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Ukraine-Russia news – live: Germany delivers much-awaited Leopard tanks to Kyiv

Germany on Monday confirmed it has delivered Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine two months after Berlin gave a green light for them to be sent.

"Yes, we delivered Leopard tanks as we announced," chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Rotterdam.

"We're providing very modern (tanks) which we have now delivered."

Kyiv has appealed to its western allies to send heavy machinery required to push back Russian forces, ahead of a possible spring counter-offensive by Kyiv.

Berlin delivered 18 of the advanced Leopards, with the last of the tanks having left Germany at the end of last week, The Spiegel reported.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky met with UN atomic energy chief Rafael Mariano Grossi in southern Ukraine.

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The two discussed the precarious situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which has lost several of its power transmission cables during the conflict and on multiple occasions has had to switch to emergency diesel generators.

Mr Grossi, who is director-general of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, plans to visit the plant, which is held by Russian forces, this week.

Key points

  • Germany delivers promised Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine

  • Zelensky meets UN atomic energy chief ahead of Zaporizhzhia visit

  • Russia’s nuclear rhetoric dangerous and irresponsible, says Nato

Germany delivers promised tanks to Ukraine

04:15 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Germany has delivered 18 Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday.

The delivery of the “very modern” German-made battle tanks comes some two months after Berlin finally gave the green light for them to be sent.

Ukraine has appealed to its Western allies to send the heavy weaponry required to push back Russian forces, ahead of a possible spring counter-offensive by Kyiv.

“Yes, we delivered Leopard tanks as we announced,” Mr Scholz told a press conference with Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte in Rotterdam.

Russia fires anti-ship missile at mock target

03:59 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The Russian navy has fired supersonic anti-ship missiles at a mock target in the Sea of Japan, the defence ministry said today.

“In the waters of the Sea of Japan, missile ships of the Pacific Fleet fired Moskit cruise missiles at a mock enemy sea target,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The target, located at a distance of about 100 kilometres, was successfully hit by a direct hit from two Moskit cruise missile.”

Belarus hits out at Poland over border delays

03:55 , Andy Gregory

Belarus has accused Poland of causing long delays at its border with the European Union by slowing the movement of trucks, alleging that Warsaw was failing to implement bilateral agreements.

Poland, a fierce critic of veteran Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, in February closed one of its key border crossings with Belarus, citing security concerns – a decision Minsk called “catastrophic”.

“Since Friday, a queue in front of the only accessible border crossing point on the Belarusian-Polish border ... has doubled in size and now totals 1,000 vehicles,” the Belarusian border committee said in a statement.

“The main reason is the failure of the Polish side to implement bilateral agreements on the passage of trucks,” it said, accusing Poland of only processing 61 per cent of the typical number of trucks crossing the border over the weekend.

Putin taking Belarus as ‘nuclear hostage’, says top Ukrainian official

02:59 , Andy Gregory

Ukraine's top security official has denounced the Kremlin's plans to station tactical atomic weapons in Belarus, saying that Russia was taking its ally as a “nuclear hostage”, reports Karl Ritter.

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, warned on Sunday that Putin's announcement was “a step towards internal destabilisation” of Belarus that maximised “the level of negative perception and public rejection” of Russia and Putin in Belarusian society.

The Kremlin, Mr Danilov added, “took Belarus as a nuclear hostage.”

Ukraine official: Putin taking Belarus as 'nuclear hostage'

Analysis | No country can afford to ignore the war in Ukraine

01:52 , Andy Gregory

In case you missed it, our world affairs editor Kim Sengupta wrote last week that the presence of China’s Xi Jinping in Moscow, and the Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida in Kyiv, had “illustrated the global impact of this conflict in the heart of Europe, with old strategic alliances being strengthened and new ones being formed”.

You can read his analysis in full here:

Analysis: It is becoming clear that no country can ignore the war in Ukraine

Watch: Ron DeSantis backtracks on claims made about Ukraine

Tuesday 28 March 2023 00:41 , Andy Gregory

Ukrainian ambassador ‘expects' Switzerland to remove block on re-exporting arms to Ukraine

Monday 27 March 2023 23:32 , Andy Gregory

Ukraine’s ambassador to Switzerland has said she expects the nation to change its mind on blocking re-exports of arms to Ukraine – despite its longstanding foreign policy of neutrality.

An opinion poll published by the Sotomo Institute in Zurich in late January found that 55 per cent of respondents favoured re-exporting Swiss-made war materiel to Ukraine.

Speaking to Reuters, ambassador Iryna Venediktova said she expected Switzerland to change its position very soon as support for the re-export of Swiss arms to her country increases.

“We need these weapons and ammunition as fast as possible,” she said. “It is a question of survival of our people, our nation, our state.”

Swiss neutrality should not block re-export of arms to Ukraine, insists ambassador

Monday 27 March 2023 22:28 , Andy Gregory

Switzerland’s tradition of neutrality should not include blocking re-exports of Swiss weapons to Ukraine, Kyiv’s ambassador has insisted, claiming the “whole world expects a fair position” instead.

Switzerland’s government reiterated this month it would not change its long-standing policy of banning any country that buys Swiss arms from sending them to the party of a conflict.

But speaking to Reuters at the Ukrainian embassy in Bern, Iryna Venediktova said neutrality and the re-export of arms to Ukraine should be viewed as separate issues.

“I respect Swiss neutrality because it is a pillar of the Swiss state,” she said. “But every day I stress that neutrality and re-export are two absolutely different terms.”

“We don’t ask, ‘Give your weapons to us directly.’ We just ask not to block [re-exports] ... not to contribute to this crime of aggression,” Ms Venediktova said. “The whole world is watching, and the whole world expects a fair position, nothing more than a fair position.”

Switzerland has denied requests from Germany, Denmark and Spain to re-export Swiss war materiel to Ukraine. Switzerland, however, has adopted the European Union’s sanctions against Russia over the invasion, which it has repeatedly condemned.

EU Council chief vows support, ammunition for Ukraine

Monday 27 March 2023 22:18 , Andy Gregory

Here is more information on European Council president Charles Michel’s remarks on Ukraine during his visit to Bucharest today:

EU Council chief vows support, ammunition for Ukraine

Ukraine says defending Bakhmut a ‘military necessity’ as Russia turns attention to ‘post-apocalyptic’ Avdiivka

Monday 27 March 2023 21:12 , Reuters

Ukraine’s ground forces commander has said that Kyiv is planning its next move after Russia shifted the focus of its offensive from Bakhmut to Avdiivka, a town some 55 miles south now described as post-apocalyptic, reports Dan Peleschuk.

Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who said last week that the Ukrainian counterattack could come “very soon”, visited frontline troops in the east on Monday and said his forces were still repelling Russian attacks on Bakhmut.

Defending the small city in the industrialised Donbas region that Russia has tried to seize for months was a “military necessity”, he said, praising Ukrainian resilience in “extremely difficult conditions”.

“We are calculating all possible options for the development of events, and will react adequately to the current situation”.

