The bombardment of residential areas of the southern port city of Mariupol continued on Wednesday when the city's Drama Theatre was hit. Up to a thousand civilians were seeking shelter there, according to local authorities.
It's day 21 of Russia's war in Ukraine, which was launched by Vladimir Putin on 24 February.
The fighting has forced more than three million Ukrainians to flee their homes, with thousands of people killed or wounded.
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Here are the latest key developments:
- The Russian forces bombarded a theatre and a pool facility in Mariupol, both designated shelters for civilians who lost their homes in the continued assault on the city. The number of casualties is unknown but considered to be high, while rescue operations are hindered by further shelling of residential areas of the southern port city.
- Ten civilians were killed on Wednesday morning while waiting in a line for bread in Chernihiv, Ukrainian State Prosecutor's Office said.
- Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has addressed the US Congress, invoking Pearl Harbour and 9/11, calling Russia's invasion the worst conflict since World War II.
- The Council of Europe in Strasbourg voted to expel Russia from the human rights body over its invasion of Ukraine.
- The International Court of Justice, or ICJ, delivered a verdict on the Russia vs Ukraine case, ordering it to suspend its invasion.
- Another round of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine is taking place by videoconference today. President Zelenskyy said overnight that Russian demands are becoming "more realistic" and that "patience is needed".
- Turkey's foreign minister is in Moscow today, and will visit Ukraine on Thursday, in a new round of 'shuttle diplomacy' to try and negotiate a ceasefire in the war, which is now in its 21st day.
- Fighting continues in Ukraine with loud explosions heard Wednesday morning in Kyiv, and the city of Zaporizhzhia was bombarded for the first time.
- Meanwhile, Britain's Ministry of Defence says Russian forces are "struggling" to overcome challenges posed by Ukraine's terrain, and that Ukraine's destruction of bridges has stalled them.
Explosions heard in several cities in Belarus 'artillery exercises', authorities say
After multiple reports of explosions in several Belarusian cities, mainly in the Brest region close to the Ukrainian border, authorities dismissed the possibility of an attack by Kyiv.
"The city can sleep calmly," Chairman of the Brest City Executive Committee Alexander Rogachuk said, claiming that the explosions were "artillery exercises" and sonic booms of Russian aircraft headed to Ukraine.
Another Mariupol strike stokes fears of significant civilian casualties
A missile strike on the Neptune pool facility in Mariupol on Wednesday is believed to have resulted in substantial civilian casualties, Donetsk Region Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
The extent of the damage and the number of those killed or injured are still unknown, but the authorities fear that many are trapped under the rubble, including children.
The pool facility was one of the designated sites for those seeking shelter after their homes were destroyed in the continued shelling of the residential areas of the southern port city.
Putin 'is a war criminal', says Biden
President Joe Biden on Wednesday called Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal as the atrocities in Ukraine mount and the president there begged the US Congress for more help.
"He's a war criminal," the president said of Putin as he left an unrelated event. It's the sharpest condemnation yet of Putin and Russian actions by a US official since the invasion of Ukraine.
While other world leaders have used the words, the White House had been hesitant to declare Putin's actions those of a war criminal, saying it was a legal term that required research.
But in a speech Wednesday, Biden said Russian troops had bombed hospitals and held doctors hostage. He pledged more aid to help Ukraine fight Russia.
Kyiv historic residential area shelled, no information on casualties
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko says Russian shelling damaged several residences in the city’s Podil neighbourhood, just north of the city centre and about 2.5 kilometres from the so-called “government quarter” that holds the presidential palace, president’s office and other significant offices.
Officials did not immediately release additional details about the attack, including whether there were any casualties.
Kyiv residents have been huddled in homes and shelters amid a citywide curfew that runs until Thursday morning, as Russia shelled areas in and around the city. Earlier, a 12-story apartment building in central Kyiv erupted in flames after being hit by shrapnel.
Russian troops bomb theatre where residents were hiding, Mariupol city council says
Russia bombed a theatre where hundreds were sheltering, Mariupol's city council said on Wednesday.
The number of casualties is still unknown since the residential area where the theatre is located is reported to be under heavy artillery fire, the city council stated.
Local sources said that up to 1,000 people sought safety at the Mariupol Drama Theatre, including families with small children.
The besieged port city has come under heavy shelling from Russia, with repeated calls for humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians.
Around 20,000 people were eventually evacuated from the city yesterday, a Ukrainian official said. It is unknown how many have died in the city, where there is no electricity and food and water are sparse.
The Russian Ministry of Defence denied the allegations of the bombing, claiming that the theatre was "mined" and blown up as a provocation.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba confirmed the news of the theatre's bombing on Twitter, saying that the building is "now fully ruined". "Save Mariupol! Stop Russian war criminals," he wrote.
Last week, a Russian airstrike hit a maternity hospital in the city.
Russians set to launch new 'Rossgram' photo-sharing app after Instagram blocked by the Kremlin
Russian tech entrepreneurs are set to launch a picture-sharing application on the domestic market to help fill the void left by Instagram, which the authorities blocked this week.
The new service, known as Rossgram, will launch on March 28 and have additional functions such as crowdfunding and paid access for some content, its website said on Wednesday.
Read the full story here.
NATO vows more forces, exercises to face 'new reality' of Russian aggression
NATO defence ministers tasked military commanders on Wednesday to come up with measures to bolster the alliance's posture due to the "new reality" ushered in by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"We face a new reality so we must reset our collective defence and deterrence for the longer term," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters after the meeting.
He added that ministers have tasked military commanders to come up with options to present NATO leaders.
Read the full story here.
ICJ ordered Russia to suspend its invasion in genocide case
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered a verdict on the Russia vs Ukraine case, ordering it to suspend its invasion.
Ukraine sought an emergency order from the United Nations’ highest court on Monday to halt hostilities on its territory, arguing that Russia – which boycotted the hearing – had falsely applied genocide law to justify its invasion.
Watch the entire hearing here: ⬇️
Ten people queuing for bread killed by Russian gunfire, prosecutor's office says
10 civilians were killed after the Russian armed forces opened fire on a line for bread near a grocery store in one of the residential districts of Chernihiv, the Ukrainian State Prosecutor's Office said.
The attack on civilians took place at 10 am local time on Wednesday. There was no further information available on the victims.
"A pre-trial investigation is underway into violations of the laws and customs of war, combined with premeditated murder," the office said in a statement.