Ukraine latest updates: ICRC says Mariupol evacuation on hold

Russia-Ukraine news from April 1: ICRC says conditions made it ‘impossible’ to evacuate thousands trapped in port city of Mariupol.

Russia’s bombardment of Mariupol has caused at least $10bn in damage to infrastructure there, according to a preliminary estimate by local authorities [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]
  • The Red Cross has said the team it sent to facilitate the evacuation of thousands of civilians from Mariupol had been forced to turn around after conditions made it “impossible to proceed”.
  • Kyiv’s mayor says “huge” battles are being fought to the north and east of Ukraine’s capital and warns people against returning to the city for now.
  • Head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog to lead a mission to Ukraine’s defunct Chernobyl plant “as soon as possible”.
  • Moscow says alleged Ukrainian attack on fuel depot in Belgorod does not create “comfortable conditions” for talks between the two sides.


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 April 1:

Ukraine says it foiled attempted Russian missile attack on Odesa region

Ukraine’s military has said that its anti-air defences had foiled an attempted Russian missile attack on critical infrastructure in the major Black Sea port of Odesa.

Governor Maksym Marchenko earlier said three missiles had hit a residential area, adding there were casualties.

“The enemy tried in an insidious way to hit critical infrastructure facilities, the destruction of which could be dangerous for the civilian population,” the Ukrainian military’s southern command said in a Facebook post.

“Thanks to the timely and effective response of the air defence forces, the missiles did not hit the targets the enemy had been aiming at,” it said.

US providing Ukraine with supplies in case Russia deploys chemical weapons

The United States is providing Ukraine with supplies and equipment in case Russia deploys chemical or biological weapons, the White House has said, underscoring that this would not compromise domestic preparedness in any form.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the supplies were being provided given a warning by the United States and other countries about the possibility that Russia could deploy such weapons in Ukraine and might be planning a “false flag” operation to lay the groundwork for such an attack.

Kremlin spokesman says Russia will strengthen its western borders

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said Russia would strengthen its western borders so that “it wouldn’t cross anyone’s mind to attack”, RIA news agency reported.

RIA also cited Peskov as saying the strengthening exercise would ensure the “necessary parity” was maintained, but did not give details.

Dozens of Ukrainian cultural sites damaged in Russian invasion

Dozens of cultural sites including churches, historic buildings and museums have been damaged by the war, the United Nations cultural agency said.

“We are very concerned about both the situation at the humanitarian and [cultural] heritage levels. Humanity’s heritage is in danger [in Ukraine],” Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO’s assistant director-general for culture, said.

UNESCO said that overall 29 religious sites, 16 historic buildings four museums and four monuments are confirmed to have been damaged in Ukraine.

Read more here.

Ukraine says 6,266 people were evacuated from cities through corridors on Friday

A total of 6,266 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Friday, a senior official has said.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said in an online post that 3,071 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol.

Companies with euro gas contracts should not meet Russia’s rouble demand: EU

European companies whose gas supply contracts with Russia stipulate payment in euros or dollars should not accede to Russia’s demand for payment in roubles, the European Commission has said.

“Agreed contracts must be respected. Ninety-seven percent of the relevant contracts explicitly stipulate payment in euros or dollars. Companies with such contracts should not accede to Russian demands,” a European Commission spokesperson said.

Blinken, Truss discuss additional actions in response to invasion

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Minister Liz Truss discussed additional possible actions to ratchet up their response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US Department of State has said.

The two also discussed the upcoming NATO foreign ministers’ meeting, the Department of State said in a statement.

Orsted has ‘no intention’ of paying for Russian gas in roubles

Energy group Orsted has said it had no intention of paying for Russian gas in roubles, after Russia demanded foreign buyers do so on Thursday.

“We can confirm that Orsted has received a demand from Gazprom Export to pay for gas supplies in roubles,” Orsted said in a statement. “We have no intention of paying in roubles.”

Orsted, which has a long-term gas contract with the Russian energy giant, said it was in close dialogue with other energy companies and authorities regarding a “common European response to Gazprom Export”.

INTERACTIVE - Which countries directly import the most Russian gas_

‘Impossible’ to go ahead with Mariupol evacuation Friday: Red Cross

The Red Cross has said the team it sent to facilitate the evacuation of thousands of civilians from Mariupol had been forced to turn around after conditions made it “impossible to proceed”.

“The ICRC team, which consists of three vehicles and nine personnel, did not reach Mariupol or facilitate the safe passage of civilians today,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement, adding, “They will try again on Saturday to facilitate the safe passage of civilians from Mariupol.”

Earlier, ICRC said, “This effort has been and remains extremely complex.”

Top security official denies Ukraine carried out attack on Russian fuel depot

Ukraine’s top security official has denied accusations by Russia that Ukraine was behind an attack on an oil depot in the Russian city of Belgorod.

Speaking on national television, Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said, “For some reason, they say that we did it, but according to our information, this does not correspond to reality.”

Russian defence ministry says Ukrainian helicopters attacked oil facility

Russia’s defence ministry has said two Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopters were responsible for an attack on a fuel depot in the Russian city of Belgorod, but it added that the facility did not supply fuel to the military.

In its statement, the ministry said the two helicopters attacked after crossing the border at an extremely low altitude.

EU chief warns China of ‘reputational damage’ over stance on war

The head of the European Commission has warned Beijing that its reputation will be tarnished if it doesn’t put pressure on Russia to end the war and helps Moscow sidestep Western sanctions.

“A prolongation of the war and more disruption to the world economy is in no-one’s interest,” Ursula von der Leyen tweeted after a virtual summit between European Union and Chinese leaders which featured President Xi Jinping.

“There must be respect for international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” she added, before saying China had a “special responsibility” as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Ukrainian parliament approves bill declaring Russia a ‘terrorist state’, political party says

Ukraine’s parliament has voted to approve a bill declaring Russia a “terrorist state”, according to a statement by the country’s Sluha Narodu (Servant of the People) party.

The party said in a statement on its website that the legislature had approved the bill, which also says Ukraine will consider the “genocide of the Ukrainian people” as one of Moscow’s goals.

The legislation also prohibits any “propaganda of the Russian neo-Nazi totalitarian regime,” including the use of invasion symbols – such as the letter “Z” – used by the Kremlin and its armed forces, the party’s statement added.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify if the bill had been passed into law.

Reporting by Al Jazeera’s Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

In Syria, Russia pushing to recruit fighters for Ukraine

Analysts say Moscow has been recruiting Syrian fighters through its mercenary network and local groups.

Read more here.

China accuses US of being ‘leading instigator of Ukraine crisis’

China has accused the United States of instigating the war in Ukraine and said NATO should have been disbanded following the break-up of the Soviet Union.

“As the culprit and leading instigator of the Ukraine crisis, the US has led NATO to engage in five rounds of eastward expansion in the last two decades after 1999,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing.

“The number of NATO members increased from 16 to 30, and they have moved eastward more than 1,000km (600 miles) to somewhere near the Russian border, pushing Russia to the wall step by step,” he added.


Lavrov praises India for not taking ‘one-sided’ view of war

Russia’s foreign minister has praised India as a “friend”, adding New Delhi is not taking a “one-sided” view on the war.

Sergey Lavrov’s visit to India on Friday was aimed at shoring up support from a country Russia has long regarded as an ally. New Delhi has not publically condemned what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

“We are friends,” Lavrov told a news conference after meeting his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, adding India saw the Ukraine crisis in the “entirety of facts and not just in a one-sided way”.

In call with Putin, Erdogan urges dialogue

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for Russia and Ukraine to act with common sense and maintain a dialogue during a call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, according to his office.

Erdogan and Putin also discussed the talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials in Istanbul on Tuesday, the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

The Turkish leader said the “positive and constructive” discussions had raised hopes for peace, it added.

“Erdogan … noted he wanted to cap off the peace efforts by bringing together Russian President Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy,” his office said.

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]

Ukraine pushing Russian forces back in Kyiv region, official says

Ukrainian forces are pushing back Russian troops northeast and northwest of Kyiv, an adviser to Zelenskyy has said.

Oleksiy Arestovych added at a news briefing that Mariupol was still holding out after weeks of bombardment but warned Russian forces were now trying to encircle the northern city of Chernihiv.

Russia said during negotiations on Tuesday that it would scale down operations in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions, but officials in both areas say fighting has continued in some places there.

Reporting by Al Jazeera’s Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Russian bombardment of Mariupol has caused $10bn worth of damage: Local authorities

Russia’s bombardment of Mariupol has caused at least $10bn in damage to infrastructure there, according to a preliminary estimate by local authorities.

“Every crime, every murder and act of destruction committed by the aggressor must be recorded and passed on to the International Court [of Justice],” the city council quoted Mayor Vadym Boichenko as saying.

The council added that a special committee of councillors would be responsible for recording such acts.

Zelenskyy, Macron discuss Mariupol evacuation plan

Zelenskyy says he has spoken to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron about the need to implement an initiative by Paris to help civilians evacuate Mariupol.

“The initiative of France on humanitarian corridors from Mariupol must be implemented!” the Ukrainian president said on Twitter after the pair’s talks by phone.

Kyiv offers no direct comment on fuel depot accusation

Ukraine’s defence ministry has declined to comment directly on Russian allegations that its forces struck a fuel depot in Belgorod.

“I will not confirm or deny these allegations,” Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, a ministry spokesman, told a news briefing.

“Ukraine is currently conducting a defensive operation against Russian aggression on the territory of Ukraine, and this does not mean that Ukraine is responsible for every catastrophe on Russia’s territory,” he added.

Ukraine’s cultural heritage at risk, UNESCO warns

Dozens of churches, historical sites and museums have been damaged by the war in Ukraine, the UN’s cultural agency (UNESCO) has said.

“We are very concerned about both the situation at the humanitarian and [cultural] heritage levels. Humanity’s heritage is in danger [in Ukraine],” Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO’s assistant director-general for culture, told a news conference.

UNESCO’s first preliminary list of totally or partially damaged sites featured 29 religious sites, 16 historical buildings, four museums and four monuments, it said.

Kyiv mayor says ‘huge’ battles being fought near capital

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has said “huge” battles are being fought to the north and east of Ukraine’s capital and warned people against returning to the city amid the fighting.

“The risk of dying [in Kyiv] is pretty high, and that’s why my advice to anyone who wants to come back is: Please, take a little bit more time,” Klitschko said.

Kyiv’s regional governor said earlier on Friday that Russian forces were pulling back in some areas around the capital but strengthening their positions in others.

Death toll rises to 28 from attack on regional HQ in Mykolaiv

Twenty-eight people have been confirmed killed as a result of Tuesday’s rocket bombardment of the regional administration building in Ukraine’s southern city of Mykolaiv, Vitaliy Kim, the region’s governor, has said.

The nine-storey building was left with a gaping hole after being struck by Russian forces.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the figures provided.

China says it is pushing for peace talks on Ukraine ‘in its own way’: Report

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has told EU leaders that Beijing is pushing for peace talks on Ukraine in “its own way”, according to a report by state broadcaster CCTV.

Li reiterated that China advocates for the safeguarding of international law and international norms, including the territorial integrity of all countries, CCTV reported.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speak via video conference
Leaders in the EU are eager to use the virtual summit with China to discuss Beijing’s stance over the war in Ukraine [Olivier Matthys/Pool via AP]

Germany greenlights sale of infantry fighting vehicles to Kyiv: Report

Germany’s defence ministry has approved the delivery to Ukraine of several dozen infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) that originally belonged to the former communist East Germany, according to a media report.

The 58 PbV-501 vehicles are armed with cannons and machine guns, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported.

It added that Berlin had passed the IFVs on to Sweden at the end of the 1990s, which later sold them to a Czech company that now aims to sell them to Kyiv.

Countries aiming to pass on German weapons exports need to apply for approval in Berlin first.

IAEA chief to head Chernobyl mission ‘as soon as possible’

The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog has said he will lead a mission to Ukraine’s defunct Chernobyl plant as soon as possible after Kyiv said Russian troops had left the site.

“It will be the first in a series of such nuclear safety and security missions to #Ukraine,” Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), tweeted.

Grossi has this week been on his first visit to Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion.

Erdogan says he will urge Putin to take steps on Donbas, Crimea with Zelenskyy

Erdogan has said he will tell Putin in a phone call later on Friday that he and Zelenskyy need to take a step to address issues over Ukraine’s Donbas region and Crimea.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, Erdogan said he will hold the phone call with Putin at 13:00 GMT and renew an offer to host the Russian and Ukrainian leaders for talks.

He added Zelenskyy was warm towards the idea after speaking with Erdogan in a call on Thursday.

Kuleba says he has no information on who carried out Belgorod strike

Ukraine’s foreign minister has said he “can neither confirm nor reject” whether Ukrainian forces were involved in the alleged attack in Belgorod because he is not privy to all military information.

Speaking at a news briefing in Poland, Dmytro Kuleba also said Ukraine was waiting for Russia’s formal response to Kyiv’s proposals laid out at peace talks in Turkey earlier this week.

He added that foreign powers were not pushing Ukraine to compromise in the negotiations with Moscow.

A fire is seen at a fuel depot in Russia's western city of Belgorod
Russia has alleged that two Ukrainian military helicopters fired rockets at a fuel depot in Belgorod early on Friday morning [Pavel Kolyadin/BelPressa/Handout via Reuters]

EU pressures China over its stance on Russia’s war

EU and Chinese leaders have met for their first summit in two years with Brussels pressing Beijing for assurances that it will neither supply Russia with arms nor help Moscow circumvent Western sanctions.

Read more here.

Ukraine says talks with Russia have resumed

Delegations from Kyiv and Moscow have resumed talks in an online format, Ukraine’s presidential office has said, citing Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak.

The office did not provide any further details.

Kremlin says alleged Ukrainian attack on depot harms talks

The Kremlin has said the alleged Ukrainian strike on a fuel depot in Belgorod has created uncomfortable conditions for continued talks with Kyiv over ending the war.

“Of course, this is not something that can be perceived as creating conditions comfortable for the continuation of negotiations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

He added that authorities were working to reorganise the fuel supply chain and avoid disruption of energy supplies in the city.

A Russian official said earlier on Friday that two Ukrainian military helicopters had attacked a fuel depot there, making the first accusation of a Ukrainian air raid on Russian soil since Moscow sent its troops into Ukraine more than a month ago.

What is behind Putin’s roubles for gas demand?

Putin has signed a decree requiring buyers of Russian gas to pay in roubles from Friday using a special account at a Russian bank, or see their contracts halted.

But the move has been rejected by European governments, with Germany – Europe’s industrial powerhouse – calling it “political blackmail”.

To find out more, click here.

INTERACTIVE - Which countries directly import the most Russian gas_

Gas exports to continue under Russian rules, Gazprom says

Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom has said the country’s gas exports will continue under rules set by Moscow.

The company said in a statement that it had started to notify clients of a requested switch of end-payment currency to roubles, in line with the decree signed by Putin.

Gazprom added that it remained a responsible partner and maintained secure gas supplies.

Moscow appears to be ‘withdrawing units’ around Kyiv, Chernihiv: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine, says it does “seem as though the Russians are withdrawing units” amid reports from Ukrainian officials that Moscow’s troops were pulling back from around Kyiv and Chernihiv.

“They said they would do and would concentrate on the east [of Ukraine],” McBride said.

“It is difficult to tell exactly what these units are going to do now, but it does look as though they are being reorganised … and replenished,” he added.

“Some of these units have actually been out in the field, living under canvas for months – they were on supposed exercises in Belarus and in Russia itself from last November and December, so they will be in need of replenishment and new recruits.”

Putin, Erdogan to speak by phone

Putin will speak by phone with Erdogan on Friday, the Kremlin has said.

The two leaders’ talks come after Turkey hosted delegations from Kyiv and Moscow for talks in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Erdogan, who spoke to Zelenskyy by phone on Thursday, has said Ankara is ready, in principle, to act as a security guarantor country for Ukraine.

Kyiv has set out a detailed framework for a peace deal under which Ukraine would remain neutral but its security would be guaranteed by a group of third countries.

Lavrov says progress made in talks with Ukraine

Russia’s foreign minister has said that some progress had been made at talks with Ukraine earlier this week, adding Moscow is preparing its response to Ukrainian proposals put forward at the discussions in Istanbul.

Speaking at a briefing after talks with his Indian counterparts, Sergey Lavrov said that negotiations with Kyiv needed to continue but noted the Ukrainian side had shown “much more understanding” of the situation in Crimea and Donbas and what he claimed was the necessity of its neutral status.

Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and has backed separatist rebels who shortly afterwards seized swaths of territory in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

As bombs fall, Muslims in Ukraine face difficult Ramadan

Muslims in Ukraine face a difficult Ramadan this year as Russia’s war on the country continues to rage.

Displaced by war, many are far from their homes, community support networks and friends – yet, they are determined to make the most of the festive period.

Read more here.

Ukraine says some Russian troops still in Chernobyl ‘exclusion zone’

Some Russian troops are still in the “exclusion zone” around the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power station, the head of the Ukrainian agency in charge of the area has said.

Yevhen Kramarenko confirmed on national television that the troops who had occupied the power station after Moscow launched its invasion in late February had left the plant itself.

But he added that some troops had been seen in the “exclusion zone” outside the territory of the decommissioned power station. The area was established around the plant soon after a reactor there exploded in the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986.


Germany says nearly 300,000 refugees have arrived from Ukraine

Nearly 300,000 refugees from Ukraine have been registered in Germany, according to the country’s interior ministry.

The ministry, citing figures from the federal police, said 294,508 refugees had arrived to date. The majority are women, children or elderly, it added.

Red Cross teams en route to Mariupol, but without aid supplies

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is sending teams to Mariupol and is “hopeful” that evacuations of thousands of civilians can begin on Friday, a spokesperson for the aid agency has said.

“We have permission to move today and we are en route to Mariupol,” ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson said. “We are hopeful it [the safe passage operation] will commence today.”

However, the body did not receive permission to take humanitarian aid with the convoy, and it departed without any supplies, he added.

Russia withdrawing some troops from Kyiv region, governor says

Russia is continuing to withdraw some of its forces from around Ukraine’s northern Kyiv region and they are heading towards Belarus, its governor has said.

“We are observing the movement of joint [Russian] vehicle columns of various quantities,” Oleksandr Pavlyuk said in a post on Telegram.

He added Russian forces had left the town of Hostomel, which is next to a strategically important airfield, but warned they were digging in nearby, in the town of Bucha.

Ukraine unable to get supplies to Mariupol or evacuate civilians, mayor’s aide says

An aide to the mayor of Mariupol has said Russian forces have been preventing any humanitarian supplies from reaching civilians trapped there, making clear a planned “humanitarian corridor” had not been opened.

“The city remains closed to entry and very dangerous to exit with personal transport,” Petro Andryushchenko said on Telegram.

“In addition, since yesterday the occupiers have categorically not allowed any humanitarian aid – even in small quantities – into the city,” he added, referring to Russian troops.

The city’s mayor said earlier this week that up to 170,000 residents were trapped there with dwindling supplies. Previous attempts to organise safe corridors, via which aid can be delivered and civilians evacuated, have failed.

Chernihiv governor says Moscow’s troops withdrawing

Russian forces are withdrawing from Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region but have not yet left entirely, its governor has said.

“Air and missile strikes are [still] possible in the region, nobody is ruling this out,” Viacheslav Chaus said in a video address, adding that Ukrainian forces were entering and securing territories previously held by Russian troops.

Chaus said it was still too early for Ukrainian forces in the region to let their guard down as Moscow’s forces were “still on our land”.

Russia said on Tuesday it would scale back its offensive in the Chernihiv and Kyiv regions following talks between the two sides in Istanbul.

Russia eases some curbs on transferring money abroad

Russia’s central bank says it is softening restrictions on foreign fund transfers for individuals for six months.

The bank said the measures, which raise an earlier limit on funds that can be transferred abroad, did not apply to residents and non-residents from countries that had imposed sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.

“Within a calendar month, individuals have the right to transfer no more than 10,000 US dollars or the equivalent in another currency from the Russian Federation from their account in a Russian bank to their account or to another person abroad,” the bank said in a statement.

The bank added that transfers abroad from bank accounts of non-residents, individuals or legal entities from countries that had imposed sanctions were suspended for the next six months.

Gazprom says gas exports to Europe via Ukraine continue

Gazprom has said it is continuing to supply natural gas to Europe via Ukraine in line with requests from European consumers.

The company said requests stood at 108.4 million cubic metres (mcm) on Friday, down from 109.5 mcm a day earlier.

Compressor complexes at the Gazprom.
Europe has traditionally been heavily reliant on Russia for supplies of natural gas [File: Bloomberg]

Mykolaiv attack death toll reaches 24

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 24 people.

The service said on Telegram that rescuers had worked non-stop to look for bodies and survivors in the debris of the nine-storey building, which was left with a gaping hole after being struck by Russian forces on Tuesday morning.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the figures provided.

Reporting by Al Jazeera’s Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general says 153 children killed amid Russian attacks

At least 153 children have been killed and more than 245 others wounded amid Russia’s invasion, the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general has said.

It added in a post on Telegram that the death toll may yet rise due to potential victims in areas of heavy fighting, such as Mariupol and Chernihiv, being unaccounted for as of yet.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the figures provided.

Reporting by Al Jazeera’s Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Children Ukraine
Russia’s bloody war in Ukraine has triggered a major humanitarian crisis [File: AP Photo]

Ukraine’s military says Russian forces retreating from around Kyiv

Some Russian forces are retreating from areas around Kyiv towards Belarus, despite the Russian assault on the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk intensifying, Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces has said.

The troops are moving towards the Belarusian border, taking with them stolen civilian vehicles and looted property, the department alleged in a post on Facebook.

It added that seven Russian attacks were repelled in Donetsk and Luhansk overnight, with Ukrainian forces destroying three tanks, two armoured vehicles and one drone.

Reporting by Al Jazeera’s Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

French actor Depardieu blasts Putin’s ‘crazy excesses’ in Ukraine

French actor Gerard Depardieu, who has praised Putin in the past, has criticised his “crazy, unacceptable excesses” in Ukraine.

Depardieu, who took up Russian nationality in 2013, told the AFP news agency on Thursday: “the Russian people are not responsible for the crazy, unacceptable excesses of their leaders like Vladimir Putin.”

Depardieu also said he would give all the proceeds from three nights of concerts in Paris from April 1 to “Ukrainian victims of this tragic fratricidal war”.

In 2013, Putin granted Depardieu Russian citizenship, sparking an outcry in France where the actor was accused of abandoning his homeland to avoid a new tax rate for millionaires.

Putin ally warns agriculture supplies could be limited to ‘friends’

One of President Putin’s allies has warned that Russia, a major global wheat exporter, could limit supplies of agriculture products to “friendly” countries only, amid Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis.

Dmitry Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012 and is now deputy secretary of Russia’s security council, said he would like to outline “some simple but important points about food security in Russia” given the sanctions imposed.

Most of them have been part of the country’s agricultural policy for years.

“We will only be supplying food and agriculture products to our friends,” Medvedev said on social media. “Fortunately we have plenty of them, and they are not in Europe or North America at all.”

Combines harvest wheat in Stavropol region
Russia supplies wheat mainly to Africa and the Middle East [File: Eduard Korniyenko/Reuters]

War in Ukraine fuels fears among draft-age Russian youths

As Moscow’s forces bog down in Ukraine, many young Russians of the draft age have been increasingly jittery about the prospect of being sent into combat.

Making those fears particularly acute is an annual spring conscription that begins on Friday and aims to round up 134,500 men for a one-year tour of military duty.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu pledged at a meeting of the military brass this week that the recruits will not be sent to front lines or “hotspots”.

But the statement was met with scepticism by many in Russia who remember the separatist wars in the southern republic of Chechnya in the 1990s and the early 2000s, when thousands of poorly trained young men were killed.

“I don’t trust them when they say they won’t send conscripts into combat. They lie all the time,” said Vladislav, a 22-year-old who is completing his studies and fears he could face the draft immediately after graduation.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: List of key events, day 37

As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its 37th day, we take a look at the main developments.

Read more here.

Ukrainian service members on patrol in the Kyiv region
Ukrainian service members patrol an area in a village near a front line, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv Region [File: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters]

UK says Ukraine has retaken villages of Sloboda, Lukashivka

British military intelligence has said Ukrainian forces have retaken the villages of Sloboda and Lukashivka to the south of Chernihiv and located along main supply routes between the city and Kyiv.

“Ukraine has also continued to make successful but limited counter attacks to the east and northeast of Kyiv,” Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.

Chernihiv and Kyiv have been subjected to continued air and missile attacks despite Russian claims of reducing activity in these areas, the ministry added.

Governor accuses Ukraine of targeting Russian city

A regional governor has accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in the Russian city of Belgorod, which lies across the border to the north of Kharkiv.

The official, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said two Ukrainian helicopters carried out the attack, which started a fire at the facility.

Two people had been hurt, he said.

Metsola to visit Kyiv

The president of the European Parliament is travelling to Kyiv.

Roberta Metsola, who is from Malta, tweeted a picture of herself in a black coat, but did not give any details on the trip.

Ukraine hopes for ‘super modern’ equipment for air force

Ukraine’s ambassador to Japan, Sergiy Korsunsky, has told the media that the country might soon be able to better protect itself from Russian air attacks because it is expecting to get “super modern” equipment from the US and the United Kingdom.

“They still have superiority in air force, in airplanes and missiles, and we expect to begin to receive super-modern equipment from the United States and Britain to protect our skies and our cities,” Korsunsky said.

In a series of tweets on Thursday, Ukraine’s air force said it needed “Patriot systems from the US or the cheaper, more mobile NASAMS system from Norway”.

Both Patriot and NASAMS are surface-to-air missile systems.

New conscripts to join Russian armed forces

April 1 marks the spring draft in the Russian military.

Some 134,500 conscripts have been called up this time around, according to a presidential decree.

It is not clear what role conscripts might have played in the war in Ukraine.

Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that none of those called up would be sent to any “hotspots”.

Two Ukrainian ‘traitor’ generals fired

There are reports that Zelenskyy has stripped two generals of their ranks because they were “traitors”.

Ukrainian media outlets say the generals were senior members of the national security service, Andriy Naumov and Serhiy Kryvoruchko.

“These high-ranking servicemen, who could not decide on where their homeland is, who violate the military oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people regarding the protection of our state, its freedom, independence, will certainly be deprived of their high military rank,” the president was quoted as saying.

Russia says EU sanctions ‘will not remain unanswered’

Russia has warned it will respond to EU sanctions.

“The actions of the EU will not remain unanswered … the irresponsible sanctions by Brussels are already negatively affecting the daily lives of ordinary Europeans,” Senior foreign ministry official Nikolai Kobrinets told the RIA news agency.

Ukraine war to dominate EU-China Summit

Leaders from the EU and China are due to hold their first summit in two years later on Friday and the war in Ukraine is expected to dominate discussions.

An EU official has told Reuters news agency that China’s stance towards Russia will be the “million-dollar question”.

“Do we prolong this war or do we work together to end this war? That is the essential question for the summit,” the official said.

China has not condemned Russia’s invasion and has called for peace talks to accommodate the “legitimate concerns of all sides”.

Russia preparing ‘powerful strikes’ in Donbas: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy has said Russian troops are planning “powerful strikes” in the eastern Donbas region.

“In Donbas, in Mariupol and in Kharkiv’s direction, Russian forces are amassing resources for powerful strikes. We will defend, we will do everything possible to stop the occupiers and clear our territory from their evil and senseless crimes,” he said.

Russia redeploying forces from Georgia to Ukraine, UK says

The UK Ministry of Defence has said Russia is redeploying forces from Georgia to help with its war in Ukraine, a move it said highlights Moscow’s “unexpected losses” in the invasion.

“Between 1,200 and 2,000 of these Russian troops are being reorganised into 3x Battalion Tactical Groups,” the defence ministry said in a Twitter post.

“It is highly unlikely that Russia planned to generate reinforcements in this manner and it is indicative of the unexpected losses it has sustained during the invasion.”

Russian forces took Ukrainian troops as hostages from Chernobyl: Kyiv

Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom says Russian forces have taken Ukrainian troops as hostages with them as they left the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

“As they ran away from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the Russian occupiers took members of the National Guard, whom they had held hostage since February 24, with them,” Energoatom said in a statement on Telegram, citing plant workers.

It was unclear how many Ukrainian servicemen had been taken away.

‘There will be battles ahead,’ Ukraine’s Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the situation in the country’s south and the Donbas region remained extremely difficult and reiterated that Russia was building up forces near the besieged city of Mariupol.

“There will be battles ahead. We still need to go down a very difficult path to get everything we want,” he said in a late-night video address.

US renews warnings for Americans to leave Russia and Ukraine

The US Department of State has renewed warnings for American citizens in Russia and Ukraine to leave the countries immediately.

“We are warning US citizens that the Russian government security officials in both Russia and Ukraine may be singling out US citizens based on their nationality,” spokesperson Ned Price told reporters on Thursday.

Earlier this week, an update to the official US travel advisory for Russia said: “Russian security services have arrested US citizens on spurious charges, singled out US citizens in Russia for detention and/or harassment, denied them fair and transparent treatment, and have convicted them in secret trials and/or without presenting credible evidence.”

Brittney Griner of the United States gestures during a game against Australia at Saitama Super Arena in their Tokyo 2020 Olympic women's basketball quarterfinal game in Saitama, Japan
American WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner has been held in Russia on drug-smuggling charges for weeks [File: Brian Snyder/Reuters]

US military aid already arriving in Ukraine, Pentagon says

An initial half-dozen shipments of US weapons and other security assistance have reached Ukraine as part of the $800m package of aid that Biden approved on March 16, the Department of Defense has said.

Spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday that the shipments included Javelin anti-tank weapons, Stinger anti-aircraft missile systems, body armour, medical supplies and other material.

Kirby said the $800m in assistance is likely to be fully delivered within about two weeks. It also includes Mi-17 helicopters, small arms, ammunition, vehicles, secure communications systems, and satellite imagery and analysis capability.

Russian troops have left Chernobyl, Ukraine says

Russian troops have left Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant (NPP) after weeks of occupation, officials in Kyiv have said.

“There are no longer any outsiders on the territory of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant,” Ukraine’s state agency in charge of the Chernobyl exclusion zone said on Facebook.

The UN nuclear watchdog, IAEA, also confirmed that it had been informed by Ukraine that Russian forces handed control of the power plant and “moved convoys of troops”.

The agency said it would send the “first assistance and support mission to the Chornobyl NPP in the next few days”.

Italy and Germany say they agree on importance of sanctions against Russia

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed on a phone call about the importance of keeping up sanctions against Russia, which are “proving very effective”, Draghi’s office has said.

The phone call between the two leaders comes after Putin threatened to halt contracts supplying Europe with a third of its gas unless they are paid in Russian currency.

US says Russia’s roubles-for-gas demand is sign of ‘desperation’

Putin’s demand that foreign buyers pay for Russian gas in roubles is a sign of Moscow’s economic and financial “desperation”, US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price has said.

European nations, some of which rely heavily on Russian gas, have rejected the demand, with the German government saying it amounted to “blackmail”.

“I think fundamentally this is just another indication of the dire straits that Russia’s economy is in,” Price told reporters during a news briefing, adding that it was up to countries in Europe to determine their response.

US to add more entities in Russia, Belarus to sanctions list

The US Department of Commerce will impose further sanctions in the coming days targeting Russia’s defence, aerospace and maritime sectors, adding 120 entities from Russia and Belarus to its blacklist, the White House has said.

That will bring the number of Russian and Belarusian parties added to the list to more than 200 since the invasion of Ukraine began, spokesperson Kate Bedingfield told a news conference.

Ukraine war should not hinder Iran deal revival, US analysts say

Detractors of the Iran nuclear deal have added Russia’s involvement in talks to revive the multilateral pact to their long list of grievances against the agreement, as Russian forces continue their offensive in Ukraine.

However, supporters of the accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), say the conflict in Ukraine should intensify – not blunt – efforts to restore it.

Read more here.

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

Read all the updates from Thursday, March 31 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies