Russia–Ukraine (March 19): Mariupol Says Russia Forcefully Deported Thousands of Its People

Russia–Ukraine (March 19): Mariupol Says Russia Forcefully Deported Thousands of Its People
People fleeing from Mariupol amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine stand at a railway station in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, in this handout picture obtained by Reuters on March 16, 2022. (Press service of the National Police of Ukraine/Handout via Reuters)

The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, March 19. Click here for updates from March 18.

Mariupol Says Russia Forcefully Deported Thousands of Its People

The city council of Ukraine’s Mariupol said Russian forces forcefully deported several thousand people from the besieged city last week, after Russia had spoken of “refugees” arriving from the strategic port.

“Over the past week, several thousand Mariupol residents were deported onto the Russian territory,” the council said in a statement on its Telegram channel late on Saturday.

“The occupiers illegally took people from the Livoberezhniy district and from the shelter in the sports club building, where more than a thousand people (mostly women and children) were hiding from the constant bombing.”

The Epoch Times could not independently verify the claims.


Lavrov Says Moscow Expects Operation in Ukraine to End With Signing of Agreement on Security, Ukraine’s Neutral Status

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that Moscow expects its operation in Ukraine to end with a signing of a comprehensive agreement on security issues, including Ukraine’s neutral status.

“And, of course, the adjustment of laws to a civilized level in regards to the Russian language, Russian education, Russian media, and in regards to laws that foster the Nazification of the country and the adoption of a law that prohibits this,” Lavrov added.

Commenting on the relationship with China he said the cooperation between Russia and China will only become stronger in the current circumstances.


Russia Ridicules Idea That Cosmonauts Wore Yellow in Support of Ukraine

Russia’s space agency on Saturday dismissed Western media reports suggesting Russian cosmonauts joining the International Space Station (ISS) had chosen to wear yellow suits with a blue trim in support of Ukraine.

“Sometimes yellow is just yellow,” Roscosmos’s press service said on its Telegram channel.

“The flight suits of the new crew are made in the colors of the emblem of the Bauman Moscow State Technical University, which all three cosmonauts graduated from … To see the Ukrainian flag everywhere and in everything is crazy.”

Roscosmos Director-General Dmitry Rogozin was more acerbic, saying on his personal Telegram channel that Russian cosmonauts had no sympathy for Ukrainian nationalists.

In a live-streamed news conference from the ISS on Friday, veteran cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, the mission commander, was asked about the suits.

“Every crew picks a color that looks different. It was our turn to pick a color,” he said. “The truth is, we had accumulated a lot of yellow fabric, so we needed to use it up. That’s why we had to wear yellow flight suits.”


Moscow Warns of Ukrainian Mines in Black Sea

Russia issued a formal maritime warning saying that a number of naval mines that were placed in the Black Sea—allegedly by Ukrainians in efforts to counter Moscow’s invasion—are no longer attached to their anchors and could drift toward the Straits of Bosphorus and the Mediterranean Sea.

In a press statement on Saturday, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said that Ukrainian naval forces had placed lines of mines near the ports of Odessa, Ochakov, Chernomorsk, and Yuzhny, reported state-run news agency TASS. The FSB said the mines were made in the first half of the 20th century by the Soviet Union.

It said the cables that connected the mines to the anchors had broken due to storms, and the mines were now being pushed along by winds and currents and freely drifting in the western Black Sea. The FSB added that it is feasible the mines could float toward Bosphorus and the Mediterranean Sea given the current direction of the currents.

The FSB said that Ukraine was to blame for placing the mines and that the Ukrainian forces have shown “utter ignorance” of international laws, and disregard for human lives.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet had on March 18 issued a mine hazard warning, TASS reported.

Read the full article here


Lavrov: Moscow Will Not Propose Initiatives to Normalize Relations With West

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday that while Moscow remained open to cooperating with Western countries, it will not propose initiatives to normalize relations with them at this point.


Putin Lays Out 2 ‘Most Difficult’ Demands of Ukraine Amid Ceasefire Talks: Report

Russian President Vladimir Putin laid out several demands for Ukraine including two “most difficult issues” during a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

The demands can be divided into two parts, Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin told several media outlets.

The first four articles appear to be possible common ground for both sides.

Putin also put forward two territories-related demands.

Putin would require Ukraine to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and admit the independence of the Donbas, a disputed region in southeastern Ukraine.

Read the full article here


Zelensky to Swiss Government: Freeze Oligarchs’ Accounts

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the Swiss government to freeze the bank accounts of all Russian oligarchs.

Swiss public broadcaster SRF reported that Zelensky, who spoke via livestream on Saturday to antiwar protesters in the Swiss city of Bern, said: “In your banks are the funds of the people who unleashed this war. Help to fight this. So that their funds are frozen. … It would be good to take away those privileges from them.”


Luxembourg PM Reiterates Calls for De-escalation in Phone Call With Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken on the phone with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, which is the second time this week the two leaders have talked.

According to the Kremlin’s readout of the call, Putin “outlined fundamental assessments of the course of the talks between Russian and Ukrainian representatives,” while Bettel informed him about “contacts with the leadership of Ukraine and other countries.”

Putin also said that “incessant missile strikes by Ukrainian forces on Donetsk and other cities” of the self-proclaimed separatist Donetsk and Luhansk republics in eastern Ukraine are “leading to numerous civilian casualties.”

Bettel posted on Twitter Saturday about his call with Putin, too. He stressed that since their first call earlier this week “the situation on the ground has worsened, especially in the city of Mariupol.”


Russia Fires at Kyiv Suburbs, Eastern Donetsk: Ukraine’s National Police

Over the past 24 hours, Russian forces have fired at eight cities and villages in the eastern Donetsk region, using aviation, rocket, and heavy artillery.

Ukraine’s National Police claimed in a statement on Telegram Saturday that at least 37 residential buildings and infrastructure facilities were damaged; dozens of civilians were killed and injured as a result of the attacks. The Russian military were firing at Mariupol, Avdiivka, Kramatorsk, Pokrovsk, Novoselydivka, Verkhnotoretske, Krymka, and Stepne.

Kyiv northwestern suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin, and Moshchun have also been under fire on Saturday. The Kyiv regional administration reported that the city of Slavutich north of the capital was “completely isolated,” and that Russian military equipment was spotted in the region northeast and east of Kyiv.


Putin ‘In Better Shape Than Ever,’ Belarus Leader Says

Russian President Vladimir Putin is healthy, sane, and “in better shape than ever,” his close ally Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has said in an interview with the Japanese television channel TBS.

“He and I haven’t only met as heads of state, we’re on friendly terms,” Lukashenko said in a recording of the interview shared by state news agency BelTA. “I’m absolutely privy to all his details, as far as possible, both state and personal.”

Western leaders have suggested Putin made a costly miscalculation by launching the military assault on Ukraine, where Russian forces have taken heavy losses and their advance has largely stalled despite their apparent superiority.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested Putin is being “irrational” and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has described him as “totally paranoid.”

But Lukashenko dismissed the notion that Putin, who is 69, was not at the height of his powers.

“The West, and you, should get this stupidity, this fiction out of your heads,” he told the interviewer.

“Putin is absolutely fit, he’s in better shape than ever. … This is a completely sane, healthy person, physically healthy—he’s an athlete.”

“As they say here—he’ll catch a cold at all our funerals.”


4 US Service Members Die in Plane Crash During NATO Drills

The prime minister of Norway says four U.S. service members have died in a plane crash during NATO drills.

Jonas Gahr Støre tweeted that the service members were participating in the NATO exercise “Cold Response,” which is taking place in northern Norway.

The annual drills in Norway are unrelated to the war in Ukraine. This year they included around 30,000 troops, 220 aircraft, and 50 vessels from 27 countries. Non-NATO members Finland and Sweden are also participating.

According to the Norwegian police, the American V-22B Osprey aircraft that crashed belonged to the U.S. Marine Corps.

The aircraft had a crew of four and was out on a training mission in Nordland County on Friday. It was on its way north to Bodø, where it was scheduled to land just before 6 p.m. Friday.

The plane crashed in Gråtådalen in Beiarn, south of Bodø. Police said a search and rescue mission was launched immediately. At 1:30 a.m. Saturday, the police arrived at the scene and confirmed that the crew of four had died.


Russia Claims It Used Hypersonic Weapons in Western Ukraine

The Russian military says it used its latest hypersonic missile, Kinzhal, for the first time in combat during its offensive in Ukraine.

A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the hypersonic missiles destroyed an underground warehouse storing missiles and aviation ammunition of Ukrainian troops in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region.

Konashenkov also said that the Russian forces used the anti-ship missile system Bastion to strike Ukrainian military facilities near the Black Sea port of Odesa. Russia first used the weapon during its military campaign in Syria in 2016.


10 Humanitarian Corridors for Evacuation in Ukraine Have Been Agreed on With Russians: Ukrainian Official

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced Saturday that 10 humanitarian corridors have been agreed on with the Russians.

They include a corridor from the besieged port city of Mariupol, several in the Kyiv region, and several in the Luhansk region.

She also announced plans to deliver humanitarian aid to the city of Kherson, which is currently under control of the Russian forces.

In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces are blockading the largest cities with the goal of creating such miserable conditions that Ukrainians will cooperate. He said the Russians are preventing supplies from reaching surrounded cities in central and southeastern Ukraine.

Satellite images on Friday from Maxar Technologies showed a long line of cars leaving Mariupol as people tried to evacuate. Zelensky said more than 9,000 people were able to leave the city in the past day.


Zelensky Says It Is Time for Meaningful Talks With Moscow

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday called for comprehensive peace talks with Moscow, saying Russia would otherwise need generations to recover from losses suffered during the war.

Zelensky said Ukraine had always offered solutions for peace and wanted meaningful and honest negotiations on peace and security, without delay.

“I want everyone to hear me now, especially in Moscow. The time has come for a meeting, it is time to talk,” he said in a video address released in the early hours of Saturday.

“The time has come to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, Russia’s losses will be such that it will take you several generations to recover.”

The two sides have been involved in talks for weeks with no sign of a breakthrough.

Zelensky said Russian forces were deliberately blocking the supply of humanitarian supplies to cities under attack.

Zelensky said there was no information about how many people had died after a theater in the city of Mariupol, where hundreds of people had been sheltering, was struck on Wednesday. More than 130 people had been rescued so far, he said.


Ukraine Military Orders 38-hour Curfew in Southern Zaporizhzhia City, Says Official

Zaporizhzhia regional governor Oleksandr Starukh has announced a 38-hour curfew in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, to last from 4 p.m. local time on Saturday until 6 a.m. on Monday.

Starukh said on Telegram on Saturday: “For your safety, do not go out into the streets and other public places during this time.”

Two missile strikes on the suburbs of Zaporizhzhia killed nine people on Friday, wounded 17 more and left five others with injuries, a spokesman of the Zaporizhzhia regional administration Ivan Arefiev reported Saturday.

Local authorities continue to evacuate people from settlements taken over by the Russians and deliver humanitarian aid to them, he said.


Russian Cosmonauts Arrived at International Space Station

Three Russian cosmonauts have arrived at the International Space Station wearing flight suits in yellow and blue colors that match the Ukrainian flag.

The men were the first new arrivals on the space station since the start of the Russian war in Ukraine last month.

Video of one of the cosmonauts taken as the capsule prepared to dock with the space station showed him wearing a blue flight suit. It was unclear what, if any, message the yellow uniforms they changed into were intended to send.

Oleg Artemyev was asked about the yellow flight suits when the newly arrived cosmonauts were able to talk to family back on Earth.

He said every crew chooses its own flight suits, so that they are not all the same.

“It became our turn to pick a color. But in fact, we had accumulated a lot of yellow material so we needed to use it. So that’s why we had to wear yellow,” he said.

Artemyev, Denis Matveyev and Sergey Korsakov blasted off successfully from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan in their Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft at 8:55 p.m. Friday (11:55 a.m. EDT). They smoothly docked at the station just over three hours later, joining two Russians, four Americans, and a German on the orbiting outpost.


Twitter Blocks Account of Russia’s First Deputy UN Ambassador

Russia’s first deputy U.N. ambassador says Twitter has blocked his account, accusing him of “abuse and harassment,” due to a tweet about the maternity hospital in the besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

“This is very deplorable,” Dmitry Polyansky told reporters after a U.N. Security Council meeting Friday, “and this clearly illustrates how much alternative view and free press, and free information is valued by Twitter and in this country.”

Polyansky, who had more than 22,000 followers and was a prolific Twitter user, said he received a message earlier Friday from Twitter’s cloud service saying he was violating Twitter’s rules and was “engaged in abuse and harassment.”


EU Proposes to Create Solidarity Fund for Ukraine’s Basic Needs

The European Union is considering creating a solidarity fund for Ukraine to help provide basic services in the country and meet citizens’ immediate needs, European Council President Charles Michel said on Friday.

“The Fund would give liquidity for continued support to authorities and in the longer term serve as backbone for reconstruction of a free and democratic Ukraine once hostilities stop”, Michel said in a tweet.

Partners could contribute to the fund through an international donors conference, Michel said.


Germany’s Federal Police Registers More Than 200,000 Ukrainian Refugees

Germany’s federal police has registered more than 200,000 Ukrainian refugees in the country since the outbreak of the war more than three weeks ago.

The country’s interior ministry said 207,747 Ukrainian refugees had arrived as of Saturday. However, the real number of Ukrainian refugees in Germany is expected to be much higher.

Ukrainians don’t need a visa to come to Germany, and federal police only register refugees entering Germany by train or bus. There are not thorough border controls inside the European Union’s internal borders, so Ukrainians coming to Germany from Poland by car are normally not registered. Those who stay with family and friends in Germany are also not counted unless they apply for financial aid from German authorities.


Bulgarian Prime Minister Rules Out Providing Military Aid to Ukraine

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has ruled out providing military aid to Ukraine but says his country, a NATO ally, will continue to provide humanitarian assistance.

“Being so close to the conflict, right now I have to say that currently we will not be able to send military assistance to Ukraine. This will not be possible,” Petkov said Saturday at a news conference in the Bulgarian capital with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Bulgaria, which does not border Ukraine but has received thousands of refugees, has agreed to host a new contingent of NATO troops as part of the alliance’s push to reinforce its eastern flank. That contingent includes about 150 U.S. Army infantry soldiers.


Ukraine ‘Temporarily’ Loses Access to Sea of Azov: Defense Ministry

Ukraine’s defense ministry said late on Friday it lost access to the Sea of Azov “temporarily” as invading Russian forces were tightening their grip around the Sea’s major port of Mariupol.

“The occupiers have partially succeeded in the Donetsk operational district, temporarily depriving Ukraine of access to the Sea of Azov,” Ukraine’s defense ministry said in a statement.

The ministry did not specify in its statement whether Ukraine’s forces have regained access to the Sea.

Russia said on Friday its forces were “tightening the noose” around Mariupol, where an estimated 80 percent of the city’s homes had been damaged. Some 1,000 people may still be trapped in makeshift bomb shelters beneath a destroyed theater.

Mariupol, with its strategic location on the coast of the Sea of Azov, has been a target since the start of the war on Feb. 24 when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched what he called a “special military operation.”


Russia Tells Google to Stop Spreading Threats Against Russians on YouTube

Russia on Friday demanded that Google stop spreading what it called threats against Russian citizens on its YouTube video-sharing platform, a move that could presage an outright block of the service on Russian territory.

The regulator, Roskomnadzor, said adverts on the platform were calling for the communications systems of Russia and Belarus’s railway networks to be suspended and that their dissemination was evidence of the U.S. company’s anti-Russian position. It did not say which accounts were publishing the adverts.

“The actions of YouTube’s administration are of a terrorist nature and threaten the life and health of Russian citizens,” the regulator said.

“Roskomnadzor categorically opposes such advertising campaigns and demands that Google stop broadcasting anti-Russia videos as soon as possible.”


Russia to Work on Solo Mars Mission After Europe Freezes Joint Project: Interfax

Russia will start work on its own Mars mission given that the European Space Agency (ESA) has suspended a joint project in the wake of the Ukraine invasion, Interfax news agency quoted a top official as saying on Friday.

The ESA announced on Thursday that it would be impossible to continue cooperating with Russia on the ExoMars mission. A Russian rocket had been due to transport a European-made rover to Mars later this year.

“In the very near future we will start working on the implementation of a mission to Mars,” said Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roskosmos, Russia’s space agency.

Interfax quoted him as saying he did not think a rover would necessarily be needed since Russia’s existing landing module, which is designed to transport the rover, would be able to carry out the required scientific work.

Rogozin said there were “big doubts” about what the ESA could do without Russia, which already had a rocket, a launch site, and the landing module. The ESA would need at least six years to develop its own module, he said.

In response to sanctions, Roskosmos has already suspended cooperation with Europe on space launches and announced it would stop supplying rocket engines to the United States.


India Continues to Purchase Russian Oil and Gas

Indian Oil Corp., India’s state-owned oil company, purchased 3 million barrels of crude oil from Russia earlier this week, defying Western pressure to avoid buying oil from Moscow.

New Delhi has not imposed sanctions against buying oil and gas from Russia nor has any plans to do so.

It has so far abstained on votes at the U.N. condemning Russian aggression in Ukraine.

It appears that India will continue its purchases despite sanctions against Russia by the United States and other Western countries.

According to Indian media reports, Russia is offering a discount on oil purchases of 20 percent below global benchmark prices.

India is the world’s third-largest energy-consuming nation, and it has acquired multiple cargoes of Russian oil from traders that would have otherwise have gone to Europe before western sanctions on Moscow.

Read the full article here

Mimi Nguyen Ly, Bryan Jung, Allen Zhong, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report. 

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