Russia invades Ukraine updates: EU calls Mariupol assault a 'massive war crime'

Russia invades Ukraine updates: EU calls Mariupol assault a 'massive war crime'
The New Arab is providing live updates of the latest developments on the ground from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
18 min read
21 March, 2022

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday decried Russia's attack on the Ukrainian port city Mariupol as "a massive war crime", as the bloc discussed imposing more sanctions on Moscow.

"What's happening now in Mariupol is a massive war crime, destroying everything, bombarding and killing everybody," Borrell said at the start of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

Borrell's comments echoed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's who called the siege of Mariupol a "war crime".

Russian forces pushed deeper into the strategic port city that has suffered continuous attacks since Moscow launched invasion late last month.

"To do this to a peaceful city, what the occupiers did, is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come," Zelenskyy said in a video address to the nation on Sunday.

The New Arab is providing live updates of what's been happening on the ground in Ukraine and additional analysis on the conflict's significance. 

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6:00 PM
The New Arab Staff

The New Arab concludes its live coverage of the latest updates from the Russian invasion of Ukraine for today. 

Here were the key developments: 

Eight dead in mall bombing

At least eight people are killed in the bombing of a shopping centre in northwest Kyiv. The 10-storey building is completely destroyed in the blast.

Russia claims the mall was used to store rocket systems.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko announces a new curfew for the capital from 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) until Wednesday morning.

Ukraine rejects Russian ultimatum

Russia gave the besieged city of Mariupol until 5:00 am on March 21 to surrender, warning that Ukrainian soldiers and volunteer fighters who refuse to do so face being court martialled or worse for their "horrible crimes".

Ukraine rejects the ultimatum, saying the bombed-out port city, where bodies have been piling up on the street, is bolstering Ukraine's defences. "Today Mariupol is saving Kyiv, Dnipro and Odessa," Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov argues.

Warning on US-Russia ties

Russia summons the US ambassador to Moscow in protest over President Joe Biden's branding of counterpart Vladimir Putin as a "war criminal".

"Such statements by the American president, which are not worthy of a high-ranking statesman, have put Russian-American relations on the verge of rupture," the foreign ministry says.

Facebook, Instagram banned

A Russian court bans Facebook and Instagram as "extremist", continuing a crackdown on social media during the conflict in Ukraine.

The FSB security service argues that Facebook's parent company Meta is working "against Russia and its armed forces" after Meta said it would allow people to post calls for violence against the invading forces.

EU accuses Russia of 'war crime'

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell calls Russia's attack on the port city of Mariupol "a massive war crime" as EU foreign ministers meet to discuss imposing more sanctions on Moscow.

Join us tomorrow for more news and analysis on the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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5:39 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russia claims Ukraine mall used to store rocket systems

Russia says that a shopping mall in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, which was attacked and destroyed overnight killing at least eight people, was used to store rocket systems.

Russia used "precision-guided weaponry" to destroy a store of "multiple-launch rocket systems" and ammunition in a shopping centre in Kyiv, defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told media.

5:12 PM
The New Arab Staff

US cannot confirm Russian claim on hypersonic missile - US defence official

The United States cannot independently confirm or refute a Russian claim over the weekend that it fired hypersonic missiles at a Ukrainian target, but the use of such a weapon makes little sense from a military perspective, a senior US defence official has said on Monday.

"It could be that they're trying to send a message to the West," the official said on condition of anonymity.

From a military perspective, the official added, "there's just not a lot of practicality about it".

5:03 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russia tells its academics to avoid international conferences this year

Russia has told its academics to avoid scientific conferences abroad this year, the science and higher education ministry said today, as Moscow finds itself increasingly isolated over its military campaign in Ukraine.

The ministry said it had also decided to suspend the indexation of work by Russian scholars in international databases until the end of the year.

"We are not calling for abandoning publications in Web of Science and Scopus (academic resources)," Minister Valery Falkov said in a statement.

"Russia must remain on the frontier of global science. But we need to act in accordance with our national interests."

