Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at a high-rise apartment building after the predawn missile attack in Kyiv.
Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at a high-rise apartment building after the predawn missile attack in Kyiv. Image Credit: Washington Post

War rages in Ukraine for the 21st day on Wednesday as Russian troops besiege and bombard cities in the biggest attack on a European nation since World War Two, which has also led to the biggest refugee crisis since then. Follow the latest developments from the war zone:


Kremlin says Biden's comments about Putin 'unacceptable and unforgivable'

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday said US President Joe Biden's characterization of Russian leader Vladimir Putin as a war criminal was "unacceptable and unforgivable rhetoric", Tass news agency said.

Biden says Putin is 'a war criminal'

US President Joe Biden told reporters on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a war criminal” over his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

“He is a war criminal,” Biden told reporters following an event at the White House.

Ukraine swaps nine Russian soldiers to free detained mayor

Ukraine handed over nine captured Russian soldiers to secure the freedom of the mayor of the city of Melitopol, who was detained last week, the Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted a senior official as saying on Wednesday.

The office of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy earlier said mayor Ivan Fedorov had been released but gave no details.

"Ivan Fedorov was released from Russian captivity ... for him, Russia received nine captured soldiers who were born in 2002 and 2003. These are actually children," Interfax Ukraine quoted Zelenskiy press aide Darya Zarivnaya as saying.

Ukraine had said Fedorov was kidnapped last Friday by Russian forces.

5 people, including 3 children, killed in Russian shelling of Ukraine city

Five people, including three children, were killed when Russian forces shelled a residential building in the city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, emergency officials said Wednesday.

Emergency workers recovered the five bodies from under the rubble of a multi-storeyed apartment building, Ukraine's emergencies ministry said in a statement on Telegram.

Ukraine says Russian strikes kill civilians fleeing Mariupol

Ukraine said Wednesday that Russian rocket attacks on a convoy fleeing the besieged port city of Mariupol had claimed the lives of civilians, including children, after earlier strikes targeted a nearby hub for displaced people.

"Today at around 3.30 pm (1330 GMT), a column of civilians being evacuated from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia was fired on by inhuman Russian occupiers," the Ukrainian military said, adding that "the number of victims is being clarified".

Kremlin says too early to disclose potential agreements on resolving Ukraine conflict

It is too early disclose any set of potential agreements between Moscow and Kyiv on resolving the conflict in Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Psekov said on Wednesday according to the RIA news agency.

The comment came after the Financial Times earlier on Wednesday reported that Ukraine and Russia had made significant progress on a tentative 15-point peace plan.

The newspaper cited three people involved in the talks as saying the plan included a ceasefire and Russian withdrawal if Kyiv declares neutrality and accepts limits on its armed forces.

US warns Russia against using chemical weapons

White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan spoke and Gen. Nikolay Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, spoke by phone on Wednesday, the highest level engagement between the US and Russia since the attack nearly three weeks ago.

Sullivan warned Patrushev "about the consequences and implications of any possible Russian decision to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine," according national security council spokesperson Emily Horne. The White House last week accused China of spreading Russian disinformation that could be a pretext for Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces to attack Ukraine with chemical or biological weapons.

Patrushev spoke of "the need to stop Washington's support for neo-Nazis and terrorists in Ukraine and to facilitate the transfer of foreign mercenaries to the conflict zone, as well as to refuse to continue supplying weapons to the Kyiv regime," council spokesman Yevgeny Anoshin said.

Putin says 'economic blitzkrieg' has failed

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that the operation in Ukraine is unfolding "successfully, in strict accordance with pre-approved plans" and decried Western sanctions against Russia, describing them as "aggression and war with economic, political, information means."

At the same time Putin said that the West has failed to wage "an economic blitzkrieg" against Russia.

"In effect these steps are aimed at worsening the lives of millions of people," Putin said of the sanctions that have delivered a crippling blow to Russia's economy.

"One should clearly understand that the new set of sanctions and restrictions against us would have followed in any case, I want to emphasize this. Our military operation in Ukraine is just a pretext for the next sanctions," Putin told a government meeting Wednesday.

EU links up electricity grid to war-hit Ukraine

The EU on Wednesday completed linking up its electricity grid to Ukraine, making good on a promise to keep the lights on in the war-ravaged country under attack from Russia, officials said.

"In this area, Ukraine is now part of Europe," EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson said in a statement, adding that Moldova - which also has a Russia-backed breakaway region - was also connected to the grid.

"The EU will continue to support Ukraine in the energy sector, by ensuring the reverse flows of gas to the country and the delivery of energy supplies that are badly needed," she said.

While the link-up risks blackouts and brownouts happening in parts of the EU, Brussels has presented the move as part of its solidarity with Ukraine, even as it rebuffs Kyiv's pleas for rapid EU membership.

Women walk next to debris of damaged shops after bombing in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 15, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Zelensky tells US Congress, 'We need you right now'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cited Pearl Harbour and the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 on Wednesday as he appealed to the US Congress to do more to help Ukraine's fight against Russia.

Livestreamed into the Capitol complex, Zelensky said the US must sanction Russian lawmakers and block imports, and he showed a packed auditorium of US lawmakers an emotional video of the destruction and devastation in his country has suffered in the war.

"We need you right now," Zelenskyy said, adding, "I call on you to do more." In calling for more economic hit to the Russians, he said: "Peace is more important than income." Lawmakers gave him a standing ovation, before and after his remarks.

Zelensky shows US lawmakers graphic video of war

US lawmakers watched a moving video of the destruction caused by Russia's attack of Ukraine as President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the US Congress on Wednesday.

As somber music played in the background, the short video showed ruined buildings and injured civilians including children, with the final frame showing the words "close the sky" in an appeal for a no-fly zone.

Russia says Ukraine talks progressing as onslaught continues

Russia's military forces blasted Ukraine's capital region and other major cities Wednesday as they tried to crush a Ukrainian defense that has frustrated their progress nearly three weeks after the attack, while the two countries signaled some optimism for negotiations to end the war.

With Russia's ground advance on Kyiv stalled despite the sustained bombardment, statements from the two sides suggested room for their talks to make progress. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said a neutral military status for Ukraine was being "seriously discussed" at the "businesslike" talks, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described Russia's demands for ending the war as becoming "more realistic."

Russian media regulator blocks websites of at least a dozen media

Russia's media regulator Roskomnadzor blocked access to at least a dozen media websites on Wednesday, in a crackdown online that sharply escalated after President Vladimir Putin sent in troops to Ukraine.

AFP was unable to access at least a dozen Russian and foreign-based media inside the country. These included award-winning investigation website Bellingcat, a Russian-language Israeli news site and regional websites, like Their websites were listed as blocked by Roskomnadzor.

Red Cross seeks greater access in Ukraine

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross is in Kyiv to try to obtain greater access for humanitarian groups in Ukraine and better protection for civilians.

The ICRC said Wednesday that the planned five-day visit by its president, Peter Maurer, aims to view first-hand the challenges facing civilians, meet with members of Ukraine's government and explore ways the ICRC can expand its work in the country.

The trip came a day after the Geneva-based organization helped shepherd out hundreds of people in an evacuation from the northern city of Sumy in some 80 buses.

The ICRC also announced the delivery of 200 tons of aid to Ukraine, including kits for the war-wounded, blankets, kitchen sets, water and more than 5,200 body bags.

The ICRC has been working in Ukraine since 2014 and has a team of more than 600 staffers there, it says.

Ukraine rejects Austria, Sweden neutrality model

Ukraine on Wednesday rejected proposals pushed by Russia for it to adopt a neutral status comparable to Austria or Sweden, saying talks with Moscow to end fighting should focus on "security guarantees".

"Ukraine is now in a direct state of war with Russia. Consequently, the model can only be 'Ukrainian' and only on legally verified security guarantees," its top negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak said in comments published by President Volodymyr Zelensky's office.

Russia sees 'business-like spirit' in Ukraine talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said a "business-like spirit" is emerging at talks with Ukraine that are now focused on a neutral status for the war-torn country.

"A neutral status is being seriously discussed in connection with security guarantees," Lavrov said Wednesday on Russian channel RBK TV. "There are concrete formulations that in my view are close to being agreed.''

He didn't elaborate, but said "the business-like spirit" starting to surface in the talks "gives hope that we can agree on this issue." he said.

Russia's chief negotiator in the latest round of talks with Ukraine, which started Monday and are set to continue Wednesday, said the sides are discussing a possible compromise idea for a future Ukraine with a smaller, non-aligned military.

"A whole range of issues tied with the size of Ukraine's army is being discussed," Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said, according to Russian news agencies.

There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian officials. It's not clear how such an option would work if the future Ukrainian military remains hostile to Russia.

Medinsky said the issues are being discussed in the Russian and Ukrainian defence ministries.

He noted that a key question is the status of Crimea and Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, which Russia recognises as independent. Ukraine considers both part of its territory.

A new round of Ukraine-Russia talks about the conflict is expected later Wednesday.

Suspected strike on Russian-held airport

Satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC analysed by The Associated Press show a suspected Ukrainian strike on the Russian-held Kherson International Airport and Air Base set several helicopters and vehicles ablaze.

The images on Tuesday at the dual-use airfield show thick black smoke rising overhead from the blazes. At least three helicopters appeared to be on fire, as well as several vehicles. At a pad further away, other helicopters appeared damaged from an earlier strike.

In this satellite picture provided by Planet Labs PBC, fire and smoke is seen at Kherson International Airport and Air Base in Kherson, Ukraine. Image Credit: Planet Labs PBC via AP

The Ukrainian president's office said that fighting had continued at Kherson airport on Tuesday, with “powerful blasts” rocking the area during the course of the day. They said they were assessing damage in the area, without elaborating.

Kherson is about 450 kilometres southeast of Ukraine's capital, Kyiv.

Meanwhile, satellite images on Tuesday of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, showed no damage to the site's six reactors after Russian forces engaged in a firefight to seize the facility. Zaporizhzhia is Europe's largest nuclear power plant and the fighting raised fears about safety there.

Zaporizhzhia is about the same distance and direction as Kherson from Kyiv. Residents in the region are building barricades and setting up firing positions.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's office said some 4,000 vehicles left Mariupol in the first major evacuation from the besieged southern city, but most of the convoy spent the night on the road out toward Zaporizhzhia.

Smoke rising after an explosion in Kyiv. Image Credit: AFP

Russia and Ukraine are scheduled for another round of negotiations on Wednesday, but Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine's leadership was not "serious" about resolving the conflict.

Ukraine launches counteroffensives in several areas

Ukraines armed forces are launching counteroffensives against Russian forces "in several operational areas," Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

"This radically changes the parties dispositions," he added, without giving details.

Ukraine to appeal to US for more help amid Russian bombing

Ukraine's president was preparing to make a direct appeal for more help in a rare speech by a foreign leader to the US Congress, even as Russia continued its bombardment of the Ukrainian capital Wednesday.

Three weeks into the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested there was reason for optimism that negotiations with the Russian government might yet yield an agreement. Previewing his speech to the US Congress, Zelensky thanked President Joe Biden and "all the friends of Ukraine" for $13.6 billion in new support.

He appealed for more weapons and more sanctions to punish Russia and repeated his call to "close the skies over Ukraine to Russian missiles and planes." He said Russian forces had been unable to move deeper into Ukrainian territory but had continued their heavy shelling of cities" meanwhile, he said after delegations from the two countries met, Russia's demands were becoming "more realistic." The sides were expected to speak again later Wednesday.

More talks planned as Russian shelling continues

Russia and Ukraine are scheduled for another round of negotiations on Wednesday, but Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine's leadership was not "serious" about resolving the conflict.

Russian forces continue to strike infrastructure targets while the overall military situation remains largely unchanged, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Facebook. Russia's Defense Ministry said its forces are advancing through urban areas in Luhansk region town of Severodonetsk.

Russian fighting intensifies in Kyiv suburbs

A plume of smoke was seen rising up over western Kyiv on Wednesday morning after shrapnel from an artillery shell slammed into a 12-story apartment building in central Kyiv, obliterating the top floor and igniting a fire, according to a statement and images released by the Kyiv emergencies agency.

The neighbouring building was also damaged. The agency reported two victims, without elaborating.

Russian forces have intensified fighting in Kyiv suburbs, notably around the town of Bucha in the northwest and the highway leading west toward Zhytomyr, the head of the Kyiv region Oleksiy Kuleba said on Wednesday.

He said Russian troops are trying to cut off the capital from transport arteries and destroy logistical capabilities even as they plan a wide-ranging attack to seize Kyiv.

A firefighter walks outside a destroyed apartment building after a bombing in a residential area in Kyiv. Image Credit: AP

Twelve towns around Kyiv are without water and six without heat.

Russia has occupied the city of Ivankiv, 80 kilometres north of Kyiv, and controls the surrounding region on the border with Belarus, Kuleba said.

Across the Kyiv region, he said, "Kindergartens, museums, churches, residential blocks and engineering infrastructure are suffering from the endless firing."

Ukraine sees room for compromise, as 20,000 escape Mariupol

Ukraine said it saw possible room for compromise in talks with Russia despite Moscow’s stepped up bombardment of Kyiv and new assaults on the port city of Mariupol, from where an estimated 20,000 civilians managed to flee through a humanitarian corridor.

The fast-moving developments on the diplomatic front and on the ground came as Russia’s attack neared the three-week mark and the number of Ukrainians who have left the country amid Europe’s heaviest fighting since World War II eclipsed 3 million.

After delegations from Ukraine and Russia met again on Tuesday via video, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said early Wednesday that Russia’s demands were becoming “more realistic.” The two sides were expected to speak again on Wednesday.

Evacuees from Mariupol are seen upon arrival at the car park of a shopping centre on the outskirts of the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is now a registration centre for displaced people. Image Credit: AFP

“Efforts are still needed, patience is needed,” he said in his nightly video address to the nation. “Any war ends with an agreement.”

Zelensky, who was expected to address the US Congress on Wednesday, thanked President Joe Biden and “all the friends of Ukraine” for $13.6 billion in new support.

He said Russian forces on Tuesday had been unable to move deeper into Ukrainian territory but had continued their heavy shelling of cities.

Over the past day, 28,893 civilians were able to flee the fighting through nine humanitarian corridors, although the Russians refused to allow aid into Mariupol, he said.

Ukraine says Russian warships fire missiles

Russian warships around midnight fired missiles and artillery at the Ukrainian sea coast near Tuzla, to the south of Odesa, Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said.

"They fired a huge amount of ammunition from a great distance," he said on Facebook.

Gerashchenko said Russia wanted to test Ukraine's coastal defence system.

He said there was no attempt to land troops. He didn't say whether any of the shelling hit anything.

Ukraine says 4th Russian general killed

Ukraine said a fourth Russian general has been killed in the fighting.

Maj. Gen. Oleg Mityaev died on Tuesday during the storming of Mariupol, said Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko, who published a photo on Telegram of what he said was the dead officer.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reported the death of another Russian general in his nighttime address but didn’t name him.

Mityaev, 46, commanded the 150th motorised rifle division and had fought in Syria, Gerashchenko said. There was no confirmation of the death from Russia.

Biden to announce $800m in new security aid to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden will announce $800 million in new security assistance to Ukraine on Wednesday, a White House official said, the same day that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to deliver a speech to the US Congress.

The announcement brings "the total (aid) announced in the last week alone to $1 billion," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

Zelensky is set to renew his appeals for more aid in his virtual address to Congress, as some lawmakers press the White House to take a tougher line over Russia's attack.

A Red Cross worker carries an elderly women during evacuation in Irpin, some 25 km (16 miles) northwest of Kyiv, Friday, March 11, 2022. Kyiv northwest suburbs such as Irpin and Bucha have been enduring Russian shellfire and bombardments for over a week prompting residents to leave their home. Image Credit: AP

Here are today's key developments:

• US President Joe Biden will travel to Europe next week for face-to-face talks with European leaders about Russia's attack

• Russia has stepped up its bombardment of Kyiv, as a series of strikes hit a residential neighbourhood in the capital city

• The European Union has imposed new sanctions, including measures that target Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich

• The leaders of three European Union countries have traveled to Kyiv

• Fox News says two of its journalists were killed in Ukraine when the vehicle he was traveling in was struck by incoming fire