US President Joe Biden on Tuesday said “evidence is mounting” that Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine, although it would be up to lawyers to make a final determination. Earlier Tuesday, Kyiv said ongoing talks with Russia to end the war were “extremely difficult” after Moscow accused Ukrainian negotiators of slowing discussions by changing their position on a key issue. Follow the day’s events as they unfolded on our liveblog. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
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04:44am: US envoy Kerry calls for renewables push, says Putin cannot control wind, sun
The conflict in Ukraine shows now is the time to shift to clean and independent energy, US climate envoy John Kerry said at a conference on the pacific island of Palau as he urged nations to boost the use of offshore renewable power sources.
Russia typically provides Europe with around 40% of its gas, complicating western efforts to impose economic sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s government for Russian military actions in Ukraine.
“Now is the time to accelerate the transition to an independent and a clean energy future. President Putin cannot control the power of the wind or the sun,” Kerry said in the opening speech to the Our Oceans conference.
The conference opened on Wednesday in Palau, which has a population of just 18,000, to highlight the plight of nations on the frontline of climate change as they grapple with rising sea levels.
02:10am: Russia says it is ready to sell oil to ‘friendly countries in any price range’
Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov told Izvestia newspaper that Moscow is ready to sell oil and oil products to “friendly countries in any price range”, Interfax news agency said on Tuesday.
Shulginov said crude prices in the range of $80 to $150 a barrel were in principle possible but said Moscow was more focused on ensuring the oil industry continues to function, Interfax said.
1:57am: Zelensky praises Biden for reference to Russia committing ‘genocide’
“True words of a true leader @POTUS,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Twitter. “Calling things by their names is essential to stand up to evil.”
12:36am: Biden says ‘evidence is mounting’ that Russia is committing ‘genocide’ in Ukraine
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday stood by his characterization of Russia’s actions in Ukraine as “genocide”, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin “is trying to wipe out the idea of being able to be Ukrainian”.
“I called it genocide because it has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of being able to be Ukrainian and the evidence is mounting,” Biden told reporters as he prepared to board Air Force One to return to Washington after an event on the economy in Iowa.
“We’ll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies, but it sure seems that way to me,” he said.
11:57pm: Ukraine’s Zelensky proposes swapping pro-Russian politician for prisoners
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday proposed swapping senior pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk for male and female prisoners of war being held by Moscow’s forces.
In an early morning address, he said it was “important for our security forces and military forces to consider such a possibility.” Ukraine’s security services on Tuesday said they had arrested Medvedchuk, who is President Vladimir Putin’s closest and most influential ally in Ukraine.
11:18pm: Biden says Americans should not pay price for dictator who ‘commits genocide’
US President Biden said on Tuesday that Americans’ ability to pay for gasoline should not hinge on whether a dictator declares war and “commits genocide” half a world away.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the remark. Biden has repeatedly called Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal but he has not declared that Russia has committed genocide in Ukraine.
9:17pm: Pentagon asks top eight US weapons makers to meet on Ukraine
The Pentagon will host leaders from the top eight US weapons manufacturers on Wednesday to discuss the industry’s capacity to meet Ukraine’s weapons needs if the war with Russia lasts years, two people familiar with the meeting said on Tuesday.
Resupplying as well as planning for a longer war are expected to be discussed at the meeting, the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin jointly produce Javelin anti-tank missiles, while Raytheon makes Stinger surface-to-air missiles. Other top weapons makers are Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and L3Harris Technologies.
9:17pm: Kyiv says it has captured Ukrainian Putin ally
Ukrainian authorities on Tuesday announced they had captured a prominent pro-Kremlin tycoon who escaped from house arrest after Russia’s invasion.
President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a picture online of a dishevelled-looking Viktor Medvedchuk with his hands in cuffs and dressed in a Ukrainian army uniform. “A special operation was carried out by the Security Service of Ukraine. Well done!” Zelensky wrote on Telegram.
8:46pm: Chemical weapons watchdog ‘concerned’ by Mariupol reports
The world’s chemical weapons watchdog said on Tuesday that it was “concerned” over reports of the use of chemical weapons in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
Reports first emerged Monday from Ukraine’s Azov battalion that a Russian drone had dropped a “poisonous substance” on troops and civilians in Mariupol.
“The Technical Secretariat of the OPCW is monitoring closely the situation in Ukraine. The Secretariat is concerned by the recent unconfirmed report of chemical weapons use in Mariupol, which has been carried in the media over the past 24 hours,” the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement.
7:40pm: Pope condemns ‘abominable actions’ in Ukraine
Pope Francis said on Tuesday that the war in Ukraine was marked by “the forces of evil” because it was leaving in its wake abominations such as the massacre of civilians.
Francis made his comments to participants at an inter-religious pilgrimage of solidarity with the Ukrainian people in Chernivtsi in western Ukraine organised by the Israel-based Elijah Interfaith Institute.
“The present moment leaves us deeply troubled, because it is marked by the forces of evil,” he said in the message read on his behalf.
6:45pm: French forensic experts in Bucha to help Ukraine investigate possible war crimes
French forensic experts have arrived in Bucha near Kyiv to help Ukrainian authorities establish what happened in the town where hundreds of bodies have been discovered since Russian forces withdrew.
Ukraine says the people were killed by Russian forces during their occupation of the area. Reuters has not been able to verify the number of people found dead in Bucha or the circumstances of their deaths.
The discovery of so many slain civilians in Bucha has provoked a global outcry. Moscow has denied responsibility and dismissed allegations its troops committed war crimes as fake news.
6:19pm: Some 400 bodies buried in Ukraine’s Severodonetsk since start of war
Around 400 civilians have been buried in the town of Severodonetsk near the front line in eastern Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, the regional governor said on Tuesday.
“In Severodonetsk, pits are dug with a tractor and graves are systematised in the register … During the 48 days of the war about 400 burials,” Sergiy Gaiday said, referring to civilians.
6:15pm: Ukraine evacuates 2,671 civilians from frontline areas on Tuesday
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said that 2,671 civilians had been evacuated from frontline areas on Tuesday, including 208 residents of Mariupol, 328 people from the Luhansk region and 2,135 from various cities and towns in the Zaporizhzhia region.
6:14pm: German president says Kyiv rejected his offer to visit Ukraine
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Tuesday that he had offered to visit Ukraine with other EU leaders, but Kyiv had told him his trip was “not wanted”.
The snub comes as Steinmeier, a former foreign minister, is facing criticism at home and abroad for his years-long detente policy towards Moscow, which he has since admitted was a mistake.
Speaking during a visit to Warsaw, Steinmeier said he had planned to travel to Kyiv with the presidents of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania this week “to send a strong signal of joint European solidarity with Ukraine. I was prepared to do this, but apparently, and I must take note of this, this was not wanted in Kyiv,” he told reporters.
5:30pm: Ukraine says negotiations with Russia are ‘extremely difficult’
Kyiv said Tuesday that ongoing talks with Russia to end the war were “extremely difficult” after Moscow accused Ukrainian negotiators of slowing down discussions by changing position on a key issue.
“Negotiations are extremely difficult. The Russian side adheres to its traditional tactics of public pressure on the negotiation process, including through certain public statements,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in written comments to reporters.
5:25pm: Russian court sentences journalists to corrective labour for protest violations
Four journalists who worked for a Moscow student magazine were sentenced to two years of corrective labour by a Russian court on Tuesday for encouraging minors to take part in anti-Kremlin protests, Interfax news agency reported.
The independent DOXA outlet was set up by students and university graduates at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics in 2017, covering student life, higher education, politics and science.
5:10pm: Bloody, uncertain struggle may await for supremacy in east Ukraine
While Russia appears to have abandoned for now its aim of pushing deep into the heart of Ukraine, its new declared goal of taking control of much the east of the country still risks a protracted and bloody conflict.
Analysts say Moscow will at least want to control the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that form the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine to be able to claim some kind of military success when Russia marks World War II victory day on May 9.
But even the outcome of the struggle for Donbas remains uncertain, with Russian forces hurt by morale and logistical problems after what analysts see as a botched attempt to take the capital Kyiv.
5:09pm: EU plans to counter Russia with food diplomacy in North Africa, Balkans
The EU aims to address rising wheat and fertiliser prices and expected shortages in the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East with “food diplomacy” to counter Russia’s narrative on the impact of its invasion of Ukraine, EU diplomats and officials say.
Food insecurity was causing “resentment” in vulnerable countries in these regions, while Moscow was portraying the crisis as a consequence of Western sanctions on Russia, one EU diplomat said.
This posed a potential threat to EU influence, the diplomat said, which it plans to tackle with “food diplomacy and a battle of narratives”.
4:51pm: Ukraine says over 870,000 who fled war have returned
Ukraine’s border force said Tuesday that more than 870,000 people who fled abroad since the start of the war have returned to the country, including a growing number of women and children.
Spokesman Andriy Demchenko said that currently 25,000 to 30,000 Ukrainians are returning each day. He said more women, children and elderly were among those coming back than in the early days of the conflict, when those arriving had been almost exclusively men returning to fight the Russian invasion.
“They say they see that the situation is safer, especially in the western regions and they can no longer stay abroad,” Demchenko told journalists.
4:50pm: Ukrainian official says peace talks with Russia very hard but continuing
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, asked about comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier on Tuesday that peace talks between the two countries were at a dead end, said negotiations were very hard but they were continuing.
Podolyak also told Reuters that Russia was trying to put pressure on the talks with its public statements and that negotiations were continuing at the level of working sub-groups.
4:47pm: Ukraine expands war crimes probe around Kyiv
Ukrainian prosecutors are expanding their war crimes investigations in northeastern suburbs of Kyiv after Russian forces withdrew.
Reports of killings of civilians have primarily focused so far on the northwestern suburbs such as Bucha, but the prosecutor-general’s office said Tuesday it was also looking into events in the Brovary district, which lies to the northeast. Russian troops advanced into that area last month before retreating to focus on fighting in eastern Ukraine.
The prosecutor-general’s office said the bodies of six civilians had been found with gunshot wounds in a basement in the village of Shevchenkove and that Russian forces were believed to be responsible. Prosecutors are also investigating an incident in which they allege Russian forces fired on a convoy of civilians trying to leave by car from the village of Peremoha in the Brovary district, killing four people including a 13-year-old boy. In another incident near Bucha, five people were killed, including two children, when a car was fired upon, prosecutors said. Prosecutors did not say when they believed the incidents occurred.
4:36pm: Australian chancellor fears ‘intensification of the brutality’ of Ukraine war
“The Austrian chancellor just [became] the first European leader to meet face-to-face with Vladimir Putin since the invasion; he was there yesterday,” noted FRANCE 24 international affairs commentator Douglas Herbert.
“He came out of that meeting, emerging from that face-to-face talk with the Kremlin leader himself, saying he’s pessimistic about peace prospects […] and he sees or he fears an intensification of the brutality of this war.”
4:35pm: Ukraine war brings ‘multi-year problem’ for world food supply, UN says
The world is facing “a multi-year problem” in its food supply as the war in Ukraine drives global prices higher and disrupts production of staple crops, the UN’s World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley said on Tuesday.
Beasley was speaking at a news conference after French and European Union officials met in Rome to discuss a food security initative in response to the conflict in Ukraine.
4:34pm: Catholic charity says staff, family killed in Mariupol
Two Ukrainian Caritas staff and five of their relatives have been killed in Mariupol, the Catholic charity said Tuesday, adding they likely died a month ago.
“The tragic attack probably took place on March 15, when a tank fired shots at the building of the Caritas centre in Mariupol, killing the two staff members and five of their relatives,” it said in a statement.
A report on the Vatican’s news portal, Vatican News, said the tank was Russian, citing unnamed “local Caritas sources”.
4:01pm: Putin vows Russian forces will triumph in Ukraine
President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday vowed Russia would triumph in all of its “noble” war aims in Ukraine, using his first public comments on the conflict in a week to goad the West for failing to bring Moscow to heel with a raft of economic sanctions.
Addressing the war in public for the first time since Russian forces retreated from northern Ukraine after they were halted near Kyiv, Putin said the situation in Ukraine was a tragedy.
However Russia had no choice but fight, he said, because it had to defend Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine and prevent its former Soviet neighbour from becoming an anti-Russian springboard for Moscow’s enemies.
Sixty-one years to the day since the Soviet Union’s Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, Putin was shown by state television on a visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome 3,450 miles (5550 kilometres) east of Moscow.
Asked by Russian space agency workers if the operation in Ukraine would achieve its goals, Putin said: “Absolutely. I don’t have any doubt at all.”
“Its goals are absolutely clear and noble,” Putin said. “There is no doubt that the goals will be achieved.”
3:03pm: Ukraine probes claim poisonous substance was dropped on Mariupol
Ukraine investigated a claim that a poisonous substance was dropped on the besieged city of Mariupol, and Western officials warned Tuesday that any use of chemical weapons by Russia would be a serious escalation of the already devastating war.
Thwarted in his apparent ambition to overrun Kyiv, Russian President Vladimir Putin is now building up forces for a new offensive in the eastern Donbas region, and insisted Tuesday that his campaign would achieve its goals. He said Russia “had no other choice” but to launch what he calls a “special military operation”, saying it was to protect civilians in the predominantly Russian-speaking Donbas.
As Ukrainian forces brace for a new attack, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said it was possible phosphorus munitions had been used in Mariupol, which lies in the Donbas and has been razed in six weeks of pummelling by Russian troops. The mayor said the siege has left more than 10,000 civilians dead, their corpses “carpeted through the streets”.
2:23pm: More than 4.6 million have fled war in Ukraine, UN says
More than 4.6 million Ukrainians have now fled the war, the United Nations said Tuesday, and while the numbers of new refugees are declining, they are in ‘a more vulnerable state’ than refugees who have previously crossed borders.
“Even though the numbers of people crossing the borders has declined significantly, those who have been crossing we’ve noticed have been in a more vulnerable state, have had lesser means and have also had less of a plan as to where they might go,” UNHCR spokesman Matt Saltmarsh said in Geneva.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR said 4,615,830 Ukrainians had fled since Russia invaded on February 24 – a figure up 68,095 on Monday’s update.
Women and children account for 90 percent of those who have left the country, with men aged 18 to 60 eligible for military call-up and unable to leave.
2:21pm: World Bank says it is preparing $1.5 billion aid package for Ukraine
The World Bank is preparing a new, $1.5 billion support package for war-torn Ukraine, including a $1 billion payment from the development lender’s fund for the poorest countries, World Bank President David Malpass said on Tuesday.
Speaking in Warsaw ahead of next week’s World Bank and International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings, Malpass said the bank’s support was helping Ukraine to provide critical services, including paying wages for hospital workers, pensions and social programs. This aid package will come on top of about $923 million in fast-disbursing financing approved by the World Bank last month.
2:20pm: Russian hackers tried to sabotage Ukrainian power grid, officials say
Russian hackers attempted to launch a destructive cyberattack on Ukraine’s electricity grid last week, Ukrainian officials and cybersecurity researchers said on Tuesday.
The group, dubbed “Sandworm” by security researchers and previously tied to destructive cyberattacks attributed to Russia, deployed destructive and data-wiping malware on computers controlling high-voltage substations in Ukraine, the Computer Emergency Response Team of Ukraine (CERT-UA) said in a statement on its website.
1:03pm: UN calls for inquiry into rape reports
Reporting from New York, FRANCE 24’s Jessica Le Masurier says UN Women head Seema Bahous has called for an independent inquiry into allegations of rape and sexual violence by Russian forces in Ukraine. “The brutality displayed against Ukrainian civilians has raised all red flags,” Bahous told the UN Security Council on Monday.
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador denied the allegations and accused Ukraine and its allies of “a clear intention to present Russian soldiers as sadists and rapists”.
11:36am: Putin says Russia will achieve ‘noble’ aims in Ukraine
President Vladimir Putin said Russia’s military operation in Ukraine would undoubtedly achieve what he said were its “noble” objectives.
Speaking at an awards ceremony at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East, Putin said the goals of what he calls the “military operation” in Ukraine are “absolutely clear and noble”.
The main objective, said Putin, was to “save people” in the Donbas region.
11:14am: Russian forces ‘suffocating’ Mariupol
10:03am: ‘All options on the table’ if chemical weapons used in Ukraine, UK says
British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey has warned that any use of chemical weapons by Russia in Ukraine “will get a response and all options are on the table”.
The stark warning came hours after London said it was trying to verify reports that Moscow used chemical weapons on Monday in Mariupol.
“If they are used at all, then [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin should know that all possible options are on the table in terms of how the West might respond,” Heappey told Sky News on Tuesday.
“There are some things that are beyond the pale, and the use of chemical weapons will get a response.”
Earlier on Tuesday, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said that Britain was working with partners to verify the reports.
“Any use of such weapons would be a callous escalation in this conflict and we will hold Putin and his regime to account,” she said on Twitter.
Reports first emerged Monday from Ukraine’s Azov battalion that a Russian drone had dropped a “poisonous substance” on troops and civilians in Mariupol. The force claimed people were experiencing respiratory failure and neurological problems.
The reports could not be independently verified.
8:45am: Russians are ‘squeezing’ Ukrainian forces’ encirclement of Mariupol
Reporting from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, FRANCE 24’s Rob Parsons says Russian troops are squeezing Ukrainian forces into a tighter circle around Mariupol. There were reports that Ukraine’s 36th marine brigade troops were on their “last legs” with several soldiers wounded, but those reports were contradicted by Mariupol’s deputy mayor and the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian military, says Parsons.
8:28am: More than 10,000 civilians killed in Mariupol, mayor says
Corpses are now “carpeted through the streets” of Mariupol after Russian troops killed more than 10,000 civilians in the past six weeks in their unsuccessful attempt to capture the strategic southern port, according to the city’s mayor.
Mayor Vadym Boychenko accused Russian forces of having blocked weeks of attempted humanitarian convoys into the city, in part to conceal the carnage. Boychenko said the death toll in Mariupol alone could surpass 20,000.
Speaking by phone on Monday, Boychenko also gave new details of allegations by Ukrainian officials that Russian forces have brought mobile cremation equipment to Mariupol to dispose of the corpses of victims.
Russian forces have taken many bodies to a huge shopping centre where there are storage facilities and refrigerators, Boychenko said.
“Mobile crematoriums have arrived in the form of trucks: You open it, and there is a pipe inside and these bodies are burned,” he said.
Boychenko spoke from a location in Ukrainian-controlled territory but outside Mariupol. The mayor said he had several sources for his description of the alleged methodical burning of bodies by Russian forces in the city, but did not detail the sources for his information.
7:36am: UK says fighting in Donetsk, Luhansk to intensify
Fighting in eastern Ukraine will intensify over the next two to three weeks as Russia continues to refocus its efforts in the area, according to a UK intelligence update.
Russian attacks will remain focused on Ukrainian positions near the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk with additional fighting around Kherson and Mykolaiv and a renewed push towards Kramatorsk, British military intelligence said in a Twitter post.
The report also said that Russian forces continue to withdraw from Belarus to redeploy in support of operations in eastern Ukraine.
6:10am: Ukraine braces for new offensive, Moscow dismisses rape allegations
Ukraine pleaded for more weapons from the West to help it end the siege of Mariupol and fend off an expected Russian offensive in the east as more reports emerged of mass rape and brutality against Ukrainian civilians by Russian forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address late on Monday that Russia could resort to chemical weapons as it amassed troops in the eastern Donbas region for a new assault on the port of Mariupol, where thousands are believed to have died under an almost seven-week-long siege.
“When it comes [to] the necessary weapons, we still depend on supplies, on our partners. Unfortunately we are not getting as much as we need to end this war sooner … In particular, to lift the blockade on Mariupol,” he said.
Zelensky called specifically for “jets and enough heavy armoured vehicles, and the necessary artillery”.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, the first European Union leader to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in person since the invasion of Ukraine, said that an offensive in the east was “being prepared on a massive scale” following talks in Moscow on Monday.
After suffering heavy losses and withdrawing forces from the suburbs of Kyiv, Russia has turned its sights toward Donbas, where it demands Ukraine cede control to separatist fighters. Also capturing Mariupol would allow Moscow to attempt to encircle the main Ukrainian forces in the east.
The departure of Russian forces from the outskirts of Kyiv has brought to light harrowing evidence of war crimes, including the summary executions of civilians and the mass rape of civilians. Moscow dismisses the allegations as Ukrainian and Western provocations and has also accused Ukrainian forces of perpetrating sexual violence.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)