Ukraine war: Russian forces push deeper into Mariupol as fighting flares nationwide

The aftermath of the Russian airstrike on the Mariupol Drama theatre and the area around it, in a satellite photo provided on Saturday, March 19, 2022.
The aftermath of the Russian airstrike on the Mariupol Drama theatre and the area around it, in a satellite photo provided on Saturday, March 19, 2022. Copyright Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies via AP
By Euronews with AP, AFP, Reuters
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Fighting raged on multiple fronts in Ukraine on Saturday, particularly in Mariupol where Russian troops pushed deeper into the besieged southeastern port.


It's now more than three weeks since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

The fighting has forced in excess of three million Ukrainians to flee their homes, with thousands of people killed or wounded and widespread damage in the wake of shelling and aerial bombardments.

See our summary of Saturday's events below and watch the report in the video player, above. For Sunday's latest updates please click here.


Here are the latest key developments to know:

  • Russian forces pushed deeper on Saturday into Mariupol, where a major steel plant was closed down. Efforts to free people believed buried in a bombed theatre have reportedly been hampered.
  • Ukraine's deputy prime minister said humanitarian corridors out of the Kyiv and Luhansk regions were working on Saturday, but in Mariupol Russian troops were still stopping buses from getting through. 
  • 190,000 civilians have been evacuated under such corridors since the Russian invasion, Iryna Vereshchuk added. Ten routes had reportedly been agreed for Saturday.
  • There have been renewed Russian bombardments in several parts of eastern and southern Ukraine. Several Kyiv suburbs have also been under fire.
  • Russia's military said on Saturday it had used hypersonic missiles for the first time in combat, claiming to have destroyed an underground arms depot in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region. Ukraine has confirmed the attack.
  • It's thought that dozens of Ukrainian soldiers may have died in a Russian missile strike on a barracks in Mykolaïv in southern Ukraine on Friday.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy used a late night video message to call for comprehensive peace talks with Russia and an immediate end to the war. He warned Moscow that without peace, it would take generations for Russia to recover from its losses.
  • Belgium has decided to postpone its exit from nuclear power, scheduled for 2025, by 10 years - due to soaring energy prices due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • US President Joe Biden warned Chinese President Xi Jinping in a phone call that Beijing will face stiff consequences from Washington if it provides Russia with military or economic assistance.

Pope Francis visits Ukrainian children in hospital

Pope Francis has paid a visit to some of the Ukrainian children who escaped the Russian invasion and are currently being treated at the Vatican’s paediatric hospital in Rome.

The Vatican says the Bambino Gesu hospital is currently tending to 19 Ukrainian refugees, and that overall some 50 have passed through in recent weeks.

Some were suffering oncological, neurological and other problems before the war and fled in the early days. Others are being treated for wounds incurred as a result of the invasion.

The Vatican says Francis travelled the short distance up the hill to the hospital on Saturday afternoon. He met with all the young patients in their rooms before returning back to the Vatican.

Francis has spoken out about the “barbarity” of the war and especially the death and injury it has caused Ukrainian children. (AP)


Mariupol: Russians push deeper while evacuations still only 'partly operational'

Russian forces pushed deeper into Ukraine's besieged and battered port city of Mariupol on Saturday. Heavy fighting shut down a major steel plant and local authorities pleaded for more Western help.

“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 from a rubble-strewn street in a video addressed to Western leaders that was authenticated by The Associated Press.

Russian forces have already cut the city off from the Sea of Azov, and its fall would link Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, to territories controlled by Moscow-backed separatists in the east.

Ukrainian and Russian forces battled over the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Vadym Denysenko, adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said Saturday. “One of the largest metallurgical plants in Europe is actually being destroyed,” Denysenko said in televised remarks.

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a televised interview on Saturday that a planned humanitarian corridor to Mariupol was only partially operational, with buses not being allowed through by Russian troops.

She said that overall, Ukraine has evacuated 190,000 civilians from frontline areas via humanitarian corridors since the start of Russia’s invasion. Corridors in the Kyiv and Luhansk regions were functioning on Saturday, she added.

The Donetsk rebel government said over 800 people have been evacuated from Mariupol amid heavy fighting. People have continued to arrive at the settlement of Bezimenne, which has been under control of rebels since 2014.

Evacuees are being housed in one of the schools. One of them, Yevheniy Perov, told the Associated Press what he witnessed in Mariupol.

"No one knew about those green corridors, we were sitting in a basement (in a shelter), there was absolutely no information – which corridor, in which direction, what time, when. There was nothing, that's why there was no question of corridors," Perov said. (AP)


Victory for Putin would bring 'new age of intimidation' — Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a “turning point for the world,” arguing that victory for President Vladimir Putin’s forces would herald “a new age of intimidation.”

Speaking to a Conservative Party conference on Saturday, the British prime minister claimed Putin was “terrified” that the example of a free Ukraine would spark a pro-democracy revolution in Russia.

He said “a victorious Putin will not stop in Ukraine, and the end of freedom in Ukraine will mean the extinction of any hope of freedom in Georgia and then Moldova, it will mean the beginning of a new age of intimidation across eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea.” 

But Johnson came into criticism for some awkward comparisons with British politics, drawing a parallel between Ukrainians' desire for freedom and the British people's vote for Brexit.

"This is an utterly depraved argument," opposition Labour lawmaker Chris Bryant said of Johnson's speech. "Ukraine wants to join the EU. The people of (EU member states) France and Spain are also free."


High jump win shows Ukrainians 'never give up' - Mahuchikh

Having spent three days travelling from war-torn Ukraine, Yaroslava Mahuchikh lifted high jump gold at the World Athletics Indoor Championships on Saturday.

The 20-year-old cleared a world-leading 2.02 metres to add gold in Belgrade to the bronze at the Olympic Games last year and silver at the 2019 World Championships.

Afterwards, Mahuchikh said her triumph shows "Ukrainian people never give up" and that her nation will do "everything" for victory.

Yaroslava Mahuchikh of Ukraine celebrates after winning the Women's high jump at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, Saturday, March 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Satellite image shows destroyed Mariupol theatre

A satellite image released on Saturday shows the theatre in Mariupol that was destroyed in a Russian airstrike.

The image, made available by Maxar Technologies, reveals significant damage in and around the building.

Hundreds of people were sheltering in the building and its basement when it was hit by an airstrike on Wednesday.

At least 130 people survived, but hundreds more are feared to be still trapped under the rubble.

The aftermath of the airstrike on the Mariupol Drama theatre and the area around it. (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies via AP)

Cosmonauts' yellow suits nothing to do with Ukraine, says Russia

Russia's space agency on Saturday 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, Reuters reports. READ OUR STORY HERE.

"Sometimes yellow is just yellow," Roscosmos' 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."

Roscosmos Director-General Dmitry Rogozin was more acerbic, saying on his personal Telegram channel that Russian cosmonauts had no sympathy for Ukrainian nationalists.


Putin and Luxembourg's Bettel speak again

Vladimir Putin has spoken on the phone for the second time this week with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who tweeted to say things had deteriorated since their first conversation.

“The situation on the ground has worsened, especially in the city of Mariupol. The images that reach us are intolerable," Bettel said. "The goal needs to remain de-escalation, adoption of ceasefire & furthering negotiation processes.”

The Kremlin said Putin "outlined fundamental assessments" of the Russian-Ukrainian talks and complained that Ukrainian missile strikes in the eastern Donbas region were “leading to numerous civilian casualties".


Zelenskyy calls on Swiss to freeze oligarchs' accounts

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on the Swiss government to freeze the bank accounts of all Russian oligarchs.

Zelenskyy spoke via livestream on Saturday to thousands of antiwar protesters in the Swiss city of Bern.

“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,” he said to great applause, as reported by Swiss public broadcaster SRF.

President Zelenskyy is displayed on a screen during a demonstration against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of the Swiss parliament building in Bern, Switzerland, Saturday, March 19, 2022. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP)

Ukraine calls on China to condemn Russian barbarism

The Ukrainian presidency on Saturday called on China to join the West in "condemning Russian barbarism" in Ukraine.

Mykhaylo Podolyak, a presidential adviser and member of the negotiating team with Russia, tweeted to say that China could be an important part of the global security system "if it makes a right decision to support the civilized countries’ coalition & condemn Russian barbarism".

However, Beijing has so far avoided criticising Moscow. On Saturday Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng criticised the far-reaching Western sanctions imposed on Russia after it invaded Ukraine and said the root cause of the war in Ukraine “lies in the Cold War mentality and power politics”.

Echoing a Kremlin talking point, the Chinese envoy 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, into a corner would entail repercussions too dreadful to contemplate,” he said.

Echoing Vladimir Putin, he said NATO should have been broken up along with the Warsaw Pact after the Cold War. 

In a two-hour phone call with US President Joe Biden on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping failed to give assurances that Beijing would not help Russia militarily with its war in Ukraine. Biden warned of stiff consequences if it did so.

For a summary of Friday's developments in the war Russia launched by invading Ukraine, click here.

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