The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, March 28. Click here for updates from March 27.
Zelenskyy Says Russian Forces Still Attacking Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Monday that Russian forces are still attacking Kyiv, despite being driven out of Irpin, a suburb northwest of the capital that has seen heavy fighting.
He said the Russians remain in control of northern suburbs and are trying to regroup after losing Irpin on Monday. He urged Ukrainians not to let up in the war.
“We still have to fight, we have to endure,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime video address to the nation. “We can’t express our emotions now. We can’t raise expectations, simply so that we don’t burn out.”
He said the situation remains tense in the northeast, around Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkhiv, and also in the eastern Donbas region and in the south around Mariupol, which remains blockaded by Russian troops.
The president said no humanitarian corridors could be opened Monday out of the besieged city.
Zelenskyy said he spoke Monday with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Britain, Canada and Germany, urging them to strengthen the sanctions against Russia.
Missile Hits West Ukraine Oil Depot: Ukrainian Official
A missile attack hit an oil depot in western Ukraine late Monday, Rivne’s regional governor said, marking the second attack on oil facilities in the region and the latest in a series of such attacks in recent days.
Western Ukraine has not seen ground combat, but missiles have struck oil depots and a military plant in Lviv, a major city close to Poland where hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have gone to escape fighting elsewhere.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested in an interview with Russian journalists released on Sunday that the attacks on oil depots are intended to disrupt the planting season in Ukraine, which is a major grain producer.
Biden Says He’s ‘Not Walking Back’ Comments About Putin
President Joe Biden told reporters Monday he is “not walking back” his Saturday comments when he said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “should not remain in power.”
Biden made the initial comment about the Russian leader at the end of a speech in Warsaw, Poland, when he said, “for God’s sake this man cannot remain in power.” Earlier in the day, Biden referred to Putin as a “butcher.”
Taking questions from reporters Monday, Biden said he is “not walking anything back,” adding that he was speaking of his outrage at Putin’s actions in Ukraine and not articulating a change in U.S. policy.
“The last thing I want to do is engage in a land war or a nuclear war with Russia. That’s not part of it. I was expressing my outrage, the behavior of this man,” Biden said.
“It’s outrageous. It’s outrageous, and it’s more an aspiration than anything that he shouldn’t be in power. There’s no, I mean, people like this shouldn’t be ruling countries, but they do. The fact [is] they do but doesn’t mean I can’t express my outrage about it.”
When asked later if he was concerned his comments would escalate tensions with Russia, Biden said Putin is “going to do what he’s going to do.”
Russia Labels German State Broadcaster ‘Foreign Agent’
Germany’s state-sponsored broadcaster Deutsche Welle is now considered a “foreign agent” under Russian law after the Ministry of Justice in Moscow included it on the register on Monday.
The branding of Deutsche Welle as a foreign agent will force the German media to put a corresponding disclaimer on all of its content. The decision also obliges the broadcaster to fully disclose information regarding its funding—and Russian authorities will now closely monitor DW’s activities in the country.
EU Confirms Date of Its Energy Independence From Russia
The European Commission has confirmed that it expects the EU to remain dependent on energy imports from Russia for at least another five years, the TASS news agency reported on Monday.
European Commission spokesperson for Climate Action and Energy Tim McPhie said the bloc would “be dependent on carbon fuels from Russia until 2027.” McPhie said the EU had estimated it could reduce its dependence on Russian gas by two-thirds this year and that a detailed plan about how it would achieve this would be presented by the end of May.
Moscow to Hit Most ‘Unfriendly’ Nations With Visa Restrictions
Retaliatory visa measures are being developed in Russia, said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday as another top Kremlin official said President Joe Biden’s recent comments are a “cause for concern.”
During public comments, Lavrov said that the new visa measures would restrict entry for citizens from “unfriendly” nations. He did not provide details about the countries that would be targeted, but he did single out the United States and its allies.
“Additionally, a draft presidential decree is currently being developed on retaliatory visa measures in connection with the unfriendly actions of a number of foreign states,” he said during a meeting in Moscow, according to state-run media. “This act will introduce a number of restrictions on entry to the territory of Russia.
Russia Will Suffer the Severest Consequences of Ukraine Attack: Germany’s Scholz
Moscow broke all rules of international order by using force to shift borders and it will be Russia that will most severely suffer the consequences of this, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday.
The need to guarantee security in Europe is one of the core insights of the post-war period that everyone including Russia agreed on after 1990, Scholz said in a news conference after meeting Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.
“There can only be one answer to that. First, we call on Russia to stop the war. Second, we make ourselves so strong that an attack on EU or NATO countries does not take place, because we are strong enough to answer that,” Scholz said.
G7 Reject Paying for Russian Energy in Rubles; Russia Sets Ruble Payment Deadline
Germany’s energy minister says the Group of Seven major economies have agreed to reject Russia’s demand to pay for Russian energy imports in rubles.
Robert Habeck told reporters Monday that “all G-7 ministers agreed completely that this [would be] a one-sided and clear breach of the existing contracts.”
Habeck said after an online meeting with G-7 energy ministers that “payment in ruble is not acceptable and we will urge the companies affected not to follow [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s demand.”
Asked by reporters earlier Monday if Russia could cut gas supplies to European customers if they reject the demand to pay for the Russian gas in rubles, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “we clearly aren’t going to supply gas for free.”
Nearly 4 Million Fled Ukraine, but Pace Slows
The number of refugees who have flooded out of Ukraine is nearing 4 million, but data shows fewer people have crossed the border in recent days.
Border guards, aid agencies and refugees say Russia’s unpredictable war on Ukraine offers few signs as to whether it’s just a pause or a permanent drop-off.
In the first two weeks after Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, about 2.5 million people in Ukraine’s pre-war population of 44 million left the country. In the second two weeks, the number of refugees was roughly half that.
The total exodus through Sunday now stands at 3.87 million, according to the latest tally announced Monday from UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency. In the previous 24 hours, only 45,000 people crossed Ukraine’s borders to seek safety, the slowest one-day count yet.
“People who were determined to leave when war breaks out fled in the first days,” said Anna Michalska, a spokeswoman for the Polish border guards.
Sweden to Accept Fewer Ukrainians Than in 2015
Sweden’s prime minister says her country will help refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine but won’t take in the kind of share it did during the influx of 2015.
Magdalena Andersson told reporters in Berlin on Monday that “we will do our part in helping Ukrainian refugees, but we cannot come back to the situation we had in 2015 when Sweden took a disproportionate part of the asylum seekers.”
Andersson, a member of the Social Democratic Party, said Sweden accepted about 12 percent of the total number of refugees coming to the European Union in 2015, despite having only 2 percent of the bloc’s population.
“We cannot come back to that kind of solution, but of course we will do our part and we are right now, of course, also welcoming Ukrainians that are coming to Sweden today, yesterday and during the last weeks,” she said after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Offenses Against Russians in Germany Skyrocket
Russian speakers in Germany are assaulted on a daily basis as hate crimes against people of Russian and Ukrainian origin have spiked in the country, reaching a staggering 200 cases every week, according to Germany’s police chief.
Zelenskyy Makes Key Demand for Face-to-Face Meeting With Putin
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to meet him face-to-face in order to reach an agreement to end the war.
During remarks that were published by Russian media outlets, Zelenskyy appeared to suggest that Putin needs to come and meet with him in a location outside of Russia.
“We must come to an agreement with the president of the Russian Federation, and in order to reach an agreement, he needs to get out of there on his own feet … and come to meet me,” he said, according to an Associated Press translation of his comments.
While Ukrainian and Russian negotiators have held several rounds of talks, there have been few results.
Read the full article here
Ukrainian Forces Retake Control of Key Town Outside Kyiv, Mayor Claims
A town on the outskirts of Ukraine’s capital has been retaken by Ukrainian forces, the mayor of the town claimed.
“We have good news today—Irpin has been liberated,” the mayor of Irpin, Oleksandr Markushyn, said in a video post on Telegram. “We understand that there will be more attacks on our town and we will defend it courageously.”
Irpin is a commuter town near Kyiv located on the Irpin River in Kyiv Oblast province, right next to the country’s capital.
The Epoch Times can not verify the accuracy of the claim.
Russian forces have been trying to take Kyiv for almost a month. But logistics and sustainment problems and resistance from Ukrainian forces slowed down the process and the Russian soldiers have been unable to take Kyiv as the war enters its 35th day.
Irpin has become a key battleground during the fighting over Kyiv.
Read the full article here
Kremlin: Biden’s Statement ‘Undoubtedly Causes Alarm’
The Kremlin has voiced concern about President Joe Biden’s comment about the Russian President Vladimir Putin and said it will carefully follow his rhetoric.
Capping a four-day trip to Europe Saturday, Biden said of Putin: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” words the White House immediately sought to downplay.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday that Biden’s statement “undoubtedly causes alarm.” He added that the Kremlin will carefully monitor the U.S. president’s statements.
Peskov said previously that “it’s not up to the president of the U.S. and not up to the Americans to decide who will remain in power in Russia.”
Ukraine Sees No Sign of Russian Forces Pulling Back From Kyiv—Defence Ministry
Ukraine sees no signs on the ground that Russia has given up a plan to surround the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Ukrainian defense ministry spokesperson Oleksander Motuzyanyk said on Monday.
“According to our information, the Russian Federation has not abandoned its attempts, if not to capture, then to surround Kyiv. For now we don’t see the movement of enemy forces away from Kyiv,” he told a televised briefing.
Germany May Prosecute Use of Pro-Russia ‘Z’
German authorities are considering whether to prosecute people who use the “Z” symbol to show support for Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Russian troops in Ukraine have painted the letter Z on the side of vehicles and it has been adopted by some in Russia as a symbol of support for what the Kremlin describes as a “special military operation” in the neighboring country.
A spokesman for the German Interior Ministry said Monday that security services are aware the symbol is also being used at rallies in Germany.
The spokesman, Marek Wede, told reporters in Berlin that the letter can under certain circumstances be considered a sign of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The Russian attack on Ukraine is a crime and whoever publicly approves of this war can thereby become criminally liable,” Wede said.
He added that federal authorities welcomed announcements by some German states to investigate whether individual instances of the “Z” constitute criminal acts.
Ukraine to Investigate Alleged Footage of Troops Torturing Russian Soldiers
A Ukrainian official promised an “immediate investigation” Sunday after videos posted on social media allegedly showed captured Russian soldiers being shot in the legs and knees by Ukrainian forces, sparking accusations that war crimes are being committed.
“The government is taking this very seriously, and there will be an immediate investigation,” senior presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said on Sunday. “We are a European army, and we do not mock our prisoners. If this turns out to be real, this is absolutely unacceptable behavior.”
In a televised speech, Arestovych also said that “torturing a captive is a war crime,” referring to the video footage. “I would like to remind all our military, civilian, and defense forces once again that the abuse of prisoners is a war crime that has no amnesty under military law and has no statute of limitations,” he added in a statement to Telegram.
Russia’s investigative committee said through state-run media that Moscow has launched an investigation into the matter.
Read the full article here
Ukrainian Refugees Should Be Distributed Across EU, Berlin Says
Germany on Monday urged a more even distribution of Ukrainian refugees within the European Union after millions of people fled to the 27-nation bloc since Russia launched its invasion of the country on Feb.24.
“We need to more actively distribute refugees within the EU and show solidarity by taking in refugees,” German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told reporters as she arrived for a meeting with her EU counterparts in Brussels.
Faeser added Berlin was not at aiming at fixed quotas but rather an index linked to the number of refugees already being hosted compared to the population size of each country.
Russia Praises Serbia for Refusing Sanctions
Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has praised Serbia for refusing to impose sanctions against Moscow over its aggression in Ukraine, saying the Balkan ally has made “a smart choice.”
“We deeply respect the Serbian people, Serbian culture, Serbian history and commitment to traditional friends,” Lavrov told a group of Serbian journalists in a video conference. “We are sure that they will continue to make smart choices in this situation.”
Although Serbia voted in favor of a UN resolution condemning Russia’s invasion, Belgrade has refused to join the United States and the European Union in imposing wide ranging sanctions against Moscow.
Lavrov said the sanctions are “an attempt by the United States to impose its hegemony” in the Balkans and added that the West “is trying to isolate Russia” in the region that has seen a devastating war in the 1990s.
Although formally seeking EU membership, Serbia has been forging close political, economic and military ties to Russia.
Independent Russian Newspaper Novaya Gazeta Suspends Operations
Leading independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which is edited by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov, says it is suspending operations after receiving warnings from Russian authorities.
The newspaper reported being warned by Roskomnadzor, the state communications regulator.
“After this we are stopping the release of the newspaper on the website, on (social) networks and on paper—until the end of the ‘special operation on the territory of Ukraine,’” the newspaper said in a statement Monday.
Slovenia Reopens Country’s Embassy in Ukraine
Slovenia says it has reinstated a diplomatic representative in Kyiv and reopened the country’s embassy in Ukraine.
The ministry says Slovenia’s embassy in Kyiv reopened on Monday after the arrival of the interim charge d’affaires Bostjan Lesjak. Slovenia’s ambassador to Ukraine remains in Rzeszow, a town on the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Slovenia’s move comes after Prime Minister Janez Jansa urged European Union countries to restore their presence in Kyiv in support for Ukraine. Jansa visited Kyiv this month along with the prime ministers of Poland and the Czech Republic.
He said on Twitter on Monday that “we are back.” Jansa adds that “the Slovenian and European flags flutter again in front of the Slovenian Embassy in Kyiv.”
Russia Wants Deal Clarified Before Talks Begin
Russia’s foreign minister says the presidents of Russia and Ukraine could meet for talks only after the key elements of a potential deal are negotiated.
Sergey Lavrov said Monday that “the meeting is necessary once we have clarity regarding solutions on all key issues.”
Lavrov’s comments follow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s statement that he’s ready to discuss Ukraine’s neutrality and security guarantees with Russian President Vladimir Putin to secure peace “without delay.” Zelenskyy added that only a face-to-face meeting with Russia’s leader could end the war.
Russian and Turkish negotiators are set to hold another round of talks in Istanbul, Turkey on Tuesday to try to draft an agreement.
Speaking in an online interview with Serbian media, Lavrov alleged that Ukraine only wants to “imitate talks” while Russia needs specific results that would be secured by the countries’ leaders.
Venue Chosen for New Moscow–Kyiv Peace Talks
Turkey will be the host of the next round of peace negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators, David Arakhamia, the majority leader of Ukraine’s Parliament and chief negotiator for Kyiv, announced on Sunday.
The peace talks are set to begin on Monday, and they are scheduled to take place until Wednesday.
Ukrainian Official Says He Expects No Major Breakthrough at Peace Talks
A senior Ukrainian official said ahead of talks between Ukrainian and Russian representatives in Turkey that he did not expect any major breakthrough.
“I don’t think there will be any breakthrough on the main issues,” interior ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said on Monday.
Russia Sets Ruble Gas Payment Deadline
Russian President Vladimir Putin has authorized the government, the central bank, and Gazprombank to take the necessary steps to switch all payments for Russian natural gas from “unfriendly states” to rubles starting March 31.
Ukraine Claims Russian Forces Are Regrouping but Are Unable to Advance
Russian forces are regrouping but are unable to advance anywhere in Ukraine, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar claimed on Monday.
She claimed Russian forces were trying to reinforce positions they already hold and were trying to break through the defenses of Kyiv but had no hope of capturing the capital.
“As of today, the enemy is regrouping its forces, but they cannot advance anywhere in Ukraine,” she told a briefing, without providing evidence of the Russian troop movements.
Ukraine Announces No New Humanitarian Corridors, Fears Russian ‘Provocations’
Ukraine has no plans to open any humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from besieged cities on Monday because of intelligence reports warning of possible Russian “provocations” along the routes, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
Turkey Detects Second Naval Mine in Black Sea
Turkey’s defense ministry says military teams are working to disable a second naval mine that was detected floating off Turkey’s Black Sea coast.
On Monday, the ministry said Underwater Defense Teams that were dispatched to the site off the coast of Igneada, near the border with Bulgaria, had managed to secure the mine and were now working to “neutralize” it.
On Saturday, authorities closed the Bosporus—the landmark waterway between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara—to traffic as a precaution as the Turkish coast guard responded to reports of a drifting mine-like object which was later “neutralized.”
The sighting of the explosive devices follows warnings that mines laid at the entrances to Ukrainian ports could break free in heavy weather and cross the Black Sea.
On March 18, Turkey issued a Navtex alert advising ships to keep a “sharp look out” and report any possible mines that had drifted from ports such as Odesa.
UK Military Intelligence Says Russia Maintains Distant Blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea Coast
Russia is maintaining a distant blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast which is effectively isolating Ukraine from international maritime trade, British military intelligence said on Sunday.
Russian naval forces are also continuing to conduct sporadic missile strikes against targets throughout Ukraine, the Ministry of Defense added.
Turkey Could Be Among Countries to Offer Ukraine Security Guarantees: Kyiv
Turkey is among countries that could offer Kyiv security guarantees as part of any deal with Russia to end the war in Ukraine, a senior Ukrainian official said on Monday.
“Turkey is among those countries that could become guarantors of our security in the future,” Ihor Zhovkva, deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, said ahead of peace talks scheduled between Kyiv and Moscow in Turkey.
Kyiv has said it wants legally binding security guarantees that would offer Ukraine protection from a group of allies in the event of a future attack.
Heineken Sees 400 Million Euros in Charges on Exit From Russian Operations
Dutch brewing giant Heineken says it is pulling out of Russia amid Moscow’s ongoing war against Ukraine.
The company said Monday that its business in Russia “is no longer sustainable nor viable in the current environment. As a result, we have decided to leave Russia.”
It said it is seeking an “orderly transfer of our business to a new owner in full compliance with international and local laws.”
Heineken will continue to pay its 1,800 staff in Russia through the end of the year. The company says it will not profit from the sale of its Russian operations and expects to take a 400 million-euro ($438 million) charge as a result.
Amid international outrage and sanctions that followed Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the Netherlands-based brewer halted new investments and sales to Russia and ended production, sales, and advertising of its Heineken brand beer there.
The company said Monday that it continues to “hope that a path to a peaceful outcome emerges in the near term.”
Turkey Says World Cannot ‘Burn Bridges’ With Moscow
Turkey and other nations must still talk to Russia to help end the war in Ukraine, Turkey’s presidential spokesman said on Sunday, adding that Kyiv needed more support to defend itself.
NATO member Turkey has good relations with both Russia and Ukraine and has sought to mediate in the month-long conflict.
“If everybody burns bridges with Russia then who is going to talk to them at the end of the day,” Ibrahim Kalin told the Doha international forum.
“Ukrainians need to be supported by every means possible so they can defend themselves … but the Russian case must be heard, one way or the other,” so that its grievances could be understood if not justified, Kalin added.
Ankara says Russia’s invasion is unacceptable but opposes the Western sanctions on principle and has not joined them.
Turkey’s economy, already strained by a December currency crisis, relies heavily on Russian energy, trade, and tourism.
Ahmet Burak Daglioglu, head of Turkey’s investment office, told the forum separately that some Russian companies were relocating operations to Turkey.
Asked on a panel about Turkey doing business with any people which could be of benefit to President Vladimir Putin, he said: “We are not targeting, we are not chasing, we are not pursuing any investment or capital that has a question mark on it.”
Mayor of Chernobyl Workers’ Town Says Russian Forces Have Left
Russian forces have left the Ukrainian town of Slavutych, home to workers at the defunct nuclear plant of Chernobyl, after completing their task of surveying it, the mayor said early on Monday.
On Saturday, the Kyiv regional governor said Russian forces had taken control of the town just outside the safety exclusion zone around Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986, where Ukrainian staff still manage the plant.
“They completed the work they had set out to do,” Yuri Fomichev, the mayor of the northern town, said in an online video post. “They surveyed the town, today they finished doing it and left the town. There aren’t any in the town right now.”
The Epoch Times could not immediately verify the report.
German Chancellor Clarifies Biden’s Comment About Regime Change in Russia
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says that neither NATO nor President Joe Biden aim to bring about regime change in Russia.
Biden said of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a speech on Saturday that “this man cannot remain in power.” The White House and other U.S. officials rushed to clarify that Biden wasn’t actually calling for Putin to be toppled.
Asked during an appearance Sunday on ARD television whether Putin’s removal is in fact the real aim, Scholz replied, “This is not the aim of NATO, and also not that of the American president.”
Scholz added, “We both agree completely that regime change is not an object and aim of policy that we pursue together.”
Asked whether Biden made a dangerous mistake with his comment, Scholz replied, “No.” He said that “he said what he said” and Secretary of State Antony Blinken also had clarified that he wasn’t talking about regime change.
Ukraine Ready to Discuss Adopting Neutral Status in Russia Peace Deal: Zelenskyy
Ukraine is prepared to discuss adopting a neutral status as part of a peace deal with Russia but such a pact would have to be guaranteed by third parties and put to a referendum, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in remarks aired on Sunday.
Zelenskyy was speaking to Russian journalists in a 90-minute video call, an interview that Moscow authorities had preemptively warned Russian media to refrain from reporting. Zelenskyy spoke in Russian throughout, as he has done in previous speeches when targeting a Russian audience.
Zelenskyy said Russia’s invasion had caused the destruction of Russian-speaking cities in Ukraine, and said the damage was worse than the Russian wars in Chechnya.
“Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state. We are ready to go for it. This is the most important point,” Zelenskyy said.
Jack Phillips, Allen Zhong, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.