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Ukraine warns Russia wants to split country

March 27, 2022

Ukraine's intelligence chief has accused Russia of intending to split the country, similar to North and South Korea. Meanwhile, face-to-face talks are set to restart on Monday.

A man rides a bicycle in front of wrecked busses in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol under the control of Russian military and pro-Russian separatists
Russia has said it has moved onto a new stage of the war where it will focus on the eastern Donbas regionImage: AA/picture alliance
  • Biden says Putin "cannot remain in power"
  • Zelenskyy again calls for tanks and fighter jets from Poland
  • Ukraine says 12 journalists have died since the invasion began
  • Russia hits nuclear research facility, according to Ukrainian watchdog
  • Berlin reportedly considering missile shield for German territory
  • Russia-Ukraine talks set to restart in Turkey on Monday

We have now closed these live updates.

Solidarity gestures at the Oscars

Oscar-winning actress Youn Yuh-jung, nominated songwriter Diane Warren, composer Nicholas Britell and the actress Jamie Lee Curtis, were among those wearing blue ribbons that read #WithRefugees to show support for those who have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24.

Actor Mila Kunis, born in Ukraine, will be among the presenters at Hollywood's most prestigious award show.

Last train out of Russia to the EU arrives in Helsinki

The last train departing from a Russian city, St. Petersburg, and coming to the European Union, has arrived in Helsinki, Finland. The line, known as the Allegro express, was the final available rail link from Russia.

The Finnish railway operator VR announced last Friday the line, operational since 2010, had been suspended.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, around 700 passengers from Russia each day have used the route as they sought to exit before Western sanctions make leaving Russia much more difficult.

With most European airspace closed to Russian flights, locals seeking an exit from their country have had to fly to Turkey or Belgrade or travel by car or train.

UK intelligence says Russia maintains distant blockade of Ukraine port

British military intelligence said Russia is maintaining a distant blockade of the Black Sea ports of Ukraine, effectively isolating the country from international maritime trade.

Russia's navy is using its position to launch select missile strikes against targets in Ukraine, the UK Ministry of Defense said.

Scholz: Germany doing all it can to help Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told public broadcaster ARD that his country is doing all it can to help Ukraine.

Scholz said: "We are doing everything in our power that's possible and that makes sense, including delivering weapons."

He also said that Germany believes more than 10,000 Russian soldiers have died in the war.

Erdogan calls for cease-fire in call with Putin

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on the phone with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Erdogan called for an immediate cease-fire and a peace agreement between the two sides, according to a tweet from the presidential office.

He also confirmed that Russian and Ukrainian negotiators would meet in Istanbul to continue talks. However, he did not say when they would begin. A Ukrainian negotiator earlier in the day said talks would begin Monday, but a Russian negotiator said Tuesday.

Kyiv open to possibility of neutral status

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that his government was "carefully" considering the option of adopting a neutral status to be part of a peace deal with Russia.

His comments came in a video interview with Russian journalists that the Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor said could not be aired within Russia.

"This point of the negotiations is understandable to me, and it is being discussed, it is being carefully studied," Zelenskyy said during the 90-minute interview.

"Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go for it. This is the most important point," he added.

He also said that the use of the Russian language in Ukraine was a topic on the table, but would not go into the question of demilitarization, one of Moscow's key demands since the beginning of the war.

Zelenskyy said any deal would have to come with guarantees from third parties and would be decided on by a popular referendum.

The president also told the Russian journalists that the invasion had destroyed Russian-speaking cities within Ukraine.

Russia forbids publication of interview with President Zelenskyy

Russia's media watchdog Roskomnadzor told domestic outlets on Sunday not to publish an interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy carried out by Russian journalists.

"Roskomnadzor warns the Russian media about the necessity of refraining from publishing this interview," the organization wrote on social media without giving any justification for the prohibition.

The statement said that several Russian media outlets had been involved in the interview.

Ukraine accuses Russia of trying to divide nation

Ukrainian military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov says he believes Russia is trying to split Ukraine into two, as happened with North and South Korea after the Second World War.

 "The occupiers will try to pull the occupied territories into a single quasi-state structure and pit it against independent Ukraine,'' Budanov said in a statement.

He went on to say that Ukraine's army would push back Russian forces and engage in "total" guerrilla warfare to prevent a carve-up of the country.

"In fact, it is an attempt to create North and South Korea in Ukraine," he said. "The season of a total Ukrainian guerrilla safari will soon begin. Then there will be one relevant scenario left for the Russians, how to survive."

Lviv residents believe in Ukraine's victory

Turkey to host next round of Russia-Ukraine talks from Monday

Russian and Ukrainian delegations will meet in Turkey for face-to-face talks on Monday, Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia said on Sunday.

"Today, during another round of video negotiations, it was decided to hold the next in-person round of the two delegations in Turkey on March 28-30," Arakhamia wrote on Facebook.

His Russian counterpart wrote on Telegram that the talks would take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to dpa.

Turkey previously hosted high-level talks between the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers, but these ended without making progress.

The announcement comes after two weeks of online talks, following several rounds of face-to-face talks, which have been described by the Ukrainian side as "very difficult."

Russian sympathizers parade through German city of Bonn

Police helicopters accompanied a parade of more than 100 cars that drove from the western German city of Cologne to the nearby city of Bonn waving Russian flags on Sunday, according to the police.

The parade of cars drove through the city of Bonn — the former capital of West Germany — before the protesters got out and marched to a Soviet memorial that commemorates those who died in the Second World War, to lay wreaths.

Pro-Russia sympathizers lay flowers at a memorial for Soviet soldiers who died in World War Two
Soviet Union flags were also to be seen among the contemporary Russian flagsImage: Roberto Pfeil/dpa/picture alliance

The police said that the demonstration was linked to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They also said that the action had only been registered on Sunday morning.

Local media reported that the protest obstructed traffic in Bonn.

Cars adorned with Russian flags drive through Bonn
Police said more than 100 cars took part in the actionImage: Roberto Pfeil/dpa/picture alliance

Ukraine buys 5,100 anti-tank weapons from German arms firm

The Ukrainian government said that it bought 5,100 anti-tank weapons from a German manufacturer, German media reported Sunday.

The weapons are shoulder-launched RGW90 HH "Matador," manufactured by "Dynamit Nobel Defense," located in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's dpa news agency reported.

The order comes at a cost of €25 million ($27.4 million) to be paid by the Ukrainian government.

2,650 of the weapons have already reached Ukraine. The remaining 2,450 are to be delivered in weekly installments by the end of May.

The ministry responsible for arms manufacturing declined media requests for comment. 

Germany's 'Bild' newspaper blocked in Russia

Russian authorities said they would block the website of German tabloid Bild, which is now one of the latest Western media outlets to be censored in Russia as the Kremlin seeks to control the domestic narrative on the war in Ukraine.

Bild said is has been publishing Russian-language reports on its website on the war in Ukraine, and Russia's slide toward "totalitarian dictatorship." Communications and media regulator Roskomnadzor said it had blocked the website at the request of a state prosecutor.

The newspaper's editor-in-chief, Johannes Boie,  said the decision to block the Bild website in Russia "confirms us in our journalistic work for democracy, freedom and human rights.''

Russian authorities also have blocked access to foreign media website including Germany's Deutsche Welle, the BBC in the UK, Euronews, the US government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Chernihiv without power, water amid Russian assault

Significant destruction in Chernihiv means residents of the northern Ukrainian city are without water, heating or electricity, according to the regional administration.

In a statement posted to Telegram, administration chief Viacheslav Chausas said gas was still being supplied on a "piecemeal basis."

He added that efforts were underway to repair damage to the city's critical infrastructure caused by "active fighting."

Chernihiv is currently surrounded by Russian troops and has been "completely devastated," Mayor Vladyslav Atrozhenko said on Saturday. 

He added that more than 200 civilians had been killed and almost 300,000 residents had fled since Russia invaded on February 24. Those numbers have not been independently verified. 

Russian rockets hit strategic targets in Lviv

Turkey says world cannot 'burn bridges' with Moscow

Turkey's presidential spokesman says the international community must still talk to Russia in order to end the war in Ukraine. 

"If everybody burns bridges with Russia then who is going to talk to them at the end of the day," Ibrahim Kalin told the Doha international forum.

Kalin also called on Ukraine to be given more backing. "Ukrainians need to be supported by every means possible so they can defend themselves ... but the Russian case must be heard, one way or the other," so that its grievances could be understood if not justified, he added.

Turkey, a NATO member, enjoys good relations with both Russia and Ukraine and has offered to serve as a mediator in the conflict. While Ankara has criticized Moscow's invasion, it has refused to join Western countries in imposing sanctions on Russia.

Turkey: Navigating Russian sanctions

Macron distances himself from Biden's 'butcher' comments

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned against verbal "escalation" with Moscow after his US counterpart Joe Biden described Russia's Vladimir Putin as a "butcher."

"I would not use those words," Macron said in an interview with broadcaster France 3.

The French president stressed that "everything must be done to stop the situation from escalating" if there is to be any hope of stopping Russia's war in Ukraine

Macron told France 3 he saw his task as "achieving first a cease-fire and then the total withdrawal of [Russian] troops by diplomatic means. If we want to do that, we can't escalate either in words or actions," he said.

In a fiery speech in Warsaw on Saturday night, Biden called Putin a "butcher" and said, "This man cannot remain in power." The White House later said the US was not calling for regime change in Russia.

Biden denounces Putin in speech in Poland

Tanks cannot destroy belief in freedom, says German president

Germany's president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has appealed for humanity and solidarity in the face of Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

"We must not permit [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's hatred to become a hatred dividing peoples and individuals, and it must not be allowed to divide our society either," he said at the opening of a Berlin Philharmonic concert for Ukraine on Sunday.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier appears via videolink as an audience watches musicians play
President Steinmeier appeared via videolink because he is recovering from a COVID infectionImage: Annette Riedl/dpa/picture alliance

"We can counter this fear with our steadfastness and our humanity and solidarity ... with a belief in freedom and democracy," he said. "A belief in freedom and democracy alone will not stop any tanks. But I also know this: no tanks can ever destroy this belief."

Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, tweeted that he would not attend the concert because "only Russian soloists, no Ukrainians" were billed to play.

Steinmeier's office said musicians from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Germany, among others, were to perform pieces by Ukrainian, Russian and Polish composers.

Luhansk leader says may hold referendum on joining Russia

The Moscow-backed self-proclaimed "Luhansk People's Republic" in eastern Ukraine says it may soon hold a referendum on becoming part of Russia.

"I think that in the near future a referendum will be held on the territory of the republic, during which the people will... express their opinion on joining the Russian Federation," Russian news agencies quoted Luhansk leader Leonid Pasechnik as saying.

However, Leonid Kalashnikov, head of the Duma's committee on relations with the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States, was quoted by Russia's TASS news agency as saying a referendum at the present time was not a good idea.

"I think now is not the right moment for this. And it is hardly necessary to be preoccupied with such questions now, when the fate at the front is being decided," he said, according to TASS.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last month recognized the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent. Days later, he launched an invasion of Ukraine, which he described as a "special operation" intended to defend the self-proclaimed republics and "denazify" and disarm its neighbor.

Russian-backed rebels in the eastern regions have been locked in a conflict with Kyiv since 2014, after Moscow's annexation of Crimea. More than 14,000 people have died in the fighting.

Russia says it targeted Lviv with cruise missiles

Russia targeted military structures in the western city of Lviv using high-precision cruise missiles, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday.

"The armed forces of the Russian Federation continue offensive actions as part of the special military operation," the ministry's spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement. 

Long-range missiles were used to hit a fuel depot used by Ukrainian forces, and cruise missiles targeted a plant being used to repair anti-aircraft systems, radar stations and sights for tanks in Lviv.

DW's Fanny Facsar reports from Lviv

30,000 people fleeing Ukraine reach France

French Housing Minister Emmanuelle Wargon says around 30,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine have arrived in France, and that around half of them have since traveled to other places such as Spain.

She told Franceinfo radio the government was preparing to welcome 100,000 people from Ukraine. So far, France has been granting temporary EU stay permits to Ukrainian refugees, allowing them to work and attend school in the country.

A map showing where refugees are traveling to from Ukraine

Meanwhile, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has called for European Union countries to take in more people from Ukraine, saying southern European countries in particular could play a bigger role.

According to the United Nations, more than 3.7 million have fled Ukraine. Most have gone to neighboring Poland.

Greece has offered "to take in people who arrive by plane," Faeser told the Tagesspiegel newspaper. Spain and Italy have also said they would be willing to accept refugees, "but they need the transport links that we are now creating," she said.

Faeser said there was now a train connection to bring people from Rzepin, in western Poland, to Lyon, in France. "We are expanding that," she added.

Sheltering Ukrainians in Poland

US has no strategy of Putin regime change, Blinken says 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reiterated that the United States has no strategy of regime change for Russia.

His comments came after US President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power" during a speech in Warsaw on Saturday night. The White House later said he was not calling for regime change.

"I think the president, the White House, made the point last night that, quite simply, President Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else," Blinken told reporters in Jerusalem.

"As you know, and as you have heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia — or anywhere else, for that matter." 

US has no 'strategy of regime change in Russia'

Berlin mulling missile shield for German territory: report

The German government is looking at the possibility of putting up a missile shield over the entire territory of Germany, according to a report in the tabloid Bild am Sonntag.

The newspaper said the option had been floated at a recent meeting between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Bundeswehr Inspector General Eberhard Zorn about the use of €100 billion ($110 billion) in funding set aside for the armed forces.

Bild reported that the discussion about acquiring an "Iron Dome" focused specifically on Israel's "Arrow 3" system. It said a decision had not yet been made, but that Scholz's Social Democrats were in favor of the purchase.

"We must better protect ourselves against the threat from Russia. To do this, we need a Germany-wide missile shield quickly," the general rapporteur on the budget committee of the Defense Ministry, Andreas Schwarz, was quoted by Bild as saying.

"The Israeli Arrow 3 system is a good solution," he added.

Such a system would cost around €2 billion, according to security information cited by the newspaper, and could be operational as soon as 2025. 

Evacuation corridor agreed for Mariupol: Ukraine

Ukraine and Russia have agreed two "humanitarian corridors" to evacuate civilians from front-line areas on Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

She said one of the corridors was from the southern city of Mariupol and would allow people to travel by private car to Zaporizhzhia, around 250 kilometers (155 miles) away.

A statement posted to Telegram said the second corridor would allow people to evacuate from the city of Rubizhne, in the eastern Luhansk region, to Bakhmut, around 80 kilometers away. 

Iryna Vereshchuk
Iryna Vereshchuk says more than 100,000 people need to be evacuated from MariupolImage: AP

The besieged port city of Mariupol, home to some 400,000 people before the war, has been devastated by weeks of Russian attacks. Tens of thousands of people are still believed to be trapped there with little access to food, power or heating. 

Mayor Vadym Boichenko said on Saturday that the situation remained critical, with street fighting in the city center. He said he had spoken to France's ambassador to Ukraine about options for evacuating civilians after French President Emmanuel Macron said he would talk to Moscow about helping people leave.

People wait in a group to be evacuated along humanitarian corridors from Mariupol
Civilians waiting to be evacauted from the heavily damaged city of MariupolImage: AA/picture alliance

Efforts to organize mass evacuations under cease-fires have been mostly unsuccessful, with Russia and Ukraine trading blame for the failures. 

Kharkiv nuclear facility hit by shelling

Ukraine's nuclear watchdog says Russian shelling has again hit a nuclear research facility in the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate said that the neutron source experimental facility in the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology came under fire Saturday and that fighting made it impossible to assess the damage.

It's not the first time the facility has been hit by Russian shelling. 

The complex is used for the research and production of radioisotopes for medical and industrial needs. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the inventory of radioactive material at the facility is very low, reducing the risks of radiation release.

Russian forces have heavily bombarded Kharkiv's residential buildings and critical infrastructure since invading Ukraine last month. Other nuclear facilities have also been hit during the war.

Ukraine says Russia destroying fuel and food storage depots

Russia has started destroying Ukrainian fuel and food storage depots, according to Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko. The information has not been independently verified.

Speaking on local television, Denysenko said that meant the Ukrainian government would soon have to disperse the remaining stocks of both. 

The adviser also said Russia was bringing forces to the Ukrainian border on rotation, signaling it could make new attempts to advance. 

How the Ukraine war is impacting global trade

Ukrainian counterattacks 'hampering' Russian forces: UK 

In a fresh intelligence briefing, the British Defense Ministry says Russian forces appear to be focusing their efforts on encircling Ukrainian troops directly facing the separatist regions in the east of the country.

It said Russian forces were "advancing from the direction of Kharkiv in the north and Mariupol in the south."

At the same time, the battlefield across northern Ukraine remains "largely static with local Ukrainian counterattacks hampering Russian attempts to reorganize their forces," the intelligence update added. 

Ukraine appeals to Red Cross to change Russia plans

Ukraine has asked the International Committee of the Red Cross not to open a planned office in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, saying it would legitimize Moscow's "humanitarian corridors."

Russian media reported earlier this week that Red Cross chief Peter Maurer had asked Moscow to facilitate the office's opening following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Rostov-on-Don is the largest Russian city on Ukraine's eastern border. It has been used by Russia to provide temporary accommodation camps for people transported out of the war zone.

Mykhailo Radutskyi, chairman of the public health committee in Ukraine's parliament, appealed to the Red Cross to change its plans.

"The Committee calls on the International Committee of the Red Cross that it would not legitimize 'humanitarian corridors' on the territory of the Russian Federation as well as that it would not support the abduction of Ukrainians and its forced deportation," Radutskyi said in a statement.

Ukraine accuses Russia of illegally deporting thousands of people since the start of the war.

The ICRC was not immediately available to comment.

Russia taking 'ruthless action' in Mariupol, says mayor

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko has accused Moscow of seeking to wipe out the southern port city, which has been devastated by attacks since the Russian invasion began last month.

In an interview with the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, Boichenko said the Russian army was taking "ruthless action against" all residents of the besieged city, including ethnic Russians. 

"Their task is simply to erase the city from the face of the earth, including its inhabitants," Boichenko said.  

"There can be no other name for it" besides genocide, he asserted.

The mayor said some parts of the city were already under Russian control and that "the city is surrounded, the ring is getting tighter."

Authorities in Mariupol say at least 2,100 civilians have been killed since the Russian assault began. 

After a month, Ukraine war enters new phase

Russia relying on munitions launched from its airspace: UK intelligence

The latest intelligence update from the UK's Defense Ministry says Moscow is trying to limit its aircrafts' exposure to Ukrainian air defense forces by relying on "stand-off" munitions launched from within Russian airspace.

A US report has cited a 60% failure rate among these Russian munitions.

The UK briefing said this failure rate would "compound Russia's problem of increasingly limited stocks forcing them to revert to less sophisticated missiles or accepting more risk to their aircraft."

The report also said that Russia's air and missile forces were continuing to target denseley populated civilian areas across Ukraine.

	An infographic showing areas in Ukraine under Russian control

Ukraine says 12 journalists have died since Russia invasion began

Ukrainian Attorney General Iryna Venediktova said on her Facebook page Saturday that 12 journalists have died since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Ten more journalists were injured during the war, she added, noting that citizens of Ireland, Russia and the United States were among the foreign reporters killed in the conflict. Venediktova alleged that the reporters were killed by the Russian army.

Zelenskyy calls on Poland to send fighter jets

In a video conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Poland once again to send fighter jets and tanks to fight off Russia's invasion.

Zelenskyy warned that, if Ukraine cannot repel Russia's attack, neighbors, including NATO countries, are vulnerable.

According to a readout provided by the Ukrainian president's official website, Zelenskyy said: "There is a high risk that the Russian army will pose a missile threat not only to the territories of our neighbors — Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and the Baltic States — but also a direct general military threat."

Despite Ukraine's request for fighter jets and a Polish plan to provide them via the Ramstein air force base in Germany, the US objected, and the plan was dropped.

'We need more help to protect the West'

Summary of events in Ukraine-Russia crisis on Saturday

US President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met Saturday with Ukraine's foreign and defense ministers at the Marriott Hotel in central Warsaw. Biden and Austin promised US support to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.

In a speech from Warsaw's Royal Castle during the visit to Poland, Biden told the world to prepare for a "long fight ahead." He castigated Russian President Vladimir Putin and ended his speech by saying: "For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power." The White House later said Biden was not calling for regime change in Russia.

Biden: 'Putin has the gall to say he is denazifying Ukraine'

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the US intends to send $100 million (€91 million) to Ukraine in civilian security assistance. This money is earmarked for the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs to "provide essential border security, sustain civil law enforcement functions, and safeguard critical governmental infrastructure."

Vladyslav Atroshenko, the mayor of the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv that lies close to the border with Russia and Belarus, said that the city "has been completely devastated."

Atroshenko warned that the city has been surrounded by Russian troops and it is no longer possible to set up escape corridors for civilians. The city is also without power and the major bridge connecting Chernihiv with Kyiv has been destroyed, the mayor said.

Amien Essif reports on air raids on Lviv

Ukrainian officials reported that airstrikes had hit the western city of Lviv on Saturday afternoon after explosions were heard earlier outside the city, leaving at least five wounded.

Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko announced an extended curfew will go into force until Monday morning. However, it was later canceled. 

ab, nm, ar/fb, jsi (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters, EFE)