Russia-Ukraine crisis updates | March 16, 2022

Here are the latest developments from the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Updated - March 17, 2022 03:43 am IST

Published - March 16, 2022 08:44 am IST

Presiding judge Joan Donoghue is seen on a screen as World Court rules on a request from Ukraine to issue an emergency measure to order Russia to cease military activities amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in The Hague, Netherlands March 16, 2022.

Presiding judge Joan Donoghue is seen on a screen as World Court rules on a request from Ukraine to issue an emergency measure to order Russia to cease military activities amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in The Hague, Netherlands March 16, 2022. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Russia’s foreign ministry announced sanctions on U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday alongside several officials in a reciprocal response to Western measures.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he has convened a summit for next week of the military organisation’s 30 leaders to discuss Russia’s war on Ukraine. Earlier on Tuesday, two journalists working for Fox News were killed in Ukraine.

A series of Russian strikes hit a residential neighbourhood of Ukraine’s capital on Tuesday, igniting a huge fire and frantic rescue effort in a 15-story Kyiv apartment building.

The conflict began escalating on February 21, 2022, after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and deployed troops in a peacekeeping role.

Watch: Sanctions on Russia, what is the impact on India? | Worldview with Suhasini Haidar

Here are the latest updates:

Washington DC

Biden calls Putin a war criminal

President Joe Biden on Wednesday called Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal as the atrocities in Ukraine mount and the president there begged the U.S. Congress for more help.

“He’s a war criminal,” the President said of Mr Putin as he left an unrelated event. It’s the sharpest condemnation yet of Mr Putin and Russian actions by a U.S. official since the invasion of Ukraine. - AP


Russian bombing hits theatre in Mariupol sheltering residents: city council

Russian forces bombed a theatre where civilians were sheltering in the encircled port city of Mariupol on Wednesday, the city council said.

It said the number of casualties was not yet known. Reuters could not independently verify the information. Russia denies targeting civilians. - Reuters


Biden says US sending more anti-aircraft systems, drones to Ukraine

President Joe Biden said Wednesday the U.S. is sending more anti-aircraft, anti-armor weapons and drones to Ukraine to assist in its defense against Russia, announcing the help after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged the U.S. and other Western nations to do more in an emotional speech to Congress.

The President’s comments came as he formally announced his administration was sending an additional $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine, making a total of $2 billion in such aid sent to Kyiv since Mr Biden took office more than a year ago.

About $1 billion in aid has been sent in just the last week. Mr Biden said the new assistance includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 100 grenade launchers, 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launchers and mortar rounds and an unspecified number of drones.

“We’re going to give Ukraine the arms to fight and defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead,” Mr Biden said. - AP

The Hague

Top U.N. court orders Russia to suspend Ukraine invasion

The U.N.’s top court on Wednesday ordered Russia to suspend its invasion of Ukraine, saying it was “profoundly concerned” by Moscow’s use of force. “The Russian Federation shall immediately suspend military operations that it commenced on 24 February on the territory of Ukraine,” pending the final decision in the case, judge Joan Donoghue told the International Court of Justice in The Hague. — AFP


Putin sets Russia back decades, puts own future at risk: exiled economist

Russian President Vladimir Putin has set the Russian economy back by decades and curtailed his own political lifespan with the invasion of Ukraine, a prominent exiled economist said on Wednesday. Sergei Guriev, a former Kremlin and Russian government adviser, called the assault on Ukraine a “great miscalculation” by Mr. Putin.

The Russia leader gambled that a rapid military operation could shore up his domestic popularity, Guriev told AFP in an interview.

Within a matter of weeks, Mr. Putin has “destroyed” the Russian economy and precipitated a crisis unprecedented since the fall of the Soviet Union, added Guriev.

“The last eight years were not great for Russia — it was eight years of stagnation. What we have now is a return to 20, 30 years back in terms of income levels and the structure of the economy,” he said. “Putin has managed to destroy the Russian economy within a matter of weeks.” - AFP


Putin says Russia’s Ukraine operation is a ‘success’

Russia President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that his military campaign in Ukraine was a success and that he would not allow the country to become a “springboard” used to threaten Russia.

“The operation is developing successfully and in strict accordance with plans,” Mr. Putin said at a televised government meeting, adding Russia had no choice but to send in troops. “We will not allow Ukraine to serve as a springboard for aggressive actions against Russia.”

Mr. Putin compared the avalanche of Western sanctions on Russia imposed over the Ukraine conflict to anti-Semitic violence by fascists. “The West dropped its mask of civility and began to act belligerently. It begs a comparison to the anti-Semitic pogroms” of Nazis, Mr. Putin said at a government meeting broadcast on national television. - AFP


Zelenskyy tells U.S. Congress, ‘We need you right now’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy cited Pearl Harbour and the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 on Wednesday as he appealed to the U.S. Congress to do more to help Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

Livestreamed into the Capitol complex, Mr. Zelenskyy said the U.S. must sanction Russian lawmakers and block imports, and he showed a packed auditorium of U.S. lawmakers an emotional video of the destruction and devastation in his country has suffered in the war. “We need you right now,” Mr. Zelenskyy said, adding, “I call on you to do more.”

In calling for more economic hit to the Russians, he said: “Peace is more important than income.”

Lawmakers gave him a standing ovation, before and after his remarks.

Nearing the three-week mark in an ever-escalating war, Mr. Zelenskyy has used his campaign to implore allied leaders to “close the sky” to prevent the Russian airstrikes that are devastating his country. It has also put Zelenskyy at odds with President Joe Biden, whose administration has stopped short of providing a no-fly zone or the transfer of military jets from neighboring Poland as the U.S. seeks to avoid a direct confrontation with Russia.


Ukraine shoots down Russian neutrality idea as U.S. steps up aid

Ukraine on Wednesday dismissed Russian neutrality proposals, refused to surrender and vowed prosecution of “war crimes” three weeks into an invasion that is drawing ever-increasing Western support against Moscow.

On the ground, fresh blasts hit the capital Kyiv, which was under a total curfew, and Russian rocket fire hit a train station in southern Ukraine used by thousands of fleeing refugees.

Regional officials reported no casualties as Russian strikes blew out windows at the railway station in Zaporizhzhia, where people have been arriving from the besieged city of Mariupol.

Some 20,000 residents have been allowed to leave Mariupol. But exhausted, shivering evacuees speak of harrowing escape journeys and rotting corpses littering the streets.

Hours before he was to give a landmark virtual speech to the U.S. Congress, President Volodymyr Zelensky responded to the hacking of Ukrainian TV news with a message demanding Russia lay down its arms.

The hack was “the latest childish provocation” from Moscow, he said, claiming the invasion had killed 103 Ukrainian children. “We are defending our land, our children, our families. So we are not going to lay down any weapons until our victory,” Mr. Zelensky said. - AFP


British PM: ‘No way’ Ukraine joining NATO soon

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Ukraine is not going to join NATO “any time soon,” after the country’s president acknowledged Ukraine would not become part of the Western military alliance.

President Vladimir Putin has long depicted Ukraine’s NATO aspirations as a threat to Russia, something the alliance denies. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday that Ukraine realized it could not join NATO, his most explicit acknowledgment that the goal, enshrined in Ukraine’s constitution, was unlikely to be met.

It came as Russia and Ukraine held a new round of talks, with Mr. Zelenskyy saying Wednesday that Russian demands were becoming “more realistic.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Johnson — one of the most vocal Western supporters of Ukraine — said “the reality of the position” is that “there is no way Ukraine is going to join NATO any time soon.” But he said the decision had to be for Ukraine to make. - AP


Russian forces try to crush Ukraine defenses amid diplomacy

Russia’s military forces blasted Ukraine’s capital region and other major cities Wednesday as they tried to crush a Ukrainian defense that has frustrated their progress nearly three weeks after invading.

With Russia’s ground advance on Kyiv stalled despite the sustained bombardment, a glimmer of optimism emerged that talks between the two sides could make progress. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said negotiations would continue and Russia’s demands for ending the war were becoming “more realistic.”

Russia rained shells on areas around Kyiv and within the city, where a 12-story apartment building erupted in flames after being hit by shrapnel.

Zelenskyy said Russian forces had been unable to move deeper into Ukrainian territory but had continued their heavy shelling of cities. British and U.S. intelligence assessments supported the Ukrainian leader’s view of the fighting. - AP


Train station targeted in Ukraine refugee hub near Mariupol

Russian forces on Wednesday targeted the southern Ukraine city of Zaporizhzhia, where thousands of refugees are taking shelter after escaping the besieged port city of Mariupol, regional officials said.

“Civilian objects have been bombed for the first time in Zaporizhzhia,” the regional governor Alexander Starukh wrote on the social media platform Telegram. “The rockets landed in the area of the Zaporozhye-2 railway station,” he added, specifying that there were no casualties.

The city of Zaporizhzhia is the first safe port of call for those fleeing Mariupol. Many then head to the country’s west, to Poland or other bordering countries. - AFP


Hospital battles COVID-19 as bombing continues

Hospital workers in Ukraine’s second-largest city find themselves on two frontlines, battling COVID-19 in intensive care units as war rages outside.

The Kharkiv Regional Clinical Infectious Diseases Hospital, the city’s leading facility for treating virus patients throughout the pandemic, has barricaded its windows and is adapting every day.

Hospital director Dr. Pavel Nartov said air raid sirens go off multiple times daily, forcing fragile patients into the hospital’s makeshift bomb shelter. Handling ICU patients on ventilators is the most difficult and dangerous part of the process, but also the most crucial, given the dangers of exposing oxygen tanks to bombings and shrapnel, he said.

“Bombing takes place from morning into night. Thank God a bomb has not yet hit our hospital. But it could hit at any time,” he told The Associated Press. - AP


Top UN court to rule on Ukraine invasion

The UN’s top court is set to rule on Wednesday on Ukraine’s urgent request for Russia to immediately halt its invasion, with Kyiv claiming that Moscow falsely accused its pro-Western neighbour of genocide to justify the war.

The International Court of Justice will hand down its judgement at 8.30 p.m. IST in The Hague after Ukraine filed an urgent application shortly after Russia’s attack on February 24.

Ukraine accused Russia of illegally trying to justify its war by falsely alleging genocide in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Kyiv wants the court to take provisional measures ordering Russia to “immediately suspend the military operations.”

“Russia must be stopped, and the court has a role to play in stopping that,” Ukraine’s representative Anton Korynevych told the ICJ. - AFP


Russia steps up assaults as Ukraine appeals for more help

Russia escalated its bombardment of the Ukrainian capital and launched new assaults on the port city of Mariupol, making bloody advances on the ground as Ukraine’s president prepared Wednesday to make a direct appeal for more help in a rare speech by a foreign leader to the U.S. Congress.

As the invasion entered its third week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested there was still some reason to be optimistic negotiations might yet yield an agreement with the Russian government.

After their delegations met on Tuesday via video, Mr. Zelenskyy said Russia’s demands were becoming “more realistic.” The sides were expected to speak again later Wednesday. “Efforts are still needed, patience is needed,” he said in his video address to the nation. “Any war ends with an agreement.”

Mr. Zelenskyy, previewing his speech to the U.S. Congress, thanked President Joe Biden and “all the friends of Ukraine” for $13.6 billion in new support.

He appealed for more weapons and more sanctions to punish Russia and repeated his call to “close the skies over Ukraine to Russian missiles and planes.” He said Russian forces had been unable to move deeper into Ukrainian territory on Tuesday but had continued their heavy shelling of cities. - AP


Ukraine sees room for compromise, as 20,000 escape Mariupol

Ukraine said it saw possible room for compromise in talks with Russia despite Moscow’s stepped up bombardment Tuesday of Kyiv and new assaults on the port city of Mariupol, from where an estimated 20,000 civilians managed to flee through a humanitarian corridor.

The fast-moving developments on the diplomatic front and on the ground came as Russia’s invasion neared the three-week mark and the number of Ukrainians who have left the country amid Europe’s heaviest fighting since World War II eclipsed 3 million.

After delegations from Ukraine and Russia met again Tuesday via video, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said early Wednesday that Russia’s demands were becoming “more realistic.” The two sides were expected to speak again Wednesday. - AP


India Should Not Be Buying Russian Oil: Congressman Ami Bera

The Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’ subcommittee for the Asian region and non-proliferation issues, Indian American congressman Ami Bera, criticised India’s reported consideration of Russian oil purchases at a time when most countries in the world have taken a stand against Russia. He also expressed disappointment that India had abstained from condemning Russia at the United Nations.


Zelenskyy to deliver virtual address to U.S. Congress

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will deliver a virtual address to the U.S. Congress, part of a series of high-profile speeches from a leader working to rally support as the Russian invasion of his country intensifies.

Mr. Zelenskyy will speak Wednesday to members of the House and Senate, an event that will be livestreamed for the public. It follows an address he delivered last week to the U.K. Parliament that carried echoes of Winston Churchill’s stirring words during World War II. - AP


Biden to announce $800 mn in new security aid to Ukraine: U.S. official

U.S. President Joe Biden will announce $800 million in new security assistance to Ukraine on Wednesday, a White House official said, with the announcement set to come soon after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the U.S. Congress.

The announcement, expected to come at 9.15 p.m. IST, brings “the total (aid) announced in the last week alone to $1 billion,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity late Tuesday, said.

Mr. Zelenskyy is set to renew his appeals for more aid in his virtual address to Congress early Wednesday, as some U.S. lawmakers press the White House to take a tougher line over Russia’s invasion.

Mr. Biden had already authorized $200 million in additional military equipment to Ukraine on Saturday. That came on top of $350 million authorized by Washington, also for military equipment, on February 26 – at the time, the largest such package in U.S. history. - AFP


Wimbledon, British government in talks about Russian players

Wimbledon organizers are having conversations with the British government about whether Russian tennis players — such as No. 1-ranked Daniil Medvedev — should be allowed to compete at the tournament this year if they don’t distance themselves from President Vladimir Putin because of his country’s invasion of Ukraine.


Russia seeks UN humanitarian resolution not mentioning war

Russia circulated a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution on Tuesday demanding protection for civilians “in vulnerable situations” in Ukraine and safe passage for humanitarian aid and people seeking to leave the country, but it made no mention of Russia’s responsibility for the war against its smaller neighbour.

The draft resolution endorses U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for dialogue and negotiations and calls for a negotiated cease-fire to rapidly evacuate “all civilians,” and underscores “the need for the parties concerned to agree on humanitarian pauses to this end.” But it never identifies “the parties concerned.”

The draft expresses “grave concern” at the deteriorating humanitarian situation and reports of civilian casualties in and around Ukraine, and strongly condemns “attacks directed against civilians and civilian objects, including indiscriminate shelling.”

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters the resolution was being put in a final form that can be put to a vote on Tuesday, and a Russian diplomat said a vote could take place as early as Wednesday. - AP.


Russian state TV employee fined for live anti-war protest

A Russian state television employee who interrupted a live news program by protesting against the war with Ukraine was ordered to pay a fine by a Russian court Tuesday.

Marina Ovsyannikova, an employee of Russia’s state-run Channel One, walked into the studio during Monday’s evening news show with a poster saying “no war” and “Russians against the war.”

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