Russia-Ukraine latest updates: Kyiv willing to discuss neutrality

Ukraine news from March 27: Ukrainian president says he is prepared to discuss Russia’s neutrality demand.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends an interview with some of the Russian media via video link.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy joins an interview with Russian media via video link [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters]
  • The leader of Ukraine’s separatist Luhansk region says a vote might be held in the territory to become part of Russia.
  • Ukraine’s military intelligence head says Russia is trying to split the country in two to create a Moscow-controlled region.
  • New face-to-face talks are set to take place next week, Ukrainian and Russian officials have confirmed. Turkey said the meeting will be held in Istanbul.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron calls for caution after the US president said his Russian counterpart “cannot remain in power”.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the West needs to show more courage in helping Kyiv resist the Russian invasion.
    INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 32

This live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. You can read all the latest updates from our continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine here.

These are the updates from March 27:

Ukraine estimates $63bn damage to infrastructure

Ukraine’s Parliament has said in a Twitter post that it estimates there has been $63bn damage to the country’s infrastructure as of March 24.

The cost, calculated by the Kyiv School of Economics, accounts for damaged or destroyed infrastructure including 4,431 residential buildings, 138 healthcare facilities, eight civilian airports and 378 education institutions.

The Parliament has demanded that reparations be paid to Ukraine using the frozen reserves of Russia’s central bank.

Sandbags pile up to save Ukraine national poet’s statue in Kharkiv

Residents in Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv have erected sand barricades to protect statues, including a symbolic monument to writer Taras Shevchenko in the city centre.

Ukraine’s national poet, who was the country’s foremost 19th-century bard and one of the first to write in Ukrainian, has given name to squares across Ukraine and to the country’s largest university in Kyiv since the country gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The statue, which is 16m high, is the biggest in Kharkiv. The city has come under relentless Russian bombardment, leaving dozens dead and wounded.

Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Kharkiv, said that “Russian shelling has been going on throughout the night and throughout the morning” and that authorities have issued warnings about the toxicity of the air due to air raids and resulting fires.

People pile up sand bags around monument to Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.
People in Kharkiv pile up sandbags around a monument to Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko to protect it from shelling [Thomas Peter/Reuters]

Next round of negotiations to be held in Istanbul

The next meeting of Russian and Ukrainian negotiating teams will be held in the Turkish city of Istanbul, the Turkish and Russian presidents have agreed.

Turkey’s Communications Directorate said in a statement that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin discussed the latest developments and negotiation processes in a phone call.

Erdogan said Turkey would continue to lend every kind of support to a resolution of the conflict in Ukraine, stressing the need for an immediate ceasefire and the improvement of the humanitarian situation in the region, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported.

No dates were given for the meeting. A Ukrainian negotiator said earlier that talks would resume on Monday, while a Russian official said they would kick off on Tuesday.

Zelenskyy tells Russian media Ukraine prepared to discuss neutrality status

Ukraine is prepared to discuss a peace deal with Russia, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Russian journalists in a 90-minute video call.

“Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go for it. This is the most important point,” Zelenskyy said.

The Ukrainian leader was speaking as part of an interview that Russia’s communications watchdog has warned against airing.

Zelenskyy also said Ukraine was discussing the use of the Russian language in Ukraine in talks with Russia, but refused to discuss other Russian demands, such as demilitarisation.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses Ukrainians in a video clip.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukraine is ready for a peace deal [File: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters]

Russia restricts access to Germany’s Bild website

Russia’s communications watchdog has said it restricted access to the website of Germany’s Bild newspaper to viewers inside the country, without specifying why prosecutors had asked for the restriction.

Bild Editor-in-Chief Johannes Boie said on the newspaper’s website that “The blocking of by the Russian censors confirms us in our journalistic work for democracy, freedom and human rights.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on March 18 denied a Bild report that asserted his plane had turned around and returned to Moscow while on the way to China. “We understood long ago that there is no such thing as an independent Western media,” Lavrov told Russia’s RT on that day.

Ukraine says Russian troops regrouping in Belarus

Some Russian military units have withdrawn to Belarus to regroup, the Ukrainian military said in a statement, after failing to seize the capital Kyiv in more than a month of fighting.

The Ukrainian military said an unspecified number of units of Russia’s 35th Combined Arms Army were being pulled back from the Chernobyl area. The statement said the troops could resume the effort to encircle Kyiv when redeployed.

Belarus, an ally of Russia, has been a staging ground for the invasion but has so far refrained from direct involvement in the conflict.

Russia warns media not to report interview with Ukrainian president

Russia’s communications watchdog Roskomnadzor has warned Russian media to refrain from reporting an interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, saying it had started a probe into the outlets that had interviewed the Ukrainian leader.

A short statement distributed by the watchdog on social media and posted on its website said a host of Russian outlets had done an interview with Zelenskyy.

“Roskomnadzor warns Russian media about the necessity of refraining from publishing this interview,” it said, without providing a reason.

Russian delegation leader confirms talks, says they will start on Tuesday

Russian delegation leader Vladimir Medinsky has confirmed that talks between Ukraine and Russia will resume next week, but said they would kick off on Tuesday.

Ukrainian negotiator Davyd Arakhamia earlier had said negotiations would start on Monday, naming Turkey as the host country.

Medinsky wrote on Telegram that a face-to-face meeting was planned for Tuesday and Wednesday, but did not specify the location.

Humanitarian aid for Ukraine is dwindling: Official

The amount of humanitarian aid reaching Ukraine is beginning to wane even as the Russian bombardment persists, Ukrainian Deputy Health Minister Oleksii Iaremenko has said.

“For the last week what we see [is] that the level of humanitarian support is a little bit down. We hope that it will be some pause to find new resources,” he told Reuters.

“What we are asking, if you can support, please support right now,” he said.

Pope Francis condemns ‘barbarous’ war in Ukraine

The head of the Catholic Church has condemned the “cruel and senseless” war in Ukraine, where “barbarous” acts are “destroying the future”.

“More than a month has gone by since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, of the beginning of this cruel and senseless war,” Pope Francis said at the end of midday prayers in Vatican City in Rome.

“War does not devastate the present only, but the future of a society as well,” he later said in a Tweet, pointing to the fact that one in two Ukrainian children have been displaced.

France’s top diplomat compares Mariupol to Aleppo

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol is becoming a “second Aleppo”, in a reference to the Syrian commercial capital that in 2016 saw widespread Russian-backed destruction.

Speaking at the Doha Forum, he said the world is “at a tipping point” as the war continues to spiral and that Russia’s “siege warfare” against Ukrainian cities should induce “collective guilt”.

He added that a ceasefire remained the most pressing task so that parties can move on to thornier topics like Ukraine’s security guarantees and a possible neutral military status.

New conflict talks to start Monday in Turkey: Ukrainian official

Ukrainian negotiator and politician David Arakhamia has said that a second round of conflict talks between negotiators from Kyiv and Moscow will kick off in Turkey on Monday.

“Today, during another round of video negotiations, it was decided to hold the next in-person round of the two delegations in Turkey on March 28-30,” Arakhamia wrote on Facebook.

There was no immediate confirmation from Turkish or Russian officials.

Russia’s Deripaska says Biden’s remarks indicate ‘hellish ideological mobilisation’

Oleg Deripaska, a prominent Russian oligarch subject to sanctions, has said that the conflict in Ukraine is “mad” and could have been stopped through diplomacy, but that the words spoken by United States President Joe Biden in Warsaw had widened the rift.

“Now some sort of hellish ideological mobilisation is under way from all sides,” Deripaska said. “That’s it: these people are preparing to fight for a few years more.”

Earlier this month, activists in London briefly seized Deripaksa’s multimillion-dollar mansion, saying they wanted to use it to house refugees fleeing Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Human Rights Commissioner says deportation of Ukrainians akin to Nazi tactics

Ukraine’s Commissioner for Human Rights Lyudmyla Denisova has accused Russian troops of having forcefully deported more than 19,600 civilians, including 3,300 children, from the disputed Donetsk and Luhansk regions, citing figures by Russia’s National Center for Defense Management.

“The scale of the forced relocation is comparable only to Hitler’s deportation [during] World War II,” Denisova said on Telegram.

The commissioner added that Russia’s minister of defence had also reported relocating 90,000 people from the region of Kherson. Moscow has claimed the relocation is voluntary.

Kharkiv receives 60 tonnes of food, aid: ICRC

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said it delivered 60 tonnes of food and relief items to Kharkiv on Saturday as it scaled up its response in Ukraine.

ICRC Head of Mission Maxime Zabaloueff said in a press release that the assistance is for “the people who have suffered the terrible consequences of the shelling on this city”.

Rockets have been relentlessly pounding Kharkiv, located just 40km from the Russian border, preventing the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid.

Ukraine asks Red Cross not to open office in Russia’s Rostov-on-Don

Ukraine has asked the ICRC not to open a planned office in Russia’s southern port city of Rostov-on-Don.

Mykhailo Radutskyi, chairman of the public health committee in Ukraine’s Parliament, said the move would legitimise Moscow’s “humanitarian corridors” and “support the abduction of Ukrainians and [their] forced deportation”.

The ICRC told Reuters it had no “first-hand” information about reports of forced evacuations to Russia from Ukraine and that it did not facilitate any such operations. It added the potential opening of an office in Rostov-on-Don was part of efforts to scale up its operations in the region to meet humanitarian needs where they arise.

Ukrainian civilian death toll reaches 1,119: UN

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has verified 1,119 civilian deaths in Ukraine since Russia began its attack.

Some 15 girls and 32 boys, as well 52 children whose gender is unknown, are among the dead, OHCHR said in a statement.

The true casualty figures are expected to be considerably higher, the world body said, with reports delayed in some regions due to intense hostilities and many recorded casualties still awaiting corroboration.

France’s Macron calls for restraint in words and actions

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for restraint in both words and actions after US President Joe Biden described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “butcher” and said he should not remain in power.

“I wouldn’t use this type of wording because I continue to hold discussions with President Putin,” Macron said on the France 3 TV channel.

“We want to stop the war that Russia has launched in Ukraine without escalation – that’s the objective,” he said. “If this is what we want to do, we should not escalate things – neither with words nor actions.”

West needs more courage in helping Ukraine fight: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has slammed Western nations for failing to provide weapons that he said are “just gathering dust” in Europe.

Ukraine has asked NATO to provide one percent of its aircraft and one percent of its tanks, arguing that it will be impossible to stop Russian attacks on the besieged southern port of Mariupol without enough tanks, armoured vehicles and aircraft.

“We’ve already been waiting 31 days. Who is in charge of the Euro-Atlantic community? Is it really still Moscow, because of intimidation?” he said in his customary late-night video address on Saturday.

Poland says Russia may expand invasion if it wins in Ukraine

Polish Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński has said Russia’s invasion is a threat to countries in eastern Europe, including NATO allies.

“If Russia wins this war it will attack more countries,” Jabłoński said, speaking at the Doha Forum.

He called for NATO to build more defences on the eastern flank so as to reduce its reliance on the US. He also expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian people and said he believed “we should be doing everything in our power to stop Russia from killing Ukrainian citizens”.

‘Putin questioning the very existence of my country’: Ukraine official

A Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs official told the Doha Forum that the Russian invasion is posing an existential threat.

“Putin questions the very existence of my country, First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Emine Dzhaparova said. “This is a war between Russia and my country, not Russia and NATO.”

She said Ukraine was fighting “for a rule-based order and territorial integrity” and that the war was a consequence of the failure to respond to “the evil” invasion and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

‘No legal’ basis for Russian referendum in occupied territory

Ukraine has said Russia holding a referendum in occupied Ukrainian territory would have no legal basis and would face a strong response from the international community, deepening its global isolation.

The remarks come after the head of the Russian-controlled Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine said the territory could hold a referendum soon on joining Russia.

“All fake referendums in the temporarily occupied territories are null and void and will have no legal validity,” Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said in a statement to the Reuters news agency.

NATO is not a threat to anyone: Official

Patrick Turner, assistant secretary-general for defence planning and policy at NATO, has said the response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine shows an extraordinary level of global unity on the issue.

“It shows the power of a networked world where we pay attention to our values and shows we are willing to pay a price for these values,” he said, speaking in a session at the Doha Forum.

The NATO official added: “It [NATO] is not an alliance against anybody. There is no intent to threaten anybody. We are determined that we will deter attacks on our allies and we are determined that we would defend ourselves if we are attacked.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: List of key events from day 32

As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its 32nd day, we take a look at the main developments.

Read more here.

Russia wants to split Ukraine in two: Ukraine intelligence chief

Russia is trying to split Ukraine in two to create a Moscow-controlled region after failing to take over the whole country, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence has said.

“In fact, it is an attempt to create North and South Korea in Ukraine,” Kyrylo Budanov said in a statement, adding that Ukraine would soon launch guerrilla warfare in Russian-occupied territory.

May hold vote on joining Russia: Ukraine rebel region head

The head of Ukraine’s Luhansk separatist region has suggested holding a referendum on becoming part of Russia.

“I think that in the near future a referendum will be held on the territory of the republic, during which the people will … express their opinion on joining the Russian Federation,” Russian news agencies quoted Leonid Pasechnik as saying.

“For some reason, I am sure this will be the case,” he said.

Local residents stand next to a shell crater at an empty street, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region.
Local residents stand next to a shell crater in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region. [Reuters]

US has no strategy of ‘regime change’ in Russia: Blinken

The US has no strategy of regime change for Russia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has told reporters after President Biden said Putin “cannot remain in power”.

“I think the president, the White House, made the point last night that, quite simply, President Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else,” Blinken said during a visit to Jerusalem.

“As you know, and as you have heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia – or anywhere else, for that matter.”


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken commented on President Biden’s recent remarks [File: Brendan Smialowski/Pool/AFP]

Turkey’s Kalin says new global security architecture needed

Ibrahim Kalin, the Turkish presidential spokesman, has said that there has to be a new security architecture in the world.

“The energy geopolitics need to change after this war. It’s not going to be enough, it will not solve the [energy shortage] problem if we increase oil and gas production. We have to think of different ways to address this issue,” he said, speaking at the Doha Forum.

The senior official added: “We have kept our lines of communication open with Russia and Ukraine. There are a number of areas where we disagree with Russia, such as in Syria and Libya, but I think it is important to note that we have managed to develop a working relationship with Russia.”

“Leadership diplomacy will be key in bringing an end to this war. Ukrainians will need to be supported in order for them to defend themselves. But we also need to keep in mind that we need to talk to Russia. Whatever security concerns Russia had going into this war needs to be heard,” he stressed.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin sitting
Kalin says leadership diplomacy will be key in bringing an end to the war [File: Murad Sezer/Reuters]

Qatar stresses on role of dialogue in Russia-Ukraine war

Qatar foreign ministry spokesman Majid al-Ansari has said Qatar’s position on the Russia-Ukraine war has been crystal clear from the start of the conflict.

“While we value our relationship with the West and we consider ourselves to be in line with the consensus condemning escalation in Ukraine, we believe in dialogue and facilitating the need for dialogue,” he said, talking at the Doha Forum.

He added: “It is in our national interest as a country to make sure these kinds of conflicts are not prolonged. It is our duty as a small middle power state to facilitate dialogue. Qatar maintained communication with both parties.”

Some 30,000 Ukrainian refugees reach France

About 30,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in France, with half of them travelling through the country to other countries such as Spain, according to the French housing minister, Emmanuelle Wargon.

Wargon told France Info radio the government was preparing to welcome 100,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

France has been granting temporary European Union stay permits to Ukrainian refugees, which allows them to have access to schools and to work in the country.

Before the war, the Ukrainian community in France numbered 40,000.

What does Russia’s shift of military focus mean for the Ukraine war?

Russian forces in Ukraine have apparently shifted their focus from a ground offensive aimed at the capital, Kyiv, to instead prioritising what Moscow calls “liberation” of the contested Donbas region, suggesting a new phase of the war.

Has President Putin scaled back his ambitions in search of a way out of the war? The dug-in defensive positions taken recently by some Russian forces near Kyiv indicate a recognition of the surprisingly stout Ukrainian resistance.

Read more here.

Ukrainian servicemen are seen riding on tanks towards the front line with Russian forces in the Luhansk region of Ukraine
Ukrainian servicemen ride on tanks towards the front line with Russian forces [File: AFP]

Ukraine says two evacuation corridors agreed

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Kyiv and Moscow have agreed to two “humanitarian corridors” to evacuate civilians from front-line areas.

People will be allowed to leave by private car from the southern city of Mariupol, she said.

UN warns 90 percent of Ukrainians could face poverty if war continues

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says if the conflict in Ukraine does not stop soon 90 percent of the country’s population could fall into poverty.

“We see across the country that people have lost their livelihoods,” Achim Steiner, UNDP administrator, told Al Jazeera on the sidelines of the ongoing Doha Forum.

Kyiv is trying to put in some social safety measures to help people but Steiner says “the ability to look after millions of people who are not able to earn an income” could be a huge task for the authorities to handle.

“The economy is in large part suffering the consequences of supply chain constraints but also basic municipal services are increasingly not being able to function,” Steiner added.

Ukraine exports first grain by train to Europe: APK-Inform

Traders have exported the first supplies of Ukrainian corn to Europe by train as the country’s seaports remain blocked due to the Russian invasion, APK-Inform agriculture consultancy said.

Ukraine is a major global grain grower and exporter, and almost all its exports have traditionally been shipped from its Black Sea ports. Monthly grain exports exceeded 5 million tonnes before the war.

“The first batches of several thousand tonnes of corn have already been exported across Ukraine’s western land border,” APK-Inform said in a report.

“Difficulties with logistics persist, supply still prevails over demand, but prices have stopped falling,” it added.INTERACTIVE- Russia Ukraine and the global wheat supply

Russia destroying Ukrainian fuel and food storage depots, ministry says

Russia has started destroying Ukrainian fuel and food storage depots, meaning the government will have to disperse the stocks of both in the near future, Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said.

Speaking on local television, Denysenko also said Russia was bringing forces to the Ukrainian border on rotation, and could make new attempts to advance in its invasion of Ukraine.

Firefighters at oil facility hit in Russian attack

Firefighters continued to spray water on an oil storage facility in Lviv early on Sunday after it had been targeted by Russian rockets hours earlier.

A security guard at the site, Yaroslav Prokopiv, said he saw three rockets hit the complex, destroying two oil tanks.

“Around 4pm, 12 minutes past 4pm, there was a very loud noise and three missile strikes,” he said. “The first rocket fell there, then there was a second strike and the third strike threw me to the ground.”

Zelenskyy again calls for fighter jets and tanks from Poland

Ukraine’s president has again called for Poland to send combat jets and tanks to help in the fight against Russia’s invasion of his country.

In a video conference with his Polish colleague Andrzej Duda, Zelenskyy warned that if the Ukrainian armed forces were not supplied with fighter jets and tanks, the Russian military could later pose a threat to neighbouring NATO countries.

If Ukraine’s partners did not help Kyiv this way, “then there is a high risk that the Russian army will pose a missile threat not only to the territories of our neighbours – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and the Baltic states – but also a direct general military threat,” Zelenskyy said late on Saturday, according to the Ukrainian president’s official website.

12 journalists killed since Russian invasion: Ukraine prosecutor

Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s chief prosecutor, says 12 journalists have been killed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began.

At least 10 more have been wounded, she said, without elaborating.

She said foreign journalists who were killed included media workers from the US, Ireland and Russia.

And those wounded included reporters from the UK, US, Czech Republic, Denmark, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

Ukraine hospitals deploy StarLink systems

Ukraine’s Ministry of Health says it has deployed 590 StarLink antennas at medical and healthcare institutions in the country.

In a statement, the ministry said the StarLink systems will let hospitals access the internet “when there is a temporary lack of communication due to active hostilities”.

How is Ukraine fighting the media war?

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine rages on, the Ukrainians are responding with a digitally armed resistance led by their president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Watch the latest episode of The Listening Post to find out how Ukrainians are fighting to get their side of the story out.

Musicians perform for Kharkiv residents in bomb shelter

Musicians in Ukraine have performed a classical concert in Kharkiv’s subway on Saturday, the same day that the city would have hosted the Kharkiv Music Fest if not for the Russian invasion.

Three violinists, a cellist and a bass player delighted an audience of a few dozen people for half an hour, including with an excerpt from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No 3 as well as Dvorak’s Humoresques.

“Amid the darkness surrounding us now, it’s extremely important to show that there are eternal values and future in our country, that our country is melodious, beautiful, intellectual and will overcome all these difficulties,” said Sergiy Politutchy, director of the Kharkiv Music Fest.

UK seizes two jets belonging to Russian billionaire

The United Kingdom has seized two jet aircraft belonging to Russian billionaire Eugene Shvidler, who was sanctioned for his links to the Kremlin following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Treasury Secretary Grant Shapps said that the two aircraft would be kept “indefinitely” after a three-week investigation that had already grounded the planes. The Times of London described the aircraft as a $45m Bombardier Global 6500 and a $13m Cessna Citation Latitude.

“Putin’s friends who made millions out of his regime will not enjoy luxuries whilst innocent people die,” Shapps said on Twitter.

Opposition leader says Belarus people ‘stand firmly’ with Ukraine

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the opposition leader of Belarus, has told US President Biden during a phone call that the people of her country “stand firmly with the people of Ukraine”.

Belarus, a Russian ally, has been accused of aiding Putin’s war effort by serving as a launching pad for Russian missiles.

Ukraine says its forces retake Trostianets in Sumy

A Ukrainian military unit says it has “liberated” the town of Trostianets in the eastern Sumy region from Russian forces.

The 93rd Independent Kholodnyi Yar Mechanised Brigade made the announcement on Facebook. Al Jazeera could not verify the claim independently.

The Kyiv Independent, a Ukrainian news website, said Russian forces had captured Trostianets on March 1.

Is the war in Ukraine driving up arms sales in Europe?

Since the end of World War II, there has been relative peace across much of Europe. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has alerted the continent that its stability is not guaranteed.

Many European countries are now reassessing their defence policies and there have even been calls for an EU army.

Watch the latest episode of Counting the Cost to find out how the war in Ukraine is affecting arms sales in Europe.

Tens of thousands rally in London in support of Ukraine

Tens of thousands of people have gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square to express solidarity with Ukraine and protest Russia’s invasion of the country.

The rally, dubbed “London Stands with Ukraine”, was organised by the mayor of the British capital, Sadiq Khan.

Demonstrators take part in the 'London stands with Ukraine' solidarity march, called by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, in London, Saturday, March 26, 2022.
Demonstrators take part in the ‘London stands with Ukraine’ solidarity march, called by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, in London, UK, on March 26, 2022 [David Cliff/ AP]

Man detained at site of Lviv rocket attacks

The governor of the Lviv region says a man was detained on suspicion of espionage at the site of one of the two rocket attacks that rattled the city on Saturday.

Maksym Kozytskyy said police found the man had recorded a rocket flying towards the target and striking it.

Police also found photos of checkpoints in the region on his telephone, which Kozytskyy said had been sent to two Russian telephone numbers.

Rockets hit an oil storage facility and an unspecified industrial facility, wounding at least five people. A thick plume of smoke and towering flames could be seen on Lviv’s outskirts hours after the attacks.

Zelenskyy demands Western nations give Ukraine arms

Ukraine’s president has criticised the United States and Western nations for hesitating on supplying his country with fighter jets, saying “ping-pong” continued in discussions on who should deliver fighter planes and other defence weapons.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine could not defend itself against missiles without proper weapons and could not liberate besieged Mariupol without tanks and combat jets.

Ukraine needed just 1 percent of NATO’s aircraft and 1 percent of its tanks and would not ask for more, he said.

“We’ve already been waiting 31 days. Who is in charge of the Euro-Atlantic community? Is it really still Moscow, because of intimidation?” he said.

Russian claims of focus on Donbas belied by widespread offensive: Analyst

Mattia Nelles, a political analyst focusing on Ukraine, told Al Jazeera that many Ukrainians do not trust Russia’s claims that it will now focus on ‘liberating’ the eastern Donbas region.

“Russia continues to pound Ukrainian cities, so the announcement [that it will] focus on Donbas might be an acknowledgement that they are unable, at least for now, to take control of the capital and decapitate the country’s government. But they might also be buying time to regroup and attack later,” Nelles said, speaking from Dusseldorf in Germany.

“But the point is, the Russian war of annihilation continues unabated – we see the pounding of Mariupol and other cities being hit, and civilians continue to suffer all across the country.”

Russian sanctions could be lifted with Ukraine withdrawal: UK

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss has said sanctions imposed on Russian individuals and companies could be lifted if Russia withdraws from Ukraine.

“Those sanctions should only come off with a full ceasefire and withdrawal, but also commitments that there will be no further aggression. And also, there’s the opportunity to have snapback sanctions if there is further aggression in future. That is a real lever that I think can be used,” she said in an interview with the Telegraph newspaper.

The UK government says it has so far imposed sanctions on banks with total assets of 500 billion pounds ($659bn), as well as oligarchs and family members with a net worth of more than 150 billion pounds ($198bn).

Zurich Insurance removes Z symbol over Ukraine war

Zurich Insurance has removed its Z logo from social media after the letter became a symbol of support in Russia for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The company said it was removing the logo – a white Z on a blue background – because it did not want to be misunderstood as supporting Russia in the conflict.

“We are temporarily removing the use of the letter ‘Z’ from social channels where it appears in isolation and could be misinterpreted,” the company told the Reuters news agency in a statement. “We’re monitoring the situation closely and will take further actions if and when required.”

Russian forces ‘firing at Kharkiv’s nuclear research facility’

Russian forces are firing 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,” the post quoted the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate as saying.

The inspectorate’s website did not contain any news about the attack.

Earlier this month, the grounds of the Institute of Physics and Technology were hit by Russian shells. At the time, the facility’s director-general said the core housing nuclear fuel remained intact.

Three killed as Russian forces capture Chernobyl staff town: Mayor

Russian troops have taken control of Ukraine’s Slavutych, where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live, and three people have been killed, Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted the local mayor as saying.

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 Russian forces soon after the start of the February 24 invasion.

“Slavutych has been under occupation since today. We steadfastly defended our city … three deaths have been confirmed so far,” Interfax quoted Mayor Yuri Fomichev as saying in a Facebook post.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement that it was closely monitoring the situation and expressed concern about the ability of staff to rotate in and out of the atomic power station.

Ukraine says 5,208 people were evacuated on Saturday

A total of 5,208 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Saturday, a senior official said, fewer than the 7,331 who managed to escape the previous day.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said in an online post that 4,331 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol.

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

The US intends to provide Ukraine with an additional $100m in civilian security assistance, the State Department said on Saturday.

Secretary of State Blinken said in a statement that 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”.

Russian economy could halve in size due to Western sanctions: Biden

Tough Western sanctions on Moscow will lead to the size of the Russian economy being “cut in half” over the next few years, according to President Biden.

Whereas before its invasion of Ukraine Russia was the world’s eleventh-largest economy, soon Russia would barely be among the 20 largest, Biden said in Warsaw at the end of a two-day visit to Poland.

“As a result of these unprecedented sanctions, the rouble was almost immediately reduced to rubble,” Biden said, referring to the dramatic devaluation of the Russian national currency. “The economy is on track to be cut in half,” he added.

Kremlin says it’s not for Biden to say if Putin stays in power

The Kremlin dismissed a remark by Biden that Putin “cannot remain in power”, saying it was up to Russians to choose their own president.

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

A White House official said Biden had not been calling for “regime change” in Russia but his point was that “Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbours or the region.”

Read more here.

Ukraine war ‘strategic failure’ for Moscow: Biden

President Biden has called Russia’s war in Ukraine a “strategic failure” for Moscow.

“Notwithstanding the brutality of Vladimir Putin, let there be no doubt that this war has already been a strategic failure for Russia,” Biden said in a speech in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, Ukraine’s neighbour directly to the west.

“Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, for free people [have] refused to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness. We will have a different future, a brighter future rooted in democracy and principle, hope and light, of decency and dignity of freedom and possibilities,” he added.

“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” he said.

US President Joe Biden speaks during an event in Warsaw, Poland
Biden speaks in Warsaw, Poland [Slawomir Kaminski /Agencja Wyborcza via Reuters]

Read all the updates from Saturday, March 26 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies