Despite mounting casualties, punishing international sanctions and unexpectedly strong resistance from Ukraine, Russia is continuing its offensive – now in its 25th day.

Ukrainian bomb squad inspect the site of an explosion after bombing in Kiev on March 20, 2022.
Ukrainian bomb squad inspect the site of an explosion after bombing in Kiev on March 20, 2022. (AP)

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Kiev's mayor: Russian shelling kills at least one in Podil district

Shelling has hit residential houses and a shopping district in Kiev's Podil district, killing at least one person, mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

"According to the information we have at the moment, several homes and one of the shopping centres [were hit]," Klitschko said on his Telegram channel.

He said rescue teams were putting out a large fire at the shopping centre, while other details are still to be confirmed. Reuters was not able immediately to verify the reports on the ground.

Russia: Humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Mariupol

Russia has called on Ukrainian forces to lay down their arms in the eastern port city of Mariupol where Moscow said a "terrible humanitarian catastrophe" was unfolding.

"Lay down your arms," Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, the director of the Russian National Center for Defense 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." Mizintsev said humanitarian corridors would be opened out of Mariupol at 1000 Moscow time (0700 GMT) on March 21.

Ukrainian president ready for talks with Russian counterpart 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that he is ready for negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I’m ready for negotiations with him. I was ready for the last two years. And I think that without negotiations we cannot end this war," Zelenskyy told CNN in a televised interview.

He said: "I think that we have to use any format, any chance in order to have a possibility of negotiating, possibility of talking to Putin," warning that if the attempts to negotiate with Putin fail, "that would mean that this is a third world war."

Russia's Black Sea Fleet captain reportedly killed

A ranking Russian military official was reportedly killed in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, according to a Russian official's post on social media.

Russian Senator from Sevastopol Yekaterina Altabayeva on her Telegram said Andrey Paliy, 51-year-old deputy commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, died in the clashes at Ukraine's Mariupol city.

Altabayeva said Paliy graduated from the Kiev Military Naval School of Politics in 1992, and that he refused to join the Ukrainian army in 1993 and entered the Russian Northern Navy.

US decries 'disturbing' accounts of Ukrainians deported to Russia 

Accounts that thousands of residents of Ukraine's besieged port city of Mariupol have been forcibly deported to Russia are "disturbing" and "unconscionable" if true, US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield has said.

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Thomas-Greenfield said the United States had not yet confirmed the allegations made on Saturday by the Mariupol city council via its Telegram channel.

"I've only heard it. I can't confirm it," she said. "But I can say it is disturbing. It is unconscionable for Russia to force Ukrainian citizens into Russia and put them in what will basically be concentration and prisoner camps."

Russian advance 'stopped on all fronts': Ukrainian official 

Russia’s advance in Ukraine has been "stopped on all fronts," Ukrainian presidential adviser Alexey Arestovych has said.

Ukrainian forces are putting up a stronger fight as clashes continue on the ground, Arestovych said in a video message on social media. He asserted that the Russian forces have “no power” to change the situation.

Russian soldiers and officers are feeling the pressure as commanders are being accused of “cowardice and weakness of character” after inspections by Russia’s Federal Security Service, Arestovych claimed. 

Zelenskyy: 'Time for Israel to make its choice' 

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged Israel to abandon its effort to maintain neutrality following Russia's offensive, saying the time had come for the Jewish state to firmly back his country.

"Ukraine made the choice to save Jews 80 years ago," Zelenskyy said in an address to Israeli lawmakers which at several points compared Russian aggression to the Holocaust.

People rally in Berlin to support Ukraine 

Some 10,000 people attended a concert in solidarity with Ukraine in Berlin.

Gathering near the Brandenburg Gate, symbol of a divided Germany during the Cold War, many performers on the stage wore shades of blue and yellow, the colours of the flag.

Musicians included Natalia Klitschko, a Ukrainian singer who is married to the mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko.

Russia hypersonic missile 'not a game changer': Pentagon 

Russia's claim it used a hypersonic missile in Ukraine was a way to reclaim war momentum, but the next-generation weaponry has not proved to be a "game changer," US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said.

"I would not see it as a game changer," Austin told CBS talk show "Face the Nation."

"I think the reason he is resorting to using these types of weapons is because he is trying to re-establish some momentum," he said. "And again, we've seen him attack towns and cities and civilians outright (and) we expect to see that continue."

Fighting ongoing inside Mariupol: regional governor 

Fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces is going on inside the eastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko has said.

Many of Mariupol's 400,000 residents have been trapped for more than two weeks as Russia seeks to take control of the city, which would help secure a land corridor to the Crimea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Strike on Kiev apartment block wounds five

A shell exploded outside an apartment block in Kiev, wounding five people, the city's mayor has said.

The ten-storey building in northwestern Sviatoshyn district was badly damaged, with all the windows blown out and scorch marks from a fire that broke out, AFP journalists at the scene said.

Firefighters led an elderly woman and a disorientated man with facial injuries to an ambulance. Two burned-out cars lay in the debris-covered courtyard, which also houses a playground.

Ukrainians being forced into Russia: Mariupol city council

The Mariupol City Council has issued a statement claiming that its residents are being evacuated to Russia against their will and one Ukrainian lawmaker says those people are being taken for forced labor in remote parts of Russia.

“The occupiers are forcing people to leave Ukraine for Russia. Over the past week, several thousand Mariupol residents have been taken to the Russian territory,” the city statement said.

The statement by the Mariupol City Council also claimed that cellphones and documents of evacuees have been inspected by Russian troops before sending Mariupol residents to the “remote cities in Russia.”

Russian journalist urges other Russians to speak up

The Russian editor who protested Moscow's military operation in Ukraine during a state TV news broadcast has called for other Russians to speak out against the "gruesome war."

While working for Channel One television in Moscow, Marina Ovsyannikova barged onto the set of an evening newscast Monday, holding a poster reading "No War."

She described to US media her decision to protest as "spontaneous," but said a sense of deep dissatisfaction with her government had been building for years - a feeling she said many of her colleagues shared.

At least 902 civilians killed in Ukraine: UN 

At least 902 civilians have been killed and 1,459 injured in Ukraine as of midnight local time on March 19, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) has said.

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

Pope: 'Slaughters and atrocities' committed daily in Ukraine 

Pope Francis, continuing his implicit criticism of Russia, has called the conflict in Ukraine an unjustified "senseless massacre" and urged leaders to stop "this repugnant war".

"The violent aggression against Ukraine is unfortunately not slowing down," he told about 30,0000 people in St. Peter's Square for his weekly Sunday address and blessing.

"It is a senseless massacre where every day slaughters and atrocities are being repeated," Francis said. "There is no justification for this," he he added.

Over 110 children died in Russian onslaught

At least 115 children have been killed in ongoing Russian attacks in Ukraine, local authorities have said. 

Another 140 children have been wounded since the start of the conflict, according to a statement from the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office. 

Some 489 educational institutes have been damaged and 69 completely destroyed in Russian attacks, it added.

At least 10M civilians either fled or internally displaced: UN

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has driven 10 million people from their homes, the head of the UN refugee agency has said.

“The war in Ukraine is so devastating that 10 million have fled – either displaced inside the country, or as refugees abroad,” Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, wrote on Twitter.

"Among the responsibilities of those who wage war, everywhere in the world, is the suffering inflicted on civilians who are forced to flee their homes."

Nearly 40,000 have fled Mariupol in past week

The authorities in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol say that nearly 40,000 people have fled over the past week. That's nearly 10 percent of its 430,000 population.

The city council in the Azov Sea port city said that 39,426 residents have safely evacuated from Mariupol in their own vehicles. 

It said the evacuees used more than 8,000 vehicles to leave via a humanitarian corridor via Berdyansk to Zaporizhzhia.

Patriot air defence units arrive in Slovakia - defence minister

The first units deploying the Patriot air defence system have started arriving from NATO partner countries in Slovakia and the deployment will continue in the coming days, Slovak Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad has said on Facebook.

The system will be operated by German and Dutch troops and will initially be deployed at the Sliac airport in central Slovakia to help reinforce defence of NATO's eastern flank.

Russia says it used another hypersonic missile

The Russian military says it has carried out a new series of strikes on Ukrainian military facilities with long-range hypersonic and cruise missiles.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov has said that the Kinzhal hypersonic missile, a weapon capable of striking targets 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) away at a speed 10 times the speed of sound, hit a Ukrainian fuel depot in Kostiantynivka near the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv. 

Konashenkov noted that the Kalibr cruise missiles launched by Russian warships from the Caspian Sea were also involved in the strike on the fuel depot in Kostiantynivka. He said Kalibr missiles launched from the Black Sea were used to destroy an armor repair plant in Nizhyn in the Chernihiv region in northern Ukraine.

Gazprom continues gas exports to Europe via Ukraine

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

The company said the requests stood at 106.6 million cubic metres.

Russia bombs art school in Mariupol housing 400 refugees

Russian forces have bombed an art school in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, where about 400 residents had taken shelter, the city council has said.

There was no immediate word of casualties from the Saturday attack, although the council said the building was destroyed and there were victims under the rubble.

Seven humanitarian corridors will open: Ukraine

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said seven humanitarian corridors would open to enable civilians to leave frontline areas.

Ukraine has evacuated a total of 190,000 people from such areas since the Russian attack began on February 24, Vereshchuk said, though Ukraine and Russia blame each other for hobbling the process.

Ukraine combines national TV channels into one platform

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has signed a decree that combines all national TV channels into one platform, citing the importance of a "unified information policy" under martial law, his office has said in a statement.

The decree announcement, made on the presidential website, did not specify how quickly the new measure would come into force.

At least five dead in Russian shelling of Kharkiv

Authorities in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kharkiv say at least five civilians have been killed in the latest Russian shelling.

Regional police in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, said the victims of the Russian artillery attack included a 9-year-old boy.

Kharkiv has been besieged by Russian forces since the start of the operation and has come under a relentless barrage.

Ukraine evacuates scores of baby orphans

Authorities in Ukraine have evacuated scores of baby orphans from a city engulfed by combat.

The governor of the northeastern Sumy region, Dmytro Zhyvytskyy, said that 71 infants have been safely evacuated via a humanitarian corridor. 

Zhyvytskyy said on Facebook that the orphans will be taken to an unspecified foreign country. He said most of them require constant medical attention.

Ukraine sees high risk of attack from Belarus: presidential office

Ukraine sees a high risk of an attack on western Ukraine's Volyn region being launched from Belarus, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office has said, citing the military.

The Russian operation has mostly focused on northern, southern and eastern areas of Ukraine, though missiles also hit the Yavoriv military base last week, close to the Polish border.

It was not immediately clear whether Ukraine saw the threat of an attack on Volyn from Russian forces or the Belarusian military, which has so far not publicly committed troops to supporting Russia.

China's position on Ukraine conflict objective and fair: FM

China stands on the right side of history over the Ukraine crisis as time will tell, and its position is in line with the wishes of most countries, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said.

"China will never accept any external coercion or pressure, and opposes any unfounded accusations and suspicions against China," Wang told reporters, according to a statement published by his ministry.

"China's position is objective and fair, and is in line with the wishes of most countries. Time will prove that China's claims are on the right side of history."

Zelenskyy says siege of Mariupol involved war crimes

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the siege of the port city of Mariupol will go down in history for what he said were war crimes committed by Russian troops.

“To do this to a peaceful city, what the occupiers did, is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come,” Zelenskyy said in a video address to the nation.

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

Mariupol says Russia forcefully deported thousands of its people

The city council of Ukraine's Mariupol has said Russian forces forcefully deported several thousand people from the besieged city last week, after Russia had spoken of "refugees" arriving from the strategic port.

"Over the past week, several thousand Mariupol residents were deported onto the Russian territory," the council said in a statement on its Telegram channel.

"The occupiers illegally took people from the Livoberezhniy district and from the shelter in the sports club building, where more than a thousand people (mostly women and children) were hiding from the constant bombing."

Australia bans alumina, bauxite exports to Russia

Australia has announced more sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine conflict, immediately banning all exports of alumina and bauxite while pledging more weapons and humanitarian assistance.

The export ban aims to impact aluminium production in Russia, which relies on Australia for 20 percent of its alumina.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government was working with partners to "put the maximum cost, the maximum pressure on the Putin regime to withdraw from Ukraine".

One of Europe's biggest steel works damaged in Ukraine's Mariupol

One of Europe's biggest iron and steel works, Azovstal, has been badly damaged as Russian forces lay siege to the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, officials have said.

"One of the biggest metallurgic plants in #Europe destroyed. The economic losses for #Ukraine are huge. The environment is devastated," tweeted Ukrainian lawmaker Lesia Vasylenko.

Vasylenko posted a video of explosions on an industrial site, with thick columns of grey and black smoke rising from the buildings.

Ukraine suspends activities of some opposition parties

Ukrainian president has said that the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine has stopped activities of several political parties during martial law that was announced in Ukraine.

"Ukraine has always sought a peaceful solution. Moreover, we are most in favor of peace," said Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Suspensions include the Opposition Platform – For life; Party of Shariy; Nashi; Opposition Bloc, the Left Opposition Party; Union of Leftists; Derzhava; Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine; Socialist Party of Ukraine, the Socialists and the Volodymyr Saldo Bloc, said Zelenskyy, according to the UNIAN Ukrainian news agency.

Russia's assault causes turmoil for world economy ⁠— EBRD

The Ukraine conflict has major economic consequences for energy, food, inflation and poverty, according to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The EBRD's chief economist, Beata Javorcik, spoke to AFP news agency about the fallout from Russia's offensive of Ukraine, from where more than three million refugees have fled so far.

Global lenders are giving billions for Ukraine, including a 2 billion euro ($2.2 billion) "resilience package" from the London-based EBRD, but there is currently no end in sight to the conflict.

The crisis has sent commodity prices rocketing on supply fears, fuelling inflation that is already at multi-decade highs.

Conflict hits Russian, Ukrainian currencies

Their economies rocked by conflict, Russian and Ukrainian authorities have deployed different tactics to defend their weakened currencies, with varying degrees of success.

The Russian ruble, which was trading around 80 to the dollar before Moscow sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, lost 40 percent of its value in the following days, slumping to an unprecedented level of 150 to the dollar.

It has since clawed back much of that, trading at around 105 rubles to the dollar, seemingly having profited from talks between Moscow and Kyiv to end the conflict.

Ukraine holding its airspace - UK

The British defence ministry has said the Ukrainian Air Force and air defence forces are “continuing to effectively defend Ukrainian airspace.”

“Russia has failed to gain control of the air and is largely relying on stand-off weapons launched from the relative safety of Russian airspace to strike targets within Ukraine,” the ministry said on Twitter. “Gaining control of the air was one of Russia’s principal objectives for the opening days of the conflict and their continued failure to do so has significantly blunted their operational progress.”

A Ukrainian military official meanwhile confirmed to a Ukrainian newspaper that Russian forces carried out a missile strike Friday on a missile and ammunition warehouse in the Delyatyn settlement of the Ivano-Frankivsk region in western Ukraine.

Russia claims Ukraine plans to attack diplomatic missions

Russian Defence Ministry has claimed that a Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) officer who surrendered said his country is planning attacks on Western diplomatic missions in Lviv to push NATO to intervene in the conflict.

The attacks will be carried out by the far-right ultra-radical Azov battalion, fighting on the Ukrainian side, according to the officer, spokesman Igor Konashenkov said at a news conference in Moscow.

"During a special military operation, an employee of the SBU main Directorate for Donetsk and Luhansk regions voluntarily surrendered to Russian servicemen,” he said. "The main purpose of the provocation is to increase pressure on NATO countries to introduce a ‘no-fly zone’ over Ukraine and provide additional weapons.”

Satellite image shows demolished Mariupol theatre

A satellite image from Maxar Technologies, a private US company, showed damage to Mariupol Drama Theatre after an air strike on Wednesday (March 16).

The city council said Russian forces bombed a theatre where civilians were sheltering. The number of casualties was not known.

Russia denied it had carried out an air strike against the theatre. Reuters could not independently verify the information.

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies on Saturday, March 19, 2022 shows the aftermath of the airstrike on the Mariupol Drama theater, Ukraine, and the area around it.
This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies on Saturday, March 19, 2022 shows the aftermath of the airstrike on the Mariupol Drama theater, Ukraine, and the area around it. (AP)

Ukrainian refugees seeking IDs from Poland

Hoping to restore some normalcy after fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, thousands of refugees have waited in long lines in the Polish capital of Warsaw to get identification cards that will allow them to get on with their lives — at least for now.

Refugees started queuing by Warsaw’s National Stadium overnight to get the coveted PESEL identity cards that will allow them to work, live, go to school and get medical care or social benefits for the next 18 months. Still, by mid-morning, many were told to come back another day. The demand was too high even though Polish authorities had simplified the process.

“We are looking for a job now,” said 30-year-old Kateryna Lohvyn, who was standing in the line with her mother, adding it took a bit of time to recover from the shock of the Russian offensive.

US lawmakers visit Poland over Ukraine

A bipartisan delegation of US lawmakers visiting Poland has said that the most urgent need in Ukraine’s fight against a Russian assault is to equip and support the country in every way that will help it defend its independence.

The seven-member delegation led by Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Democrat from Massachusetts, has visited reception centers for refugees from Ukraine in eastern Poland. They noted Poland’s openness in accepting refugees from Ukraine, including in private homes. More than 2 million people fleeing armed conflict have come to Poland since February 24, when Russia’s troops attacked Ukraine.

“We are here to reassure and support the people of Ukraine. We are here to thank the people of Poland for the unbelievable generosity they have shown to the refugees,” said Lynch, who is chairman of the subcommittee on National Security in the Committee on Oversight and Reform.

For live updates from Saturday (March 19), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies