The Russia-Ukraine war is now in its 393rd day.

Ukrainian soldiers of the Paratroopers' of 80th brigade take cover as they fire a mortar shell at a frontline position near Bakhmut.
Ukrainian soldiers of the Paratroopers' of 80th brigade take cover as they fire a mortar shell at a frontline position near Bakhmut. (Reuters)

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told European leaders that "delays" in sending fighter jets and long-range missiles could extend the war, after he paid a visit to the frontline southern region of Kherson. 

On the train home from the war-ravaged areas, Zelenskyy gave an emotional account of what he had seen as he addressed a summit of his EU counterparts gathered in Brussels via video link, an EU official said. 

But, while he welcomed a recent EU plan aimed at sending Kiev one million artillery shells, he kept up his demand for modern warplanes and missiles he believes will be more effective at pushing back Russian forces.

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1816 GMT — Ukraine U-turns on Russian pullout from town in Kherson

Ukraine's army has said that it had mistakenly announced the withdrawal of Russian forces from the southern city of Nova Kakhovka in Kherson region. 

"The occupiers are still temporarily in Nova Kakhovka. Information about the alleged withdrawal of the enemy from this settlement was made public as a result of incorrect use of available data," Ukraine's general staff said on the Telegram messenger.

1406 GMT — Slovakia says sent four MiG-29s to Ukraine

Slovakia has announced that it had transferred the first four of the MiG-29 fighter jets it had promised Ukraine, with nine others to follow in the coming weeks.

"The first four MiG-29 fighter jets have been safely handed over to the Ukrainian armed forces," Slovak defence ministry spokeswoman Martina Kakascikova said.

"In the coming weeks, the rest of the planes will be handed over," she added.

Slovakia announced on Friday that it would donate the Soviet-made MiG warplanes to Ukraine, making it the second NATO member — following Poland — to pledge the aircraft.

1404 GMT — Finland sends three more mine-clearing Leopard tanks to Ukraine

Finland's defence minister said that his country is sending three modified Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, in addition to three previously sent.

"Finland is delivering three Leopard 2 armoured mine-clearing vehicles," Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen told reporters in Helsinki.

The vehicles, equipped with machine guns instead of the traditional cannon, are designed for neutralising mines and other explosives.

In February, Finland announced it was sending three of the mine-clearing Leopards to Ukraine.

1301 GMT — 'Nuclear Armageddon looms more and more clearly': Russian envoy

The Russian ambassador to the US has accused the US and the West of bringing humanity "to a dangerous line, beyond which nuclear Armageddon looms more and more clearly." 

Anatoly Antonov lashed out against a White House statement that depleted uranium tank rounds the UK plans to send Kiev are "a commonplace type of munition." 

"It is really difficult to comment on this kind of nonsense," Antonov said, slamming US officials as "villains," who "hit a new low with their irresponsible statements." 

"I would like to draw attention to the fact that the negative consequences of the use of such ammunition have been repeatedly confirmed by Western media.

"I want to remind you that when using this kind of ammunition, radioactive dust settles on the ground — it is extremely toxic and cannot be decontaminated," Antonov stressed.

1251 GMTFinland should not give Hornet fighter jets to Ukraine, says defence minister

Finland's defence minister Antti Kaikkonen on Thursday said he did not want to donate Hornet fighter jets to Ukraine, despite a Ukrainian request for such planes.

Finland is replacing its ageing Hornet fleet with F-35 fighters it ordered in 2021, but the delivery of the first new planes is still two to three years away.

1215 GMT — Zelenskyy visits Russian-controlled Kherson in Ukraine's south

President Volodymyr Zelensky has visited the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson partially controlled by Russian forces, after Kiev's troops captured the regional capital late last year, the presidency said.  

Ukraine forces recaptured Kherson city, the administrative centre of the southern region in November following a strategic withdrawal of Russia forces. 

But the region is still partly controlled by Russian forces, who are dug in on the eastern bank of the Dnipro river and routinely shell Kherson city. 

"Working trip to Kherson region . The village of Posad Pokrovske, where houses and civilian infrastructural facilities were damaged as a result of Russia's full-scale invasion," Zelensky said in a message on social media.

1018 GMT — Ukraine's needs $411B in war recovery: World Bank

The World Bank has hiked its estimate for the cost of Ukraine's recovery and reconstruction from Russia's war to minimum $411 billion in the next decade. 

The assessment was carried out jointly by the World Bank Group, Ukrainian government, European Commission, and UN, according to an Al Jazeera report published on Wednesday. 

The recent figure was up from the $349 billion in the previous projection.

0940 GMT — EU leaders discuss Ukraine war with UN chief

European Union leaders will discuss the war in Ukraine with UN chief Antonio Guterres, including food security and sanctions, and also endorse a plan to ramp up the supply of artillery shells to Kiev, diplomats and officials said.

Guterres will be a guest at an EU summit in Brussels, days after the renewal of a deal brokered by Türkiye and the UN on the safe export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.

That will be discussed over lunch with Guterres before the UN secretary-general takes his leave and EU leaders get an update on the war from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy via video link, officials said.

"We will, as always, reaffirm our unwavering commitment to assist Ukraine," declared Charles Michel, president of the European Council of EU leaders.

0920 GMT — Ukraine claims Russian fatigue, vows counter-attack in Bakhmut 

A senior Ukrainian military commander vowed a counter-attack against Russian forces near the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, the stage for the longest battle of Moscow's offensive.

"Sparing nothing, they are losing significant strength and becoming exhausted. Very soon we will take advantage of this opportunity, like we did near Kiev, Kharkiv, Balakliya and Kupiansk," said the commander of Ukraine's ground forces, Oleksandr Syrsky, referring to successful Ukrainian counter-offensives.

0900 GMT — Russia has regained part control of Kreminna town, UK says

British military intelligence has said that Russia had partially regained control over the approaches to the eastern Ukrainian town of Kreminna, after its troops were pushed back from the region earlier this year.

"In places, Russia has made gains of up to several kilometres," the military intelligence said in an update, adding that Russian commanders are likely trying to expand a security zone and are also seeking to recapture the logistic hub of Kupiansk in Kharkiv.

Russian forces earlier on Thursday unleashed a wave of air strikes in the north and south of Ukraine a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin bid farewell to Chinese leader Xi Jinping following a two-day visit to Moscow.

0745 GMT — Russia stepped up its missile and drone attacks 

"Russia is shelling the city with bestial savagery," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote in a Telegram post accompanying video showing what he said was a Russian missile striking a nine-storey apartment building on a busy road in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia.

"Residential areas where ordinary people and children live are being fired at."

At least one person was killed in the attack shown in the Zaporizhzhia video, apparently recorded by closed circuit TV cameras. 

Two children were among the wounded, said Zaporizhzhia City Council Secretary Anatolii Kurtiev, adding that 25 people needed hospital treatment, with three in critical condition.

0300 GMT — Zelenskyy hopes to see Russia gone from Ukraine by next Ramadan 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has wished Muslims worldwide "Ramadan Mubarak!" and said a significant part of Ukraine's Muslim community, the Crimean Tatars, are "forced to meet Ramadan under [Russian] occupation."

Zelenskyy said Muslims in the country are observing Ramadan "under the threat of Russian repression and abuse in Crimea, under shelling in other parts of Ukraine, and in frontline battles."

"I have no doubt that we will return freedom, respect, and security to our entire state and to all communities ... Let the next Ramadan begin in peace and on the entire Ukrainian land free from Russia."

For our live updates from Wednesday (March 22), click here.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies