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Russia regrouping forces to focus on ‘key fronts and Donbas’

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Russia regrouping forces to focus on 'key fronts and Donbas'


Russian shelling near Kyiv and Chernihiv continued on Wednesday, a day after Russia vowed to scale back military operations in the two cities. Russian media quoted the defence ministry as saying Russian forces were regrouping to focus attention on the main goal, the breakaway region of Donbas. Follow our live blog for the latest developments. All times indicated are Paris time [GMT+2].

7:50pm: ‘No breakthrough’ in peace talks, French FM tells FRANCE 24

In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he saw no sign of a breakthrough in talks between Ukraine and Russia.

“The war continues, and for now as far as I know there is no breakthrough or anything new,” Le Drian said, adding that “there are many statements from the Russian authorities… I will only believe actions”.

The interview will be translated into English and aired at 11pm Paris time [GMT+2].

6:50pm: Zelensky, Biden discuss $500 million in direct aid, ‘additional capabilities’

US President Joe Biden and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed “additional capabilities” to help the Ukrainian military during a telephone call on Wednesday, the White House said in a statement.

Biden told Zelensky that the United States would provide the Ukrainian government with $500 million in direct aid as Kyiv battles against invading Russian forces.

“Just finished an hour-long conversation,” Zelensky tweeted after the call. “Shared assessment of the situation on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.

“Talked about specific defensive support, a new package of enhanced sanctions, macro-financial and humanitarian aid.”

6:45pm: Ukraine refugee exodus tops 4 million

The UN refugee agency said Wednesday 4,019,287 Ukrainians had fled across the country’s borders since the February 24 invasion, with more than 2.3 million going west into Poland. The speed and scale of the exodus is unprecedented in Europe since World War II, and has seen a wave of empathy extended to the women, children and elderly men who have made it across the border.

5:50pm: Russia regrouping forces to focus on key fronts and Donbas, defence ministry says

Russia’s defence ministry said Wednesday its forces were regrouping near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv to focus on the breakaway Donbas region, according to Russian news agencies.

The ministry’s statement came as Russia said it would scale back operations near Kyiv and Chernihiv to support progress in peace talks. But Russian shelling in both cities continued on Wednesday, according to Reuters reporters near Kyiv and the mayor of Chernihiv.

5:15pm: Sanctions should to stay until Putin’s soldiers leave Ukraine

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Western powers should tighten the economic noose around Russia until it withdraws all its soldiers from Ukraine.

“My view is we should intensify sanctions with a rolling programme until every single one of [Putin’s] troops is out of Ukraine,” Johnson told MPs at a hearing in parliament.

4:45pm: FRANCE 24 reports from Kharkiv

Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv has been the constant target of Russian shelling since the beginning of the invasion. FRANCE 24’s special correspondents Catherine Norris-Trent and Romeo Langlois report :

4:30pm: Fresh Biden – Zelensky talks on Wednesday

President Joe Biden will speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday to discuss US support in his country’s battle against the Russian invasion.

Biden will “discuss our continued support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression,” a White House statement said. The call is scheduled for 10:45am (14:45 GMT)

3:50pm: EU court rejects RT France’s request for sanctions reprieve

The European Union’s Court of Justice on Wednesday rejected a request by the French-language unit of Russian state news network RT for a temporary reprieve from a broadcasting suspension issued in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“By today’s order, the president of the General Court rejects RT France’s request for interim measures,” said a statement from the court, which is part of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg, adding that a final judgement would be delivered later.

The EU introduced a series of measures to suspend the broadcasting activities of some Russian state-backed media, including RT, on March 1. The 27-nation bloc accuses Moscow of using state-controlled media to propagate what is says is disinformation about Russia’s invasion, as well as Europe’s ties with Ukraine.

The EU said on March 4 that the suspension of broadcasting can end when Russia “ceases to conduct disinformation and information manipulation activities against the EU and its member states”.

3:45pm Russia says Kyiv has stated willingness to meet Moscow’s core demands

Russia’s lead negotiator at talks with Ukraine said on Wednesday that Kyiv had stated a willingness to meet Moscow’s core demands, but that Russia’s position on Donbas and annexed Crimea remained unchanged.

3:39pm: Zelensky urges Norway to supply more energy to Ukraine, EU

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday urged Norway, the second-biggest supplier of gas to Europe behind Russia, to deliver more energy to his country and the European Union.

Addressing the Norwegian parliament via video link, Zelensky also called for a ban on Russian vessels in Europe’s ports.

“You can make a decisive contribution to the energy security of Europe by providing the necessary resources, both for the countries of the European Union and for Ukraine,” he said in a speech that ended with a long standing ovation from lawmakers.

1:30pm: Norway sends anti-tank weapons to Ukraine

Norway has donated more weapons to Ukraine to help the country defend itself against Russia’s invasion, the Norwegian defence ministry said on Wednesday.

The latest shipment, which has already been completed, is 2,000 M72 anti-tank weapons, raising the total number of M72s donated by Norway to 4,000, the ministry said.

1:20pm: Moscow vows to work with Tehran to circumvent Western sanctions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said Moscow would work with Iran to take practical steps in an effort to circumvent Western sanctions, the RIA news agency said.

It was not immediately clear if he was referring to sanctions against Russia exclusively, or also those against Iran.

1pm: Kremlin says nothing ‘promising’ from talks with Ukraine

The Kremlin on Wednesday welcomed the fact that Kyiv has set out its demands for an end to the conflict in Ukraine in written form, but said “we cannot state that there was anything too promising or any breakthroughs,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “There is a lot of work to be done,” Peskov said.

He added that Moscow considered it “positive” that Kyiv had started outlining its demands in writing. Ukraine presented its demands when negotiators from the two sides met in Turkey on Tuesday before adjourning to consult with their capitals.

“We carefully avoid making statements on the matters” that are discussed at the talks because “we believe that negotiations should take place in silence”, he added.

11:35am: Russia’s Lavrov to visit India on Thursday, New Delhi says

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit India, which has so far refused to condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, for a two-day visit beginning Thursday, New Delhi said.

India has abstained from UN resolutions censuring Russia and continues to buy Russian oil and other goods, despite pressure from Washington, with US President Joe Biden last week describing India as “somewhat shaky” on Russia. India and Russia have had a close relationship for decades. New Delhi, which describes Moscow as its “longstanding and time-tested friend”, sources most of its key military hardware from Russia.

11:22am: UK govt issued 25,500 visas to Ukrainian refugees

The British government said on Wednesday it had issued 25,500 visas to Ukrainians under schemes set up to bring in refugees after Russia invaded Ukraine last month. Data from the Home Office showed that 22,800 visas had been given under the Ukraine family scheme, with 2,700 being offered under the sponsorship scheme.

With the number of people fleeing from the war currently in millions, the government has been under pressure to do more to take in refugees.

11:10am: Finland resumes rail link to Russia, passenger services to remain closed

Finland’s national railway operator VR Group said on Wednesday it would resume freight services between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg in Russia on March 30, but passenger services will remain suspended, it said on Wednesday.

The operator had halted the service as a result of UK sanctions against Russian Railways, but it was later clarified that the sanctions do not apply to VR Group’s contracts, it said in a statement. Passenger services between the two countries, which were suspended on Monday until further notice, will remain closed.

10:45am: Over 4 million people have fled Ukraine, UN says

The number of Ukrainians fleeing abroad is now 4,019,287, the United Nations’ Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Wednesday, with more than 2.3 million having headed west into Poland..

10:33am: Poland urges EU to tax Russian fossil fuels

Poland’s prime minister on Wednesday called on the European Union to impose a tax on Russian fossil fuel imports, adding to unprecedented sanctions on Moscow over its war in Ukraine.

“Today I call on the European Commission to establish a tax on Russian fossil fuels so that trade and economic rules in the single European market can function in an equitable manner,” Mateusz Morawiecki said.

10:28am: Poland to impose ‘total embargo on Russian coal’, to ‘stop using Russian oil by end of year’, PM says

Poland plans to stop using Russian oil by the end of 2022 and to stop importing Russian coal by May at the latest, the prime minister said on Wednesday, as it cuts economic ties with Moscow due to the war in Ukraine.

“We will impose a total embargo on Russian coal, and I hope that by April, May at the latest, we will have completely exited from Russian coal,” Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference. “We will do everything to stop using Russian oil by the end of this year.”

10:25am: Russian shelling continues in almost all frontline cities across Ukraine’s Donetsk region, local governor says

Russian forces are shelling nearly all cities along the frontline separating Ukrainian government-controlled territory from areas held by Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donetsk region, its regional governor said on Wednesday.

Pavlo Kyrylenko said on national television the situation could worsen as Russian forces concentrated their efforts to attack the Donetsk region.

10:20am: Ukraine’s northern city of Chernihiv ‘shelled all night’ despite Russia’s vows to scale down operations, governor says

Ukrainian authorities said Wednesday that Russian forces had bombarded the northern city of Chernihiv despite Moscow’s earlier claims that it was “radically” scaling back military activity in the area. “The enemy has demonstrated its ‘decrease in activity’ in the Chernihiv region with strikes on Nizhyn, including air strikes. Chernihiv was shelled all night,” regional governor Vyacheslav Chaus wrote on social media.

10am: Ukraine reports shelling outside Kyiv, around Chernihiv despite Russia’s vows to scale down operations

Ukrainian officials reported shelling around the capital Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv on Wednesday, despite a promise by Moscow to scale down military operations there.

Kyiv’s deputy mayor, Mykola Povoroznyk, told national television the capital itself had not been shelled overnight. “The night passed relatively calmly, to the sounds of sirens and the sound of gunfire from battles around the city, but there was no shelling in the city itself” he said. The Chernihiv region’s governor, Viacheslav Chaus, said he saw no let-up in Russian attacks.

“Do we believe in it (the promise to reduce military activities)? Of course not,” Chaus wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

9:25am: Germany declares ‘early warning’ gas plan to secure supply

Germany on Wednesday raised the alarm level under its emergency gas plan as fears rose that Russia could cut off supplies if Western countries refused to make payments in roubles. After G7 countries rejected the Russian demand, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said at a press conference he had called for the first “early warning” alert level under the plan, establishing a crisis team in the ministry to monitor the situation.

Under Germany’s existing gas emergency plan, the early warning is the first of three stages and does not yet imply state intervention. Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in a statement that supplies were safeguarded for the time being and that Germany was closely monitoring supply flows with market operators.

9:15am: Shelling continues around Eastern city of Kharkiv as Ukraine claims having regained control of cities

FRANCE 24’s Catherine Norris Trent is reporting from the eastern city of Kharkiv as shelling continues. Kyiv has claimed to have pushed back the frontline, regaining control of areas previously controlled by pro-Russian troops.

8:15am: An inside look at Mariupol’s devastation, as besieged port city now reduced to ghost town

FRANCE 24’s team managed to enter a part of the southern port city of Mariupol, which is besieged and under heavy Russian shelling. Inhabitants that have not fled are living under constant infighting and have been without running water or heating for almost a month.

6:58am: Residential areas of Ukraine’s eastern city of Lysychansk shelled

Residential areas of Ukraine’s eastern city of Lysychansk were shelled by heavy artillery on Wednesday morning, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai wrote on Telegram. “A number of high-rise buildings have been damaged. Information on casualties is being confirmed,” he said. “Many buildings have collapsed. Rescuers are trying to save those still alive.”

06:14am: Trump asks Putin to help dish dirt on Hunter Biden

Donald Trump has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who launched an invasion of Ukraine last month, to reveal any compromising information he might have on US President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.

The former Republican president returned to accusations he had repeated many times during his unsuccessful campaign against Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

In an interview excerpt broadcast Tuesday by Real America’s Voice “Just the News” show, Trump claimed that the wife of the mayor of Moscow gave $3.5 million to Hunter Biden.

“That’s a lot of money,” he said. “She gave him $3.5 million so now I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it.”

Trump has long claimed, without providing evidence, that the younger Biden received the funds from Elena Baturina, wife of the late Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, in a bid to curry favor with Joe Biden.

04:55am: US State Department warns that Moscow may ‘detain’ Americans in Russia

The US State Department issued a travel advisory on Tuesday warning that Moscow “may single out and detain US citizens in Russia” and repeating earlier warnings for Americans not to travel to the country.

The warning was “due to the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces” as well as the potential for harassment of US citizens by Russian authorities, the travel advisory said, repeating calls for Americans travelling or living in Russia to leave “immediately”.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

Originally published on France24

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