Ukraine-Russia war live – Nuclear threat soars as Chernobyl shelling resumes; plus Putin makes Boris Johnson enemy

NUCLEAR threats escalate as the Chernobyl nuclear plant staff are under shelling bombardment from Russian troops.

The shelling has created fears that increased volatility in the area could trigger another disaster.

The UN's nuclear watchdog expressed "concern" that Russian forces are shelling Ukrainian checkpoints in the city of Slavutych.

Its director-general Rafael Grossi said the incident came "just a few days after technical staff at the Chernobyl (plant) were finally able to rotate and go to their homes in Slavutych and rest after working for nearly four weeks without a change of shift".

Russian forces took control of the plant on February 24 resulting in around 100 Ukrainian technicians working for nearly four weeks without being rotated.

The news comes as Boris Johnson has been described as the “most active anti-Russian leader” by the Kremlin.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, singled out Johnson as Nato leaders gathered in Brussels after he urged the West to sanction President Putin’s gold reserves.

Dmitry Peskov said: “We see him as the most active participant in the race to be anti-Russian,” Peskov said. “It will lead to a foreign policy dead end.”

Follow our Russia-Ukraine live blog below for up-to-the-minute updates…

  • Louis Allwood

    Ukraine push Russian troops out of Kyiv

    Ukranian troops have pushed Russian forces out of Kyiv in a sign the fierce resistance is crushing Vladimir Putin's shambolic invasion.

    Ukraine is close to securing a major victory after managing to reoccupy towns and defensive positions up to 21 miles east of the capital.

    Putin’s troops have been hit by plummeting morale after the quick victory promised by the tyrant has turned into a bloodbath in the face of Ukrainian resistance.

    The UK's Ministry of Defence said: "Ukrainian counter-attacks, and Russian forces falling back on overextended supply lines, has allowed Ukraine to reoccupy towns and defensive positions up to 35 kilometres east of Kyiv.

    "Ukrainian forces are likely to continue to attempt to push Russian forces back along the north-western axis from Kyiv towards Hostomel Airfield.

    "In the south of Ukraine, Russian forces are still attempting to circumvent Mykolaiv as they look to drive west towards Odesa, with their progress being slowed by logistic issues and Ukrainian resistance."

  • Louis Allwood

    US and EU gas deal

    The US and the EU have announced a major deal on liquified natural gas.

    The new deal is an attempt to reduce Europe's reliance on Russian energy.

    The agreement will see the US provide the EU with at least 15 billion additional cubic metres of the fuel by the end of the year.

    Russian gas use will be cut in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

    That will mean increasing imports and generating more renewable energy.

  • Louis Allwood

    Terrified Russian soldier tells gran he wants to ‘get the f*** right out of’ Ukraine

    A TERRIFIED Russian soldier has told his gran he wants to “get the f*** out” of Ukraine and expected the war to be over in two weeks.

    The unnamed soldier was heard speaking in an intercepted telephone call home that has been released by the Ukrainian government.

    Vladimir Putin’s troops have been hit by plummeting morale after the quick victory promised by the tyrant has turned into a bloodbath in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance.

    At the start of phone call, a woman asks the soldier “God, when will this end” to which he replies that his situation is “scary granny”.

    He then says that his “whole brigade was smashed” and that “I don’t know how God saved me”.

    “To be honest with you I would get the f** out of here right now and I don’t care,” the soldier tells her.

    “The main thing is to survive the hell. We thought everything would be over in two weeks. It’s been almost a month already.”

  • Louis Allwood

    'We had to dodge bodies after Putin’s shells landed'

    A dad encouraged his young children to dodge Russian shelling and dead bodies by telling them they were superheroes and their power was running.

    Olexandr Tytova, 35, had to act quickly to get his wife and two kids to safety after their home came under attack.

    Recalling the moment he was forced to flee, he told The Sun: "We crouched over as we ran. We rested in courtyards, in half-built townhouses.

    "Buildings were on fire. I told the kids we were superheroes on an adventure. Our superpower was running.

    "After 5km, we reached Butcha. But power, gas and the water supply went there too."

    School teacher Olexandr's wife Kateryna and his five-year-old daughter Tajisia were pictured clutching hands as they ran for their lives from Russian shells earlier this month.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Who is Alexander Bortnikov?

    Alexander Bortnikov is the current director of Russia’s FSB – making him one of the most powerful people in Russia and an influential member of Putin’s inner circle.

    Like Putin, he is a former officer of the KGB and first met Putin while the pair were stationed together in Leningrad – now Saint Petersburg – in the 1970s.

    Since stepping into the might role in 2008, the terrifying spymaster is said to have turned the FSB into the “punishing sword” of Putin’s regime.

    The organisation is both the brain and the heart of Putin’s government and behaves like a “state within the state”, according to the Dossier Center.

    Not long after Putin was appointed acting president, Bortnikov was first made head of Russia’s Economic Security Service, wielding huge power and leverage.

    He is also one of a small handful of people in Russia to earn the rank of Army General.

  • Louis Allwood

    135 children killed since invasion began according to Ukraine

    According to Ukraine's Prosecutor General's Office, 135 children have been killed and 184 wounded since the Russian invasion started.

    Officials say that fierce fighting recently had led to the deaths of two children in the city of Rubizhne, Luhansk region.

    On Thursday, Russian shelling resulted in two children aged six and 13 being injured in Novomykhailivka, Donetsk region.

  • Louis Allwood

    Chelsea £3bn takeover cut down to TWO bidders

    Seb Coe is among the frontrunners as the race to buy Chelsea hots up.

    The Olympic track legend and diehard Blues fan is part of a consortium going head-to-head with American Todd Boehly.

    Several bidders were told on Thursday they had not made the shortlist to take over at the crisis-hit Premier League giants.

    They included former US diplomat Woody Johnson, the Saudi Media Group, London finance firm Aethel and colourful Turkish investor Muhsin Bayrak.

    Individual groups have been steadily learning their fate over the last 24 hours as a process of elimination begins to find new owners for one of the biggest clubs in world football.

    A controversial bid by Chicago Cubs’ owner Tom Ricketts has been opposed by some fans after historic Islamaphobic emails from a member of the family resurfaced.

    But while this has affected the Ricketts’ bid, last night they were still optimistic of making the second round of bidding.

    The whittling down of contenders is expected to continue on Friday with hopes a sale of £3billion-rated Chelsea can go through by the end of this month.

    Ex-Tory MP Coe has teamed up with former Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton plus US billionaires Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who own the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team.

  • Louis Allwood

    Biden set to meet Ukrainian refugees

    Joe Biden is expected to meet with Ukrainian refugees on Friday at a town near the Polish-Ukrainian border.

    This will be one of the US Presidents last meetings of his four-day Europe trip.

    Air Force One will land in the Polish town of Rzeszow, where he will visit members of the US 82nd Airborne Division.

    He will also receive a briefing on the dire humanitarian situation in Ukraine.

    Mr Biden will meet Polish President Andrzej Duda to thank the country for their humanitarian efforts.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Morale reportedly low amongst Putin’s depleted forces

    Putin is becoming so desperate he is recruiting mercenaries and private contractors to boost his depleted forces.

    Morale among Russian troops is believed to have collapsed with some now shooting themselves to avoid being sent to the front line.

    Ukraine claims as many as 15,300 Russian troops have been killed, more than 200 aircraft have been destroyed, along with more than 500 tanks, 1,500 armoured vehicles and 70 fuel trucks.

    In one intercepted conversation, a Russian said: “They’ve been shooting at us for 14 days.

    “We’re scared. We’re stealing food, breaking into houses.

    “We’re killing civilians.

    “Officers shoot themselves in the legs to go home. There are corpses everywhere.”

    Another said troops “look for Ukrainian ammunition to shoot themselves in the legs and go to hospital”.

  • Louis Allwood

    Zelensky addresses the EU

    PRESIDENT Zelensky delivered a late-night address to the European Council summit in Brussels where he claimed Europe was 'too late' to stop Putin's invasion.

    He informed leaders on Russia's destruction and damage to his country, and thanked Europe for their support.

    Then he went on to express how he believed that Europe was too late with their help.

    Zelensky said: "You have applied sanctions. We are grateful. These are powerful steps.

    "But it was a little late… there was a chance."

    He added that if there had been preventative sanctions perhaps Russia wouldn't have gone to war.

    Zelensky then pleaded with neighbouring nations to approve Ukraine's request to join the EU. "Here I ask you – do not be late."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Biden: China’s economic future more tied to the West

    President Joe Biden said on Thursday that China understands its economic future is more closely tied to the West than to Russia, after warning Beijing it could face consequences for aiding Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

    “I made no threats but I made it clear to him – made sure he understood the consequences of helping Russia,” Biden said of a recent conversation with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

    “China understands that its economic future is much more closely tied to the West than it is to Russia.”

    Speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of emergency meetings in Europe, Biden said he also pointed out to Xi the number of American and foreign companies that have left Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Ukraine war: Latest developments

    • Vladimir Putin could face being deposed in a coup as fury grows in his inner circle over Russia’s failures in Ukraine
    • Russia has lost up to 40,000 troops in Ukraine along with at least 17 commanders
    • Fears are growing of more brutal Russian tactics as Putin was accused of using phosphorous bombs
    • Russian landing ship Orsk was blown up as it was anchored in the occupied port of Berdyansk
    • Apocalyptic footage showed the devastation of Mariupol as the vicious bombardment of the city continues
    • Video also shows the moment a Russian tank was blown to pieces as Putin has lost 3,300 vehicles during the invasion
    • Britain is now sending another 6,000 anti-tank missiles to Ukraine to help the fight against Russia

    Boris Johnson says he is ‘not remotely anti-Russian’

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was ‘not remotely anti-Russian’ as he delivered a news conference following a meeting of world leaders today.

    Asked why he had been labelled as “public enemy number one” by Russia, he said: “I think it’s very important for everybody to understand that there isn’t a single person around the G7 table who is against Russians or the Russian people.

    “Absolutely not, least of all me.

    “I think I am the only prime minister in UK history to be called Boris. I am not remotely anti-Russian. 

    “I think what we all agree is that what Vladimir Putin is doing, the way he is leading Russia at the moment is absolutely catastrophic.

    “His invasion of Ukraine is inhuman and barbaric.”

    Ukraine should qualify for World Cup, says PM

    Mr Johnson is asked if Ukraine should be allowed a free pass to compete at this year’s football world cup.

    “Football is not my best subject,” says the Prime Minister.

    “Should they be given a bye for the world cup? I’m out of area here. That’s not my subject. I don’t see why not.”

    US to welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees

    The United States plans to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion and is pledging $1 billion in new humanitarian aid, the Biden administration has announced.

    More than 3.5 million people have fled since Russia invaded last month and advocates have urged Biden to do more to help those seeking refuge in the United States.

    In the first two weeks of March, just seven Ukrainian refugees were resettled in the United States. Some Ukrainians have travelled to Mexico and have attempted to cross into the US at its southern border.

    A senior Biden official said the administration still expected many Ukrainians to choose to remain in Europe close to their home country but added the US commitment to receive more people would relieve some pressure on European nations currently hosting the bulk of refugees fleeing the conflict.

    • Joseph Gamp

      Nato has never been as united before as it is now, says Biden

      President Joe Biden has given a speech from the White House following a meeting of G7 leaders.

      Mr Biden announced new sanctions on more than 400 individuals and entities. 

      He said: “Putin was banking on NATO being split… it was clear to me that he didn’t think we could sustain this cohesion. 

      “NATO has never, never been more united than it is today. Putin is getting exactly the opposite of what he intended to have as a consequence of going into Ukraine.” 

    • Joseph Gamp

      Italy tells citizens not to fight in Ukraine

      Italian nationals should not go and fight in Ukraine, the foreign ministry said on Thursday, following media reports that some Italians have signed up to battle the Russian invasion.

      A foreign ministry statement said such conduct “may be considered criminally relevant under current legislation,” and reiterated its advice that Italians should not enter Ukraine.

      Eugenio Spina, head of the Italian police unit investigating terrorism and extremism, estimated around 20 Italians were fighting in Ukraine, some with national forces others, with pro-Russian militia.

      “At the moment we do not have a sustained flow (of people), just lots of people saying they want to go,” Spina said.

      Kyiv has established an “international” legion for foreigners and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has publicly urged outsiders to “fight side-by-side with Ukrainians”.

      He said earlier this month that more than 16,000 foreigners had volunteered, without specifying how many had arrived.

    • Joseph Gamp

      West will impose new sanctions when necessary – Macron

      French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that Western powers were ready to ramp up sanctions against Russia if necessary as they continue to try to isolate Moscow over its war in Ukraine and force a ceasefire.

      “These sanctions have an impact and are tangible and we must continue them for their dissuasive effect,” he told a news conference after a NATO and G7 leaders summit. 

    • John Hall

      Kremlin attacks Boris

      The Kremlin has said that the UK's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is the most active anti-Russian leader.

      "As for Mr Johnson, we see him as the most active participant in the race to be anti-Russian," RIA news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

      "It will lead to a foreign policy dead end."

    • John Hall

      Moscow says it will retaliate for Poland's expulsion of its diplomats

      The Russian Foreign Ministry said today that Moscow will respond to Poland's expulsion of 45 Russian diplomats, which it said threatened to destroy their already fraught relations.

      "Russia will not leave this hostile attack without a response, which will make Polish provocateurs think and will hurt them," the ministry said in a statement.

    • John Hall

      'Ukraine deserves to be full EU member'

      Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has told the Swedish parliament this morning that Ukraine deserves a place in the European Union.

      Mr Zelensky said: "We are not fighting just for the people of Ukraine, but for Europe's security and we have shown that we deserve to be a fully-fledged member of the EU."

      Ukraine applied to be an EU member within days of Russia's invasion.

    • John Hall

      'Ukraine deserves to be full EU member'

      Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has told the Swedish parliament this morning that Ukraine deserves a place in the European Union.

      Mr Zelensky said: "We are not fighting just for the people of Ukraine, but for Europe's security and we have shown that we deserve to be a fully-fledged member of the EU."

      Ukraine applied to be an EU member within days of Russia's invasion.

    • John Hall

      Zelensky: Summits will show ‘who is a friend’

      In a video released earlier today, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said the outcome of NATO, EU and G7 summits will reveal “who is a friend” to Ukraine.

      “Politicians must … support freedom. All of them. They must support the struggle for life. We are waiting for meaningful steps. From NATO, the EU and the G7,” Zelensky said.

      “We know that the Russians have already begun to lobby their interests. These are the interests of war,” he added.

      “We know that they want to put this issue out. The struggle against war. But this is the war that needs to be put out.

      “Our firm position will be represented at these three summits. At these three summits we will see: Who is a friend, who is a partner, and who betrayed us for money.”

    • John Hall

      Zelensky: Russia has used phosphorus bombs

      Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky addressing the NATO summit via videolink today.

      He accused Russia of using phosphorus bombs this morning.

      "Again, children were dying, people were dying," he told Nato.

      He did not provide any evidence, nor did he say where the attack took place.

    • Joseph Gamp

      John 'laments' agony over 'inability to do more' for Ukraine

      Boris Johnson has conceded it would be a challenge to give Volodymyr Zelensky the tanks he has demanded, as he hit back at the Kremlin effectively labelling him enemy number one among western leaders.

      The Prime Minister said it would "logistically" be "very difficult" to supply the Ukrainian president with the tanks and jets he asked for during a Nato summit on Wednesday.

      But Mr Johnson said allies would strive to give Mr Zelensky weapons "in the quantity and of the quality" he needs to defend his nation from the Russian invasion.

      He pledged more missiles and a new deployment of UK troops to Bulgaria, while doubling personnel in Poland and Estonia to boost Nato on the eastern flanks.

      Mr Zelensky, who regularly speaks to the Prime Minister, did not bring up his longstanding demand for Nato to enforce a no-fly zone of Ukraine.

      Instead, he pleaded when appearing virtually at the summit in Brussels for "1% of all your planes, 1% of all your tanks".

      Western allies have previously been hesitant about providing jets out of concerns it could further provoke Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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