Russia-Ukraine live news: US not seeking regime change in Russia | Russia-Ukraine war News

  • The leader of Ukraine’s separatist Lugansk region says a vote might be held in the territory to become part of Russia.
  • US President Joe Biden says Russia’s war in Ukraine has been a “strategic failure” for Moscow and that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power”.
  • The Kremlin slams comments and says it is up to Russians to choose their president.
  • Russian forces capture Ukraine’s Slavutych, where workers from the Chernobyl nuclear plant live, and three people have been killed, the mayor said.
  • Russian forces have fired at a nuclear research reactor in the eastern city of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian parliament claims.
  • Five people have been wounded in missile attacks on Lviv in western Ukraine, says the region’s governor.INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 32

Here are all the latest updates:

Table of Contents

Head of Ukraine rebel region says may hold vote on joining Russia

The head of Ukraine’s Luhansk separatist region has said is considering holding a referendum on becoming part of Russia.

“I think that in the near future a referendum will be held on the territory of the republic, during which the people will… express their opinion on joining the Russian Federation,” Russian news agencies quoted Leonid Pasechnik as saying.

“For some reason, I am sure this will be the case,” he said.

US has no strategy of ‘regime change’ in Russia, Blinken says

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has clarified Biden’s comments about Putin, adding that the US has no strategy of “regime change” for Russia.

Russia has criticised the US president’s remarks in Poland that Putin “cannot remain in power”.

“I think the president, the White House, made the point last night that, quite simply, President Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone else,” Blinken said during a visit to Jerusalem on Sunday.

“As you know, and as you have heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia – or anywhere else, for that matter.”

Turkey’s Kalin says new global security architecture needed

Ibrahim Kalin, the Turkish presidential spokesman, has said there has to be a new security architecture in the world.

“The energy geopolitics need to change after this war. It’s not going to be enough, it will not solve the [energy shortage] problem if we increase oil and gas production. We have to think of different ways to address this issue,” he said, speaking at the Doha Forum.

The senior official added: “We have kept our lines of communication open with Russia and Ukraine. There are a number of areas where we disagree with Russia, such as in Syria and Libya, but I think it is important to note that we have managed to develop a working relationship with Russia.”

“Leadership diplomacy will be key in bringing an end to this war. Ukrainians will need to be supported in order for them to defend themselves. But we also need to keep in mind that we need to talk to Russia. Whatever security concerns Russia had going into this war needs to be heard,” he stressed.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin sitting
Kalin says leadership diplomacy will be key in bringing an end to the war [File: Murad Sezer/Reuters]

Qatar stresses on role of dialogue in Russia-Ukraine war

Qatar foreign ministry spokesman Majid al-Ansari has said Qatar’s position on the Russia-Ukraine war has been crystal clear from the start of the conflict.

“While we value our relationship with the West and we consider ourselves to be in line with the consensus condemning escalation in Ukraine, we believe in dialogue and facilitating the need for dialogue,” he said, talking at the Doha Forum.

He added: “It is in our national interest as a country to make sure these kinds of conflicts are not prolonged. It is our duty as a small middle power state to facilitate dialogue. Qatar maintained communication with both parties.”

Some 30,000 Ukrainian refugees reach France

About 30,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in France, with half of them travelling through the country to other countries such as Spain, according to the French housing minister, Emmanuelle Wargon.

Wargon told France Info radio the government was preparing to welcome 100,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

France has been granting temporary European Union stay permits to Ukrainian refugees, which allows them to have access to schools and to work in the country.

Before the war, the Ukrainian community in France numbered 40,000.

What does Russia’s shift of military focus mean for the Ukraine war?

Russian forces in Ukraine have apparently shifted their focus from a ground offensive aimed at the capital, Kyiv, to instead prioritising what Moscow calls “liberation” of the contested Donbas region, suggesting a new phase of the war.

Has President Putin scaled back his ambitions in search of a way out of the war? The dug-in defensive positions taken recently by some Russian forces near Kyiv indicate a recognition of the surprisingly stout Ukrainian resistance.

Read more here.

Ukrainian servicemen are seen riding on tanks towards the front line with Russian forces in the Luhansk region of Ukraine
Ukrainian servicemen ride on tanks towards the front line with Russian forces [File: AFP]

Ukraine says two evacuation corridors agreed

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Kyiv and Moscow have agreed to two “humanitarian corridors” to evacuate civilians from front-line areas.

People will be allowed to leave by private car from the southern city of Mariupol, she said.

UN warns 90 percent of Ukrainians could face poverty if war continues

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says if the conflict in Ukraine does not stop soon 90 percent of the country’s population could fall into poverty.

“We see across the country that people have lost their livelihoods,” Achim Steiner, UNDP administrator, told Al Jazeera on the sidelines of the ongoing Doha Forum.

Kyiv is trying to put in some social safety measures to help people but Steiner says “the ability to look after millions of people who are not able to earn an income” could be a huge task for the authorities to handle.

“The economy is in large part suffering the consequences of supply chain constraints but also basic municipal services are increasingly not being able to function,” Steiner added.

Ukraine exports first grain by train to Europe: APK-Inform

Traders have exported the first supplies of Ukrainian corn to Europe by train as the country’s seaports remain blocked due to the Russian invasion, APK-Inform agriculture consultancy said.

Ukraine is a major global grain grower and exporter, and almost all its exports have traditionally been shipped from its Black Sea ports. Monthly grain exports exceeded 5 million tonnes before the war.

“The first batches of several thousand tonnes of corn have already been exported across Ukraine’s western land border,” APK-Inform said in a report.

“Difficulties with logistics persist, supply still prevails over demand, but prices have stopped falling,” it added.INTERACTIVE- Russia Ukraine and the global wheat supply

Russia destroying Ukrainian fuel and food storage depots, ministry says

Russia has started destroying Ukrainian fuel and food storage depots, meaning the government will have to disperse the stocks of both in the near future, Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said.

Speaking on local television, Denysenko also said Russia was bringing forces to the Ukrainian border on rotation, and could make new attempts to advance in its invasion of Ukraine.

Firefighters at oil facility hit in Russian attack

Firefighters continued to spray water on an oil storage facility in Lviv early on Sunday after it had been targeted by Russian rockets hours earlier.

A security guard at the site, Yaroslav Prokopiv, said he saw three rockets hit the complex, destroying two oil tanks.

“Around 4pm, 12 minutes past 4pm, there was a very loud noise and three missile strikes,” he said. “The first rocket fell there, then there was a second strike and the third strike threw me to the ground.”

Zelenskyy again calls for fighter jets and tanks from Poland

Ukraine’s president has again called for Poland to send combat jets and tanks to help in the fight against Russia’s invasion of his country.

In a video conference with his Polish colleague Andrzej Duda, Zelenskyy warned that if the Ukrainian armed forces were not supplied with fighter jets and tanks, the Russian military could later pose a threat to neighbouring NATO countries.

If Ukraine’s partners did not help Kyiv this way, “then there is a high risk that the Russian army will pose a missile threat not only to the territories of our neighbours – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and the Baltic states – but also a direct general military threat,” Zelenskyy said late on Saturday, according to the Ukrainian president’s official website.

12 journalists killed since Russian invasion: Ukraine prosecutor

Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s chief prosecutor, says 12 journalists have been killed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began.

At least 10 more have been wounded, she said, without elaborating.

She said foreign journalists who were killed included media workers from the US, Ireland and Russia.

And those wounded included reporters from the UK, US, Czech Republic, Denmark, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

Ukraine hospitals deploy StarLink systems

Ukraine’s Ministry of Health says it has deployed 590 StarLink antennas at medical and healthcare institutions in the country.

In a statement, the ministry said the StarLink systems will let hospitals access the internet “when there is a temporary lack of communication due to active hostilities”.

How is Ukraine fighting the media war?

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine rages on, the Ukrainians are responding with a digitally armed resistance led by their president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Watch the latest episode of The Listening Post to find out how Ukrainians are fighting to get their side of the story out.

Musicians perform for Kharkiv residents in bomb shelter

Musicians in Ukraine have performed a classical concert in Kharkiv’s subway on Saturday, the same day that the city would have hosted the Kharkiv Music Fest if not for the Russian invasion.

Three violinists, a cellist and a bass player delighted an audience of a few dozen people for half an hour, including with an excerpt from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No 3 as well as Dvorak’s Humoresques.

“Amid the darkness surrounding us now, it’s extremely important to show that there are eternal values and future in our country, that our country is melodious, beautiful, intellectual and will overcome all these difficulties,” said Sergiy Politutchy, director of the Kharkiv Music Fest.

UK seizes two jets belonging to Russian billionaire

The United Kingdom has seized two jet aircraft belonging to Russian billionaire Eugene Shvidler, who was sanctioned for his links to the Kremlin following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Treasury Secretary Grant Shapps said that the two aircraft would be kept “indefinitely” after a three-week investigation that had already grounded the planes. The Times of London described the aircraft as a $45m Bombardier Global 6500 and a $13m Cessna Citation Latitude.

“Putin’s friends who made millions out of his regime will not enjoy luxuries whilst innocent people die,” Shapps said on Twitter.

Opposition leader says Belarus people ‘stand firmly’ with Ukraine

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the opposition leader of Belarus, has told US President Biden during a phone call that the people of her country “stand firmly with the people of Ukraine”.

Belarus, a Russian ally, has been accused of aiding Putin’s war effort by serving as a launching pad for Russian missiles.

Ukraine says its forces retake Trostianets in Sumy

A Ukrainian military unit says it has “liberated” the town of Trostianets in the eastern Sumy region from Russian forces.

The 93rd Independent Kholodnyi Yar Mechanised Brigade made the announcement on Facebook. Al Jazeera could not verify the claim independently.

The Kyiv Independent, a Ukrainian news website, said Russian forces had captured Trostianets on March 1.

Is the war in Ukraine driving up arms sales in Europe?

Since the end of World War II, there has been relative peace across much of Europe. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has alerted the continent that its stability is not guaranteed.

Many European countries are now reassessing their defence policies and there have even been calls for an EU army.

Watch the latest episode of Counting the Cost to find out how the war in Ukraine is affecting arms sales in Europe.

Tens of thousands rally in London in support of Ukraine

Tens of thousands of people have gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square to express solidarity with Ukraine and protest Russia’s invasion of the country.

The rally, dubbed “London Stands with Ukraine”, was organised by the mayor of the British capital, Sadiq Khan.

Demonstrators take part in the 'London stands with Ukraine' solidarity march, called by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, in London, Saturday, March 26, 2022.
Demonstrators take part in the ‘London stands with Ukraine’ solidarity march, called by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, in London, UK, on March 26, 2022 [David Cliff/ AP]

Man detained at site of Lviv rocket attacks

The governor of the Lviv region says a man was detained on suspicion of espionage at the site of one of the two rocket attacks that rattled the city on Saturday.

Maksym Kozytskyy said police found the man had recorded a rocket flying towards the target and striking it.

Police also found photos of checkpoints in the region on his telephone, which Kozytskyy said had been sent to two Russian telephone numbers.

Rockets hit an oil storage facility and an unspecified industrial facility, wounding at least five people. A thick plume of smoke and towering flames could be seen on Lviv’s outskirts hours after the attacks.

Zelenskyy demands Western nations give Ukraine arms

Ukraine’s president has criticised the United States and Western nations for hesitating on supplying his country with fighter jets, saying “ping-pong” continued in discussions on who should deliver fighter planes and other defence weapons.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine could not defend itself against missiles without proper weapons and could not liberate besieged Mariupol without tanks and combat jets.

Ukraine needed just 1 percent of NATO’s aircraft and 1 percent of its tanks and would not ask for more, he said.

“We’ve already been waiting 31 days. Who is in charge of the Euro-Atlantic community? Is it really still Moscow, because of intimidation?” he said.

Russian claims of focus on Donbas belied by widespread offensive: Analyst

Mattia Nelles, a political analyst focusing on Ukraine, told Al Jazeera that many Ukrainians do not trust Russia’s claims that it will now focus on ‘liberating’ the eastern Donbas region.

“Russia continues to pound Ukrainian cities, so the announcement [that it will] focus on Donbas might be an acknowledgement that they are unable, at least for now, to take control of the capital and decapitate the country’s government. But they might also be buying time to regroup and attack later,” Nelles said, speaking from Dusseldorf in Germany.

“But the point is, the Russian war of annihilation continues unabated – we see the pounding of Mariupol and other cities being hit, and civilians continue to suffer all across the country.”

Russian sanctions could be lifted with Ukraine withdrawal: UK

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss has said sanctions imposed on Russian individuals and companies could be lifted if Russia withdraws from Ukraine.

“Those sanctions should only come off with a full ceasefire and withdrawal, but also commitments that there will be no further aggression. And also, there’s the opportunity to have snapback sanctions if there is further aggression in future. That is a real lever that I think can be used,” she said in an interview with the Telegraph newspaper.

The UK government says it has so far imposed sanctions on banks with total assets of 500 billion pounds ($659bn), as well as oligarchs and family members with a net worth of more than 150 billion pounds ($198bn).

Zurich Insurance removes Z symbol over Ukraine war

Zurich Insurance has removed its Z logo from social media after the letter became a symbol of support in Russia for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The company said it was removing the logo – a white Z on a blue background – because it did not want to be misunderstood as supporting Russia in the conflict.

“We are temporarily removing the use of the letter ‘Z’ from social channels where it appears in isolation and could be misinterpreted,” the company told the Reuters news agency in a statement. “We’re monitoring the situation closely and will take further actions if and when required.”

Russian forces ‘firing at Kharkiv’s nuclear research facility’

Russian forces are firing at a nuclear research facility in the city of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian parliament said in a Twitter post.

“It is currently impossible to estimate the extent of damage due to hostilities that do not stop in the area of the nuclear installation,” the post quoted the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate as saying.

The inspectorate’s website did not contain any news about the attack.

Earlier this month, the grounds of the Institute of Physics and Technology were hit by Russian shells. At the time, the facility’s director-general said the core housing nuclear fuel remained intact.

Three killed as Russian forces capture Chernobyl staff town: Mayor

Russian troops have taken control of Ukraine’s Slavutych, where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live, and three people have been killed, Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted the local mayor as saying.

The town sits just outside a safety exclusion zone around Chernobyl – the site of the world’s worst nuclear plant disaster in 1986 – where Ukrainian staff have continued to manage the site even after the territory was occupied by Russian forces soon after the start of the February 24 invasion.

“Slavutych has been under occupation since today. We steadfastly defended our city … three deaths have been confirmed so far,” Interfax quoted Mayor Yuri Fomichev as saying in a Facebook post.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement that it was closely monitoring the situation and expressed concern about the ability of staff to rotate in and out of the atomic power station.

Ukraine says 5,208 people were evacuated on Saturday

A total of 5,208 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Saturday, a senior official said, fewer than the 7,331 who managed to escape the previous day.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said in an online post that 4,331 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol.

US to provide $100m in civilian security assistance to Ukraine

The US intends to provide Ukraine with an additional $100m in civilian security assistance, the State Department said on Saturday.

Secretary of State Blinken said in a statement that the assistance would be to build the capacity of the Ukrainian ministry of internal affairs with a view to aid “border security, sustain civil law enforcement functions, and safeguard critical governmental infrastructure”.

Russian economy could halve in size due to Western sanctions: Biden

Tough Western sanctions on Moscow will lead to the size of the Russian economy being “cut in half” over the next few years, according to President Biden.

Whereas before its invasion of Ukraine Russia was the world’s eleventh-largest economy, soon Russia would barely be among the 20 largest, Biden said in Warsaw at the end of a two-day visit to Poland.

“As a result of these unprecedented sanctions, the rouble was almost immediately reduced to rubble,” Biden said, referring to the dramatic devaluation of the Russian national currency. “The economy is on track to be cut in half,” he added.

Kremlin says it’s not for Biden to say if Putin stays in power

The Kremlin dismissed a remark by Biden that Putin “cannot remain in power”, saying it was up to Russians to choose their own president.

Asked about Biden’s comment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters news agency: “That’s not for Biden to decide. The president of Russia is elected by Russians.”

A White House official said Biden had not been calling for “regime change” in Russia but his point was that “Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbours or the region.”

Read more here.

Ukraine war ‘strategic failure’ for Moscow: Biden

President Biden has called Russia’s war in Ukraine a “strategic failure” for Moscow.

“Notwithstanding the brutality of Vladimir Putin, let there be no doubt that this war has already been a strategic failure for Russia,” Biden said in a speech in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, Ukraine’s neighbour directly to the west.

“Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, for free people [have] refused to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness. We will have a different future, a brighter future rooted in democracy and principle, hope and light, of decency and dignity of freedom and possibilities,” he added.

“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” he said.

US President Joe Biden speaks during an event in Warsaw, Poland
Biden speaks in Warsaw, Poland [Slawomir Kaminski /Agencja Wyborcza via Reuters]

Read all the updates from Saturday, March 26 here.