- Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls for global protests to demand an end to the Russian invasion.
- He also calls for NATO to provide “effective and unrestricted” aid for Ukraine.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow plans to sell its gas to “unfriendly countries” in roubles.
- US President Joe Biden has landed in Brussels ahead of NATO, G7 and EU summits. He is expected to unveil further sanctions against Russia.
- The US says it has determined that Russian forces committed war crimes in Ukraine.
Here are the latest updates:
Huge fire blazing in Sumy region: Official
Dmytro Zhyvytskyy, the governor of Sumy region, says emergency workers have not been able to access the site of a huge fire that broke out in the city of Trostianets on Tuesday.
“For the third day in a row, Trostianets remains the hottest spot, fierce battles are going on,” he said in a video address.
“Due to the shelling and the fighting, it is impossible for firefighters to get there to extinguish the fire.”
The fire near Trostianets, Sumy oblast. Russian troops do not let Ukrainian fire brigades to put the fire out. Video – Dmytro Zhyvytskiy, head of Sumy Regional State Administration. pic.twitter.com/zxvDX2oBtZ
— UkraineWorld (@ukraine_world) March 23, 2022
24 bodies recovered from rubble of Kharkiv building: Ukraine official
Rescue workers have now recovered bodies of 24 people from the rubble of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration, which was shelled on March 1, according to Ukraine’s emergency services.
Rescuers are continuing to clear the debris, a spokesman for the emergency service told local media.
Japan unsure how Russia will execute rouble payments for its gas sales
Japanese Finance MInister Shunichi Suzuki says Tokyo does not know how Russia will handle the required rouble payments for its energy sold to “unfriendly” countries.
“Currently, we’re looking into the situation with relevant ministries as we don’t quite understand what is (Russia’s) intention and how they would do this,” he said in a parliament session.
Japan – which Moscow branded as an unfriendly nation along with the US and EU states – accounted for 4.1 percent of Russia’s crude oil exports and 7.2 percent of its natural gas exports in 2021.
Russian troops setting up ‘defensive positions’ outside Kyiv: US
A senior US defence official says Russian ground forces appear to be digging in and setting up defensive positions between 15-20 kilometers (9-12 miles) outside Kyiv, as they continue to make little to no progress moving toward the city center.
“They’re basically digging in and they are establishing defensive positions,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “So it’s not that they’re not advancing. They’re actually not trying to advance right now.”
In some cases east of Kyiv, Ukrainian troops have been able to push Russian soldiers further away, the official said, claiming that Russian forces who had been 20-30 kilometers (12-19 miles) away to the east and northeast are now about 55 kilometers (34 miles) away.
The official said that, instead, Russian troops are exerting more energy and effort in the eastern Donbas region, specifically in Luhansk and Donetsk.
Russian troops ‘kidnap’ esteemed theater director in Kherson
Russian troops occupying the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson have seized one of the country’s most prominent theater directors, according to Ukraine’s Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko.
russian terrorists in a brutal fascist way kidnapped the director of the Kherson Regional Music and Drama Theater, the deputy of the Kherson Regional council Alexander Knyha. We call on the entire world cultural community to make possible efforts for him quick release! pic.twitter.com/nZTglvryhd
— Tkachenko Oleksandr (@otkachenkoua) March 23, 2022
Witnesses cited by The Associated Press news agency said that nine Russian military vehicles pulled up to the home of Oleksandr Kniga, 62, early on Wednesday and led him out.
Kniga was among many in Kherson who oppose the Russian occupation. On Monday, Russian troops used stun grenades and fired in the air to disperse a protest there.
Zelenskyy calls for ‘effective and unrestricted aid’ from NATO
Ukraine’s president has called on NATO to provide “effective and unrestricted” support to his country, including any weapons it needs to fend off the Russian invasion.
Speaking on the eve of NATO and G7 summits in Brussels, Zelenskyy said Ukraine is “expecting serious steps” from the West and its allies.
“We ask that [NATO] declare that it will fully assist Ukraine to win this war, clear our territory of the invaders and restore peace in Ukraine,” he said, appealing to the Western countries to stay united in the face of Russia’s efforts to “lobby its interests”.
“We will see who is a friend, who is a partner and who has sold out and betrayed us,” he said in an emotional speech. “Together we should not allow Russia to break anyone in NATO, the EU or G-7, to break them and drag them to the side of war.”
Zelenskyy noted that Ukrainian skies are still not closed to Russian aircraft and missiles and that Ukraine hasn’t received the fighter jets or modern air-defense systems it requested.
He said Ukraine also needs tanks and anti-ship systems.
“It has been a month of defending ourselves from attempts to destroy us, wipe us off the face of the earth,” he said.
“We have lasted six times longer than the enemy had planned … but the Russian troops are destroying our cities, killing civilians indiscriminately, raping women, kidnapping children, shooting refugees, capturing aid columns and looting.”
Dozens of Ukrainian orphans arrive in the UK
Dozens of orphans and their caretakers from Ukraine have arrived in the UK, where they are being given refuge following the Russian invasion of their country.
Aged between 1 and 18 years old, the 52 children came from orphanages in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro.
Their escape from Ukraine was coordinated by supporters of the Edinburgh based football team, Hibernian.
The flight from Warsaw to London, before onward transfer to Scotland, with the 52 orphans from Dnipro is in the air. Well done to @DniproKids and all those who have made this happen.
— Ian Blackford ????????? (@Ianblackford_MP) March 23, 2022
The kids are ready to go… pic.twitter.com/5SsIeUQa7d
— Dnipro Kids Appeal (@DniproKids) March 21, 2022
Ukraine using facial recognition to identify dead Russian soldiers
Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov says Kyiv is using facial recognition software to identify the bodies of Russian soldiers killed in combat and to trace their families to inform them of their deaths.
Fedorov told the Reuters news agency that Ukraine has been using technology from Clearview AI, a New York-based facial recognition software provider, to find the social media accounts of the dead soldiers.
Authorities are then messaging relatives to make arrangements to collect the body, he said.
“As a courtesy to the mothers of those soldiers, we are disseminating this information over social media to at least let families know that they they’ve lost their sons and to then enable them to come to collect their bodies,” Fedorov said, speaking via a translator.
He declined to specify the number of bodies identified through facial recognition but he said the percentage of recognized individuals claimed by families has been “high”.
Ukraine’s agriculture minister submits resignation: Report
Ukraine’s agriculture minister Roman Leshchenko has submitted his resignation, but did not provide a reason for doing so, according to the Ekonomichna Pravda newspaper.
His resignation will have to be submitted to a vote in parliament.
Leshchenko told Reuters Tuesday that Ukraine’s spring crop sowing area might more than halve this year from 2021 levels to some 7 million hectares (17 million acres) versus 15 million hectares (37 million acres) expected before the Russian invasion.
Russian journalist killed in Ukraine
Oksana Baulina, a Russian reporter working for an independent Russian news outlet, has been killed while filming in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
The Insider, Baulina’s employer, said the journalist died “under fire in Kyiv”.
“She was filming the destruction after Russian troops shelled the Podil district of the capital,” it added.
?ALERT: Russian journalist Oksana Baulina has been killed by missile fire in Kyiv, #Ukraine. She was reporting for the Russian investigative site @the_ins_ru. Journalists must not be targets of war! pic.twitter.com/3WlIpRMR80
— RSF (@RSF_inter) March 23, 2022
And now it’s someone I’ve known for 16 years and worked with at several independent outlets. Oksana Baulina, a Russian journalist with phenomenal sense of moral clarity, killed by Russian rocket fire on a reporting mission in Kyiv today. I’m yet to process this. pic.twitter.com/eUPuMoUw54
— Alexey Kovalyov (@Alexey__Kovalev) March 23, 2022
Ukraine carrying out ‘successful counter attacks’ near Kyiv: UK
The British Ministry of Defence says Ukrainian forces are carrying out successful counter attacks against Russian positions in towns on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv.
“There is a realistic possibility that Ukrainian forces are now able to encircle Russian units in Bucha and Irpin,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence update.
It added that these counter attacks will likely “disrupt the ability of Russian forces to reorganise and resume their own offensive towards Kyiv”.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 23 March 2022
Find out more about the UK government’s response: https://t.co/FPfp8ZAOdc
— Ministry of Defence ?? (@DefenceHQ) March 23, 2022
Australia concerned over Putin’s plans to attend G20 meeting
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he has been raising concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to attend the next G20 summit in Indonesia this year.
“The idea of sitting around a table with Vladimir Putin, who the United States are already in the position of calling out (for) war crimes in Ukraine, for me is a step too far,” Morrison said during a media briefing.
UK to send Ukraine thousands more missiles
The United Kingdom is giving Ukraine 6,000 more missiles, including anti-tank and high-explosive weaponry, as well as 25 million pounds ($33m) to help Kyiv pay its military and police forces.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK “will work with our allies to step up military and economic support to Ukraine, strengthening their defenses as they turn the tide in this fight”.
The UK has already sent more than 4,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.
Mexican legislators create Russia ‘friendship’ group
Mexican legislators have created a “Mexico-Russia Friendship Committee,” almost a month after Russian troops invaded Ukraine.
Six legislators from the ruling Morena Party, to which Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador belongs, supported the creation of the committee.
Russian Ambassador Viktor Koronelli welcomed the move.
“For us this is a sign of support, of friendship, of solidarity in these complicated times in which my country is not just facing a special military operation in Ukraine, but a tremendous media war,” he said in an address to the committee. “Russia didn’t start this war, it is finishing it.”
WHO records 64 attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine
The World Health Organization (WHO) says it has verified 64 incidents of attacks on Ukrainian health care facilities and workers since the Russian invasion began.
That amounts two to three attacks on health care per day, and has caused 15 deaths and 37 injuries, the WHO said in a statement.
“Attacks on health care are a violation of international humanitarian law, but a disturbingly common tactic of war – they destroy critical infrastructure, but worse, they destroy hope,” said Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO representative in Ukraine.
“They deprive already vulnerable people of care that is often the difference between life and death. Health care is not – and should never be – a target.”
1 month since the Russian Federation invasion of #Ukraine began.
Almost 10 million people have been forcibly displaced.
The disruption to health services & supplies is posing an extreme risk to people with serous conditions.
Attacks on health must stop.
This war must stop. pic.twitter.com/fNJykRyQm5
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) March 23, 2022
US making contingency plans in case Russia uses chemical or nuclear weapons: NYT
The New York Times says that the White House has assembled a group of national security officials to draw up plans for how the US and its allies should respond if Putin orders the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Known as the Tiger Team, the group is also looking at responses if the Russian president reaches into NATO territory to attack convoys bringing weapons and aid to Ukraine, the Times reported, citing several officials involved in the process.
Zelenskyy urges global protests against invasion
Ukraine’s president has called for global protests against the Russian invasion, saying that Moscow is trying to defeat the freedom of “all the people in the world” and show that only crude force matters.
“I ask you to stand against the war starting from March 24 – exactly one month after the Russian invasion, from this day and after then,” Zelenskyy said in a video message in English.
“Show your standing; come from your offices, your homes, your schools and universities. Come in the name of peace. Come with Ukrainian symbols to support Ukraine, to sport freedom, to support life. Come to your squares, your streets. Make yourselves visible and heard.”
Renault suspends operations at Moscow plant
French automobile manufacturer Renault says it has suspended operations at its plant in Moscow while it assesses options on its majority stake in Avtovaz, Russia’s top carmaker.
The move came amid mounting pressure over the French company’s continued presence in Russia. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, had called for a global boycott of Renault.
— Renault Group (@renaultgroup) March 23, 2022
Russia ‘does not care’ about humanitarian crisis in Ukraine: US envoy
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, has slammed Russia for introducing a humanitarian resolution on Ukraine, which was defeated at the Security Council.
“Russia does not care about the deteriorating humanitarian conditions or the millions of lives and dreams the war has shattered,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
“If they cared, they would stop fighting. Russia is the aggressor, the attacker, the invader, the sole party in Ukraine engaged in a campaign of brutality against the people of Ukraine.”
Expert says evidence so far raises ‘serious questions’ about Russian war crimes in Ukraine
James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Foundation’s Justice Initiative, has said there seems to be ample evidence that at least raises “serious questions” of war crimes being committed in Ukraine.
“We are seeing more and more reports of indiscriminate attacks — and attacks that are deliberately targeting civilians,” Goldston told Al Jazeera from New York City.
He said while the International Criminal Court (ICC) is looking into the situation, the challenge lies in linking “responsibility to those highest authorities”.
“It is possible for the court to address the responsibility of any actor including and up to the head of state. The question is whether they can make the case,” Goldston said.
Russian-drafted proposal on Ukraine aid fails at UN Security Council
A Russian-drafted UN Security Council proposal calling for humanitarian aid access in Ukraine has been defeated with two “yes” votes and 13 abstentions.
Only Russia and China voted in favour of the draft resolution. The United States and its Allies had voiced opposition to the measure because it does not assign blame for the crisis.
Biden thanks Belgium for supporting Russia sanctions
US President Joe Biden has thanked Belgium for its role in supporting sanctions against Russia following his arrival in Brussels.
Biden told Prime Minister Alexander de Croo of Belgium that he was grateful for Brussels’s “robust support in the EU for sanctions against Russia and for ongoing coordination in providing security assistance to Ukraine,” a statement from the White House said.
First shipment from US’s $800m arms package to be sent to Ukraine this week
The first shipment from the US’s $800m arms package for Ukraine will be shipped in the next day or so, and will not take long to reach Ukraine, a senior defence official has said.
The US official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, did not specify which systems would be included in the first shipments to Ukraine but said priority would be given to the kinds of defensive weapons already being used by Ukrainian troops.
“We are already aggregating stocks in the United States and we’re getting ready to ship them over there,” the official said.
Biden lands in Brussels ahead of key meetings with European allies
Biden has landed in Brussels ahead of NATO, G7 and European Union summits on Thursday.
The US president is expected to announce fresh sanctions on Russia while on his European tour, while shoring up support for Ukraine among Washington’s allies.
Before he departed for Belgium, Biden told reporters as he boarded the Marine One helicopter at the White House that he sees “a real threat” of Russian chemical warfare against Ukraine.
More than 4,550 people evacuated from Ukrainian cities on Wednesday
A total of 4,554 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Wednesday, a senior official has said.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said in an online post that 2,912 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol in private vehicles.
A day earlier, Tymoshenko said 8,057 people had escaped from cities across the country.
US says it determined Russian forces committed ‘war crimes’ in Ukraine
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Washington has determined that Russian forces committed war crimes in Ukraine, stressing that the assessment is based on information drawn from “public and intelligence sources”.
In a statement on Wednesday, Blinken said there have been numerous credible reports of “indiscriminate attacks and attacks deliberately targeting civilians” in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began.
“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.
Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.
Read all the updates from Wednesday, March 23 here.