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LIVE UPDATES: Ukrainian Nationalists Plan Terrorist Attack on Western Diplomats in Lvov- Russian MoD

Russia launched an operation in Ukraine on 24 February in order to protect the people of Donbass, as they have been suffering from an eight-year long war waged by Kiev that has claimed some 14,000 lives.
As Russian forces continue advancing in the special operation, the Ukrainian military admitted on Saturday that it had lost access to the Sea of Azov. Russian troops as well as the DPR and LPR people's militias are pressing forward, reclaiming multiple settlements in Donbass and tightening the encirclement around the remaining forces of radicals in Mariupol.
In the meantime, Moscow and Kiev have made progress on several issues during peace negotiations, including Ukraine's neutral status and non-entry to NATO, according to Russian presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky.
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18:31 GMT 19.03.2022
Russian MoD: Russian Troops Break Through Aidar Battalion Defenses in Donetsk Region
The Russian armed forces broke through the defenses of Ukraine's nationalist Aidar battalion in the Donetsk region, killing about 30 militants, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday.
"Units of the Russian armed forces crossed the Kashlagach River, broke through the defenses of the Aidar battalion and advanced five kilometers [3 miles], reaching the Shakhterskoe-Novoukrainka line. Killed up to 30 militants, destroyed one tank, one infantry fighting vehicle and four cross-country vehicles," Konashenkov told a briefing.
At the same time, the people's militia of the Donetsk Republic destroyed a unit of the 53rd mechanized brigade of the Ukrainian armed, completely took control of the village of Taramchuk and is pursuing the retreating enemy, he noted. The troops of the Lugansk People's Republic, in turn, have reached the northern outskirts of the town of Lysychansk and are clearing out the scattered groups of nationalists, the spokesman added.
On Saturday, the Russian aviation destroyed 59 Ukrainian military facilities, an S-300 complex locator and five drones, including one Bayraktar, according to Konashenkov. In total, since the beginning of the special military operation in Ukraine, the Russian troops have destroyed 201 unmanned aerial vehicles, 1443 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 147 multiple rocket launchers, 564 field artillery and mortar guns, as well as 1248 special military vehicles, he said.
17:57 GMT 19.03.2022
Ships wait at the entrance of the Bosphorus, connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara in Istanbul - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.03.2022
Hundreds of Bombs Planted by Ukrainian Military Near Ports May Drift Into Bosphorus
17:35 GMT 19.03.2022
Russian MoD: Surrendered SBU Officer Exposes Plans of Azov Militants to Attack Foreign Diplomatic Missions in Lvov
Ukrainian militants from the Azov Battalion are planning a terrorist attack in Lviv against Western diplomats to set up a provocation against the Russian armed forces in order to increase the pressure on NATO to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine and supply weapons, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday.
The information was provided by an officer of the main department of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, who had voluntarily surrendered to the Russian military on Saturday, according to Konashenkov.
"An SBU officer reported about terrorist acts planned by militants of the Azov nationalist battalion in Lvov against employees and facilities of the diplomatic missions of the United States and other Western countries," Konashenkov said.
Kiev is aware of the plans but does not take any actions to prevent them, he stressed.
"The Kiev nationalist regime plans to present attacks on the US and Western diplomatic facilities as an alleged 'targeted attack by the Russian armed forces'," the spokesman said.
The goal of the provocation is "to increase pressure on NATO countries to introduce a 'no-fly zone' over Ukraine and provide additional weapons," Konashenkov added.
17:06 GMT 19.03.2022
Medvedev Expects Russian Economy to Withstand Western Sanctions
There will be no collapse of the Russian economy due to new sanctions imposed by Western countries as the country has learned to function under restrictions since 2008, Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said on Saturday.
"In general, there will be no collapse in the economy," Medvedev said on Telegram.
Western companies that have suspended their activities in Russia over Ukraine do not want to lose this market, Medvedev added.
"Western companies, many of which have loudly announced their withdrawal from our market, from the very beginning thought only about returning, they preserved their staff, payed salaries, made other payments to the [Russian] budget," Medvedev said, adding that the companies "tell us quietly" that they want to return, but they are afraid.
According to Medvedev, Russia has many reliable partners, not only in the post-Soviet space, but also in China, Southeast Asia and Africa.
Russia's opponents have always come back with a request to return to the negotiating table, and this is exactly what is happening now, Medvedev noted.
"We have been through crises, sanctions, threats and political pressure more than once – in 2008, 2014, 2018. And I'm not talking about the fact that various sanctions were imposed on the Soviet Union more than a dozen times. We have long ceased to be afraid. And then, very quickly, our opponents themselves come to us with a request to return to the negotiating table on all issues," Medvedev stressed.
Medvedev also mentioned that the situation with energy prices in the United States and Europe is bad, and Western politicians are trying to blame Russia for this, but the peoples of these countries understand everything and will "bill their government for being forced to pay for their sanctions."
15:31 GMT 19.03.2022
15:07 GMT 19.03.2022
Deutsche Bank Head Warns Against Abandoning Nord Stream Pipeline
The head of the German Deutsche Bank, Christian Sewing, warned on Saturday against abandoning the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline and called for no new sanctions against Russia.
"First, we must let the announced sanctions take effect. However, these sanctions also have a negative effect on us, and we must endure it," Sewing said in an interview with Welt am Sonntag.
He noted that turning off Nord Stream 1 would not put an end to the Russian gas supplies to Germany, but would lead to serious issues with energy supply and a significant increase in prices in the country.
Sewing further said that the need for new tougher sanctions should be "constantly re-evaluated."
14:37 GMT 19.03.2022
UN Cooperates With Russian Defense Ministry to Deliver Humanitarian Aid in Ukraine
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is collaborating with the authorities in Russia and Ukraine to deliver humanitarian aid to people affected by the conflict, the UN information center in Moscow told Sputnik.
"Following close discussions between OCHA and the Ministries of defense and foreign affairs in Moscow in parallel to similar contacts in the Ukraine, the first humanitarian convoy was successfully launched today to [the northeastern Ukrainian city of] Sumy delivering over 100 metric tons of life-saving assistance for the affected population there," the center said.
In order to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches all vulnerable communities in the Ukrainian crisis, OCHA "hopes to build on this positive exchange," the center said.
13:53 GMT 19.03.2022
Situation in Kherson as City Liberated by Russian Forces Returns to Normal Life
13:49 GMT 19.03.2022
UK PM Johnson Says He Can't See Return of 'Normal Relations' With Putin

"To try to re-normalise relations with Putin after this, as we did in 2014, would be to make exactly the same mistake again", Johnson told a Conservative Party conference.

13:12 GMT 19.03.2022
Russian-Chinese Interaction to Be Enhanced by West Undermining World System - Lavrov

"Now, of course, I think this interaction [between Russia and China] will be strengthened, because in a context when the West is just brutally undermining all the foundations the international system is based on, certainly, we need to consider what the two great powers will do in this world", Lavrov said.

The Russian foreign minister also stressed that the relationship between Moscow and Beijing has reached an unprecedentedly high level, surpassing even traditional allied relations.
12:50 GMT 19.03.2022
Lavrov Says Tasks of Russia's Operation in Ukraine Are Legitimate

"We have announced our goals. These tasks are absolutely legitimate and understandable", Lavrov said.

12:37 GMT 19.03.2022
Russia Asks UN Commissioner to Address Harassment of Russian Children Abroad
Russian Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova has sent an appeal to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet with a request to take measures against the spike in cases of Russian children being harassed and discriminated against in other countries, her office said on Saturday.

"I receive information, with alarming regularity, about bullying, attacks, harassment, and other forms of undue influence on Russian and Russian-speaking children", Lvova-Belova wrote.

Children are the most vulnerable population category and need special protection and care, the Russian ombudswoman wrote.

"However, they are now being subjected to threats and violence because of their origin on a par with adults, including in educational institutions, often with the acquiescence or open approval of some countries' authorities", Lvova-Belova noted.

She asked the UN commissioner to take measures and stop all forms of discrimination against Russian and Russian-speaking children, stressing that such attacks against children require not only close attention but also resolute condemnation.
12:30 GMT 19.03.2022
Russia Will Not Initiate Improvement of Relations With West - Lavrov

"We, of course, remain open to cooperation with any countries, including Western ones. Although given the way the West has behaved, we are not going to come up with any initiatives. Let's see how they will get out of the impasse they have driven themselves into", Lavrov said on the margins of the Leaders of Russia management competition.

12:15 GMT 19.03.2022
Lavrov Expresses Hope Russian Special Op Will Result in Comprehensive Agreement on Ukraine's Neutral Status
12:11 GMT 19.03.2022
Putin: US Military's Biological Activities in Ukraine Threatening Russia and Europe Are Unacceptable
12:02 GMT 19.03.2022
Lavrov: Special Op Was Only Option, Moscow Managed to Disrupt Anti-Russian Project by West
Russia had no other choice but to launch a military operation in order to disrupt Kiev's policies growing increasingly hostile to Russia and Russian people, including those in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Lavrov invoked Moscow's futile attempts to negotiate mutual European security guarantees with the United States and NATO for several months since last fall.

"Against this backdrop, when Donbass started to be shelled [by the Ukrainian military] in obvious preparation for hostilities, we had no other choice to protect the Russian people in Ukraine. We recognised the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, signed a mutual assistance agreement with them, and in response to their request, the president instructed to carry out a special military operation", Lavrov said.

"I am sure you know about how in the course of this operation our worst suspicions found confirmation, with regard to those plans which had been nurtured and which our operation managed to avert, including the plans to take over Donbass. And you also know about the facts unearthed about the dangerous military-biological programme that the Pentagon has been carrying out in many Ukrainian cities", the minister added.

11:45 GMT 19.03.2022
Pentagon Chief Advises China Against Supporting Russian Special Operation in Ukraine
The United States has made it clear to China that extending support to Russia's military operation in Ukraine would be a "bad choice", US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said.
On Friday, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke over the phone for nearly two hours, primarily about Russia's ongoing military operation in Ukraine, Western sanctions related to the operation, and potential consequences for China should it materially assist Russia.

"I would hope that China would not support this despicable act by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, I would hope that they would recognise a need to respect sovereign territory", Austin told CNN, adding that, "we've been clear that if they do that, we think that's a bad choice".

11:12 GMT 19.03.2022
Watch Aftermath of Shelling in Makeevka by Ukrainian Troops
10:49 GMT 19.03.2022
More Than 160 Miners Stranded Underground After Ukraine Shells Two Mines in DPR, Causing Blackouts
More than 130 mine workers remain trapped underground at the Chelyuskintsev and Skochinsky coal mines in the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) because ventilation shafts were powered down as a result of shelling by Ukrainian troops, the DPR Ministry of Coal and Energy said on Saturday.
On Friday, the DPR Energy Ministry said that the Chelyuskintsev mine had been shelled by Ukrainian troops. A shell fell on the premises of the enterprise.

"On 19 March, as a result of yet another shelling by Ukrainian forces, at 12:40 p.m. [10:40 GMT], the Chelyuskintsev mine (except for the main ventilation shaft) and the second western ventilation shaft of the Skochinsky mine of the DPR State Unitary Enterprise 'Donetsk Coal Energy Company' were powered down", the ministry said.

According to preliminary data, 80 workers were trapped underground at the Chelyuskintsev mine and 85 at the Skochinsky mine.
09:24 GMT 19.03.2022
US Considering Disconnecting Russia From GPS – Space Agency Head Rogozin
The United States is considering the possibility of disconnecting Russia from the GPS global navigation system as part of a new package of sanctions, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said on Saturday.

"Do you know that today, within the framework of sanctions, the United States is considering the possibility of disconnecting Russia from GPS? Do you know about this? You don't. But I can tell you that such an issue is being considered", Rogozin said during a visit to the rocket and space centre "Progress".

This would not impact Russia much, however, as the country has its own analogue to GPS - the GLONASS system, Rogozin said, adding that any smartphone in use in Russia is already connected to GLONASS.
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