Ukraine News: Russian Troops Reposition From Kyiv, Some Into Belarus

Live Updates

Today is Day 35 of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

  • The Pentagon "concurs" with reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not being fully informed by his Ministry of Defense of the situation in Ukraine.
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has played down hopes of a breakthrough in talks between Kyiv and Moscow in Istanbul.
  • President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the U.S. intends to provide the Ukrainian government with $500 million in direct budgetary aid during a call Wednesday.
  • Ukraine and Russia agreed on three humanitarian corridors Wednesday in the Zaporizhzhia region, one will allow residents of Mariupol to evacuate. Putin told French President Emmanuel Macron that shelling of Mariupol will only stop after Ukrainian troops surrender, according to the Kremlin.
  • Over 4 million people have now fled Ukraine to escape Russia's invasion, the U.N. said Wednesday. Millions more have been displaced.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 29, 2022. The Kremlin has played down hopes on March 30, 2022 of a diplomatic breakthrough to end its invasion of Ukraine. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/Getty Images

Live Updates Have Ended.

Russian Troops Reposition From Kyiv, Some Into Belarus

Over the past 24 hours, the Pentagon assesses that Russia has started to reposition some forces away from Kyiv. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said less than 20% of the forces Russia had arrayed around Kyiv are beginning to move northward, some into Belarus.

"They're going to refit these troops, resupply them and then probably employ them elsewhere in Ukraine," Kirby said of the Pentagon's assessment during a briefing Wednesday. "But I don't believe at this stage we've seen the refitting going on with any specificity."

Kirby noted that none of these units have returned to their home bases. In addition, air strikes and other attacks continue in Kyiv, contrasting Russia's claims of de-escalation.

"If they're serious about de-escalation, as they claim to be, then send those troops home, rather than into Belarus to re-supply," Kirby said.

As the "small number" of troops move away from Kyiv, the majority of the forces arrayed around the capitol remain in place, though the Pentagon assesses those units are largely in defensive positions. Kirby added that some Russian troops that were arrayed against Cherniv and Sumy are also being repositioned into Belarus.

Russia Says Its 'Military Operation' Is Going to Plan

Russian Foreign Ministry officials say its ongoing "special military operation" in Ukraine is proceeding in "strict accordance with the plan."

"Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized that its goals and objectives would be fulfilled," Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova said during a briefing Tuesday.

Russia's invasion concluded a 35th day, as it continues attacking cities and destroying towns like Mariupol and Irpin. The U.N. has recorded nearly 3,000 civilian casualties since the beginning of Russia's invasion, but warns actual figures are "considerably higher." U.N. data shows at least 1,189 civilians have been killed, including 108 children. Zakharova maintains that Russia is not targeting civilians.

"The Russian military is doing everything possible to avoid civilian casualties," she said Tuesday. "They do not attack civilian targets, and they open humanitarian corridors daily to help evacuate civilians from harm's way."

"I have read numerous materials posted by bloggers and journalists. They say that war is "dehumanizing." No. These extremists and [Ukrainian] militants have long been dehumanized. This process and the fact that it is supported by the West (morally, politically, financially and with weapons) have led to the situation at hand."

Peace talks continued this week in Turkey. Zakharova said the agenda includes: "Ukraine's permanent neutral and non-aligned status and security guarantees, its demilitarization, denazification, the recognition of modern territorial realities and restoration of the status of the Russian language and the rights of its Russian-speaking citizens."

"In other words, we are talking about Ukraine returning to its original statehood as enshrined in the 1990 Declaration of State Sovereignty," she said. "We hope that during the next round of talks in Istanbul the Ukrainian delegation will be constructive in its approach."

In addition, Russia and Belarus will celebrate a "Day of Unity" between their people on Saturday. April 2nd marks the anniversary of the Treaty on the Formation of the Community of Russia and Belarus signed in 1996.

"The document confirmed the two countries' commitment to continue strengthening bilateral ties based on a common years-long history, spiritual closeness and friendship," Russia's Foreign Ministry said.

Russia Says Issues of Crimea, Donbass Have Been Resolved

Russia claims the issues of sovereignty over the Crimea and Donbas regions have been settled after negotiations with Ukraine this week.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that the issues of Crimea and Donbas, two contested regions in Ukraine in recent years, have been resolved. He added that the talks resulted in "significant progress" as Ukraine understood to the need to remain out of NATO.

The Ukrainian delegation, however, claims those regions are still contested.

"Lavrov demonstrates misunderstanding of the negotiation process," Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko responded. "The issues of Crimea and Donbas will be settled for good after Ukraine restores its sovereignty over them. During the talks in Istanbul, the Ukrainian delegation presented its proposals on how to achieve this goal."

White House Calls Russia's War a 'Strategic Blunder'

The White House said Russia's "war" in Ukraine has been a "strategic blunder."

Communications Director Kate Bedingfield reiterated the U.S. intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin "felt misled by the Russian military" which has led to "persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership."

"We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisers about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions because his senior advisers are too afraid to tell him the truth," she said during a press briefing Wednesday.

She said the White House's aim in making this intelligence public was to show that Russia's war in Ukraine "has been a strategic blunder."

"This is ultimately going to make them [Russia] weaker, not stronger," she said. "Making this information public simply contributes to the picture that, strategically, they are having to reorganize and shows this was a terrible decision by them [Russia]."

Bedingfield said the White House will continue to provide support to Ukraine, but would not directly say if the Biden administration believes Ukraine will win the war against Russia.

"Ukraine has fought valiantly, been incredibly brave and resolved in face of atrocious, brutal invasion from Russia," she said.

She added that the Biden administration's actions speak louder than words and clearly show it is doing all it can to aid Ukraine.

"I don't have to say it, our actions show it," Bedingfield said, noting that the U.S. has done "everything in its power" to provide Ukraine with what it needs to push back Russian forces.

She said the U.S. will continue to provide defensive and humanitarian support Ukraine and put economic pressure on Russia through expanded sanctions.

This includes the newly announced $500 million President Biden promised to Ukrainian President Zelensky Wednesday.

Bedingfield said the financial assistance is meant to bolster the Ukrainian economy to cover budgetary expenses, like paying salaries and covering other government services. The White House does not yet know from where this money will come.

Putin Not 'Fully Informed' by His Ministry of Defense, Pentagon Says

The Pentagon "concurs" with reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin is being misled or not fully informed by his military advisers about the full situation in Ukraine.

"We would concur with the conclusion that Mr. Putin has not been fully informed by his Ministry of Defense at every turn over the last month," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said during a briefing Wednesday.

Kirby prefaced the statement saying the U.S. does not have access to all of Putin's conversations or information he's received, but agrees with the basic finding.

Kirby said the claim is "disconcerting" and could result in a "less than faithful effort" in negotiations.

"The fact that he [Putin] may not have all the context, that he may not fully understand the degree to which his forces are failing in Ukraine, that's a little discomforting," Kirby said.

"If he's not fully informed of how poorly he's doing, then how are his negotiators going to come up with an agreement that is enduring? Certainly one that respects Ukrainian sovereignty. You don't know how a leader like that is going to react to getting bad news. So yeah, it's disconcerting."

White House Blasts Trump's 'Brag' About Connection to Putin

The White House condemned former President Donald Trump for his "brag" about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

When asked about Trump calling on Putin to release damaging information about Hunter Biden, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield dismissed Trump's comments.

"What kind of American, let alone an ex-president, thinks that this is the right time to enter into a scheme with Vladimir Putin and brag about his connection to Vladimir Putin?" she said. "There's only one and it's Donald Trump."

Nearly 1,200 Civilian Deaths, Including 108 Children

Nearly 3,100 civilian casualties have been recorded in Ukraine in the first 34 days of Russia's invasion, the United Nations estimates, as it continues warning actual figures are "considerably higher."

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reports 1,189 civilians have been killed, including 108 children. Another 1,900 have been injured, including 142 children.

"Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes," OHCHR said.

The figures released Wednesday represent casualties recorded between February 24 and March 29. They do not include casualties from several areas where "intense hostilities" are ongoing, including Mariupol and regions of Kharkiv, Luhansk and Sumy.

OHCHR further provides this breakdown:

  • 1,189 killed: 239 men, 172 women, 17 girls, and 34 boys, as well as 57 children and 670 adults whose sex is unknown.
  • 1,901 injured: 218 men, 164 women, 36 girls, and 30 boys, as well as 76 children and 1,377 adults whose sex is unknown.
Toy in rubble
A toy lies in the rubble of houses destroyed during fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces in the village of Yasnohorodka, on the outskirts of Kyiv on March 30. Vadim Ghirda/AP Photo

Russia Used Banned Landmines in Ukraine, Human Rights Watch Says

Russia is using banned landmines in Ukraine, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) found.

The HRW said Russia is using a newly developed mine called POM-3, or "Medallion," that is equipped with a seismic sensor to detect when a person is approaching and eject an explosion charge into the air.

"Countries around the world should forcefully condemn Russia's use of banned antipersonnel landmines in Ukraine," Steve Goose, the arms director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "These weapons do not differentiate between combatants and civilians and leave a deadly legacy for years to come."

The antipersonnel mines were located in the eastern Kharkiv region of Ukraine on March 28 by Ukrainian explosive ordnance disposal technicians.

Russia is known to possess these newly deployed landmines, which can indiscriminately kill and maim people within an apparent 16-meter range, HRW said, adding that Ukraine does not possess this type of landmine or its delivery system.

The use, production, stockpiling and transfer of antipersonnel mines was banned under the 1997 international Mine Ban Treaty.

Russia is not one of the 146 countries that joined the treaty. In 2020, it told the United Nations in 202 that it "shares the goals of the treaty and supports a world free of mines," but views antipersonnel mines "as an effective way of ensuring the security of Russia's borders," according to HRW.

Goose said Russia's use of these mines in Ukraine "deliberately flouts the international norm against use of these horrid weapons."

Poland to End Russian Oil Imports by End of 2022

Poland announced it will end all Russian oil imports by the end of the 2022.

"We are presenting the most radical plan in Europe for departing from Russian oil by the end of this year," Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at a news conference Wednesday.

Poland will also stop importing Russian coal by April-May, Morawiecki said, adding that "we will do our best to abandon Russian oil and gas by the end of the year."

Morawiecki said Poland will take steps to become "independent" of Russian supplies. He called on other European Union to also "walk away" from Russian energy, arguing that money paying for Russian oil and gas is funding its war machine in Ukraine.

He also called on the European Union to establish a tax on Russian hydrocarbons "so that trade and economic rules in the European single market are fair."

U.S. to Send $500 Million in 'Direct Budgetary Aid' to Ukraine

President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Wednesday morning about the Unites States' ongoing support to Ukraine.

During the hour-long conversation, Biden told Zelensky that the U.S. intends to provide the Ukrainian government with $500 million in direct budgetary aid.

"The leaders discussed how the United States is working around the clock to fulfill the main security assistance requests by Ukraine, the critical effects those weapons have had on the conflict, and continued efforts by the United States with allies and partners to identify additional capabilities to help the Ukrainian military defend its country," the White House said in a statement.

Additionally, the pair talked about the "situation on the battlefield" and the status of the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. They also reviewed additional sanctions and humanitarian assistance that Biden announced last week.

U.S. Credit, Debit Cards No Longer Work in Russia

The U.S. State Department again shared its alert advising Americans against travel to Russia, citing risks of harassment or detention.

"Russian security services have arrested U.S. citizens on spurious charges, singled out U.S. citizens in Russia for detention and/or harassment, denied them fair and transparent treatment and have convicted them in secret trials and/or without presenting credible evidence," the travel advisory reads.

"Russian security services are increasing the arbitrary enforcement of local laws to target foreign and international organizations they consider "undesirable," and U.S. citizens should avoid travel to Russia to perform work for or volunteer with non-governmental organizations."

Accessing funds has quickly become more difficult for Americans remaining in Russia. Last week, the State Department warned some credit or debit cards may be declined due to sanctions on Russian banks. Now, it says "U.S. credit and debit cards no longer work in Russia."

"Options to electronically transfer funds from the United States are extremely limited as a result of sanctions imposed on Russian banks," the alert said. "There are reports of cash shortages within Russia."

The State Department continues warning American citizens in Russia to leave the country "immediately." Commercial travel options remain limited as airlines have suspended or reduced flights to Russia and several countries have closed airspace to Russian airlines. The State Department updates available options daily on its site.

A travel alert remains in place for the North Caucasus region.

"Local gangs have kidnapped U.S. citizens and other foreigners for ransom. There have been credible reports of arrest, torture, and extrajudicial killing of LGBTI persons in Chechnya allegedly conducted by Chechen regional authorities," the alert reads.

The alert also continues warning against travel to Crimea "due to Russia's occupation of the Ukrainian territory and abuses by its occupying authorities."

Half of Irpin Destroyed, up to 300 Civilians Killed

Half of Irpin has been destroyed as search and recovery efforts continue, Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Makrushin said Wednesday.

Makrushin estimates between 200 and 300 civilians have been killed, although exact numbers are not known, Reuters reports. During a briefing Wednesday, Makrushin added that 50 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed in Irpin.

Russian shelling continued all night in the city, a northwest suburb of Kyiv. After heavy fighting, Markushyn said Ukraine had retaken control of Irpin Monday.

Road between Irpin and Kyiv
An abandoned stroller on the road between Irpin and Kyiv, taken on March 29. RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP via Getty Images
Displaced Irpin residents
A man warms himself by a fire near an assistant center to displaced people from Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv on March 30. Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo
Solider comforts woman
A soldier comforts Larysa Kolesnyk, 82, after she was evacuated from Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv on March 30. Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo

Zelensky Presses for Weekly Sanctions Packages on Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Norwegian Parliament Wednesday that Russia wants to "destroy the foundation of Europe" and asked for more support.

Zelensky said Ukraine's losses are "enormous," as "tens of thousands of houses were destroyed, dozens of cities and villages were burned, millions of people were left without the opportunity to live normally."

He added that 145 children have been killed since the Russian invasion began. The actual number is probably much higher, he said.

"It is likely that we have lost hundreds," he said. "Think about it, hundreds of children. Just children."

Russia's invasion into Ukraine is "one of the greatest threats to international security of all that has emerged since World War II," Zelensky said, adding that the current "war" is not limited to Ukraine's borders.

"We have no common borders with you, but we have a common neighbor who denies all our common values," he said. "For the Russian state in its current condition neither the freedom of nations nor the freedom of human matters."

Zelensky thanked Norway for its support but asked it to do more.

He asked for more weapons, specifically anti-ship weapons, including harpoon missiles, air-defense systems and weapons to destroy armored vehicles and artillery systems.

"Freedom must be armed no worse than tyranny," he said.

He also pressed for more sanctions against Russia, saying new sanction packages must be "introduced weekly, without pause."

"The stronger they are, the sooner we will restore peace," he said.

Zelensky called on Norwegian companies to stop supporting Russia, mentioned a ban on Russian ships from using European ports and asked Norway, a major energy supplier, to contribute to Europe's energy security.

Finally, he asked Norway to invest in rebuilding Ukraine when the invasion is over.

"We must do everything to ensure that a rock like Ukraine is always with Europe," Zelensky said.

Russia, Ukraine Agree on Three Humanitarian Corridors

Three humanitarian corridors are set to open Wednesday in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced, including one to help the tens of thousands remaining in the besieged city of Mariupol.

The corridors will allow Mariupol residents to evacuate to Berdyansk as well as provide evacuation routes for residents of Melitopol and Enerhodar.

"Three humanitarian corridors have been agreed: for evacuation of Mariupol residents and delivery of humanitarian aid to Berdyansk, delivery of humanitarian aid and evacuation of people from Melitopol, as well as for a convoy of people on their own transport from Enerhodar to Zaporizhzhia," Vereshchuk said Wednesday.

Berdyansk and Melitopol residents can also join humanitarian columns to the city of Zaporizhzhia in their own cars. She added that deliveries of humanitarian aid are also en route.

Ukrainian and Russian negotiators met in Turkey for peace talks Tuesday. Ukraine raised the issue of opening humanitarian corridors to the hardest-hit areas.

"Yesterday, during the talks, the Russian delegation received proposals to organize humanitarian corridors to the 97 most affected settlements in the Kharkiv, Kyiv, Kherson, Chernihiv, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Luhansk and Mykolaiv regions," Vereshchuk said. "Today, we will continue to work to get answers to these proposals."

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said those remaining in Mariupol are in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Tuesday, the organization warned "time is running out" as Mariupol citizens have gone weeks without humanitarian assistance.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said up to 100,000 people remain in Mariupol as of Tuesday with no food, water, heat or electricity.

Outskirts of Mariupol
A man walks with his dog near an apartment building damaged by shelling from fighting on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine, in territory under control of the separatist government of the Donetsk People's Republic on March 29. Alexei Alexandrov/AP Photo
Registration center in Zaporizhzhia
Women hug at the registration center in Zaporizhzhia, on March 29. A humanitarian convoy leaving Mariupol -- including ambulances carrying wounded children -- arrived in Zaporizhzhia on March 27. Emre Caylak/AFP via Getty Images
Outskirts of Mariupol
A woman cooks in a yard of apartment buildings damaged by shelling from fighting on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine, in territory under control of the separatist government of the Donetsk People's Republic on March 29. Alexei Alexandrov/AP Photo

U.S. Says Putin is Being' Misinformed' About Russian Military

The U.S. believes Russian President Vladimir Putin "felt misled" by the Russian military, according to a U.S. official.

"We have information that Putin felt misled by the Russian military," the official told reporters. "There is now persistent tension between Putin and the MOD [Ministry of Defense], stemming from Putin's mistrust in MOD leadership."

The official said Putin did not know his military was losing conscripts in Ukraine, which shows "a clear breakdown in the flow of accurate information to the Russian President."

Declassified intelligence indicated that top advisers are "too afraid" to tell Putin the truth about how the Russian military is performing in Ukraine and the impact of western sanctions.

"We believe that Putin is being misinformed by his advisors about how badly the Russian military is performing and how the Russian economy is being crippled by sanctions, because his senior advisors are too afraid to tell him the truth," the official said.

Kyiv Says It Is Training Russian Troops Who Have Changed Sides

Ukraine's defense ministry has said that some captured Russian soldiers have changed sides and are being trained to fight for Kyiv's forces.

In posts on its Telegram channel, Ukraine said that commanders of the "Freedom of Russia" legion were looking into prospective Russian military personnel "who wish to serve."

The Freedom of Russia legion has its own Telegram channel which lists what it says are captured Russian troops who volunteered to join Ukraine's war effort.

Ukrainian news outlets said that joining the legion is voluntary and requires Russian prisoners of war to apply in writing and follow a vetting process by Ukraine's security services.

This has not been verified and Newsweek has contacted Russia's defense ministry for comment. However, there have been numerous reports of low morale among Russian troops.

A viral video shared on social media this week showed disgruntled Russian soldiers in a military vehicle apparently on the way to the Sumy region in northeastern Ukraine, in which one says "what are we doing here?" Read more...

Ukrainian soldiers
Ukrainian soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint in the outskirt of Kyiv on March 28, 2022. Kyiv says captured Russian soldiers are being trained to fight for the Freedom of Russia legion. SERGEI SUPINSKY/Getty Images

U.K. Reveals At Least 8 Russians Affected By 'Golden Visa' Sanctions

At least eight Russian nationals under the U.K.'s "golden visa" scheme were subjected to sanctions in connection with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Home Office revealed Wednesday.

Last month, Home Secretary Priti Patel announced the scrapping of the Tier 1 Investor program, which fast-tracks residency to foreigners investing at least £2m ($2.6m) in the U.K.

In addition to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Patel cited "corrupt elites who threaten our national security and push dirty money around our cities" as a reason to axe the scheme.

As of March 18, eight Russians identified as "golden visa" migrants or migrant dependents were subject to sanctions, according to Baroness Susan Williams, a Home Office minister.

Since the war started on February 24, the U.K. has slapped sanctions on a number of Russian individuals and entities said to have close ties to President Vladimir Putin. These include travel bans and a freezing and seizure of assets.

British Home Office generic shot
A general view of a British Home Office visa and immigration centre on October 12, 2019 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. At least eight Russian nationals under the U.K.’s "golden visa" scheme were subjected to sanctions in connection with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Britain's Home Office has said. Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Did Ukraine Strike an Arms Depot in Belgorod Region of Russia?

Footage on social media has sparked speculation over whether Ukraine hit a target in Russia.

Videos and images of a huge explosion and an ensuing fire were shared extensively on Twitter and Telegram Tuesday next to claims that the cause was a "Tochka-U" strike by the Ukrainian armed forces.

Yury Butusov, a Ukrainian journalist, claimed that a "precision strike" by the Ukrainian long-range missile caused the explosion, citing media reports.

Judging by the explosion and the distance of the warehouse, the 19th missile brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has conducted an effective effort to demilitarize and denazify Russia," the journalist wrote.

But reports by Russian and Ukrainian authorities later appeared to put that narrative into question. So what really happened in the military town near the Russian-Ukraine border? Read more in the Newsweek fact check.

Explosion near Belgorod, Russia
A number of images and videos of an explosion allegedly in the Russian military town near Belgorod spread on social media Tuesday, March 29. Twitter/@NotWoofers

UNICEF Says Two Million Refugee Children Forced To Flee Ukraine

Further to those UN figures that more than four million people had fled Ukraine, is data showing the impact of the war on children.

UNICEF said on Wednesday that two million children, or half of all Ukrainian refugees, have left the country since the start of Russia's invasion.

Over 1.1 million children arrived in Poland, with hundreds of thousands of others reaching Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

More than 2.5 million children are estimated to have been internally displaced in Ukraine. More than 100 children have been killed during the war, and 134 injured although UNICEF said the toll is "likely to be much higher."

UNICEF also expressed concern for children and families unable to leave Ukraine due to "heightened security risks and lack of safe exit routes," rendering them vulnerable to shortages of basic essentials such as food, water, and heat.

Child refugees Ukraine
Children are among those arrive at Przemysl train station in Poland after journeying from war-torn Ukraine on March 30, 2022. UNICEF has said that two million children are among the four million who have fled Ukraine since the start of the invasion. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

Ukraine Says Russia Continues To Shell Chernihiv Despite De-Escalation Pledge

Authorities in Ukraine have accused Russia of continuing to shell Chernihiv, the northern city which only a day earlier Moscow said would be an area in which it planned to scale down its operation.

"Chernihiv was shelled all night," regional governor Vyacheslav Chaus wrote on social media.

Frequent explosions from the direction of Irpin to the northwest of Kyiv, according to AFP, added to doubts whether Russia would honor its pledge to reduce its military activity around the city and north of Kyiv.

Russia said it would de-escalate in the areas following talks in Istanbul.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was skeptical at Russia's plans to ease its military operations in those areas, saying in a Telegram social media post "only a concrete result can be trusted."

Read more...

Chernihiv, Ukraine
The city of Chernihiv is pictured on March 4, 2022. On March 30, 2022, Ukrainian authorities said the city in the north of the country continued to be targeted by Russian forces despite claims from Moscow that it would ease its operation there. DIMITAR DILKOFF/Getty Images

UN Says More than Four Million Have Fled since Start of Invasion

The United Nations has said that more than four million Ukrainians have fled the war in what it said was a "tragic milestone."

The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Wednesday that it is the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two and exceeds the worst-case predictions at the start of the war.

Alex Mundt, the UNHCR senior emergency coordinator in Poland said that "in less than a month or in just about a month, four million people have been uprooted from their homes, from their families, their communities in what is the fastest exodus of refugees moving in recent history."

More than 2.3 million have arrived in Poland, but many have traveled to other countries while more than 608,000 have entered Romania, over 387,000 have gone to Moldova, and about 364,000 have entered Hungary.

Ukrainian refugees
Ukrainian refugees cross from war-torn Ukraine into Poland at the Medyka border crossing on March 29, 2022 in Medyka, Poland. The UN says more than four million Ukrainians have fled their country. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Kremlin Says There Were No Breakthroughs in Istanbul Talks

The Kremlin has played down hopes that there was a breakthrough in the talks between officials from Kyiv and Moscow in Istanbul aimed at ending the war in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday that there was nothing "too promising" from the discussions that took place yesterday.

Ukraine has said it has proposed it adopt neutral status which included a pledge not to host foreign troops in exchange for international security guarantees.

It also proposed a 15-year consultation period on the status of the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

However, Peskov said that Crimea was part of Russia and thus only Moscow could decide on its fate. "There is a lot of work to be done," he said.

Dmitry Peskov
Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov on December 23, 2021, in Moscow, Russia. He has played down claims there was a diplomatic breakthrough between Kyiv and Moscow officials. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

British Defense Ministry Says Russian Forces Are 'Struggling'

Britain's Defense Ministry has said that Russian forces have conceded that its strategy to overwhelm Kyiv has so far failed.

In its daily update, British defense officials said that Russia's statement that it would focus on the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk "is likely a tacit admission that it is struggling to sustain more than one significant axis of advance."

Russia said on Tuesday it would reduce combat areas around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv, which are two areas where Russian troops have struggled to gain any ground.

Moscow said this would help the peace negotiations with Kyiv although analysts have said the real reason was a lack of progress in the areas.

Britain's defense ministry has said Russian logistics have been under strain after units suffering heavy losses had to return to Belarus and Russia to reorganize and resupply.

In its daily update, it tweeted on Wednesday that Russia was having "difficulties" in reorganizing its units" in forward areas within Ukraine." It added that Moscow is likely to "continue to compensate for its reduced ground maneuver capability through mass artillery and missile strikes."

Chernihiv destruction
A residential building damaged in Chernihiv on March 4, 2022. Britain's defense ministry said that Russia's announcement it was no longer focusing on the city was an admission it had failed to gain ground there. DIMITAR DILKOFF/Getty Images