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Russia - Ukraine war summary: 31 March 2022

Update:
After five weeks the Russian military said it would start to withdraw troops from around Kyiv, focusing instead on the Donbas region to the east.

Russia-Ukraine war: live updates

Headlines

Evacuation convoy moves towards Mauripol, where more than 100,000 civilians are trapped

- NATO Secretary-General: "Russian units are not withdrawing but repositioning"

- Biden claims that Putin may have placed some high-ranking Russian military officials under arrest

- UN to investigate Russian war crimes in Ukraine

- Russian claims to withdraw forces from Kyiv and Chernikiv but intelligence suggests they are simply regrouping in Belarus

- Russian shelling continues across Ukraine overnight, despite Kremlin claim that it would reduce military activity

- India begins to set up a new payment system to continue trading with Russia

Russia-Ukraine conflict: Background

- How does the Russian government control media access for citizens?

- Which nations near Russia have a US military base?

- Russia has a clear advantage when it comes to their air force. How many fighter jets  do they have?

- Ukraine softens its stance on joining NATO. How many countries are already members?

- Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich, was allegedly poisoned in early March when he attended diplomatic negotiations in Turkey

Related articles:

Wiki accused of fake news by Russian authorities

The Russian government has always kept a tight grip on the nation's access to the internet but since the start of the invasion of Ukraine the authorities have cracked down even more on outlets that contradict the Kremlin's account of events. New 'fake news' laws were brought in last month, threatening protestors and news reporters with up to a decade in prison for refusing to toe the party line in Russia. This has now gone so far as a supposed threat to Wikipedia, with a hefty fine for spreading “inaccurate information on a special military operation of the Russian Federation in Ukraine", according to Russian officials. 

Pentagon warns that Putin may be unaware of situation on the ground

Speaking to MSNBC, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby says that the invasion of Ukraine could continue for even longer as there are concerns that President Putin is not being informed of the reality on the ground by his advisors. Putin's grip on the Russian government is such that he is surrounded entirely by people of his choosing and they are often reluctant to give him any bad news, for fear of his wrath. Just earlier today President Biden said he had received reports that Putin had placed some military officials under house arrest for perceived failures in Ukraine. 

Biden comments on Putin's state of mind

“There’s a lot of speculation, but he seems to be — I’m not saying this with a certainty — he seems to be self-isolating, and there’s some indication that he has fired or put under house arrest some of his advisers."

“But I don’t want to put too much stock in that at this time because we don’t have that much hard evidence.”

Joe Biden, POTUS

WORLD NEWS

What happened at the meeting of Russia and Ukraine in Turkey? Is a ceasefire possible?

Earlier this week representative for both Russia and Ukraine met in Istanbul, Turkey for peace talks. Some progress has been made but sticking points remain on a number of key issues.

One of the latest developments has been the Russian demand for the besieged city of Mariupol to surrender. Under assault for a month, the key city in the Donetsk region is a major Russian target, especially after the supposed abandonment of objective Kyiv. However the Ukrainian authorities have shown no appetite to consider a surrender, even in the face of continued Russian aggression. 

Read more

Russian continues to bomb Ukraine on an enormous scale

In recent days the Russian military has claimed it is withdrawing troops from Kyiv and other areas of Ukraine, a statement that is questioned by many Western intelligence sources. However what is not in contention is that bombings on major Ukrainian cities have been increasing in the past few weeks as the Kremlin appears to become frustrated with the slow pace of the invasion. This report from the Kyiv Independent shows the huge news of shells that have landed on Ukraine over the past five weeks. 

War reporter recounts facing fire in Ukraine

Speaking on UK's Sky News, war reporter Stuart Ramsay outlines some of his experiences in Ukraine over the past few weeks as he covered the ongoing Russian invasion. Journalists and camera operators from around the world have travelled to Ukraine to recount the horrific scenes as the Russian military continues to bombard the nation, becoming increasingly willing to attack civilian targets to force Ukraine into surrender. 

Russia is "regrouping, not withdrawing"

"According to our intelligence, Russian units are not withdrawing but repositioning. Russia is trying to regroup, resupply and reinforce its offensive in the Donbas region."

"At the same time, Russia maintains pressure on Kyiv and other cities. So we can expect additional offensive actions, bringing even more suffering."

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General

Zelenskyy thanks Turkey for readiness to guarantee Ukraine's security

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan for Turkey's readiness to provide security guarantees to Ukraine in a call on Thursday, Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter.

