Russia announces ceasefire in Mariupol to evacuate civilians

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Western nations should not lift sanctions on Moscow until all Russian troops leave Ukraine.
  • President Vladimir Putin has been misled by his advisers about the Russian military’s performance in Ukraine, the White House says.
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vows to fight for “every metre” of Ukrainian territory.
  • More than four million people have fled Ukraine amid Russia’s offensive, according to UN figures.
  • Pentagon says Russia has started to reposition under 20 percent of the forces it had assembled around Kyiv.
  • Peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv to resume online on Friday, Ukrainian negotiator says.
[Al Jazeera]

Here are all the latest updates:

Slovakia expels 35 Russian diplomats

Slovakia has said it decided to expel 35 Russian diplomats based on information provided by intelligence services.

The move comes a day after fellow EU countries Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland and the Czech Republic announced the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats suspected of spying. Other countries, including the United States and Poland, had earlier also expelled Russian diplomats.

“We regret that following the previous expulsions of Russian diplomats in the last couple of years, the Russian diplomatic mission has not shown any interest in operating correctly in Slovakia,” foreign ministry spokesman Juraj Tomaga told the AFP news agency.

Peace talks to resume online on Friday, says Ukrainian negotiator

Russia and Ukraine will resume peace talks online on April 1, a senior Ukrainian official has said.

Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamia said in an online post that Ukraine had proposed a meeting between the countries’ leaders, but Russia responded by saying more work needed to be done on a draft treaty. The latest round of negotiations were held in Turkey this week.

UK spy chief says Russian soldiers refused to carry out orders

The head of the UK’s spy agency has said new intelligence shows that some Russian soldiers in Ukraine had refused to carry out orders.

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) chief Jeremy Fleming said there was evidence that Russian soldiers had low morale and were poorly equipped.

“We’ve seen Russian soldiers – short of weapons and morale – refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft,” Fleming said in a speech in Canberra at the Australian National University, according to a transcript of his remarks.

UK’s Truss to visit India on same day as Russia’s Lavrov

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will visit India on Thursday as part of a “wider diplomatic push” on the war in Ukraine, her office has said, in a trip that coincides with her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov travelling to the country.

India has frustrated Western allies by refusing to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and by buying Russian commodities at a discount.

Britain’s foreign ministry said Truss would underline the “importance of democracies working together to deter aggressors”, adding that she wanted a closer relationship with India to boost security and jobs in both countries.

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy dismisses claims of Russian military scaleback

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he does not trust Russian vows to scale back military activity and that the Ukrainian military was getting ready for further fighting in the country’s east.

“We don’t believe anyone, not a single beautiful phrase,” Zelenskyy said in a video address to the nation, adding that Russian troops were regrouping to strike the eastern Donbas region. “We will not give anything away. We will fight for every metre of our territory.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy makes a speech on evaluation the 22nd day of the Russia-Ukraine war during virtually addressing in Kyiv.
‘We will fight for every metre of our territory,’ Zelenskyy says [File: Ukrainian Presidency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

‘Promises cannot be believed from the Russian side,’ analyst says

Evacuations and other humanitarian interventions in Ukraine are “very difficult” because Russian promises cannot be believed, global affairs analyst Michael Bociurkiw has told Al Jazeera.

Bociurkiw, a former spokesman for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Ukraine, was speaking after Russia announced it would implement a ceasefire on Thursday to allow for civilian evacuations from the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

“Where we are right now in Ukraine is that the Russian promises have no validity whatsoever because they’ve been violated so many times,” he said.

“So anyone from the Red Cross or the Ukrainian government … has a very difficult time planning any type of intervention, evacuation, [or] humanitarian delivery because promises cannot be believed from the Russian side.”

Russia announces ceasefire in Mariupol to evacuate civilians

The Russian defence ministry has announced a local ceasefire to allow civilians to be evacuated from Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol.

A humanitarian corridor from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, via the Russian-controlled port of Berdiansk, would be opened from 10am (0700 GMT) on Thursday, the ministry said.

“For this humanitarian operation to succeed, we propose to carry it out with the direct participation of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross,” the ministry statement said.

The Russian ministry asked Kyiv to guarantee the “unconditional respect” for the ceasefire through written notification to the Russian side, the UNHCR and ICRC before 6am (0300 GMT) Thursday.

A resident pushes a wheelbarrow in front of a destroyed building in Mariupol
A humanitarian corridor from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, via the Russian-controlled port of Berdiansk, would be opened on Thursday, Moscow says [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Sanctions should remain until all Russian troops withdraw: UK’s Johnson

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Western nations should not lift sanctions on Russia until all of Moscow’s troops leave Ukraine.

“I certainly don’t think that you could expect the G7 to lift sanctions simply because there’s been a ceasefire in Ukraine, and that again goes straight into Putin’s playbook,” Johnson said.

“In my view, we should continue to intensify sanctions with a rolling programme until every single one of his troops is out of Ukraine.”

Invasion ‘strategic blunder’ for Russia, White House says

The White House communications director has described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “strategic blunder”.

“It is increasingly clear that Putin’s war has been a strategic blunder that has left Russia weaker over the long term and increasingly isolated on the world stage,” Kate Bedingfield told reporters during a news briefing.

Russia repositioning under 20 percent of its forces around Kyiv: Pentagon

Russia has started to reposition under 20 percent of its forces around Kyiv, the Pentagon has said, cautioning that Moscow was expected to refit and resupply them for redeployment but not bring the forces home.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said some of the Russian forces may have already moved into Belarus, as opposed to their home garrisons.

Kirby also said during a news briefing that Russian private military company Wagner Group had deployed about 1,000 contractors into Ukraine’s Donbas region, which Moscow has declared a priority in its offensive.

Gas supply: What will happen if Russia turns off taps to Germany?

The German government has triggered the first stage of an emergency plan for natural gas supplies and urged consumers to save energy in the face of growing concerns that sanctions-hit Russia could stop deliveries unless it is paid in roubles.

Putin announced last week his country would only accept payments in roubles for natural gas deliveries to “unfriendly countries” – those that have imposed sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, including all European Union members.

Click here for more on Germany’s decision.

White House says Putin misled by advisers on Ukraine war

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been misled by his advisers about the Russian military’s performance in Ukraine, the White House has said.

“We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military, which has resulted in persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership,” Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director, told reporters during a news briefing.

“We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy has been crippled by sanctions because his senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth.”

Read more here.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a cabinet meeting via videoconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia.
‘We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military,’ White House says [File: Mikhail Klimentyev/ Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read all the updates from Wednesday, March 30 here.

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