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EU doubles military aid to Ukraine

March 23, 2022

The European Union has confirmed its decision to double its military aid to Ukraine to €1 billion. NATO estimates say 7,000 to 15,000 Russians have died in the invasion.

A Ukrainian soldiers kneels next to an anti-tank weapon
The latest package of military aid was approved at an earlier summit in VersaillesImage: Andrew Marienko/AP/picture alliance
  • President Zelenskyy has described accuses Russia of 'capturing' refugees
  • NATO reportedly estimates 7,000-15,000 Russian deaths
  • EU doubles military aid to €1 billion
  • Germany sending additional antitank weapons

We have now closed these live updates. 

UN resolution to demand Russia ends war

The UN General Assembly is expected to vote Thursday on a non-binding resolution which would demand that Russia stop the war in Ukraine "immediately."

Ukraine put the new resolution forward at a UN General Assembly emergency session on Wednesday.

The text, which is also non-binding, "demands an immediate cessation of the hostilities by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, in particular of any attacks against civilians and civilian objects."

141 countries approved an earlier resolution on March 2 that demands that Russia cease the use of force against Ukraine. Five states voted against and 35 abstained.

How long can the war in Ukraine continue?

Renault closes Moscow factory

French carmaker Renault is immediately suspending operations at its Moscow factory, it has announced.

It comes after Ukraine called for a boycott of Renault for refusing to leave the country.

During a 20-minute speech to the French parliament, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on French companies such as Renault, supermarket chain Auchan and home improvement giant Leroy Merlin to "stop being sponsors of Russia's war machine."

Renault said it was also considering what to do about its Russian affiliate AvtoVAZ.

US weapons to leave shortly

The first batch of weapons from a new $800 million (€727 million) arms package will leave the United States in the next few days, a senior official has told Reuters news agency.

The package was approved by US President Joe Biden last week.

The official, who Reuters did not identify, did not reveal which systems would be shipped first, but said defensive weapons already being used by Ukrainian troops would take priority.

US issues warning to China

The United States has issued a warning to China, telling it not to take advantage of business opportunities created by western sanctions on Russia.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking on Air Force One, told reporters that G7 nations will soon reveal a unified response to ensure Russia cannot evade Western sanctions.

"That's not specifically about China, but it will apply to every significant economy and the decisions that any of those economies take to try, in an intentional and active way, to undermine or weaken the sanctions that we put in place."

Beijing has previously condemned sweeping sanctions on Russia, saying they only make people suffer. It has not condemned Russia’s invasion, but it has expressed deep concern about the war.

Biden lands in Brussels ahead of summits

US President Joe Biden has landed in Brussels ahead of several summits.

On Thursday, Biden will participate in meetings with NATO, the European Union and G7 before visiting Poland on Friday and Saturday for consultations with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

The summits are due to address the possibility of further sanctions on Russia, particularly relating to energy.

Russia supplies about 40% of the natural gas used in Europe, which has been reluctant to target energy supplies, despite pressure from Washington.

On board Air Force One, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that reducing Europe's reliance on Russian energy has been a "substantial" topic recently and the subject of "intense back and forth" .

He said Biden would announce some news on that front alongside European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Friday.

Roscosmos head invokes nuclear threat

The head of Russian space agency Roscosmos has warned that Russia's nuclear arsenal has the capability to wipe out any enemies.

"The Russian Federation is capable of physically destroying any aggressor or any aggressor group within minutes at any distance," Dmitry Rogozin said in televised comments.

He noted that Russia’s arsenal included tactical nuclear weapons as well as nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Western allies have become increasingly concerned that Russia might consider the use of nuclear or chemical weapons as it becomes increasingly bogged down in Ukraine.

Russian journalist killed by Russian shelling

A Russian journalist has died in a residential neighborhood of Kyiv when it was hit by Russian shelling, according to her employer.

Oksana Baulina was reporting for news outlet The Insider when she was killed, the outlet said. The website, which is criticial of the Kremlin, said she "died under fire in Kyiv" while "filming the destruction" caused by Russian shelling.

She previously worked for the anticorruption network of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

One civilian reportedly died alongside her, while two people accompanying her were reportedly injured and hospitalized.

