A Ukrainian serviceman stands near the wreck of a Russian tank on the front line in the Kyiv region, Ukraine, March 28, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters

More than a month into the conflict , more than four million people have fled abroad, thousands have been killed and injured, and Russia's economy has been pummelled by sanctions. Follow the latest developments from the war zone:

Russia will respond to EU sanctions, says clash with Moscow not good for bloc

Russia will respond to European Union sanctions and says the 27-nation bloc might realize that a confrontation with Moscow is not in its interests, RIA cited a senior foreign ministry official as saying on Friday.

“The actions of the EU will not remain unanswered ... the irresponsible sanctions by Brussels are already negatively affecting the daily lives of ordinary Europeans,” Nikolai Kobrinets told the news agency.

UK says Russia redeploying forces from Georgia to Ukraine

Russia is redeploying elements of its forces from Georgia to reinforce its invasion of Ukraine, British military intelligence said on Thursday.

"Between 1,200 and 2,000 of these Russian troops are being reorganised into 3x Battalion Tactical Groups," Britain's Ministry of Defence said.

Red Cross prepares for Mariupol evacuations

A team with the International Committee of the Red Cross has arrived in a Ukraine-held city where staff are preparing to take civilians out of the beleaguered port city of Mariupol.

Julien Lerisson, deputy director of operations for the ICRC, said on Thursday that the team assembling in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, has medicines, food, water, hygiene items and other essentials.

He said the organisation has high-level agreement for the mission but is focused on making sure “the order trickles down the chain of command,” allowing the team to enter and leave Mariupol safely.

The Russian military has said it committed to a cease-fire along the route from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia. Ukrainian authorities have said 45 buses would be sent to collect citizens and provide resources to those who remain.

Lucile Marbeau, a staff member with the ICRC team hoping to enter Mariupol, said on Thursday: “We’re here because really, we hope to be able to facilitate safe passage for civilians desperately wanting to flee Mariupol.”

Russia drafts 134,500 conscripts but says they won't go to Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed a decree ordering 134,500 new conscripts into the army as part of Russia's annual spring draft, but the defence ministry said the call-up had nothing to do with the conflict in Ukraine.

The order came five weeks into Russia's attack, which has run into fierce Ukrainian resistance. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that none of those called up would be sent to any 'hot spots'.

Red Cross ready for Mariupol evacuation Friday

The International Committee of the Red Cross says its teams are ready to facilitate the evacuation of civilians out of the besieged city of Mariupol.

The Red Cross said "for logistics and security reasons, we'll be ready to lead the safe passage operation tomorrow, Friday, provided all the parties agree to the exact terms, including the route, the start time, and the duration.''

Russia-backed separatists declare significant gains in Ukaine's east

Moscow: Pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine have said they control almost all of the Lugansk region and more than half of the Donetsk region after Moscow made these territories its primary military goal.

AFP could not independently verify these claims.

Russia recognised the independence of the self-declared Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics shortly before sending troops into Ukraine on February 24.

"As of the morning of March 31, 2022, more than 90 percent of the territory of the People's Republic of Lugansk has been liberated," the foreign ministry of the self-proclaimed republic said on Telegram Thursday.

Leader of the Donetsk separatists Denis Pushilin told TASS news agency Wednesday that "around 55 to 60 percent" of the region's territory was under Russian control.

Talks between leaders soon

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba could meet within two weeks for talks, Turkey said Thursday, after hosting negotiators from both sides earlier this week.

"There could be a higher-level meeting, at least at the level of foreign ministers, within about a week or two weeks," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a televised interview.

"What matters is that the two sides come together and agree on a lasting ceasefire," he said. "We would like to host a foreign ministers' meeting as an honest mediator."

Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met in Istanbul on Tuesday. The talks provided a spark of hope for an end to the war in Ukraine but there are few signs of attacks abating on the ground. NATO member Turkey, which has friendly ties with both sides, has positioned itself as a mediator and hosted Lavrov and Kuleba in the southern city of Antalya in early March.

Cavusoglu said the most significant progress so far had been obtained at the talks in Istanbul.

"Is everything over? It's not... Some steps were taken to reduce the tension, even though we don't see it much on the ground," he said.

"Some say it's tactical manoeuvering. Some raise doubts. We are cautious," said Cavusoglu.

The Turkish minister also praised Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, who was present at the Istanbul talks, for his "useful role" in ending the war.

Red Cross warehouse damaged in Mariupol

Dubai: A Red Cross warehouse in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has been struck amid intense Russian shelling of the area.

Satellite pictures from Planet Labs PBC analyzed by The Associated Press on Thursday show clear damage to the warehouse's roof along the Kalmius River near its mouth on the Sea of Azov. A red cross had been painted on the top of the warehouse.

At least one hole from suspected shelling could be seen in an image taken March 21. Some four holes in the roof were clearly visible in images taken Wednesday. The red cross had been on the warehouse's roof from at least late August 2021, according to satellite images.

The International Committee of the Red Cross distributed all the supplies from inside the warehouse earlier in March and no staff have been at the site since March 15, the aid group said in a statement.

Kyiv sends 45 buses to evacuate civilians from Mariupol

Kyiv: The Ukrainian government is sending 45 buses on Thursday to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol, where the Russian defence ministry has announced a local ceasefire, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

"Tonight, we received a message from the International Red Cross Committee that the Russian Federation confirms its readiness to open access for the humanitarian convoy to the city of Mariupol with transit through the city of Berdiansk," she said in video posted on Telegram.

"We are sending 45 buses to the Mariupol corridor".

Seventeen buses had already left for Mariupol from Zaporizhzhia, around 220 kilometres (136 miles) to the northwest, she said.

Another 28 were waiting for authorisation to pass the Russian checkpoint in Vasylivka, near Zaporizhzhia.

Moscow announces Mariupol ceasefire

Russia's defence ministry announces a local ceasefire Thursday to allow civilians to be evacuated from Ukraine's besieged port city of Mariupol.

It says a humanitarian corridor will be opened to Zaporizhzhia with cooperation from the UN refugee agency and the International Committee of the Red Cross.