Russia-Ukraine latest updates: Raid hits Mariupol theatre

Ukraine news from March 16: Ukrainian say Russia bombed a theatre sheltering people: Moscow denies carrying out attack.

A view of the Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama destroyed by an air raid.
The Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama has been destroyed by an air raid. [Donetsk Regional Civil-Military Administration/Reuters]
  • The International Court of Justice orders Russia to stop hostilities in Ukraine, granting a provisional measure requested by Kyiv. 
  • Ukrainian officials accuse Russian forces of bombing a theatre in the besieged city of Mariupol. Moscow denies carrying out the air raid.
  • US President Joe Biden approves an additional $800m in military assistance to Ukraine.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says he sees “some hope” for reaching a compromise in the negotiations over the war in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeals to the United States Congress for more help in fending off the Russian invasion.
  • Zelenskyy says Russian demands in the peace talks are becoming “more realistic”.



This live blog is now closed, thanks for joining us. Follow the latest updates from the Russia-Ukraine crisis here.

These were the updates for March 16:

Mayor of Melitopol released by Russian forces: Kyiv

The mayor of Ukraine’s southern city of Melitopol has been released, Ukrainian authorities have said, days after Kyiv denounced his abduction.

According to the Ukrainian president and parliament, Ivan Fedorov was abducted on Friday by Russian soldiers occupying Melitopol, a city halfway between Mariupol and Kherson, because he “refused to cooperate with the enemy”.

US, allies discuss pursuit of Russian oligarchs

The United States has held a meeting with European and other allies to discuss ways to pursue Russian oligarchs and violators of sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Attorney General Merrick Garland met virtually with representatives from Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and the European Commission, the Department of the Treasury said.

Yellen said in a statement the multilateral task force aimed to raise the cost for Russian oligarchs “by galvanising coordinated efforts to freeze and seize assets … and deny safe haven for their ill-gotten gains.”

UN Security Council to vote on Russia’s draft resolution on Ukraine

The UN Security Council is due to vote on Friday on a Russian-drafted call for aid access and civilian protection in Ukraine.

The United Kingdom’s UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward described the absence of measures to end to the fighting or withdrawal of Russian troops as “glaring omissions.”

In a video posted on Twitter, Woodward said Russia was “game playing” and added that Britain would not vote for Russia’s draft text.

“Their resolution calls for parties to respect international humanitarian law, but leaves out the fact that Russia is committing war crimes,” she said.

Slovakia could give defence system to Ukraine

Slovakian defence officials are expected to discuss a possible transfer of their Soviet-era S-300 air defence systems to Ukraine during a visit by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday, a Slovak military spokesperson has said.

Defense ministry spokesperson Martina Koval Kakascikova said Slovakia has no objections to providing its S-300s to Ukraine, “but we can’t get rid of a system that protects our air space if we don’t have any replacement.”

Zelenskyy mentioned the S-300s when he spoke to US lawmakers by video, appealing for anti-air systems that would allow Ukraine to “close the skies” to Russian warplanes and missiles.

Kremlin says Biden’s comments about Putin ‘unacceptable and unforgivable’

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said Biden’s characterisation of Russian leader Vladimir Putin as a war criminal was “unacceptable and unforgivable rhetoric”, TASS news agency and Ria Novosti reported.

“We believe such rhetoric to be unacceptable and unforgivable on the part of the head of a state, whose bombs have killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world,” Peskov said.

France opens war crime probe into death of Fox News cameraman

French prosecutors have opened a war crime probe into the death of Franco-Irish Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski who was shot near Kyiv while covering the war in Ukraine, an official statement has said.

The probe by France’s specialised anti-terror prosecutors will investigate possible charges of causing “deliberate harm to a person protected by international law” and a “deliberate attack against a civilian who was not taking part in hostilities”.

Zakrzewski and Ukrainian producer Oleksandra Kuvshynova died and Fox correspondent Benjamin Hall was wounded when their vehicle was struck on Monday by incoming fire in Horenka, outside the capital.

Five people, including three children, killed in Chernihiv: Officials

Emergency officials in the city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine have said five people, including three children, have been killed after Russian forces shelled a residential building.

Emergency workers recovered the five bodies from under the rubble of a multi-storeyed apartment building, Ukraine’s emergencies ministry said in a statement on Telegram.

Biden calls Putin ‘a war criminal’

Biden has called Putin “a war criminal,” in the sharpest condemnation yet of Russian actions by a US official since the invasion of Ukraine.

The White House had been hesitant to declare Putin’s actions those of a war criminal, saying it was a legal term that required research.

But in a speech in which he pledged more aid to help Ukraine fight Russia, the US president said Russian troops had bombed hospitals and held doctors hostage.

Photos: Russian bombing leaves Ukraine’s Kharkiv in ruins

At least 500 people have been killed in the city of Kharkiv since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the regional emergency service has said.

Ukraine’s second-largest city, located in the country’s northeast, has been subjected to relentless bombardment by Russian forces for weeks. Mayor Ihor Terekhov said in a televised interview on Tuesday that more than 600 buildings have been destroyed since the start of Russia’s invasion.

