Ukraine war a ‘strategic failure’ for Russia, Biden says

  • US President Joe Biden says Russia’s war in Ukraine has been a “strategic failure” for Moscow and that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power”.
  • The Kremlin slams comments, saying it is up to Russians to choose their president.
  • Russian forces capture Ukraine’s Slavutych, where workers at the Chernobyl nuclear plant live, and three people have been killed, the mayor said.
  • Russian forces have fired at a nuclear research reactor in the eastern city of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian parliament claims.
  • Five people have been wounded in missile attacks on Lviv, western Ukraine.

Here are all the latest updates:

Musicians perform for Kharkiv residents in bomb shelter

Musicians in Ukraine have performed a classical concert in Kharkiv’s subway on Saturday, the same day that the city would have hosted the Kharkiv Music Fest if not for the Russian invasion.

Three violinists, a cellist and a bass player delighted an audience of a few dozen people for half an hour, including with an extract from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No 3 as well as Dvorak’s humoresques.

“Amid the darkness surrounding us now, it’s extremely important to show that there are eternal values and future in our country, that our country is melodious, beautiful, intellectual and will overcome all these difficulties,” said Sergiy Politutchy, director of Kharkiv Music Fest.

UK seizes two jets belonging to Russian billionaire

The United Kingdom has seized two jet aircraft belonging to Russian billionaire Eugene Shvidler, who was sanctioned for his links to the Kremlin following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Treasury Secretary Grant Shapps said that the two aircraft would be detained “indefinitely” after a three-week investigation that had already grounded the planes. The Times of London described the aircraft as a $45m Bombardier Global 6500 and a $13m Cessna Citation Latitude.

“Putin’s friends who made millions out of his regime will not enjoy luxuries whilst innocent people die,” Shapps said on Twitter.

Opposition leader says Belarus people ‘stand firmly’ with Ukraine

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the opposition leader of Belarus, has told US President Joe Biden during a phone call that the people of her country “stand firmly with the people of Ukraine”.

Belarus, a Russian ally, has been accused of aiding Putin’s war effort by serving as a launching pad for Russian missiles.

Ukraine says its forces retake Trostianets in Sumy

A Ukrainian military unit says it has “liberated” the town of Trostianets in the eastern Sumy region from Russian forces.

The 93rd Independent Kholodnyi Yar Mechanised Brigade made the announcement on Facebook.

The Kyiv Independent, a Ukrainian news website, said Russian forces had captured Trostianets on March 1.

Is the war in Ukraine driving up arms sales in Europe?

Since the end of World War II, there has been relative peace across much of Europe. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has alerted the continent that its stability is not guaranteed.

Many European countries are now reassessing their defence policies and there have even been calls for a European Union army.

Watch the latest episode of Counting the Cost to find out how the war in Ukraine is affecting arms sales in Europe.

Tens of thousands rally in London in support of Ukraine

Tens of thousands of people have gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square to express solidarity with Ukraine and protest Russia’s invasion of the country.

The rally, dubbed “London Stands with Ukraine”, was organised by the mayor of the British capital, Sadiq Khan.

Demonstrators take part in the 'London stands with Ukraine' solidarity march, called by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, in London, Saturday, March 26, 2022.
Demonstrators take part in the ‘London stands with Ukraine’ solidarity march, called by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, in London, UK, on March 26, 2022 [David Cliff/ AP]

Man detained at site of Lviv rocket attacks

The governor of the Lviv region says a man was detained on suspicion of espionage at the site of one of the two rocket attacks that rattled the city on Saturday.

Maksym Kozytskyy said police found the man had recorded a rocket flying towards the target and striking it.

Police also found photos of checkpoints in the region on his telephone, which Kozytskyy said had been sent to two Russian telephone numbers.

Rockets hit an oil storage facility and an unspecified industrial facility, wounding at least five people. A thick plume of smoke and towering flames could be seen on Lviv’s outskirts hours after the attacks.

Zelenskyy demands Western nations give Ukraine arms

Ukraine’s president has criticised the United States and Western nations for hesitating on supplying his country with fighter jets, saying “ping-pong” continued in discussions on who should deliver fighter planes and other defence weapons.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine could not defend itself against missiles without proper weapons and could not liberate besieged Mariupol without tanks and combat jets.

Ukraine needed just 1 percent of NATO’s aircraft and 1 percent of its tanks and would not ask for more, he said.

“We’ve already been waiting 31 days. Who is in charge of the Euro-Atlantic community? Is it really still Moscow, because of intimidation?” he said.

Russian claims of focus on Donbas belied by widespread offensive: Analyst

Mattia Nelles, a political analyst focusing on Ukraine, told Al Jazeera that many Ukrainians do not trust Russia’s claims that it will now focus on ‘liberating’ the eastern Donbas region.