Ukraine says defending Bakhmut a ‘military necessity’

Hungarian parliament approves Finland’s Nato bid after months of delay

Monday 27 March 2023 20:07 , Andy Gregory

Hungary's parliament has approved a bill to allow Finland to join Nato once its application has been ratified by all 30 members of the alliance – bringing months of delay by Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party to an end.

The bill on Sweden's Nato accession remains stranded in the Hungarian parliament. Finland and Sweden asked to join the transatlantic military alliance last year in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But the process has been held up by Turkey and Hungary.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed earlier this month to start ratifying Finland’s bid, but is still refusing to allow Sweden to join the alliance.

EU will ‘massively ramp up’ ammunition production for Ukraine, vows Michel

Monday 27 March 2023 19:14 , Andy Gregory

European Council president Charles Michel has pledged that EU leaders will “massively ramp up” ammunition production to send to Ukraine, and will continue supporting Kyiv “for as long as necessary”.

“We are again stepping up our military support,” Mr Michel told a news conference in Bucharest’s Cotroceni Palace, where he discussed EU support for Ukraine, security issues in Moldova and Romania’s bid to join the Schengen area with president Klaus Iohannis.

“Last week, we agreed to urgently deliver one million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine. We will massively ramp up our production capacity,” Mr Michel said.

Last week, EU foreign and defense ministers approved a plan for a fast-track purchasing procedure for direct negotiations with industrial providers of ammunition in Europe, and plan to send one million rounds to Ukraine within the next 12 months.

Footage shows devastation in Bakhmut

Monday 27 March 2023 18:34 , Andy Gregory

Huge recruitment advert for Wagner Group appears in Moscow

Monday 27 March 2023 17:29 , Andy Gregory

A giant recruitment advert for Russia’s Wagner mercenary group has appeared on an office building next to a motorway in Moscow.

The advert, which covers 17 storeys, shows the group’s logo and slogans such as “Join the winning team!” and “Together we will win”, along with a picture of a masked man holding a weapon.

Wagner, which fights alongside Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, has sought to replenish troop numbers ahead of a potential Ukrainian counterattack, and is believed to have suffered heavy losses in the frontline city of Bakhmut.

Its boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, a 61-year-old whose company grew wealthy by catering events and fulfilling contracts for the Kremlin and government ministries, has expressed an aim to recruit 30,000 new fighters by mid-May.

 (REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina)
(REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina)

Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks claimed to have reached Ukraine

Monday 27 March 2023 16:41 , Andy Gregory

The Leopard 2 battle tanks pledged by Germany have arrived in Ukraine, a security source has told Reuters, corroborating a report by Spiegel news magazine.

In addition to the 18 main battle tanks, 40 German Marder infantry fighting vehicles, and two armoured recovery vehicles had also reached Ukraine, the security source said.

The German army trained the Ukrainian tank crews as well as the troops assigned to operate the Marder vehicles for several weeks on training grounds in Muenster and Bergen in northern Germany.

Beyond the German vehicles, three Leopard tanks donated by Portugal also reached Ukraine, according to the security source.

Orlando Bloom praises 'courage and determination' of Ukrainians during meeting with Zelensky

Monday 27 March 2023 15:34 , Joe Middleton

Zelensky meets UN atomic energy chief Grossi ahead of Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant visit

Monday 27 March 2023 14:59 , Joe Middleton

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky met with UN atomic energy chief Rafael Mariano Grossi in southern Ukraine on Monday.

The two discussed the precarious situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which has lost several of its power transmission cables during the conflict and on multiple occasions has had to switch to emergency diesel generators.

Mr Grossi, who is director-general of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, plans to visit the plant, which is held by Russian forces, this week.

Two dead and 29 injured after Russian forces shell Ukrainian city of Sloviansk

Monday 27 March 2023 14:47 , Joe Middleton

Two people have been killed and 29 others were wounded when Russian forces shelled the Ukrainian city of Sloviansk, in the partially occupied eastern Donetsk region, local officials said.

Video footage of the aftermath showed damaged residential buildings, debris in the streets and vehicles on fire. Ukraine‘s President Volodymyr Zelensky described the attack as “terrorism”.

Russian officials have denied targeting residential areas, even though artillery and rocket strikes have hit Ukrainian apartment buildings and civilian infrastructure daily during the war.

The Sloviansk attack followed a typical pattern of long-range shelling adopted by the Kremlin’s forces, especially in recent months as the fighting became deadlocked during the bitterly cold winter months.

In the eastern Donetsk region, some 10 cities and villages were shelled by Russian forces over the previous 24 hours, Ukraine‘s presidential office reported.

On Monday morning, Russian missiles hit the city of Avdiivka, damaging residential buildings, a hotel and a courthouse, officials added.

Avdiivka mayor Vitali Barabash said utility companies are being evacuated from the frontline city, as it “resembles more and more a landscape from post-apocalyptic movies”.

Attacks also intensified in the partially occupied south-eastern Zaporizhzhia region, where 14 settlements on the front line were shelled, authorities said.

Zelensky visits frontline positions in Zaporizhzhia

Monday 27 March 2023 14:12 , Joe Middleton

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky visited frontline positions in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region on Monday, according to his Telegram channel.

“I am honoured to be here today, next to our military,” he wrote in a post accompanied by a video of him handing out medals to Ukrainian troops.

A steel plant ready for war shows hit to Ukraine's economy

Monday 27 March 2023 13:15 , Joe Middleton

Flak jackets are piled up at Ukraine’s Zaporizhstal steel plant, and anti-tank traps guard the entrance. Whenever air raid sirens sound — and they go off every day — most workers head to one of the 16 bomb shelters scattered across the sprawling grounds.

But some keep working — braving not only the intense heat and sparks flying from blast furnaces forging steel used in everything from railway cars to household appliances, but the threat of shelling — to keep the molten metal moving.

A steel plant ready for war shows hit to Ukraine's economy

IOC should stick to plan to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes, say Britain, Poland and Baltic states

Monday 27 March 2023 12:32 , Joe Middleton

Russian and Belarusian athletes should be banned from the 2024 Olympics in Paris unless Moscow pulls its forces out of Ukraine, according to Poland, Britain and the Baltic states, despite the IOC saying it plans to let them compete as neutrals.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) sanctioned Russia and Belarus after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 but is now reluctant to exclude their athletes from the Olympics entirely for fear of a return to the boycotts of the Cold War era.

It set out a pathway in January for competitors from Russia and Belarus to earn Olympic slots through Asian qualifying and to compete as neutral athletes in Paris next year.

“We strongly believe that now is not the time to consider the opening up of a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to the Olympic Games in any status,” the Polish foreign ministry said in a statement issued jointly with Britain, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Neutral athletes are not considered to be representing their nations and their successes are not accompanied by the flying of flags or playing of national anthems.

The President of the IOC Thomas Bach has said that the body cannot be a referee in global political disputes. However, the plan has faced opposition, with Germany and others coming out in favour of maintaining the ban.

Kyiv calls for emergency meeting of UN Security Council

Monday 27 March 2023 11:55 , Joe Middleton

Kyiv has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to “counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail” after Russian president Vladimir Putin revealed plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

In a statement, Ukraine’s foreign ministry said: “Ukraine expects effective action to counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail by the UK, China, the U.S. and France.

