The Russia-Ukraine conflict is now its 391st day.

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pays his respect at the site of a mass grave found on the grounds of the church of Saint Andrew Pervozvannoho All Saints in the town of Bucha, during a visit to Ukraine on March 21, 2023.
Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pays his respect at the site of a mass grave found on the grounds of the church of Saint Andrew Pervozvannoho All Saints in the town of Bucha, during a visit to Ukraine on March 21, 2023. (AFP)

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Bucha, a town near the Ukrainian capital Kiev, in a trip hailed as "historic" by Ukraine.

Kishida had arrived as part of an official visit and ahead of an expected meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

"This historic visit is a sign of solidarity and strong cooperation between (Ukraine and Japan)," said First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova, who goes by the name Emine Dzheppar on Twitter.

"We are grateful to Japan for its strong support and contribution to our future victory," she said, posting photos of Kishida on a train platform in Kiev.

Kishida is the last Group of Seven leaders to visit Ukraine and has come under increasing pressure to make the trip, as Japan hosts the G7 summit this May.

His trip comes as Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Moscow for talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, with the Ukraine conflict high on the agenda.

Japan has joined Western allies in sanctioning Russia over its offensive in Ukraine while offering support to Kiev.

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1816 GMT – Zelensky says will join G7 summit in Japan via videolink

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed he would participate in the upcoming G7 summit in Japan in May via video link.

"I accepted the prime minister's invitation and will participate in the G7 summit in Hiroshima in an online format," Zelensky said during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

1613 GMT –  Putin hails 'special' Russia-China ties after Xi talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the "special nature" of ties with Beijing following talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the Kremlin.

"The two statements we signed fully reflect the special nature of Russian-Chinese relations, which are a model of true partnership and strategic interaction," Putin said in remarks broadcast on state television after his talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Putin said a Chinese peace plan could provide a basis for a settlement of the fighting in Ukraine when the West is ready for it.

He charged that Ukraine’s Western allies so far have shown no interest in that.

Russia and China reached an agreement on the Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline, which will connect Siberia to northwest China, Putin said.

"All agreements have been reached," Putin said, adding that economic cooperation between Moscow-Bejing was a "priority" for Russia.

He also said British plans to provide Ukraine with ammunition for battle tanks containing depleted uranium, saying it heralds the West switching to supplying Kyiv with weapons containing nuclear components.

He said that Russia will respond if it happens, but didn’t elaborate.

1138 GMT - Ukraine, Russia trade claims after blast rocks Crimean town

 Russian and Ukrainian officials gave conflicting accounts of what appeared to be a brazen attack late Monday on Russian cruise missiles being transported by train in the occupied Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula.

A Ukrainian military spokesperson indicated that Kiev was behind the explosion that reportedly destroyed multiple Kalibr cruise missiles near the town of Dzhankoi in northern Crimea, while stopping short of directly claiming responsibility.

Natalia Humeniuk, the spokeswoman for Ukraine’s southern operational command, described the strike as a signal to Russia that it should leave the Black Sea peninsula it illegally took from Ukraine in 2014. 

1128 GMT - Kiev hails 'historic' Japan PM Kishida visit as 'sign of solidarity'

Ukraine's foreign ministry welcomed Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to Kiev, hailing his "historic" visit as a key show of support.

"This historic visit is a sign of solidarity and strong cooperation between (Ukraine and Japan). We are grateful to Japan for its strong support and contribution to our future victory," First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzheppar said on Twitter.

1058 GMT - Italy to keep supporting Ukraine, no matter govt approval rating - Meloni

Italy will continue to support Ukraine in resisting Russian attacks regardless of the short-term impact this choice may have on the Italian government's approval rating, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said.

"We will continue to do it because it is right to do so in terms of national values and interest," she said in a speech before the Senate ahead of the European Council meeting on March 23-24.

"There is no room for a just peace in Ukraine yet, but we will keep pursuing it," she added.

0943 GMT - Voices for peace in Ukraine are building: China’s Xi tells Russia’s Putin

China’s President Xi Jinping has stressed in his talks with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that "voices for peace and rationality" on Ukraine issue "are building."

“Most countries support easing tensions, stand for peace talks, and are against adding fuel to the fire,” Xi told Putin during their Monday night meeting in Moscow, acco rding to China’s Foreign Ministry statement.

Xi is on a three-day trip to Russia until Wednesday.

0908 GMT - Xi tells Russian PM China to 'prioritise' ties with Moscow

Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin described Beijing and Moscow as "great neighbouring powers" and "strategic partners," saying China would "prioritise" ties with Russia.

Xi said Chinese Premier Li Qiang would "continue to prioritise the all-round strategic partnership between China and Russia," adding that: "we are great neighbouring powers and comprehensive strategic partners".

0803 GMT - Russia says US obsessed with idea of inflicting ‘strategic defeat’ on Moscow

Russia's ambassador to Washington said the US is obsessed with the idea of inflicting a “strategic defeat” in Moscow.

“With its steps, the administration is only pushing the Ukrainian radicals towards new terrible deeds. With each delivery of military equipment, the Zelenskyy regime feels more and more impunity,” Anatoly Antonov said in respon se to a question on Washington’s decision to authorise another $350 million in military aid to Ukraine.

Antonov said that the US does not understand that such actions are further escalating the Russia-Ukraine war, and that Washington’s policy “jeopardizes the security of all of Europe, increasing the risk of a direct clash between Russia and NATO".

0315 GMT - Japan PM Kishida on way to Ukraine: local media

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is en route to Ukraine for a surprise visit after pressure to travel there as this year's host of the Group of Seven summit.

Kishida will hold talks with Zelenskyy, the Japanese foreign ministry said.

0044 GMT - Russia to hold UN meeting on Ukraine kids taken to Russia

Russia plans to hold an informal meeting of the UN Security Council in early April on what it said is "the real situation" of Ukrainian children taken to Russia, an issue that has gained the spotlight following the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Putin for war crimes related to their abduction.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told a news conference Monday that Russia planned the council meeting long before Friday’s announcement by the ICC.

Russia holds the rotating presidency of the council in April.

2352 GMT - Russia rejects links between Ukraine war, US-led invasion of Iraq

Russia's UN ambassador has rejected links between the war in Ukraine and the US-led invasion of Iraq.

"The genesis of these crises is absolutely different," Vassily Nebenzia told reporters on the 20th anniversary of the Iraq war.

''While Iraq was a hoax, the Ukrainian threat and later the proxy war of the West with Russia is a reality,'' he said. Nebenzia said the invasion of Iraq was a violation of the UN Charter and international law, but the war in Ukraine is ''not exactly the same.''

However, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has repeatedly said that Russian aggression in Ukraine is a violation of the UN Charter and international law.

Ukrainian servicemen fire a M777 howitzer at Russian positions near Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian servicemen fire a M777 howitzer at Russian positions near Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine. (AFP Archive)

2138 GMT - Millions in extra funding pledged for ICC work in Ukraine 

An international conference in London raised $4.9 million to support the International Criminal Court in its investigations into alleged war crimes in Ukraine and its work to hold Russia to account, officials have said.

Justice ministers from over 40 countries met in London for the war crimes conference days after the global court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of personal responsibility in the abduction of children from Ukraine.

“We share the belief that President Putin and the wider leadership must be held to account,” Britain’s Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said as he opened the meeting. “Let’s make sure that we back up our words with deeds, that we back up our moral support with practical means to effectively investigate these awful crimes.”

2032 GMT - US thankful to Türkiye, UN for Black Sea grain deal extension

The US has expressed gratitude to Türkiye and the UN for a recently-brokered 60-day extension of a key accord to facilitate grain exports from Ukraine's Black Sea ports.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that over the weekend two ships left Ukrainian ports bound for predominantly low and middle-income nations with hundreds of thousands of metric tons of corn.

Those nations "have been suffering no question and suffering since the beginning of this war with food insecurity," said Kirby.

"We're grateful for the work of Türkiye for the UN to move forward with that," he told reporters at the White House. "We're focused on now that this is extended, making sure we get those ships loaded, and get them out, and get them to places where they need to be."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the Ankara-brokered deal's extension on Saturday, one day before it was slated to lapse.

2117 GMT - Russian cruise missiles blown up in transit in Crimea: Ukraine

Ukraine's defence ministry said on Monday that an explosion in Dzhankoi in Russian-annexed Crimea had destroyed Russian Kalibr cruise missiles during rail transit.

Separately, Sergei Askyonov, the Moscow-supported head of the annexed peninsula said air defence systems had gone into action in the area and that at least one person had been injured after wreckage damaged a house and a shop in Dzhankoi.

1859 GMT - Putin, Xi to hold more talks

Talks between Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi will resume in a full-fledged format, Russian news agencies reported.

"On Tuesday, the leaders will meet again and hold full-fledged talks," TASS news agency said, adding their informal discussions on Monday lasted almost 4-1/2 hours.

Putin told Xi in a televised meeting earlier that he had looked at China's proposals on how to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, adding that the two would have an opportunity to discuss Beijing's ideas.

For our live updates from Monday (March 20), click here.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies