Despite mounting casualties, punishing international sanctions and unexpectedly strong resistance from Ukrainians, US sees no sign that Russia "is prepared to stop" its offensive – now in its 24th day.

A picture taken on March 19, 2022 shows the body of a Ukrainian soldier covered with a sheet next to the military school hit by Russian rockets the day before, in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine.
A picture taken on March 19, 2022 shows the body of a Ukrainian soldier covered with a sheet next to the military school hit by Russian rockets the day before, in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine. (AFP)

Saturday, March 19, 2022

 Air strikes target Ukraine city of Mykolaiv — local official

Russian air raids on Mykolaiv were taking place in quick succession, a regional official said, a day after a deadly strike on a military barracks in the southern Ukrainian city.

Vitaly Kim, head of the regional administration, said there wasn't even enough time to raise the alarm over the raids "because, by the time we announce this tornado, it's already there".

"The (alert) message and the bombings arrive at the same time," he said on social media. He gave no details about the extent of the damage or on any possible victims.

Baker Hughes joins oil rivals in pausing Russian operations

US oil field services company Baker Hughes has said that it was suspending new investments for its Russia operations, a day after similar moves were announced by rivals Halliburton Co. and Schlumberger.

In its statement, Baker Hughes, which also has headquarters in London, said the company is complying with applicable laws and sanctions as it fulfills current contractual obligations.

“The crisis in Ukraine is of grave concern, and we strongly support a diplomatic solution," said Lorenzo Simonelli, chairman and CEO of Baker Hughes.

Russia dismisses allegations on cosmonauts' attire

Russia's space agency has dismissed Western media reports suggesting Russian cosmonauts joining the International Space Station (ISS) had chosen to wear yellow suits with a blue trim in support of Ukraine.

"Sometimes yellow is just yellow," Roscosmos's press service said on its Telegram channel.

"The flight suits of the new crew are made in the colours of the emblem of the Bauman Moscow State Technical University, which all three cosmonauts graduated from ... To see the Ukrainian flag everywhere and in everything is crazy."

UN: Over 840 civilians killed in Ukraine since conflict began

The UN human rights office (OHCHR) has said that at least 847 civilians had been killed and 1,399 wounded in Ukraine as of March 18.

Most of the casualties were from explosive weapons such as shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes, OHCHR said.

The real toll is thought to be considerably higher since OHCHR, which has a large monitoring team in the country, has not yet been able to verify casualty reports from several badly hit cities, it said.

Ukraine: 6,623 people evacuated from cities on Saturday

A total of 6,623 people have been evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors, a senior official said, considerably fewer than managed to escape the previous day.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president's office, said in an online post that 4,128 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol. 

On Friday, he said 9,145 people had managed toleave cities across the country during the day.

Ukraine to receive more US Javelin and Stinger missiles

Ukraine will receive a new shipment of US weapons within days, including Javelin and Stinger missiles, Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov has said.

“The (weapons) will be on the territory of our country in the nearest future. We are talking about days,” Danilov said in a televised interview.

Ukraine's allies have delivered planeloads of weapons shipments to bolster its military against Russia's attacks. Russia has criticised such deliveries from NATO member states.

Russians push deeper into Mariupol as locals plead for help

Russian forces have pushed deeper into Ukraine's besieged and battered port city of Mariupol, where heavy fighting shut down a major steel plant and local authorities pleaded for more Western help.

The fall of Mariupol, the scene of some of the worst suffering, would mark a major battlefield advance for the Russians, who are largely bogged down outside major cities.

Children, elderly people are dying. The city is destroyed and it is wiped off the face of the earth, Mariupol police officer Michail Vershnin said from a rubble-strewn street in a video addressed to Western leaders that was authenticated by The Associated Press.

Africa faces high food prices due to Russia’s attacks in Ukraine

African countries will pay higher prices for wheat and others could even face shortages in the coming weeks as Russia's attacks in Ukraine escalates, experts told Anadolu Agency.

“South Africa imports wheat from Ukraine and Russia but due to the ongoing conflict, we expect to see a wheat shortage, and oil prices have already gone up ,” Dirk Kotze, a political scientist at the University of South Africa, told Anadolu Agency.

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, Russia and Ukraine are major global food producers and exporters.

Ukraine calls on China to 'condemn Russian barbarism'

Ukraine has called on China to join the West in condemning "Russian barbarism", after the US warned Beijing of consequences if it backed Moscow's attack on the country.

"China can be the global security system’s important element if it makes a right decision to support the civilised countries’ coalition and condemn Russian barbarism," presidential aide Mikhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

Putin, Luxembourg PM Bettel talk on the phone

Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken on the phone with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, which is the second time this week the two leaders have talked.

According to the Kremlin’s readout of the call, Putin “outlined fundamental assessments of the course of the talks between Russian and Ukrainian representatives,” while Bettel informed him about “contacts with the leadership of Ukraine and other countries.”

Putin also said that “incessant missile strikes by Ukrainian forces on Donetsk and other cities” of the separatist so-called Donetsk and Luhansk republics in eastern Ukraine are “leading to numerous civilian casualties.”

Russia ally Kazakhstan blocks Ukraine peace rally

Activists in Kazakhstan have said they were refused permission to hold a rally against Russia's attacks in Ukraine, as tensions over the conflict spill into Moscow's neighbourhood.

Earlier this month Kazakh authorities allowed activists in the former capital Almaty to hold a rally against the attacks that gathered more than 2,000 people and featured chants and slogans insulting Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Japan PM presses Modi for Indian 'action' on Ukraine

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has began talks with Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, with the visiting leader saying he would be urging Modi to adopt a tougher line and "take action" over Russia's attacks in Ukraine.

Unlike fellow members of the Quad alliance  — Japan, Australia and the United States — India has abstained in three UN votes condemning Moscow's actions, calling only for a halt to the violence.

Kishida's office quoted him saying before meeting Modi that "Russia's aggression against Ukraine is an outrage that undermines the very foundation of the order of the international community, including Asia".

Czechs will look after Ukraine's 'wives and children'

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala has said his country would take care of the "wives and children" fleeing Russia's attacks in Ukraine.

Fiala, who travelled to Kiev earlier this week with his Polish and Slovenian counterparts to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, added that the Czech Republic could cope with further refugee arrivals from Ukraine.

With men of conscription age prevented from leaving Ukraine, mostly women and children have crossed into the European Union at border points in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

UN: Over 3.3M flee Ukraine, 6.5M internally displaced

More than 3.3 million refugees have now fled Ukraine since Russia's attacks began, the United Nations said, while nearly 6.5 million are thought to be internally displaced within the country.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said on Saturday that 3,328,692 Ukrainians had left since the attacks began on February 24, with another 58,030 joining the exodus since Friday's update.

"People continue to flee because they are afraid of bombs, airstrikes and indiscriminate destruction," said UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi.

Some 90 percent of those who have fled are women and children.

'Dozens dead' after military barracks hit in south Ukraine

Dozens of soldiers have been killed after Russian troops struck a Ukrainian military barracks in the southern city of Mykolaiv, witnesses told AFP news agency, while a rescue operation was underway. 

"No fewer than 200 soldiers were sleeping in the barracks" when Russian troops struck early Friday, a Ukrainian serviceman on the ground, 22-year-old Maxim, told AFP without providing his last name. 

"At least 50 bodies have been recovered, but we do not know how many others are in the rubble," he said. Another soldier estimated that the bombing could have killed around 100 people. Authorities have not yet released an official death toll. 

Russia fires at Kiev suburbs, eastern Donetsk

Over the past 24 hours, Russian forces have fired at eight cities and villages in the eastern Donetsk region, using aviation, rocket and heavy artillery.

Ukraine’s National Police said in a statement on Telegram on Saturday that at least 37 residential buildings and infrastructure facilities were damaged; dozens of civilians were killed and injured as a result of the attacks. 

The Russian military were firing at Mariupol, Avdiivka, Kramatorsk, Pokrovsk, Novoselydivka, Verkhnotoretske, Krymka, and Stepne.

The statement said that “among the civilian objects that Russia destroyed are multi-story and private houses, a school, a kindergarten, a museum, a shopping centre and administrative buildings.”

Ukraine: Russian forces kidnapped journalist

The office of the Prosecutor General in Ukraine has accused Russian security and military forces of kidnapping a Ukrainian journalist covering the Russian offensive in the east and the south of Ukraine.

In a Facebook statement on Saturday, the Prosecutor General’s office alleged that Russia’s Federal Security Service, or the FSB, and the Russian military abducted the journalist of Ukrainian news outlet Hromadske on Tuesday in Berdyansk. 

The statement didn’t identify the journalist, but went on to say that the reporter’s whereabouts are currently unknown and a criminal investigation has been launched.

Ukraine's Mahuchikh wins world indoor high jump gold

Yaroslava Mahuchikh has overcame the "total panic" of armed conflict in her native Ukraine to win gold in the high jump at the World Indoor Championships.

Following Russia's attacks in Ukraine, Mahuchikh was forced to flee her home, hide out in a cellar and eventually make the 2,000 kilometre trip over three days to Belgrade to face what she dubbed her own front line.

She notched up a best of 2.02 metres, Australian Eleanor Patterson claiming silver with 2.00 and Kazakhstan's Nadezhda Dubovitskaya taking bronze (1.98).

Aid agencies struggle to reach Ukraine's 'beseiged' cities

Aid agencies have been struggling to reach people trapped in Ukrainian cities ringed by Russian forces, the UN's World Food Programme said, including hundreds of thousands of women and children.

"The challenge is to get to the cities that are encircled or about to be encircled," emergency coordinator Jakob Kern told AFP news agency, describing the situation as "dire".

Lack of humanitarian access is making it almost impossible to deliver emergency food supplies to the besieged port city of Mariupol, the northeastern city of Kharkiv and the northeastern city of Sumy.

Germany reports over 200,000 Ukrainian refugees

Germany’s federal police has registered more than 200,000 Ukrainian refugees in the country since the outbreak of the attacks more than three weeks ago. 

The country’s interior ministry said 207,747 Ukrainian refugees had arrived as of Saturday.

However, the real number of Ukrainian refugees in Germany is expected to be much higher.

Bulgaria won't send military aid to Ukraine

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has ruled out providing military aid to Ukraine but says his country, a NATO ally, will continue to provide humanitarian assistance.

“Being so close to the conflict, right now I have to say that currently we will not be able to send military assistance to Ukraine. This will not be possible,” Petkov said Saturday at a news conference in the Bulgarian capital with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Bulgaria, which does not border Ukraine but has received thousands of refugees, has agreed to host a new contingent of NATO troops as part of the alliance’s push to reinforce its eastern flank.

Ukraine says 112 children died in attacks so far

The Prosecutor General’s office in Ukraine has said a total of 112 children have died in the country since the start of Russia's attacks.

The office says more than 140 children have been wounded since February 24.

According to the UN children’s agency, more than 1.5 million children had fled Ukraine.

Lavrov: Russia-China cooperation will only get stronger

Cooperation between Russia and China will only become stronger in the current circumstances, the Interfax news agency has quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as saying.

"This cooperation will get stronger, because at a time when the West is blatantly undermining all the foundations on which the international system is based, of course we —  as two great powers — need to think how to carry on in this world," Lavrov was quoted as saying. 

Ukraine's leader warns attacks will cost Russia for generations

Ukraine's president has said Russia is trying to starve his country's cities into submission but warned that continuing the attacks would exact a toll on Russia for “generations." 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused the Kremlin in an overnight video address of deliberately creating “a humanitarian catastrophe ” and appealed again for Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet with him to prevent more bloodshed.

Noting that the 200,000 people reported to have attended the rally was similar to the number of Russian forces deployed to Ukraine, Zelenskyy said Friday's event in Moscow illustrated the stakes of the largest ground conflict in Europe since World War II.

Ukraine sees no major changes in fighting over past 24 hours

Ukrainian authorities have not noticed any significant shifts over the past 24 hours in front line areas where Ukrainian troops are battling Russian forces, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said.

In an online video address, he said fighting was ongoing and named the southeastern city of Mariupol, the southern cities of Mykolaiv and Kherson, and the eastern town of Izyum as particular hotspots where Russian troops were on the offensive. 

Switzerland brands Ukraine conflict 'devastating madness'

Russia's attack on Ukraine is driven by "devastating madness", and Switzerland is prepared to pay the price for defending freedom and democracy, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said Saturday.

Switzerland has decided to impose the same sanctions on Russia as the European Union but Cassis insisted Switzerland's neutrality was not at stake.

However, he said Switzerland could not simply stand by in the "confrontation between democracy and barbarism", and was prepared to take an economic hit.

US to provide Stryker army company to NATO battlegroup in Bulgaria

The US has agreed to provide a Stryker mechanised infantry company for Bulgaria's battlegroup under NATO's drive to bolster its eastern flank after Russia's offensive in Ukraine, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said.

"The USA agreed to provide a Stryker company," he told a press conference with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. "This is a strong sign to all of our allies in NATO."

Bulgaria, once Moscow's closest ally during the Cold War era but a NATO and European Union member state, is establishing a battlegroup of up to 1,000 troops under the operational command of NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

UK fears 'more extreme' Russian actions in Ukraine

Peace talks to end the Ukraine conflict could be a "smokescreen" for more extreme Russian military manoeuvres, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned.

"I'm very sceptical," Truss told The Times newspaper in an interview. "What we've seen is an attempt to create space for the Russians to regroup. Their invasion isn't going according to plan."

"I fear the negotiation is yet another attempt to create a diversion and create a smokescreen. I don't think we're yet at a point for negotiation," she added.

Truss echoed comments by British intelligence that Putin could turn to "more and more extreme actions," adding "we've seen appalling atrocities already."

Russia uses hypersonic weapons in western Ukraine

Russia has used its newest Kinzhal hypersonic missiles for the first time in Ukraine to destroy a weapons storage site in the country's west, the defence ministry said.

"The Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse containing missiles and aviation ammunition" in the village of Deliatyn in the Ivano-Frankivsk region," the Russian defence ministry said on Saturday.

State news agency RIA Novosti said it was the first use of the Kinzhal hypersonic weapons during what Moscow calls a "special military operation" in pro-Western Ukraine. 

Ukraine: Another senior Russian military officer killed

Ukraine claimed that another senior Russian military officer was killed, the fifth since the conflict began last month.

Lt. Gen. Andrey Mordvichev, a commander of the 8th Rus. Army of the South region, was eliminated in Chornobaivka township near Kherson city, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a statement. 

Humanitarian corridor to open in Luhansk 

A humanitarian corridor for evacuations in Ukraine's Luhansk region will be opened on Saturday morning, regional governor Serhiy Gaiday said on Telegram.

"A humanitarian corridor has been agreed, we will try to evacuate people and bring food today. A 'regime of silence' has been agreed for March 19, starting at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT)," Gaiday said.

Ukraine hopes ten humanitarian corridors will operate

Ukraine hopes to evacuate civilians on Saturday via ten humanitarian corridors from cities and towns on the front line of fighting with Russian forces, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. 

She said a corridor had been agreed for the besieged city of Mariupol, although the authorities' previous efforts to evacuate civilians there under a temporary ceasefire have mostly failed, with both sides trading blame. 

Zelenskyy calls for fresh talks, Russia enters Mariupol centre

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a fresh appeal for talks with Moscow, while Russia said its soldiers had entered the centre of besieged port city Mariupol. 

"This is the time to meet, to talk, time for renewing territorial integrity and fairness for Ukraine," Zelenskyy said in a video posted to Facebook. 

"Otherwise, Russia's losses will be such, that several generations will not recover." 

Meanwhile, Russia's defence ministry said that the army and its separatist allies had made a breakthrough in Mariupol, which has been under Russian shelling for days, and were now inside the city. 

Telegram booms as Russia's digital landscape shrinks

The Telegram messaging app has become a go-to platform since Russia's offensive on Ukraine, despite concerns over its data security and defences against misinformation. 

It has benefitted from the gap left by Russia's blocking of Facebook and Instagram, offering a platform for mass messaging in a way similar to social media. 

According to daily figures provided by Telegram, the app has been downloaded over 150 million times since the beginning of the year, with the official figure of half a billion active users dating back to January 2021. 

Over $100M worth of crypto raised for Ukraine 

Cryptocurrencies have taken on an unprecedented role in the Ukraine conflict, helping the government raise millions of dollars to fund its fight against the Russian offensive. 

Ukrainian officials posted addresses for two crypto wallets on their Twitter account, giving donors a direct and clear address to which to send contributions.

The wallets attracted more than $10.2 million (9.2 million euros) just four days after the start of the offensive.

Since then, more than $100 million worth of crypto has been raised, with the "Crypto Fund for Ukraine" run by Michael Chobanian — the founder of the Ukrainian crypto exchange Kuna — accounting for 60 percent of all donations. 

US basketball star detained in Russia

Detained for more than a month in Russia, US basketball star Brittney Griner has become an unlikely victim of the Ukraine conflict. 

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion, was detained in Moscow airport on February 17 on charges of carrying vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil in her luggage.

She was immediately placed in a detention centre, and on Thursday a Russian court extended her arrest until May 19.

The 31-year-old – one of few women who can "dunk" a ball and considered one of the best players in the world – faces up to 10 years in prison. 

Ukraine loses access to Sea of Azov — Defence ministry

Ukraine's defence ministry has said it lost access to the Sea of Azov "temporarily" as Russian forces were tightening their grip around the Sea's major port of Mariupol.

"The occupiers have partially succeeded in the Donetsk operational district, temporarily depriving Ukraine of access to the Sea of Azov," Ukraine's defence ministry said in a statement.

The ministry did not specify in its statement whether Ukraine's forces have regained access to the Sea.

9,000 leave besieged Mariupol — Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian forces are blockading Ukraine’s largest cities to create a “humanitarian catastrophe” with the aim of persuading Ukrainians to cooperate with them.

He says Russians are preventing supplies from reaching surrounded cities in the centre and southeast of the country.

He said more than 9,000 people were able to leave besieged Mariupol in the past day, and in all more than 180,000 people have been able to flee to safety through humanitarian corridors.

It's time to talk — Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for comprehensive peace talks with Moscow, saying Russia would otherwise need generations to recover from losses suffered during the incursion.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine had always offered solutions for peace and wanted meaningful and honest negotiations on peace and security, without delay.

"I want everyone to hear me now, especially in Moscow. The time has come for a meeting, it is time to talk," he said in a video address released in the early hours of Saturday.

"The time has come to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, Russia's losses will be such that it will take you several generations to recover."

US denies its soldiers killed in Ukraine

The US has denied a "false news" report that said three American troops were killed in eastern Ukraine.

"There is wide reporting that there were three US soldiers who were killed in Donbass, which is patently false and a deliberate fabrication. There are no US soldiers in Ukraine," State Department principal deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter said at a briefing.

"The imagery used is – on this false reporting is from 2018, and those depicted in the picture returned safely to their home the next year in 2019. They are accounted for, safe, and not, as the article erroneously states, US mercenaries killed in Donetsk," said Porter.

For live updates from Friday (March 18), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies