Rescuers search Mariupol theater rubble as ‘shelling continues’

  • The United Nations has recorded the deaths of 726 civilians, including 52 children, in Ukraine.
  • UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo says the death toll is “likely much higher”.
  • Ukraine says 3,810 people were evacuated from cities on Thursday, including about 2,000 who left the besieged city of Mariupol.
  • The UN Security Council holds a meeting to discuss the situation in Ukraine.
  • United States President Joe Biden is expected to warn Chinese President Xi Jinping in a phone call on Friday against supporting Russia in the war.
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accuses Russia of committing “war crimes”.
  • The World Health Organization has said it verified 43 attacks on Ukraine healthcare facilities.

Here are the latest updates:

Huge fire at Kharkiv market; rescue worker reported dead

Russian shelling has caused a fire at Kharkiv’s Barabashovo market, among the largest in Eastern Europe, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster, Suspilne.

Within five hours, the fire “engulfed almost the entire area” and spread to private homes nearby, it said.

“As emergency workers were extinguishing the fire, Russian troops struck the market again with missiles: one rescuer was killed and another was hospitalized with multiple injuries,” it added.

Rescuers searching Mariupol theater rubble amid shelling

Mariupol city council says rescuers are continuing to clear rubble at the bombed Drama Theater and search for survivors despite “continuous shelling”.

It said information about the victims “is still being clarified”.

More than a day after the air raid, there are no reports of deaths, and it is not clear how many people had emerged from the rubble.

One woman who said she had been preparing food for the people sheltering in the theater said nearly 800 civilians were in the building when it was hit.

“I’d say only a hundred or so managed to disperse,” she said in a video circulated by Ukraine’s far-right Azov Battalion. The rest “are likely under rubble because there were a lot of people in the basement under the stage. And it’s the stage that got hit”.

Russian forces accused of dropping 50-100 bombs on Mariupol everyday

Authorities in besieged Mariupol say Russian forces are dropping 50-100 bombs on the city everyday, causing “enormous destruction”.

The Mariupol council, in a Telegram post, said the situation in the city is “critical” and that preliminary estimates show that about 80 percent of the city’s residential buildings have been destroyed.

Ukraine urges FATF to blacklist Russia

Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister, has called on member-states of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global financial crimes watchdog, to exclude Russia from the consortium.

Kuleba said member-states must also designate Russia on “FATF’s blacklist without delay”.

Zelenskyy thanks Italy for offer to rebuild Mariupol theatre

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy has thanked the Italian government for offering to rebuild the theatre in the southern city of Mariupol that Kyiv says was bombed by Russian forces.

Italy’s Culture Minister Dario Franceschini had said his country is ready to reconstruct the building, adding that “theaters of all countries belong to the whole [of] humanity”.

“You set a good example to follow. Together we will rebuild the country to the last brick,” Zelenskyy responded on Twitter.

A no-fly zone is a ‘military operation’, analyst says

A US-enforced no-fly zone over Ukraine would effectively be a “military operation” that risks escalating the conflict, Alyssa Demus, a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation think-tank, has said.

“In theory, it sounds like a good idea,” Demus told Al Jazeera. “But then when you get into the nitty-gritty of what a no-fly zone means in practice, it really is a military operation. So I think Russia would perceive that as a pretty significant escalation, and they’re a nuclear state.”

Former Russian foreign minister condemns Kremlin’s diplomats

A former Russian foreign minister who served under Boris Yeltsin has condemned the Kremlin’s diplomats, calling their conduct during the country’s invasion of Ukraine “disgusting”.

Speaking to United Kingdom broadcaster Sky, Andrei Kozyrev said that Russian diplomats should resign, accusing them of having “disgraced themselves” by defending the invasion.

“They just spread the propaganda, and it’s not for decent diplomats to spread propaganda,” he said.

“They’ve disgraced themselves and listening to them or kind of negotiating with them under the circumstances is just a waste of time and waste of your own self-respect,” Kozyrev added.

UN Security Council meeting concludes

The UN Security Council meeting that discussed the situation in Ukraine has adjourned. Representatives of Ukraine, the US and the UK, among others, accused Russia of targeting civilian areas and medical facilities in Ukrainian towns and cities.

Moscow’s envoy dismissed reports of Russian atrocities as “propaganda”.

US pushing China to pressure Russia to end war: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan has said the Biden administration is ramping up its public pressure campaign on China, urging the country to exert influence on Putin to end the invasion.

So far, China has taken what it describes as a neutral stance on the war, as it largely shies away from intervening in the affairs of other nations, Jordan reported from Washington.

“They have this ‘don’t meddle’ policy,” she said. “But the US is trying to pressure Beijing into actually taking a stand – not just a legal stand, but a moral stand, as well.”

5,000 children born into Ukraine conflict: UNICEF official

A spokesperson for the UN’s child agency, UNICEF, has said at least 5,000 children have been born into the conflict raging in Ukraine.

“Each one of these [children] is an individual story, it’s a child who’s had their life turned upside down. It’s a family who have had their family torn apart,” Joe English told Al Jazeera from the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

“The children of Ukraine need peace urgently and they need it now,” English added.

Why Security Council will not vote on Russia’s ‘humanitarian’ draft resolution

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from the UN, said Ukraine’s ambassador delivered “an impassioned response” at the Security Council to Russia’s denial that it is the aggressor in the conflict.

Russia had put forward a humanitarian resolution that was expected to come up for a vote on Friday, Saloomey explained, but Moscow said it would no longer bring that measure to a vote.

“It was clear the US was not going to back that without wording in that resolution acknowledging that the reason for the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding there is the Russians’ aggression,” she said.

Friday’s meeting will still take place, she said, but the focus will be on Russia’s allegation of US-backed biological laboratories in Ukraine – a claim the US, Ukraine and other allies have rejected.

Zelenskyy says he spoke to Macron, focused on ‘peaceful dialogue’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he spoke with France’s Emmanuel Macron, and the two leaders emphasised the “continuation of peaceful dialogue”.

“We must strengthen the anti-war coalition,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter.

Ukraine says 3,810 people evacuated from cities: Interfax agency

A total of 3,810 people have been evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Thursday, the Interfax Ukraine news agency cited a senior official as saying, a far smaller number than on Wednesday.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told a briefing that approximately 2,000 people managed to leave the besieged city of Mariupol. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said more than 60,000 people had been evacuated on Wednesday.

Moscow rejects reports of Russian atrocities as ‘propaganda’

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya has rejected reports of atrocities in Ukraine as “propaganda”.

Nebenzya described allegations that Russia is targeting hospitals and residential areas, including recent accusations that Russian forces bombed a theatre sheltering civilians in the besieged southern city of Mariupol, as “fakes”.

“The hyped-up campaign of lies and disinformation in Ukraine is reaching new and new heights,” Nebenzya told the Security Council.

US Congress moves to revoke Russia’s ‘most favoured nation’ trade status

The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved legislation to revoke Russia’s “most favoured nation” trading status, bringing the US closer to imposing higher tariffs and restrictions on Russian imports.

The House’s 428-8 vote sends the bill, requested by President Joe Biden, to the Senate for likely approval as soon as next week.

The bill also would allow Biden to impose more penalties on Russian officials under the US’s Global Magnitsky Sanctions law.

‘War is causing suffering well beyond Ukraine’s borders,’ says UK envoy

British Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward has called on Russia to end the war, saying that the conflict is causing suffering worldwide, not just in Ukraine.

“President Putin’s war is causing suffering well beyond Ukraine’s borders,” Woodward told the UN Security Council.

“Thousands of students – many from nations around this table – have been caught up in the violence. The war is spiking food and energy prices, bringing further pain to countries in the developing world already suffering from the impact of COVID and famine and conflict and climate. Millions of refugees have been taken in by countries across Europe.”

UN Security Council
UK’s Woodward (left) says the war’s effects are being felt across the world [David ‘Dee’ Delgado/Reuters]

More than 700 civilians killed so far in Ukraine, UN says

More than 700 civilians – including 52 children – have been killed in Ukraine since Russia invaded but the “actual number is likely much higher”, UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo told the Security Council.

“Hundreds of residential buildings have been damaged or destroyed, as have hospitals and schools,” DiCarlo said.

She added that the UN human rights agency has recorded 726 deaths, as well as 1,174 people injured, including 63 children, between February 24 and March 15. DiCarlo did not specify who was to blame. “This demands a thorough investigation and accountability,” she said.

US envoy to UN calls on Putin to ‘end this madness’

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US envoy to the UN, has said the only way to end the war is for Putin to stop the invasion and withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine.

“There’s only one way, one way to end this madness,” Thomas-Greenfield told the UN Security Council.

“President Putin, stop the killing; withdraw your forces; leave Ukraine once and for all.”

12 dead in dozens of attacks on Ukrainian health care: WHO

The World Health Organization has verified 43 attacks on health care in Ukraine, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the UN Security Council.

The attacks have resulted in the deaths of 12 people and injured dozens more.

“In any conflict, attacks on health care are a violation of international humanitarian law,” Tedros told the 15-member council, without specifying who was to blame for the attacks.

Canada unveils new pathway to temporary residency for Ukrainians

Canada has unveiled details of a new immigration scheme that will allow Ukrainians to stay in the country for up to three years as temporary residents.

The government said overseas applicants must apply for a Canadian visitor visa online and provide fingerprints and a photo, and it also encouraged applicants to apply for a three-year work permit at the same time.

Ukrainian workers, students and visitors and their relatives already in Canada can also apply to extend their stay for up to three years, Ottawa said.

INTERACTIVE_RefugeesDAY22 - March17_ 3 million
(Al Jazeera)

Blinken accuses Russia of committing ‘war crimes’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine, echoing Biden, who on Wednesday called Putin a “war criminal”.

“Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime. After all the destruction of the past three weeks I find it difficult to conclude that the Russians are doing otherwise,” Blinken told reporters.

Still, Blinken said US State Department experts are in the process of documenting and evaluating potential war crimes to help international efforts towards accountability.

Read more here.

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

Read all the updates from Thursday, March 17 here.

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