For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.
Recap of March 29
* U.K.’s defense ministry says Ukraine forces are conducting localized counterattacks in northwest Kyiv. It adds Russia’s forces have been pushed back from a number of positions but still pose a threat to the city.
* Peace talks began between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators in Istanbul.
* The Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic and Ireland expel additional Russian diplomats.
* U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory warning U.S. citizens that they could be singled out, harassed and detained by Russian authorities if they travel to the country.
* Poland’s government moved to block imports of coal from Russia and said it would impose financial penalties on any private entities importing Russian coal into Poland.
* U.N. nuclear watchdog says director-general in Ukraine to discuss “urgent technical assistance” regarding the country’s nuclear facilities.
* Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper announced it is shutting down until the end of Russia’s war in Ukraine because of warnings from government censors.
For the latest developments of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, all times EDT:
11:30 p.m.: On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory warning U.S. citizens that they could be singled out, harassed and detained by Russian authorities if they travel to the country. The State Department has previously issued a Level 4 travel advisory warning citizens not to travel to the country and to depart immediately if there. The State Department also warned of its limited ability to assist U.S. citizens and widespread problems in Russia including an inability to use credit cards, cash shortages and the arbitrary enforcement of local law.
9:49 p.m.: David Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, warned the U.N. Security Council Tuesday that the war in Ukraine has created “a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe.” He said the conflict will have a global impact “beyond anything we’ve seen since World War II” because farmers from the country which was the breadbasket of the world are on the front lines fighting Russia and already high food prices are skyrocketing, according to The Associated Press.
He said his agency, which was feeding 125 million people around the world before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, said rising food, fuel and shipping costs were forcing his agency to begin cutting rations, AP reported. In war-torn Yemen, he said, 8 million people just had their food allotment cut to 50% “and now we’re looking at going to zero rations.”
"Ukrainians are not naive people. Ukrainians have already learned during these 34 days of invasion, and over the past eight years of the war in Donbas, that the only thing they can trust is a concrete result."
7:35 p.m.: On Tuesday, several European Union countries expelled dozens of Russian diplomats, some for alleged spying, in what the Irish prime minister said was a coordinated move.
The expulsions come as relations between Russia and the West have plunged into a deep freeze following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.
The Netherlands said it was expelling 17 Russians who it described as intelligence officers masquerading as diplomats. Belgium said it was ejecting 21 Russians. The Czech Republic gave one Russian diplomat 72 hours to leave the country. Ireland told four senior Russian officials to leave the country because of activities deemed not “in accordance with international standards of diplomatic behaviour."
5:53 p.m.: VOA U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer reported reaction from Ukraine U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya, who spoke about the Istanbul peace talks: “Today’s negotiations in Istanbul have demonstrated that Russia may be ready to make steps forward, although it is still a long way to a sustainable cease-fire and comprehensive de-escalation. The parties will continue consultations to prepare and agree on provisions of a treaty on the security guarantees for Ukraine, a mechanism of implementation of the cease-fire, withdrawal of forces and other armed formations, opening and safe functioning of humanitarian corridors on a permanent basis, as well as on the exchange of fallen soldiers and the release of prisoners of war and civilians. Signing of the treaty on the security guarantees for Ukraine will only be possible after the withdrawal of all Russian armed units to locations as on 23 February 2022. The negotiation process which is underway by no means removes the need to provide to Ukraine additional assistance with weapons and to implement new sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation for the act of aggression committed."
5:17 p.m.: A gaping hole was ripped into the regional administration building in Ukraine’s southern port city of Mykolayiv on Tuesday. “They hit my office. Most people have got out alive. It’s a miracle,” said regional Governor Vitaliy Kim on his popular social media channel. Mykhaylo Shtekel with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports.
4:23 p.m.: Poland’s government has decided to block imports of coal from Russia, and it will impose financial penalties on any private entities importing Russian coal into Poland, government spokesman Piotr Mueller said Tuesday. He added that Poland could no longer wait for a decision from the whole 27-nation European Union to embrace the policy, according to The Associated Press. While Poland produces much of its own coal, it also relies on imports. Russian coal makes up 13% of the fuel used each year, according to the Institute for Structural Research in Warsaw.
4:10 p.m.: The United States and its allies plan new sanctions on more sectors of Russia's economy that are critical to sustaining its invasion of Ukraine, including military supply chains, Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said on Tuesday. Adeyemo, speaking in London on a European trip to consult with allies on strengthening and enforcing sanctions to punish Russia, said the broadening of those efforts was aimed at undermining "the Kremlin's ability to operate its war machine," Reuters reports.