The statement added: “The world must be united against someone who endangers the future of human civilization,” the statement said.

Nato has also criticised Russian president Putin for his “dangerous and irresponsible” nuclear rhetoric.

Hollywood star Orlando Bloom hails strength of Ukrainian people on visit to the country

Monday 27 March 2023 10:52 , Joe Middleton

Orlando Bloom has praised the strength of the Ukrainian people as he met the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and encouraged him to “go win” the war.

The British actor, 46, who is a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador, travelled to Kyiv in his first visit back to Ukraine since 2016.

In the meeting, Bloom told Mr Zelensky it is “remarkable to see how you are holding this country” and said it was a “real honour” to meet the Ukrainian president.

He said: “(It is) so encouraging in so many ways to see just the remarkably stoic nature of the people of Ukraine. And of course, your messaging that I think is reflected in their courage, and in their determination and in their perseverance and resilience.

“To see the children, to see in their eyes, it’s palpable the anxiety and yet, the strength of the Ukrainian people is something that is really awe-inspiring in truth and, of course, your messaging is the reason for that.”

 (EPA)
(EPA)

Poland detains foreign citizen for spying

Monday 27 March 2023 10:21 , Joe Middleton

Poland has detained a foreign citizen on charges of spying for Russia, prosecutors said on Monday, as the largest country on NATO’s eastern flank finds itself increasingly targeted by Moscow’s intelligence services.

The war in Ukraine has plunged what were already strained relations between Poland and Russia to new lows, with Warsaw saying it is frequently the subject of Russian espionage and disinformation.

Prosecutors in the northern Polish city of Gdansk said in a statement that the suspect had been detained on March 21.

“The findings made in the case show that the suspect acted for the benefit of Russian intelligence by obtaining and collecting information... on critical infrastructure in the Pomeranian and Kuyavian-Pomeranian Regions and on the activities of services and bodies responsible for security,” they said.

“The information obtained was passed on to the Russian intelligence service,” the statement added.

The arrest comes after Poland dismantled a Russian espionage network that had been preparing acts of sabotage and monitoring rail routes to Ukraine.

If found guilty the suspect could face up to 10 years in prison.

Ukraine’s force continuing to repel Russian troops, says general

Monday 27 March 2023 09:24 , Joe Middleton

Ukraine‘s ground forces commander said on his troops were continuing to repel heavy Russian attacks on the eastern city of Bakhmut and that defending it was a “military necessity”.

Ukraine‘s military said Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi had acted during a visit to the eastern front line to solve “problematic issues that prevent effective execution of combat tasks” and taken “operational decisions aimed at strengthening our capabilities to deter and inflict damage on the enemy.”

It gave no details, and did not say when the visit took place, but Syrskyi’s comments signalled Ukraine‘s intention to keep fighting in Bakhmut despite the heavy death toll there.

Nato countries are a party to the conflict in Ukraine, says Russian official

Monday 27 March 2023 08:47 , Joe Middleton

The secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, said that Nato countries are a party to the conflict in Ukraine, according to excerpts from an interview with Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta on Monday.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta cited Patrushev as saying: “In fact, Nato countries are a party to the conflict. They made Ukraine one big military camp. They send weapons and ammunition to the Ukrainian troops, provide them with intelligence”.

Patrushev, a former chief of the FSB internal security service, is widely seen as one of the most hawkish members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

Moscow may seek compensation over Nord Stream gas pipelines explosion - reports

Monday 27 March 2023 08:00 , Joe Middleton

Moscow may seek compensation over damage from last year’s explosions on the Nord Stream gas pipelines, news agency RIA Novosti reported on Monday, citing a Russian diplomat.

The pipelines, which connect Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea, were hit by unexplained blasts last September in what Moscow called an act of “international terrorism”.

“We do not rule out later the raising of the issue of compensation for damage as a result of the explosion of the Nord Stream gas pipelines,” Dmitry Birichevsky, the head of Russia’s Foreign Ministry department for economic cooperation, said in an interview with the news agency.

He added that Western countries were opposing a Russia-prepared draft U.N. Security Council resolution urging an independent international investigation of the Nord Stream blasts.

“Despite this, we intend to continue to insist on a comprehensive and open international investigation with the mandatory participation of Russian representatives,” Birichevsky said.

ICYMI: King Charles says he is determined to visit Ukraine before he 'gets too old’

Monday 27 March 2023 07:41 , Joe Middleton

Russia’s nuclear rhetoric dangerous and irresponsible, says Nato

Monday 27 March 2023 06:16 , Arpan Rai

Nato officials have called Vladimir Putin’s nuclear rhetoric “dangerous” after the Russian president announced plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

“Russia’s nuclear rhetoric is dangerous and irresponsible,” Nato spokesperson Oana Lungescu said yesterday.

She added: “Nato is vigilant and we are closely monitoring the situation. We have not seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear posture that would lead us to adjust our own”.

The Russian president’s “non-proliferation pledge and his description of US weapons deployment overseas were way off the mark”, she added.

Putin taking Belarus as ‘nuclear hostage’ – Ukraine official

Monday 27 March 2023 05:34 , Arpan Rai

Ukraine’s top security official denounced the Kremlin’s plans to station tactical atomic weapons in Belarus, saying that Russia was taking its ally as a “nuclear hostage.”

Moscow said it was making the move in response to the West’s increasing military support for Ukraine.

Russian president Vladimir Putin announced the plan in a television interview that aired on Saturday, saying it was triggered by a UK decision this past week to provide Ukraine with armour-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium.

Read the full story here:

Ukraine official: Putin taking Belarus as 'nuclear hostage'

Ukrainian city Avdiivka becoming 'post-apocalyptic' – official

Monday 27 March 2023 04:43 , Arpan Rai

Ukrainian city in Donetsk is resembling “a place from post-apocalyptic movies” amid heavy Russian bombardment, a local official has said.

“I am sad to say this, but Avdiivka is becoming more and more like a place from post-apocalyptic movies,” the city’s military administration head Vitaliy Barabash said on the Telegram messaging app.

Amid intense shelling, the local authorities have ordered nearly a full shutdown of the frontline city located some 90km (56 miles) southwest of Bakhmut.

Home to more than 30,000 civilians before Russia’s full-scale invasion last year, Avdiivka city now has some 2,000 people left.

The official added that the evacuation of the utility workers who are still trapped in the city has begun and mobile reception will be turned off soon as there are “informers of the Russian occupiers in the city”.

Avdiivka could become a “second Bakhmut”, the Ukrainian military had warned last week as Russia reorganised some of its troops to the city and made gradual gains.

UN nuclear watchdog chief may head to Russia soon – report

Monday 27 March 2023 04:27 , Arpan Rai

The chief of the UN nuclear watchdog will be heading to Russia in the near future but he will not be travelling to the country this week, an official in Moscow has said.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Rafael Grossi had announced a visit to the Russia-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine to monitor the critical situation.

An invite to Mr Grossi for Russia was “quite realistic”, Moscow’s permanent representative to international organisations Mikhail Ulyanov said, reported Russian news agency RIA.

“Not next week, but somewhat later, the visit of Rafael Grossi to Russia may well take place,” Mr Ulyanov added.

Drone footage shows smoke-filled Bakhmut city in ruins

Monday 27 March 2023 04:25 , Arpan Rai

The Ukrainian army has released drone footage showing Bakhmut devastated by shelling in the continuing nine-months long Russian offensive.

The salt mining city is visibly in ruins after months of fierce fighting on the frontline between Russian forces and the Ukrainian army.

Smoke can be seen billowing over residential blocks as many houses were destroyed in the conflict.

A Ukrainian military commander said the battle for Bakhmut is “stabilising” as his forces are pushing back against Russian soldiers.

It comes as Vladimir Putin announced Russia will deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

Watch the video of Bakhmut here:

Drone footage shows Bakhmut in ruins

Putin arrest warrant gives Russian journalist ‘some sort of hope’ for resistance

Monday 27 March 2023 03:00 , Jonathan Kanengoni

Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova said the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin has given her “some sort of hope” that resistance might be sparked within the country’s elite.

Ms Ovsyannikova worked for the Russian state broadcaster, Channel One Russia TV, for more than 10 years before she decided to stage a protest against the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

In March 2022 she interrupted a live evening news broadcast by holding up a sign saying “Stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, here you are being lied to”.

Ms Ovsyannikova, who fled Russia and is now living in Paris, told BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “I think that this is the first signal that the Russian elite should take notice of, and perhaps some kind of resistance will start within the Russian elite, they might plot against him.

“This is some sort of hope for me.”

She added: “Over a long time I realised that Russian TV had become a brainwash.

“I also have Ukrainian roots, my father is from Ukraine. At one point it was like a huge emotional outburst, I didn’t care what would happen to me.”

She claimed that many working in Russia’s state media share her opinions: “This propaganda is made on a very high level. People who are working in the main channels, we don’t really believe it. They have similar views to me.

“No more than 10%-20% of people are pro-Putin.”

New Russian campaign seeks to entice men to fight in Ukraine

Monday 27 March 2023 02:00 , Jonathan Kanengoni

Russia has launched a new campaign, seeking volunteers to replenish the country’s troops for the war in Ukraine.

Advertisements promise cash bonuses and other benefits, recruiters make cold calls to eligible men, and enlistment offices are working with universities and social service agencies to lure students and the unemployed.

As fighting grinds on in Ukrainian battlegrounds like Bakhmut and both sides prepare for counter-offensives that could cost even more lives, the Kremlin’s war machine badly needs new recruits.

A mobilisation in September of 300,000 reservists - billed as a “partial” call-up - sent panic throughout the country, since most men under 65 are formally part of the reserve. Tens of thousands fled Russia rather than report to recruiting stations.

The Kremlin denies that another call-up is planned for what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, now more than a year old.

But amid widespread uncertainty of whether such a move will eventually happen, the government is enticing men to volunteer, either at makeshift recruiting centres popping up in various regions, or with phone calls from enlistment officials.

That way, it can “avoid declaring a formal second mobilisation wave” after the first one proved so unpopular, according to a recent report by the US-based think tank Institute of the Study of War.

Ukrainian crews complete UK training on Challenger 2 tanks

Monday 27 March 2023 01:00 , Jonathan Kanengoni

Ukrainian crews have completed training on Challenger 2 tanks in the UK and returned home to continue their fight against Russia’s invasion.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the Ukrainian soldiers “return to their homeland better equipped, but to no less danger”.

Members of Kyiv’s armed forces travelled to Britain shortly after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced in January that the UK would send 14 Challenger 2 tanks to help oust the Kremlin’s invaders from Ukraine.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that the training has been completed after UK military officials spent several weeks instructing Ukrainian personnel how to operate and fight with the tanks.

Instructions included how to command, drive and work together as a Challenger 2 tank crew and effectively identify and engage targets, the MoD said.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace during a visit to Bovington Camp, a British Army military base in Dorset, to view Ukrainian soldiers training on Challenger 2 tanks (PA) (PA Wire)
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace during a visit to Bovington Camp, a British Army military base in Dorset, to view Ukrainian soldiers training on Challenger 2 tanks (PA) (PA Wire)

Mr Wallace, who visited the Ukrainian troops during their training at Bovington Camp in Dorset last month, said: “It is truly inspiring to witness the determination of Ukrainian soldiers having completed their training on British Challenger 2 tanks on British soil.

“They return to their homeland better equipped, but to no less danger.

“We will continue to stand by them and do all we can to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

Lieutenant Colonel John Stone, who oversaw the training mission, said: “It has been a privilege for the Combat Manoeuvre Centre team to deliver this training to our Ukrainian partners.

“We have all been hugely impressed with the level of competence displayed and have no doubt that our friends will use the Challenger 2 tanks most effectively in the battles to come as they fight to defend their homeland.”

The MoD described the Challenger 2 vehicles as a “step change in capability” for Ukraine‘s armed forces, saying the machines would offer them some of the most modern and sophisticated gunnery systems in the world.

The Ukrainian troops will return with the Western tanks in time for a reported spring counter-offensive by Kyiv that is said to be in the works.

Drone strikes and border trenches: Russia’s war on Ukraine comes home

Monday 27 March 2023 00:00 , Martha Mchardy

Recently built defences give us a roadmap of Russian anxiety, write Janice Kai Chen and Mary Ilyushina

Drone strikes and border trenches: Russia’s war on Ukraine comes home

New Zealand tells China its concern on lethal aid to Russia

Sunday 26 March 2023 23:00 , Martha Mchardy

New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has expressed concern to China over any provision of lethal aid to support Russia in its war against Ukraine during a meeting with her Chinese counterpart.

Her press office on Saturday detailed Mahuta’s cautionary remarks in Beijing, days after Chinese President Xi Jinping concluded his trip to Moscow, a warm affair in which Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin praised each other and spoke of a profound friendship.

Mahuta’s four-day trip, which began Wednesday, was the first made by a New Zealand foreign minister to Beijing since 2018 but it came at an awkward time as Xi visited Moscow the same week to give Putin a diplomatic boost after the International Criminal Court said it wants to put him on trial for alleged war crimes.

Read the full story here:

New Zealand tells China its concern on lethal aid to Russia

Ukrainian city of Vuhledar has been ‘completely razed to the ground,’ commander says

Sunday 26 March 2023 22:00 , Martha Mchardy

The eastern Ukrainian city of Vuhledar has been “completely razed to the ground” amid ongoing heavy shelling by Russian forces in the area, Nazarii Kishak, commander of the machine gun unit with the 72nd separate mechanized brigade, said on national television.

He said: “The enemy continues to use multiple rocket launchers, and shelling not only the immediate front line and Vuhledar but also the surrounding areas.

“The enemy is constantly shelling all settlements with large caliber weapons. The civilian population is exhausted.”

“Vuhledar has been completely razed to the ground. Everything is burnt out, the city is almost empty. There are a few civilians who help the military. The police have taken away the rest of the people, especially the children who have been staying in basements for almost a month,” Mr Kishak said.

