that is occurring in areas that are occupied by the Russian Federation,” she said.

“Forces of the Russian Federation are going specifically to detain, and do not inform relatives and others where they are taking people … That does in some cases appear to be a form of hostage-taking.”

UN says more than 1,080 civilians killed in Ukraine

The UN’s human rights office says it has confirmed at least 1,081 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia started its offensive, with the real toll expected to be significantly higher.

In its latest update on casualties, OHCHR also said that 1,707 people had been wounded amid Moscow’s onslaught.

It added that UN human rights monitors are working to verify reports of additional deaths in places of intense clashes in the regions of Sumy, Kharkiv and Donetsk, where the city of Mariupol is located.

Moscow updates troop death toll, says 1,351 killed

Russia’s army has updated its troop death toll, saying 1,351 soldiers have been killed and 3,825 others wounded since the start of its offensive in Ukraine.

The new toll, announced at a Moscow briefing delivered by senior military officials, came several weeks after Moscow gave its first assessment of losses in the conflict on March 2.

At the time, Russia put the number of its forces killed at 498.

Kyiv says more than 16,000 Russian troops have been killed, while NATO officials have told Al Jazeera they believe the death toll on the Russian side amounts to between 7,000-15,000 personnel.

Russia says first phase of Ukraine ‘operation’ mostly complete

Russia has said the first phase of its “military operation” in Ukraine is mostly complete and that it will now focus on completely “liberating” eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

The Russian defence ministry said Russian-backed separatists now controlled 93 percent of Ukraine’s Luhansk region and 54 percent of the Donetsk region – the two areas that jointly make up the Donbas.

“The combat potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been considerably reduced, which … makes it possible to focus our core efforts on achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbas,” Sergei Rudskoi, head of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operational Directorate, said.

The defence ministry added that it did not rule out storming Ukrainian cities that had been blockaded and said that Russia would react immediately to any attempt to close the airspace over Ukraine – something Kyiv has asked NATO to do, but NATO has resisted.

It said that Moscow’s offensive would continue until Russian forces had completed the tasks that had been set by Russian President Vladimir Putin, without saying what those tasks were.

Russia’s military had considered two options for its operation in Ukraine, one confined to the Donbas and the other on the whole territory of Ukraine, before opting for the latter, according to Rudskoi.

US president lands in Poland, near Ukraine border

Biden has landed in Poland’s southeastern city of Rzeszow, located about 100km (62 miles) from the country’s border with Ukraine.

The US president is due to meet US soldiers stationed in the area and non-governmental organisations helping Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion later.

Putin says West trying to ‘cancel’ Russian culture

Putin has accused the West of trying to cancel Russian culture, including the works of great composers such as Pyotr Tchaikovsky.

“Today, they are trying to cancel a whole thousand-year culture, our people,” the Russian leader said in a televised meeting with cultural figures, referring to the pulling of events involving Russian masters in some Western countries in recent weeks.

Read more here.

Ukraine says attack on Chernobyl workers’ town repulsed

Arestovych, Zelenskyy’s adviser, says Ukrainian troops have repulsed a first attack by Russian forces on the town of Slavutych, where some workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live.

Local authorities had earlier said the town was “completely isolated”, with Russian forces just beyond its limits.

The Kyiv region administration said in a statement that Moscow’s troops were stationed about 1.5km (one mile) away.

The Chernobyl plant was seized by Russian forces on February 24, the first day of Russia’s invasion.


Ukrainian officials say elderly couple shot dead by Russian forces in Sumy

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office says two elderly Ukrainians have been killed by Russian forces in their own home in the country’s northeastern Sumy region.

“According to the investigation, on March 24, 2022, servicemen of the armed forces of the Russian Federation shot two residents in their own yard in Veliky Sambir village,” the Interfax-Ukraine news agency quoted the office as saying in a Telegram post.

The office reportedly said the victims, a man and woman, were both aged 62. There was no immediate reaction from Russia and Al Jazeera could not independently verify the report.

Sumy has witnessed fierce fighting since Moscow launched its invasion.

US, G7 freeze Russian gold amid Ukraine war: All you need to know

Western powers have taken new action aimed at destabilising Russia’s sanctions-hit economy.

On Thursday, the US and its allies announced they were blocking financial transactions involving the Russian central bank’s international reserves of gold.

