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Also: Children among 44 severely wounded people trapped in Ukraine’s Chernihiv city

Firefighters battle a blaze at an industrial facility after a Russian military attack in the area on March 26, 2022 in Lviv, Ukraine.Joe Raedle/Getty Images

This digest has now been archived. Find the latest Russia-Ukraine updates here.

Here are the latest updates on the war in Ukraine:

  • A pair of Russian missiles slammed into an oil depot in the western city of Lviv on Saturday, injuring five people.
  • Russian forces have taken control of a town where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live, the governor of Kyiv region said on Saturday, and fighting was reported in the streets of the besieged southern port of Mariupol.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden has told Poland’s President Andrzej Duda that “your freedom is ours,” echoing one of Poland’s unofficial mottos.
  • Canada and the European Commission will spearhead an international fundraising campaign to help people fleeing the war in Ukraine.
  • The mayor of Ukraine’s northern city of Chernihiv said on Saturday 44 severely wounded people, including three children, could not be evacuated to safer areas for treatment since the city had been cut off by Russian forces.

8:10 p.m. ET

In trip to Poland, Biden sends subtle message to Polish leaders on democracy

In a forceful speech in Warsaw denouncing Russia’s Vladimir Putin and praising Ukrainians, President Joe Biden on Saturday also appeared to have a more subtle message for his Polish hosts.

Speaking of a “perennial struggle for democracy,” Biden mentioned the rule of law and freedom of the press among the principles essential in a free society.

He made his remarks in a speech attended by President Andrzej Duda and his conservative political allies in the ruling Law and Justice party. Since they won power in 2015, they have been accused by the European Union of eroding the rule of law with changes that have given the party vast new powers over the judicial branch of government.

Biden paid homage to Poland’s long struggle for democracy in his speech that he delivered at the Royal Castle, which like most of Warsaw was destroyed by the occupying Nazi German forces during World War II and was later rebuilt.

He said Warsaw “holds a sacred place in the history of not only of Europe but humankind’s unending search for freedom. For generations, Warsaw has stood where liberty has been challenged and liberty has prevailed.”

The American leader observed that democratic values “have always been under siege, they have always been embattled.”

“Every generation has had to defeat democracy’s moral foes,” Biden said.

- The Associated Press


7:15 p.m. ET

Zelensky demands Western nations give arms

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, visibly irritated, on Saturday demanded Western nations provide a fraction of the military hardware in their stock piles and asked whether they were afraid of Moscow.

Several countries have promised to send anti-armor and anti-aircraft missiles as well as small arms but Zelensky said Kyiv needed tanks, planes and anti-ship systems.

“That is what our partners have, that is what is just gathering dust there. This is all for not only the freedom of Ukraine, but for the freedom of Europe,” he said in a late night video address.

Ukraine needed just 1% of NATO’s aircraft and 1% of its tanks and would not ask for more, he said.

“We’ve already been waiting 31 days. Who is in charge of the Euro-Atlantic community? Is it really still Moscow, because of intimidation?” he said.

Zelensky has repeatedly insisted that Russia will seek to expand further into Europe if Ukraine falls. NATO though does not back his request for a no-fly zone over Ukraine on the grounds this could provoke a wider war.

- Reuters


4:54 p.m. ET

Russian forces firing at Kharkiv’s nuclear research facility, Ukrainian parliament says

Russian forces are firing at a nuclear research facility in the city of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian parliament said in a Twitter post on Saturday.

“It is currently impossible to estimate the extent of damage due to hostilities that do not stop in the area of the nuclear installation,” the post quoted the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate as saying.

The inspectorate’s website did not contain any news about the attack.

Reuters


2:00 p.m. ET

Britain seizes two jets belonging to Russian billionaire Eugene Shvidler

Britain has seized two jet aircraft belonging to Russian billionaire Eugene Shvidler as Western governments seeking to end the war in Ukraine put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin by targeting the luxury lifestyles of his closest supporters.

Treasury Secretary Grant Shapps said Saturday that the two aircraft would be detained “indefinitely” after three-week investigation that had already grounded the planes. The Times of London described the aircraft as a $45 million Bombardier Global 6500 and a $13 million Cessna Citation Latitude.

“Putin’s friends who made millions out of his regime will not enjoy luxuries whilst innocent people die,” Shapps said on Twitter.

The U.K. froze Shvidler’s U.K. assets last week as it announced a new round of sanctions on Russian companies and wealthy individuals. Shvidler was sanctioned because of his links to those who have backed the war in Ukraine and because he has profited from his support for the Putin regime, the U.K. said.

– The Associated Press


1:15 p.m. ET

The importance of U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit with refugees on the border of the Ukraine war

U.S. President Joe Biden, flanked by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, holds a child as he visits Ukrainian refugees at the PGE National Stadium, in Warsaw, Poland March 26, 2022.EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/Reuters

By standing face-to-face with Ukrainian refugees, U.S. President Joe Biden put an American face on Ukraine’s struggle. Like all Americans outside of the Indigenous, his family was part of an earlier great migration; his great-great grandfather Patrick Blewitt, one of the 1.5 million Irish who fled to America in the time of the potato famine, left County Mayo and settled in Scranton, Pa. And so this week the President identified himself personally with the thousands who have poured across the borders from Ukraine, a modern flood of, in the beloved words of the poet Emma Lazarus on the base of the Statue of Liberty, “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Mr. Biden’s visit with these refugees – and, earlier, with volunteers from the World Central Kitchen who are feeding these refugees – surely steeled his determination. It sent a direct message of resolve to his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin: America and the West are dedicated to this fight. It sent a similar message to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky: Your fight is our fight.

His meeting with the refugees was classic Biden: a two-handed clasp of the shoulders; a hug that was mostly a tug; an intense look into the eyes of a woman far from home. A man who ran for the Senate six times did what came naturally: He held a baby. Then came a selfie, a click of a cellphone camera producing – to adapt a phrase from America’s 18th century struggle for freedom to the 21st century fight for freedom – a shot seen ‘round the world.

“Each of these children said, in effect, ‘say a prayer for my dad, for my brother…’ " said the President, whose own son was in Iraq during hostilities there and who reflected on families’ fears in times of combat. “You wonder,” he said. “You just wonder.”

Though Mr. Biden did not enter Ukrainian territory – “part of my disappointment is that I can’t see it firsthand like I have in other places”– Mr. Biden’s visit to this area was the latest in U.S. presidents’ efforts to stand, symbolically if not literally, with those embattled or in battle.

David Shribman


12:40 p.m. ET

Thousands of Russians in Prague protest against war in Ukraine

Members of Prague's Russian community holding placards take part in an anti-war demonstration in Prague, on March 26, 2022, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

Thousands of Russians marched through Prague on Saturday, waving the white-blue-white flag that has become a symbol of protests against Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Carrying signs that read “Killer” over a picture of President Vladimir Putin and chanting “No to War”, protesters walked from Prague’s Peace Square through the centre of the Czech capital. Police put the number of marchers at about 3,000.

“We are against Putin,” said Alexander Sibrimov, a 19-year-old student who attended the protest with his father.

“We don’t agree with his politics. This is a way to show the world that the things happening in Ukraine are not right.”

– Reuters


11:40 a.m. ET

Biden describes Putin as a ‘butcher’ during meeting with Ukrainian officials in Poland

President Joe Biden speaks as he meets with Polish President Andrzej Duda at the Presidential Palace, March 26, 2022, in Warsaw.Evan Vucci/The Associated Press

Biden saw Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov in the Polish capital Warsaw in his first face-to-face meeting with top Ukrainian officials since the start of the war.

Biden described Putin as a “butcher” after touring a food kitchen for Ukrainian refugees.

”We are waiting for President Biden to close the sky over Ukraine. Ukrainian warriors can protect our country on the ground, but we can’t close the sky,” said Alla Dyachenko, a chemist from Kyiv who fled to Poland with her daughter.

NATO has ruled out a no-fly zone over Ukraine, fearing it would lead to direct clashes with Russian forces and a Europe-wide escalation.

Biden’s visit to Poland was his final stop on a trip to Europe that has underscored his opposition to the Russian invasion, his solidarity with Ukraine and his determination to work closely with Western allies to confront the crisis.

– Reuters


11:30 a.m. ET

Russian missiles slam into oil depot in Ukraine’s western city of Lviv, injuring five

Smoke rises after an airstrike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Lviv, Ukraine March 26, 2022.STRINGER/Reuters

A pair of Russian missiles slammed into an oil depot in Lviv, Ukraine, on Saturday, injuring five people. It was unclear if any residential buildings had been hit.

Roman Nechyporuk was looking out the window of the restaurant he owns up the hill from the depot when the explosion shook the building and sent customers running to the basement.

An official from the Lviv city council at first said three explosions had been heard.

“There have been three powerful explosions near Lviv… Everyone should keep calm and stay indoors,” Igor Zinkevych said in a post on Facebook.

The missile strike sent flames shooting into the air and thick black smoke billowing upward. The attack came around 4:30 p.m. when the restaurant, called the Grill on the Castle, was packed with diners.

“You can’t even describe the moment,” Mr. Nechyporuk said. “It just happened in a second.”

Restaurant staff said people in the nearby park came running inside seeking shelter. Manager Ira Belia said she helped several down to the basement and the closeness of the strike began to sink in. ”Then my hands started to shake,” said Ms. Belia.

The strike was the closest yet to the city, and Mr. Nechyporuk said he’s worried about future strikes. “It’s the first time the war got so much closer,” he said. “For us this is the closest day of the war.”

Paul Waldie in Lviv, with a report from Reuters


11:11 a.m. ET

Children among 44 severely wounded people trapped in Ukraine’s Chernihiv city

A view of a public library damaged by shelling in Chernihiv, Ukraine, March 11, 2022.Olga Korotkova/The Associated Press

The mayor of Ukraine’s northern city of Chernihiv said on Saturday 44 severely wounded people, including three children, could not be evacuated to safer areas for treatment since the city had been cut off by Russian forces.

The city near the Belarusian border has been effectively surrounded, local authorities said on Friday, warning that it had become impossible to evacuate civilians or bring in humanitarian aid because a bridge linking the city to Ukraine’s capital to the south had been destroyed by bombing.

Speaking on national television, Chernihiv Mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko said the situation was particularly critical for 44 wounded people needing emergency treatment.

“They can’t survive here due to the severity of their wounds, they need urgent evacuation,” he said.

He said there were still up to 130,000 people without heating, electricity or water supplies in Chernihiv, which he said was under heavy bombardment by Russian forces. The city had a pre-war population of around 290,000, he said.

– Reuters


10:55 a.m. ET

Ukraine asks Qatar, others to boost energy exports amid war

Ukraine’s president called Saturday on energy-rich nations to increase their production of oil and natural gas to counteract the loss of Russian supplies amid sanctions over Moscow’s war on his country.

Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise video appearance at Qatar’s Doha Forum, an annual summit in the gas-rich nation that will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup later this year. It’s part of a rhetorical offensive of addresses he’s given around the world since the start of the war Feb. 24.

Zelensky asked countries to increase their energy exports — something particularly important as Qatar is a world leader in the export of natural gas. Western sanctions have deeply cut into Russian exports, which are crucial for European nations.

“The responsible states, in particular the state of Qatar, you are reliable and reputable suppliers of energy resources,” Zelensky said. “And you can contribute to stabilizing the situation in Europe. There is much that can be done to restore justice.”

He added: “The future of Europe depends on your efforts. I urge you to increase energy production to make Russia understand that no state should use energy as a weapon and to blackmail the world.”

– The Associated Press


10:10 a.m. ET

Biden to Poland: ‘Your freedom is ours’

U.S. President Joe Biden, left, and Polish President Andrzej Duda walk during a military welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, on March 26, 2022.Czarek Sokolowski/The Associated Press

U.S. President Joe Biden has told Poland’s President Andrzej Duda that “your freedom is ours,” echoing one of Poland’s unofficial mottos. He assured Duda that the U.S. and other NATO allies would come to their aid if Russia should attack.

The two gathered Saturday on Biden’s final day in Europe to speak about their shared effort to end the war in neighbouring Ukraine.

Biden called the “collective defence” agreement of the Western military alliance a “sacred commitment,” and said that the unity of NATO was of the utmost importance. He also acknowledged that Poland was bearing the brunt of the humanitarian crisis, with more than 2 million of the 3.5 million people fleeing Ukraine entering the country. He said the other NATO allies must do more. The U.S. has pledged to accept up to 100,000 refugees.

Duda said that the relations between the two nations are flourishing, despite the difficult times.

– The Associated Press


9:50 a.m. ET

Shelled city in north Ukraine fears becoming ‘next Mariupol’

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows an overview of burning oil storage tanks and an industrial area in Chernihiv, Ukraine during the Russian invasion on March 21, 2022.The Associated Press

Nights are spent huddling underground from Russian strikes pounding their encircled city into rubble. Daylight hours are devoted to hunting down drinkable water and running the risk of standing in line for the little food available as shells and bombs rain down.

This is what now passes for life in Chernihiv, a city in northern Ukraine where death is everywhere. It isn’t – yet – quite as synonymous with atrocious human suffering as the pulverized southern city of Mariupol has become in the 31 days since Russia invaded Ukraine.

But similarly besieged, blockaded and pounded from afar by Russian troops, Chernihiv’s remaining residents are terrified that with each blast, bomb and body that lies uncollected on the streets, they’re caught in the same macabre trap of unescapable killings and destruction.

“In basements at night, everyone is talking about one thing: Chernihiv becoming (the) next Mariupol,” said 38-year-old resident Ihar Kazmerchak, a linguistics scholar.

Kazmerchak starts his day in long lines for drinking water, rationed to 10 litres per person. People come out with empty bottles and buckets for filling when water-delivery trucks make their rounds. “Food is running out, and shelling and bombing doesn’t stop,” he said.

On Wednesday, Russian bombs destroyed Chernihiv’s main bridge over the Desna River on the road leading to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital; on Friday, artillery shells rendered the remaining pedestrian bridge impassable, cutting off the last possible route for people to get out or for food and medical supplies to get in.

Refugees from Chernihiv who fled the encirclement and reached Poland this week spoke of broad and terrible destruction, with bombs flattening at least two schools in the city centre and strikes also hitting a stadium, museums, kindergartens and many homes.

– The Associated Press


9:30 a.m. ET

Canada, Europe to co-host international social media fundraiser for displaced Ukrainians

Canada and the European Commission will spearhead an international fundraising campaign to help people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

The fundraising effort, called “Stand Up For Ukraine” will engage politicians, artists and businesses, among others, and is to culminate with an April 9 pledging event to be hosted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

They are partnering with the international advocacy organization Global Citizen to raise funds for the humanitarian crisis spawned by the worst fighting in Europe since the Second World War.

A statement from Trudeau’s office says Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is inviting musicians, actors, athletes, business leaders, politicians and anybody else so inclined to take part in a large-scale social media rally to help his besieged country.

The goal is to raise money to help the millions of refugees and internally displaced Ukrainians forced to flee their homes following the Feb. 24 Russian invasion of their country.

– The Canadian Press


9:00 a.m. ET

Russian tension risk seen in Finnish NATO bid

Finland’s president says his country would likely be targeted by Russian cyber warfare and could face border violations if it decides to apply for membership in NATO.

Several polls in recent weeks have shown a majority of Finns now supporting NATO membership, up from 25% at most before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. President Sauli Niinisto said in an interview Saturday with public broadcaster YLE that the biggest benefit would be “gaining a preventive effect.”

But he pointed to a risk of disruptive behaviour by Russia during an accession process, which would take at least months.

He said an application would lead to tensions at Finland’s 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia, including the possibility of “robust” border and territorial violations – not just by Russian aircraft, as Finland has experienced in the past.

Niinisto said: “We don’t even know all the possibilities for hybrid influencing that someone may invent. The entire world of information technology is vulnerable. Even some important society functions can be disrupted.”

Moscow has said it would consider European Union members Finland and neighbouring Sweden joining NATO a hostile move that would have serious military and political repercussions.

– The Associated Press


8:35 a.m. ET

Biden to call on ‘free world’ to stand against Putin in Poland speech

U.S. President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrive at Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, near Rzeszow, Poland, March 25, 2022.Patryk Ogorzalek/AGENCJA WYBORCZ/Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden will argue in a speech in Poland on Saturday that the “free world” opposes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and that there is unity among major economies on the need to stop Vladimir Putin, the White House said.

Biden will also meet Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov on Saturday in Warsaw in his first face-to-face meeting with top Ukrainian officials since the start of the war.

Biden has held three days of emergency meetings with allies in the G7, Europe and NATO, and visited with U.S. troops in Poland on Friday. He was also set to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda on Saturday.

Putin’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, which Russia calls a “special operation,” has tested Biden’s promise when he took office last year to confront autocrats including the Russian president and China’s leader Xi Jinping.

The White House said that in his speech later on Saturday Biden “will deliver remarks on the united efforts of the free world to support the people of Ukraine, hold Russia accountable for its brutal war, and defend a future that is rooted in democratic principles.”

– Reuters


8:00 a.m. ET

Russian forces take Chernobyl workers’ town; fighting in centre of Mariupol as Moscow shifts goals

A general view shows the New Safe Confinement structure over the old sarcophagus covering the damaged fourth reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine Nov. 22, 2018.GLEB GARANICH/Reuters

Russian forces have taken control of a town where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live, the governor of Kyiv region said on Saturday, and fighting was reported in the streets of the besieged southern port of Mariupol.

After more than four weeks of conflict, Russia has failed to seize any major Ukrainian city and on Friday Moscow signalled it was scaling back its military ambitions to focus on territory claimed by Russian-backed separatists in the east.

However, intense fighting was reported in a number of places on Saturday, suggesting there would be no swift let-up in the conflict, which has killed thousands of people, sent some 3.7 million abroad and driven more than half of Ukraine’s children from their homes, according to the United Nations.

Russian troops seized the town of Slavutych, which is close to the border with Belarus and is where workers at the Chernobyl plant live, the governor of Kyiv region, Oleksandr Pavlyuk, said.

He added that the soldiers had occupied the hospital and kidnapped the mayor. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.

– Reuters


More coverage:

Mark MacKinnon: It took 20 years of covering Ukraine to prepare me for three weeks of war. I’ll be back to see what happens next

For Ukrainian refugee couple, baby’s birth in Poland is a story of hope, faith and charity

The freedom and wealth of the EU threaten Putin as much as NATO does