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Latest Developments in Ukraine: March 20

A Ukrainian serviceman of "Adam" tactical group prepares a T-64 tank to move to the positions on the front line near Bakhmut, on March 19, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A Ukrainian serviceman of "Adam" tactical group prepares a T-64 tank to move to the positions on the front line near Bakhmut, on March 19, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in Russia's war on Ukraine. All times EDT.

6:14 p.m.: The Ukrainian Village That Changed Hands 14 Times: Residents in the village of Bohorodychne in Ukraine's Donetsk region say the village has changed hands 14 times between Ukrainian and Russian forces. Current Time's Borys Sachalko visited and spoke to some of the seven people who remain in what was once a large settlement. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

5:30 p.m.: Ukraine's defense ministry said Monday that an explosion in Dzhankoi in occupied Crimea had destroyed Russian Kalibr cruise missiles during rail transit.

Separately, Sergei Askyonov, the Russian-installed head of the annexed peninsula said air defense systems had gone into action in the area and that at least one person had been injured after wreckage damaged a house and a shop in Dzhankoi, Reuters reports.

5:15 p.m.:

4:15 p.m.: Ukrainian Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate has no evidence of China providing Russia with weapons, the directorate's spokesperson Andrii Yusov said on March 20.

According to Yusov, Russia has bought commercially available Chinese-made drones or civilian products with microcircuits suitable for military use. However, interstate aid has not been confirmed, The Kyiv Independent reports.

According to trade and customs data between June and December 2022 Chinese companies had exported 1,000 assault rifles and other equipment, such as drone parts and body armor, to Russian entities, Politico reported on March 16.

Yusov's statement comes amid Chinese President Xi Jinping's three-day visit to Russia, which the military official called "a visit of a strong regional leader to a country that is undergoing geopolitical defeat."

"As a pragmatic geopolitical player, China will strengthen its position on Russia's territory, protecting its own economic and other national interests exclusively," Yusov added. "Russia will become less and less a subject, more and more dependent on other players ... Putin's regime will continue to weaken," he said.

3:50 p.m.: China needs to be mindful of the stakes in the Ukraine war and that Russian President Vladimir Putin is on the "wrong side of history," Canada's Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Monday. Freeland made the comments as Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting Putin in Moscow, Reuters reports.

"Putin's invasion of Ukraine is the strongest challenge in a generation to the rules-based international order ... I'm not going to anticipate what President Xi will say or do in Moscow, but China and China's leadership needs to understand the stakes here," Freeland told reporters in Oshawa, Ontario.

3:30 p.m.: The White House urged Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and end Russia's war against Ukraine.

"We encourage President Xi to press President Putin directly on the need to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The world and China's neighbors will certainly be watching closely," said John Kirby, the White House national security spokesperson.

During a press conference, Kirby expressed concern that Xi, currently on a trip to Moscow, will reiterate calls for a cease-fire that would leave Russian forces inside Ukrainian sovereign territory, Reuters reports.

Kirby said Xi should speak with Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy about the impact of the war on Ukraine.

Xi and Putin seem to be connected in "a bit of a marriage of convenience" rather than one of affection, Kirby said.

"These are two countries that have long chafed at U.S. leadership around the world," he added.

2:35 p.m.: Engineers trying to restore power lines in previously occupied areas in eastern Ukraine have to wait for de-mining teams to secure the areas before they can conduct repairs. Clearing the whole of eastern Ukraine of such threats will take years, but as the country tries to restore power, water and heating to towns and villages cut off because of damage caused by the war, demining teams have to prioritize.

"First of all, it concerns critical infrastructure objects," Kostyantyn Apalkov, head of the demining unit under the State Emergency Service in Ukraine-controlled parts of the Donetsk region, told Reuters on Monday.

"These are objects such as power lines, gas pipelines, water pipes, and the like, as well as settlements where people live."

As he spoke, eight deminers in protective clothing and armed with metal detectors moved slowly along a track that passed beneath damaged power cables, searching for anything that could harm repair workers or their equipment.

Such painstaking work is carried out across a region where some of the fiercest fighting of the war is raging; artillery fire from distant front lines rumbled almost constantly.

Demining is vital, but it is also slowing the restoration of key services, underlining the challenge Ukraine faces in getting back to some kind of normalcy in areas that have been de-occupied.

In Ukraine-controlled parts of the Donetsk region alone, emergency services have answered more than 4,000 calls to clear the threat of unexploded devices since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February of last year.

2:14 p.m.: Norway has delivered eight Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, the Norwegian Armed Forces announced Monday, with training for Ukrainian soldiers on the tanks underway in Poland.

Norway last month announced its decision to send the tanks, with Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store saying “several allied countries have also done the same.”

At the beginning of February, the Norwegian government also announced it is expecting a delivery of 54 German Leopard 2 tanks in 2026 to strengthen its own defense capabilities, CNN reports.

1:40 p.m.: Vladimir Putin dined with "dear friend" Xi Jinping in the Kremlin on Monday, flaunting a relationship with his most powerful ally just days after an international court called for the Russian President's arrest for war crimes in Ukraine.

Washington denounced Xi's visit, saying the timing showed Beijing was providing Moscow with "diplomatic cover" to commit further crimes.

It was the first trip abroad for Xi since he obtained an unprecedented third term last month. The Chinese leader has been trying to present Beijing as a potential peacemaker in Ukraine, while he deepens economic ties with Russia.

Formal talks will begin on Tuesday.

Putin told Xi he viewed China's proposals for a resolution of the Ukraine conflict with respect and was also "slightly envious" of China's "very effective system for developing the economy and strengthening the state".

Xi, for his part, praised Putin and predicted Russians would re-elect him next year.

"Under your strong leadership, Russia has made great strides in its prosperous development," he said.

Such a visit had long been anticipated - Putin publicly invited Xi months ago - but the symbolism was complicated by the International Criminal Court issuing an arrest warrant against Putin last week for deporting children from Ukraine, Reuters reports.

12:15 p.m.: Chinese President Xi Jinping's trip to Russia this week following the International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin suggests China does not think the Kremlin should be held accountable for its atrocities in Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.

Speaking to reporters at a briefing, Blinken said the world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia that is supported by China, Reuters reports.

11:45 a.m.: In a statement Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, announced an additional military assistance package valued at $350 million for Ukraine. He hailed “the boundless courage and steadfast resolve of the Ukrainian people, and the strong support for Ukraine across the international community” against Russia’s “unconscionable war of aggression” against Ukraine which, he said “continues at great human cost.”

This military assistance package includes more ammunition for U.S.-provided HIMARS and howitzers that Ukraine is using to defend itself, as well as ammunition for Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, HARM missiles, anti-tank weapons, riverine boats, and other equipment.

11:15 a.m.: Ukraine said on Monday the eastern town of Avdiivka could soon become a "second Bakhmut," a small city where its forces have held out against Russian invaders for eight months but risk being fully encircled.

The battle for Bakhmut in the industrial Donbas has been one of the fiercest of the nearly 13-month-old war in Ukraine, drawing comparisons with World War One trench warfare, Reuters reports.

The commander of Ukraine's ground forces said last week Moscow's forces’ offensive against Bakhmut has made no major breakthroughs.

On Monday, the spokesperson for Ukraine's Tavria military command Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskyi said he agreed with an assessment by British Defense Intelligence that Russia was mounting pressure on supply lines to Avdiivka, as it has done around Bakhmut.

"The enemy is constantly trying to encircle the town of Avdiivka. I very much agree with my colleagues from the UK that Avdiivka may soon become the second Bakhmut," Dmytrashkivskyi said.

"However, I would like to say that all is not well with the Russian units attacking in this direction," he added in televised comments.

Ukraine has said Russian forces are taking heavy losses in their offensive in eastern Ukraine.

10:45 a.m.: Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin told Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in a letter published on Monday by his press service that the Ukrainian army was planning an offensive aimed at cutting off his Wagner forces from the main body of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

According to Reuters, Prigozhin wrote the offensive was planned for late March or the start of April. He asked Shoigu to take all measures to prevent that from happening, which he said could lead to "negative consequences" for Russia's military effort in Ukraine.

10:10 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin has welcomed Chinese leader Xi Jinping to the Kremlin, sending a message to Western leaders allied with Ukraine that their efforts to isolate him have fallen short. Putin said he welcomed China’s plan for “settlement of the acute crisis in Ukraine.” Xi's visit to Moscow shows off Beijing’s new diplomatic clout and boosts Putin’s political sway just days since the ICC issued an arrest warrant. The two major powers have described Xi’s trip as part of efforts to further deepen their “no-limits friendship.” China looks to Russia as a source of oil and gas and as a partner in opposing what both see as American domination of global affairs, AP reports.

9:40 a.m.: The International Criminal Court had to take action against Russian President Vladimir Putin over alleged war crimes, but the move was a somber one the organization's chief prosecutor Karim Khan said Monday.

"It's a moment ... not for triumphalism, not for any backslapping," Khan told international justice ministers at a meeting in London to discuss increasing support for the ICC, Reuters reports. He said it is a sad and somber occasion where for the first time, ICC judges had to issue warrants “against a leader and senior state officials from a permanent member of the (U.N.) Security Council."

Last Friday, the ICC accused Putin of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine. Moscow rejects the charges, calling the move unacceptable and saying it had no legal force in Russia which is not an ICC member.

Russia says it has brought thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, as a humanitarian campaign to protect orphans and children abandoned in the conflict zone.

"I say repatriate the children, return the children, reunite the children," Khan said. "If there is any semblance of truth to the utterances that this is for the sake of children, instead of giving them a foreign passport, return them to the countries of their nationality."

Ukraine's Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin told the meeting his office had launched investigations into more than 72,000 incidents of alleged war crimes and would soon sign an agreement to establish an ICC field office in Ukraine, Reuters reports.

9:10 a.m.: European Union foreign ministers agreed to endorse a two-billion-euro plan at a Brussels summit this week that aims to provide Ukraine with one million shells in the next 12 months as well as replenish EU stocks.

Kyiv has complained that its forces are having to ration firepower as Russia's year-long invasion has turned into a grinding war of attrition, AFP reports.

Ukraine has told the EU it wants 350,000 shells a month to help its troops hold back Moscow's onslaught and allow them to launch fresh counter-offensives later in the year.

"More artillery ammunition for Ukraine as fast as possible," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged in a social media post.

The first part of the plan commits one billion euros ($1.06 billion) of shared funding to help EU states tapping into their already stretched stocks for ammunition that can be sent quickly.

The second billion euros will be dedicated to order 155-millimetre shells for Ukraine as part of a massive joint procurement push intended to spur EU defense firms to ramp up production.

8:35 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Russia would provide grain to African countries for free if the Black Sea grain deal is not extended in May.

Putin told delegates at a Russia-Africa parliamentary conference that only a small amount of grain exports unblocked under the deal had reached Africa, and that the fulfillment of Russian conditions for the deal's renewal was in Africa's interest.

In a statement posted on its website, the Russian foreign ministry said Moscow had decided to limit the extension of the deal to 60 days, until May 18, over what it called "a lack of progress... on normalization of domestic agricultural exports."

The Russian ministry said the deal's renewal in May would depend on certain conditions, including the restoration of access to the SWIFT financial messaging system for Russian state-owned agriculture-focused bank Rosselkhozbank, a resumption of farm machinery supplies, and the unblocking of foreign assets and accounts held by Russian agricultural companies.

In its statement, the Foreign Ministry said that neither Turkey nor Ukraine had raised formal objections to the shortened period. A senior Ukrainian official told Reuters that Kyiv had objected to Moscow's demand for a 60-day extension, Reuters reports.

8:05 a.m.: Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported Monday, that Chinese President Xi Jinping had arrived in Moscow and would be meeting with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin at 3:30 p.m. Kyiv time, The Associated Press reports.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that talks will focus on the war in Ukraine, as well as China's 12-point plan calling on all parties to respect the sovereignty of all nations, safeguard nuclear facilities, facilitate grain exports, and protect civilians and prisoners of war.

Russia has been hoping to obtain weapons and high-tech equipment from China to boost its war effort.

The plan was met with criticism from many of Ukraine's western allies. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Feb. 25 that it did not express clear demand for the full withdrawal of Russian troops and warned against "dictated peace Russian-style."

China has so far failed to condemn Russia's aggression against Ukraine and illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories.

7:30 a.m.: Ahead of his visit to Russia, President Xi signed an article entitled “Forging Ahead to Open a New Chapter of China-Russia Friendship, Cooperation and Common Development" published Monday on Russia's newspaper Russian Gazette and the website of RIA Novosti news agency.

5 a.m.: European Union ministers on Monday will look to sign off on a 2-billion-euro plan to raid their stockpiles and jointly purchase desperately needed artillery shells for Ukraine.

Kyiv has complained that its forces are having to ration their firepower as Russia's year-long invasion has turned into a grinding war of attrition.

Ukraine has told the EU it wants 350,000 shells a month to help its troops hold back Moscow's onslaught and allow them to launch fresh counter-offensives later in the year.

Foreign and defense ministers from the bloc's 27-nations meeting in Brussels are seeking to agree on a multipronged initiative aimed at speeding up supplies and bolstering their defense industries.

Agence France-Presse had the full report.

