Russia-Ukraine live updates: Russia hands over control of Chernobyl


(NEW YORK) — Russian forces are continuing their attempted push through Ukraine from multiple directions, while Ukrainians, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, are putting up “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The attack began Feb. 24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation.” Heavy shelling and missile attacks, many on civilian buildings, continue in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, as well as other major cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Mar 31, 12:34 pm
Ukraine resumes control of Chernobyl nuclear power plant

Russian troops are giving back control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant to Ukraine, according to a letter from Russia’s nuclear power company, Rosatom.

The site had been under the control of Russian forces since the invasion began on Feb. 24.

The letter is dated March 31 and was signed by Ukraine’s nuclear regulator, Energoatom.

-ABC News’ Fidel Pavlenko

Mar 31, 12:15 pm
Ukraine resumes control of Chernobyl nuclear power plant

Russian troops are giving back control of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant to Ukraine, according to a letter from Russia’s nuclear power company, Rosatom.

The site had been under the control of Russian forces since the invasion began on Feb. 24.

The letter is dated March 31 and was signed by Ukraine’s nuclear regulator, Energoatom.

-ABC News’ Fidel Pavlenko

Mar 31, 11:18 am
Putin says gas exports will be stopped unless payment made in rubles

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree requiring payment in rubles for gas exports.

As of Friday, Putin said all buyers from “unfriendly” countries — including Germany, France and Poland — must open ruble accounts in Russian banks, and contracts with parties who refuse will be deemed null and void.

President Joe Biden will be releasing one million barrels of oil per day from the strategic petroleum reserve for the next six months, according to the White House.

“Because of Putin’s war of choice, less oil is getting to market, and the reduction in supply is raising prices at the pump for Americans. President Biden is committed to doing everything in his power to help American families who are paying more out of pocket,” the White House said in a statement Thursday.

Mar 31, 10:15 am
Red Cross says its warehouse in Mariupol was damaged

A warehouse belonging to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was shelled in Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol.

A satellite image shows the damage to the building, which bears a large white sign with a red cross on the roof.

“We can confirm that an image being circulated online shows damage to the ICRC warehouse in Mariupol,” the ICRC said in a statement Wednesday. “We do not have a team on the ground there, so have no other information on potential casualties or the extent of the damage.”

The Geneva-based humanitarian organization said it had distributed all supplies from the Mariupol warehouse earlier in March, including medical supplies to hospitals and relief supplies to people living in shelters. No ICRC staff have been at the warehouse since March 15 and it was unclear how the building has been used since, according to the organization.

The ICRC noted the “massive humanitarian needs” in Mariupol, but said it has been “unable to bring in more supplies due to the intensity of the fighting and the absence of a functional agreement between the parties to allow for the safe passage of humanitarian assistance.”

“Under international humanitarian law, objects used for humanitarian relief operations must be respected and protected at all times,” the ICRC said. “We are concerned that even a building with a red cross on it can be seriously damaged. Civilian infrastructure, hospitals and medical personnel cannot be targeted.”

“But what we are most outraged by is the overall humanitarian situation in Mariupol and the relentless suffering inflicted on civilians living there,” the organization added. “People are trapped with no safe way out of the city, and they are running out of the very basics needed for their survival. This must change.”

Mar 31, 9:32 am
Russia ‘lied’ about withdrawing troops, NATO says

Russian troops “are not withdrawing” from parts of Ukraine as claimed, but rather are “repositioning,” according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who cited NATO “intelligence.”

“Russia has repeatedly lied about its intentions,” Stoltenberg said at a press conference Thursday. “Russia is trying to regroup, resupply and reinforce its offensive in the Donbas region [in eastern Ukraine].”

Meanwhile, pressure is being maintained on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and other major cities, according to Stoltenberg.

“We can expect additional offensive actions bringing even more suffering,” he added.

Mar 31, 9:23 am
Videos show intense fighting in Mariupol

Videos circulating online show intense fighting taking place in Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol.

The footage, verified by ABC News, was taken by a Russian state media journalist who is embedded with the Russian military. The videos were posted online Thursday, though the exact date of filming was unknown. Based on the location of the fighting, ABC News assesses it is highly likely the videos were shot in the past couple of days.

One video shows a Russian tank firing multiple times on the streets of Mariupol. Another video shows the Russian journalist filming himself in Mariupol as tanks open fire and gunshots erupt all around him.

The strategic port city in southeastern Ukraine has been under heavy Russian bombardment for weeks and tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped there.

Mar 31, 8:15 am
‘Significant Russian shelling’ persists in Chernihiv, says UK

Despite Russia’s claims of curbing its military activity around Chernihiv, “significant Russian shelling and missile strikes have continued” in the besieged northern Ukrainian city, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Thursday in an intelligence update.

Meanwhile, Russian forces continue to hold positions to the east and west of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, “despite the withdrawal of a limited number of units,” according to the ministry.

“Heavy fighting will likely take place in the suburbs of the city in the coming days,” the ministry added.

Heavy fighting also continues in Ukraine’s southern port city of Mariupol, “a key objective of Russian forces,” according to the ministry.

“However Ukrainian forces remain in control of the center of the city,” the ministry said.

Mar 31, 7:46 am
Kremlin reacts to US saying Putin ‘felt misled’

The Russian government is “concerned” by recent statements from U.S. officials claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin “felt misled” by his advisers and the Russian military on the war in Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a press conference Thursday.

“We do not just regret this. This is a source of our concern,” Peskov told reporters, “because such an utter lack of understanding is the reason why erroneous, rash decisions are made with very bad consequences.”

“It looks like neither the [U.S.] Department of State nor the Pentagon know what is really happening in the Kremlin,” he added. “They simply do not understand what is going on in the Kremlin. They do not understand President Putin. They do not understand the decision-making mechanism. They do not understand our work style.”

Mar 31, 7:25 am
Russia announces cease-fire in besieged Mariupol

Russia has announced a localized cease-fire in Ukraine’s besieged southern port city of Mariupol on Thursday to allow civilians to be evacuated.

A humanitarian corridor from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, via the Russian-controlled port of Berdiansk, would be opened from 10 a.m. local time, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.

“For this humanitarian operation to succeed, we propose to carry it out with the direct participation of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement Wednesday night.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a later statement via Telegram that the Red Cross confirmed Russia had agreed to open a humanitarian corridor to Mauripol, where tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped with no electricity and dwindling supplies after weeks of Russian bombardment. A convoy of 45 evacuation buses was headed to the city to collect civilians, according to Vereshchuk.

A number of previous attempts to establish humanitarian corridors out of Mariupol have failed, with Russia and Ukraine trading accusations of breaking cease-fires and sabotaging evacuation efforts.

Mar 31, 6:21 am
At least 1,189 civilians killed, 1,901 injured in Ukraine: OHCHR

At least 1,189 civilians have been killed and 1,901 others have been injured in Ukraine since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24, according to the latest figures from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

At least 108 children were among the dead and 142 among the injured, according to the OHCHR, which noted that the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine had reported at least 145 children were killed and 222 injured as of Wednesday.

“We know the actual figures are likely far higher,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement Wednesday. “In many places of intensive hostilities, such as Mariupol and Volnovakha, it is very challenging to obtain a comprehensive picture.”

According to a press release from the OHCHR, most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missile and airstrikes.

The agency has also received “credible allegations that Russian armed forces have used cluster munitions in populated areas at least 24 times,” according to Bachelet, who noted that her office is “also investigating allegations that Ukrainian armed forces have used such weapons.”

“The persistent use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas is of immense concern,” she said. “Homes and administrative buildings, hospitals and schools, water stations and electricity systems have not been spared.”

According to Bachelet, at least one Ukrainian facility for bedridden patients and others with disabilities, mostly elderly people, came under fire while its residents were inside, with dozens of alleged casualties.

“My colleagues in Ukraine are working to establish the fate and whereabouts of survivors,” she added.

The OHCHR noted in its press release that “the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration.” Those areas include Mariupol and Volnovakha in the Donetsk Oblast, Izium in the Kharkiv Oblast, Popasna in the Luhansk Oblast, and Trostianets in the Sumy Oblast, where there are allegations of numerous civilian casualties. Casualty numbers from those locations are being further corroborated and thus are not included in the latest statistics, according to the agency.

Mar 31, 4:32 am
Putin ‘massively misjudged’ invasion of Ukraine, UK spy chief says

Russian President Vladimir Putin has apparently “massively misjudged” his invasion of Ukraine, a U.K. intelligence chief said Thursday.

“It’s clear he misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people. He underestimated the strength of the coalition his actions would galvanize. He underplayed the economic consequences of the sanctions regime, and he overestimated the abilities of his military to secure a rapid victory,” Jeremy Fleming, head of the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), said during a speech in Australia’s capital, Canberra.

“We’ve seen Russian soldiers, short of weapons and morale, refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft,” he added.

While Fleming agreed with a recent assessment by U.S. intelligence that Putin’s advisers were believed to be too afraid to tell the truth, he said the “extent of these misjudgments must be crystal clear to the regime.” He warned that Russia is searching for cyber targets and bringing in mercenaries to reinforce its stalled military campaign in Ukraine.

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