Poland PM calls for total EU trade ban with Russia

  • Poland Prime Minister calls for a total trade ban between the European Union and Russia.
  • Russia says it has used its newest Kinzhal hypersonic missiles for the first time in Ukraine.
  • First United Nations aid convoy arrives in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sumy.
  • Biden did not offer incentives to Xi in video call between two leaders, White House says.
  • Ukraine says more than 9,100 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Friday.
  • More than half of those evacuated – 4,972 people – left the besieged city of Mariupol.
  • UN says 6.5 million people have been internally displaced due to the war.

Here are the latest updates:

UK warns against post-Ukraine reset with Putin

The West must not try to “normalise relations” with Russian President Vladimir Putin after his invasion of Ukraine, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday, calling the crisis a “turning point for the world”.

“There are some around the world … who say that we’re better off making accommodations with tyranny … I believe they are profoundly wrong,” the British leader told his Conservative Party’s Spring conference in Blackpool, northwest England.

“To try to renormalise relations with Putin after this, as we did in 2014, would be to make exactly the same mistake again, and that is why Putin must fail.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the UK's Parliament
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions at the parliament in London, Britain January 19, 2022, in this screen grab taken from a video [File: Reuters]

Seven killed in mortar attack near Ukrainian capital: Police

Local police in the town of Makarviv near Kyiv say at least seven people were killed and five others injured following a mortar attack by Russian forces.

“As a result of enemy shelling of Makariv, seven civilians were killed,” local police said in a statement.

Russia denies targeting civilians.


Poland proposes total EU ban on trade with Russia: PM

Prime Minister Mateus Morawiecki says Poland has proposed to the European Union that the bloc impose a total ban on trade with Russia.

“Poland is proposing to add a trade blockade to this package of sanctions as soon as possible, (including) both of its seaports… but also a ban on land trade. Fully cutting off Russia’s trade would further force Russia to consider whether it would be better to stop this cruel war,” Morawiecki said.

Earlier this week EU member states agreed on a fourth package of sanctions against Russia. Details were not disclosed, but the French presidency said Russia’s “most-favoured nation” trade status would be revoked.


Russia, China cooperation will only get stronger: Lavrov

Cooperation between Russia and China will only become stronger in the current circumstances, the Interfax news agency quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying.

“This cooperation will get stronger, because at a time when the West is blatantly undermining all the foundations on which the international system is based, of course we – as two great powers – need to think how to carry on in this world,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.


Turkey wants an end to Ukraine war: Presidential spokesman

Turkey is to trying find a peaceful end to the conflict in Ukraine, Ibrahim Kalin, the Turkish presidential spokesman, told Al Al Jazeera.

“We are all trying to make it happen. Our president had two phone calls with President Zelenskyy and President Putin since the beginning of this war. We are all trying to get our different views and channels together to bring an end to this war.

President Putin thinks that his position, at the moment, on the key strategic issues of Donbas and Crimea are not close enough for him to meet President Zelenskyy.

The negotiation teams in Belarus are addressing technical issues. The very first political level meeting took place in Antalya with the participation of our foreign minister. And now what we need is a strategic level meeting between the two leaders.

As positions get closer on the four main issues of neutrality – that there is no NATO membership, demilitarisation according to the Austrian model, denazification which is kind of offensive of course to the Ukrainian leadership and then the protection of the Russian language.

If there is growing consensus, and there seems to be, then the last two strategic issues of the territorial and legal status of the Donbas and Crimea will be addressed.”


Ukraine’s leader warns war will cost Russia for generations

Ukraine’s president warned that continuing the invasion would exact a toll on Russia for “generations.” The remarks came after Moscow held a mass rally in support of its bogged-down forces.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday’s event in Moscow illustrated the stakes of the largest ground conflict in Europe since World War II.

“Picture for yourself that in that stadium in Moscow there are 14,000 dead bodies and tens of thousands more injured and maimed,” the Ukrainian leader said. “Those are the Russian costs throughout the invasion.”


Four US troops killed in military plane crash in Norway

A US military plane taking part in NATO exercises has crashed in Norway, killing all four American troops on board.

The four were taking part in the Cold Response military drills involving 30,000 troops from NATO and partner countries. About 200 planes and some 50 ships are taking part in the manoeuvres, which will continue until April 1.

“It’s with great sadness that we received the message saying that four American soldiers died in a plane crash last night,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said on Twitter.


Switzerland brands war in Ukraine ‘devastating madness’

Russia’s war in Ukraine is driven by “devastating madness”, and Switzerland is prepared to pay the price for defending freedom and democracy, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis says.

Switzerland imposed the same sanctions on Russia as the European Union but Cassis insisted Switzerland’s neutrality was not at stake.

However, he said Switzerland could not simply stand by in the “confrontation between democracy and barbarism”, and was prepared to take an economic hit.

“On February 24, the face of the world changed, and not in a good way. We must valiantly and tirelessly defend freedom and democracy. This has a price. A price that Switzerland is ready to assume,” he wrote in Le Temps newspaper.

“This war is driven by a devastating madness which shatters all the principles and values of our civilisation.”


UK fears ‘more extreme’ Russian actions in Ukraine

Peace talks to end the Ukraine conflict could be a “smokescreen” for more extreme Russian military manoeuvres, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned.

“I’m very sceptical,” Truss told The Times newspaper in an interview. “What we’ve seen is an attempt to create space for the Russians to regroup. Their invasion isn’t going according to plan. I fear the negotiation is yet another attempt to create a diversion and create a smokescreen. I don’t think we’re yet at a point for negotiation.”

Truss echoed comments by British intelligence that President Putin could turn to “more and more extreme actions”, adding “we’ve seen appalling atrocities already”.


Bulgaria won’t send military aid to Ukraine

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has ruled out providing military aid to Ukraine but says his country, a NATO ally, will continue to provide humanitarian assistance.

“Being so close to the conflict, right now I have to say that currently we will not be able to send military assistance to Ukraine. This will not be possible,” Petkov said.

Bulgaria does not border Ukraine but has received thousands of refugees.


Russian invasion ‘reckless and ruthless’: US defence chief

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine saying it had “galvanised the Ukrainian people, NATO, and the free world”.

During a news conference in Sofia alongside the Bulgarian prime minister, Austin called the invasion of Ukraine a “war of choice”.


US to provide Stryker army company to NATO battlegroup in Bulgaria

The United States has agreed to provide a Stryker mechanized infantry company for Bulgaria’s battlegroup under NATO’s drive to bolster its eastern flank after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov says.

“The USA agreed to provide a Stryker company,” he told a press conference with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. “This is a strong sign to all of our allies in NATO.”

Bulgaria, once Moscow’s closest ally during the Cold War era but a NATO and European Union member state, is establishing a battlegroup of up to 1,000 troops under the operational command of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe. The battlegroup is expected to host troops from other allied countries as well.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech.
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea on Friday [Sputnik/Ramil Sitdikov via Reuters]

Ukraine sees no major changes in fighting over past 24 hours

Ukrainian authorities have not noticed any significant shifts over the past 24 hours in front line areas where Ukrainian troops are battling Russian forces, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych says.

In an online video address, he said fighting was ongoing and named the southeastern city of Mariupol, the southern cities of Mykolaiv and Kherson, and the eastern town of Izyum as particular hotspots where Russian troops were on the offensive


Hezbollah denies sending fighters to Ukraine

Lebanese group Hezbollah has denied sending fighters to Ukraine to support Russian troops.

“I categorically deny anything of these claims,” Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech late on Friday. “These claims are lies that are bare of truth.”

He added: “No one from Hezbollah, neither a fighter nor an expert, went to this battlefield.”

Kyiv had earlier claimed Moscow recruited about 1,000 fighters from Syria and Hezbollah to fight in Ukraine.


New weapons often ‘deployed to test battle readiness’

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, says new weapons are often deployed in conflict to test their battle readiness.

“I have been reading several military blogs over the last few days, they have been taking a close look at the types of weapons been used.”

In the past few days in Kyiv, we have seen cruise missiles shot from Russian territory that have been intercepted by Ukrainian air defence systems as well.

We are also hearing that the Russians are introducing kamikaze drones into the conflict as well, according to the military blogs.”


Russia: Hypersonic missiles used in Ukraine

Russia has used its newest Kinzhal hypersonic missiles for the first time in Ukraine on Friday to destroy a weapons storage site in the country’s west, the defence ministry said.

Moscow has never before admitted using the high-precision weapon in combat, and state news agency RIA Novosti said it was the first use of the Kinzhal hypersonic weapons during the conflict in Ukraine.

“The Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse containing missiles and aviation ammunition in the village of Deliatyn in the Ivano-Frankivsk region”, the Russian defence ministry said.

Read more here


Ukraine prosecutor: 112 children killed in Ukraine war

The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office has said 112 children have been killed so far in the war in Ukraine.

It also said on Telegram that 140 children had been wounded.


Luhansk humanitarian corridor for evacuation agreed: Governor

The governor of Luhansk region has said a humanitarian corridor for evacuations will be opened on Saturday morning.

“A humanitarian corridor has been agreed, we will try to evacuate people and bring food today. A ‘regime of silence’ has been agreed for March 19, starting at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT),” Serhiy Gaiday said on Telegram.


White House: Biden to discuss China’s Russia alignment in Europe

The White House has said President Joe Biden will discuss China’s moves to align with Russia when he travels to Europe next week.

On Friday, Biden told Chinese President Xi Jinping that there would be consequences if Beijing backs Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.

Biden will participate in meetings with allies in Brussels next Thursday.


Ukraine says ‘temporarily’ lost access to Sea of Azov

Ukraine’s defence ministry has said it has lost access to the Sea of Azov “temporarily” as Russian forces tightened their grip around the besieged port city of Mariupol.

“The occupiers have partially succeeded in the Donetsk operational district, temporarily depriving Ukraine of access to the Sea of Azov,” Ukraine’s defence ministry said in a statement late on Friday.

The ministry did not say whether or when Ukraine’s forces had regained access to the sea.


‘No sign’ China’s position has changed after Xi-Biden talks

More analysis of China’s perspective on the call between Biden and Xi as Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, who is in Beijing, says coverage of the call in state media focused more on the broader relationship with the United States, and Taiwan in particular.

She noted that when the reports did get to Ukraine there was no mention of Biden’s warning about the risks of providing support for Russia. Instead, the stories highlighted the need for both countries to de-escalate tensions and that economic sanctions would only serve to damage the global economy rather than end the war.

“We’ve seen no sign whatsoever that China’s position has changed,” Yu said.

The state-run tabloid Global Times has taken a typically combative approach while Xinhua talks of a “candid, in-depth exchange of views”.

 


China’s ‘neutral line’ designed to secure peaceful resolution: Analyst

Al Jazeera has talked to Beijing-based analyst Andy Mok about the call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden.

Mok, who is a senior research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, says China has been consistent in its stance on the conflict and that maintaining a neutral line was the most effective way to reach a peaceful resolution.

“Let’s not conflate condemning with abstaining. These are two very different things,” he said. “If we look at even the other countries around the world: UAE, Saudi Arabia, even Mexico have not joined the US in condemning Russia so I think the US actually runs the risk of being isolated [on Ukraine]. This is the real story; that not as many countries are with the US as reported in the Western media.”

At the UN General Assembly earlier this month, 141 countries backed a resolution calling on Russia to stop its offensive against Ukraine with small states and world powers alike condemning the invasion. You can read the text of that statement and see how each member state voted here.


Zelenskyy tells Russia time for serious talks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has released another video address to the Ukrainian people.

He is urging Moscow to sit down for talks.

“I want everyone to hear me now, especially in Moscow. The time has come for a meeting, it is time to talk,” he said in the address released in the early hours of Saturday.

“The time has come to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, Russia’s losses will be such that it will take you several generations to recover.”

Zelenskyy also accused Russian forces of deliberately blocking the supply of humanitarian supplies to cities under attack.

“This is a deliberate tactic … This is a war crime and they will answer for it, 100 percent,” he said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv,
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine [Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP Photo]

Amid Ukraine war, all things Russia face scorn and backlash

Many Russians and Russian-themed institutions have faced backlash and anger in Western nations since the invasion of Ukraine began.

“Any attacks on Russians, indiscriminately like this – just like attacks on Muslims after 9/11 – are a sign of ignorance, of not understanding the complexities of the situation,” Ronald Grigor Suny, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, tells Al Jazeera.

Read more here.


Biden-Xi call was ‘direct’ and ‘substantive’: US official

The phone call between Biden and China’s Xi lasted about two hours and was “direct” and “substantive”, a senior US official has said.

“I would say the conversation was direct. It was substantive, and it was detailed,” the official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said.

“The two leaders spent the preponderance of their time discussing Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, as well as the implications of the crisis for US-China relations and the international order.”


War has thrown space industry ‘into turmoil’: Astrophysicist

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has said that despite continued cooperation at the International Space Station (ISS), the war in Ukraine has thrown the space industry “into turmoil”.

“Western satellites were meant to go up on Russian rockets; they’re now stranded. And yet at the ISS, it’s as if nothing had happened … But I don’t see how that can be sustained in the long run,” McDowell said.

“And indeed, America has been trying to persuade Russia to extend the life of the station project until 2030, currently scheduled to end in 2024. I can’t see how that’s going to happen now.”


First UN aid convoy arrives in eastern Ukrainian city of Sumy

The UN humanitarian agency, OCHA, has announced the arrival of the first aid convoy in the city of Sumy in war-stricken eastern Ukraine.

“The UN hopes this is the first of many shipments delivered to the people trapped by fighting,” OCHA said in a statement.

“The 130 metric tons of essential aid includes medical supplies, bottled water, ready-to-eat meals and canned food that will directly help some 35,000 people. In addition to these items, the convoy brought equipment to repair water systems to help 50,000 people.”


China ‘should put some pressure on Russia’: Ukraine presidential adviser

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Ukraine hopes China will realise that it “should put some pressure on Russia” to end the war.

Alexander Rodnyansky told Al Jazeera that doing so would help China “establish a more viable relationship with the rest of the world” in the long term.

“And that’s clearly more important to them than supporting Russia, which has isolated itself and is clearly in decline at this point.”


Ukraine says it will take years to defuse unexploded bombs

It will take years for Ukraine to defuse unexploded bombs after the Russian invasion, its interior minister has said.

Speaking to The Associated Press news agency in the besieged Ukrainian capital, Denys Monastyrsky said that the country will need Western assistance to cope with the enormous task once the war is over.

“A huge number of shells and mines have been fired at Ukraine and a large part haven’t exploded, they remain under the rubble and pose a real threat,” Monastyrsky said. “It will take years, not months, to defuse them.”

A graphic indicated percentages of applicants per country to the Ukrainian foreign legion


Biden did not offer incentives to Xi: White House

Asked whether Biden offered Xi incentives to get China on board with the US effort to end the Russian invasion of Ukraine, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “This was not about carrots.

“This was about laying out what the implications and consequences would be” if Beijing aids Moscow in the war, Psaki told reporters.


Ukrainian specialists repair power line to nuclear power plant: Interfax

Ukrainian specialists have repaired one of the damaged power lines to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, the Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted the national energy company as saying.

Three of the five power lines were damaged or disconnected after Russian troops took over the plant, the largest of its kind in Europe, on March 4.

The International Atomic Energy Agency earlier said Ukraine had told it the line should be working early next week.


White House declines to share details on China ‘consequences’

The White House has declined to share details about the “implications and consequences” that it said Biden warned Xi of if China comes to Russia’s aid in Ukraine.

“We feel it’s the most constructive way to engage and have a constructive dialogue,” the White House’s Jen Psaki said when asked about the Biden administration’s unwillingness to reveal more specifics from the call.


More than 9,100 people evacuated from Ukrainian cities on Friday: Ukrainian official

A total of 9,145 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Friday, a senior Ukrainian official has said, considerably more than managed to escape a day earlier.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said in an online post that 4,972 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol.

A total of 3,810 people were able to leave cities across the country on Thursday.


Russia slams Council of Europe as ‘Russophobic’

A spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry has accused the Council of Europe, which expelled Moscow from its ranks earlier this week, of being a “Russophobic” instrument serving Western interests.

“Due to the Westerners’ Russophobic activity”, the Council of Europe is losing its reason for being, Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

“By placing the service of the bloc’s interests above its own statutory objectives, the Council of Europe has been turned into an obedient instrument of the European Union, NATO and their satellites,” she added.


‘We cannot cope’: Poland struggles to meet Ukraine refugees’ needs

In four weeks of war, millions of people have left battle-scarred Ukraine, with the majority crossing into Poland.

As each day passes, thousands more people arrive by train, seeking shelter in the main Polish cities of Warsaw, Krakow and Wroclaw.

But while Poland’s government and civil society groups have welcomed the newcomers with open arms, space is quickly running out. Read more here.


Russia reaches deal with Belarus to provide critical food: Report

Russia has reached an agreement with Belarus to supply critical foodstuffs if necessary, including durum wheat and vegetable oil, as part of a push to offset Western sanctions, the official Belarus Belta news agency said.

The neighbours are also close to an agreement on pricing for energy, Belta added, without providing additional details.

The two nations had agreed on March 11 to take joint steps for mutual support, including on energy prices.


Is Russia’s war in Ukraine stalled?

The war in Ukraine, which Russia hoped would be over within days, is now into its fourth week.

Despite battleground setbacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin shows little sign of relenting.

What is the Kremlin’s military strategy and can its objectives be achieved?


Biden warns Xi of ‘consequences’ should China back Russia

US President Joe Biden has warned Chinese President Xi Jinping of “implications and consequences” should Beijing provide material support to Moscow in the war in Ukraine, the White House said.

The two leaders spoke in a video call amid US concerns that China may come to Russia’s aid – either by giving military equipment or bypassing Western sanctions – in its increasingly brutal offensive in Ukraine.

State broadcaster CCTV reported that Xi said during the call that “state-to-state relations cannot go to the stage of military hostilities”. Read more on the Biden-Xi talks here.


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

Read all the updates from Friday, March 18 here.

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