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Millions in extra funding pledged for ICC work in Ukraine

An international conference in London raised 4 million pounds ($4.9 million) to support the International Criminal Court in its investigations into alleged war crimes in Ukraine and its work to hold Russia to account, officials said.

Justice ministers from over 40 countries met in London for the war crimes conference days after the global court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of personal responsibility in the abduction of children from Ukraine. Friday’s move was the first time the court has issued a warrant against a leader of one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

“We share the belief that President Putin and the wider leadership must be held to account,” Britain’s Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said as he opened the meeting. “Let’s make sure that we back up our words with deeds, that we back up our moral support with practical means to effectively investigate these awful crimes.”

— Associated Press

Nearly $4 billion needed for humanitarian assistance in Ukraine, UN says

Ukrainian refugee looked after by Red Cross volunteers inside the Red Cross Headquarters on April 7, 2022 in Settimo Torinese near Turin, Italy. 

Stefano Guidi | Getty Images

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that it needs at least $3.9 billion in 2023 for efforts in Ukraine.

“I am confident that with the support of our local and international partners, we will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine,” said Denise Brown, U.N. humanitarian coordinator, in a statement.

Brown said that in 2022, the U.N. was able to reach 16 million people, or about a third of Ukraine’s population, with lifesaving humanitarian assistance.

“We organized thousands of humanitarian convoys delivering vital supplies such as food, water, medicine, hygiene kits, and winter supplies to war-torn communities and to those who had fled to safer areas. We worked around the clock to order and deliver generators to critical facilities across the country, mainly to hospitals and shelters, to make sure essential services could continue and people would be protected against the cold of the winter. We also provided material and carried out repairs so that people whose homes had been damaged could live with dignity,” she added.

— Amanda Macias

U.S. Treasury imposes sanctions on businesses and individuals tied to Iranian drone program

A drone flies over Kyiv during an attack on Oct. 17, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Sergei Supinsky | Afp | Getty Images

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the FBI announced sanctions aimed at four entities and three individuals for their involvement in Iran’s unmanned aerial vehicle and weapons programs.

The U.S. sanctions come as Washington ups the ante against Tehran for supplying Moscow with weapons for its war in Ukraine.

Here’s a look at the new designations:

  • Defense Technology and Science Research Center for conducting “defense-related procurement and research and development for Iran,” according to the Treasury Department. The company was previously sanctioned by the European Union.
  • Asghar Mahmoudi for orchestrating the movement of supplies to Iran.
  • Selin Technic Co., which the Treasury Department identified as a front company that helped to facilitate Mahmoudi’s business with sanctioned entities.
  • Amanallah Paidar for working as a “commercial manager and procurement agent for Iran,” according to the Treasury.
  • Farazan Industrial Engineering, Inc., which the U.S. alleges helped Iran obtain defense supplies and attempted to acquire European-made engines for drones and surface-to-air missiles.
  • Murat Bukey, who the U.S. said is a procurement agent who has backed Paidar.
  • Ozone Havacilik Ve Savunma Sanayi Ticaret Anonim Sirketi, who the Treasury alleged helped to “facilitate Burkey’s business with Iran.”

“Iran’s well-documented proliferation of UAVs and conventional weapons to its proxies continues to undermine both regional security and global stability,” said Brian Nelson, under secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

“The United States will continue to expose foreign procurement networks in any jurisdiction that supports Iran’s military-industrial complex,” he added.

— Amanda Macias

Russia says China’s proposal could be the basis for a peaceful settlement in Ukraine, if West agrees

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with China’s President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 21, 2023.

Grigory Sysoyev | AFP | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Chinese President Xi Jinping “spent a lot of time and put a lot of attention” on ways to implement the Chinese peace plan during their discussions in Moscow.

“We believe that many points of the Chinese peace plan correlate to the point of view of the Russian Federation and many of these points can be adopted in the West,” Putin said in a speech, according to a readout of the Russian government.

“However, we do not see the readiness from their side for this,” Putin added, referencing Ukraine and its Western allies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping shake hands during a signing ceremony following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 21, 2023. 

Vladimir Astapkovich | AFP | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping and members of the both delegations hold a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 21, 2023. (Photo by Sergei KARPUKHIN / SPUTNIK / AFP) (Photo by SERGEI KARPUKHIN/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

Sergei Karpukhin | Afp | Getty Images

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a separate statement that he discussed efforts to boost cooperation between his country and Russia.

“The two countries have enjoyed deepening political mutual trust, convergence of interests, and understanding between the peoples, and have advanced cooperation on trade, investment and energy, and on exchanges at people-to-people and sub-national levels,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a readout of the two-day meeting.

“President Xi expressed his readiness to work with President Putin to provide guidance and instructions for the bilateral relations and practical cooperation to boost the development and rejuvenation of both countries,” the statement added.

— Amanda Macias

The United States inaugurates its first permanent military garrison in Poland

The United States inaugurated its first permanent military garrison in Poland. The U.S. ambassador in Warsaw said it was a sign of NATO’s unity “in the face of Russian the aggression.”

US ambassador to Poland Marek Brzezinski speaks during the inauguration ceremony of the permanent US Army Garrison Poland, at Camp Kosciuszko in Poznan, on March 21, 2023. 

Wojtek Radwanski | AFP | Getty Images

US soldiers attend an inauguration ceremony by transforming the Area Support Group Poland into the permanent US Army Garrison Poland, at Camp Kosciuszko in Poznan, on March 21, 2023.

Wojtek Radwanski | Afp | Getty Images

A US soldier holds the US flag as she takes part in the inauguration ceremony, by transforming the Area Support Group Poland into the permanent US Army Garrison Poland, at Camp Kosciuszko in Poznan, on March 21, 2023. 

Wojtek Radwanski | AFP | Getty Images

Commander of US Army Garrison Poland Col Jorge M Fonseca speaks during the inauguration ceremony of the permanent US Army Garrison Poland, at Camp Kosciuszko in Poznan, on March 21, 2023. – The United States inaugurated its first permanent military garrison in Poland on March 21, 2023, which the US ambassador in Warsaw said was a sign of Nato’s unity “in the face of Russian the aggression”. (Photo by Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP) (Photo by WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Wojtek Radwanski | AFP | Getty Images

Polish deputy prime minister and minister of defence Mariusz Blaszczak speaks during the inauguration ceremony of the permanent US Army Garrison Poland, at Camp Kosciuszko in Poznan, on March 21, 2023. 

Wojtek Radwanski | AFP | Getty Images

An US soldier holds the US flag as she takes part in the inauguration ceremony, transforming the Area Support Group Poland into the permanent US Army Garrison Poland, at Camp Kosciuszko in Poznan, on March 21, 2023. 

Wojtek Radwanski | AFP | Getty Images

— Wojtek Radwanski | AFP | Getty Images

U.S. speeds up Abrams tank delivery to Ukraine war zone

Abrams battle tanks from the US Army’s, 1st Armoured Battalion of the 9th Regiment, 1st Division from Fort Hood in Texas, part of the Atlantic resolve operation, arrive at the Pabrade railway station some 50 km (31 miles) north of the capital Vilnius, Lithuania, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019.

Mindaugas Kulbis | AP

The Pentagon is speeding up its delivery of Abrams tanks to Ukraine, opting to send a refurbished older model that can be ready faster, with the aim of getting the 70-ton battle powerhouses to the war zone in eight to 10 months, U.S. officials told The Associated Press.

The original plan was to send Ukraine 31 of the newer M1A2 Abrams, which could have taken a year or two to build and ship. But officials said the decision was made to send the older M1A1 version, which can be taken from Army stocks and could be there before the end of the year. Officials said the M1A1 also will be easier for Ukrainian forces to learn to use and maintain as they fight Russia’s invasion.

The officials spoke on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity because the plan has not yet been publicly announced. Pentagon officials are expected to make the announcement Tuesday.

The Biden administration announced in January that it would send the tanks to Ukraine — after insisting for months that they were too complicated and too hard to maintain and repair. The decision was part of a broader political maneuver that opened the door for Germany to announce it would send its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine and allow Poland and other allies to do the same.

— Associated Press

Russia to hold UN meeting on Ukraine kids taken to Russia

Russian Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia February 16, 2023. 

Mikhail Metzel | Sputnik | Reuters

Russia plans to hold an informal meeting of the U.N. Security Council in early April on what it said is “the real situation” of Ukrainian children taken to Russia, an issue that has gained the spotlight following the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes related to their abduction.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told a news conference Monday that Russia planned the council meeting long before Friday’s announcement by the ICC. Russia holds the rotating presidency of the council in April.

The court said it was seeking Putin’s arrest because he “is allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of (children) and that of unlawful transfer of (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”

The announcement of the warrants for Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, was welcomed by Ukraine as a first step toward accountability by Russia for crimes following its Feb. 14, 2022, invasion. It was dismissed by Moscow, which is not one of the 123 countries that are parties to the court, calling the action “legally void” and “outrageous.”

— Associated Press

At Ukraine’s front, police try to evacuate holdout families

Lubov (R), 65, and her daugther Elena, 45, sit in the evacuation van with their dogs, in Chasiv Yar on February 15, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. – The minibus, operated by the charity Save Ukraine, picks its way through the snow-covered streets on the way to its next pick-up, taking advantage of a relative lull in the firing. 

Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP | Getty Images

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, about 25,000 people lived in Avdiivka. Despite the shelling, about 2,000 civilians remain, Protsyk said.

For months, authorities have been urging civilians in areas near the fighting to evacuate to safer parts of the country. But while many have heeded the call, others — including families with children — have steadfastly refused.

So it has fallen to police to try to persuade people to leave. A special unit known as the White Angels risk their lives to head into front-line villages and towns, knocking on doors and pleading with the few remaining residents to evacuate.

A volunteer Andrey (C), 38, helps Lydia Ivanovna (R), 62, to evacuate in Chasiv Yar on February 15, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Yasuyoshi Chiba | Afp | Getty Images

In early March, the government issued an order for the compulsory evacuation of families with children from combat areas. Under the order, children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. But it currently applies only to Bakhmut, the hard-hit eastern city where fighting has raged for months.

“The compulsory evacuation order is unfortunately only in force in Bakhmut. In Avdiivka, this law is not adopted,” said White Angels policeman Gennadiy Yudin. “We’re driving around to all the families. We are warning them, we are informing them about the evacuation.”

In Bakhmut itself, the situation is so dangerous that civilian evacuations are exceptionally risky.

“I already think that for Bakhmut, it’s too late,” Protsyk said. “Here in our region, … if such a decision would be made now, it would be safe.”

But without a compulsory evacuation order, the hands of the police are tied. All they can do is use their powers of persuasion.

— Associated Press

Two ships leave under Black Sea Grain Initiative

A ship carrying wheat from Ukraine to Afghanistan after inspection in the open sea around Zeytinburnu district of Istanbul, Turkiye on January 24, 2023.

TUR Ministry of National Defence | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Two ships carrying 58,200 metric tons of agricultural products left Ukraine’s ports of Odesa and Chornomorsk.

The vessels are destined for Egypt and are carrying corn.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered in July among Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, eased Russia’s naval blockade and saw three key Ukrainian ports reopen. The deal was extended for 120 days over the weekend.

So far, more than 700 ships have sailed from Ukrainian ports since the deal began.

— Amanda Macias

NATO’s Stoltenberg warns China against delivering arms to Russia

NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said Saturday China is “watching closely” whether or not Russia succeeds in Ukraine.

Johannes Simon | Stringer | Getty Images News

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned China on Tuesday against supplying lethal weapons to Russia, as leaders of both countries were meeting in Moscow for talks.

“We haven’t seen any proof that China is delivering lethal weapons to Russia but we have seen some signs that this has been a request from Russia, and that this is an issue that is considered in Beijing by the Chinese authorities,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.

“China should not provide lethal aid to Russia, that would be to support an illegal war.”

— Reuters

What does China want from Russia in return for its help?

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with China’s President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 21, 2023.

Pavel Byrkin | Afp | Getty Images

One of the big questions to emerge from China’s President Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow this week is the degree to which it could help Russia both on the battlefield, and off it — and what price it could extract for doing so.

It’s no secret that Russia would like China to help it out while it flounders in an economic and military quagmire brought about by its invasion of Ukraine a year ago.

International sanctions have restricted or cut off Moscow’s access to numerous Western markets, while the ongoing war in Ukraine shows all the signs of turning into a bloody stalemate that could, if it loses, cause seismic political change in Moscow.

While he’s in Moscow, President Xi and President Vladimir Putin have been discussing the war in Ukraine and China’s peace plan, according to the Kremlin’s spokesman. Unofficially, however, analysts say the presidents are also likely to discuss ways for China to help Russia without it risking being hit with Western sanctions itself.

For many close watchers of Russia and China’s deepening relationship over the past decade, the big question then is this: What could China want in return for helping Moscow?

Read here to find out more: Nothing comes for free: What China hopes to gain in return for helping Russia

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine says its forces have repelled Russian advances into Bakhmut

The head of Ukraine’s armed forces said they have repelled Russian attempts to advance into the center of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, where fighting continues to be intense.

“Assault groups of the enemy try to advance from the outskirts to the center of the city, but the Defense Forces work and destroy them 24/7,” the Commander of Ukraine’s Ground Forces Oleksandr Syrskyi said on Telegram on Tuesday.

Ukrainian servicemen fire with a S60 anti-aircraft gun at Russian positions near Bachmut on March 20, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Aris Messinis | Afp | Getty Images

Both Russian and Ukrainian military officials have acknowledged the difficulty of fighting in and around Bakhmut in Donetsk, where battles have been raging for seven months. Russian forces are believed to almost encircle the city to the north, east and south but Ukraine recently vowed to continue defending the city.

Syrskyi said Tuesday that “intensive combat operations” were taking place along the entire front line in eastern Ukraine but that “the defense of Bakhmut continues.” There, he said, Russian equipment, manpower and warehouses “are constantly being destroyed.”

Russia sees the capture of Bakhmut as a stepping stone to other regional targets such as Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Given the extreme difficulty Russian units and mercenary fighters in the Wagner Group have had in fighting in and around Bakhmut alone, Russia’s ability (or appetite) to maintain a wider offensive in the region looks uncertain.

Ukrainian servicemen fire a M777 howitzer at Russian positions near Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, on March 17, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Aris Messinis | Afp | Getty Images

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War said Monday that “Russian forces made marginal gains in and around Bakhmut amid a reported increase in the tempo of Russian operations around Avdiivka,” a town south of Bakhmut and north of Donetsk city. 

“Russian forces likely made additional gains in southwestern and northern Bakhmut,” the ISW noted. Nonetheless, the ISW assessed “that the overall Russian spring offensive is likely approaching culmination, and Russian forces may be intensifying efforts to make even marginal gains before they lose the initiative in Ukraine.”

“It remains possible that Russian advances could prompt Ukraine to withdraw from Bakhmut and/or Avdiivka although neither appears likely at this time,” the ISW noted.

— Holly Ellyatt

Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida arrives in Kyiv for talks with Zelenskyy

(COMBO) This combination of file pictures created on March 21, 2023 shows Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (L) speaking during a press conference at his official residence in Tokyo on March 17, 2023, and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking during a press conference following a round-table meeting as part of an EU summit in Brussels on February 9, 2023.

Yoshikazu Tsuno | AFP | Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrived in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Tuesday for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, broadcaster NHK said.

Representing one of the rich democracies in the Group of Seven, Kishida will voice support and solidarity with Ukraine following the invasion by Russian forces more than a year ago, the foreign ministry said in a statement. 

Kishida will convey “his respect for the courage and perseverance of the Ukrainian people standing up to defend their homeland,” it said. 

Japan will host a G7 summit in Hiroshima in May, and Kishida has previously said that the summit should demonstrate a strong will to uphold international order and rule of law in response to the Ukraine war.

NHK showed footage of Kishida talking to officials as he stood next to a train. He had arrived in Kyiv after boarding a train in the Polish border town of Przemysl.

Kishida will also hold talks with his Polish counterpart before returning to Japan on Thursday, the ministry said.

— Reuters

Kremlin says Xi and Putin discussed China’s peace plan for Ukraine

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov at a news conference of Russian President Vladimir Putin after a meeting of the State Council on youth policy in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 22, 2022.

Valeriy Sharifulin | Sputnik | Reuters

The Kremlin said Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had discussed a peace plan China had proposed for Ukraine, and had held a “thorough” exchange of views during talks.

“Obviously, a very thorough exchange of views took place, a serious conversation in the informal part,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, Russian state news agency TASS reported. 

“I will not give any assessments now, we will wait for the press statements of the two heads of state,” he said, referring to a joint statement that’s expected to be agreed and released by the leaders after further talks on Tuesday.

According to Peskov, Putin and Xi Jinping discussed the 12-point peace plan for Ukraine that China proposed last month, calling for a de-escalation of armed aggression in the country.

Western nations have viewed China’s peace plan, and the fact it appears to want a role as a mediator in the conflict, with suspicion given Beijing’s alignment with Russia on an ideological level and refusal to condemn the invasion of Ukraine.

— Holly Ellyatt

China’s Xi invites Putin to visit China this year

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 20, 2023. Xi said he’s invited Putin to visit China this year, Russian news agencies reported Tuesday.

Sergei Karpukhin | Sputnik | via Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Tuesday that he’s invited his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to visit China this year, Russian news agencies reported Tuesday.

“I yesterday invited President Putin to pay a visit to China this year at a convenient time for him, as this year China will host the third international forum under the Belt and Road Initiative. President Putin took part in the previous two forums,” Xi said, in comments reported by Russian state news agency Tass.

Xi also invited Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, with whom he held talks on Tuesday morning, to visit China as soon as possible, news agency RIA Novosti reported. Mishustin reportedly told Xi earlier today that he was grateful for “the great personal attention that you pay to the development of friendship and partnership between Russia and China.”

Xi is expected to hold further talks with Putin on Tuesday afternoon, with the leaders expected to sign a joint statement on deepening their strategic cooperation, and possibly other deals designed to extend their economic ties.

— Holly Ellyatt

Xi-Putin summit: What to expect on Day 2

It’s the second day of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Moscow. Xi and his host, Russian President Vladimir Putin, are expected to hold more talks today and to sign a number of bilateral agreements.

The presidents reportedly held talks for at least four hours on Monday. Deepening strategic cooperation and the war in Ukraine, and finding a peaceful solution to the conflict, are on the official agenda for discussions.

Analysts will be watching closely for statements and any deals that could be signed today to gauge the degree of cooperation and closeness that the leaders have forged during this meeting.

Before the summit, Putin’s assistant, Yuri Ushakov, said Putin and Xi would make a joint statement on their “comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation entering a new era,” and then the leaders would also sign a “joint statement on the plan for the development of key areas of Russian-Chinese economic cooperation up to 2030.”

“In addition to these two documents, there are many more documents in completely different areas of cooperation – over 10 documents, which are in varying degrees of readiness and will be signed, as they say, on the sidelines of the visit,” Ushakov said, according to a report by Russia state news agency Tass.

Ukraine has been noticeably tight-lipped about the Sino-Russian summit ahead of a rumored virtual meeting between Xi and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

— Holly Ellyatt

Japan says Kishida to visit Ukraine, hold talks with Zelenskyy

Japan’s foreign ministry confirmed that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is visiting Ukraine.

“As the G-7 [chair], Prime Minister Kishida will directly convey our solidarity and unwavering support for Ukraine,” a statement from the ministry said.

Kishida will visit Poland on Wednesday after his trip and return to Japan on Thursday, the ministry said.

Japan’s prime minister left India after meeting his counterpart there, Narendra Modi. The two leaders discussed stronger ties between their countries — both of them democracies — in the face of rising assertiveness from China in the Indo-Pacific region.

Last month, Ukraine’s ambassador to Japan told CNBC he was optimistic Kishida would visit Ukraine before hosting the G-7 Summit in Hiroshima in May.

– Jihye Lee

UK hosts international meeting on supporting Ukraine during war crime investigations

One person died and several others were injured after a Russian missile attack on the centre of Kramatorsk, Ukraine on March 14. (Photo by Ignacio Marin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Ignacio Marin | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The U.K. held a meeting with more than 40 nations to discuss ways to provide extra support for war crimes investigations in Ukraine, according to a British readout.

The meeting was hosted by U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab and the Netherlands Minister for Justice and Security Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius.

Ahead of the meeting, the U.K. proposed funding to offer mental health care for witnesses of war crimes, send U.K. experts to train International Criminal Court investigators and help those ICC workers gather evidence of potential crimes.

The meeting follows ICC’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over potential crimes in Ukraine.

— Amanda Macias

White House spokesman says Putin and Xi are in a ‘marriage of convenience’

White House national security spokesman John Kirby called Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s relationship an alliance based on shared global interests as opposed to true friendship.

“It’s a marriage of convenience rather than of affection,” Kirby said of Putin and Xi.

Xi dined with Putin at the Kremlin on Monday as part of a three-day visit to Moscow. Beijing has yet to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but has not sent Russia military support, either.

Asked whether the two countries see one another on equal footing, Kirby said: “In terms of that relationship, they truly are their genuine partner.”

Emma Kinery

Zelenskyy thanks EU, U.S. for new arms packages

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signaled Kyiv is preparing its soldiers for counteroffensives and praised soldiers for defending the country despite the “insane pressure” Russian forces have been putting on them.

Julien De Rosa | Pool | Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the European Union and United States for fresh arms packages, as the Ukrainian military tries to repel a fierce Russian onslaught in the eastern part of the country.

He said a 2 billion euro EU plan to bolster Ukraine’s ammunition stores will help with “both immediate supply and production of ammunition,” according to an NBC translation of his Telegram post.

Zelenskyy also noted that a $350 million U.S. aid package includes “everything that is really necessary to support our soldiers” in Ukraine.

— Jacob Pramuk

Wagner mercenary group says its forces control about 70% of besieged Bakhmut, but warns of upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive

Visitors in military camouflage stand at the entrance of the “PMC Wagner Centre,” associated with the founder of the Wagner private military group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, during the official opening of the office block on the National Unity Day, in St. Petersburg, on Nov. 4, 2022.

Olga Maltseva | Afp | Getty Images

The Wagner Group said that its forces control nearly 70% of Bakhmut and will continue to fight until all of the city is captured.

The Russian mercenary group also said that Ukrainian forces were preparing to launch a “large-scale offensive.”

“At the end of March-beginning of April the enemy plans to launch a large-scale offensive and deliver flank cut-off strikes in order to cut off Wagner PMC units from the main forces of the Russian Armed Forces,” Wagner said on its official Telegram channel, according to an NBC News translation.

In a separate letter published to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin warned that Ukraine’s counter-offensive could lead to “negative consequences” for Russia.

— Amanda Macias

Putin and Xi meet, calling one another a ‘dear friend’

In this grab taken from video, China’s President Xi Jinping, left, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, Monday, March 20, 2023.

Russian Pool via AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin has met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Moscow Monday with both leaders exchanging pleasantries ahead of talks on Ukraine and extending cooperation between the nations.

As the two leaders met for an informal meeting before talks begin behind closed doors, Putin called Xi his “dear friend” as he welcomed him to Russia. He also praised China’s growth under Xi’s leadership, saying Russia was “slightly envious” of China’s swift development, in comments reported by Reuters.

Putin said China had taken a “balanced approach” to the international situation and said the leaders would discuss recent suggestions by China to find a peaceful solution to the war in Ukraine.

For his part, President Xi responded that Putin was also his “dear friend” and said he was pleased to be in Moscow for talks.

—  Holly Ellyatt

Putin-Xi talks are ongoing after four hours, Russian state media says

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, March 20, 2023.

Sergei Karpukhin | Sputnik | Via Reuters

Talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping were ongoing after four hours, Russian state media said, according to an NBC News translation.

The discussions are part of Xi’s three-day state visit to Russia. The leaders were expected to talk about strengthening economic and political ties, as Ukraine and its allies watch whether China will move to provide military support to Moscow.

— Jacob Pramuk

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