See the pictures here.

Damaged vehicles and buildings in Kharkiv city center in Ukraine
Vehicles and buildings in Kharkiv city centre in Ukraine have been heavily damaged. [Pavel Dorogoy/AP]

Russia denies carrying out an air raid against Mariupol theatre

Russia’s defence ministry has denied carrying out an air raid against a theatre in Mariupol, RIA news agency said.

The council in the besieged port city earlier said Russian forces bombed a theatre where civilians were sheltering.

Ukraine negotiator says reported draft peace plan reflects Russian requests

Ukraine’s top negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak has said a draft 15-point peace plan described by the Financial Times reflects the requests of the Russian side.

“The [Ukrainian] side has its own positions,” Podolyak said in a Tweet.

The British daily reported that the peace plan under consideration included a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops in exchange for Kyiv’s declaration of neutrality and the imposition of limits on its armed forces.

Turkey’s top diplomat says war must stop in visit to Moscow

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said the war in Ukraine must stop and offered to pursue diplomatic efforts to arrange a lasting ceasefire.

Speaking alongside his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Cavusoglu said “the war must stop, people must not die. I came here to Moscow with this understanding today.”

“We have shared our concerns in a sincere way and done our part to ease tensions and open the stage for diplomacy,” he said. “We would like to host this [Putin-Zelenskyy] meeting when the situation comes to that point … for a lasting ceasefire.”

Lavrov said there were no obstacles to a meeting between Putin and Zelenskyy but that it would only take place to seal a specific agreement.

War in Ukraine – The Human Impact | Start Here

From Mariupol in the east to Lviv in the west, the war in Ukraine has made life unrecognisable for millions of Ukrainians.

Russia denies shooting Ukrainians in Chernihiv bread line

Russia’s defence ministry has denied reports that its forces had shot and killed 10 people waiting in line for bread in Chernihiv, saying there are no Russian troops in the area.

Defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the report and footage of alleged victims that appeared in various Ukrainian outlets was a “hoax launched by the Ukrainian Security Service”.

“No Russian soldiers are or have been in Chernihiv. All units are outside of the Chernihiv city limits, blocking roads, and are not conducting any offensive action,” he said, adding that the US Embassy had republished an “unverified fake”.

The US embassy in Kyiv did not provide evidence for the attack in a statement posted on its official Twitter site and its Facebook page.

Russia blocks BBC website, vows more retaliatory media sanctions

Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor has blocked access to the BBC’s main news website, with Moscow’s foreign ministry warning of more retaliatory measures against the media.

“I think this is only the beginning of retaliatory measures to the information war unleashed by the West against Russia,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Telegram.

Three killed after shelling and fire in Kharkiv: Emergency service

Three people have been killed and five wounded after shelling sparked fire at a market in the eastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s State Emergencies Service has said.

The fire was later extinguished, it said in an online statement.

Biden approves additional $800m for Ukraine

Biden has said the US is providing Ukraine with additional military assistance including anti-aircraft, anti-armour weapons and drones to assist in its defence against Russia.

“What’s at stake here are the principles that the United Nations and the United States stand for: it’s about freedom, it’s about the right of people to determine their own future, it’s about making sure Ukraine will never be a victory for Putin,” Biden said.

On Saturday his administration had authorised $200m in military assistance to Ukraine.

“Now I’m once again using my presidential authority to activate an additional security assistance to continue to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s assault,” Biden said, before announcing the allocation of $800m in military aid.

Ukraine accuses Russia of firing rockets at evacuation convoy, theatre in Mariupol

Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of bombing a theatre sheltering civilians and firing artillery at a convoy fleeing the besieged city of Mariupol.

The city council said the number of casualties in the aftermath of the strike on the theatre was not yet known.

“Russia purposefully destroyed the Drama Theatre, where hundreds of people are hiding,” Mariupol city authorities said in a statement on Telegram.

The governor of the Zaporizhzhia region, Oleksandr Starukh, said an online post that “heavy artillery of the enemy forces fired on a convoy of civilians moving along the highway towards Zaporizhzhia,” wounding at least five people including a child.

UN top court orders Russia to cease hostilities in Ukraine

The International Court of Justice has ordered Russia to stop hostilities in Ukraine, granting a provisional measure requested by Kyiv. 

“The Russian Federation shall immediately suspend the special military operations it commenced on 24 February 2022,” the court’s president, US judge Joan E Donoghue, said.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Kyiv, said countries who refuse to abide by court orders can be referred to the UN Security Council, where Russia holds veto power. However, the ruling “helps build the case for any prosecution down the road”, Khan said.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the decision as a major victory. “Ukraine gained a complete victory in its case against Russia at the International Court of Justice,” he wrote on Twitter.

Ukraine, Russia make progress on 15-point peace plan: Report

Ukraine and Russia have made significant progress on a tentative 15-point peace plan, the Financial Times has reported, quoting three people involved in the talks.

The peace plan includes a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops if Kyiv declares neutrality and accepts limits on its armed forces.

The proposed deal, which negotiators discussed in full for the first time on Monday, would see Kyiv renouncing its ambitions to join NATO and pledging not to host foreign military bases or weaponry in exchange for protection from allies such as the US, UK and Turkey.

Unresolved issues include the nature of Western guarantees for Ukrainian security and the status of Ukrainian territories seized by Russia in 2014.

Russia will achieve its goals in Ukraine: Putin

Putin has said Russia will achieve its goals in Ukraine and will not surrender to what he described as a Western attempt to achieve global dominance.

Speaking at a government meeting broadcasted on national television, Putin said Western countries wanted to turn Russia into a “weak dependent country; violate its territorial integrity; to dismember Russia in a way that suits them”.

In his most explicit acknowledgment of the pain inflicted by sanctions, he said inflation and unemployment would rise and that structural changes to the economy would be needed.

He said Russia was ready to discuss Ukraine’s neutral status in talks. “The question of principle for our country and its future – the neutral status of Ukraine, its demilitarisation, and its denazification – we were ready and we are ready to discuss as part of negotiations.”

ICC Prosecutor visits Ukraine, holds virtual meeting with Zelenskyy

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, has met met Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba during a visit to Ukraine and has held virtual meetings with Zelenskyy, his office said.

“I was pleased to hold important exchanges with the president while in the country,” Khan said on social media. “We agreed all efforts are needed to ensure international humanitarian law is respected and to protect the civilian population.”

The ICC has started a formal investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine after Russia’s invasion.


Direct dialogue between Ukraine, Russia leaders needed to end war: Ukraine official

Mikhail Podolyak, head of Ukraine’s presidential office and top negotiator, has listed Kyiv’s demands in the continuing talks with Russia.

“Our position at the negotiations is quite specific – legally verified security guarantees; ceasefire; withdrawal of Russian troops. This is possible only with a direct dialogue between the heads of Ukraine and the Russian Federation,” Podolyak said in an interview.

Ukraine, Moldova electricity grids synched with Europe’s

The electricity grids of Ukraine and Moldova have been fully synchronised with the continental European grid, ensuring their access to power during the Russian invasion.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed the move on Twitter, saying the synchronisation would “keep lights on and houses warm in these dark times.”

Russia has not specifically targeted critical energy infrastructure during its military campaign in Ukraine, but a single missile could take out a key piece of infrastructure, leading to blackouts.

The synchronisation process had been planned for completion in 2023.

War deepens suffering for Ukraine’s drug users

“You ask me how things are going? This is how things are going,” Serhiy messaged in an online chat, before sending a photo of a high-calibre sniper rifle set up in his room in Kyiv, as Ukraine’s capital tries to fight off Russian forces.

“My task is to open fire when the enemy crosses next to my house. Otherwise we will all be destroyed.”

Anyone willing to fight, like Serhiy, has been handed a rifle. But on top of dodging Russian bombs, as a drug-dependent Ukrainian, he is suffering agonising withdrawal.

Read the story here.

US, Russia make first high-level contact since Ukraine invasion: White House

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has spoken with General Nikolay Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, in the first high-level contact between Washington and Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine, the White House said in a statement.

Sullivan reiterated US opposition to the invasion and told Patrushev “that if Russia is serious about diplomacy then Moscow should stop attacking Ukrainian cities and towns,” the statement said.

People fleeing Ukraine at heightened risk of trafficking: IOM

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has warned about the risk of trafficking in persons as well as sexual exploitation and abuse in Ukraine and the region as the number of vulnerable people fleeing the war continues to rise.

More than three million people have fled Ukraine, including 162,000 third country nationals. Instances of sexual violence have already been reported and among the individuals promising onward transportation or services, there have been indications of potential exploitation.

Women children and older persons “can be especially vulnerable to the risk of trafficking as they leave their homes unexpectedly and might have their usual family networks and financial security seriously disrupted,” IOM Director General António Vitorino said.

Russia says any Putin-Zelenskyy meeting should be to seal deal

Russia has said there are no obstacles to a meeting between Putin and Zelenskyy, but that such a meeting would only take place to seal a specific agreement.

“There are no obstacles to the organisation of such a meeting with the understanding that it would not be just for its own sake; it would have to seal concrete agreements which are currently being worked out by the two delegations,” Lavrov told reporters.

Ukraine dismissed Russian neutrality proposals, refused to surrender and promised prosecution of “war crimes.”

US Embassy in Kyiv says Russian forces shot people in Chernihiv bread line

The US Embassy in Kyiv has claimed Russian forces shot and killed 10 people waiting in line for bread in the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv.

The embassy did not cite what evidence it had of the attack in a statement posted on its official Twitter site and on its Facebook page.

“Such horrific attacks must stop. We are considering all available options to ensure accountability for any atrocity crimes in Ukraine,” the embassy said.

Ukraine above all needs more weapons: Czech PM

Ukraine needs more weapons to defend itself against the Russian invasion, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala has said upon returning from a visit to Kyiv.

“Ukrainians are fighting immensely bravely, and fight smartly and strategically, but they only stand a chance against [Russia’s] huge advantage if Western countries supply enough military equipment,” Fiala told reporters.

