Ukraine latest: In call with Putin, Turkey’s Erdogan stresses need for cease-fire

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference following a NATO summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Mar. 24.    © Reuters

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has entered its second month, with casualties mounting on both sides.

Ukraine’s forces continue to resist, while its President Volodymyr Zelenskyy regularly calls on the world to do more to help. Governments around the globe have imposed heavy sanctions against Moscow, but have stopped short of direct intervention for fear of sparking a wider conflict.

Meanwhile, rising geopolitical risk and volatile energy and financial markets are rocking Asia.

For all our coverage, visit our Ukraine war page.

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Entries include material from wire services and other sources.

Note: Nikkei Asia on March 5 decided to temporarily suspend its reporting from Russia until further information becomes available regarding the scope of the revised criminal code.

Here are the latest developments:

Monday, March 28 (Tokyo time)

3:09 a.m. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tells Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that a cease-fire and better humanitarian conditions are needed. “Stressing the need for the immediate establishment of ceasefire and peace between Russia and Ukraine as well as the amelioration of the humanitarian situation in the region, President Erdogan stated that Turkiye would continue to lend every kind of support regarding the process,” Erdogan’s office says in a Twitter thread about the phone call, using Turkey’s new English rendition of its own name.

Erdogan and Putin agree that the next round of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia will be held in Istanbul.

3:08 a.m. Ukraine is prepared to discuss adopting a neutral status as part of a peace deal with Russia, but it would have to be guaranteed by third parties and put to a referendum, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says in an interview.

Speaking to a group of Russian journalists via video call, Zelenskyy says the invasion caused the destruction of Russian-speaking cities in Ukraine and says the damage exceeded that from the Russian wars in Chechnya.

1:51 a.m. Russia’s communications watchdog tells Russian media not to report on an interview done with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and said it had started a probe into the outlets that had interviewed him.

In a short statement distributed by the watchdog on social media and posted on its website, it says a host of Russian outlets had done an interview with Zelenskyy.

“Roskomnadzor warns the Russian media about the necessity of refraining from publishing this interview,” it says. It does not give a reason for its warning.

Sunday, March 27

9:30 p.m. The U.S. has no strategy of regime change for Russia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken tells reporters in Jerusalem. “I think the president, the White House, made the point last night that, quite simply, President [Vladimir] Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else,” Blinken says.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shake hands during a media statement after their meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, Mar. 27.   © Reuters

“As you know, and as you’ve heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia — or anywhere else, for that matter,” he adds. “In this case, as in any case, it’s up to the people of the country in question. It’s up to the Russian people.”

3:37 p.m. Ukraine and Russia have agreed on two “humanitarian corridors” to evacuate civilians from frontline areas on Sunday local time, including allowing people to leave by private car from the southern city of Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says.

3:52 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden says in Poland that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” in a comment soon walked back by a White House official. “The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region,” the official says. “He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”

Biden’s comments, including an earlier one in which he called Putin a “butcher,” mark a sharp verbal escalation in the American approach to Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Saturday, March 26

8:56 p.m. Ukraine received additional security pledges from the United States on developing defense cooperation, its Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says. “We did receive additional promises from the United States on how our defense cooperation will evolve,” Kuleba tells reporters.

7:06 p.m. More than 100,000 people still need to be evacuated from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says on national television.

6:53 p.m. Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov says that he and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had held a joint meeting with their U.S. counterparts for the first time. “We discuss current issues & cooperation in political and defense directions between Ukraine and the United States,” Reznikov says on Twitter, posting a photograph of the meeting in Warsaw with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

5:54 p.m. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was seen chairing an army meeting and discussing weapons supplies in a video posted by his ministry, the first time he had publicly been shown speaking for more than two weeks. In the video, uploaded on social media, Shoigu said he had discussed issues related to the military budget and defence orders with the finance ministry.

5:25 p.m. Russian forces have taken control of the town of Slavutych, where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live, the governor of Kyiv region Oleksandr Pavlyuk says. In an online statement, Pavlyuk says Russian troops had occupied the hospital in Slavutych and kidnapped the mayor.

3:46 p.m. The war in Ukraine has killed 136 children in the 31 days since the start of the Russian invasion, Ukraine’s office of the prosecutor-general said on Saturday in a message on the Telegram app. Of the total, 64 children have been killed in the Kyiv region, the office said. A further 50 children have died in the Donetsk region, it said. Additionally, 199 children have been wounded.

10:39 a.m. About 300 people were killed in the Russian airstrike last week on a Mariupol theater that was being used as a shelter, Ukrainian authorities say, in what would make it the war’s deadliest known attack on civilians yet. The bloodshed at the theater fueled allegations Moscow is committing war crimes by killing civilians, whether deliberately or by indiscriminate fire.

Service members of pro-Russian troops are seen atop of an armored vehicle with the symbols “Z” painted on its sides in Dokuchaievsk in the Donetsk region, Ukraine.   © Reuters

3:30 a.m. A senior Russian military official says that the first phase of its “special operation” — Moscow’s name for the invasion of Ukraine — has been mostly completed and that the focus is now on the eastern Donbas region.

“The military capacities of Ukraine’s armed forces have been significantly decreased, which allows efforts to be focused on achieving our main aim: liberating Donbas,” Sergei Rudskoy says, referring to a region where Russian-backed separatists have declared themselves “republics.” Ukraine does not recognize their independence.

Russia’s hints at a potential scaling back of its territorial ambitions in Ukraine come amid reports of military setbacks. Russian forces no longer have full control of Kherson, the first major Ukrainian city they captured, The New York Times reports, citing a senior Pentagon official.

U.S. President Joe Biden is welcomed by Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak as he arrives at Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport in Poland.   © Reuters

2:55 a.m. Zelenskyy gives an update on his latest talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

1:30 a.m. The U.S. aims to supply 15 billion cu. meters of liquefied natural gas to the European Union this year to help ease its dependence on Russian energy. Read more

Friday, March 25

11:55 p.m. Ukraine is likely to be on the agenda for a meeting of Quad leaders being planned for April. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the summit host, has reached out to U.S. President Joe Biden on a possible visit to Japan for the talks involving Australia and India.

11:00 p.m. Moscow reacts to talk of excluding Russia from the Group of 20.

Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov says the G-20 format is “important,” but “in the current conditions, as most of the participants in this format are in a state of economic war with us at their own initiative, nothing deadly harmful will happen” if Russia is left out.

Peskov’s comments were reported by Interfax.

10:19 p.m. U.S. President Joe Biden lands in Rzeszow, Poland, to assess humanitarian efforts to help some of the millions of Ukrainian refugees fleeing their country and talk to American troops shoring up NATO’s defenses.

A man looks on from a cultural center destroyed in shelling earlier this month in the village of Byshiv outside Kyiv on March 24.   © Reuters

5:04 p.m. Russia’s armed forces destroyed a major fuel depot outside Kyiv in a missile strike, the country’s defense ministry says. Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the strike happened on Thursday evening, using Kalibr cruise missiles fired from sea. Konashenkov said the depot was used to supply Ukraine’s armed forces in the center of the country.

4:40 p.m. Rescuers were searching for survivors among debris on Friday after two missiles hit a Ukrainian military unit on the outskirts of the city of Dnipro, causing “serious destruction,” regional governor Valentyn Reznychenko said on social media.

Russian ex-President Dmitry Medvedev was quoted as saying on Friday that it is “foolish” to believe Western sanctions could have any effect on the Moscow government.   © Reuters

1:40 p.m. It is “foolish” to believe that Western sanctions against Russian businesses could have any effect on the Moscow government, Russian ex-President and Deputy Head of the country’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev was quoted as saying on Friday. The sanctions will only consolidate Russian society and not cause popular discontent with the authorities, Medvedev told Russia’s RIA news agency in an interview.

“Let us ask ourselves: can any of these major businessmen have even the tiniest quantum of influence of the position of the country’s leadership?” Medvedev said. “I openly tell you: no, no way.”

1:25 p.m. Four Russian officials, including hackers with a government intelligence agency, have been charged with the malicious hacking of critical infrastructure around the globe including the U.S. energy and aviation sectors between 2012 and 2018, the U.S. Justice Department and British Foreign Office say. Among the thousands of computers targeted in some 135 countries were machines at a Kansas nuclear power plant — whose business network was compromised — and at a Saudi petrochemical plant in 2017 where the hackers overrode safety controls, officials say.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukrainians “need to achieve peace” and halt the Russian bombardment that has forced millions to flee to countries like Poland. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters)

10:30 a.m. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that Ukrainians “need to achieve peace” and halt the Russian bombardment that has forced millions to flee to countries like Poland, where U.S. President Joe Biden is due to visit and witness the crisis first hand. Appearing exhausted in a brief video address early on Friday, Zelenskyy said he had made appeals to Western leaders “all for one reason — so that Russia understands that we need to achieve peace. Russia also needs to achieve peace.”

6:10 a.m. The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approves a resolution blaming Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and urging an immediate cease-fire and protection for millions of civilians and the homes, schools and hospitals critical to their survival. There was loud applause in the assembly chamber as the result of the vote was announced: 140-5 with only Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea joining Russia in opposing the measure. There were 38 abstentions, including Russian ally China, India, South Africa, Iran and Cuba.

4:40 a.m. “The Russian invasion of Ukraine has put an end to the globalization we have experienced over the last three decades,” BlackRock CEO Larry Fink writes in his annual letter to shareholders of the world’s largest asset manager.

Fink predicts “companies and governments will also be looking more broadly at their dependencies on other nations. This may lead companies to onshore or nearshore more of their operations, resulting in a faster pull back from some countries.” Read more.

Russian President Vladimir Putin. U.S. President Joe Biden said he thinks Russia should be excluded from the G-20.   © Reuters

3:30 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden says he thinks Russia should be removed from the Group of 20, or if that fails, Ukraine should be allowed to participate in meetings. Biden acknowledges that such a decision “depends on the G-20.” This year’s G-20 president, Indonesia, has indicated it plans to let Russia stay in the grouping.

2:49 a.m. China understands its economic future is more closely tied to the West than to Russia, U.S. President Joe Biden says on the sidelines of emergency meetings in Europe, after warning Beijing it could face consequences for aiding Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

“I made no threats, but I made it clear to him — made sure he understood the consequences of helping Russia,” Biden said of a recent conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A service member of pro-Russian troops walks past a truck painted with the letter “Z” in the separatist-controlled Donetsk region on March 1.   © Reuters

1:12 a.m. Leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations warn Russia not to use biological, chemical or nuclear weapons in its war with Ukraine, in their statement after summit talks in Brussels. All countries are ready to welcome refugees from Ukraine, they say.

12:40 a.m. The 193-member U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly demands aid access and civilian protection in Ukraine and criticizes Russia for creating a “dire” humanitarian situation with its invasion a month ago.

The resolution, drafted by Ukraine and allies, received 140 votes in favor and 5 votes against — Russia, Syria, North Korean, Eritrea and Belarus — while 38 countries abstained, including China and India.

12:30 a.m. Ukraine says it has destroyed a large Russian landing support ship, the Orsk, at the Russian-occupied port of Berdiansk on the Sea of Azov.

Video footage shows a column of smoke rising from a blaze at a dock, and the flash of an explosion.

Two vessels, one of which appeared to have been damaged, were seen in the footage sailing out of the dock as a third ship burned.

Thursday, March 24

10:30 p.m. U.S. President Joe Biden is set to announce $1 billion in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and a plan to accept up to 100,000 Ukraine refugees, a senior administration official says.

The U.S. is also launching the “European Democratic Resilience Initiative” with $320 million to support media freedom, social resistance and human rights in Ukraine and nearby countries, according to the official.

Ukrainian refugees wait to board a train back to the Ukraine outside of Przemysl Glowny train station in Poland.   © Reuters

7:49 p.m. Ukrainian authorities in besieged Mariupol say about 15,000 civilians have been illegally deported to Russia since Russian forces seized parts of the southern port city. Ukrainian officials say civilians trapped in Mariupol, which is normally home to about 400,000 people, face a desperate plight without access to food, water, power or heat.

6:30 p.m. Britain has frozen the assets of Russia’s Gazprombank and Alfa-Bank, and the state-run shipping firm Sovcomflot, in its latest round of sanctions. They were among 59 individuals and entities added to the sanctions list which has been used to target Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine. Gazprombank is one of main channels for payments for Russian oil and gas. Alfa-Bank is one of Russia’s top private lenders.

5:40 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urges Western nations gathering in Brussels on Thursday to take “serious steps” to help Kyiv fight Russia’s invasion, as an unprecedented one-day trio of summits — NATO, G-7 and EU — got underway. The hectic day of meetings, aimed at maintaining Western unity, kicks off at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where the transatlantic defense alliance’s leaders will agree to ramp up military forces on Europe’s eastern flank.

“At these three summits we will see who is our friend, who is our partner and who sold us out and betrayed us,” Zelenskyy said in a video address released early on Thursday.

A charred Russian tank is seen on the front line in the Kyiv region on March 20. (Ukrainian Ground Forces/Handout via Reuters) 

3:30 p.m. NATO estimates that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in four weeks of war in Ukraine, where fierce resistance from the country’s defenders has denied Moscow the lightning victory it sought, AP reports. By way of comparison, Russia lost about 15,000 troops over 10 years in Afghanistan. A senior NATO military official said the alliance’s estimate was based on information from Ukrainian authorities, what Russia has released — intentionally or not — and intelligence gathered from open sources. The official spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by NATO.

3:15 p.m. Turkish telecoms company Turkcell, one of three main operators in Ukraine, said around 10% of its infrastructure in the country has been disabled by Russia’s invasion, but added there was no damage to its central network. While Russia has failed to capture a single major Ukrainian city a month after it launched its invasion, the fighting has left cities in ruins and destroyed critical infrastructure.

12:30 p.m. The U.S. State Department says Russia has begun the process of expelling several more diplomats from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The department said that on Wednesday it received a list of diplomats who have been declared “persona non grata” by the Russian foreign ministry. It didn’t say how many diplomats were affected by the order, which generally results in the expulsion of those targeted within 72 hours. The foreign ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan on Monday to protest President Joe Biden’s description of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal” over the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s communications regulator accuses Google News of allowing access to what it calls fake material about the country’s military operation in Ukraine, the Interfax news agency says.   © Reuters

11:00 a.m. Russia’s communications regulator has blocked Google’s news aggregator service, accusing it of allowing access to what it calls fake material about the country’s military operation in Ukraine, the Interfax news agency says. “We’ve confirmed that some people are having difficulty accessing the Google News app and website in Russia and that this is not due to any technical issues on our end,” Google said in statement. “We’ve worked hard to keep information services like News accessible to people in Russia for as long as possible.”

10:35 a.m. Japan has no clue yet about how Russia would carry out its claim to seek payment in rubles for energy sold to “unfriendly” countries, the finance minister says. “Currently we’re looking into the situation with relevant ministries, as we don’t quite understand what is [Russia’s] intention and how they would do this,” Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said in a parliament session.

A girl at Ohmatdyt Children’s Hospital in Kyiv waits in the basement to be evacuated to Poland on March 2. The World Health Organization says Russian attacks on health care in Ukraine between Feb. 24 and March 21 resulted in 15 deaths and 37 injuries.  (Agencja Wyborcza.pl via Reuters)

8:30 a.m. The World Health Organization says it has verified 64 instances of attacks on health care in Ukraine between Feb. 24 and March 21, resulting in 15 deaths and 37 injuries. Close to 7 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced in the one month of war, with 1 in 3 of them suffering from a chronic health condition, according to the global health agency.

3:50 a.m. “Based on information currently available, the U.S. government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken says in a statement.

While acknowledging that “a court of law with jurisdiction over the crime is ultimately responsible for determining criminal guilt in specific cases” of alleged war crimes, Blinken says the U.S. government “will share information we gather with allies, partners, and international institutions and organizations, as appropriate.” Read more.

2:35 a.m. One of the Kremlin’s faces to the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special climate envoy Anatoly Chubais, has resigned.

Chubais quit of his own accord, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells the Financial Times, without saying whether the move came in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Bloomberg first reported the resignation. Chubais, an architect of Russia’s post-Soviet economic overhaul and an oligarch in his own right, served as first deputy prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s.

Russia’s Anatoly Chubais attends a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2021. He had serves as President Vladimir Putin’s special representative for relations with international organizations to achieve sustainable development goals   © Reuters

2:00 a.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett have spoken again, this time by phone.

“Bennett shared his assessment of the situation around Ukraine, considering his recent contacts with leaders of several foreign countries, and expressed some ideas in relation to the negotiating process between Russian and Ukrainian representatives,” Interfax reports, citing the Russian presidential press service.

12:50 a.m. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shows that “full-fledged war is an instrument of their policy, and therefore we have to be prepared to confront such a reality,” Deividas Matulionis, Lithuania’s ambassador to NATO, tells Nikkei ahead of the alliance’s summit in Brussels on Thursday.

The meeting is expected to cover not only the Ukraine conflict, but also bolstering the defenses of former Soviet states in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region that many fear may be in Russia’s sights as well. These include Lithuania, which borders the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad as well as Belarus, where Moscow holds growing sway. Read more.

For earlier updates, click here.


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