War in Ukraine: Latest developments
KYIV — Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine:
Biden accuses Russians of ‘genocide’
US President Joe Biden accuses Russian forces of committing genocide in Ukraine, the first time his administration has used the term.
“Yes, I called it genocide,” Biden tells reporters travelling with him in Iowa when asked about his use of the term during an earlier speech.
“It’s become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of even being able to be a Ukrainian.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky swiftly responds: “True words of a true leader.”
Ukrainians ‘surrounded’ in Mariupol
Ukrainian forces are “surrounded and blocked” in Mariupol as Russian forces push to take the southeastern port city, Mykhaylo Podolyak, an official from Zelensky’s office, tweets.
Zelensky says he believes “tens of thousands” of people in the city have been killed and makes another plea for weapons.
‘Credible information’ on chemical weapons
The United States has “credible information” that Russia “may use… chemical agents” in its offensive to take Mariupol, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says.
He tells reporters he is not able to confirm accusations that Moscow has already used chemical weapons there.
The world’s chemical weapons watchdog, the OPCW, says it is “concerned” over reports of the use of chemical weapons in Mariupol.
‘All options on table’
Britain’s armed forces minister James Heappey tells Sky News that if evidence of chemical weapons use emerges, “all options are on the table” as a response.
“There are some things that are beyond the pale, and the use of chemical weapons will get a response,” he says.
Over 400 bodies in Bucha
The mayor of the town of Bucha, where dozens of bodies were found after Russia’s withdrawal from northern Ukraine, says more than 400 people have been found dead so far and 25 women have reported being raped.
Zelensky says investigators have received reports of “hundreds of cases of rape” in areas previously occupied by Russian troops, including sexual assaults of small children.
Burials in east
Around 400 civilians have been buried in the town of Severodonetsk near the frontline in eastern Ukraine since the Russian invasion, the governor of the Lugansk region, Sergiy Gaiday, says.
Zelensky says hundreds of rapes by Russian forces have been recorded, including of very young children and “even of a baby”.
Invasion going ‘calmly’–Putin
Putin says Russia’s offensive is proceeding “calmly” and according to plan, with the goal of “minimising losses”.
During a televised press conference with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Putin dismisses reports of the discovery of hundreds of bodies of civilians in Bucha as fake.
Residents flee east
Residents stream out of east Ukraine’s Kramatorsk and Sloviansk as fears grow the cities will be key targets of a major new Russian offensive.
The Pentagon says Russia is building up its forces in the eastern Donbas region, as it switches its focus to a region where pro-Russian rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.
Talks ‘extremely difficult’–Kyiv
Kyiv says talks with Russia to end the war are “extremely difficult”.
“Negotiations are extremely difficult,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Podolyak says.
Putin says Ukraine’s “inconsistency on fundamental points” is creating “certain difficulties in reaching final agreements”.
German president ‘not wanted’ in Kyiv
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier says he offered to visit Ukraine with other EU leaders but was told by Kyiv his trip was “not wanted”.
Steinmeier, a former foreign minister under ex-chancellor Angela Merkel, was long known for championing ties with Moscow. The snub comes as Chancellor Olaf Scholz is under increasing pressure for not having visited Ukraine.
Tycoon swap offer
Zelensky offers to swap pro-Kremlin tycoon Viktor Medvedchuk, who was arrested after escaping from house arrest, for Ukrainians captured by Russia.
Over 870,000 returnees
More than 870,000 Ukrainians who fled abroad since the start of the war have returned to the country, Ukraine’s border force says.
Spokesman Andriy Demchenko says that 25,000 to 30,000 Ukrainians are returning each day, with growing numbers of women, children and elderly among them.
In total, more than 4.6 million Ukrainians have now fled their country, the United Nations says.