Ukraine forces take key Kyiv suburb as Russia peace talks resume

  • President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukrainian forces have retaken Irpin, a key town outside the capital, Kyiv.
  • Negotiators from Kyiv and Moscow are set to meet for face-to-face talks in Turkey’s Istanbul.
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says Kyiv’s most ambitious goal at the talks is a ceasefire agreement.
  • US President Joe Biden says he was expressing his outrage, not a policy shift, when he said Russia’s Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power“.
  • Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper suspends activities amid Moscow’s intensifying crackdown on critical reporting of the war.


Here are all the latest updates:

Russia warns Poland to stay out of Ukraine war

Poland has become vital in the Western effort to defend Ukraine, with some of the fighting getting close to its border.

Last week, Russian forces targeted the western Ukrainian city of Lviv – near the Polish border, just as the US president was visiting Poland. The situation has forced NATO to decide on how to respond to such incidents inside the borders of its member states.

So, is there a risk of a conflict spillover?

Russia still poses significant threat to Kyiv: UK military

Russia poses significant threat to Kyiv through their strike capability even though Ukrainian forces continue localised counter attacks to the north west of the city, according to British military intelligence.

Russian forces have maintained their offensive on Mariupol with continuous heavy shelling of the city, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

“However the centre of the city remains under Ukrainian control.”

Elsewhere, Russian forces are maintaining blocking positions while attempting to reorganise and reset their forces, it added.

Russia-Ukraine talks will take place at Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace: Report

Ukraine’s state-run Ukrinform news agency says talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators will take place at Istanbul’s Dolmabahce Palace on Tuesday.

The discussions will begin at 10:30am local time (07:30 GMT), it said.

Before they sit down, the negotiators are expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the agency added.

Russia no longer demanding Ukraine be ‘de-Nazified’: Report

The Financial Times says Russia is no longer requesting Ukraine be “de-Nazified” and is prepared to let Kyiv join the EU if it remains militarily non-aligned as part of ceasefire ngotiations.

Citing four people briefed on the talks, the FT said the draft ceasefire deal does not contain any discussion of three of Russia’s initial core demands – “de-Nazification”, “demilitarisation” and legal protection for the Russian language in Ukraine.

Asia complying with Russia export controls: US

A senior US official says Washington has not seen any indications of non-compliance in Asia with export controls on Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine.

“The restrictions have been in place for roughly a month, a little bit over a month, and we certainly haven’t seen any indication that there’s non-compliance, in fact we’ve seen the reverse,” said Matthew Borman, a deputy assistant secretary at the commerce department.

“I think there’s also a fair amount of additional self-sanctioning, if you will, by multinational companies operating in Russia,” he added.

Major players know there is a significant risk to their business if they don’t comply because of actions the US could take, including fines or criminal penalties, Borman said.

“We know that Russia is quite dependent upon foreign supplies for some key inputs like semiconductors so I think it will be relatively readily apparent if there is non-compliance and the task will be to trace that back to its origin.”

France delivers fire and rescue trucks to Ukraine

France has handed over 27 fire and rescue trucks, as well as 50 tonnes of medical and emergency equipment to Ukraine.

French ambassador Etienne de Poncins posted pictures of the handover on Twitter, saying: “Efficiency and solidarity between France and Ukraine … Mission accomplished.”

Zelenskyy says Ukrainian forces in control of Irpin

Ukraine’s president says Ukrainian forces have retaken the key Kyiv suburb of Irpin, but cautioned that Russian forces still control areas north of the capital.

“The occupiers are pushed away from Irpin and Kyiv. But it’s still too early to talk about safety in this part of our region. Fighting continues,” he said in his nightly video address.

“Russian troops hold the north of Kyiv region under control. They have resources and manpower. They are trying to rebuild destroyed units.”

Ukrainian journalist ‘taken captive’ by Russian forces

A Ukrainian journalist working for the UNIAN news agency has been taken captive by Russian forces, according to his colleague.

Dmytro Khyliuk went missing in early March and is being held in a town outside Kyiv, his colleague Natalia Boguta said in a Facebook post.

Banksy artwork sold to raise funds for Kyiv children’s hospital

An anonymous donor has raised $106,505 for a children’s hospital in Kyiv by auctioning a piece of anti-war artwork by Banksy.

The Okhmatdyt hospital is Ukraine’s biggest children’s hospital and treats critically ill patients, according to The Kyiv Independent, a Ukrainian news outlet.

