Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

Russia's invasion on Ukraine continues, in the village of Krasylivka outside Kyiv
A Ukrainian serviceman walks past a burnt-out car, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the village of Krasylivka outside Kyiv, Ukraine March 26, 2022. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

March 31, 2022

(Reuters) – Ukrainian forces are preparing for new Russian attacks on the Donbas region in the southeast after they repelled Russia’s assault on the capital Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Thursday.

FIGHTING

* The southern port city of Mariupol and a “corridor” between two eastern towns, Izyum and Volnovakha, are becoming the key battlefronts, a Ukrainian interior ministry adviser said.

* Nearly 5,000 people have been killed in Mariupol, the mayor’s office estimates, and about 170,000 people remain trapped amid ruins without food, heat, power or running water. Many more have fled. Reuters has been unable to verify the figures.

* Russia’s defence ministry said it was prepared to observe a ceasefire in Mariupol and Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said Russian President Vladimir Putin had assured him Moscow would contribute to securing humanitarian access to civilians there.

ECONOMY

* Putin threatened on Thursday to halt contracts supplying Europe with a third of its gas unless they are paid in roubles. The continent’s biggest recipient of Russian gas, Germany, called the ultimatum for Friday “blackmail”.

* U.S. President Joe Biden will announce the release of 1 million barrels of oil a day for the next six months from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to try to bring down gasoline prices, the White House said.

* Washington also imposed fresh sanctions on Russia, targeting operators in the technology sector.

* Russia will provide domestic airlines with 100 billion roubles ($1.25 billion) in support to deal with the consequences of international sanctions.

DIPLOMACY

* Russia and Ukraine are to resume peace talks online on April 1, said a senior Ukrainian official.

* Putin was misled by advisers who were too scared to tell him how poorly the war in Ukraine is going and how damaging Western sanctions have been, a U.S. official said, citing declassified intelligence.

HUMANITARIAN CONCERNS

* A convoy of Ukrainian buses set out for Mariupol to try to deliver humanitarian supplies and bring out trapped civilians, the deputy prime minister said.

* The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it would evacuate people from Mariupol from Friday if the warring parties allowed safe passage.

* Russia may have committed war crimes by killing civilians and destroying hospitals in its pounding of Ukrainian cities, the top United Nations human rights official said.

QUOTES

* “We spent 30 days in the basement, with small children. The children are shaking, even still. They ask: ‘When will we go to kindergarten? When will we go to school?’ They don’t understand what has happened,” said a woman named Larisa in Trostyanets, a town in the country’s east recaptured by Ukrainian forces.

(Compiled by Frank Jack Daniel and Alexandra Hudson)