Ukraine retakes control of two Russian-occupied towns

Russian strike hits oil depot in western Ukraine • Nearly 5,000 killed in Mariupol since Russian siege

A train carries a captured Russian tank in Kyiv, Ukraine March 28, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH)
A train carries a captured Russian tank in Kyiv, Ukraine March 28, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH)

The governor of Ukraine's northwestern Rivne region said Russian forces had carried out a rocket strike on an oil depot in the region on Monday. In a short video address posted online, governor Vitaliy Koval said emergency services were at the scene, but did not give further details.

Earlier on Monday, Ukrainian forces had seized back full control of Irpin, a town near capital Kyiv, which has been one of the main hotspots of fighting with Russian troops, the mayor said on Monday.

The United States assessed that Ukrainian forces have also retaken the town of Trostyanets, south of Sumy, from Russian forces, a senior US defense official said on Monday. "The Ukrainians are continuing to try to take back ground," the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We have good news today - Irpin has been liberated," Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn said in a video post on Telegram. "We understand that there will be more attacks on our town and we will defend it courageously."

The outskirts of the Ukrainian coastal city Mariupol are under complete control of pro-Russian forces, a representative for the separatist People's Militia of the Donetsk People's Republic Eduard Basurin claimed on Monday, according to Russian state media outlet RIA.

Nearly 5,000 people have been killed in Mariupol since Russian forces laid siege to it, a spokesperson for the city mayor said on Monday. The spokesperson quoted data from the mayor's office that said about 90% of buildings in Mariupol had been damaged and about 40% had been destroyed.

"The situation in Mariupol is very complicated. The outskirts of Mariupol are completely under our control, fighting is still going on in the central part," Basurin reportedly told Russia's Channel One.

"Russia has gained most ground in the south in the vicinity of Mariupol where heavy fighting continues as Russia attempts to capture the port," The UK defense ministry said on Monday. The Mariupol mayor estimated that about 160,000 people remained in the besieged coastal city, without heating. He called for a complete evacuation. 

 A Ukranian serviceman walks past the wreck of a Russian tank in the village of Lukyanivka outside Kyiv, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, Ukraine, March 27, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/MARKO DJURICA) A Ukranian serviceman walks past the wreck of a Russian tank in the village of Lukyanivka outside Kyiv, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, Ukraine, March 27, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/MARKO DJURICA)

The UK defense ministry claimed on Sunday night that Russian naval forces were attempting to maintain a distant naval blockade of Ukraine, while also continuing sporadic bombardment against Ukrainian targets. 

"The destruction of the Saratov [Alligator-class] landing ship at Berdyansk [last week] will likely damage the confidence of the Russian Navy to conduct operations in close proximity to the coast of Ukraine in the future.

Brig.-Gen. Kirill Budanov told Coffee or Die magazine that thanks to Ukrainian intelligence, "The missile struck at the same moment when fuel trucks and ammunition trucks approached the ship." 

Ukraine sees no signs on the ground that Russia has given up a plan to surround the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Ukrainian defense ministry spokesperson Oleksander Motuzyanyk said on Monday.

"According to our information, the Russian Federation has not abandoned its attempts, if not to capture, then to surround Kyiv. For now, we don't see the movement of enemy forces away from Kyiv," he told a televised briefing.

Beer giants join boycotts as Russia warns G7 it will halt gas supply

Brewing giants Carlsberg and Heineken said on Monday they would quit Russia, joining an exodus of Western companies as pressure grows on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine.

For Carlsberg, the Western brewer most exposed to Russia, the exit would result in a "substantial non-cash impairment charge" this year, it said without providing further details.

"We have taken the difficult and immediate decision to seek a full disposal of our business in Russia, which we believe is the right thing to do in the current environment," Carlsberg said. "Upon completion, we will have no presence in Russia."

Heineken, the third-largest brewer in Russia, earlier said it was aiming for an "orderly transfer" of its local business, which accounts for just 2% of total sales, reducing its operations during a transition period to minimize the risk of nationalization.

The Dutch brewer expects to book-related charges of around $438 million and said it would guarantee the salaries of its 1,800 employees in Russia until the end of the year.

"We have concluded that Heineken's ownership of the business in Russia is no longer sustainable nor viable," the company said in a statement, adding that it would not profit from any transfer of ownership.

Russian lawmaker Ivan Abramov on Monday said a refusal by the G7 to pay for Russian gas in roubles would lead to an unequivocal halt in supplies, the RIA news agency said.

Energy ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized nations reject demands by President Vladimir Putin that "unfriendly" countries pay for Russian gas with roubles, Germany said on Monday

Abramov sits on the economic policy committee of the Federation Council, the Russian parliament's upper chamber.

Combat continues around Kyiv

As day 33 of the Russia-Ukraine war dawned, Russian and Ukrainian troops continued to engage in eastern, southeastern, and northeastern fronts, according to an early Monday morning operational report by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Russian forces have struck 41 Ukrainian military sites over the last 24 hours, the Russian defense ministry said on Monday, including Ukrainian ammunition depots in the Zhytomyr region in western Ukraine.

Monday afternoon the Ukrainian military claimed that Russian forces were attempting to prepare for a rotation of troops, and were sending soldiers and military equipment from the Pacific theater. It was also alleged that there have been disobedience issues amongst some troops, and in areas such as the Sumy and Izyum fronts, Russia has focused on regrouping, rearming, and reorganizing for continued combat.

Basurin claimed that Ukraine is also having supply issues, RIA reported.

“It seems that now the amount of ammunition is starting to arrive less. I already said once that their supply is running out,” Basurin claimed to Rossiya 24.

Ukrainian forces reportedly attempted to defend villages in Eastern Ukraine and halt Russian advances in the direction of Hulyaipole and Zaporizhzhia.

Despite intelligence reports that Russia has deprioritized the seizing of Kyiv in favor of securing the rebel Donbas regions, Russian forces attempted to break through northwestern and eastern defenses to take control of key highways and towns. The Ukrainian military claimed that Russian forces were destroying bridges in Eastern Ukraine. 

Near Donbas, Ukrainian forces claim to have destroyed two tanks and an infantry fighting vehicle. 

The Ukrainian air force also claimed to have shot down four Russian planes, one helicopter and 2 drones. The Russian air force claimed in a press briefing that it had shot down five Ukrainian warplanes during the previous day. According to Russian state media outlet RIA, the Russian military also claimed to have hit 36 Ukrainian military facilities.

 Locals walk next to residential buildings damaged by shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 18, 2022. (credit: Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS) Locals walk next to residential buildings damaged by shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 18, 2022. (credit: Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS)

Casualties

There have been more than 100 deaths in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv since Russia's invasion of its neighbor, the city's mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Monday.

In an address to the city council of Florence, which is twinned with Kyiv, Klitschko said more than 20 corpses could not be identified and four of the victims were children, while another 16 injured children are in hospital.

"The cities around Kyiv have seen numerous battles ... on the roads we see many corpses and pieces of human corpses," Klitschko said according to an Italian interpreter.

The former world heavyweight boxing champion said 82 multi-story buildings in Kyiv had been destroyed by Russian attacks and it was impossible to know the true death toll in the city.

Russian state media outlet RIA reported that as of March 23, Russia claimed to have destroyed about 1,500 Ukrainian tanks and armored vehicles, 246 drones, 184 aircraft and 156  multiple rocket launchers systems.

On Monday, Ukraine's military claimed that 17,000 Russian military personnel have been lost, but Western intelligence estimates that the number of Russian war deaths at around half of that. Ukraine also claimed that it had destroyed 586 tanks, 1694 armored vehicles, 302 artillery pieces, 95 MLRS, 54 anti-aircraft systems, 123 warplanes, 127 helicopters, 1150 other ground vehicles, seven ships, 73 fuel tankers, and 66 drones.

 On Sunday the Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communication and Information Security reported that in a month of combat, Russian forces had destroyed 4500 residential buildings, 400 educational institutions, 150 health facilities, and 100 companies.