(NEW YORK) — Russian forces are continuing their attempted push through Ukraine from multiple directions, while Ukrainians, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, are putting up “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.
The attack began Feb. 24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation.”
Russian forces moving from neighboring Belarus toward Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, have advanced closer to the city center in recent days despite the resistance. Heavy shelling and missile attacks, many on civilian buildings, continue in Kyiv, as well as major cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol. Russia also bombed western cities for the first time last week, targeting Lviv and a military base near the Poland border.
Russia has been met by sanctions from the United States, Canada and countries throughout Europe, targeting the Russian economy as well as Putin himself.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Mar 28, 11:41 am
Russia says radiation levels remain stable despite fires in Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
Radiation levels remain stable in Russia despite fires in the occupied Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, Russian public health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said Monday.
Rospotrebnadzor said it was continuing to monitor the situation.
The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is a 1,000-square-mile restricted area of deserted, contaminated land around the shuttered Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986. Russian forces seized the defunct plant and surrounding exclusion zone just hours after launching an invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
The State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management has warned that the radiation hazard is growing due to the blazes in the area, which it said have the potential to spread. The fires observed at more than 30 spots in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone over the past two weeks have exceeded 8,700 hectares in total, according to the agency.
However, Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on Monday that the situation was currently “more or less stable.”
Mar 28, 11:32 am
Kremlin expresses concern over Biden’s remark in Poland
Russia is concerned by U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent remark seemingly regarding the need for a change of administration in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday.
In an address on Saturday from Poland’s capital, Warsaw, Biden made a comment that appeared to be directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine.
“For god’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said.
After the speech, the White House released a statement clarifying that Biden wasn’t calling for a regime change.
“The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change,” a White House official said.
When asked by reporters on Monday about Biden’s remark, Peskov replied: “Indeed, this statement makes us worry.”
“We will continue to closely monitor statements made by the U.S. president,” he added. “We are thoroughly recording them and will be continuing to do so.”
Mar 28, 11:20 am
Cost of damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure estimated at $63 billion
The cost of direct damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure amid Russia’s ongoing invasion has already reached almost an estimated $63 billion, according to an analysis by the Kyiv School of Economics.
As of March 24, at least 4,431 residential buildings, 92 factories and warehouses, 378 institutions of secondary and higher education, 138 health care institutions, 12 airports, seven thermal power plants and hydroelectric power plants have been damaged, destroyed or seized in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, according to the Kyiv School of Economics.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s overall economic losses due to the war range from $543 billion to $600 billion, the Kyiv School of Economics said.
Mar 28, 11:15 am
Russia dubs German broadcaster DW a ‘foreign agent’
The Russian Ministry of Justice on Monday added German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) to a list of media organizations it has labeled as “foreign agents.”
The justice ministry said in a statement that it made the decision “based on the documents received from the authorized state authorities,” without providing further details. The designation requires media outlets to publish a disclaimer on all its publications.
“This latest, arbitrary decision by the Russian authorities was unfortunately to be expected,” DW director Peter Limbourg said in a statement. “It is a further attack on press freedom and a fresh attempt to cut the Russian population off from free, independent media.”
“It started with the forced closure of our studio in Moscow at the beginning of February, then our website in all languages was blocked in Russia. There then followed the gradual restriction of social media services and now DW has been labeled a ‘foreign agent,'” he added. “This will not stop us from continuing to provide comprehensive and independent coverage of Russia and the region from our new studio in Latvia and from Germany. We will have to put a lot more effort into censorship circumvention tools in the future. This includes VPN clients like Psiphon or the Tor browser, which we already use.”
Mar 28, 11:00 am
Russia’s Nobel-winning Novaya Gazeta newspaper suspends publication
Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, whose editor was a co-winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, announced Monday that it is suspending publication until the war ends in neighboring Ukraine.
Novaya Gazeta was the last remaining established independent media outlet still operating in Russia and trying to cover the invasion of Ukraine, despite strict censorship. Its decision to halt operations is another watershed moment in the silencing of free media across Russia.
The Moscow-based paper, famous for its critical and investigative coverage of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime, said it made the decision after receiving a second warning from Russia’s state communications and media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, for allegedly violating the country’s repressive “foreign agent” law. Another alleged violation could allow a court to shut Novaya Gazeta down completely.
Novaya Gazeta is best-known by Western countries for the fact that six of its journalists have been murdered since 2000, including most famously Anna Politkovskaya. Last October, the paper’s editor-in-chief, Dmitry Muratov, was jointly awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize with Maria Rosa, one of the Philippines’ most prominent journalists, for “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
Before Russian forces attacked Ukraine on Feb. 24, there was still a very small number of popular, influential media outlets able to operate in Russia — albeit under permanent pressure from the government. But since the war began, austerities have moved to crush all of them, and dozens — likely hundreds — of independent journalists have fled abroad. Most are now publishing articles from outside the country. Novaya Gazeta is arguably the most symbolic closure. The paper was co-founded in 1993 by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who still sits on its board.
Novaya Gazeta said in a statement Monday that it is suspending publication until the end of Russia’s so-called “special military operation in Ukraine,” the term the Russian government is using instead of war or invasion. Russia has banned media from using those words to describe the situation. But Novaya Gazeta had been getting around that ban with some symbolic gestures, including blank pages, and replacing the word “war” in its articles with phrases like “word forbidden by Russian government.”
Mar 28, 9:28 am
Ukrainian-American pastor abducted in Ukraine has been freed
Dmitry Bodyu, a Ukrainian-American pastor who was allegedly abducted in Ukraine earlier this month, has been freed, local church officials told ABC News on Monday.
It was unclear where he was released or in what condition.
Bodyu, 50, was taken by a group of about eight to 10 Russian soldiers from his home in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Melitopol on March 19, his family told NBC News. He is a pastor of Word of Life Church in Melitopol.
-ABC News’ Dragana Jovanovic
Mar 28, 8:05 am
At least 1,119 civilians killed, 1,790 injured in Ukraine: OHCHR
At least 1,119 civilians have been killed and 1,790 others have been injured in Ukraine since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24, according to the latest figures from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
At least 99 children were among the dead, according to the OHCHR, which noted that the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine had reported at least 139 children were killed as of Sunday.
“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” the agency said in a statement Sunday.
The agency noted that the actual number of casualties are believed to be “considerably higher” because the receipt of information from some areas with intense hostilities, like the southeastern port city of Mariupol, have been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration.
Other areas where the number of casualties are still being corroborated include Volnovakha in the Donetsk Oblast, Izium in the Kharkiv Oblast, Popasna and Rubizhne in the Luhansk Oblast, and Trostianets in the Sumy Oblast, where there are allegations of numerous civilian casualties, according to the OHCHR. Casualty numbers from these regions are not included.
From 24 Feb—26 March, we recorded 2,909 civilian casualties in context of Russia’s armed attack against #Ukraine: 1,119 killed, incl 99 children; 1,790 injured, incl 126 children, mostly caused by shelling & airstrikes. Actual toll is much higher. Update https://t.co/LlMm7iUqsr pic.twitter.com/OcyhxSUrj3
— UNHumanRightsUkraine (@UNHumanRightsUA) March 27, 2022
Mar 28, 7:33 am
Nightly curfew in Kyiv shifts back, shortens an hour
The nightly citywide curfew in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, has been shifted back and shortened by an hour.
Starting Monday night, the curfew will be from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time.
There has been a curfew in Kyiv every day since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24. The previous time frame was from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. local time.
-ABC News’ Julia Drozd and Patrick Reevell
Mar 28, 7:00 am
Russian forces attempt to seize key highways, settlements
Russian forces on Monday morning were attempting to breach defenses from the northwest and east of Ukraine to seize key highways and settlements, which are held by Ukrainian troops, according to Ukrainian officials.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials said that hypersonic missiles for the Russian military’s Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile system were being delivered to the Belarusian town of Kalinkovichi. Two of the latest strikes to hit Lutsk, a city in northwestern Ukraine, were launched from neighboring Belarus, according to Ukrainian officials.
Mar 28, 6:20 am
New round of talks could start Monday in Turkey
Ukraine and Russia have both said that a new round of peace negotiations with be held in person in Turkey at the start of this week, but it remains unclear whether the talks begin Monday or Tuesday.
One of the Ukrainian negotiators, David Arakhamia, has said the talks would be held Monday through Wednesday.
Russia’s lead negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, has said the talks would start Tuesday.
Arakhamia said the decision to hold the negotiations in person was reached during the latest round of talks via video link, which are taking place everyday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told Russian journalists that his country is ready to compromise on Moscow’s demand for neutral status, but wants meaningful security guarantees from Western countries. He said any peace deal is only possible if Russia withdraws all of its troops to areas occupied before the war began.
-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell
Mar 28, 6:16 am
Ukraine intel chief says Russia plans a ‘Korean scenario’
Russian President Vladimir Putin may be seeking to split Ukraine in two after failing to seize the capital, Kyiv, according to the head of Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency.
Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov said in a statement Sunday that Putin may now be pursuing a “Korean scenario” that would see Russian forces try to occupy the east and south of Ukraine since they no longer have the strength to “swallow the whole state.”
“After the failures near Kyiv and the impossibility to overthrow the central government in Ukraine, Putin is already changing his main direction of operations — to the south and east,” Budanov said. “There are grounds to suggest that he is considering the Korean scenario for Ukraine. That is to attempt to lay down a new line of contact between the non-occupied and occupied regions of our country. In fact, it’s an attempt to create in Ukraine a North and South Korea. Indeed, he definitely doesn’t have the strength to swallow the whole state.”
Budanov said he believes Putin still wants to open a land corridor between the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula and the other Russian-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine, which would mean the occupation of besieged Mariupol, a strategic port city in the southeast that has been under heavy Russian bombardment. But he said Ukraine’s continued counterattacks as well as resistance by local people in the occupied areas were disrupting Putin’s plans.
Budanov also predicted the start of guerrilla warfare that would make it impossible for Russia to hold territory.
“Soon the season of the total Ukrainian partisan safari will start,” he said. “Then for the Russians will remain only one relevant scenario — how to survive.”
-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell
Mar 28, 5:07 am
Ukraine says no humanitarian corridors for Monday
Ukraine’s government announced for the first time in nearly three weeks that no humanitarian corridors for evacuating civilians will be open on Monday due to concerns about possible “provocations” from Russian forces.
“Our intelligence has informed us of possible provocations from the side of the occupiers on the routes of the humanitarian corridors,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a statement on her official Telegram channel. “And so in interest of citizens’ safety today we are not opening humanitarian corridors.”
The Ukrainian government has been evacuating hundreds of thousands of civilians from cities and towns in the north, east and south of the country through established corridors. Officials have previously accused Russian forces of shelling some of the evacuation routes, despite agreeing to cease-fires.
-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell
Mar 27, 5:17 pm
Zelenskyy outlines goals for peace agreement to Russian journalists
In his first interview with Russian journalists since his country was invaded, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described some of Ukraine’s positions for ending the war.
During an interview with popular Russian independent news sites TV Rain and Meduza, Zelenskyy said any peace deal is only possible if Russia withdraws its troops to the territory occupied before the start of the invasion, meaning Crimea and the separatist-held areas of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Zelenskyy said his main goals are “to maximally reduce the number of casualties (and) to shorten the length of this war.”
“The withdrawal of Russia to compromise territories — but that is everything (that) was before 24 February, before the assault. Let them return there,” Zelenskyy said. “I understand that to force Russia to completely liberate territory is impossible. That will lead to a third world war. I totally understand all that. And I say it: compromise. Return to where all this started and there we will try to resolve the question of Donbas, the difficult question of Donbas.”
Zelenskyy also said that Ukraine is ready to discuss taking a position of “neutrality” and “non-nuclear status” with Russia, but wants security guarantees for his country in return.
He again said he would put the issue to a referendum in Ukraine and that any treaty would need to be ratified by “guarantor countries” — which other officials have suggested must include the United States.
Zelenskyy reiterated that no guarantor countries, such as the United Kingdom and Turkey, will sign any agreement while Russian troops remain on Ukrainian soil.
-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell
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