Biden approves $13.6bn in ‘historic’ aid to Ukraine

  • Ukrainian and Russian negotiators are expected to continue talks on Wednesday.
  • An adviser to Ukraine’s president has said ongoing negotiations to end the war are difficult, but there is “certainly room for compromise”.
  • Prime Ministers of Poland, Czech Republic and Slovenia visit embattled Kyiv for talks with Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelenskyy.
  • US President Joe Biden will attend NATO, EU summits in Brussels next week, the White House has announced.
  • About 29,000 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Tuesday, most from the besieged city of Mariupol, a senior Ukrainian official has said.
  • The United Nations says three million people have fled Ukraine since the war began.

Here are the latest updates:

Ex-US diplomat says NATO can do more to help Ukraine

Kurt Volker, the former US ambassador to NATO, says the Western security alliance can do much more to help Ukraine even if it won’t impose a no-fly zone.

“There are additional air defence systems that Ukrainians need, more stingers but also higher altitude systems. They need shore to ship missiles to go after some of the Russian ships that are in the Black Sea firing cruise missiles at Ukrainian cities,” he told Al Jazeera.

“They need more Javelin anti-tank systems. The Poles have offered to provide MiG-29 aircraft, which the Ukrainians know how to fly. That should happen soon. We should be accelerating our deliveries of humanitarian relief to the Ukrainian people and if that needs protection in order to do so safely, we should provide that protection. There are so many things on the ladder here that we can do that we are not doing.”

Zelenskyy thanks EU leaders for Kyiv visit

Ukraine’s president has thanked the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia who traveled to the embattled capital of Kyiv for talks.

The three leaders went ahead with the hours-long train trip despite worries within the European Union about the security risks of traveling within a war zone.

“These respected men, leaders of their beautiful independent European states, are not afraid of anything and are more worried about our destiny,”  Zelenskyy said.

“With such friends, with such countries and neighbours and partners, we will be able truly to defeat, I don’t want to say who, we all know it,” he added.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a meeting with EU leaders in Kyiv
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a meeting with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Slovenia’s Prime Minister Janez Jansa, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 15, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

Poland’s Morawiecki: ‘We will never leave you alone’

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has expressed solidarity and support for Ukraine during a meeting with Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

“We will never leave you alone. We will be with you because we know that you are fighting not only for your homes, for your freedom, for your security, but also for others,” he said.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attends a meeting with Ukraine's President in Kyiv, Ukraine
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attends a meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 15, 2022. [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

Poland urges EU to give Ukraine candidate status

Poland’s Prime minister has said the war in Ukraine is a European issue that needs a collective response.

“The European Union has to give very quickly candidate status and more than this,” he said after meeting with Zelenskyy.

“It has to invite Ukraine to the European Union. And [provide] all the defensive weapons to defend your homes. We will try to organize, orchestrate all over the world.”

Morawiecki was accompanied by the prime ministers of the Czech Republic and Slovenia.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa attend a meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 15, 2022.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Slovenia’s Prime Minister Janez Jansa attend a meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 15, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Prime Minister Denys Shmygal attend a meeting with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Kyiv, Ukraine March 15, 2022.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Prime Minister Denys Shmygal attend a meeting with three visiting EU leaders in Kyiv, Ukraine March 15, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

Ukraine says its forces repelled Russian attack on Kharkiv

Ukrainian forces have repelled an attack on Kharkiv by Russian troops, who tried to storm the city from their positions in Piatykhatky, a suburb 15 kilometers (9 miles) to the north, according to the head of the Kharkiv region.

The Ukrainian army was able “to push the enemy back beyond its previous position,” Oleh Synehubov said on the messaging app Telegram.

He called it a “shameful defeat.”

US Senate backs Russia war crimes probes

The US Senate has unanimously approved a resolution seeking investigations of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government for war crimes over the invasion of Ukraine.

The resolution said the Senate strongly condemns the “violence, war crimes. crimes against humanity” being carried out Russian military forces.

The measure does not carry the force of law, but encourages international criminal court investigations of Putin, his security council and military leaders.

UK’s Johnson to visit Saudi Arabia, UAE

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will visit Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday as part of his efforts to secure additional oil flows and reduce dependence on Russian energy.

In a statement released by his office, Johnson called Saudi Arabia and the UAE “key international partners” in his bid to wean the West off Russian oil and gas, improve energy security and coordinate action against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Germany’s Scholz says sanctions ‘having a stronger impact than Russia ever imagined’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has again ruled out NATO intervention in the Ukraine war, but said the West continues to trust in the effect of sanctions imposed on the Russian economy.

“Together with our allies in Europe and the US, we have prepared very precise sanctions.” Scholz said at an economic summit organised by the Die Welt newspaper in Berlin.

“[Russian] President Vladimir Putin may have planned this war for a year and prepared for economic reactions from the international community, but he underestimated our determination: The sanctions are having a stronger impact than Russia ever imagined.”

Russia to quit Council of Europe

Russia says it is pulling out of the Council of Europe (COE), a pan-European rights body, as pressure mounts for Moscow’s expulsion over its invasion of Ukraine.

The decision ends Russia’s quarter century membership of the COE and opens the way for Moscow to reimpose the death penalty if authorities there decide to do so.

The so-called “Ruxit” means that Russia will no longer be a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights and its citizens will no longer be able to file applications to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Russia’s foreign ministry, announcing the launching of exit procedures, said it has “no regret” about leaving.

Japan to revoke Russia’s ‘most favoured nation’ trade status: Public broadcaster

Japan will revoke Russia’s “most favoured nation” trade status as part of further sanctions against Moscow, public broadcaster NHK has said.

The government is set to announce the move on Wednesday, it reported, following similar moves by Western partners. Japan has already imposed sanctions on chips and high-tech equipment on Russia.

US aid to be split between security and humanitarian assistance: AJE correspondent

The US’s $13.6bn aid package to Ukraine will be split between security and humanitarian assistance, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett has said.

She added that Biden has stressed that the aid would ensure that Ukrainians “have the tools they need to defend themselves”.

“In terms of the real details – how much money is going to each allocation – there really were some big question marks. So we’re now looking ahead to Wednesday when the US president has promised that he will be giving more specific detail,” Halkett said.

Joe Biden signs legislation
Biden signs US budget containing $13.6bn in aid to Ukraine [Patrick Semansky/AP Photo]

Poland calls for peacekeeping mission in Ukraine

An international peacekeeping mission should be sent to Ukraine, the leader of Poland’s ruling party has said.

“I think that it is necessary to have a peace mission – NATO, possibly some wider international structure – but a mission that will be able to defend itself, which will operate on Ukrainian territory,” Jaroslaw Kaczynski said during a press conference in Kyiv alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

War in Ukraine tests shaky US-China relations

In recent days, several top officials in the United States have discouraged China from backing Russia in its war in Ukraine, amid reports that Moscow has requested military assistance from Beijing.

While Chinese officials have downplayed the reports, experts say the US’s public pressure campaign on China could define an already shaky relationship between the two nations for years to come.

“This has the potential to be a turning point in US-China relations,” Robert Ross, a political science professor at Boston College, told Al Jazeera.

Read more here.

Russia regrouping and pivoting on Ukraine strategy: Analyst

Russia’s initial military strategy of making rapid gains, displacing Ukrainians and taking over the country has failed on many levels, James Sherr, an analyst at the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, has said.

“Ukraine’s cohesion and resilience, flexibility and inventiveness have come as a surprise,” Sherr told Al Jazeera.

Russians are now altering their war strategy in two ways, he said, by regrouping – particularly in the east in the country – and pummelling Ukrainian cities. “They are reducing Ukrainians to destitution,” Sherr said.

Biden pledges to help Ukrainian refugees

Biden has promised humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, as the number of people who fled the country surpassed three million according to the UN.

“This war has turned nearly 3 million Ukrainians into refugees,” Biden wrote on Twitter. “That’s on top of more than 12 million people who require humanitarian assistance inside Ukraine. The United States is helping to lead a global humanitarian response with our partners in Europe and beyond.”

Biden to attend NATO, EU summits in Brussels next week

Biden will travel to Europe next week for face-to-face talks with European leaders on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has announced.

Biden will meet NATO and European leaders at a summit in Brussels on March 24. He will also attend a scheduled European Union summit the same day for discussions on further sanctions on Russia and humanitarian efforts for Ukraine.

Read more here.

Biden authorises $13.6bn in aid to Ukraine

The US president has signed an annual spending bill that contains $13.6bn in humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine.

“I just signed the Bipartisan Government Funding Bill into law — keeping the government open and providing a historic $13.6 billion in funding to Ukraine,” Biden wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

Russia-Ukraine talks difficult but will continue: Zelenskyy adviser

A senior Ukrainian official has said that talks with Russia on ending the war were very difficult but said there was “certainly room for compromise”.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, said on Twitter that there were fundamental contradictions between the two sides.

But Podolyak said the negotiations would continue on Wednesday.

Russia’s tactics are evolving in Ukraine — Here’s how

The last week has seen a marked change in tactics from the Russian military as the scope of the war in Ukraine has widened.

Advanced weapons, especially man-portable anti-tank and air defence systems, as well as small arms and ammunition, have been pouring into Ukraine.

Read more about Russia’s changing military tactics here.

Turkey Foreign Minister to hold meetings in Moscow, then travel to Kyiv

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he is sending his foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, to Moscow and Kyiv this week as part of Turkey’s mediation efforts to secure a ceasefire in Ukraine.

Cavusoglu will hold talks in Moscow on Wednesday, Erdogan said after a cabinet meeting, before travelling to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Thursday.

NATO member Turkey shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, has good ties with both and has offered to mediate between the warring countries.

About 29,000 evacuated from Ukrainian cities on Tuesday: Ukrainian official

About 29,000 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Tuesday, most of them leaving the besieged port city of Mariupol, a senior government official has said.

Senior Ukrainian presidential official Kyrylo Tymoshenko said in an online post that about 20,000 people had left Mariupol in private cars.

Ukraine earlier accused Russia of blocking a convoy trying to take supplies to the city.

A woman walks with a bicycle next to a damaged building in Donetsk region, Ukraine
A woman walks next to a damaged building in the town of Volnovakha in Ukraine’s Donetsk region [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

Read all the updates from Tuesday, March 15 here.

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