Russia-Ukraine latest updates: Biden cautious over Russia promise

Ukraine news from March 29: Joe Biden urges caution over Russia’s pledge to reduce military activity near Kyiv.

Ukrainian service members walk on the front line near Kyiv as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues [Gleb Garanich/Reuters]
  • Russian and Ukrainian delegations wrap up face-to-face talks in Istanbul.
  • Moscow says it will “fundamentally cut back” offensive operations near Kyiv and Chernihiv in order to boost “trust” in further discussions between Russia and Ukraine.
  • Kyiv offers neutrality in exchange for security guarantees, proposes resolving the dispute over Crimea within 15 years via “bilateral negotiations”.
  • Russia’s promise to scale down military operations does not represent a ceasefire, Moscow’s lead negotiator in talks with Ukraine has said.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 34

This live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. Read our continuing coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war here.

These were the updates for March 29:

Russia-backed Donetsk Republic will consider joining Russia, leader says

The Russian-backed self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine may consider joining Russia once it controls all of Ukraine’s Donetsk region, its news outlet has cited separatist leader Denis Pushilin as saying.

“The main task is to reach the constitutional borders of the republic. Then we will determine that,” Pushilin was quoted by the Donetsk News Agency as saying.

Germany is the second biggest arms supplier to Ukraine, minister says

Berlin is the second biggest arms supplier to Ukraine at the moment, German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht has said, responding to criticism her country was not delivering enough weapons to Kyiv.

“With regard to Ukraine, Germany has become the second biggest arms supplier in the meantime, I believe,” Lambrecht said at an event of the Atlantic Council think-tank in Washington, without giving details.

Biden says West needs to see if Russians ‘follow through’ on de-escalation

United States President Joe Biden has said that the West wants to see if Russia will “follow through” on a promise to de-escalate its war.

“We’ll see if they follow through,” he told reporters shortly after holding a phone call with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy. “There seems to be a consensus that let’s just see what they have to offer.”

US official warns any Russian troop movement ‘not a withdrawal’

Any movement of Russian forces from around Kyiv would constitute a “redeployment, not a withdrawal”, a US official has said after Russia promised to scale down military operations near the Ukrainian capital.

“We believe any movement of Russian forces from around Kyiv is a redeployment, not a withdrawal. And the world should be prepared for continued major offensives against other areas of Ukraine,” the official said, adding: “They are shifting gears… No one should mistake that for Russia ending the conflict.”

US, Allies consider another $500m in Ukraine aid

 The United States and its Allies are discussing another possible round of assistance for Ukraine that could reach a collective  $500m, a source familiar with the situation has told the Reuters news agency.

A US official declined to confirm the figure but said the United States was “actively working on how best to continue our support for the Ukrainian government through security, humanitarian and financial assistance”.

France says no Mariupol humanitarian mission possible ‘at this stage’

The conditions for carrying out a humanitarian operation sought by France to help citizens in the besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol are not met “at this stage”, President Emmanuel Macron’s office has said after the French leader spoke by telephone with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Macron outlined the mission sought alongside Turkey and Greece to Putin, who responded that “he was going to think about it” before responding, an Elysee Palace official said.

Putin tells Macron ‘nationalists’ in Mariupol must lay down arms

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukrainian “nationalists” in the embattled city of Mariupol must lay down their arms as he discussed the conflict with French leader Emmanuel Macron, the Kremlin has said.

“It was stressed that in order to resolve the difficult humanitarian situation in this city [Mariupol], Ukrainian nationalist militants must stop resisting and lay down their arms,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Western leaders say resolve over Ukraine must not falter

Leaders from the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany and Italy have agreed there could be no relaxation of Western resolve during a call, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said in a statement.

“The leaders discussed the need to work together to reshape the international energy architecture and reduce dependence on Russian hydrocarbons. They agreed there could be no relaxation of western resolve until the horror inflicted on Ukraine has ended,” the statement said.

Canada to make ‘significant contribution’ to ICC’s investigations

Canada will make a “significant contribution” to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigations into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has said in a statement.

Russia says promised de-escalation ‘not a ceasefire’

Russia’s promise to scale down military operations around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv does not represent a ceasefire, Moscow’s lead negotiator in talks with Ukraine has said.

“This is not a ceasefire but this is our aspiration, gradually to reach a de-escalation of the conflict at least on these fronts,” Vladimir Medinsky said in an interview with Russia’s TASS news agency.

Danish PM ready to send 800 soldiers to Baltics

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen says the country is ready to send a battalion of 800 soldiers to the Baltic states if NATO requests it.

Frederiksen added that the move would need to obtain parliamentary approval.


Blinken says no signs Russia serious about peace efforts

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the United States has not seen any evidence indicating talks between Moscow and Kyiv were progressing in a “constructive way”.

He also warned Russian indications of a pullback could be an attempt by Moscow to “deceive people and deflect attention”, before calling on Russia to end its aggression immediately and pull its forces back.

“There is what Russia says and there is what Russia does, and we’re focused on the latter,” Blinken said during a visit to Morocco. “And what Russia is doing is the continued brutalisation of Ukraine.”

He added that Russian officials were “profoundly fooling themselves… if they somehow believe that an effort to subjugate only the eastern part of Ukraine or the southern part of Ukraine… can succeed”.

Can Russia return to the world stage?

The war in Ukraine has turned Russian President Vladimir Putin into a pariah – at least in the West.

But at the same time, Russia remains a member of the United Nations Security Council, while powerful countries on the global stage, such as China and India, have not moved to condemn Moscow.

And analysts say that while Putin may be viewed as reprehensible now amid Ukraine’s war, casting Russia aside long-term looks unlikely because of the country’s strategic power.

Read more here.

Many European states expel Russian envoys over ‘espionage’

Several European Union member states have moved to expel Russian nationals accused of spying for Moscow while posing as diplomats.

The Dutch foreign ministry said it had ordered 17 alleged Russian intelligence agents who were accredited as diplomats to leave the country, while Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes announced her country had moved to banish 21 Russian diplomats on espionage charges.

Ireland, too, announced it was expelling four Russian diplomats and the Czech Republic gave one member of Russia’s embassy in Prague 72 hours to leave the country.

“Together with our allies, we are reducing the Russian intelligence presence in the EU,” the Czech foreign ministry tweeted.

Which countries have sanctioned Russia?

While an array of Western powers have moved to impose punishing sanctions on Russia over its invasion, a majority of countries have opted against taking similar measures.

Almost all states in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia have not rolled out penalties on Moscow. However, many have backed UN resolutions condemning Russia’s offensive.

INTERACTIVE- Which countries have sanctioned Russia - March 29

UK detains Russian-owned superyacht in ‘warning’ to Putin

The United Kingdom’s government says it has detained a 38 million pounds ($49.6m) superyacht owned by a Russian businessman which was docked in London’s Canary Wharf financial district.

The 58.5-metre (192 feet) Dutch-built yacht, named Phi, was detained under the government’s sweeping sanctions on Russia, which include measures against scores of individuals and entities. It marked the first time the regulations have been used to detain a ship.

The government said Phi is owned by a Russian businessman but that ownership was “deliberately well hidden”, with the company the ship is registered to based in St Kitts and Nevis, and the ship carrying Maltese flags.

“Today we’ve detained a 38 million pound superyacht and turned an icon of Russia’s power and wealth into a clear and stark warning to Putin and his cronies,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement.

Turkey says talks in Istanbul mark most significant progress yet

The talks between Ukrainian and Russian negotiators in Istanbul marked the most significant progress in discussions between the two sides to date, Turkey’s foreign minister has said.

Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey welcomed the two countries reaching a compromise and a common understanding on certain issues.

He added the war must end as soon as possible and noted that “more difficult issues” were expected to be discussed between the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers at a later date.

Cavusoglu was speaking at the Dolmabahce Palace, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office on the banks of the Bosphorus and the location for Tuesday’s discussions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks ahead of the peace talks between delegations from Russia and Ukraine at Dolmabahce Presidential Office in Istanbul
Tuesday’s talks took place at the Dolmabahce Palace, Erdogan’s office on the banks of the Bosphorus [Arda Küçükkaya/Anadolu Agency]

Russian announcement an indication of ‘major progress in talks’: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Moscow, says Russia’s announcement could be the “most significant by the Russian military” since Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine last month.

This is an indication “there has been major progress in the talks” between Moscow and Kyiv, Ahelbarra said.

He added the move would send a “message to the Ukrainians that Russia has no intentions whatsoever to mass troops or move troops in the future to try and take over Kyiv”.

Ukrainian official says guarantor states would ‘legally’ protect Ukraine from aggression

Mykhailo Podolyak, a political adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, says Ukraine’s proposal for security guarantees could involve several guarantor states such as the US, the UK, Turkey, France and Germany.

The countries would be “legally [and] actively involved in protecting [Ukraine] from any aggression” in terms similar to NATO’s Article 5 collective defence clause, Podolyak tweeted.

He added that the Ukrainian delegation had offered to settle the issue of the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, “exclusively through bilateral negotiations within 15 years”.

Biden to hold talks by phone with European allies

US President Joe Biden will hold talks by phone later on Tuesday with Washington’s key Western European allies, the White House has said.

Biden convened the call for 9:15am local time (13:15 GMT) with the leaders of the UK, France, Germany and Italy “to discuss the latest developments regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”, a spokesman said.

Russian negotiator says Istanbul talks were ‘constructive’

Medisnky has described the talks in Istanbul, which lasted for several hours, as “constructive”.

Russia’s chief negotiator said the proposals put forward by the Ukrainian side – including one that Russia would not oppose Ukraine joining the EU – would now be put to Putin for his consideration.

He added that a meeting between Putin and Zelenskyy was a possibility in the event the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministries agree to a deal to bring the conflict to an end.

Ukraine offers neutrality in exchange for security guarantees

Kyiv’s delegation has said it proposed Ukraine would adopt a neutral status in exchange for security guarantees at the latest round of talks with Russia, meaning it would not join military alliances or host military bases.

The negotiators told reporters the proposals would also include a 15-year consultation period on the status of annexed Crimea, which was seized by Russia in 2014, and could come into force only in the event of a complete ceasefire.

Russia to ‘cut back operations’ near Kyiv, Chernihiv to boost ‘trust’ in talks

Russia’s military claims it will “fundamentally cut back” operations near Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and the northern city of Chernihiv in order to boost talks between the two sides.

Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin said the move was meant “to increase trust” in the discussions aimed at ending the conflict and “create conditions for further negotiations”.

Ukraine’s military said it had noted withdrawals around Kyiv and Chernihiv.

Earlier on Tuesday, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the main goal of Moscow’s offensive, which it describes as a “special military operation”, was to “liberate” eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

These companies are still buying Russian crude oil

There are still many takers for Russian crude amid Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, despite several firms boycotting the country’s supplies.

Read more here.

Kremlin says rules for gas payments in roubles being readied

The Kremlin has said Russia will work out practical arrangements by Thursday for foreign companies to pay for its gas in roubles. It added they needed to understand that Western “economic warfare” against Moscow had created a new set of market conditions.

“No one will supply gas for free, it is simply impossible, and you can pay for it only in roubles,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“All modalities are being developed so that this system is simple, understandable and feasible for respected European and international buyers,” he added.

Putin’s order last week to charge countries deemed “unfriendly” by Moscow in roubles for Russian gas has boosted the currency after it fell to all-time lows following Western powers’ rollout of sweeping sanctions over the attack on Ukraine.

The move drew strong criticism from European countries, which pay for Russian gas mostly in euros and say Russia is not entitled to redraw contracts.

INTERACTIVE - Which countries directly import the most Russian gas_

Zelenskyy says seven killed in Mykolayiv attack

Ukraine’s president says seven people were killed in a Russian missile attack on the regional government headquarters in the southern port city of Mykolayiv.

During an address to the Danish parliament, Zelenskyy added the attack had left 22 others wounded.

Ukraine’s State Emergency Service also put the death toll from the incident at seven, having earlier reported that at least three people had been killed.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the figures provided.

Kremlin says Russia, US will need security dialogue ‘sooner or later’

The Kremlin has said Russia and the US will need to have a dialogue on security “sooner or later”, but warned the pair’s relations will inevitably be affected by remarks from Biden directed at Putin.

“Personal insults cannot but leave their mark on relations between heads of state,” Kremlin spokesman Peskov told reporters.

However, he added that “one way or another, sooner or later, we will have to speak about questions of strategic stability and security and so on”.

Biden has called Putin a “war criminal” and over the weekend said his Russian counterpart “cannot remain in power”.

Russia sanctions redraw shipping routes, cleaving East from West

Western sanctions punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine are reorganising global trade along political lines, defying geography and efficiency.

This new reality is creating a windfall for merchant shipping, but risks creating higher prices for European consumers and hunger for Africa.

Read more here.

Russia says Ukraine’s military capacity seriously degraded

Russia’s defence minister says Ukraine’s military capacity has been seriously degraded and has restated that the main tasks of the first phase of Moscow’s so-called “military operation” in its neighbour had been completed.

Speaking to officials in a televised meeting, Shoigu also warned that Moscow would respond appropriately if the US-led NATO military alliance supplied Ukraine with planes and air defence systems.

Russia expels 10 diplomats from Baltic nations

Russia’s foreign ministry says the country has expelled 10 diplomats from the three Baltic nations in a tit-for-tat response, including three diplomats from Estonia and Latvia, and four from Lithuania.

Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania expelled a total of 10 Russian diplomats in a coordinated move earlier this month.

‘Tension and panic’ in Mykolaiv: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Mykolaiv, says the city remains “very tense” after the alleged Russian attack on an administration building there.

“You can see a lot of the windows of the apartments here and in the surrounding area have been blown out,” Dekker said, reporting from the scene.

“We arrived here about an hour after that strike. There was another air raid siren and people were panicking. We saw rescue workers running away from the site, and then we all went into a shelter,” she added.

“We spoke to one lady who burst into tears, saying, ‘I cannot deal with this any more, it’s constant.’”

Mykolaiv is strategically located near Odesa, Ukraine’s largest port hub.

“It has held off a ground offensive for weeks but of course, Russia controls the skies and if it’s shelling, from the sea, from the ground, [and carrying out] air strikes … that does put ground troops at a disadvantage,” Dekker said.

UN nuclear watchdog chief in Ukraine to offer safety assistance

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is in Ukraine for talks with senior government officials about ensuring the safety and security of its nuclear facilities, the UN’s nuclear watchdog has said.

Director General Rafael Grossi visit one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants during his visit and is expected to hold a news conference when he returns to Vienna, where the IAEA has its headquarters, later this week.

“This conflict is already causing unimaginable human suffering and destruction,” he said in a statement. “The IAEA’s expertise and capabilities are needed to prevent it from also leading to a nuclear accident.”

Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors at four active power plants, and is also home to the defunct Chernobyl facility, the site of a major nuclear disaster in 1986. Russian forces have taken control of Chernobyl and the Zaporizhzhia power plant, the largest in Europe.


ICRC calls for agreement on safe evacuations

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called on Ukraine and Russia to reach a clear agreement for the safe evacuation of civilians from Mariupol and other places as vital supplies dwindle.

“Our concern is that the very intensity of the fighting is putting civilians in harm’s way,” Robert Mardini, the aid agency’s director general, told the Reuters news agency.

“The fact [is] that in places like Mariupol, civilians are not able to leave in safe conditions, there were no concrete agreements by parties to the conflict for [the] safe evacuation of civilians, nor has there been a green light to get humanitarian aid in,” he added, citing the besieged port city in southeastern Ukraine.

Mardini also said there was a “disinformation campaign” against the ICRC on social media as the aid agency moved to reject allegations it had taken part in the “forced evacuations of civilians to Russia” in a series of posts on Twitter.

Ukraine says three killed in attack on Mykolaiv administration building

At least three people have been killed and 22 others wounded in a Russian attack on a regional administration building in Mykolaiv, according to the country’s State Emergency Service.

The service said in a post on Facebook that search and rescue work was continuing at the scene. Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the figures provided.

Regional Governor Vitaliy Kim said in a post on Telegram that a Russian rocket had “destroyed half of the building”.

Russian forces have attacked Ukraine’s southern ports, including Kherson, Odesa, Mykolaiv and Mariupol, as part of an apparent attempt to cut Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea and establish a land corridor from Russia to Crimea, the peninsula Moscow seized in 2014.

A destroyed part of a Ukrainian government administration building is seen in Mykolaiv
The regional administration building in Mykolaiv was reportedly hit by a Russian rocket [Nacho Doce/Reuters]

Abramovich attends Istanbul talks

Photos posted on Telegram by Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency appear to show Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in attendance at the talks in Istanbul.

It was not immediately clear what role he was playing at the meeting, though the Chelsea Football Club owner is believed to be operating as a broker between Kyiv and Moscow.

Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying that Abramovich’s participation in the talks on Tuesday had been approved by Moscow and Kyiv.

A spokesman for the 55-year-old, who has been sanctioned by the UK over his alleged close ties with Putin, has previously said his influence in negotiations to date between the two sides had been “limited”.

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is seen attending the talks in Istanbul
Abramovich is believed to be operating as a broker between Kyiv and Moscow [Screengrab/RIA Novosti]

UN says it has helped up to 900,000 people in Ukraine so far

UN aid agencies have managed to help up to 900,000 people in Ukraine so far, but they must be guaranteed safe passage by the warring parties to be able to do more, a spokesman for the world body has said.

Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told a news briefing the number of people provided with assistance so far was “good but … far from enough”.

Ukraine’s Kuleba warns negotiators not to ‘eat or drink’ at talks after poisoning reports

Ukraine’s foreign minister has advised members of the Ukrainian delegation “not to eat or drink anything, and preferably avoid touching any surface” during their negotiations with Russian officials in Istanbul.

Dmytro Kuleba’s comments, given during an interview with Ukrainian news channel Ukrayina 24, came after reports on Monday suggested Abramovich and Ukrainian negotiators had suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning earlier this month.

But there is some scepticism over the incident. Shortly after the reports emerged, an unnamed US official was quoted by Reuters as saying that intelligence suggested the trio’s symptoms were due to “environmental” factors, not poisoning.

Read more here.

Ukrainian TV says talks start with ‘cold welcome’

Talks between the delegations from Ukraine and Russia began without a handshake, Ukrainian television has reported.

“There was a cold welcome, no handshake,” a Ukrainian reporter said, without making clear whether he had witnessed the delegations’ meeting or had been told this by officials.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a political adviser to Zelenskyy, said on Twitter that the heads of each side’s delegation were discussing “the fundamental provisions of the negotiation process”.

“Delegations are working in parallel on the entire spectrum of contentious issues,” he added.

Erdogan calls for ‘concrete results’ in talks, end to ‘tragedy’ of war

Erdogan has told the Ukrainian and Russian delegations that they have a “historic responsibility” to stop the war.

“We believe that there will be no losers in a just peace. Prolonging the conflict is not in anyone’s interest,” Erdogan said as he greeted the officials, who were seated on opposite sides of a long table.

“It is in the hands of both sides to stop this tragedy,” he added.

Erdogan also told both sides they had “legitimate concerns” but said there was a need for “concrete results” from the discussions and called for an immediate ceasefire.

Ukraine resumes evacuations after Russian ‘provocations’

Ukraine says it is reopening humanitarian corridors and evacuating civilians from war-scarred regions after a one-day pause over what Kyiv called possible Russian “provocations”.

“Three humanitarian corridors were agreed for today,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a video statement posted on Telegram, a day after announcing their closure, citing intelligence reports.

Ukraine: Russia attacks in Donetsk, Luhansk repelled

Ukraine’s army says it successfully repelled seven Russian attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, two regions partially controlled by pro-Moscow separatists.

Ukrainian forces destroyed 10 jets, three helicopters, four drones, 12 Russian tanks, 10 armoured vehicles and shot down two cruise missiles, the army said. It added that an unspecified number of Russian soldiers were also killed in the attacks.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the figures provided.

Ukraine human rights commissioner: At least 144 children killed

Ukraine’s human rights commissioner Lyudmila Denisova says at least 144 children have been killed since the start of Russia’s invasion and 220 left wounded by indiscriminate shelling.

On Thursday, the UN’s children agency, UNICEF, said about half of Ukraine’s children – 4.3 million – have been uprooted by the conflict.

At least 1.8 million crossed into other countries, while 2.5 million have been internally displaced, the agency said.

More than 17,000 Russian ‘occupiers’ killed: Ukraine army

Ukraine’s army says 17,200 Russian “occupiers” have been killed in the country since the invasion began.

Russia has lost 597 tanks, 1,710 armoured vehicles, 127 jets, 129 helicopters and seven ships, the Ukrainian military said in a post shared on Facebook.

On Friday, Moscow said it lost 1,351 servicemen in the Ukraine war. Al Jazeera could not independently verify the figures provided.

Ukraine says 5,000 dead in besieged Mariupol

A senior Ukrainian official says at least 5,000 people have been buried in the besieged southern city of Mariupol since the invasion began, but that bodies have gone uncollected amid continuing Russian shelling.

Tetyana Lomakina, a presidential adviser now in charge of humanitarian corridors, says as many as 10,000 may have died – appearing to confirm the darkest scenarios of devastation in the city.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the figures provided.

Russia warns Poland to stay out of the Ukraine war

Poland has become vital in the Western effort to defend Ukraine, and some of the fighting is getting close to its border.

Last week, Russian forces targeted the western Ukrainian city of Lviv – near the Polish border, just as the US president was visiting Poland. The situation has forced NATO to decide on how to respond to such incidents within the borders of its member states.

So, is there a risk of a conflict spillover?

Russia still poses a significant threat to Kyiv: UK military

Russia poses a significant threat to Kyiv through their attack capability even though Ukrainian forces continue localised counterattacks to the northwest of the city, according to British military intelligence.

Russian forces have maintained their offensive on Mariupol with continuous heavy shelling of the city, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement, although the city’s centre is still under Ukrainian control.

Elsewhere, Russian forces are maintaining blocking positions while attempting to reorganise and reset their forces, it added.

Russia-Ukraine talks will take place at Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace: Report

Ukraine’s state-run Ukrinform news agency says talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators will take place at Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace on Tuesday.

The discussions will begin at 10:30am (07:30 GMT), it said.

Before they sit down, the negotiators are expected to meet with Erdogan, the agency added.

Russia no longer demanding Ukraine be ‘de-Nazified’: Report

The Financial Times says Russia is no longer saying Ukraine needs to be “denazified” and is prepared to let Kyiv join the EU if it remains militarily non-aligned as part of ceasefire negotiations.

Citing four people briefed on the talks, the FT said the draft ceasefire deal does not contain any discussion of three of Russia’s initial core demands – “denazification”, “demilitarisation” and legal protection for the Russian language in Ukraine.

Asia complying with Russia export controls: US

A senior US official says Washington has not seen any indications of non-compliance in Asia with export controls on Russia.

“We certainly haven’t seen any indication that there’s non-compliance, in fact, we’ve seen the reverse,” said Matthew Borman, a deputy assistant secretary at the commerce department. “I think there’s also a fair amount of additional self-sanctioning, if you will, by multinational companies operating in Russia,” he added.

Major players know there is a significant risk to their business if they don’t comply, Borman said.

“We know that Russia is quite dependent upon foreign supplies for some key inputs like semiconductors so I think it will be relatively readily apparent if there is non-compliance and the task will be to trace that back to its origin.”

France delivers fire and rescue trucks to Ukraine

France has delivered 27 fire and rescue trucks, as well as 50 tonnes of medical and emergency equipment to Ukraine.

French ambassador Etienne de Poncins posted pictures of the handover on Twitter, saying: “Efficiency and solidarity between France and Ukraine … Mission accomplished.”

Zelenskyy says Ukrainian forces in control of Irpin

Zelenskyy says Ukrainian forces have retaken the key Kyiv suburb of Irpin but cautioned that Russian forces still control areas north of the capital.

“The occupiers have been pushed away from Irpin and Kyiv. But it’s still too early to talk about safety in this part of our region. Fighting continues,” he said in his nightly video address.

“Russian troops hold the north of Kyiv region under control. They have resources and manpower. They are trying to rebuild destroyed units.”

Ukrainian journalist ‘taken captive’ by Russian forces

A Ukrainian journalist working for the UNIAN news agency has been taken captive by Russian forces, according to his colleague.

Dmytro Khyliuk went missing in early March and is being held in a town outside Kyiv, his colleague Natalia Boguta said in a Facebook post.

Banksy artwork sold to raise funds for Kyiv children’s hospital

An anonymous donor has raised $106,505 for a children’s hospital in Kyiv by auctioning a piece of anti-war artwork by Banksy.

The Okhmatdyt Hospital is Ukraine’s biggest children’s hospital and treats critically ill patients, according to The Kyiv Independent, a Ukrainian news outlet.

Russia won’t supply gas to Europe for free: Kremlin

Peskov says Russia is yet to take a final decision on how to respond should European countries refuse to pay for Russian gas exports in roubles, but warned that Moscow would not supply fuel to the continent for free.

The Kremlin spokesman’s warning came after G7 nations rejected Russia’s demand that “unfriendly” countries pay for Russian oil and gas in roubles, not euros.

“We are not going to supply gas for free, this is clear,” Peskov said. “It is hardly possible and reasonable to engage in charity in our situation.”

Japan will ask firms not to pay in roubles for Russia transactions

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno says Japanese companies will be asked to refuse if Russia asks for rouble payments for economic transactions, especially in the energy sector.

Russia demanded last week that “unfriendly” countries must pay in roubles, not euros, for its gas in the wake of the US and European allies teaming up on a series of sanctions aimed at Moscow.

Japan to ban luxury goods exports to Russia

Japan’s trade ministry says it will ban the export of luxury goods to Russia effective on April 5 over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Banned items include luxury cars, motorcycles, liquors, cosmetics, fashion items and art pieces, the ministry said.

Macron and Putin to speak again on Tuesday

French President Emmanuel Macron is planning to once again speak with his Russian counterpart on Tuesday, the Russian TASS news agency reported.

Macron expects to discuss with Putin the details of a planned humanitarian operation aimed at evacuating civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol, TASS quoted a spokesman for the French leader as saying.

Amnesty accuses Russia of war crimes in Mariupol

Amnesty International is accusing Russia of committing war crimes in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

“The siege of Mariupol, the denial of humanitarian evacuation and humanitarian escape for the population, and the targeting of civilians, according to Amnesty International’s investigation, amounts to war crimes,” said the group’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard.

“The crisis in Ukraine right now, the invasion … is not just any kind of violation of international law,” she said. “It is an aggression. It is a violation of the UN charter of the kind that we saw when the US invaded Iraq.”

Prospects for a ceasefire in Ukraine remain slim: Analyst

William Courtney, a former US ambassador to Georgia, says he sees no sign of Russian willingness to negotiate a ceasefire in Ukraine.

“Russia is worried that there’s not a perception of sufficient Russian bargaining strength. The international media are portraying Ukraine as holding off Russian forces. Some say Russia has begun to lose the war,” he told Al Jazeera.

“So Russia seems to now want to concentrate its forces in eastern Ukraine, where it has greater relative advantage and probably to try to get a victory somewhere to strengthen its hand in the negotiations. We’ve seen no sign on the battlefield that Russia is beginning to pull out troops, which might signify that it is willing to negotiate an agreement.

“For example, on this issue, Russia is still trying to pursue victory in all of Ukraine. It hasn’t given up on seizing Kyiv, and that had been its main aim up to now.”

Pentagon may need more funding to help Ukraine

The Pentagon says it may have to ask the US Congress for additional money to support Ukraine’s battle, including replenishing the arsenal of weapons sent to Kyiv.

Rolling out the defence department’s $773bn request for the fiscal year 2023, the Pentagon said the budget was finalised before the invasion so it has no specific money for the war. Congress approved a $13.5bn emergency funding package in early March.

The Pentagon officials who presented the request said it was too early to predict how quickly Ukrainian forces will use the weapons and ammunition already provided, and how much the US will need to replace that.

Fire at Lutsk oil depot extinguished

Ukrainian firefighters have brought a blaze at an oil depot – hit by a Russian rocket attack late on Sunday – in the far northwestern region of Volyn under control.

The attack set multiple storage tanks on fire and a video released by Ukraine’s emergency services showed firefighters battling the devastating inferno.

The mayor of Lutsk, the capital of Volyn which is 120km (75 miles) north of Lviv, on Monday said the oil stored at the depot had burned out and the site’s structures had been seriously damaged.

Zelenskyy urges Russian oil embargo without delay

Ukraine’s president has urged Western nations to toughen sanctions against Russia, including imposing an embargo on Russian oil.

“Now there are many hints and warnings that supposedly tougher sanctions, such as an embargo on Russian oil supplies to Europe, will be put in place if Russia uses chemical weapons,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

“Doesn’t everything the Russian military has done to date warrant an oil embargo? Don’t phosphorus bombs warrant it? A shelled chemical production facility or a shelled nuclear power plant doesn’t warrant it?

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine,
President Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday night, March 28, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP]

“If the sanctions packages are weak or do not work strongly enough, if they can be circumvented, it creates a dangerous illusion for the Russian leadership, as if they will be permitted to continue doing what they are doing now,” he said.

US deploys aircraft specialising in electronic warfare to Europe

The Pentagon has said it is deploying six Navy aircraft that specialise in electronic warfare and about 240 Navy personnel to bolster NATO defences in Eastern Europe.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby says the EA-18G Growler aircraft, based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington state, will arrive on Monday at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany, where they will be stationed. They are not intended for use in Ukraine, he said.

“The purpose of this deployment is to bolster readiness, enhance NATO’s collective defense posture and further increase air integration capabilities with our allied and partner nations,” Kirby said in a statement.

Russia repeats that nuclear weapons are only for existential threats

Peskov has told US broadcaster PBS in an interview that Russia would only resort to nuclear weapons in the case of a “threat to the existence” of the country.

“But any outcome of the operation (in Ukraine), of course, is not a reason for usage of a nuclear weapon,” the Kremlin spokesman said, echoing comments he made to CNN last week.

“We have a security concept that very clearly states that only when there is a threat for existence of the state, in our country, we can use and we will actually use nuclear weapons to eliminate the threat for the existence of our country.”

Seven EU countries warn citizens against joining Ukraine conflict

Seven EU countries are telling their citizens to stay away from the fight against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The appeal was issued by the justice ministers of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg and Belgium.

The ministers “have unanimously discouraged Europeans from joining” the ranks of voluntary combatants heading to the war in Ukraine, they said in a statement published after their meeting in Brussels.

Ukraine delegation lands in Turkey for Russia talks

A Ukrainian delegation has landed in Istanbul ahead of talks with Russian negotiators aimed at ending the war, Turkey’s private IHA news agency has reported.

The talks between the two sides are scheduled to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

UK intelligence: Russia’s Wagner Group deploying to eastern Ukraine

Russian private military company, the Wagner Group, is deploying fighters to eastern Ukraine, British military intelligence has said.

“They are expected to deploy more than 1,000 mercenaries, including senior leaders of the organisation, to undertake combat operations,” Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.

Last week, the Pentagon warned that the Wagner Group is looking towards “increasing their footprint in Ukraine”.

US budget to allocate funds to ‘forcefully respond’ to Putin

Biden says his proposed annual budget, which includes a rise in military spending, allocates funds to address the crisis in Ukraine. It allocates $813.3bn in defence spending, up from $777.7bn last year.

“This budget provides the resources we need to [ensure] our military remains the best prepared, best trained, best-equipped … in the world,” Biden said.

“This budget also provides additional funding to forcefully respond to Putin’s aggression against Ukraine and its economic, humanitarian and security consequences.”

Biden does not rule out meeting with Putin

Despite the escalating war of words between the Kremlin and the White House, Biden has not ruled out direct talks with Putin.

Asked on Monday whether he would be willing to meet with his Russian counterpart, Biden said: “It depends on what he wants to talk about.”

Joe Biden
Biden said on March 26 that Putin ‘cannot remain in power’ [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Ukraine aiming to secure ceasefire at Russia talks: Foreign minister

Kuleba has said Ukraine’s most ambitious goal at talks with Russia in Turkey this week will be to agree on a ceasefire.

“The minimum programme will be humanitarian questions, and the maximum programme is reaching an agreement on a ceasefire,” he said on national television when asked about the scope of the latest round of peace negotiations expected on Tuesday.

What would a ‘rupture’ in US-Russia relations mean?

The war in Ukraine is pushing US-Russia ties to the brink, with the Kremlin warning that bilateral relations are nearing “rupture” after Biden accused Putin of being a “war criminal”.

Should relations completely break down, analysts say the ramifications could ripple well beyond any potential ceasefire or peace negotiations to other areas of US-Russian diplomacy, including most notably the Iran nuclear talks.

“Russia could try to block an understanding that brings the US and Iran back into compliance,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

Read more here.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read all the updates from Monday, March 28 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies