- Turkey’s foreign minister will visit Ukraine after talks in Russia to push for a ceasefire.
- The UN Security Council is expected to vote on Friday on a Russian-drafted call for aid access and civilian protection in Ukraine.
- Human costs are mounting as the war now enters its fourth week.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country will achieve its goals in Ukraine.
- More than three million Ukrainians have been forced to flee the country, while two million others are internally displaced, according to the UN.
- US President Joe Biden has announced an additional $ 800m in security assistance to Ukraine.
- The Kremlin has slammed Biden for calling Putin a “war criminal.”
Here are the latest updates:
Ukraine swapped nine Russian soldiers to free detained mayor: Interfax
Ukraine has handed over nine captured Russian soldiers to secure the freedom of the mayor of the southeastern city of Melitopol, who was detained last week, the Interfax Ukraine news agency has reported.
The office of President Zelenskyy earlier said mayor Ivan Fedorov had been released but gave no details.
“Ivan Fedorov was released from Russian captivity. For him, Russia received nine captured soldiers who were born in 2002 and 2003. These are actually children,” Interfax Ukraine quoted Zelensky’s press aide Darya Zarivnaya as saying.
Western countries call for UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine
The UK, US, France, Albania, Norway and Ireland have called for a United Nations Security Council on the situation in Ukraine, Britain’s mission to the UN has announced.
“Russia is committing war crimes and targeting civilians,” the mission wrote on Twitter. “Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine is a threat to us all.”
AFP and Reuters reported, citing diplomatic sources, that the emergency session will take place on Thursday.
🚨 #BREAKING 🚨
The UK and 🇦🇱🇫🇷🇮🇪🇳🇴🇺🇸 have called for a Security Council meeting on #Ukraine.
Russia is committing war crimes and targeting civilians.
Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine is a threat to us all. pic.twitter.com/SRi76OAszm
– UK at the UN (@UKUN_NewYork) March 16, 2022
UN urges advanced countries to offer protection to all refugees
The United Nations refugee agency has welcomed the response by advanced countries to the Ukrainian refugee crisis and urged them to act in a similar way towards refugees from other war zones, regardless of nationality, race or religion.
“We welcome this tremendous reception and solidarity exhibited towards refugees in recent days and hope this might inspire some reflection and a shift from some of the toxic narratives and policies we have seen in a number of contexts,” the Reuters news agency quoted Kathryn Mahoney, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as saying.
Ukraine says Russia attacked Mariupol theater sheltering civilians
Russian forces have bombed a theater in the besieged city of Mariupol where hundreds of civilians were sheltering, Ukrainian officials have said, even as the sides signaled optimism over continuing talks to end the war in Ukraine.
There was no immediate word on deaths or injuries in what the Mariupol city council said was an air strike on the theater. The Ukrainian foreign ministry said many people were trapped in the building and accused Russia of committing a war crime.
Russia, Belarus banned from multi-sport Euro Championships
Athletes from Russia and Belarus have been formally banned from the multi-sport European Championships in August.
Organizers of the August 11-21 championships in Munich said they supported decisions by officials from the nine individual sports not to invite Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials. They have followed guidance from the International Olympic Committee.
“We are united in our condemnation of Russia’s war on Ukraine,” organizing committee chairman Libor Varhaník said.
Canada formally removes Russia’s RT from Canadian TVs
Canada has banned TV service providers in the country from distributing Russian state-owned television channels RT and RT France, saying the programming was not consistent with Canadian standards.
Major Canadian cable operators had already dropped RT from their channel line-up shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Timeline: Week three of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
The third week of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has seen Russian forces continue to bomb several cities including Mariupol, Kharkiv and the capital, Kyiv, as Washington and its allies imposed further sanctions on Moscow.
For a summary of the major events of the third week of the war in Ukraine, click here.
UN Security Council to vote Friday on Russian proposal
The UN Security Council will vote on Friday on a Russian-drafted call for aid access and civilian protection in Ukraine, but diplomats say the measure is set to fail because it does not push for an end to the fighting or withdrawal of Russian troops.
The draft resolution also does not address accountability or acknowledge Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, the Reuters news agency reported.
“Their resolution calls for parties to respect international humanitarian law, but leaves out the fact that Russia is committing war crimes,” said Britain’s UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward.
Kremlin slams Biden for calling Putin a ‘war criminal’
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has called Biden’s characterization of Putin as a war criminal “unacceptable and unforgivable rhetoric,” the Tass news agency said.
“He is a war criminal,” Biden told reporters in Washington, referring to the Russian leader.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki later said the US president was simply answering a “direct question”.
“We have all seen barbaric acts, horrific acts by a foreign dictator in a country that is threatening and taking the lives of civilians, impacting hospitals, women who are pregnant, journalists, others,” she told reporters.
War going according to plan, Putin says
Despite US assertions that Russia is facing major military and logistical setbacks in its invasion of Ukraine, Putin has said the operation was unfolding “successfully, in strict accordance with pre-approved plans”.
Putin said the West’s “economic blitzkrieg” against Moscow has failed, while admitting the situation is “not easy” for Russians.
France opens probe into Fox News journalist’s death
French prosecutors have opened a war crimes probe into the death of Franco-Irish Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, the country has announced, after Zakrzewski was fatally shot near the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
France’s specialized anti-terror prosecutors will investigate possible charges of causing “deliberate harm to a person protected by international law” and a “deliberate attack against a civilian who was not taking part in hostilities”.
French prosecutors routinely open cases into the violent deaths of citizens overseas.
Photos: Russian bombardment leaves Ukraine’s Kharkiv in ruins
At least 500 people have been killed in the city of Kharkiv since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the regional emergency service has said.
Ukraine’s second-largest city, located in the country’s northeast, has been subjected to relentless bombardment by Russian forces for weeks.
See photos of the devastation in Kharkiv here.
Ukraine negotiator says draft peace plan reflects Russian requests
Ukraine’s top negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak has said a draft 15-point peace plan described by the Financial Times reflects the requests of the Russian side.
Podolyak said on Twitter that Ukraine has its own positions, including “a ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian troops and security guarantees from a number of countries”.
Talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators to end the war in Ukraine are ongoing, as leaders in both countries said on Wednesday that there appeared to be room for compromise to reach an agreement.
Briefly. FT published a draft, which represents the requesting position of the Russian side. Nothing more. The site has its own positions. The only thing we confirm at this stage is a ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian troops and security guarantees from a number of countries
– Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) March 16, 2022
In visit to Moscow, Turkey’s top diplomat says war must stop
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who will visit Ukraine on Thursday, has said the war must stop and offered to pursue diplomatic efforts to arrange a lasting ceasefire.
Speaking alongside his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, Cavusoglu said “the war must stop, people must not die. I came here to Moscow with this understanding today ”.
“We have shared our concerns in a sincere way and done our part to ease tensions and open the stage for diplomacy,” he said. “We would like to host this [Putin-Zelenskyy] meeting when the situation comes to that point… for a lasting ceasefire. ”.
Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.
Read all the updates from Wednesday, March 16 here.