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Latest Developments in Ukraine: March 21

A refugee cries on a bus while waiting for Ukrainian police to check papers and belongings in Brovary, Ukraine, Sunday, March 20, 2022.
A refugee cries on a bus while waiting for Ukrainian police to check papers and belongings in Brovary, Ukraine, Sunday, March 20, 2022.

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

For the latest developments of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, all times EST:

11:55 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiyy said Monday that any deal agreed in peace negotiations to end the war with Russia will be submitted and decided by the Ukrainian people through a referendum and not only by him. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has the story.

10:30 p.m.: The U.N. Human Rights office, or OHCHR, announced the number of civilian casualties since the war began following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On Monday, the OHCHR said 925 civilians have been killed and about 1,496 have been injured.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” the agency said.

8:35 p.m.: Oil futures extended gains on Tuesday morning on news that some European Union members are considering imposing sanctions on Russian oil and as attacks on Saudi oil facilities sent jitters through the market, according to a Reuters report.

8:30 p.m.: In a video address shared online early Tuesday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 8,057 people had been rescued through humanitarian corridors on Monday in several cities, including Kyiv and Mariupol. “Thank you to everyone who did it, who worked for the people," he said.

8:25 p.m.: VOA U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer reports that the U.N. General Assembly will resume its emergency special session on Ukraine at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

7:14 p.m.: President Joe Biden on Monday warned U.S. companies of “evolving intelligence” that Russia is considering cyberattacks against critical targets as the war in Ukraine continues. "The more Putin’s back is against the wall, the greater the severity of the tactics he may employ … one of the tools he’s most likely to use in my view, in our view, is cyberattacks,” Biden said.

6:50 p.m.: Latest British military intel assessment on Russia-Ukraine:

6:26 p.m.: Statement from CISA Director Easterly on Potential Russian Cyberattacks:

5:52 p.m.: Readout of the Administration’s Briefing of CEOs on Russia’s War against Ukraine: Today, Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond, and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese met with 16 CEOs of major companies across several industries including energy, food, and manufacturing to provide a briefing on the latest developments on Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine.

4:09 p.m.: VOA national security correspondent Jeff Seldin tweets that among the highlights of Monday’s Pentagon briefing by press secretary John Kirby:

-- U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will travel to Europe this week with President Joe Biden.

-- No signs of travel to Ukraine by foreign fighters recruited by Russia.

-- "We certainly see clear evidence that Russian forces are committing war crimes, and we are helping with the collecting of evidence of that," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. "It's largely indiscriminate. … We continue to see indiscriminate attacks against civilians which we believe in many cases is intentional.”

4 p.m. : It’s a critical week for diplomacy, as U.S. President Joe Biden heads to Europe Wednesday for a special NATO summit aimed at defusing the conflict in Ukraine and imposing more consequences on Russia for its invasion. European nations fear this conflict could spread into their territory. VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell reports from Washington DC.

3:51 p.m. : The battle for Ukraine’s strategic port of Mariupol raged Monday, as Ukraine rejected a Russian offer to evacuate its troops from the besieged city and Russian bombardment continued, The Associated Press reported. Russian and Ukrainian soldiers are fighting block-by-block for control of the city where at least 2,300 people have died, some buried in mass graves. Ukrainian officials rejected a Russian offer that its troops be granted safe passage out of the encircled city, which would hand Mariupol to Russia. “There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told the news outlet Ukrainian Pravda.

A view shows the body of a person killed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port of Mariupol, Ukraine, March 20, 2022.
A view shows the body of a person killed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port of Mariupol, Ukraine, March 20, 2022.

3:40 p.m. : The United States cannot independently confirm or refute a Russian claim over the weekend that it fired hypersonic missiles at a Ukrainian target, but the use of such a weapon makes little sense from a military perspective and could be meant to send a message, a senior U.S. defense official said on Monday. "It's a bit of a head-scratcher, to be honest with you, because it's not exactly clear why -- if it's true - why would you need a hypersonic missile fired from not that far away to hit a building," the U.S. official told reporters on condition of anonymity, according to Reuters.

3:20 p.m. : Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday said any compromises agreed with Russia to end the war would need to be voted on by Ukrainians in a referendum, Reuters reported. "The people will have to speak up and respond to this or that form of compromise," he said in an interview published by Ukrainian public broadcasting company Suspilne. Issues that could be raised in any referendum could concern territories occupied by Russian forces, including Crimea, or security guarantees offered to Ukraine by countries in lieu of NATO membership, he said.

2:25 p.m. : Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is thanking Israel for its mediation efforts, but he had harsh words for the leadership when he addressed the Israeli lawmakers by videoconference Sunday, accusing the Jewish State of not doing enough to help Ukraine and comparing Russia’s assault to the Holocaust. The comparison is one many Israelis reject. VOA’s Lisa Gradstein reports.

2:16 p.m. : A 96-year-old survivor of the World War II-era Nazi concentration camps has been killed by Russian shelling in Ukraine's eastern city of Kharkiv. The Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorial said on Monday that the vice president of the Buchenwald-Dora International Committee, Borys Romanchenko, had died after a Russian bomb hit his apartment block in Kharkiv on March 18. "We are stunned," the foundation said. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has the story.

2:03 p.m. : Ukrainians and Russians are arriving at the southern U.S. border in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But reaching the border with Mexico does not guarantee immediate access into the United States, as VOA’s Vincente Calderon reports from Tijuana.

Ukrainians and Russians Arrive at Southern US Border Seeking Entry
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1:45 p.m. : The Associated Press shared images from the war in Ukraine on Monday.

1:42 p.m. : Some of Ukraine's most vulnerable orphans have reached relative safety at a hospital in Kyiv where doctors hope to be able to provide care and perform life-saving surgeries, Reuters reported Monday. Four infants are now being treated at the Kyiv Heart Centre, the country's leading cardiology and cardiac surgery hospital. More than 70 children, including infants, who have spent the past two weeks cared for in bomb shelters in the besieged city of Sumy in northeastern Ukraine have been safely evacuated, local officials said over the weekend. Most were transferred to Lviv in western Ukraine but some were too sick to continue the journey.

1:33 p.m. : Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Monday appealed to China to help seek a political solution to the war in Ukraine.

1:12 p.m. : Ukrainian prosecutors have opened an investigation into the alleged forceful seizure by Russian troops of five ships carrying Ukrainian grain in the port of Berdiansk, the general prosecutor's office said on Monday. The criminal case is being handled by prosecutors in southern Zaporizhzhia region, it said. Russia did not immediately comment on the statement by the general prosecutor's office, Reuters reported.

1:08 p.m.: The U.N. World Food Programme’s executive director, David Beasley, on Monday warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing conflict is adversely affecting agriculture and trade, and that it could trigger a potential “catastrophe on top of a catastrophe” for food availability in parts of the world in a few months’ time.

1:06 p.m.: As a country with a receptive environment with easy access, Uzbekistan has been the destination of thousands of Russians fleeing uncertainty at home amid Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. And their arrival and need for housing has had an immediate effect on the price of real estate in the capital, Tashkent. Khurmat Babadianov has the story for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

12:41 p.m.: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday highlighted the difficulties that civilians face under the constant threat of air raids and bombardments.

12:40 p.m.: Russia's foreign ministry said on Monday it had summoned U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan to tell him that remarks by U.S. President Joe Biden about Russian President Vladimir Putin had pushed bilateral ties to the brink of collapse, Reuters reports. President Biden said last week that Putin was a "war criminal" for sending tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine. "Such statements from the American president, unworthy of a statesman of such high rank, put Russian-American relations on the verge of rupture," the ministry said in a statement. The Kremlin earlier described the comments as "personal insults" against Putin.

12:32 p.m.: Forced civilian deportations from Ukraine’s besieged port town of Mariupol to Russia are “unconscionable,” U.S. officials said Sunday after authorities in Kyiv and Mariupol’s mayor accused Moscow of transporting thousands of people against their will. VOA’s Jamie Dettmer has the story.

12:24 p.m.: The Russian military said Monday it hit a shopping mall on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv because it was used to store rockets, The Associate Press reported. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov charged that the Ukrainian forces were using the shopping mall to reload multiple rocket launchers and store rockets for shelling Russian troops, but these claims could not be independently verified. The shopping center in the densely populated Podil district was reduced to smoldering ruin after being hit late Sunday in shelling that killed eight people, according to Ukrainian emergency officials.

12:20 p.m.: A Moscow court on Monday found Meta Platforms Inc guilty of "extremist activity", but said its decision would not affect the WhatsApp messenger service, focusing its ire on the company's already banned Facebook and Instagram social networks, Reuters reported. Moscow's Tverskoi District Court upheld a lawsuit filed by Russian state prosecutors on banning the activities of Meta on Russian territory, the court's press service said in a statement. The U.S. company's lawyer, Victoria Shagina, had said in court earlier on Monday that Meta was not carrying out extremist activities and stood against Russophobia, the Interfax news agency reported. TASS cited judge Olga Solopova as saying the decision would be enforced immediately.

