US President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference on the eve of his first year in office, from the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on January 19, 2022. - President Joe Biden holds a rare press conference Wednesday to kick off his second year in office, hoping to reset the agenda ahead of what could be brutal election reversals for Democrats. Image Credit: AFP file

The battle for the strategic Ukrainian port city of Mariupol is raging on even as Russia's attack on Ukraine, now in its 29th day, shows no signs of abating. Follow the latest developments from, the war zone:

Also read: Day 28 updates

Biden to visit Polish town near Ukraine border

US President Joe Biden on Friday will visit a town in Poland that is near the border with Ukraine, the White House said, as he seeks to show Western resolve against Russia’s attack.

Biden will be greeted by Polish President Andrzej Duda in Rzeszow, about 80 kilometers from the Ukrainian border, the White House said Thursday in a statement on the president’s travel plans for Friday during an emergency visit to Europe that was prompted by the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine says 3,343 people were evacuated from cities on Thursday

A total of 3,343 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Thursday, a senior official said, fewer than the 4,554 who managed to escape the previous day.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in an online post that 2,717 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol.

She accused the Russians of blocking humanitarian aid convoys into the city for the last three days.

Biden promises new humanitarian aid to Ukraine 

US President Joe Biden and Western allies pledged new sanctions and humanitarian aid on Thursday in response to Russians attack on Ukraine, but their offers fell short of the more robust military assistance that President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded for in a pair of live-video appearances.

The leaders spent on Thursday crafting their next steps to counter Russia's month-old attack- and huddling over how they might respond should Putin deploy chemical, biological or even a nuclear weapon.

They met in a trio of emergency summits that had them shuttling across Brussels for back-to-back-to-back meetings of NATO, the Group of Seven industrialised nations and the 27-member European Council.

Separately, the White House announced the US would welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and provide an additional $1 billion in food, medicine, water and other supplies.

Russia, Ukraine exchange prisoners

Russia and Ukraine have exchanged prisoners, Kyiv and Moscow confirmed on Thursday, in what Ukraine said was the first swap of soldiers since Moscow ordered troops into Ukraine one month ago.

"Following an order from President Volodymyr Zelensky, the first fully-fledged exchange of prisoners of war has taken place," Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on Facebook.

"In exchange for 10 captured occupiers we rescued 10 of our servicemen," she said, referring to Russian and Ukrainian troops.

Vereshchuk also said that 11 Russian civilian seamen rescued near the Black Sea port city of Odessa were exchanged for 19 Ukrainian civilian ship crew members held by Moscow.

"I confirm the information regarding the exchange of 10 Russian servicemen detained on Ukrainian territory for 10 Ukrainian servicemen. And there was also an exchange of Russian civilian sailors for Ukrainian civilian sailors", said Russian human rights ombudsman Tatiana Moskalkova.

Moskalkova said nine Russian prisoners were exchanged for the mayor of Melitopol, a city in southeastern Ukraine captured by the Russian army.

Canada to boost oil exports to displace Russian energy

Canada announced on Thursday it will boost oil exports to help address supply shortages faced by allies shunning Russian energy after Moscow's attack on Ukraine.

"In response to requests for assistance from allies to address supply shortages due to the conflict in Ukraine, Canadian industry has the capacity to incrementally increase its oil and gas exports in 2022 by up to 300,000 barrels per day with the intention of displacing Russian oil and gas," Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said in a statement.

G7 warns against use of chemical, biological, nuclear weapons in Ukraine

Leaders of the Group of Seven industrialised nations warned Russia not to use biological, chemical or nuclear weapons in its war with Ukraine, they said in statement released after talks in Brussels on Thursday.

"We warn against any threat of the use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons or related material," said the leaders in a joint statement released by Germany.

All countries were ready to welcome refugees from Ukraine, they said.

On energy, the leaders called on oil- and gas-producing countries to act responsibly and boost supplies to international markets, adding that OPEC had a role to play in this. They also said they would avoid food export bans.

Ukraine says it destroyed a large Russian ship

Ukraine said on Thursday it had destroyed a large Russian landing support ship, the Orsk, at the port of Berdiansk on the Sea of Azov.

Video footage, which was filmed from inside Berdiansk, showed a column of smoke rising from a blaze at a dock, and the flash of an explosion.

Two vessels, one of which appeared to have been damaged, were seen in the footage sailing out of the dock as a third ship burned.

Russian officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report that the support ship had been destroyed.

Russia said on Monday the ship had docked at Berdiansk, 70km (45 miles) southwest of the besieged port city of Mariupol, and the website of the Russian armed forces news outlet Zvezda (Star) underlined the port's importance to Russian supply lines.

"Yes, it's destroyed," Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister, Hanna Malyar, told a video briefing when asked about the Orsk.

The ship was capable of carrying 45 armoured personnel carriers and 400 people, she said.

EU summit won't bring new sanctions against Russia, Rutte says

European Union leaders won't agree to new sanctions against Russia during their two-day summit starting on Thursday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

"I do not expect concrete new sanctions today," Rutte said on arrival for the meeting of the bloc's 27 national leaders.

"We can't brainstorm about sanctions with such a broad group, we need proposals. We have already imposed a lot of sanctions, we are now entering more complex terrain."

NATO bolsters chemical, nuclear defences for eastern flank troops

NATO is stepping up chemical and nuclear defences for it forces in eastern Europe in the face of fears over Russia's war on Ukraine, alliance head Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday.

"Our top military commander General Wolters has activated NATO's chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence elements, and allies are deploying additional chemical and biological and nuclear defences to reinforce our existing and new battle groups," Stoltenberg told journalists after a NATO summit in Brussels.

Lavrov’s stepdaughter on new UK sanction list

Britain is sanctioning 65 more companies and individuals over Russia’s attack of Ukraine. The targets include Russia’s largest private bank and a woman the British government said was the stepdaughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the new round of sanctions target strategic industries, banks and business elites. Among those sanctioned are Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest private bank and Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond mining company.

The UK also targeted billionaires Eugene Markovich Shvidler, who has close ties to Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich and Herman Gref, the chief executive of Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank.

“These oligarchs, businesses and hired thugs are complicit in the murder of innocent civilians and it is right that they pay the price,” Truss said in a statement.

Polina Kovaleva, who was described as Lavrov’s stepdaughter, was also sanctioned as the UK broadens the scope of its sanctions to reach people linked to those responsible for “Russian aggression.”

Britain said it has sanctioned more than 1,000 individuals and companies since the attack. All of the named entities will have their UK assets frozen, and individuals will be banned from travelling to or from Britain.

US to expand Russia sanctions, accept 100K Ukraine refugees

The United States will expand its sanctions on Russia in response to the attack of Ukraine, targeting members of the country's parliament and the central bank's gold reserves, the White House announced Thursday.

At the same time, Washington will increase its humanitarian assistance by welcoming 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and providing an additional $1 billion in food, medicine, water and other supplies.

The White House announced the initiatives as US President Joe Biden and world leaders gathered in Brussels for a trio of summits in response to the Russian attack, seeking new ways to limit the economic and security fallout from the conflict.

US, NATO prepare for potential Russian nuclear incident in Ukraine

A senior US official said Washington is working with allies on preparation and deterrence postures over Russian weapons of mass destruction, as well as on potential medical and other countermeasures to help Ukraine.

The US warnings show growing concern that Putin will lash out with his military suffering heavy losses. Biden, speaking at the White House Wednesday, said there's "a real threat" that Russia will use chemical weapons.

The world's leading economic powers will warn Putin against using chemical or nuclear weapons in Ukraine in a draft statement the G-7 plans to issue on Thursday. The leaders also plan to say that they will continue to impose "severe consequences" on Russia by fully implementing the sanctions that countries have already imposed and stand ready to apply additional measures.

First row from right, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and leaders of the US-led military alliance, pose for a family photo at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, March 24, 2022.
First row from right, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and leaders of the US-led military alliance, pose for a family photo at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, March 24, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Zelensky pleads for aid as Biden, allies begin summits

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for "military assistance without limitations" as he addressed an emergency NATO summit on Thursday, the first of three urgent meetings US President Joe Biden and world leaders are holding in response to the Russian attack.

Zelensky pleaded for anti-air and anti-ship weapons, asking "is it possible to survive in such a war without this?" "It feels like we're in a gray area, between the West and Russia, defending our common values," Zelensky said in his video address to the summit.

"This is the scariest thing during a war - not to have clear answers to requests for help!" A Biden administration official, who requested anonymity to discuss the closed summit, said Zelensky did not repeat his demand for a no-fly zone, a demand NATO already has rejected.

US and allies aiming to provide anti-ship missiles to Ukraine

The United States and its allies are working on supporting Ukraine with anti-ship missiles, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.

"We have started consulting with allies on providing anti-ship missiles to Ukraine," the official said on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels. "There may be some technical challenges with making that happen but that is something that we are consulting with allies and starting to work on." Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky joined NATO leaders via videolink but did not repeat requests for NATO membership or the establishment of a no-fly zone, according to the official.

"The mood overall has been sober, it's been resolute and it's been incredibly united," the official said of the atmosphere at the summit meeting.

Zelensky calls for unrestricted NATO military aid

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged NATO on Thursday to provide Kyiv with unrestricted military aid, one month into Russia's attack of Ukraine.

"To save people and our cities, Ukraine needs military assistance without restrictions. In the same way that Russia is using its full arsenal without restrictions against us," he told NATO representatives via video-link.

While thanking members of the Western military alliance for the defensive equipment provided so far, he appealed for offensive weapons.

"You can give us one percent of all your planes. One percent of your tanks. One percent!"

Zelensky also accused Russia of deploying phosphorus weapons, which spread a powder that ignites when in contact with oxygen and causes severe burns.

"This morning, by the way, phosphorus bombs were used. Russian phosphorus bombs. Adults were killed again and children were killed again," Zelensky said.

"The Alliance can once more prevent the death of Ukrainians from Russian strikes, from Russian occupation, by giving us all the weapons we need."

Mariupol says 15,000 deported from besieged city to Russia

Ukrainian authorities in besieged Mariupol said on Thursday about 15,000 civilians had been illegally deported to Russia since Russian forces seized parts of the southern port city.

Ukrainian officials say civilians trapped in Mariupol, which is normally home to about 400,000 people, face a desperate plight without access to food, water, power or heat.

"Residents of the Left Bank district are beginning to be deported en masse to Russia. In total, about 15,000 Mariupol residents have been subjected to illegal deportation," Mariupol city council said in a statement issued on Thursday.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told a video briefing that Ukrainian authorities were continuing efforts to secure agreement from Russia to open a safe corridor to and from Mariupol.

Each side has blamed the other for the repeated failure to agree on arrangements to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, control of which would help Russia secure a land corridor to the Crimea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Zelensky says Ukraine deserves to be full member of EU

Ukraine is fighting for the security of the whole of Europe and should be a full member of the European Union, President Volodymyr Zelensky told Swedish lawmakers on Thursday via video link.

"We are not fighting just for the people of Ukraine, but for Europe's security and we have shown that we deserve to be a fully-fledged member of the EU," Zelensky said in an address to Sweden's parliament.

Biden, Western allies open 1st of 3 summits on Russian war

US President Joe Biden and Western allies opened the first of three summits Thursday focused on increasing pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin over his war in Ukraine while tending to the economic and security fallout spreading across Europe and the world.

Biden and the leaders of other NATO countries met at the alliance's headquarters where they posed for a group photo memorializing the urgent gathering before retreating behind closed doors for their summit, which was expected to last several hours.

Over the course of Thursday, the European diplomatic capital is hosting an emergency NATO summit as well as a gathering of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and a summit of the 27 members of the European Union.

This general view shows flags of some of the participating nations ahead of an extraordinary NATO summit, on display at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on March 24, 2022.
This general view shows flags of some of the participating nations ahead of an extraordinary NATO summit, on display at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on March 24, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

Unprecedented trio of NATO, G7 and EU summits in Brussels

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Western nations gathering in Brussels on Thursday to take "serious steps" to help Kyiv fight Russia's attack, as an unprecedented one-day trio of NATO, G7 and EU summits got underway.

The hectic day of summitry, aimed at maintaining Western unity, kicks off at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where the transatlantic defence alliance's leaders will agree to ramp up military forces on Europe's eastern flank.

But, while leaders promised to step up support for Ukraine, EU diplomats played down expectations of major new sanctions on Russia, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg repeated that the alliance will not send troops or planes to Ukraine.

"At these three summits we will see who is our friend, who is our partner and who sold us out and betrayed us," Zelensky said in a video address released early on Thursday.

He said he expected "serious steps" from Western allies, repeating calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine and complaining that the West had not provided Ukraine with planes, modern anti-missile systems, tanks or anti-ship weapons.

A Ukrainian firefighter shouts to a colleague while trying to extinguish a fire inside a house destroyed by shelling in Kyiv.
A Ukrainian firefighter shouts to a colleague while trying to extinguish a fire inside a house destroyed by shelling in Kyiv. Image Credit: AP

Putin made 'big mistake' attacking Ukraine: NATO chief

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of making a "big mistake" by attacking Ukraine, as leaders gathered to discuss overhauling the alliance's eastern defences.

"President Putin has made a big mistake and that is to launch a war against an independent sovereign nation. He has underestimated the strength of the Ukrainian people, the bravery of the Ukrainian people and their armed forces," Stoltenberg said ahead of the start of a summit in Brussels.

Stoltenberg said the leaders of the US-led military alliance would "address the need for a reset of our deterrence and defence in the longer term", starting with agreeing new deployments to eastern members Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria.

7 humanitarian corridors agreed for Thursday

Ukraine says seven humanitarian corridors agreed for Thursday. But no mention of safe passage from centre of besieged city of Mariupol.

Ukraine president to press Biden, NATO for more support

Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky called on people worldwide to gather in public Thursday to show support for his embattled country as he prepared to address U.S. President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders gathered in Brussels on the one-month anniversary of the Russian attack.

"Come to your squares, your streets. Make yourselves visible and heard," Zelensky said in English during an emotional video address late Wednesday that was recorded in the dark near the presidential offices in Kyiv. "Say that people matter. Freedom matters. Peace matters. Ukraine matters."

Zelensky said he would ask in a video conference with NATO members that the alliance provide "effective and unrestricted" support to Ukraine, including any weapons the country needs to fend off the Russian onslaught.

Biden, Western allies gather at tense moment in Ukraine war

As the war in Ukraine grinds into a second month, President Joe Biden and Western allies are gathering to chart a path to ramp up pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin while tending to the economic and security fallout that's spreading across Europe and the world.

Over the course of a half-day Thursday, the European diplomatic capital will host an emergency NATO summit as well as a gathering of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and a summit of the 27 members of the European Union. Biden will attend all three meetings and plans to hold a news conference at the end of the day.

Russian stock market, crushed by war, resumes trading

The Russian stock market resumed limited trading Thursday under heavy restrictions almost one month after prices plunged and the market was shut down following Moscow's attack of Ukraine.

Trading of a limited number of stocks including energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft took place under curbs that are meant to prevent a repeat of the massive selloff that took place February 24 in anticipation of Western economic sanctions. Foreigners cannot sell and traders are barred from short selling, or betting prices will fall.

The benchmark MOEX index gained 8% in the first minutes of trading. The reopening of stock trading on the Moscow Exchange has little impact on investors outside Russia.