Ukraine live updates: Kyiv sending 45 buses for Mariupol evacuation during Russian ceasefire

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Ukraine live updates: Kyiv sending 45 buses for Mariupol evacuation during Russian ceasefire

A soldier comforts Larysa Kolesnyk, 82, after being evacuated from Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 30, 2022   —  

With Russia’s war in Ukraine into its second month, Putin’s forces have continued to pound towns and cities from afar as Moscow’s military offensive stalls in the face of strong Ukrainian resistance.

Millions have fled their homes, creating Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II. Thousands of civilians and military personnel have been killed, and the Russian bombardments have left widespread devastation.

The Russian invasion has caused political and shockwaves around the world, deepening the rupture between Moscow and the West.

Follow Thursday’s updates in our blog below and watch our TV coverage in the video player above.


Thursday’s key points to know: 

    Kyiv is sending 45 buses to help evacuate civilians from Mariupol during a Russian ceasefire on Thursday.President Zelensky says his country’s defence is at a turning point, as they brace for a renewed Russian offensive in the east of Ukraine.Demoralised Russian soldiers in Ukraine are refusing to carry out orders and sabotaging their own equipment, says UK spy chief.The Russian rouble has rebounded on international currency markets, leading to questions about the impact of Western sanctions. The Pentagon and the White House say intelligence suggests Vladimir Putin may not be getting the «full picture» of the war in Ukraine from his advisers.Officials in Ukraine say Russian forces have continued to strike around Kyiv and other cities, including residential areas of Chernihiv — both areas where Moscow pledged on Tuesday to «drastically» reduce combat operations. The Red Cross has confirmed a claim by Ukrainian authorities that one of its centres was hit by Russian bombardment in Mariupol, the besieged port in southeastern Ukraine destroyed by Putin’s forces.


Vladimir Putin’s popularity soars, according to new poll

Russian President Vladimir Putin has seen his popularity soar since he launched an invasion of Ukraine at the end of February. 

A new poll published Thursday by the independent Levada Institute in Russia is the first since the start of the war. 

It shows some 83% of Russians approve of Putin’s actions — that’s up 12 percentage points compared to the last survey carried out in February. 

Only 15% of Russians say they do not approve of the president’s action (a drop of 12 percentage points in one month) while just 2% say they have no opinion.

Previous polls had been released in recent weeks and already showed an approval rating for Mr Putin of 80% or more, but these were carried out by pro-government institutes.

Vladimir Putin justified the Russian military offensive against his Ukrainian neighbor by accusing him of having orchestrated a genocide of Russian speakers, and of serving as a springboard for NATO, an existential threat to Russia.

This message is relayed on a daily basis by the state media, while critical voices have been forced into silence or exile, on pain of heavy criminal penalties in the event of remarks denigrating the action of the Russian army. 

Russia has also banned some of the biggest social networks — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok — accused of being anti-Russia.  



ICRC ready to lead Mariupol evacuation 

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was ready «to lead» the evacuation operations for civilians besieged in the city of Mariupol.

The Red Cross says it would be read to start on Friday, on condition that it gets security guarantees about safety.

The Russian Ministry of Defense announced Wednesday evening a ceasefire this Thursday and the opening of evacuation corridors for civilians, who have been trapped for weeks in the city pounded by Russian forces.

On Thursday, Kyiv said it would send a fleet of buses to Mariupol to take out as many civilians as they could fit on board. It’s thought there could be tens of thousands of residents still trapped in the city which has come under constant Russian bombardment for weeks. 

Authorities estimate at least 5,000 civilians have been killed in Mariupol so far. 


Pro-Russia separatists claim Donbas military gains

Separatists in Ukraine’s Donbass region claimed on Thursday to control almost all of the Lugansk region and more than half of Donetsk, with Moscow making the conquest of these eastern Ukrainian territories its priority.

These claims could not be independently verified. 

«As of March 31, 2022, in the morning, more than 90% of the territory of the Lugansk People’s Republic has been liberated» the pro-Russia group said on its Telegram channel on Thursday. 

Denis Pushilin, leader of the Donetsk separatists, said on Wednesday that «about 55 to 60 percent» of the territory of the Ukrainian region was under Russian control.

Before the start of the Russian offensive on 24 February, the separatists, who have been at war with Ukrainian forces since 2014, controlled about a third of each of these regions. 

In the Donetsk region, the main city that escaped the Russian and pro-Russian forces is Mariupol, which has been under a brutal siege for weeks.

The leader of the Russian Caucasian republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, whose thousands of men are fighting in Mariupol, said that 90 to 95% of the strategic port city was now under Russian control.

According to him, the last Ukrainian defenders are entrenched in the Azovstal metallurgical factory, located in the east of Mariupol.

A ceasefire is due to take effect in the city on Thursday on the Russian side to allow the evacuation of tens of thousands of people still living there in catastrophic humanitarian conditions.


Video: Europe’s largest food warehouse on fire after ‘deliberate’ Russian attack

One of Europe’s largest food storage facilities has been destroyed in Ukraine.

“It wasn’t an accident. It was intentional» says Mayor of the city, Iho Saposhko.

«The entire food warehouse and 50,000 tonnes of food were destroyed.» 

Read more, and watch video at our story here:

Ukraine live updates: Kyiv sending 45 buses for Mariupol evacuation during Russian ceasefire

Ukraine food supplies ‘deliberately destroyed’ in warehouse attack


Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers could meet ‘within one or two weeks’

The foreign ministers from Russia and Ukraine could meet for face-to-face talks «within one or two weeks» according to the Turkish foreign minister.

Mevlüt Cavusoglu said in a Thursday TV interview that «there could be a higher-level meeting, at least between ministers within a week or two,” adding that it was “impossible to put a date forward” and no location specified.

Negotiators from the two countries — but not their foreign ministers — met for a day of talks in Istanbul on Tuesday, and there could be another round of talks from senior officials on Friday as well. 

After Tuesday’s talks the Russian side indicated that conditions were becoming right for a possible meeting between President Putin and President Zelenskyy but again, no date has been set for that. 


Mariupol evacuation plans if Russia ceasefire holds

Kiev is preparing to send 45 buses on Thursday to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, the besieged port city in southern Ukraine where Moscow has announced a truce.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Verechtchuk said the government «were informed by the International Committee of the Red Cross that Russia was ready to open access to humanitarian convoys from Mariupol,» to the city of Zaporozhie, via Berdiansk.

«On the Mariupol corridor, we are sending 45 buses,» she added.

Tens of thousands of civilians are still thought to be trapped in Mariupol, which has faced weeks of constant bombardment by Russian forces. Ukrainian authorities estimate at least 5,000 people were killed in the city. 

Ukraine live updates: Kyiv sending 45 buses for Mariupol evacuation during Russian ceasefire

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows damaged apartment buildings and homes in Mariupol, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (Maxar Technologies via AP)08:21

ICYMI: UN human rights chief highlights Russian attacks on civilian areas in Ukraine


President Zelenskyy: Ukraine bracing for new Russian offensive in the east

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country is at a «turning point» in the war with Russia, and that they’re preparing for a major new Russian offensive in the east of the country.

«We will not give up anything. We will fight for every meter of our territory,» he said in the new video, recorded outside his office on the streets of Kyiv.

Read more at our story here:

Ukraine live updates: Kyiv sending 45 buses for Mariupol evacuation during Russian ceasefire

Zelenskyy: Ukraine bracing for new Russian offensive in the east


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