Ukraine war: Irpin near Kyiv ‘liberated’ from Russian forces, says interior minister

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A Ukrainian police officer is overwhelmed by emotion after comforting people evacuated from Irpin on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 26, 2022.

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The unprovoked war Russia has waged in Ukraine is into its second month. As Moscow’s offensive stalls in the face of strong Ukrainian resistance, Putin’s forces continue to pound targets from afar.

Planned humanitarian corridors to evacuate besieged and terrorised civilians have faltered. Millions of people have fled their homes, while thousands of civilians and military personnel have been killed in the fighting, which has left widespread devastation.

Follow the latest updates in our live blog below, and watch our report in the video player above.

06:29

Monday: Key points to know

    Ukraine claims to have “liberated” the town of Irpin, near Kyiv, from Russian forces — one of several areas in which the Ukrainian army has made reported gains.Kyiv suspended all “humanitarian corridors” on Monday for fear that Russia may attack civilians using them.Mariupol officials have estimated that 5,000 people have died in the besieged city since the Russian invasion. The mayor has warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe’ if evacuations continue to be blocked.UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he has launched an effort to achieve a humanitarian cease-fire.Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators experienced symptoms consistent with poisoning earlier in March after a meeting in Kyiv, according to the Wall Street Journal and investigative site Bellingcat. Talks are due to resume in Turkey on Tuesday. Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s last independent news outlets, has said it is closing down in the wake of the heightened clampdown on press freedom. The G7 (Group of Seven) major economies rejected a Kremlin demand that some countries pay in rubles for Russia’s natural gas. 

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UN chief launches effort for Ukraine humanitarian cease-fire

The United Nations chief launched an initiative Monday to immediately explore possible arrangements for “a humanitarian cease-fire in Ukraine” in order to allow the delivery of desperately needed aid and pave the way for serious political negotiations to end the month-long war.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he used his “good offices” and asked Undersecretary-General Martin Griffiths, the head of the U.N.’s worldwide humanitarian operations, to explore the possibility of a cease-fire with Russia and Ukraine. He said Griffiths has already made some contacts.

“I hope that he will be able to go to both Moscow and Kyiv as soon as that becomes possible,” Guterres said. “It’s very important to establish a serious dialogue with both parties in relation to the possibility of this humanitarian cease-fire.”

The 193-member U.N. General Assembly, by an overwhelming majority of about 140 nations, has called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Ukraine twice — on March 2 and on March 24 — and Guterres told reporters he thinks “this is the moment” for the United Nations “to assume the initiative.”

(AP)

21:56

Biden says remark on Putin’s power was about ‘moral outrage’

President Joe Biden said Monday that he would make “no apologies” and wasn’t “walking anything back” after his weekend comment that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.” The president also insisted he’s not calling for regime change in Moscow.

“I was expressing the moral outrage that I felt toward this man,” Biden said. “I wasn’t articulating a policy change.”

The president’s jarring remark about Putin, which came at the end of a Saturday speech in Warsaw that was intended to rally democracies for a long global struggle against autocracy, stirred controversy in the United States and rattled some allies in Western Europe.

Biden on Monday rejected the idea that his comment could escalate tensions over the war in Ukraine or that it would feed Russian propaganda about Western aggression.

“Nobody believes … I was talking about taking down Putin,” Biden said, adding that “the last thing I want to do is engage in a land war or a nuclear war with Russia.”

He said he was expressing an “aspiration” rather than a goal of American foreign policy.

(AP)

21:54

Irpin ‘liberated’ as Ukrainian forces claim to have regained more ground

Ukraine said on Monday night that its forces had “liberated” the town of Irpin, in the suburbs of the capital Kyiv.

“The city is now liberated, but it is still dangerous to be there,” said Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky.

“In fact, this is what is happening now in a parallel way: the armed forces are advancing, the police are advancing and immediately a total clean-up is done in the streets,” the minister said again.

Earlier the town’s mayor made a similar claim (see earlier post), adding that a “mopping-up operation” was underway. 

The main checkpoint on the road to Irpin out of Kyiv was open again on Monday, two weeks after it was closed to the media following the death of an American journalist.

But the fighting continued, with about twenty strong explosions of shells heard during the day on Monday in the pine forest that crosses this axis of six kilometres long, noted AFP journalists at the scene.

Irpin was the scene of fierce battles between Russian and Ukrainian forces earlier this month.

It comes on a day of claims that the Ukrainians have made several inroads into Russian-held territory.

A senior US defence official said Washington believes the Ukrainians have retaken the town of Trostyanets, south of Sumy, in the east.

On the eastern outskirts of Kharkiv, the country’s second city, Ukrainian forces have regained control of a village, an AFP journalist noted on Monday.

(AP, AFP)

20:30

North Macedonia expels Russian diplomats

The North Macedonian foreign ministry says it is expelling five members of staff from Russia’s embassy because of “activities that are contrary to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations”.

Its statement says the Russian ambassador was summoned on Monday to be told the employees were undesirable and have to leave within five days.

19:08

Severe internet disruption in Ukraine, NetBlocks reports

There was a major internet disruption registered on the national provider in Ukraine, internet observatory NetBlocks said, with internet collapsing to 13% of pre-war levels.

National provider Ukrtelecom said in response to questions from customers on Facebook that the disruption was due to a cyberattack. They responded to several customer comments on Facebook that there were connection problems.

“Real-time network data show an ongoing and intensifying nation-scale disruption to service, which is the most severe registered since the invasion by Russia,” NetBlocks said in a tweet.

18:49

Roman Abramovich and members of Ukrainian peace negotiations suffered poisoning, Bellingcat and WSJ report

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and members of the Ukrainian peace negotiations experienced symptoms consistent with poisoning, Bellingcat and the Wall Street Journal have reported.

Bellingcat said the three people, including Abramovich, had taken part in negotiations and later experienced “eye and skin inflammation and piercing pain in the eyes”.

“A Bellingcat investigator was asked to help provide an examination by chemical weapons specialists,” the investigative outlet reported.

Euronews could not immediately independently confirm the report.

18:09

UN seeking ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ in Ukraine, Guterres says

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday the international organisation is seeking a humanitarian ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine, as the civilian toll continues to rise a month after Moscow’s invasion began.

Guterres said he had asked UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths “immediately to explore with the parties involved the possible agreements and arrangements for a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine.”

(AFP)

17:35

‘At least 5,000 killed’ overall in Mariupol — officials

At least 5,000 people have been killed in Mariupol since the start of the Russian invasion, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidency in charge of humanitarian corridors, told AFP on Monday.

“About 5,000 people have been buried, but people have not been buried for ten days because of the continuous bombardments”,,declared Tetiana Lomakina, estimating that “given the number of people still under the rubble (…) could be around 10,000 dead.

Reuters also quoted a spokesperson for the city mayor as saying nearly 5,000 people have been killed in the southeastern port, besieged and bombarded by Russian forces.

The spokesperson quoted data from the mayor’s office that said about 90% of buildings in Mariupol had been damaged and about 40% had been destroyed.

Reports on Monday quoted the mayor Vadym Boychenko as predicting a “humanitarian catastrophe” unless an estimated 160,000 people trapped in the city were moved out.

The city authorities estimated in mid-March that more than 2,000 civilians had been killed there since the invasion began.

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