Fiala travelled to Kyiv on Tuesday together with the prime ministers of Poland and Slovenia to discuss sanctions, weapons and humanitarian aid, as well as possible future diplomatic steps with Zelenskyy.

Council of Europe expels Russia from human rights body

The Council of Europe has expelled Russia from the continent’s foremost human rights body in an unprecedented move over its invasion of Ukraine.

The 47-nation committee of ministers said in statement that “the Russian Federation ceases to be a member of the Council of Europe as from today, after 26 years of membership.”

Early in the week, the group’s parliamentary assembly already initiated the process of expulsion and unanimously backed that Russia would be kicked out.

Russia has announced it was pulling out of the council, which means it will no longer be a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights and its citizens will no longer be able to file applications to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Ukrainian leader says current institutions to prevent war ‘don’t work’

Zelenskyy has told US lawmakers the tools to protect from wars or to punish the ‘evil’ done during them “don’t work. We see it you see it.”

He offered a new solution: “a union of responsible countries that have the strength and consciousness to stop conflicts immediately”.

He called it U24, to provide assistance within 24 hours “even weapons if necessary sanctions, humanitarian support, political support, finances, everything you need to keep the peace”.

He said such an alliance would also be able to help those affected by natural disasters, humanitarian crises or an epidemic.

Zelenskyy pleads with US to close Ukrainian skies, increase sanctions

The Ukrainian leader addressing the US Congress says it is “the darkest time” for his country and asked again for a no-fly zone over Ukraine to halt Russian bombings that have killed more than 100 children.

“Is this too much to ask?” Zelenskyy said, but also proposed alternatives, asking for more defence systems, that all Russian politicians “still in their offices” be sanctioned, to close US ports to all Russian ships.

Ukraine’s president compared Russia’s war in his country to Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks. “Remember September the 11th, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories, in battlefields,” he said. “Our country experienced the same every day.”

Read the story here.

No plans at this stage for Macron traveling to Ukraine

There are no plans at this stage for French President Emmanuel Macron to travel to Ukraine, government spokesman Gabriel Attal has said.

A trip can be envisaged as soon as a visit appears useful to resolve the crisis, Attal told a news conference following a cabinet meeting.

Fearing conscription, anti-war Russians flock to Uzbekistan

Thousands of Russian citizens during the past few weeks have decided to leave their homeland because of the war against Ukraine and the rumor of a planned martial law in the country.

About 25,000 Russian citizens moved to Georgia, while many others fled to Armenia, Turkey or Nordic states such as Finland.

Another destination for some has been Uzbekistan.

Read more here.

Passengers are seen at Moscow's Domodedovo airport
Passengers  wait for their flights at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport on March 5 [File: AFP]

What does neutrality mean, and could it lead to peace?

For years, Ukraine has aspired to join NATO, a move that would significantly boost its military in the face of Russian aggression, but the chances of membership remain slim even as the war devastates the former Soviet country.

Russia refuses Western allegations that it wants to influence Ukraine, and claims its main desire is for Ukraine to be neutral, a buffer state, and out of NATO.

Some experts say that Ukraine remaining neutral and out of NATO could be beneficial to regional security.

Read more here.

Ukraine rejects Russian neutrality proposals in peace talks

Ukraine has said it wants its security to be guaranteed by international forces and rejected proposals pushed by Russia for it to adopt a neutral status comparable to Austria or Sweden.

“Ukraine is now in a direct state of war with Russia. As a result, the model can only be ‘Ukrainian’ and only on legally verified security guarantees,” its top negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak said in comments published by Zelensky’s office.

Kremlin says neutral Ukraine, like Austria, is possible compromise

Russia has said that a neutral Ukraine with its own army along the lines of Austria or Sweden is being looked at as a possible compromise in peace talks with Kyiv.

“This is a variant that is currently being discussed and which could really be seen a compromise,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by RIA news agency.

Peskov was commenting on remarks from Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s chief negotiator, who earlier told state TV: “Ukraine is offering an Austrian or Swedish version of a neutral demilitarised state, but at the same time a state with its own army and navy.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov talked on the continuing negotiations [File: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters]

Ukraine claims Russia lost 13,800 servicemen, 430 tanks

Ukraine’s Defence Ministry has said that Russia lost “approximately 13,800 servicemen since the invasion began on February 24”.

In a Facebook post, it also said that Ukrainian forces destroyed 430 Russian tanks, 1375 armored vehicles, 84 planes, 108 helicopters and 11 drones.

It said the figures were approximate and their verification was “complicated” by the high intensity of the fighting.

Russia’s defence ministry has reported the country’s death toll only on March 2, saying that 498 servicemen had been killed in Ukraine.

Concerns deepen about Ukraine nuclear power plants

There are growing concerns about the fate of Ukraine’s nuclear power stations as fighting intensifies.

Russian troops have already taken control of the station near Zaporizhzhia – one of Ukraine’s four operational nuclear facilities – and the Chernobyl site.

