- US President Joe Biden clarifies and defends assertion that Russia’s Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power“.
- Ukrainian forces say they have retaken Irpin, a town outside the capital, Kyiv.
- Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper suspends activities amid Moscow’s intensifying crackdown on critical reporting of the war.
- Negotiators from Kyiv and Moscow are set to sit down for face-to-face talks in Turkey.
- Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says Ukraine’s most ambitious goal at talks with Russia is to agree to a ceasefire.
Here are all the latest updates:
Macron and Putin to speak again on Tuesday
French President Emmanuel Macron is planning to once again speak with his Russian counterpart on Tuesday, the Russian TASS news agency reported.
Macron expects to discuss with Putin the details of a planned humanitarian operation aimed at evacuating civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol, TASS quoted a spokesman for the French leader as saying.
Amnesty accuses Russia of war crimes in Mariupol
Amnesty International is accusing Russia of committing war crimes in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.
“The siege of Mariupol, the denial of humanitarian evacuation and humanitarian escape for the population, and the targeting of civilians, according to Amnesty International’s investigation, amounts to war crimes,” said the group’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard.
“The crisis in Ukraine right now, the invasion … is not just any kind of violation of international law,” she said. “It is an aggression. It is a violation of the UN charter of the kind that we saw when the US invaded Iraq.”
Prospects for a ceasefire in Ukraine remain slim: Analyst
William Courtney, a former US ambassador to Georgia, says he sees no sign of Russian willingness to negotiate a ceasefire in Ukraine.
“Russia is worried that there’s not a perception of sufficient Russian bargaining strength. The international media are portraying Ukraine as holding off Russian forces. Some say Russia has begun to lose the war,” he told Al Jazeera.
“So Russia seems to now want to concentrate its forces in eastern Ukraine, where it has greater relative advantage and probably to try to get a victory somewhere to strengthen its hand in the negotiations. We’ve seen no sign on the battlefield that Russia is beginning to pull out troops, which might signify that it is willing to negotiate an agreement.
“For example, on this issue, Russia is still trying to pursue victory in all of Ukraine. It hasn’t given up on seizing Kyiv, and that had been its main aim up to now.”
Pentagon may need more funding to help Ukraine
Pentagon leaders say they may have to ask the US Congress for additional money to support Ukraine’s battle against Russia’s invasion, including to replenish the arsenal for weapons sent to Kyiv.
Rolling out the Defense Department’s $773bn request for fiscal 2023, Pentagon leaders said the budget was finalized before the invasion so it has no specific money for the war.
Congress approved a $13.5 billion emergency funding package in early March.
The leaders said it was too early to predict how quickly Ukrainian forces will use up the weapons and ammunition already being provided, and how much the US will need to replace what it sends to Ukraine, such as Stinger and Javelin missiles or body armour and other equipment.
Fire at Lutsk oil depot extinguished
Ukrainian firefighters have brought a blazing fire at an oil depot in the far north-western region of Volyn under control.
The site was hit by a Russian rocket attack late on Sunday, which set multiple storage tanks on fire.
Video released by Ukraine’s emergency services showed firefighters battling to contain the devastating inferno.
Продовжується гасіння пожежі, що сталася на одному з промислових підприємств для зберігання пального у Луцьку внаслідок обстрілу 27 березня.
Сьогодні о 08:12 її вдалося локалізувати, наразі триває ліквідація. pic.twitter.com/87lvi0Lcgi
— DSNS.GOV.UA (@SESU_UA) March 28, 2022
The mayor of Lutsk on Monday said that the oil stored at the depot burnt out and that the site’s structures had been seriously damaged.
Lutsk is the capital of the Volyn region and is located about 120 kilometres (75 miles) north of Lviv.
Zelenskyy urges Russian oil embargo without delay
Ukraine’s president has urged Western nations to toughen sanctions against Russia, including imposing an embargo on Russian oil.
“A full-scale war has begun. Now there are many hints and warnings that supposedly tougher sanctions, such as an embargo on Russian oil supplies to Europe, will be put in place if Russia uses chemical weapons,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.
“There are simply no words … We, people who are alive, have to wait. Doesn’t everything the Russia military has done to date warrant an oil embargo? Don’t phosphorous bombs warrant it? A shelled chemical production facility or a shelled nuclear power plant doesn’t warrant it?”
He stressed that sanctions had to be “effective and serious” given Russia’s actions to date.
“If the sanctions packages are weak or do not work strongly enough, if they can be circumvented, it creates a dangerous illusion for the Russian leadership, as if they will be permitted to continue doing what they are doing now,” he said.
“Ukrainians are paying for this with their lives. Thousands of lives.”
US deploys six aircraft specialising in electronic warfare to Europe
The Pentagon has said it is deploying six Navy aircraft that specialise in electronic warfare and about 240 Navy personnel to bolster NATO defences in Eastern Europe.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby says the EA-18G “Growler” aircraft, based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington state, were scheduled to arrive on Monday at Spangdahlem air base in Germany, where they will be stationed. They are not intended for use in Ukraine, he said.
“The purpose of this deployment is to bolster readiness, enhance NATO’s collective defense posture and further increase air integration capabilities with our allied and partner nations,” Kirby said in a statement.
Russia says it would use nuclear weapons only in case of existential threat
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has told US broadcaster PBS in an interview that Russia would only resort to nuclear weapons in the case of a “threat to the existence” of the country – and not as a result of the current conflict with Ukraine.
“But any outcome of the operation (in Ukraine), of course is not a reason for usage of a nuclear weapon,” said Peskov, echoing comments he made to CNN last week.
“We have a security concept that very clearly states that only when there is a threat for existence of the state, in our country, we can use and we will actually use nuclear weapons to eliminate the threat for the existence of our country.”
Seven EU countries warn citizens against joining Ukraine conflict
Seven European Union countries have urged their citizens to refrain from joining the military fight against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The appeal was issued by the justice ministers of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg and Belgium.
The ministers “have unanimously discouraged Europeans from joining” the ranks of voluntary combatants heading to the war in Ukraine, they said in a statement published after their meeting in Brussels.
Ukraine delegation lands in Turkey for Russia talks
A Ukrainian delegation has landed in Istanbul, ahead of talks with Russian negotiators aimed at ending the war, Turkey’s private IHA news agency has reported.
The face-to-face talks between the two sides are scheduled to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday.
UK intelligence says Russia’s Wagner Group deploying to eastern Ukraine
The Russian private military company, the Wagner Group, is deploying fighters to eastern Ukraine, British military intelligence has said.
“They are expected to deploy more than 1,000 mercenaries, including senior leaders of the organisation, to undertake combat operations,” Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.
Last week, the Pentagon warned that the Wagner group is looking to “increasing their footprint in Ukraine”.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 28 March 2022
Find out more about the UK government’s response: https://t.co/LGcaASzEkJ
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/qWJcREPqRN
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) March 28, 2022
US budget to allocate funds to ‘forcefully respond’ to Putin
Biden has said his proposed annual budget, which includes a rise in military spending, allocates funds to address the crisis in Ukraine.
“This budget provides the resources we need to keep Americans safe, ensuring that our military remains the best prepared, best trained, best-equipped military in the world,” Biden said.
“This budget also provides additional funding to forcefully respond to Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, and its economic, humanitarian and security consequences.”
Biden is proposing $813.3bn in defence spending, up from $777.7bn last year.
Biden does not rule out meeting with Putin
Despite the escalating war of words between the Kremlin and the White House, Biden has not ruled out direct talks with Putin.
Asked on Monday whether he would be willing to hold a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Biden said: “It depends on what he wants to talk about.”
Ukraine aiming to secure ceasefire at Russia talks: Foreign minister
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said Ukraine’s most ambitious goal at talks with Russia in Turkey this week will be to agree to a ceasefire.
“The minimum programme will be humanitarian questions, and the maximum programme is reaching an agreement on a ceasefire,” he said on national television, when asked about the scope of the latest round of peace negotiations that are expected to kick off on Tuesday.
What would a ‘rupture’ in US-Russia relations mean?
The war in Ukraine has pushed US-Russia ties to the brink, with the Kremlin warning that bilateral relations were nearing “rupture” after President Joe Biden accused his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of being a “war criminal”.
Should relations completely break down, analysts say the ramifications could ripple well beyond any potential ceasefire or peace negotiations in Ukraine to other areas of US-Russian diplomacy, including most notably Iran nuclear talks.
“We are in a situation now where relations are at rock bottom,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based advocacy group. “Russia could try to block an understanding that brings the US and Iran back into compliance.”
Read more here.
Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.
Read all the updates from Monday, March 28 here.