“Russia continues to pound Ukrainian cities, so the announcement [that it will] focus on Donbas might be an acknowledgement that they are unable, at least for now, to take control of the capital and decapitate the country’s government. But they might also be buying time to regroup and attack later,” Nelles said, speaking from Dusseldorf in Germany.

“But the point is, the Russian war of annihilation continues unabated – we see the pounding of Mariupol and other cities being hit, and civilians continue to suffer all across the country.”

UK says Russian sanctions could be lifted with Ukraine withdrawal

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss has said sanctions imposed on Russian individuals and companies could be lifted if Russia withdraws from Ukraine.

“Those sanctions should only come off with a full ceasefire and withdrawal, but also commitments that there will be no further aggression. And also, there’s the opportunity to have snapback sanctions if there is further aggression in future. That is a real lever that I think can be used,” she said in an interview with the Telegraph newspaper.

The UK government says it has so far imposed sanctions on banks with total assets of 500 billion pounds ($659bn), as well as oligarchs and family members with a net worth of more than 150 billion pounds ($198bn).

Zurich Insurance removes Z symbol over Ukraine war

Zurich Insurance has removed its Z logo from social media after the letter became a symbol of support in Russia for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The company said it was removing the logo – a white Z on a blue background – because it did not want to be misunderstood as supporting Russia in the conflict.

“We are temporarily removing the use of the letter ‘Z’ from social channels where it appears in isolation and could be misinterpreted,” the company told the Reuters news agency in a statement. “We’re monitoring the situation closely and will take further actions if and when required.”

Russian forces firing at Kharkiv’s nuclear research facility: Ukrainian parliament

Russian forces are firing at a nuclear research facility in the city of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian parliament said in a Twitter post.

“It is currently impossible to estimate the extent of damage due to hostilities that do not stop in the area of the nuclear installation,” the post quoted the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate as saying.

The inspectorate’s website did not contain any news about the attack.

Earlier this month, the grounds of the Institute of Physics and Technology were hit by Russian shells. At the time, the facility’s director-general said the core housing nuclear fuel remained intact.

Three killed as Russian forces capture Chernobyl workers’ town: Mayor

Russian troops have taken control of Ukraine’s Slavutych, where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live, and three people have been killed, Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted the local mayor as saying.

The town sits just outside a safety exclusion zone around Chernobyl – the site of the world’s worst nuclear plant disaster in 1986 – where Ukrainian staff have continued to manage the site even after the territory was occupied by Russian forces soon after the start of the February 24 invasion.

“Slavutych has been under occupation since today. We steadfastly defended our city … three deaths have been confirmed so far,” Interfax quoted Mayor Yuri Fomichev as saying in a Facebook post.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement that it was closely monitoring the situation and expressed concern about the ability of staff to rotate in and out of the atomic power station.

Ukraine says 5,208 people were evacuated from cities on Saturday

A total of 5,208 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Saturday, a senior official said, fewer than the 7,331 who managed to escape the previous day.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said in an online post that 4,331 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol.

US to provide $100m in civilian security assistance to Ukraine

The United States intends to provide Ukraine with an additional $100m in civilian security assistance, the State Department said on Saturday.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the assistance would be to build the capacity of the Ukrainian ministry of internal affairs with a view to aid “border security, sustain civil law enforcement functions, and safeguard critical governmental infrastructure”.

Russian economy could halve in size due to Western sanctions, Biden says

Tough Western sanctions on Moscow will lead to the size of the Russian economy being “cut in half” over the next few years, according to President Biden.

Whereas before its invasion of Ukraine Russia was the world’s eleventh-largest economy, soon Russia would barely be among the 20 largest, Biden said in Warsaw at the end of a two-day visit to Poland.

“As a result of these unprecedented sanctions, the rouble was almost immediately reduced to rubble,” Biden said, referring to the dramatic devaluation of the Russian national currency. “The economy is on track to be cut in half,” he added.

Kremlin says it’s not for Biden to say if Putin stays in power

The Kremlin dismissed a remark by Biden that Putin “cannot remain in power”, saying it was up to Russians to choose their own president.

Asked about Biden’s comment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters news agency: “That’s not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians.”

A White House official said Biden had not been calling for “regime change” in Russia but his point was that “Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbours or the region.”

Read more here.

Ukraine war ‘strategic failure’ for Moscow, Biden says

US President Joe Biden has called Russia’s war in Ukraine a “strategic failure” for Moscow.

“Notwithstanding the brutality of Vladimir Putin, let there be no doubt that this war has already been a strategic failure for Russia,” Biden said in a speech in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, Ukraine’s neighbour directly to the west.

“Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, for free people [have] refused to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness. We will have a different future, a brighter future rooted in democracy and principle, hope and light, of decency and dignity of freedom and possibilities,” he added.

“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” he said.

US President Joe Biden speaks during an event in Warsaw, Poland
Biden speaks in Warsaw, Poland [Slawomir Kaminski /Agencja Wyborcza via Reuters]

Read all the updates from Saturday, March 26 here.

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