Find out more here.

Russian attacks kill four at Kharkiv aid centre, police say

Russian shelling has hit a clinic that was acting as a centre for humanitarian aid in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, killing four people, according to local police.

“As a result of the morning shelling of civilian infrastructure from multiple rocket launchers, seven civilians were injured, four of whom died,” the regional police force said a statement. “There is no military facility nearby.”

One local resident told the AFP news agency they had heard the shelling and witnessed the bloody aftermath of the attack.

“I had gone out looking for bread. There were explosions. When I came back there were four bodies lying there, with relatives crying by their side,” 71-year-old Mykola Hladkiy said.

Ukraine says Russian forces have ‘partially’ created a land corridor to Crimea

Ukraine’s defence ministry says Russian forces have partially managed to create a land corridor to the Crimea Peninsula from territory in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.

“The enemy was partially successful in creating a land corridor between the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and part of Donetsk region,” the ministry said in a Facebook post.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Q&A with Russian novelist Boris Akunin

Al Jazeera has spoken to Russian novelist Boris Akunin on the war, the “cancelling” of Russian culture and his efforts to assist Ukrainian refugees, among other topics.

Read the Q&A here.

Growing evidence of Mariupol mass graves, UN official says

The head of the UN’s human rights team in Ukraine says that monitors have received increasing information on mass graves in Mariupol, including one that appeared to hold 200 bodies.

“We have got increasing information on mass graves that are there,” Matilda Bogner told journalists by video link from Ukraine, saying some of the evidence came from satellite images.

Dead bodies are seen being put into a mass grave on the outskirts of Mariupol
Mariupol has been pounded by Russian shelling for weeks [File: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP]

Russia denies breaching international law with phosphorus bombs

The Kremlin’s spokesman has denied allegations by Ukraine’s president that Russian forces have used phosphorus bombs during their offensive.

“Russia has never violated international conventions,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters, referring any further questions to the defence ministry. He did not provide any further details.

Peskov’s remarks came after Zelenskyy accused Russia on Thursday of having used phosphorus bombs against civilians in his country.

International law prohibits the use of white phosphorus shells in areas populated by civilians.

Is the Ukraine war weakening Putin’s position in Russia?

Although he appears increasingly isolated, analysts say Putin is unlikely to be removed from power by a mass uprising or coup.

Instead, some say, a move to unseat the Russian leader may come from within his inner circle, among other possibilities.

Click here to read more.

Kremlin plays down impact of possible G20 expulsion

The Kremlin has said that nothing terrible will happen if the US and its allies succeed in expelling Russia from the G20 group of major economies.

“The G20 format is important, but in the current circumstances, when most of the participants are in a state of economic war with us, nothing terrible will happen,” Peskov told reporters when responding to a question about Moscow’s possible expulsion.

The US has said it is in favour of Russia being pushed out of the group, but Peskov said Washington’s efforts to isolate Moscow had so far only been partially effective and would ultimately fail.

Local officials say 300 killed in Mariupol theatre bombing

Mariupol’s local government, citing witnesses, has said about 300 people were killed last week when Russian forces struck a theatre in the besieged city that was being used as a makeshift bomb shelter.

The southeastern port city’s authorities provided the toll in a Telegram post. Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the figures provided.

It was not immediately clear whether emergency workers had finished excavating the site.

When the theatre was struck on March 16, an enormous inscription reading “CHILDREN” was posted outside in Russian, intended to be visible from the skies above.

Soon after the bombing, Ludmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian Parliament’s human rights commissioner, said more than 1,300 people had been sheltering in the building. Russia has denied attacking the theatre and targeting civilians amid its offensive.

Ukrainian forces recapturing towns east of Kyiv, UK says

The UK’s defence ministry says Ukrainian forces have re-taken towns and defensive positions up to 35km (21 miles) east of Kyiv.

In its latest intelligence update, the ministry said the developments were the result of Ukrainian counterattacks and “Russian forces falling back on overextended supply lines”.

It added Ukrainian forces were also likely to “continue to attempt to push Russian forces back along the northwestern axis from Kyiv towards Hostomel Airfield”.

Ukrainian website instructs Russians on how to surrender

Ukraine’s Telegraf news website has published an article instructing Russian soldiers how to surrender.

