Thursday, March 30

Zelenskyy warns of new offensive in the east

Croatia tells 24 Russian embassy staff to leave over Ukraine invasion

Croatia on Monday told 24 Russian embassy staff to leave over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and “brutal aggression”, the foreign ministry said in a statement, following similar moves by other EU countries. The 24 included 18 diplomats, it said.

The ministry said that the Russian ambassador was summoned in a protest over the “brutal aggression on Ukraine and numerous crimes committed (there)”.

“The Russian party was informed about the reduction of administrative-technical staff of the Russian Federation’s embassy in Zagreb,” the statement said.

The European Union on Friday adopted a new package of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine which includes a ban on coal imports, new restrictions on trade and the blacklisting of several oligarchs close to the Kremlin.

Canada targets Russia’s defense sector with new sanctions

Canada is imposing fresh sanctions targeting “entities in the Russian defense sector” that it says have provided support to Russia’s military during its invasion of Ukraine, the country announced on Monday.

The new sanctions target 33 entities, Global Affairs Canada said in a press release.

“These entities have provided indirect or direct support to the Russian military and are therefore complicit in the pain and suffering stemming from Vladimir Putin’s senseless war in Ukraine,” the department said. It did not provide further details on the entities being targeted.

Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in late February, Canada has imposed sanctions on more than 700 individuals and entities from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, it said.

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Russian troops ‘massing’ for attack on Donbas region, top EU official says

Russian troops are preparing to attack the eastern region of Donbas in Ukraine, a top European Union official warned Monday.

“I’m afraid the Russian troops are massing on the east to launch an attack on the Donbas. The Ukrainians are very much aware of that,” Said EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss the war in Ukraine.

“So, I’m afraid in the next day the war will increase in the Donbas,” he said.

Borrell said EU foreign ministers would discuss the “brutal aggression of the Russian troops” and how to respond. He said further sanctions were “always on the table,” but did not say whether a Russian oil embargo would be included in a future sanctions package.

Slovakia rejects Moscow’s claim that Russian forces destroyed air defense system supplied to Ukraine

Slovakia’s prime minister has rejected claims from Moscow that its forces destroyed an anti-aircraft missile system supplied to Ukraine.

Russia said Monday it had used cruise missiles to destroy an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system supplied to Ukraine by a European country. It did not identify the country by name, but Slovakia announced Friday that it had donated its S-300 air defense system to Ukraine.

However, Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger rejected that suggestion outright, writing in a tweet Sunday that Slovakia “categorically denies” the claim that the defense system was destroyed.

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“It’s a hoax,” he said, adding that Ukraine had “officially confirmed” this. NBC News could not independently verify the status of the defense system.

Russia’s invasion to shrink Ukraine economy by 45 percent, World Bank says

Ukraine’s economy could shrink by almost half this year amid Russia’s invasion of the country, the World Bank has warned.

According to the World Bank, Ukraine’s gross domestic product is projected to contract by about 45 percent in 2022.

The World Bank said the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia have affected economies around the globe, with the Europe and Central Asia region “expected to bear the brunt” of the impacts.

The region’s economy is forecast to shrink by 4.1 percent this year, compared with a prewar forecast of 3 percent growth, it said, with Russia’s invasion compounding the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This would be the second contraction in as many years, and twice as large as the pandemic-induced contraction in 2020,” it said.

The World Bank also emphasized that support to countries hosting refugees fleeing the war “will be critical.” It noted that it is preparing operational support programs to help “meet the increased financing needs from the refugee flows.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses South Korea’s parliament via video link at the National Assembly in Seoul on Monday.

Image: Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Chung Sung-Jun / AFP – Getty Images

Russian oil embargo could be part of next EU sanctions package, ministers say

The European Union’s executive is drafting proposals for an EU oil embargo on Russia, the foreign ministers of Ireland, Lithuania and the Netherlands said on Monday, although there is still no agreement to ban Russian crude.

“They are now working on ensuring that oil is part of the next sanctions package,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said of the European Commission as he arrived for a meeting with his EU counterparts in Luxembourg.

His Dutch and Lithuanian counterparts also said they were open to looking at ways at targeting Russian oil, which makes up about a quarter of the EU’s crude imports, as a means to pressure Russia to halt the shelling of Ukrainian cities.

The European Parliament last week voted for an embargo, but its decision is not binding.

The EU last week approved a fifth round of sanctions on Russia that included an end to Russian coal imports and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said April 5 that she was considering additional sanctions, including on oil imports, based in part on proposals from the EU governments.

Russia readying tens of thousands of troops for eastern Ukraine offensive, Zelenskyy says

Russia has deployed tens of thousands of troops to “prepare new attacks” in Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday.

In the video address to South Korea’s parliament, Zelenskyy said “the occupiers have sent dozens of thousands of soldiers and colossal numbers of equipment to prepare new attacks.”

He did not specify where exactly the troops had been deployed, but he has warned in recent days of a ramped-up offensive from Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. Analysts have also said that Ukraine’s east will likely be the focus of Moscow’s military in the war’s next phase.

Satellite images captured by Maxar, a commercial firm that works with the US government, appeared to show an 8-mile-long convoy of Russian military vehicles moving on Friday south toward the Donbas area that seems likely to be the focus of a major new offensive .

Image: Russia military convoy
Southern end of a large military convoy consisting of hundreds of vehicles (including armored vehicles, trucks with towed artillery and support equipment) moving south through the Ukrainian town of Velykyi Burluk, Ukraine, on Friday.Maxar Technologies / AFP – Getty Images

Tens of thousands of people likely killed in Mariupol, Zelenskyy says

Tens of thousands of people have likely been killed in the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday.

Speaking in a video address to South Korea’s parliament, Zelenskyy warned that the death toll in Mariupol, which has faced weeks of relentless shelling from Russian forces, could be much higher than previously thought.

“Mariupol has been destroyed. Tens of thousands of residents have died. Even despite that the Russians haven’t stopped the attack.”

NBC News is unable to independently verify a death toll in Mariupol, which continues to experience intense fighting while thousands of people remain trapped without access to heat, water, medicine and other essentials.

Tens of thousands of people have managed to escape the city in southeastern Ukraine, according to local officials, but efforts to evacuate those who remain have been repeatedly hampered by continued shelling.

9 humanitarian corridors agreed for Monday

Nine humanitarian corridors have been agreed to open Monday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

A route for people evacuating via private transport is expected to open from the besieged port city of Mariupol, Vereshchuk said in a Telegram post.

A number of evacuation routes will also be opened in the Zaporizhzhia region for those traveling by private transport, she said, with routes from Berdyansk, Tokmak and Enerhodar to the city of Zaporizhzhia. She said buses from Zaporizhzhia were also waiting to pass a checkpoint in Vasylivka.

In the Luhansk region, routes will be opened from a number of cities, including Severodonetsk and Lysychansk to Bakhmut, she said.

Germany sees ‘massive indications’ of war crimes in Ukraine, foreign minister says

Germany sees massive indications of war crimes in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Monday.

“We have massive indications of war crimes,” she told reporters before a meeting with fellow European ministers in Luxembourg. “In the end, the courts will have to decide, but for us, it is central to secure all evidence.”

“As the German federal government, we have already made it clear that there will be a complete phase-out of fossil fuels, starting with coal, then oil and gas, and so that this can be implemented jointly in the European Union, we need a joint, coordinated plan to completely phase out fossil fuels to be able to withdraw as a European Union,” she added.

11 dead, including child, after air strikes in Kharkiv

At least 11 people are dead in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine, including a 7-year-old, after Russian forces launched dozens of airstrikes on the city and surrounding areas, the region’s governor has said.

In a Telegram post Monday, Gov. Oleh Synegubov said Russian forces had launched as many as 66 strikes in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and nearby areas. NBC News could not independently verify the claim or the reported death toll.

Synegubov said at least 14 people had also been injured in the attacks, which he said struck a number of areas, including Saltivka, Pisochyn and Zolochiv.

Russia could use phosphorus bombs in Mariupol, UK warns

Britain’s defense ministry has warned that Russia could use phosphorus munitions in the besieged port city of Mariupol.

in an intelligence update Monday morning, the ministry said Russia’s “prior use of phosphorus munitions in the Donetsk Oblast” raises the possibility of its future use in Mariupol as heavy fighting continues around the strategic city.

The ministry further noted that Russian shelling has continued in the Donetsk and the Luhansk regions, with Ukrainian forces “repulsing several assaults resulting in the destruction of Russian tanks, vehicles and artillery equipment.”

It warned that Russia’s “continued reliance” on unguided bombs decreases its military’s ability to “discriminate when targeting and conducting strikes,” which it warned could greatly increase the risk of further civilian casualties.

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