The commander said civillians are living “wherever they can, even in the corridors, hiding from the shelling.”

“People are in a very exhausted emotional state of despair. They don’t know what to expect. We are trying to support them, we communicate with them. People have been left without a thing but they still help us, the military.” he said.

UK should stay out of talks to halt Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – Lord Owen

Sunday 26 March 2023 21:00 , Martha Mchardy

The UK should stay out of negotiations to halt Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a former foreign secretary.

Lord Owen said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak should not talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin and any peace talks should be conducted by the two warring countries.

But he added there could be a role for US President Joe Biden as he is the negotiator that “really matters”.

Read the full story here:

UK should stay out of talks to halt Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – Lord Owen

Putin accused of making Belarus ‘nuclear hostage’ over weapons plan

Sunday 26 March 2023 20:35 , Jonathan Kanengoni

Ukraine has demanded an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council over Vladimir Putin’s plans to put atomic weapons in Belarus, saying Minsk was being used “as a nuclear hostage”.

In one of his most pronounced nuclear threats since the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian president said construction of facilities for the weapons would be completed by 1 July.

He said Russia was following the lead of the United States, which has nuclear weapons based in Europe and Turkey, and Britain, which is providing Ukraine with armour-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (Vladimir Astapkovich, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool/AP) (AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (Vladimir Astapkovich, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool/AP) (AP)

But Nato on Sunday criticised his “dangerous and irresponsible” rhetoric.

“Russia’s reference to Nato’s nuclear sharing is totally misleading,” a spokesperson said. “Nato allies act with full respect of their international commitments. Russia has consistently broken its arms control commitments, most recently suspending its participation in the New START Treaty.”

Oleksiy Danilov, a top security adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, said Putin’s plan would also destabilise Belarus. “The Kremlin took Belarus as a nuclear hostage,” he said.

Read the full story here:

Putin accused of making Belarus ‘nuclear hostage’ over weapons plan

Ukraine official: Putin taking Belarus as 'nuclear hostage'

Sunday 26 March 2023 20:00 , Martha Mchardy

Ukraine’s top security official on Sunday denounced the Kremlin’s plans to station tactical atomic weapons in Belarus, saying that Russia was taking its ally as a “nuclear hostage.”

But Moscow said it was making the move in response to the West’s increasing military support for Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the plan in a television interview that aired on Saturday, saying it was triggered by a U.K. decision this past week to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium.

Putin argued that by deploying its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russia was following the lead of the United States. He noted that Washington has nuclear weapons based in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey.

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, tweeted Sunday that Putin’s announcement was “a step towards internal destabilization” of Belarus that maximized “the level of negative perception and public rejection” of Russia and Putin in Belarusian society. The Kremlin, Danilov added, “took Belarus as a nuclear hostage.”

Read the full story here:

Ukraine official: Putin taking Belarus as 'nuclear hostage'

Ukraine says battle for Bakhmut is 'stabilizing'

Sunday 26 March 2023 19:00 , Martha Mchardy

The top commander of Ukraine’s military said Saturday that his forces are pushing back against Russian troops in the long and grinding battle for the town of Bakhmut, and British military intelligence says Russia appears to be moving to a defensive strategy in eastern Ukraine.

“The Bakhmut direction is the most difficult. Thanks to the titanic efforts of the defense forces, the situation is being stabilized,” Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi said in a post on Telegram giving a synopsis of a telephone call with Adm. Sir Tony Radakin, Britain’s chief of defense staff.

The seven-month battle for Bakhmut, where Russian forces have closed in on three sides, is the longest clash of the war, with Russia deploying both regular soldiers and fighters of the mercenary Wagner Group. Russian forces must go through Bakhmut to push deeper into parts of the eastern Donbas region, though Western officials say that the capture of the city would have limited impact on the course of the war.

Ukraine says battle for Bakhmut is 'stabilizing'

Why the West should worry about the end to the Putin and Xi summit

Sunday 26 March 2023 18:00 , Martha Mchardy

This visit may end up being seen as a unique, landmark, occasion: the point at which the global centre of gravity started seriously to shift from West to East, believes Mary Dejevsky

Why the West should worry about the Putin and Xi summit | Mary Dejevsky

Kyiv calls for UN Security Council session over Putin's nuclear plans

Sunday 26 March 2023 17:00 , Martha Mchardy

Ukraine has fiercely criticized plans by Russian President Vladimir Putin to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus and called for an emergency U.N. Security Council session to address the move.

Putin announced the decision on Saturday, saying it would not violate nuclear non-proliferation promises and Russia would not hand off control of the weapons to Belarus.

In a statement, Kyiv’s foreign ministry described it as “another provocative step” by Moscow that undermines “the international security system as a whole”.

Vladimir Putin (Sputnik)
Vladimir Putin (Sputnik)

“Russia once again confirms its chronic inability to be a responsible steward of nuclear weapons as a means of deterrence and prevention of war, not as a tool of threats and intimidation,” the ministry said.

It demanded a Security Council session and also called on the Group of Seven countries and the European Union to warn Belarus of “far-reaching consequences” if it decides to accept the Russian weapons.

Putin said in his remarks on Saturday that Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko had requested the stationing of the weapons. Minsk has not yet commented publicly on Putin’s announcement.

The Belarusian army has not formally fought in Ukraine but Minsk allowed Moscow to use Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine last year. The two countries share a close military relationship.

“Ukraine calls on all members of the international community to convey to the criminal (P)utin regime the categorical unacceptability of its next nuclear provocations and to take decisive measures to effectively deter and prevent any possibility of the aggressor state’s use of nuclear weapons,” the Ukrainian statement said.

5 talking points ahead of England’s clash with Ukraine at Wembley

Sunday 26 March 2023 16:00 , Martha Mchardy

England host Ukraine at Wembley on Sunday looking to make it two wins from two at the start of their Euro 2024 qualification campaign.

However, the football will take a back seat as a delegation of Ukrainian refugees and their host families have been invited to the game as war in the country rages on.

We a look at some of the talking points ahead of the game as England look to build on their 2-1 win in Italy on Thursday.

5 talking points ahead of England’s clash with Ukraine at Wembley

Russia and China are not creating military alliance, Putin says

Sunday 26 March 2023 15:00 , Martha Mchardy

Russia and China are not creating a military alliance and the cooperation between their armed forces is “transparent”, President Vladimir Putin said in comments broadcast on Sunday, days after hosting Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the Kremlin.

Putin and Xi professed friendship and pledged closer ties, including in the military sphere, during their March 20-21 summit, as Russia struggles to make battlefield gains in what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

“We are not creating any military alliance with China,” Putin said on state television. “Yes, we have cooperation in the sphere of military-technical interaction. We are not hiding this.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping leave after a reception (SPUTNIK/AFP/Getty)
Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping leave after a reception (SPUTNIK/AFP/Getty)

“Everything is transparent, there is nothing secret.”

China and Russia signed a “no limits” partnership accord in early 2022, just weeks before Putin sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine. Beijing has refrained from criticising Putin’s decision and has touted a peace plan for Ukraine. The West has dismissed its proposals as a ploy to buy Putin more time to rebuild his forces in Ukraine.

Washington has said recently that it fears Beijing could arm Russia, something China denies.

In his televised remarks, Putin dismissed suggestions that Moscow’s increased ties with Beijing in areas such as energy and finance meant that Russia was becoming overly dependent on China, saying these were the views of “jealous people”.

“For decades many have desired turning China against the Soviet Union and Russia, and vice versa,” he said. “We understand the world we live in. We really value our mutual relations and the level they have reached in recent years.”

The latest in photos

Sunday 26 March 2023 14:00 , Martha Mchardy

People walk past an army recruiting billboard with the words “Military service under contract in the armed forces” in St. Petersburg, Russia (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
People walk past an army recruiting billboard with the words “Military service under contract in the armed forces” in St. Petersburg, Russia (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
People pray at a sarcophagus with a holy relic in the underground labyrinth of the Monastery of the Caves (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
People pray at a sarcophagus with a holy relic in the underground labyrinth of the Monastery of the Caves (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
People pray at a sculpture of founding monks of the Monastery of the Caves, also known as Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
People pray at a sculpture of founding monks of the Monastery of the Caves, also known as Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Russia's nuclear rhetoric is dangerous and irresponsible, NATO says

Sunday 26 March 2023 13:47 , Martha Mchardy

NATO has criticised Russia for its “dangerous and irresponsible” nuclear rhetoric, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

“NATO is vigilant, and we are closely monitoring the situation. We have not seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear posture that would lead us to adjust our own,” a NATO spokesperson said.

“Russia’s reference to NATO’s nuclear sharing is totally misleading. NATO allies act with full respect of their international commitments. Russia has consistently broken its arms control commitments, most recently suspending its participation in the New START Treaty.”

Drone footage shows Bakhmut in ruins

Sunday 26 March 2023 13:43 , Martha Mchardy

Drone footage released by the Ukrainian army shows Bakhmut devastated by shelling.

The city appears to be in ruins after months of fierce fighting on the frontline between Russian forces and the Ukrainian army.

Smoke can be seen billowing over residential blocks as many houses were destroyed in the conflict.

A Ukrainian military commander said the battle for Bakhmut is ‘stabilising’ as his forces are pushing back against Russian soldiers.

It comes as Vladimir Putin announced Russia will deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

Drone footage shows Bakhmut in ruins

Tensions on the rise at revered Kyiv monastery complex

Sunday 26 March 2023 13:00 , Martha Mchardy

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is reverberating in Kyiv in a struggle for control of the Lavra, known in English as the Monastery of the Caves. The complex contains church, monastic and museum buildings; its oldest parts date back to the dawn of Christianity here a millennium ago.

The dispute is part of a wider religious conflict playing out in parallel with the war.

The government of Ukraine has already been cracking down on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church over its historic ties to the Russian Orthodox Church, whose leader, Patriarch Kirill, has supported Russian President Vladimir Putin in the invasion of Ukraine.

The parliament is considering a “draft law on making it impossible to operate in Ukraine religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation” — which could impact the UOC, depending on how it’s interpreted.

The UOC has insisted that it’s loyal to Ukraine, has denounced the Russian invasion from the start and has even declared its independence from Moscow.

But Ukrainian security agencies have claimed that some in the Ukrainian church have maintained close ties with Moscow. They’ve raided numerous holy sites of the church and later posted photos of rubles, Russian passports and leaflets with messages from the Moscow patriarch as proof that some church officials have been loyal to Russia.

Read the full story:

Tensions on the rise at revered Kyiv monastery complex

Putin says he will move nuclear weapons into Belarus - and blames the UK

Sunday 26 March 2023 12:00 , Martha Mchardy

Russian president Vladimir Putin has reached an agreement with Belarus to station tactical nuclear weapons on its neighbour’s territory.

Mr Putin said his plan was in direct response to Britain’s decision to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium, which Moscow falsely claims contain nuclear components.

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, a staunch ally of Mr Putin and supporter of Russia’s war in Ukraine, has long asked for the weapons on his territory, the Russian president said in an interview on state television.

Joe Middleton reports:

Putin says he will move nuclear weapons into Belarus - and blames the UK

Sunday 26 March 2023 11:05 , Martha Mchardy

Russia has launched at least 71 Iranian-made kamikaze drones this month, after a two-week pause, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

The ministry said that the drones are likely being launched from two axes - Russia’s Krasnodar Krai in the east and Bryansk Oblast in the north-east - with the goal of decreasing flying time to targets in the north of Ukraine and further stretching Ukrainian air defences.

The development suggests that “Russia has likely started receiving regular resupplies of small numbers” of the Shahed drones, the ministry said.

Ukrainian ballerina uprooted by war flies high again in Swan Lake

Sunday 26 March 2023 11:00 , Martha Mchardy

After the lights dim in Budapest’s magnificent opera house, Ukrainian ballerina Ganna Muromtseva flutters high with undulating arms as she performs the lead role in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. At the end, the audience bursts into applause.

One year ago, the 29-year-old dancer fled Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on a packed train with thousands of other refugees after the Russian invasion, wondering if she would ever be on stage again.

Muromtseva was at the peak of her career at the National Opera of Ukraine when the war rewrote all her plans.

Marton Monus and Krisztina Than report:

Ukrainian ballerina uprooted by war flies high again in Swan Lake

Watch: Mural of Ukrainian soldier killed by Russian troops painted on police station

Sunday 26 March 2023 10:00 , Martha Mchardy

Russia launches new campaign to entice men to fight in Ukraine

Sunday 26 March 2023 09:00 , Martha Mchardy

Russia has launched a new campaign, seeking volunteers to replenish the country’s troops for the war in Ukraine.

Advertisements promise cash bonuses and other benefits, recruiters make cold calls to eligible men, and enlistment offices are working with universities and social service agencies to lure students and the unemployed.

As fighting grinds on in Ukrainian battlegrounds like Bakhmut and both sides prepare for counter-offensives that could cost even more lives, the Kremlin’s war machine badly needs new recruits.

Recruits hold their weapons during military training at a firing range in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region
Recruits hold their weapons during military training at a firing range in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region

A mobilisation in September of 300,000 reservists - billed as a “partial” call-up - sent panic throughout the country, since most men under 65 are formally part of the reserve. Tens of thousands fled Russia rather than report to recruiting stations.

The Kremlin denies that another call-up is planned for what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine, now more than a year old.

But amid widespread uncertainty of whether such a move will eventually happen, the government is enticing men to volunteer, either at makeshift recruiting centres popping up in various regions, or with phone calls from enlistment officials.

That way, it can “avoid declaring a formal second mobilisation wave” after the first one proved so unpopular, according to a recent report by the US-based think tank Institute of the Study of War.

Ukraine security chief: Basing Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus will destabilise Belarus

Sunday 26 March 2023 07:50 , Martha Mchardy

A top security adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Sunday that Russian plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus would destabilise that country.

“The kremlin took Belarus as a nuclear hostage,” Oleksiy Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, wrote on Twitter.

Putin says he will deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus

Sunday 26 March 2023 07:49 , Martha Mchardy

Russia will deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russian president Vladimir Putin has said.

Mr Putin said that such a move would not violate any nuclear nonproliferation agreements. He added that the US has stationed nuclear weapons on the territory of European allies.

“There is nothing unusual here either: firstly, the United States has been doing this for decades.

“They have long deployed their tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of their allied countries,” he said.

The Russian president said he had agreed with president Lukashenko of Belarus, a supporter of the invasion, that Russia would place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus “without violating our international obligations on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.”

Russia has moved ten aircraft to Belarus that would be capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons, president Putin claimed.

Mr Putin did not specify when the weapons would be transferred to Belarus, but claimed he construction of a storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus by July 1.

Wagner mercenaries ‘running out of steam’ as Ukraine plans counteroffensive

Sunday 26 March 2023 07:30 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Russia’s Wagner mercenaries are “running out of steam” and Ukraine will soon launch a counteroffensive, a military official has said.

Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi claimed that the group, who have been at the front of Moscow’s assault on eastern and southern Ukraine, are losing “considerable strength” amid the fight for Bakhmut.

The Ukrainian military also claimed 1,020 Russian troops had been killed in the past 24 hours after unsuccessful attacks on Lyman, Avdiivka, Marinka and Shakhtarsk.

Eleanor Noyce has more.

Wagner mercenaries ‘running out of steam’ as Ukraine plans counteroffensive

More Britons urged to host refugees on Homes for Ukraine scheme anniversary

Sunday 26 March 2023 07:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Kyiv’s ambassador has urged more people in the UK to host refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion, on the one-year anniversary of the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Thanking Britons for standing “shoulder to shoulder” with Ukraine, ambassador Vadym Prystaiko said in a video message that 160,000 Ukrainian women and children had now arrived under the scheme since Vladimir Putin’s invasion last February – but warned that “some still need your help”.

Refugee charities told The Independent that Homes for Ukraine had been “riddled with flaws” in its first year, while councils cautioned that “significant challenges remain” to ensure Ukrainian refugees “can be supported in the long-term”.

Andy Gregory reports.

More Britons urged to host refugees on Homes for Ukraine anniversary

Russia pardons over 5,000 prisoners after fighting in Ukraine

Sunday 26 March 2023 06:30 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

More than 5,000 Russian prisoners who fought in Ukraine were pardoned after finishing their contracts to fight in the war, the founder of Russia's Wagner mercenary group said.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the boss of the Wagner Group, reportedly recruited thousands of men from prisons, offering them the chance of freedom in return for serving in some of the most dangerous battles in Ukraine.

"At the present time, more than 5,000 people have been released on pardon after completing their contracts with Wagner," Prigozhin said.

Spain's PM to push for 'territorial integrity' for Ukraine in China visit

Sunday 26 March 2023 06:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez said he would push for fair peace in the war in Ukraine that included "territorial integrity" during a state visit to China next week.

Mr Sanchez, speaking to journalists at the Ibero-American Summit meeting in the Dominican Republic, said he would discuss peace prospects with Chinese president Xi Jinping, who is trying to position himself as a mediator in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

"The most important thing ... is that when this peace is reached in Ukraine, it will be fair and lasting ... and when we talk about fair, I mean that the territorial integrity of Ukraine, which has been violated by Putin, is respected," Mr Sanchez said in a news conference.

Ukraine says battle for Bakhmut is ‘stabilising’

Sunday 26 March 2023 05:30 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

The top commander of Ukraine’s military said his forces are pushing back against Russian troops in the long and grinding battle for the town of Bakhmut.

“The Bakhmut direction is the most difficult. Thanks to the titanic efforts of the defense forces, the situation is being stabilised,” Gen Valerii Zaluzhnyi said in a post on Telegram giving a synopsis of a telephone call with Adm Sir Tony Radakin, Britain’s chief of defence staff.

The seven-month battle for Bakhmut, where Russian forces have closed in on three sides, is the longest clash of the war, with Russia deploying both regular soldiers and fighters of the mercenary Wagner Group.

Russian forces must go through Bakhmut to push deeper into parts of the eastern Donbas region, though Western officials say that the capture of the city would have limited impact on the course of the war.

More here.

Ukraine says battle for Bakhmut is 'stabilizing'

India says Russia is reneging on major arms delivery commitments due to war

Sunday 26 March 2023 05:00 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Russia is reneging on its weapon delivery commitments to India as arms supplies have hit a roadblock due to the war in Ukraine, according to the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The comments seem to be the first sign that India could recalibrate its dependency on Russia amid continuing border challenges it faces from its nuclear neighbours Pakistan and China.

The IAF told a committee of India’s lower house in parliament in a statement published that Russia had scheduled a “major delivery” this year, without specifying what this delivery was.

Shweta Sharma reports.

Russia reneging on major arms delivery commitments due to Ukraine war, says India

Sunday 26 March 2023 04:24 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

New Zealand foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta has expressed concern to China over any provision of lethal aid to support Russia in its war against Ukraine during a meeting with her Chinese counterpart.

Her press office yesterday detailed Mahuta’s cautionary remarks in Beijing, days after Chinese president Xi Jinping concluded his trip to Moscow, a warm affair in which Xi and Russian president Vladimir Putin praised each other and spoke of a profound friendship.

Mahuta’s four-day trip, which began Wednesday, was the first made by a New Zealand foreign minister to Beijing since 2018 but it came at an awkward time as Xi visited Moscow the same week to give Putin a diplomatic boost after the International Criminal Court said it wants to put him on trial for alleged war crimes.

More here.

New Zealand tells China its concern on lethal aid to Russia

Lithuania to call for sanctions over Russian plan for nuclear weapons in Belarus

Sunday 26 March 2023 21:45 , Jonathan Kanengoni

Lithuania said on Sunday it would call for new sanctions against Moscow and Minsk in response to Russia’s plan to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

The statement from Lithuania’s foreign ministry came hours after NATO criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin for what it called his “dangerous and irresponsible” nuclear rhetoric.

Lithuania will ask for the additional sanctions on Russia and Belarus to be included in a package of penalties being discussed in Brussels, the ministry’s spokesperson said.

“Together with its Euro-Atlantic partners, Lithuania will decide how to react to these militaristic plans of the Russian and Belarusian regimes,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Belarus, which is increasingly losing its sovereignty, supports and helps Russia’s aggression, and is increasingly integrated into Russia’s military plans, is an additional risk factor for the Baltic region”, it added.

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons statement

Sunday 26 March 2023 02:00 , William Mata

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has spoken out against Vladimir Putin’s decision to store nuclear weapons in Belarus.

“As long as President Putin has nuclear weapons, Europe cannot be safe,” ICAN’s interim executive director Daniel Hoegsta said in a statement on Saturday.

“He justfies this dangerous escalation by citing decades of NATO nuclear sharing. As long as countries continue their complicity in considering nuclear weapons as anything other than a global problem, this helps give Putin cover to get away with this kind of behaviour.”

Gazprom reduces gas export to EU via Ukraine by 15 per cent - reports

Saturday 25 March 2023 23:00 , William Mata

Russian state gas provider Gazprom is set to reduce its export to the EU by 15 per cent.

The Kyiv Independent news site reported on Saturday that Gazprom recorded a gas transit flow of 42.5 million cubic meters from Russia to the EU through Ukraine's Sumy Oblast on March 24.

“On March 25, the volume fell to 36.2 million cubic meters, according to RBC,” a tweet added.

Ukraine war: A week in pictures

Saturday 25 March 2023 22:00 , William Mata

Wembley is welcoming Ukrainian refugees (Amanda Rose/Wembley Park) (PA Media)
Wembley is welcoming Ukrainian refugees (Amanda Rose/Wembley Park) (PA Media)
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
APTOPIX Russia Ukraine War (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
APTOPIX Russia Ukraine War (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
 (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

‘Russia’s assault on the Donbas town of Bakhmut has largely stalled ‘ UK government

Saturday 25 March 2023 21:00 , William Mata

Russia’s assault on the Donbas town of Bakhmut has largely stalled, the UK government has said in a tweet.

The Ministry of Defence wrote on Saturday that both sides have suffered huge casualties but that Russia’s own expenditure has led to things stalling.

The statement added: “The Russian situation has also likely been made worse by tensions between the Russian Ministry of Defence and Wagner Group, both of whom contribute troops in the sector.”

“Russia has likely shifted its operational focus towards Avdiivka, south of Bakhmut, and to the Kremina-Svatove sector in the north, areas where Russia likely only aspires to stabilise its front line..

“This suggests an overall return to a more defensive operational design after inconclusive results from its attempts to conduct a general offensive since January 2023.”

Zelensky: We cannot launch offensive without more weapons

Saturday 25 March 2023 20:11 , Holly Bancroft

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has said that his forces cannot launch a counter-offensive for Bahkmut without more weapons.

Speaking to the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, Mr Zelensky said: “We can’t launch it yet. Without tanks, artillery and Himars, we cannot send our brave soldiers to the frontlines.”

Himars, or high-mobility artillery rocket systems, can fire shells up to 50 miles. Western allies have expressed concerns that Ukrainian forces have been firing ammunition at a faster rate than they can be resupplied.

Mr Zelensky also told the Japanese newspaper that China’s peace plan, presented by President Xi to President Putin, was meaningless without respect for Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Hungary: Criticism makes it hard to cooperate with West

Saturday 25 March 2023 19:00 , William Mata

Hungary’s foreign minister has spoken out (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Hungary’s foreign minister has spoken out (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The West's steady criticism of Hungary on democratic and cultural issues makes the small European country's right-wing government reluctant to offer support on practical matters, specifically NATO's buildup against Russia, Hungary's foreign minister said.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó also said Friday that his country has not voted on whether to allow Finland and Sweden to join NATO because Hungarian lawmakers are sick of those countries' critiques of Hungarian domestic affairs.

Lawmakers from the governing party plan to vote Monday in favor of the Finnish request but "serious concerns were raised" about Finland and Sweden in recent months "mostly because of the very disrespectful behavior of the political elites of both countries towards Hungary," Szijjártó said.

"You know, when Finnish and Swedish politicians question the democratic nature of our political system, that's really unacceptable," he said.

New Zealand tells China its concern on lethal aid to Russia

Saturday 25 March 2023 18:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has expressed concern to China over any provision of lethal aid to support Russia in its war against Ukraine during a meeting with her Chinese counterpart.

Her press office on Saturday detailed Mahuta’s cautionary remarks in Beijing, days after Chinese President Xi Jinping concluded his trip to Moscow, a warm affair in which Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin praised each other and spoke of a profound friendship.

Mahuta’s four-day trip, which began Wednesday, was the first made by a New Zealand foreign minister to Beijing since 2018 but it came at an awkward time as Xi visited Moscow the same week to give Putin a diplomatic boost after the International Criminal Court said it wants to put him on trial for alleged war crimes.

New Zealand tells China its concern on lethal aid to Russia

More funding announced as Kyiv asks for more Britons to take in Ukrainians

Saturday 25 March 2023 18:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

British households taking in Ukrainian refugees who have been in the country for more than a year are to receive an increased “thank you” payment as Kyiv’s ambassador implored more sponsors to offer accommodation.

The Ukrainian ambassador to the UK thanked the British people for their generosity in coming to the aid of those fleeing the conflict caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But Vadym Prystaiko added that “some still need your help” as he called for “those who can” to open their doors to families displaced from their homeland.

As part of the UK’s response to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s attack on Kyiv in February 2022, ministers established the Homes for Ukraine scheme, with thousands of volunteers coming forward to offer shelter to refugees.

More funding announced as Kyiv asks for more Britons to take in Ukrainians

Medvedev says Russia will nuke any country that tries to arrest Putin

Saturday 25 March 2023 17:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Dmitry Medvedev has said that any attempt to arrest Vladimir Putin would amount to a declaration of war against Moscow.

The former Russian president and prime minister also warned that the threat of a “nuclear apocalypse” has not passed.

He has, in the past, often talked about the use of nuclear weapons in the context of last year’s Ukraine invasion, and has emerged as one of Mr Putin’s most hawkish and outspoken deputies.

His new comments come just days after he speculated that a hypersonic missile could be fired at the International Criminal Court (ICC) headquarters at The Hague after the tribunal issued an arrest warrant for Mr Putin.

Arpan Rai reports:

Medvedev says Russia will nuke any country that tries to arrest Putin

Russia strikes deal with Belarus to station tactical nuclear weapons

Saturday 25 March 2023 17:29 , Holly Bancroft

Russia has struck a deal with neighbouring Belarus to station tactical nuclear weapons on its territory, Tass news agency quoted President Vladimir Putin as saying on Saturday.

Such a move would not violate nuclear nonproliferation agreements, Mr Putin said, adding that the United States had stationed nuclear weapons on the territory of European allies.

Russia reneging on major arms delivery commitments due to Ukraine war, says India

Saturday 25 March 2023 17:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

n case you missed it...

Russia is reneging on its weapon delivery commitments to India as arms supplies have hit a roadblock due to the war in Ukraine, according to the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The comments seem to be the first sign that India could recalibrate its dependency on Russia amid continuing border challenges it faces from its nuclear neighbours Pakistan and China.

The IAF told a committee of India’s lower house in parliament in a statement published on Tuesday that Russia had scheduled a “major delivery” this year, without specifying what this delivery was.

Shweta Sharma reports:

Russia reneging on major arms delivery commitments due to Ukraine war, says India

Rescued Ukrainian children recount horrors of Russia deportation and ‘torture’

Saturday 25 March 2023 16:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukrainian children who returned from Russia after months of being deported have recounted the political indoctrination and mental trauma they endured during their detention.

At least 17 children, residents of besieged Kharkiv and Kherson, came back to Ukraine this week, non-profit Save Ukraine said in a release on Thursday.

An emotional video of their return to Ukraine from Crimea showed at least eight children, including teenagers, being reunited with their families after stepping out of a minivan.

Another social media post by Save Ukraine shows the children with their belongings at an undisclosed location in Ukraine.

Rescued Ukrainian children recount horrors of Russia deportation and ‘torture’