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Live blog: Missiles target Ukraine’s Odesa — official

They still have superiority in air force, in airplanes and missiles, and we expect to begin to receive super-modern equipment from the United States and Britain to protect our skies and our cities,” Korsunsky told a news conference

Russia threatens to turn off its gas taps to Europe, opening up a new front in its assault on Ukraine amid growing scepticism over Moscow‘s claim it is scaling back its onslaught – now in its 37th day. Ukraine‘s city of Odesa is prepared for a possible Russian offensive. (AP) Friday, April 1, 2022

Missiles target Ukraine's Odesa — official

Three missiles hit a residential area near the Ukrainian southern port city of Odesa, the local governor Maksym Marchenko has said in a video posted online, adding there were casualties.

The enemy has just carried out a strike with three missiles on a settlement,” he said, without sharing an estimate of the casualty toll.

Russia denies targeting civilians.

Fire at Belgorod likely to strain Russia's Ukraine offensive  — UK

British military intelligence said the destruction of several oil tanks at a depot in the Russian city of Belgorod, close to the Ukrainian border, will likely add short-term strain to Russia's already stretched logistics chains.

“Supplies to Russian forces encircling Kharkiv (60 km from Belgorod) may be particularly affected,” Britain's Ministry of Defence said on Twitter.

Earlier on Friday, Moscow said Ukrainian helicopters struck a fuel depot in Belgorod, a logistics hub for its war effort, causing a huge fire. Ukraine denied responsibility for the incident.

US, UK agree to slash 'dependency on Russian energy'

Britain and the United States agreed to work on ending dependency on Russian energy, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said, following a call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“We agreed that pressure on Russia must continue and we will work to eliminate dependency on Russian energy,” Truss said on Twitter.

Russia's Sberbank ceases operations in London after sanctions — statement

Russian lender Sberbank has said it was winding down operations at its investment arm in London, which Britain's financial watchdog said was “operationally unable to make payments” following sanctions over the Russian aggression on Ukraine.

Sberbank is ceasing the operation of its London office, Sberbank CIB (UK) Limited. We are in contact with the local regulator, the FCA, and in accordance with the law we will close our activities, fulfilling all obligations to our clients,” Sberbank said in a statement, referring to the Financial Conduct Authority.

It said key members of staff were still working in their current roles

Over 6,260 people evacuated from Mariupol — official

A total of 6,266 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors, a senior official has said.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president's office, said in an online post that 3,071 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol.

Separately, the AFP news agency has reported that buses carrying Mariupol residents out of the devastated Ukrainian city arrive in Zaporizhzhia.

Sanctions drive Russia to be closed economy — US

Massive sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies have hit the Russian currency and economy hard, and are driving Russia to be a closed economy, a senior US Treasury Department official has said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters that sharp restrictions on foreign exchange meant the value of the rouble was not being set by supply and demand.

The emerging black market activity showed a sharply depreciated value of the currency, and reflected the weakness of the rouble as a financial instrument, the official added.

Ukraine looks for int'l bonds to fund its defence

Ukraine, hoping to tap fresh sources of money to fund its defence efforts, is looking at ways to extend a domestic bond issuance programme to international capital markets, a source familiar with the situation has said.

Kiev launched a programme selling hryvnia-denominated bonds to raise money for its fight against Russia – dubbed “war bonds” – in late February. The government said it aimed to raise around $1.36 billion through its domestic programme.

The source said Ukraine's government now hoped to launch an international fixed income instrument – which would be most likely be denominated in US dollars – in the months to come.

Ukraine has been encouraged by the support that it has been receiving not only from official creditors but from the broader Ukrainian diaspora and international regulatory authorities,” the person told Reuters news agency.

Red Cross team unable to reach besieged Ukraine's Mariupol

A Red Cross team on its way to Mariupol, Ukraine to facilitate the safe passage of some 100,000 civilians had to backtrack after arrangements and conditions made it impossible to proceed, said the humanitarian group.

The International Committee of the Red Cross team, which consists of three vehicles and nine personnel, did not reach Mariupol or facilitate the safe passage of civilians today,” the ICRC said. 

They will try again on Saturday to facilitate the safe passage of civilians from Mariupol.”

For the operation to succeed, it is critical that the Ukrainian and Russian sides respect the agreements and provide the necessary conditions and security guarantees, said the ICRC.

Death toll rises to 31 from strike on government building in Ukraine's Mykolaiv

At least 31 people have been confirmed killed as a result of Tuesday's rocket strike on the regional administration building in Ukraine's southern city of Mykolaiv, local emergency services said in an online post.

Round-the-clock rescue operations were still taking place, the post said.

Rescue workers had to pull victims from the rubble after Tuesday's attack blasted a hole through the side of the building in central Mykolaiv.  

Ukraine strike on Russian territory reported as talks resume

Talks to stop the fighting in Ukraine resumed, as another desperate attempt to rescue civilians from the shattered and encircled city of Mariupol failed and Russia accused the Ukrainians of a cross-border helicopter attack on a fuel depot. 

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said a fiery raid on Russian soil by two helicopter gunships left two people wounded, though state oil company Rosneft denied anyone was hurt.

“Certainly, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for the continuation of the talks,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, five weeks after Moscow began sending upwards of 150,000 of its own troops across Ukraine's border. 

Kremlin spokesman says Russia will strengthen its western borders

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia would strengthen its western borders so that “it wouldn't cross anyone's mind to attack”, RIA news agency reported. 

RIA also cited Peskov as saying the strengthening exercise would ensure the “necessary parity” was maintained, but did not give details. 

EU: Companies with euro gas contracts should not meet Russia's rouble demand

European companies whose gas supply contracts with Russia stipulate payment in euros or dollars should not accede to Russia's demand for payment in roubles, the European Commission said.

“Agreed contracts must be respected. 97 percent of the relevant contracts explicitly stipulate payment in euros or dollars. Companies with such contracts should not accede to Russian demands,” a European Commission spokesperson said.

“Impossible” to go ahead with Mariupol evacuation on Friday – Red Cross pic.twitter.com/fIIaLFJQtT

TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) April 1, 2022 UN: Over 50 landmark Ukraine sites damaged in Russian attacks

The UN's cultural agency said it had confirmed that at least 53 Ukrainian historical sites, religious buildings and museums had sustained damage during Russia's offensive. 

“This is the latest list but it is not exhaustive as our experts are continuing to verify a number of reports,” filed by the Ukrainian authorities, a UNESCO spokesman told AFP news agency as the body published a list of damaged 53 sites in the north and east of the country.

The spokesman said UNESCO used satellite images and witness reports from the scene to verify the information provided by the Ukrainian authorities. 

Erdogan: Istanbul talks of Russian, Ukrainian parties raised hopes for peace

“Positive and constructive” negotiations between Russia and Ukraine this week in Istanbul have raised hopes for peace, Türkiye's president said in a phone call with his Russian counterpart.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also reiterated his offer to host Vladimir Putin and their Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy for talks to secure peace between Moscow and Kiev, according to a statement from Türkiye's Communications Directorate.

Putin expressed thanks to Erdogan for hosting the peace talks in Istanbul, the statement added. 

Ukraine swaps 86 servicemen with Russia

Ukraine exchanged 86 servicemen with Russia, senior Kiev officials said.

The exchange has just taken place, 86 of Ukraine's servicemen, including 15 women, are already safe,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the Ukrainian president's deputy chief of staff said in a video message on Telegram.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the servicemen are “already being taken home.”

“I would like to address all our (people) who are still being held prisoner: We will fight for each of you! And will bring you home. Stay strong.”

Biden says 30 countries joining US release of oil reserves

President Joe Biden said that more than 30 countries have joined the United States in tapping national oil reserves to try and settle global energy markets spooked by fallout from Russia's offensive in Ukraine

“This morning, over 30 countries from across the world convened in an extraordinary meeting and agreed to the release of tens of millions of additional barrels of oil onto the market,” Biden said in an address from the White House.

On Thursday, Biden announced a record release from the US strategic oil stockpile, pledging a million barrels a day for six months. 

German ex-reserve officer charged with spying for Russia

A former German military reserve officer has been charged with spying for Russia, authorities announced.

The suspect, identified as Ralph G., is accused of passing information about the German armed forces and its high-ranking officers to a Russian intelligence service, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.

He also shared insights and analyses on economy, especially about the Western sanctions on Russia, and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, according to the prosecutors.

Russia is breaking promises on humanitarian corridor for Mariupol – local governor 

The governor of Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region accused Russia of breaking its promises in terms of allowing humanitarian aid to reach the city of Mariupol, which is encircled by Russian troops. 

“Humanitarian deliveries, despite all the agreements and promises of the Russian side, are not being carried out,” Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a televised address. “The humanitarian corridor … is essentially not operational.”

Repeated efforts to deliver aid to Mariupol and help civilians evacuate have failed, with both sides blaming the other. 

Xi calls for political settlement in Ukraine as EU pushes China to 'take responsibility'

China wants a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis, President Xi Jinping told top European Union officials as they pressed him to pressure Russia to end its offensive.

China supports the EU’s efforts toward a political settlement of the Ukraine issue and has been encouraging peace talks in its own way,” Xi said in a virtual meeting with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel.

Von der Leyen said they conveyed the EU’s position to Xi in a “frank and open” manner and emphasized that China needs to fulfil its responsibility as a member of the UN Security Council. 

Top security official denies Ukraine carried out attack on Russian fuel depot

Ukraine's top security official denied accusations by Russia that Ukraine was behind an attack on an oil depot in the Russian city of Belgorod.

Speaking on national television, Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said: “For some reason they say that we did it, but according to our information this does not correspond to reality.”

Kiev satellite town Bucha recaptured by Ukraine – mayor

Ukrainian forces have recaptured the town of Bucha, near the capital Kiev, its mayor said.

March 31 will go down in the history of our town… as the day of its liberation from Russian (forces),” Mayor Anatolii Fedoruk said in a video, which appeared to be filmed outside Bucha's town hall. 

#BREAKING : Türkiye's President Erdogan to his Russian counterpart Putin on phone call:

Reiterates offer to host meeting between Ukrainian, Russian leaders

Istanbul talks raised hopes for peace

Important for parties to act with common sense, maintain dialogue pic.twitter.com/ziOmGRMIWy

TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) April 1, 2022 HRW urges Ukraine to probe possible 'war crimes'

Human Rights Watch has called on Ukrainian authorities to launch an investigation into possible war crimes following the emergence of video footage that appears to show its soldiers shooting Russian prisoners in the legs.

The video, which began circulating on March 27, shows three men in fatigues, hands bound behind their backs, thrown to the ground by armed men who then shoot them in the legs.

While the authenticity of the footage could not be independently confirmed, AFP was able to geolocalise it to the village of Mala Rogan outside the northeastern city of Kharkiv, which Ukrainian forces had just recaptured after an offensive.

Ukraine checks Chernobyl nuclear site after Russians leave 

Ukraine’s foreign minister says that now his country’s government is back in control of the Chernobyl nuclear site, it will work with the UN atomic agency to determine what the occupying Russians did there and mitigate any danger.

Russian troops left the heavily contaminated nuclear site early Friday after returning control to the Ukrainians.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the Russians behaved irresponsibly at the site during the more than four weeks that they controlled it, preventing staff at the plant from performing their full duties and digging trenches in contaminated areas.

UN says 'tragedy must stop' as 4.1 million Ukrainians flee

The number of Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia's offensive in their country has crossed 4.1 million, the United Nations said Friday, adding: “This tragedy must stop”.

The flow of people escaping across the western borders to flee the Russian assault has settled at around 40,000 a day over the past week.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said 4,102,876 Ukrainians had fled the country since the February 24 attack – a figure up 43,771 on Thursday's numbers.

More than 3.4 million fled in March.

Germany studying Kremlin decree on rouble gas payments

The German government said it was “examining” the Kremlin's decree that payments for Russian gas must now be made in roubles, which has raised fears supplies will be cut.

Berlin and Western partners have insisted that their contracts with Russian companies state clearly that their payments can be made exclusively in euros or dollars. 

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner on Thursday slammed as attempted “blackmail” any insistence by Moscow to now be paid in roubles in the face of Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict. 

Russia launches conscription drive amid Ukraine conflict

Russia launched its spring draft of young men eligible for national service, vowing conscripts will not be sent to fight in Ukraine, where over 1,000 troops have been killed. 

The Russian military holds two annual draft sessions, in spring and autumn, when it recruits eligible men aged 18 to 27 to serve for a year.

This time, President Vladimir Putin has set a recruitment goal of 134,500 men, according to a Kremlin decree.

Military service is nominally mandatory for men but many Russians avoid the draft by entering higher education or evading the summons.

Red Cross team on way to besieged Ukrainian city to help evacuate civilians

The Red Cross said that one of its teams is on its way to the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol to enable the safe passage of civilians. 

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesman Ewan Watson told a UN press conference that a convoy of three cars and nine Red Cross staff members is on its way to Mariupol to assist with the safe passage operation.

The Red Cross is in communication with warring Ukrainians and Russians on the final details of how tens of thousands of civilians stranded in the southeastern port city since the conflict began on Feb. 24 will be evacuated. 

Russia says Ukrainian helicopters hit oil refinery

Local authorities in Russia claimed on Friday that Ukrainian helicopters hit an oil refinery close to the border.

A fire broke out due to an explosion at the facility after the strike, said a statement by Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the western Belgorod region.

The helicopters entered the region's airspace and struck the refinery at a low altitude some 40 kilomete rs (25 miles) from the border, Gladkov said, adding that nobody had been killed or injured in the attack.

Almost 200 firefighters have been deployed to help contain the blaze, according to Russian news agency TASS. 

Lavrov : Progress made in peace talks with Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that some progress had been made at peace talks with Ukraine and that Moscow was preparing its response to Ukrainian proposals.

Speaking at a briefing after talks with his Indian counterparts, Lavrov said that peace talks with Ukraine needed to continue but that Kiev had shown “much more understanding” of the situation in Crimea and Donbas and the necessity of its neutral status.

Earlier, the Kremlin said that a Ukrainian strike against a fuel depot in the Russian city of Belgorod did not create comfortable conditions to continue peace talks with Kiev.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said authorities were doing everything to reorganise the fuel supply chain and avoid disruption of energy supplies in Belgorod.

Russia: Ukraine strikes fuel depot in Belgorod

Two of Ukraine's military helicopters have struck a fuel depot in the Russian city of Belgorod, a Russian official has said, making the first accusation of a Ukrainian air strike on Russian soil since Moscow began attacking its neighbour in late February.

Video images of the purported attack posted online showed what looked like several missiles being fired from low altitude, followed by an explosion. The images have not yet been verified.

The helicopters struck the facility after crossing the border at low altitude, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on messaging app Telegram.

A fresh explosion was heard around 1pm local time (1000 GMT) in Belgorod, a witness told Reuters news agency.

Ukraine FM has no information about who carried out Belgorod strike

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said he could not confirm or deny Ukraine's alleged involvement in a strike on a fuel depot in the Russian city of Belgorod because he was not privy to all military information.

Responding to a question about the attack at a briefing in Poland, Kuleba said: “I can neither confirm nor reject the claim that Ukraine was involved in this simply because I do not possess all the military information.”

He also said Ukraine was waiting for Russia's formal response to Kiev's proposals laid out at peace talks in Türkiye and that foreign powers were not pushing Ukraine to compromise in negotiations.

Türkiye’s President Erdogan on Ukraine conflict:

Will have a phone call with President Putin today

Will tell Putin that he and Zelenskyy need to take step regarding Donbas and Crimea

– Both leaders have positive views on a face-to-face meeting pic.twitter.com/Vzu0MBsOUp

TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) April 1, 2022 Erdogan will urge Putin to take steps on Donbas, Crimea with Zelenskyy

Türkiye's President Tayyip Erdogan has said he will tell his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a phone call later that he and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy need to take a step to address issues over Ukraine's Donbas region and Crimea.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, Erdogan said he will hold the phone call with Putin at 1300 GMT and renew an offer to host the Russian and Ukrainian leaders for peace talks, which he said Zelenskiy was warm towards after their call on Thursday.

Earlier, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country would be grateful to Türkiye if it could help organise a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders

Death toll rises to 28 from strike on regional HQ in Mykolaiv

Twenty-eight people have been confirmed killed as a result of Tuesday's rocket strike on the regional administration building in Ukraine's southern city of Mykolaiv.

Rescue workers had to pull victims from the rubble after the attack blasted a hole through the side of the building in central Mykolaiv, Governor Vitaliy Kim said in an online post.

Türkiye welcomes opening of new humanitarian corridor 

Türkiye’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the country welcomes the opening of new humanitarian corridor in Ukraine.

In a news conference, Cavusoglu said 30 Turkish nationals remain in Mariupol to be evacuated and 87 citizens remain in Ukraine.

This comes as the Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin will speak by phone with his Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Russia's FM Lavrov:

– We are preparing to response to Ukraine’s proposals, there is movement forward

– We see much more understanding of the situation in Crimea and Donbass

– Peace talks need to continue pic.twitter.com/NYOgtOb7U7

TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) April 1, 2022 Red Cross: Not yet clear when Mariupol evacuation will happen

The Red Cross has said it was “not yet clear” that the evacuation of civilians from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol would go ahead as planned on Friday.

“We remain hopeful, we are in action moving towards Mariupol… but it's not yet clear that this will happen today,” Ewan Watson, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, told reporters in Geneva, as an ICRC team of three cars and nine staff headed towards the city.

IAEA's Grossi says will head mission to Chernobyl 

UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi will lead a mission to Chernobyl as soon as possible, he said after Ukraine said Russian troops had left the radioactive waste facilities there though some remained nearby.

“I will head an (IAEA) assistance and support mission to(Chernobyl) as soon as possible. It will be the first in a series of such nuclear safety and security missions to#Ukraine,” International Atomic Energy Agency chief Grossi said on Twitter.

Putin, Lukashenko discuss Ukraine in a phone call

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko have held a phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss the situation in Ukraine and their countries 'bilateral relations, Belarus' Belta news agency reported.

Russia has used Belarusian territory to launch attacks on Ukraine.

Moscow says it is conducting a “special military operation” to disarm its southern neighbour and root out dangerous nationalists there.

Russian forces withdrawing from northern Ukrainian region

Russian forces are withdrawing from the Chernihiv region of northern Ukraine but have not yet left entirely, the local governor has said in a video address.

“Air and missile strikes are (still) possible in the region, nobody is ruling this out,” Governor Viacheslav Chaus said, adding that Ukrainian forces were entering and securing settlements previously held by Russian troops.

Chaus said it was still too early for Ukrainian forces in the Chernihiv region to let their guard down as Russian troops”are still on our land.” 

Five humanitarian corridors agreed in Ukraine's Luhansk – governor pic.twitter.com/cZ4K1zIbFP

TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) April 1, 2022 Over 150 children killed, 245 injured in Russian attacks

As the conflict in Ukraine enters its 37th day, 153 children have died as a result of Russian attacks, the Ukrainian Chief Prosecutor’s Office said.

Another 245 children were wounded by Russian forces, 859 education facilities damaged and 83 completely razed to the ground, the office said in a statement.

At least 1,232 civilians have been killed in Ukraine and 1,935 injured, according to UN estimates, with the true figure feared to be far higher.

Nearly 300,000 refugees from Ukraine recorded in Germany

Almost 300,000 refugees from Ukraine have been registered in Germany, according to Germany's Interior Ministry.

The ministry, citing figures from the federal police, said 294,508 refugees have been recorded so far and most of them are women, children or the elderly.

Mariupol  unable to get supplies, civilians unable to leave

An aide to the mayor of Mariupol has said the besieged southern Ukrainian city remained closed for anyone trying to enter and was “very dangerous” for anyone trying to leave.

Petro Andryushchenko said Russian forces had since Thursday been preventing even the smallest amount of humanitarian supplies reaching trapped residents, making clear a planned “humanitarian corridor” had not been opened.

The media is under threat in Russia's Ukraine onslaught, with attacks on journalists working in Ukrainian cities increasing in recent weeks – some deadly, others severely impacting broadcasting capabilities.

Swipe 👉 to remember journalists killed in Ukraine

TRT World (@trtworld) April 1, 2022 Ukraine: Some Russian troops still in Chernobyl exclusion zone

Some Russian troops were still in the”exclusion zone” around the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power station on Friday morning, the head of the Ukrainian agency in charge of the zone said.

Yevhen Kramarenko confirmed on national television that the Russian forces that occupied the power station after attacking Ukraine on February 24 had left the plant itself but said some troops had been seen in the exclusion zone outside the territory of the decommissioned power station.

The exclusion zone was established around the plant soon after a reactor there exploded in the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986.

Russian foreign minister appreciates India's response to Ukraine crisis

Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has said Russia appreciated India's response to the Ukraine crisis.

“We appreciate that India taking this situation in the entirety of facts and not just in a one-sided way,” Lavrov said in a statement before talks with his Indian counterpart.

Russia will 'respond' to EU sanctions

Russia will respond to European Union sanctions and says the 27-nation bloc might realise that a confrontation with Moscow is not in its interests, RIA cited a senior foreign ministry official as saying.

The actions of the EU will not remain unanswered … the irresponsible sanctions by Brussels are already negatively affecting the daily lives of ordinary Europeans,” Nikolai Kobrinets told the news agency.

He said Russia will not ask the EU to end sanctions and has a sufficient “margin of safety.”

Ukraine will soon be able to 'better protect its skies'

Ukraine will soon be able to better protect its skies and cities from Russian attacks because it expects “super modern” military equipment from the United States and Britain, Ukraine's ambassador to Japan, Sergiy Korsunsky, has said.

They still have superiority in air force, in airplanes and missiles, and we expect to begin to receive super-modern equipment from the United States and Britain to protect our skies and our cities,” Korsunsky told a news conference.

“When they fire cruise missiles from long distance, we cannot get to the launch place. We have to intercept them. That's why we need this modern equipment.”

There have been reports of fighting in the suburbs of Kiev and at least two blast were heard overnight in the capital city. Journalist Owen Holdaway has the latest pic.twitter.com/g2Hd4vd5dJ

TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) April 1, 2022 Zelenskyy warns Russia regrouping for 'powerful strikes'

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned Russia is consolidating and preparing “powerful strikes” in the country's east and south, including besieged Mariupol.

In peace talks this week, Russia said it would scale back attacks on the capital Kiev and the city of Chernigiv, but Ukrainian and Western officials have dismissed the pledge, saying Moscow's troops were merely regrouping.

“This is part of their tactics,” said Zelenskyy in a late-night address. “We know that they are moving away from the areas where we are beating them to focus on others that are very important… where it can be difficult for us,” he said.

“In Donbas and Mariupol, in the Kharkiv direction, the Russian army is accumulating the potential for attacks, powerful attacks,” he added.

Ukraine top of agenda as China, EU prepare to meet at summit

The European Union will seek China's assurances that it won't assist Russia in circumventing economic sanctions levelled over the attacks on Ukraine at an annual summit.

EU officials say they will also look for signs Beijing is willing to cooperate on bringing an end to the attacks at the virtual meeting.

Other topics include China’s travel ban on members of the European Parliament, Beijing’s economic boycott of EU member Lithuania over its Taiwan relations, the fate of a stalled investment agreement and civil and political rights under China’s authoritarian Communist Party regime.

Rescuers help people cross destroyed bridge in Irpin

Ukrainian rescuers have assisted Irpin's elderly population who were hiding from Russian shelling in a shelter for weeks without food and water.

Footage shared by Ukraine's State Emergency Services showed rescuers helping people to cross over a destroyed bridge on Thursday.

According to official reports, around 50 percent of the city's infrastructure has been destroyed since the beginning of the attacks.

Russia's Gazprom says gas exports to Europe via Ukraine continue

Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom has said it was continuing to supply natural gas to Europe via Ukraine in line with requests from European consumers.

The company said requests stood at 108.4 million cubic metres for April 1, down from 109.5 million cubic metres a day earlier.

UK: Ukraine has retaken villages of Sloboda, Lukashivka

British military intelligence has said Ukrainian forces have retaken the villages of Sloboda and Lukashivka to the south of Chernihiv and located along main supply routes between the city and Kiev.

Ukraine has also continued to make successful but limited counter attacks to the east and north east of Kiev,” Britain's Ministry of Defence said.

Chernihiv and Kiev have been subjected to continued air and missile strikes despite Russian claims of reducing activity in these areas, the ministry added.

Russian forces block 45 buses sent to evacuate civilians from besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukraine says, adding only 631 people were able to get out of the city in private cars pic.twitter.com/GnERE9LWhB

TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) April 1, 2022 Ukrainian generals stripped of military rank

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he has stripped two generals of their military rank.

Zelenskyy said “something prevented them from determining where their homeland was” and they “violated their military oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people”.

According to Zelenskyy, one of the generals had headed internal security at the SBU, the main intelligence agency.

He said the other general had been the SBU head in the Kherson region, the first major city to fall to the Russians. Zelenskyy didn't say anything about the fates of the two generals other than them being stripped of their rank.

Australia sending armoured vehicles to Ukraine

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that his country will be sending armored Bushmaster vehicles to Ukraine to help in its fight against Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy specifically asked for them during a video appeal to Australian lawmakers for more aid.

Zelenskyy addressed the Australian Parliament on Thursday and asked for Australian-manufactured four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Morrison told reporters the vehicles will be flown over on Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport planes, but he didn’t specify how many Bushmaster vehicles would be sent or when.

“We're not just sending our prayers, we are sending our guns, we're sending our munitions, we’re sending our humanitarian aid, we're sending all of this, our body armour, all of these things and we're going to be sending our armoured vehicles, our Bushmasters as well,” Morrison said.

Ukraine: Russian forces block buses leaving Mariupol

The Ukrainian government has said Russian forces blocked 45 buses that had been sent to evacuate civilians from the besieged port city of Mariupol, and only 631 people were able to get out of the city in private cars.

Twelve Ukrainian trucks were able to deliver humanitarian supplies to Mariupol, but the supplies were seized by Russian troops, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

According to Ukrainian officials, tens of thousands of people have made it out of Mariupol in recent weeks along humanitarian corridors, reducing the pre-assault population of 430,000 to about 100,000 by last week.

Vereshchuk said about 45,000 Mariupol residents have been forcefully deported to Russia and areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

US-based Ukrainian cleric warns of threat to minorities

The top-ranking Ukrainian Catholic cleric in the United States has warned that religious minorities in the Eastern European country stand to be “crushed” if Moscow gains control, as fighting raged on more than a month after the Russian offensive began.

Archbishop Borys Gudziak said groups at risk include Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox who have broken away from the patriarch of Moscow.

Gudziak also cited reports that Russian forces have damaged two Holocaust memorials and Moscow’s false portrayal of Ukraine as a “Nazi” state although Ukraine overwhelmingly elected a Jewish president in Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“What is at stake for the people of faith is their freedom to practice their faith,” Gudziak said during an online panel discussion on the offensive, hosted by the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University.

For live updates from Thursday (March 31), click  here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies