Ukraine morning briefing: Five developments as the US warns of unprecedented global hunger

·5 min read
Ukrainian children play territorial defence fighters patrolling in the village of Stoyanka, Kyiv - SERGEI CHUZAVKOV/AFP
Ukrainian children play territorial defence fighters patrolling in the village of Stoyanka, Kyiv - SERGEI CHUZAVKOV/AFP

The White House is working to put advanced anti-ship missiles in the hands of Ukrainian fighters. The US Senate has also approved nearly $40 billion in new aid for the country as it continues to tackle the Russian attack.

It comes as the fate of hundreds of Ukrainian fighters who surrendered after holding out against punishing attacks on Mariupol's steel factory hangs in the balance, amid international fears the Russians may take reprisals against the prisoners.

The International Committee of the Red Cross gathered personal information from hundreds of the soldiers – name, date of birth, closest relative – and registered them as prisoners of war, as part of its role in ensuring the humane treatment of POWs under the Geneva Conventions.

Here's what happened overnight – and you can follow the latest updates in our live blog.

1. US missiles could end Putin's food blockade

The United States is considering sending Ukraine advanced anti-ship missiles to sink Russian war vessels in the Black Sea and end the Kremlin’s naval food blockade.

US officials said sea-skimming Harpoon and Naval Strike Missiles could be dispatched, either directly or by European allies equipped with them.

A handful of nations were said to be open to sending Harpoons, which have a range of up to almost 300km, but there was hesitation over being the first to do so amid concerns over escalation.

Vladimir Putin has been blocking Ukrainian ports to stop grain and other produce leaving the so-called “breadbasket of Europe”, triggering a global food crisis.

Read the full story here.

Women take shelter and live in an underground subway station in the Saltivska district in Kharkiv - DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP
Women take shelter and live in an underground subway station in the Saltivska district in Kharkiv - DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP

2. Mariupol medic smuggles extraordinary video through 15 Russian checkpoints

Using a body camera given to her by Prince Harry, Yuliia Paievska, known in Ukraine as Tayra – a moniker from the nickname she chose in the World of Warcraft video game – filmed the frontlines of the war.

The 53-year-old volunteer medic managed to smuggle hundreds of hours of footage out of Mariupol – on a data card no bigger than a thumbnail – in a tampon.

It contains 256 gigabytes of her team’s frantic efforts over two weeks to bring people back from the brink of death – Ukrainians but also Russian soldiers.

Tayra miraculously managed to hand the harrowing clips to an Associated Press team, the last international journalists in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, as they left in a rare humanitarian convoy.

The next day, on March 16, Tayra disappeared with her driver Serhiy.

Watch the full footage here.

3. 'The Donbas is completely destroyed'

Ukraine's industrial Donbas region, the focus of recent Russian offensives, has been destroyed, President Volodymyr Zelensky said as some of the world's richest countries pledged to bolster Kyiv with billions of pounds.

Since turning away from Ukraine's capital, Russia is using massed artillery and armour to try to capture more territory in the Donbas, comprised of the Donetsk and Luhansk areas, which Moscow claims on behalf of separatists.

"The occupiers are trying to exert even more pressure. It is hell there – and that is not an exaggeration," Mr Zelensky said in a late Thursday night address.

"(There are) constant strikes on the Odesa region, on the cities of central Ukraine. The Donbas is completely destroyed."

As the invasion nears the three-month mark, the US Senate overwhelmingly approved nearly $40 billion in new aid for Ukraine, the largest US aid package to date.

The Group of Seven rich nations also agreed to provide Ukraine with $18.4 billion. Ukraine said the money would speed up victory over Russia and was just as important as "the weapons you provide".

Ukrainian soldiers moving to the front line in the Donbas - Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency
Ukrainian soldiers moving to the front line in the Donbas - Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency

5. Russian shelling continues to claim innocent lives

Ukraine's military have said Russian forces pressed their offensive in various sections of the front in the Donbas but were being repelled.

The governor of the Luhansk region said Russian shelling killed four civilians.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said 12 people were killed and dozens more wounded in the city of Severodonetsk, and attacks on the northeastern Chernihiv region included a severe strike on the village of Desna, where many more died and rescuers were still going through rubble.

5. Russian killer begs forgiveness

The first Russian soldier to go on trial in Ukraine has begged for forgiveness.

Vadim Shishimarin has admitted shooting dead Oleksandr Shelipov, an unarmed 62-year-old man, four days into the invasion.

"I know that you will not be able to forgive me, but nevertheless I ask you for forgiveness," the 21-year-old sergeant told Mr Shelipov's widow in the cramped courtroom in Kyiv.

Shishimarin said he disobeyed a first order but felt he had no choice but to comply when it was repeated by another officer. He said he was told the man could pinpoint the troops' location to Ukrainian forces.

A prosecutor has disputed that Shishimarin was acting under orders, saying the direction didn't come from a direct commander.

Shishimarin apologised to the victim's widow, Kateryna Shelipova, who described seeing her husband being shot just outside their home.

She told the court that she believes Shishimarin deserves a life sentence, the maximum possible, but that she wouldn't mind if he were exchanged as part of a swap for the Azovstal defenders.

Read: Russian soldier who shot grandfather dead begs widow for forgiveness

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