Ukrainian army soldiers take part in a military sweep to search for possible remnants of Russian troops after their withdrawal from villages in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, April 1, 2022. Image Credit: AP

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, Kazakhstan urge deal for neutral, nuclear-free Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev agreed during a phone call on Saturday that it was vital for an agreement to be reached for a neutral, non-aligned and nuclear-free Ukraine, Kazakhstan's presidential office said.

In a readout of the call, it said that Putin had briefed Tokayev on the progress of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.

Red Cross tries to reach besieged Mariupol

The International Committee of the Red Cross says a team of nine staffers is trying to get to the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol again after it had to abandon an earlier attempt when conditions on the ground made it impossible to proceed.

The humanitarian group said the team with three vehicles was on the way to help facilitate the safe passage of civilians on Saturday after a failed attempt Friday.

The group said in a statement late Friday it would try to accompany a convoy of civilians out from Mariupol to another city in Ukraine.

Pope calls for 'broad-based' response to migrant crises

Pope Francis called for a shared response to the world's migration crises Saturday, at the outset of a two-day trip to Malta.

"The growing migration emergency - here we can think of the refugees from Ukraine - calls for a broad-based and shared response. Some countries cannot respond to the entire problem, while others remain indifferent onlookers," the pope told Maltese dignitaries.

Zelensky won’t discuss fuel depot attack

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declined to comment on whether he ordered an attack on a Russian fuel depot.

In an interview with FOX News, Zelensky said he does not discuss any orders he issues as commander in chief.

Earlier, the secretary of Ukraine’s national security council denied allegations from Moscow that two Ukrainian helicopter gunships had struck the facility in the city of Belgorod north of the border at around dawn Friday.

The regional governor in Belgorod said two workers at the depot were injured, but Russian media cited a statement from state oil company Rosneft that denied anyone was hurt.

But if Moscow’s claim is confirmed, it would be the war’s first known attack in which Ukrainian aircraft penetrated Russian airspace.

Russia says cooperation in space only possible once sanctions are lifted

Russia's space director said on Saturday that the restoration of normal ties between partners at the International Space Station (ISS) and other joint space projects would be possible only once Western sanctions against Moscow are lifted.

Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, said in a social media post that the aim of the sanctions is to "kill Russian economy and plunge our people into despair and hunger, to get our country on its knees". He added, "they won't succeed in it, but the intentions are clear".

"That's why I believe that the restoration of normal relations between the partners at the International Space Station (ISS) and other projects is possible only with full and unconditional removal of illegal sanctions," Rogozin said.

Rogozin added that Roscosmos' prosposals on when to end cooperation over the ISS with space agencies of the United States, Canada, the European Union and Japan will soon be reported to Russian authorities. He has previously said that the sanctions could "destroy" the U.S.-Russian partnership on the ISS.

The West has introduced sweeping sanctions against Russia over what Moscow calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine, launched on Feb. 24.

Despite the tensions, a US astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts safely landed in Kazakhstan on Wednesday after leaving the space station aboard the same capsule.

The European Space Agency said last month it was suspending cooperation with Roscosmos over the ExoMars rover mission to search for signs of life on the surface of Mars.

British satellite venture OneWeb said last month it had contracted with Elon Musk's SpaceX to send its satellites into orbit after calling off a March 4 launch of 36 satellites from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan because of last-minute demands imposed on it by Moscow.

Russian missiles strike two central Ukraine cities

Russian missiles hit two cities in central Ukraine early on Saturday, damaging infrastructure and residential buildings, the head of the Poltava region said.

"Poltava. A missile struck one of the infrastructure facilities overnight," Dmitry Lunin wrote in an online post.

"Kremenchuk. Many attacks on the city in the morning." Poltava city is the capital of the Poltava region, east of Kyiv, and Kremenchuk one of the area's major cities.

There was no immediate information about possible casualties, Lunin said. 

Russia denies targeting civilians in the war that Russian President Vladimir Putin launched on Feb. 24, calling the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two "special military operation".

Thousands flee Mariupol as Red Cross prepares fresh rescue effort

More than 3,000 people have escaped the besieged region of Mariupol in a convoy of buses and private cars, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday as the Red Cross prepared a fresh evacuation effort for the devastated southern port.

The city has faced weeks of ferocious Russian shelling, with at least 5,000 residents killed, according to local authorities, and the estimated 160,000 who remain face shortages of food, water and electricity.

"We have managed to rescue 6,266 people, including 3,071 people from Mariupol," Zelensky said in a video address early Saturday.

Giving details of Friday's evacuation efforts along humanitarian corridors, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 42 buses carrying Mariupol residents had departed from the city of Berdiansk, 70 kilometres (44 miles) southwest, while another 12 had left Melitopol with local residents on board.

"That's more than 2,500 people. More than 300 private cars follow the buses. All of them are now heading to the city of Zaporizhzhia," she said on Telegram, adding more evacuations of Mariupol were planned for Saturday.

Dozens of buses carrying Mariupol residents who had escaped the devastated city arrived Friday in Zaporizhzhia, about 200 kilometres to the northwest, according to an AFP reporter on the scene.

The buses carried people who had been able to flee Mariupol to Russian-occupied Berdiansk.

"We were crying when we reached this area. We were crying when we saw soldiers at the checkpoint with Ukrainian crests on their arms," said Olena, who carried her young daughter in her arms.

"My house was destroyed. I saw it in photos. Our city doesn't exist anymore."

The International Committee of the Red Cross said its team headed to Mariupol to conduct an evacuation effort was forced to turn back Friday after "arrangements and conditions made it impossible to proceed". It said it would try again Saturday.

Zelensky: Retreating Russians leave many mines behind

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned his people early Saturday that retreating Russian forces were creating “a complete disaster” outside the capital as they leave mines across “the whole territory,” even around homes and corpses.

He issued the warning as the humanitarian crisis in the encircled city of Mariupol deepened, with Russian forces blocking evacuation operations for the second day in a row, and the Kremlin accused the Ukrainians of launching a helicopter attack on a fuel depot on Russian soil.

Zelensky warned of difficult battles ahead as the Russians redeploy troops.

Russia continued withdrawing some of its ground forces from areas around Kyiv after saying earlier this week it would reduce military activity near the Ukrainian capital and the northern city of Chernihiv.

“They are mining the whole territory. They are mining homes, mining equipment, even the bodies of people who were killed,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address to the nation. “There are a lot of trip wires, a lot of other dangers.”

He urged residents to wait to resume their normal lives until they are assured that the mines have been cleared and the danger of shelling has passed.

While the Russians kept up their bombardment around Kyiv and Chernihiv, Ukrainian troops exploited the pullback on the ground by mounting counterattacks and retaking a number of towns and villages.

Zelensky warned of difficult battles ahead as the Russians redeploy troops. “We are preparing for an even more active defense,” he said.

He did not say anything about the latest round of talks, which took place Friday by video. At a round of talks earlier in the week, Ukraine said it would be willing to abandon a bid to join NATO and declare itself neutral — Moscow’s chief demand — in return for security guarantees from several other countries.

The conflict has left thousands dead and driven more than 4 million refugees from Ukraine.

US to provide additional $300m in security assistance to Ukraine

The US Department of Defence will provide an additional $300 million in security assistance to Ukraine, to include laser-guided rocket systems, drones, and commercial satellite imagery services.

“This announcement represents the beginning of a contracting process to provide new capabilities to Ukraines Armed Forces,” Defence Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

Over 3,000 people 'rescued' from besieged Mariupol: Zelensky

Over 3,000 people have been led to safety from the besieged city of Mariupol, the Ukrainian president said Saturday.

"Today, humanitarian corridors were working in three regions: Donetsk, Lugansk and Zaporizhzhia. We have managed to rescue 6,266 people, including 3,071 people from Mariupol," Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address early Saturday.

It was not immediately clear if they had been evacuated from Mariupol or if they had previously escaped the city on their own and then been taken by bus to Zaporizhzhia to the northwest.

A Ukrainian serviceman guards his position in Mariupol, Ukraine, Saturday, March 12, 2022. Image Credit: AP


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