Ukraine live news: Zelenskyy says Russia hit by ‘powerful blows’ | Russia-Ukraine war News

Table of Contents

  • Russia says it is now focused on fully capturing Donbas in apparent shift in strategy.
  • Ukraine says 7,331 people were evacuated from cities on Friday.
  • UN nuclear watchdog claims staff members at Chernobyl’s radioactive waste facilities have not been rotated in four days.
  • President Vladimir Putin accuses West of trying to ‘cancel’ Russian culture.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron to hold talks with Russia’s Putin over Mariupol evacuation initiative.

Here are all the latest updates:

Russia conducts military drills on isles disputed with Japan: Reports

Russia was conducting drills on islands claimed by Tokyo, Japanese media reported, days after Moscow halted peace talks with Japan because of its sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s Eastern Military District said it was conducting military drills on the Kuril islands with more than 3,000 troops and hundreds of pieces of army equipment, Russia’s Interfax news agency said.

It did not say where on the island chain, connecting Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula and Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, the drills were taking place.

Japanese media said they were on territory the Soviet Union seized at the end of World War Two that is claimed by Tokyo. Japan’s Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office could not be reached outside business hours to comment on the exercises.

‘Foolish’: Former Russian president dismisses sanctions’ effect

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has dismissed Western sanctions, telling the RIA state-owned news agency it was “foolish” to expect them to have an effect on government policy.

Medvedev, who is deputy head of the security council, says sanctions will only consolidate Russian society and will not cause popular discontent.

Al Jazeera has been reporting on the mood inside Russia, and asking what it means for Vladimir Putin. You can read the article here.

Zelenskyy says Ukraine has pounded Russia with ‘powerful blows’

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukraine’s military has delivered “powerful blows” against Russian forces leading to “significant losses”.

Speaking in his nightly video address, he said about 16,000 Russian soldiers had been killed.

“The armed forces continue to repel enemy attacks in the south of the country, in Donbas, in the Kharkiv direction and in the Kyiv region,” he told Ukrainians late on Friday. “By restraining Russia’s actions, our defenders are leading the Russian leadership to a simple and logical idea: Talk is necessary. Meaningful. Urgent. Fair.”

Russia says about 1,300 of its troops have died in the fighting.

United Kingdom to fund food supplies for Ukraine

The UK is sending crucial food supplies to Ukraine following a request from Kyiv.

About 25 truckloads of dried food, tinned goods and water – worth about 2 million pounds ($2.6m) – will be sent by road and rail from Poland and Slovakia to Ukraine’s most at-risk towns and cities.

“The need on the ground in Ukraine is clear, with so many people in encircled areas trapped in basements without access to food or water,” Alice Hooper, the UK Foreign Office’s humanitarian adviser, said in a statement.

People who are sheltering in a metro station in northern Kharkiv receive food from volunteers. The UK is sending emergency supplies following a request from the government [Thomas Peter/Reuters]

AP says it documented Russian attacks on 34 medical facilities

The Associated Press news agency has said it independently documented at least 34 assaults on Ukrainian medical facilities by Russian forces.

“AP journalists in Ukraine have seen firsthand the deadly results of Russian strikes on civilian targets, including the final moments of children whose bodies were shredded by shrapnel and dozens of corpses heaped into mass graves,” the news agency said.

Russian advance on Kyiv appears to have halted: US official

A senior US defence official has said Russia’s military advance on Kyiv appears to have halted as Moscow turns its focus to fighting elsewhere in the country.

The official, cited anonymously by the Associated Press news agency, said Russia appears to be concentrating more on fighting for control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region rather than its ground offensive aimed at capturing Kyiv, at least for now.

Spotify to halt service in Russia

Spotify is halting its services in Russia in light of the country’s strict new censorship law, which it says puts its employees and possibly even listeners at risk.

The Swedish music streaming company’s move comes on the heels of other firms pulling out of Russia due to its censorship law. Netflix and TikTok also suspended most of their services in the country earlier this month.

Blinken accuses Kremlin of killing ‘countless Ukrainians’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused the Kremlin of killing “countless Ukrainians”. In a Twitter post, Blinken called on Moscow to end what he called “this inhumane war”.

The US government has previously accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

Russia ‘scaling back’ ambitions in Ukraine: Analyst

Russia is shifting its military goals in Ukraine to focus on fully capturing the eastern region of Donbas because it failed to take Kyiv quickly, Harry Nedelcu, policy director at Rasmussen Global, an international policy consultancy firm, has said.

“Now like a bully that got a bloody nose, Russia is scaling back its ambitions,” Nedelcu told Al Jazeera from Brussels, Belgium.

“It’s bringing this back to a focus on just the territories of the so-called People’s Republics in eastern Ukraine, which Putin recognised right before he invaded Ukraine. So this allows Putin to concentrate firepower and resources on war aims which from Moscow’s perspective are more attainable.”

Ukraine says 7,331 people were evacuated on Friday

A total of 7,331 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Friday, a senior official said, more than double the 3,343 who managed to escape the previous day.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in an online post that 2,800 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol using private transport.

Macron to hold talks with Putin over Mariupol evacuation initiative

Macron has said he will hold talks with Putin in the next 48 to 72 hours regarding the situation in Ukraine and an initiative to help people leave the besieged city of Mariupol.

Macron said he is coordinating efforts with Greece and Turkey and hopes to convince Russia to allow the evacuation.

EU to Russia: ‘War crimes must stop immediately’

European Union leaders have urged Russia to fully respect its obligations under international law and abide by the recent order by the International Court of Justice that told Moscow to withdraw from Ukraine.

“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine grossly violates international law and is causing massive loss of life and injury to civilians,” the leaders of the 27-nation EU said in a joint statement.

“Russia is directing attacks against the civilian population and is targeting civilian objects, including hospitals, medical facilities, schools and shelters. These war crimes must stop immediately.”

Russian focus on ‘liberating’ Donbas hints at shift in strategy

Russia has claimed that the first phase of its “military operation” in Ukraine was mostly complete and that it would focus on fully “liberating” eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

The announcement appeared to indicate that Russia may be switching to more limited goals after running into fierce Ukrainian resistance in the first month of the war.

“The combat potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been considerably reduced, which … makes it possible to focus our core efforts on achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbas,” Sergei Rudskoi, head of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operational Directorate, said.

Read more here.

Read all the updates from Friday, March 25 here.