Members of the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps fire with a howitzer, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, at a position in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine March 28, 2022 [Stanislav Yurchenko/ Reuters]

Zelenskyy says Ukraine will not reduce defensive efforts as positive signals from peace talks have not ‘drowned out’ the sound of Russian shelling.

  • Russia says it will “fundamentally cut back” offensive operations near Kyiv and Chernihiv in order to boost “trust” in talks with Ukraine.
  • But Ukraine’s military says the Russian pledge is likely aimed at misleading its forces, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Kyiv will not reduce its “defensive efforts”.
  • US President Joe Biden also urges caution, saying West needs to see if the Russians will follow through on de-escalation promise.
  • Russia’s envoy to the UN accuses the West of fuelling the conflict by sending weapons to Ukraine.
  • UN says Ukraine is going from being the “breadbasket of the world” to being on the “breadline”.

Here are all the latest updates:


Polish cabinet approves law to ban Russian coal imports

The Polish government has adopted draft legislation that will allow a ban on imports of Russian coal, according to a cabinet spokesperson.

“We don’t want these imports to be possible any longer, although we realise that there’s a risk related to the fact that the European Union has not approved such actions to date,” Piotr Muller told reporters in Warsaw.

Sanctions in the EU as a rule have to be agreed by the whole trading bloc, and Brussels could potentially punish countries acting unilaterally.

Zelenskyy to address Australian parliament

Ukraine’s president is scheduled to address Australia’s parliament on Thursday evening.

Employment Minister Stuart Robert told parliament that Zelenskiy would make an address by video facility at 5.30pm (07:30 GMT), according to parliament records.

Ukrainian soldier who defended Snake Island released in prisoner exchange

A Ukrainian soldier who gained fame with his refusal to surrender when Russian troops invaded a tiny island in the Black Sea has been released from Russian captivity.

In a tweet, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence said Roman Hrybov, who told a Russian warship “to go fuck yourself”, has “returned from Russian captivity to his native Cherkasy region”.

Russian troops had detained Hrybov when they seized Ukraine’s Snake Island on the first day of Moscow’s invasion on February 24.

Death toll in Mykolaiv attack rises to 12

At least 12 people have been killed in a Russian rocket attack on a government building in the southern city of Mykolaiv, according to Ukraine’s emergency services.

In a Telegram post, the agency said 33 others were wounded.


‘Ukrainians are not naïve’: Zelenskyy

Here’s more on the Ukrainian president’s late night address, during which he called for caution over Russian pledges to scale back the offensive on Kyiv.

“Of course, we see all the risks. Of course, we see no reason to trust the words of certain representatives of a state that continues to fight for our destruction,” he said.

“Ukrainians are not naïve people. Ukrainians have already learned during these 34 days of invasion and over the past eight years of the war in Donbas that only a concrete result can be trusted.”


Ed Sheeran, Camila Cabello perform at ‘Concert for Ukraine’ in Birmingham

Chart-toppers Ed Sheeran and Camila Cabello were among music stars who took to the stage on Tuesday night at a televised concert aiming to raise funds for a Ukrainian humanitarian appeal.

The line-up for the two-hour “Concert for Ukraine” in Birmingham also featured Ukrainian singer Jamala, who won the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, music veteran Nile Rodgers & Chic as well as groups Snow Patrol and Manic Street Preachers.

Organisers said the concert had raised 12.2 million British pounds ($16m) which will be donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee – an umbrella of British charities – for the humanitarian appeal in Ukraine.


Russia suffering an ‘unprecedented blow in Ukraine’: Envoy

Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya has told the UN Security Council that the “demilitarization of Russia is well under way” due to “unprecedented” personnel and equipment losses.

Since the beginning of the invasion into Ukraine, Kyslytsya said the Russian occupiers have lost more than 17,000 military personnel, over 1,700 armoured vehicles and almost 600 tanks.

He also said Russia also has lost 300 artillery systems, 127 planes and 129 helicopters, almost 100 rocket launchers systems, 54 air defense systems and seven ships.

Kyslytsya said that is “an unprecedented blow to Moscow, where the numbers of Soviet losses in Afghanistan pale in comparison.”

Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya attends a Security Council meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York City, US, March 29, 2022 [David ‘Dee’ Delgado/ Reuters] 

Russia’s promised withdrawal aimed at ‘misleading’ Ukraine: Military

Ukraine’s military says it distrusts Russia’s announced withdrawal from around Kyiv and Chernihiv.

“There are indications that the Russian forces are regrouping to focus their efforts on eastern Ukraine,” the Ukrainian general staff said in a statement.

“At the same time, the so-called ‘withdrawal of troops’ is most likely a rotation of individual units and is aimed at misleading the Ukrainian military leadership” by creating the misconception that the Russians have decided not to try to encircle Kyiv, it said.

Russia ‘almost certainly failed’ in Kyiv offensive: UK

The British Ministry of Defence says Russian setbacks and Ukrainian counterattacks around Kyiv mean “it is almost certain” that Russia “has failed in its objective to encircle” the capital city.

In its latest intelligence update, the ministry said Russian pledges to cut back troops around Kyiv may indicate its “acceptance that it has now lost the initiative in the region”.

“It is highly likely that Russia will seek to divert combat power from the north to their offensive in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the east,” the ministry added.

Russia, Ukraine trade accusations over naval mines

Russia and Ukraine have traded accusations about the naval mines that have been set adrift in the Black Sea.

The Russian military has alleged that the Ukrainian military had used old naval mines to protect the coast against a Russian landing and some of them have been ripped off their anchors by a storm and left adrift. Russian Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev reaffirmed on Tuesday that “the threat of Ukrainian mines drifting along the coastline of Black Sea states remains.”

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry responded in a statement, accusing Russia of using Ukrainian mines it seized after the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and setting them adrift to “discredit Ukraine before international partners”.

The conflicting claims by Russia and Ukraine couldn’t be independently verified.

US’s Ilhan Omar backs ICC probe in Ukraine

Progressive US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has voiced support for the International Criminal Court’s probe into possible war crimes in Ukraine.

“The targeting of civilians is horrifying and directly violates international law,” Omar, who was previously criticised for backing an ICC investigation into possible Israeli war crimes in Palestine, wrote on Twitter.

“I fully support the ICC investigation into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I am committed to pushing for international law being enforced without political consideration.”


Thousands may have died in Mariupol in past month: UN

Thousands of civilians may have died in the besieged port city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine since bombing began four weeks ago, a UN official has said.

“We do think that there could be thousands of deaths, of civilian casualties, in Mariupol,” Matilda Bogner, head of the UN human rights mission in Ukraine, said in a virtual interview with the Reuters news agency.

The mission has deployed some 60 monitors in Ukraine.

Bodies of people killed during Ukraine-Russia conflict lie on the ground next to a residential building in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 18, 2022 [Alexander Ermochenko/ Reuters] 
Valentina Demura, 70, reacts as she stands next to the building where her apartment, destroyed during the Ukraine-Russia conflict, is located in the besieged city of Mariupol March 27, 2022 [Alexander Ermochenko/ Reuters] 

US, EU to hold ‘high-level dialogue on Russia’

US and European Union diplomats will hold a “high-level dialogue on Russia” in Washington, DC on Wednesday, according to the US State Department.

“This inaugural session will focus on US and EU strategic objectives and policy coordination aimed at ending the Kremlin’s war of choice in Ukraine,” a State Department spokesperson told Al Jazeera.

The talks come a week after Biden held meetings with top European officials in Belgium and Poland. Victoria Nuland, US undersecretary of state for political affairs, will lead the US delegation, the State Department said.


US troops ‘liaising’ with Ukrainian forces: Pentagon

The Pentagon has clarified that US troops in Poland were “liaising” with Ukrainian forces as they hand over weapons to them, but were not training “in the classic sense” following remarks from Biden on the matter.

“It’s not training in the classic sense that many people think of training. I would just say it’s liaising,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Tuesday.

On Monday, Biden said that while in Poland last week, he talked to US troops who were helping “train” Ukrainian forces.


Zelenskyy says Russia talks gave ‘positive’ signals

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described the signals from peace talks with Russia as positive, but he expressed caution about Moscow’s promise to sharply curtail military action in some areas.

“We can say the signals we are receiving from the talks are positive but they do not drown out the explosions of Russian shells,” he said, adding that Ukraine could only trust a concrete result from the talks.

“The Russian army still has significant potential to continue attacks against our state,” he said. “Therefore we are not reducing our defensive efforts.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the Ukrainian people as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 29, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters] 

WFP warns of ‘devastation’ to global aid efforts

The executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that the crisis in Ukraine, a major food producer, will have disastrous humanitarian consequences around the world, especially in places already suffering food shortages, like Yemen and the Horn of Africa.

David Beasley said the world was already grappling with increased food and transportation prices – issues that will get worse as Ukraine goes from being “the breadbasket of the world” to being on “the breadline”.

“Fifty percent of the grain that we buy comes from Ukraine,” Beasley told the UN Security Council. “We feed 125 million people, before Ukraine ever happened. And so, you can only assume the devastation that this is going to have on our operations alone.”


Russia accuses West of escalating the war by arming Ukraine

Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, has accused the West of escalating the conflict in Ukraine by supplying what he called the “Kyiv regime” with weapons.

Nebenzya also rejected US assertions that the invasion of Ukraine was a “war of choice”, saying that the West was trying to create an “anti-Russia state” in Ukraine.

UN calls for ‘unhindered’ humanitarian access in Ukraine

Joyce Msuya, UN assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, has said aid convoys are planned for Ukraine in the coming days and weeks, but warring parties must ensure “unhindered” humanitarian access in the country.

“Civilians in Ukraine desperately need this assistance and protection,” Msuya told a UN Security Council meeting.

“But to do that, all parties must uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure safe and unhindered humanitarian access to help civilians in their homes and those on the road in Ukraine, and to allow those civilians who want to leave to get out.”


Pentagon says Russia repositioning, not withdrawing, troops around Kyiv

Russia has started moving small numbers of troops away from positions around Kyiv, the Pentagon has said, adding it was more of a repositioning than a retreat or a withdrawal from the war.

“Has there been some movement by some Russian units away from Kyiv in the last day or so? Yes, we think so. Small numbers,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said during a news briefing.

“But we believe that this is a repositioning, not a real withdrawal, and that we all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine. It does not mean that the threat to Kyiv is over.”

Ukraine war threatens ‘rules-based international order’: Biden

US President Joe Biden has warned that the war in Ukraine threatens the “rules-based international order”, including in the Asia-Pacific region, where Washington is locked in growing competition with Beijing.

Speaking at the White House alongside the prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, Biden said “all nations” have a right to territorial integrity and sovereignty regardless of their size or population.

“It’s clear that Putin’s war is unacceptable to nations in every region in the world – not just in Europe but in every region of the world,” Biden told reporters. “It’s an attack on the core international principles that underpin peace and security and prosperity everywhere.”

Read more here.


Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read all the updates from Tuesday, March 29 here.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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