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Also: Canadians strongly support sanctions but not going to war with Russia: Nanos poll; Ukraine says 100,000 civilians want to escape Mariupol but cannot

A satellite image shows closer multispectral image of burning oil storage tanks in Chernihiv, Ukraine, March 21, 2022.MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES/Reuters

This digest has now been archived.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

Here are the latest updates on the war in Ukraine:

  • Canadians strongly back hitting Russia with more punitive measures for its invasion of Ukraine but are more likely to oppose going to war over the conflict
  • The European Union is moving toward the joint purchase of natural gas to ease away dependency on Russian energy. Meanwhile, a German lobby group is defending the congoing business activities of member companies in the heavily sanctioned country.
  • A Kremlin spokesperson told CNN in an interview that Russia would only use nuclear weapons if its existence were threatened
  • Ukrainian forces said they retook Makariv, a strategically important suburb of the Kyiv, early Tuesday, while Russia’s attack on the embattled southern port of Mariupol raged unabated.

6:30 p.m. ET

Zelensky says Russia talks tough, sometimes confrontational

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday said peace talks with Russia to end the war were tough and sometimes confrontational but added “step by step we are moving forward.”

In an early morning video address, Zelenskiy also said 100,000 people were living in the besieged city of Mariupol in inhuman conditions, without food, water or medicine.

- Reuters

5:00 p.m. ET

Canadians support sanctioning Russia, but not going to war: Nanos poll

Canadians strongly back hitting Russia with more punitive measures for its invasion of Ukraine but are more likely to oppose going to war over the conflict, which has already killed hundreds of civilians and laid waste to major Ukrainian cities.

However, a new Nanos Research poll for The Globe and Mail says a majority of Canadians would support declaring war on Russia, along with NATO, if Moscow were to invade yet another country.

The survey found that 83 per cent of Canadians support or somewhat support expanding economic sanctions and other actions against Russia even if it “resulted in a prolonged series of price increases in Canada for staples such as gasoline or groceries.” Fifteen per cent of respondents opposed or somewhat opposed more punitive actions.

Canadians are split, however, on whether they would go to war with Russia over Ukraine. Thirty-two per cent of respondents oppose entering the conflict, and 13 per cent somewhat oppose joining the fray. Twenty-one per cent would support fighting Russia over Ukraine, and another 26 per cent would somewhat support this course of action.

-Steven Chase in Ottawa

4:52 p.m. ET

Russia would use nuclear weapons only if its existence were threatened, Kremlin says

Russia’s security policy dictates that the country would only use nuclear weapons if its very existence were threatened, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN in an interview on Tuesday.

The comment, nearly four weeks after Russia sent its forces into Ukraine, came amid Western concern that the conflict there could escalate into a nuclear war.

Peskov made the comment in an English-language interview when asked whether he was confident President Vladimir Putin would not use nuclear weapons.

“We have a concept of domestic security and it’s public, you can read all the reasons for nuclear arms to be used. So if it is an existential threat for our country, then it (the nuclear arsenal) can be used in accordance with our concept,” he said.

“There are no other reasons that were mentioned in that text,” he said in a further reference to the country’s security concept.

Putin last month ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be put on high alert. In line with the order, Russia’s defence ministry said on Feb. 28 that its nuclear missile forces and Northern and Pacific fleets had been placed on enhanced combat duty, the Interfax news agency reported.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on March 14: “The prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility.”


3:20 p.m. ET

Germany honors survivor of Nazi camps, 96, killed in Ukraine

Germany’s parliament on Tuesday paid tribute to Boris Romanchenko, who survived several Nazi concentration camps during World War II but was killed last week during an attack in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. He was 96.

The Buchenwald concentration camp memorial said on Monday that Romanchenko, who survived Buchenwald as well as camps at Peenemuende, Dora and Bergen-Belsen, was killed on Friday. It said that, according to his granddaughter, the multistory building where he lived was hit by a projectile.

Romanchenko was dedicated to keeping alive the memory of Nazi crimes and was vice president of the International Buchenwald-Dora Committee, the memorial said.

Opening a session of Germany’s parliament on Tuesday, deputy speaker Katrin Goering-Eckardt paid tribute to Romanchenko.

- Associated Press

3:00 p.m. ET

TotalEnergies to halt all Russian oil purchases by year-end

French energy giant TotalEnergies said Tuesday it has decided to halt all its purchases of Russian oil and petroleum products by the end of the year at the latest.

The French company said in a statement that it will “gradually suspend its activities in Russia” amid the worsening situation in Ukraine.

It stressed “the existence of alternative sources for supplying Europe” with oil.

The group committed to ensure “strict compliance with current and future European sanctions, no matter what the consequences on the management of its assets in Russia.”

Russia represented 17% of the company’s oil and gas production in 2020.

- Associated Press

2:40 p.m. ET

Canada, allies face Putin’s ‘irrationality’ as Trudeau heads to Europe: Joly

Confronting an irrational Vladimir Putin will be a key task for Justin Trudeau and his European allies as the prime minister heads to Brussels, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Tuesday.

Trudeau will kick off a whirlwind trip with an address to the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday, where he will stress the importance of both continents working together to defend democracy in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Trudeau gave a similar speech in Berlin two weeks ago, and Joly said the prime minister will reaffirm Canada’s solidarity with a continent facing its biggest security challenge since the Second World War.

Trudeau will join other NATO leaders on Thursday to co-ordinate the military alliance’s response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine and will meet with fellow G7 leaders before returning to Canada on Friday.

- Canadian Press

1:40 p.m. ET

Ukraine war will not cause global recession, but weaker economies at risk: IMF

Global economic growth this year will manage to stay in positive territory despite the war in Ukraine, but a number of countries with already weak economies may be tipped into recession, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Tuesday.

Georgieva told a Foreign Policy magazine forum that the Fund will lower its growth outlook when it releases new forecasts in April. The IMF last forecast 4.4% global growth for 2022 in January, down about a half percentage point from October forecasts, due to ongoing supply disruptions.

- Reuters

1:30 p.m. ET

EU moves toward joint natural gas purchase to curb shortages

The European Union is moving toward the joint purchase of natural gas and ensuring its storage facilities are nearly full to try to avoid another crisis tied to its dependency on Russian energy, officials said Tuesday.

The 27-nation bloc acknowledges it has been far too reliant on Russia for natural gas and oil and has been struggling to find the right mix of sanctions to punish the Kremlin for invading Ukraine while still requiring Russian fossil fuels.

Low levels of gas storage “brought us to big difficulties in January where we have been kind of scrambling for additional gas for European consumption,” EU Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said.

- The Associated Press

1:00 p.m. ET

German eastern business lobby defends continued activities in Russia

The lobby group representing German businesses with interests in eastern Europe has defended the business activities of member companies in sanctioned Russia.

There are a number of sectors “in which further economic activity is not only lawful but also legitimate”, said committee chairman Oliver Hermes on Tuesday.

“Russia, like Ukraine, supplies the world market with much-needed agricultural products such as grain,” Hermes said. “Sanctions in this area would lead to further shortages and price increases, and hit the poorest countries in particular.”

There’s also the matter of German companies’ responsibility for their 280,000 employees in Russia.

- Reuters

12:45 p.m. ET

Georgia’s push for NATO membership intensifies

Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO was underscored this week by the country’s joint military exercises with the Western alliance, as Russia, which occupies about a fifth of Georgian territory, escalated its attacks on Ukraine.

Georgia has had a relationship with NATO since 1994, three years after the small country (population 3.7 million) won independence from the then-crumbling Soviet Union, and its desire for full membership has intensified since Russia, its northern neighbour, began amassing troops along its border with Ukraine late last year.

In an interview Tuesday, Irakli Beraia, chairman of the Georgian parliament’s Defence and Security Committee, said his country would join NATO today if it could. “Georgia faces an existential threat from Russia,” he said. “The Russian threat against Ukraine amplifies the threat against Georgia. If Russia succeeds in Ukraine, we think we are next.”

- Eric Reguly in Rome

10:56 a.m. ET

Ukraine says 100,000 civilians want to escape Mariupol but cannot

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Tuesday at least 100,000 civilians wanted to escape from Mariupol in southern Ukraine but could not because of a lack of safe corridors out of the besieged port city.

She said shelling by Russian forces was also preventing rescue workers from accessing the site of a bombed theatre in Mariupol where city officials say hundreds were believed to be sheltering underground when it was hit by an air strike last week.

- Reuters

10:53 a.m. ET

Swiss prosecutors set to go after Russian sanctions busting

Swiss federal prosecutors have set up a task force to pursue potential sanctions-busting and gather evidence of war crimes connected to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Pressure has increased on Switzerland - a popular destination for Moscow’s elite and a holding place for Russian wealth - to more quickly identify and freeze assets of hundreds of sanctioned Russians.

The Office of the Attorney General said on Tuesday it had established a task force to examine potential sanctions violations generally outside its remit and to help pursue other potential crimes.

- Reuters

10:29 a.m. ET

Ukraine’s central bank asks international banks to suspend work in Russia

The governor of Ukraine’s central bank called on all international banks on Tuesday to suspend the work of their branches and subsidiaries in Russia to increase financial pressure on the Kremlin over the invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s important to increase pressure further on the aggressor to weaken its position,” Governor Kyrylo Shevchenko was quoted as saying in a statement.

- Reuters

9:21 a.m. ET

Kremlin denies cyber attack plans levied by the U.S.

The Kremlin on Tuesday rejected U.S. warnings that it may be preparing to conduct cyber attacks in response to Western sanctions.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday told businesses to do more to protect themselves against possible cyber attacks by Russia, warning there was “evolving intelligence” that Moscow was exploring options on that front.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “The Russian Federation, unlike many Western countries, including the United States, does not engage in state-level banditry.”

Russia has previously rejected similar allegations, including accusations that it was responsible for hacks on Ukrainian banking and government websites in February.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Tuesday said the U.S. Department of Defense has not suffered any cyberattacks.

“We haven’t seen anything affect our infrastructure or critical U.S government infrastructure,” he told MNSBC. “We wanted to make sure that leaders knew and were aware that the Russians would probably try this kind of tactic going forward.

- Reuters

9:00 a.m. ET

Russia receives Western weather data; some fear it could aid chemical attack plans

Russian agencies are continuing to receive nearly instantaneous meteorological data from Western and other governments, which some weapons experts say could be used to plan a chemical or biological attack in Ukraine.

Washington and its allies have warned that Moscow could be planning to use chemical or biological weapons. Near real-time measurements of wind speed and direction, sunlight, precipitation and other factors that could prove crucial in planning a biological or chemical weapons attack.

The European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), an intergovernmental organisation based in Germany, says it continues to provide data feeds to Russian organisations, even as at least three other bodies in Europe have chosen to stop.

- Reuters

7:05 a.m. ET

Italy supports Ukraine’s EU bid as Zelensky says Ukraine ‘on the brink’ of survival

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Tuesday that Italy would support Kyiv’s bid to join the European Union, and criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The arrogance of the Russian government has collided with the dignity of the Ukrainian people, who have managed to curb Moscow’s expansionist aims,” Mr. Draghi told parliament after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed Italy’s lawmakers.

Mr. Zelensky told the Italian parliament on Tuesday that his country was on the brink of surviving its war with Russian forces that he warned wanted to break through to the rest of Europe.

“For Russian troops, Ukraine is the gates of Europe, where they want to break in, but barbarism must not be allowed to pass,” he said.

- Reuters

6:08 a.m. ET

Quebec companies unite to sponsor up to 1,000 Ukrainian families, provide jobs

Eighteen companies with a presence in Quebec are uniting in response to the war in Ukraine and the resulting refugee crisis. The firms have confirmed that they will sponsor up to 1,000 families affected by the crisis, offering them jobs and means of support until the situation stabilizes.

Led by Stingray CEO Eric Boyko, himself of Ukrainian descent, these companies have agreed to welcome up to 80 families each.

“As we watched the conflict unfold and witnessed the forced displacement of millions of Ukrainians, we could not stand by without doing our part,” Mr. Boyko said. “We hope to welcome up to 1,000 Ukrainian families, starting in the coming weeks.”

- The Canadian Press

6:00 a.m. ET

Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner donates medal to fund for Ukrainian refugees

Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, a co-winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, said on Tuesday he would donate his Nobel medal to be auctioned to raise funds for Ukrainian refugees.

The Novaya Gazeta newspaper, where Muratov is editor-in-chief, in early March said it would remove material on Russia’s military actions in Ukraine from its website because of censorship, in response to threats of criminal prosecution of journalists and citizens who veer from the government’s official line.

- Reuters

5:52 a.m. ET

Ukraine retakes key Kyiv suburb as Russian bombardment of Mariupol continues

A woman measures a window before covering it with plastic sheets in a building damaged by a bombing the previous day in Kyiv.VADIM GHIRDA/The Associated Press

Ukrainian forces said they retook a strategically important suburb of the capital early Tuesday, while Russia’s attack on the embattled southern port of Mariupol raged unabated, with fleeing civilians describing relentless bombardments and corpses lying in the streets.

Early Tuesday, Ukrainian troops forced Russian forces out of the Kyiv suburb of Makariv after a fierce battle, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said. The regained territory allowed Ukrainian forces to retake control of a key highway and block Russian troops from surrounding Kyiv from the northwest.

But the Defense Ministry said Russian forces battling toward Kyiv were able to partially take other northwest suburbs, Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin.

- The Associated Press