“Put aside your arms. Stand up straight. Raise your hands or a white flag. Yell loudly, ‘I surrender!'” the article, which was published in Russian, said.

It added that those who surrender will be given amnesty, given “monetary rewards” for handing over equipment and weapons and allowed to make calls to family or friends to inform them of their circumstances.

Those who give up arms will be held as prisoners of war, but released and returned to Russia upon the cessation of hostilities, the article said.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Service members of pro-Russian troops are seen atop of an armoured vehicle
Russia calls its invasion a ‘special military operation’ and says it is aimed at demilitarising Ukraine [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Ukraine makes new effort to evacuate civilians from Mariupol

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister has said she hopes some civilians trapped in Mariupol will be allowed to leave the city in private cars today.

Those who manage to escape will find buses awaiting in the nearby city of Berdyansk, which will take them onwards to the city of Zaporizhzhia, Iryna Vereshchuk said in a televised address.

“We will do everything in our power so that buses filled with Mariupol residents reach Zaporizhzhia today,” she added.

Mariupol, which is normally home to about 400,000 people, has been under heavy bombardment from Russian forces for weeks. Those trapped there have been sheltering in basements with little food, power or running water.

Kyiv and Moscow have traded blame over several failed attempts to arrange safe passage out of the city for civilians.

EU pens new deal with US aimed at reducing reliance on Russian gas

The US and EU have announced a new deal on liquefied natural gas (LNG) aimed at reducing Europe’s reliance on Russian energy imports.

The agreement, unveiled by Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at a news conference in Brussels, will see the US supply the bloc with at least 15 billion additional cubic metres of the fuel this year.

“This will replace the LNG supply we currently receive from Russia,” von der Leyen said.

She added the EU will work with member states to also ensure they can receive at least 50 bcm of additional LNG until 2030.

About 10 percent of the EU’s gas needs are met by production within the bloc. Russia typically supplies about 41 percent of the rest of the LNG used by its member states.

Click here to read more.

Chernihiv cut off by Russian troops, local official says

Russian forces have fully cut off Ukraine’s besieged northern city of Chernihiv, regional governor Viacheslav Chaus has said.
“The city has been conditionally, operationally surrounded by the enemy,” Chaus said on national television, adding that it was under fire from artillery and warplanes.

Thousands flee Boryspil

About 20,000 people have fled the Ukrainian city of Boryspil, its mayor has said.

In remarks aired on national television, Volodymyr Borysenko urged others to evacuate, saying the large number of civilians in villages nearby made it difficult for Ukrainian troops to clear Russian forces from the area.

The city’s outskirts are home to an international airport, located about 30km (19 miles) east of Kyiv.

Ukrainian refugees in Poland wait to board a train back to the Ukraine outside of Przemysl Glowny train station, after fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s invasion has sparked a major humanitarian crisis, displacing millions of Ukrainians [File: Hannah McKay/Reuters]

Russia says it destroyed fuel depot outside Kyiv

Russia’s defence ministry says the country’s forces have destroyed a major fuel depot in the village of Kalynivka, near Kyiv, in a missile attack.

Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told a briefing that the strike happened on Thursday evening, using Kalibr cruise missiles fired from the sea.

Konashenkov said the depot was Ukraine’s largest remaining military fuel storage facility and had been used to supply Ukrainian forces positioned in the centre of the country.

59 percent of Russian missiles malfunctioned, downed or missed: Ukraine

Russia has launched some 1,200 cruise missiles since its invasion began, but 59 percent of them did not explode, were shot down or missed, Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces has said.

“Russia shot about 1,200 missiles, less than a half hit the target,” it said on Telegram.

“Others were either shot down by air defence forces, or hit wrong targets – mountains, forests, rivers,” it added. “They have imprecise missiles and crooked hands.”

A senior Pentagon official said earlier that Moscow was running out of precision-guided munitions and was increasingly likely to rely on other weapons.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Biden to visit near Ukraine border

Biden will travel to a town near the Polish-Ukrainian border later today.

Air Force One will jet into the eastern Polish town of Rzeszow – bringing the US president less than 80km (50 miles) from Ukraine.

The trip is designed to underscore Washington’s willingness to defend NATO allies, as fears rise that the month-old war could yet spark what the US president has called “World War III”.

