Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Ukraine’s intelligence chief says Russia is trying to split Ukraine in two

Ukraine’s military intelligence chief gave an update on Russian military tactics, saying in a statement that Moscow was seeking to split the country in two, according to Reuters.

“In fact, it’s an attempt to create North Korea and South Korea in Ukraine,” said Kyrylo Budanov.

Shortly after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, pro-Russian separatists proclaimed two republics in the east of the country: the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.

On Sunday, Russian state media reported that there may soon be a referendum in the Luhansk People’s Republic on joining Russia.

—Katrina Bishop and Holly Ellyatt

Blinken: US has no regime change strategy in Russia

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks after viewing the “Burma’s Path To Genocide” exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC on March 21, 2022.

Kevin Lamarque | AFP | Getty Images

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States had no strategy to bring about regime change in Russia.

Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, Israel, Blinken sought to clarify comments by President Joe Biden who said Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot stay in power.”

“I think the president, the White House, argued last night that, quite simply, President Putin cannot be empowered to wage war or engage in aggression against Ukraine or anyone. else,” Blinken said Sunday.

“As you know, and as you’ve heard us say many times, we don’t have a regime change strategy in Russia – or anywhere else, for that matter.”

Following Biden’s comments on Saturday, a White House official also pointed out that the president was “not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change,” but rather arguing that Putin “cannot be allowed to exercise power over its neighbors or the region.”

—Katrina Bishop

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister says 2 humanitarian corridors have been approved

Two humanitarian corridors have been agreed in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, according to a translation by NBC News.

People will be allowed to evacuate by personal transport along the corridor from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, she said. She added that there will also be evacuation buses from Berdyansk to Zaporizhzhia. Vereshchuk also said there would be evacuations from Rubizhne to Bakhmut.

—Christine Wang

Russians may be trying to surround Ukrainian forces to the east

Russian forces appear to be attempting to surround Ukrainian troops who are facing separatist fighters in the far east of the country, according to a new intelligence assessment.

The UK Ministry of Defence, in its daily update, said on Sunday that Russian units were trying to advance south from Kharkiv and north from Mariupol. If successful, these maneuvers could cut off the Ukrainian soldiers already engaged against the separatists in Donetsk and Lugansk.

CNBC was unable to independently confirm the department’s report.

Kharkiv and Mariupol are still in Ukrainian hands but have been shelled for weeks by Russian artillery, killing civilians and defenders. The Ukrainian government this week refused a Russian request to return Mariupol.

Russia says it does not use artillery against civilian targets, despite overwhelming evidence that it does.

Meanwhile, stubborn Ukrainian defensive efforts continue to block Moscow’s invasion of the north of the country, which would include the long stalled Russian push towards kyiv.

“The battlefield in northern Ukraine remains largely static, with local Ukrainian counterattacks hampering Russian attempts to reorganize their forces,” the British ministry said.

—Ted Kemp

Ukraine says more than 5,000 people were evacuated from cities today

Evacuees fleeing the conflict between Ukraine and Russia sit in the body of a cargo vehicle while waiting in a queue to leave the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, March 17, 2022.

Alexander Ermoshenko | Reuters

A total of 5,208 people were evacuated from Ukrainian towns through humanitarian corridors today, a senior official said, fewer than the 7,331 who managed to escape the day before.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said in an online message that 4,331 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol.

Reuters

U.S. to provide $100 million in emergency preparedness assistance to Ukraine

Egor, 5, comforts his crying mother Helen Yakubets in a ballroom, which has been converted into a temporary shelter, at Mandachi Hotel after he fled Chernihiv in Ukraine to Romania following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, at the Suceava border crossing, Romania, March 20, 2022. Her 18-year-old son and her husband remain in Ukraine to fight.

Clodagh Kilcoyne | Reuters

The United States will provide $100 million to Ukraine in emergency preparedness assistance, according to the State Department.

The assistance “will enhance the ability of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry to provide critical border security, maintain civilian law enforcement functions, and protect critical government infrastructure,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony. Blinken in a statement.

The announcement comes after Lviv, a city near the Polish border in western Ukraine, came under rocket fire earlier in the day.

Darla Mercado

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