- Russia claims main objectives achieved, signals change in strategy
- Cease-fire talks appear to make little progress
- US, EU unveil major gas deal to wean Europe off Russian energy
- Ukraine officials say 300 people are feared dead in last week's strike on a Mariupol theater
- Biden arrives in Poland
We have now closed these live updates. Please head to our new article for all the latest developments.
Western officials say 7 Russian generals killed in Ukraine
Western officials said they are aware of seven Russian generals who have been killed in Ukraine since the war began last month and are aware of another general who was dismissed.
Lt. Gen. Yakov Rezanstev, commander of Russia's 49th Combined Arms Army in the southern military district, was killed most recently.
Army Commander General Vlaislav Yershov was allegedly fired this week by the Kremlin. He was reportedly sacked because of the heavy casualties and strategic failures the Russian army is suffering.
General Magomed Tushaev of the Chechen Special Forces was also reportedly killed in Ukraine.
Ukraine says Russian missiles hit its air force headquarters
Ukraine's air force said the headquarters in Vinnytsia in the western part of the country was hit by numerous Russian cruise missiles Friday afternoon.
Six missiles were blocked by the country's air defense systems, it added.
The attack caused "considerable damage" to the infrastructure, Ukraine's air force wrote on Twitter, adding that an investigation was ongoing.
Zelenskyy asks for peace talks again
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated his call for peace talks with Russia to end the war. But he stressed that Ukraine would not give up territory.
In his nightly video address to the Ukrainan people, Zelenskyy may have been responding to Russian Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi, the deputy chief of the Russian general staff. Rudskoi said Russian forces would focus on "the main goal, the liberation of Donbas."
Russia has said its invasion of Ukraine has entered a new phase, one signal it may be scaling back its ambitions due to a series of setbacks and defeats at the hands of the Ukrainian army and Ukrainians fighting against the Russian invasion.
German ministers welcome refugees airlifted from Moldova
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Interior Minister Nancy Faeser welcomed the first Ukrainian refugees airlifted from Moldova to Germany. More than 130 Ukrainians arrived after first receiving protection in Moldova.
Baerbock noted that the stories of suffering caused by Russia's decision to invade Ukraine extend beyond Ukraine's borders.
"We are in a situation where as of today, already 4 million people have fled from Ukraine and we need to assume that this is going to go up to 8 to 10 million. And none of the border countries can shoulder this alone," Baerbock said.
Putin signs 'fake' news law, introducing 15-year jail terms
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill Friday introducing jail terms of up to 15 years for publishing "fake" news about Russia's "special military operation," which is what the government calls its invasion and subsequent war on Ukraine.
The bill was adopted by Russia's parliament earlier this week. It lays out prison sentences and fines for those who "knowingly publish false information" about Russian government activities abroad.
Should the publication result in "serious consequences," that could be punishable with up to 15 years in jail. For publishing "false information" about the Russian army, one can also receive a 15-year jail sentence.
Pentagon says Ukraine fighting to retake Kherson
The Pentagon said the Ukrainian military has launched a counteroffensive to retake the city of Kherson, located at the mouth of the Dnieper River.
"We would argue Kherson is actually contested territory again," a senior US defense official briefed reporters.
The official added, "We can't corroborate exactly who is in control of Kherson but the point is, it doesn't appear to be as solidly in Russian control as it was before."
If Ukraine's forces can manage to retake the strategic city, it could cut off Russian troops around Mykolaiv, which "would make it very, very difficult for them to make any kind of ground movement on Odessa," the Pentagon official noted.
The Pentagon also said it had observed Russia trying to recruit fighters from the Russian-backed separatist enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in northern Georgia.
France plans Mariupol evacuation
French President Emmanuel Macron is planning to discuss the siege of Mariupol with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the next two to three days.
He wants to set an initiative to evacuate people who wish to leave.
Macron is coordinating with Greece and Turkey for the planned evacuation effort, and will then take the proposal to Putin.
He told reporters that he had spoken with the mayor of Mariupol, much of which has been reduced to ruins.
Civilians have been running out of food, power and heat as they shelter from ongoing, and seemingly indiscriminate Russian shelling.
Scholz says ending Russian energy dependence will be faster process than expected
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expects energy dependence on Russia to come to an end sooner than many people are anticipating.
Speaking after an EU summit in Brussels, Scholz said: "It's going to happen much faster than some people could have wished for."
Scholz also said there will be further support for Ukraine, both financially and in terms of weapons, as he reiterated the EU's stance of calling for an immediate cease-fire as the conflict enters its second month.
He also said that EU member states agreed to cooperate on a voluntary basis on the joint purchase of gas.
Zelenskyy, Erdogan discuss Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following the NATO summit in Brussels yesterday.
Erdogan told Zelenskyy that he had stressed support for Ukraine's territorial integrity during the Brussels summit.
He told Zelenskyy that in bilateral meetings, Erdogan "had comprehensively shared with the leaders the active and principled policy Turkey pursued and the efficient diplomatic efforts it had been exerting."
He said he stressed that he had "provided all the help within its power during this process."
Zelenskyy said the pair also discussed the threat of a food supply crisis. He said he was grateful for Turkey’s support and updated him on the progress of negotiations.
Biden travels close to Ukraine border
US President Joe Biden has traveled to the Polish city of Rzeszow, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the Ukrainian border.
He addressed US troops who are stationed there as part of a NATO mission to protect its eastern flank. NATO yesterday agreed to bolster its defenses in the wake of the invasion.
Biden honored the bravery of the Ukrainian people.
"The Ukrainian people have a lot of backbone. They have a lot of guts. And I'm sure you are observing it. And I don't just mean the military ... but also the average citizen," he told US soldiers. "Look at how they are stepping up ... Women, young people, standing in front of a damn tank saying 'I'm not leaving.'"
Biden was due to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda and visit Poland’s humanitarian operation for the millions of refugees it has taken in. However, Duda’s airplane was forced to make an emergency landing, delaying plans.
Biden stressed that he had wanted to visit Poland to underscore that its efforts to take in refugees are of "enormous consequence."
He will travel to Warsaw later today. Biden spent all of Thursday in an extraordinary series of summits in Brussels addressing the invasion.
UN: Several Ukrainian officials, reporters, activists held by Russian troops
Dozens of Ukrainian officials, journalists and activists have been detained or kidnapped by Russian forces, the United Nations has warned.
The UN human rights office (OHCHR) in Kyiv said it had documented the arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of 22 Ukrainian officials. It said 13 were later released.
The UN body's representative in Ukraine Matilda Bogner said some of the cases resembled "hostage-taking."
She said 15 journalists and civil society activists are among those taken, along with the mayor of Ukraine's southern city of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov.
Fedorov was held for several days by occupying Russian forces before being freed.
Seven journalists have been killed since the invasion began on February 24, the OHCHR said.
Ukraine: Cease-fire talks with Russia still 'difficult'
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says peace talks with Russia remain difficult, denying reports that four out of six key issues were close to being resolved.
"There is no consensus with Russia on the four points," he said in a post on Facebook, adding that the Ukrainian delegation has "taken a strong position and does not relinquish its demands. We insist, first of all, on a cease-fire, security guarantees and territorial integrity of Ukraine."
Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky earlier said that the two countries were coming closer to an understanding on secondary questions, but that there has been limited progress on the key matters.
"Negotiations have been going on all week, from Monday to Friday, in video conference format, and will continue tomorrow," Russian news agency Interfax quoted Medinsky as saying. "On secondary issues, positions are converging. However on the main political issues, we are in fact treading water."
He said that he believed Ukraine was deliberately stalling the talks.
Russia says it is seeking a comprehensive deal on a range of issues, and if that is not achieved then an agreement is unlikely.
Earlier Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said progress had been made in negotiations and called on his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to make an “honorable exit” from Ukraine.
Ankara sees itself as a mediator in the conflict and Erdogan has mooted the idea of talks between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Prague renames Russian embassy address to 'Ukrainian heroes' street'
The Czech capital of Prague has said it will rename the street where the Russian embassy sits to "Ukrainian heroes' street." A nearby bridge will also be named after Ukrainian soldier Vitaly Skakun, who is said to have delayed the Russian advance by blowing up a bridge in southern Ukraine, losing his own life in the process.
This is not the first time the city has used names to criticize Russian policy. Two years ago, Prague also renamed a square on the other side of the embassy grounds after murdered Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov.
At the same time, the Czech government said that so far it had handed out 226,000 resident permits to Ukrainian refugees, though it estimates that a total of 300,000 are in the country. However, some observers working for Czech aid organizations said that the country needed clear procedures for housing refugees and better distribution throughout the country or it would not be able to handle the influx.
Eyewitness accounts from inside Mariupol
The besieged city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine had over 400,000 inhabitants before the war. Many are still there and making do with little food and water. Those who can are leaving, but even this is dangerous.
Russia claims main objectives of first stage completed
The Russian Defense Ministry claims it has achieved the primary objectives of the first phase of its invasion of Ukraine.
It says its forces in Ukraine will now focus on the "liberation" of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, both breakaway provinces in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas.
