- Russia says it has used its newest Kinzhal hypersonic missiles for the first time in Ukraine on Friday.
- Chinese President Xi Jinping tells Joe Biden that “all sides” must support Russia-Ukraine “dialogue”.
- Biden did not offer incentives to Xi in video call between two leaders, White House says.
- First United Nations aid convoy arrives in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sumy.
- Ukraine says more than 9,100 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Friday.
- More than half of those evacuated – 4,972 people – left the besieged city of Mariupol.
- UN says 6.5 million people have been internally displaced due to the war.
Here are the latest updates:
Hezbollah denies sending fighters to Ukraine
Lebanese group Hezbollah has denied sending fighters to Ukraine to support Russian troops.
“I categorically deny anything of these claims,” Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech late on Friday. “These claims are lies that are bare of truth.”
He added: “No one from Hezbollah, neither a fighter nor an expert, went to this battlefield.”
Kyiv had earlier claimed Moscow recruited about 1,000 fighters from Syria and Hezbollah to fight in Ukraine.
New weapons often ‘deployed to test battle readiness’
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, says new weapons are often deployed in conflict to test their battle readiness.
“I have been reading several military blogs over the last few days, they have been taking a close look at the types of weapons been used.
Although this is the first time the Russians are saying publicly that they have used hypersonic missiles, it may well not be the first time that they have actually used them.
In the past few days in Kyiv, we have seen cruise missiles shot from Russian territory that have been intercepted by Ukrainian air defence systems as well.
We are also hearing that the Russians are introducing kamikaze drones into the conflict as well, according to the military blogs.”
Russia: Hypersonic missiles used in Ukraine
Russia has used its newest Kinzhal hypersonic missiles for the first time in Ukraine on Friday to destroy a weapons storage site in the country’s west, the defence ministry said.
Moscow has never before admitted using the high-precision weapon in combat, and state news agency RIA Novosti said it was the first use of the Kinzhal hypersonic weapons during the conflict in Ukraine.
“The Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic aeroballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse containing missiles and aviation ammunition in the village of Deliatyn in the Ivano-Frankivsk region”, the Russian defence ministry said.
Ukraine prosecutor: 112 children killed in Ukraine war
The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office has said 112 children have been killed so far in the war in Ukraine.
It also said on Telegram that 140 children had been wounded.
Luhansk humanitarian corridor for evacuation agreed: Governor
The governor of Luhansk region has said a humanitarian corridor for evacuations will be opened on Saturday morning.
“A humanitarian corridor has been agreed, we will try to evacuate people and bring food today. A ‘regime of silence’ has been agreed for March 19, starting at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT),” Serhiy Gaiday said on Telegram.
White House: Biden to discuss China’s Russia alignment in Europe
The White House has said President Joe Biden will discuss China’s moves to align with Russia when he travels to Europe next week.
On Friday, Biden told Chinese President Xi Jinping that there would be consequences if Beijing backs Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.
Biden will participate in meetings with allies in Brussels next Thursday.
Ukraine says ‘temporarily’ lost access to Sea of Azov
Ukraine’s defence ministry has said it has lost access to the Sea of Azov “temporarily” as Russian forces tightened their grip around the besieged port city of Mariupol.
“The occupiers have partially succeeded in the Donetsk operational district, temporarily depriving Ukraine of access to the Sea of Azov,” Ukraine’s defence ministry said in a statement late on Friday.
The ministry did not say whether or when Ukraine’s forces had regained access to the sea.
‘No sign’ China’s position has changed after Xi-Biden talks
More analysis of China’s perspective on the call between Biden and Xi as Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, who is in Beijing, says coverage of the call in state media focused more on the broader relationship with the United States, and Taiwan in particular.
She noted that when the reports did get to Ukraine there was no mention of Biden’s warning about the risks of providing support for Russia. Instead, the stories highlighted the need for both countries to de-escalate tensions and that economic sanctions would only serve to damage the global economy rather than end the war.
“We’ve seen no sign whatsoever that China’s position has changed,” Yu said.
The state-run tabloid Global Times has taken a typically combative approach while Xinhua talks of a “candid, in-depth exchange of views”.
#环球时报Editorial: The Chinese side will never accept coercion by the US, nor will it allow the US to use the Ukraine issue to harm China’s legitimate interests. The Chinese side has made this point very clearly. https://t.co/BDY9nQJ22X pic.twitter.com/QpUXtrqjeF
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) March 18, 2022
Chinese President Xi Jinping had a video call with U.S. President Joe Biden at request of the latter on Friday. The two Presidents had candid, in-depth exchange of views on China-U.S. relations, situation in Ukraine, and other issues of mutual interest https://t.co/MPH8RtbFDf pic.twitter.com/9w8A6I917q
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) March 19, 2022
China’s ‘neutral line’ designed to secure peaceful resolution: Analyst
Al Jazeera has talked to Beijing-based analyst Andy Mok about the call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden.
Mok, who is a senior research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, says China has been consistent in its stance on the conflict and that maintaining a neutral line was the most effective way to reach a peaceful resolution.
“Let’s not conflate condemning with abstaining. These are two very different things,” he said. “If we look at even the other countries around the world: UAE, Saudi Arabia, even Mexico have not joined the US in condemning Russia so I think the US actually runs the risk of being isolated [on Ukraine]. This is the real story; that not as many countries are with the US as reported in the Western media.”
At the UN General Assembly earlier this month, 141 countries backed a resolution calling on Russia to stop its offensive against Ukraine with small states and world powers alike condemning the invasion. You can read the text of that statement and see how each member state voted here.
Zelenskyy tells Russia time for serious talks
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has released another video address to the Ukrainian people.
He is urging Moscow to sit down for talks.
“I want everyone to hear me now, especially in Moscow. The time has come for a meeting, it is time to talk,” he said in the address released in the early hours of Saturday.
“The time has come to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, Russia’s losses will be such that it will take you several generations to recover.”
Zelenskyy also accused Russian forces of deliberately blocking the supply of humanitarian supplies to cities under attack.
“This is a deliberate tactic … This is a war crime and they will answer for it, 100 percent,” he said.
Amid Ukraine war, all things Russia face scorn and backlash
Many Russians and Russian-themed institutions have faced backlash and anger in Western nations since the invasion of Ukraine began.
“Any attacks on Russians, indiscriminately like this – just like attacks on Muslims after 9/11 – are a sign of ignorance, of not understanding the complexities of the situation,” Ronald Grigor Suny, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, tells Al Jazeera.
Biden-Xi call was ‘direct’ and ‘substantive’: US official
The phone call between Biden and China’s Xi lasted about two hours and was “direct” and “substantive”, a senior US official has said.
“I would say the conversation was direct. It was substantive, and it was detailed,” the official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said.
“The two leaders spent the preponderance of their time discussing Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, as well as the implications of the crisis for US-China relations and the international order.”
War has thrown space industry ‘into turmoil’: Astrophysicist
Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has said that despite continued cooperation at the International Space Station (ISS), the war in Ukraine has thrown the space industry “into turmoil”.
“Western satellites were meant to go up on Russian rockets; they’re now stranded. And yet at the ISS, it’s as if nothing had happened … But I don’t see how that can be sustained in the long run,” McDowell said.
“And indeed, America has been trying to persuade Russia to extend the life of the station project until 2030, currently scheduled to end in 2024. I can’t see how that’s going to happen now.”
First UN aid convoy arrives in eastern Ukrainian city of Sumy
The UN humanitarian agency, OCHA, has announced the arrival of the first aid convoy in the city of Sumy in war-stricken eastern Ukraine.
“The UN hopes this is the first of many shipments delivered to the people trapped by fighting,” OCHA said in a statement.
“The 130 metric tons of essential aid includes medical supplies, bottled water, ready-to-eat meals and canned food that will directly help some 35,000 people. In addition to these items, the convoy brought equipment to repair water systems to help 50,000 people.”
Today, the UN and partners reached the city of Sumy in the northeast, which is one of the places most impacted by the war, with the first convoy of life-saving humanitarian aid.
We hope this is the first of many shipments delivered to the people trapped by fighting.
— UN Humanitarian (@UNOCHA) March 18, 2022
China ‘should put some pressure on Russia’: Ukraine presidential adviser
An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Ukraine hopes China will realise that it “should put some pressure on Russia” to end the war.
Alexander Rodnyansky told Al Jazeera that doing so would help China “establish a more viable relationship with the rest of the world” in the long term.
“And that’s clearly more important to them than supporting Russia, which has isolated itself and is clearly in decline at this point.”
Ukraine says it will take years to defuse unexploded bombs
It will take years for Ukraine to defuse unexploded bombs after the Russian invasion, its interior minister has said.
Speaking to The Associated Press news agency in the besieged Ukrainian capital, Denys Monastyrsky said that the country will need Western assistance to cope with the enormous task once the war is over.
“A huge number of shells and mines have been fired at Ukraine and a large part haven’t exploded, they remain under the rubble and pose a real threat,” Monastyrsky said. “It will take years, not months, to defuse them.”
Biden did not offer incentives to Xi: White House
Asked whether Biden offered Xi incentives to get China on board with the US effort to end the Russian invasion of Ukraine, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “This was not about carrots.
“This was about laying out what the implications and consequences would be” if Beijing aids Moscow in the war, Psaki told reporters.
Ukrainian specialists repair power line to nuclear power plant: Interfax
Ukrainian specialists have repaired one of the damaged power lines to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, the Interfax Ukraine news agency quoted the national energy company as saying.
Three of the five power lines were damaged or disconnected after Russian troops took over the plant, the largest of its kind in Europe, on March 4.
The International Atomic Energy Agency earlier said Ukraine had told it the line should be working early next week.
White House declines to share details on China ‘consequences’
The White House has declined to share details about the “implications and consequences” that it said Biden warned Xi of if China comes to Russia’s aid in Ukraine.
“We feel it’s the most constructive way to engage and have a constructive dialogue,” the White House’s Jen Psaki said when asked about the Biden administration’s unwillingness to reveal more specifics from the call.
More than 9,100 people evacuated from Ukrainian cities on Friday: Ukrainian official
A total of 9,145 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Friday, a senior Ukrainian official has said, considerably more than managed to escape a day earlier.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said in an online post that 4,972 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol.
A total of 3,810 people were able to leave cities across the country on Thursday.
Russia slams Council of Europe as ‘Russophobic’
A spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry has accused the Council of Europe, which expelled Moscow from its ranks earlier this week, of being a “Russophobic” instrument serving Western interests.
“Due to the Westerners’ Russophobic activity”, the Council of Europe is losing its reason for being, Maria Zakharova said in a statement.
“By placing the service of the bloc’s interests above its own statutory objectives, the Council of Europe has been turned into an obedient instrument of the European Union, NATO and their satellites,” she added.
‘We cannot cope’: Poland struggles to meet Ukraine refugees’ needs
In four weeks of war, millions of people have left battle-scarred Ukraine, with the majority crossing into Poland.
As each day passes, thousands more people arrive by train, seeking shelter in the main Polish cities of Warsaw, Krakow and Wroclaw.
But while Poland’s government and civil society groups have welcomed the newcomers with open arms, space is quickly running out. Read more here.
Russia reaches deal with Belarus to provide critical food: Report
Russia has reached an agreement with Belarus to supply critical foodstuffs if necessary, including durum wheat and vegetable oil, as part of a push to offset Western sanctions, the official Belarus Belta news agency said.
The neighbours are also close to an agreement on pricing for energy, Belta added, without providing additional details.
The two nations had agreed on March 11 to take joint steps for mutual support, including on energy prices.
Is Russia’s war in Ukraine stalled?
The war in Ukraine, which Russia hoped would be over within days, is now into its fourth week.
Despite battleground setbacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin shows little sign of relenting.
What is the Kremlin’s military strategy and can its objectives be achieved?
Biden warns Xi of ‘consequences’ should China back Russia
US President Joe Biden has warned Chinese President Xi Jinping of “implications and consequences” should Beijing provide material support to Moscow in the war in Ukraine, the White House said.
The two leaders spoke in a video call amid US concerns that China may come to Russia’s aid – either by giving military equipment or bypassing Western sanctions – in its increasingly brutal offensive in Ukraine.
State broadcaster CCTV reported that Xi said during the call that “state-to-state relations cannot go to the stage of military hostilities”. Read more on the Biden-Xi talks here.
Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.
Read all the updates from Friday, March 18 here.