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FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin Image Credit: Reuters

Ukraine has re-occupied towns 35km east of Kyiv even as Russia's attack is raging, now in its 30th day, showing no signs of abating. Follow the latest developments from the war zone:


Putin signs law on jail terms for 'fake' news on state actions abroad

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed into law a bill introducing jail terms of up to 15 years for publishing "fake" information about Russia's actions abroad, as Moscow's troops continue their military operation in Ukraine.

The bill, adopted by Russia's parliament this week, sets out jail terms and fines for people who publish "knowingly false information" about actions abroad by Russian government agencies.


Biden gives pep talk to US troops in Poland

President Joe Biden has given a pep talk to US troops stationed in Poland near the border with Ukraine.

Biden said he wanted to visit Friday to thank members of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division for their service. He added that it's "not hyperbole" when he says they are the "finest fighting force in the world."

The president told the fatigue-clad men and women that they are an "amazing group" and he reminisced about his late son, Beau, who served in the Delaware Army National Guard.

Biden visited some troops at lunch at their temporary headquarters in Rzeszow and chowed down on a slice of pepperoni and jalapeno pepper pizza. He also visited others who were getting haircuts at the barbershop.

Biden is scheduled Saturday to meet separately with Poland's president and Ukrainian refugees before he heads back to Washington.

Russian army says will focus on 'liberation' of Ukraine's Donbas region

Moscow: The Russian army said Friday that the first phase of its military campaign in Ukraine was over and troops will now focus on the complete "liberation" of the country's eastern Donbas region.

"The main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been completed," said Sergei Rudskoi, chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of Russia's armed forces. "The combat potential of Ukraine's armed forces has been significantly reduced, which allows (us) - I emphasise once again - to focus our main efforts on achieving the main goal - the liberation of Donbas."

Russia says first phase of Ukraine operation mostly complete, focus now on Donbass

Russia said on Friday that the first phase of its military operation in Ukraine was mostly complete and that it would focus on completely "liberating" eastern Ukraine's Donbass region.

The announcement appeared to indicate that Russia may be switching to more limited goals after running into fierce Ukrainian resistance in the first month of the war.

The defence ministry said Russian-backed separatists now controlled 93% of Ukraine's Luhansk region and 54% of the Donetsk region - the two areas that jointly make up the Donbass.

Biden lands in Poland near Ukraine border

US President Joe Biden waves as he boards Air Force One at Melsbroek military airport in Brussels. Image Credit: AP

Rzeszow, Poland: US President Joe Biden landed on Friday in the city of Rzeszow in southeastern Poland - around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the border with Ukraine.

Biden is due to meet US soldiers stationed in the area and non-governmental organisations helping Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia's attack.

Russian military chaplain killed by rocket near Ukraine border: church

Moscow: A Russian military chaplain has been killed by a Ukrainian rocket attack in southwestern Russia close to the border with Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church said on Friday.

Oleg Artyomov was in the village of Zhuravlyovka in Russia's Belgorod region when he "came under shelling from a Ukrainian Smerch (rocket launcher) and died" on Thursday, the Moscow Patriarchate's military department said on social media.

Mariupol cites witnesses suggesting 300 may have been killed in theatre bombing

A refugee waits in a car as an armoured personnel carrier of pro-Russian troops drives out of a checkpoint in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine. Image Credit: Reuters

Kyiv: Ukrainian officials in the strategic port city of Mariupol said Friday some 300 people could have died in last week's Russian strike on a theatre where hundreds were sheltering.

"From eyewitnesses, information is emerging that about 300 people died in the Drama Theatre of Mariupol following strikes by a Russian aircraft," Mariupol city hall wrote on Telegram.

Ukrainian aid centre hit by Russian shelling, four killed, say police

Lviv: Russian shelling hit a clinic that was acting as a centre for humanitarian aid in the eastern city of Kharkiv, killing four people, the regional police said in a statement on Friday.

"As a result of the morning shelling of civilian infrastructure from multiple rocket launchers, 7 civilians were injured, 4 of whom died," said a statement on social media.

"There is no military facility nearby." Reuters could not independently verify the report.

Russia says destroyed largest military fuel storage site in Ukraine

Moscow: Russia said Friday it had destroyed the largest remaining military fuel storage site in Ukraine, hitting it with the Kalibr sea-based cruise missiles.

"On the evening of March 24, Kalibr high-precision sea-based cruise missiles attacked a fuel base in the village of Kalynivka near Kyiv," the Russian defence ministry said.

Half the population of Kharkiv has fled

Kharkiv: About half the population of the eastern city of Kharkiv has left, and food and other essentials are dwindling for those who stay behind. A line formed Thursday at an apartment block as neighbors waited for aid from the Red Cross.

A woman helps an elderly person to walk down the stairs as they shelter in a metro station in northern Kharkiv. Image Credit: Reuters

"Among those who stayed, there are people who can walk on their own, but many who cannot walk, the elderly,'' said Hanna Spitsyna, who distributed the food to the sound of explosions behind her.

Kharkiv has been under siege by Russian forces since the start of the attack, with relentless shelling that has forced people to sleep in metro stations and in basements.

Ukraine's government said shelling on a group of people awaiting aid elsewhere in the city killed six people on Thursday. It was not immediately possible to verify the allegation.

Biden to visit Poland, a complex ally on Ukraine's doorstep

US President Joe Biden's visit to Poland as his final stop in Europe this week offers a chance to underscore U.S. commitment to protect a key NATO member on Ukraine's doorstep, and thank Poles for their generous welcome to refugees fleeing Russia's invasion.

US President Joe Biden speaks to the media in the framework of a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium. Image Credit: Reuters

The two-day visit starting Friday follows a trio of emergency war summits in Brussels. It brings Biden to a country that has accepted the lion's share of the more than 3.5 million Ukrainians who have fled the month-old war. More than 2.2 million have entered Poland and many propose to stay there.

Biden will be welcomed by President Andrzej Duda, who is allied with a right-wing political party accused of eroding democratic norms, and who clearly preferred ex-President Donald Trump.

Ukraine has re-occupied towns 35km east of Kyiv, UK says

London: Ukraine has re-occupied towns and defensive positions up to 35 kilometres east of Kyiv, helped by Russian forces falling back on overextended supply lines, Britain's defence ministry said on Friday.

Russia fires missiles at Ukraine military unit

Russian forces fired two missiles late Thursday at a Ukrainian military unit on the outskirts of Dnipro, the fourth-largest city in the country, regional emergency services said.

The strikes destroyed buildings and set off two fires, it said, while the number of those killed and wounded was still being established.

Dnipro is west of the regions along the Russian border that have been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.

Zelensky reassures Ukraine in nightly address

Ukraine Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke of hope and determination in his nighttime video address to the nation late Thursday.

"It is already night. But we are working," he said in a quiet voice.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to the leaders of the European Council during their summit in Brussels from Kyiv. Image Credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP

"The country must move toward peace, move forward. With every day of our defense, we are getting closer to the peace that we need so much. We are getting closer to victory. We can't stop even for a minute. For every minute determines our fate, our future, whether we will live.''

He reported on his conversations that day with leaders of NATO and European Union countries gathered in Brussels, and their promises of even more sanctions on Russia.

"We need to look for peace," he said. "Russia also needs to look for peace."

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.