The ministry claims it has "liberated" 93% of the territory in Luhansk and 54% of the Donetsk region.
In comments carried by Russian news agency Interfax, the ministry claimed it had been considering two options for its "special operation" in Ukraine. The first option focused solely on the “liberation” of those provinces, and the other focused on whole territory of Ukraine.
"In general, the main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been accomplished. The combat potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been significantly reduced, which allows us, once again, to concentrate our main efforts on achieving the main goal — the liberation of Donbass," Sergey Rudskoy, head of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces was quoted as saying.
The ministry says that its military operation will continue until Russian forces have completed the (unspecified) tasks that had been set.
The ministry claimed just 1,351 Russian soldiers had died in the invasion and 3,825 had been injured. That compares to a NATO estimate of up to 40,000 total Russian casualties, including up to 15,000 dead.
Russia also claimed that 14,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed, and 16,000 injured.
It claimed that the Ukrainian air force, its air defense forces and navy has been completely destroyed.
Putin says Russian greats falling victim to West's 'cancel culture'
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the West is trying to erase Russian culture, including the works of great composers such as Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Dmitry Shostakovich and Sergei Rachmaninov.
Speaking at a meeting of winners of presidential literature and art awards for works for children and young people, Putin accused the West of "discrimination of everything connected with Russia with the full connivance and sometimes encouragement of the ruling elites."
He said that "Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Rachmaninov are being erased from concert posters, and Russian writers and their books are being banned," adding that such art censorship had last been carried out by the Nazis in Germany.
Russian domestic culture prevented such acts from being carried out in Russia, he said.
Putin did not cite any concrete instances to back his claims that Russian culture was being "canceled" abroad.
India, China urge 'immediate cease-fire' in Ukraine
The foreign ministers of India and China have called for a return to diplomacy in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
"Both of us agreed on the importance of an immediate cease-fire, as well as a return to diplomacy," India's Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said after the meeting with his counterpart Wang Yi.
The two ministers met in the Indian capital on Friday for what was the first high level meeting in nearly two years after relations deteriorated following deadly border clashes in June 2020.
India and China are both allied with Moscow and have rejected Western calls for condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Erdogan: Putin needs to be an 'architect of peace'
Turkey's president has called on his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to "make an honorable exit" from Ukraine.
"We need to tell Putin 'now, you should be the architect of a step for peace,'" Recep Tayyip Erdogan said to reporters on his return flight from the NATO summit in Brussels.
Erdogan recently invited Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for talks on Turkish soil.
He said while a compromise is possible, the two sides are at odds over territorial issues.
Erdogan also said he was hesitant to cut Turkey's dependence on Russian energy unlike other countries, saying he couldn't "leave my citizens out in the cold."
Athlete who fled Ukraine wins Jerusalem marathon
The 31-year-old Ukrainian athlete Valentyna Veretska has won the Jerusalem marathon four weeks after fleeing Russia's invasion of her country to come to Israel, race organizers said.
Veretska fled Ukraine with her 11-year-old daughter, crossing into neighboring Poland before traveling to Israel. Her husband stayed in their homeland where he is serving in the army, the organizers said.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, more than 16,800 Ukrainians have arrived in Israel, according to the Interior Ministry.
Growing reports of mass graves in Mariupol: UN
Human rights monitors have been receiving ever more information on mass graves in the besieged port city of Mariupol, the head of the UN rights team in Ukraine has said.
"We have got increasing information on mass graves that are there," Matilda Bogner told journalists by video link from Ukraine, adding that one of them appeared to hold 200 bodies.
She said more than 1,035 civilians had so far been killed during Russia's invasion and that her team was investigating what seemed to be indiscriminate attacks both by Russian and Ukrainian forces.
Last major Russia-EU transport link to close
The Finnish rail company VR says it will shut down its 400-kilometer (249-mile) St. Petersburg-Helsinki route at the weekend.
The so-called Allegro line has been one of the last main ways of getting from Russia to the EU since both closed their airspace to each other amid Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
VR said its trains had continued to run over the last few weeks at the request of authorities to allow any Finns in Russia who wished to do so to get home.
Trains from Russia to Helsinki have been full of Russians since the invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, leading to airspace closures both by the EU and Moscow.
Kremlin says military to advise Putin on combating NATO buildup
The Russian military will present proposals to President Vladimir Putin on how best to counter NATO's announced strengthening of its eastern flank, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as cited by Reuters.
In his weekly conference call with reporters, Peskov also said the expulsion of Russia from the Group of Twenty (G20) major economies that has been proposed by the US and allies would not have serious repercussions for the country.
"The G20 format is important, but in the current circumstances, when most of the participants are in a state of economic war with us, nothing terrible will happen," Peskov said, adding that US efforts to isolate Moscow had been only partially effective and would anyway fail.
He said some countries were taking a "more sober" approach to Moscow, allowing it to build new policy directions.
After Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of using phosphorus bombs during the conflict, Peskov insisted that Russia had "never" violated international law.
He also declined to say whether Russia would rebuild Ukrainian towns and cities such as Mariupol, which has been devastated by Russian bombardment.
300 believed dead in Russian strike on Mariupol theater: City officials
Ukrainian officials have said around 300 people might have died after last week's Russian strike on a theater in the port city of Mariupol being used as a shelter by many hundreds of people.
"From eyewitnesses, information is emerging that about 300 people died in the Drama Theatre of Mariupol following strikes by a Russian aircraft," Mariupol city hall wrote on Telegram.
It described the attack as "cynical" and claimed that Russia knew civilians were taking refuge in the building.
Ukrainian officials reported in the past days that attempts to rescue those trapped in the basement of the theater had been hampered by a lack of emergency services and constant bombardment by Russian forces.
New attempt to evacuate Mariupol: Ukrainian deputy PM
Ukraine hopes that some civilians currently trapped in the southern port city of Mariupol will be able to leave in private cars on Friday, according to Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.
Several attempts to create humanitarian corridors out of the city, which has been under constant attack from surrounding Russian forces, have failed. Civilians in the city are reportedly suffering for food, power and water shortages.
Vereshchuk said buses would be waiting in the nearby city of Berdiansk to take those who succeeded in leaving Mariupol to the city of Zaporizhzhia.
"We will do everything in our power so that buses filled with Mariupol residents reach Zaporizhzhia today," she said.
Germany plans to halve Russian oil imports by summer
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck says Germany will be able to greatly reduce its dependence of Russian coal, gas and oil in the coming weeks.
He said Russian oil would drop to 25% from 35% of oil imports and those of Russian coal would fall by a current 50% of Germany's total to 25%.
He also said that Germany expects to become independent of Russian gas by mid-2024.
To this end, he said the government had secured the use of three "floating'' terminals capable of regasifying liquefied natural gas (LNG) brought in by ship and is involved in building permanent LNG terminals for long-term imports.
US to supply additional LNG to Europe
The United States and the European Union have announced a plan to reduce the bloc's reliance on Russian fossil fuels.
Under the deal, the US will increase its liquified natural gas (LNG) exports to Europe by 15 billion cubic meters this year, the White House said.
The initiative was unveiled by US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Global food prices could keep rising: Ukraine's agriculture minister
Ukraine's new agriculture minister has said global food prices would continue to rise if the situation in Ukraine following Russia's invasion did not change.
Mykola Solskyi, who was appointed on Thursday after the sudden resignation of his predecessor, said Ukraine's grain stocks for export amount to $7.5 billion (€6.8 billion). He did not say what the volume of grains for export was.
Ukraine is one of the world's biggest grain exporters.
The former agriculture minister, Roman Leshchenko, stepped down on Thursday, citing health reasons. Two days previously, he said he expected Ukraine's spring crop area might be halved this year to only 7 million hectares (17.3 million acres).
Russian forces pushed back up to 35 km east from Kyiv: UK intelligence
According to British intelligence, Ukrainian forces have succeeded in recapturing towns and defensive positions from invading Russian forces up to 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
A report from the British Defense Ministry on Friday said Ukrainian troops were also likely to continue pushing back Russian forces on the northwestern axis from Kyiv toward the Hostomel Airfield, some 26 kilometers from the capital. It was captured by Russian forces on February 25 at the start of Moscow's invasion.
Russian forces in the south of Ukraine were still seeking to circumvent the city of Mykolaiv as they try to move in on Odesa, with fierce Ukrainian resistance and supply issues impeding their progress, according to the report.
Almost half of people in Germany want Ukraine in the EU: Survey
The number of people in Germany who are in favor of Ukraine joining the EU has risen by 16% since 2018, a YouGov survey has shown.
Forty-six percent of those asked would now like to see Ukraine in the bloc.
The survey also showed a clear reduction in the number of people opposed to the country's EU membership, with just 30% against compared with 47% in 2018.
Other countries are showing similar trends, with 42% of people in France in favor of Ukraine's EU accession (2018: 22%), 60% in Spain and 45% in Italy. The percentage of those who are undecided remains fairly high in all the countries included in the survey at 24-29%.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged that his country be quickly accepted into the bloc amid Russia's invasion and has signed a formal application. But several EU countries, including Germany, have spoken out against fast-tracking Ukraine's bid for membership.
Some Russian military units withdrawing after heavy losses: Ukrainian general staff
A number of Russian military units have withdrawn behind the Russian border after suffering the loss of more than half their personnel, the Ukrainian general staff has said.
According to Oleksiy Arestovych, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy, the front lines between Ukrainian and Russian troops have become "practically frozen."
The general staff said Russian troops were continuing to blockade the large cities of Kharkiv and Sumy and also seemed to be preparing for a new offensive in Izyum in the Kharkiv region.
The information cannot be independently verified.
US to announce increased gas shipments to Europe
US President Joe Biden is expected to announce increased shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe, with the aim of weaning the continent off Russian energy.
Biden plans to discuss this issue with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday.
Earlier this week, von der Leyen said "we are aiming at having a commitment for additional supplies for the next two winters."
According to sources cited by Reuters, Biden promised the US would deliver an additional 15 billion cubic meters of LNG to Europe this year.
Almost 40% of the EU's natural gas currently comes from Russia.
Ex-President Medvedev says sanctions will 'consolidate' Russian society
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia's security council and former president, said that it is "foolish" to believe that Western sanctions could have an effect on the Kremlin.
Sanctions on Russian businesses will not cause popular discontent with the authorities, he told the RIA news agency, adding that they will instead lead citizens to support the government.
"It seems to me that those who make these decisions [to impose sanctions] don't understand our mentality; they don't understand the Russian worldview," Medvedev said.
"This isn't pressure on big business and entrepreneurs, but pressure on absolutely everyone [in Russia]," he underlined, adding that this will lead to the "consolidation of Russian society."
The Kremlin has described Western sanctions as an "economic war" against Russia.
Medvedev served as Russia's president from 2008 to 2012 and as prime minister from 2012 to 2020.
Ukraine's Zelenskyy speaks of 'peace' and 'victory'
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address that his country was getting closer to "peace" and "victory."
"The country must move toward peace, move forward. With every day of our defense, we are getting closer to the peace that we need so much," Zelenskyy said.
"We are getting closer to victory."
"We need to look for peace," Zelenskyy stressed, adding that "Russia also needs to look for peace."
Ukraine's president said that he had spoken with NATO and EU leaders and that they had promised to impose more sanctions on Russia.
Russia will emerge weaker from Ukraine conflict — Pentagon official
US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said that Russia will be weakened as a result of its invasion of Ukraine.
"I think with a high degree of certainty that Russia will emerge from Ukraine weaker than it went into the conflict," Kahl said.
"Militarily weaker, economically weaker, politically and geopolitically weaker, and more isolated," he added.
Kahl said that Russia is likely to increase its use of unguided bombs and artillery in Ukraine as it runs out of precision-guided munitions.
Biden to visit town in Poland near Ukraine border
The White House said that US President Joe Biden will visit a city in Poland near the Ukrainian border on Friday.
The city in question is Rzeszow in Poland's southeast, which lies some 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of the country's border with Ukraine. Until now the White House had not disclosed specifics of the president's Poland trip.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also visited Rzeszow on March 5 as he traveled to Poland to show support for NATO's eastern flank countries.
EU leaders call for Ukraine recovery fund
EU leaders have called for a solidarity fund to be set up for Ukraine's economic recovery, according to a joint statement.
The statement from the 27 EU member states was published late on Thursday following two days of talks.
The fund is to support Ukraine to recover from the "destruction and enormous losses" inflicted on the country by Russia during the war.
The statement also called for an international donor conference to support Ukraine after "the Russian onslaught has ceased."
Furthermore, EU leaders pledged to support the Ukrainian government "for its immediate needs."
Summary of events in Ukraine-Russia crisis on Thursday
During a press conference in Brussels on Thursday, US President Joe Biden asserted that NATO is more united than ever amid Russia's ongoing invasion. He announced over $2 billion (€1.8 billion) military aid for Ukraine and $1 billion in assistance for Ukrainians impacted by the war.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Facebook that a total of 3,343 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities via humanitarian corridors on Thursday.
The Canadian government said it would increase oil exports by roughly 5% as countries forgo Russian energy due to the attack on Ukraine.
Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya called on Belarusian troops to not get involved in Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in support of a measure to punish citizens who help Russian forces. Ukrainian collaborators could face up to 12 years in prison under the new law.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said that the battlefront is "practically frozen." He said Russian forces are "practically at a standstill" and claimed Russian troops lack the resources to advance their offensive.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly told reporters in Brussels that Russia and Ukraine are in agreement on technical issues during peace talks, but said the two countries are divided on territorial issues such as the Crimean Peninsula.
sdi/sri (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)