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Western officials expressed skepticism of the promise, warning that Moscow appears to be using negotiations as a tactic to ‘play for time’

Ukrainian servicemen walk amid rubble near a destroyed building in the northeastern city of Trostianets, on March 29, 2022.FADEL SENNA/AFP/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This digest has now been archived.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:

  • Russia is promising to scale down military operations around the capital Kyiv in the first sign of progress in peace talks in the 5-week war. However, a Western official, speaking anonymously to Reuters, warned that Russia has yet to demonstrate a serious effort to end the war.
  • Oil prices dropped and global stocks surged on the peace talk developments
  • Ukrainian President Zelensky addressed the Danish parliament, where he urged Europe to toughen its stance on trade with Russia
  • A Russian rocket hit the regional administration building in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv on Tuesday, killing at least 12 people and wounding 33

9:55 p.m. ET

Ukraine war’s food crisis is worst since WWII

The U.N. food chief warned the war in Ukraine has created “a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe” and will have a global impact “beyond anything we’ve seen since World War II” because many of the Ukrainian farmers who produce a significant amount of the world’s wheat are now fighting Russians.

David Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, told the U.N. Security Council that already high food prices are skyrocketing.

His agency was feeding 125 million people around the world before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, and Beasley said it has had to start cutting their rations because of rising food, fuel and shipping costs. He pointed to war-torn Yemen where 8 million people just had their food allotment cut 50%, “and now we’re looking at going to zero rations.”

Ukraine and Russia produce 30% of the world’s wheat supply, 20% of its corn and 75%-80% of the sunflower seed oil. The World Food Program buys 50% of its grain from Ukraine, he said.

-The Associated Press

9:40 p.m. ET

Shares rally, oil drops after ‘encouraging’ Russia-Ukraine talks

Stock markets tore higher across the world and oil prices shed $2 a barrel, as investors celebrated signs of progress in negotiations between Russia and Ukraine that they hoped would lead to a settlement in a five-week conflict.

Even though the U.S. government warned that Russia’s latest move was a sign it is redeploying, not withdrawing, troops, investors nonetheless piled into risky assets, ignoring surging inflation and imminent rate hikes that could mar the growth outlook and upend stock market buoyancy.

“Over the last two weeks, the S&P has produced one of its sharpest rallies in history, larger than the biggest 10-day rallies in seven of the S&P’s 11 bear markets since 1927,” said analysts at Bank of America Global Equity Derivatives Research.

“It has done so despite clearly weaker fundamentals (more hikes, higher inflation, and curve inversion) and the Fed leaning against equity market strength to hike faster,” they wrote, adding that they think sustained gains in U.S. stocks are unlikely.


7:20 p.m. ET

Toronto-based miner Kinross in negotiations to sell its Russian assets

Kinross Gold Corp. says it is in negotiations to sell all of its Russian assets, nearly a month after announcing the suspension of a development in Far East Russia.

The Toronto-based miner says it received unsolicited proposals after announcing the prior move on March 2 and is in exclusive negotiations with an unnamed mining company.

It says any divesture or change of control of its assets with more than 2,000 employees would be subject to Russian government approval.

Kinross initially said it was in the process of suspending operations at its Kupol mine and was suspending all activities at the Udinsk project. It now says the Russian subsidiaries are continuing operations during the transition period due to the exclusivity agreement and to properly maintain assets pending a change of control.

- Canadian Press

7:05 p.m. ET

Russia launches Eurobond ruble buyback offer on looming $2-billion bond payment

Russia has offered to buy back dollar bonds maturing next week in rubles in a move seen by analysts as helping local holders of the $2-billion sovereign issue receive payment, while also easing the country’s hard-currency repayment burden.

The finance ministry offer on Eurobonds maturing on April 4, Russia’s biggest debt payment this year, follows Western moves to tighten sanctions and to freeze Moscow out of international finance.

In response, Moscow has introduced countermeasures and has demanded foreign firms pay for Russian gas in rubles rather than dollars or euros.

The bonds – issued in 2012 – would be bought at a price equivalent to 100 per cent of their nominal value, the ministry said. Buying back bonds will reduce the overall size of the outstanding bond when it matures on April 4.

However, it was not immediately clear if the amount the government would buy back was limited or what would happen to holdings of creditors that would not tender their bonds.

The ruble initially crumbled after the West imposed sanctions, plunging as much as 40 per cent in value against the dollar since the start of 2022. It has since recovered and was trading down about 10 per cent in Moscow today.

- Reuters

5:05 p.m. ET

Russia promises to scale back attacks on Ukraine, but few signs of pullback

Russia has promised to scale back its attacks on Kyiv, but there were only minimal signs of a pullback today and the announcement was met with derision from many civilians in the capital.

At the start of peace talks in Istanbul today, Russia’s deputy defence minister, Alexander Fomin, said Moscow would “radically reduce military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv.” He said the move was aimed at “increasing mutual trust, creating the right conditions for future negotiations and reaching the final aim of signing a peace deal with Ukraine.”

However, Moscow’s lead negotiator in the talks, Vladimir Medinsky, later clarified Mr. Fomin’s announcement of a pullback. “This is not a ceasefire, but this is our aspiration, gradually to reach a de-escalation of the conflict at least on these fronts,” he told Russia’s Tass news service.

On Kyiv’s Independence Square, there was little faith that Russia was serious about withdrawing.

“I don’t believe them,” said Kseniya Valdinova who was walking through the nearly deserted square Tuesday with her partner, Andzey Khilya. “They might pull back but only to reform. They will try and try to take Kyiv.”

The two live northwest of Kyiv, near Irpin, which has been under heavy attack for weeks. The Ukrainian army said it had recaptured the town from the Russians, and Ms. Valdinova said she and Mr. Khilya could hear constant fighting. They also said there had been no let-up in air-raid warnings.

- Paul Waldie in Kyiv, Ukraine

4:45 p.m. ET

Britain detains Russian oligarch’s superyacht

Britain has detained a Russian-owned $50 million superyacht hours before it was due to leave London where it had docked for a meeting of the superyacht awards, saying the move was part of its sanctions package aimed at punishing Moscow.

The 58.5 metre Dutch-built yacht, named Phi, was detained in the Canary Wharf financial district of London under the government’s Russian sanctions, the first time the regulations have been used to detain a ship.

The government said Phi was owned by a Russian businessman that it did not name, but that ownership was “deliberately” hidden, with the company the ship is registered to based in St Kitts and Nevis, and the ship carrying Maltese flags.

The National Crime Agency said the owner of the vessel had not been sanctioned in Britain but that under the law a ship owned, controlled, chartered or operated by persons connected with Russia could be subject to detention.

The yacht features a fresh-water swimming pool and what it described as an “infinite wine cellar.”

“Today we’ve detained a 38 million pound superyacht and turned an icon of Russia’s power and wealth into a clear and stark warning to Putin and his cronies,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement.

- Reuters

4:11 p.m. ET

White House looking into allegations of harm against Russian billionaire Abramovich

The Biden administration is looking into allegations Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich was poisoned earlier this month during peace negotiations aimed at ending the Ukrainian conflict, White House spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said.

A U.S. official said on Monday that intelligence suggests the sickening of Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators was due to an environmental factor, not poisoning.


4:05 p.m. ET

Zelensky says Russia talks could be called positive, wants to see results

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the signals from peace talks with Russia could be called positive but added that they did not drown out the explosions from Russian shells.

In a late night address, he said Kyiv saw no reason to believe in words from some Russian representatives and said Ukraine could only trust a concrete result from the talks.


3:48 p.m. ET

Poland moves to block coal imports from Russia

Poland’s government decided to block imports of coal from Russia, part of an overarching strategy to reduce energy dependence on Russia.

Poland will impose financial penalties on any private entities importing Russian coal into Poland, with Polish customs officials carrying out checks, government spokesman Piotr Mueller said as he announced the new policy. He added that Poland could no longer wait for the whole 27-nation European Union to embrace the policy.

Poland, which was under Moscow’s influence during the communist era, has worked in recent years to reduce its use of Russian energy sources, and will soon no longer have to rely on Russian gas.

It is more dependent on Russian oil, however. And while Poland produces much of its own coal, it also relies on imports. Russian coal makes up 13% of the fuel used each year, according to Piotr Lewandowski, the president of the Institute for Structural Research in Warsaw.

Half of that imported Russian coal is used to generate heat in individual homes, while the rest is used for district heating or industry, he said.

-The Associated Press

2:48 p.m. ET

Death toll in Mykolaiv increased to 12

Ukraine’s authorities have updated the death toll from the Russian strike on the regional government’s building in Mykolaiv to 12.

Mykola Ponasenko, a spokesman for the state emergencies service, said 12 bodies have been recovered from the debris of the nine-story regional administration headquarters in Mykolaiv, a key Black Sea port and shipbuilding center.

He said the search for more bodies was continuing. The authorities previously reported that seven people were killed by a Russian strike on the building on Tuesday.

At least 22 people have been wounded.

- Associated Press

2:20 p.m. ET

Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland expel Russian diplomats

Several European Union countries expelled dozens of Russian diplomats, some for alleged spying, in what the Irish prime minister said was a coordinated move.

Russia issued angry statements against the “unfriendly” actions and promised retaliation.

Belgium expelled 21 Russian diplomats for alleged spying and posing threats to security, Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes told lawmakers. The move was exclusively related to national security, and diplomatic channels will remain open, Wilmes said.

Wilmes said the Belgian decision was coordinated with the Netherlands which expelled 17 Russian intelligence agents who were accredited as diplomats. That decision was based on information from its own security services, its foreign affairs ministry said.

Ireland asked four senior officials at the Russian Embassy to leave the country, and the Czech Republic also expelled one member of the diplomatic staff at Russia’s embassy in Prague.

Russian ambassadors in several of the countries issued angry statements, with the embassy in Ireland describing that government’s decision as “arbitrary and groundless.”

- Reuters

1 p.m. ET

Opinion: Why Russia’s propaganda machine has failed to control the Ukraine narrative

After the shock of the 2016 presidential election in the United States, it became commonplace to assume that Russia had developed a dominant global propaganda machine as a part of its hybrid-warfare strategies. These had helped it achieve lightning-fast victories in Georgia and eastern Ukraine and supported its often-covert operations in Syria.

And yet, despite the devastating destruction of its invasion in Ukraine, there appears to be a genuine consensus that Russia’s much vaunted information-operations capability has greatly underperformed. Why is this the case? Read the full story.

12:38 p.m. ET

Western official says Russia seems to be playing for time with peace talks

Russia has not yet demonstrated it is serious about peace talks with Ukraine and appears to be using negotiations as a tactic to play for time, a Western official said on Tuesday, adding the hope was still that a ceasefire could be agreed eventually.

“In terms of the negotiations, nothing that we have seen so far has demonstrated to us that President (Vladimir) Putin and his colleagues are particularly serious about that, it’s more of a tactical exercise in playing for time,” the Western official.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, added that talks were “nevertheless the best way forward in due course”.

“We would hope that at some stage it would become real and lead to a ceasefire... We are skeptical that it is real just yet. Nevertheless, we do want to see a ceasefire which will emerge ultimately from a negotiation,” the official said.


11:12 a.m. ET

Global stocks surge after ‘encouraging’ Russia-Ukraine talks

World shares surged and global borrowing costs climbed on Tuesday, as the first face-to-face talks between warring Russia and Ukraine in nearly three weeks yielded signs of progress.

U.S. stock indices jumped over 0.5%, Europe’s main bourses enjoyed 1% to 2.5% gains, and oil tumbled 4% as Russia’s deputy defence minister emerged saying Moscow has decided to drastically cut military activity around Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and also Chernihiv.

Wall Street looked set to extend a three-day run of gains. Asia had been lifted overnight too after the Bank of Japan defended its vast stimulus programme, although the yen’s worst month since 2016 was still raising eyebrows.

Dealers also shrugged off bigger-than-expected drops in French and German consumer confidence data and signs that Russia will push ahead with plans to start billing for its gas in roubles, and is prepared to risk a historic sovereign debt default.


10:26 a.m. ET

Opinion: Will the International Space Station survive the war in Ukraine?

Russian cosmonauts Оleg Аrtemiev, center, Denis Мatveev, right, and Sergei Korsakov pose among other participants of expedition to the International Space Station, ISS, after docking the Soyuz MS-21 spaceship to the station, Friday, March 18, 2022.The Associated Press

Three Russian cosmonauts arrived earlier this month on the International Space Station wearing yellow and blue flight suits. They have denied that the colours were chosen to indicate support for Ukraine, but the idea that the cosmonauts were protesting their own government’s actions resonated strongly with many – due in part to the ISS being a powerful symbol of peace.

The ISS has been continuously inhabited for more than two decades. There are currently five Russians, four Americans and one German living and working together on board.

The most expensive structure ever built by humanity, the ISS was intended to give new purpose to Russia’s space program after the Cold War. This advanced Western interests by preventing the proliferation of expertise and technology to terrorists and rogue states.

But can this symbol of peace survive the fracture in Russian-Western relations caused by the war in Ukraine? Read full story.

10:07 a.m. ET

Oil drops $6 on positive signals from Russia-Ukraine peace talks

Oil prices dropped on Tuesday, extending losses from the previous day on signs of progress in talks between Russia and Ukraine to end their weeks-long conflict, with prices further pressured by China’s new lockdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Brent crude fell $6.51, or 5.8%, to $105.97 a barrel by early on Tuesday and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down $6.41, or 6%, at $99.55. Both benchmarks lost about 7% on Monday.

Ukrainian and Russian negotiators met in Turkey for the first face-to-face talks in nearly three weeks. The top Russian negotiator said the talks were “constructive”.


10:01 a.m. ET

Dutch expelling 17 Russian intel officers

The Dutch government says it is expelling 17 Russian intelligence officers, calling their presence a “threat to national security.”

The foreign ministry said that the Russian ambassador was summoned Tuesday and told the officers, who were accredited as diplomats, are to be removed from the country.

The ministry says it took the decision on national security grounds.

It says that the “intelligence threat against the Netherlands remains high. The current attitude of Russia in a broader sense makes the presence of these intelligence officers undesirable.”

The government said it took the decision in consultation with “a number of like-minded countries,” citing similar expulsions by the United States, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Montenegro.

-The Associated Press

9:20 a.m. ET

Video: Mariupol residents say they have lost everything after weeks of Russian bombardment

9:03 a.m. ET

Concerns rise in Europe over disruptions to gas supply as Russia’s ruble deadline nears

Russia said it would work out practical arrangements by Thursday for foreign companies to pay for its gas in rubles, raising the probability of supply disruptions as Western nations have so far rejected Moscow’s demand for a currency switch.

President Vladimir Putin’s order last week to charge “unfriendly” countries in rubles for Russian gas has boosted the currency after it fell to all-time lows when the West imposed sweeping sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, which also sent European gas prices higher.

“No one will supply gas for free, it is simply impossible, and you can pay for it only in rubles,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday. Read full story.

8:15 a.m. ET

Russia says it will drastically cut military activity near Kyiv, Chernihiv

Russia’s deputy defense minister says that Moscow has decided to “fundamentally ... cut back” operations near the Ukrainian capital and another major city to “increase mutual trust” at talks aimed at ending the fighting.

Alexander Fomin said Russian forces would cut back “military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv.”

Fomin’s statement comes Tuesday after another round of talks Russia and Ukraine held in Istanbul and appears to be the first major concession the Russians made since the beginning of their invasion in Ukraine more than a month ago.

The Ukrainian military’s general staff said earlier it had noted withdrawals around Kyiv and Chernihiv.

-The Associated Press

8 a.m. ET

Ukraine offers neutrality in exchange for security guarantees at Russia talks

Ukraine proposed adopting neutral status in exchange for security guarantees at the latest round of talks with Russia, meaning it would not join military alliances or host military bases, Ukrainian negotiators said on Tuesday.

The proposals would also include a 15-year consultation period on the status of annexed Crimea and could come into force only in the event of a complete ceasefire, the negotiators told reporters in Istanbul. Read full story


7:19 a.m. ET

Zelensky tells Danish parliament Russia sanctions must be tightened

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in a video broadcast to members of the Danish Parliament at Christiansborg Castle in Copenhagen on March 29, 2022.MADS CLAUS RASMUSSEN/AFP/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Danish parliament on Tuesday that Europe must tighten sanctions on Russia, including by blocking trade, stopping buying oil and closing ports to Russian ships.

Speaking via video link, Zelensky reiterated that some 100,000 people were still trapped in Ukraine’s southern city of Mariupol, which is encircled by Russian forces and under bombardment.


7:15 a.m. ET

Kremlin says Abramovich acting as go-between in Ukraine talks

Billionaire Roman Abramovich is not an official member of the Russian team negotiating with Ukraine, but is present at the talks in Turkey to “enable certain contacts” between the two sides, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.

Abramovich who is sanctioned by the West over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine due to his ties with President Vladimir Putin, was present on Tuesday at the first direct peace talks in more than two weeks in Istanbul.

“Roman Abramovich is involved in enabling certain contacts between the Russian and Ukrainian sides,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call.

“He is not an official member of the delegation... but nevertheless he is also present today in Istanbul from our side,” he said.

The Kremlin, which has said Abramovich also played an early role in peace talks, dismissed reports that he had been poisoned, saying they were untrue and part of an “information war”.

According to the Wall Street Journal and the investigative outlet Bellingcat, which cited people familiar with the matter, Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning earlier this month after a meeting in Kyiv.


7 a.m. ET

Three killed in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv city as rocket blasts hole in regional HQ

This photograph taken on March 29, 2022 shows the destroyed government building after being hit by Russian rockets in Mykolaiv.BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

Seven killed in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv city as rocket blasts hole in regional HQ

A Russian rocket hit the regional administration building in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv on Tuesday, killing at least seven people and wounding 22, local authorities said.

Eighteen of the wounded were pulled from the rubble by rescue workers, who continue to work at the scene, the emergencies service said in an online post

An image shared by regional governor Vitaliy Kim showed a large hole in the side of the building. On Tuesday, Reuters witnesses saw the destruction from a distance and ambulances and fire engines heading to the scene. The area was cordoned off.

“They destroyed half of the building, got into my office,” Kim said.

Russian forces have attacked Ukraine’s southern ports including Kherson, Odesa, Mykolaiv and Mariupol as they try to cut Ukraine off from the Black Sea and establish a land corridor from Russia to Crimea, the peninsula Russia seized in 2014.


6:35 a.m. ET

UN nuclear watchdog chief in Ukraine to talk safety support

The chief of the UN atomic watchdog, Rafael Grossi, is in Ukraine to discuss "the safety and security" of the countrys nuclear sites, the agency said on March 29, 2022, in his first visit after Russia seized several facilities, including Chernobyl during its more than month-long invasion.JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images

The UN nuclear watchdog’s director-general arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday for talks with senior government officials on delivering “urgent technical assistance” to ensure the safety of the country’s nuclear facilities, the agency said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Rafael Mariano Grossi’s aim is to “to initiate prompt safety and security support” for Ukraine’s nuclear sites. That will include sending IAEA experts to “prioritized facilities,” which it didn’t identify, and sending “vital safety and security supplies” including monitoring and emergency equipment.

It said that Grossi will travel to one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants this week, but didn’t say which one. Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors at four active power plants, and also is home to the decommissioned Chernobyl plant, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster. Russian forces have taken control of Chernobyl and of the largest active power plant, at Zaporizhzhia.

-The Associated Press

6 a.m. ET

U.K. concerned about poisoning allegations

Britain’s Foreign Office says it is concerned about reports that Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich may have been poisoned as he participated in negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.

The investigative news outlet Bellingcat reported Monday that Abramovich and two Ukrainian delegates suffered symptoms of nerve agent poisoning after attending peace talks on March 3. Abramovich, whose exact role in the talks hasn’t been confirmed, has now recovered.

The Foreign Office said in a statement Tuesday that “the allegations are very concerning.”

A Bellingcat investigator said the dosage wasn’t lethal and the “most plausible” explanation for the alleged attack is that it was a warning to Abramovich and any other wealthy Russians who might seek to intervene in the negotiations.

“He volunteered to play this role of (an) honest broker, but other oligarchs had declared certain independence from the Kremlin position and criticize the war,” Christo Grozev told Times Radio. “So it could well be seen as a warning sign to them to not join the ranks of those who dissent, and to not be too much of an honest broker.”

Abramovich, owner of London soccer club Chelsea, had his British assets frozen by the U.K. government earlier this month as authorities targeted wealthy Russians with close ties to the Kremlin. Those sanctions also cover Chelsea, limiting ticket sales and spending by the club.

-The Associated Press

5:54 a.m ET

Kremlin says ‘economic war’ against Russia means foreign firms must pay roubles for gas

The Kremlin on Tuesday said foreign companies need to understand that the “economic war” against Russia has changed the situation, meaning they need to buy roubles and pay for gas in the Russian currency, as Moscow seeks to shield itself from sanctions.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov reiterated that Russia would not export its gas for free and said Russia was drawing up ways to make gas payments simple, clear and practical, with all options due to be worked out by March 31.

“Companies should take into account the changing conditions and the absolute change in the situation that arose with the economic war against Russia,” Peskov told reporters.


5:47 a.m. ET

‘No handshake’ as Ukraine, Russia delegations meet for peace talks in Turkey

Turkish security members stand guard as members of Russian and Ukrainian delegations arrive at the Dolmabahçe Palace ahead of their talks, in Istanbul, Tuesday, March 29, 2022.Emrah Gurel/The Associated Press

Air raid sirens sounded across Ukraine before dawn on Tuesday as Ukrainian and Russian negotiators met in Turkey for the first face-to-face talks in nearly three weeks, with Kyiv seeking a ceasefire without compromising on territory or sovereignty

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan welcomed delegations from both sides saying that “stopping this tragedy” was up to them.

Ukrainian television reported the talks had begun with “a cold welcome” and no handshake between the delegations.

Ukraine and the United States hold little hope of an immediate breakthrough. But the resumption of face-to-face talks is an important first step towards a ceasefire in a Russian invasion that is stalled on most fronts but inflicting horrible suffering on civilians trapped in besieged cities.

More than a month into the war, the biggest attack on a European nation since World War Two, more than 3.8 million people have fled abroad, thousands have been killed and injured, and Russia’s economy has been pummelled by sanctions. Read full story