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Russia-Ukraine live news: Moscow cool on Putin-Zelenskyy talks | Russia-Ukraine war News

  • Moscow has dismissed the possibility of talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the time being.
  • Ukraine says it is pausing civilian evacuations via humanitarian corridors, citing the threat of Russian “provocations”.
  • Mariupol’s mayor says the besieged, southeastern port city is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.
  • Kyiv says it is prepared to discuss adopting a neutral status as it prepares for a fresh round of negotiations with Moscow on ending the war.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 33

Here are all the latest updates:

Table of Contents

Ukrainian troops counterattacking in Kharkiv region, governor says

Ukrainian forces have launched counterattacks against Russian troops in parts of the country’s northeastern region of Kharkiv, its governor has said.

Oleg Sinegubov said in a post on Telegram that the villages of Mala Rohan and Vilkhivka were now “completely under the control” of Ukrainian troops.

He added that “fierce battles” continue to take place in the city of Izyum, located some 124km (77 miles) southeast of the city of Kharkiv – the second-largest in Ukraine.

Russia says diplomats expelled by Poland have left the country: Report

Russia’s TASS news agency has quoted the country’s ambassador to Poland, Sergei Andreev, as saying that 45 Russian diplomats expelled by Poland have now left the country.

Warsaw last week accused the group of working for Russian intelligence, accusations Moscow has dismissed as baseless.

Ukraine puts cost of war damage, lost growth at more than $560bn

Russia’s war has so far cost Ukraine $564.9bn worth of damage to infrastructure, lost economic growth and other factors, the latter’s economy minister has said.

Yulia Svyrydenko said in a post on Facebook that the fighting had damaged or destroyed 8,000 km (4,970 miles) of roads and 10 million square metres of housing.

Kremlin calls Biden’s remarks on Putin ‘alarming’

The Kremlin has said that US President Joe Biden’s comment over the weekend that Putin “cannot remain in power” is a cause for concern.

Biden made the remarks to a crowd in Warsaw on Saturday as he concluded a diplomatic visit to Europe. He later said that the United States does not have a policy of regime change in Russia.

But Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters the remarks were “alarming” and said Moscow would continue to closely follow Biden’s statements following the incident.

Lavrov talks down prospect of Zelenskky-Putin meeting

Russia’s foreign minister has dismissed the possibility of top-level talks between Putin and Zelesnkyy for the time being.

Sergey Lavrov said any immediate meeting between the pair to exchange views would be counter-productive, adding discussions should instead take place when Ukraine and Russia are “close to agreeing on key issues”.

Zelenskyy has repeatedly called for face-to-face talks with Putin in a bid to end the war.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends an interview with some of the Russian media via video link.
Zelenskyy has repeatedly called for face-to-face talks with Putin [File: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters]

Ukraine says no plans for civilian evacuations, citing safety concerns

Ukraine has no plans open any humanitarian corridors today due to concerns over safety, the country’s deputy prime minister has said.

The decision was taken because of intelligence reports warning of possible Russian “provocations” along the routes, Iryna Vereshchuk said in a post on Facebook.

Russia-China relations at strongest level ever, Lavrov says

Russia’s foreign minister has said Moscow’s relations with Beijing are now at their strongest level ever.

Lavrov’s remarks come after China has repeatedly voiced opposition to the sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion, insisting it will maintain normal economic and trade exchanges with the latter.

Beijing has also refused to publically condemn Moscow’s offensive.

Talks come ‘amid an observable escalation’ in violence: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi, reporting from the city of Lviv, in Western Ukraine, says “circumstances on the ground” will no doubt affect the outcome of the talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials.

“They [the talks] come amid an observable escalation in the west of the country, as well as elsewhere – we have had air raid sirens going off all morning in Kyiv and shelling in many areas has continued,” Basravi said.

He noted that Ukraine had claimed Russian forces were “unable to advance”, however, adding that Kyiv believed it was in a “position of strength” ahead of further talks with Moscow.

Ukraine says Russian forces regrouping, but unable to advance

Russian forces are regrouping but are unable to advance, Ukraine’s deputy defence minister has said.

Hanna Malyar told a news briefing that Moscow’s troops were trying to reinforce positions they already hold and claimed they had no hope of capturing Kyiv despite trying to break through the capital’s defences.

Malyar did not provide evidence of the Russian troop movements.

Mariupol mayor fears humanitarian catastrophe

The southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe and must be completely evacuated, its mayor says.

Vadym Boychenko said about 160,000 civilians were trapped in the city without power. Twenty-six buses were waiting to evacuate civilians but Russian forces had not agreed to give them safe passage, he said.

“The Russian Federation is playing with us,” he said. Russia denies targeting civilians and blames Ukraine for the repeated failure to agree on safe corridors for trapped civilians.

Heineken to exit its Russian operations

Dutch brewing giant Heineken says it has decided to exit its business in Russia, after previously announcing it would halt new investments and exports there.

“We have concluded that Heineken’s ownership of the business in Russia is no longer sustainable nor viable in the current environment,” it said in a statement.

A man walks past a logo at the Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma brewery, a subsidiary of Heineken,
A man walks past a logo at the Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma brewery, a subsidiary of Heineken in Monterrey, Mexico, April 3, 2020 [File: Daniel Becerril/Reuters]

12th Russian defeat at Chornobaivka airport

For the twelfth time, Russian forces have been defeated in the southern town of Chornobaivka after trying to seize a strategic airport, a Ukrainian presidential aide has said.

The Chornobaivka airport between the seized city of Kherson and the besieged city of Mykolaiv has become a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance and spawned dozens of memes ridiculing Russia’s blind determination to seize the town by all means necessary.

“A pleasant yet predictable surprise – Chornobaivka, [defeat] number 12, it happened and keeps happening,” Oleksiy Arestovych wrote on Facebook.

Russian general Yakov Rezantsev, who commanded the combined 49th army, was killed in Chornobaivka last week, the Ukrainian defence ministry said.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Ukrainian official says he expects no breakthrough at peace talks

A senior Ukrainian official has said he does not expect any breakthrough during talks between representatives from Kyiv and Moscow in Turkey.

“I don’t think there will be any breakthrough on the main issues,” interior ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said.

Russian shelling kills one in Luhansk: Governor

Russian shelling has killed one civilian and wounded one more in the town of Rubizhne in the southeastern Luhansk region that has been partially controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014, an official has said.

“Disappointing morning news – Russians have yet again shelled Rubizhne,” Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Ukrainian-controlled part of Luhansk, wrote on Telegram.

The Russians and separatists have been advancing on Rubizhne and other towns in Luhansk since the invasion began on February 24.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Russians retreat from town that serves Chernobyl power plant: Mayor

Russian forces have retreated from the northern town of Slavutych that serves the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant, its mayor has said.

Even though the power plant where the world’s worst nuclear disaster took place in 1986, has been shut, thousands of workers work there. They monitor radiation levels and maintain the protective sarcophagus above Reactor Four that exploded in 1986.

The Russians entered the town that lies close to the border with pro-Moscow Belarus, on Saturday, but left on Sunday after huge protest rallies.

“They are not in town any more,” Slavutych mayor Yuri Fomychev said in a video posted late Sunday.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

Zelenskyy insists on territorial integrity as talks loom

Ukraine’s president has insisted on the territorial integrity of his country after earlier suggesting that he was ready for a compromise in peace talks with Russia.

In his video address to the Ukrainian people late on Sunday, Zelenskyy said there was a new round of negotiations coming up in Turkey and that his government’s priorities remained the same.

“Our priorities in the negotiations are known. Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are beyond doubt. Effective security guarantees for our state are mandatory,” he said.

But in comments to Russian journalists earlier in the day, Zelenskyy had said Ukraine was willing to assume neutral status and compromise over the status of the eastern Donbas region as part of a peace deal.

China’s Sinopec pauses Russia projects: Report

China’s state-run Sinopec Group has suspended talks for a major petrochemical investment and a gas marketing venture in Russia, according to the Reuters news agency.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, Reuters said the suspension was a response to the Chinese government’s calls for caution as western sanctions on Russia mount.

One of the sources told Reuters that Sinopec had been planning to team up with Sibur, Russia’s largest petrochemical producer, to build a new gas chemical plant in Siberia.

But it hit pause on the project after realising that Sibur minority shareholder and board member Gennady Timchenko had been sanctioned by the West, the source said.

Russia, Ukraine likely hold differing views on concept of neutrality: Analyst

Zachary Paikin, a researcher at the Center for European Policy Studies, says Moscow and Kyiv likely hold differing views on what it means for Ukraine to be a neutral state.

“There’s the question of whether or not neutrality means being able to join NATO or not, versus being able to join the EU or not,” he told Al Jazeera.

“The central theme in the lead up to this invasion was Ukraine’s status in NATO, and that’s how Russia more or less explicitly chose to frame neutrality during those talks over previous months. But membership in the EU is just as much of a sticking point,” he said.

“Ukraine joining the EU poses certain problems for Russia, because the EU is more of a Western political construct and Russia insists that Ukraine forms part of the Russian world, and EU nominally has a common foreign and security policy as well. This would very much run up against the concept of neutrality from Moscow’s perspective.”

Ukraine restricts reporting on troop movements

Ukraine’s president has signed a law restricting the reporting on troop and military equipment movement unless such information has been announced or approved by the military general staff.

The state news agency Ukrinform reported on Sunday that the law calls for potential prison terms of three to eight years for violations.

The law bans “unauthorised dissemination of information about the direction, movement of international military assistance to Ukraine, the movement, movement or deployment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine or other military formations of Ukraine, committed in a state of martial law or a state of emergency,” Ukrinform said.

300 shoes on the Danube Bank for victims of Mariupol theatre bombing

People in Hungary’s capital have placed 300 pairs of shoes on the banks of the Danube River to commemorate those who died in a Russian attack on a theatre in Ukraine’s Mariupol.

The worn shoes were left near the ‘Shoes on the Danube Bank’ memorial, which honours the Hungarian Jews who died during World War II.

Russia forces leave Chernobyl staff town: Mayor

Russian forces have left the Ukrainian town of Slavutych, home to workers at the defunct nuclear plant of Chernobyl, after completing their task of surveying it, according to the town’s mayor.

“They completed the work they had set out to do,” Yuri Fomichev, the mayor of the northern town, said in an online video post. “They surveyed the town, today they finished doing it and left the town. There aren’t any in the town right now.”

On Saturday, authorities in Kyiv said Russian forces had taken control of the town just outside the safety exclusion zone around Chernobyl.

A moment of silence for Ukraine at the Oscars

Hollywood has shared a little bit of its big night with the people of Ukraine, using text on a screen to ask the world for financial contributions for those suffering from the Russian assault.

“We’d like to have a moment of silence to show our support for the people of Ukraine currently facing invasion, conflict and prejudice within their own borders,” read the message displayed on a large video screen hovering over the stage.

“While film is an important avenue for us to express our humanity in times of conflict, the reality is millions of families in Ukraine need food, medical care, clean water and emergency services. Resources are scarce and we – collectively as a global community – can do more,” it said.

“We ask you to support Ukraine in any way you are able. #StandWithUkraine.”

Missile attack reported on oil depot in western Ukraine

The governor of Volyn in northwestern Ukraine has reported a missile attack on an oil depot in the city of Lutsk.

Yuriy Pohuliayko said on Telegram that the missile was fired from the territory of Belarus.

He said rescuers were at the site of the attack and that there were no victims according to preliminary data.

31 fires reported near Chernobyl nuclear plant

Authorities in Ukraine have reported 31 fires covering 10,111 hectares (24,985 acres) near the Russian-occupied Chernobyl nuclear plant.

Lyudmyla Denisova, a Ukrainian official, said the fires were “causing increased levels of radioactive particle pollution in the air” and said it was not possible to extinguish the blazes due to the presence of Russian troops.

Hollywood stars show support for Ukraine on the Oscars carpet

Several celebrities have walked the Oscars’ red carpet wearing blue ribbons to show support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion.

Oscar-nominated songwriter Diane Warren, last year’s Oscar winner for best supporting actress Youn Yuh-jung and “Halloween” star Jamie Lee Curtis were among those sporting the ribbons.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Jason Momoa wore a button and pocket square in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, respectively.

Benedict Cumberbatch, left, and Sophie Hunter arrive at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Benedict Cumberbatch, left, and Sophie Hunter arrive at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles [Jae C Hong/ AP]
Jason Momoa wears a handkerchief in the colours of the Ukrainian flag in a show of solidarity for Ukraine as Russia's invasion of the country continues as he poses on the red carpet during the Oscars arrivals at the 94th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles,
Jason Momoa wears a handkerchief in the colours of the Ukrainian flag in a show of solidarity for Ukraine as he poses on the red carpet during the Oscars arrivals at the 94th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, US, March 27, 2022 [Reuters]
Youn Yuh-jung arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Youn Yuh-jung arrives at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles [Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP]

“It’s really, really strange to be here in tuxedos, knowing what’s going on in Ukraine,” said Emile Sherman, producer of the film “Power of the Dog”.

“It’s not an easy time trying to absorb what’s happening in that part of the world, while still celebrating the achievements of everyone who made this movie and all the movies here tonight.”

‘It would be ridiculous if it wasn’t so funny’: Zelenskyy slams Russian censorship

Ukraine’s president has criticised Russia’s media watchdog after it tried to stop the publication of an interview in which he said Kyiv was prepared to discuss adopting a neutral status as part of a peace deal with Moscow.

The interview was conducted by Russian journalists from the Meduza news website, the Dozhd television station, and the liberal business paper Kommersant.

Roskomnadzor, the Russian media watchdog, has urged Russian media not to publish the interview and has launched an investigation into the circumstances under which it had been organised.

“Imagine, they were frightened there in Moscow because of my interview to Russian journalists, to those who can afford to tell the truth,” Zelenskyy said.

“It would be ridiculous if it wasn’t so funny. They destroyed the freedom of speech in their state and they are trying to destroy it in the neighbouring state. They portray themselves as global players and they themselves are afraid of a relatively short conversation with several journalists.”

Ukraine calls for measures to ‘demilitarise’ Chernobyl nuclear plant

A senior Ukrainian official has accused Russia of “irresponsible” acts around the occupied Chernobyl power station that could send radiation across much of Europe, and urged the United Nations to dispatch a mission to assess the risks.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russian forces were “militarising” the exclusion zone around the station, the site of the world’s worst civil nuclear accident in 1986.

Russian forces, she said, were transporting large amounts of old and poorly maintained weapons, creating a risk of damaging the containment vessel constructed around the station’s wrecked fourth reactor.

Russian forces were also preventing firefighters from bringing large numbers of fires in the zone under control, she said.

“In the context of nuclear safety, the irresponsible and unprofessional actions of Russian servicemen present a very serious threat not just to Ukraine but to hundreds of millions of Europeans,” Vereshchuk said on her Telegram account.

“We therefore demand that the UN Security Council adopt immediate measures to demilitarise the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl station as well as dispatching a special mission to eliminate the risks of any repeat of the Chernobyl accident resulting from the actions of Russian occupying forces,” she said.

Biden says he was not calling for ‘regime change’ in Russia

US President Biden has said he was not calling for “regime change” in Russia when he said President Putin “cannot remain in power”.

When asked by a reporter in Washington, DC, whether he was calling for “regime change” in Moscow, Biden said: “No”.

Biden made the initial remarks last week during a speech in Poland, in which he also called Putin a “butcher” and said the world must prepare for a “long fight ahead”. Several US officials have since stressed that Biden was not calling for “regime change” in Moscow.

US President Joe Biden speaks during an event in Warsaw, Poland
Biden made the comments during a fiery speech in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday [Slawomir Kaminski /Agencja Wyborcza.pl via Reuters]

NATO not seeking ‘regime change’ in Russia: Scholz

The NATO military alliance is not aiming to remove Putin from power, German Chancellor Scholz has said, a day after President Biden branded Putin a “butcher” and said he “cannot remain in power”.

It “is not the objective of NATO, nor that of the US president”, Scholz told German public broadcaster ARD.

“I’ve had the chance to talk at length with him at the White House and we have also discussed these questions,” he added.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz looks on
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said NATO was not seeking regime change in Moscow [File: Christophe Gateau/Pool via Reuters]

Germany eyes buying missile defence system

Germany is considering purchasing a missile defence system to shield against a potential attack from Russia, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.

“This is certainly one of the issues we are discussing, and for good reason,” he told public broadcaster ARD when asked whether Germany might buy a defence system.

“We need to be aware that we have a neighbour who is prepared to use violence to enforce their interests,” he added.

In the same interview, the chancellor also addressed Germany’s decision to become more energy independent and said it would have to accept higher energy costs.

Scholz said it would not help to keep Germany’s nuclear power plants running longer, but he noted that the timing of the country’s plan to exit from coal was dependent on how quickly it made progress in expanding renewable energy.

INTERACTIVE- Which countries rely most on Russian oil AJLABS

Russia blockading Ukraine’s Black Sea coast: UK

Russia is maintaining a distant blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast which is effectively isolating Ukraine from international maritime trade, the British Ministry of Defence has said.

Russian naval forces are also continuing to conduct sporadic missile raids against targets throughout Ukraine, the ministry added.

Zelenskyy considers Russian neutrality demand

Ukraine’s president says his government is “carefully” considering a Russian demand of Ukrainian neutrality, a key point of contention as negotiators for both sides prepare for a fresh round of talks aimed at ending the brutal month-long war.

“This point of the negotiations is understandable to me and it is being discussed, it is being carefully studied,” Zelenskyy said during an interview with several independent Russian news organisations.

Read more here.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends an interview with some of the Russian media via video link.
Zelenskyy spoke to journalists from several Russian media outlets [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters]

Russia plans a ‘Korean scenario’ for Ukraine: Intelligence chief

Russia is considering “a Korean scenario” for Ukraine and splitting the country in two after failing to seize the capital Kyiv and overthrow its government, the Ukrainian military intelligence chief has said.

Russia’s president “will try to impose a dividing line between the unoccupied and occupied regions of our country”, General Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Ministry of Defence’s Intelligence Directorate, said on Sunday as reported by the ministry’s Telegram account.

Read more here.

Next round of negotiations to be held this week

Russian and Ukrainian negotiating teams will meet for talks in the Turkish city of Istanbul, the Turkish and Russian presidents have agreed.

No dates were given for the meeting.

Ukrainian negotiator Davyd Arakhamia said talks would resume on Monday, while Russian delegation leader Vladimir Medinsky said they would kick off on Tuesday.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read all the updates from Sunday, March 27 here.