The Ukrainian crisis roundup

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March 31 (Reuters) – Ukrainian forces are preparing for new Russian attacks in the east as Moscow builds up troops there after setbacks near the capital Kyiv, said President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who called for Russia to be punished with stronger sanctions. 

FIGHTING

* British military intelligence reports shelling, missile strikes around Chernihiv and heavy fighting in Mariupol, where Ukrainian forces control the city centre. Heavy fighting is expected in Kyiv suburbs in coming days.

*Russian forces regrouping for further attacks, NATO warns.

*Russia recruits 134,000 new conscripts – but they won’t go to Ukraine

* Russia’s defence ministry said it was prepared to observe a ceasefire in Mariupol on Thursday, Russian news agencies reported.

* Nearly 5,000 people have been killed in Mariupol, the mayor’s office estimates, and about 170,000 people remain trapped amid ruins without food, heat, power or running water. Many more have fled. Reuters has been unable to verify the figures.

*14 more people and businesses added to UK’s sanction list. Among those sanctioned are:

  • Aleksandr Zharov, chief executive of Gazprom-Media
  • Alexey Nikolov, managing director of Russia Today (RT)
  • Anton Anisimov, head of Sputnik International Broadcasting

Elsewhere, the man dubbed “the butcher of Mariupol”, Russian colonel-general Mikhail Mizintsev, is added to the list, who is accused of shelling residential targets in the port city.

A Ukrainian serviceman inspects a bomb hole not far from Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine. Russian troops entered Ukraine on 24 February resulting in fighting and destruction in the country, and triggering a series of severe economic sanctions on Russia by Western countries. EPA-EFE/STR

ECONOMY

* Russia demanded oil and gas payments be made in roubles by Friday, and a Russian newspaper said Gazprom was studying options for halting gas supplies. 

* The United States is considering a massive release of oil reserves. The International Energy Agency (IAE) will hold an emergency meeting on Friday.

DIPLOMACY

* Russia and Ukraine are to resume peace talks online on April 1, said a senior Ukrainian official. 

* Vladimir Putin believes conditions for ceasefire in Ukraine ‘not mature’ yet, Italian PM says

* Russian President Putin was misled by advisers who were too scared to tell him how poorly the war in Ukraine is going and how damaging Western sanctions have been, a U.S. official said, citing declassified intelligence. 

HUMANITARIAN CONCERNS

* A convoy of Ukrainian buses set out for Mariupol to try to deliver humanitarian supplies and bring out trapped civilians, the deputy prime minister said. 

* Russia may have committed war crimes by killing civilians and destroying hospitals in its pounding of Ukrainian cities, the top United Nations human rights official said. 

*Sweden to set aside more than $1 billion for Ukrainian refugees

QUOTES

* “We cook what we find among neighbours. A bit of cabbage, a bit more of potatoes, we’ve found tomato paste, some beetroot,” said former steel worker Viktor from Mariupol.

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