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Russia - Ukraine war | News summary for 20 March

All the latest news and information as Russian forces continues to bombard Ukrainian cities while there is hope for a diplomatic solution to the war.

Ukraine - Russia war: live updates

Most Russian forces more than 25km from centre of Kyiv - UK intelligence

In its latest intelligence update on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UK’s Ministry of Defence says most Russian forces remain “more than 25 kilometres” from the centre of Kyiv, but can be expected to attempt to surround the Ukrainian capital in the weeks to come.

“Heavy fighting continues north of Kyiv,” the update says. "Russian forces advancing on the city from the north-east have stalled. Forces advancing from the direction of Hostomel to the north-west have been repulsed by fierce Ukrainian resistance. The bulk of Russian forces remain more than 25 kilometres from the centre of the city.

“Despite the continued lack of progress, Kyiv remains Russia’s primary military objective and they are likely to prioritise attempting to encircle the city over the coming weeks.

Central Europe almost at limit of capacity for accepting refugees

Central European officials have voiced their concern that they are nearing full capacity to house Ukrainian refugees who are now taking shelter in temporary accommodation.

Most of those seeking refuge arrived in Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.

With Ukrainian men being obliged to stay and help fight the Russian invaders, most of the refugees are women and children.

China's top envoy to Washington vows they will try to de-escalate Ukraine war

China's top envoy to Washington, ambassador Qin Gang, promises that his country will try to de-escalate the war in Ukraine, but refuses to condemn Russia's invasion.

The ambassador said there is "disinformation about China providing military assistance to Russia," saying they are not sending weapons and ammunition to any party.

Ammonia leak reported at chemical plant in Sumy, Ukraine

There is an ammonia leak at a chemical plant in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy besieged by Russian troops, according to Sumy regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyy.

Zhyvytskyy did not say what had caused the leak at the Sumykhimprom plant. He said
the area within a five-kilometer radius around the plant was hazardous.

New Zealand to provide more assistance to Ukraine

New Zealand said it will provide Ukraine with a further $3.46 million in funds and non-lethal military assistance including some surplus equipment.

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

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

The New Zealand Defense Force will provide tactical equipment such as body armor, helmets and vests.

New Zealand has also imposed sanctions on Russia and arranged a special visa for Ukrainians with New Zealand connections.

Ukrainian mother shields baby from shrapnel blasts in Kyiv

Olga, a 27-year-old Ukrainian woman seriously wounded while sheltering her baby from shrapnel blasts in Kyiv, recalled the shock as she saw blood covering her child after a missile strike that shattered glass across the room.

"I was wounded in the head, and blood started flowing. And it all flowed on the baby," said Olga. "I couldn't understand, I thought it was her blood."

As Victoria's father Dmytro took the girl, Olga said she began screaming that her daughter had been cut. "Olga, it's your blood, it's not hers," she recalls Dmytro responding.

Ukrainian authorities say at least 60 civilians have been killed in Kyiv since Russia invaded the country.

Biden to fly to Poland to discuss Ukraine crisis

US President Joseph Biden will travel to Poland on Friday to discuss the international response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine that has sparked a "humanitarian and human rights crisis," said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Biden will travel to Warsaw where he will hold a bilateral meeting with President Andrzej Duda. Over 2 million refugees have entered Poland from Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24.

Biden's Poland trip will come a day after he meets in Brussels with NATO Allies, G7 Leaders and European Union Leaders to discuss international efforts to support Ukraine after Russia's invasion.

Biden will host a call Monday at 11 a.m. EST with President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom to discuss their coordinated responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine rejects Russian calls for Mariupol to surrender

Ukraine has rejected Russian calls to surrender the port city of Mariupol, where many of its 400,000 residents are trapped and besieged with little food, water and power, and fierce fighting shows little sign of easing.

"There can be no question of any surrender, laying down of arms," the Ukrainska Pravda news portal cited Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk as saying.

"We have already informed the Russian side about this."

Russia earlier called on Ukrainian forces in Mariupol to lay down their arms, saying a "terrible humanitarian catastrophe" was unfolding.

It said defenders who did so were guaranteed safe passage out of the city and humanitarian corridors would be opened.

Mariupol has suffered some of the heaviest bombardments since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Civilian death toll

Latest confirmed figures from the UN Human Rights Office say that 902 civilians and 1,459 injured in Ukraine as a consequence of the Russian invasion. 

Ukraine claim 115 Ukrainian children have been killed and at least 140 injured. 

Russian deadline for surrender in Mariupol

Russia has given Ukrainian forces a deadline of 5am Moscow time (10 pm ET) to surrender in Mariupol, citing a "terrible humanitarian catastrophe". The city has been constantly shelled by Russian forces since Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine and the city's residents who remain trapped there are running desperately low on food and water and many have no access to electricity or heating. 

Russian Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev said, "All who lay down their arms are guaranteed safe passage out of Mariupol."

Russia continues to bombard the city, with Ukrainian authorities saying earlier that Russian forces have bombed an art school in the city, where 400 people were sheltering. An advisor to Mariupol's mayor said there was no precise information on casualties. "The city continues to be shelled both from the sky and the sea, it seems the occupiers are so eager to wipe out Mariupol that they are ready to cover themselves with fire," he posted on Telegram.

According to Ukraine's human rights ombudsman thousands or residents of the city have been forcibly taken to Russia and sent by rail to economically depressed cities, from where they are not allowed to leave. 





Nearly 8,000 people evacuated today

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

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

Zelenskyy critical of Israel respone to Russia invasion

In a speech to the Israeli Knesset, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked why government officials there have yet to place sanctions on Russia similar to those imposed by the US and Europe. He also asked that Israel send its Iron Dome missile defense system to Ukraine to help protect its citizens from Russian air strikes that are devastating the country.  

“Why has Israel refrained from sanctions on Russia? Israel needs to give answers to these questions and after that, live with them,” Zelenskyy said. 

But Zelenskyy also compared what his country is currently enduring to the Holocaust, which angered some Israeli lawmakers.

Mariupol's 'humanitarian catastrophe'

Russia on Sunday 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 10am Moscow time (3am ET) tomorrow, Monday 21 March.


What has happened to the residents of Mariupol? Where have they moved to?

The Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has been a major target of Russian President Vladimir Putin. As a critical connecting point to the Black Sea, and providing a land mass with those regions of Russian separatists, the invasion has seen the harshest impact on its residents.

Reports are that thousands of Mariupol residents have been forcibly deported to Russia, something described as "disturbing" and "unconscionable" if true by US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said today.

Zelenskyy points to risk of World War III

Ukrainian President Zelensky spoke live on CNN and pointed once again to the risks of not getting a deal in place with Vladimir Putin.

If attempts to negotiate with Putin fail, he says, “that would mean this is a third World War.”

President Zelensky announces that he will pay taxes for small businesses

For Ukrainians that will be unable to pay their taxes, President Zelensky has their back. Small businesses who see taxes become voluntary to support them as the invasion wrecks local economies.


NASA release stunning image of Ukraine from space

US Space agency, NASA, which provides access to satellite photographs from all over the world, shows a brightly lit Ukraine (as well as the rest of the surrounding countries) in the days prior to the beginning of the Russian military offensive.

Since the beginning of the invasion, the lights have been progressively extinguished in the Ukrainian territory, until reaching the situation shown in which the blackout is practically total, with only a few tiny points of light in isolated areas.

Check out the images above.

Will President Biden visit Ukraine during his European trip?

No. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has announced that Ukraine is not on the list of destinations the President will visit while in Europe.

What is a hypersonic missile?

Russia has confirmed the use of hypersoninc missiles in Ukraine. But what makes this type of missile different from other varieties? The main thing that makes the different is that they travel very fast...anywhere between 5 and 25 times faster than the speed of sound.


Why is Mariupol an important place for Russia in the invasion?

The coastal city of Mariupol in south eastern Ukraine is a strategic target for Russian forces. But why?

Mariupol is located in the Donetsk Oblast and became the capital of the region after the city of Donetsk was captured by Russian backed separatists. Nearly 450,000 people lived in the city known for its strong industrial economy before the invasion. For that reason, plus its access to the Black Sea, it is a primary target of Russian forces.

Read more.

Pope Francis calls invasion of Ukraine "sacrilegious"

President Zelenskyy to address Israeli Knesset today

In the Ukrainian city of Kherson that has been occupied by Russia, locals take to the streets each day to resist the pressence of RUssian forces in their city. This continues even after Russia has arrested protestors, in attempt to instill fear in the population.

BMW becomes the latetst company to cease opperations in Russia

The car manufacture BMW has announced that they will discounting production in Russia and ban exports to the country. This comes as President Zelensky has called on foriegn companies to cease economic activities in Russia as a way to weaken the economy.

Where are Ukranian refugees fleeing?

BBC News took a look at one small town that has opened its arms to refugees from Ukraine fleeing violence after the Russian invasion began. Take a look..

Baby Rhino named for Kyiv

Could the conflict in Ukraine lead to a global food crisis?

Russia strikes Ukraine with cruise missiles from Black Sea and Caspian Sea

Russia struck Ukraine with cruise missiles from ships in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, and launched hypersonic missiles from Crimean airspace, the Russian defence ministry said on Sunday.

Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russia had carried out strikes against Ukraine's military infrastructure on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

"Kalibr cruise missiles were launched from the waters of the Black Sea against the Nizhyn plant that repairs Ukrainian armoured vehicles damaged in fighting," he said.

Russia fired Kalibr cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea and hypersonic Kinzhal (Dagger) missiles from airspace of Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, to destroy a fuel storage facility used by the Ukrainian military, Konashenkov said.

Russia also hit a Ukrainian military preparation centre where foreign fighters joining Kyiv's forces were based.


Mariupol art school sheltering 400 civilians bombed, officials say

According to city officials, Russian forces have bombed a Mariupol art school sheltering 400 civilians. It is not clear how many casualties there are.

Ukraine-Russia live blog, welcome

We'll bring you all the latest from Ukraine and Eastern Europe as the Russian invasion crosses the three-week mark. European nations are looking to impose tough new sanctions against Russia while negotiations continue between Russia and Ukraine.


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