Ukraine upsets Russian efforts to occupy Mariupol and claims to have retaken a Kiev suburb, mounting a defence so dogged that it's stoking fears Russia may escalate offensive, now in its 28th day.

By way of comparison, Russia lost about 15,000 troops over 10 years in Afghanistan.
By way of comparison, Russia lost about 15,000 troops over 10 years in Afghanistan. (Reuters)

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

NATO: Some 7,000 to 15,000 Russian troops killed in Ukraine fighting

NATO estimates that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in four weeks of war in Ukraine, where fierce resistance from the country's defenders has denied Moscow the lightning victory it sought. By way of comparison, Russia lost about 15,000 troops over 10 years in Afghanistan.

A senior NATO military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the alliance's estimate was based on information from Ukrainian authorities, what Russia has released — intentionally or not — and intelligence gathered from open sources.

Ukraine has released little information about its own military losses, and the West has not given an estimate, but President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said nearly two weeks ago that about 1,300 Ukrainian servicemen had been killed.

Russia's Ukraine aid fails to pass UNSC

Russia-backed Ukraine aid resolution has failed at UN Security Council with 13 abstentions and two "yes" votes.

The only country that supported Russia's humanitarian draft resolution was China. 

Russia should have won at least nine "yes" votes to make the draft resolution be valid.

Blinken: US assesses Russian forces committed war crimes

The Biden administration has made a formal determination that Russian troops have committed war crimes in Ukraine and said it would work with others to prosecute offenders, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

“Today, I can announce that, based on information currently available, the US government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine,” Blinken said in a statement, adding that a “careful review” of public and intelligence sources has been done.

“We’ve seen numerous credible reports of indiscriminate attacks and attacks deliberately targeting civilians, as well as other atrocities,” Blinken said.

Russian journalist killed in Kiev shelling

A Russian journalist for the investigative news outlet The Insider was killed when Russian troops shelled a residential neighbourhood in the Ukrainian capital, the outlet has said.

Oksana Baulina, who previously also worked for Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny's anti-corruption group, "died under fire in Kiev" while "filming the destruction" caused by Russian shelling, The Insider said on its website.

Russia restricts access to Google News

Russia's media regulator has restricted access to the Google News service, accusing it of providing access to "false" information about Russia's offensive in Ukraine, Russian news agencies have reported.

The decision was taken at the request of the Russian General Prosecutor's Office, according to a statement by the country's media regulator Roskomnadzor cited by the agencies.

The online news service "provided access to numerous publications and materials that contain false information... about the course of the special military operation on Ukrainian territory," the statement said.

Russia expels US diplomats in tit-for-tat move

Russia has said it is expelling US diplomats in retaliation for Washington's move earlier this month to remove 12 of Moscow's representatives to the UN based in the US.

"On March 23, a note with the list of the American diplomats declared 'persona non grata' was handed to the head of the American diplomatic mission who was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," the ministry said in a statement.

Russia pursuing 'strategy of attrition' in Ukraine: UK official

A senior UK defence official has said Russia is now using a strategy of "attrition" in Ukraine, after numerous setbacks meant Moscow had "failed to achieve its original objectives".

Chief of Defence Intelligence Jim Hockenhull said Moscow had been surprised by both the scale and ferocity of Ukrainian resistance, while Russian forces had been "bedevilled with problems of its own making".

"Russian operations have changed," Hockenhull told reporters at a briefing, adding the Kremlin was "now pursuing a strategy of attrition". This will involve the reckless use of firepower and result in increased civilian casualties and humanitarian crisis, he warned.

US to announce more Russia-related sanctions

The United States will announce a package of Russia-related sanctions on political figures and oligarchs on Thursday while US President Joe Biden meets with NATO leaders on Ukraine, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has said.

Sullivan, speaking to reporters as Biden headed to Brussels for the NATO summit, said G-7 leaders will also agree on Thursday to coordinate on sanctions enforcement and plan to issue a statement.

Ukraine's humanitarian crisis 'tip of the iceberg': WHO

The humanitarian crisis unleashed so far by Russia's month-long assault in Ukraine is just the tip of the iceberg, the World Health Organisation has warned.

The UN health agency also called for a stop to attacks on health care facilities, saying it has verified at least 64 such strikes.

"The problems we face so far... are really the tip of an iceberg of need," WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said.

Kiev says using AI, social media to identify slain Russians

Ukraine has said it is using artificial intelligence and social media to identify killed Russian troops in an effort to disprove Moscow's claim of a limited military operation.

"Today, we are using artificial intelligence to search social networks for profiles of Russian soldiers based on images of their bodies to report their deaths to friends and relatives," Deputy Ukraine Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov wrote on Facebook. 

He also said the initiative aimed to "dispel the myth of a 'special military operation' in which 'no conscripts take part' and 'nobody dies'."

EU offers farmers aid, more land to grow 

The European Union will distribute 500 million euros ($550 million) to help farmers and allow them to grow crops on fallow land to mitigate food price spikes and potential shortages resulting from Russia's assault on Ukraine.

Published on Wednesday, the proposals by the EU's executive European Commission also include assistance to Ukraine to help its farmers sow corn and sunflower seeds and tend to wheat.

The EU executive stressed on Wednesday that there was no immediate threat to food security in the 27-nation bloc given it is a net exporter of cereals.

White House: US, Europe to address energy issues

The United States and Europe will on Friday address energy issues amid Russia's attacks on Ukraine, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.

Sullivan, speaking as US President Joe Biden travelled to Europe for a NATO summit, said Washington will look for ways to increase liquified natural gas supplies to Europe, adding that reducing European dependence on Russian gas has been the subject of intense discussion.

He did not give further details but said the United States would have more to say on the subject along with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday.

US sets some red lines for China over support for Russia

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has laid out some broad guidelines about the types of Chinese support for Russia that would warrant a response from the United States.

The US is looking out for companies that are "attempting to backfill in response to the export controls that we have imposed," Sullivan said. Backfilling refers to the process of supplying a good to Russia that's impacted by export controls.

If Chinese companies or others "choose to backfill" the US has tools to ensure that can’t happen, he added.

Germany to send 2,000 more anti-tank weapons to Ukraine

Germany will send 2,000 additional anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, a parliamentary source has told AFP.

Ukraine has already received 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger-type surface-to-air missile launchers from the Bundeswehr, the German army. Germany has also provided around 500 Strela surface-to-air missiles.

The parliamentary source, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed German media reports that the 2,000 additional anti-tank weapons would be sent to Ukraine.

UN: At least 977 civilians killed in Ukraine

At least 977 civilians have been killed and 1,594 injured in Ukraine since Russia began its attacks on its neighbour last month, according to UN estimates.

More than 3.62 million people have fled to neighbouring countries, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement.

More than 2.14 million have gone to Poland, 555,021 to Romania and 371,104 to Moldova, said the UNHCR. An additional 113,000 moved to Russia from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions between February 21 and February 23, it added.

Kiev mayor says one killed, two wounded in carpark shelling

The mayor of Kiev says one person has been killed and two seriously wounded after shells hit a shopping centre's parking lot in a northern district of the Ukrainian capital.

"The enemy continues to fire at the capital," Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in an online post. Russia denies targeting civilians.

Sweden to provide Ukraine with 5,000 more anti-tank weapons

Sweden will provide Ukraine with an additional 5,000 anti-tank weapons, TT news agency has quoted the Swedish Defence Minister saying.

Sweden has already sent 5,000 anti-tank weapons, along with other military materiel to Ukraine.

Germany slams Russia's roubles demand 

Russia's demand for payments in roubles for gas deliveries to Europe constitutes a breach of contract, Germany has warned.

"The announcement of paying in roubles is...a breach of the contract and we will now discuss with our European partners how we would react to that," said German Economy Minister Robert Habeck, whose country imported 55 percent of its natural gas from Russia before Moscow attacked Ukraine.

Russians, Belarusians banned from world swimming event 

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) says it has reversed a decision to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutrals at the World Championships in June in Budapest.

FINA said in a statement that, following "an independent risk assessment" its board had "confirmed that athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus will not take part in the World Championships".

The 2022 championships take place in Budapest from June 18-July 3.

EU needs 'fair burden sharing' to host Ukraine refugees

European Union countries will start discussing "fair burden sharing" in hosting millions of refugees from Ukraine, the bloc's top migration official has said.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said the issue would be addressed by the bloc's 27 national migration ministers at emergency talks on Monday. "It needs to be developed," she told a news conference.

Russian minister urges public not to stockpile medicines

Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko has urged people not to buy extra supplies of medicines even as many fear shortages and price hikes due to Western sanctions.

"I want to tell the public: you don't need to stock up," Murashko said during a televised cabinet meeting with President Vladimir Putin. "The suppliers say that deliveries are continuing as planned," he stressed.

Murashko said monitoring of pharmacies had found that "there were shortages of a number of drugs", which he linked to panic buying.

Russia to bid to host Euro 2028 or 2032 despite ban

Russia will launch a bid to host the European Championship in 2028 or 2032, a board member from the country's football federation (RFU) has said, even though the nation is banned from international competitions following its attacks on Ukraine.

Soccer governing bodies FIFA and UEFA have suspended Russian clubs and national teams, pending the outcome of an appeal by the RFU to the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS).

Kremlin: Putin discusses Ukraine with Israel's Bennett

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the conflict in Ukraine by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Bennett "shared his assessment of the situation around Ukraine, taking into account his contacts with leaders of a number of foreign countries, and expressed several ideas in relation to the ongoing negotiations," the statement said.

France seizes two yachts owned by Russian oligarch

French authorities have confiscated two luxury yachts belonging to one of Russia's most influential businessmen, the latest move by Western governments to seize the assets of associates of President Vladimir Putin.

The "Little Bear", a 17-metre vessel worth 20 million euros ($22 million) belonging to Alexey Kuzmichev, a main shareholder of the Alfa conglomerate, was seized in the Mediterranean resort of Cannes on March 16, a government source told AFP on Wednesday.

His "Big Bear," a 26-metre boat that was being serviced in nearby Antibes, reportedly worth 70 million euros, was seized on Monday.

Mayor: Ukrainians push back Russian forces around Kiev 

Ukrainian forces have pushed back Russian troops in several areas around Kiev, the city's mayor has said, vowing to defend every building rather than surrender the capital.

Kiev mayor Vitali Klitschko said there are battles raging on the northern and eastern outskirts of the city, and that "the small city of Makariv and almost all of Irpin is already under the control of Ukrainian soldiers".

The "target of aggressors is the capital of Ukraine...because the city is the heart of the country," former boxing champion Klitschko told a news conference. He urged the Russians to go home and said Ukrainians are ready to defend every building. 

NATO set to give more support to Ukraine

NATO leaders are set to agree new troop deployments for eastern allies as well as extra support for Ukraine to deal with chemical and nuclear threats as it battles Russia's forces.

Alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said he expected "leaders will agree to strengthen NATO's posture in all domains with major increases of forces in the eastern part of the alliance, on land, in the air and at sea". 

"...I expect allies will agree to provide additional support, including cybersecurity assistance as well as equipment to help Ukraine protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats," Stoltenberg said ahead of a NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday.

NATO accuses China of backing Russia with 'blatant lies'

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has accused China of giving political backing to Russia as it attacks Ukraine, and warned Beijing against providing material support to Moscow's aggression.

"China has provided Russia with political support, including by spreading blatant lies and misinformation, and allies are concerned that China could provide material support for the Russian invasion," Stoltenberg said ahead of an urgent NATO summit on Thursday.

"I expect leaders will call on China to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the UN Security Council, refrain from supporting Russia's war effort, and join the rest of the world in calling for an immediate, peaceful end to this war."

Ukraine president says received assurances from Johnson

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who assured his support for Ukraine ahead of NATO, G7 and EU summits.

"Received assurances of his (Johnson's) support on the eve of tomorrow's important meetings. Discussed the course of hostilities and defence assistance to Ukraine," Zelenskyy said on Twitter.

Thursday's NATO summit in Brussels is expected to unlock additional aid for Kiev including equipment to help Ukraine protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

Putin wants 'unfriendly countries' to pay roubles for gas

President Vladimir Putin has announced Russia will demand that “unfriendly'' countries pay for Russian natural gas exports only in roubles from now on.

Putin told a meeting with government officials that “a number of Western countries made illegitimate decisions on the so-called freezing of the Russian assets, effectively drawing a line over reliability of their currencies, undermining the trust for those currencies”.

“It makes no sense whatsoever," Putin added, "to supply our goods to the European Union, the United States and receive payment in dollars, euros and a number of other currencies".

More than 3.6M people flee Ukraine: UN

More than 3.6 million people have fled Ukraine, the UN said on Wednesday, warning that millions more would have their lives upended if the nearly month-long conflict continues.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said 3,626,546 Ukrainians had fled the country — an increase of 69,301 from the previous day's figure. The refugee crisis is Europe's worst since World War II, according to UNHCR.

In total, more than 10 million people — over a quarter of the population in regions under government control before the attacks — are now thought to have fled their homes, including an estimated 6.48 million who are internally displaced.

NATO: 7,000 to 15,000 Russian troops dead in Ukraine

NATO has estimated 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in four weeks of fighting in Ukraine, where the country's defenders have put up stiffer-than-expected resistance and denied Moscow the lightning victory it hoped for.

A senior NATO military official said the estimate was based on information from Ukrainian officials, what Russia has released — intentionally or not — and intelligence gathered from open sources. 

The official spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by NATO.

Zelenskyy calls on French companies to quit Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on French companies — including carmaker Renault, supermarket group Auchan and DIY retailer Leroy Merlin — to leave Russia, during an address to the French parliament.

"French companies must quit the Russian market," Zelenskyy said during a 15-minute video address in his trademark green T-shirt. "Renault, Auchan, Leroy Merlin and others must stop sponsoring the Russian war machine."

French lawmakers gave Ukraine and its ambassador to France three standing ovations before the address by Zelenskyy.

Zelenskyy to address Swedish, Danish parliaments

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the Swedish and Danish parliaments in the coming days, the two assemblies have said.

His speech to Sweden's Riksdag is scheduled for Thursday at 10:55 am local time (0955 GMT), parliament said. He will address the Folketing in Denmark on March 29.

Zelenskyy spoke to MEPs in the European Parliament on March 1. Since then, he has addressed the US Congress, as well as British, Canadian and German lawmakers among others.

Belarus expels majority of Ukrainian diplomats

Russia ally Belarus has said it will expel most Ukrainian diplomats working in the country, accusing Kiev of "interference" in its domestic affairs.

"This measure is aimed at stopping the non-diplomatic activities of several staff members of Ukraine's diplomatic institutions," Belarusian foreign ministry spokesperson Anatoly Glaz said.

Only Ukraine's ambassador and four other diplomats will continue working in Minsk, compared to over 20 people currently staffing the embassy. Belarus said it will also close the Ukrainian consulate in the western city of Brest "due to the effective absence of staff".

EU wants gas storage topped up to curb reliance on Russia

The European Union's executive arm has proposed that all natural gas storage facilities in the 27-nation bloc are topped up to at least 80 percent capacity for next winter as it seeks to reduce its reliance on Russian energy in the future.

On the eve of a two-day summit of EU leaders, the European Commission said the bloc must quickly revamp its energy policy before next winter and another price crisis leaves millions of EU citizens with bills they cannot pay.

However, energy experts say filling reserves when the natural gas market is tight will mean higher prices for consumers.

Moscow says completed two prisoner swaps

Russia's foreign ministry has said two prisoner exchanges have taken place since its military action in Ukraine began last month.

"Russia's defence ministry organises daily humanitarian corridors and the evacuation of civilians from residential areas," the foreign ministry said on its website.

"In addition, two prisoner exchanges between Russia and Ukraine have taken place," it added without providing details on the dates or number of prisoners exchanged.