Ukraine's president also wrote that the two leaders "agreed on further steps towards peace."

Turkey hosted peace talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations on Tuesday, where the Ukrainian side proposed a system of security guarantees by several third countries, including Turkey.

UN watchdog in Russia to ensure safety of nuclear facilities

UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi has arrived in Kaliningrad for talks with senior Russian officials after a visit to Ukraine where he is seeking to ensure the safety of nuclear facilities, his agency said on Thursday.

"IAEA Director General (Grossi) just arrived in Kaliningrad, Russia, for talks with senior Russian officials tomorrow morning," the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Twitter, with a picture showing him disembarking from a plane.

Britain, allies pledge more weapons for Ukraine

Britain and its allies have agreed to send more lethal weapons to Ukraine to help defend it against Russia's invasion, British defence minister Ben Wallace said on Thursday.

"There'll be more lethal aid going into Ukraine as a result of today. A number of countries have come forward either with new ideas or indeed more pledges of money," Wallace told reporters after hosting over 30 international partners at a conference.

He said the lethal aid included longer range artillery, ammunition, and more anti-aircraft weapons.

Ukraine's battle fronts are shifting - interior ministry adviser

The southern city of Mariupol and a "corridor" between two eastern towns, Izyum and Volnovakha, are becoming the key battlefronts in Ukraine, an interior ministry adviser said on Thursday.

"(Russia) is withdrawing forces in the Kyiv region, but it's too early to say that the same is happening in the Chernihiv region," adviser Vadym Denysenko said.

Russia said on Tuesday it would scale down operations in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions. NATO's chief said on Thursday this was a regrouping rather than a withdrawal.

Russian de-escalation cover for ramped up attacks

The Pentagon has said that perhaps 20 percent of the Russian forces around Kyiv have begun to abandon the region. However the onslaught of bombardments continues around the capital and other parts of Ukraine.

Ukraine's nuclear enery company Energoatom says that Russian forces are leaving the Chernobyl nuclear plant and nearby city of Slavutych, but that troops are still present. The military units were heading north to Belarus.

Putin signs decree, foreign buyers must pay for gas in Rubles

The crushing sanctions imposed on Russia by Western nations have been taking a toll on the economy. The nation's currency initially fell to all-time lows but has since recovered when President Vladimir Putin mooted the idea that "unfriendly nations" would have to pay for Russian gas in the rubles.

On Thursday the Kremlin announced that it was following through on its threat. Under the decree signed by Putin, starting tomorrow, 1 April, foreign buyers will have to open a special account at a Russian bank where they will deposit their payments. The bank will exchange the funds into rubles which they can use to pay for their gas supplies.

If they fail to comply, Putin says they will be considered in breach of contract and Russia is "not going to do charity." Western companies and governments say the move is a breach of existing contracts, which are set in euros or dollars. Europe which gets 30 percent of it gas from Russia is bracing for an energy crisis.

RUSSIAN INVASION OF UKRAINE

What has the US and Europe said about the Russian military de-escalation?

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators held their first peace talks in two weeks on Tuesday after which Russia said that it would reduce its attacks on Kyiv and a strategic city north of the Ukrainian capital, Chernihiv. Moscow said that it wants to "boost mutual trust" in peace talks.

Although it would be a welcome de-escalation in that theater of the Russian invasion, Western nations and Ukraine remain wary of Moscow’s intentions. So far, no major withdraw of troops from either area has been seen and the governor of Chernihiv told the BBC that attacks continued throughout Wednesday night.

Full details

Ukraine will hold to account Russian soldiers for war crimes

The head of the UN Human Rights Council has said that it is prepared to investigate potential war crimes with over 100 credible allegations or verified instances. Ukraine has already opened over 3,500 criminal cases against Russians acording to Mykhailo Podolyak, advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Russian and Ukrainian Foreign Ministers could meet in two weeks

Russia and Ukraine had their first peace talks in two weeks in Instanbul on Tuesday. Ukraine would like for there to be a face-to-face meeting between the two heads of state Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Vladimir Putin, but Russia has said that can't happen until there is a concrete agreement.

In the meantime though, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a televised interview "There could be a higher-level meeting, at least at the level of foreign ministers, within about a week or two weeks." 

Currently, advisors to the presidents of Ukraine and Russia have been the negotiators handling the peace talks.

Ukraine updates Russian losses since Putin ordered invasion

The Russians have taken heavy losses since invading Ukraine. What was expected by Putin, his advisors and many military experts to be a short war has instead lasted over a month with Russia failing to take their main targets and now bogged down.

This is due to the fierce resistance of the Ukrainians aided by Russian military ineptitude, through poor logistics, communication and coordination failures.

Europe looks to wean itself of Russian gas, oil and coal

In response to Putin's invasion of Ukraine the West has imposed crippling sanctions on Russia. However, the European Union hasn't banned imports of Russian energy supplies into its territory due to its heavy dependence. However, EU countries are detailing plans to end that dependence, which is helping finance the Russian war machine in Ukraine.

Poland plans to end coal imports in a matter of months and stop importing Russian oil by the end of the year. Germany too has laid out plans to cut its importation of Russian energy, nearly ending gas imports by the end of the year.

UN to investigate Russian war crimes

Russian forces have committed numerous atrocities since they invaded Ukraine 24 February. But as their advance stalled, Moscow has resorted to leveling cities under seige much like it did in Chechnya and Syria.

The US and Ukraine have already accused Russian forces of committing war crimes but now the UN is set to investigate. Michelle Bachelet, head of the UN Human Rights Council, said UN monitors in Ukraine have verified 77 incidents in which medical facilities were damaged, including 50 hospitals.

Additionally, her office has received at least 24 “credible allegations” that Russian forces used cluster munitions in populated areas of Ukraine.

Irpin

No progress in talks between Russia and Ukraine

Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine have not advanced, France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said earlier. There were no signs that suggest changes in Russia's position, Le Drian told international broadcaster France24 in an interview.

Photo by Sergey Bobok via AFP of Ukrainian serviceman standing guard at a checkpoint in Kharkiv.

Irpin

Russian bombardment continues despite peace talks

(Reuters) - Russian forces bombarded the outskirts of Kyiv and a besieged city in northern Ukraine on Wednesday after promising to reduce attacks there in what the West dismissed as a ploy by Moscow to stem its heavy losses and regroup for other offensives.

Nearly five weeks into an invasion in which Russia has failed to capture any major city, the top UN human rights official said Moscow had bombed 50 hospitals as well as homes and schools across Ukraine in what may amount to war crimes.

Photo: Stringer via Reuters, a fire burns in a building after being shelled, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Irpin, Kyiv region.

WORLD NEWS

What happened at the meeting of Russia and Ukraine in Turkey? Is a ceasefire possible?

March 29 saw the 'city of the world's desire', Istanbul, play host to the most important peace negotiations so far in the Ukrainian war. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is acting as media as high-level talks between the two parties hope to thrash out an agreement.

Some progress has been made so far, but sticking points remain on a number of key issues. One of the latest developments has been the Russian demand for the besieged city of Mariupol to surrender. Under assault for a month, the key city in the Donetsk region is a major Russian target, especially after the supposed abandonment of objective Kyiv.

Read more

WORLD NEWS

Which Russian companies has Anonymous attacked and what data has it leaked?

Hacking group Anonymous, the decentralized international activist collective known for cyberattacks against governments, institutions and corporations, has turned its attention to Russia. Western nations have not sent combat troops to fight Russia in Ukraine but Anonymous, who have been largely inactive in recent years, have returned to put pressure on the Russian establishment.

Since the end of February, the group has been carrying out what it calls 'cyber operations' against Russia. These attacks have hit businesses and functions of the Russian government with the aim of damaging the Kremlin's ability to wage a sustained war in Ukraine. 

Read more

WORLD NEWS

Have Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators been poisoned?

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and a delegation of Ukrainian peace negotiators may have been poisoned at the beginning of March. The claims were made as part of a report that was published earlier this week, the group was scheduled to begin peace talks.

The symptoms are not thought to be life threatening and some analysts have proposed that they were a scare tactic to put pressure on those looking for a settlement.

Read more

Good morning and welcome to AS USA

Good morning! We'll bring you all the latest on the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In recent days the Kremlin has claimed that it is reducing military activities in the area surrounding the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and Chernihiv, but overnight there were reports of "colossal" bombing of Chernihiv. The Kremlin has once again called on Ukrainians to lay down their arms in the beseiged city of Mariupol.

Negotiators from Russia and Ukraine are meeting in Istanbul for peace talks which have yet to yield an end to the conflict.

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