Russia-Ukraine latest news: Ukrainian forces launch counter-offensive in Russian-controlled Kherson
Biden ready to use nuclear weapons in ‘extreme circumstances’
The chemical and biological weapons Russia could use in Ukraine
Ukrainian forces have launched a counter-offensive in Kherson, the only major city currently under the control of Russian troops.
A US defence official said Russian control in Kherson appeared to be waning as Ukrainian troops fight back.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "The Ukrainians are trying to take Kherson back, and we would argue that Kherson is actually contested territory again.
"We can't corroborate exactly who is in control of Kherson but the point is, it doesn't appear to be as solidly in Russian control as it was before."
They added that if Ukrainian forces manage to regain control of the city, which is located at the mouth of the Dnieper river, Russian troops around Mikolaiv would be "sandwiched" between Ukrainian forces defending Mikolaiv and those in Kherson.
The official said: "That would make it very, very difficult for them to make any kind of ground movement on Odesa. That would be a significant development, no question about that, in terms of the southern part of the war."
Follow the latest updates below.
Zelensky tweeting about his conversation with Turkey's president Erdogan
Talked to @RTErdogan about the results of the #NATO summit. Exchanged assessments of the current diplomatic efforts. Discussed the threat of the food crisis and ways to prevent it. I am grateful to Turkey for its support.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) March 25, 2022
UK to fund 2 million pounds of food supplies for encircled Ukrainian cities
Britain said on Saturday it would fund 2 million pounds worth of vital food supplies for areas of Ukraine which are encircled by Russian forces following a direct request from the Ukrainian government.
Just over a month after Moscow invaded Ukraine in what it describes as a "special military operation", Russian troops have failed to capture any major Ukrainian cities and have resorted to pounding them with artillery and air strikes.
"The need on the ground in Ukraine is clear, with so many people in encircled areas trapped in basements without access to food or water," Alice Hooper, the British Foreign Office's Humanitarian Adviser, said in a statement.
"We are working with partners at the borders to ensure these vital UK supplies reach the places they are needed most as quickly as possible."
Ukraine to build temporary housing for displaced citizens
Ukraine will build temporary housing for its displaced citizens, The Kyiv Independent reports.
“Once we achieve peace, we will begin immediate large-scale reconstruction of our country. But now people need a temporary home,” the newspaper quotes President Volodymyr Zelensky as saying.
⚡️Ukraine to build temporary housing for internally displaced people.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a recent address that the government was tasked with constructing temporary housing for Ukrainians evacuated from the hot spots of Russia’s war.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) March 25, 2022
EU leaders struggle to find short-term fix for energy crunch
EU leaders failed on Friday to agree a short-term solution to the energy market crunch made worse by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but did offer a compromise for Spain where spiralling fuel prices have led to 12 days of trucker blockades.
An intense debate on whether to cap energy prices, pitting some southern countries against Germany and the Netherlands, pushed the second day of an EU summit into the evening, with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at one point walking out of the meeting room.
In the end, they settled on trade-off and left a number of issues unresolved.
The war in Ukraine has pushed energy prices to record highs and prompted the European Union to seek to cut Russian gas use by two-thirds this year, by finding gas elsewhere and boosting renewable energy.
While the Mediterranean rim states pressed for a cap on wholesale gas prices to shield poorer households, opponents said this would entail public cash subsidising fossil fuel generation.
Seven Russian generals killed in Ukraine named
Western officials on Friday named seven Russian generals they said had so far been killed, and another who had been sacked, during the war in Ukraine.
The latest to die, Lieutenant General Yakov Rezanstev, was a commander of Russia's 49th Combined Arms Army in its southern military district, an official disclosed.
Meanwhile, Russian Army Commander General Vlaislav Yershov, of the 6th Combined Arms Army, was identified as the general sacked earlier this week by the Kremlin.
It has been reported his abrupt dismissal was due to the heavy losses and strategic failures seen during the Russian military's month-long invasion of its neighbour.
Among the others said to have been killed is General Magomed Tushaev, of the Chechen Special Forces deployed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.
The number of both rank-and-file Russian troops and senior officers allegedly killed in the month-long war has shocked Western military and security officials.
It has been blamed in part on communications and logistics issues, leading senior officers to use unencrypted channels which has exposed them to Ukrainian forces.
Fitch withdraws Russia's ratings to comply with EU sanctions
Fitch said on Friday it has withdrawn Russia's ratings to comply with European Union sanctions, after the rating agency downgraded the country's rating to "junk" territory earlier this month.
Aggressive sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine have targeted several banks and businesses, crippling the country's economy and prompting the Russian rouble's free fall.
Investors and experts are also concerned Russia could be plunged into a debt default, as its economic institutions face unprecedented sanctions.
Earlier this week, Fitch also said it would withdraw ratings on all Russian entities and their subsidiaries before April 15, the deadline set by the EU.
US to sanction Russian firms providing tech to Moscow's military, reports WSJ
The Biden administration is preparing sanctions targeting Russian companies it says provides goods and services to Moscow's military and intelligence services, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The US Treasury Department sanctions could be announced as early as next week, the report said, citing US officials.
The Treasury Department declined to comment on the report.
Most of the companies that are expected to come under the reported sanctions - including Serniya Engineering and equipment maker Sertal - were earlier added to a US list banning exports of sensitive technologies to them, according to the report.
While that blackballs the firms, it does not ban all business dealings, the report added.
Russia prepares to scale back invasion of Ukraine
The Kremlin has given the first indication that it plans to scale back its invasion of Ukraine as an army chief said its "main goal" was now the "liberation" of the Donbas region on the eastern border with Russia, Dominic Nicholls, Gordon Rayner and Rozina Sabur write.
Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoy said the "main objectives of the first stage of the operation have generally been accomplished", even though Vladimir Putin has previously said he wanted to take Kyiv, the capital, and topple Volodymyr Zelensky's government.
Col-Genl Rudskoy, the first deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, added that "the combat potential of the armed forces of Ukraine has been considerably reduced, which ... makes it possible to focus our core efforts on achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbas".
It is the first sign that the Kremlin may be looking for a way to end the military campaign – and present the war as a success to its domestic audience – and backs up Western intelligence briefings which have said the Russian army is seriously depleted after a month of fighting that has been much harder than it expected.
Read more: Kremlin says it will focus on ‘liberation’ of Donbas region
Ukrainian refugees from Moldova arrive via air bridge in Germany
The first 134 of 2,500 Ukrainian refugees who Germany promised to receive from Moldova arrived on Friday, and were met by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the airport in Frankfurt.
The government of Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, had asked other nations for help to deal with the mass influx of Ukrainian refugees.
"We are in a situation where as of today, already 4 million people have fled from Ukraine and we need to assume that this is going to go up to 8 to 10 million. And none of the border countries can shoulder this alone," Baerbock said.
Other countries were joining Germany to fly refugees out of Moldova, she said.
"We have now been assured of agreements to take 14,000 people across Europe."
Pictured: War rages on across Ukraine
Foreign Office apologises for Ukrainian email leak
The Foreign Office has apologised after it accidentally shared the email addresses of dozens of Ukrainian people seeking refuge in Britain.
It failed to mask recipients' email addresses when it delivered a mass message asking relevant parties whether they had been able to leave Ukraine.
The email was sent to 42 inboxes on March 20.
Sam, from Kyiv, told the BBC Radio 4's PM programme that it was a "huge security risk" that could see people targeted by the Russian state.
"I would say we have had a weak form of generic apology, with... no action, no real formal apology, no real public apology. Nothing that is putting my mind at rest," he said.
Kremlin to focus on 'complete liberation' of Donbas in sign of invasion scale-back
The Kremlin may be looking for a way to pull back its exhausted army from Ukraine by scaling back its focus to the east of the country, a senior Russian general has hinted.
Speaking alongside two other top generals at a briefing in Moscow, Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoy also admitted that the military had taken heavy casualties.
He said that the military's primary aim had always been to secure a stronger foothold in eastern Ukraine, even though Vladimir Putin has previously said that he wanted to capture Kyiv and to topple the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky.
"The main objectives of the first stage of the operation have generally been accomplished," the first deputy chief of the Russian General Staff said.
"The combat potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been considerably reduced, which ... makes it possible to focus our core efforts on achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbas."
Russia using 'old methods of warfare', says Ukrainian intelligence chief
The Russian army is using "old methods of warfare" against Ukrainian forces, the head of Ukraine's defence intelligence agency GUR said on Friday.
Speaking to The Nation, Brigadier General Kyrylo Budanov said that Ukrainian forces have benefited from "miscalculations" made by the Russians.
He said: "Russian command has made miscalculations many times, and we use these miscalculations.
"The Ukrainian army has shown that the Russian army as the second army in the world is a big myth, and it's just a medieval concentration of manpower, old methods of warfare."
He also said that Ukrainian forces have benefited from having "lots of informers within the Russian army" and within "their [Russia's] political circles and their leadership".
France, Turkey and Greece working on 'humanitarian operation' for Mariupol evacuations
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that France was working with Turkey and Greece on a "humanitarian operation" to evacuate people from the besieged city of Mariupol.
"We are going to work with Turkey and Greece to launch a humanitarian operation to evacuate all those who wish to leave Mariupol," Macron said, following an EU summit in Brussels.
"I will have a new discussion with President Vladimir Putin within the next 48 to 72 hours to work out the details and secure the modalities," he said.
Mr Macron added that he hoped to be "in a position" to carry out the evacuation "in the next few days".
'Putin's failures may be making future wars less likely'
The Russian President wanted to create a new world order, but has he inadvertently built the opposite, asks military historian and defence analyst Chris Newton?
The renewed Russian invasion of Ukraine has, rightly, resulted in widespread condemnation and outrage by the international community. Many countries have imposed sanctions on Russia, including individual sanctions on members of the regime and oligarchs linked to President Vladimir Putin, Western countries phasing out Russian oil and gas imports, and Russian banks being removed from the Swift financial payment messaging system.
The fury of the international response and sheer scale of the sanctions have been immense and striking. This prompts the question of whether a precedent is being set here and a shift in international relations is taking place. Putin wanted to create a new world order where the use of force and border changes would be the norm, but has he inadvertently created the opposite world? Is there a new international consensus emerging that considers the large-scale use of force morally abhorrent and too costly? Will there be ‘a new birth of freedom’?
The costs Russia is currently suffering does give leaders cause to think twice before starting a war in the future. Putin’s invasion has left him relatively isolated. Furthermore, far from showcasing Russian military prowess, Putin has exposed its weaknesses, and it’s hard for the rest of us to see Russia in quite the same way again.
Read Dr Newton's full article here
Russians who post 'fake' information about war online face 15 years in jail
Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill that condemns people who publish "fake" information about Russia's military operations abroad, including in Ukraine, to face jail terms of up to 15 years.
The bill, adopted by Moscow's parliament this week, set out jail terms and fines for people who publish "knowingly false information" about Russian action abroad.
If the so-called false information "caused serious consequences", it is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
The new bill expands on a law passed earlier this month that allows for the same jail sentence for publishing false information about the Russian military.
Pictured: Families' grief as Ukrainian soldiers laid to rest
Russia and China must tell N. Korea to avoid further 'provocations'
Russia and China should warn North Korea to avoid further "provocations" after it resumed its intercontinental ballistic missile testing this week.
The US state department called it a "brazen" move.
State department spokesman Jalina Porter told a news briefing: "China and Russia should send a strong message to [North Korea] to refrain from additional provocations".
Russia ‘abducting Ukrainian civilians’ in attempt to assert control over occupied areas
Ukrainian civilians are being abducted and transported into regions controlled by Russia, as the invading force struggles to quell resistance in captured towns, the UN has said.
The Russian military is feared to be increasingly deploying kidnap tactics to assert control over occupied areas, including by targeting individuals known to hold pro-Ukrainian views.
The UN's Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNOHR) said on Friday it had now verified at least 36 cases of civilian detentions.
A spokesman for the UNOHR told the BBC that families of the abducted individuals were often denied any information about their fate.
They added that those being targeted "are mostly representatives of local communities, journalists and people who were vocal about their pro-Ukrainian positions".
Russia is focusing on eastern Ukraine, says US defence official
The US sees Russia focusing on eastern Ukraine's Donbas region, rather than the capital Kyiv, in what could be an effort to cut off Ukrainian forces in the area from the rest of the country, a senior US defence official has said.
Russia said earlier on Friday that the first phase of its military operation in Ukraine was almost complete, and would move to focus on the "complete liberation" of the Donbas.
The senior US official suggested Russia's activities on the ground appeared to back up Moscow's announcement.
"They are prioritising it and we concur, our information would concur, with that," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters.
The official added that the US considered Russia to be acting more aggressively in the Donbas, saying: "They have certainly made it a higher priority on their list".
French museums provide Ukraine with emergency supplies to protect art
A number of French museums have donated emergency supplies to Ukrainian museums to help them protect their art collections against potential destruction during the war.
Institutions including the Louvre, the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France have donated supplies.
A van carrying 15 tonnes of protective materials, such as crates, bubble wrap, fire extinguishers and blankets, left Paris earlier this week for Warsaw, where Polish professionals are organising relief efforts to help Ukraine.
The French national committee of the International Council of Museums launched an urgent request for materials from its members on March 8 following a virtual meeting between French and Ukrainian cultural professionals.
Juliette Raoul-Duval, the chair of the Icom France committee, said Ukrainian museums had made particular requests for conservation materials that could be used by museum staff to transport collections into basements or other storage for safety.
Chernobyl staff have not rotated in four days
Workers on shift at Chernobyl's radioactive waste centres have not been rotated in four days, the UN nuclear watchdog has said.
"Ukraine informed the International Atomic Energy Agency today that there had been no rotation of technical staff at [Chernobyl] since 21 March and it did not know when it might next take place," the IAEA said in a statement.
Staff currently on duty replaced a shift of workers that had been on-site for more than three weeks, according to reports by Reuters.
Russian forces destroy Kyiv fuel depot in missile strike
Russian forces have destroyed a major fuel depot outside Kyiv in a missile strike, Russia's defence ministry claimed on Friday.
Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told a briefing that the strike happened on Thursday evening, using Kalibr cruise missiles fired from the sea.
Konashenkov said the depot was used to supply Ukraine's armed forces in the centre of the country.
"On the evening of March 24, Kalibr high-precision sea-based cruise missiles attacked a fuel base in the village of Kalynivka near Kyiv," the Russian defence ministry said.
Konashenkov's remarks have not been verified.
Zelensky holds phone call with Turkey's Erdogan
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Zelensky on Friday, where they discussed the situation in Ukraine and the ongoing negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow.
Erdogan told Zelensky that he had expressed his support for Ukraine's territorial sovereignty at this week's Nato summit, his office said.
While in Brussels on Thursday, Erdogan told reporters that he would be talking to Vladimir Putin this weekend, and would try to convince him to end the war in Ukraine.
“I will look for ways to end this issue by telling him to become an architect for peace and make an honourable exit,” Erdogan said.
Pictured: Destruction in Donetsk
Biden praises Poland for taking in Ukrainian refugees
US President Joe Biden praised Poland on Friday for taking in more than two million Ukrainian refugees amid the war with Russia.
Biden, during a visit to Poland, said the country's assistance to Ukraine is of "enormous consequence" and likened the conflict to "something out of a science fiction movie".
More than 3.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country since the start of Russia's invasion, including around 2.2 million to Poland, according to the UN.
Polish President Andrzej Duda thanked Biden for his support and said Poland sees the Ukrainian people they are helping as their "guests".
"This is the name we want to apply to them," Duda said. "We do not want to call them refugees. They are our guests, our brothers, our neighbours from Ukraine, who today are in a very difficult situation."
Spotify suspends service in Russia
Spotify has suspended services in Russia over the war in Ukraine, The Guardian reports.
A spokesperson for the music streaming platform told the newspaper that Spotify had attempted to "keep our service operational in Russia to provide trusted, independent news and information in the region" but new legislation would further restrict "access to information, eliminating free expression, and criminalising certain types of news" that could put "the safety of Spotify’s employees and possibly even our listeners at risk".
They added: “After carefully considering our options and the current circumstances, we have come to the difficult decision to fully suspend our service in Russia.”
Apple Pay loophole closed in Russia
Apple has suspended its Apply Pay service for Russia's Mir card payment system, closing a loophole that had allowed Russians to keep using the digital payment service.
Apple restricted the use of Apple Pay in Russia on March 1, but Russia's homegrown system, Mir, remained connected to the payment system.
Russia's National Card Payment System (NSPK) said on Friday: "Apple has informed NSPK it is suspending support for Mir cards in the Apple Pay payment service. Starting from March 24, users cannot add new Mir cards to the service. Apple will stop all operations of previously added cards over the next few days".
Russia's largest lender, Sberbank, said that Apple had informed the bank of its decision to further restrict access to its Apple Pay service.
"Further use of Mir cards in Apple Pay will not be available," the bank said.
Polish offer to send fighter jets to Ukraine 'still on the table'
By Nick Squires in Rzeszow, Poland
Poland’s offer to send MiG-29 fighter planes to Ukraine to help take on Russian combat aircraft is “still on the table,” the Polish deputy foreign minister said on Friday.
The offer proved highly controversial when it was first made earlier this month, with the US vetoing it out of concerns that a Nato member supplying war planes to Ukraine, which would then be used to shoot down Russian fighters, would be highly provocative.
Speaking ahead of a visit by President Joe Biden to Warsaw on Saturday, Polish deputy foreign minister Marcin Przydacz said, however, that the offer still stands.
"The offer is on the table still, but it should be the collective decision of the Nato alliance. We as Poland, still do have this post-Soviet MiG aircraft, we are ready to give that to Ukraine, as they want it from us,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme. “It's still being discussed. I believe that it should be (ultimately) our decision based on our interest and on our values, rather than any possible (fear of) reaction.”
He dismissed fears that the delivery of the Polish fighters could inflame tensions with Moscow and potentially broaden the conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders. "I wouldn't say that Russia needs anything to be provoked. They've already invaded the sovereign country of Ukraine without any provocation."
Ukrainian troops counter Russian advance on Chernobyl workers
Ukraine said on Friday that its troops had repulsed a first attack by Russian troops closing in on the town of Slavutych, where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live.
Slavutych sits just outside the so-called exclusion zone around Chernobyl - the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster - where Ukrainian staff have continued to work even after the territory was seized by Russian forces soon after the start of the February 24 invasion.
"Slavutych is completely isolated. The enemy is 1.5 km (one mile) from the town," the Kyiv regional administration said in an online statement.
Soon after the statement was issued, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Ukrainian troops had repulsed a first attack on the town, without giving further details.
Zelensky criticises Ireland for 'almost standing' with Ukraine
By Joe Barnes, Brussels Correspondent
Volodymyr Zelensky criticised Ireland for “almost standing with Ukraine” as he launched an impassioned appeal to EU leaders to accelerate his country’s emergency application to join the bloc.
In an address to a summit of EU leaders in Brussels, Mr Zelensky praised each individual member state for publicly backing his membership bid for Ukraine. Arriving at Dublin, he said: “Ireland, well, almost.”
"Here I am, asking you not to be late. Please," Mr Zelensky added, urging European capitals to approve his request to join the bloc.
Speaking on Friday morning, Michael Martin, Ireland's premier, denied any rifts with Mr Zelensky.
Dublin has maintained its policy of military neutrality throughout the conflict in Ukraine.
"I wouldn't overstate it," Mr Martin said. "Yesterday was an exceptional display of solidarity and unity of purpose between the EU, US and other like-minded democracies."
Ukrainian band offers to perform alongside Ed Sheeran via videolink
By Michael Murphy
A Ukrainian rock band has offered to perform alongside Ed Sheeran via video link from Kyiv at an upcoming concert to raise money for Ukraine.
The popular band, Antytila, were armed and wearing battle fatigues when they appealed to the Grammy award-winning singer in a video on social media.
In an Instagram post, Mr Sheeran, from Suffolk, responded: "Hey guys, I just watched your video this morning, thank you so much for sending it. Firstly I just wanted to say to all Ukrainians, I love you, I stand with you and I'm so proud to be playing this fundraising event next week. I can't wait to check your music out, guys - and I'm sending you lots of love."
The group offered to perform via livestream from Kyiv in order to take part in the Concert for Ukraine, in the Resorts World Arena, in Birmingham, where Mr Sheeran is due to perform on March 29.
The band said: “We are not afraid to play under the bombs. Through music, we want to show the world that Ukraine is strong and unconquered. We will fight and sing for victory in front of the whole world that supports us."
Pictured: Firefighters battle fire in Kharkiv caused by Russian attack
Switzerland adopts more EU sanctions against Russia despite neutrality
Switzerland has adopted more EU sanctions against Russia, despite its historic tradition of neutrality.
The Swiss government said the decision means the export of goods and related services for the Russian energy sector is now prohibited.
"Also prohibited is the participation in businesses active in the energy sector and the provision of loans or other financial resources to such businesses," the government said in a statement.
However, the government has not decided to implement the EU measure of blocking Russian media outlets Sputnik and RT.
"Despite the fact that these outlets are used to spread targeted propaganda and disinformation by the Russian Federation, the Federal Council is of the opinion that it is more effective to counter untrue and harmful statements with facts instead of preventing them from being broadcast," it said.
France summons Russian ambassador over anti-Europe cartoon
The Russian ambassador to France was summoned on Friday to the French Foreign Ministry, after the Russian embassy shared an anti-Europe cartoon on Twitter that was deemed unacceptable.
The Russian embassy in Paris shared a picture on Thursday depicting a body lying on a table called 'Europe' that was being jabbed with needles by characters representing the EU and US.
"These posts are unacceptable. We made that clear today to the Russian Ambassador," the ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters. "We are trying to maintain a demanding channel of dialogue with Russia and these actions are completely inappropriate."
Clement Beaune, France's European Affairs Minister, criticised the post on Thursday, calling it a "disgrace".
The picture has since been removed from the Russian embassy's feed.
Biden ready to use nuclear weapons first in ‘extreme circumstances’
Joe Biden is prepared to use nuclear weapons first in "extreme circumstances" after abandoning plans to drastically water down US policy.
The US president's U-turn came after pressure from allies and the Pentagon and amid fears that Vladimir Putin may resort to deploying weapons of mass destruction in the coming months.
The US currently allows itself to use nuclear weapons to "defend the vital interests of the United States, its allies, and partners", and in response to "significant non-nuclear strategic attacks".
Mr Biden included his desire to minimise the role of nuclear weapons in his 2020 presidential campaign. He was considering announcing the move earlier this year, but the decision was delayed amid the build-up of Russian forces on the Ukraine border, The Telegraph understands.
"In the current situation, it's very challenging to make the case for 'sole purpose'," an arms control expert who consulted with Mr Biden's nuclear policy officials said. "The optics are extremely bad when Russia is being as threatening as it is. You don't want to look weak."
Hungarian PM rejects Zelensky's plea for weapons
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has rejected an appeal by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for weapons and economic sanctions against Russia, saying it would be "against Hungary's interests".
"Hungary wants to stay out of this war, so it will not allow the transfer of arms and weapons to Ukraine," Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said in a statement.
He added that Orban had dismissed Zelensky's requests "because they are contrary to the interests of Hungary".
Orban, who has close ties with Vladimir Putin, claims that the ethnic-Hungarian minority located in the west of Ukraine would be threatened if the country sent weapons to Kyiv.
Despite Hungary's refusal to send military assistance to Ukraine, it has allowed more than half a million Ukrainian refugees to enter the country.
Biden takes selfies with US military in Poland
Polish president arrives to meet Biden after delay
Poland's President Andrzej Duda has now landed at Rzeszow airport in his reserve plane, ready to meet US President Joe Biden, after his original flight was forced to turn back and make an emergency landing in Warsaw earlier today.
Biden had already left the airport so he could meet members of the US military based nearby, but the two leaders will meet later.
JK Rowling responds to Putin's 'cancel culture' comments
JK Rowling has responded to Vladimir Putin's claims that the West is "trying to cancel" Russia in the same way it has cancelled her.
"Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics. #IStandWithUkraine," Rowling said on Twitter.
Putin earlier appeared to draw comparisons between Rowling and his country, accusing the West of “progressive discrimination of everything to do with Russia”.
“They cancelled JK Rowling, the children's author. Her books are published all over the world, all because she didn't satisfy the demands of gender rights,” he said.
“They are trying to cancel our country. I'm talking the progressive discrimination of everything to do with Russia.”
Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics. #IStandWithUkraine https://t.co/aNItgc5aiW
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) March 25, 2022
Russian anti-war TV protester spared criminal charges
Marina Ovsyannikova, the journalist who interrupted a live news broadcast on Russian state TV by brandishing an anti-war poster, has avoided criminal charges under the Kremlin's strict new media laws.
Russia's Interfax news agency said that a court in Moscow has registered Ovsyannikova's case under the administrative offences code, rather than criminal charges - meaning she faces a fine of up to 50,000 roubles (around $500) - for allegedly discrediting Russia's armed forces.
Ovsyannikova, an employee at the Channel One broadcaster, interrupted a news programme on March 14 when she held a sign reading: "No war, stop the war, don't believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here".
She has already been fined 30,000 roubles and was detained and questioned for 14 hours.
She told the BBC it was worth it to stop being a "cog in the Russian propaganda machine".
Polish president's plane forced to make emergency landing
Polish President Andrzej Duda will be late meeting US President Joe Biden this afternoon, because the plane transporting him to the south-east of the country had to turn back and make an emergency landing in Warsaw.
Poland's state-run news agency PAP reports that the president's plane had to return to Warsaw airport shortly after take-off because of a technical issue.
Mr Duda did not face any danger, Reuters quoted his chief of staff as saying.
He was supposed to land at Rzeszow Airport in the south-east of Poland to meet Biden, to discuss the situation in Ukraine.
Five developments you may have missed
A Russian military chaplain has been killed by a Ukrainian rocket attack in southwestern Russia close to the border with Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church said on Friday. Oleg Artyomov was in the village of Zhuravlyovka in Russia's Belgorod region when he "came under shelling from a Ukrainian Smerch (rocket launcher) and died" on Thursday, the Moscow Patriarchate's military department said on social media.
There are fears that a shelling bombardment of Chernobyl nuclear plant staff by Russian troops could trigger another disaster due to increased volatility in the area. The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), expressed "concern" about the development.
Some 300 people are now believed to have died in Russia’s bombing of a theatre sheltering an estimated 1,000 civilians in the flattened Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
The Ministry of Defence has said that Ukrainian counter-attacks on the outskirts of Kyiv have pushed Russian forces more than 20 miles from the capital.
Footage uploaded by the Mariupol city council on social media has highlighted the extent of the destruction inside the Ukrainian city. The harrowing video showed a destroyed power transmission tower, ruined housing blocks and a fitness centre with shattered windows.
Russian army says 1,351 soldiers killed in Ukraine
The Russian army on Friday updated its losses in Ukraine to 1,351 soldiers, while saying that it had evacuated more than 400,000 civilians and condemning Western supplies of weapons to Kyiv.
At a Moscow briefing, senior military officials gave the first update on Russian deaths in weeks, adding that 3,825 soldiers had been wounded.
A senior defence ministry official, Mikhail Mizintsev, said 419,736 civilians had been evacuated to Russia from the separatist eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions, as well as the rest of Ukraine.
Of these, more than 88,000 were children, he said, while 9,000 were foreigners.
Russia’s Ministry of Defence appeared to inadvertently reveal that nearly 10,000 of its soldiers have been killed in Ukraine.
The figure was contained in a report on March 20 by the pro-Kremlin Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, which has since been deleted from the paper’s site. Komsomolskaya Pravda later claimed to have been hacked and said “inaccurate information” had been published.
Watch: US volunteer fighter reveals smoking wreckage of Russian tanks
A US Army veteran fighting as a volunteer in Ukraine has revealed the smoldering remains of several Russian tanks destroyed in a firefight.
James Vasquez, 47, left Connecticut earlier this month to fight alongside Ukrainian forces on the front line.
In a video update of his unit's latest victory, Mr Vasquez pans the camera to show how many Russian armoured vehicles have been destroyed.
He tweeted: “Just went through six straight hours of combat. I have crazy video I’ll post later. Two men were shot but will be ok. One fatality.”
Ukraine repulses first Russian attack on Chernobyl workers' town
Ukraine said on Friday its troops had repulsed a first attack by Russian troops closing in on the town of Slavutych, where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live.
Slavutych sits just outside the so-called exclusion zone around Chernobyl - the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster - where Ukrainian staff have continued to work even after the territory was seized by Russian forces soon after the start of the Feb. 24 invasion.
Kyiv region administration said on Friday Russian troops had drawn closer to Slavutych, which is about 120 km (75 miles) frm the capital, and suggested it was effectively cut off.
"Slavutych is completely isolated. The enemy is 1.5 km (one mile) from the town," it said in an online statement.
Soon after the statement was issued, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Ukrainian troops had repulsed a first attack on the town, without giving further details.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressed alarm on Thursday at reports from Ukraine that Russian troops were shelling Slavutych checkpoints.
Ukrainian region cuts rail links with Belarus to limit supplies to Russian troops
Ukraine's northern Rivne region has suspended its rail links with Russia-allied Belarus to prevent supplies reaching Russian forces in Ukraine, Governor Vitaly Koval said on Friday.
"This means that Russia will no longer be able to deliver military equipment and supplies to the occupiers through the Belarusian railways," he said in an online statement.
Russia's defence ministry said on Friday it has "liberated" 93% of the territory of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, one of two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, the TASS news agency reported.
The ministry earlier said that the main targets of the first phase of what Russia calls its "special operation" in Ukraine had been completed - as the invasion enters its second month.
This is despite the Ukrainian army and defence officials in the UK and US saying Russia had failed to achieve its military objectives, including failing to capture any major city.
War in Ukraine: latest pictures
Ukraine claims another Russian general killed
Ukraine says its forces have killed another high-ranking Russian military official, the latest in a string of Vladimir Putin's military top brass to die in the war.
In a video statement, presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych said Ukraine forces had "killed commander of the 49th Russian Southern District Army, General Yakov Ryazantsev, in a strike on Chornobayivka near Kherson".
Several residents of Kherson, the first Ukrainian city to fall to Russian forces after they attacked Ukraine in the south, have recently told AFP they have heard heavy fighting from Chernobayevka every night.
Ukraine's leader Volodymyr Zelensky said several days ago that Chernobayevka will "go down in the history of warfare".
Arestovych said last week that the commander of the Russian Eighth Army, Russian General Andrei Mordvichev, had been killed, also at the Chornobayivka airfield near Kherson. The presidency claimed he was the fifth top-ranking officer to be killed since the invasion began on February 24.
Putin compares attacks on Russian culture to Nazi book burnings
President Vladimir Putin on Friday took aim at the West for discriminating against Russian culture, saying it was like the ceremonial burning of books by Nazi supporters in the 1930s.
"Today they are trying to cancel a thousand-year-old country - I am talking about the progressive discrimination against everything connected with Russia," Putin said in televised remarks, mentioning Russian music and literature.
"The last time such a mass campaign to destroy unwanted literature was carried out was by the Nazis in Germany almost 90 years ago."
'No intention of using chemical weapons, period', says US
The United States has "no intention" of using chemical weapons under any circumstance even if Russia uses such weapons in Ukraine, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday.
"There will be a severe price if Russia uses chemical weapons. And I won't go beyond that other than to say the United States has no intention of using chemical weapons, period, under any circumstance," he told reporters on board Air Force One.
Mr Sullivan said there was now a "convergence" between Western leaders on what measures to take in case Russia uses chemical weapons and added that the White House had set up a working group on the issue.
"We have made considerable efforts to put ourselves in a position to respond effectively," he said, shortly before a plane carrying US president Joe Biden landed in Poland - around 80 kilometres from the border with Ukraine.
Watch: How Putin’s invasion is stalling as majority of 'dud' bombs fail to explode
Moscow hits back at US over chemical weapons comments
Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov has accused the United States of trying to hide its own plan to build chemical weapons after the US president Joe Biden told a Nato meeting yesterday that he would respond with force if Russia deployed them in Ukraine, James Kilner writes.
"We have already talked about this. How about an attempt to switch attention... against the backdrop of a scandal that is flaring up in the world with biological programs and chemical weapons being carried out by the United States of America in various countries including in Ukraine," he was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.
The Kremlin has accused the US of building chemical and biological weapons factories at sites in Georgia and Ukraine. It hasn't supplied any evidence to back up these accusations and they have been denied by the US.
Russia's defence ministry has also accused president Biden's son, Hunter, of sponsoring the development of chemical and biological weapons at sites in Ukraine and Georgia through his investment fund Rosemont Seneca Partners. He has not responded to the accusations.
Russian military chaplain killed by rocket near Ukraine border, says church
A Russian military chaplain has been killed by a Ukrainian rocket attack in southwestern Russia close to the border with Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church said on Friday.
Oleg Artyomov was in the village of Zhuravlyovka in Russia's Belgorod region when he "came under shelling from a Ukrainian Smerch (rocket launcher) and died" on Thursday, the Moscow Patriarchate's military department said on social media.
More than 20,000 British visas issued for Ukraine families
Some 20,100 visas have been issued under the Ukraine family scheme as of 5pm on Thursday, the Home Office said.
So far 35,500 applications have been submitted, according to provisional data published on the department's website.
Earlier, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he would be welcoming a Ukrainian family.
PM adds to pressure on China to condemn Russia
Boris Johnson has spoken to China's president Xi Jinping about the invasion of Ukraine, Downing Street has said.
The call between the two leaders on Friday morning lasted around 50 minutes, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said.
The spokesman said: "Obviously, the Prime Minister has been talking with a lot of world leaders and quite regularly throughout the course of what has happened in Ukraine.
"This is part of the Prime Minister's wider engagement with world leaders so he can set out our position on where we think the current situation is."
It is understood the PM set out the UK's position on Ukraine and that pressure should be placed on Russian president Vladimir Putin to withdraw troops.
Five developments you may have missed
To get you up to speed, here are five developments from this morning.
Two missile strikes hit Ukrainian military unit: According to the city's governor, there is "serious destruction" after two missile strikes hit a Ukrainian military unit on the outskirts of Dnipro city.
Ukraine is reoccupying defensive positions: In its latest intelligence update, posted on Twitter, UK Ministry of Defence said: "Ukrainian counter-attacks, and Russian forces falling back on overextended supply lines, have allowed Ukraine to reoccupy towns and defensive positions up to 35 kilometres east of Kyiv."
Hundreds of thousands 'forcibly removed' to Russia: Ukraine has accused Moscow of forcibly removing hundreds of thousands of civilians to Russia to pressure Kyiv to give up.
Ex-president says Western sanctions won't sway Kremlin: It is "foolish" to believe that Western sanctions against Russian businesses could have any effect on Moscow, Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian ex-president and deputy head of security council was quoted as saying on Friday.
Gas shipments to help wean Europe off Russian energy: Joe Biden is expected on Friday to announce increased shipments of liquefied natural gas to Europe, part of a long-term initiative to wean the Continent off Russian energy after the invasion of Ukraine.
War in Ukraine: latest pictures
Growing evidence of Mariupol mass graves, says UN
There is increasing information emerging of mass graves in the encircled city of Mariupol, Ukraine, including one that appeared to hold 200 bodies, the head of the UN's human rights team in the country has warned.
"We have got increasing information on mass graves that are there," Matilda Bogner told journalists by video link from Ukraine, saying some of the evidence came from satellite images.
Bogner said that civilian deaths in Ukraine exceeded 1,035, adding that the UN team was probing what appeared to be indiscriminate attacks by both sides in the conflict.
Analysis: The deadliest attacks and atrocities so far
Russia appears to have lost more troops than Ukraine so far in the war, and has killed more civilians than Ukrainian soldiers, initial data suggests.
Around five Russian soldiers have died in the war for every Ukrainian soldier as of March 18, according to Telegraph analysis of a database of conflict reports compiled by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED).
Yet the data also indicates that for every Ukrainian soldier reportedly killed in combat, three civilians have lost their lives as a result of Russian attacks on heavily populated areas.
The analysis draws on a database of reports of deaths compiled by ACLED that so far covers an estimated 2,273 fatalities in Ukraine between February 24 and March 18. The estimates are conservative, with the true loss of life likely much higher.
Listen: The invasion of Ukraine, one month on
Finland suspends train connections to Russia
Finland's national railway operator will suspend services between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg in Russia on Monday, closing one of the last public transport routes to the European Union for Russians.
Given sanctions on Russia, the operator VR had been directed by the state that it was no longer appropriate to run the service to Saint Petersburg, known as the Allegro.
Finland's minister in charge of state holdings Tytti Tuppurainen told the country's Helsingin Sanomat newspaper that one of the reasons for maintaining the services until now was to allow Finns living in Russia to return to Finland.
"Now it is evident that the situation has changed for the Allegro (trains) and the continuation of Allegro traffic is no longer appropriate from the point of view of the state owner," she said.
Trains from Russia to Finland's capital Helsinki have been full of Russians since the invasion of Ukraine began and mutual airspace closures cut off flight connections between Russia and the European Union.
Shelling of Chernobyl nuclear plant staff sparks UN alarm
Chernobyl nuclear plant staff are under shelling bombardment from Russian troops, sparking fears that increased volatility in the area could trigger another disaster.
The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), expressed "concern" about the development, saying Russian forces were shelling Ukrainian checkpoints in the city of Slavutych, the home of many people working at the abandoned Chernobyl plant, "putting them at risk".
Its director-general Rafael Grossi said the incident came "just a few days after technical staff at the Chernobyl (plant) were finally able to rotate and go to their homes in Slavutych and rest after working for nearly four weeks without a change of shift", and warned of forest fires nearby.
Russian forces took control of the plant, the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history in 1986, on February 24. About 100 Ukrainian technicians then continued to run the daily operations at the radioactive site for nearly four weeks without being rotated.
Ukraine's government also said on Wednesday that Russian forces had looted and destroyed a laboratory near the plant which was used to monitor radioactive waste.
Russia denies breaching international law with phosphorus bombs
Russia on Friday said it had "never" violated international legislation after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of using phosphorus bombs in his country.
"Russia has never violated international conventions," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, referring any further questions to the defence ministry.
On Thursday, Mr Zelensky accused Russia of having used phosphorus bombs against civilians in his pro-Western country.
Speaking to a G7 summit in Brussels via videolink, he said that Kyiv had information that Russian troops "used phosphorus bombs against peaceful people in Ukraine".
Kyiv first accused Russia of using phosphorus shells against civilians two weeks after Russian president Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24.
International law prohibits the use of white phosphorus shells in heavily populated civilian areas, although it allows them in open spaces to be used as cover for troops.
India and China for immediate ceasefire in Ukraine - Indian foreign minister
India and China agreed on the importance of an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Friday after holding talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
Both Asian giants consider Russia an ally and have rejected Western calls for condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Russia calls it action a "special military operation".
The two nations have been roundly criticised by world leaders, including at Thursday's emergency Nato summit, for failing to unequivocally condemn Russia for its invasion.
New: At least 300 killed in Mariupol theatre bombing, city officials say
In an emotive statement on Friday morning, Mariupol city council has released a new death toll for the Russian bombing of a theatre housing hundreds of civilians in the city on March 16.
Previously the death toll was unknown but thought to be between 100 and 200. Here's what a city council spokesman said:
Unfortunately, we start this day with bad news. From eyewitnesses, information appears that about 300 people died in the Drama Theatre of Mariupol as a result of a bombardment by a Russian aircraft,” a spokesman for the city council said on Friday morning.
I do not want to believe in this horror…I want to believe that everyone managed to escape. But the words of those who were inside the building at the time of this terrorist act say otherwise.
The Drama Theatre in the heart of Mariupol has always been the hallmark of the city. A place of meetings, dates, a point of reference. ‘Where are you? I’m on Drama.’ How many times have we heard or said this phrase: ‘on the Drama’.
Now there is no more Drama. In its place, a new point of pain for Mariupol residents appeared, ruins that became the last refuge for hundreds of innocent people."
The Drama Theatre was cynically destroyed by the messengers of the ‘Russian world’. These fascists of the 21st century were not stopped either by the huge inscription CHILDREN, or by the statements of the people themselves that there were only peaceful people there - women, children, old people. The occupier knew where he was hitting.
We can restore buildings, but we will never get friends, neighbours, relatives and loved ones back. Blessed memory of all the innocent victims of the insane war waged against Ukraine by the aggressor country, the terrorist country Russia.
Ukrainian city of Chernihiv cut off by Russian forces - regional governor
The northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv has in effect been cut off by Russian forces, the regional governor said on Friday.
"The city has been conditionally, operationally surrounded by the enemy," governor Viacheslav Chaus said on national television, adding that the city was under fire from artillery and warplanes.
Around 150,000 people are stuck in the city with scarce supplies after Russia cut them off from the capital, Kyiv, 100 miles to the south, prompting local officials to bring in drinking water rationing.
Grant Shapps to take in Ukrainian refugee family
British transport minister Grant Shapps said on Friday he had arranged to take in a family of Ukrainian refugees who contacted him on Facebook - a six-year-old boy, his mother, grandmother and the family dog, Max.
Mr Shapps was one of more than 100,000 Britons who have signed up to a government scheme to match those fleeing war in Ukraine with families who can offer them a minimum of six months shelter.
Britain has insisted on security checks and pre-entry visas for those seeking to come from Ukraine, while the European Union, which has land borders with Ukraine, has taken a less restrictive approach.
Mr Shapps said there were some outstanding visa issues to be resolved with the family who contacted him, but he looked forward to welcoming them to his home as soon as possible.
"We had the conversation as a family about this, and of course it means the house is more crowded and there's less room for a desk to study at," Mr Shapps told Good Morning Britain.
"But every time we came to the end of the conversation, we thought 'But look at what's happening to these people, look at what's happening to their home'."
We had to eat a stray dog, say desperate people in besieged Mariupol
It is thought about 2,000 civilians have now been killed in Mariupol. About 100,000 people are trapped there.
Through social media, The Telegraph has been able to contact some remaining residents who have either left in recent days or remain trapped. One claimed they had been forced to eat a stray dog to stave off hunger.
Alexandr Volodko, 21, a student, said: “We spotted a stray dog, it was already not doing well. We were so desperate we cooked it. We were starving and I am ashamed to say it.”
Yevheniia Kudria, 24, who managed to escape Mariupol a matter of days ago, said her mother had stayed in the city, too scared to leave, with "the smell of corpses and the smell of burning in the air. People are simply buried in front gardens near houses".
EU deal for US gas is confirmed in drive to move away from Russia
The US and EU announced a task force Friday aimed at reducing Europe's reliance on Russian fossil fuels in the face of Moscow's war on Ukraine.
The initiative being unveiled by president Joe Biden and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen will see the US strive to help supply Europe with an extra 15 billion cubic metres of liquefied natural gas this year, a statement confirmed.
The US will work to supply 15 billion cubic metres (bcm) of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to European Union markets this year, as Europe seeks to wean itself off Russian gas supplies, according to a factsheet provided by the White House.
The Commission will also work with EU countries to ensure they can receive about 50 bcm of additional LNG until at least 2030.
About 10 per cent of EU gas needs are met by domestic production. Russia typically supplies some 41 per cent of the rest of the bloc's needs.
Four killed in shelling of Ukrainian aid centre, say police
Russian shelling hit a clinic that was acting as a centre for humanitarian aid in the eastern city of Kharkiv, killing four people, the regional police said in a statement on Friday.
"As a result of the morning shelling of civilian infrastructure from multiple rocket launchers, 7 civilians were injured, 4 of whom died," said a statement on social media. "There is no military facility nearby."
'See-through houses': Mariupol drive-by shows extent of damage after month of conflict | Ukraine war
Fresh drive to evacuate Mariupol civilians
Ukraine hopes some civilians who have been trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol will be able to leave in private cars on Friday, the deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
Repeated attempts to arrange safe passage out of the southern port city, which is surrounded by Russian forces, have failed.
Mariupol, which is normally home to about 400,000 people, has been under heavy bombardment for weeks. Civilians trapped there have been sheltering in basements with little food, power or running water.
Those who manage to leave Mariupol will find buses awaiting in the nearby city of Berdiansk which will take them to the city of Zaporizhzhia, Ms Vereshchuk said.
"We will do everything in our power so that buses filled with Mariupol residents reach Zaporizhzhia today," she said.
Thousands flee city near Ukrainian international airport
About 20,000 people have answered appeals to flee the Ukrainian city of Boryspil, which is near an international airport, Boryspil's mayor Volodymyr Borysenko said on national television on Friday.
He urged others to evacuate, saying the large number of civilians in villages nearby made it difficult for Ukrainian troops to clear Russian forces from the area.
Boryspil international airport is about 30 km (19 miles) east of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
War in Ukraine: latest pictures
New US-Europe gas deal as countries try to wean off Russian energy
A deal is set to be unveiled on Friday to supply Europe with more US liquefied natural gas (LNG), as leaders of the European bloc meet to curb their reliance on Russian fossil fuels and deal with an energy price crunch.
The pact to be announced by US president Joe Biden and the president of the EU's executive, Ursula von der Leyen, follows a day of three summits in Brussels.
It is understood to involve the US giving at least 15 billion cubic metres (bcm) more LNG to Europe this year than planned before.
"The single most important thing is for us to stay unified and the world continue to focus on what a brute this guy is and all the innocent people's lives that are being lost and ruined," Mr Biden said, referring to Russian president Vladimir Putin, after attending the first day of an EU summit on Thursday.
"We have to stay fully, totally, thoroughly united."
The EU has pledged to cut Russian gas use by two-thirds this year. Russia supplies 40 per cent of the EU's gas needs and more than a quarter of its oil imports.
Europe acted too late to stop Russian invasion, says Zelensky
Volodymyr Zelensky has said Europe acted "a little too late" to stop Russia from invading Ukraine, claiming countries should have sanctioned Moscow and blocked the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline earlier.
Speaking in a video posted on Facebook, the Ukrainian president said he was "grateful" the sanctions had been imposed, but they could have been preventative if applied sooner.
"You applied sanctions. We are grateful. These are powerful steps but it was a little late," he said.
"If it had been preventative, Russia would not have gone to war.
"You blocked Nord Stream 2. We are grateful to you. And rightly so. But it was also a little late. Because if it had been in time, Russia would not have created a gas crisis. At least there was a chance."
Biden to visit near Ukraine border, as solidarity tested
US president Joe Biden will travel to a town near the Polish-Ukrainian border on Friday, trying to signal Western resolve in the face of a Russian invasion that has increasingly turned to a grinding war of attrition.
Air Force One will jet into the eastern Polish town of Rzeszow - bringing the US president less than 80 kilometres (50 miles) from a war-torn nation still struggling to repel a brutal Russian attack.
The trip is designed to underscore Washington's willingness to defend NATO allies, as fears rise that the month-old war in Ukraine could yet spark what Biden has called "World War III".
Fearing further escalation, cautious European Union, Nato and G7 leaders in Brussels shied away from Ukraine's request for more advanced weapons systems and a blanket embargo on Russian oil and gas at a trio of Brussels summits on Thursday.
That prompted the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to pointedly question whether some allies - particularly those in Europe - were doing enough, quickly enough.
In full: West will respond 'in kind' if Moscow uses chemical weapons
Chemical weapons by Russia should be 'met in kind', Labour says
Labour's shadow foreign secretary has doubled down on comments from the US president about any use of chemical weapons by Russia, saying this would be an escalation and should be "met in kind".
David Lammy told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Absolutely it's the case that the use of chemical weapons would be an escalation and it should be met in kind."
He added: "It's important not to speculate about that escalation and what the response would be.
"I don't want to signal that to Vladimir Putin but I think that it's right that the scenario that is now going on both in the White House and in the Ministry of Defence is prepared for that act."
UK to double its troops in Eastern Europe as Nato strengthens defences
Britain will double its troops in Eastern Europe and send a new deployment to Bulgaria, after Nato leaders on Thursday agreed to strengthen the alliance’s eastern flank against Russian aggression.
The alliance signed off on the formation of four new battlegroups of between 1,000 and 1,500 troops, up to 6,000 soldiers, at an emergency summit in Brussels on the war in Ukraine.
They will join the 40,000 troops under its direct command in Europe, which was already nearly 10 times the number it had a few months ago before Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
“We're bolstering our support for the Nato countries on the front line by sending a new deployment of UK troops to Bulgaria on top of doubling our troops both in Poland and in Estonia,” Boris Johnson said.
“This is just the beginning. We must support a free and democratic Ukraine in the long term,” the Prime Minister added.
Russia fires missiles at Ukraine military unit
Russian forces fired two missiles late on Thursday at a Ukrainian military unit on the outskirts of Dnipro, the fourth-largest city in the country, regional emergency services said.
The strikes destroyed buildings and set off two fires, it said, while the number of those killed and wounded was still being established.
Dnipro is west of the regions along the Russian border that have been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
Ukrainian forces are re-occupying towns: MoD
The UK's Ministry of Defence says Ukraine has re-occupied towns and defensive positions up to 35 kilometres east of Kyiv:
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 25 March 2022
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/shZZIe6cBq
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/gdCRYuQvvp
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) March 25, 2022
'Whole cities, villages turned to ashes'
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has provided an update on some of the horrors that have unfolded amid Russia's relentless invasion of Ukraine.
In his speech on Friday, the President said Russian missiles and tanks had already destroyed more than 230 schools and 155 kindergartens, and killed 128 children.
"Whole cities, villages. Just to ashes. Nothing remains," he said.
Speech by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy at a meeting of the European Council ➡️ https://t.co/ZVFcejDFjX pic.twitter.com/0I1Mc6rTRr
— Defence of Ukraine (@DefenceU) March 25, 2022
West denounces Russian 'barbarism' as Ukrainians seek shelter
Western leaders have denounced Moscow's invasion of its neighbour as "barbarism" as thousands in besieged cities sheltered underground from Russian bombardment.
At an unprecedented triple summit in Brussels, the transatlantic alliance Nato, G7 rich nations and European leaders piled on military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said Vladimir Putin had "already crossed the red line into barbarism".
US President Joe Biden said of the Russian president: "The single most important thing is for us to stay unified and the world continue to focus on what a brute this guy is and all the innocent people's lives that are being lost and ruined."
Responding to Thursday's show of unity in Brussels, Moscow said the West had itself to blame for the war by arming the "Kyiv regime".
Moscow accused of forcibly removing hundreds of thousands of civilians
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have been taken against their will into Russia as Moscow pressures Kyiv to give up.
Ukraine’s ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said 402,000 people, including 84,000 children, had been forcibly removed from shattered Ukrainian cities.
Some civilians may be used as “hostages” in a push to make Kyiv surrender.
Western sanctions won't sway Kremlin, Russian ex-president says
Russian ex-president and deputy head of security council Dmitry Medvedev said it was "foolish" to believe that Western sanctions issued against Russian businesses could have any effect on the Moscow government.
Mr Medvedev on Friday told Russia's RIA news agency the sanctions would only bring Russian society together, rather than cause widespread discontent with authorities.
"Let us ask ourselves: can any of these major businessmen have even the tiniest quantum of influence of the position of the country's leadership?" Mr Medvedev said.
"I openly tell you: no, no way."
The West has not hesitated to slap an array of sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, as the Kremlin refuses to back down.
'We are getting closer to victory'
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke of hope and determination in his night-time video address to the nation late on Thursday.
"It is already night. But we are working," he said in a quiet voice.
"The country must move toward peace, move forward. With every day of our defence, we are getting closer to the peace that we need so much. We are getting closer to victory.
"We can't stop even for a minute. For every minute determines our fate, our future, whether we will live."
He reported on his conversations earlier in the day with leaders of Nato and European Union countries gathered in Brussels, and their promises of even more sanctions on Russia.
"We need to look for peace," Mr Zelensky said. "Russia also needs to look for peace."
'We will find every Russian soldier who commits war crimes'
Russia's shelling has been relentless but its armoured columns have barely moved in weeks, stalled near the capital Kyiv.
Ukraine says Russian forces have taken heavy casualties and are low on supplies, and US officials told Reuters that Russia is suffering failure rates as high as 60pc for some of its precision-guided missiles.
With stocks of precision-guided munitions running low, Russian forces were more likely to rely on unguided bombs and artillery, Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Colin Kahl said.
The United States accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine, allegations Russia denies.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russian forces had tortured Ukrainian prisoners.
"We will find every Russian soldier who commits war crimes, along with their accomplices ... do not think that your surnames are unknown to us. No one will be able to escape punishment," Ms Vereshchuk said.
Fears Ukrainian refugees will be 'hostages'
Ukraine has accused Moscow of forcibly taking hundreds of thousands of civilians from shattered Ukrainian cities to Russia, where some may be used as "hostages" to pressure Kyiv to give up.
Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine's ombudsperson, said 402,000 people, including 84,000 children, had been taken to Russia.
The Kremlin gave nearly identical numbers for those who have been relocated, but said they wanted to go to Russia.
Ukraine's rebel-controlled eastern regions are predominantly Russian-speaking, and many people there have supported close ties to Moscow.
'Real' threat of chemical weapons
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says there is a "real" threat that Moscow will use chemical weapons in Ukraine, accusing Russia of having already used phosphorus bombs against civilians in the country.
The governor of the Lugansk region says phosphorus bombs were used in one village hit in overnight strikes on eastern Ukraine that killed at least four people, including two children.
Britain's ITV network broadcast footage of phosphorus bombs dropping overnight on the flashpoint town of Irpin near Kyiv.
Brexit and Ukrainian resistance are not the same, says Boris
Boris Johnson has said he "totally agrees" that Brexit and the Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion are not the same.
The Prime Minister has come under criticism for comments where he appeared to compare the UK voting to leave the EU, with the Ukrainian fight against Russia.
Speaking at the Conservative Party spring forum at the weekend, he said it was the "instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom", with the Brexit vote a "famous recent example".
But speaking to BBC's Newsnight programme on Thursday, he said: "That was not an analogy that I was making. I'm afraid that was wildly misconstrued.
"I said, I think in the same passage, that there's been nothing like what we're seeing in Ukraine since 1945 and it is a horror, and it can't be compared to anything since 1945."
Nato would respond 'in kind' if Putin resorted to chemicals
Western leaders spent Thursday crafting the next steps to counter Russia's month-old invasion - and huddling over how they might respond should Vladimir Putin deploy chemical, biological or even a nuclear weapon.
Joe Biden warned that a chemical attack by Russia "would trigger a response in kind".
"You're asking whether Nato would cross. We'd make that decision at the time," Mr Biden said.
However, a White House official said later that did not imply any shift in the United States' position against direct military action in Ukraine.
Mr Biden and Nato allies have stressed that the US and Nato would not put troops on the ground in Ukraine.
Joe Biden: We will respond in kind if Vladimir Putin uses chemical weapons in Ukraine
US will welcome Ukraine's refugees
Joe Biden announced the US would welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.
The President said many probably would prefer to stay closer to home.
The US will provide an additional $1 billion in food, medicine, water and other supplies.
Biden promises more aid is on its way to Ukraine
US President Joe Biden and Western allies pledged new sanctions and humanitarian aid on Thursday in response to Vladimir Putin's assault on Ukraine, but their offers fell short of the more robust military assistance that President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded for in a pair of live-video appearances.
Mr Zelensky, while thankful for the newly promised help, made clear to the Western allies he needed far more than they are currently willing to give.
"One per cent of all your planes, one per cent of all your tanks," Mr Zelensky asked members of the Nato alliance.
"We can't just buy those. When we will have all this, it will give us, just like you, 100pc security."
Mr Biden said more aid was on its way. But the Western leaders were treading carefully so as not to further escalate the conflict beyond the borders of Ukraine.
French President Emmanuel Macron said: "Nato has made a choice to support Ukraine in this war without going to war with Russia.
"Therefore we have decided to intensify our ongoing work to prevent any escalation and to get organised in case there is an escalation."
Today's top stories
Joe Biden on Thursday night declared that Nato would respond "in kind" if Vladimir Putin resorted to using chemical weapons against Ukraine
Boris Johnson said he had nothing against the people of Russia after the Kremlin branded him the "most active anti-Russian leader" for his opposition to Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine
Britain will double its troops in Eastern Europe and send a new deployment to Bulgaria, after Nato leaders agreed to strengthen the alliance’s eastern flank against Russian aggression
Photographs emerged on Thursday showing the full horror caused by the indiscriminate bombing of Mariupol by Vladimir Putin’s troops. The city has been reduced to rubble, flattened by carpet bombing
A Russian tycoon described as "Putin's chef" has complained that threats and "rampant Russophobia" from UK officials led his London lawyers to ditch him in a defamation case
Around 40,000 people have applied to take at least one Ukrainian refugee into their home under the Government's sponsorship scheme
Nicola Sturgeon suggested the Ukraine war had bolstered the case for a second Scottish independence referendum
G7 leaders have clamped down on Putin's treasure trove of gold, which provides a lifeline to the Russian president amid sanctions