12:10 p.m.: One of the world’s top chess players has been banned from competitions for six months over his support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, The Associated Press reported Monday. Russia’s Sergey Karjakin, a former challenger for the world title, expressed “complete support” for Russian President Vladimir Putin in an open letter. A disciplinary panel of the International Chess Federation ruled Karjakin had broken a rule against tainting the reputation of the game of chess or the organization that administers it. The 32-year-old represented Ukraine until 2009 before switching allegiance to Russia. He was born in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

12:04 p.m.: International sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have caused some Russian tourists to be stranded while on vacations abroad. VOA News reports.

Sanctions Overs Ukraine Invasion Strand Russian Tourists Abroad
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11:48 a.m.: The European Union's foreign ministers disagreed on Monday on whether and how to slap sanctions on Russia's lucrative energy sector over its invasion of Ukraine, with Germany saying the bloc was too dependent on Russian oil to decide an embargo, Reuters reported. The EU and allies have already imposed a range of measures against Russia, including freezing its central bank's assets. But targeting Russian oil, as the United States and Britain have done, is a divisive choice for the 27-nation EU, which relies on Russia for 40% of its gas.

11:36 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked American celebrities Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis over the weekend, noting that they raised $35 million so far to aid Ukrainians affected by Russia’s invasion.

11:21 a.m.: Russia has told its academics to avoid scientific conferences abroad this year, the science and higher education ministry said on Monday. Moscow finds itself increasingly isolated over its military campaign in Ukraine, Reuters reported. The ministry said it had also decided to suspend the indexation of work by Russian scholars in international databases until the end of the year. “Russia must remain on the frontier of global science. But we need to act in accordance with our national interests,” Minister Valery Falkov said in a statement. Russian scientists who regularly exchange information with their foreign counterparts face scrutiny from the authorities.

11:15 a.m.: A senior U.S. defense official on Monday provided a briefing on the latest developments regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. VOA’s National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin has the details.

11:01 a.m.: The artist behind a mural in Prague protesting the Russian invasion of Ukraine says the response to his work has been “huge.” Dmitry Proskin, who lives in the Czech capital with his family, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that photos of the mural have been shared worldwide since he completed the work last week. “The main thing is that it is being seen by Ukrainian people,” the Kazakh-born artist said. “They are sending me messages of thanks, so my main goal of showing Ukrainians our support was reached,” he added.

10:42 a.m.: VOA’s Jamie Dettmer reports on life for Ukrainians in Russian-occupied towns, where they report hunger, fear, and abductions.

10:40 a.m.: The European Union's migration commissioner warned on Monday that Ukrainian children were in danger of being trafficked as they flee their country from the Russian invasion, Reuters reported. Ylva Johansson told a news conference in Estonia that about half of 3.3 million Ukrainians who had fled to EU countries since the start of the war were children. She noted that so far there had been very few unaccompanied children reported at EU borders, and only few reports of trafficking. However, police forces, activists and Ukraine's women organizations had signaled some "alarming" cases, she said, noting that in past situations of mass migration these abuses were common.

10:37 a.m.: The Ukrainian capital Kyiv woke up Monday morning to new scenes of devastation after a Russian air strike the night before destroyed a shopping mall. Ukraine’s prosecutor-general said at least eight people had been killed in the attack, which also hit residential buildings.

10:24 a.m.: This week, the U.N. General Assembly is expected to resume an "emergency special session" to vote on a draft resolution prepared by France and Mexico on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine. The text demands an immediate stop to Russia's hostilities against Ukraine, especially attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure. It also demands the full protection of civilians, including humanitarians, medical personnel, journalists and foreign nationals, and of people trying to flee the conflict. The text calls for the full respect of international humanitarian law, including an end to sieges on Ukrainian cities, including Mariupol, and strongly encourages continued negotiations between all parties for an immediate peaceful resolution of the conflict. VOA’s UN Correspondent Margaret Besheer is following developments.

10:21 a.m. : U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday that the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine risks upending global food and energy markets – with major implications for the global climate agenda. Speaking at the Economist Security Summit, he said, “As current events make all too clear, our continued reliance on fossil fuels puts the global economy and energy security at the mercy of geopolitical shocks and crises. We need to fix the broken global energy mix.”

10:11 a.m. : Ukrainian authorities have set up a help line to provide information to the families of Russian soldiers who are missing in action. Borys Sachalko and Ivan Lyubysh-Kirdey have this story for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

9:54 a.m.: Britain is accusing the Russian state of being behind hoax calls to two government ministers by an imposter posing as the prime minister of Ukraine, The Associate Press reported Monday. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the hoaxer was able to speak to him on a video call last Thursday. Wallace said he became suspicious and hung up after the caller “posed several misleading questions.” He accused Russia of “dirty tricks.” Home Secretary Priti Patel said she had received a similar call, and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said an unsuccessful attempt was made to speak with her.

9:52 a.m. : Oil prices surged on the global market Monday.

9:33 a.m.: Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, and his brother Wladimir, a world champion boxer and member of the Kyiv Territorial Defense Forces, spoke with the Washington Post Live Monday, saying Russia needs to leave Ukraine now, and appealing for more humanitarian, military and political support from the West.

“Unity – it’s our key to stop the war,” the mayor said, “We are fighting for our future.” He spoke of destruction in his city, enumerating the apartment buildings and schools that have been hit and noting hundreds of casualties, adding that these attacks provide “huge motivation” to Ukrainians to defend their homes.

“We want to live in a peaceful country,” his brother Wladimir said, adding this “reckless” war was started by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who he accused of committing war crimes. He said that the Territorial Defense Forces “are getting smarter every day, we are learning more about our enemies every day,” and he noted that the men and women fighting are trying hard to prevent Russian troops from encircling Kyiv. “We need to act now. We need to wake up now. We need to isolate Russia now, tomorrow may not exist for the Ukrainians,” he said.

9:15 a.m.: The U.N. human rights office (OHCHR) said on Monday it had recorded 2,421 civilian casualties in Ukraine - 925 killed and 1,496 injured as of midnight on March 20, Reuters reported.

8:47 a.m.: Human Rights Watch said Monday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is exacerbating hunger in the Middle East and North Africa, and it called for a strong response to protect the “right to food.”

8:33 a.m.: Ukraine and Russia held more peace talks Monday, Reuters reported. Russian and Ukrainian peace negotiators held a 90-minute video call and working groups will continue to meet throughout the day, a member of the Ukrainian delegation said. "Today we are working the whole day," Ukrainian delegate and lawmaker David Arakhamia was quoted as saying by Ukrainian media.

8:28 a.m.: Death and destruction are common sights across the Ukrainian coastal city of Mariupol, which has been devastated by weeks of relentless Russian military attacks. Despite a Russian military ultimatum, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Monday that “there can be no question of surrender.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty shared images from a city under siege.

8:02 a.m.: A Moscow court on Monday rejected an attempt by Facebook owner Meta Platforms to have extremism charges against it dismissed, according to Reuters. Russia has already banned Facebook for restricting access to Russian media while Instagram was blocked after Meta said it would allow social media users in Ukraine to post messages urging violence against Russian President Vladimir Putin and troops Moscow sent into Ukraine on February 24. Meta has since narrowed its guidance to prohibit calls for the death of a head of state and said its guidance should never be interpreted as condoning violence against Russians in general.

7:30 a.m.: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelinskyy has warned that the Baltic states could be Russia's next target. The Baltic region’s NATO members – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - are vulnerable from land and sea, Reuters reports.

7:22 a.m.: Since the shelling began to intensify in Kyiv and Kharkiv about a week ago, Julia Entin has been working feverishly — thousands of miles away in Los Angeles — to evacuate Holocaust survivors in Ukraine who find themselves trapped in yet another conflict.

7:07 a.m.: European Union countries on Monday accused the Russian armed forces of committing war crimes in Ukraine, but appeared unlikely to impose new sanctions on Moscow despite a clamor across Europe for those responsible for attacks on civilians to be held to account, according to The Associated Press. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said before he chaired a meeting of the 27-nation bloc’s foreign ministers in Brussels that “what’s happening in Mariupol is a massive war crime.”

6:41 a.m.: The European Union should step up sanctions on Russia to target its lucrative energy sector, the foreign ministers of Lithuania and Ireland said Monday. The European Union and its Western allies have already imposed sanctions including freezing Russia’s central bank's assets. But whether to target Russian oil, as the United States and Britain have done, is a tough and divisive choice for the 27-nation EU, which relies on Russia for 40% of its gas. The Kremlin said on Monday Europe would be hit hard in the event of an embargo on Russian oil, striking the continent's energy balance, Reuters reported.

6:33 a.m.: Authorities in Odesa accused Russian forces of carrying out a strike on residential buildings in the outskirts of the Ukrainian city early on Monday, the first such attack on the Black Sea port city. The city council said there were no casualties although the strike caused a fire, Reuters reported. “These are residential buildings where peaceful people live,” Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov was quoted as saying. Russia denies targeting civilians.

6:30 a.m.: A superyacht linked to sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich was cruising a few miles off the coast of southwest Turkey on Monday, after skirting European Union waters in recent days, ship tracking data showed. Abramovich was among several Russian billionaires added last week to an EU blacklist that already included dozens of wealthy Russians, and EU governments have acted to seize yachts and other luxury assets from them.

6:14 a.m.: Mstyslav Chernov is a video journalist for The Associated Press. This is his account of the siege of Mariupol, as documented with photographer Evgeniy Maloletka and told to correspondent Lori Hinnant.

6:05 a.m.: Ukraine’s prosecutor general said a Russian shell struck a chemical plant outside the city of Sumy early Monday morning, causing a leak in a 50-ton tank of ammonia that took hours to contain. Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov clained the leak was a “planned provocation” by Ukrainian forces to falsely accuse Russia of a chemical attack, The Associated Press reported.

5:55 a.m.: A new 35-hour curfew has been announced in Kyiv Monday, beginning from 8 p.m. local time until 7 a.m. on Wednesday, James Waterhouse, Kyiv correspondent for the BBC said in a Twitter post. “Authorities say anyone seen on the streets (without a special pass or not making their way to a shelter) will be considered an enemy,” he added.

5:30 a.m.: Ukraine has managed to rotate staff working at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant for the first time since Russia seized it last month as it invaded its neighbour, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the U.N.’s nuclear agency.

Ukraine told the International Atomic Energy Agency that around half of the staff were “finally” able to return to their homes on Sunday, AFP reported, after working at the Russian-controlled site for nearly four weeks, IAEA director general Rafael Grossi said.

4:40 a.m.: New Zealand will send non-lethal military equipment to Ukraine. The government in Wellington is also providing more financial assistance to Ukraine following the Russian invasion. From VOA, Phil Mercer reports from Sydney.

3:30 a.m.: The leaders of the United States, France, Germany, Italy and Britain are scheduled to participate in a call Monday to discuss what the White House called “their coordinated responses to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine.”

The meeting comes days ahead of a NATO summit, a G-7 meeting, and a European Council summit all focused on the situation in Ukraine.

3:20 a.m.: Video released by Ukraine’s State Emergency Service Sunday showed a large blast in the Kyiv suburbs followed by firefighters scrambling to rescue people stranded beneath the rubble.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko said shelling hit residential houses and a shopping district in Kyiv’s Podil district late Sunday, killing at least one person. The State Emergency Service video shows firefighters and other rescuers rushing into a shopping center, where a large fire had started, before extricating a person trapped beneath building materials. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has killed thousands, displaced more than three million and raised fears of a wider confrontation between Russia, NATO and the United States.

3:00 a.m.: Britain’s Defense Ministry reported heavy fighting north of Kyiv on Monday, but said Russian advances toward the Ukrainian capital have stalled with the bulk of Russian forces still more than 25 kilometers from the center of the city.

2:30 a.m.: Ukraine’s armed forces reported artillery fire in the country’s port city Odesa on Monday morning.

2:00 a.m.: Greece has offered to rebuild a bombed maternity clinic in Ukraine’s war-torn Mariupol. The Russian attack that killed a pregnant woman and her child, leaving dozens more injured, has since then triggered global outrage. But Greece's initiative spells out more than an act of support to the war-ravaged region. For VOA, Anthee Carassava explains from Athens.

1:25 a.m.: Russia continues its attack on Ukrainian cities as its invasion is in its fourth week. The U.N. says 10 million people are now displaced both in and out of Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden travels to Europe this coming week to meet with allies to discuss the crisis. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi has more.

Russia's War on Ukraine Prompts Biden's European Visit; Emergency Summit
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12:10 a.m.: Officials are reporting an ammonia leak at a chemical plant in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy.

The BBC reported that the regional governor said people within five kilometers of the Sumykhimprom plant should evacuate. The leak was first reported at 4:30 a.m. local time. No cause was listed.

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