Latest Ukraine updates: Five wounded in Russian attack on Lviv

Ukraine war news from March 26: Regional governor Maksym Kozytsky says two missile attacks wounded at least five people.

Smoke rises after an air raid, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Lviv.
Smoke rises after an air raid, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Lviv [Vladyslav Sodel/Reuters]
  • US President Joe Biden says that Russia’s Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” after describing him as a “butcher”.
  • Kremlin slams comments, saying Russians are those choosing who their leader should be.
  • Five people wounded in missile attacks on Lviv.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls on energy-producing countries to increase output to stop Russia from using its oil and gas wealth to “blackmail” other nations.
  • Ukraine declares it has reached an agreement on establishing 10 humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians.
  • Russia states it is now focused on fully capturing Donbas in apparent shift in strategy.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 31

This live blog is now closed. Thank you for joining us. For the latest news on March 27, go here.

Here were the updates for March 26:

Russian forces firing at a nuclear research facility in Kharkiv: Ukrainian parliament

Russian forces have fired at a nuclear research facility in the city of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian parliament said in a Twitter post.

“It is currently impossible to estimate the extent of damage due to hostilities that do not stop in the area of the nuclear installation,” read the post, citing the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate.

IAEA concerned over lack of staff rotation at Chernobyl

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been informed that Russian forces have seized Slavutych, where many people working at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant live.

The UN nuclear watchdog’s chief, Rafael Grossi, said he remained concerned about the ability of the site’s staff to regularly rotate and return to their homes to rest, read a statement from the IAEA, adding that there has been no personnel rotation for nearly a week.

The town sits just outside a safety exclusion zone around Chernobyl – the site of the world’s worst nuclear plant disaster in 1986 – where Ukrainian staff have continued to manage the site even after the territory was occupied by Russia soon after the start of the invasion on February 24.

A ‘muted response’

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Kyiv, has described a “muted response” to Biden’s forceful speech in Warsaw from some Ukrainian officials.

“The speech didn’t give Ukrainians nothing new, it was much more a sum up of the US position when it comes to Ukraine, but Ukrainians don’t want to talk about sanctions, about refugees or humanitarian aid being delivered,” Khan said, noting that they were rather seeking stronger practical support, including more weapons and the ability to close the sky.

Khan referred as an example to a tweet by Andriy Yermak, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, who said: “Listened to the speech @POTUS delivered in Rzeszow. It’s 170 kilometers from Lviv. And 80 kilometers from Ukraine-NATO border”.

US to provide $100m in civilian security assistance to Ukraine

The US State Department has said it intends to provide Ukraine with an additional $100 million in civilian security assistance.

The assistance would be to build the capacity of the Ukrainian ministry of internal affairs with a view to aid “border security, sustain civil law enforcement functions, and safeguard critical governmental infrastructure,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Oil depot, military factory hit in Lviv raids

Commenting on the two previously reported missile attacks in Lviv, Governor Maksym Kozytsky said that an oil depot and a military factory had been hit.

He added on Telegram that work to extinguish both fires were still ongoing and that there were no reported dead.

Smoke rises after an airstrike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Lviv, Ukraine
Smoke rises after an air raid, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Lviv [Pavlo Palamarchuk/Reuters]

Kremlin spokesman dismisses Biden’s comment

Asked about Biden’s comment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Reuters news agency: “That’s not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians.”

Biden is not calling for regime change in Russia: White House

Biden was not calling for regime change in Russia when he said that his Russian counterpart “cannot remain in power”, a White House official said, following the US president’s fiery speech pushing the world’s democracies to unite to support Ukraine.

“The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”

‘This man cannot remain in power’: Biden

The US president has dramatically escalated his rhetoric against Putin, calling for the Russian leader to be removed because of his brutal invasion of Ukraine.

“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said at the very end of a speech in Poland’s capital that served as the capstone on a four-day trip to Europe.

Read the full story here.

Children among severely wounded trapped in Ukraine’s Chernihiv

Forty-four people have been severely wounded by Russian air raids in Ukraine’s northern city of Chernihiv, the city’s mayor has said, including three children.

The injured could not be evacuated to safer areas for emergency treatment since the city had been cut off by Russian forces, Vladyslav Atroshenko said on national television.

Read the full story here.

‘We stand with you. Period’: Biden

The US President has framed the war as being much more consequential than just one country invading another one, but rather as a battle between democracy and autocracy, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett said, commenting on Biden’s speech at Warsaw’s Royal Castle.

“He took various historical examples showing how people collectively were able to overcome the authoritarian rule of the Soviet Union,” Halkett said. Biden said Russia “has strangled democracy and sought to do so elsewhere” and told Ukraine: “We stand with you. Period.”

US President Joe Biden speaks during an event at the Royal Castle
US President Joe Biden speaks during an event at the Royal Castle, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Warsaw, Poland [Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters]

Biden moved on to highlight what he believes has been a collective response by the West, including an unprecedented package of sanctions that have reduced the Russian rouble into “rubble”. He added that “swift and punishing costs is the only thing that will get Russia to change course”.

Biden stressed that US forces are in Europe to defend NATO allies, not to engage with Russian forces. He said, however, in the most animated passage of his speech: “Don’t even think about moving onto one single inch of NATO territory.”

The president also spoke directly to Russia’s residents: “Let me say this if you’re able to listen … You the Russian people are not our enemy.”

One month of war in Ukraine: What’s happening?

Two missile attacks hit Lviv, five wounded

The city of Lviv has been hit by two missile attacks, governor Kozytsky has said on his Telegram channel.

“According to preliminary data, five people were injured,” he added.

His announcement came after local authorities reported three loud explosions in the eastern edge of the city where plumes of thick smoke could be seen by Al Jazeera journalists.

In a later post at 6:55pm (16:55 GMT), Kozytsky said that three other “powerful explosions” were heard.

Chernihiv, a ‘devastated’ city

Vladyslav Atroshenko, the mayor of Chernihiv in Northern Ukraine, has said the city “is completely devastated”, adding that more than 200 civilians had been killed in the past few weeks.

The city, located near Ukraine’s border with Russia and Belarus, now has just half of its usual 285,000 inhabitants, he said. Atroshenko also described the current conditions in the city as catastrophic. Chernihiv was without power, he said, and it was impossible to establish escape corridors since Russian forces destroyed a bridge leading towards Kyiv.

“In basements at night, everyone is talking about one thing: Chernihiv becoming (the) next Mariupol,” 38-year-old resident Ihar Kazmerchak, a linguistics scholar, told the Associated Press in a phone conversation.

A view shows market buildings damaged by shelling
A view shows market buildings damaged by shelling, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Chernihiv, Ukraine [File: Press service of the National Police of Ukraine via Reuters]

Biden’s words “narrow window” for improvements: Kremlin

Biden’s comments on Putin “narrow the window” for mending relations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has warned, after the US president described his Russian counterpart as a “butcher” during a visit in Poland.

“After all, the state leader must remain sober,” Peskov told TASS news agency. “Every time such personal insults narrow the window of opportunity for our bilateral relations under the current administration (USA). We must be aware of this,” he added.

Nearly 60 religious sites bombed since war started

At least 59 places of worship across Ukraine have been shelled by Russian forces, said a report by the country’s authority responsible for church affairs.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which operates under the Moscow Patriarchate and is particularly strong in the east of the country, had suffered heavy losses, it added.

A Catholic church, five Protestant churches, three mosques and three synagogues have also been damaged in the fighting so far.

Three explosions heard near Lviv: city council

Three explosions were heard near Ukraine’s western city of Lviv, an official from the city council said.

“There have been three powerful explosions near Lviv… Everyone should keep calm and stay indoors,” Igor Zinkevych said in a post on Facebook, posting a picture of heavy black smoke.

Thick black clouds of smoke could be seen behind Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi who was reporting from the city about half an hour after the explosions.

“This is the second major attack to happen in Lviv city,” he said, noting that the west of the country has been spared much of the violence so far. However, Basravi added, “this is the second one to happen within Lviv city’s limits and it’s the closest one to happen near the city center.

“This is a very clear escalation of the conflict,” he said.

A smoke rises after explosions in Lviv, Ukraine
Smoke rises after explosions in Lviv, Ukraine [Zohra Bensemra/Reuters]

Biden calls Putin ‘a butcher’

Asked what he thought of Putin after meeting refugees in Warsaw, Biden said: “He’s a butcher.”

The US president also said he was not sure that Russia had changed its strategy in its invasion of Ukraine, after Moscow said its focus was now to completely “liberate” the breakaway eastern Donbas region.

“I am not sure they have,” Biden said when asked by a reporter if Moscow had changed its strategy.

Ukraine offers the EU its gas storage facilities

Ukraine is offering its own natural gas storage facilities to keep strategic energy reserves of the EU, Ukrainian energy minister Herman Hlushchenko said. The country can rely on the largest underground storage facilities in Europe, Hlushchenko wrote in a post on Facebook.

The minister also welcomed EU efforts to wean the bloc off Russian gas supplies and buy jointly from other suppliers. Ukraine could contribute to this solidarity and balancing mechanism with its storage facilities, he added.

Clashes continue over Mariupol: Ukrainian, Russian sources

The Russian army is shelling civilian and military sites in the port city of Mariupol from the air and with artillery, the Ukrainian General Staff said in a report. Meanwhile Russian ground forces are trying to advance into the city centre. Oleksiy Arestovych, a senior adviser to Zelenskyy, also referred to street fighting in the southern city.

From the Russian side, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov published videos allegedly showing the deployment of his fighters in Mariupol.

NATO’s article 5 is ‘sacred commitment’: Biden

The US has a “sacred commitment” to the NATO military alliance’s collective defence, Biden told his Polish counterpart Duda while in Warsaw.

“You can count on that… for your freedom and ours,” he added. Biden’s comment came after Duda said that Poles were feeling a “great sense of threat” due to the ongoing war.

Biden also said he thought Putin “was counting on dividing, be able to separate eastern flank from the west”. However, he said, he had not been able to do so.

Polish President Andrzej Duda speaks during a bilateral meeting with the US Delegation, including US President Joe Biden (not pictured), amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Polish President Andrzej Duda speaks during a bilateral meeting with the US Delegation, including President Joe Biden, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in the Column Hall at the Presidential Palace, in Warsaw, Poland [Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

New Kyiv curfew from Saturday evening to Monday morning

A fresh curfew will be imposed on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv from Saturday evening until Monday morning, mayor Vitali Klitschko announced.

“The military command decided to reinforce the curfew. It will start from 8:00 pm Saturday and last until 7:00 am on Monday,” he said on Telegram.

He said residents could only “go out to seek shelter if sirens go off” and added that “public transport, shops, pharmacies and petrol pumps will be closed.”

Curfew has been imposed several times in Kyiv since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24. The previous curfew lasted 35 hours between March 21 and 23.

Biden meets top Ukrainian ministers in Warsaw

Joe Biden met in Warsaw with two Ukrainian ministers in the first face-to-face talks between the US president and top Kyiv officials since Russia’s invasion began.

Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and defence minister Oleksii Reznikov made a rare trip out of Ukraine in a possible sign of growing confidence in the fightback against Russian forces.

The meeting took place at the Marriott Hotel in the city centre – opposite a Warsaw train station where there has been a constant flow of Ukrainian refugees since the conflict started.

Biden last met Kuleba in Washington on February 22 – two days before Russia began its assault.

Japan’s Kishida sees growing chance of Russia using nuclear weapons

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the prospect of Russia using nuclear weapons was “increasingly real”, while welcoming a visit by the United States ambassador to Hiroshima, the first city to suffer a nuclear attack.

Japan, the only country attacked by atomic weapons, has regularly spoken out against nuclear armaments. Kishida, who represents Hiroshima in parliament, visited the city’s peace memorial and museum on Saturday with envoy Rahm Emanuel.

“When the possible use of nuclear weapons by Russia is increasingly real, I believe ambassador Emanuel’s visit to Hiroshima and his experience of seeing the nuclear reality will become a strong message to the international society,” Kishida told public broadcaster NHK.

“I believe our visit was meaningful.”

Putin has not directly threatened a nuclear attack. But he warned that anyone hindering Russia would face “such consequences that you have never encountered in your history” – a statement some leaders took as a threat to use nuclear weapons.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that Russia would use nuclear weapons only to counter “an existential threat for our country”.

Missiles destroy Ukrainian arms depot: Russian defence ministry

Russian missiles have destroyed a depot containing arms and military equipment near the city of Zhytomyr in northwestern Ukraine, the Russian defence ministry said.

Four Kalibr missiles had been fired from a naval vessel on the Black Sea that hit the depot near the industrial city, located some 120km to the west of Kyiv, defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

Konashenkov said that a total of 117 military targets had been destroyed within the past 24 hours, including six command posts and three aircraft.

Ukraine president makes surprise appearance at Doha Forum

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy has delivered a virtual address to a forum of more than a dozen world leaders at the annual Doha Forum in Qatar.

Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from Doha, said that Zelenskyy’s address was not announced to be part of the programme, possibly because its organisers wanted to bring in the Russian side.

“Zelenskyy used the opportunity to address over a dozen world leaders participating at the forum to further press them to take stronger action in putting an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Elshayyal said from Doha.

The Ukrainian president asked countries attending to take steps to further isolate Moscow and boycott Russian oil and gas, and urged gas-rich nations like Qatar to step in and fill the void.

“Even if Qatar would want to do something like this, lucrative as it would be, it would be almost impossible to fill the 30 percent of Europe’s energy needs which are currently being supplied by Russia,” Elshayyal said.

Kyiv region head says Russian forces have seized Chernobyl workers’ town

The governor of Kyiv region says Russian forces have taken control of the town of Slavutych, where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live.

In an online statement, Oleksandr Pavlyuk said Russian troops had occupied the hospital in Slavutych and kidnapped the mayor.

On Friday, Ukraine said its troops had repulsed a first attack by Russian troops closing in on the town.

Biden to meet two Ukrainian ministers in Warsaw: White House

US President Joe Biden will join a meeting in Warsaw between the Ukrainian foreign and defence ministers and their US counterparts, the White House said.

“This morning, President Biden will drop by a meeting between secretaries (Antony) Blinken and (Lloyd) Austin and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov,” the White House said.

Russian defence minister seen speaking at army meeting after long public silence

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was seen chairing an army meeting and discussing weapons supplies in a video posted by his ministry, the first time he had publicly been shown speaking for more than two weeks.

In the video, uploaded on social media, Shoigu said he had discussed issues related to the military budget and defence orders with the finance ministry.

“We continue ahead-of-schedule delivery of weaponry and equipment by means of credits. The priorities are long-range high-precision weapons, aircraft equipment and maintenance of engagement readiness of strategic nuclear forces,” said Shoigu, who is overseeing what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The meeting was attended by a number of top Russian army officials including Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, who also had not been seen in public recently.

Ukraine says 10 humanitarian corridors agreed for front-line areas

Ukraine has reached an agreement on the establishment of 10 humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from towns and cities on the front line of the conflict, the deputy prime minister has said.

Speaking on national television, Iryna Vereshchuk said civilians trying to leave the besieged southern port of Mariupol would have to leave in private cars as Russian forces were not letting buses through their checkpoints.

Ukraine and Russia have traded blame when humanitarian corridors have failed to work in recent weeks.

Zelenskyy calls on energy producers to hike output

Ukraine’s president made a surprise video appearance at Qatar’s Doha Forum, calling on energy producing countries to increase output so that Russia cannot use its oil and gas wealth to “blackmail” other nations.

Zelenskyy compared Russia’s destruction of the port city of Mariupol with the Syrian and Russian destruction wrought on the city of Aleppo in the Syrian war.

“They are destroying our ports,” Zelenskyy said. “The absence of exports from Ukraine will deal a blow to countries worldwide.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy standing at a podium during a news briefing in Kyiv , Ukraine, February 24, 2022.
Zelenskyy criticised Russia for what he described as threatening the world with its nuclear weapons [Reuters]

Zelenskyy called on countries to increase their exports of energy – something particularly important as Qatar is a world leader in the export of natural gas.

He also noted that Muslims in Ukraine would have to fight during the upcoming holy fasting month of Ramadan.

“We have to ensure this sacred month of Ramadan is not overshadowed by the misery of people in Ukraine,” he said.

More than 130 children killed in Russia’s war: Ukraine

The conflict in Ukraine has killed 136 children so far, Ukraine’s office of the prosecutor general said in a message posted on Telegram.

At least 199 other have been wounded since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24, the office added.

Russia conducts military drills on isles disputed with Japan: Reports

Russia was conducting drills on islands claimed by Tokyo, Japanese media reported, days after Moscow halted peace talks with Japan because of its sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s Eastern Military District said it was conducting military drills on the Kuril Islands with more than 3,000 troops and hundreds of pieces of army equipment, Russia’s Interfax news agency said.

It did not say where on the island chain, connecting Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula and Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, the drills were taking place.

Japanese media said they were on territory the Soviet Union seized at the end of World War II that is claimed by Tokyo. Japan’s foreign ministry and prime minister’s office could not be reached outside business hours to comment on the exercises.

‘Foolish’: Former Russian president dismisses sanctions’ effect

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has dismissed Western sanctions, telling the RIA state-owned news agency it was “foolish” to expect them to have an effect on government policy.

Medvedev, who is deputy head of the security council, says sanctions will only consolidate Russian society and will not cause popular discontent.

Al Jazeera has been reporting on the mood inside Russia, and asking what it means for Vladimir Putin. You can read the article here.

Zelenskyy says Ukraine has pounded Russia with ‘powerful blows’

President Zelenskyy says Ukraine’s military has delivered “powerful blows” against Russian forces, leading to “significant losses”.

Speaking in his nightly video address, he said about 16,000 Russian soldiers had been killed.

“The armed forces continue to repel enemy attacks in the south of the country, in Donbas, in the Kharkiv direction and in the Kyiv region,” he told Ukrainians late on Friday. “By restraining Russia’s actions, our defenders are leading the Russian leadership to a simple and logical idea: Talk is necessary. Meaningful. Urgent. Fair.”

Russia says about 1,300 of its troops have died in the fighting.

United Kingdom to fund food supplies for Ukraine

The United Kingdom is sending crucial food supplies to Ukraine following a request from Kyiv.

About 25 truckloads of dried food, tinned goods and water – worth about two million pounds ($2.6m) – will be sent by road and rail from Poland and Slovakia to Ukraine’s most at-risk towns and cities.

“The need on the ground in Ukraine is clear, with so many people in encircled areas trapped in basements without access to food or water,” Alice Hooper, the UK Foreign Office’s humanitarian adviser, said in a statement.

People who are sheltering in a metro station in northern Kharkiv receive food from volunteers
People who are sheltering in a metro station in northern Kharkiv receive food from volunteers. The UK is sending emergency supplies following a request from the government [Thomas Peter/Reuters]

AP says it documented Russian attacks on 34 medical facilities

The Associated Press news agency has said it independently documented at least 34 assaults on Ukrainian medical facilities by Russian forces.

“AP journalists in Ukraine have seen first hand the deadly results of Russian strikes on civilian targets, including the final moments of children whose bodies were shredded by shrapnel and dozens of corpses heaped into mass graves,” the news agency said.

Russian advance on Kyiv appears to have halted: US official

A senior US defence official has said Russia’s military advance on Kyiv appears to have halted as Moscow turns its focus to fighting elsewhere in the country.

The official, cited anonymously by the Associated Press news agency, said Russia appears to be concentrating more on fighting for control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region rather than its ground offensive aimed at capturing Kyiv, at least for now.

Spotify to halt service in Russia

Spotify is halting its services in Russia in light of the country’s strict new censorship law, which it says puts its employees and possibly even listeners at risk.

The Swedish music streaming company’s move comes on the heels of other firms pulling out of Russia due to its censorship law. Netflix and TikTok also suspended most of their services in the country earlier this month.

Blinken accuses Kremlin of killing ‘countless Ukrainians’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused the Kremlin of killing “countless Ukrainians”. In a Twitter post, Blinken called on Moscow to end what he called “this inhumane war”.

The US government has previously accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

Russia ‘scaling back’ ambitions in Ukraine: Analyst

Russia is shifting its military goals in Ukraine to focus on fully capturing the eastern region of Donbas because it failed to take Kyiv quickly, Harry Nedelcu, policy director at Rasmussen Global, an international policy consultancy firm, has said.

“Now like a bully that got a bloody nose, Russia is scaling back its ambitions,” Nedelcu told Al Jazeera from Brussels, Belgium.

“It’s bringing this back to a focus on just the territories of the so-called people’s republics in eastern Ukraine, which Putin recognised right before he invaded Ukraine. So this allows Putin to concentrate firepower and resources on war aims which from Moscow’s perspective are more attainable.”

Ukraine says 7,331 people were evacuated on Friday

A total of 7,331 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Friday, a senior official has 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

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

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

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.”

Russian focus on ‘liberating’ Donbas hints at shift in strategy

Russia has claimed that the first phase of its “military operation” in Ukraine was mostly complete and that it would focus on fully “liberating” eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

The announcement appeared to indicate that Russia may be switching to more limited goals after running into fierce Ukrainian resistance in the first month of the war.

“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.

Read more here.

Read all the updates from Friday, March 25 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies