Putin may be self-isolating from his military advisers, says White House

·66 min read
Mariupol residents walk near a destroyed apartment - ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO /REUTERS
Mariupol residents walk near a destroyed apartment - ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO /REUTERS

It is unclear whether Russia’s 40-mile-long convoy of military vehicles to Kyiv still exists, the Pentagon has said.

"I don't even know if it still exists at this point... They never really accomplished their mission," said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby.

The stalled convoy became a symbol of Russia's battlefield difficulties and had been repeatedly attacked by Ukrainian forces during the first weeks of the more than month-long invasion.

Earlier, President Joe Biden said that Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be self-isolating in Russia and may have fired or put under house arrest some of his advisers."

He seems to be self-isolated and there's some indication that he has fired or put under house arrest some of his advisers," Mr Biden said without citing evidence. "But I don't want to put too much stock in that at this time."

​​Follow the latest updates in Friday's live blog

01:20 AM

What happened today

  • Longer range artillery and armoured vehicles will be sent to Ukraine in a significant ramping up of Western support, Ben Wallace announced on Thursday

  • Whitehall sources have expressed concern that allies including the US, France and Germany are "over-eager" to secure an early peace deal and are pushing Ukraine to "settle"

  • A Ministry of Defence chief suggested Britain needs a national effort to boost its nuclear weapons programme

  • Russian forces were said to have retreated from a Ukrainian airfield that was key to their original plan of overthrowing the government of Volodymyr Zelensky

  • The Pentagon said that it was not clear Russia's convoy of military vehicles to Kyiv, which once stretched some 40 miles, even existed anymore after failing to accomplish its mission

  • The Ukrainian state nuclear company said that most of the Russian forces that occupied the Chernobyl nuclear power station after invading Ukraine have also left

  • Joe Biden, the US president, said Vladimir Putin may have fired some of his advisers or put them under house arrest, and that it’s an “open question” as to whether Mr Putin is fully informed on his military’s performance in Ukraine

  • Putin has threatened to cut off gas supplies to western Europe on Friday unless buyers “open rouble accounts in Russian banks” as he scrambles to prop up his country's collapsing economy.

12:57 AM

In pictures: Day 36 of the war in Ukraine

Anti-war demonstrators dance around a burning an effigy of the Russian President Vladimir Putin - AP
Anti-war demonstrators dance around a burning an effigy of the Russian President Vladimir Putin - AP
A Ukrainian serviceman takes a selfie standing on a destroyed Russian tank - AP/Vadim Ghirda 
A Ukrainian serviceman takes a selfie standing on a destroyed Russian tank - AP/Vadim Ghirda
A destroyed fitness center following Russian missile strikes in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Russia said it would press forward with its invasion of Ukraine until its goals are met, as troops were seen moving in a large convoy toward the capital, Kyiv. Photographer: Erin Trieb/Bloomberg  - Bloomberg/Erin Trieb 
A destroyed fitness center following Russian missile strikes in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Russia said it would press forward with its invasion of Ukraine until its goals are met, as troops were seen moving in a large convoy toward the capital, Kyiv. Photographer: Erin Trieb/Bloomberg - Bloomberg/Erin Trieb
Service members of pro-Russian troops carry an anti-tank grenade launcher during fighting - REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
Service members of pro-Russian troops carry an anti-tank grenade launcher during fighting - REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

12:43 AM

Biden spurs record emergency oil release in 'moment of peril' for world

President Joe Biden launched the largest release ever from the US emergency oil reserve and challenged oil companies to drill more in an attempt to bring down gasoline prices that have soared during Russia's war with Ukraine.

The announcement comes as part of a broad effort by Biden to tackle raging inflation that has hurt USconsumers and threatens Biden's fellow Democrats as they seek to maintain control of Congress in the November elections.

Starting in May, the United States will release 1 million barrels per day of crude oil for six months from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, he said.

"This is a moment of consequence and peril for the world, and pain at the pump for American families,” Biden said at an event at the White House.

12:15 AM

EU to push China at summit to not help Russia in Ukraine war

EU and Chinese leaders will meet for a first summit in two years on Friday with Brussels keen for assurances from Beijing that it will neither supply Russia with arms nor help Moscow circumvent Western sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.

In uncommonly open language, EU officials close to the preparations of the summit said any help given to Russia would damage China's international reputation and jeopardise relations with its biggest trade partners -- Europe and the United States.

The presidents of the European Commission and European Council, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, will hold virtual talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and later President Xi Jinping.

An EU official said China's stance towards Russia would be the "million-dollar question" on Friday. Another pointed out that over a quarter of China's global trade was with the bloc and the United States last year, against just 2.4% with Russia.

12:00 AM

Latest from the UK Ministry of Defence

11:36 PM

Russian opera drops top soprano over Ukraine comments

A Russian opera has cancelled a concert by Russian superstar soprano Anna Netrebko over her comments on Moscow's military operation in Ukraine.

The 50-year-old singer who lives in the Austrian capital of Vienna on Wednesday "condemned" the operation, after she and other Russian artists in Europe and the United States came under pressure to publicly take a stance.

The Novosibirsk Opera in Siberia cancelled a concert at which she was to perform on June 2.

"Living in Europe and having the opportunity to perform in European concert halls appears to be more important (for her) than the fate of the homeland," it said in a statement.

Russian opera soprano singer Anna Netrebko - CHRISTOPH DE BARRY/AFP via Getty Images
Russian opera soprano singer Anna Netrebko - CHRISTOPH DE BARRY/AFP via Getty Images

11:13 PM

US claims has evidence that war has been a “strategic disaster”

The US has evidence that the war against Ukraine has been a “strategic disaster” for Russia, said the White House director of communications.

"We have seen incontrovertible evidence that this has been a strategic disaster for Russia," said Kate Bedingfield on Thursday.

"[Russia is] working to redefine the initial aims of their invasion, and we've seen time and again that the sanctions that have been applied are exacting extreme costs on their economy."

Ms Bedingfield added that Russia will face further sanctions over its invasion of the country.

“Putin himself has said these sanctions have imposed unprecedented costs on the Russian economy, and our role is to continue to strengthen Ukraine on the battlefield,” she aid

10:40 PM

UK says Russia redeploying elements of forces from Georgia to Ukraine

Russia is redeploying elements of its forces from Georgia to reinforce its invasion of Ukraine, British military intelligence said on Thursday.

"Between 1,200 and 2,000 of these Russian troops are being reorganised into 3x Battalion Tactical Groups," Britain's Ministry of Defence said.

10:24 PM

Russians left Chernobyl with Ukrainian troops as hostages, says Kyiv

Russian troops are believed to have taken an unspecified number of captive Ukrainian servicemen with them as they left the Chernobyl nuclear plant, officials in Kyiv said on Thursday.

"As they ran away from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the Russian occupiers took members of the National Guard, whom they had held hostage since Feb 24, with them," the state nuclear agency Energoatom said in a statement on Telegram, citing plant workers.

It was unclear how many Ukrainian servicemen had been taken away.

Earlier in the day, a government body in charge of the Chernobyl exclusion zone said all Russian troops had left.

When leaving, Russian troops "marched in two columns towards the Ukrainian border with Belarus" and a "small number" of Russian forces remain in the station, Energoatom said

09:27 PM

Zelensky: Situation in Donbas 'very difficult'

Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday said the situation in the south and the Donbas region remained extremely difficult and reiterated that Russia was building up forces near the besieged city of Mariupol.

"There will be battles ahead," Ukraine's president said in a late-night video address.

"We still need to go down a very difficult path to get everything we want."

08:56 PM

New Russian airliner will use domestic engines, given sanctions

One of Russia's flagship airliner projects, the Irkut MS-21, will use domestic engines given that sanctions mean U.S. models are no longer available, the RIA news agency cited a senior official as saying on Thursday.

The medium-range plane, also known as the MC-21, can carry more than 200 passengers and is due to enter service this year. First designed with engines from Pratt and Whitney, a unit of Raytheon Technologies, in December 2020 the plane flew for the first time with Russian-built turbofans.

RIA cited deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov as saying the plane would now only use PD-14 engines produced by the United Engine Corporation (UEC), which he said would need to expand its facilities to boost output.

The plane is built by Irkut Corporation, part of United Aircraft Corporation, which like the UEC is majority owned by Rostec, Russia's state aerospace and defence conglomerate.

08:49 PM

White House says rouble is being artificially propped up by the Russian central bank

The White House is seeing an "artificial propping up of the rouble" by the Russian central bank and by the Russian government, communications director Kate Bedingfield said on Thursday.

"They are taking artificial measures to keep the rouble propped up," she said.

Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded foreign buyers pay for Russian gas in roubles from Friday or else have their supplies cut.

08:46 PM

Trudeau says no to having Putin at G20 meeting

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday joined allies in saying he does not wish to see Russian President Vladimir Putin at this year's G20 meeting, citing Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Trudeau said he had shared his view with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who is hosting the meeting of major economies in November, that Putin's attendance would be "extraordinarily difficult for us and unproductive for the G20."

"It would be a big issue for many countries, including Canada," he told reporters in Ottawa.

Mr Trudeau explained that G20 summits are about "how we manage and encourage economic growth around the world."

"Russia has with its illegal invasion of Ukraine upended economic growth for everyone around the world and can't possibly be a constructive partner in how we manage the crisis created by Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine," he added.

08:24 PM

Russians have left Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine officials say

Russian troops have left Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear power plant after weeks of occupation, officials in Kyiv said Thursday.

"There are no longer any outsiders on the territory of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant," Ukraine's state agency in charge of the Chernobyl exclusion zone said on Facebook.

08:19 PM

Italy and Germany say they agree on importance of sanctions against Russia

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz agreed in a phone call on the importance of keeping up sanctions against Russia, which are "proving very effective," Mr Draghi's office said in a statement on Thursday.

The phone call between the two leaders comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to halt contracts supplying Europe with a third of its gas unless they are paid in Russian currency, his strongest economic riposte so far to crushing Western sanctions over his invasion of Ukraine.

Both Italy and Germany are big importers of Russian gas.

08:05 PM

Gerard Depardieu denounces Putin's 'crazy excesses' in Ukraine

Veteran actor Gerard Depardieu on Thursday denounced the "crazy, unacceptable excesses" of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.

"The Russian people are not responsible for the crazy, unacceptable excesses of their leaders like Vladimir Putin," the film star, who has praised the Russian leader in the past, said in a statement to AFP.

Mr Depardieu, a long-time star in France before Peter Weir's 1990 "Green Card" also made him a Hollywood celebrity, left France and took up Russian nationality in 2013 to protest a proposed tax hike on the rich in his homeland.

He is also charged with raping and sexually assaulting a young French actress at his home in Paris in 2018, an accusation he has called "baseless".

Mr Depardieu, 72, had become a friend of Putin, but came out against the war in Ukraine and called for negotiations just days after the Russian invasion began last month.

g - Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images
g - Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images

07:49 PM

International Energy Agency to discuss stabilising markets on Friday

International Energy Agency member countries will convene for an extraordinary meeting on Friday to discuss stabilizing oil markets, executive director Fatih Birol told the New York Times on Thursday.

"We are going to discuss what kind of steps we can take in order to provide stability to the oil markets," Mr Birol told the newspaper in an interview on Twitter Spaces.

07:20 PM

Not clear Russian convoy to Kyiv exists anymore, Pentagon says

The Pentagon said on Thursday it was not clear that Russia's convoy of military vehicles to Kyiv, which once stretched some 40 miles, even exists anymore after failing to accomplish its mission.

"I don't even know if it still exists at this point... They never really accomplished their mission," said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby.

The stalled convoy became a symbol of Russia's battlefield difficulties and had been repeatedly attacked by Ukrainian forces during the first weeks of the more than month-long invasion.

07:15 PM

US says Russia's demand of roubles for gas is sign of 'desperation'

Russian President Vladimir Putin's demand that foreign buyers pay for Russian gas in roubles is a sign of Moscow's economic and financial "desperation" caused by Western sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Thursday.

European nations, some of which rely heavily on Russian gas, have rejected the demand and Germany's government said it amounted to "blackmail."

06:57 PM

IAEA says it is preparing to send mission to Chernobyl after Russian pullout

The UN nuclear watchdog said on Thursday it is preparing to send a mission to the radioactive waste facilities at Chernobyl after Ukraine informed it that Russian troops controlling the site had pulled out and the remainder were likely to as well.

"The IAEA is in close consultations with Ukrainian authorities on sending the Agency's first assistance and support mission to [Chernobyl] in the next few days," the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement, adding that Ukraine "presumed" the remaining Russian troops were preparing to leave.

06:50 PM

Russia says it will open humanitarian corridor from Mariupol on April 1

The Russian defence ministry said on Thursday it would open a humanitarian corridor from the besieged city of Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia on Friday, Tass news agency reported.

It quoted Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, the director of the Russian National Center for Defense Management, as saying Moscow was acting on a request that French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had made to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

06:47 PM

Berlin has supplied more than 80 million euros of arms to Kyiv, minister says

Germany has delivered more than 80 million euros ($88.62 million) worth of weapons to Ukraine so far, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said on a visit to New York on Thursday.

"We have supplied arms for more than 80 million [euros], and more are to follow," she told reporters, responding to criticism Berlin was not delivering enough military aid to Kyiv.

06:43 PM

Pictured: Destroyed Russian armoured vehicles on outskirts of Kyiv

i - AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd
i - AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

06:31 PM

US wants Ukraine's borders to be respected as before invasion, Pentagon says

The United States wants Ukraine's borders to be respected as before the invasion was launched and it seems Russia is prioritizing taking the eastern Donbass region, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Thursday.

"We want Ukraine's sovereignty, all of their sovereignty, their borders as it was before the end of February to be respected," he told Fox News.

06:22 PM

Biden says use of oil stockpile will 'ease the pain'

President Joe Biden said Thursday that unprecedented use of US oil stockpiles would "ease the pain" of rising fuel prices for Americans as he unveiled a record release of crude from strategic reserves.

He warned the oil industry not "to sit on record profits" during the current price surge, adding that he wanted "to lay a new foundation for true and lasting American energy independence."

06:12 PM

Biden says Putin seems to be self-isolating

President Joe Biden said on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be self-isolating in Russia and may have fired or put under house arrest some of his advisers.

"He seems to be self-isolated and there's some indication that he has fired or put under house arrest some of his advisers," Mr Biden said without citing evidence. "But I don't want to put too much stock in that at this time."

06:11 PM

Ukraine diversifying fuel supply after Russian missile strikes on depots

Ukraine is diversifying its fuel supplies and is confident of maintaining enough resources after several Russian missile strikes on oil depots, Energy Minister Herman Haluschenko said on Thursday.

Haluschenko said in a televised interview that Ukraine suffered "intense" attacks on its oil infrastructure over the last several days.

05:58 PM

Zelensky holds phone call with Turkey's Erdogan

05:56 PM

No EU countries have signalled gas security of supply issues - European Commission

Germany and Austria's declarations of an "early warning" on gas supply are a precautionary measure that increases the monitoring of supply, but no EU countries have yet signalled they are facing security of supply issues, a European Commission spokesperson said on Thursday.

"In all cases, no security of supply issues have been signalled for the present point in time," the spokesperson said, adding the "early warning" alert is the lowest level of crisis notification in the European Union rules on gas supply security.

05:47 PM

Moscow says all foreign leased aircraft will remain in Russia

All foreign leased aircraft still in Russia after the termination of Western leasing contracts will remain in Russia, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said on Thursday.

Sanctions imposed by Western powers in response to Russia's military campaign in Ukraine forced Western firms to terminate leasing contracts with Russian airlines for over 500 aircraft. Russia has said 78 of these planes were seized while abroad, meaning that well over 400 remain.

"The entire fleet, meaning foreign aircraft, will remain in Russia," Borisov said on Russian television. "Some were impounded(abroad) as sanctions were being introduced, (but) the vast majority of Boeing and Airbus (planes) remain in Russia."

Moscow has passed a law allowing the aircraft, worth almost $10 billion, to be entered on its own register, in contravention of international rules.

Bermuda and Ireland, where most of the planes are registered, have suspended airworthiness certificates, which usually means they should be grounded.

05:39 PM

Longer conflict could be in store as Russia eyes Donbas, US official says

Russia's refocusing of its military efforts on the Donbas could herald a "longer, more prolonged conflict" as Ukrainian forces put up fierce resistance in the eastern region, a senior US defense official said Thursday.

"It's been fought over now for eight years," the official said of the heavily contested Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

"The Ukrainians know the territory very, very well," the official said. "They have a lot of forces still there and they're absolutely fighting very hard for that area."

"So just because [the Russians] are going to prioritise it and put more forces there or more energy there doesn't mean it's going to be easy for them," the official said.

"It could be a harbinger of a longer, more prolonged conflict here as the Russians try to gain some leverage, gain some progress, and perhaps gain some chips at the bargaining table."

05:24 PM

Russian councillor charged over 'false information' on troops

A Russian court said on Thursday that a local councillor in Siberia has been charged with knowingly sharing "false information" on army activity in Ukraine, national media reported.

Dmitry Petrenko, an elected Communist member of the municipal council in the city of Omsk, has a Telegram channel where he has posted critical views on Moscow's military operation in Ukraine.

The court's press service said Mr Petrenko had been charged with a crime over Telegram posts that "spread knowingly false information about the use of Russian armed forces to destroy civilian infrastructure and Ukraine's civilian population," RIA Novosti state news agency reported.

Mr Petrenko has been charged with using his official position to do this, meaning he could face up to 10 years in jail.

He has been ordered to stay at home between 10 pm and 6 am and can only use the Internet or other means of communication with written permission from the authorities until late May, pending trial, the city's Kuibyshev district court said.

05:17 PM

IAEA chief lands in Kaliningrad for talks with Russia

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.

05:08 PM

Ukraine says one killed in Russian strike on evacuation convoy

One person was killed and four seriously wounded when Russian forces shelled an evacuation convoy outside the northern Ukrainian city of Chernigiv, officials in Kyiv said Thursday.

"Five buses came under direct fire from the enemy as they tried to get to the surrounded city to evacuate people," Ukraine's ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said on Telegram.

"There were only civilian volunteers on the buses. As a result of the shelling, one person is dead, four were gravely injured."

Ms Denisova said Russian forces were "denying any chance of evacuating peaceful citizens from besieged Chernigiv, essentially holding tens of thousands of people hostage without food, water or heat."

She said Russian troops were continuously shelling residential neighbourhoods.

04:49 PM

Listen to the latest episode of our Ukraine podcast

04:47 PM

Moscow says all foreign leased aircraft will remain in Russia

All foreign leased aircraft still in Russia after the termination of Western leasing contracts have been entered into the Russian aircraft register and will remain in Russia, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said on Thursday.

The imposition of sanctions by Western powers in response to Russia's military campaign in Ukraine forced Western leasing firms to terminate leasing contracts with Russian airlines for more than 500 aircraft. More than 400 of these are still in Russia.

04:30 PM

Russia to give $1.2 billion to help domestic airlines and flights

President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia would provide domestic airlines with 100 billion roubles ($1.25 billion) in support to help them deal with the consequences of international sanctions.

In televised remarks at the end of a meeting with representatives of airlines and aircraft manufacturers, he said domestic flights would receive government subsidies in 2022.

The world's 11th largest aviation market is under severe pressure as the United States and Europe on one side and Russia on the other have each closed their airspace to the other's airlines. In addition, Russian airlines can no longer buy parts or maintenance services from Europe or the United States.

Because of the sanctions, imposed in response to Russia's decision to send its armed forces into Ukraine, Western aircraft lessors have also been forced to terminate contracts under which Russian airlines were leasing more than 500 aircraft.

Putin said he had instructed the government to work out measures to ease the burden of leasing payments on the airlines.

04:30 PM

UK adds three more firms to sanctions list

Britain added three firms to its Russia-related sanctions list on Thursday: Photon Pro LLP, Majory LLP, Djeco Group LP.

The companies, registered with a British address, would be subject to an asset freeze according to a finance ministry notice. The three firms were added to the US sanctions list earlier this month.

04:24 PM

Watch: Putin vows to cut gas supply tomorrow unless Europe pays in roubles

04:06 PM

Russia bans EU leadership after sanctions

Russia on Thursday said it will expand the list of EU figures banned from entering the country following Western sanctions over Moscow's military actions in Ukraine.

Russia has been hit with a barrage of sanctions after it launched a military operation in Ukraine on February 24.

"The restrictions apply to the top leadership of the European Union including a number of European commissioners and heads of EU military structures as well as the vast majority of members of the European Parliament promoting anti-Russian policies," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Others include "high-ranking officials... as well as public figures and media workers who are personally responsible for promoting illegal anti-Russian sanctions, inciting Russophobic sentiment and infringing the rights and freedoms of the Russian-speaking population," the statement added.

The ministry said the EU delegation in Moscow had been informed, adding that "any hostile sanctions" from the EU and its members would elicit a "harsh response".

04:00 PM

Ukraine's battle fronts are shifting, interior ministry adviser says

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.

03:53 PM

Britain and allies to send more lethal aid to 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," Mr 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.

03:47 PM

Former US Marine, 81, goes to Lviv to teach shooting

John Strom embarked on a tortuous journey to Ukraine from his Las Vegas retirement home to teach civilians how to shoot, reports Danielle Sheridan.

John Strom had only moved to his new retirement home three months ago in Las Vegas when he became so moved by the war in Ukraine that he decided to head to eastern Europe.

The 81-year-old’s journey to Lviv was not for the faint-hearted. After a flight to Phoenix he flew to London Heathrow boarding another flight to Krakow, Poland,where he eventually boarded a bus to Lviv.

“I was reading the news and I had to come to help,” Mr Strom told The Telegraph from inside Lviv’s recently formed "Warrior of Self Defence" (WSD) school.

v - Paul Grover for The Telegraph
v - Paul Grover for The Telegraph
 cc - Paul Grover for The Telegraph
cc - Paul Grover for The Telegraph

Read the full piece here.

03:20 PM

Russia's RT claims UK sanctions are death knell for media freedom

Russia's state-funded RT television channel said on Thursday that British sanctions on Russian state media organisations showed the imminent end of media freedom and the blinkered nature of officials who thought anything Russian was wrong.

Britain on Thursday announced sanctions on 14 more Russian entities and people, including on state media organisations behind RT and Sputnik and some of their senior figures, saying it was targetting those who push out President Vladimir Putin's "fake news and narratives".

"With this action the UK government has sounded the death knell for media freedom in Britain," Anna Belkina, RT's deputy editor in chief, told Reuters.

03:10 PM

UK is not looking to pay for Russian gas in roubles, PM's spokesman says

Britain does not plan to pay for Russian gas in roubles, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said on Thursday, adding that the government was monitoring the implications for the European market of President Vladimir Putin's demand.

Putin said he had signed a decree saying foreign buyers must pay in roubles for Russian gas from April 1, and contracts would be halted if these payments were not made.

Asked if there were any circumstances in which Britain would pay in roubles for Russian gas, the spokesman told reporters: "That is not something we will be looking to do."

02:56 PM

US targets Russia's technology sector in fresh sanctions

The United States on Thursday imposed fresh sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, targeting operators in the technology sector in an effort to prevent Moscow from evading sanctions and expanding Washington's sanctions authorities.

The US Treasury Department in a statement said it imposed sanctions on 21 entities and 13 people, including Joint Stock Company Mikron, the largest Russian manufacturer and exporter of microelectronics and Russia's largest chipmaker.

The Treasury also expanded sanctions authorities to include the aerospace, marine and electronics sectors of the Russian economy. The move allows Washington to impose sanctions on any person or entity determined to operate in those sectors, the Treasury said.

Thursday's move also targeted "malicious cyber actors," the Treasury said.

"We will continue to target Putin’s war machine with sanctions from every angle, until this senseless war of choice is over," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in the statement.

02:44 PM

Russian troops start leaving Chernobyl, says Ukraine nuclear agency

Russian troops who seized the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on February 24 began leaving the station and other exclusion zones on Thursday, Ukraine's state nuclear company Energoatom said.

"This morning, the invaders announced their intentions to leave the Chernobyl nuclear power plant," Energoatom said on Telegram.

Russian troops "marched in two columns towards the Ukrainian border with Belarus" and a "small number" of Russian forces remain in the station, it said.

02:34 PM

Scholz says Russian gas payments will continue in euros or dollars

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday Western countries would continue paying for Russian gas in euros or dollars despite the Kremlin's threat to cut off supplies not paid for in rubles.

"We looked at the contracts for the gas deliveries," Mr Scholz told reporters in Berlin.

"They say that payments are made in euros, sometimes in dollars... and I made clear in my conversation with the Russian president that that will remain the case," referring to a telephone call with Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

02:26 PM

France and Germany 'preparing' in case Russia stops gas deliveries

France and Germany are preparing for a cut in Russian gas deliveries, France's economy minister said Thursday, as Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Moscow will turn off the taps for those who refuse to pay in rubles.

"There could be a situation tomorrow in which ... there is no longer any Russian gas. It's up to us to prepare for these scenarios and we are preparing," said Bruno Le Maire following talks in Berlin with his German counterpart Robert Habeck.

02:14 PM

Latvia outlaws using letter 'Z' as a symbol supporting Russia's Ukraine war

Latvia's parliament on Thursday voted to ban public displays of the letter "Z," saying it was a symbol that was used to glorify the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russian military vehicles in Ukraine are prominently marked with the letter, and it has started appearing on social media and on clothing elsewhere in support of the war.

Latvia's parliament said the display of the letter with intent to justify military aggression and war crimes would be punished under the new rules with fines of up to 350 euros ($388) for individuals and up to 2,900 euros ($3,214) for companies.

Once it becomes law, the new legislation will also apply to the letter "V," also used by the Russian defence ministry in connection with the war.

"Condemning Russia's hostilities in Ukraine, we must take a firm stand that symbols glorifying Russian military aggression, such as the letters 'Z', 'V' or other symbols used for this purpose, have no place in public events," said the chair of parliamentary Human Rights committee Artuss Kaimins.

Cars stuck in traffic in front of a theatre building decorated with the letter Z in Moscow, Russia, 30 March 2022.  - Photo by YURI KOCHETKOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Cars stuck in traffic in front of a theatre building decorated with the letter Z in Moscow, Russia, 30 March 2022. - Photo by YURI KOCHETKOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

02:11 PM

Western sanctions on Russia likely to increase, Putin says

Western nations will try to find new grounds to sanction Russia, President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, adding that his country must aim to retain jobs and to create new ones.

In televised remarks, he also said that the United States was profiting from the global turbulence, adding that of US military complex companies were on the rise.

01:58 PM

Russia's Gazprombank is the intermediary for rouble gas payments, Putin order says

Russian President Vladimir Putin decreed on Thursday that foreign buyers of Russian gas would have to use special accounts at Gazprombank to pay for the import of Russian gas.

A foreign buyer is now obliged to transfer foreign currency to one special, so called "K", account. Gazprombank would then buy roubles on behalf of the gas buyer to transfer roubles to another special "K" account, the order said.

Gazprombank would then transfer rouble funds from a 'K' type account of the foreign gas buyer to Gazprom's rouble accounts, the order said. Gazprombank can open such accounts without a presence of a foreign buyer's representative.

01:45 PM

France and Germany reject Putin's roubles for gas demand

Germany and France on Thursday rejected demands by Russia that European countries pay for its gas in rouble as an unacceptable breach of contracts, adding that the maneuver amounted to "blackmail."

Speaking during a news conference, Germany Economy Minister Robert Habeck said he had not yet seen a new degree signed by President Valdimir Putin mandating gas payments in roubles, adding that Germany was prepared for all scenarios, including a stoppage of Russian gas flows to Europe.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said France and Germany rejected Russia's demand.

Russia's attempt to divide Western allies by requiring gas payments in roubles has failed, German economy minister Robert Habeck said on Thursday, adding that Western allies are determined to not be "blackmailed" by Russia.

01:41 PM

Ukraine sees Russia changing tactics to more long-range attacks around Kyiv, says military official

Russian forces around Kyiv have lost their offensive capacity and are changing tactics to favour long-range attacks more than direct fighting, the deputy chief of staff of Ukraine's ground forces said on Thursday.

Speaking in an online video address about the defence of the capital, Oleksandr Gruzevich said: "The enemy has almost exhausted its offensive potential, but the forces that remain around Kyiv are not small."

01:37 PM

Ukraine war spurring Nato allies to spend more, Stoltenberg says

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has created a "new sense of urgency" among Nato member states to boost defence spending, the alliance's chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday as he unveiled the organisation's 2022 annual report.

The report itself - covering expenditures before Russia launched its war in February this year - showed just eight of Nato's 30 member nations were meeting a target of spending two percent of GDP on defence.

As usual, the United States - by far the biggest military power in Nato-led spending, with 3.6 percent, around the same level as Greece.

The other six countries to exceed the two-percent "guideline" were: Poland, Britain, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

01:36 PM

Telegraph photographer reflects on a month in Ukraine

Simon Townsley reveals the stories behind some of his most impactful photographs from the conflict.

“Stay safe.” That was the signoff from most of the messages I received during the month I spent on the ground in Ukraine.

I was part of a team of photographers and writers covering the first weeks of the conflict, following Russia’s invasion on February 24. None of us had any real idea how the situation would evolve or what to expect. We still don’t know what lies ahead.

But witnessing the war was both terrifying and extraordinary. I have covered many conflicts, but never before have I been on the ground during a war against a superpower. We had learned over the years of the size and scale of the Russian military, and expected at any minute the long-feared lightning attacks, encircling and cutting us off.

Instead we became accustomed to and ignored the frequent air-aid sirens and requests to move to the shelter. Surprisingly what we are seeing now is a meat-grinder, a slow inexorable and bloody advance in some areas, and a return to trench warfare in others.

Simon Townsley/The Telegraph - Simon Townsley/The Telegraph
Simon Townsley/The Telegraph - Simon Townsley/The Telegraph

Read his full piece here.

01:29 PM

Putin assured his commitment to humanitarian access in Ukraine, Norway PM says

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere has said that Vladimir Putin assured him Russia would contribute to securing humanitarian access to besieged civilians in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

During a one-hour long phone call with the Russian president, Mr Stoere said he urged Putin to end the war in Ukraine, pull out Russian troops and enable humanitarian access.

"We have very limited expectations of what could be achieved, but nothing should be left untried in the situation we are now in," Mr Stoere said.

Commenting on their discussions about the need for humanitarian access to civilians in the port city of Mariupol, Mr Stoere said: "My impression is that he confirms Russia's intention to contribute to that."

Mr Stoere added, however, that only actions on the ground could tell whether Russia delivers on the promises or not.

01:23 PM

Putin says Russian gas must be paid for in roubles from Friday

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that he had signed a decree saying foreign buyers must pay in roubles for Russian gas from April 1, and contracts would be halted if these payments were not made.

01:22 PM

The latest pictures from Ukraine

A police officer guards a detained marauder, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Irpin, Kyiv region, Ukraine - Picture taken March 30, 2022. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak
A police officer guards a detained marauder, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Irpin, Kyiv region, Ukraine - Picture taken March 30, 2022. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak
 destroyed Russian tank next to a recaptured by the Ukrainian army Trostyanets town, in Sumy region, Ukraine - Photo by ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
destroyed Russian tank next to a recaptured by the Ukrainian army Trostyanets town, in Sumy region, Ukraine - Photo by ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
h - REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko
h - REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko

01:13 PM

Blogger detained for treason in western Ukraine

A Ukrainian social media blogger has been detained for treason for "supporting" the Russian invasion, the country's SBU security service said on Thursday, and could face up to 15 years in jail.

"The special services have stopped the activities of a scandalous 'journalist' who was engaged in activities detriment to Ukraine's information security," the SBU's Lviv branch said on Facebook.

"Exploiting the media, the traitor supported the criminal actions of the aggressor country," it said.

It alleged that the man's material had been "successfully used by Russian media to justify criminal actions of the Russian Federation in Ukraine".

Ukrainian media identified the man as 33-year-old Gleb Lyashenko, saying he had been taken into custody, with a bail of four million hryvnias (around $135,500 dollars, 122,000 euros) for his release.

12:57 PM

Zelensky says thousands have been killed in besieged Mariupol

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President, said that thousands of people had been killed in Mariupol since Russian forces started laying siege to the strategic port city.

"Everyone knows there is a humanitarian catastrophe there," Mr Zelensky told Belgian lawmakers in an address via video link.

12:49 PM

Nerve-wracking footage shows Ukrainian drivers crossing over Russian landmines

12:41 PM

Death toll from strike on regional HQ in Mykolaiv rises to 20

The death toll from a rocket strike on a regional administration building in Ukraine's southern city of Mykolaiv on Tuesday has risen to 20.

"Rescuers pulled 19 bodies from under the rubble, and one person died in intensive care," the local emergency service said in a post on Facebook.

12 people were originally estimated to have died in the attack, which blasted a hole in the side of the building in central Mykolaiv.

12:25 PM

Young Russians mourn the loss of a Western lifestyle as a new iron curtain rises

As companies pull out and sanctions grip the economy, young Russians face a dramatic change in living standards, report Genevieve Holl-Allen and Tom Rees.

A daily medium cup of coffee in Moscow has turned into an unrealistic luxury for Katya, costing “as much as a whole meal in a mid-range cafe”.

When the Russian capital’s shopping centres were filled with Western brands, “I regularly bought Nespresso coffee, and Ikea products”, says the 21-year-old.

Just one month into Putin’s war with Ukraine, however, the shop spaces are “half-empty”, Katya says. “Chocolate and Coca-Cola are still currently on sale, but soon they may not be either.”

“Uniqlo, H&M, Zara, Pull&Bear, Sephora, Jo Malone, Starbucks, Mcdonalds, Nespresso, Ikea are closed, as are many brands like Dolce & Gabanna and Gucci.”

As foreign companies pull out of Russia, a new iron curtain is rising between Moscow and the West. Many young Russians are mourning the loss of a lifestyle they have grown up accustomed to.

Read the full story here.

12:14 PM

Vladimir Putin is being lied to by his advisers, says UK spy chief

12:02 PM

Kremlin denies Western claims that Putin is being 'misled' over Ukraine

The Kremlin denied US and British claims that Vladimir Putin's advisers are scared of giving him a true picture of Russia's war against Ukraine.

"This shows that neither the Department of State nor the Pentagon have real information about what is happening in the Kremlin," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

"They don't understand President Putin, they don't understand the mechanism for taking decisions and they don't understand the style of our work," he added.

11:54 AM

OPEC+ says prolonged conflict would be major blow to global economy

OPEC+ has warned that the global economy would see a major blow from a prolonged conflict in Ukraine, the oil producing group said in an internal report, seen by Reuters.

"Consumer and business sentiment is expected to decline not only in Europe, but also in the rest of the world, when only accounting for the inflationary impact the conflict has already caused," it said.

11:43 AM

Ukraine seeks UN nuclear watchdog help over occupied plants

The head of Ukraine's state nuclear company urged the UN nuclear watchdog to help ensure Russian officials do not interfere in the operation of nuclear power plants occupied by Russian forces.

Russian troops have occupied Europe's largest nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia and the now defunct plant at Chernobyl, scene of the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986.

Energoatom CEO Petro Kotin said earlier this month that Russia's state nuclear company Rosatom had sent officials to the Zaporizhzhia plant to try to take control of it. Rosatom said a "limited number" of its officials were there but denied they had taken operational control.

Calling on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to prevent what Ukraine regards as interference by Russian nuclear officials, Mr Kotin said: "(The IAEA) can influence this and they must influence this, and this question will be discussed."

11:35 AM

Nato: Russian troops not withdrawing but regrouping

Russian forces in Ukraine are not withdrawing but regrouping, Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday, commenting on Moscow's announcements about a scaling down of military operations around Kyiv.

"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," Mr Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.

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

11:20 AM

Not right time for ceasefire, says Putin in call with Italian PM

Vladimir Putin told Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi that conditions were not yet in place for a ceasefire in Ukraine, Mr Draghi told a news conference today when asked about a telephone call with the Russian President on Wednesday.

Mr Draghi also said that Putin told him that current gas contracts remained in force and that European firms will continue to pay in euros and dollars, rather than in roubles.

"What I understood, but I may be wrong, is that the conversion of the payment.... is an internal matter of the Russian Federation," Mr Draghi said.

11:18 AM

Pictured: A Ukrainian serviceman inspects a bomb crater near Kyiv

Pictured: A Ukrainian serviceman inspects a bombed area near Kyiv - STR/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Pictured: A Ukrainian serviceman inspects a bombed area near Kyiv - STR/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

11:15 AM

Erdogan says Abramovich was part of Russian delegation at Istanbul peace talks

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who is sanctioned by European nations over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, was part of Russia's delegation at peace negotiations in Istanbul this week, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said today.

Mr Abramovich made a surprise appearance at Tuesday's talks in Istanbul, the first in-person meeting between the sides in more than two weeks. However a presidential feed at the time showed him sat among observers rather than at the main table with the two negotiating teams.

"Abramovich participated in the negotiations as part of the Russian delegation. Rather than looking at who was at the table, we should look at on whose behalf they were there," Erdogan said.

"If Russia and Putin preferred to put Abramovich in their delegation, that means they believe and trust in him," German broadcaster NTV quoted Mr Erdogan as telling reporters on a flight returning from Uzbekistan.

11:00 AM

Russia has destroyed most of Ukraine's defence industry, says Zelensky adviser

Russia has destroyed almost all of Ukraine's defence industry, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said on Thursday in a video address where he welcomed the terms of a proposed peace deal as a win for Ukraine.

"They have practically destroyed our defence industry," Mr Arestovych said.

He said under a peace agreement discussed with Russia on Tuesday, Ukraine would be protected from future threats by international security guarantees that Russia would not be able to veto.

"This is an ideal agreement that improves our position several times over in a fundamental way," he said.

10:49 AM

Norwegian PM holds call with Putin

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere had an hour-long conversation with Vladimir Putin today in which the two discussed the invasion of Ukraine, the Norwegian prime minister's office said in a statement.

"I asked the president urgently to end the war in Ukraine, pull out Russian troops and secure humanitarian access," Mr Stoere said.

Norway, a NATO member, shares a border with Russia in the Arctic.

10:47 AM

How a British-made missile launcher helped keep Putin's army at bay

A Ukrainian serviceman fires an NLAW anti-tank weapon during an exercise in the Donetsk region - Vadim Ghirda /AP 
A Ukrainian serviceman fires an NLAW anti-tank weapon during an exercise in the Donetsk region - Vadim Ghirda /AP

The Anglo-Swedish next-generation light anti-tank weapon (NLAW) has achieved cult status in Ukraine, reports Dominic Nicholls.

“We hit it thanks to the gifts from Her Majesty the Queen,” the fighter said with a smile on his face, standing in front of a destroyed Russian vehicle, yellow tape on each arm marking him out as a Ukrainian fighter.

“Give us more toys like these and there will be more destroyed tanks.”

He finishes by saying he would like to put a Belfast-built anti-tank weapon into the hands of every civilian.

Another video shows a Ukrainian fighter in heavily accented English saying the “beautiful thing” in his hands has just destroyed the tank behind him.

“I want to say a big thank you to our British comrades helping us,” the man says, holding aloft the empty tube from where his missile was fired.

Both men are referring to the Anglo-Swedish next-generation light anti-tank weapon (NLAW).

Thousands have flowed into the country, playing a decisive role in crippling the Russian invasion.

Read the full story here.

10:40 AM

Two killed in rocket attack on military unit and fuel depot in eastern Ukraine

Russian rockets struck a military unit and a fuel depot in the Dnipro region of eastern Ukraine today, killing two people, the regional governor said.

Governor Valentyn Reznychenko said five people were also wounded in the strike.

10:36 AM

French military intelligence head steps down over failure to predict invasion

The head of France's military intelligence agency has quit over a failure to predict the war in Ukraine, reports in France have suggested today.

Eric Vidaud had led the military intelligence agency for seven months but sources told the l'Opinion newspaper and other media that the army had judged his briefings "insufficient" and he lacked "mastery of the subjects".

The chief of staff of France's armed forces, Thierry Burkhard, told Le Monde this month that French intelligence had, unlike their US counterpart, failed to predict Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"The Americans said the Russians were going to attack, they were right. Our services rather thought that invading Ukraine would have a monstrous cost and that the Russians had other options," Mr Burkhard told Le Monde.

L'Opinion said Mr Vidaud was told on Tuesday that he would have to leave his post in the summer because of the failures over Ukraine and that he decided to step down immediately

10:33 AM

Almost 30,000 Ukrainian refugees registered in Spain

Almost 30,000 Ukrainian refugees have been officially registered in Spain since the Russian invasion started, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said today.

He added that the number was likely to rise to 70,000 in the coming days.

10:13 AM

UK makes 14 additions to Russia sanctions list

The British Government said it had made 14 additions to its list of sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, including media organisations and senior figures within them.

Among those sanctioned today were senior figures from media outlets including RT's managing director Alexey Nikolov, Sergey Brilev, a prominent news anchor at the state-owned Rossiya Television and Radio network, and Sputnik's Editor-in-Chief Anton Anisimov.

Russia's Chief of the National Defence Command and Control Centre Mikhail Mizinitsev was also added to the list, which stated that he had been "responsible for planning and executing the siege and bombardment of Mariupol".

09:58 AM

School destroyed as Russian troops continue bombing Kyiv despite withdrawal pledge

09:44 AM

Red Cross ready to lead Mariupol evacuations tomorrow

Teams from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are on their way to the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol with aid supplies and stand ready to evacuate civilians, it said today.

Ewan Watson, ICRC spokesman, said Ukraine and Russia must agree on the exact terms of the operation, which is planned for Friday, adding that "tens of thousands" of lives depend on its success.

"For logistics and security reasons, we’ll be ready to lead the safe passage operation tomorrow, Friday, provided all the parties agree to the exact terms, including the route, the start time, and the duration," Mr Watson told Reuters in Geneva.

09:38 AM

Zelensky urges Dutch parliament to stop all trade with Russia

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President, has asked the Dutch parliament for weapons, reconstruction aid and to halt all business with Russia in response to the invasion of his country.

"Stronger sanctions are needed so that Russia doesn't have a chance to pursue this war further in Europe," he told lawmakers via video link. "Stop all trade with Russia."

09:26 AM

Russian troops moving away from Chernobyl nuclear site

Areas around Kyiv are likely to see heavy fighting in the coming days, the Ukrainian Defence Ministry has warned, despite Russian forces apparently beginning to withdraw from the Chernobyl nuclear site north of the capital, reports Campbell MacDiarmid.

"Chernobyl is (an) area where they are beginning to reposition some of their troops - leaving, walking away from the Chernobyl facility and moving into Belarus," a US official told AFP.

"We think that they are leaving, I can't tell you that they're all gone."

It is believed to be part of a redeployment of some forces to eastern Ukraine. Yet significant troops remain around the capital.

“Russian forces continue to hold positions to the east and west of Kyiv despite the withdrawal of a limited number of units,” the Defence Ministry said in its Thursday intelligence report. “Heavy fighting will likely take place in the suburbs of the city in the coming days.”

The Pentagon has characterised the movement of some Russian troops away from Kyiv as a redeployment rather than a withdrawal, saying they may be used in a fresh offensive in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

“They are repositioning some of their troops away from Kyiv,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday.

09:13 AM

Pictured: Zelensky addresses Australian Parliament

Pictured: Zelensky addresses Australian Parliament  - Lukas Coch /AAP
Pictured: Zelensky addresses Australian Parliament - Lukas Coch /AAP

09:04 AM

Russia-backed separatists claim significant gains in Ukraine's east

Pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine have said they control almost all of the Luhansk region and more than half of the Donetsk region after Moscow made these territories its primary military goal.

The claims have not been independently verified.

Russia recognised the independence of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics shortly before sending troops into Ukraine on February 24.

"As of the morning of March 31, 2022, more than 90 per cent of the territory of the People's Republic of Luhansk has been liberated," the foreign ministry of the self-proclaimed republic said on Telegram today.

Denis Pushilin, the leader of the Donetsk separatists said yesterday that "around 55 to 60 per cent" of the region's territory was under Russian control.

Before the start of Russia's invasion, the separatists - locked in conflict with Ukraine's army since 2014 - controlled about a third of each of these regions.

08:59 AM

Japan rules out withdrawal from joint Russia gas project

Japan has no plans to withdraw from a joint Russian oil and gas project, despite joining tough sanctions on Moscow over its Ukraine invasion, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said today.

Energy resource-poor Japan is attempting to balance its need for fossil fuels with toeing a hard line on Russia, and has faced questions over its continued involvement in the Sakhalin-2 project.

After Russia launched its war in Ukraine last month, oil giant Shell said it would sell its 27.5 per cent stake in Sakhalin-2 in Russia's far east.

But Kishida said the project was helping to provide "long-term, inexpensive and stable LNG supplies" to Japan.

"It is an extremely important project in terms of our energy security," he told a parliamentary session. "Our plan is not to withdraw."

Japan's Mitsui controls a 12.5 per cent stake in the project, while Mitsubishi owns 10 per cent. It is 50 per cent controlled by Russian energy company Gazprom.

08:50 AM

Russian foreign ministry would not refuse meeting with Ukrainian counterparts

Moscow would not refuse a meeting between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba but any talks between them would need to be substantive, the Russian news agency RIA cited the Russian foreign ministry as saying today.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said earlier that Turkey was working to bring together the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers for further talks after hosting peace negotiations in Istanbul this week.

Mr Cavusoglu said the meeting could happen within two weeks

08:43 AM

Nato has been 'defeated', says former British Army officer

General Sir Nick Parker, former commander of land forces in the British Army, said Nato has been "defeated" and called for a smaller coalition of nations to develop an offensive counter-strategy to Vladimir Putin.

Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme about Nato's response to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, he said: "Slightly controversially I suppose, I mean Nato's been defeated, Nato's bluff was called.

"We were unable to stop the Russians trampling all over Ukraine and now Nato is holding the line of the 2004 expansion, along the line of the Baltic states and Poland and Hungary and Romania.

"And what it has to do is to defend that line, it's in what in military terms we would call a defensive position.

"And I don't think it has the capacity to move on to the offensive with its 30 nations all with slightly different views.

"We need to have a smaller coalition of nations who can start to develop an offensive counter-strategy to Putin."

08:37 AM

Zelensky says other countries may be emboldened if Russia not punished

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President, told Australia's parliament that Russia must be held accountable for its invasion of Ukraine, warning that a failure to punish Moscow may encourage other countries to wage war against their neighbours.

"If we don't stop Russia now, if we don't hold Russia accountable, then some other countries of the world who are looking forward to a similar war against their neighbours will decide that such things are possible for them as well," Mr Zelensky said in the video address.

Mr Zelensky, seated at a desk wearing his trademark khaki t-shirt, did not specify which countries he feared would be inspired by Russia.

08:26 AM

Gazprom studies options for halting gas supplies to Europe, reports suggest

Russian energy giant Gazprom is looking at options for halting gas supplies to "unfriendly" countries, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported.

Vladimir Putin has said Russia will soon require "unfriendly" countries to pay for fuel in roubles, raising alarm about a possible gas supply crunch in Europe.

Putin has ordered the Russian central bank and Gazprom to prepare the payment scheme by March 31 amid Western sanctions against Russia.

Countries in the European Union, where Gazprom accounts for about 40 per cent of gas supplies, have stated their refusal to pay for Russian gas in roubles.

"Gazprom ... is indeed working on an option of a complete stoppage of gas supplies to 'unfriendly countries' and is evaluating the consequences of such measures," the newspaper wrote.

08:17 AM

Pictured: Damaged Red Cross warehouse in Mariupol

Pictured: Damaged Red Cross warehouse in Mariupol - Planet Labs PBC 
Pictured: Damaged Red Cross warehouse in Mariupol - Planet Labs PBC

08:08 AM

Turkey says Abramovich 'sincerely' working to end war

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who is sanctioned by European nations over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, was "sincerely" working to end the war.

He has been liaising between Kyiv and Moscow since the invasion began on February 24, Mr Cavusoglu said.

Mr Abramovich made a surprise appearance at Ukraine-Russia negotiations in Istanbul on Tuesday.

07:56 AM

Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers could meet within two weeks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba could meet within two weeks for talks, Turkey said today after hosting negotiators from both sides earlier this week.

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

07:53 AM

Truss and Lavrov arrive in Delhi to court Indian leaders

Both the British and Russian Foreign Secretaries have arrived in Delhi to court Indian leaders, amidst the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, reports Joe Wallen in New Delhi.

Liz Truss, the British Foreign Secretary, will attempt to convince Indian leaders to reduce their historic ties to Moscow and condemn Russia's war in Ukraine but it is unlikely to be successful.

So far, India has remained diplomatically neutral, abstaining on seven United Nations votes against Russia. It has also increased its imports of oil from Moscow, attracting the ire of its ally the US.

Meanwhile, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Secretary, is in India for a two-day trip to discuss further trade between the two countries.

On Sunday, India openly said it was considering doubling its imports of Russian coking coal and discussing the potential for a rupee-rouble trade system.

"India will import more items from Russia, especially if it is at a discount," one senior Indian government official said.

07:39 AM

Gravestones depicting Putin and Lukashenko erected in city near Kyiv

Putin and Lukashenko - STR/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Putin and Lukashenko - STR/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Gravestones depicting Vladimir Putin and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko have been erected in a small city near Kyiv, reports Tom Ough.

Putin’s face is depicted ghoulishly, with blood leaking from his mouth. Lukashenko is wearing, for reasons that are unclear, what appears to be naval gear.

The city in which the two gravestones have appeared is Malyn, which is in Zhytomyr Oblast, about 62 miles (100km) north-west of Kyiv. It is a similar distance from Belarus, which is to the city’s north.

Malyn, which before war had a population of under 30,000, was badly hit by Russian bombing earlier this month.

07:24 AM

Europe must stop buying Russian oil and gas, Lithuania's president says

Europe must stop buying oil and gas from Russia and should apply new sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, Lithuania's president Gitanas Nauseda said today.

"Europe must stop buying Russian gas and oil, because the Kremlin regime uses this money to finance destruction of Ukrainian cities and attacks on peaceful civilians," Nauseda told a joint news conference with the Danish prime minister.

"The fifth sanction package must deliver a maximum blow to the Kremlin regime," he said.

07:12 AM

Zelensky tells Australia that more Russian sanctions needed

Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President, told Australia's parliament today that new and stronger sanctions against Russia were needed to increase the pressure on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

Australia has supplied defence equipment and humanitarian supplies to Ukraine, as well as imposing a ban on exports of alumina and aluminium ores, including bauxite, to Russia.

It has imposed a total of 476 sanctions on 443 individuals, including businessmen close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and 33 entities, including most of Russia's banking sector and all entities responsible for the country's sovereign debt.

07:02 AM

Vladimir Putin turns on his military advisers as invasion falters

The Russian president feels ‘misled’ by spy chiefs and generals over failings of the war, with several being reportedly sacked or arrested, writes Nataliya Vasilyeva.

Vladimir Putin set out to capture Kyiv and topple its government at lightning speed when he launched his invasion of Ukraine under the guise of a “special operation”.

But five weeks into the war, there is mounting evidence that the Russian president is turning on his own spy chiefs and military advisers as his invasion falters.

According to declassified US intelligence reports, Putin feels he has been “misled” by military leaders who have failed to inform him how poorly his campaign in Ukraine is going.

A US official said on Wednesday that Putin "didn’t even know his military was using and losing conscripts”, which was “showing a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information".

Read the full story here.

06:52 AM

Anne-Marie Trevelyan: India sitting on the fence in regard to Russian invasion

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the International Trade Secretary, said she understands why India has "chosen to sit on the fence" when it comes to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but added it is important for countries to stand up for democracy.

Ms Trevelyan told Sky News: "We understand why they've chosen to sit on the fence at the moment - they, you know, have connections in both directions.

"But for us, it's really important to see all countries who believe in democracy and the rule of law, and indeed defending your own territorial borders and wanting to have that sovereignty, you know, respected by those around you, to stand up for that."

06:36 AM

Pictured: A destroyed Russian tank in Trostyanets

A destroyed Russian tank in Trostyanets  - ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
A destroyed Russian tank in Trostyanets - ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

06:26 AM

Convoy of buses trying to reach trapped civilians in Mariupol

A convoy of Ukrainian buses set out for the southern port city of Mariupol to try to reach trapped civilians, said Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister.

She said the International Committee of the Red Cross had confirmed that Russia had agreed to open a humanitarian corridor to the besieged city where tens of thousands of civilians remain after weeks of Russian bombardment.

06:14 AM

Russian troops eating dogs because they are 'sick' of ration packs

Ukraine’s security service intercepted an audio recording of a call from a soldier to his family, who said they were desperate for meat, reports David Millward.

Russian soldiers are eating dogs rather than the ration packs they have been given, Ukraine’s security service has claimed.

According to a 45-second call from a serviceman to his family, soldiers are “sick” of the ready-to-eat meals they have been given.

An audio recording of the call, which was intercepted by Ukraine’s security service, was posted on Twitter.

The soldier is asked, “Are you eating ok at least?”

He replies, "Not too bad. We had Alabay, (a breed of sheepdog found in Central Asia) yesterday. We wanted some meat.”

Read the full story here.

06:06 AM

MoD: Ukrainian forces remain in control of centre of Mariupol

05:43 AM

China warned about being 'too closely aligned' with Kremlin

The head of Britain's Government Communications Headquarters spy service has warned China not to become "too closely aligned" with the Kremlin.

Speaking at the Australian National University in Canberra, Sir Jeremy Fleming said western allies were making "deeply secret intelligence" public to get ahead of Russian president Vladimir Putin's information war, while also tackling cyber threats.

On China, he said the country's long-term interests were not well served by an alliance with a leader that "wilfully and illegally" ignores the international "rules of the road".

05:25 AM

Kremlin hunting for cyber targets, says spy chief

Sir Jeremy Fleming, who heads the GCHQ electronic spy agency, has warned that the Kremlin is hunting for cyber targets and bringing in mercenaries to shore up its stalled military campaign in Ukraine.

He praised Volodymyr Zelensky's "information operation" for being highly effective at countering Russia's massive disinformation drive spreading propaganda about the war.

While there were expectations that Russia would launch a major cyber attack as part of its military campaign, Sir Jeremy said such a move was never a central part of Moscow's standard playbook for war.

05:00 AM

Taiwan studies Ukraine's war tactics

Taiwan's defence ministry has set up a working group to study the tactics of the war in Ukraine, including how the country has been able to hold out against Russia, and has been discussing this with the United States, its minister said on Thursday.

Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory, has raised its alert level since the Russian invasion, wary of Beijing possibly making a similar move on the island.

Taiwan's Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said they had had "contact" with foreign countries to talk about how the war was being fought.

While Taiwanese officials have seen many parallels in the Ukraine war and their own situation, including having their own giant neighbour with territorial ambitions, they have also pointed to major differences.

Taiwan has talked, for example, of the "natural barrier" of the Taiwan Strait, which would make China putting troops on the ground much more difficult than Russia just crossing over its land border with Ukraine.

Taiwan also has a large and well-equipped air force, and is developing its own formidable missile strike capability.

04:44 AM

In pictures: Another day in the life of Ukrainians at war

A man walks in front a destroyed train in the north-eastern city of Trostianets - FADEL SENNA/AFP
A man walks in front a destroyed train in the north-eastern city of Trostianets - FADEL SENNA/AFP
Elderly people talk outside their apartment building in Kharkiv - ERGEY BOBOK/AFP
Elderly people talk outside their apartment building in Kharkiv - ERGEY BOBOK/AFP
Ukrainian soldiers stand next to rubble of a destroyed building in the city of Trostianets - FADEL SENNA/AFP
Ukrainian soldiers stand next to rubble of a destroyed building in the city of Trostianets - FADEL SENNA/AFP
A resident walks in front of a destroyed building in Trostianets - FADEL SENNA/AFP
A resident walks in front of a destroyed building in Trostianets - FADEL SENNA/AFP

04:21 AM

US considers releasing up to 180 million barrels of oil

The Biden administration is considering releasing up to 180 million barrels of oil over several months from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), four US sources said, as the White House tries to lower fuel prices.

The move would mark the third time the US has tapped its strategic reserves in the past six months, and would be the largest release in the near 50-year history of the SPR.

The releases have not managed to lower prices as world demand has nearly reached pre-pandemic levels while supply has tightened globally.

Oil prices have surged since Russia invaded Ukraine and the US.

US President Joe Biden will deliver remarks on Thursday on his administration's actions, the White House said.

03:57 AM

Moscow announces another ceasefire

Russia's defence ministry announced a local ceasefire on Thursday to allow civilians to be evacuated from Ukraine's besieged port city of Mariupol.

It said a humanitarian corridor would be opened to Zaporizhzhia with cooperation from the UN refugee agency and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Locals take refuge outside an apartment building damaged in Mariupol - REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
Locals take refuge outside an apartment building damaged in Mariupol - REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

But previous attempts to allow civilians out of the devastated town have failed, and Ukraine's deputy prime minister described the proposal as "another manipulation".

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he did not trust Russian claims it would scale back military activity around the capital Kyiv and another city.

"We don't believe anyone, not a single beautiful phrase," he said in a video address, adding that Russian troops were regrouping to strike the eastern Donbas region.

03:07 AM

US offers another $500m for Ukraine aid

The White House has pledged an additional $500 million (£380 million) in direct aid for Ukraine as the Russian invasion grinds on.

US President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a 55-minute call that the additional aid is on its way.

The leaders also reviewed security aid already delivered to Ukraine and the effects that weaponry has had on the war, according to the White House.

02:26 AM

One-quarter of humanity live in conflict areas: UN

The United Nations chief said that one-quarter of humanity - two billion people - are living in conflict areas and the world is facing the highest number of violent conflicts since 1945 when the Second World War ended.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres cited conflicts from Yemen, Syria, Myanmar and Sudan to Haiti, Africa's Sahel, "and now the war in Ukraine - a catastrophe shaking the foundations of the international order, spilling across borders and causing skyrocketing food, fuel and fertiliser prices that spell disaster for developing countries".

He told the UN Peacebuilding Commission that 84 million people were forced to leave their homes last year because of conflict, violence and human rights violations.

The Ukraine war has already seen four million people flee the country and displaced another 6.5 million within the country, according to UN agencies.

12:41 AM

Innocent Ukrainians and Russians pay for Putin's 'personal war'

Vladimir Putin's advisers are scared to tell him the truth about the progress of his Ukraine invasion but the extent of the Russian leader's "misjudgements" must be "crystal clear to the regime", the head of Britain's GCHQ spy agency said.

In a rare public address during a visit to Australia, Sir Jeremy Fleming said Putin had "massively misjudged the situation".

"It's clear he misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people," Sir Jeremy said.

"He underestimated the strength of the coalition his actions would galvanise. He under-played the economic consequences of the sanctions regime. He over-estimated the abilities of his military to secure a rapid victory.

"We've seen Russian soldiers - short of weapons and morale - refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft.

"And even though we believe Putin's advisers are afraid to tell him the truth, what's going on and the extent of these misjudgements must be crystal clear to the regime."

Sir Jeremy said it had become Putin's personal war, "with the cost being paid by innocent people in Ukraine and increasingly, by ordinary Russians too".

12:30 AM

Donetsk offensive operations intensifying

The leader of the Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin, said offensive operations were intensifying.

"We are well aware that the longer it takes us to liberate our territory - those settlements that are now under control of Ukraine - the more victims and destruction there will be," he said.

Donetsk includes the besieged port city of Mariupol, which has seen some of the war's heaviest fighting and bombardment and where about 170,000 people are trapped with scarce food and water.

"We cook what we find among neighbours; a bit of cabbage, a bit more of potatoes, we've found tomato paste, some beetroot," said former steel worker Viktor from Mariupol.

Metallurgist Viktor, 63, cooks food at the entrance to the basement of an apartment building in Mariupol - REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
Metallurgist Viktor, 63, cooks food at the entrance to the basement of an apartment building in Mariupol - REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

They cook using a rudimentary barbecue and sleep in a basement, which he termed their "peaceful oasis".

Russian forces have taken half of the strategic port city, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

12:24 AM

Zelensky: Ukraine preparing for new Russian offensive

Ukrainian forces are preparing for new Russian attacks in the east of the country as Moscow builds up its troops there after suffering setbacks near the capital Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday.

Tough resistance has prevented Russia from capturing any major city, including Kyiv.

At peace talks this week in Istanbul, Russia said it would curtail operations near Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv to build trust.

But Ukraine and its Western allies, including the US, dismissed Russia's pledge as a ploy to stem its losses and prepare for other attacks.

Russia said its forces were regrouping to focus on "liberating" the breakaway eastern Donbas region.

In an early morning video address on Thursday, Mr Zelensky referred to Russian troop movements away from Kyiv and Chernihiv and said that was not a withdrawal but rather "the consequence of our defenders' work".

Mr Zelensky said Ukraine is seeing "a build-up of Russian forces for new strikes on the Donbas and we are preparing for that".

11:41 PM

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