Russia Ukraine war latest: Pope backtracks on ‘white flag’ remark as he condemns ‘madness’ of Putin’s war

Russian gas pipeline explodes in huge fireball blast amid series of ‘Ukrainian strikes’

Pope Francis has condemned the “madness” of Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine as the Vatican sought to row back from comments that provoked a backlash from Kyiv and its Western allies.

The pontiff had earlier suggested in a broadcast interview that Ukraine should “show the courage of the white flag” and open talks with Russia, but his deputy Cardinal Pietro Parolin clarified in a Tuesday interview that Russia should first halt its aggression.

This came as the Russian Embassy to the Holy See congratulated Francis on the 11th anniversary of his election, hailing him on X as a “true and sincere advocat(e) of humanism, peace and traditional values”.

Meanwhile, Volodymyr Zelensky hit out at Russian “evil” as Ukraine reported deadly missile attacks in several parts of the country, including his hometown Kryvyi Rih.

“Every day our cities and villages suffer similar attacks. Every day Ukraine loses people because of Russian evil,” he said.

At least five people died from the Russian missile attack on Mr Zelensky’s hometown, while 43 people were wounded, including 12 children, the youngest a two-month-old infant, said governor Serhii Lysak.


Ukrainian drones damage Russian oil refineries

Ukraine struck Russian oil refineries in a second day of heavy drone attacks on Wednesday, causing a fire at Rosneft’s biggest refinery in one of the most serious attacks against Russia’s energy sector in recent months.

Oil prices rose 2% partly due to concerns about supply disruption following the attacks which President Vladimir Putin said were an attempt to disrupt his country’s presidential election this week.

A day after seriously damaging Lukoil’s (LKOH.MM), opens new tab NORSI refinery in Nizhny Novgorod, Ukrainian drone attacks hit refineries in the Rostov and Ryazan regions, Russian officials said.

In Ryazan, 180 km (110 miles) from Moscow, a drone attack caused a fire at Rosneft’s (ROSN.MM), opens new tab refinery, Russia’s seventh largest and there were initial reports of injuries, governor Pavel Malkov said.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain14 March 2024 08:01


Austria expels 2 diplomats from Russia’s embassy in Viena

Austria has ordered two diplomats from the Russian Embassy in Vienna to leave the country. An Austrian official yesterday said the expulsions were related to spying activities.

The foreign ministry said in a brief statement that the two Russian diplomats “engaged in acts incompatible with their diplomatic status” and were declared “personae non gratae.”

It provided no further details about the diplomats or their alleged actions. They were given until 19 March to leave Austria.

An Austrian official with knowledge of the matter said the expulsions were related to spying. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the expulsions.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted the Russian foreign ministry as saying that “Russia will give an appropriate response to Vienna’s groundless decision.”

The Russian Embassy in Austria issued a statement on its Telegram channel saying that it is “outraged by the decision of the Austrian Foreign Ministry to declare two employees of the Russian Embassy personae non gratae.”

“As in previous episodes of expulsions, this time we were not presented with any evidence of any kind, much less evidence of a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. This is a purely political decision of the Austrian authorities, which we categorically do not accept,” the statement read.

“Moscow’s decisive response cannot raise any doubts. The responsibility for the further degradation of bilateral relations falls entirely on Vienna.”

Maryam Zakir-Hussain14 March 2024 07:49


When is the Russian presidential election and how does it work?

But with the election and candidates tightly controlled by the Kremlin, is the Russian election rigged, how does it work and what does it mean for Putin? The Independent has put together all you need to know below.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain14 March 2024 07:35


Russia-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant says was shelled by Ukraine

The Russian-controlled management of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant said today that a critical infrastructure facility at the plant was shelled by the Ukrainian army.

An explosive device was dropped in the area of the fence where diesel fuel tanks are located, the nuclear plant’s management said, adding that IAEA experts at the nuclear plant had been notified about the shelling.

Reuters was unable to immediately verify battlefield reports from either side.

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Maryam Zakir-Hussain14 March 2024 07:19


Putin says he will station troops and ‘systems of destruction’ at Finland’s border

Vladimir Putin has claimed that Finland and Sweden’s entry into Nato is “a meaningless step” – as he warned that Russia will deploy troops and systems of destruction to the Finnish border.

“This is an absolutely meaningless step [for Finland and Sweden] from the point of view of ensuring their own national interests,” the Russian president told state news agencies and broadcasters.

“We didn’t have troops there, now they will be there. There were no systems of destruction there, now they will appear.”

Andy Gregory14 March 2024 06:58


Pope backtracks on Ukraine ‘white flag’ comments

The Pope issued a fresh condemnation of all wars yesterday, days after backlash from Kyiv and Western capitals for appearing to suggest that Ukraine should surrender and negotiate peace with its Russian invader.

Pope Francis told Swiss broadcaster RSI that Ukraine should “show the courage of the white flag” and open talks with Russia, but his deputy Cardinal Pietro Parolin clarified in a Tuesday interview that Russia should first halt its aggression.

“Many young people, many young people go to die (in war). Let’s pray to the Lord to give us the grace to overcome this madness of war, which is always a defeat,” the pope said during his weekly audience in St Peter’s Square.

Namita Singh14 March 2024 06:51


Putin makes another rambling threat: What is the truth behind Russia’s nuclear arsenal?

President Vladimir Putin has claimed Russia is ready to use nuclear weapons if there is a threat to statehood, sovereignty or independence.

In a rambling interview with Russian state television released early on Wednesday, Mr Putin also said he hoped the US would refrain from actions that could trigger a nuclear conflict.

His statement is another blunt warning to the West ahead of a presidential vote this week in which he is all but certain to win another six-year term, reports my colleague Rich Booth.

Namita Singh14 March 2024 06:09


How this obscure House procedure can pass Ukraine aid without Mike Johnson

Namita Singh14 March 2024 06:07


The Ukrainian couple who were due to marry the day Russia invaded

Svitlana and Leonid had chosen a beautiful venue for their big day; her wedding dress was picked out, and the most pressing concern on the horizon was where to spend their honeymoon – Turkey had been earmarked as top choice.

“It was a wonderful time, as if we knew each other our whole lives,” says Svitlana Chepalova in an interview with The Independent, speaking of her fairytale romance with her Ukrainian Marine Corps fiance.

There was one problem, the day they had picked. Initially scheduled for 22 February 2022, it had to be pushed back two days to Thursday 24 February. That date is now branded in the memories of all Ukrainians as the day Vladimir Putin declared his “special military operation” and sent thousands of troops across the border to attack Russia’s neighbour to the west.

Serving with Ukraine’s 501 Marine Battalion in Mariupol was never supposed to be easy, particularly with the mounting warnings at the time that Russia was preparing the ground for an invasion. But the speed with which Putin decided to order the attack still took many by surprise, and the siege of Mariupol effectively crashed Chepalova’s wedding. Within just a few weeks of the conflict, on 4 April, Leonid was taken prisoner by Russian soldiers.

Arpan Rai has the full story here:

Putin invaded Ukraine on my wedding day, I’ve not seen my fiance since

Svitlana Chepalova was supposed to marry her Marine Corps fiance on 24 February 2022. Instead, he joined the battle to save Mariupol and was captured. Like thousands more wives and partners of Ukrainian prisoners of war, she is increasingly alarmed by reports of the harsh conditions and daily beatings in Russian prison colonies. Arpan Rai reports

Andy Gregory14 March 2024 05:44


EU agrees €5bn boost for Ukraine military aid fund

European Union countries agreed on Wednesday to provide €5bn (£4.2bn) for military aid to Ukraine as part of a revamp of an EU-run assistance fund, handing Kyiv a timely boost as its forces struggle against Russia’s invasion.

Ambassadors from the EU’s 27 member countries agreed to the overhaul of the European Peace Facility (EPF) fund at a meeting in Brussels after months of wrangling, with EU heavyweights France and Germany at the centre of much of the debate.

“The message is clear: we will support Ukraine with whatever it takes to prevail,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell posted on social media platform X after the decision. The fund operates as a giant cashback scheme, giving EU members refunds for sending munitions to other countries.

Namita Singh14 March 2024 05:38

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