Russia-Ukraine crisis updates | March 31, 2022

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

Updated - April 11, 2022 08:51 am IST

Published - March 31, 2022 09:49 am IST

A local resident, looks for personal items in the rubble of her house, destroyed during fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces in the village of Yasnohorodka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, on March 30, 2022.

A local resident, looks for personal items in the rubble of her house, destroyed during fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces in the village of Yasnohorodka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, on March 30, 2022. | Photo Credit: AP

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues in its fifth week, British intelligence says advisors to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin fear telling him the truth about his “failing” and “massively misjudged” invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s defence ministry announced a local ceasefire Thursday to allow civilians to be evacuated from Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol.

Meanwhile, a senior Ukrainian official said that Russia and Ukraine will resume their peace talks online on April 1. The Kremlin had played down hopes of a breakthrough following Tuesday’s peace talks in Istanbul, saying there was nothing “too promising” from the discussions.

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:

ROME 

Europe can pay for natural gas in foreign currency through Russian bank that will convert to rubles

A Kremlin decree published by state media says “unfriendly countries” can continue to pay for natural gas in foreign currency through a Russian bank that will convert the money into rubles.

President Vladimir Putin talked tougher on Thursday, saying Russia will start accepting ruble payments for its gas supplies from “unfriendly countries” starting Friday and contracts will be stopped if buyers don’t sign up to the new conditions.

He says to buy gas, customers “would have to open ruble accounts in Russian banks.” The decree Mr. Putin signed and published by state news agency RIA Novosti says a designated bank will open two accounts for each buyer, one in foreign currency and one in rubles. The buyers will pay in foreign currency and authorize the bank to sell that currency for rubles, which are placed in the second account, where the gas is formally purchased. - AP

No Russian pull-back in Ukraine, expect more offensives, says NATO

NATO is not seeing a pull-back of Russian forces in Ukraine and expects “additional offensive actions,” the alliance’s chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.

“According to our intelligence, Russian units are not withdrawing but repositioning. Russia is trying to regroup, resupply and reinforce its offensive in the Donbas region” in eastern Ukraine, Stoltenberg told a media conference.

“At the same time, Russia maintains pressure on Kyiv and other cities. So, we can expect additional offensive actions, bringing even more suffering.”

The NATO assessment contradicted a pledge by Russian negotiators, made after talks in Turkey this week, to “radically” reduce Moscow’s military activity in northern Ukraine, including near the capital Kyiv.

Moscow

Kremlin denies US, UK claims that Putin ‘misled’ over Ukraine

The Kremlin on Thursday denied U.S. and British claims that President Vladimir Putin’s advisers are scared of giving him a true picture of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine.

Mr. Putin launched the military operation in Ukraine on February 24 citing the “genocide” of Russian speakers there and accusing the pro-Western country of close ties with NATO.

“This shows that neither the Department of State nor the Pentagon have real information about what is happening in the Kremlin,” Mr. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

“They don’t understand President Putin, they don’t understand the mechanism for taking decisions and they don’t understand the style of our work,” he added.

Britain’s GCHQ spy agency chief, Jeremy Fleming, said Thursday that “Putin’s advisers are afraid to tell him the truth” about the Russian military’s progress and the degree of Ukrainian resistance.

The White House earlier gave a briefing on declassified intelligence which found that Mr. Putin’s relations with his staff had deteriorated. White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said Mr. Putin “felt misled by the Russian military”. The reports could not be independently confirmed.

Mr. Peskov said that “it was not just a pity” that such claims were made, but “it causes concern, because such complete non-understanding is what leads to mistaken decisions, to hasty decisions that have very bad consequences”. - AFP

Ukraine seeks IAEA help over nuclear plants occupied by Russia

The head of Ukraine’s state nuclear company urged the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Thursday to help ensure Russian nuclear officials do not interfere in the operation of nuclear power plants occupied by Russian forces.

Since invading Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian troops have occupied Europe’s largest nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia and the now defunct plant at Chernobyl, scene of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986.

Energoatom CEO Petro Kotin said earlier this month that Russia’s state nuclear company Rosatom had sent officials to the Zaporizhzhia plant to try to take control of it. Rosatom said a “limited number” of its officials were there but denied they had taken operational control.

Calling on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to prevent what Ukraine regards as interference by Russian nuclear officials, Mr. Kotin said: “(The IAEA) can influence this and they must influence this, and this question will be discussed.” - Reuters

Mariupol, Ukraine

Red Cross warehouse damaged in Mariupol

 A Red Cross warehouse in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has been struck amid intense Russian shelling of the area.

Satellite pictures from Planet Labs PBC analyzed by The Associated Press on Thursday show clear damage to the warehouse’s roof along the Kalmius River near its mouth on the Sea of Azov. A red cross had been painted on the top of the warehouse.

At least one hole from suspected shelling could be seen in an image taken March 21. Some four holes in the roof were clearly visible in images taken Wednesday. The red cross had been on the warehouse’s roof from at least late August 2021, according to satellite images.-AP

Turkey

Russia, Ukraine foreign ministers could meet soon: Turkey

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba could meet within two weeks for talks, Turkey said Thursday, after hosting negotiators from both sides earlier this week.