4 a.m.: Britain is ready to help Poland fill its air defense gaps caused by Warsaw sending some of its MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine but Poland has not yet made such requests, British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey was quoted as saying on Monday.

Poland last week said it would send Ukraine four MiG-29 fighter jets in coming days, making it the first of Kyiv's allies to provide such aircraft and possibly creating a need to ramp up Poland's air defense equipment, according to Reuters.

Britain would be able to help fill such gaps, as it previously did when Poland sent T-72 main battle tanks to Ukraine, providing Warsaw with Challenger 2 tanks, Heappey told German newspaper Welt.

"We will look very positively at a Polish request to fill in the gaps that have arisen," Heappey said.

3:15 a.m.:

3 a.m.: Reuters reported that Justice ministers from around the world will meet in London on Monday to discuss scaling up support for the International Criminal Court after it issued an arrest warrant last week for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The ICC accused Putin of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine. Moscow rejects the charges, calling the move unacceptable and saying it has no legal force in Russia which is not an ICC member.

"We are gathering in London today united by one cause: to hold war criminals to account for the atrocities committed in Ukraine during this unjust, unprovoked and unlawful invasion," British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said.

2:30 a.m.: When Roman Melnikov left Darasun, a tiny hamlet in Siberia's Zabaikalye region, in 2015, few were sad to see him go. He had been sentenced to nine years in prison for manslaughter after being convicted of beating a cafe patron to death during a robbery, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

But when Melnikov's remains returned to the village last month in a military coffin from the war in Ukraine, dismayed residents watched as he was given a funeral with military honors, including an honor guard, paid for in part by the village administration.

"What is happening?" local resident Nina, who asked that her last name be withheld for fear of repercussions, told RFE/RL's Siberia.Realities. "A prisoner who went to war just so he could get out of prison is suddenly a hero? My friends and I are shocked. The world really has turned upside down."

Melnikov was one of tens of thousands of Russian convicts believed to have been recruited to fight in Ukraine in the ostensibly private Wagner mercenary army of Kremlin-connected businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who himself served nine years in a Soviet prison on a robbery conviction.

2 a.m.: Official: Russia damaged or seized more than 1,700 fire trucks, hundreds of fire stations during full-scale war, The Kyiv Independent reported.

Some of these lost assets were damaged by shelling, and the rest were seized by the Russian army in occupied areas, said State Emergency Service head Serhii Kruk.

1:30 a.m.: They share a common enemy in Russian President Vladimir Putin, who unleashed an invasion that has killed tens of thousands of people in Ukraine and is jailing opponents, curtailing freedoms, and crushing dissent at home, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

But more than a year after Moscow’s large-scale offensive began, massively escalating a war that broke out almost a decade ago in the Donbas, many Ukrainians are distrustful and dismissive of the Russian opposition -- and particularly of Putin's most prominent foe, Aleksei Navalny.

Nothing illustrates this more starkly than the outrage caused by the Oscar that a documentary -- eponymously titled Navalny -- tracking the now-imprisoned politician and anti-corruption campaigner as he recovered from a near-fatal August 2020 nerve-agent poisoning he blames on Putin won at the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood on March 12.

For many in the United States and the West, this year's award for Best Documentary Feature Film was precisely a rebuke of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. During his acceptance speech, the documentary's Canadian-born director, Daniel Roher, said Navalny is being punished "for what he calls…Vladimir Putin’s unjust war of aggression in Ukraine."

1 a.m.:

12:30 a.m.: Four Ukrainian servicemen killed in unknown incident at training center, The Kyiv Independent reports.

More specific details of the tragedy were not provided. According to the statement by the training center in Chernihiv Oblast, the State Bureau of Investigation has launched an official investigation.

12:01 a.m.: Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has cited Ukraine's "own example" of confiscating sovereign and private Russian assets within its borders to urge Kyiv's allies to do the same and contribute to a war recovery effort estimated to cost over $700 billion. But Ukraine's experience seizing these assets has proven problematic and slow-moving, a probe by Schemes, the investigative unit of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, found, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports.

Out of a list of 905 Russian state assets, only two — Prominvestbank and the International Reserve Bank — have been transferred to the National Investment Fund of Ukraine's control since the campaign of confiscations began in May 2022, three months after Moscow launched its large-scale invasion of the country.

And, despite presidential decrees authorizing sanctions against a number of Russian oligarchs, only four — Oleg Deripaska, Yevgeny Giner, Mikhail Shelkov, and Vladimir Yevtushenko — have actually lost their Ukrainian assets.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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