Marshall Islands says looking at ‘expelling’ Russian ships on its registry

The Marshall Islands is considering “expelling” from their ship registry any Russian yachts or boats that have been targeted by Western-led sanctions on Russia, its foreign minister has said.

The minister, Casten Nemra, whose country along with Panama and Liberia is popular for registering ships, told reporters on a trip to Taiwan that his Pacific island nation strongly condemned the Russian invasion.

“We also are one of the largest ship registry programmes for flagged ships throughout the global shipping industry,” he said.

“We are also looking into expelling any Russian ownership in terms of yachts or those that are listed and are on the sanction list. We will do our part in working, collaborating with a number of countries.”

Rescuers searching for survivors near Dnipro: Governor

Rescuers are searching for survivors among the debris after two missiles hit a Ukrainian military unit on the outskirts of the city of Dnipro, causing “serious destruction”, regional Governor Valentyn Reznychenko has said on social media.

Russian shelling kills 2 civilians in Luhansk: Governor

Indiscriminate Russian shelling has killed two civilians and caused multiple fires in the town of Rubizhne of the southeastern Luhansk region, the governor has said.

But the front line has not changed despite intensive overnight shelling of several towns in Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai wrote on Facebook.

A part of Luhansk has been controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014, and their “People’s Republic” became a springboard for the Russian invasion that began on February 24.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Germany wants to halve dependence on Russian oil by summer: Report

Germany’s economy ministry wants to halve the country’s dependence on Russian oil by the summer and have no Russian hard coal imports by the autumn, the country’s Der Spiegel magazine has reported, citing a ministry memo.

“By the middle of the year, Russian oil imports to Germany are expected to be halved,” Spiegel quoted the memo as reading. “By the end of the year, we aim to be almost independent.

“By autumn, Germany can be independent of Russian coal.”

200 Russian soldiers killed, 12 tanks, 2 planes destroyed

In the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces killed some 200 Russian servicemen and repelled nine attacks, Ukraine’s General Staff of Armed Forces has said.

It also said on Facebook that 12 tanks, 20 armoured vehicles, nine artillery systems, three planes and three drones have been destroyed.

Russia does not divulge its losses, and the claims could not be independently verified.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Ukraine says 135 children killed

At least 135 children have been killed amid Russia’s invasion and 184 others wounded, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office says.

The office said 64 of the casualties had been recorded in the Kyiv region, 44 in the northeastern Kharkiv region and 46 in the southeastern Donetsk region, which is partially controlled by pro-Russian separatist forces.

Ukrainian officials accuse Russia of deliberately targeting civilians and shelling apartment buildings, schools and hospitals. Moscow denies doing so.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Russian ex-president says Western sanctions won’t sway Kremlin

It is “foolish” to believe that Western sanctions against Russian businesses could have any effect on the Moscow government, Russian ex-president and deputy head of security council, Dmitry Medvedev, has been quoted as saying.

The sanctions will only consolidate the Russian society and not cause popular discontent with the authorities, Medvedev told Russia’s RIA news agency in an interview.

Missile attack reported on Ukraine military facility in Dnipro

Russian forces have fired two missiles at a Ukrainian military unit on the outskirts of Dnipro, the fourth-largest city in the country, according to regional emergency services.

The attacks destroyed buildings and set off two fires, it said, while the number of those killed and wounded was still being established.

Dnipro is west of the regions along the Russian border that have been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.

Al Jazeera could not verify the claim independently.

Biden to meet EU’s von der Leyen, announce gas deal

Biden is due to meet European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels, where he is expected to announce plans to increase shipments of liquefied natural gas to Europe.

The US leader and von der Leyen issued a statement earlier pledging to sharpen sanctions against Russia, and step up humanitarian relief for Ukraine.

The statement said the two sides will boost energy cooperation to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels, and pledged to support the work of war crimes documentation experts in Ukraine

Read the statement here.

Three dead, 13 wounded in attack on Ukraine village: Report

At least three people have died and 13 were wounded when Russian forces fired on a village in the southern Mykolaiv region, according to the Ukrinform news website.

The Bashtansky council said the Russian attack on Thursday also damaged the town’s school and the mayor’s office, Ukrinform reported.

Evacuation train from Kyiv comes under fire: Report

Authorities in Ukraine say Russian forces attacked a train evacuating civilians from Kyiv to Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine, shattering the windows of three carriages.

There were no casualties in Thursday’s attack, an official with Ukraine’s national railway operator said.

The Ukrainian interior ministry, meanwhile, reported “heavy artillery fire on Vyshhorod”, a town outside Kyiv. The attacks damaged an apartment block, the ministry said.

Japan announces more Russia sanctions, steps up Ukraine aid

The Japanese government says it will freeze the assets of 25 more Russians and ban exports to 81 Russian organisations in response to Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also said Tokyo will offer an additional $100m in humanitarian aid to Ukraine and neighbouring countries supporting Kyiv.

Read more here.

EU leaders slam Russia ‘war crimes’, demand end to ‘aggression’ in Ukraine

EU leaders meeting in Brussels have issued a statement demanding an end to Russia’s “war of aggression against Ukraine” and slamming its attacks on the country’s civilian population and infrastructure.

“These war crimes must stop immediately. Those responsible, and their accomplices, will be held to account in accordance with international law,” the leaders said.

They added that the EU stands by Ukraine and will continue to “provide coordinated political, financial, material and humanitarian support”.

U.S. President Joe Biden and European Council President Charles Michel arrive for a European Union leaders summit, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at the Europa Building in Brussels
US President Joe Biden (left) and European Council President Charles Michel arrive for a EU leaders’ summit, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at the Europa Building in Brussels, Belgium, on March 24, 2022 [Johanna Geron/ Reuters]

‘We are getting closer to peace’: Zelenskyy reassures Ukraine

Zelenskyy has spoken of hope and determination in his nighttime address to the nation, saying Ukrainians are “getting closer to victory”.

“The country must move toward peace, move forward. With every day of our defence, we are getting closer to the peace that we need so much,” the Ukrainian president said. “We can’t stop even for a minute. For every minute determines our fate, our future, whether we will live.”

Zelenskyy said he had made appeals to Western leaders gathered in Brussels earlier on Thursday “all for one reason – so that Russia understands that we need to achieve peace”.

“Russia also needs to achieve peace,” he added.

US envoy urges Mexico to side with Ukraine

A US diplomat has urged Mexican legislators to join Washington in supporting Ukraine against Russia after his Russian counterpart encouraged Mexico to defy “Uncle Sam”.

“The Russian ambassador was here yesterday making a lot of noise about how Mexico and Russia are so close. This, sorry, can never happen. It can never happen,” Ken Salazar, the US’s ambassador to Mexico, said in remarks at Mexico’s lower house of Congress.

“We have to be in solidarity with Ukraine and against Russia,” he said.

Zelenskyy urges Hungary not to block Ukraine’s EU bid

Ukraine’s president has appealed to Hungary not to block Kyiv’s bid to join the EU during his video address to the EU.

“Listen, Viktor, do you know what is happening in Mariupol?” Zelenskyy said, addressing Hungarian President Viktor Orban and referring to the besieged Ukrainian port city where tens of thousands are trapped with little access to food and water.

“I want to be open once and for all – you should decide for yourself, who you are for.”

Orban is widely considered to be Putin’s closest ally among EU leaders.

Zelenskyy asks EU leaders for quick membership

Ukraine’s president has thanked EU leaders for working together to support Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia, including Germany’s decision to block Russia from delivering natural gas to Europe through the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

But during a video address to the European council, Zelenskyy lamented that these steps were not taken earlier, saying there was a chance Russia would have thought twice about invading.

He then appealed to the EU leaders to move quickly on Ukraine’s application to join the bloc.

“Here I ask you, do not delay. Please,” Zelenskyy said by video from Kyiv. “For us, this is a chance.”

Putin’s defence minister resurfaces after disappearing from view

Russian state media has shown Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu attending a meeting of top officials amid speculation about his whereabouts after he dropped out of public view weeks into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Shoigu, who is overseeing the war in Ukraine, had not been seen in public since March 11.

But the RIA state-owned news agency on Thursday showed Shoigu on a televised split screen of top officials as Putin spoke to his Security Council by video conference.

RIA made a point of zooming in on Shoigu in the top left-hand corner of a video screen set in front of Putin. The clip did not contain audio and did not show Shoigu speaking.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov attend a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (right) and Chief of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov (left) attend a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, on February 27, 2022 [Sputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via Reuters]

Russia running out of precision munitions in Ukraine: Pentagon

A senior Pentagon official says Russia is running out of precision-guided munitions and it is more likely to rely on so-called dumb bombs and artillery.

Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl speculated that he did not believe Putin wanted to have an all-out conflict with NATO.

Russia will emerge from Ukraine conflict weaker, more isolated: Pentagon

A US under-secretary for defence policy says Russia will emerge from the conflict in Ukraine weaker and more isolated.

“I think with a high degree of certainty that Russia will emerge from Ukraine weaker than it went into the conflict. Militarily weaker, economically weaker, politically and geopolitically weaker, and more isolated,” Colin Khal said.

The Pentagon official also said an upcoming Pentagon defence strategy document would declare Russia an “acute threat”.

But Russia cannot pose a long-term system challenge to the US, unlike China, he said.

US assesses up to 60% failure rate for some Russian missiles: Report

Three US officials have told the Reuters news agency that Russia is suffering failure rates as high as 60 percent for some of the precision-guided missiles it is using to attack Ukraine.

Reuters said the US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not provide evidence to support the assessment and did not disclose what precisely was driving high missile failure rates.

If true, the agency said, it could help explain why Russia has failed to achieve what most could consider basic objectives since its invasion a month ago, such as neutralizing Ukraine’s air force, despite the apparent strength of its military against Ukraine’s much smaller armed forces.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the figures.

Chechen forces ‘liberated’ Mariupol city hall: Kadyrov

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov says that his forces have taken control of the city hall in besieged Mariupol and hoisted the Russian flag.

“The guys are radioing to say that they liberated the building of the Mariupol authorities and put up our flag over it,” Kadyrov said on Telegram.

He also released a video later saying Moscow’s forces “have completely cleared the residential areas in the eastern part of the city”.

The footage showed a group of soldiers raising a flag bearing Kadyrov’s image over a damaged building.

“Soldiers raised a flag over the building of the Levoberejny district prosecutor’s office, the last one to be liberated,” he said.

Al Jazeera could not confirm the claims independently.

Belarus protests Polish call for peacekeeping force in Ukraine

Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, has said that a Polish proposal to deploy a Western peacekeeping force in Ukraine “will mean World War III”.

“The situation is very serious and very tense,” he added.

‘Catastrophe’ in Chernihiv as Russian troops accused of shelling food stores

A government official in the northern city of Chernihiv has told The Associated Press news agency that a “catastrophe” is unfolding for the local population with Russian troops deliberately targeting food stores in a near-month-long siege.

An air attack this week destroyed a bridge over the Desna River, which was a crucial route to bring in food and other aid from Ukraine-controlled territory further south.

“Humanitarian help, medicines and food used to be delivered into the city via this bridge,” City Council Secretary Olexander Lomako told AP in an audio message.

He estimated that more than 130,000 people are left in the city out of a pre-war population of 285,000, but that Ukraine remains in full control.

Ukraine forces striking ‘high value’ Russian targets: UK

The UK’s defence ministry says Ukrainian forces have launched raids against “high-value targets in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, including a landing ship and ammunition storage depots at Berdyansk”.

In its latest intelligence update, the ministry said such attacks will force the Russian military to “prioritise the defence of their supply chain and deprive them of much-needed resupply for forces”.

“This will reduce Russia’s ability to conduct offensive operations and further damage already dwindling morale,” it added.

Ukraine says Moscow forcibly taking civilians to Russia

Ukraine says Moscow has forcibly taken 402,000 civilians from shattered Ukrainian cities to Russia, where some may be used as “hostages” to pressure Kyiv to give up.

Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine’s ombudsperson, said the figure included 84,000 children.

She said they were being held in primitive conditions with little food and water.

The Kremlin gave nearly identical numbers for those who have been relocated but said they wanted to go to Russia.

Ukraine’s rebel-controlled eastern regions are predominantly Russian-speaking, and many people there have supported close ties to Moscow.

Australia imposes sanctions on Belarus president, adds new ones on Russia

Australia has imposed sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and members of his family, and 22 Russian individuals, whom it called “propagandists and disinformation operatives”.

The latest sanctions will target editors from organisations including RT, the Strategic Culture Foundation, InfoRos and NewsFront, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said in a statement.

Belarus continues to provide strategic support to Russia and its military forces “in their assault on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”, Payne said.

IAEA concerned over shelling of Chernobyl staff town

The UN’s atomic watchdog (IAEA) has expressed “concern” after Ukraine warned of Russian bombardment of the town where the staff working at the Chernobyl nuclear site live.

“Ukraine informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today that Russian forces were shelling Ukrainian checkpoints in the city of Slavutych where many people working at the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant live, putting them at risk,” the Vienna-based UN agency said in a statement.

Its director-general, Rafael Grossi, said the incident came “just a few days after technical staff at the Chornobyl (plant) were finally able to rotate and go to their homes in Slavutych and rest after working for nearly four weeks without a change of shift”.

Canada to increase oil, gas exports

Canada plans to increase oil and gas exports this year by up to 300,000 barrels per day, the country’s natural resources minister has said, as nations seek to wean themselves off Russian energy supplies.

Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said in a statement that the move – which would amount to an increase of about 5 percent – aims to help Canada’s allies respond to “an energy security crisis” caused by Russia’s ongoing invasion.

“Our European friends and allies need Canada and others to step up,” said Wilkinson.

Read more here.

US Senate delays vote to revoke ‘most-favoured-nation’ trade status for Russia

Legislation removing “most-favoured-nation” trade status for Russia has been delayed in the US Senate at least until next week, after some Republicans raised concerns that its human rights provisions might be too broad.

The bill was blocked despite legislators’ insistence that they wanted to show a united front in supporting the government in Kyiv, a month after Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine.

It is expected to pass next week, although the delay stymied efforts by Biden’s fellow Democrats to pass it in time for his meetings on Thursday with allies in Europe.

Ukraine says 3,343 people evacuated on Thursday

A total of 3,343 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Thursday, a senior official has said, fewer than the 4,554 who managed to escape the previous day.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in an online post that 2,717 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol.

She accused the Russians of blocking humanitarian aid convoys into the city for the last three days.

G7 warns against threat of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons

The G7 countries have warned against the threat of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, rebuking Russia over what they called “completely unfounded” allegations of bioweapons in Ukraine.

“We recall Russia’s obligations under the international treaties to which it is a signatory, and which protect us all,” the countries said in a joint statement.

Read the full statement from the G7 here.

Russia’s Daniil Medvedev shrugs off Wimbledon ban threat

Tennis star Daniil Medvedev has shrugged off the possibility of being barred from this year’s Wimbledon after the status of Russian players at the tournament was called into question by the UK government.

British Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston told a parliamentary hearing last week the government could require Medvedev to provide assurances he did not support Putin before being allowed to compete at Wimbledon.

“Don’t have any response to Wimbledon,” Medvedev said. “I will need to see what happens next. I try to take it tournament by tournament. I mean, there are always different rules, regulations in order to play or not to play.”

Ukraine to feature heavily in Blinken’s Middle East trip

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s upcoming trip to the Middle East and North Africa will be heavily dominated by discussion of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Iran, a US official has said.

“Both of those are going to be really at the top of the agenda,” Washington’s top diplomat for Near Eastern affairs, Yael Lempert, told reporters.

Blinken is set to visit Israel, the West Bank, Morocco and Algeria from March 26 to 30.

Iran and Ukraine to top Biden’s agenda in Middle East trip [File: Saul Loeb/Pool via AP]

G7 backs ICC probe into war crimes in Ukraine

The G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US – have backed the International Criminal Court’s probe into possible war crimes in Ukraine, saying they are “appalled” by Russian attacks on Ukrainian towns and cities.

“We will work together to support the gathering of evidence of war crimes,” the G7 said in a joint statement.

“The siege of Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities, and the denial of humanitarian access by Russian military forces are unacceptable. Russian forces must immediately provide for safe pathways to other parts of Ukraine, as well as humanitarian aid to be delivered to Mariupol and other besieged cities.”

Biden renews warnings to China against aiding Russia in Ukraine

Biden has reiterated his warnings to China against coming to Russia’s aid in Ukraine, saying he made clear “the consequences” of such assistance to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a phone call last week.

The US president said Xi understand that China’s economic interests are with the West, not Russia, he said.

“I made no threats, but I pointed out the number of American and foreign corporations who left Russia as a consequence of their barbaric behaviour,” Biden told reporters of his conversation with Xi.

Read more here.

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

Read all the updates from Thursday, March 24 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies