Russia-Ukraine latest updates: No let up in attacks on Chernihiv

Russia-Ukraine news from March 30: Ukrainian officials say attacks on Chernihiv have not eased despite Russian pledge to cut back combat operations there.

Ukrainian soldiers on the road outside Kharkiv, Ukraine.
The United States Congress has approved additional military assistance for Ukraine [File: EPA-EFE/Andrzej Lange]
  • The United Nations says more than four million people have fled Ukraine amid Russia’s offensive.
  • Ukrainian officials say Russian attacks have not eased in Chernihiv despite a promise by Moscow to scale back its offensive and there are reports of heavy shelling along the front line in the eastern Donetsk region.
  • President Joe Biden says the US will provide “additional capabilities” to the Ukrainian military.
  • The Kremlin plays down hopes of progress following talks between delegations from Moscow and Kyiv in Istanbul on Tuesday, saying the discussions produced no “breakthrough”.

INTERACTIVE_UKRAINE_CONTROL MAP DAY35_INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 35 (1)

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These were the updates for March 30:

Russia announces Mariupol ceasefire to evacuate civilians

The Russian defence ministry has announced a ceasefire starting Thursday morning in Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol to allow civilians to be evacuated.

“For this humanitarian operation to succeed, we propose to carry it out with the direct participation of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross,” the ministry said in a statement.

Russian forces start to withdraw from Chernobyl nuclear site: Pentagon

Russian forces have begun to pull out of the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power site after seizing control of the facility on February 24, a senior US defence official has said.

“They are beginning to reposition some of their troops, leaving, walking away from the Chernobyl facility and moving into Belarus,” the official was quoted by AFP as saying.

Russian forces strike Red Cross building in Mariupol: Ombudswoman

Ukraine’s Commissioner for Human Rights said Russian forces have hit a Red Cross facility in the besieged southern city of Mariupol.

“Enemy aircraft and artillery fired on a building marked with a red cross on white background, indicating the presence of wounded, civilian or humanitarian cargo,” Lyudmyla Denisova said on Telegram. “There is currently no information on the victims.”

A spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed to the Guardian newspaper that an image circulated in the aftermath of the attack was of its warehouse in Mariupol.

Separatist leader says 140,000 have left Mariupol for Russia or Donetsk

Denis Pushilin, head of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), said on Russian television that “about 140,000 left Mariupol … both towards the DPR and towards Russia”, Interfax reported.

Kyiv has accused Moscow of illegally deporting at least 15,000 Mariupol residents to Russia under the guise of evacuation. Moscow says one of the aims of its military campaign is to “liberate” largely Russian-speaking places such as Mariupol.

Russia will make no concessions in Ukraine: Chechen leader

Ramzan Kadyrov, the powerful head of Russia’s republic of Chechnya, has said Moscow will make no concessions in its war in Ukraine, deviating from the official line and suggesting the Kremlin’s own negotiator was wrong.

Russia’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said on Tuesday that Moscow was taking steps to de-escalate the conflict, including scaling back military activity around Kyiv.

Kadyrov, who has Chechen forces fighting in Ukraine as part of Russia’s military operation, said Medinsky had used “incorrect wording”. If you think that [Putin] will quit what he started just the way it is presented to us today, this is not true,” Kadyrov said in comments on Telegram.

Russian forces using phosphorus ammunition in eastern Ukraine: Governor

Russian forces are using phosphorus ammunition and shelling settlements on the front line separating Ukrainian-controlled territory from areas held by Russian-backed forces in the eastern Donetsk region, the local governor has said.

Speaking on national television, Pavlo Kyrylenko also said the latest attempt to evacuate civilians from the besieged port city of Mariupol had likely failed as convoys of civilians were not being allowed through.

Russian hackers targeted NATO, eastern European militaries: Google

Russian hackers have recently attempted to penetrate the networks of NATO and the militaries of some eastern European countries, Google’s Threat Analysis Group has said in a report.

The attack was launched by a Russian-based group called Coldriver, or Callisto, and used what Google described as “credential phishing campaigns”.

“These campaigns were sent using newly created Gmail accounts to non-Google accounts, so the success rate of these campaigns is unknown,” the report said.

UK tightens sanctions targeting Russian oligarchs’ jets and yachts

The United Kingdom has put in place new legal powers to prohibit maintenance on aircraft and ships belonging to specific sanctioned Russian oligarchs or their businesses.

“Today’s legislation adds new routes at our disposal to deprive oligarchs’ access to their luxury toys,” Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said in a statement.

The UK government has already targeted Russia’s access to the international financial system, industries like shipping and defence, and wealthy elites close to President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine negotiator says Abramovich an effective mediator with Russia

Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said the billionaire Roman Abramovich is an effective mediator between Kyiv and Moscow.

“It has long been known in the media space that he is an extremely effective mediator between delegations and partially moderates the process so that there is no misunderstanding at the outset,” he told a televised briefing.

He also played down as “conspiracy theories” the reports that Abramovich had been poisoned several weeks ago, saying such reports were meant to put pressure on the delegations.

Cyberattack in Ukraine affected thousands across Europe: Viasat

A cyberattack targeting a satellite network used by Ukraine’s government and military agencies also knocked offline tens of thousands of broadband internet users across Europe, the satellite owner has disclosed.

United States-based Viasat provided new details of how the cyberattack affected users from Poland to France and knocked off remote access to thousands of wind turbines in central Europe.

Viasat did not say in its statement who it believed was responsible for the incident, which occurred just as Moscow was launching its invasion, while Ukrainian officials have blamed Russian hackers.

Germany says it received assurances from Russia over gas payments in euros

The German government says it has received assurances from Russia that European companies won’t have to pay for Russian gas supplies in roubles.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s office said Putin had stressed during a phone conversation that there would be no change for European contractual partners, who would continue to pay only in euros to Gazprom Bank.

However, Scholz’s office also reported Putin as saying that he planned to issue a law requiring gas supplies to be paid in roubles from April 1.

NATO to move towards permanent basing in eastern Europe: US general

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should prompt a re-examination of NATO’s permanent presence in eastern Europe, US Supreme Allied Commander Europe Tod Wolters has told the US Congress.

Air Force General Wolters said the alliance was “in the process of establishing eight very coherent minimum battalion-sized battle groups in Eastern Europe.”

Wolters added member nations were committed to building up the force posture in Europe and changing its presence from “rotational” to “more permanent”.

Putin advisers ‘too afraid to tell him the truth’ on Ukraine: US official

Russian President Vladimir Putin is being misled by advisers, a US official has told Reuters, citing declassified intelligence.

“We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions, because his senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth,” the official said.

“Putin didn’t even know his military was using and losing conscripts in Ukraine, showing a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information to the Russian president,” the official said.

Russia signals it could demand energy payments in roubles

In the strongest signal yet that Russia could be preparing a tougher response to sanctions, parliament speaker Vyacheslav Volodin addressed Western countries on Telegram saying: “If you want gas, find roubles.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later commented on Volodin’s words, saying “This is an idea that should definitely be worked on.”

Reuters cited two Russian sources saying that Moscow plans to keep a contract price for gas exports to “unfriendly” countries unchanged, but the payment should be done in the rouble equivalent on a pre-agreed settlement day, as one of the options to switch the currency.

Russia and Germany hold talks on rouble energy payment

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have agreed in a call that experts from their countries will discuss how payment for Russian gas exports could be made in roubles, the TASS news agency reported.

Russia plans to require payment for its energy exports – especially the gas that Germany depends on – in roubles rather than the usual euros or dollars because of Western financial sanctions over Ukraine.

Russian troops around Kyiv moving toward or into Belarus: Pentagon

The US Pentagon says it has seen some Russian troops in the areas around Kyiv moving north toward or into Belarus over the last 24 hours.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the US does not view this as a withdrawal, but as an attempt by Russia to resupply, refit and then reposition the troops.

“We don’t know exactly where these troops are going to go,” he said, speaking on CNN and Fox Business.

Biden to dispatch additional $500m in direct aid to Ukraine

President Joe Biden says the US will dispatch another $500m in direct aid to Ukraine as the Russian invasion grinds on.

Biden and Zelenskyy discussed “additional capabilities” to help the Ukrainian military during a 55-minute telephone call, the White House said in a statement.

The US Congress earlier this month approved spending up to $13.6bn in humanitarian and military assistance for Ukraine. The Biden administration has already dispatched $2bn of that total.

UN rights chief warns of ‘war crimes’ in Ukraine conflict

The UN rights chief has said that Russia’s widespread and indiscriminate attacks in Ukraine are of “immense concern” and could amount to “war crimes“.

Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Michelle Bachelet said her office had received “credible allegations that Russian armed forces have used cluster munitions in populated areas at least 24 times”.

The office was likewise probing allegations that Ukrainian forces had also used such weapons, she said.

“Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes,” Bachelet warned, adding that her office had verified 77 incidents in which medical facilities were damaged.

In this video grab from a handout footage taken and released by the the National Police of Ukraine on March 9, 2022, people are helped out of a damaged building of a children's hospital following a Russian air strike in the southeastern city of Mariupol.
People are helped out of a damaged building of a children’s hospital following a Russian air strike in the southeastern city of Mariupol [File: National Police of Ukraine/AFP]

Russia used cluster bombs, killed 80 civilians in Mykolaiv: Mayor

About 80 civilians have been killed and around 450 wounded in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv since Russia invaded Ukraine, the local mayor has said.

Oleksandr Senkevych told national television that Russia had used cluster munitions in Mykolaiv. He provided no evidence but said there was a “huge number of cluster bombs scattered around the city”.

Russia has previously denied using cluster munitions, which are prohibited under international law.

World facing the highest number of violent conflicts since WWII: UN Chief

The United Nations chief has said two billion people – one-quarter of humanity – are living in conflict areas today, as the world experiences the highest number of violent conflicts since the end of World War II in 1945.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres cited conflicts from Yemen, Syria, Myanmar and Sudan to Haiti, Africa’s Sahel and now the war in Ukraine, which he described as “a catastrophe shaking the foundations of the international order, spilling across borders and causing skyrocketing food, fuel and fertiliser prices that spell disaster for developing countries”.

He told the UN Peacebuilding Commission that last year 84 million people were forced to leave their homes because of conflict, violence and human rights violations. “And this year, we estimate that at least 274 million will need humanitarian assistance,” he said.

Death toll from Mykolaiv attack has risen to 15

Ukraine’s State Emergency Service says that the death toll from a Russian attack on the regional administration building in the southern city of Mykolaiv has risen to 15 people.

It added that 33 others had been wounded in the strike on Tuesday morning, which saw Russian forces allegedly blast a gaping hole in the nine-storey building.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the figures provided.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to demilitarise its neighbour. It denies targeting civilians and has not commented on the incident in Mykolaiv.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

UK not aiming to remove Putin from power: Johnson

The United Kingdom is not aiming to overturn Russia’s government and remove President Vladimir Putin from power, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

“I understand the frustrations that people feel about Putin and to desire a change of government in itself is not an ignoble thing … that’s the objective of a lot of democratic politics,” Johnson told lawmakers at a committee hearing.

“But let’s be absolutely clear, it’s not the objective of the UK government, and it’s very, very important that everybody gets this. We are simply setting out to help to protect the people of Ukraine, and to protect them against absolutely barbaric and unreasonable violence.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 [FIle: Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via Reuters]

Ukrainian negotiator ‘optimistic’ after talks with Russia

Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak has said he feels optimistic after the latest round of talks with Russian officials.

“I have an optimistic impression of the round of negotiations in Istanbul,” Podolyak, a political adviser to President Zelenskyy, told an online briefing following the discussions in Turkey on Tuesday.

He added that a proposed system of security guarantees for Ukraine, which would be offered in exchange for its neutrality, would be put to a nationwide referendum only after Russian troops withdrew to positions they held before invading the country.

UN examining forced evacuation claims

The United Nations’ human rights chief has said her office is looking into allegations that some residents of Mariupol, in southeastern Ukraine, have been forcibly evacuated to areas controlled by Russian forces or to Russia itself.

Speaking to the UN’s Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet decried a life of “sheer terror” for people in the besieged port city since Moscow launched its offensive.

Ukraine has charged that Russian forces were forcibly taking people from Mariupol and other areas to Russia. Moscow has denied the claims, saying about 500,000 Ukrainians left for Russia voluntarily.

Bachelet added her office was also reviewing “credible allegations” that Russian forces have used cluster munitions 24 times and allegations that Ukrainian forces have done so too.

Russia hopes Europe will find creative solution to roubles-for-gas problem: Report

Russia hopes European countries will change their minds about paying for Russian gas in roubles and find a creative solution to the problem, the country’s RIA Novosti news agency has cited Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying.

The Kremlin has said Moscow will not immediately demand that buyers pay for its exports of the energy source in roubles, promising a gradual shift instead.

Ukraine has stated willingness to meet Moscow’s core demands: Negotiator

Moscow’s lead negotiator in talks with Ukraine has said that Kyiv’s readiness to consider a neutral status would meet a key Russian demand.

Vladimir Medinsky said in televised comments that Ukrainian officials had submitted a set of proposals including Kyiv’s readiness to adopt a non-bloc, nuclear-free status and drop its bid to join NATO during Tuesday’s talks.

He added Ukraine had also signalled its readiness not to host foreign military bases and to hold joint drills with foreign militaries only in consultation with countries serving as guarantors of a peace deal, which would include Russia.

Medinsky said the proposals signalled Ukraine’s readiness to reach agreement “for the first time in years”, adding that “if it fulfils the obligations, the threat of creating a NATO bridgehead on the Ukrainian territory will be removed.”

Austria activates alert system to ensure gas supply

Austria has announced that it is following Germany in activating the first level of its emergency plan to ensure gas supply over fears that Russia could cut off exports of the energy source if Western countries refuse to make payments to Moscow in roubles.

Chancellor Karl Nehammer’s office said in a statement that the move involved the “strengthening of existing monitoring systems” which had been in place for weeks.

It added that measures such as gas rationing would only come into play if the third phase of the emergency plan were activated, which required an “immediate crisis”.

Read more on this topic here.

UN nuclear watchdog chief visits power plant in southern Ukraine

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has visited a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on his first trip to the country since Russia launched its invasion.

Director General Rafael Grossi said he was meeting with Ukrainian government officials and staff at the southern Ukraine nuclear power plant as part of the UN nuclear watchdog’s effort to provide the country with “technical assistance” to ensure the safety and security of its nuclear facilities.

He said in a series of tweets that the agency’s presence on the ground in Ukraine “will help prevent the danger of a nuclear accident that could have severe public health and environmental consequences” both within the country’s borders and beyond.

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.

INTERACTIVE_Nuclear Power Ukraine with control map
(Al Jazeera)

Hundreds of civilians killed in IrpinL Mayor

An estimated 200 to 300 civilians were killed in the Ukrainian town of Irpin, near Kyiv, before it was taken back from Russian forces this week, the local mayor has said.

Oleksandr Markushyn told a news briefing that about 50 Ukrainian servicemen had also been killed there, and some bodies were still trapped under rubble. He added there had been Russian shelling in the area all night.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the figures provided.

Ukrainian forces on Monday seized back full control of the town, which has been one of the main hot spots of fighting with Russian troops near the capital.

Russia ‘unable to cancel sowing season in Ukraine’ despite attacks: Analyst

Nikolay Mitrokhin, a Russia expert and researcher at Germany’s Bremen University, says Russian forces have not been able to “cancel the sowing season in Ukraine” despite alleged attacks on the country’s agricultural infrastructure.

“Even if they burn down all large fuel storages – the farmers mostly bought the fuel in the fall and have it in tanks by their side,” Mitrokhin told Al Jazeera.

But he added that there is an issue with the export of the remaining wheat from last year’s harvest because the Black and Azov seas are being blockaded by the Russian navy – a situation that is contributing to the panic on the global food market.

A Ukrainian minister had earlier accused Moscow of “purposefully” trying to destroy Ukraine’s agriculture infrastructure in order to disrupt the country’s sowing campaign and create a global food crisis.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Europe must shut ports to Russian ships: Zelenskyy

Norway and the rest of Europe should close their ports to Russian ships, Ukraine’s president has told the Norwegian parliament.

“The European Union, and I do hope so Norway, need to introduce the ban on Russian vessels to use European ports for the time being while they are blocking our ports,” Zelenskyy told lawmakers via video link from Ukraine.

He added that Ukraine and Norway, Europe’s second-largest gas supplier after Russia, had started talks over the supply of five billion cubic metres of gas for next winter.

“You can make a decisive contribution to the energy security of Europe by providing the necessary resources both to the countries of the European Union and to Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said.

Denmark would support potential Finnish NATO bid

Denmark would fully support Finnish NATO membership if the country were to apply to join the transatlantic security alliance, the country’s prime minister has said.

“If or when Finland would choose to seek membership of NATO, Denmark would of course support it very strongly,” Mette Frederiksen told reporters during a visit to Estonia.

Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto said earlier this month that the country would review its security policy to decide whether to join NATO.


NATO must boost Baltic defences: Estonia

NATO must sharpen its land, air and sea defence capabilities in the Baltic region, Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas says.

“In order to have peace we have to prepare for war,” Kallas told a joint news conference with the Danish prime minister at Estonia’s Tapa military base.

Russia’s FSB says it detained 60 supporters of Ukrainian ‘neo-Nazi’ group: Reports

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has detained 60 supporters of what it described as a Ukrainian “neo-Nazi” group and seized weapons in 23 regions across Russia, Russian media reported.

The FSB has previously identified the group as the MKU. State television in December said the abbreviation stood for the words “Maniacs. Cult of Murder”. The FSB said it had been set up by a Ukrainian under the patronage of Ukraine’s intelligence services.

Moscow has said “de-Nazification” is one of its aims in Ukraine, alleging that anti-Russian “Nazis” are influential in Kyiv, without providing any evidence for its claims.

Norway sends more anti-tank weapons to Ukraine

Norway has donated more weapons to Ukraine, the country’s defence ministry says.

The latest shipment, which has already been completed, contains 2,000 M72 anti-tank weapons, raising the total number of M72s donated by Norway to 4,000, the ministry said.

Russia’s Lavrov hails China as part of new, ‘just world order’

Russia’s foreign minister has hailed China as part of a new, “just” world order ahead of talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in the eastern city of Huangshan.

“We, together with you, and with our sympathisers will move towards a multipolar, just, democratic world order,” Sergey Lavrov said, in a video released by the Russian foreign ministry before the pair held their discussions.

He added the world was “living through a very serious stage in the history of international relations”.

The two ministers were seen in face masks, bumping elbows in front of their national flags prior to their talks, which came as China hosts two days of international meetings on Afghanistan.

Wang, for his part, said that “China-Russia cooperation has no limits”, repeating a line used by Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to characterise ties.

“Our striving for peace has no limits, our upholding of security has no limits, our opposition towards hegemony has no limits,” he said.

EU to work with member states to prepare for gas supply situations

The EU’s executive arm has said it will work closely with the bloc’s member states to prepare for gas supply situations, after Germany triggered an emergency plan to manage stocks in case of a potential disruption to flows from Russia.

“We are prepared for any such cases. We will of course, work closely with member states to have everybody be prepared for any sort of situations,” EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans told a news conference.

Read more here.

INTERACTIVE - Which countries directly import the most Russian gas_

Russia attempting to create a global food crisis: Ukraine

Russia is “purposefully” trying to destroy Ukraine’s agriculture infrastructure in order to disrupt the country’s sowing campaign and create a global food crisis, Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency has quoted a government minister as saying.

“Russia doesn’t want us to sow the agriculture lands we have in the areas we control,” Oleh Nemchinov, minister of the cabinet of ministers, was quoted as saying.

“It’s no secret to anyone that the strikes on oil depots that Russia has carried out over the past few days are, in fact, strikes on the sowing field,” he added.

Nemchinov went on to accuse Moscow of wanting to manufacture a “humanitarian catastrophe” in North Africa and the Middle East, as well as the other parts of the world to which Ukraine exports grain, in order to create a “point of geopolitical confrontation”.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Russia’s siege on Mariupol and the people left behind

In this episode, Al Jazeera’s The Take podcast examines Russia’s bloody assault on Mariupol.

Italian PM to talk to Putin

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi will talk to Putin later on Wednesday, Draghi’s office has said, without providing further details.

The Italian leader spoke to Zelenskyy earlier this week, reiterating Rome’s support for the Ukrainian authorities and people.

Istanbul talks produced no ‘breakthrough’: Kremlin

The Kremlin has said there was no “breakthrough” during the latest round of talks between delegations from Moscow and Kyiv on Tuesday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters it was a “positive factor” that Ukraine submitted its written proposals during the discussions in Istanbul, but added that “we can’t say there has been something promising or any breakthroughs”.

“There is a lot of work to be done,” he said.

On Tuesday, Ukraine set out a detailed framework for a peace deal under which the country would remain neutral but its security would be guaranteed by a group of third countries. It said it would also be willing to hold talks over a 15-year period on the future of the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Russia, meanwhile, said it intended to scale back its military activity near the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and the northern city of Chernihiv.

Asked about the Ukrainian offer of talks over the status of Crimea, Peskov said there was nothing to discuss on the issue because Crimea is part of Russia under the country’s constitution.

UN names experts to probe on possible war crimes in Ukraine

The UN has named three human rights experts to conduct an investigation into possible war crimes and other violations committed in Ukraine.

The independent panel, to be led by Erik Mose of Norway, has a mandate to “investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law and related crimes in the context of the aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation”, a statement said.

Mose is a former judge on Norway’s supreme court and on the European Court of Human Rights, and previously president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

He will be joined on the panel by Jasminka Dzumhur, the human rights ombudsperson of Bosnia Herzegovina, and Pablo de Greiff of Colombia, who has served as the UN’s top expert on the promotion of truth, justice and reparations.

The UN Human Rights Council agreed on March 4 to establish the commission of inquiry, for one year, at the request of Ukraine and allies including the EU, UK and United States.

Ukrainian officials believe Russian forces not retreating, but ‘regrouping’: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi, reporting from the city of Lviv in western Ukraine, says the prevailing wisdom among Ukraine’s leaders is that Russia is “not making a retreat of any kind”, but its forces are instead “regrouping”.

“They continue to say that you cannot trust what Russia says, but that you have to see what they do and watch their actions on the ground,” Basravi said.

“And what we have seen is more attacks in the west of the country overnight – fuel depots were hit, and the Russian ministry of defence has said that is to hinder the resupply of Ukrainian forces fighting in the Donbas region,” he added.

“We have definitely seen an observable uptick in the number of missile strikes happening on this side of the country and we have also seen fighting continue in areas around Kyiv as well as Chernihiv.”

Russian soldiers are seen on a tank
Russian soldiers have attacked Ukraine on multiple fronts since Moscow launched its invasion [File: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu]

Ukrainian official says fighting continued overnight near Irpin

Ukrainian forces continued to battle Russian troops overnight near Irpin, close to Kyiv, despite Moscow’s claim that it would scale back its attacks in the region, an interior ministry official has said.

Vadym Denysenko, an interior ministry adviser, said in televised remarks that Moscow had pulled some troops and equipment out of Ukraine to neighbouring Belarus.

“But it looks more like rotation and the licking of wounds than the actual cessation of military action,” he said.

“So, it is [too] early to say that Russians are decreasing the intensity of military action in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions,” Denysenko added.

Ukrainian forces recaptured Irpin from Russian troops earlier this week.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Russia’s Lavrov to visit India

Russia’s foreign minister will visit New Delhi on Thursday for a two-day trip, India’s foreign ministry says.

Lavrov is currently in China on his first visit to the country since Moscow began its invasion of Ukraine last month.

Read more here.

Ukraine says one killed in Lysychansk shelling

Russian shelling on residential buildings in Ukraine’s eastern city of Lysychansk has killed at least one civilian, according to the country’s State Emergency Service.

The service said at least five people had been rescued from the affected buildings so far, with search operations continuing.

Lysychansk lies in Ukraine’s Luhansk region, which has been partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Finland resumes rail link to Russia

Finland’s national railway operator has said it will resume services between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg in Russia on March 30, less than a week after having halted the service.

VR Group had halted the service as a result of sanctions against Russian Railways imposed by the UK’s government, but it had later clarified that the sanctions do not apply to VR Group’s contracts, it said in a statement.

More than four million people have fled Ukraine, UN says

The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) says more than four million refugees have now fled Ukraine since Russia launched its war on February 24.

Of those, 2.3 million have entered neighbouring Poland.

An estimated 6.5 million people have also been displaced from their homes within Ukraine.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine war Refugees DAY 35 March 30 845gmt

Russia reports new strikes on Ukrainian arsenals, fuel depots

The Russian military has reported a new series of strikes on Ukrainian arsenals and fuel depots.

Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russian forces had used air-launched long-range cruise missiles to target a fuel depot in Starokostiantyniv and Khmelnytskyi in central Ukraine.

He added that troops had also hit the Ukrainian special forces headquarters in Bereznehuvate, in the southern Mykolaiv region, and that mobile land-based Iskander missile launchers had been used to strike two ammunition depots in the eastern Donetsk region.

Russia keeping some troops near Kyiv to tie down Ukrainian troops, official says

Russia is moving forces from northern to eastern Ukraine to try to encircle Ukrainian troops, but is keeping some behind near the capital Kyiv to tie down part of the Ukrainian military there, an adviser to Zelenskyy has said.

“Although the Russians are withdrawing some troops from [around] Kyiv, they will still leave certain forces here [near Kyiv] to keep our troops here,” Oleksiy Arestovych said in televised comments.

Kyiv’s deputy mayor, Mykola Povoroznyk, meanwhile, told national television the capital itself had not been shelled overnight.

“The night passed relatively calmly, to the sounds of sirens and the sound of gunfire from battles around the city, but there was no shelling in the city itself,” he said.

Shelling in almost all front-line cities in Donetsk, local governor says

Russian forces are shelling nearly all cities along the front line separating Ukrainian government-controlled territory from areas held by Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donetsk region, the regional governor has said.

Pavlo Kyrylenko said on national television the situation could worsen as Russian forces concentrated their efforts to attack the Donetsk region.

Poland plans to stop using Russian oil by end of year, PM says

Poland’s prime minister says his country plans to stop using Russian oil by the end of 2022 and to stop importing Russian coal by May at the latest as it cuts economic ties with Moscow.

“We will impose a total embargo on Russian coal, and I hope that by April, May at the latest, we will have completely exited from Russian coal,” Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference. “We will do everything to stop using Russian oil by the end of this year.”

Chernihiv governor sees no let-up in Russian attacks

The governor of Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region says there has been no let-up in Russian attacks despite a promise by Moscow to scale down military operations there.

“Do we believe in it [the promise]? Of course not,” Governor Viacheslav Chaus said on Telegram.

“The ‘decreased activity’ in the Chernihiv region was demonstrated by the enemy carrying out strikes on (the city of) Nizhyn, including air strikes, and all night long they hit [the city of] Chernihiv.”

Russia hit industrial facilities in western Ukraine: Regional governor

Russian forces have hit industrial facilities in three strikes on the Khmelnitskyi region of western Ukraine overnight, regional governor Serhiy Hamaliy says.

He gave no details of the targets but said fires had been “localised” and checks were being made to determine whether there were any casualties.

Turkey, a mediator in Ukraine, mends its own ties with neighbours

The sight of Russian and Ukrainian negotiators meeting in Istanbul for face-to-face talks highlights the position in which Turkey finds itself as a perceived neutral side in the war in Ukraine.

Turkey could have been in a quandary as two ostensible allies fought a devastating war. Instead, the NATO member state continues to supply weapons to Ukraine, while refusing to sanction Russia, and is now leading efforts to mediate between the two sides.

Read more here.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seen welcoming the Ukrainian and Russian delegations
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gives a speech to negotiating delegations on Tuesday [Turkish Presidency via AP]

Residential areas of Ukraine’s Lysychansk shelled: Governor

Residential areas of Ukraine’s eastern city of Lysychansk have been shelled by heavy artillery on Wednesday morning, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai wrote on Telegram.

“A number of high-rise buildings have been damaged. Information on casualties is being confirmed,” he said. “Many buildings have collapsed. Rescuers are trying to save those still alive.”

UK taking sceptical view on Russian pledges: Deputy PM

Britain will take a very sceptical view towards any promises coming from Russia about Ukraine and will respond to Moscow based on its actions, not its words, according to Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab.

“I would be very careful in taking at face value what is coming out of Putin’s war machine,” he told Times Radio, adding that room for diplomacy must still be made.

“Ultimately, they need to be tested by their actions and they need to withdraw from Ukraine, not just reposition,” he said, adding: “But I think we take a very sceptical view about anything coming out of Moscow.”

Raab - reuters
Raab says the UK is very careful in taking at face value what is coming out of Putin’s war machine [File: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via Reuters]

US warns Moscow may ‘detain’ Americans in Russia

The US Department of State has issued a travel advisory warning that Moscow “may single out and detain US citizens in Russia” and repeating earlier warnings for Americans not to travel to the country.

The warning was “due to the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces” as well as the potential for harassment of US citizens by Russian authorities, the travel advisory said, repeating calls for Americans travelling or living in Russia to leave “immediately”.

Multiple explosions heard in Kyiv: Report

A Ukrainian news outlet is reporting “multiple explosions” in Kyiv, a day after Russia pledged to reduce combat operations around the capital

The Kyiv Independent also said air raids went off early in the morning on several regions across the country, including in Zhytomyr, Kharkiv, Dnipro and Poltava.

Russia’s Lavrov makes first China visit since Ukraine war

Russia’s foreign minister has arrived in China on his first visit to the key ally since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine last month.

In a post on its Weibo social media account, the Russian embassy in Beijing confirmed Lavrov had landed in the eastern city of Huangshan, posting photos of delegates descending from a plane and being met by health officials in hazmat suits.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference following talks with President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer in Moscow,
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a news conference following talks with the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer in Moscow, Russia on March 24, 2022 [Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool via Reuters]

Lavrov will attend a series of meetings hosted by China to discuss ways to help Afghanistan. Diplomats from the US and the Taliban-led country’s neighbours are also expected to attend.

But Russia’s bloody assault on Ukraine is likely to loom large over proceedings.

Beijing has said Foreign Minister Wang Yi will collectively meet with representatives at the meeting, but it is not clear whether he will meet one-on-one with Lavrov.

Patients, staff at Mariupol hospital ‘forcibly taken’ to Russia: Council

The Mariupol City Council has accused Russian troops of forcibly removing more than 70 patients and medical staff at a maternity hospital to Russian territory.

“Another case of forcible deportation of Mariupol residents to the territory of the aggressor power,” it said in a statement. “More than 70 people were forcibly removed from Maternity Hospital No 2 in the Left Bank district – it’s medical staff and patients.”

The state-run Ukrinform news agency says more than 20,000 people from Mariupol have been taken to Russia against their will.

The Kremlin has previously denied forcibly removing Ukraine citizens, saying those who’ve arrived in Russia have done so voluntarily.

Satellite images show buildings flattened, on fire in Mariupol

A satellite image shows apartment buildings and homes destroyed on east Mariupol, Ukraine March 29, 2022.
A satellite image shows apartment buildings and homes destroyed in east Mariupol, Ukraine on March 29, 2022 [Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters]
A satellite image shows devastation of residential apartment buildings, in Livoberezhnyi district, east Mariupol, Ukraine, March 29, 2022.
A satellite image shows the devastation of residential apartment buildings, in Livoberezhnyi district, east Mariupol, Ukraine on March 29, 2022 [Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters]
A satellite image shows destruction of homes and buildings, in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 29, 2022. Satellite image 2022 Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS
A satellite image shows the destruction of homes and buildings, in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 29, 2022 [Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters]

UN records 1,179 civilian deaths in Ukraine

The UN human rights office says it has verified 1,179 civilian deaths in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. A further 1,860 civilians were wounded, it said.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” it said in a statement.

Ukraine journalist detained, taken to Donetsk: Union

The National Union of Journalists in Ukraine says Russian forces in Zaporizhzhia region have arrested a local journalist and taken her to the Donetsk region for “an investigation into her actions”.

Citing the journalist’s sister, the union said the Russians accused Irina Dubchenko of sheltering a wounded Ukrainian soldier.

Evacuations from southern Ukraine continue

Some 1,665 people evacuated from southern Ukrainian cities on Tuesday, arriving in the city of Zaporizhzhia in their personal cars, according to an official.

Iryna Vereshchuk, the deputy prime minister of Ukraine, said the evacuees included 936 people from besieged Mariupol.

She accused the Russian forces of blocking convoys of evacuation buses and trucks with humanitarian aid that were sent to Berdyansk, Melitopol and Enerhodar. Convoys of people fleeing Tokmak and Enerhodar were also blocked, she said.

‘Irpin is still not safe’: Mayor tells residents of ‘liberated town’ not to return yet

Oleksandr Markushyn, the mayor of Irpin, a Kyiv suburb that Ukrainian forces claimed control of on Monday, has told residents of the area not to return just yet.

“Do not come back yet. The city is still not safe. We still hear gunshots and shelling, Grads [multiple rocket launchers] are even still being deployed,” he said in a video message on Tuesday.

“I will absolutely inform everyone as soon as it is possible to return.”

Polish cabinet approves law to ban Russian coal imports

The Polish government has adopted draft legislation that will allow a ban on imports of Russian coal, according to a cabinet spokesperson.

“We don’t want these imports to be possible any longer, although we realise that there’s a risk related to the fact that the EU has not approved such actions to date,” Piotr Muller told reporters in Warsaw.

Sanctions in the EU as a rule have to be agreed by the whole trading bloc, and Brussels could potentially punish countries acting unilaterally.

Zelenskyy to address Australian parliament

Ukraine’s president is scheduled to address Australia’s parliament on Thursday evening.

Employment minister Stuart Robert told parliament that Zelenskyy would make an address by video at 5.30pm (06:30 GMT), according to parliament records.

Ukrainian soldier who defended Snake Island released in prisoner exchange

A Ukrainian soldier who gained fame with his refusal to surrender when Russian troops invaded a tiny island in the Black Sea has been released from Russian captivity.

In a tweet, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence said Roman Hrybov, who told a Russian warship “to go fuck yourself”, has “returned from Russian captivity to his native Cherkasy region”.

Russian troops had detained Hrybov when they seized Ukraine’s Snake Island on the first day of Moscow’s invasion on February 24.

Death toll in Mykolaiv attack rises to 12

At least 12 people have been killed in a Russian rocket attack on a government building in the southern city of Mykolaiv, according to Ukraine’s emergency services.

In a Telegram post, the agency said 33 others were wounded.

‘Ukrainians are not naïve’: Zelenskyy

Here’s more on the Ukrainian president’s late-night address, during which he called for caution over Russian pledges to scale back the offensive on Kyiv.

“Of course, we see all the risks. Of course, we see no reason to trust the words of certain representatives of a state that continues to fight for our destruction,” he said.

“Ukrainians are not naïve people. Ukrainians have already learned during these 34 days of invasion and over the past eight years of the war in Donbas that only a concrete result can be trusted.”

Ed Sheeran, Camila Cabello perform at ‘Concert for Ukraine’ in Birmingham

Chart-toppers Ed Sheeran and Camila Cabello were among music stars who took to the stage on Tuesday night at a televised concert aiming to raise funds for a Ukrainian humanitarian appeal.

The lineup for the two-hour “Concert for Ukraine” in Birmingham also featured Ukrainian singer Jamala, who won the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, music veteran Nile Rodgers & Chic as well as groups Snow Patrol and Manic Street Preachers.

Organisers said the concert had raised 12.2 million British pounds ($16m) which will be donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee – an umbrella of British charities – for the humanitarian appeal in Ukraine.

Russia suffering an ‘unprecedented blow in Ukraine’: Envoy

Ukraine’s UN ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya has told the UN Security Council that the “demilitarisation of Russia is well under way” due to “unprecedented” personnel and equipment losses.

Since the beginning of the invasion into Ukraine, Kyslytsya said the Russian occupiers have lost more than 17,000 military personnel, at least 1,700 armoured vehicles and almost 600 tanks.

He also said Russia also has lost 300 artillery systems, 127 planes and 129 helicopters, almost 100 rocket launchers systems, 54 air defence systems and seven ships.

Kyslytsya said that is “an unprecedented blow to Moscow, where the numbers of Soviet losses in Afghanistan pale in comparison”.

Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.N. Sergiy Kyslytsya attends a United Nations Security Council meeting, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., March 29, 2022
Ukrainian ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya attends a Security Council meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York City, US, on March 29, 2022 [David ‘Dee’ Delgado/ Reuters]

Russia’s promised withdrawal aimed at ‘misleading’ Ukraine: Military

Ukraine’s military says it distrusts Russia’s announced withdrawal from around Kyiv and Chernihiv.

“There are indications that the Russian forces are regrouping to focus their efforts on eastern Ukraine,” the Ukrainian general staff said in a statement.

“At the same time, the so-called ‘withdrawal of troops’ is most likely a rotation of individual units and is aimed at misleading the Ukrainian military leadership” by creating the misconception that the Russians have decided not to try to encircle Kyiv, it said.

Russia ‘almost certainly failed’ in Kyiv offensive: UK

The British Ministry of Defence says Russian setbacks and Ukrainian counterattacks around Kyiv mean “it is almost certain” that Russia “has failed in its objective to encircle” the capital city.

In its latest intelligence update, the ministry said Russian pledges to cut back troops around Kyiv may indicate its “acceptance that it has now lost the initiative in the region”.

“It is highly likely that Russia will seek to divert combat power from the north to their offensive in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east,” the ministry added.

Russia, Ukraine trade accusations over naval mines

Russia and Ukraine have traded accusations about the naval mines that have been set adrift in the Black Sea.

The Russian military has alleged that the Ukrainian military had used old naval mines to protect the coast against a Russian landing and some of them have been ripped from their anchors by a storm and left adrift. Russian Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev reaffirmed on Tuesday that “the threat of Ukrainian mines drifting along the coastline of Black Sea states remains”.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry responded in a statement, accusing Russia of using Ukrainian mines it seized after the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and setting them adrift to “discredit Ukraine before international partners”.

The conflicting claims by Russia and Ukraine couldn’t be independently verified.

US’s Ilhan Omar backs ICC probe in Ukraine

Progressive US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has voiced support for the International Criminal Court’s probe into possible war crimes in Ukraine.

“The targeting of civilians is horrifying and directly violates international law,” Omar, who was previously criticised for backing an ICC investigation into possible Israeli war crimes in Palestine, wrote on Twitter.

“I fully support the ICC investigation into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I am committed to pushing for international law being enforced without political consideration.”

Thousands may have died in Mariupol in past month: UN

Thousands of civilians may have died in the besieged port city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine since bombing began four weeks ago, a UN official has said.

“We do think that there could be thousands of deaths, of civilian casualties, in Mariupol,” Matilda Bogner, head of the UN human rights mission in Ukraine, said in a virtual interview with the Reuters news agency.

The mission has deployed some 60 monitors in Ukraine.

Bodies of people killed during Ukraine-Russia conflict lie on the ground next to a residential building in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 18, 2022.
Bodies of people killed during the Ukraine-Russia conflict lie on the ground next to a residential building in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine on March 18, 2022 [Alexander Ermochenko/ Reuters]
Local resident Valentina Demura, 70, reacts next to the building where her apartment, destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict, is located in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 27, 2022.
Valentina Demura, 70, cries as she stands next to the building where her apartment was destroyed during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged city of Mariupol on March 27, 2022 [Alexander Ermochenko/ Reuters]

US, EU to hold ‘high-level dialogue on Russia’

US and EU diplomats will hold a “high-level dialogue on Russia” in Washington, DC on Wednesday, according to the US State Department.

“This inaugural session will focus on US and EU strategic objectives and policy coordination aimed at ending the Kremlin’s war of choice in Ukraine,” a State Department spokesperson told Al Jazeera.

The talks come a week after US President Joe Biden held meetings with top European officials in Belgium and Poland. Victoria Nuland, US undersecretary of state for political affairs, will lead the US delegation, the State Department said.

US troops ‘liaising’ with Ukrainian forces: Pentagon

The Pentagon has clarified that US troops in Poland were “liaising” with Ukrainian forces as they hand over weapons to them, but were not training “in the classic sense” following remarks from Biden on the matter.

“It’s not training in the classic sense that many people think of training. I would just say it’s liaising,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Tuesday.

On Monday, Biden said that while in Poland last week, he talked to US troops who were helping “train” Ukrainian forces.

Zelenskyy says Russia talks gave ‘positive’ signals

Zelenskyy has described the signals from peace talks with Russia as positive, but he expressed caution about Moscow’s promise to sharply curtail military action in some areas.

“We can say the signals we are receiving from the talks are positive but they do not drown out the explosions of Russian shells,” he said, adding that Ukraine could only trust a concrete result from the talks.

“The Russian army still has significant potential to continue attacks against our state,” he said. “Therefore we are not reducing our defensive efforts.”

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses the Ukrainian people, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 29, 2022.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the Ukrainian people as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 29, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

WFP warns of ‘devastation’ to global aid efforts

The executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that the crisis in Ukraine, a major food producer, will have disastrous humanitarian consequences around the world, especially in places already suffering from food shortages, like Yemen and the Horn of Africa.

David Beasley said the world was already grappling with increased food and transportation prices – issues that will get worse as Ukraine goes from being “the breadbasket of the world” to being on “the breadline”.

“Fifty percent of the grain that we buy comes from Ukraine,” Beasley told the UN Security Council. “We feed 125 million people, before Ukraine ever happened. And so, you can only assume the devastation that this is going to have on our operations alone.”

Russia accuses West of escalating the war by arming Ukraine

Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, has accused the West of escalating the conflict in Ukraine by supplying what he called the “Kyiv regime” with weapons.

Nebenzya also rejected US assertions that the invasion of Ukraine was a “war of choice”, saying that the West was trying to create an “anti-Russia state” in Ukraine.

UN calls for ‘unhindered’ humanitarian access in Ukraine

Joyce Msuya, UN assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, has said aid convoys are planned for Ukraine in the coming days and weeks, but warring parties must ensure “unhindered” humanitarian access in the country.

“Civilians in Ukraine desperately need this assistance and protection,” Msuya told a UN Security Council meeting.

“But to do that, all parties must uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure safe and unhindered humanitarian access to help civilians in their homes and those on the road in Ukraine, and to allow those civilians who want to leave to get out.”

Pentagon says Russia repositioning, not withdrawing, troops around Kyiv

Russia has started moving small numbers of troops away from positions around Kyiv, the Pentagon has said, adding it was more of a repositioning than a retreat or a withdrawal from the war.

“Has there been some movement by some Russian units away from Kyiv in the last day or so? Yes, we think so. Small numbers,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said during a news briefing.

“But we believe that this is a repositioning, not a real withdrawal, and that we all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine. It does not mean that the threat to Kyiv is over.”

Ukraine war threatens ‘rules-based international order’: Biden

Biden has warned that the war in Ukraine threatens the “rules-based international order”, including in the Asia Pacific region, where Washington is locked in growing competition with Beijing.

Speaking at the White House alongside the prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, the US leader said “all nations” have a right to territorial integrity and sovereignty regardless of their size or population.

“It’s clear that Putin’s war is unacceptable to nations in every region in the world – not just in Europe but in every region of the world,” Biden told reporters. “It’s an attack on the core international principles that underpin peace and security and prosperity everywhere.”

Read more here.

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

Read all the updates from Tuesday, March 29 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies