Ukraine News: Russian Journalist Oksana Baulina Killed in Kyiv

Live Updates

Today is Day 28 of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

  • The U.S. government formally declared that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced.
  • President Joe Biden is in Europe where he will attend three summits with world leaders Thursday.
  • Vladimir Putin won't rule out using nuclear weapons if Russia faces an "existential threat," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov tells CNN.
  • Russian troops are moving in from the north and south to "envelop Ukrainian forces in the east of the country," according to British intelligence.
  • About 100,000 civilians remain in the besieged city of Mariupol with little food and water, Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky warns. 7,000 escaped on Tuesday.
AF1 in Brussels
U.S. President Joe Biden steps off Air Force One as he arrives at Melsbroek military airport in Brussels. Olivier Matthys/AP Photo

Russian Journalist Oksana Baulina Killed in Kyiv

Russian journalist Oksana Baulina was killed in Kyiv during shelling by Russian forces, The Insider said Wednesday.

"She was filming the destruction after Russian troops shelled the Podolsk district of the capital," The Insider wrote.

Baulina was reporting for The Insider in Ukraine and covered stories from Lviv and Kyiv. The outlet is an independent Russian news website.

Oksana Baulina
The Insider

"Before joining our media project, Oksana worked as a producer for the Anti-Corruption Foundation," the outlet wrote. "After the organization was listed as an extremist organization, she had to leave Russia in order to continue reporting on Russian government corruption for The Insider."

The Insider sent its deepest condolences to Baulina's loved ones.

Baulina tweeted a photo on February 23, the day before Russia's invasion, saying "war is not a mistake, war is a crime."

Ukraine Warns of Global Food Crisis

Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on world leaders to take further action against Russia as the invasion could "push the whole world into a food crisis."

In a video, the ministry warned that supply chains are in danger, grain harvest is jeopardized, and Ukraine's primary trade route is blocked.

"Russian forces are also blocking hundreds of ships carrying grain exports in the Black Sea," the ministry said in the video. "This is Ukraine's primary trade route, accounting for up to 70% of exports and imports."

Ukraine exports 10% of the world's wheat, 16% of corn and 55% of sunflower oil. Concern of global food insecurity has been growing, especially among the poorest countries.

"Putin's appetite for war risks leaving millions dying of hunger," the ministry said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also called on the world to impose sanctions on Russian oil and gas, continue pressuring global corporations to leave Russia, close all ports to Russian vessels, ban E.U. ships from Russian ports and close the sky over Ukraine.

Biden Lands in Brussels for Series of Summits

U.S. President Joe Biden arrived in Brussels late Wednesday night for a series of summits with world leaders surrounding Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Air Force One landed in Belgium just after 9 p.m. local time. Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo greeted Biden on the tarmac of the Melsbroek military airport in Brussels.

AF1 in Brussels
U.S. President Joe Biden steps off Air Force One as he arrives at Melsbroek military airport in Brussels. Olivier Matthys/AP Photo

"Welcome to Brussels, President Biden," De Croo tweeted. "Your presence in Europe is a strong signal of transatlantic unity in the face of Russia's brutal aggression in Ukraine."

Biden has a packed agenda Thursday as he meets with the G7, NATO leaders and the European Council. The U.S. and its allies are expected to announce additional sanctions against Russia tomorrow.

Biden in Brussels
U.S. President Joe Biden smiles as he is greeted by Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, left, on arrival at Melsbroek military airport in Brussels. Olivier Matthys/AP Photo
Biden in Brussels
President Joe Biden talks on the tarmac after arriving at Brussels National Airport before attending meetings with NATO and EU allies on March 23, 2022. Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Fires Burn Around Chernobyl, Raising Radiation Fears

Firefighters are still working to extinguish several wildfires near the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Wednesday, Ukraine told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Seven fires were recorded on satellite imagery from the European Space Agency, Ukraine's Parliament said Monday. Parliament blamed Russia for causing the fires and raised concern of radiation risks.

"Slight increases in caesium air concentrations detected in Kyiv and at two nuclear power plants, but they did not pose significant radiological concerns," IAEA said Wednesday.

"I remain gravely concerned about the safety and security of the nuclear facilities in Ukraine," IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a video Wednesday.

"As I have stated many times, there is an urgent need to conclude an agreed framework to preserve nuclear safety and security in Ukraine by establishing a clear commitment to observe and respect the seven indispensable pillars for ensuring nuclear safety and security," he said.

"Intensive consultations have been ongoing for many days now, but a positive outcome still eludes us. Despite this, the distressing situation continues and the need to prevent a nuclear accident becomes more pressing with each day that passes."

Russian forces took control of the site one month ago.

'The Zelensky Tee' Selling on Multiple Sites

As Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky fights to save his country, his fashion choices are sparking online sales and generating funds to aid Ukrainians.

Zelensky often appears in olive green, specifically an olive green t-shirt displaying the Ukrainian Armed Forces symbol. Recreations of the shirt are now selling on several sites, including Amazon, Etsy and eBay.

Zelensky
President of Ukraine website

Zelensky has sported the now iconic shirt in multiple video addresses, including during a virtual address to U.S. Congress on March 16.

On Etsy, seller Wayne lists the t-shirt as "Ukrainian President Zelensky Tee, As Seen On TV." He's selling the tee for $31.99 and donating 50% of all profits to Care.org, to provide aid to Ukraine. Wayne told Newsweek that orders have "exploded," especially following Zelensky's address to Congress.

Zelensky to Congress
Members of Congress give Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky a standing ovation before he speaks in a virtual address to Congress in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center Congressional Auditorium in Washington on March 16. Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times via AP, Pool

U.K. Wants to Send More Defensive Lethal Aid to Ukraine

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to work with partners to "substantively" increase defensive lethal aid to Ukraine during a series of summits Thursday in Brussels.

During a phone call Wednesday afternoon, Johnson told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky he will encourage partners to "step up pressure on Putin."

"The Prime Minister set out his intention to use tomorrow's G7 and NATO meetings to increase the pressure on Vladimir Putin's regime and work with partners to substantively increase defensive lethal aid to Ukraine," Johnson's office wrote in a statement.

"Leaders would look to address Ukraine's requests and ensure President Zelenskyy is in the strongest possible position in ongoing peace talks."

Zelensky will address NATO leaders during Thursday's summit in Brussels.

"Received assurances of his support on the eve of tomorrow's important meetings," Zelensky said of the call. "Discussed the course of hostilities and defense assistance to Ukraine. We will win together."

IOM to Send Cash to Displaced Ukrainians

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched a cash program in Ukraine to support the most vulnerable displaced in Ukraine by Russia's invasion. The U.N. migration agency estimates some 6.5 million people have fled their homes and relocated to other areas in Ukraine.

Among those displaced, Ukrainian officials say about 500,000 have relocated to the Zakarpattia Region. Those in need in that region will be the first to receive assistance through IOM's new program. The agency's goal is to reach 40,000 people in the Zakarpattia Region with cash "transferred to them via the post office and other financial service providers in Ukraine."

"The assistance will be provided to the most vulnerable groups among those internally displaced and host communities, such as pregnant and single women, families with two or more children, persons will disabilities, and the elderly," IOM said in a statement.

Initial funding comes from the U.N. Central Emergency Fund, the European Union, Canada, Germany and the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

U.S. Declares Russian Forces Have Committed War Crimes

The U.S. government has formally determined that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday.

"Today, I can announce that, based on information currently available, the U.S. government assesses that members of Russia's forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine," Blinken said in a statement. "Our assessment is based on a careful review of available information from public and intelligence sources."

Blinken cited numerous reports of Russian attacks "targeting civilians," including on a Mariupol maternity hospital and Mariupol theatre marked with the word "children" in Russian. Blinken previously echoed President Joe Biden's personal opinion that war crimes were committed in Ukraine.

As of Tuesday, local officials reported more than 2,400 civilians have been killed in Mariupol alone, Blinken said.

"As with any alleged crime, a court of law with jurisdiction over the crime is ultimately responsible for determining criminal guilt in specific cases," he said. "The U.S. government will continue to track reports of war crimes and will share information we gather with allies, partners, and international institutions and organizations, as appropriate. We are committed to pursuing accountability using every tool available, including criminal prosecutions."

Up to 15,000 Russian Soldiers Killed, NATO Says

NATO estimates up to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in Ukraine since Russian forces began invading the country nearly one month ago.

The alliance estimates anywhere between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, a senior NATO military official told the Associated Press.

Information from various sources -- Ukrainian officials, Russia and intelligence -- were used to determine the figure, the official said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky continues to praise citizens fighting for the country.

"Once - ordinary Ukrainians, and now - fighters," Zelensky wrote on Facebook. "The men and women who stand up for our country. Everywhere: south, east, north, center, west and abroad. Rise in such a way that the enemy does not believe. I don't believe it's really a reality."

Zelensky's Office Creates Humanitarian Aid Website

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's office created a new humanitarian aid website to help millions of Ukrainians impacted by Russia's invasion.

The website, help.gov.ua, aims to simplify the process, allowing anyone to provide or receive humanitarian aid. Ukraine has received more than 100,000 tons of humanitarian aid over the past two weeks, Zelensky's office said.

"On the website you can learn how to buy, how to send and whom to address humanitarian aid," Zelensky said. "This is for everyone who wants to join. For anyone who can help. In Ukraine and in the world. So that the aid is sent constantly, 24/7."

Zelensky’s Office Creates Humanitarian Aid Website
help.gov.ua

Over 3.6 Million Refugees Have Fled Ukraine

Ukrainian refugee numbers continue to skyrocket as Russia's invasion nears one full month.

More than 3.6 million refugees have fled Ukraine into neighboring countries in 27 days, the United Nations estimates. The U.N. has estimated the number could reach four million.

Where refugees are going, by country:

  • Poland: 2.1 million
  • Romania: 555,020
  • Moldova: 371,100
  • Hungary: 324,400
  • Russia: 271,250
  • Slovakia: 256,840
  • Belarus: 4,940

*Estimates above provided by UNHCR as of 3/22

Ukrainian refugees
Ukrainian refugees pass the border crossing in Medyka, southeastern Poland, on March 23. Sergei Grits/AP Photo

"The thing that was most striking was not only the volume of refugees that were coming across all of the borders in the neighboring countries, but just the sheer lack of men," UNHCR Head of Global Communications Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams said.

The crisis shows that anyone can be become a refugee, she said, adding the fast response to support Ukrainians fleeing their country provides hope.

"It shows us that there is the capacity for more compassionate, organized, manageable asylum across Europe and across the world."

Video Shows What's Left of Mariupol

Aerial footage shows widespread destruction across the besieged city of Mariupol, where efforts continue to evacuate residents Wednesday.

Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's Parliament, shared the video, repeating calls for a no-fly zone over the country.

"Russian forces continue wiping out Mariupol," Verkhovna Rada said. "People remain under siege without water, food, and medicine. We demand ensuring the security of humanitarian corridors for Mariupol! Stop genocide against the Ukrainian people!"

In a video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said more than 7,000 Mariupol residents were rescued Tuesday, "despite all the difficulties."

Zelensky explained that repeated attempts to organize humanitarian corridors for Mariupol residents have been disrupted by Russian forces over the past week. As of Tuesday, around 100,000 people remain in the city.

Zelensky's remarks:

"I am grateful to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece who was the first European official to decide to support the work of our humanitarian corridors in Mariupol. To evacuate our people from the city and bring in humanitarian aid, which is crucially important for everyone.

As of today, there are about a hundred thousand people in the city. In inhumane conditions. In a complete blockade. No food, no water, no medicine. Under constant shelling, under constant bombing.

For more than a week now, we have been trying to organize stable humanitarian corridors for Mariupol residents. And almost all our attempts, unfortunately, are disrupted by the Russian occupiers. By shelling or deliberate terror.

Today, one of the humanitarian columns was simply captured by the occupiers. On the agreed route near Manhush. SES employees and bus drivers were taken prisoner.

We are doing everything we can to free our people and unblock the movement of humanitarian aid. That is why I am grateful when a high-level representative of a European state agrees to personally join the humanitarian mission.

We expect the implementation of this plan by the Greek Foreign Minister in the coming days.

Despite all the difficulties, 7,026 Mariupol residents were rescued today.

Tomorrow we will continue this important work."

U.K. Calls on YouTube to Remove Russia's 'Doctored' Videos

The U.K. Ministry of Defense is calling on YouTube to remove videos "doctored" by Russia.

"The doctored clip asserts that the U.K.'s supply of NLAWS to Ukraine have "often failed," the ministry wrote in a letter Tuesday. "Our NLAWS have not failed, this is factually incorrect."

"The doctored clip also purports to show the Defence Secretary saying that the U.K. is "running out of our own" [supplies]. This is again, factually incorrect. We have no supply shortages."

The ministry asked YouTube to take down or block access to videos spewing Russian disinformation.

"Disseminated to try and sap the morale of a people fighting for their freedom," the ministry said.

NATO to Double Battlegroups in Eastern Europe

NATO will double the number of deployed battlegroups amid its effort to "significantly" reinforce the alliance's Eastern flank, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

The alliance will deploy four more battlegroups to Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia. The additional moves will be discussed by NATO leaders during Thursday's summit in Brussels.

"We are ready and we are there to protect and defend allies," Stoltenberg said during a press conference, saying forces are being bolstered by air, land and sea.

NATO leaders will also discuss the "more long-term consequences" during Thursday's summit.

NATO summit preview
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference ahead of a NATO summit at NATO headquarters in Brussels on March 23. Olivier Matthys/AP Photo

Zelensky to Address NATO Leaders Thursday

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address NATO leaders Thursday during an "extraordinary" summit in Brussels.

"I look forward to welcoming President Zelensky who will address us during that meeting," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a press conference Wednesday.

NATO leaders will reaffirm support to Ukraine Thursday, Stoltenberg said. He also expects leaders will agree to strengthen NATO's posture "in all domains," with major increases to forces in the Eastern part of the alliance. Leaders will additionally discuss concerns of biological and chemical weapons use by Russia and China's role in the war.

"China has provided Russia with political support, including by spreading blatant lies and disinformation... allies are concerned that China could provide material support for the Russian invasion," Stoltenberg said.

Also Thursday, the G7 will meet for a summit followed by a meeting of the European Council. Zelensky called the three summits "important," during a video address Wednesday.

"New sanctions packages, new aid," Zelensky said. "We will work, we will fight in any way we can. Till the end. Bravely and openly. At all these sites. With full energy."

The U.S. and its partners will announce a new sanctions package on Thursday, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said earlier this week.

Joe Biden Leaves Washington for High-stakes Visit to Europe

U.S. President Joe Biden departed from Washington on Wednesday morning on his way to Brussels for a high-stakes meeting with NATO allies to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Biden spoke to reporters before leaving Marine One departure from the White House at 8.40 a.m. ET for a trip that will also include talks with European leaders on Thursday and a visit to Warsaw for a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda on Friday.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden will attend an emergency NATO summit, meet with G7 leaders and address the 27 leaders of the European Union at a session of the European Council.

Biden and his team were looking to impose sanctions on members of the Russian parliament, the Duma, in retaliation for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which may be announced on Thursday, Reuters reported.

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden walks towards members of the press prior to a Marine One departure from the White House on March 23, 2022 in Washington, DC. Biden will hold high stakes talks with alliance members on March 24, 2022. Alex Wong/Getty Images
President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden walks towards members of the press prior to a Marine One departure from the White House on March 23, 2022 in Washington, DC. President Biden is traveling to Europe to meet with NATO and EU leaders to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Alex Wong/Getty Images

NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg: Kremlin Must Stop 'Nuclear Saber-rattling'

NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that Russia must stop making nuclear threats, following comments by the Kremlin that it would not rule out using such weapons.

Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday that the alliance had a "responsibility" to ensure that the war did not go beyond Ukraine's borders but said that Moscow must stop its "nuclear saber-rattling."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN on Tuesday that Russia would not rule out using nuclear weapons if it faced "an existential threat".

Stoltenberg described Moscow's nuclear threat as "dangerous and irresponsible" and said "we are determined to do all we can to support Ukraine."

Stoltenberg's press conference comes a day before U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with alliance members in the Belgian capital.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a press conference at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on March 23, 2022. He told the conference Russia must stop "nuclear sabre-rattling." THOMAS COEX/Getty Images

Ex-Deputy PM of Russia Reportedly Leaves Country Over War

Prominent politician Anatoly Chubais has reportedly left Russia due to his opposition to the war in Ukraine.

Chubais, 66, who helped steer Russia through economic reforms in the 1990s was one of the few officials from that era that stayed in the government of Vladimir Putin when he first became president in 2000.

A former deputy prime minister, his latest post was special presidential envoy for relations with international organizations.

Bloomberg reported that he left the country over his opposition to the invasion, making him the highest level official to break with the Kremlin over the war in Ukraine.

Two sources who know Chubais told Russian business newspaper RBC that he is already in Turkey. Kira Yarmish, who is a spokesperson for jailed opposition figure Alexei Navalny, tweeted that Chubais "left Russia only out of fear for his own skin and his own money."

Last week, Putin increased pressure on critics of the war, saying he would cleanse Russia of the "scum and traitors" who he accuses of working for the U.S. and its allies.

Anatoly Chubais, former Putin ally
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) listens to Anatoly Chubais in Chelyabinsk, Russia, December 5, 2016. Chubais has reportedly left Russia in protest over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russian State TV Panelist Says 'this Is Going to Be a Nuclear War!'

TV show panelists on Russian state television have openly discussed the prospect of a nuclear strike on Europe and setting up a corridor to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, located between Poland and Lithuania.

Maria Avdeeva, founder of the European Expert Association which deals with Ukraine's security challenges, tweeted on Tuesday a clip of the exchange that took place on Russia's Channel 1 which has a huge audience.

"There is a simple thing we need to tell Europe," the panelist said, "you will get a nuclear strike if you gather some kind of a peacekeeping contingent by NATO."

"This is going to be a nuclear war!" he added in the clip which as of Wednesday afternoon had been viewed online more than 1.7 million times.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin caused international alarm when he put Russia's nuclear forces on high alert days into the invasion of Ukraine.

Russian Forces Limiting Their Attacks, Experts Say

U.S. intelligence sources have told Newsweek that Russian forces are killing fewer civilians and causing less damage than they could.

Dozens of cities and towns have fallen in Ukraine since the start of the war on February 24 and Russia has been condemned for the destruction and numbers of dead it has caused.

However, experts said Russia has in fact carried out limited attacks, possibly paving a way for President Vladimir Putin to take enough territory to negotiate with, without being so destructive as to provoke stronger calls for NATO and U.S. intervention.

"The heart of Kyiv has barely been touched," a senior analyst working at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said, "and almost all of the long-range strikes have been aimed at military targets."

Destroyed building Ukraine
Ukraine soldiers inspect the rubble of a destroyed apartment building in Kyiv on March 15, 2022. Military experts have told Newsweek that the destruction caused by Russia could have been worse and that Moscow's forces are holding back. FADEL SENNA/Getty Images

Meanwhile a retired Air Force officer said that while there is considerable destruction in the south and east of Ukraine, Russia has been showing restraint in its long-range attacks.

"We are not seeing the real conflict," he said, "if we merely convince ourselves that Russia is bombing indiscriminately."

In the first 24 days of the war, Russia flew 1,400 strike sorties and delivered 1,000 missiles, which was less than what the U.S. did in the first day of the 2003 Iraq war. Read more...

Russia Says Troops in Ukraine Can Be Called Veterans Even If They Can't Call It a War

The Russian parliament has passed a law which gives combat-veteran status to Russian troops fighting in Ukraine, even though calling it a "war" is prohibited.

Deputies of the State Duma unanimously adopted a bill on Wednesday recognizing as veterans those fighting in what Moscow calls a "special operation" in Ukraine.

State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the law will allow those who fought in the campaign to access a number of social benefits.

It would apply to those who took part in the campaign in Ukraine and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR) in the Donbass region.

One of the bill's authors, Andrey Kartapolov said the legislation "will allow us to remain confident that our huge country supports them, and they will feel it," news outlet RBC reported.

In Russia, the word "invasion" to describe the conflict is also prohibited and could result in a heft jail term.

Ukrainian soldier
A Ukrainian soldier walks past a building hit by a Russian rocket in Mykolaiv, southern Ukraine, on March 21, 2022. Russia's lawmakers passed a law recognizing those fighting in Ukraine as veterans even though the word war is banned in the country. BULENT KILIC/Getty Images

Russian Opposition Figures Join Forces Against Putin's War

A group of prominent Russian opposition figures have put aside their differences and joined forces to launch an anti-war committee opposing Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Exiled oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov and Lyubov Sobol, an ally of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, are among vehement critics of President Vladimir Putin who have appeared in a video to condemn the war.

"We all represent different political movements, " said Khodorkovsky who was jailed for eight years on charges widely seen as politically motivated, "we have merged into one anti-war committee, because we believe that our country does not need this war."

"Putin is committing war crimes in Ukraine in the name of Russian citizens. It is crucial to speak up against this war, and to do so loudly," said opposition figure ​Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has been poisoned twice.

The video released Wednesday comes a day after Navalny was sentenced to an additional nine years in a prison colony in a fraud conviction widely criticized by rights groups.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky
Businessman and former jailed Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky is pictured on August 31, 2019 in Venice, Italy. He has appeared in a video with other opposition figures in Russia to criticize the war in Ukraine. Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty

Russian FM Lavrov Says U.S. Wants to Keep Ukraine War Going 'as Long as Possible'

With no breakthrough yet in negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv, Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the U.S. of trying to prolong the military conflict in Ukraine.

He told students in Moscow the talks were "tough" but that Kyiv "constantly changes its position," and added that Washington "wants to keep us in a state of military action as long as possible."

He said on Wednesday that the U.S. considers it "disadvantageous for them for this process to finish swiftly," and claimed Washington was "continuing to pump up Ukraine with weapons."

Lavrov added that Russia needed to "stand firm."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on March 17, 2022. He has accused the U.S. of trying to prolong the conflict in Ukraine. EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/Getty Images

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu Not Seen for 12 Days

The whereabouts of Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu has been the subject of speculation after journalists noted that he had not been seen in public for nearly two weeks.

Dmitry Treschanin from independent outlet Mediazona shared screenshots of articles about Shoigu that appeared on state agency RIA, with the last one being posted on March 11.

Investigative journalists from Agentstvo said that Shoigu, normally a regular fixture in Russian media, had also not been seen together with President Vladimir Putin since a meeting on February 27.

It noted that Shoigu had not been seen in public for 12 out of the 28 days since Russia's invasion.

Its report, also carried by Ukrainian news outlets, said that on 18 March, the Kremlin's website said Shoigu had discussed with Putin what Russia calls the "military operation" in Ukraine. No videos or photos from the meeting were published.

Agentsvo also reported that Russian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov has also not been seen in public since 11 March. Newsweek has contacted Russia's defense ministry for comment.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (R) at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on February 27, 2022. There was speculation on March 23, 2022 over why he has not been seen in public for 12 days. ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/Getty Images

Russia Accidentally Blows Up Own Oil Refinery, Ukraine Claims

Invading Russian forces have reportedly blown up an oil refinery in Ukraine that is owned by the Russia state.

The first reports of the incident came from the governor of Luhansk province—or oblast—Serhiy Haidai on Telegram about 7 p.m. local time (1 p.m. ET) Tuesday.

Russian troops "fired at the Lysychansk plant," Haidai wrote.

English-language Ukrainian newspaper The Kyiv Independent reported that the refinery is owned by Rosneft, the Russian state-controlled oil giant.

Russia Trying To 'Envelop' Ukrainian Forces: Western Intelligence

Britain's Defense Ministry has said that Russia's troops are regrouping ahead of another major push.

In its latest analysis on Wednesday, defense officials said the battlefield across northern Ukraine was "largely static" and that Russian forces are "likely conducting a period of reorganization before resuming large-scale offensive operations."

Russian forces are trying to envelop Ukrainian forces in the east as they advance from the direction of Kharkiv in the north and Mariupol in the south, the update added.

"Russian forces are still attempting to circumvent Mykolaiv as they look to drive west towards Odesa," it said.

'Existential Threat' Could Lead Russia to Use Nuclear Weapons

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov appeared on CNN last night.

Asked by host Christiane Amanpour, under what conditions Russia would use nuclear weapons, Peskov replied: "If it is an existential threat for our country."

On his appearance, he suggested Vladimir Putin could resort to using nuclear weapons if Moscow believed it were facing an "existential threat."

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby called the comments "dangerous" and "not the way a responsible nuclear power should act."

Kirby told reporters that the Pentagon had not yet "seen anything that would lead us to conclude that we need to change our strategic deterrent posture."

On February 28, Putin sparked alarm when he announced he had put his country's strategic nuclear forces on high alert.

Russian Colonel Alexei Sharov Killed, Ukraine Says

Colonel Alexei Sharov
Russian Colonel Alexei Sharov was reportedly killed by Ukrainian forces, the Ukrainian defence ministry has said. Reports have suggested that Russia has lost as many as 15 generals during its invasion of Ukraine. Twitter

Good morning...

Ukraine has reportedly killed another Russian commander overnight.

Colonel Alexei Sharov, who commanded the 810th Guards Separate Order of Zhukov Brigade in the Russian Marines, was reportedly killed in the southern city of Mariupol, where about 100,000 civilians remain trapped and under siege.

The death was revealed in a Telegram post by Odessa military administration spokesman Sergey Bratchuk about 9 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET).

"The commander of the Russian Marine Brigade was destroyed by our military," said Bratchuk, according to a translation, "and so it will be with anyone...who is trying to kill our children. And they are not forgiven."

Newsweek has contacted Russia's defence ministry for more information. It has not confirmed previous reports about the deaths of its top brass.

It comes amid reports that at least five Russian generals have been killed since the start of the invasion on February 24, according to Ukrainian officials.