“There could be a higher-level meeting, at least at the level of foreign ministers, within about a week or two weeks,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a televised interview.

“What matters is that the two sides come together and agree on a lasting ceasefire,” he said. “We would like to host a foreign ministers’ meeting as an honest mediator.”-AFP

Mariupol, Ukraine

Ukraine sends evacuation buses to besieged city

Ukraine said Thursday it was sending dozens of buses to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol after a Russian ceasefire announcement, but dismissed Kremlin promises to scale back attacks on the capital saying forces were simply regrouping to target the east.

Tens of thousands of civilians are trapped in besieged Mariupol with little food, water or medicine, and previous attempts to agree a humanitarian corridor have failed, despite international pressure.

But on Thursday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said buses were heading to the city, where Russia said it would observe a ceasefire from 10:00 am (0700 GMT).

“Tonight, we were informed by the International Committee of the Red Cross that Russia is ready to open access” to a humanitarian corridor from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia via the Russian-controlled port of Berdiansk, she said in video posted on Telegram.-AFP

United Kingdom

UK spy chief says Russian soldiers disobey orders in Ukraine

Demoralized Russian soldiers in Ukraine were refusing to carry out orders and sabotaging their own equipment and had accidentally shot down their own aircraft, a U.K. intelligence chief said on Thursday.

Jeremy Fleming, who heads the GCHQ electronic spy agency, made the remarks at a speech in the Australian capital Canberra.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had apparently “massively misjudged” the invasion, he said.

“We’ve seen Russian soldiers, short of weapons and morale, refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft,” Mr. Fleming added.-AP

U.S.A.

Ukrainians in U.S. mobilize to help 100,000 expected refugees

As the United States prepares to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees following Russia’s invasion of their country, existing communities in cities like Sacramento and Seattle are already mobilizing to provide food, shelter and support to those fleeing the war.

The federal government hasn’t said when the formal resettlement process will begin, but Ukrainian groups in the U.S. are already providing support to people entering the country through other channels, including on visas that will eventually expire or by flying to Mexico and crossing over the border.-AP

United Kingdom

UK military intelligence says Russian shelling, missile strikes continue in Chernihiv

Russian shelling and missile strikes have continued in Chernihiv despite Russian statements indicating an intended reduction of military activity around the area, British military intelligence said on Thursday.

Russian forces continue to hold positions to the east and west of Kyiv despite the withdrawal of a limited number of units, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement. “Heavy fighting will likely take place in the suburbs of the city in coming days.”-Reuters

U.S.A.

Putin misled by Russian military, says White House

The United States has information that Russian President Vladimir Putin felt misled by his military, the White House said Wednesday adding that the Ukraine war has been a strategic blunder.

“What I can say is, of course, we have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military, which has resulted in persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership,” White House Press Secretary Kate Bedingfield told reporters at her daily news conference.

U.S.A.

U.S. warns India, others against sharp rise in Russian oil imports -official

A significant increase in Russian oil imports by India could expose New Delhi to a “great risk” as the United States prepares to step up enforcement of sanctions against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, a senior U.S. administration official said.

While the current U.S. sanctions against Russia do not prevent other countries from buying Russian oil, the warning raises expectations that Washington will attempt to restrict other countries’ purchases to normal levels.

The U.S. official’s comment comes ahead of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s two-day visit to New Delhi and during the ongoing visit of U.S. deputy national security adviser for economics Daleep Singh.-Reuters

Ukraine

Ukraine preparing for new Russian offensive in the east, Zelensky says

Ukrainian forces are preparing for new Russian attacks in the east of the country as Moscow builds up its troops there after suffering setbacks near the capital Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Thursday.

In an early morning video address, Zelenskiy referred to Russian troop movements away from Kyiv and Chernihiv and said that was not a withdrawal but rather “the consequence of our defenders’ work.”

Zelenskiy added that Ukraine is seeing “a build-up of Russian forces for new strikes on the Donbas and we are preparing for that.”-Reuters

Ukraine

Russia and Ukraine will resume talks online on April 1, says Ukrainian negotiator

Russia and Ukraine will resume their peace talks online on April 1, a senior Ukrainian official said on Wednesday after the latest round of negotiations had ended in Turkey.

Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia said in an online post that Ukraine had proposed the countries' two leaders should meet, but Russia responded by saying more work needed to be done on a draft treaty.-AP

Ukraine

Russia bombards areas where it pledged to scale back

Russian forces bombarded areas around Kyiv and another city just hours after pledging to scale back operations in those zones to promote trust between the two sides, Ukrainian authorities said Wednesday.

The shelling — and intensified Russian attacks on other parts of the country — tempered optimism about any progress in the talks aimed at ending the punishing war.

India

India, Germany discuss Ukraine situation

Germany would not “preach or teach” India about its position on Russia’s war in Ukraine but hoped that no “friendly country” would attempt to subvert sanctions put in place by the U.S., the European Union and partners against Russia, German Foreign and Security Advisor Jens Plotner said in Delhi on Wednesday.

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