July 25, 2024


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Ukraine latest updates: Zelenskyy rejects Moscow’s ultimatums | Russia-Ukraine war News

  • President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Ukraine cannot fulfil Russian ultimatums and accused Moscow of seeking to “destroy” the country.
  • Moscow has warned ties with Washington are close to rupturing after US President Joe Biden last week labelled his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a “war criminal“.
  • Odesa’s mayor says Russian forces have struck buildings on the outskirts of the key Black Sea port city for the first time.
  • A new curfew has been announced in Kyiv after deadly attacks killed eight in the capital, with the measure set to last from Monday evening until Wednesday morning.
  • Russia has banned Facebook and Instagram after labelling parent company Meta an “extremist organisation”.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 26

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These were the updates for March 21:

Table of Contents

European Union members split on Russia oil sanctions

The European Union’s foreign ministers have disagreed on whether and how to slap sanctions on Russia’s lucrative energy sector over its invasion of Ukraine, with Germany saying the bloc was too dependent on Russian oil to decide an embargo.

Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis expressed impatience at the pace of talks after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, saying Europe should not give Russia more time to make profit.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called it “a massive war crime”, increasing pressure for action, but later told a news conference that while the bloc would “continue isolating Russia”, concrete decisions would be made at a later stage.

US has not explored options for Biden to visit Ukraine: White House

The United States has not explored options for President Joe Biden to visit Ukraine during his upcoming trip to Europe, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Psaki added that Biden plans to ask Polish President Andrzej Duda what more the US can do to support its humanitarian efforts to deal with the fallout from the war in Ukraine.

All Chernobyl staff who wanted to leave have been rotated out: IAEA

The remaining members of the one shift of technical staff that had been on duty at Chernobyl’s radioactive waste facilities since Russian forces seized the site last month have now been relieved, the UN nuclear watchdog has said.

“Ukraine’s regulatory authority said about half of the outgoing shift of technical staff left (Chernobyl) yesterday and the rest followed today, with the exception of thirteen staff members who declined to rotate,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement, adding most of the Ukrainian guards who have also been there since it was seized remained.

A view of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant
The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant has come under Russian control after the invasion of Ukraine. [File: Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

Pentagon will help gather evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine

The Pentagon has said it will help gather evidence of Russian war crimes, as it accuses the Kremlin of carrying out indiscriminate attacks as part of an intentional strategy in the conflict.

“We certainly see clear evidence that Russian forces are committing war crimes and we are helping with the collecting of evidence of that,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told a news briefing.

“But there are investigative processes that are going to go on, and we’re going to let that happen. We’re going to contribute to that investigative process. As for what would come out of that, that’s not a decision that the Pentagon leadership would make,” Kirby said.

Russia says it is ready to swap more than 500 captured Ukrainians

Russia has passed details of more than 500 captured Ukrainians to the Red Cross, the Interfax news agency quoted Russia’s human rights commissioner as saying.

“These are Ukrainian prisoners that we are ready to exchange,” Tatyana Moskalkova said.

The International Red Cross was sent documents to facilitate an exchange with captured Russian soldiers, according to the Kremlin’s human rights commissioner. The Red Cross has not confirmed the claims.

Thousands evacuated from Berdyansk: Mariupol city council

An additional 4,384 Mariupol residents have been evacuated from the port city of Berdyansk, Mariupol’s city council has said.

In total, support centres received and provided assistance to almost 30,000 Mariupol residents, the council said on Telegram.

Yacht linked to Russian oligarch Abramovich docks in Turkey’s Bodrum

A yacht linked to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has docked in the Turkish tourist resort of Bodrum after skirting the waters of European Union countries.

Abramovich, who controlled the English football club Chelsea, was among several wealthy Russians added to an EU blacklist.

European governments have acted in recent days to seize yachts and other luxury assets from them. A yacht believed to belong to Dmitry Pumpyansky, owner of Russia’s largest steel pipe maker, TMK, has been detained by the authorities after docking in Gibraltar.

Solaris, a superyacht linked to sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.
Solaris, a superyacht linked to sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, has docked at a marina in Bodrum [Ihlas News Agency (IHA)/Reuters]

Zelenskyy says any compromises with Russia will require a referendum

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that any compromises agreed with Russia to end the war would need to be voted on by Ukrainians in a referendum.

“The people will have to speak up and respond to this or that form of compromise. And what they [the compromises] will be is the subject of our talks and understanding between Ukraine and Russia,” he said in an interview published by public broadcasting company Suspilne.

Contentious issues may include territories occupied by Russian forces, including Crimea, or security guarantees offered to Ukraine by countries in lieu of NATO membership, he said.

Ukraine prosecutors open case into alleged seizure of ships carrying grain

Ukrainian prosecutors have opened an investigation into the alleged forceful seizure by Russian troops of five ships carrying grain in the port of Berdyansk, the general prosecutor’s office has said.

The criminal case is being handled by prosecutors in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, it said. Russia did not immediately comment on the statement.

UEFA allows registration of new players from Russian and Ukrainian football clubs

European clubs can register players from Russian and Ukrainian clubs for the remaining matches in this year’s continental competitions, governing body the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has said.

“The UEFA Executive Committee decided to include a provision permitting clubs to register a maximum of two additional players, which were previously registered with a club affiliated to the UAF or the FUR and whose contracts have been suspended,” it said in a statement.

World governing body FIFA earlier this month allowed foreign players and coaches to temporarily leave Russian and Ukrainian clubs and sign for new teams.

Ukrainian governor says shells hit evacuation buses

The governor of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region has said buses evacuating civilians from front-line areas have been hit by shelling, wounding four children in separate incidents.

“Four children were taken to hospital,” Oleksandr Starukh said in an online post, blaming Russian forces.

Al Jazeera could not confirm the report independently. Russia denies targeting civilians.

Berlin donor conference to help Moldova with Ukraine refugees

Germany will host a donor conference on April 5 to help the non-EU country Moldova cope with an influx of Ukrainian refugees, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has said.

The conference, co-organised with France and Romania, was called at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. On that occasion, Moldova’s Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu said the country was hosting 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, “which represents four percent of our population”.

US, EU allies to coordinate on China in NATO, G7 meetings

The United States and its allies will discuss Beijing’s position vis-a-vis Russia at an extraordinary NATO summit, a meeting of the Group of Seven economies (G7), and a European Council summit on Thursday.

“During his visit to Brussels, President Biden will coordinate with our EU partners on all aspects of our response to President Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine, and this includes the concerns we share with the EU if China provides material support to Russia,” a senior Biden administration official said.

European nations and the US have been trying to convince Chinese officials not to back Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and to push Putin for a ceasefire.

EU agrees to 5,000-strong response force in defence push

The European Union has approved a new defence strategy designed to increase the bloc’s capacity to act, including setting up a 5,000-strong rapid reaction force.

“It’s not the answer to the Ukrainian war, but it is part of the answer,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said at a meeting of the bloc’s foreign and defence ministers.

The plan had been in the pipeline for two years but underwent a last-minute rewrite to increase the focus on the threat from Russia after Moscow invaded Ukraine.

“When we started working, we couldn’t imagine that at the last moment of approval the situation would be so bad and Europe would be facing such a big challenge,” Borrell added.

One in three Ukrainians will require humanitarian assistance: Red Cross

One-third of the Ukrainian population will require humanitarian assistance, Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has said.

An estimated 18 million people are expected to require assistance in the coming days and weeks.

“The devastating reality of Ukraine is that the needs are growing every day. Amidst increased violence and a disrupted supply chain, delivering essential goods in many parts of the country is getting harder — not easier,” Rocca said from the Romanian capital Bucharest.

Ukraine ‘cannot fulfil Russian ultimatums’: Zelenskyy

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Ukraine “cannot fulfil Russian ultimatums”.

“We should be destroyed first, then their ultimatum would be fulfilled,” he told local media. He said Moscow wanted Ukraine to “hand over” Kharkiv, Mariupol and Kyiv, adding that neither the people of those cities “or me, as president, can do this”.

Russia labels Facebook parent company Meta ‘extremist’

A Russian court has labelled Meta Platforms Inc an “extremist organisation”, banning the activities of the United States company on Russian territory.

Access to Meta’s flagship platforms Facebook and Instagram had already been partially limited amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court said the ban “does not apply to the activities of Meta’s messenger WhatsApp”.

Read more here.

Russia says Kyiv shopping mall used to store rocket systems

A Russian defence ministry spokesman has said a shopping mall in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv that was destroyed overnight – killing at least eight people – was being used to store rocket systems.

Russia used “precision-guided weaponry” to destroy a store of “multiple-launch rocket systems” and ammunition in a shopping centre in Kyiv, Igor Konashenkov told local media.

Ukraine foreign minister calls Russian troops ‘war criminals’ after Kherson protests

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has responded to reports of a crowd of peaceful protesters being shot at in the seized southern city of Kherson by calling Russian servicemen “war criminals” in a Twitter post.

US President Joe Biden had refrained from using the term, which has legal implications, until last week. The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called Russia’s attack on Mariupol “a massive war crime”.

Civilians rallied in Kherson despite pressure from the Russian occupiers who took over the city on March 3.

Russian shelling kills 96-year-old Holocaust survivor

Boris Romanchenko, a 96-year-old survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp, has been killed by a Russian bullet in the besieged eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, German officials said.

The administration of the Buchenwald Memorial complex said in a tweet that it was “stunned” by his killing on March 18.

Romanchenko was born in what is now Ukraine in 1926. He was taken to Buchenwald in 1942 and survived three more concentration camps, Ukrainian media reported.

Kyiv mayor says stricter curfew imposed due to shelling threat

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko says a new, longer curfew is being introduced in the Ukrainian capital because local authorities expect further attacks by Russian forces.

“The reason for the curfew is linked to the likelihood of new shelling,” Klitschko said on national television.

Russia drops peace talks with Japan over Ukraine

Russia has announced it is abandoning talks with Japan aimed at signing a formal World War II peace treaty due to Tokyo’s response to Moscow’s military action in Ukraine.

“The Russian side, in the current conditions, does not intend to continue talks with Japan on the peace treaty due to the impossibility of discussing the core document on bilateral relations with a country that has taken an openly hostile position and is striving to cause harm to the interests of our country,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Tokyo last week announced plans to revoke Russia’s most-favoured-nation trade status, expand the scope of asset freezes against Russian elites and ban imports of certain products over its incursion in Ukraine.

Russia and Japan have still not formally ended World War II hostilities because of a standoff over the islands known in Russia as the Kurils and in Japan as the Northern Territories.

Ukrainian defence minister accuses Russia of ‘state terrorism’

Russia is conducting “state terrorism” in Ukraine and will go on to attack other countries, Ukraine’s defence minister has said.

Speaking alongside British defence minister Ben Wallace during a visit to London, Oleksii Reznikov said 150 Ukrainian children had been killed since Russia invaded, with more than 400 schools and kindergartens and more than 110 hospitals destroyed.

“This is state terrorism. That is why (the) Kremlin must be stopped, because it will go further. It will attack other countries,” Reznikov said.

Russia denies targeting civilians.

Ukrainian refugees, Russian exiles seek shelter in Turkey

As Moscow continues its military campaign in Ukraine, many anti-war Russians have flocked to Turkey.

And while the majority of Ukrainian refugees have fled to neighbouring European Union countries, a significant number are also settling in the country.

Read more here.

Russia summons US envoy, says ties close to rupturing after Biden’s remarks

Russia has summoned the United States ambassador to Moscow to warn him that remarks by Biden about Putin have pushed bilateral ties to the brink of collapse.

Biden said on March 16 that Putin was a “war criminal” for sending tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine.

“Such statements by the American president, which are not worthy of a high-ranking statesman, have put Russian-American relations on the verge of rupture,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement as it announced the summoning of John Sullivan.

Read more here.

Ukrainian defence minister accuses Moscow of lying about troop death toll

The number of Russian troops killed in Ukraine far exceeds the Kremlin’s official death toll, Ukraine’s defence minister has claimed.

“The Kremlin no longer knows how to explain the things that are happening,” Reznikov wrote on Facebook.

“After all, these days, they buried more soldiers in the regions of Russia than they officially acknowledged their losses. Lies no longer help them, but the truth scares,” he added.

Kyiv says at least 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed during Russia’s incursion, a number that dwarfs the toll of 498 provided by Moscow on March 2 – the only time it has provided figures for its losses to date.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the figures provided by either side.

Service members of pro-Russian troops are seen in Mariupol
Kyiv and Moscow have provided vastly different tolls for the number of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Russian troops open fire at protesters in Kherson: Reports

Russian troops have fired on a crowd of protesters in Kherson, wounding several people, according to local media reports.

Footage posted on social media appeared to show demonstrators gathering in the southern Ukrainian city’s main square. The sound of automatic gunfire could be heard and people were seen running.

Some reports said Russian forces used stun grenades.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the reports or the video footage.

Kherson has witnessed regular anti-Russia protests since Moscow’s forces took control of the city at the beginning of March – the most strategically significant capture of Ukrainian territory yet.

At least 925 civilians killed in Ukraine, UN says

The UN’s human rights office (OHCHR) says it has confirmed at least 925 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia began its invasion on February 24, but warned the true toll is likely to be “considerably higher”.

Another 1,496 civilians have been injured as of midnight on Sunday amid Russia’s onslaught, according to OHCHR’s figures.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” the organisation said in a statement.

“OHCHR believes that the actual figures are considerably higher, especially in Government-controlled territory and especially in recent days, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration,” it added, citing several areas, including Mariupol.

How will the war end?

What would a de-escalation or an end to the war look like, and what would it mean for the two countries?

Read Al Jazeera’s analysis here.

Former president pledges Ukraine will ‘stop Putin’

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has warned Ukraine is facing “the most difficult time in its history”, but called efforts to keep the Russian onslaught at bay “miraculous”.

“Through the country, Ukrainians have … stopped the Russian army and surprised the world,” Poroshenko told Al Jazeera from Kyiv.

“We are here to fight for the whole of Europe and fight for the whole world … we [will] stop Putin,” he added, before praising the “unique unity of the Ukrainians”.

“There is not any nation in the world that wants peace more than we [Ukrainians] do, but we never give up, and therefore it will be peace, not capitulation,” Poroshenko said.

“And if now we allow Putin to grab Ukraine, he will not stop, he will go as far as we, the world, allow him to go.”

Ukraine says all of its ports remain closed to ship traffic

All Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea and Azov Sea remain temporarily closed to ships seeking to enter or exit, Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry has said.

Ukraine’s military suspended commercial shipping at the country’s ports soon after Russia launched its invasion, stoking fear of supply disruptions.

Egyptian pound drops nearly 14 percent after Ukraine war prompts dollar flight

Egypt’s pound has depreciated by almost 14 percent after weeks of pressure on the currency as foreign investors pulled out billions of dollars from Egyptian treasury markets following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The pound dropped to 18.17-18.27 against the dollar, Refinitiv data showed, after having traded at around 15.7 pounds to the dollar since November 2020.

The downturn is likely to have a heavy toll on poor and middle-class Egyptians and came after the country’s central bank hiked interest rates by 100 basis points in a surprise overnight monetary policy meeting.

The central bank cited inflationary pressures triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine, which hiked oil prices to new records, as the basis for its decision.

EU foreign policy chief accuses Russia of ‘war crime’ over Mariupol attack

The EU’s top diplomat has called Russia’s attack on Mariupol “a massive war crime”.

“What’s happening now in Mariupol is a massive war crime, destroying everything, bombarding and killing everybody,” Josep Borrell said at the start of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

Read more here.

Eight killed in Kyiv attacks, Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office says

At least eight people were killed by Russian attacks on several houses and a shopping centre in Kyiv carried out late on Sunday evening, the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office has said.

Ukraine’s emergency services had earlier put the death toll from the attack in the capital’s Podilskyi district at four people.

Pictures and videos from the site of the attack on the Retroville mall, located on the northwestern outskirts of the city, showed it lying in smouldering ruins.

‘No progress’ between Moscow, Kyiv on key issues: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Moscow, says the absence of a breakthrough in talks between Russia and Ukraine until now indicates there has been “no progress whatsoever” on the key issues dividing the two sides.

“From a Russian perspective, they want the Ukrainians to recognise Crimea as Russian and Luhansk and Donetsk as independent states,” he said, citing the Black Sea peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014 and the two self-proclaimed separatist republics in eastern Ukraine.

“Then they would like to move forward with the idea of the neutral status of Ukraine – something that Ukraine has indicated it is open to – giving strong guarantees to the Russians that Ukraine won’t ever be contemplating the idea of joining NATO,” he added.

“The Russians say that the expansion of NATO eastwards has always been a major national security concern that was never addressed.”

INTERACTIVE- NATO members in Europe expand eastwards

Odesa mayor accuses Russian forces of attacking city outskirts for the first time

Odesa’s mayor has accused Russian forces of carrying out an attack on residential buildings on the outskirts of the Ukrainian Black Sea port city, marking the first such reported attack there.

The city council said there were no casualties from the attack, which reportedly hit buildings on the outskirts of the city, although it had sparked a fire.

“These are residential buildings where peaceful people live,” Odesa Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov was quoted as saying.

A story of life and loss in wartime Ukraine

In this episode, Al Jazeera’s The Take podcast speaks to Ukrainian journalist Kateryna Malofieieva about her experiences of covering war and the personal cost of conflict in her home country.

Lithuanian president outlines plan for future without Russian gas, oil

Lithuania is working towards ending all imports of energy from neighbouring Russia, the country’s president has said.

“The gas interlink with Poland, the power undersea link with Sweden, synchronising power system with continental Europe – this all illustrates that Lithuania is preparing to live totally without Russian energy resources,” Gitanas Nauseda told a news conference in Vilnius.

“We’ve come most of the way, such as substituting pipeline gas for liquefied natural gas and being ready to use oil from other countries. Our power synchronisation will be complete soon and then Lithuania will be a good example for Europe,” he added.

Separatist leader says it will take more than a week to capture Mariupol: Report

A Moscow-backed separatist leader in eastern Ukraine has said it will take more than a week to take control of Mariupol, according to a report by Russian news agency Interfax.

“I am not so optimistic that two or three days or even a week will close the issue. Unfortunately, no, the city is big,” Interfax quoted Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), as saying.

Ukraine says Russia-backed separatists continuing “forced mobilisation measures”

Moscow-backed separatist authorities in two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine are continuing to conscript locals as part of “forced mobilisation measures”, Ukraine’s General Staff of Armed Forces has said.

The department said in a post on Facebook that males between 18 and 60 years of age in the Stanychno-Luhansk village, in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, had been notified of the need to arrive at a local police department on April 1 for registration.

“The reasons for this ‘registration’ are not explained, although it is connected with the next wave of mobilisation to the 2nd Army Corps to be sent to the combat areas,” the post read.

Kyiv mayor announces curfew from Monday evening to Wednesday morning

Kyiv’s mayor has announced a “reinforced curfew” in the Ukrainian capital from 8pm local time today (18:00 GMT) until 7am (05:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

Klitschko said shops, pharmacies and petrol stations would not open on Tuesday.

“I ask everyone to stay at home – or in shelters when the alarm sounds,” he said.

EU warns of ‘huge risk’ of child trafficking as Ukrainians flee

The EU’s home affairs commissioner has warned that vulnerable Ukrainian children are in “huge” danger of being trafficked as they flee from Russia’s offensive.

Ylva Johansson told a news conference in Estonia that about half of the 3.3 million Ukrainians who had fled to EU countries since the start of the war were children.

Ukraine has a high number of orphans and children born through surrogate mothers who had not been picked up by their parents. That increased the risk that they could be abducted or become victims of forced adoptions, Johansson said.

“There is a huge risk of vulnerable children being trafficked,” she added, noting there had already been reports of such instances.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine war Refugees DAY 26 March 21

Israeli PM says ‘very large’ gaps remain in bid to end conflict

Israel’s prime minister says that while there have been advances in ceasefire talks between Russia and Ukraine, “very large” gaps remain between the two sides.

Naftali Bennett said in a speech at the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper’s conference that Israel “will continue — together with other friends in the world — to try and bridge the gap and bring an end to the war”.

Israel has close relations with both Ukraine and Russia and Bennett has attempted to mediate between the two sides since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

He has held multiple phone calls with both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Putin in recent weeks and has offered to host a summit involving the pair in Jerusalem. Bennett also flew to Moscow earlier this month to meet with Putin in person.

Kremlin says Russian oil embargo would hurt Europe

The Kremlin has warned the EU it will be hit hard should it impose an embargo on Russian oil.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters such a move would harm the bloc’s energy balance.

EU foreign ministers to discuss sanctions on Russian oil sector

The EU’s foreign policy chief has said the bloc’s foreign ministers will discuss imposing more sanctions on Russia, including measures targetting the country’s oil sector, during talks later today.

“The ministers will discuss that,” Borrell told reporters ahead of the meeting in Brussels, responding to a question whether measures against Russian oil exports would be talked about.

Situation in Mariupol ‘very difficult’, Ukrainian official says

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister has described the situation in Mariupol as “very difficult” after Kyiv rejected a Russian ultimatum to surrender the city.

“Of course we rejected these proposals,” Iryna Vereshchuk said. “The situation there is very difficult.”

Moscow had offered to open humanitarian corridors for evacuations from Mariupol from 10am Moscow time (07:00 GMT) had the surrender proposal been accepted.

Russia says Ukrainian military facility hit with cruise missiles

Russia’s defence ministry says its air forces have hit a Ukrainian military facility in the country’s western Rivne region with cruise missiles.

“High-precision air-launched cruise missiles have struck a training centre for foreign mercenaries and Ukrainian nationalist formations,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

There was no immediate reaction to Moscow’s claim from Kyiv.

List of key events from day 26 in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its 26th day, we take a look at the main recent developments.

Read more here.

A man stands amid the destruction caused by a bomb in Satoya neighbourhood in Kyiv, Ukraine
A man stands amid the destruction caused by a bomb in Satoya neighbourhood in Kyiv [Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo]

Moscow denies attacking Ukrainian chemical facilities

Russia’s defence ministry has said that Moscow does not plan to and has not attacked any chemical industry facilities in Ukraine, according to the Interfax news agency.

‘Another tense night’ in Kyiv

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Kiyv, says it has been “yet another very tense night” for the Ukrainian capital’s residents.

“Throughout the night, we have been hearing air raid sirens and there have been bombings this morning as well,” he said.

“Most of Kyiv’s residents have left but the most vulnerable – the elderly and the very frail who are sick – are actually the ones who’ve stayed behind, and those are the people who are cowering frightened in their apartments,” he added.

“A lot of people are sleeping in their corridors now, they just simply do not want to be near any glass windows as what we see constantly is the façade of buildings being blown away completely as these rockets land.”

Ukraine war could lead to global food crisis: France

The war between Ukraine and Russia – two of the world’s top crop producers – might lead to a food crisis “on the global” scale, French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie has warned.

European Union ministers will discuss the food situation with their Ukrainian counterpart in a video call, Denormandie said in remarks delivered before an agriculture meeting involving officials from the bloc.

Slovenia sending diplomats back to Kyiv

Slovenia is planning to send diplomats back to the Ukrainian capital this week, according to the country’s prime minister.

“We are working to make the EU do the same. Ukraine needs diplomatic support,” Janez Jansa announced on Twitter as he added that the diplomats will return to Kyiv on a voluntary basis.

Gazprom says it continues gas exports to Europe via Ukraine

Russian energy giant Gazprom has said it was continuing to supply gas to Europe via Ukraine in line with requests from European consumers.

The company said the requests stood at 104.7 million cubic metres for March 21.

Russian deadline over Mariupol passes

Moscow’s deadline for the Ukrainian forces in the southern city of Mariupol to surrender has expired at 5am (02:00 GMT).

Ukraine rejected a Russian call for Ukrainian forces in the besieged city to lay down their arms, saying “there can be no question of any surrender.”

An explosion is seen in an apartment building after Russian's army tank fires in Mariupol, Ukraine.
An explosion is seen in an apartment building after Russian army tank fires in Mariupol on March 11 [File: AP Photo]

Two villages in area affected by ammonia leak

Dmytro Zhyvytskyy, the governor of Sumy, says the villages of Novoselytsya and Verkhnya Syrovatka are within the area contaminated by an ammonia leak.

He said people within the affected area are recommended to take immediate shelter underground and if ammonia is detected, to breathe through gauze bandages soaked in citric acid.

‘No threat to Sumy’ from ammonia leak: Official

Zhyvytskyy says “there is no threat” to the city of Sumy from an ammonia leak at a nearby chemical plant because the wind is blowing away from the city.

He added that the leak at the Sumykhimprom plant is contaminating an area with a radius of 2.5km (1.5 miles), and not 5km (3 miles) as previously thought.

He did not say what caused the leak.

The Sumykhimprom plant is on the eastern outskirts of the city, which has a population of about 263,000 and has been regularly shelled by Russian troops in recent weeks.

Russia, Ukraine to resume online talks

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators will continue with their online talks on Monday, according to the Ukrainska Pravda news website.

David Arakhamia, a Ukrainian official, told the news outlet that the talks are continuing every day “at the level of expert groups”.

New Zealand to provide Ukraine with non-lethal military assistance

New Zealand says it will provide Ukraine with a further 5 million New Zealand dollars ($3.46m) in funds and non-lethal military assistance.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the money would be primarily directed to a NATO Trust Fund that provides fuel, rations, communication equipment and first aid kits to support Ukraine.

“We consider what is happening in Ukraine as a massive disruption to the international rules-based order and because of that, it impacts all of us, and that’s why we have taken these extraordinary measures,” Ardern told a news conference.

The New Zealand Defence Force will provide tactical equipment such as body armour, helmets and vests that are surplus to requirements, she added.

Ammonia leak reported at chemicals plant in Sumy

A Ukrainian official is raising the alarm over an ammonia leak at a chemicals plant in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy, besieged by Russian troops.

Zhyvytskyy, the Sumy regional governor, said the leak was reported at 4:30am local time (02:30 GMT) at the Sumykhimprom plant and that the area within a 5km radius around the plant was hazardous.

He did not say what had caused the leak.

Biden to visit Poland on Europe trip

Biden has added a stop in Poland to his upcoming trip to Europe for urgent talks with NATO, G7 leaders and European allies.

The US president, who leaves Washington, DC on Wednesday, will first travel to Brussels and then Warsaw, where he will hold a bilateral meeting with President Andrzej Duda, his spokeswoman said.

In the Polish capital on Friday, Biden will discuss the international response to “the humanitarian and human rights crisis that Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war on Ukraine has created”, she added.

Deadly shelling in Chernihiv; air raids in Zhytomyr

Ukrainian media have said at least two people were killed in Chernihiv on Sunday when an artillery shell hit their car.

Ukrainska Pravda cited a witness as saying that the two men were out delivering water to the city’s residents.

Separately, Ukraine’s emergency services reported that an air raid in Zhytomyr wounded three people and damaged 13 buildings.

Odesa reports increase in Russian drone sightings

A Ukrainian official in Odesa says Russia has started “utilising unmanned aerial vehicles in urban areas of the region”.

But Maksym Marchenko, head of the Odesa Military Administration, noted that the “current situation in the region is quiet”.

Zelenskyy says Jerusalem ‘would be right place to find peace’

Ukraine’s president says Israel is undertaking many efforts to arrange top-level talks between his country and Russia and suggests they might take place in Jerusalem.

“The prime minister of Israel, Mr Bennett is trying to find a way of holding talks. And we are grateful for this. We are grateful for his efforts, so that sooner or later we will begin to have talks with Russia, possibly in Jerusalem,” Zelenskyy said during his nightly video address.

“That’s the right place to find peace. If possible.”

China will keep up ‘normal cooperation’ with Russia: Envoy

China’s ambassador to the US has defended his country’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, contending such a rebuke will do nothing to stop the violence.

Qin Gang told the CBS television network’s Face the Nation on Sunday that China’s condemnation would not help and that he is doubtful it would have any effect on Russia.

He said China wants “friendly, good neighbourly relations with Russia” and will keep up “normal trade, economic, financial, energy cooperation with Russia” as it continues “to promote peace talks” and urge an immediate ceasefire from Russia through negotiation and diplomacy.

Qin said China is not providing any military assistance to Russia. He insisted that China remains “against a war” and “will do everything” – short of condemnation – “to de-escalate the crisis”.

Ukraine rejects Russia’s demand for Mariupol surrender

Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, has rejected a Russian call for Ukrainian forces in the besieged city of Mariupol to lay down their arms, saying “there can be no question of any surrender”.

In comments to Ukrainska Pravda, Vereshchuk said the Russian forces were demanding a surrender before allowing the evacuation of civilians.

She described the demand as “real hostage-taking”.

One person reported dead in Kyiv shelling: Mayor

At least one person was killed in the shelling of residential houses and a shopping centre in Kyiv’s Podilskyi district, according to the city’s mayor.

Klitschko said rescue teams were putting out a large fire at the shopping centre.

Inside Story: Can talks end the war in Ukraine?

Representatives from Ukraine and Russia have met several times since Moscow’s invasion.

There are three main points of contention: a ceasefire, an end to all hostilities and humanitarian corridors. But there has been no progress so far.

So, do these talks serve any purpose?

UK says Russian forces still trying to circumvent Mykolaiv

The United Kingdom’s Defence Ministry said that Russian forces advancing from Crimea are still attempting to circumvent Mykolaiv as they look to drive west towards Odesa, adding that these forces have made little progress over the past week.

“The blockade of the Ukrainian coast is likely to exacerbate the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, preventing vital supplies reaching the Ukrainian population,” the ministry said in a Twitter post.

Shelling hits houses, shopping centre in Kyiv, mayor says

Residential houses and a shopping centre in Kyiv’s Podilskyi district were hit by shelling late on Sunday, the city’s mayor said.

“Rescue teams, medics and the police are already on site,” Klitschko said on his Telegram channel.

IAEA calls for more Chernobyl staff to be rotated soon

About half of the staff who have been working at the radioactive waste facilities at Chernobyl since Russian forces seized it last month have been relieved by other Ukrainian staff, the UN nuclear watchdog said.

“They were there for far too long. I sincerely hope that remaining staff from this shift can also rotate soon,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi said in a statement. Ukraine’s nuclear regulator informed the IAEA that the rotation had begun on Sunday morning, the agency said.

Russia gives Ukraine 5am deadline to surrender Mariupol

Russia says Ukraine has until 5am Moscow time (02:00 GMT) on Monday to respond to an offer on humanitarian corridors and laying down arms in the eastern port city of Mariupol.

“Lay down your arms,” Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, the director of the Russian National Centre for Defence Management, said in a briefing distributed by the defence ministry.

“A terrible humanitarian catastrophe has developed,” Mizintsev said. “All who lay down their arms are guaranteed safe passage out of Mariupol.”

Mariupol has suffered some of the heaviest bombardments since Russia launched its invasion. Many of its 400,000 residents remain trapped in the city with little if any food, water and power.

Mizintsev said humanitarian corridors for civilians would be opened eastwards and westwards out of Mariupol at 10am Moscow time (07:00 GMT) on Monday.

Ukraine says 7,295 people evacuated from cities on Sunday

A total of 7,295 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Sunday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, with four out of seven planned routes working.

Of the total, 3,985 people were evacuated from the besieged city of Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia city. The Ukrainian government planned to send nearly 50 buses to Mariupol on Monday for further evacuations, Vereshchuk said.

Exhausted staff at Chernobyl plant get relief

Management of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986, has said that 50 staff members who had been on the job since the plant was seized by Russian forces on February 24 have been rotated out and replaced.

Officials had repeatedly expressed alarm that the staff was suffering exhaustion after weeks of forced, unrelieved work and that this endangered the decommissioned plant’s safety.

The authority that manages the plant did not give specifics on how an agreement was reached to let the workers leave, and others come in to replace them.

Ukrainian evacuees arrive in Brovary, east of Kyiv

A convoy of vehicles carrying residents evacuated from the Ukrainian village of Bobryk has arrived in Brovary, a city east of the capital Kyiv.

The convoy included 20 buses and 250 cars, carrying about 1,600 people in total, including 843 children, officials said.

One Bobryk resident, Ihor Lytvyn, told The Associated Press news agency he was shot in the hand and his grandmother was shot in the leg when a Russian convoy drove through the village. Another resident, Serhiy Gyziy, stayed for a week in a shelter without water and electricity.

About 10 million people have fled their homes – more than 6 million of them have been displaced internally, and more than 3.3 million have fled Ukraine, the UNHCR said on Sunday.

Refugees wait for Ukrainian police to check their papers and belongings in Brovary, Ukraine
Refugees wait for Ukrainian police to check their papers and belongings in Brovary [Vadim Ghirda/AP Photo]

Japan presses UAE to pump more oil as Ukraine war spikes prices

Japan has urged the United Arab Emirates to pump more oil to calm markets rocked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the latest major consumer to lobby Gulf producers.

The plea by Japan’s foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi came during meetings with Emirati officials, which coincided with a visit by Germany’s economy minister, three weeks into the Russian offensive.

Hayashi asked “the UAE to contribute to the stabilisation of the international oil market by supplying a greater amount of oil, securing spare productive capacity as a leading member of OPEC+”, a Japanese foreign ministry spokesperson told an online briefing.

Negotiation only way to end the war, Zelenskyy says

The Ukrainian president has renewed his plea for talks with his Russian counterpart, taking to US television to say negotiations were the only way to “end this war”.

Zelenskyy stressed that he and Putin were the only principals able to thrash out a deal to stop the fighting, now in its fourth week.

But he signalled he would lay down red lines against ceding Ukrainian territory, including two pro-Moscow breakaway regions.

“I’m ready for negotiations with him,” Zelenskyy told CNN show Fareed Zakaria GPS through a translator. “I think without negotiations we cannot end this war.”

Click here to read all the updates from March 20.