“It’s nuclear terrorism,” Pavlo Pavlysyn, director of the Rivne nuclear plant director, Ukraine’s oldest nuclear facility, told Al Jazeera.

Portugal alters law that allowed Abramovich to get citizenship

Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva says legislation that enabled Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich to get Portuguese citizenship due to his alleged ascendancy from Sephardic Jews has been changed – but the changes will not be retroactive.

“The decree introduces a requirement for [applicants to have an] effective connection with Portugal,” the minister said, describing it as a “mechanism” to prevent the law to be “manipulated.”

Ukraine security guarantees ‘on negotiating table’

Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian negotiator in the talks with Russia, says a “model” of legally binding security guarantees that will offer his country protection from a group of allies in the event of a future attack is “on the negotiating table”.

“Model of security guarantees is on the negotiating table. What does this mean? A rigid agreement with a number of guarantor states undertaking clear legal obligations to actively prevent attacks,” negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter.

Ukrainian official sees no big change at front-line hotspots

Ukraine’s armed forces are conducting small-scale counterattacks on several fronts and Russian troops have not been able to gain ground because of a lack of resources, according to Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych.

“The situation … in the main hotspots has not changed, and has no chance of changing as Russia has used up its resources,” he told a video briefing.

Arestovych said Russia continued to fire missiles at Ukrainian targets, with approximately two-thirds of rockets hitting civilian buildings and infrastructure.

Al Jazeera has been unable to immediately verify this information. Russia has denied targeting civilians.

Zelenskyy to seek more help in speech to US Congress

Zelenskyy is set to make an urgent appeal to the US Congress for more help in fending off the Russian invasion.

The president’s virtual address to members of the House of Representatives and Senate, scheduled for 9am local time (13:00 GMT), comes a day after he made a plea to Canada’s parliament for more Western sanctions on Russia and the imposition of a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

A no-fly zone is a step that US President Joe Biden and NATO allies have resisted out of a fear of escalating the war that began with Russia’s February 24 invasion. Biden on Tuesday signed into law $13.6bn in emergency aid to Ukraine to help it obtain more weaponry and for humanitarian assistance.

Lavrov sees ‘some hope’ in Ukraine talks

Lavrov sees “some hope” for reaching a compromise in the negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv to end the war, according to local media.

The Russian foreign minister told the RBK newspaper that he believed there were already positions upon which the sides “are close to agreement”.

While the talks are difficult, “there is some hope of reaching a compromise”, he said.

Lavrov said Ukraine’s political and military neutrality in exchange for security guarantees from Moscow were now being “seriously discussed”.

Polish, Czech and Slovenian PMs return to Poland after Kyiv trip

Delegations including the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia have arrived in Poland after their visit to Kyiv, a Polish government spokesperson has said.

“The Polish, Slovenian and Czech delegations safely returned from Kyiv to Poland,” Piotr Muller wrote on Twitter.

ygal, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa attend a joint news briefing in Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa met in Kyiv on Tuesday [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

Russian shelling kills one in Kharkiv

Russian shelling has killed one man in Kharkiv and damaged two apartment buildings, according to the emergencies ministry.

However, the shelling subsided significantly last night, a Kharkiv resident said. “The night was relatively calm, we even could get some sleep,” a mother of two who has been holed up in her apartment in central Kharkiv, told Al Jazeera.

The windows and the balcony doors of her apartment were destroyed by shelling earlier this month and patched with plastic and blankets, and the family spends nights on the bathroom floor, she said.

The Take: Is Russia’s Syria playbook being used in Ukraine?

This week marks the 11th anniversary of Syria’s uprising and there still is no end to the conflict in sight.

There is another date that resonates: September 30, 2015, when Russia intervened in the conflict on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

We look at how the people all too familiar with that playbook see Syria’s story in Ukraine.

Ukraine downed several Russian aircraft: ministry

The Ukrainian Air Forces has said that their air defence units shot down three Russian planes, one helicopter and three drones.

Two of the planes were SU-34 bombers, the third is yet to be identified, air force spokesman Yuri Ihnat said in a video.

The defence ministry said that 81 planes and 95 helicopters had been downed since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

Prosecutor general: 103 children have been killed in war in Ukraine

The Ukrainian prosecutor general has said that 103 children have been killed so far in the war in Ukraine.

Russian forces have struck more than 400 educational establishments and 59 of them have been destroyed, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said on Facebook.

The information could not be independently verified.

Debris is seen on site of the destroyed Mariupol children's hospital as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Mariupol, Ukraine
Debris is seen at the site of the destroyed Mariupol children’s hospital on March 9 [Ukraine Military/Handout via Reuters]

NATO begins planning to reset military posture on eastern flank

NATO is set to tell its military commanders to draw up plans for new ways to deter Russia following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, including more troops and missile defences in Eastern Europe, according to officials and diplomats.

Defence ministers from the alliance will order the military advice at NATO headquarters on Wednesday, just over a week before allied leaders, including US President Joe Biden, gather in Brussels on March 24.

“We need to reset our military posture for this new reality,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. “Ministers will start an important discussion on concrete measures to reinforce our security for the longer term, in all domains.”

Twenty thousand residents left Mariupol in private cars so far: official

 About 20,000 civilians have managed so far to leave the besieged port city of Mariupol in private cars, interior ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko has said.

Mariupol residents have been trapped in the city by Russian shelling without heating, electricity and running water for most of the past two weeks, Ukrainian officials say. At least 200,000 people are in urgent need of evacuation, according to official Ukrainian estimates earlier this week.

Ai Weiwei warns of ‘shaking foundation’ of democracy after war in Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has revealed the “shaking foundation” of democracy, Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has said.

Reflecting on the war and the massive refugee crisis it has created, Ai expressed fears for “our … so-called peaceful life since World War II”.

“Suddenly we feel the … foundation is shaking of democracy and freedom,” he told journalists in Vienna as he unveiled what he said was the biggest retrospective of his work to date.

Chinese activist Ai Weiwei standing
Ai commented on the the war and the massive refugee crisis it has created [File: Lennart Preiss/AP]

What happens if Russia defaults on its debt?

Russia’s economy is in dire straits and on Wednesday it faces its first payment on US dollar bonds since it invaded Ukraine last month.

Moscow is due to pay $117m in interest on two dollar-denominated sovereign bonds or risk defaulting on its debt.

Read more here.

Logo of Russia's largest lender Sberbank, in Ljubljana
The logo of Russia’s largest lender Sberbank, which quit the European market after coming under pressure from Western sanctions [File: AFP]

Group of Seven to hold meeting over Russia: Japan

The Group of Seven industrialised nations will hold an online meeting after 12:00 GMT to discuss Russia’s actions in Ukraine, according to Japanese finance minister Shunichi Suzuki.

Suzuki, who made the comment in parliament, did not specify whether the meeting would be held among G7’s financial leaders or other representatives.

Air-raid sirens in major Ukraine cities: Report

Kyiv Independent, a Ukrainian news outlet, says air-raid sirens have gone off in several major cities, including Kyiv, Odesa, Dnipro and Lviv.

China says Taiwan ‘taking advantage’ of Ukraine

China’s government has lambasted Taiwan’s humanitarian aid for Ukraine and sanctions on Russia as “taking advantage of others’ difficulties” after the self-ruled territory announced it was sending more funds donated by the public for refugees.

The war in Ukraine has garnered broad sympathy in Taiwan, with many seeing parallels between Russia’s invasion and the military threat posed by China, which views the democratically governed island as its own territory.

Asked about Taiwan’s aid and sanctions at a news conference in Beijing, Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said: “The Democratic Progressive Party authorities are using the Ukraine issue to validate their existence and piggyback on a hot issue,” referring to Taiwan’s ruling party.

Russian warships ‘fire missiles at Ukraine coast’

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry, says Russian warships fired missiles and artillery at the Ukrainian coast near Tuzla, to the south of Odesa, at about midnight.

“They fired a huge amount of ammunition from a great distance,” he said on Facebook, adding that Russia wanted to test Ukraine’s coastal defence system.

He said there was no attempt to land troops but did not say if any of the shelling hit anything.

Zelenskyy says Ukraine ‘must recognise’ it may not join NATO

Ukraine’s president has said his country should accept that it may not become a member of the US-led NATO military alliance, a key Russian concern that it used to justify its invasion.

“Ukraine is not a member of NATO … We have heard for years that the doors were open, but we also heard that we could not join. It’s a truth and it must be recognised,” Zelenskyy told the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force on Tuesday.

“I am glad that our people are beginning to understand this and rely on themselves and the partners who are helping us,” Zelenskyy said, while renewing his appeal for a no-fly zone to protect Ukraine from Russian air raids.

Ukraine war may ‘fundamentally alter’ global economic, political order: IMF

The International Monetary Fund says Russia’s invasion will affect the entire global economy by slowing growth and jacking up inflation, and could fundamentally reshape the global economic order in the longer term.

Beyond the human suffering and historic refugee flows, the war is boosting prices for food and energy, fuelling inflation and eroding spending power, while disrupting trade, supply chains and remittances in countries neighbouring Ukraine, the IMF said.

It is also eroding business confidence and triggering uncertainty among investors that will depress asset prices, tighten financial conditions and could trigger capital outflows from emerging markets, it said.

Ukraine says 4th Russian general killed

Ukraine says Russia’s Major General Oleg Mityaev, 46, has been killed during the storming of Mariupol.

Gerashchenko, of the Ukrainian interior ministry, said Mityaev died on Tuesday and that Mityaev had commanded the 150th motorised rifle division and had fought in Syria.

There was no confirmation of the death from Russia.

Russia ‘likely struggling’ due to troop losses: UK

The British Ministry of Defence says Russia is “increasingly seeking to generate additional troops to bolster and replace its personnel losses in Ukraine”.

In its latest intelligence update, the ministry said that as a result of the personnel losses, “it is likely Russia is struggling to conduct offensive operations”, especially given sustained resistance from Ukrainian forces.

