Russia-Ukraine crisis updates | March 26, 2022

Local residents sit on a bench near an apartment building destroyed in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine on March 25, 2022.

Local residents sit on a bench near an apartment building destroyed in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine on March 25, 2022. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Russia’s attack on Ukranian territories continued as Ukrainian authorities reported that about 300 people died following a Russian airstrike on March 16, that blew up a theater where hundreds of civilians were sheltering.

Russian forces appear to be shifting their focus from Ukraine’s capital to the contested Donbas region, possibly signaling a new phase of the war.

The United States and the European Union on Friday announced a move to further squeeze Russia economically — a partnership to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian energy and dry up the billions of dollars the Kremlin gets from the sale of fuel.

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.

Here are the latest updates:

Kyiv announces new 35-hour curfew

Authorities in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, have announced a new 35-hour curfew in the city.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the curfew will run from 8 p.m. local time on Saturday to 7 a.m. on Monday, with local residents allowed to leave their homes only to get to a bomb shelter.

Klitschko said that shops, pharmacies, gas stations and public transport will not be operating during the curfew. - AP

Mariupol mayor says discussed civilian evacuations with French ambassador

The mayor of the besieged city of Mariupol said on Saturday he had spoken to France’s ambassador to Ukraine about options for evacuating civilians, after French President Emmanuel Macron said he would propose to Russia a plan to help people leave.

Speaking on national television, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said the situation in the encircled city remained critical, with street fighting taking place in its centre. - Reuters

Kyiv region head says Russian forces have seized Chernobyl workers’ town

Russian forces have taken control of the town of Slavutych, where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live, the governor of Kyiv region Oleksandr Pavlyuk said on Saturday.

In an online statement, Pavlyuk said Russian troops had occupied the hospital in Slavutych and kidnapped the mayor.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports.

On Friday, Ukraine said its troops had repulsed a first attack by Russian troops closing in on the town. 

Turkey

Turkish President Erdogan talks with Zelensky

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky by telephone, discussing the situation in Ukraine and negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv, Erdogan’s office said late Friday.

Mr. Erdogan told his counterpart that he had raised Turkey’s support for Ukrainian territorial integrity at a recent NATO summit, where he had relayed the diplomatic efforts made by Turkey in one-one-one meetings with other leaders, according to a statement from the Turkish presidency.

Ankara, which has close ties with both Russia and Ukraine, has positioned itself as a neutral party, seeking to facilitate negotiations between the warring sides.

Qatar

 Zelensky delivers video speech at Doha Forum

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has made a surprise video appearance at Qatar’s Doha Forum.

Mr. Zelensky in his video address Saturday criticized Russia’s ongoing war on his nation. He called on the United Nations and world powers to come to his aid. He compared Russia’s destruction of the port city of Mariupol to the Syrian and Russian destruction wrought on the city of Aleppo in the Syrian war.

“They are destroying our ports,” Mr. Zelensky said. “The absence of exports from Ukraine will deal a blow to countries worldwide.”

He added: “The future of Europe rests with your efforts.” He called on countries to increase their exports of energy — something particularly important as Qatar is a world leader in the export of natural gas.- AP

Ukraine

Ukraine says Russia’s war has killed 136 children so far

The war in Ukraine has killed 136 children in the 31 days since the start of the Russian invasion, Ukraine’s office of the prosecutor general said on Saturday in a message on the Telegram app.

Of the total, 64 children have been killed in the Kyiv region, the office said. A further 50 children have died in the Donetsk region, it said.

Additionally, 199 children have been wounded.- Reuters

Poland

Biden to call on ‘free world’ to stand against Putin in Poland speech

U.S. President Joe Biden will argue in a speech in Poland on Saturday that the “free world” opposes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and that there is unity among major economies on the need to stop Vladimir Putin, the White House said.

After three days of emergency meetings with allies of the G7, European Council and NATO, and a visit with U.S. troops in Poland, Biden will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

In what U.S. officials were billing as a major address in Poland, Biden “will deliver remarks on the united efforts of the free world to support the people of Ukraine, hold Russia accountable for its brutal war, and defend a future that is rooted in democratic principles,” the White House said in a statement.U.S. President Joe Biden will argue in a speech in Poland on Saturday that the “free world” opposes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and that there is unity among major economies on the need to stop Vladimir Putin, the White House said.- Reuters

United Kingdom

U.K. to fund 2 million pounds of food supplies for encircled Ukrainian cities

- Britain said on Saturday it would fund 2 million pounds ($2.6 million) worth of vital food supplies for areas of Ukraine which are encircled by Russian forces following a direct request from the Ukrainian government.

Britain said around 25 truckloads of dried food, tinned goods and water will be transported by road and rail from warehouses in Poland and Slovakia to the most at-risk Ukrainian towns and cities.

“The need on the ground in Ukraine is clear, with so many people in encircled areas trapped in basements without access to food or water,” Alice Hooper, the British Foreign Office’s Humanitarian Adviser, said in a statement.- Reuters

Ukraine

Ukraine’s Zelensky again asks for peace talks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has again appealed to Russia to negotiate an end to the war, but says Ukraine would not agree to give up any of its territory for the sake of peace.

In his nightly video address to the nation Friday, Zelenskyy appeared to be responding to Col. Gen Sergei Rudskoi, deputy chief of the Russian general staff, who said Russian forces would now focus on “the main goal, the liberation of Donbas.”- AP

Russia

Russia signals less ambitious goals in Ukraine war

Russia signalled on Friday it may dial back its war aims to focus on eastern Ukraine after failing to break the nation’s resistance in a month of fighting and attacks on civilians, including up to 300 feared killed in the bombing of a theatre being used as a bunker.

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Ukraine

Russia using ‘old methods of warfare’ Ukraine intel chief says

The Russian army is riddled with informers and using “old methods of warfare” against Ukrainian forces, the head of Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency GUR said in an interview published Friday.

Brigadier General Kyrylo Budanov also told US publication The Nation that a “very large number of people” have been mobilized to engage in guerrilla warfare behind Russian lines.

Budanov said that although Ukrainian forces have held out against the Russian military for a month, the situation remains “very difficult.”

“We have large Russian forces on our territory, and they have encircled the cities of Ukraine,” he said. “As for the prospects of peace, despite the negotiations, they still remain vague and unpredictable.”- AFP

U.S.A.

Russians rethink advance on Kyiv, claims U.S. official

A senior United States defence official says Russia's military advance on Ukraine's capital of Kyiv appears to have halted as it turns its focus to fighting elsewhere in the country.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe an internal U.S. military assessment of the war, said on Friday that Russia appears to be concentrating more on fighting for control of Ukraine's eastern Donbas region rather than its ground offensive aimed at capturing Kyiv, at least for now.

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Russia

Putin compares attacks on Russian culture to Nazi book burnings

President Vladimir Putin on Friday slammed the West for discriminating against Russian culture, which he likened to Nazi supporters burning books in the 1930s.

"Today they are trying to cancel a thousand-year-old country," Mr. Putin said during a televised meeting with Russian winners of culture-related prizes.

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