Russia holds funeral for senior naval officer

Mourners in Russia-annexed Crimea have paid last respects to a deputy commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet who was killed in combat near Ukraine's besieged port city of Mariupol.

Several hundred people attended as Andrei Paly's casket was displayed outside a military building in the port city of Sevastopol and soldiers formed a guard of honour, state news agency TASS reported.

Paly was to be buried in Sevastopol, a city in Crimea. His death was reported by officials in Crimea on Sunday, making him one of the highest-ranking Russian officers known to have died in the conflict.

NATO must fill military gaps to be ready: Commander

NATO countries must make up for post-Cold War cuts to military equipment to give the alliance the capacity to respond swiftly to a conflict, the commander of NATO's quick reaction force, first in line to respond to a crisis, has told Reuters.

"We have an incredible amount of forces but our shortcoming is that the majority of these forces is not combat-ready on a permanent base – simply because they do not have all the equipment they need," General Joerg Vollmer has said.

Vollmer is commander of NATO's Joint Force Command Brunssum, responsible for the alliance's northeastern flank and also the NATO Response Force (NRF).

UN's labour agency suspends cooperation with Russia

The UN's International Labour Organization has said it was halting all technical cooperation with Russia until it stops its attacks on Ukraine, further isolating Moscow on the world stage.

The ILO decided to "temporarily suspend technical cooperation or assistance from the ILO to the Russian Federation, except for the purpose of humanitarian assistance, until a ceasefire is agreed and a peaceful resolution is implemented", it said.

The resolution was brought forward in the ILO's governing body by Canada, which said the vote was carried by 42 votes in favour, with two against and eight abstentions.

Zelenskyy slams UN, urges reform in address to Japan

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told Japan's parliament that the United Nations has failed over the conflict in his country and reforms are needed, calling for more pressure on Russia.

"Neither the United Nations nor the UN Security Council has functioned. Reforms are needed," the Ukrainian leader told lawmakers via videolink. "We need a tool to preemptively ensure global security." 

"Existing international organisations are not functioning for this purpose, so we need to develop a new, preemptive tool that can actually stop invasions," Zelenskyy added.

"Neither the United Nations nor the UN Security Council have functioned. Reforms are needed. We need a tool to preemptively ensure global security."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Consequences of any Russia-NATO clash would be 'hard to repair' - Kremlin

The Kremlin has said any possible contact between the Russian military and NATO forces could have grave consequences, after Poland last week said peacekeepers should be sent to Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Poland's idea was reckless and extremely dangerous. 

"Any possible confrontation between our troops and NATO forces could have clear consequences that would be hard to repair," Peskov told reporters. 

Kiev urges West to supply offensive weapons to fight Russia

Ukraine has repeated a call to Western leaders to supply Kiev with advanced weapons to fight Moscow's slowly advancing troops, one month after their attack. 

"Our armed forces and citizens are holding out with superhuman courage, but we cannot win a war without offensive weapons, without medium-range missiles that can be a means of deterrence," Ukrainian Presidential advisory Andriy Yermak said during a panel discussion. 

"In our case, deterrence, not aggression," he added.

EU authorises state aid for firms impacted by Ukraine conflict

EU member states have been given the greenlight by Brussels to offer limited subsidies and cheap loans to companies impacted by the conflict in Ukraine and the wave of sanctions against Russia.

"We need to mitigate the economic impact of this war and to support severely impacted companies and sectors," EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said.


Reuters removes TASS Russian news agency from its content marketplace

Reuters has removed TASS from its business-to-business marketplace for customers, according to a Reuters message to staff, amid growing criticism of how Russia's state-owned news agency is portraying the conflict in Ukraine.

"We believe making TASS content available on Reuters Connect is not aligned with the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles," Matthew Keen, interim CEO of Reuters, wrote in an internal memo to staff.

France's TotalEnergies says unable to end Russian gas purchases

TotalEnergies' chief executive has said that his company could not stop buying Russian natural gas in retaliation for Moscow's offensive in Ukraine, saying it will force a partial economic shutdown in Europe.

The French energy giant had announced that it would stop buying Russia's oil and petroleum products by the end of this year, the latest of several multinationals to halt or curtail their operations in the country.

But CEO Patrick Pouyanne said ending its natural gas purchases from Russia would effectively hand over billions of euros to Russian investors. "I know how to replace this oil and diesel fuel," Pouyanne told RTL radio, but "with gas, I don't know how to do it."

Iran's FM in Syria to discuss Ukraine conflict, ties with Arabs

The foreign ministers of Iran and Syria, two allies of Russia, will discuss the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and other developments during a meeting in Damascus, Syrian regime's foreign minister has said.

Faisal Mekdad spoke to reporters at Damascus airport shortly after his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, arrived for talks with top Syrian officials.

“We will discuss the huge developments today after Russia’s military operation in Ukraine,” Mekdad said. “We will discuss what is behind that and we will discuss our mutual stances toward these developments.”

Russia recognises troops in Ukraine as combat veterans

The Russian parliament has passed a law extending the status of military veterans to the troops involved in the military operation in Ukraine.

The status comes with various benefits, such as monthly payments, tax breaks, discounts on utilities, preferential access to medical treatment and so on.

Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, passed the law, which marks exactly four weeks since the beginning of the operation in Ukraine, in all three readings at once.

Putin's offensive in Ukraine 'stuck': Scholz

Russian President Vladimir Putin's onslaught in Ukraine has stalled despite the daily assaults inflicted by his troops, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said, insisting that Kiev can "count on our help". 

"Putin's offensive is stuck despite all the destruction that it is bringing day after day," Scholz said, adding that the Russian leader "must hear the truth" that not only is the offensive destroying Ukraine, "but also Russia's future". 

Poland says 45 Russian diplomats are suspected spies

Poland’s counter-espionage service ABW has identified 45 Russian diplomats as suspected spies and called on the foreign ministry to expel them, its spokesman has said.

“The internal security agency has drawn up a list of 45 people working in Poland under the cover of diplomatic activities,” ABW spokesman Stanislaw Zaryn told reporters, accusing the suspects of targeting Poland.

He said the list of suspects had been transferred to the foreign ministry, tweeting that “ABW is requesting that they be expelled from Polish territory”. 

France sends rescue cars, supplies to Ukraine

French authorities say a convoy of rescue vehicles and emergency equipment is to leave Paris to be provided to Ukraine’s emergency service. 

A statement from the French foreign and interior ministries says 100 firefighters and rescue staff will dispatch the vehicles and equipment to Romania, at the border with Ukraine.

They include 11 fire engines, 16 rescue vehicles, and 23 trucks transporting 49 tons of health and emergency equipment.

Sending peacekeeping troops to Ukraine may lead to NATO-Russia confrontation: Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said sending peacekeepers to Ukraine may lead to a direct confrontation between Russia and the NATO military alliance.

Poland last week said an international peacekeeping mission should be sent to Ukraine and be given the means to defend itself.

Officials say Russians shell 2 Kiev districts

The Kiev city administration says Russian forces shelled the Ukrainian capital overnight and early morning, damaging buildings in two districts.

Kiev authorities said on Telegram that a shopping mall, some private sector buildings and high-rises came under fire in the districts of Sviatoshynskyi and Shevchenkivskyi.

Four people sustained injuries.

Italy's Draghi calls on China not to support Russia

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has urged China not to support Russia after its offensive in Ukraine and to join efforts to bring peace to Ukraine.

Speaking to the Italian parliament, Draghi also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not appear to be interested in agreeing a ceasefire that could allow negotiations to end the conflict to succeed.

Hungary rejects sanctions on Russian energy shipments – FM

Hungary does not support any sanctions on Russian energy shipments as it will endanger Hungary's energy security, foreign minister Peter Szijjarto has said at the United Nations Human Rights Council reiterating Hungary's stance. 

"It is not Hungary's fault that natural gas and oil from Russia plays a big role in the energy supply of Hungary, Central Europe and all of Europe," Szijjarto said in a speech broadcast on his Facebook page. 

Ukraine asks SWIFT to disconnect Russia's central bank

The Ukrainian central bank has asked the SWIFT network to switch the Russian central bank off from its financial messaging system.

"We hope for your support and assistance in order to save the lives of thousands of Ukrainians and protect the sovereignty of our country," Governor Kyrylo Shevchenko said in a statement. 

Ukraine: 15,600 Russian soldiers killed since conflict began

Some 15,600 Russian soldiers have been killed in Ukraine since the start of the conflict, the Ukrainian military has claimed.

Ukrainian forces have also destroyed 101 Russian aircraft, 124 helicopters, 517 tanks, 1,578 armored carriers, 267 cannons, 80 rocket launcher systems, and 47 air defence systems since February 24, according to the Ukrainian General Staff.

The Russian forces also lost 1,008 vehicles, four light speedboats, 70 fuel vehicles, and 42 UAVs, it added.

China: Russia is 'important' G20 member, cannot be expelled by others

Beijing has described Russia as an "important member" of the G20 after Washington raised the prospect of excluding Moscow from the group following its offensive in Ukraine.

"The G20 is the main forum for international economic cooperation," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters. 

"Russia is an important member, and no member has the right to expel another country."

Russia says it will retaliate if Poland expels its diplomats

Russia will retaliate if its diplomats are expelled from Poland, the RIA news agency cited the foreign ministry as saying.

Moments earlier, Poland's special services said they had asked the foreign ministry to expel 45 people working for Russia under the cover of diplomatic work.

Russia accuses US of hindering Ukraine talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused the United States of wanting to hinder Moscow's talks with Ukraine aimed at ending the almost month-long conflict.

"The talks are tough, the Ukrainian side constantly changes its position. It's hard to avoid the impression that our American colleagues are holding their hand," Lavrov told students in Moscow, claiming the US "apparently wants to keep us in a state of military action as long as possible".

Russia struck Ukrainian arms depot near Rivne with long-range weapons

Russia's Defence Ministry has said Russian forces hit a Ukrainian arms depot outside the country's northwestern city of Rivne, destroying an arsenal of weapons and equipment.

The ministry said it had struck the depot using high-precision, long-range weapons fired from the sea.

The report could not independently be verified.

Russians destroyed Chernihiv bridge - governor

Russian forces have bombed and destroyed a bridge in the encircled city of Chernihiv, the region's governor, Viacheslav Chaus, has said.

The destroyed bridge had been used for evacuating civilians and delivering humanitarian aid. It crossed the Desna River and connected the city to Ukraine's capital, Kiev.

Chernihiv authorities have said that the encircled city has no water or electricity and called the situation there a humanitarian disaster.

Putin ally says the US is trying to destroy Russia

One of Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin's closest allies has said that the United States aims to humiliate, divide and ultimately destroy Russia, and vows the country will never allow that to happen.

Dmitry Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012 and is now deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council, said such a plan - if ever achieved - could have catastrophic results for the world.

"Russia will never allow such a development," he said in a message posted on Telegram. 

Ukraine prosecutor's office says 121 children killed in conflict

The conflict in Ukraine has killed 121 children so far, the office of the prosecutor general has said in a message on the Telegram app, adding that the number of wounded children stood at 167.

The details could not immediately be verified.

Local ceasefire agreed for Ukraine's Luhansk region

The governor of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine has said agreement had been reached on a local ceasefire to evacuate civilians trapped by fighting.

Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging app that the ceasefire would come into force at 0700 GMT (9AM).

Lavrov to meet Red Cross chief for Ukraine discussions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, in Moscow on Thursday, the foreign ministry has said.

Maurer will be in Moscow for talks on the Ukraine conflict, an ICRC spokesperson said.

"The agenda of the meeting envisages discussion of the key areas of the ICRC's work in the field of humanitarian response," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Nine humanitarian corridors agreed - Ukrainian deputy PM

An agreement has been reached to try to evacuate civilians trapped in Ukrainian towns and cities through nine "humanitarian corridors", Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said.

Signalling no agreement had been reached with Russia to establish a safe corridor from the heart of Mariupol, she said people wishing to leave the besieged port city would find transport in nearby Berdyansk.

300,000 people in Kherson facing ‘humanitarian catastrophe’

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has warned that hundreds of thousands of people stranded in the city of Kherson are running low on supplies, which are at dangerously low levels, due to a blockade by Russian troops.

“Kherson’s 300k citizens face a humanitarian catastrophe owing to the Russian army’s blockade. Food and medical supplies have almost run out, yet Russia refuses to open humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians,” ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on his social media account.

“Russia’s barbaric tactics must be stopped before it is too late!” he added.

Ukraine says Russia seized relief workers in Mariupol convoy

Ukrainian leaders have accused Russia of seizing 15 rescue workers and drivers from a humanitarian convoy trying to get desperately needed food and other supplies into the bloodied port city of Mariupol, which also came under naval attack after weeks of air and land strikes. 

Deputy PM Iryna Vereshchuk said the Russians seized 11 bus drivers and four rescue workers along with their vehicles. She said their fate was unknown. The figures couldn't immediately be confirmed. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking in his nightly video address to his nation, accused Russian forces of blocking the aid convoy despite agreeing to the route ahead of time. 

Ukraine hopes China will play ‘more prominent’ role to end conflict

A senior Ukrainian official has said that his country hopes China, as an important global actor, will play a more notable role to bring an end to the conflict.

"Kiev is hopeful that Beijing will play a more prominent role in bringing this war to an end," Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said on his Twitter account.

“We look forward to (Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and (Chinese President) Xi Jinping talk,” he noted, adding the leading countries worldwide should agree on deterring Russia, including China.

Russia's ambassador in Indonesia says Putin plans to attend G20 summit

Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to attend a G20 summit being hosted by Indonesia later this year, Russia's ambassador in Jakarta has said, following calls by some members  for the country to be barred from the group.

"Not only G20, many organisations are trying to expel Russia....the reaction of the West is absolutely disproportional," ambassador Lyudmila Vorobieva told a news conference.

The United States and its Western allies are assessing whether Russia should remain within the Group of Twenty (G20) grouping of major economies following its attack on Ukraine, sources involved in the discussions said.

Ukraine: Russians destroy Chernobyl laboratory

Russian military forces have destroyed a new laboratory at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant that among other things works to improve management of radioactive waste, the Ukrainian state agency responsible for the Chernobyl exclusion zone has said.

The Russian military seized the decommissioned plant at the beginning of the conflict. The exclusion zone is the contaminated area around the plant, site of the world's worst nuclear meltdown in 1986.

The laboratory contained "highly active samples and samples of radionuclides that are now in the hands of the enemy, which we hope will harm itself and not the civilised world," the agency said in its statement. Radionuclides are unstable atoms of chemical elements that release radiation. Ukraine's nuclear regulatory agency has said that radiation monitors around the plant had stopped working.

Votes near for UN humanitarian resolutions

The United Nations will now face three resolutions on the worsening humanitarian situation in Ukraine after Russia decided to call for a vote on its Security Council resolution which makes no mention of the Russian offensive against its smaller neighbor.

The General Assembly is also scheduled to consider two rival resolutions — one that makes clear Russia is responsible for the humanitarian crisis, one that doesn't.

France and Mexico decided to seek a humanitarian resolution in the 193-member General Assembly after Russia signalled it would veto the measure in the Security Council. The measure makes clear the aid crisis is a result of Russia's assault on Ukraine.

A rival South African draft resolution that makes no mention of Russia's aggression circulated on Monday. It was sent to the assembly on Tuesday, and could also be put to a vote on Wednesday.

Ukraine's Zelenskyy says Russia talks tough, sometimes confrontational

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said peace talks with Russia to end the conflict were tough and sometimes confrontational but added "step by step we are moving forward."

In an early morning video address, Zelenskyy also said 100,000 people were living in the besieged city of Mariupol in inhuman conditions.

"As of today, there are about 100,000 people in the city in inhuman conditions, completely blockaded, without food, without water, without medicines, subject to constant shelling, constant bombardment," he said.

For live updates from Tuesday (March 22), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies