The Russia-Ukraine conflict is now in its 400th day.

Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder says over 7,000 Ukrainian military personnel have been trained by the US since Russia began its offensive in February 2022.
Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder says over 7,000 Ukrainian military personnel have been trained by the US since Russia began its offensive in February 2022. (AP)

Thursday,  March 30, 2023

A group of 65 Ukrainian military personnel has completed training in the United States on the Patriot air defence system and returned to Europe, the Pentagon has said.

Ukraine repeatedly pushed the United States for the high-tech system to help shield against Russian strikes and Washington promised late last year that it would provide a Patriot battery, with Kiev's troops starting training in Oklahoma in January.

"This week, 65 Ukrainian air defenders completed Patriot training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and have now arrived back in Europe," Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder told journalists.

"They're integrating with other Ukrainian air defenders along with donated Patriot air defence equipment from the United States, Germany and the Netherlands," he said.

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1844 GMT Russia to continue informing US of missile launches

Russia has said it would continue informing the US of any missile launches it conducts under a 1988 exchange agreement.

In a statement to reporters in Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that in the current situation concerning the framework of the New START Treaty, Russia and the US had suspended all information exchanges and elements of verification.

"But, as it was announced back in February, on a voluntary basis, the Russian Federation will adhere to the central quantitative restrictions on START, established in the START Treaty, and will also continue to implement the 1988 agreement on the exchange of notifications on missile launches," Ryabkov said.

Signed in 2010 and extended in 2021 for another five years, the New START Treaty aims to control and reduce strategic nuclear forces used by the US and Russia.

1744 GMT US slaps sanctions on man seeking to sell DPRK arms to Russia

The US has said it had imposed sanctions on a Slovakian man for trying to arrange the sale of over two dozen types of North Korean weapons and munitions to Russia to help Moscow replace military equipment lost in its war with Ukraine.

The action, which comes as Washington warned that Russia is seeking to acquire additional weapons from North Korea, is the latest in a series of sanctions the US has imposed targeting Moscow and its attempts to obtain military equipment.

The US Treasury Department said in a statement it had imposed sanctions on Slovakian national Ashot Mkrtychev "for having attempted to, directly or indirectly, import, export, or re-export to, into, or from the DPRK any arms or related materiel."

1743 GMT Russia seeks new arms deal with North Korea, US says

Russia is seeking to broker a new deal with North Korea to purchase additional weapons in exchange for food as it seeks to aid its ongoing offensive against Ukraine, the US has said.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the over year-long war has "forced" Russia to turn "to rogue regimes to try to obtain weapons and equipment to support its military operations" in Ukraine.

"That's in part because of the sweeping sanctions and export controls that we've imposed," he told reporters on a virtual briefing. "We remain concerned that North Korea will provide further support to Russia's military operations against Ukraine. And we have new information that Russia is actively seeking to acquire additional munitions from North Korea."

1742 GMT Ukraine controls a third of Bakhmut: presidency adviser

Ukraine controls only a third of the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut, which has seen the longest battle of the Russian offensive, an advisor to Ukraine's presidency has said.

"Bakhmut is one-third controlled by Ukraine, as international observers have established," Sergiy Leshchenko said in a briefing broadcast by the presidency's Telegram channel.

He denied however that the city was surrounded by Russian forces despite recent claims from a Russian aide in the Donetsk region, where Bakhmut is located, that it was "practically surrounded".

1647 GMT Russia's Putin signs decree on routine spring conscription: Tass agency

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree setting out the routine spring conscription campaign, calling 147,000 citizens up for statutory military service, Tass news agency has said.

Last September Putin signed an order calling up 120,000 people for the autumn campaign. At the time, Tass quoted the defence ministry as saying the conscription was not in any way related to the special military operation, Russia's official term for the war in Ukraine.

All men in Russia are required to carry out a year's military service between the ages of 18 and 27, or equivalent training while in higher education.

On average, in recent years, around 130,000 people have been called up in each of the spring and autumn campaigns, Tass said.

1550 GMT Belarus concerned over deployment of NATO troops near border

Belarus has said the deployment of NATO troops near its border with neighbouring countries signifies an “irresponsible escalation” amid the continuing war in neighbouring Ukraine.

“Deployment of fresh NATO’s troops near the Belarus’ border & further Alliance’s enlargement in Northern Europe are an irresponsible escalation and key factors threatening European security,” the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said on its English-language Twitter account.

The statement came in response to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell saying on Twitter that Belarus hosting Russian nuclear weapons would mean "an irresponsible escalation and threat to European security."

1023 GMT — French court opposes extradition of Ukraine billionaire Zhevago

A French court has ruled Ukrainian billionaire Kostyantyn Zhevago should not be extradited over accusations of embezzlement, a spokesperson for Zhevago said.

Zhevago, who controls London-listed iron pellet producer Ferrexpo, was arrested at a French ski resort in December at the request of Ukraine, which wants him over the disappearance of $113 million from the now bankrupt lender Finance & Credit Bank. Zhevago denies any wrong-doing.

Zhevago had been released on bail for $1.1 million following his initial arrest near Chambery in France.

0928 GMT — Japan to provide $470M to Ukraine for restoration of energy infrastructures

Japan has decided to provide two aid packages totalling $470 million to Ukraine for the reconstruction of the country and energy recovery.

Japan’s Ambassador to Ukraine Matsuda Kuninori and Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for Restoration Oleksandr Kubrakov signed the aid agreement, a statement by the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

The statement said that the aid will provide Ukraine with the equipment necessary to conduct de-mining and debris clearance, which it said are “prerequisites for recovery and reconstruction,” as well as livelihood reconstruction.

0928 GMT — Recalling Bucha deaths, Zelenskyy describes 'horrific' year in Kiev region

Ukraine's president has said the past year had been "the most horrific" in the lives of many residents of the Kiev region, where Russian troops are accused of committing war crimes before withdrawing a year ago.

"For many residents of the Kyiv region, the past year has become the most horrific in their entire lives. And the liberation of the Kyiv region has become a symbol of the fact that Ukraine will be able to win this war," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote in English on the Telegram messaging app.

Zelenskyy wrote his Telegram post under video footage showing heavily damaged buildings and vehicles that had been destroyed in Bucha and Irpin.

0928 GMT — Ukraine is 'determining factor' in China-EU ties: EU chief

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen has warned China that its approach to Russian President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine would be central to shaping Beijing's ties with Europe.

"We have to be frank on this point. How China continues to interact with Putin's war will be a determining factor for EU-China relations going forward," the European Commission head said.

0919 GMT — Wall Street Journal reporter detained in Russia on espionage charge

A US journalist working for the Wall Street Journal has been arrested in Russia on charges of spying for Washington, Russia's FSB security services said.

The FSB security services said they had "halted the illegal activities of US citizen Evan Gershkovich," saying the Wall Street Journal reporter was "suspected of spying in the interests of the American government".

Their statement confirmed that Gershkovich, 31, was working with press accreditation issued by the Russian foreign ministry. But the statement said he had been detained for gathering information "on an enterprise of the Russian military-industrial complex".

READ MORE: Wall Street Journal reporter Geshkovich detained in Russia for espionage

0911 GMT — Russia in contact with IAEA on 'evolving' idea of nuclear plant safety zone 

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has said that Moscow was still talking to the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency about the idea of a safety zone around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant that is controlled by Russian forces in Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported.

RIA quoted him as saying that the idea was "evolving". Interfax quoted Ryabkov as saying Moscow was in "constant contact" with IAEA chief Rafael Grossi.

0839 GMT — Russia's presidency of UN Security Council 'a bad joke': Kiev

Ukraine has said Russia's upcoming presidency of the United Nations Security Council this week was "a bad joke".

"Russian UN Security Council presidency on April 1 is a bad joke. Russia has usurped its seat; it's waging a colonial war; its leader is a war criminal wanted by the ICC for kidnapping children," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

"The world can't be a safe place with Russia at UNSC," he added.

The presidency rotates every month between the 15 member states.

Russia would hold little influence on the decisions but be in charge of setting the agenda.

0821 GMT — Far-right lawmakers walk out of Zelenskyy speech to Austrian parliament

Lawmakers from the pro-Russia, far-right Freedom Party have walked out of the lower house of Austria's parliament during a speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, protesting that it violated Austria's neutrality.

Austria says its neutrality prevents it from military involvement in the conflict and while it supports Ukraine politically it cannot send the country weapons in its fight against Russia.

The Freedom Party (FPO), however, had warned days before that it would hold some form of protest against Zelenskyy's address. Its lawmakers attended the start of the speech and then left.

Lawmakers who walked out of the chamber left small placards on their desks featuring the party logo and either "space for neutrality" or "space for peace".

0733 GMT — China willing to work with Russian military: Chinese defence ministry

China has said its military was willing to work together with the Russian military to strengthen strategic communication and coordination.

The two countries would work together to implement global security initiatives, said Tan Kefei, a spokesman at the Chinese defence ministry, at a regular press conference.

Tan said the two countries would deepen military trust and jointly safeguard international fairness and justice.

They will also furt her organise joint maritime, air patrols and joint exercises, Tan said.

0520 GMT — Russia sets conditions for peace talks with Ukraine

Russia said that Ukraine must stay “neutral” and refuse to join NATO and the European Union in order to begin peace talks on the war.

“We need a neutral and non-bloc status of Ukraine, its refusal to join NATO and the EU and confirmation of Ukraine's nuclear-free status as well as recognition by Kyiv and the international community of new territorial realities,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Galuzin said in an interview with Russian news network RTVI.

Galuzin said that Moscow believes a “comprehensive, just and sustainable peace in Ukraine and Europe” is possible once clashes between Russian and Ukrainian troops end, in addition to the supply of weapons by Western countries.

He said Ukraine has refused to consider a diplomatic settlement to the war and there have not been “significant changes” in Kyiv’s position as it “continues “to rely on a military solution to the conflict.”

0251 GMT — Singapore says Russia's offensive in Ukraine violated UN charter

 Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that Russia's offensive in Ukraine has gravely violated the United Nations charter and international law.

Big powers have the responsibility of maintaining stable and workable relations with one another, and the most worrying is the state of relations between the United States and China, Lee said at the Boao forum in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan.

2239 GMT — Ukraine says Russian forces making progress in frontline Bakhmut

Russian forces have had some success in the eastern frontline city of Bakhmut, Ukrainian military officials said, adding that their fighters were still holding on in a battle that has lasted several months.

The mining city of Bakhmut and surrounding towns in the eastern industrial region of Donetsk have been the focal point of assault for much of the 13-month-long offensive by Russia of neighbouring Ukraine. Neither side yet has full control with heavy losses suffered by both.

"Enemy forces had a degree of success in their actions aimed at storming the city of Bakhmut," the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in its regular report. "Our defenders are holding the city and are repelling numerous enemy attacks."

Russian officials say their forces are still capturing ground in street-by-street fighting inside Bakhmut.

2100 GMT — Britain, Germany 'stand with Ukraine': Charles III

Britain and Germany stand united with Ukraine in its battle against Russia's unprovoked offensive, Charles III said in Berlin on his first foreign visit as king. 

"We stand side by side in protecting and advancing our shared democratic values. This is epitomised so clearly today as we stand together with Ukraine in defence of freedom and sovereignty in the face of unprovoked aggression," he told a state banquet hosted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

For our live updates from Wednesday (March 29), click here.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies