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Ukraine updates: Russia captures eastern Ukrainian village

Published March 21, 2024last updated March 22, 2024

Russian troops captured a village west of the city of Avdiivka, which fell last month after one of the bloodiest battles in the war. Hungary and Slovakia say they won't send Ukraine ammunition. DW has more.

People shelter in Kyiv metro station druing Russian missile strike
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked for more air defense systems after an overnight Russian onslaught on Kyiv and as Moscow's forces gain ground in the eastern Donetsk regionImage: Alina Smutko/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Russia's Defense Ministry said on Thursday that it had captured the village of Tonenke in the eastern Donetsk region.

This comes two days after it captured the village of Orlivka and over a month after the fall of the city of Avdiivka, which followed one of the bloodiest battles in the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the US Patriot missile defense system and asked for allies to supply systems to protect the whole of Ukraine.

In a press conference in Prague, the foreign ministers of Hungary and Slovakia said they would not be providing ammunition to Ukraine.

Here is a roundup of developments in Russia's war in Ukraine on Thursday, March 21:

Skip next section Sweden joining NATO bolsters Baltic Sea security — Billstrom
March 22, 2024

Sweden joining NATO bolsters Baltic Sea security — Billstrom

The accession of Sweden and Finland to the Western NATO military alliance bolsters the Baltic Sea area, amid the prospect of a "prolonged" conflict with Russia, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said.

Speaking to DW's Richard Walker during a visit to Berlin on Thursday, Billstrom said the two Nordic countries joining meant that all countries around the Baltic Sea, apart from Russia, are NATO members.

He predicted that this would add "significantly to the stability and the security in this part of the world."

Billstrom also warned that the European Union should "brace itself for a prolonged conflict with Russia."

"We have to see this war for what it is," Billstrom said. "It is a war between a country which doesn't feel any limits, which wants to regain its former imperial past, and that has to be stopped."

Click here to read the full story

Swedish FM: 'Prolonged period of conflict with Russia' ahead

Skip next section EU planning tariff hikes on Russian, Belarusian produce
March 21, 2024

EU planning tariff hikes on Russian, Belarusian produce

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters of the plans at the closing press conference of the summit's first day late on Thursday. 

"We have prepared a proposal to increase tariffs on Russian and Belarusian imports of cereals, oilseed and derived products," she said, adding there were "several good reasons for making this proposal."

"It will prevent Russian grain from de-stabilizing the EU market in these products. It will stop Russia from using the revenues from the export of these goods to the European Union. And it will ensure that illegal Russian exports of stolen Ukrainian grain do not enter the EU market," von der Leyen said. 

DW's Brussels bureau understands that further details on the proposal will likely come later on Friday. 

Both Russia and Ukraine are major agricultural exporters and the EU has tried to lower tariff barriers for Ukrainian exports amid the conflict, partly to offset reduced Ukrainian exports via the Black Sea, largely controlled by Russia's navy and air force.

This has however also led to protests from farmers and other groups in several countries, not least Poland, about price pressures caused by the easier access to the EU market.

Skip next section EU looking into funding Ukraine weapons with frozen Russian assets
March 21, 2024

EU looking into funding Ukraine weapons with frozen Russian assets

European Union leaders agreed on a number of statements condemning Russia and pledging continued support for Ukraine.

"The European Council is ever more steadfast in its support for Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized border. Russia must not prevail," the agreed-upon conclusions of the leaders' summit said.

"Given the urgency of the situation, the European Union is determined to continue providing Ukraine and its people all the necessary political, financial, economic, humanitarian and diplomatic support for as long as it takes and as intensely as needed," it added.

They also said they would look into the next steps necessary to use revenues from frozen Russian assets in the EU to fund military support for Ukraine.

"We are now reviewing the progress to use windfall profits from Russian immobilised assets for Ukraine, including military support," European Council President Charles Michel said on X, formerly Twitter.

The bloc has so far been reluctant to confiscate Russian assets for Ukraine's war effort, but as the war drags into its second year and financial support for Kyiv has fallen increasingly on its European partners, the option has become increasingly attractive.

Skip next section Ukraine must win back its territorial sovereignty, Swedish foreign minister tells DW
March 21, 2024

Ukraine must win back its territorial sovereignty, Swedish foreign minister tells DW

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström spoke to DW on Thursday about the need for the EU and NATO to prepare for an extended conflict with Russia.

"The European Union has to … do what is necessary, increasing production of military means to support Ukraine and see to it that Ukraine actually wins its territorial sovereignty back and also puts a stop to Russia once and for all," he said.

He emphasized that "supporting Ukraine in every possible way, militarily, financially and politically, is of utmost concern because if Russia were to win in Ukraine, that would definitely increase the appetite," adding that "Russia is on a path towards regaining its former imperial assets, among them the Baltic states, Poland."

But he was also optimistic about Sweden's newly achieved membership to the NATO alliance, saying it "has added significantly to the stability and the security in this part of the world."

Skip next section Zelenskyy asks for more air defense systems, amunition at European leaders' summit
March 21, 2024

Zelenskyy asks for more air defense systems, amunition at European leaders' summit

While speaking at a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged European allies to provide Ukraine with additional air defense systems so it can protect its entire territory.

Ukraine was high on the agenda at the summit, with leaders discussing a proposal to use seized Russian assets to supply Ukraine with weapons, a plan towards which Zelenskyy voiced his support, as well as mulling "radical" steps toward a bloc-wide defense strategy.

"The existing air defense systems are not enough to protect our entire territory from Russian terror," he stressed, adding that Ukraine had managed to shoot down dozens of Russian missiles over Kyiv.

"It’s not a matter of hundreds of systems, but of an achievable number — to protect all the territory of Ukraine."

Zelenskyy thanked allies for providing €5 billion as part of the Ukraine Assistance Fund and hailed a Czech-led initiative to purchase artillery shells. However, he said "Europe can provide more" and urged allies to provide Kyiv with more ammunition to push back Russian forces.

Ukraine's president said that the country had "once again become a donor of food security for our traditional export destinations — North Africa and Asia." He said that Europe stands to benefit from cooperation with Kyiv on trade.

He said it was "unfair" that Russian and Belarusian products were still being transported into Europe and urged against "trade separatism" that seeks to put tariffs on Ukrainian goods.

Skip next section Russia has more than doubled shell production, defense minister claims
March 21, 2024

Russia has more than doubled shell production, defense minister claims

Russia's artillery shell production has more than doubled over the past year, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Thursday.

"After the start of operation of the new facilities, the volume of production actually increased by almost 2.5 times," Shoigu was quoted as saying at a meeting with weapons manufacturers.

The production of individual artillery components has ramped up to an even greater extent, he added.

"If we talk about the manufacture of artillery ammunition, the volume of production of components for this ammunition has been increased almost 22 times, 75% of components are being restored," Shoigu said.

Russia is racing to rearm faster than the West can supply Ukraine. Earlier this month, US broadcaster  CNN reported that Russia is producing nearly three times as many artillery munitions for the war in Ukraine as the United States and Europe combined.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at an artillery shell factory
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met with arms manufacturers in the Nizhny Novgorod regionImage: Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defence Ministry/dpa/picture alliance
Skip next section Hungary, Slovakia won't provide ammunition to Kyiv in Czech initative
March 21, 2024

Hungary, Slovakia won't provide ammunition to Kyiv in Czech initative

Hungary and Slovakia have said they will not join a Czech-led initiative to procure and send weapons to Ukraine, underscoring divisions in Central Europe on arms deliveries to Kyiv.

"Hungary has not and will not deliver any weapons to Ukraine,"  Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a press conference in Prague.

"We don't take part in any common actions which end up In joint weapon deliveries," he said.

Slovak Foreign Minister Juraj Blanar said Bratislava would not provide arms as it believes that "the conflict doesn't have a military solution."

Poland, in contrast, said it would contribute logistically and financially to the Czech-led plan.

"We are very happy to contribute, not only financially but to a very efficient logistical operation so that the ammunition can get to where it's needed on the front," Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said.

The Visegrad Group of countries — which is made up of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic — remains divided on the issue of arms deliveries to Ukraine.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said earlier this month that the Prague-led ammunition initiative had raised enough so far to purchase a first batch of 300,000 artillery shells.

Ukraine has said that it is running low on artillery ammunition it needs to defend entrenched positions along the frontline.

Skip next section Zelenskyy calls for Patriot air defense to cover all of Ukraine
March 21, 2024

Zelenskyy calls for Patriot air defense to cover all of Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has praised the Patriot air defense system supplied to Ukraine by the United States.

He made the comments following overnight Russian aerial strikes on Ukraine's capital, Kyiv.

"Russian terrorists do not have missiles capable of bypassing Patriot and other leading world systems," Zelenskyy said on the platform X, formerly Twitter.

He called for the delivery of new systems to protect the entire country.

"This protection is required in Ukraine now. From Kyiv to Kharkiv, Sumy to Kherson, and Odesa to the Donetsk region," he stressed.

"This is entirely possible if our partners demonstrate sufficient political will," he said.

Ukrainian authorities say that 13 people were wounded in Russia's aerial onslaught. Four of them have been hospitalized.

Skip next section Russia captures Tonenke in eastern Ukraine — Russian Defense Ministry
March 21, 2024

Russia captures Tonenke in eastern Ukraine — Russian Defense Ministry

Russian forces have captured the village of Tonenke in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region, according to Moscow's Defense Ministry.

Earlier on Thursday, Ukraine's General Staff said Kyiv's forces had repelled 14 Russian army attacks near six villages in the Donetsk region, including Tonenke.

"The Russian armed forces liberated the village of Tonenke," the Russian ministry said in its daily briefing.

Tonenke lies around 10 kilometers (six miles) west of the city of Avdiivka, which was captured by Russia last month.

The battle for Avdiivka was one of the bloodiest in all the war.

On Tuesday, Russia said its forces had captured the village of Orlivka, which lies north of Tonenke.

sdi/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)