Zelenskyy open to neutrality; Putin presses on

Russian gas flows to Europe remain stable

Russian gas deliveries to Europe on three main pipeline routes were stable on Monday morning, despite threats from Moscow that they would retaliate for Western sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine. 

Russia’s Gazprom said on Sunday it had continued to supply gas to Europe via Ukraine in line with requests from European customers. Gazprom, the world’s biggest natural gas company, supplies 40 percent of Europe’s gas.

Facing its gravest economic crisis since the years following the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia on Friday warned that billing in roubles for billions of dollars of natural gas exports to Europe could be just days away, its toughest response yet to crippling sanctions imposed by the West.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the West had declared economic war by freezing Russian assets, and so Russia saw no point in receiving dollars or euros for Russian exports anymore.

Russian forces have made no progress in past 24 hours, U.K. says

Britain’s defense ministry said Monday morning that Russian forces had made no significant progress over the last 24 hours amid continuing supply issues and aggressive resistance from Ukrainian fighters. 

A continued “lack of momentum and morale” among Russian military members has compounded the ongoing logistical shortages, the ministry said in an intelligence briefing on the situation in Ukraine posted on Twitter.

Meanwhile, it said heavy fighting continues around Mariupol as Russian forces try to capture the port on the Sea of Azov, which connects to the Black Sea.

In a previous post, the ministry had said Russia was maintaining a blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, “effectively isolating Ukraine from international maritime trade.” It said Russian naval forces were also “continuing to conduct sporadic missile strikes against targets throughout Ukraine.” 

American pastor allegedly kidnapped by Russian forces has been freed, family says

Dmitry Bodyu, an American pastor allegedly abducted in Ukraine earlier this month, has been freed, his family said on Monday.

The family was “relieved” after Bodyu’s release, his daughter Esther Bodyu-Ogana told NBC News.

Bodyu, 50, a well-known pastor in Ukraine who had invited people to seek shelter in his church, was taken by about eight to 10 Russian soldiers in the Russian-controlled city of Melitopol on March 19, his wife Helen had told NBC News last week. 

“They just came in in the morning,” wife Helen Bodyu said. “They took our phones, gadgets, computers, documents — and took him somewhere. I don’t know where,” she said at the time.

Ukrainian forces capture Russian equipment near Kyiv

A Ukranian serviceman stands on top of a Russian tank captured after fighting in the village of Lukyanivka outside Kyiv on Sunday.

A Ukranian serviceman stands on top of a Russian tank captured after fighting with Russian troops in the village of Lukyanivka outside Kyiv on Sunday.
Marko Djurica / Reuters

Ukraine opens no new humanitarian corridors, cites fears of Russian attack

Ukraine announced that it would not seek to open so-called humanitarian corridors on Monday, citing the possibility of Russian attacks on civilians trying to flee frontline areas. 

“Our intelligence reported possible provocations by the occupiers on the routes of humanitarian corridors. Therefore, for reasons of public safety, we do not open humanitarian corridors today,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said via Telegram. 

Humanitarian corridors intended to help civilians escape the fighting have come under fire since the war began. Following several attacks on humanitarian corridors, Secretary General at Amnesty International Agnès Callamard has condemned the “deliberate targeting of civilians” during the conflict and called for all “unlawful attacks to cease.”

Oscars holds a moment of silence for Ukraine

The Oscars held a moment of silence acknowledging the war in Ukraine.

Up until the moment, which featured slides with a message of support, the only other official acknowledgment of the conflict came from actor Mila Kunis, who was born in Ukraine.

Here’s the text of the statement, which ran during the brief moment of silence:

“We’d like to have a moment of silence to show our support for the people of Ukraine currently facing invasion, conflict and prejudice within their own borders. While film is an important avenue for us to express our humanity in times of conflict, the reality is millions of families in Ukraine need food, medical care, clean water, and emergency services. Resources are scarce, and we — collectively as a global community — can do more. We ask you to support Ukraine in any way you are able. #StandwithUkraine”

A message in support of Ukraine is displayed on a screen at the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday
Robyn Beck / AFP – Getty Images

Russia shifts focus to try to grind Ukraine’s army in east

KYIV, Ukraine — With its aspirations for a quick victory dashed by a stiff Ukrainian resistance, Russia has increasingly focused on grinding down Ukraine’s military in the east in the hope of forcing Kyiv into surrendering part of the country’s territory to possibly end the war.

The bulk of the Ukrainian army is concentrated in eastern Ukraine, where it has been locked up in fighting with Moscow-backed separatists in a nearly eight-year conflict. If Russia succeeds in encircling and destroying the Ukrainian forces in the country’s industrial heartland called Donbas, it could try to dictate its terms to Kyiv and, possibly, attempt to split the country in two.

The Russian military declared Friday that the “first stage of the operation” had been largely accomplished, allowing Russian troops to concentrate on their “top goal — the liberation of Donbas.”

Many observers say the shift in strategy could reflect President Vladimir Putin’s acknowledgment that his plan for a blitz in Ukraine has failed, forcing him to narrow his goals and change tactics amid a disastrous war that has turned Russia into a pariah and decimated its economy.

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