- Russian forces push deeper into besieged, battered port city of Mariupol.
- Ukraine says 6,623 evacuated on Saturday, 4,128 of those left Mariupol.
- UN maintains at least 847 civilians killed in Ukraine, 6.5 million internally displaced.
- Local official alleges Ukraine city of Mykolaiv facing air raids.
- Ukraine calls on China to condemn “Russian barbarism”, support “civilised countries’ coalition”.
- Poland PM presses for a total trade ban between the EU and Russia.
- Russia claims it used Kinzhal hypersonic missiles for the first time in Ukraine.
Here are the latest updates:
Anger after Johnson compares resistance in Ukraine to Brexit
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sparked outrage by comparing the struggle of Ukrainians fighting the Russian invasion to British people voting for Brexit.
In his speech to a conference of his Conservative Party in Blackpool, Johnson said it is the “instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom,” with the Brexit vote a “famous recent example”.
Former European Council President Donald Tusk said the prime minister’s words “offend Ukrainians, the British and common sense”, while former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said the comparison was “insane”.
Boris Johnson likens Ukrainians’ fight to British people voting for Brexit. I can still remember the enthusiasm of Putin and Trump after the referendum. Boris, your words offend Ukrainians, the British and common sense.
— Donald Tusk (@donaldtuskEPP) March 19, 2022
Tory peer Gavin Barwell also criticised Johnson, pointing out that Ukraine is seeking to join the European Union and adding that voting in the 2016 referendum “isn’t in any way comparable with risking your life” in a war with Vladimir Putin’s forces.
Apart from the bit where voting in a free and fair referendum isn’t in any way comparable with risking your life to defend your country against invasion + the awkward fact the Ukrainians are fighting for the freedom to join the EU, this comparison is bang on https://t.co/j6qhtNvFYO
— Gavin Barwell (@GavinBarwell) March 19, 2022
Russia ridicules idea cosmonauts wore yellow in support of Ukraine
Russia’s space agency has dismissed Western media reports suggesting Russian cosmonauts joining the International Space Station (ISS) had chosen to wear yellow suits with a blue trim in support of Ukraine.
“Sometimes yellow is just yellow,” Roscosmos’s press service said on its Telegram channel.
“The flight suits of the new crew are made in the colours of the emblem of the Bauman Moscow State Technical University, which all three cosmonauts graduated from … To see the Ukrainian flag everywhere and in everything is crazy.”
Six journalists killed in Ukraine: Swiss group
A Switzerland-based press freedom group says six journalists have been killed and eight others have been wounded during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“The journalists were killed under various circumstances, from shrapnel after a rocket attack to a bullet wound,” the Press Emblem Campaign said.
Three of them were killed while covering battles near Kyiv, near the city of Irpin, it said.
PEC also said Russian forces in southern Ukraine have kidnapped two journalists.
Ukraine’s military continuing to ‘effectively defend Ukrainian air space’: UK
The British Ministry of Defence says Ukraine’s air forces are “continuing to effectively defend Ukrainian airspace”.
“Russia has failed to gain control of the air and is largely relying on stand-off weapons launched from the relative safety of Russian airspace to strike targets within Ukraine,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence update.
“Gaining control of the air was one of Russia’s principal objectives for the opening days of the conflict and their continued failure to do so has significantly blunted their operational progress,” it added.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 19 March 2022
Find out more about the UK government’s response: https://t.co/2whpSpRbwX
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/CcIp8qZg3w
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) March 19, 2022
Zelenskyy wants Switzerland to freeze bank accounts of all Russian billionaires
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on the Swiss government to freeze the bank accounts of all Russian billionaires.
Swiss public broadcaster SRF reported that Zelenskyy, who spoke via livestream on Saturday to thousands of antiwar protesters in the Swiss city of Bern, said “in your banks are the funds of the people who unleashed this war. Help to fight this. So that their funds are frozen. (…) It would be good to take away those privileges from them”.
SRF also reported that the Ukrainian president criticized the Swiss multinational food conglomerate Nestle, which has decided not to withdraw from Russia for the time being, as opposed to many other international companies.
Chinese diplomat says NATO should have ‘been consigned to history’
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng has said that NATO should stick to what he claimed was a promise not to expand eastward.
Echoing a Kremlin talking point, the diplomat said if NATO’s “enlargement goes further, it would be approaching the ‘outskirts of Moscow’ where a missile could hit the Kremlin within seven or eight minutes.”
“Pushing a major country, especially a nuclear power, to the corner would entail repercussions too dreadful to contemplate,” he said.
He expressed an understanding for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s oft-repeated position, saying that NATO should have disintegrated and “been consigned to history alongside the Warsaw Pact”.
“However, rather than breaking up, NATO has kept strengthening and expanding, and intervened militarily in countries like Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan,” he said. “One could well anticipate the consequences going down this path. The crisis in Ukraine is a stern warning.”
He said Chinese President Xi Jinping in talks with US President Joe Biden on Friday urged the parties in Ukraine to demonstrate “political will and keep the dialogue and negotiation going. The US and NATO should also have dialogue with Russia to address the crux of the Ukraine crisis and ease the security concerns of both Russia and Ukraine.”
Germany courts Qatar, UAE for alternatives to Russian gas
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck will discuss liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply on a trip to Qatar and the UAE, as he aims to secure a hydrogen deal, making Germany less dependent on Russia for gas.
Russia is the largest supplier of gas to Germany, according to data on the Economy Ministry’s website. Roughly half of Germany’s LNG imports come from Russia.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Habeck has launched several initiatives to lessen Germany’s energy dependence on Russia, including large orders of non-Russian LNG, plans for a terminal to import LNG and slowing the nation’s exit from coal.
Read the full story here.
What is China’s strategy on Ukraine?
US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping spoke on the phone on Friday, for the first time since the war began.
Washington is concerned about Beijing’s stance on the conflict as Chinese officials have refused to condemn the invasion. Biden has warned of consequences for China if it provides material support to Moscow.
So, what does it all mean for China’s relations with the West?
Ukrainian refugees seek ID cards in Poland
Hoping to restore some normalcy after fleeing the war in Ukraine, thousands of refugees waited in long lines on Saturday in the Polish capital Warsaw to get identification cards that will allow them to get on with their lives – at least for now.
Refugees started queueing by Warsaw’s National Stadium overnight to get the coveted PESEL identity cards that will allow them to work, live, go to school and get medical care or social benefits for the next 18 months. By mid-morning, many were told to come back another day.
The demand was too high even though Polish authorities had simplified the process.
Increased risk for child refugees – UNICEF
Children fleeing the war in Ukraine are at an increased risk of exploitation and abuse, UNICEF has warned.
“It’s a huge concern, almost 1.7 million children have fled Ukraine and a further 3.3 million are internally displaced,” UNICEF’s Joe English told Al Jazeera from Lviv in Ukraine.
“When children are separated from parents or caregivers, the risk of exploitation, trafficking, abuse and being forced into child labour is high. We know that gangs and criminal networks exist across Europe and it is critical that we scale up our programming and response to really mitigate that risk.”
Mykolaiv facing air raids: Local official
Russian air raids on Mykolaiv were taking place in quick succession on Saturday, a regional official said.
Vitaly Kim, head of the regional administration, said there was not even enough time to raise the alarm over the raids “because by the time we announce this tornado, it’s already there”.
“The [alert] message and the bombings arrive at the same time,” he said on social media.
Ukraine says 6,623 people evacuated on Saturday
A total of 6,623 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Saturday, a senior official said, considerably fewer than managed to escape the previous day.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said in an online post that 4,128 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol. On Friday, he said 9,145 people had managed to leave cities across the country during the day.
‘The city is destroyed’: Mariupol police officer
Russian forces have pushed deeper into Ukraine’s besieged and battered port city of Mariupol, where heavy fighting shut down a major steel plant and local authorities pleaded for more help.
The fall of Mariupol, the scene of some of the war’s worst suffering, would mark a crucial battlefield advance for the Russians, who are largely bogged down outside key cities more than three weeks into the biggest land invasion in Europe since World War II.
“Children, elderly people are dying. The city is destroyed and it is wiped off the face of the earth,” Mariupol police officer Michail Vershnin said on Saturday from a rubble-strewn street in a video addressed to Western leaders.
Hello, welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Click here to read all the Russia-Ukraine war updates from March 19.