UK says Russian mercenaries are deploying in eastern Ukraine

  • US President Joe Biden clarifies and defends assertion that Russia’s Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power“.
  • Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian negotiators have suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning this month after a meeting in Kyiv.
  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appeals for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says Ukraine’s most ambitious goal at talks with Russia is to agree to a ceasefire.
  • The next round of negotiations are set to begin on Tuesday in Turkey.
[Al Jazeera]

Here are all the latest updates:

Ukrainian telecom company’s internet service disrupted by ‘powerful’ cyberattack

Ukraine’s state-owned telecommunications company Ukrtelecom has experienced a disruption in internet service after a “powerful” cyberattack, Ukrainian government officials and company representatives have said.

“Today, the enemy launched a powerful cyberattack against Ukrtelecom’s IT-infrastructure,” said Yurii Shchyhol, chairman of the State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection of Ukraine. “The attack was repelled. And now Ukrtelecom has an ability to begin restoring its services to the clients.”

“Currently, the attack is repulsed, the provision of services is gradually resumed,” said Ukrtelecom spokesperson Mikhail Shuranov.

UK intelligence says Russia’s Wagner Group deploying to eastern Ukraine

The Russian private military company, the Wagner Group, is deploying fighters to eastern Ukraine, British military intelligence has said.

“They are expected to deploy more than 1,000 mercenaries, including senior leaders of the organisation, to undertake combat operations,” Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.

Last week, the Pentagon warned that the Wagner group is looking to “increasing their footprint in Ukraine”.

US budget to allocate funds to ‘forcefully respond’ to Putin

Biden has said his proposed annual budget, which includes a hike in military spending, allocates funds to address the crisis in Ukraine.

“This budget provides the resources we need to keep Americans safe, ensuring that our military remains the best prepared, best trained, best equipped military in the world,” Biden said.

“This budget also provides additional funding to forcefully respond to Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, and its economic, humanitarian and security consequences.”

Biden is proposing $813.3bn in defence spending, up from $777.7bn last year.

Ukraine says 1,099 people evacuated from cities on Sunday

A total of 1,099 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Sunday, a senior official has said.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said in an online post that 586 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol by car and 513 were evacuated by bus in the Luhansk region.

Biden does not rule out meeting with Putin

Despite the escalating war of words between the Kremlin and the White House, Biden has not ruled out direct talks with Putin.

Asked on Monday whether he would be willing to hold a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Biden said: “It depends on what he wants to talk about.”

Joe Biden
Biden said on March 26 that Putin ‘cannot remain in power’ [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Ukraine aiming to secure ceasefire at Russia talks: Foreign minister

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said Ukraine’s most ambitious goal at talks with Russia in Turkey this week will be to agree to a ceasefire.

“The minimum programme will be humanitarian questions, and the maximum programme is reaching an agreement on a ceasefire,” he said on national television, when asked about the scope of the latest round of peace negotiations that are expected to kick off on Tuesday.

‘No apologies’: Biden defends assertion that Putin ‘cannot remain in power’

Biden has defended his earlier remarks that Putin “cannot remain in power”, saying while his comment is not a call for regime change in Russia, it conveys his own anger at the Russian president.

On the weekend, the White House and State Department were quick to clarify that the US president was not calling for removing Putin from power when he first delivered the remarks in Warsaw on Saturday.

On Monday, Biden said he stands by his statement on Putin. “I wasn’t … articulating a policy change; I was expressing the moral outrage that I felt, and I make no apologies,” Biden told reporters.

The US president also downplayed fears that his fiery remarks could harden Putin’s position or complicate ceasefire negotiations in Ukraine.

What would a ‘rupture’ in US-Russia relations mean?

The war in Ukraine has pushed US-Russia ties to the brink, with the Kremlin warning that bilateral relations were nearing “rupture” after President Joe Biden accused his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of being a “war criminal”.

Should relations completely break down, analysts say the ramifications could ripple well beyond any potential ceasefire or peace negotiations in Ukraine to other areas of US-Russian diplomacy, including most notably to Iran nuclear talks.

“We are in a situation now where relations are at rock bottom,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based advocacy group. “Russia could try to block an understanding that brings the US and Iran back into compliance.”

Read more here.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read all the updates from Monday, March 28 here.

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