3:52 p.m.: “Finding comedy in the Ukraine situation serves several functions,” says Chad Nackers, editor in chief of The Onion, an American satirical website. “It is a powerful tool for exposing the folly and absurdity and human cruelty as well as providing some release from a stressful state of affairs and an endless cycle of misery,” he told The Associated Press. “Laughter,” he says, “can fill the hole created by a sense of hopelessness.”
3:34 p.m.: Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor has demanded the creators of a popular cartoon show remove the last episode posted on the Internet because it deals with Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Roskomnadzor said on Tuesday that the episode of the series Masyanya "contains false information of social importance about the ongoing military operation to defend the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics." According to Roskomnadzor, the cartoon episode "discredits the Russian Federation's armed forces." Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.
3:05 p.m.: As more people flee Ukraine to neighboring countries to escape the war, Poland is seeing an influx of refugees at its border. Among the displaced is a Ukrainian-Ghanaian family. VOA’s Mary Mgawe and Karina Choudhury spoke to the family and filed this report.
2:39 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden said Tuesday Western allied nations are waiting to see if Russia will fulfill a commitment to de-escalate attacks around the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv. "We'll see if they follow through," Biden said after speaking by telephone with leaders of the United Kingdom, France and Italy. "There seems to be a consensus that let's just see what they have to offer." Biden's comments to reporters at the White House came after Russia's military said earlier Tuesday at the latest round of peace talks in Turkey that it would cut back operations around Kyiv and Chernihiv.
2:08 p.m.: Western officials say Russia is building up troops in eastern Ukraine, but it’s too soon to say whether Moscow’s claim to be scaling back operations around Kyiv is true, The Associated Press reported. Officials familiar with the intelligence picture said Tuesday that Moscow is reinforcing troops in the eastern Donbas region. Moscow has said gaining control of the Donbas is now its main military goal in Ukraine. The British government also expressed skepticism about Russia’s claims to be scaling back and its commitment to ending the war through talks. “We will judge (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and his regime by his actions, not by his words,” said Max Blain, spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
1:28 p.m.: Four European countries --the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, and the Czech Republic -- announced major expulsions of Russian diplomats on March 29 for alleged espionage as Moscow’s war against Ukraine continues to rage, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
1:15 p.m.: The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned Tuesday that Ukrainians may soon face serious food insecurity. “An immediate and worrying finding is that food shortages are expected immediately or in the next three months in over 40 per cent of the surveyed areas and cases,” said Rein Paulsen, FAO Director, Office of Emergencies and Resilience. “When it comes to the all-important production of vegetables, conflict is likely to severely disrupt production for tens of thousands of smallholder farmers, those who have decided to stay behind,” he said. FAO has been able to support more than 14,600 farming families by providing them with more than 740 tons of urgently needed seed for planting, Paulsen said.
12:35 p.m.: The U.N. World Health Organization released a map Tuesday showing where most of its life-saving medicine and supplies have been shipped, to assist Ukrainians affected by the war.
12:24 p.m.: The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians on Tuesday denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an “atrocious” act that is causing enormous suffering, The Associated Press reported. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I didn't mention Russia by name in comments made during a visit to Warsaw after meeting with Ukrainian refugees. “It is simply impossible to imagine how much devastation this atrocious invasion has caused for the Ukrainian people and the entire world,” Bartholomew said at a news briefing.
11:56 a.m.: The International Committee of the Red Cross reports a misinformation and disinformation campaign is being waged on social media to discredit its humanitarian work in Ukraine. For example, one claim that has no basis in truth, a spokesman said, is the agency’s alleged role in forced evacuations. “The ICRC has not been involved with any forced evacuation, forced transfers of civilians into Russia from Mariupol or any other Ukrainian city…The ICRC does not want to open an office in southern Russia to filter Ukrainians as many reports are alleging. So, that is absolutely false.,” said the spokesman for the ICRC. VOA’s Lisa Schlein has more.
11:23 a.m.: Russia’s promise to scale down military operations around Kyiv and northern Ukraine does not represent a ceasefire, Moscow’s lead negotiator in peace talks said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
“This is not a cease-fire but this is our aspiration, gradually to reach a de-escalation of the conflict at least on these fronts,” Vladimir Medinsky, head of the Russian team, said in an interview with the TASS news agency.
Medinsky said Russia had made a second major de-escalatory step by agreeing to a possible meeting of the two countries’ presidents at the same moment that a peace agreement was initialed. “However, to prepare such an agreement on a mutually acceptable basis, we still have a long way to go,” he said.
11:21 a.m.: More than a month since Russia's invasion, the defense of Ukraine's capital Kyiv has played out in ferocious fighting in places like Lukyanivka and the nearby town of Brovary to the east, Irpin and Bucha to the northwest and Makariv to the west. When the histories are written such towns and villages may be minor details, but they are where the Russian advance has been halted. Reuters has this in-depth look at how, in villages near Kyiv, Ukraine has kept Russia’s army at bay.
11:00 a.m.: “We have to save our child’s life,” says Ihor, clutching his small child as they wait for a bus that will take them from Lviv, in western Ukraine, to Poland for vital cancer treatment. This was the seventh convoy with child cancer patients to leave Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24. Current Time, a co-production between Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA, has the story.
10:46 a.m.: Information technology companies are focused on providing reliable information and stymying Russian propaganda about the invasion of Ukraine, the CEO of Google and Alphabet Inc. said Tuesday. Sundar Pichai met with Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw to discuss ways of aiding the people of war-torn Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.
10:34 a.m.: Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday that Russia’s circulation and use of its currency, the ruble, in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine violates international law.
10:31 a.m.: Polish veterinarians are helping to treat the pets of Ukrainian refugees at a border crossing town, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.
10:24 a.m.: With seafarers stranded on ships in Ukrainian ports and food supplies running low, the United Nations is pressing for their safe passage out of danger, Reuters reported Tuesday. Russia's military took control of waterways when it invaded Ukraine. Since then at least 100 foreign flagged ships with over 1,000 seafarers have been stuck inside Ukrainian ports with food supplies running low, shipping officials say. UN shipping agency the International Maritime Organization (IMO) said this month it would seek to create a safe maritime corridor to enable merchant ships and their crews to sail out of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov without the risk of being hit. "The IMO Secretariat is working with both Ukraine and the Russian Federation to try and assist the safe departure of the ships and their crew," an IMO spokesperson said.
10:17 a.m.: The U.N.’s food aid and refugee agencies on Tuesday announced that they have teamed up with six leading footballers – three of whom are former refugees – to launch an appeal to raise funds for Ukrainians fleeing their homes as a result of Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine.
9:47 a.m.: Britain has detained a Russian-owned $50 million superyacht hours before it was due to leave London where it had docked for a meeting of the superyacht awards, saying the move was part of its sanctions package aimed at punishing Moscow, Reuters reported. The Dutch-built yacht, named Phi, was detained in the Canary Wharf financial district of London under the government’s Russian sanctions, the first time the regulations have been used to detain a ship. The government said Phi was owned by a Russian businessman that it did not name, but that ownership was “deliberately” hidden.
9:34 a.m.: The U.N. Children’s Fund, UNICEF, released a statement detailing how its supplies move through the logistics chain to reach children who have been affected by the war in Ukraine.
9:09 a.m.: Olena Kondratiuk, Vice Speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, appealed to the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross Tuesday not to open an office in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia. The Ukrainian government has objected to Ukrainian citizens being evacuated into Russia or Russian-controlled territory.
9:07 a.m.: Turkey’s foreign minister said that Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have reached “a consensus and common understanding” on some issues, following talks in Istanbul Tuesday, The Associated Press reported. Mevlut Cavusoglu said the two sides made “the most meaningful progress” since the start of the negotiations. He said there would be a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers, and that difficult issues “will be taken up at a higher level.” He didn’t give a timeframe.
8:43 a.m.: BREAKING - Russia promised at peace talks on Tuesday to drastically scale down its military operations around Kyiv and the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, while Ukraine proposed neutral status with international guarantees to protect it from attack, Reuters reported.
8:41 a.m.: This week a group of veteran Russian human rights and political activists agreed to set up an anti-war council and to focus their efforts on opposing the invasion of Ukraine. They are preparing an open letter calling on Russia to end its war on Ukraine, in which they will declare it “our common duty” to “stop the war [and] protect the lives, rights and freedoms of all people, both Ukrainians and Russians.” The soon-to-be-published manifesto will be signed by a dozen opposition luminaries, VOA’s Jamie Dettmer reports.
8:32 a.m.: Moved by footage of a father bidding a tearful farewell to his family, London taxi driver Matt Westfall felt compelled to do something to help those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine. "I was watching the TV one night and I see a man in his mid-30s with his wife and child, and all three of them were sobbing. It really did grab my attention ... it quite upset me," Westfall, 52, told Reuters. "I thought 'what can I do about it'?"
Westfall contacted one of his friends and they got together a group of fellow "black cab" drivers with the aim of ferrying escaping Ukrainians to where they needed to go. They also raised about 10,000 pounds for aid as donations flooded in from various taxi organizations and on the crowd funding service GoFundMe.
Last week, the group of six London black cabs, another car and a van set off on the 11-hour trip to Poland, with the convoy attracting cheers and waves as it made its way through Europe.
8:28 a.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted a video this week detailing official U.S. support to Ukraine since Russia invaded. “The United States is, and will remain, united with Ukraine,” the video says.
8:10 a.m.: A dozen members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged President Joe Biden's administration to push for Russia's removal from the United Nations Human Rights Council, citing its invasion of Ukraine. In a letter dated Monday and seen by Reuters, the eight Democrats and four Republicans asked the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, to introduce a resolution to remove Russia from the rights body, citing widespread casualties in Ukraine and the destruction of residential buildings, hospital and schools. Support for Ukraine is one of the rare areas of bipartisan agreement in the bitterly divided U.S. Congress, which has approved billions of dollars in aide for the government in Kyiv.
8:01 a.m.: Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper announced this week it is shutting down until the end of Russia’s war in Ukraine because of warnings from government censors. Current Time, a co-production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA, has this report on Dmitry Muratov, the chief editor, and the work that he and other journalists at Novaya Gazeta have tried to do.
7:51 a.m.: The International Committee of the Red Cross exhorted Ukraine and Russia on Tuesday to agree on safe evacuation of civilians from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol and other frontline areas, where vital supplies are running out. Asked about Ukrainian accusations of forced deportations of Mariupol residents to Russia, ICRC director-general Robert Mardini told Reuters his agency had no direct information and would not participate in such actions, as it violated the rules of war. "People are caught and trapped in the line of fire. And it is happening unfortunately in many places today in Ukraine, not only in Mariupol," Mardini said at ICRC headquarters in Geneva.
7:33 a.m.: Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said at least 7 people were killed in a Russian attack on the town of Mykolaiv Tuesday, The Kyiv Independent reported.
7:09 a.m.: Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday released its estimate of Russian battlefield losses since the invasion began February 24.
7:08 a.m. : The U.N. nuclear watchdog’s director-general arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday for talks with senior government officials on delivering “urgent technical assistance” to ensure the safety of the country’s nuclear facilities, The Associated Press reported. The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement that Rafael Mariano Grossi’s aim is “to initiate prompt safety and security support” for Ukraine’s nuclear sites. That will include sending IAEA experts to “prioritized facilities,” which it didn’t identify, and sending “vital safety and security supplies” including monitoring and emergency equipment. The IAEA chief has been pressing for weeks for an agreement with Ukraine and Russia on the safety of Ukrainian nuclear power plants.
7:00 a.m.: Billionaire Roman Abramovich is not an official member of the Russian team negotiating with Ukraine, but is present at the talks in Turkey to "enable certain contacts" between the two sides, the Kremlin said on Tuesday. Abramovich, who is sanctioned by the West over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine due to his ties with President Vladimir Putin, was present on Tuesday at the first direct peace talks in more than two weeks in Istanbul, Reuters reported.
6:41 a.m.: A new round of peace talks aimed at ending Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began Tuesday in Turkey as Ukrainian soldiers appear to have retaken more towns from Russian ground forces whose advances have stalled amid fierce opposition by Ukrainian fighters.
Addressing negotiators from Russia and Ukraine before the start of talks in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised speech, it was up to both sides to reach a concrete agreement and “stop this tragedy.”
The Russian negotiating team included billionaire Roman Abramovich, who suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning, along with at least two senior members of the Ukrainian team, after a meeting in Kyiv earlier this month.
Speaking about the peace talks, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on national television Monday that “the minimum program will be humanitarian questions, and the maximum program is reaching an agreement on a cease-fire.”
During an interview Sunday in a call with Russian journalists, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine was open to adopting neutral status as part of a peace deal if it came with third-party guarantees and was put to a referendum
6:30 a.m.: Hours before the negotiations began, President Zelenskyy insisted that sanctions imposed by Western nations against Moscow need to be “effective and substantial” in order for them to have the intended effect on Russia’s economy.
Zelenskyy said if Russia manages to “circumvent” the sanctions, “it creates a dangerous illusion for the Russian leadership that they can continue to afford what they are doing now. And Ukrainians pay for it with their lives. Thousands of lives,” The New York Times reported.
