Rogue Russian soldiers capture second village in two days


Russian troops fighting for Ukraine have captured their second village in two days, the soldiers reported.

The Siberian Battalion, a pro-Kyiv militia, claims to have raised its flag in the village of Kozinka, Belgorod, together with the Russian Volunteer Corps.

The groups posted an image of them holding up their flags on Telegram, captioned: “Flags of the Siberian battalion and RDK in the village of Kozinka of the Russian Federation.”

The announcement comes after two separate volunteer groups yesterday announced they had raised their flag in Gorkovskii, 16 miles to the east.

The battalions form part of a coalition of volunteer forces who have taken part in cross-border raids on Ukraine’s eastern front over the past week, capturing prisoners and settlements in Belgorod and Kursk.

Follow the latest updates below


03:16 PM GMT

That’s all for today

Thanks for tuning in to today’s live blog. We’ll be back tomorrow to bring you all the latest from the Russia-Ukraine war.

Key moments from today:

  • Lord Cameron has said Vladimir Putin’s election victory highlights the “depth of repression” in Russia.

  • Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, offered his “warm congratulations” to Vladimir Putin on his election victory, saying he looked forward strengthening the two nations’ “special” relationship.

  • Vladimir Putin is planning to capture a “buffer zone” of Ukrainian territory that would put Russian regions out of range of Ukraine’s long-range Western weapons.

  • Russia and China have harnessed Vladimir Putin’s election victory to signal ever closer ties between the two world powers.

  • Negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the European Union can start in the next two months, Denys Shmyhal, Ukraine’s prime minister, has said.

  • The European Union has labelled the results of elections held in Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine “null and void”.

  • Russian overnight strikes have left two people dead and 16 injured, including children, Ukraine reported.

  • President Zelensky has blamed Ukraine’s lack of long-range strikes on the “short-sightedness” of allies, in an apparent snub to Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor.

  • Ukraine is relying on mass drone strikes to compensate for an artillery shell shortage, but experts have warned they cannot tip the balance of the war.


03:07 PM GMT

Cameron: Putin election result reveals ‘depth of Russia’s repression’

Lord Cameron has said Vladimir Putin’s election victory highlights the “depth of repression” in Russia.

“These Russian elections starkly underline the depth of repression under President Putin’s regime, which seeks to silence any opposition to his illegal war,” the foreign secretary said in a statement, referring to the conflict in Ukraine.

”Putin removes his political opponents, controls the media, and then crowns himself the winner. This is not democracy.”

His comments come as western leaders roundly condemn the election outcome. Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign minister, described the “scripted” process as a “tragic farce”, while Emmanuel Macron, the French president, indicated that he would not “congratulate” Putin.

Putin secured a fifth term in Sunday’s elections that will allow him to rule until at least 2030.


03:05 PM GMT

Modi hails closer ties with Russia after Putin election victory

Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, offered his “warm congratulations” to Vladimir Putin on his election victory, saying he looked forward strengthening the two nations’ “special” relationship.

“Look forward to working together to further strengthen the time-tested Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between India and Russia in the years to come,” Mr Modi wrote on Twitter.

In doing so, he joined China’s President Xi Jinping, who said Beijing would maintain close communication with Moscow to promote the “no limits” partnership they agreed in 2022, just before Russia invaded Ukraine.

India and China, along with Russia, are members of the BRICS group of emerging economies that aims to contest US hegemony in the global economy.


02:59 PM GMT

Pictured: An effigy of Putin in Kyiv

A Ukrainian serviceman walks by an effigy of Russian President Vladimir Putin dressed in a prisoner outfit during a rainfall in Kyiv

A Ukrainian serviceman walks by an effigy of Russian President Vladimir Putin dressed in a prisoner outfit during a rainfall in Kyiv – Vadim Ghirda/AP


02:26 PM GMT

Putin plans to capture Ukrainian ‘buffer zone’ to take Russia out of ATACMS range

Vladimir Putin is planning to capture a “buffer zone” of Ukrainian territory that would put Russian regions out of range of Ukraine’s long-range Western weapons.

“I do not exclude that, bearing in mind the tragic events taking place today, that we will be forced at some point, when we deem it appropriate, to create a certain ‘sanitary zone’ in the territories today under the Kyiv regime,” Putin said on Monday.

The president’s comments came after being asked whether he thought it necessary for Russia to take control of Kharkiv, which borders Belgorod, a Russian province that has come under aerial attack from Kyiv’s forces in recent weeks.

“Against the backdrop of (Ukrainian) drone attacks and the shelling of our territory: public facilities, residential buildings, measures must be taken to secure these territories,” said Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman.

“They can only be secured by creating some kind of buffer zone so that any means that the enemy uses to strike us are out of range.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential aide, described the comments as “a direct manifest statement that the war will only escalate”.


02:17 PM GMT

Do not recognise Putin election win, says Kremlin critic

Former oligarch and prominent Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Monday called on Western governments not to recognise Vladimir Putin’s election win, affirming that the opposition was united against the Russian ruler.

“It is now about… finally publicly recognising Putin as illegitimate,” Mr Khodorkovsky told journalists in Berlin.

“We have high expectations for Western society, who we ask to turn to their governments to ask them not to recognise Putin as legitimate,” he said in an event at the Center for Liberal Modernity think tank.


01:43 PM GMT

Putin election victory heralds closer ties with China

Russia and China have harnessed Vladimir Putin’s election victory to signal ever closer ties between the two world powers.

After congratulating Putin on securing a fifth term in office, Xi Jingping, China’s president said:  “China attaches great importance to the development of China-Russia relations and is willing to maintain close communication with Russia to promote the sustained, healthy, stable and in-depth development of (bilateral ties),” CCTV, a Chinese state broadcaster, reported.

Putin responded in kind, heaping praise on his Chinese counterpart in a sign of the two countries’ deepening alliance against the US-led West.

Putin said he was “sure that in the coming years we will only strengthen and build up our relations and achieve common successes for the benefit of the Chinese and Russian peoples”, Tass, the Russian state news agency, reported.

“The most important thing is the coincidence of state interests. This creates a very good tone for solving common problems in the field of international relations,” Putin added.


01:23 PM GMT

Pictured: Rogue Russian troops ‘capture’ second village in two days

The Siberia Battalion, pro-Kyiv troops fighting for Ukraine, claims to have captured the village of Kozinka, Belgorod

The Siberia Battalion, pro-Kyiv troops fighting for Ukraine, claims to have captured the village of Kozinka, Belgorod – Telegram


12:53 PM GMT

The war in pictures

Houses and cars burned during the 2022 Russian occupation of settlements in Kyiv are left in ruin

Houses and cars burned during the 2022 Russian occupation of settlements in Kyiv are left in ruin – Kateryna Mykhailova/Getty Images

Ukrainian firefighters rescue a civilian from a building in Kryvyi Rih after a Russian missile strike

Ukrainian firefighters rescue a civilian from a building in Kryvyi Rih after a Russian missile strike – Getty Images


12:31 PM GMT

Breaking: Russia releases final election results

Vladimir Putin has won Russia’s sham elections with 87.28 per cent of the vote at the final count, Russian media reported.

His closest rival, Nikolai Kharitonov, claimed just 4.31 per cent of the vote.


12:25 PM GMT

UAE leaders congratulate Putin on re-election

United Arab Emirates leaders have sent a message of congratulations to Vladimir Putin following his re-election as Russian President, WAM, the UAE state-run news agency, reported.

Those who have sent messages of support to Putin include Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, the Manchester City owner, the news agency said.


12:05 PM GMT

Ukraine hopes EU accession talks will begin within two months

Negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the European Union can start in the first half of 2024, Denys Shmyhal, Ukraine’s prime minister, has said.

The European Commission on March 12 proposed a draft framework for membership talks with Ukraine and Moldova, another candidate to join the bloc, which currently includes 27 countries.

“We hope that our European partners will approve it without any additional amendments as the European Commission proposes,” Mr Shmyhal said.

The EU agreed to commence accession talks with Kyiv in December 2023, but indicated Ukraine would have to undertake several reforms before it could be accepted into the bloc.

Ukraine aims to “execute (its) homework in a very fast way,” said Shmyhal, who believes that this process will take “not more than two years.”

EU member states are reportedly expected to approve the next formal steps toward starting the accession talks later this week.


11:30 AM GMT

China says Putin re-election ‘fully reflects’ support of Russian people

Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, congratulated Vladimir Putin on winning another term as president and said China was set to maintain close communication with Russia to promote their partnership, Chinese state media reported.

“Your re-election is a full demonstration of the support of the Russian people for you,” Xi said, according to Xinhua News. “I believe that under your leadership, Russia will certainly be able to achieve greater achievements in national development and construction.”

Iran, North Korea, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela also congratulated Putin on his victory.

Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s autocratic president, said that “it was a flawless electoral process” which “demonstrated [the nation’s] democracy in an exemplary manner”.


11:07 AM GMT

Watch: Putin breaks silence on Navalny’s death after election

Vladimir Putin has broken his silence on the death of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who died in an Arctic prison last month.

Speaking at his campaign headquarters after claiming a landslide victory in Russia’s sham elections, the Russian president claimed he was prepared to exchange Navalny, describing the opposition leader’s death as a “sad event”.

“Concerning Mr Navalny. Yes, he passed away, it’s always a sad event,” said Putin. He added that “a few days” before Navalny died, he had been approached by colleagues with the idea of trading the Russian dissident in a prisoner exchange with Western countries.

“I said: ‘I agree. Only on one condition: we’ll exchange him so that he does not return,’” he said.

Putin secured a fifth term in Sunday’s elections that will allow him to rule until at least 2030.


10:20 AM GMT

Russian elections in occupied Ukraine are ‘null and void’, says EU

The European Union has described the results of elections held in Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine as “null and void”.

Sham elections took place in the occupied regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson over the weekend where residents were forced to vote in favour of Putin, the Kyiv Independent reported.

The EU said the election has taken place in a highly restricted environment “exacerbated by Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine”.

The EU added that it regretted the decision of Russian authorities not to invite international observers to its elections.

“This runs contrary to Russia’s commitments and has denied Russia’s voters and institutions an impartial and independent assessment of these elections,” the bloc of 27 nations said in a joint statement.


10:04 AM GMT

France condemns vote in Ukraine’s occupied regions

France has condemned “so-called elections” held in Ukrainian regions temporarily occupied by Russia as “a new breach of international law and of the United Nations Charter”.

“France does not recognise and will never recognise the holding and the results of these so-called elections and reaffims its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” its foreign ministry said in a statement.

The country also condemned Russia’s setting up of polling booths in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and in Transnistria “without the consent of Georgian and Moldavian authorities”.


10:02 AM GMT

EU says Russian election took place in highly restricted environment

The Russian election took place in a highly restricted environment “exacerbated by Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine,” the EU has said.

The bloc said it regretted the decision of Russian authorities not to invite international observers to its elections.

“This runs contrary to Russia’s commitments and has denied Russia’s voters and institutions an impartial and independent assessment of these elections.”

It also said that “so-called elections” held in the territories of Ukraine that Russia has temporarily occupied were “null and void”.


09:44 AM GMT

Pictured: Putin wins rubber stamp election

Russia's Central Electoral Commission head Ella Pamfilova (left) is seen on a screen as she attends a briefing at the Central Election Commission in Moscow

Russia’s Central Electoral Commission head Ella Pamfilova (left) is seen on a screen as she attends a briefing at the Central Election Commission in Moscow – MAXIM SHIPENKOV/EPA-EFE

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his confidants and volunteers of his campaign headquarters in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his confidants and volunteers of his campaign headquarters in Moscow – GAVRIIL GRIGOROV/AFP


08:56 AM GMT

Two dead and 16 injured in Russian overnight strikes

Russian overnight strikes have left two people dead and 16 injured, including children, Ukraine reported.

A double missile attack on the southern city of Mykolaiv killed one person and injured nine, including two children, Vitalii Kim, the regional governor, reported. He added that the city’s lighting and transport infrastructure was also damaged in the attack.

In Sumy on Ukraine’s eastern border, one person was killed and another injured after Russia bombarded the settlement Velyka Pysarivka with more than 340 strikes, the local military administration reported.

Further south in Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk, a series of Russian drone strikes hit a gas station and left five people injured, Serhii Lysak, the regional governor, said.

To the north east in Kharkiv, Russian forces struck a village near Kupiansk, injuring a 62-year-old man, Oleh Syniehubov, the regional governor, reported.

The strikes come despite Ukraine destroying 17 of the 22 Shahed drones that Russia launched overnight, the Air Force reported.


08:31 AM GMT

Zelensky blasts ‘short-sighted’ allies over refusal to supply long-range weapons

President Zelensky has blamed Ukraine’s lack of long-range strikes on the “short-sightedness” of allies, in an apparent snub to Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor.

Speaking in his evening address, the President thanked Canada for joining a drone coalition, before adding: “The short range of our army’s capabilities is an obvious short-sightedness of some partners.”

Later in his speech, Mr Zelensky thanked Germany for its “weekly steps to support our country and people”.

Mr Zelensky has been caught in long-running wrangle with the German chancellor over Berlin’s refusal to send long-range Taurus missiles to Kyiv – a decision on which the Bundestag is divided.

Mr Scholz last week doubled down on his refusal to send the missiles, which would enable Ukraine to strike targets deep behind the frontline, branding the move “irresponsible”.


08:06 AM GMT

Cheap Ukrainian drones ‘cannot match’ artillery power, warn experts

Ukraine is relying on mass drone strikes to compensate for an artillery shell shortage, but experts have warned they cannot tip the balance of the war.

“At the moment in Ukraine, we are seeing the use of drones on an unimaginable scale,” Ulrike Franke, a researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), told AFP.

In its 2024 budget, Kyiv earmarked 1.15 billion euros (£980 million) for drones. Meanwhile, President Zelensky announced that the country will produce “one million drones” this year, after setting up a specific drone branch in February.

Despite Ukraine’s success using drones to target Russia’s oil infrastructure and its Black Sea fleet in recent weeks, experts have warned there are limits to the tactic’s effectiveness.

“Even large numbers of small drones cannot match the potency of artillery fire,” said Stacie Pettyjohn in a study by CNAS, an American security think-tank. Drones can supplement indirect fire weapons, but they are not substitutes, she added.


07:53 AM GMT

Russia will not be ‘intimidated’, says Putin after landslide victory

Vladimir Putin said Russia would not be “intimidated” as he hailed an election victory that paves the way for the former spy to become the longest-serving Russian leader in more than 200 years.

“I want to thank all of you and all citizens of the country for your support and this trust,” Putin told a news conference at his campaign headquarters in Moscow, hours after polls closed.

“No matter who or how much they want to intimidate us, no matter who or how much they want to suppress us, our will, our consciousness – no one has ever succeeded in anything like this in history. It has not worked now and will not work in the future. Never,” he added.

With more than 99 percent of voting stations having submitted results, Putin had secured 87 percent of all votes cast, RIA, the state-owned news agency, reported.


07:44 AM GMT

Putin is a modern-day Stalin, says Shapps after Russian leader wins sham election

Vladimir Putin is behaving like “a modern-day Stalin”, Grant Shapps has said after the Russian president won a fifth term in office.

Writing for The Telegraph, the Defence Secretary accused Putin of having stolen the Russian election after having opponents such as Alexei Navalny “imprisoned or murdered”.

Mr Shapps writes: “He of course is going nowhere after stealing Sunday’s so-called election, where political opponents are either imprisoned or murdered.

“Shockingly, at the end of his next five-year term he will have been in power almost exactly as long as the dictator Joseph Stalin. Putin is behaving like a modern-day Stalin.”

Read Grant Shapps’s full op-ed here. 


07:40 AM GMT

Putin strolls to victory – but his opponents humiliate and outfox him

On paper, at least, it must have looked so straightforward. Vladimir Putin wanted to fix a presidential election to show the world that ordinary Russians love and admire him and support his war in Ukraine, writes James Kilner.

With total domination of the media, which pumps out hardcore pro-Kremlin propaganda, complete control of the central election committee, which cancels Putin’s opponents, and a well-oiled vote-rigging machine, surely nothing could go wrong.

Except it did, spectacularly.

Putin was humiliated and outfoxed by his opponents in an empowering and subtle nationwide protest that reminded suppressed Russians opposed to his authoritarian rule that they are not alone.

Read James’s full report here.

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