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Live: ‘Hellscape’ in Mariupol where 100,000 trapped, Biden heads to Europe
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Live: ‘Hellscape’ in Mariupol where 100,000 trapped, Biden heads to Europe

The United States has assessed that Russian military forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Wednesday, referring to a review of “countless accounts and images of destruction”. Follow FRANCE 24’s liveblog for the latest updates on the situation in Ukraine [Paris time].

4:30 am: 7,000 to 15,000 Russian troops dead in Ukraine, says NATONATO estimated on Wednesday that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in four weeks of war in Ukraine, where fierce resistance from the country’s defenders has denied Moscow the lightning victory it sought.

By way of comparison, Russia lost about 15,000 troops over 10 years in Afghanistan.

A senior NATO military official said the alliance’s estimate was based on information from Ukrainian authorities, what Russia has released – intentionally or not – and intelligence gathered from open sources. The official spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by NATO.

Ukraine has released little information about its own military losses, and the West has not given an estimate, but President Volodymr Zelensky said nearly two weeks ago that about 1,300 Ukrainian servicemen had been killed.

2:25 am: Russian regulator blocks Google News, reports InterfaxRussia’s communications regulator has blocked the news aggregator service of Alphabet Inc’s GOOGL.O Google, accusing it of allowing access to what it calls fake material about the country’s military operation in Ukraine, Interfax news agency said on Wednesday.

“We’ve confirmed that some people are having difficulty accessing the Google News app and website in Russia and that this is not due to any technical issues on our end,” Google said in statement.

“We’ve worked hard to keep information services like News accessible to people in Russia for as long as possible.”

Interfax said Roskomnadzor, the regulator, had acted on a request from the office of Russia’s prosecutor general.

“The American online news resource in question provided access to numerous publications and materials containing inauthentic and publicly important information about the course of the special military operation on the territory of Ukraine,” Interfax quoted the regulator as saying.

A new Russian law makes it illegal to report any event that could discredit the Russian military.

1:15 am: Russia expels US diplomats in tit-for-tat moveRussia on Wednesday said it was expelling US diplomats in retaliation for Washington’s step to remove 12 of Moscow’s representatives to the UN based in New York.

“On March 23, a note with the list of the American diplomats declared ‘persona non grata’ was handed to the head of the American diplomatic mission who was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” the ministry said in a statement.

The decision was taken in response to the expulsion by Washington of Russian diplomats at the UN in New York, the source said.

“The US side has been given firm notice that any hostile action by the United States against Russia will be met with a resolute and appropriate response,” the statement added. 

A US State Department spokesperson confirmed it had received the list from Moscow.

12:15 am: 64 attacks on health care in Ukraine war, says WHOThe World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday it had verified 64 instances of attacks on health care in Ukraine between Feb. 24 and March 21 resulting in 15 deaths and 37 injuries.

Close to 7 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced in the one month of war, with one in three of them suffering from a chronic health condition, according to the global health agency.

Pressure has been mounting on medical professionals and volunteers from Ukraine and abroad to keep the country’s healthcare system going, since the start of the Russian invasion. Read full story

The conflict, which began on Feb. 24, has caused more than 3.6 million refugees to flee Ukraine and already led to the unprecedented isolation of Russia’s economy due to sanctions. 

11:57 pm: Russian move on Ukraine aid fails at UN Security CouncilA Russian-drafted call for aid access and civilian protection in Ukraine that does not mention Moscow’s role in the crisis failed at the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, with only Russia and China voting yes and the remaining 13 members abstaining.

“If Russia cared about the humanitarian situation, it would stop bombing children and end their siege tactics. But they haven’t,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward told the council after the vote. Russia denies attacking civilians.

A Security Council resolution needs at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, Britain, France or the United States to be adopted. Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused those who abstained on Wednesday of doing so “for political reasons.”

Explaining China’s yes vote, Ambassador Zhang Jun said Beijing had a “strong expectation” that there should be an immediate ceasefire, but that while pushing for a halt to the fighting, the council should “also respond to the humanitarian crisis in a positive, pragmatic and constructive manner.”

Russia’s humanitarian resolution fails at UNSC

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11:52 pm: Ukraine’s Zelensky urges global protests against Russia’s warUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday urged citizens around the world to take to the streets to stop Russia’s invasion of his country.

“Come with Ukrainian symbols to support Ukraine, to support freedom, to support life,” Zelensky said in a video address in English. “Come to your squares, to your streets, make yourselves visible and heard.”

In a passionate speech on the eve of a one-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion, Zelensky urged people around the globe “to stand against the war starting from March 24… and after then” and speak up against Russia’s bloody war.

“Show your standing, come from your offices, your homes, your schools and your universities, come in the name of peace,” Zelensky said.

“The world must stop the war.”

Hundreds of civilians have been killed, hundreds more injured and over three million Ukrainians have fled their country since Russia invaded its neighbour on February 24 with the goal of thwarting its pro-Western course.

11:35 pm: UK to send 6,000 missiles, £25 mn to Ukraine army, says JohnsonPrime Minister Boris Johnson said late Wednesday that Britain would send 6,000 missiles, consisting of anti-tank and high explosive weapons, and £25 million ($33 million, 30 million euros) in financial aid to Ukraine’s military.

“The United Kingdom will work with our allies to step up military and economic support to Ukraine, strengthening their defences as they turn the tide in this fight,” he said in a statement, announcing the package on the eve of attending NATO and G7 summits.

11:30 pm: Russian army ‘taking defensive positions’ in Ukraine: PentagonThe Russian army has retreated more than 30 kilometres (18 miles) east of Kyiv in the past 24 hours and has begun to establish defensive positions on several fronts in Ukraine, a senior Pentagon official said Wednesday. 

“The Ukrainians have managed to push the Russians back 55 kilometres east and northeast of Kiev,” the senior official, who requested anonymity, told reporters. “That is a change from yesterday.”

On Tuesday the Pentagon had estimated that Russian forces were around 20 kilometres from the center of the capital.

To the northwest, “they’re basically digging in and they are establishing defensive positions,” the official added. “So it’s not that they’re not advancing. They’re actually not trying to advance right now.”

Moscow’s indiscriminate attacks have devastated several Ukrainian cities since it sent tens of thousands of troops into its eastern European neighbour on February 24, with the civilian toll soaring and more than ten million people fleeing their homes.

Many analysts still see no clear path out of the conflict.

9:30 pm: Biden arrives in Brussels for crunch summits on UkraineUS President Joe Biden arrived in Brussels on Wednesday for crunch summits with European, G7 and NATO allies, expected to focus on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, pictures on broadcaster CNN showed.

Biden, who will be seeking to rally allies to forge a united response to Moscow, will participate in meetings of NATO, the European Union and G7 Thursday before visiting Poland Friday and Saturday.

9:01 pm: Renault suspends operations at Moscow plantFrench carmaker Renault on Wednesday announced the immediate suspension of operations at its Moscow plant. The announcement comes just hours after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a 15-minute-long speech to the French parliament in which he accused a number of French companies, including Renault, of financing the war by still operating in Russia, calling on them to leave.

8:22 pm: Russian journalist killed in Kyiv shellingOksana Baulina, a Russian journalist for the investigative news outlet The Insider, was killed when Russian troops shelled a residential neighbourhood in the Ukrainian capital, the outlet said Wednesday.

Baulina, who previously also worked for Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s anti-corruption group, “died under fire in Kyiv” while “filming the destruction” caused by Russian shelling, The Insider said on its website.

7:30 pm: Russia expels US diplomats in tit-for-tat moveRussia is expelling an unspecified number of US diplomats in retaliation for Washington’s move to remove 12 of Moscow’s representatives to the UN based in New York.

“On March 23, a note with the list of the American diplomats declared ‘persona non grata’ was handed to the head of the American diplomatic mission who was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” the ministry said in a statement. “The US side has been given firm notice that any hostile action by the United States against Russia will be met with a resolute and appropriate response,” it said.

7:05 pm: Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine, Blinken saysThe United States has reached the assessment that Russian military forces committed war crimes in Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday.

“Last week, I echoed President [Joe] Biden’s statement, based on the countless accounts and images of destruction and suffering we have all seen, that war crimes had been committed by Putin’s forces in Ukraine. I noted then that the deliberate targeting of civilians is a war crime,” Blinken said in a statement. “Today, I can announce that, based on information currently available, the US government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine,” he said.

6:08 pm: Germany says ‘breach of contract’ to pay Russian gas deliveries in roublesRussia’s demand for payments in roubles for gas deliveries to Europe constitutes a breach of contract, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck warned Wednesday.

“The announcement of paying in rubles is… a breach of the contract and we will now discuss with our European partners how we would react to that,” he said. Germany imported 55 percent of its natural gas from Russia before Moscow invaded Ukraine.

5:03 pm: Russian minister urges public not to stockpile medicinesRussia’s Health Minister Mikhail Murashko has urged people not to buy extra supplies of medicines as many fear shortages and price hikes due to Western sanctions over Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine.

“I want to tell the public: you don’t need to stock up,” Murashko said during a televised cabinet meeting with President Vladimir Putin. “The suppliers say that deliveries are continuing as planned.”

4:42 pm: Ukrainians push back Russian forces around Kyiv  Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko on Wednesday said that Ukrainian forces have managed to push back Russian troops in several areas around the Ukrainian capital. Klitschko said there were battles raging on the northern and eastern outskirts of the city, and that “the small city of Makariv and almost all of Irpin is already under the control of Ukrainian soldiers”.

He urged Russian soldiers to go back home and said Ukrainians are ready to defend Kyiv building by building. “We are ready to fight for each building, each street, every part of our city,” he said.

3:24 pm: ‘French companies need to leave Russia,’ Zelensky saysZelensky, who received a standing ovation after his 15-minute speech to the French parliament, said Ukraine needs “more than just oxygen… We need to act together”. Zelensky called on the French companies that are still operating in Russia to leave the country, and pleaded for France to send Ukraine more weapons, more air raid defences and to strengthen French sanctions on Moscow.  

3:10 pm: Zelensky addresses French lawmakersUkraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is currently addressing the French parliament via video link. He has begun his speech by saying “most of the answers are in your hands”, and asking the lawmakers to hold a minute of silence for Ukraine and the many victims of the Russian invasion that started on February 24.

Zelensky addresses French parliament

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2:47 pm: Zelensky to address French parliamentUkraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is scheduled to address French lawmakers in the National Assembly at 3pm.

2:16 pm: NATO to deploy four new ‘battle groups’ to eastern membersNATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday said that the transatlantic military alliance is set to bolster its eastern flank by deploying four new battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia “with major increases in the eastern part of the alliance on land, in the air and at sea”.

He also said NATO would lend Ukraine ‘additional support’ against nuclear, chemical threats, and that Russia “must understand it can never win a nuclear war”.

1:42 pm: Black Sea port city of Odesa holds on despite first strikeAuthorities in Odesa accused Russian forces of carrying out a strike on residential buildings in the outskirts of the Ukrainian city early on Monday, the first such attack on the Black Sea port city. FRANCE 24’s Julie Dungelhoeff and Amar Al Hameedawi report from the strategic city.

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1:24 pm: Zelensky urges Japan to impose trade embargo on RussiaUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged Japan on Wednesday to ramp up pressure on Russia with a trade embargo, making an unprecedented direct appeal to parliament that invoked the two nations’ shared experience of nuclear disaster.

Speaking to lawmakers by video link in a gesture never previously accorded to a foreign leader, Zelenskiy thanked Japan for leading the way among Asian nations in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and launching sanctions.

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12:41 pm: Ukraine says talks with Russia ‘difficult’Kyiv said Wednesday that talks with Russia to end nearly one month of fighting were encountering “significant difficulties” after Moscow accused the United States of hindering peace efforts.

“The negotiations are continuing online. They are proceeding with significant difficulties because the Ukrainian side has clear and principled positions,” Ukraine’s lead negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak told reporters in written comments.

12:01 pm: “Putin plans to attend G20 summit” President Vladimir Putin plans to attend a G20 summit later this year in Indonesia, Moscow’s envoy said Wednesday, dismissing suggestions Russia could be excluded from the group over the war in Ukraine.

A day earlier, the United States indicated it would consult allies over Russia’s membership in international forums to increase pressure over the invasion of Ukraine, which has prompted a refugee crisis in Europe and roiled global markets. 

Russian Ambassador to Indonesia Lyudmila Vorobieva said G20 host Jakarta had already invited Putin to the November heads of state summit in Bali.

10:52 am: International volunteers gather on Polish border to help refugee influx Following the Russian invasion, more than 3.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine. Poland has taken in most of these refugees. FRANCE 24’s Ellen Gainsford reports the Polish-Ukrainian border on how volunteers from all over the world are providing Ukrainians with practical help and moral support.

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10:20 am: Putin’s offensive in Ukraine ‘stuck’, says Germany’s ScholzRussian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has stalled despite the daily assaults inflicted by his troops, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday, urging Moscow to “immediately” stop the fighting.

“Putin’s offensive is stuck despite all the destruction that it is bringing day after day,” Scholz said in a speech to the German parliament.

Unprecedented sanctions imposed by Western partners are working and will only bring further damage to Russia’s economy, warned the German leader.

“But that is just the beginning, many of the toughest consequences will only been seen in the coming weeks,” he said, warning that “we are constantly creating sanctions”.

Putin “must hear the truth” that not only is the war destroying Ukraine, “but also Russia’s future”.

Scholz insisted that Germany stands by Kyiv but said he would not endorse calls for NATO to help erect a no-fly zone over Ukraine or to send in “peacekeeping troops”.

“As difficult as it is, we will not give in on that,” he said, adding that Germany would not risk a direct military conflict between nuclear-armed Russia and NATO. 

09:46 am: ‘Sending peacekeepers to Ukraine may lead to NATO-Russia confrontation’Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said sending peacekeepers to Ukraine may lead to a direct confrontation between Russia and the NATO military alliance.

Poland last week said an international peacekeeping mission should be sent to Ukraine and be given the means to defend itself.

09:06 am: Nine humanitarian corridors agreed for Wednesday, says Ukrainian deputy PMAgreement has been reached to try to evacuate civilians trapped in Ukrainian towns and cities through nine “humanitarian corridors” on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

Signalling no agreement had been reached with Russia to establish a safe corridor form the heart of Mariupol, she said people wishing to leave the besieged port city would find transport in nearby Berdyansk.

08:04 am: Local ceasefire agreed for Luhansk, says governorThe governor of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine said agreement had been reached on a local ceasefire to evacuate civilians trapped by fighting. Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging app that the ceasefire would come into force at 9am.

01:34 am: March 22: Kyiv residents, businesses coordinate aid and self-defence as fighting consumes suburbsEntrepreneur Dmytro Tymoshenko has turned his paint company into a force for Kyiv’s self-preservation. His facilities are now producing their own bulletproof vests as well as serving as a hub for distribution of medicine and other humanitarian aid. FRANCE 24’s James Andre, Jonathan Walsh and Oleksiy Gordieiev report from the Ukrainian capital:

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11:22 pm: Zelensky says talks with Russia tough but ‘moving forward’; 100,000 still trapped in MariupolUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said early Wednesday that peace talks with Russia to end the war were tough and sometimes confrontational but added “step by step we are moving forward”.

In his nightly video address, Zelensky also said 100,000 people were living in the besieged city of Mariupol in inhuman conditions, without food, water or medicine.

Zelensky said more than 7,000 people had escaped in the last 24 hours, but one group travelling along an agreed humanitarian route west of the city were “simply captured by the occupiers”.

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