Reporters Without Borders confirmed the Baulina's death on Twitter, and called for the protection of journalists in conflict.

Russia expelling US diplomats

Russia has moved to expel an unspecified number of US diplomats.

It comes in retaliation for the United States expelling 12 of Moscow’s delegates to the United Nations in New York in March.

"On March 23, a note with the list of the American diplomats declared 'persona non grata' was handed to the head of the American diplomatic mission who was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The US side has been given firm notice that any hostile action by the United States against Russia will be met with a resolute and appropriate response," the statement added.

Germany rules out NATO involvement in Ukraine

US says Russia committed war crimes

The United States has assessed that Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

Blinken said the US government had been "documenting and assessing" evidence of Russia deliberately targeting civilians.

"Today, I can announce that, based on information currently available, the US government assesses that members of Russia's forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine," Blinken said in a statement.

"Our assessment is based on a careful review of available information from public and intelligence sources." He added that courts would be ultimately responsible for determining criminal guilt.

EU officially confirms €500 million in military aid

The 27 EU member states have approved an additional €500 million ($550 million), on top of a previous package worth €500 million issued in February. The latest €500 million were previously pledged by EU leaders at a summit in Versailles 12 days ago.

The announcement comes ahead of a leaders summit with US President Joe Biden to discuss the conflict.

"We will continue supporting Ukraine against Russia’s aggression and the unspeakable suffering it is inflicting on the Ukrainian population. The additional €500 million under the European Peace Facility is another sign of the EU’s support to the Ukrainian armed forces to defend their territory and their population," top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said in a statement.

The package will used to buy equipment and supplies such as personal protective equipment, first aid kits and fuel, as well as lethal military equipment and platforms.

The duration of the assistance has been expended by 12 months.

Also announced on Wednesday, Germany and Sweden are each sending thousands of additional antitank weapons.

Simba the lion and Akyla the wolf escape from Ukraine

Animal rights activists have evacuated Simba the lion and Akyla the wolf from a zoo in Zaporizhzhia in southeast Ukraine.

The journey took four days, and was hampered by border entry bureaucracy.

Simba and Akyla were awake for the whole journey due to a lack of tranquilizers in Ukraine.

The two animals arrived safely at a zoo in the Romanian city of Radauti, near the Ukrainian border.

"If there is something this war brought on is incredible cooperation between organizations," said Sebastian Taralunga, from Animals International, one of several groups involved in the extraction.

"Everybody agreed that in extreme times we have to have extreme measures and we decided to do whatever possible to bring those animals out of war."

The animals will be quarantined in their new enclosure, where zoo visitors can see them before they are relocated to sanctuaries.

NATO: 7,000 to 15,000 Russian deaths in Ukraine

NATO has estimated that between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian soldiers have died in the invasion of Ukraine, according to figures released to the Associated Press.

The estimate is reportedly based on Ukrainian information, Russian publications, and open source information.

Extrapolating from the deaths using standard ratios of wounded and dead soldiers in other conflicts, NATO estimates total Russian battlefield casualties of between 30,000 and 40,000 soldiers. Previous reports also indicated Russia has lost at least three generals since the conflict started on February 24.

Russia has suppressed reporting of its battlefield causalities, making accurate information difficult to come by. A recent report in the pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda reported 9,861 Russians deaths and 16,153 injured, but the report was very quickly taken down and blamed on hackers.

Russia has not updated its official casualty figures since March 2, when it said 498 servicemen had been killed and 1,597 had been wounded. Ukraine puts the Russian death toll at 15,600. 

'We cannot take peace for granted'

Germany sending another 2,000 anti-tank weapons: reports

The German Defense Ministry intends to supply Ukraine with an additional 2,000 antitank weapons from Bundeswehr stocks, German news agency DPA is reporting. The department, run by Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, has reportedly submitted a corresponding application to the Federal Security Council.

Germany has already supplied the Ukrainian armed forces with 1,000 antitank weapons and 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles from Bundeswehr stocks, as well as 500 Strela surface-to-air missile from army reserves of the now-defunct East Germany. An additional 1,700 Strela missiles are on their way, according to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

Putin wants 'unfriendly' nations to pay rubles for Russian gas

Russia will demand nations it considers "unfriendly" pay in rubles for its gas supplies, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

"It makes no sense whatsoever to supply our goods to the European Union, the United States and receive payment in dollars, euros and a number of other currencies," Putin said.  

It's not clear from when exactly this policy will take effect.

The Russian currency, which has plunged in value in recent weeks, briefly gained value following the announcement, stoking fears in Europe that the switch might worsen the region's energy crunch. 

Russia energy ban: Why so controversial?

Zelenskyy addresses French parliament, urges French firms to quit Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on France to support his country with weapons, equipment and more planes to defend itself from Russia's invasion.

Speaking to French lawmakers via video link, he thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for his "true leadership" over the war.

He urged French companies to quit the Russian market. "Renault, Auchan, Leroy Merlin must stop being sponsors of the Russian war machine," he said. The speech comes a day after Macron spoke to both Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin about the terms of a potential cease-fire.

Belarus expels most Ukrainian diplomats

Russia's ally Belarus said on Wednesday it is expelling most Ukrainian diplomats working in the country.

"Since 2020, Belarus has seen many unfriendly actions of Ukraine aimed at the irresponsible destruction of interstate relations with our country, business contacts and long-established ties," said Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Anatoly Glaz.

The expulsion means only Ukraine's ambassador and four diplomats will continue working in Minsk, compared to over 20 people currently staffing the embassy.

Belarus had already withdrawn its diplomatic staff from Ukraine after the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko said that Kyiv will come up with an appropriate response to the Belarusian government's decision.

Scholz, Putin discuss peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday about Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing peace talks between the two sides, Russia said.

Meanwhile, Scholz's spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said that the German chancellor had warned Putin personally against using chemical or biological warfare agents in Ukraine.

Scholz has had several phone calls with Putin since the Ukraine war began last month.

Addressing the German parliament earlier in the day, Scholz said the Russian leader "must hear the truth" that not only is the war destroying Ukraine, "but also Russia's future."

Olaf Scholz: Ukraine can rely on our support

Prominent Kremlin insider breaks ranks with Putin

Anatoly Chubais, a special envoy of Russian President Vladimir Putin and veteran Kremlin reformer, has quit his post and reportedly left the country in protest against the Ukraine invasion.

Chubais is the first senior Kremlin official to have quit over Russia's war in Ukraine, US news outlet Bloomberg reported citing unnamed sources.

Separately, the Kremlin confirmed the oligarch has stepped down.

"Chubais resigned at his own request. And whether he left or not is his personal business," Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov told the Interfax news agency.

He had been Putin's special envoy to international organizations since 2020 and was also one of the principal architects of Boris Yeltsin's economic reforms of the 1990s.

Several Russian media said Chubais is in Turkey, and sources told the Reuters news agency he doesn't plan to return to Russia.

NATO chief says alliance to deploy new battle groups to eastern Europe

NATO nations will agree on "major increases" in troops stationed in the eastern part of the alliance, with the deployment of four new battle groups in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia, NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

"I expect leaders will agree to strengthen NATO's posture in all domains, with major increases in the eastern part of the alliance on land, in the air and at sea," he said.

NATO leaders are gathering in Brussels on Thursday for a summit to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the way forward for the alliance.

Saying that NATO has a responsibility to ensure that the war doesn't escalate beyond Ukraine, Stoltenberg also warned Moscow against using weapons of mass destruction in Ukraine.

"Any use of chemical weapons would totally change the nature of the conflict, it would be a blatant violation of international law and would have far-reaching consequences," Stoltenberg said.

Israel provides safe haven for Ukraine's refugees

Germany says more Strela missiles on their way to Ukraine

Further supplies of Strela missiles taken from the inventories of the former East German army are to be delivered to Ukraine after a delay, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock says.

The Strela system is a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile designed to hit low-flying aircraft. The missiles are fitted with passive infrared homing guidance and a high-explosive warhead.

So far, Ukraine has received 500 Strela missiles, but a delivery of up to 2,700 of the weapons has been discussed.

"We are one of the biggest weapons suppliers in this situation; it doesn't make us proud but it's what we must do to help Ukraine," Baerbock told the Bundestag.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has caused Germany to change its longstanding policy of not sending weapons to conflict zones.

Zelenskyy urges Japan to step up sanctions on Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has praised Japan as "the first nation in Asia that started piling pressure on Russia," following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. "I ask you to continue to impose sanctions," he told the Japanese parliament via videolink on Wednesday.  

No Ukrainian politician will compromise on territorial integrity: Ukrainian MP

"Let's make efforts to ensure Russia will want and seek peace. Trade embargoes on Russia must be introduced to stop the tsunami of the invasion against Ukraine."

During the speech, Zelenskyy also warned of the dangers his country faced from Russian attacks on nuclear plants and the site of the Chernobyl meltdown.

Furthermore, he criticized the ineffectiveness of the United Nations system to stop the invasion. "Neither the United Nations nor the UN Security Council have functioned. Reforms are needed," the Ukrainian leader said.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he planned to unveil more support measures for Ukraine and strengthen Tokyo's sanctions against Russia at a G7 meeting in Brussels this week.

Ukraine MP says no compromise with Putin on 'territorial integrity'

Ukrainians will not step back from the war, no matter the destruction wrought upon them, said Andrii Osadchuk, member of the Ukrainian parliament for the opposition party.

"Ukraine is resisting ... we know how to fight. We burned Russians on the ground extremely well almost a month of war.  Russians are stuck almost in all points of the front line," he told DW.

Describing it as a "full-scale, terrible war," the MP said it's not correct to blame Vladimir Putin alone because "thousands and thousands of Russian soldiers" are also involved in attacks on Ukraine.

"All of them are committing crimes against humanity, war crimes," he said. 

Osadchuk also stressed the need for a no-fly zone over Ukraine.  

"We will fight until the end ... Our big problem for today is protecting of Ukrainians from Russians in the sky. They are not able to move on the ground. They are not able to kill Ukrainian soldiers. They are killing civilians and they are taking us by cruise missiles and jet fighters."

"That's why we need more help from the West to protect our sky. We are repeating this for four weeks already. That's the only option."

Scholz again rejects no-fly zone over Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has reiterated that Berlin will not support a no-fly zone over Ukraine or send troops to intervene in the war launched by Russia. "NATO will not become a party to the war. We are in agreement on this with our European allies and the United States," he told German lawmakers.

Scholz said Germany would also not impose an embargo on Russian oil, coal and gas.

He stressed that Europe will end its energy dependence on Russia but to do so from one day to the next would plunge it into an economic recession, risking mass unemployment and entire industrial sectors. "Sanctions should not hurt European states harder than the Russian leadership," Scholz said.

The German chancellor also underlined that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has stalled.

"Putin's offensive is stuck despite all the destruction that it is bringing day after day," Scholz said, adding that the Russian leader "must hear the truth" that not only is the war destroying Ukraine, "but also Russia's future."

Scholz again nixes no-fly zone and boycott of Russian oil, gas

UN taking up 3 resolutions on Ukraine humanitarian crisis

The United Nations will face three resolutions on Wednesday on the worsening humanitarian situation in Ukraine.

While the 193-member General Assembly is scheduled to start considering two rival resolutions on Wednesday morning, the Security Council will vote on the third resolution, which is sponsored by Russia and widely slammed for not referring to its invasion of Ukraine.

The two resolutions being taken up by the General Assembly demand humanitarian aid access and the protection of civilians, medical personnel, and aid workers in Ukraine.

But only one text, written by Ukraine and its allies, criticizes Russia's role in creating the crisis. The second draft from South Africa makes no mention of Russia.

What weapons is Russia using in Ukraine?

Nine 'humanitarian corridors' for refugees agreed

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Wednesday that agreements have been made to evacuate trapped civilians from Ukrainian towns through nine "humanitarian corridors."

In the besieged city of Mariupol, Vereshchuk said evacuees would find transport in the city of Berdyansk, which is more than 80 kilometers (50 miles) to the southwest.

About two dozen buses were also ready to be sent to the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, she said.

Furthermore, humanitarian corridors are planned from the towns of Polohy and Huljajpole to Zaporizhzhia.

Three routes are planned near the capital Kyiv: From Velyka Dymerka, neighboring Bohdanivka, and Svitylnya, people are to be brought to the capital's suburb of Browary, while people from Borodyanka, located northwest of Kyiv, are to be evacuated to Bila Tserkva, a city in the center of Ukraine.

And two corridors are planned in the region of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine: from Rubishne and Nyshnye to Bachmut.

Humanitarian corridors agreed to in Ukraine

Vietnam Airlines to suspend flights to Moscow

The national carrier of Vietnam is to suspend flights from Hanoi to Moscow from March 25, according to state run Vietnam News Agency (VNA).

The agency reported that the temporary suspension was due to review procedures, requirements and regulations for operations in Russia. 

The countries have close links which date back to the Soviet era and Hanoi has not condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Zelenskyy accuses Russian forces of 'capturing' Mariupol refugees

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russian forces of "simply capturing" refugees trying to make their way out of the besieged city of Mariupol, on a previously agreed route. Zelenskyy said 7,000 people were able to escape over the past 24 hours, but claimed one group traveling the route was taken captive. 

Zelenskyy said in a video message that there 100,000 people remain in the port city on the Sea of Azov "without food, without water, without, medicine, under constant shelling." Tens of thousands of people have already escaped the city. 

He also accused Russian forces of blocking a  humanitarian convoy trying to reach the city on Tuesday and taking rescue workers and drivers captive There were around 450,000 people living in the city before Russia invaded.

"We are trying to organize stable humanitarian corridors for Mariupol residents, but almost all of our attempts, unfortunately, are foiled by the Russian occupiers, by shelling or deliberate terror,'' Zelenskyy said.

Human Rights Watch described the city as a "freezing hellscape riddled with dead bodies and destroyed buildings." The United States military says Russia is bombing the city with artillery and long-range missiles fired from naval ships. 

A burned out car riddled with bullet holes
A destroyed civilian vehicle seen on a route between Mariupol and Zaporizhzhia, a city to the northwestImage: Andrea Carrubba/AA/picture alliance

Peace negotiations are 'difficult,' says Zelenskyy 

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has described attempts to negotiate peace with Russia as "very difficult."

Zelenskyy made the comments in a video address released early on Wednesday.

"They are very difficult, sometimes scandalous, but we are moving forward step by step," Zelenskyy said and added that Ukrainian officials were negotiating on a daily basis.

"We will work, we will fight as much as possible. Until the end. Brave and open," Zelenskyy said.

The Ukrainian leader has indicated a willingness to hold direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin but there has been no response to his requests for dialogue.

Russians accused of destroying Chernobyl laboratory

The agency responsible for managing the Chernobyl exclusion zone has accused Russian forces of destroying a new laboratory at the nuclear power plant.

Ukraine's State Agency for Exclusion Zone Management said that Russian troops had "illegally seized" the laboratory and then said they "robbed and destroyed the November Central Analytical Laboratory."

The agency said the laboratory contained "highly active samples and samples of radionuclides that are now in the hands of the enemy, which we hope will harm itself and not the civilized world."

The facility was built at a cost of €6 million ($6.6 million) with the help of the European Union. It had been in operation since 2015.

Summary of events in Ukraine-Russia crisis on Tuesday

After weeks of bombardment by Russian forces, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the Italian parliament there is "nothing left" of the post city of Mariupol.

The UK's Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian forces continued to "repulse" Russian attempts to take over the southern port city of Mariupol.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said 300,000 people in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson are running out of food and medical supplies.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine was willing to consider dropping its demands for full NATO membership in exchange for security guarantees.

The UN refugee agency said more than 3.3 million Ukrainian refugees have poured into neighboring countries since Russia's invasion on February 24.

Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, paid tribute to Boris Romanchenko, who survived several Nazi concentration camps but was killed last week in a Russian strike on Kharkiv.

A senior US defense official said Russia's combat power in Ukraine has dipped below 90% of its pre-invasion level, pointing to the possibility of heavy losses and rising casualties.

Zelenskyy offers 'compromise for everyone'

kb, sri/wmr(AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)