The Russian defence ministry announced a local ceasefire on Thursday to allow civilians to be evacuated from Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol, according to Agence France-Presse. A humanitarian corridor from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, via the Russian-controlled port of Berdiansk, would be opened from 10am (7am GMT), the ministry said on Wednesday.
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has warned that Russia is massing its forces for a big offensive in the eastern region of Donbas. He said Ukraine was “prepared” for it and added that any Russian withdrawal of troops from around Kyiv had been forced by the fierce resistance of Ukrainian troops.
Russia and Ukraine will resume online peace talks on Friday 1 April. A senior Ukraine official said leaders of the two countries, Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskiy, could meet “soon”, but the Kremlin downplayed hopes of an early breakthrough. Ukraine’s president said in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday that “for the moment there are just words, nothing concrete”.
Zelenskiy said he talked to Joe Biden for an hour on another “very active diplomatic day”, thanking the US president for a new $1bn humanitarian aid package and an additional $500m in direct budget support. Zelenskiy said: “The support of the United States is vital for us. And now it is especially important to lend a hand to Ukraine, to show all the power of the democratic world.”
Russian shelling continued on Wednesday despite Moscow saying on Tuesday that it would scale back its attacks around Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv. However, reports citing the Pentagon said that Russian forces were “walking away” from the Chernobyl nuclear plant.
UK, US and EU officials say Putin has been misled over Russian military performance. Putin has received misinformation about how well Russia is doing and how much the sanctions have affected the country because some of those closest to him are afraid to tell him the truth, according to a speech planned by the head of Britain’s GCHQ spy service on Thursday.
Sir Jeremy Fleming is also expected to say that some Russian soldiers are refusing to carry out orders, and that they are poorly equipped and have low morale.
Global restrictions on exports of industrial components to Russia have hit car and tank production. A carmaker has shut down and tank production has halted, according to the US.
Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign secretary, is due to land in India on Thursday to urge Narendra Modi’s government to reduce its strategic dependency on Russia. Her arrival in New Delhi coincides with that of her sparring partner Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, who will be making his first visit since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The UK has announced new laws targeting the access of Russian oligarchs to “UK aviation and maritime technical services”, according to the Foreign Office.
Eight Russian oligarchs on the UK sanctions list over their links to Vladimir Putin were granted “golden visas” to live in Britain. The individuals were granted the right to live in the UK after promising to invest at least £2m under the controversial tier 1 investor visa scheme, the UK government has admitted.
Russian hackers have recently attempted to penetrate the networks of Nato and the militaries of some eastern European countries, according to a report by Google’s threat analysis group. The report did not say which militaries had been targeted in what Google described as “credential phishing campaigns” launched by a Russian-based group called Coldriver, or Callisto.
Slovakia has said it will expel 35 Russian diplomats based on information provided by intelligence services. Fellow EU countries Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland and the Czech Republic have all announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats suspected of spying.
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