Russia won’t supply gas to Europe for free: Kremlin

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, says Russia is yet to take a final decision on how to respond should European countries refuse to pay for Russian gas exports in roubles, but warned that Moscow will not supply fuel to the continent for free.

Peskov’s warning came after G7 nations rejected Russia’s demand that “unfriendly” countries pay for Russian oil and gas in roubles, not euros.

“We are not going to supply gas for free, this is clear,” Peskov said. “It is hardly possible and reasonable to engage in charity in our situation.”

Japan will ask firms not to pay in roubles for Russia transactions

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno says that Japanese companies will be requested to refuse if Russia asks for rouble payments for economic transactions, especially in the energy sector.

Russia demanded last week that “unfriendly” countries must pay in roubles, not euros, for its gas in the wake of the US and European allies teaming up on a series of sanctions aimed at Moscow.

Japan to ban luxury goods exports to Russia

Japan’s trade ministry says it will ban the export of luxury goods to Russia effective on April 5 over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Banned items include luxury cars, motorcycles, liquors, cosmetics, fashion items and art pieces, the ministry said.

Macron and Putin to speak again on Tuesday

French President Emmanuel Macron is planning to once again speak with his Russian counterpart on Tuesday, the Russian TASS news agency reported.

Macron expects to discuss with Putin the details of a planned humanitarian operation aimed at evacuating civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol, TASS quoted a spokesman for the French leader as saying.

Amnesty accuses Russia of war crimes in Mariupol

Amnesty International is accusing Russia of committing war crimes in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

“The siege of Mariupol, the denial of humanitarian evacuation and humanitarian escape for the population, and the targeting of civilians, according to Amnesty International’s investigation, amounts to war crimes,” said the group’s Secretary General Agnes Callamard.

“The crisis in Ukraine right now, the invasion … is not just any kind of violation of international law,” she said. “It is an aggression. It is a violation of the UN charter of the kind that we saw when the US invaded Iraq.”

Prospects for a ceasefire in Ukraine remain slim: Analyst

William Courtney, a former US ambassador to Georgia, says he sees no sign of Russian willingness to negotiate a ceasefire in Ukraine.

“Russia is worried that there’s not a perception of sufficient Russian bargaining strength. The international media are portraying Ukraine as holding off Russian forces. Some say Russia has begun to lose the war,” he told Al Jazeera.

“So Russia seems to now want to concentrate its forces in eastern Ukraine, where it has greater relative advantage and probably to try to get a victory somewhere to strengthen its hand in the negotiations. We’ve seen no sign on the battlefield that Russia is beginning to pull out troops, which might signify that it is willing to negotiate an agreement.

“For example, on this issue, Russia is still trying to pursue victory in all of Ukraine. It hasn’t given up on seizing Kyiv, and that had been its main aim up to now.”

Pentagon may need more funding to help Ukraine

Pentagon leaders say they may have to ask the US Congress for additional money to support Ukraine’s battle against Russia’s invasion, including to replenish the arsenal for weapons sent to Kyiv.

Rolling out the defence department’s $773bn request for fiscal year 2023, Pentagon leaders said the budget was finalised before the invasion so it has no specific money for the war.

Congress approved a $13.5bn emergency funding package in early March.

The leaders said it was too early to predict how quickly Ukrainian forces will use up the weapons and ammunition already being provided, and how much the US will need to replace what it sends to Ukraine, such as Stinger and Javelin missiles or body armour and other equipment.

Fire at Lutsk oil depot extinguished

Ukrainian firefighters have brought a blazing fire at an oil depot in the far northwestern region of Volyn under control.

The site was hit by a Russian rocket attack late on Sunday, which set multiple storage tanks on fire.

Video released by Ukraine’s emergency services showed firefighters battling to contain the devastating inferno.

The mayor of Lutsk on Monday said that the oil stored at the depot burned out and that the site’s structures had been seriously damaged.

Lutsk is the capital of the Volyn region and is located about 120km (75 miles) north of Lviv.

Zelenskyy urges Russian oil embargo without delay

Ukraine’s president has urged Western nations to toughen sanctions against Russia, including imposing an embargo on Russian oil.

“A full-scale war has begun. Now there are many hints and warnings that supposedly tougher sanctions, such as an embargo on Russian oil supplies to Europe, will be put in place if Russia uses chemical weapons,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

“There are simply no words … We, people who are alive, have to wait. Doesn’t everything the Russia military has done to date warrant an oil embargo? Don’t phosphorus bombs warrant it? A shelled chemical production facility or a shelled nuclear power plant doesn’t warrant it?”

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine,
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday night, March 28, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP]

He stressed that sanctions had to be “effective and serious” given Russia’s actions to date.

“If the sanctions packages are weak or do not work strongly enough, if they can be circumvented, it creates a dangerous illusion for the Russian leadership, as if they will be permitted to continue doing what they are doing now,” he said.

“Ukrainians are paying for this with their lives. Thousands of lives.”

US deploys aircraft specialising in electronic warfare to Europe

The Pentagon has said it is deploying six Navy aircraft that specialise in electronic warfare and about 240 Navy personnel to bolster NATO defences in Eastern Europe.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby says the EA-18G Growler aircraft, based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington state, were scheduled to arrive on Monday at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany, where they will be stationed. They are not intended for use in Ukraine, he said.

“The purpose of this deployment is to bolster readiness, enhance NATO’s collective defense posture and further increase air integration capabilities with our allied and partner nations,” Kirby said in a statement.

Russia again says it would only use nuclear weapons in case of existential threat

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has told US broadcaster PBS in an interview that Russia would only resort to nuclear weapons in the case of a “threat to the existence” of the country – and not as a result of the current conflict with Ukraine.

“But any outcome of the operation (in Ukraine), of course is not a reason for usage of a nuclear weapon,” said Peskov, echoing comments he made to CNN last week.

“We have a security concept that very clearly states that only when there is a threat for existence of the state, in our country, we can use and we will actually use nuclear weapons to eliminate the threat for the existence of our country.”

Seven EU countries warn citizens against joining Ukraine conflict

Seven European Union countries have urged their citizens to refrain from joining the military fight against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The appeal was issued by the justice ministers of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg and Belgium.

The ministers “have unanimously discouraged Europeans from joining” the ranks of voluntary combatants heading to the war in Ukraine, they said in a statement published after their meeting in Brussels.

Ukraine delegation lands in Turkey for Russia talks

A Ukrainian delegation has landed in Istanbul, ahead of talks with Russian negotiators aimed at ending the war, Turkey’s private IHA news agency has reported.

The face-to-face talks between the two sides are scheduled to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

UK intelligence says Russia’s Wagner Group deploying to eastern Ukraine

The Russian private military company, the Wagner Group, is deploying fighters to eastern Ukraine, British military intelligence has said.

“They are expected to deploy more than 1,000 mercenaries, including senior leaders of the organisation, to undertake combat operations,” Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.

Last week, the Pentagon warned that the Wagner Group is looking to “increasing their footprint in Ukraine”.

US budget to allocate funds to ‘forcefully respond’ to Putin

Biden has said his proposed annual budget, which includes a rise in military spending, allocates funds to address the crisis in Ukraine.

“This budget provides the resources we need to keep Americans safe, ensuring that our military remains the best prepared, best trained, best-equipped military in the world,” Biden said.

“This budget also provides additional funding to forcefully respond to Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, and its economic, humanitarian and security consequences.”

Biden is proposing $813.3bn in defence spending, up from $777.7bn last year.

Biden does not rule out meeting with Putin

Despite the escalating war of words between the Kremlin and the White House, Biden has not ruled out direct talks with Putin.

Asked on Monday whether he would be willing to hold a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Biden said: “It depends on what he wants to talk about.”

Joe Biden
Biden said on March 26 that Putin ‘cannot remain in power’ [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Ukraine aiming to secure ceasefire at Russia talks: Foreign minister

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said Ukraine’s most ambitious goal at talks with Russia in Turkey this week will be to agree to a ceasefire.

“The minimum programme will be humanitarian questions, and the maximum programme is reaching an agreement on a ceasefire,” he said on national television, when asked about the scope of the latest round of peace negotiations that are expected to kick off on Tuesday.

What would a ‘rupture’ in US-Russia relations mean?

The war in Ukraine has pushed US-Russia ties to the brink, with the Kremlin warning that bilateral relations were nearing “rupture” after President Joe Biden accused his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of being a “war criminal”.

Should relations completely break down, analysts say the ramifications could ripple well beyond any potential ceasefire or peace negotiations in Ukraine to other areas of US-Russian diplomacy, including most notably Iran nuclear talks.

“We are in a situation now where relations are at rock bottom,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based advocacy group. “Russia could try to block an understanding that brings the US and Iran back into compliance.”

Read more here.

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

Read all the updates from Monday, March 28 here.

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