5:45 a.m.: The International Committee of the Red Cross called on Ukraine and Russia Tuesday to reach a clear agreement for the safe evacuation of civilians from the besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol and other places as vital supplies run out.
Robert Mardini, ICRC director-general, told Reuters that the neutral aid agency would not participate in any forced evacuations of civilians from Ukraine and it had no first-hand information that this is happening. He also said there was a “disinformation campaign” against the ICRC on social media.
“Our concern is that the very intensity of the fighting is putting civilians in harm’s way, the fact that in places like Mariupol civilians are not able to leave in safe conditions, there were no concrete agreements by parties to the conflict for safe evacuation of civilians, nor has there been a green light to get humanitarian aid in,” Mardini said.
Ukraine and Russia must allow the ICRC to visit captured prisoners of war, in line with the Geneva Conventions, and return the remains of people killed in the conflict, he said in an interview with Reuters at ICRC headquarters in Geneva.
5:30 a.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden’s whirlwind diplomatic tour of Europe might be most remembered by his words about Russian President Vladimir Putin: “This man cannot remain in power.” Two days after his utterance, Biden clarified that although he won’t back down from the sentiment, the U.S. did not plan to take Putin out of office. VOA’s Anita Powell reports, from the White House, on what this means as this Ukraine conflict enters a second month.
4:30 a.m.: The U.N. nuclear watchdog says its director-general has arrived in Ukraine for talks with senior government officials on delivering “urgent technical assistance” to ensure the safety of the country’s nuclear facilities, The Associated Press reported.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Tuesday that Rafael Mariano Grossi’s aim is to “to initiate prompt safety and security support” for Ukraine’s nuclear sites. That will include sending IAEA experts to “prioritized facilities” and sending “vital safety and security supplies” including monitoring and emergency equipment.
3:30 a.m.: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called for an immediate cease-fire Tuesday and that the onus is on both sides in “stopping this tragedy.” Erdogan made the remark in a televised speech, ahead of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators, Reuters reported.
3:00: a.m.: Another round of talks aimed at stopping the war in Ukraine is scheduled for Tuesday as the fighting looks increasingly like a stalemate on the ground, with the two sides trading control of a town in the east and a suburb of the capital, The Associated Press reported.
Ahead of the talks, to be held in Istanbul, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country is prepared to declare its neutrality, as Moscow has demanded, and is open to compromise on the fate of the Donbas, the contested region in the country’s east.
The Ukrainian delegation has checked in the Shangri-La Bosphorus while the Russian delegation has settled in the Ciragan Palace Kempinski hotel, both very close to each other in the Besiktas district.
2:30 a.m.: Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged in a Twitter post Tuesday “upon states around the world” for the criminalization of “the use of the ‘Z’ symbol as a way to publicly support Russia’s war.”
The letter Z has been used as a marking on Russian military vehicles taking part in the conflict and has been adopted by Russians supporting the war, with it being prominent on flags and at pro-Kremlin rallies, Reuters reported.
2:00 a.m.: The U.K.’s ministry of defense said Tuesday that Ukraine’s forces continued to conduct localized counterattacks in northwest of Kyiv, including Irpen, Bucha and Hostomel. The report confirms an earlier update released by the Ukrainian armed forces. Russian forces have been pushed back from a number of positions as a result, the report said. However, the daily intelligence report cautioned saying Russia continues to pose a threat to the city due to airstrikes. Russia has heavily bombarded Ukranian cities since the invasion started last month.
1:30 a.m.: In an operational report, Ukraine’s military said it had repelled seven Russian attacks on Monday. The Ukrainian report says its forces destroyed 12 Russian tanks and 10 combat vehicles and its air force hit 17 targets, according to a summary provided to U.K.’s newspaper The Guardian. The claims could not be confirmed.
The Ukrainian military said the country continues to be hit by Russian missile-bomb strikes and civilians are being “shot, kidnapped and held hostage,” in occupied areas.
1:05 a.m.: Russian and Ukrainian representatives arrived in Istanbul on Monday for another round of peace talks. The Russian delegation arrived at 4 p.m. local time while the Ukrainian delegation landed at 10 p.m. local time. Talks are set to begin on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. local time and last for two days. The talks will take place at the office of the Turkish president known as the Dolmabahçe Palace.
Previous negotiations held in Belarus did not yield a breakthrough or a cessation of hostilities.
12:00 a.m.: Delegation members attending peace talks between Ukraine and Russia suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning after a meeting in Kyiv earlier this month, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. VOA has this story.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.