4:49 PM
The New Arab Staff

Biden has put US-Russia ties 'on the verge of rupture': Moscow

Russia has summoned the US ambassador in protest after President Joe Biden branded Russian leader Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" for Moscow's actions in Ukraine, saying he had endangered ties.

"Such statements by the American president, which are not worthy of a high-ranking statesman, have put Russian-American relations on the verge of rupture," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The statement said ambassador John Sullivan had been handed a formal letter of protest over "recent unacceptable statements" made by Biden.

He was warned that "hostile actions taken against Russia would receive a firm and decisive response," the ministry said.

Biden described Putin as a "war criminal" in remarks to reporters last week, amid heavy fighting in Ukraine after Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into the pro-Western country.

4:29 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russians urged not to panic buy sugar and buckwheat

Russia has plenty of sugar and buckwheat, a senior official insisted today, urging the public not to panic buy staple foods due to President Vladimir Putin's decision to send troops into Ukraine.

Washington and Brussels' coordinated response over the Ukraine conflict has made Russia the most sanctioned country in the world, sending the ruble into free-fall and accelerating already spiralling inflation.

Unprecedented Western sanctions have sparked hectic scenes at supermarkets, with customers bulk-buying long-life essentials such as buckwheat, a popular toasted grain that can be eaten both as a side dish or a main course.

"I want to calm our citizens: we are fully self-sufficient when it comes to sugar and buckwheat," deputy Prime Minister Viktoria Abramchenko told a government meeting in remarks broadcast on television.

"There is no need to panic-buy these goods. There is enough for everybody. Panic-buying only destabilises the distribution network," she said.

4:02 PM
The New Arab Staff

Ukraine prosecutors open case into Russia's alleged seizure of ships with Ukrainian grain

Ukrainian prosecutors have opened an investigation into the alleged forceful seizure by Russian troops of five ships carrying Ukrainian grain in the port of Berdiansk, the general prosecutor's office said on Monday.

The criminal case is being handled by prosecutors in southern Zaporizhzhia region, it said.

Russia did not immediately comment on the statement by the general prosector's office.

3:55 PM
The New Arab Staff

Ukraine 'cannot fulfill Russian ultimatums': Zelensky

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Ukraine could not fulfill "Russian ultimatums," claiming Moscow was seeking to "destroy" his country.

"Ukraine cannot fulfill Russian ultimatums. We should be destroyed first, then their ultimatum would be fulfilled," he told local media.

He said Moscow wanted Ukraine to "hand over" Kharkiv, Mariupol and Kyiv, adding that neither the people of those cities "or me, as president, can do this."

Zelensky [Getty]
3:46 PM
The New Arab Staff

Kyiv hospital treats sick orphans evacuated from northeastern Ukraine

Some of Ukraine's most vulnerable orphans have reached relative safety at a hospital in Kyiv where doctors hope to be able to provide care and perform life-saving surgeries.

More than 70 children, including infants, who have spent the past two weeks cared for in bomb shelters in the besieged city of Sumy in northeastern Ukraine have been safely evacuated, local officials said over the weekend.

Most were transferred to Lviv in western Ukraine but some were too sick to continue the journey.

Four infants are now being treated at the Kyiv Heart Centre, the country's leading cardiology and cardiac surgery hospital.

"These children have no parents, they lived in an orphanage. All four were born earlier this year," said Borys Todurov, a cardiac surgeon at Kyiv Heart Centre.

"They found themselves on the frontline, they found themselves in a situation where they needed help but there was no one to help them because the fighting started," he said, adding that they were unable to travel on to Lviv because they were "in critical condition".

3:10 PM
The New Arab Staff

Nearly 6.5 mln displaced by war inside Ukraine - IOM

The UN migration agency said on Monday that nearly 6.5 million people had been displaced in Ukraine as a direct result of the war, citing a study it conducted between March 9-16.

"The scale of human suffering and forced displacement due to the war far exceeds any worst-case scenario planning," said António Vitorino, Director General of the International Organization for Migration.

He said IOM teams had been providing aid to thousands of people but those in severely affected areas remained out of reach.

Ukrainian refugees [Getty]
2:45 PM
The New Arab Staff

UK's Johnson, EU's Michel agree to cooperate on Ukraine

Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed in a call with the European Council's President Charles Michel to continue close cooperation and a united UK-EU response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the British leader's office has said.

Johnson also raised the Northern Ireland protocol, which governs trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom following Brexit, and said solutions needed to be found in order to protect peace and stability, his office said in a statement.

2:24 PM
The New Arab Staff

Novak says oil may hit $300 a barrel if Russian crude shunned

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak has said on Monday oil prices could reach $300 a barrel if Russian crude was shunned by the West but he said such a scenario was unlikely, TASS news agency reported.

Trading sources have said some buyers have been wary of taking Russian barrels to avoid becoming entangled in Western sanctions imposed because of the Ukraine crisis.

Novak said it was impossible for Europe to avoid buying Russian oil and gas for now, saying European calls to halt purchases were political gestures to attract attention.

"For now it's impossible" for Europe to reject Russian hydrocarbons, he said. "We will see how it goes in the future."

Russia was working to maintain oil export volumes by addressing logistical issues and would continue its oil and gas production as it was before sanctions, he said.

2:10 PM
The New Arab Staff

UK summons Russian defence attaché over Ukraine invasion

Britain's Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said today it had summoned the Russian defence attaché for a second time in relation to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and the conduct of Russia's armed forces.

"The 2nd Permanent Under Secretary Laurence Lee protested in the strongest terms against the persistent and unjustified acts of violence being committed against innocent civilians by Russian forces," the MoD said on Twitter.

"Lee emphasised that schools, theatres and hospitals are not legitimate military targets. He warned the UK will be collecting evidence of war crimes and repeated the UK’s demand for the Russian Federation to withdraw its forces immediately."

1:49 PM
The New Arab Staff

Shareholder group urges Nestle to halt all Russian business

Nestle must halt all its activities in Russia, the Actares shareholder organisation has said today, ramping up the pressure after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky singled out the Swiss food giant.

Nestle has suspended all its imports and exports to Russia, including Nespresso coffee pods and S.Pellegrino bottled water, but has maintained deliveries of vital products such as baby food.

In a speech live-streamed to a rally outside the Swiss federal parliament in Bern on Saturday, Zelensky urged Swiss companies to cease doing business in Russia, picking out Nestle, and condemned firms that carried on regardless despite the siege of Mariupol.

"Actares - shareholding for a more responsible economy - urges Nestle to consider President Zelensky's call in the Federal Square to stop doing business with Russia!", the group, one of Switzerland's top shareholders' associations, said in a statement.

Nestle insisted Sunday that it was not making any profits in Russia, winding down many of the firm's activities in the country.

1:27 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russia docks landing support ship near Ukraine's Mariupol

Russia's armed forces have said they had docked a large, beachable landing support ship, the Orsk, in the occupied Ukrainian port of Berdyansk, 70 km (45 miles) southwest of the besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.

As part of what Moscow calls a "special military operation" launched almost a month ago, Russian forces have seized most of the Ukrainian coast along the Sea of Azov, an appendage of the Black Sea, except for Mariupol, which has refused to surrender.

"It is hard to overestimate the possibilities of using this port," said the website of the Russian armed forces news outlet Zvezda.

"Now the southern flank of the special operation can receive everything necessary at any time, including equipment and ammunition."

The Zvezda website said 10 such ships were participating in the operation. It said each could carry up to 20 tanks or 40 armoured personnel carriers.

1:06 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russia's security service urges immediate Meta ban

Russia's FSB national security service asked a court today to "immediately" ban US tech giant Meta, accusing it of working against Moscow's interests during its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

The court was considering a request by prosecutors to designate Meta -- the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp -- as an "extremist" organisation and ban it.

The move is part of sweeping efforts by Moscow to put a tight lid on information available to Russians about the conflict in Ukraine.

"The activities of the Meta organisation are directed against Russia and its armed forces," FSB representative Igor Kovalevsky told Moscow's Tverskoi district court, Russian news agencies reported.

"We ask (the court) to ban Meta's activities and oblige it to implement this ruling immediately," he said.

Meta [Getty]
12:43 PM
The New Arab Staff

Ukraine and Russia hold more peace talks

Russian and Ukrainian peace negotiators held a 90-minute video call on Monday and working groups will continue to meet throughout the day, a member of the Ukrainian delegation said.

"Today we are working the whole day," Ukrainian delegate and lawmaker David Arakhamia was quoted as saying by Ukrainian media.

12:32 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russian bond trading resumes for 1st time since Ukraine war

Russia's central bank cautiously reopened bond trading on the Moscow exchange on Monday for the first time since the country invaded Ukraine, with the price of Russia’s ruble-denominated government debt falling and sending borrowing costs higher.

Stock trading remained closed, with no word on when it might reopen.

The central bank bought bonds to support prices.

The bank has imposed wide-ranging restrictions on financial transactions to try to stabilise markets and combat the severe fallout from Western sanctions that have sent the ruble sharply lower against the US dollar and the euro.

Ratings agencies have downgraded Russia's bonds to “junk" status, and the head of the International Monetary Fund has said a default on government debt is no longer “an improbable event”.

12:03 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russian state responsible for hoax calls to UK ministers -PM Johnson's spokesman

The Russian state was responsible for hoax calls to two British ministers and an attempted call to a third, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman has said.

British defence minister Ben Wallace and interior minister Priti Patel both said they had been targeted.

Johnson's spokesman said a similar but unsuccessful attempt to hoax culture minister Nadine Dorries was also made.

"This is standard practice for Russian information operations and disinformation is a tactic straight from the Kremlin playbook to try and distract from their illegal activities in Ukraine and the human rights abuses being committed there," the spokesman said.

11:43 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Ukraine rejects Putin’s ultimatum to surrender besieged Mariupol

Ukraine rejected a Russian ultimatum to surrender the besieged southern city of Mariupol on Monday, as renewed overnight shelling killed at least eight people at a shopping mall in the capital Kyiv.

Ukrainian leaders stressed they were standing firm against invaders in Mariupol, which is suffering a critical humanitarian crisis.

Defenders of the port city have "played a huge role in destroying the enemy's plans and enhancing our defence," said Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov.

"Today Mariupol is saving Kyiv, Dnipro and Odessa. Everyone must understand this."

Rejecting the ultimatum by Russia to surrender Mariupol, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Moscow should instead allow the trapped residents to escape.

"We can't talk about surrendering weapons," Vereshchuk told the Ukrainska Pravda online newspaper.

Mariupol [Getty]
11:21 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Kremlin says Russian oil embargo would hurt Europe, not US

The Kremlin says Europe would be hit hard in the event of an embargo on Russian oil, striking the continent's energy balance, but would not affect the United States.

"Such an embargo would very seriously impact the global oil market, very badly impact energy balance on the European continent," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a daily conference call.

"Americans would remain as they are and would feel much better than Europeans (in the event of oil embargo). This would be hard for Europeans - such a decision would hit everyone," Peskov added.

Moscow itself has warned that EU sanctions on Russian oil could prompt it to close a gas pipeline to Europe.

For now, the 27-nation EU, which relies on Russia for 40% of its gas, with Germany among the most dependent of the bloc's large economies, is divided on how to tackle the energy issue.

11:01 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Ukraine President calls on Europe to halt all trades with Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky calls on European leaders to cease all trade with Russia in an effort to pressure Moscow to halt its nearly month-long military assault on his country.

"Please do not sponsor the weapons of war of this country, of Russia. No euros for the occupiers. Close all of your ports to them. Don't export them your goods. Deny energy resources. Push for Russia to leave Ukraine," Zelensky said in a video address.

Addressing Germany directly, he said: "You have the strength. Europe has the strength."

His appeal comes as several countries in the EU, including the Baltic states, have called for an embargo on Russian oil and gas imports.

Germany has opposed an outright halt on Russian energy imports.

Volodymyr Zelensky [Getty]
10:35 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

About 25,000 Ukrainian refugees have reached Spain so far

About 25,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Spain since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, though only 9,000 of them have registered so far with the authorities, Spanish Migration Minister Jose Luis Escriva has said today.

In Spain, which is far from the conflict, many of the Ukrainians who have arrived are staying with relatives or friends and have not yet notified the authorities, Escriva said.

"We have expanded the granting of residence permits to include all people who lived in Ukraine at the time of the invasion, not just Ukrainians," Escriva said in an interview with Spanish public news channel TVE.

Escriva said he expects around 9,000 more refugees to register with Spanish authorities this week and to receive European Union temporary protection orders allowing them to immediately obtain residence and work permits in the country.

Ukrainian refugees [Getty]
10:19 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Ukrainians briefly told to shelter after ammonia plant 'leak'

Residents of the northern Ukrainian town of Novoselytsya have been told to temporarily take shelter after an ammonia leak at a nearby chemical factory, amid intense fighting with Russian forces in the area.

Sumy regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky said there had been an "ammonia leakage" at the Sumykhimprom facility, affecting an area within 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) of the plant, which produces fertilisers.

The extent and cause of the incident was not immediately clear and residents were told to seek refuge in basements or on lower levels of buildings to avoid exposure.

At 0745 GMT, Ukrainian rescue services announced on Twitter that the accident was "finished."

According to Sumykhimprom's website the facility produces a range of chemical fertilisers.

9:42 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Situation in Mariupol "very difficult"

Ukraine described the situation in Mariupol today as "very difficult" and said it had been unable to establish a new safe corridor to evacuate civilians from the besieged city after it defied a Russian ultimatum to surrender.

Russia's military had ordered Ukrainians inside the southeastern city to surrender by 5 a.m. (0300 GMT), saying that those who did so would be permitted to leave through safe corridors.

"Of course we rejected these proposals," Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

Vereshchuk said agreement had been reached with Russia on creating eight humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from besieged towns and cities on Monday but Mariupol was not among them. Russia denies targeting civilians.

Vereshchuk said efforts to reach Mariupol with humanitarian supplies continued to fail.

"The situation there is very difficult," she added.

Mariupol [Getty]
9:15 AM
The New Arab Staff

Russia says it hit military facility in Ukraine's Rivne region with cruise missiles

Russian air forces hit a Ukrainian army military facility in Rivne Region with cruise missiles, Russia's Defence Ministry said on Monday.

"High-precision air-launched cruise missiles have struck a training centre for foreign mercenaries and Ukrainian nationalist formations," Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

9:03 AM
The New Arab Staff

Russia warns European oil embargo would 'hit everyone'

An embargo on Russian oil imports, pushed for by some European countries over Moscow's military action in Ukraine, would have a direct impact on everyone, the Kremlin said Monday.

As EU foreign ministers met to discuss more sanctions on Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that an oil embargo "is a decision that will hit everyone".

8:45 AM
The New Arab Staff

Kremlin says peace talks with Ukraine yet to yield breakthrough

The Kremlin has said today that peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv had yet to yield any major breakthroughs and called on countries that can exert influence over Ukraine to use their clout to make Kyiv more constructive at the negotiations.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said significant progress in the talks still had to be made for there to be a basis for a possible meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Dmitry Peskov [Getty]
8:10 AM
The New Arab Staff

At least six dead in overnight bombing of Kyiv mall

At least six people were killed in the overnight bombing of a shopping centre in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, with rescuers combing the wreckage for other victims.

Six bodies were laid out in front of the Retroville shopping mall in the northwest of Kyiv, according to eyewitnesses

The 10-storey building was hit by a powerful blast that pulverised vehicles in its car park and left a crater several metres (yards) wide.

The burnt-out mall was still smoking on Monday morning. All of its south side had been destroyed, as well as a fitness centre in its car park.

Twisted bits of metal and other debris were strewn across the area for hundreds of metres, as firefighters and soldiers searched the devastation for victims.