Ukraine-Russia war: Russian occupied cities 'rocked by powerful explosions'
Two major southern Ukrainian cities under Russian occupation have been rocked by powerful explosions that injured several people including a Russian-appointed police chief and damaged army barracks, writes Nataliya Vasilyeva.
In Mariupol, Mikhail Moskvin, the Russia-appointed police chief, sustained injuries after his car blew up on Monday morning. Senior separatist leader Eduard Basurin told RIA Novosti he already spoke to the man who confirmed he survived the attack with light injuries.
Vadym Boychenko, the city’s Ukrainian mayor in exile, in a statement on Monday attributed the attack to “Mariupol resistance”.
In Melitopol, a strategic city between the Crimean peninsula and mainland Ukraine, Ivan Fedorov, the exiled mayor, reported an attack on a building that served as army barracks for the Russian forces. Local authorities, however, attributed it to shelling, not a bomb.
Footage from the scene showed a one-storey annex lying in ruins next to the main building where all windows appeared to be shattered.
The occupation administration of Melitopol denied any links to the military and said the attack targeted a vocational college where students were reportedly having a class.
It comes as Russian shelling of the town of Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine left at least two people dead and more than two dozen others injured, the regional governor said on Monday.
And that's all for today
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Here is a summary of today's stories.
Russian shelling of the town of Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine left at least two people dead and more than two dozen others injured, the regional governor said on Monday.
Volodymyr Zelensky's security team pounced on some chocolate offered to him by Bear Grylls over fears the survival expert could have been trying to poison the Ukrainian President.
Two major southern Ukrainian cities under Russian occupation have been rocked by powerful explosions that injured several people including a Russian-appointed police chief and damaged army barracks.
Please follow along tomorrow for all the latest updates on Ukraine.
UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi met with Zelensky in Zaporizhzhia
UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi said he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Zaporizhzhia, the site of Europe's largest nuclear power plant.
The two had a "rich exchange" on the protection of the plant and its staff, Mr Grossi wrote in a tweet, adding that he reiterated the IAEA's full support for Ukraine's nuclear facilities.
I met 🇺🇦@ZelenskyyUa today in Zaporizhzhya City & had a rich exchange on the protection of the #Zaporizhzhya NPP and its staff. I reiterated the full support of the @IAEAorg to #Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. pic.twitter.com/fSPIMnYfhL
— Rafael MarianoGrossi (@rafaelmgrossi) March 27, 2023
President Zelensky visits frontline positions in Zaporizhzhia region
Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, visited frontline positions in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region on Monday, according to his Telegram channel.
"I am honoured to be here today, next to our military," he wrote in a post accompanied by a video of him handing out medals to Ukrainian troops.
Ukrainian troops finish training on UK Challenger tanks
Ukrainian crews who have been training to use UK-donated Challenger 2 tanks are now ready to deploy to the frontline, Britain's government said on Monday.
"Ukrainian tank crews have completed training on Challenger 2 tanks in the UK and have returned home to continue their fight against Russia's illegal and unprovoked invasion," the ministry of defence said in a statement.
The training began shortly after London announced in January that it would send 14 of the tanks to the front line.
The crews learned how to command, drive and "effectively identify and engage targets", said the UK ministry, which called it a "step change" in capability for Ukraine's armed forces.
"It is truly inspiring to witness the determination of Ukrainian soldiers having completed their training on British Challenger 2 tanks on British soil," said Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
"They return to their homeland better equipped but to no less danger. We will continue to stand by them and do all we can to support Ukraine for as long as it takes," he added.
Germany to buy up to 28 howitzers to help replace arms rushed to Ukraine
Germany aims to purchase up to 28 self-propelled howitzers to replace weapons rushed to Ukraine out of army stocks last year, according to a budget draft seen by Reuters on Monday.
Heavy artillery-type weapons such as howitzers, long perceived as arms of the past by military experts, have made a huge comeback as Ukraine seeks to repel a Russian invasion.
The German parliament's budget committee will decide on the howitzer deal at a session on Wednesday.
The government in Berlin has supplied 14 howitzers to Kyiv, and originally intended to ask parliament for their replacement in summer only. Defence Minister Boris Pistorius brought the move forward after criticism that the backfilling of German military hardware was going far too slowly.
According to the budget draft, the defence ministry aims to procure at least 10 howitzers for some 180 million euros from German arms maker Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), and acquire options for the purchase of another 18.
Japanese student goes to graduation dressed like President Zelensky
A Japanese student showed up to graduation as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s lookalike, wearing his signature olive-colored, snug-fit T-shirt and khaki trousers to show his support for Ukraine’s fight against Russia.
Most graduation ceremonies in Japan feature graduates in suits or formal dress. But Kyoto University has its own tradition of students who opt for different attire on their special day.
“I am President Zelensky,” the student told local TV network Yomiuri. He said it took him three months to grow his beard. He decided to be his lookalike for the graduation ceremony Friday, because “since December, when I was growing out my beard, I was told I look like President Zelensky.”
His performance was not just a comical cosplay. The student, who goes by Amiki on Twitter, was holding a sign carrying messages expressing his support for Ukraine, along with a passage from President Zelensky’s speech in December at the U.S. Congress.
In the video from TV Osaka, he said he respects the Ukrainian president as “the real man among men.”
Putin ally says Russia has weapons to destroy US if its existence is threatened
An ally of President Vladimir Putin has warned that Russia has the weapons to destroy any enemy, including the United States, if its own existence is threatened, accusing Washington of underestimating Moscow's nuclear might.
The comments from Nikolai Patrushev, the influential secretary of Russia's Security Council, are the latest from a senior Russian official to raise the spectre of a nuclear showdown between the world's two largest nuclear powers, something Moscow says it wants to avoid.
"American politicians trapped by their own propaganda remain confident that, in the event of a direct conflict with Russia, the United States is capable of launching a preventive missile strike, after which Russia will no longer be able to respond. This is short-sighted stupidity, and very dangerous," Patrushev told the state Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper on Monday.
"Russia is patient and does not intimidate anyone with its military advantage. But it has modern unique weapons capable of destroying any adversary, including the United States, in the event of a threat to its existence", he said.
Pictured: A view shows a site of a Russian military strike in Sloviansk
Ukraine withdraws city workers from frontline town Avdiivka
A Ukrainian official in the battered frontline town of Avdiivka in the eastern Donetsk region said Monday municipal workers were being withdrawn, as Russian forces claim incremental gains nearby.
"It's a shame to admit, but Avdiivka looks more and more like a scene from post-apocalyptic movies," the head of the town's administration Vitalii Barabash said on social media.
"Therefore, a difficult decision was made to evacuate... municipal workers, who at least somehow tried to maintain the cleanliness and vitality of the city."
Russian forces have been working to capture the entire eastern Donetsk region for several months, with the focus of fighting centring on Bakhmut, north of Avdiivka.
"I strongly recommend leaving Avdiivka, because Russian rockets and projectiles do not spare anyone or anything - no matter what views you hold," Barabash added in the statement.
He posted images on Facebook showing badly damaged residential buildings and rubble and debris strewn through mostly abandoned buildings.
Bear Grylls' chocolate turned down by Zelensky's team over poisoning fears
Volodymyr Zelensky's security team pounced on some chocolate offered to him by Bear Grylls over fears the survival expert could have been trying to poison the Ukrainian President, writes Verity Bowman.
Grylls offered Mr Zelensky square of Cadburys to “break the ice” during their first meeting during a trip to Ukraine to film a new documentary - but the president’s security team were not pleased.
They refused the offering in case Grylls, 48, was trying to assassinate Mr Zelensky.
"I get it," Grylls told Good Morning Britain on Monday as he discussed his new Channel 4 documentary 'Bear Grylls Meets President Zelensky'.
"Normally when I've done this before with world leaders, the wild does half my job for me - it's a great leveller. It's a great ice-breaker - you're out in the mountains."
Two dead in shelling of Sloviansk
Russian shelling of the town of Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine left at least two people dead and more than two dozen others injured, the regional governor said Monday.
"As of 13:00, there are two dead and 29 wounded in Sloviansk... administrative and office buildings, five high-rise buildings and seven private houses were damaged," Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Facebook.
"(Russian forces) struck the city centre around 10:30 (0730 GMT) with two S-300 missiles," he added.
West should stay calm about Russian plan for nuclear weapons in Belarus, says Polish minister
The West should be calm in its response to Russia's decision to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Poland's European Union Affairs minister said on Monday.
"This is an element of escalation," Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek told reporters. "The reaction should be calm but firm. We cannot be intimidated by Russian propagandists."
Ukraine in pictures:
Comment: Putin and Xi’s plot to control the internet will leave the West in the dust
When President Xi whispered a few sweet nothings into Vladimir Putin’s ear last week, it was a private exchange that they wanted everyone to hear.
“Change is coming that hasn’t happened in 100 years, and we are driving this change together,” President Xi Jinping told his “warm friend”, the Russian President.
Just as this column predicted one year ago, Putin and Xi have forged a wide ranging global technology pact.
Read the full piece
Poland detains man for spying for Russia
Poland has detained a foreign citizen on charges of spying for Russia, prosecutors said on Monday, as the largest country on Nato's eastern flank finds itself increasingly targeted by Moscow's intelligence services.
The war in Ukraine has plunged what were already strained relations between Poland and Russia to new lows, with Warsaw saying it is frequently the subject of Russian espionage and disinformation.
Prosecutors in the northern Polish city of Gdansk said in a statement that the suspect had been detained on March 21.
"The findings made in the case show that the suspect acted for the benefit of Russian intelligence by obtaining and collecting information... on critical infrastructure in the Pomeranian and Kuyavian-Pomeranian Regions and on the activities of services and bodies responsible for security," they said.
"The information obtained was passed on to the Russian intelligence service," the statement added.
Belarus accuses Poland of slowing movement of trucks via EU border
Belarus on Monday accused Poland of deliberately slowing the movement of trucks and cars into the European Union at its border, alleging that Warsaw was failing to implement bilateral agreements.
"Since Friday, a queue in front of the only accessible border crossing point on the Belarusian-Polish border, Kukuryki (Kozłowiczy), has doubled in size and now totals 1,000 cars," the country's border committee said.
There was no immediate response from Poland.
Pictured: Sir Lindsay Hoyle meets Ruslan Stefanchuk
Holding Bakhmut is a 'military necessity', says Ukrainian general
Ukraine's ground forces commander said on Monday his troops were continuing to repel heavy Russian attacks on the eastern city of Bakhmut and that defending it was a "military necessity".
Ukraine's military said Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi had acted during a visit to the eastern front line to solve "problematic issues that prevent effective execution of combat tasks" and taken "operational decisions aimed at strengthening our capabilities to deter and inflict damage on the enemy."
It gave no details, and did not say when the visit took place, but Syrskyi's comments signalled Ukraine's intention to keep fighting in Bakhmut despite the heavy death toll there.
"The most intense phase of the battle for Bakhmut continues. The situation is constantly difficult. The enemy suffers significant losses in human resources, weapons and military equipment but continues to conduct offensive actions," he said.
Praising Ukrainian forces' resilience in "extremely difficult conditions", he said: "The defence of Bakhmut is due to military necessity.... We are calculating all possible options for the development of events, and will react adequately to the current situation".
Orlando Bloom gifts Volodymyr Zelensky Buddhist philosophy to inspire children in Kyiv
Orlando Bloom sat down with the president of Ukraine to discuss solutions for protecting children traumatised by Russia's invasion.
The British actor also visited a children's centre and bomb shelters in Kyiv where, he said, the mental anguish was "palpable".
"To see the children, to see in their eyes, the anxiety...and yet the strength of the Ukrainian people is something that is really awe-inspiring," Mr Bloom told Volodymyr Zelensky during a sit-down meeting in one of the president's safe rooms.
Read the full story from Andrea Hamblin here
‘Cronies unit’ keeps Russian MPs and sons 50 miles from front line
Russian MPs have been accused of setting up a remote reconnaissance unit far behind the front line so they and their military-age sons can serve in Ukraine without being killed.
The Kremlin has told politicians to back its invasion if they want to earn the respect of ordinary Russians.
Since then, Russian MPs have signed up to serve in the secretive Cascade unit, based somewhere in Donbas, for a month or so – guaranteeing useful photos of themselves in military uniform, and perhaps a medal.
Mercenary unit inspired by Wagner Group formed by Kremlin’s Crimea head
The Kremlin-installed head of Crimea has created his own mercenary unit inspired by the Wagner Group.
Sergey Aksyonov has recruited a former Wagner commander in Africa to lead his Convoy mercenary unit of 300 fighters, which has already deployed to occupied parts of Kherson region in southern Ukraine.
“This is Aksyonov’s private military company but the entire group is made up of former Wagner employees,” one of the mercenaries told the Russia-24 TV station in a news report.
Read the full story here
Latest MoD update
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 27 March 2023.
Find out more about Defence Intelligence's use of language: https://t.co/ZMzN1Zgl5c
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/tzBBOFGsFB
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) March 27, 2023
Russia says it will complete infrastructure for Poseidon torpedo carriers in 2024
Russia plans to complete in early 2024 the construction of its coastal infrastructure in the Pacific Ocean for basing nuclear submarines that will carry the Poseidon nuclear capable super torpedoes, TASS news agency reported on Monday.
Russia said in January that it had produced the first set of the Poseidon torpedoes, four years after President Vladimir Putin announced the fundamentally new type of strategic nuclear weapon, confirming it would have its own nuclear power supply.
There are few confirmed details about the Poseidon in the public domain, but it is essentially a cross between a torpedo and a drone which can be launched from a nuclear submarine.
The torpedoes are being developed for deployment on the Belgorod and Khabarovsk nuclear submarines, TASS reported.
"Work on the construction of coastal infrastructure facilities for basing two special submarines in Kamchatka is planned to be completed early next year," TASS cited an unidentified defence source as saying.
Pictured: Ukrainian soldiers fire a mortar at Russian positions on the frontline near Bakhmut
Russian Belarus missile plan is ‘nuclear intimidation’, says West
The West has condemned Vladimir Putin’s decision to send tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus as the bully-boy posturing of a desperate despot.
Less than 24 hours after Mr Putin promised to move his nuclear arsenal closer to Europe and Ukraine, the US, Germany and Nato criticised the Kremlin’s attempt at “nuclear intimidation”.
With Russia’s forces facing another humiliation over the failure to capture Bakhmut after a months-long assault in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, Mr Putin is expected to intensify his nuclear brinkmanship.
Read the full story from James Kilner here
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