Zelenskyy says Russian demands ‘more realistic’

Ukraine’s president says Russia’s demands during negotiations are becoming “more realistic” after nearly three weeks of war and that more time is needed for the talks, which are being held by video conference.

“The meetings continue, and, I am informed, the positions during the negotiations already sound more realistic,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address. He appealed for more weapons and more sanctions on Russia, and repeated his call to “close the skies over Ukraine to Russian missiles and planes”.

He said Russian forces on Tuesday were unable to move deeper into Ukrainian territory and continued their heavy shelling of cities.

Ex-US diplomat says NATO can do more to help Ukraine

Kurt Volker, the former US ambassador to NATO, says the Western security alliance can do much more to help Ukraine even if it does not want to impose a no-fly zone.

“There are additional air defence systems that Ukrainians need, more stingers but also higher-altitude systems. They need shore-to-ship missiles to go after some of the Russian ships that are in the Black Sea firing cruise missiles at Ukrainian cities,” he told Al Jazeera.

“They need more Javelin anti-tank systems. The Poles have offered to provide MiG-29 aircraft, which the Ukrainians know how to fly. That should happen soon. We should be accelerating our deliveries of humanitarian relief to the Ukrainian people and if that needs protection in order to do so safely, we should provide that protection. There are so many things on the ladder here that we can do that we are not doing.”

Zelenskyy thanks EU leaders for Kyiv visit

Zelenskyy has thanked the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia who travelled to Kyiv for talks.

“These respected men, leaders of their beautiful independent European states, are not afraid of anything and are more worried about our destiny,” Zelenskyy said. The three leaders had gone ahead with the train trip despite worries about the security risks of travelling in a war zone.

“With such friends, with such countries and neighbours and partners, we will be able truly to defeat, I don’t want to say who, we all know it,” he added.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attends a meeting with EU leaders in Kyiv
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a meeting with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Slovenia’s Prime Minister Janez Jansa, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 15, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

Poland’s Morawiecki: ‘We will never leave you alone’

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has expressed solidarity and support for Ukraine during a meeting with Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

“We will never leave you alone. We will be with you because we know that you are fighting not only for your homes, for your freedom, for your security, but also for others,” he said.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki attends a meeting with Ukraine's President in Kyiv, Ukraine
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki meets with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in Kyiv, on March 15, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

Poland urges EU to give Ukraine candidate status

Poland’s prime minister says the war in Ukraine is a European issue that needs a collective response.

“The European Union has to give very quickly candidate status and more,” he said after meeting with Zelenskyy. “It has to invite Ukraine to the European Union. And [provide] all the defensive weapons to defend your homes. We will try to organise, orchestrate all over the world.”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa attend a meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 15, 2022.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and Slovenia’s Prime Minister Janez Jansa attend a meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in Kyiv March 15 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Prime Minister Denys Shmygal attend a meeting with Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Jansa, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Kyiv, Ukraine March 15, 2022.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal attend a meeting with three visiting EU leaders in Kyiv, Ukraine March 15, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

Ukraine says its forces repelled Russian attack on Kharkiv

Ukrainian forces have repelled an attack on Kharkiv by Russian troops who tried to storm the city from their positions in Piatykhatky, a suburb 15 kilometres (9 miles) to the north, according to the head of the Kharkiv region.

The Ukrainian army was able “to push the enemy back beyond its previous position”, Oleh Synehubov said on the messaging app Telegram.

He called it a “shameful defeat”.

US Senate backs Russia war crimes probes

The US Senate has unanimously approved a resolution seeking investigations of  Putin and his government for war crimes over the invasion of Ukraine.

The resolution said the Senate strongly condemns the “violence, war crimes. crimes against humanity” being carried out by Russian military forces.

The measure does not carry the force of law but encourages international investigations of Putin, his security council and military leaders.

UK’s Johnson to visit Saudi Arabia, UAE

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will visit Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday as part of his efforts to secure additional oil and reduce dependence on Russian energy.

In a statement released by his office, Johnson called Saudi Arabia and the UAE “key international partners” in his bid to wean the West off Russian oil and gas, improve energy security and coordinate action against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Germany’s Scholz says sanctions ‘having a stronger impact than Russia ever imagined’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has again ruled out NATO intervention in the Ukraine war but said the West continues to trust in the effect of sanctions imposed on Russia.

“Together with our allies in Europe and the US, we have prepared very precise sanctions,” Scholz said at an economic summit organised by the Die Welt newspaper in Berlin.

“[Russian] President Vladimir Putin may have planned this war for a year and prepared for economic reactions from the international community, but he underestimated our determination: The sanctions are having a stronger impact than Russia ever imagined.”

Russia to quit Council of Europe

Russia says it is pulling out of the Council of Europe (COE), a pan-European rights body, as pressure mounts for Moscow’s expulsion over its invasion of Ukraine.

The decision ends Russia’s quarter-century membership and opens the way for Moscow to reimpose the death penalty if authorities decide to do so.

The so-called “Ruxit” means that Russia will no longer be a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights and its citizens will no longer be able to file applications to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Russia’s foreign ministry, announcing the launching of exit procedures, said it has “no regret” about leaving.

Japan to revoke Russia’s ‘most favoured nation’ trade status: Public broadcaster

Japan will revoke Russia’s “most favoured nation” trade status as part of further sanctions against Moscow, public broadcaster NHK has said.

The government is set to announce the move on Wednesday, it reported, following similar moves by Western partners. Japan has already imposed sanctions on chips and high-tech equipment on Russia.

US aid to be split between security and humanitarian assistance: AJE correspondent

The US’s $13.6bn aid package to Ukraine will be split between security and humanitarian assistance, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett says.

She added that Biden has stressed that the aid would ensure Ukrainians “have the tools they need to defend themselves”.

“In terms of the real details – how much money is going to each allocation – there really were some big question marks. So we’re now looking ahead to Wednesday when the US president has promised that he will be giving more specific detail,” Halkett said.

Joe Biden signs legislation
Biden signs US budget containing $13.6bn in aid to Ukraine [Patrick Semansky/AP Photo]

Poland calls for peacekeeping mission in Ukraine

The leader of Poland’s ruling party says an international peacekeeping mission should be sent to Ukraine.

“I think that it is necessary to have a peace mission – NATO, possibly some wider international structure – but a mission that will be able to defend itself, which will operate on Ukrainian territory,” Jaroslaw Kaczynski said during a press conference in Kyiv alongside Zelenskyy.

War in Ukraine tests shaky US-China relations

In recent days, several top officials in the US have tried to discourage China from backing Russia in its war in Ukraine, amid reports that Moscow has requested military assistance from Beijing.

While Chinese officials have downplayed the reports, experts say the US’s public pressure campaign on China could define an already shaky relationship between the two nations for years to come.

“This has the potential to be a turning point in US-China relations,” Robert Ross, a political science professor at Boston College, told Al Jazeera.

Read more here.

Russia regrouping and pivoting on Ukraine strategy: Analyst

Russia’s initial military strategy of making rapid gains, displacing Ukrainians and taking over the country has failed on many levels, James Sherr, an analyst at the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, has said.

“Ukraine’s cohesion and resilience, flexibility and inventiveness have come as a surprise,” Sherr told Al Jazeera.

Russians are now altering their war strategy in two ways, he said, by regrouping – particularly in the east in the country – and pummelling Ukrainian cities. “They are reducing Ukrainians to destitution,” Sherr said.

Biden pledges to help Ukrainian refugees

Biden has promised humanitarian assistance to Ukraine as the number of people who fled the country surpassed three million, according to the UN.

“This war has turned nearly 3 million Ukrainians into refugees,” Biden wrote on Twitter. “That’s on top of more than 12 million people who require humanitarian assistance inside Ukraine. The United States is helping to lead a global humanitarian response with our partners in Europe and beyond.”

Biden to attend NATO, EU summits in Brussels next week

Biden will travel to Europe next week for face-to-face talks with European leaders on the Russian invasion, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has announced.

Biden will meet NATO and European leaders at a summit in Brussels on March 24. He will also attend a scheduled EU summit the same day for discussions on further sanctions on Russia and humanitarian efforts for Ukraine.

Read more here.

Biden authorises $13.6bn in aid to Ukraine

The US president has signed an annual spending bill that contains $13.6bn in humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine.

“I just signed the Bipartisan Government Funding Bill into law – keeping the government open and providing a historic $13.6 billion in funding to Ukraine,” Biden wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

Russia-Ukraine talks difficult but will continue: Zelenskyy adviser

A senior Ukrainian official says talks with Russia were very difficult but said there was “certainly room for compromise”.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, said on Twitter that there were fundamental contradictions between the two sides.

But, Podolyak said, the negotiations would continue on Wednesday.

Russia’s tactics are evolving in Ukraine – Here’s how

The last week has seen a marked change in tactics from the Russian military as the scope of the war in Ukraine has widened.

Advanced weapons, especially man-portable anti-tank and air defence systems, as well as small arms and ammunition, have been pouring into Ukraine.

Read more about Russia’s changing military tactics here.

Turkey foreign minister to hold meetings in Moscow, then Kyiv

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is sending his foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, to Moscow and Kyiv this week as part of Turkey’s mediation efforts to secure a ceasefire in Ukraine.

Cavusoglu will hold talks in Moscow on Wednesday, Erdogan said after a cabinet meeting, before travelling to Kyiv on Thursday.

NATO member Turkey shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, has good ties with both, and has offered to mediate between the warring countries.

29,000 evacuated from Ukrainian cities on Tuesday: Ukrainian official

About 29,000 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Tuesday, most of them leaving the besieged port city of Mariupol, a senior government official has said.

Senior Ukrainian presidential official Kyrylo Tymoshenko said in an online post that about 20,000 people had left Mariupol in private cars.

Ukraine earlier accused Russia of blocking a convoy trying to take supplies to the city.

A woman walks with a bicycle next to a damaged building in Donetsk region, Ukraine
A woman walks next to a damaged building in the town of Volnovakha in Ukraine’s Donetsk region [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

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

Read all the updates from Tuesday, March 15 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies