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Ukraine war: Free to read

Ukraine from March 23 to April 21: Biden, Macron agree to engage with China on war

Washington approves more arms for Ukraine in $325m package

Chinese President Xi Jinping gave French counterpart Emmanuel Macron a warm welcome to China.   © Reuters

This blog file is now closed. For the latest developments, head over here.

The war that began with Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has passed a grim one-year milestone, with mounting military and civilian deaths.

As fighting rages in and around Bakhmut, Western nations have raised their military support for Ukraine to the highest level yet, with commitments to send main battle tanks.

Read our in-depth coverage. For all our coverage, visit our Ukraine war page.

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Note: Nikkei Asia decided in March 2022 to suspend its reporting from Russia until further information becomes available regarding the scope of the revised criminal code. Entries include material from wire services and other sources.

Here are the latest developments:

Friday, April 21 (Tokyo time)

6:00 a.m. In Hong Kong, setting up a shell company can be done in a matter of days and for less than the cost of an iPhone.

This business-friendly system began under British rule -- and continued under communist China -- helping the city transform itself into one of the world's most successful commercial hubs.

But it has also put Hong Kong at the center of a web of trading companies that is funneling millions of dollars' worth of American-made semiconductors into Russia despite U.S. sanctions imposed following the invasion of Ukraine. Read more.

4:25 a.m. The leaders of France and the U.S. have agreed on the importance of continuing to engage with China in hopes of ending the conflict in Ukraine, according to the French presidency. Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden discussed the French president's recent trip to China, both sides say.

During the trip, Macron urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to use his influence to "bring Russia back to reason." Xi reportedly expressed willingness to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, but the Chinese leader's earlier visit to Vladimir Putin in Moscow reinforced the image of China backing Russia.

Macron and Biden discussed "their ongoing efforts to advance prosperity, security, shared values, and the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific region" and "reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," according to the White House.

Their call comes after remarks this month in which Macron argued that Europe should maintain strategic autonomy from the U.S. and avoid becoming caught in a Sino-American crisis.

12:33 a.m. South Korea says it will send ammunition to Poland and that direct military assistance to Ukraine may occur in the future if Russia engages in large-scale attacks on civilians, massacres or serious violations of laws of war.

Thursday, April 20

9:08 p.m. Ukraine's future lies in NATO, the Western military alliance's chief Jens Stoltenberg declares during his first visit to the country since Russia's invasion 14 months ago.

"Let me be clear: Ukraine's rightful place is in the euro-Atlantic family. Ukraine's rightful place is in NATO. And over time, our support will help you to make this possible," Stoltenberg says at a press conference with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv. In 2008, a NATO summit in Romania agreed that Ukraine eventually would join the alliance.

4:30 a.m. The European Union is preparing 100 million euros ($109 million) in compensation for farmers in five countries bordering Ukraine and plans to introduce restrictions on imports of Ukrainian grains. Pressure has mounted on Brussels to work out a European Union-wide solution after Poland and Hungary banned some imports from Ukraine last weekend. The countries became transit routes for Ukrainian grain that could not be exported through Ukraine's Black Sea ports because of Russia's invasion in February 2022. Bottlenecks then trapped millions of tons of grains in countries bordering Ukraine, forcing local farmers to compete with an influx of cheap Ukrainian imports they say distort prices and demand.

The latest U.S. security assistance for Ukraine includes ammunition for the HIMARS rocket system, pictured here in a training exercise in the Philippines.   © Reuters

3:30 a.m. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken authorizes $325 million in additional military aid for Ukraine. The latest package includes more ammunition for U.S.-supplied HIMARS rocket launchers and anti-armor systems, Blinken says in a statement.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanks U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy for bipartisan congressional support for Ukraine. Zelenskyy says he and McCarthy discussed Ukraine's needs in armored vehicles, artillery, air defense and aircraft.

3:00 a.m. Contending with China's preparations for war has a greater urgency for the U.S. and its Asian allies than helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia, former Pentagon official Elbridge Colby says.

Asked whether calling for cuts to U.S. support for Ukraine is extreme, Colby tells Nikkei: "What's drastic and extreme is how much China has grown and how serious it is about preparing for a war."

"Time is the problem," he adds. "And if you look historically at why aggression happens, it's usually because an aggressor sees an opportunity that may be fleeting." Read more.

2:00 a.m. Heineken says it has sought approval from regulators in Russia to sell its business there. The brewing company had said it would exit Russia and expected to book a loss of 300 million euros ($328 million) on the sale. "We have submitted an application for approval regarding the transfer of ownership of our Russian business ... it's now with the authorities of the Russian Federation," the Financial Times quotes Chief Financial Officer Harold van den Broek as saying.

Wednesday, April 19

7:50 a.m. The Russian-installed head of the Moscow-controlled part of Ukraine's Donetsk region met Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk on Tuesday and said he had discussed ways of boosting trade. The visit by Denis Pushilin prompted Ukraine to protest about what it called a "blatantly unfriendly act" by Belarus, a close ally of Russia that allowed Moscow's forces to use its territory as a launching pad for the February 2022 invasion. Pushilin, writing on Telegram, said he was interested in quarry equipment, tractors and buses as well as building products and furniture. In return, his region was ready to export grain to Belarus, in addition to existing shipments of sunflower seeds.

4:00 a.m. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva says he condemns the violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity and favors a political and negotiated solution to end the war.

His comments, made during a visit by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, come after Lula drew criticism for weekend remarks that the West was partly to blame for prolonging the conflict.

1:19 a.m. Poland has reached an agreement on restarting transit of Ukrainian grains through its territory as of Friday, said Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Telus, according to Reuters. He added that transits would be monitored and sealed.

But a ban on imports of Ukrainian food products to Poland would remain in place, Development Minister Waldemar Buda said.

Tuesday, April 18

9:22 p.m. India and China have snapped up the vast majority of Russian oil so far in April at prices above the Western price cap of $60 per barrel, according to traders and Reuters calculations.

That means the Kremlin is enjoying stronger revenues despite the West's attempts to curb funds for Russia's military operations in Ukraine. India and China have not agreed to abide by the price cap, but the West had hoped the threat of sanctions might deter traders from helping those countries buy oil above the cap.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands behind a glass wall in an enclosure for defendants before his court hearing in Moscow.   © Reuters

9:07 p.m. A Moscow court rejects an appeal from Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich to be freed from pretrial detention, meaning the U.S. journalist will stay in prison until at least May 29 while a spying case against him is investigated.

"He's in a combative mood, denies he is guilty, and is ready to prove it," Gershkovich's lawyer tells reporters. Russia arrested Gershkovich on March 29 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on espionage charges that carry a possible 20-year prison sentence for collecting what it said were state secrets about the military industrial complex.

2:50 p.m. The Kremlin says that Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited military headquarters in Ukraine's Kherson and Luhansk regions, which are partly held by Russia. Putin attended a military command meeting in the Kherson region to hear reports from commanders of the airborne forces, the "Dnieper" army group and senior officers on the situation in both regions, which Moscow has proclaimed part of Russia. Russian troops in November retreated from Kherson, the regional capital, and have been reinforcing their positions on the opposite bank of the Dnipro River in anticipation of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

12:30 p.m. The ministers of G-7 nations issue a joint statement at a meeting in the town of Karuizawa, Japan. The group said it recognizes the importance of engaging directly with China and explained concerns about China's military buildup. The group also called for tough sanctions against Russia and continued support for Ukraine. It demanded an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops and opposed the use of nuclear weapons. Noting the possibility of China and other countries providing arms to Russia, the statement called for an end to diversion assistance to Russia by third countries.

5:30 a.m. The White House pushes back against Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's barb that the U.S. should "stop encouraging" the Ukraine war.

Lula's comments were "simply misguided," National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby tells reporters, saying the Brazilian leader was "parroting Russian and Chinese propaganda."

On a visit to Brazil, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov thanks the country for its efforts to resolve the conflict.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva recently visited China, where he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Photo by Ken Ishii/pool via Reuters)

At a joint news conference, his Brazilian counterpart Mauro Vieira says unilateral sanctions are hurting developing countries that have yet to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday, April 17

11:30 p.m. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy says that she has visited detained Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich and that he is in good health.

Gershkovich has been charged with espionage. The U.S. says has been wrongfully detained. Washington had accused Russia of violating international law by not granting him U.S. consular access earlier.

10:30 p.m. Japan has protested Russia's increased military activity around islands northeast of Hokkaido that Tokyo claims.

Moscow last week announced naval exercises that would include repelling a simulated landing on the Russian-administered islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories.

The Foreign Ministry communicated Japan's position to the Russian Embassy. "We expressed our concerns about an increase in Russian military activity around Japan amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.

10:00 p.m. A critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for treason and "discrediting" the armed forces after opposing Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The jailing of Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian who also holds British citizenship, marks a new, harsher step in the crackdown against Russian opposition activists since the start of the war on Ukraine.

5:00 p.m. Bangladesh appears to have found a workaround for stalled payments it owes Russia for a nuclear power plant: settling them in Chinese yuan.

With U.S. and European sanctions barring Russia from much of the international banking system, Dhaka has been scrambling for ways to settle repayments worth $110 million for the still-under-construction Rooppur power plant. But last week, a high-level delegation from Russia and Bangladesh's Ministry of Finance agreed that the bills could be paid in yuan. Read more.

Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on April 16. One topic on the agenda was strategic communications between militaries.

8:30 a.m. Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu says the country is willing to work with Russia to have close strategic communications between their militaries, state media CCTV reported. Li met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Sunday, and said, "China is willing to work with Russia to make new contributions to the maintenance of world and regional security and stability," according to a Reuters report.

Sunday, April 16

5:00 a.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he discussed Emmanuel Macron's recent visit to China with the French president and is grateful to him for conveying Kyiv's stance on the need to fully withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine.

"None of Russia's violations of international law can be ignored," Zelenskyy also says in a series of Twitter posts. "It is on such principles that security and peace will return to international relations."

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou on April 7.   © Reuters

Saturday, April 15

4:00 p.m. Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Wagner Group, says it would be ideal for Moscow to declare an end to the war.

"The ideal option is to announce the end of the special military operation, to inform everyone that Russia has achieved the results that it planned, and in a sense we have actually achieved them," Prigozhin says in a statement posted online, using Moscow's euphemism for the war.

He acknowledges the situation on the front lines could deteriorate if Ukraine launches a counteroffensive, and he claims negotiation with Kyiv is "impossible."

11:00 a.m. China's Commerce Ministry has said the country "resolutely opposes" sanctions the United States placed on some Chinese firms over their alleged involvement with Russia, state media reports. The U.S. on Wednesday imposed sanctions on over 120 targets, including a China-based firm, to squeeze Russia for its war in Ukraine. The ministry said Washington should immediately correct what it called wrongdoing and stop unreasonable suppression of Chinese companies, according to the media reports.

2:38 a.m. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has announced missile launches and torpedo tests as part of a surprise inspection of the Pacific naval fleet.

The fleet "went on heightened alert in a snap combat readiness inspection to practice preventing a notional enemy's deployment to the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk, repelling its disembarkation on the Island of Sakhalin and the southern Kuril Islands," Tass reports, indirectly quoting Shoigu from a meeting with military commanders.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov characterizes the drills as routine. They come amid heightened Asia-Pacific tensions as the U.S. and South Korea run joint air exercises following an intercontinental ballistic missile test by North Korea.

2:00 a.m. The 21-year-old member of the U.S. Air National Guard accused of sharing classified defense documents online has made his first appearance before a federal judge.

Jack Teixeira is charged with unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information and unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or materials, court documents show. A hearing on his detention is set for next week.

Newly appointed Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu will visit Russia next week.   © Kyodo

1:15 a.m. Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu will meet with Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on an official visit to Moscow next week, their ministries have announced.

"The two sides will discuss the status and prospects of bilateral cooperation in the defense sphere as well as topical global and regional security issues," Russia's Ministry of Defense said.

Li, who was appointed in March, has been under American sanctions since 2018 for what the U.S. Treasury Department describes as "significant transactions" that involved "Russia's delivery to China of Su-35 combat aircraft in 2017 and S-400 surface-to-air missile system-related equipment in 2018."

Friday, April 14

3:00 p.m. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for Europe to trust China if it did not try to find a political solution to the Ukraine crisis. The remarks published on the EU's website were to be delivered at a think tank in Beijing on Friday, but Borrell had to cancel his trip to China because he caught COVID-19.

7:00 a.m. Russia appreciates Latin American countries for their decision not to join "illegitimate" Western sanctions against Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov writes in an article published on the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website and in Brazilian and Mexican media.

Lavrov accuses Western capitals of wanting to replace international law based on the United Nations charter with "rules that were made up by no one knows who."

"It is no coincidence that the efforts to abandon the U.S. dollar in foreign trade and to create an infrastructure of transport, logistics, interbank, financial and economic ties that are not controlled by the West have stepped up significantly around the world," he writes in the article.

His words are echoed by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva during his visit to China.

"Every night I ask myself why all countries have to base their trade on the dollar," Lula says in a speech at the New Development Bank, also known as the BRICS bank, in Shanghai.

FBI agents arrest suspect Jack Teixeira, an employee of the U.S. Air Force National Guard, in Massachusetts in connection with an investigation into the leaks online of classified U.S. documents on April 13. (Photo by WCVB-TV via ABC via Reuters)

4:10 a.m. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland says the suspect in the leak of U.S. defense documents, Air National Guard employee Jack Teixeira, has been arrested "without incident." Earlier, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder called the leak a "deliberate criminal act."

The FBI says in a statement that the 21-year-old Teixeira was arrested "for his alleged involvement in leaking classified U.S. government and military documents.

"Since late last week, the FBI has aggressively pursued investigative leads, and today's arrest exemplifies our continued commitment to identifying, pursuing, and holding accountable those who betray our country's trust and put our national security at risk," the statement says.

3:35 a.m. A suspect has been arrested in connection with the leak of classified U.S. documents on the war in Ukraine, the FBI says.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is expected to make a statement soon. The arrest was made in the U.S. state of Massachusetts. The New York Times reported the suspect as Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman, citing interviews and documents.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang meet on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting on Afghanistan in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on April 13. (Photo by Russia's Foreign Ministry via Reuters)

Thursday, April 13

11:30 p.m. Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang discusses the situation in Ukraine during a meeting with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Uzbekistan, according to a readout from China's Foreign Ministry.

Qin tells Lavrov there is no panacea to end the crisis, and that to stop the war all parties need to start from themselves, build mutual trust, and create the conditions for peace talks, according to the ministry.

Qin vows China will continue to play a constructive role.

Qin's meeting with Lavrov in Samarkand comes after Chinese President Xi Jinping's summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Moscow last month.

Lavrov says the talks with Qin are another confirmation of the good prospects for strategic collaboration and comprehensive partnership between China and Russia, according to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The talks took place on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of Afghanistan's neighbors.

2:00 p.m. Ukraine's gross domestic product fell by 29.1% in 2022, the state statistics service says. The service did not give a reason for the drop, while the government has said the main reason for the sharp contraction was the Russian invasion, which led to the loss of a significant part of Ukraine's territory and damage to industry.

A woman walks past a building damaged by recent shelling during heavy fighting at the frontline of Bakhmut and Chasiv Yar, in eastern Ukraine, on April 12.   © Reuters

7:00 a.m. The U.S. imposes sanctions on over 120 targets to squeeze Russia for its war in Ukraine, pursuing entities linked to state-held energy company Rosatom and companies based in partner nations like Turkey in a sign of stepped-up enforcement. The sanctions, imposed by the Treasury and State departments in concert with Britain, hit entities and individuals in over 20 nations and jurisdictions, including a Russian private military company, a China-based company and a Russian-owned bank in Hungary. The Treasury Department said it imposed sanctions on Russian financial facilitators and sanctions evaders around the world, including in the United Arab Emirates and China-based people and businesses.

Wednesday, April 12

4:10 a.m. More than a year since the start of the Ukraine war, hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of U.S.-made semiconductors are flowing into Russia despite Washington's sanctions on the country, a Nikkei investigation finds

Much of these flows have gone through small traders in Hong Kong and mainland China. To uncover these routes, Nikkei obtained Russian customs data from Export Genius, an Indian research company, and examined semiconductor import records from Feb. 24 to Dec. 31, 2022. Read more.

This satellite image shows trenches and deployed vehicles in the north of Armiansk, Crimea on Feb. 16. (Satellite image by Maxar Technologies via AP)

1:00 a.m. The Moscow-appointed leader of Crimea said on Tuesday the region is on guard for what may be an impending Ukrainian counteroffensive. Sergei Aksyonov told reporters that Russian forces in Crimea had built "modern, in-depth defenses" and had "more than enough" troops and equipment to repel a possible Ukrainian assault after 13 months of war following Russia's full-scale invasion. "We cannot underestimate the enemy, but we can definitely say that we are ready [for an attack] and that there will be no catastrophe," he said. His comments came days after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reaffirmed Kyiv's intention to take back the Black Sea peninsula that Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Tuesday, April 11

11:55 p.m. India has restarted a joint air exercise with the U.S. last held in 2019, likely aiming to send neighboring China a message as tensions over their border smolder.

The bilateral Cope India exercise is taking place in the states of West Bengal in eastern India and Uttar Pradesh in the north, the Indian Air Force said this week. The event, which dates to 2004, includes exchanges between specialists on both sides along with air drills. Read more.

11:45 p.m. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says he and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had affirmed American support for Ukraine and "vehemently rejected" attempts to cast doubt on its capacity for battlefield victory.

10:40 p.m. The International Monetary Fund warns that a flare-up in financial turmoil, on top of persistent inflation, adds uncertainty to a fragile global economy.

"With the recent increase in financial market volatility, the fog around the world economic outlook has thickened," the IMF says in its latest World Economic Outlook as the fund and the World Bank launch spring meetings this week in Washington.

"Uncertainty is high and the balance of risks has shifted firmly to the downside so long as the financial sector remains unsettled," the IMF adds. Read more.

Monday, April 10

11:30 p.m. The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into the leak of dozens of classified documents about the war in Ukraine, the Financial Times reports.

"The Department of Defense continues to review and assess the validity of the photographed documents that are circulating on social media sites and that appear to contain sensitive and highly classified material," Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh says.

"An interagency effort has been stood up, focused on assessing the impact these photographed documents could have on U.S. national security and on our allies and partners," Singh adds.

The highly classified documents, which officials have said appear mostly authentic, cover a range of topics mainly relating to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, arrives for a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk on April 10. (Photo by BelTA/Andrei Stasevich via Reuters)

10:00 p.m. Belarus seeks assurances from Russia that it would be defended in case of an attack, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko says.

"We need full security guarantees from our brotherly Russia," state-run BelTA reports Lukashenko as saying during a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Minsk.

Lukashenko accuses Western nations of reneging on 1990s agreements to protect former Soviet republics like Ukraine and Belarus in exchange for the removal of their Soviet-era nuclear weapons.

"You know, of course, that Western states have trampled all these treaties, agreements and statements and there is no security," he says.

7:30 a.m. Pope Francis appeared to ask Russians to seek the truth about their country's invasion of Ukraine in his Easter message to the world on Sunday. Francis, 86, presided at a solemn Easter day Mass in a sunny St. Peter's Square after unseasonal cold forced him to skip an outdoor service on Friday -- a precaution following his hospitalization for bronchitis at the end of March. There, he spoke of "the darkness and the gloom in which, all too often, our world finds itself enveloped," and prayed to God for peace. "Help the beloved Ukrainian people on their journey toward peace, and shed the light of Easter upon the people of Russia," he said. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, Francis has at least twice a week referred to Ukraine and its people as being "martyred" and has used words such as aggression and atrocities to describe Russia's actions.

6:15 a.m. The recently leaked classified U.S. military documents indicate that a Russian Su-27 fighter jet nearly shot down a British surveillance plane last September off the coast of Crimea, The Washington Post reports. The leaked material cites a "near-shoot down" of an RC-135 reconnaissance plane, an incident that could have drawn the U.S. and its NATO allies directly into the Ukraine war.

A Russian Su-27 military aircraft dumps fuel while flying toward a U.S. Air Force unmanned MQ-9 aircraft over the Black Sea on March 14.   © Reuters

U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace disclosed the incident to the British House of Commons in October, but had attributed the Russian jet's missile firing to a "technical malfunction" and did not describe the incident as a near-shootdown.

Saturday, April 8

5:00 a.m. Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich has been charged with spying for the U.S. in Russia, Tass reports, citing a Federal Security Service official.

Gershkovich has denied the espionage charge, Tass reports, adding that the official described the journalist's case as "top secret."

Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen, was detained last week during a reporting trip to Ekaterinburg in Russia's Ural Mountains region. President Joe Biden and other American officials have said Gershkovich has been wrongfully detained and have called for his release.

On Friday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that "Russian authorities have failed to present any credible evidence to justify their fabricated charges."

12:30 a.m. Chinese President Xi Jinping has told French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that a "political settlement" is the only correct way out of the Ukraine crisis, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says.

Xi and Macron held an informal meeting in Guangzhou.

China never handles the situation in Ukraine out of self-interest but always stands for fairness and justice, Xi told Macron, according to the ministry's readout. All parties concerned should shoulder their responsibilities, meet each other halfway, and create conditions for a political settlement, he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and France’s President Emmanuel Macron talk before a tea ceremony in Guangzhou on April 7. (Pool via Reuters)

Friday, April 7

4:21 p.m. The Russian ruble tumbled on Friday to its lowest levels against the dollar and the euro since April 2022, breaching 90 per euro. Traders said the ruble was under pressure due to a host of problems including the sale of Western assets to domestic investors, which stoked demand for dollars, while lower prices for oil in March cut export revenues. The ruble is the third-worst performing currency in the world, year to date, behind only the Egyptian pound and the Argentine peso, according to Reuters calculations.

3:11 p.m. Russia has seized the west bank of the Bakhmutka River, endangering a key Ukraine supply route, in its push to regain control of the devastated eastern city of Bakhmut, the British defense ministry said on Friday. "Russia has made further gains and has now highly likely advanced into the town center ... Ukraine's key 0506 supply route to the west of the town is likely severely threatened," the ministry said on Twitter.

4:47 a.m. Russia's refusal to give consular access to detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is "inexcusable," U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby says.

"We need to get consular access to Evan," he tells reporters.

12:30 a.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko did not discuss deploying strategic nuclear weapons to Belarus at their meeting in Moscow on Thursday, Interfax reports, quoting Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

Peskov says that the deployment of American nuclear weapons at bases in Europe is of concern to Russia and that Moscow would respond "appropriately" to these challenges.

Lukashenko said recently that Belarus is ready to host both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.

Putin and Lukashenko did discuss security cooperation at their Moscow talks. The two countries are preparing a "Security Concept" document that Putin says will outline goals for cooperation "in light of growing tensions on our states' external borders and the sanctions and information war against us," Tass reports.

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on April 6.   © Reuters

Thursday, April 6

11:55 p.m. European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen says she has encouraged Chinese President Xi Jinping to "reach out to" Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

"It was interesting to hear that President Xi reiterated his willingness to speak to Zelenskyy when the conditions and time are right," von der Leyen says in Beijing after her meeting with the Chinese leader. "I think this is positive."

She says she welcomes some of the principles put forward by China on the situation in Ukraine.

"This is notably the case on the issue of nuclear safety and risk reduction and China's statement on the unacceptability of nuclear threats or the use of nuclear weapons," she says.

Von der Leyen reiterates the EU's firm line against supplying Russia with lethal weapons.

"I want to be very clear on that: Arming the aggressor is a clear violation of international law," she says. "The aggressor should never be armed. This would significantly harm the relationship between the EU and China."

Members of Ukrainian special forces calibrate their weapons prior to a mission in the Bakhmut region.   © Reuters

10:00 p.m. Ukraine is not abandoning the city of Bakhmut, says the head of Russia's private Wagner militia, adding that more support from regular military forces will be necessary for further advances.

Yevgeny Prigozhin says the capture of the city, which Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has said would let Russia advance further into eastern Ukraine, was still some way off.

"It must be said clearly that the enemy is not going anywhere," Prigozhin says on his Telegram channel.

8:19 p.m. French President Emmanuel Macron urges Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to help persuade Russia to hold negotiations toward ending the war in Ukraine, as the two leaders met in Beijing.

"We need to find a lasting peace that respects internationally recognized borders and avoids any form of escalation," Macron says. "I believe that this is also an important issue for China, as much as it is for France and for Europe."

6:00 a.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says during a trip to Warsaw that Poland will help form a coalition of Western powers to supply warplanes to Kyiv, adding that Ukrainian troops were still fighting for Bakhmut in the east but could withdraw if they risked being cut off. Neighboring Poland is a close ally of Ukraine and helped galvanize support in the West to supply main battle tanks to Kyiv. During Zelenskyy's visit, Poland announced it would send 10 more MiG fighter jets on top of four provided earlier. "Just as your (Polish) leadership proved itself in the tank coalition, I believe that it will manifest itself in the planes coalition," Zelenskyy said in a speech at a square in Warsaw on Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 5

10:07 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanks Poland for its "historic" help as he visits the country, saying Warsaw should become a key partner in the vast reconstruction effort needed once Russia's invasion ends.

Warsaw has played a leading role in persuading allies to provide Kyiv with heavy weaponry. President Andrzej Duda said on Wednesday that Poland will supply Ukraine with 14 MiG-29 fighter jets.

"You have stood shoulder to shoulder with us, and we are grateful for it," Zelenskyy said after being awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest honor. "I believe that these are historic relations, a historic result and historic strength between our countries."

Polish President Andrzej Duda welcomes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on April 5.   © AP

9:54 p.m. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Turkey on Thursday and Friday for talks with counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says.

2:30 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in neighboring Poland on Wednesday, a Polish presidential aide said, beginning an official visit to a close ally that has galvanized Western military and political support for Kyiv. The visit, which was announced this week by Poland but has not been officially confirmed by Kyiv, comes with Ukraine planning to conduct a counteroffensive in the coming weeks or months to recapture occupied land in its east and south. "I can say that President Zelenskyy has crossed the Polish border," Marcin Przydacz told a private broadcaster on Wednesday.

The U.S. will send Ukraine about $500 million in ammunition and equipment and will spend more than $2 billion to buy an array of munitions, radar and other weapons in the future.    © AP

7:00 a.m. The U.S. will send Ukraine about $500 million in ammunition and equipment and spend more than $2 billion to buy an array of munitions, radar and new weapons to help Kyiv counter drones in the coming months. The aid, which will be taken from military stockpiles so it can be in the war zone quickly, includes "ammunition for U.S.-provided HIMARS" multiple rocket launchers, "air defense interceptors, and artillery rounds that Ukraine is using to defend itself," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. The package includes at least two new weapons systems that are designed to counter drones -- especially the Iranian-made Shahed, which Russia has heavily used in attacks on Ukrainian cities.

Tuesday, April 4

10:00 p.m. Russian investigators charge Darya Trepova, a 26-year-old woman, with terrorism offenses over the killing of pro-war blogger Vladlen Tatarsky in a bomb blast in St. Petersburg. Tatarsky, a cheerleader for Russia's military campaign in Ukraine whose real name was Maxim Fomin, was killed on Sunday in a cafe where he was due to talk.

Finnish and NATO flags outside the Foreign Ministry in Helsinki on April 4. (Lehtikuva via Reuters)

9:53 p.m. Finland formally joins NATO as Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto completes the accession process by handing over an official document to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the military alliance's headquarters in Brussels.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg notes that Russian President Vladimir Putin had cited the alliance's expansion as one justification for Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. "He is getting exactly the opposite. ... Finland today, and soon also Sweden, will become a full-fledged member of the alliance," Stoltenberg said.

The Kremlin has threatened "countermeasures," saying Russia will bolster its military in the country's west and northwest.

Helsinki's accession roughly doubles the length of the border that NATO shares with Russia and ends an era of military nonalignment for Finland that began after the country repelled an invasion by the Soviet Union during World War II. Russia's invasion of Ukraine prompted Finns to seek security under NATO's collective defense pact.

8:27 p.m. Hundreds of residents of the Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk turn out to mourn four-time world kickboxing champion Vitalii Merinov after he was killed in action fighting Russian troops. Merinov, 32, died in a hospital last week after he was wounded in the eastern region of Luhansk, claimed and partially controlled by Russia.

8:20 a.m. The West is trying to drive a wedge between Russia and China by talking about their unequal relations and Moscow's dependence on Beijing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with the Argumenty i Fakty news website published on Tuesday, Reuters reported. He said 10 hours of talks last month between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping had propelled the "strategic partnership" between Moscow and Beijing beyond "an exclusively bilateral context."

"Naturally we have a sense of comradeship and readiness to stand shoulder to shoulder in defense of each other's fundamental interests," Lavrov said, adding, "We see this as an attempt to cast a shadow on our successes, to drive a wedge into the friendship between Moscow and Beijing."

12:45 a.m. The Kremlin accuses Ukraine of organizing the murder of Maxim Fomin, a prominent war blogger who wrote under the name Vladlen Tatarsky, by bomb in a St. Petersburg cafe, saying Ukrainian intelligence services had help from supporters of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Investigators and emergency services personnel work at the site of an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg.   © Reuters

Russian police arrest Darya Trepova, a Russian woman who confesses in a video that she handed Fomin a figurine in his likeness that exploded shortly afterward, killing him. The official Tass news agency says more than 30 people were injured in the attack.

Monday, April 3

9:32 p.m. Finland is expected to join NATO on Tuesday, becoming the 31st member of the world's biggest military alliance.

All members must vote unanimously to admit a new country.

"This is a historic week," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says. The move will make "Finland safer and our alliance stronger."

8:30 p.m. A prominent pro-invasion blogger who also criticized the Russian military is killed by a bomb at a St. Petersburg cafe in an apparent assassination. Maxim Fomin, who wrote as Vladlen Tatarsky, was meeting with supporters at a public event. Video shows him accepting a small statue in his likeness from a woman before an explosion rips through the venue. The blast also injures 25 people, 19 of whom were hospitalized.

The death is the highest-profile attack on a prominent war supporter inside Russia since August, when a car bomb killed Daria Dugina, daughter of an ultranationalist supporter of Vladimir Putin.

1:50 p.m. Russia plans to form a division of special-purpose submarines that will carry Poseidon nuclear-capable torpedoes as part of the country's Pacific Fleet by the end of 2024 or first half of 2025, Reuters reports, citing Russia's Tass news agency. Russia said in January that it had produced its first set of Poseidon torpedoes, four years after President Vladimir Putin announced the fundamentally new type of strategic nuclear weapon, confirming it would have its own nuclear power supply. In late March, Russia said the coastal infrastructure for the submarines that would carry the torpedoes will be finished on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Sunday, April 2

11:55 p.m. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken calls for the immediate release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, whom Russia has accused of spying, during a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the State Department says.

"Secretary Blinken conveyed the United States' grave concern over Russia's unacceptable detention of a U.S. citizen journalist," State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said. Russia's Foreign Ministry said Lavrov told Blinken that Gershkovich's fate would be determined by a court. "It was emphasized that it is unacceptable for officials in Washington and the Western media to whip up a stir with the clear intention of giving this case a political coloring," the ministry said.

Gershkovich was arrested Thursday, accused of gathering information about a Russian defense company that was a state secret.

Saturday, April 1

2:10 a.m. Belarus is ready to allow Russian strategic nuclear weapons to be deployed within its borders in addition to tactical nuclear weapons, President Alexander Lukashenko says.

Russian military vehicles, including Yars intercontinental ballistic missile systems, roll through Red Square during a rehearsal for a military parade in May 2022.   © Reuters

"If we have to, Putin and I will bring strategic nuclear weapons here, too," Lukashenko tells the nation and the parliament in an address, the state-run BelTA news agency reports.

"And those foreign scum, who are now trying to blow us up from the inside and from the outside, have to understand it," he adds. "We will stop at nothing in defense of our countries, our states, and our peoples."

Belarus confirmed this week that Russian tactical nuclear weapons would be deployed on its soil for the first time since the 1990s.

Lukashenko also says he is in control of Russian troops in Belarus.

"We, I am in control of these troops, who are located in the territory of Belarus," BelTA quotes him as saying. "I've brought them here to train, equip, and teach how to work together if, God forbid, they have to do it."

12:30 a.m. Great Wall Motor, China's largest maker of sport utility vehicles, has seen revenue in Russia surge as Western and Japanese rivals have pulled back from a market hit by U.S.-led sanctions in response to the war in Ukraine.

The Chinese automaker's revenue in Russia rose 73% on the year to reach 8.57 billion yuan ($1.25 billion) in 2022. Great Wall's overall revenue grew less than 1% last year, as sales at home dropped 8%.

While China remains its mainstay, generating 80% of its total revenue, Russia is the company's largest overseas market, far exceeding others including Australia, South Africa, Thailand and Saudi Arabia. Read more.

Friday, March 31

10:00 p.m. Nobel Prize-winning Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov says he does not believe that American reporter Evan Gershkovich is a spy, Reuters reports.

"I know Gershkovich," Muratov tells Reuters about The Wall Street Journal reporter. "I've met him two or three times over the last year. I know the practice exists of using journalists as spies, intelligence officers and 'illegals' [undeclared spies] -- this is not that kind of case."

3:00 p.m. Japan bans Russia-bound exports of steel, aluminum and aircraft including drones in its latest sanctions imposed due to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, the country's trade ministry said. The latest measure, which also prohibits Japanese entities from exporting a wide variety of industrial items such as construction machinery, ship engines, testing equipment and optical devices to Russia, will go into effect on April 7, the ministry said in a statement. The announcement comes days after Russia's Defense Ministry said the navy had fired supersonic anti-ship missiles at a practice target in the Sea of Japan.

Turkish lawmakers vote in favor of Finland's bid to join NATO on March 30 at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey. The vote by the 276 lawmakers present was unanimous.   © AP

8:30 a.m. Turkey's parliament ratifies Finland's application to join NATO, lifting the last hurdle in the way of the Nordic country's long-delayed accession into the Western military alliance. All 276 lawmakers present voted in favor of Finland's bid. "This will make the whole NATO family stronger & safer," NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter in welcoming Turkey's action. Alarmed by Russia's invasion of Ukraine a year ago, Finland and Sweden abandoned their decadeslong policy of nonalignment and applied to join the alliance. Full unanimity is required to admit new members into the 30-member alliance, and Turkey was the last NATO member to ratify Finland's accession.

1:15 a.m. While Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin agreed to deepen ties and forge closer cooperation in energy at their recent summit, Chinese state-owned oil company executives are maintaining a low profile toward Russia.

"Of course, Russia is a country with extremely abundant oil and gas resources," CNOOC Chairman Wang Dongjin told reporters this week when asked about what the next step would be in Russia.

He said the company will "abide by the international rules and market principle" in selecting oil and gas procurement and investment.

"We are not going to designate a certain country or certain region, but the decision based on comprehensive evaluation," he said. Read how other Chinese oil executives reacted.

Thursday, March 30

5:00 p.m. Russia's FSB security service said on Thursday that a reporter with the U.S. newspaper The Wall Street Journal, Evan Gershkovich, had been detained in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on suspicion of espionage, the Interfax news agency reports. In a statement quoted by Interfax, the FSB said it had "stopped the illegal activities of U.S. citizen Gershkovich Evan, born in 1991, a correspondent of the Moscow bureau of the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal, accredited at the Russian Foreign Ministry, who is suspected of spying in the interests of the American government."

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, seen here at the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh last November, said on March 30 that Russia's invasion of Ukraine violates the U.N. Charter.    © Reuters

11:50 a.m. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has gravely violated the United Nations charter and international law. Big powers have the responsibility of maintaining stable and workable relations with one another, and the most worrying is the state of relations between the United States and China, Lee said at the Boao forum in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan.

8:30 a.m. The U.S. military "has a long way to go" to beef up its munitions stockpiles and ensure the country is ready for any large-scale war, the top U.S. military officer tells Congress. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the war in Ukraine has underscored the heavy use of munitions that is required during any major conflict. He and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin faced repeated questioning from members of Congress this week about the impact the war is having on the Pentagon as it supplies Ukraine with much of the ammunition it needs to fend off the Russian forces.

5:45 a.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin may visit Turkey next month for the inauguration of the Russian-built Akkuyu nuclear power plant, Anadolu Agency reports, quoting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Putin may attend the April 27 event online or in person, Erdogan says. If he does travel to Turkey, it would mark a rare trip abroad for the Russian leader since the start of the Ukraine war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, in September 2021. (Sputnik via Reuters)

5:41 a.m. As the official first day of the latest Summit for Democracy wrapped up Wednesday, the U.S. has announced international guidelines for curbing exports of technology that could be used by authoritarian nations to violate human rights.

The White House says the voluntary code of conduct is supported by 20 countries including Japan, South Korea, the U.K., Germany and France, and "commits subscribing states to better integrate human rights criteria in their export control regimes."

It likely will be left to individual participants to decide what products and countries to target, but human rights groups have accused China and Russia of using surveillance technology for repression. Read more about the summit.

Wednesday, March 29

11:30 p.m. Russia has stopped providing the U.S. with all forms of notifications under the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, including warnings about ballistic missile test launches, Interfax reports, quoting Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

The announcement comes after Washington said it would withhold nuclear data from Moscow that is supposed to be exchanged twice a year. Earlier this year, Russia suspended its participation in the New START treaty.

Washington calls its decision not to provide data a "lawful countermeasure" meant to bring Russia back to participation, while Ryabkov says the U.S. has no right to make such a move without suspending participation in the treaty.

12:12 p.m. Russia began exercises with the Yars intercontinental ballistic missile system and several thousand troops, its defense ministry says, in what is likely to be seen as another attempt by Moscow to show off its nuclear strength.

2:29 a.m. The International Olympic Committee issues recommendations for the gradual return to international competitions by Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals, with President Thomas Bach saying their participation "works" despite the war in Ukraine. The IOC Executive Board's recommendations concern the return of those athletes to international competitions but not the 2024 Paris Olympics where a separate decision will be made.

1:54 a.m. Belarus confirms it will host Russian tactical nuclear weapons, saying the decision was a response to years of Western pressure, including sanctions and what it said was a military buildup by NATO member states near its borders. The statement from the foreign ministry was the government's first since Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday said Moscow will deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus and would build a nuclear weapons storage facility there.

Tuesday, March 28

5:30 p.m. Possible drone attacks against key energy infrastructure are a serious threat to Russia's energy security, Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov says. Shulginov did not specifically mention Ukraine regarding the threat, but Russia says it has foiled a number of attempted Ukrainian drone attacks in recent months. "The key threat now is acts of illegal interference through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles," Shulginov said during a roundtable discussion where he addressed the security of Russia's energy facilities. Ukraine has not publicly acknowledged launching attacks against targets inside Russia.

1:30 p.m. Russia's Defense Ministry says the navy fired supersonic anti-ship missiles at a practice target in the Sea of Japan. "In the waters of the Sea of Japan, missile ships of the Pacific Fleet fired Moskit cruise missiles at a mock enemy sea target," it said in a statement on its Telegram account. The target, about 100 kilometers away, took "a direct hit from two Moskit cruise missiles." The test-firing comes a week after two Russian strategic bomber planes, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, flew over the Sea of Japan for more than seven hours in what Moscow said was a "planned flight."

9:00 a.m. Ukrainian authorities said air defenses shot down Russian drones near Kyiv and falling debris set a nonresidential site ablaze but no casualties were found. Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, said Russia had launched drones toward Kyiv but Ukraine's air defense forces had identified and destroyed "all enemy targets" in the airspace around the capital. Drone wreckage fell in the western Kyiv district of Sviatoshyno, sparking a fire across a 200-square-meter area in a nonresidential building, he added.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius stands on a Leopard training tank in Germany. The NATO-supplied main battle tanks will "make a crucial difference at the front" in Ukraine, he says.   © Reuters

3:37 a.m. Eighteen Leopard 2 battle tanks that were pledged by Germany to help Kyiv defend itself against Russia's invasion have arrived in Ukraine. "I am sure that the Leopard 2 A6 battle tanks will make a crucial difference at the front," German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius says in a tweet.

Forty German Marder infantry fighting vehicles and two armored recovery vehicles also have reached Ukraine, Reuters reports, citing a security source. The German army trained Ukrainian tank crews as well as the troops assigned to operate the Marder vehicles for several weeks in northern Germany.

3:30 a.m. Diesel futures in Europe have plummeted from an all-time high in March 2022 as increased imports from Asia and the Middle East have alleviated concerns of a supply shortage from the Russian oil embargo. Read more.

12:57 a.m. The situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant "isn't getting any better" as relentless fighting in the area keeps the facility at risk of disaster, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi warns Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Ahead of Grossi's visit to the plant and the IAEA staffers there this week, The Associated Press quotes him as telling Zelenskyy in their meeting that the situation remains tense because of the heavy military presence around the plant and a recent blackout, something that has occurred repeatedly since Russian forces took over last year.

Grossi tweets that he and Zelenskyy had a "rich exchange" on protecting the plant and its staff -- and that he reiterated the IAEA's "full support" for Ukraine's nuclear facilities.

The plant's six reactors are in shutdown, and it is receiving the electricity it needs to prevent a meltdown through just one remaining power line, the AP reports.

Monday, March 27

10:24 p.m. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets troops in southeastern Ukraine in the latest stage of a tour of front-line regions since a top Ukrainian general said a counterattack against Russian forces could come soon.

"I visited the command post of the 'Zaporizhzhia' operational group of troops," he wrote on the Telegram messaging app. "Thank you for protecting our state, our homes, territorial integrity and life in Ukraine. I wish you good health. I wish you a great victory and it will definitely come true."

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev attends a meeting in Moscow in November 2022. The government has pledged to uphold the sanctions against Russia, and said the new rules would reduce "underground" trade. (Sputnik/pool photo via Reuters)

5:50 p.m. Kazakhstan says it will require exporters to file additional documents when sending goods to Russia, following reports that Russian companies have been using local intermediaries to bust Western sanctions. Russia is Kazakhstan's main trading partner and after the West barred sales of thousands of goods to Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, some Kazakh businesses started purchasing such items and reselling them to Russian companies. The Astana government, however, has pledged to uphold the sanctions, and said on Monday that the new rules, effective from April 1 and applying to exports within the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, would reduce "underground" trade.

9:30 a.m. NATO castigated Vladimir Putin over his nuclear rhetoric a day after the Russian president said he planned to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, escalating a standoff with the West. The plan is one of Russia's clearest nuclear signals since the start of its invasion of Ukraine 13 months ago, and Ukraine called for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council in response. "Russia's nuclear rhetoric is dangerous and irresponsible," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said on Sunday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has struck a deal with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.   © Reuters

12:05 a.m. Ukraine demands an extraordinary meeting of the United Nations Security Council over Russian President Vladimir Putin's plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

Russia's announcement is "yet another provocative step" that "undermines basic principles of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the architecture of nuclear disarmament and the international security system as a whole," Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says.

Putin had said that the stationing would not violate nonproliferation obligations and that the U.S. had been placing tactical nuclear weapons in Germany and other allied countries "for decades." The U.S. and Russia are two of the Security Council's five permanent members, all of which have veto power over its resolutions.

Sunday, March 26

10:00 a.m. The U.S. said it would "monitor the implications" of Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement of stationing tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

"We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture nor any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon," National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said, according to AP. "We remain committed to the collective defense of the NATO alliance."

3:00 a.m. Putin says on state TV that he has struck a deal with Belarus to station tactical nuclear weapons on the latter's territory. He says he was responding to the U.K.'s decision this past week to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium. Russia falsely claimed these rounds have nuclear components.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has long raised the issue of stationing tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which borders Poland, Putin says.

Russia will maintain control over the tactical nuclear weapons. Construction of storage facilities for them would be completed by July 1, Putin adds.

12:10 a.m. Russia has pardoned more than 5,000 former criminals who were released to fight in Ukraine with a mercenary group. "At the present time, more than 5,000 people have been released on pardon after completing their contracts with Wagner," Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner Group and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, says on Telegram.

The group, originally staffed by battle-hardened veterans of the Russian armed forces, took on a much more prominent role in the Ukraine war after the Russian army suffered a series of humiliating defeats last year.

A funeral for a Wagner Group mercenary killed during the Ukraine war is held in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in December. More than 5,000 former criminals who were released to fight in Ukraine with the group have been pardoned.   © Reuters

Saturday, March 25

9 p.m. New Zealand's Foreign Ministry says it has expressed concern to Beijing over any lethal aid to Russia. Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta conveyed the concerns during a four-day trip to China where she met her Chinese counterpart, her office says.

On the Ukraine war, Mahuta reiterated her government's condemnation of Moscow's "illegal invasion" to Qin Gang. She also told Qin's predecessor Wang Yi, now the Chinese Communist Party's most senior foreign policy official, that peace and prosperity are the expectations of all parties, according to China's official news agency Xinhua.

7:00 a.m. China has not yet provided Russia with weapons for the war on Ukraine, U.S. President Biden tells reporters.

"They haven't yet," Biden says in response to a question at a news conference alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "Doesn't mean they won't, but they haven't."

"I don't take China lightly. I don't take Russia lightly. But I think we vastly exaggerate," Biden says when asked about rising trade between the two countries.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is welcomed at an airport in Tehran by Seyyed Reza Fatemi Amin, Iran's minister of industry and trade, on March 12. (BelTA/Handout via Reuters)

3:30 a.m. The U.S. announces new sanctions against companies and people seen as enabling the Belarusian government to repress democracy.

U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control also identifies a luxury Boeing 737 belonging to the government of Belarus and used by President Alexander Lukashenko.

Lukashenko "has exclusive access to [the plane] and other luxury aircraft and uses them for personal trips," the OFAC says. He has also used it "with his family and other members of his entourage for international travel."

Among the targets of the latest sanctions are two automobile plants that generate revenue for the Lukashenko regime, according to the OFAC. "As a result of today's action, all property and interests in property of the designated persons described above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC."

Friday, March 24

5:00 p.m. Russia's central bank has extended a ban on retail investors buying shares in companies from what Russia deems "unfriendly" countries for another six months. Russia has labeled all countries that imposed sanctions on it over its military campaign in Ukraine -- including the 27 members of the European Union -- as "unfriendly" and leveled a range of financial countersanctions against them. The central bank said the ban on selling securities of companies from "unfriendly" countries to so-called unqualified investors would be carried forward until Oct. 1. The central bank says its measures are designed to protect Russian retail investors from the impact of sanctions.

6:30 a.m. European Union leaders endorse a plan for sending Ukraine 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition within the next 12 months to help it counter Russia's invasion forces. EU foreign and defense ministers approved the plan for a fast-track purchasing procedure earlier this week, and the leaders of the bloc's 27 member nations gave it their political blessing at a summit in Brussels on Thursday. "Taking into account the security and defense interests of all member states, the European Council welcomes the agreement ... to deliver ground-to-ground and artillery ammunition to Ukraine and, if requested, missiles," the meeting's conclusions on Ukraine read.

12:30 a.m. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto signs legislation making his country part of NATO. The move means Finland has completed national measures needed to join the Western military alliance, and is now just awaiting approval from Turkey and Hungary, the only two of NATO's 30 existing members that have not ratified its bid.

On the same day in Turkey, a parliamentary committee approves Finland's application, the state-run Anadolu Agency reports, bringing Helsinki a step closer to joining the alliance. Finland's application could be ratified by the full Turkish assembly as early as next week.

Thursday, March 23

Then-Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, left, and President Vladimir Putin attend a meeting with members of the government in Moscow in January 2020. (Sputnik/pool photo via Reuters)

5:30 p.m. Any attempt to arrest President Vladimir Putin after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the Kremlin chief would amount to a declaration of war against Russia, Putin's ally and former President Dmitry Medvedev says. "Let's imagine -- obviously this situation which will never be realized -- but nevertheless let's imagine that it was realized: The current head of the nuclear state went to a territory, say Germany, and was arrested," Medvedev said. "What would that be? It would be a declaration of war on the Russian Federation," he said in a video posted on Telegram. "And in that case, all our assets -- all our missiles, et cetera -- would fly to the Bundestag, to the chancellor's office."

4:10 p.m. Russia says it has launched a military satellite into space from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. "On Thursday, March 23, at 09:40 a.m., a medium-class Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle carrying a spacecraft for the Russian Defense Ministry was launched from the Plesetsk launch site in Arkhangelsk Region by combat crews of the Space Forces," the ministry said.

This residential building in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, was damaged by a Russian missile. The photo was taken on March 22.   © AP

6:00 a.m. A World Bank report released on Wednesday puts the cost of Ukraine's recovery and rebuilding from Russia's invasion at $411 billion over the next decade, with the cost of cleaning up the war rubble alone at $5 billion. The report details some of the toll of Russia's war in Ukraine: at least 9,655 civilians confirmed dead, including 461 children; nearly 2 million homes damaged; more than one of five public health institutions damaged; and 650 ambulances damaged or looted. In all, the World Bank calculates $135 billion in direct damage to buildings and infrastructure so far, not counting broader economic damage.

For earlier updates, click here.

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