Russia-Ukraine war: Canada will deploy up to 150 military personnel to Poland

Day 50 of the Russia-Ukraine War • Russia reinforcing troops in east • Combat continues in Mariupol

 A Ukrainian serviceman fires with a mortar, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, at a position in Kyiv region, Ukraine March 30, 2022. (photo credit: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters)
A Ukrainian serviceman fires with a mortar, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, at a position in Kyiv region, Ukraine March 30, 2022.
(photo credit: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters)

The Poland front

Canada will deploy up to 150 military personnel to Poland to support Ukrainians fleeing Russia's war and address a growing refugee crisis at Poland's border with Ukraine, Defense Minister Anita Anand said on Thursday.

More than half of the over 4.5 million who have left since Russia's Feb. 24 invasion have gone to neighboring Poland.

Prisoner swap 

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said a new prisoner swap had been agreed with Russia and that in total 30 Ukrainians would be going home on Thursday.

"On the order of President Zelensky, the next, fourth, exchange of prisoners of war took place today. 

5 officers and 17 servicemen were exchanged. 8 civilians, including 1 woman, were also released. " Vereshchuk said.

Russia prepares new offensive in the east

On the 50th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces prepared for a renewed offensive in the east of Ukraine, the UK Defense Ministry warned in a Thursday morning intelligence update. 

Russian aviation has destroyed seven military facilities in Ukraine in the past 24 hours, including an artillery missile depot, Interfax news agency quoted Russian defense ministry as saying. 

Russia is amassing air force groups, artillery batteries, and reinforcing medical intelligence, and command structures in the east of Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said on Thursday morning. However, significant numbers of Russian troops and military equipment continues to be tied down in Mariupol, according to the UK Defense Ministry. The Russian Defense Ministry has claimed successful operations in Mariupol, and the separatist Donetsk militia claimed that 1,350 Ukrainian troops surrendered to Russia, Russian media outlet TASS reported.

"We still hold Mariupol as a contested city. We still hold that Ukrainian forces are in Mariupol and they're defending it. … We still do not believe that the Russians have taken Mariupol, but clearly, they remain focused on that," US Defense Department official told DoD News on Wednesday night.

"Russian troops are stepping up activity in the eastern and southern directions," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address on Wednesday night.

Russia's security service said on Thursday that a border post in the Bryansk region had been fired at from Ukraine but that no one was injured in the incident, TASS news agency reported.

The UK Defense Ministry wrote that strikes in the Donbas region are in preparation of the coming attack.  Ukraine's armed forces noted significant bombardment of the Kharkiv, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions. It also noted that balistic missiles still threatened all of Ukraine.

"Urban centres have faced repeated indiscriminate attacks from Russia throughout the conflict. The towns of Kramatorsk and Kostiantynivka are likely to be Russian targets for similar levels of violence," said the UK Defense Ministry. "The combination of widespread missile and artillery strikes and efforts to concentrate forces for an offensive represents a reversion to traditional Russian military doctrine."

A US military official told DoD News that at least 1,550 missiles had been launched into Ukraine since the war began.

Russia withdrew from areas in the north of Ukraine last week to refocus its efforts on securing the rebel Donetsk and Luhansk territories. 

Zelensky warned that the unoccupied areas were still full of unexploded ordinance and mines

"The occupiers were left with tens of thousands of unexploded ordnance, mines," said Zelensky. "Everyone who wants to return home to the liberated territory should be as careful as possible."

More shellings

The governor of Ukraine's Kharkiv region, Oleh Synyegubov, said four civilians had been killed and 10 wounded during Russian shelling of the city of Kharkiv on Thursday.

Reuters could not immediately verify Synyegubov's remarks.

In a statement, the Kharkiv region governor also urged residents of some towns to evacuate since he said military operations were expected to take place in the area.

The governor of Russia's southern Bryansk region said on Thursday that residential buildings in the village of Klimovo had been hit after coming under fire from the Ukrainian army.

"Today, the village of Klimovo came under fire by Ukrainian armed forces. Two residential buildings were damaged as a result of the shelling and there were casualties among the residents," governor Alexander Bogomaz said on his Telegram channel.

Ukraine's defense ministry and military did not immediately respond to requests for comment after Russia earlier said mortars had landed near a border facility in the Bryansk region.

Tensions on the border of Belarus

US Defense Department news said on Wednesday that the DoD was seeing Russian movement in Belarus to support the coming eastern Ukraine campaign.

Belarusian troops are on alert on the Ukrainian border and engaging in combat training, the Ukrainian military said on Thursday morning. At checkpoints, Russian military police are checking entrant's cellphones. 

Civilians in Belarus are allegedly being warned that Ukrainian forces could attack Belarus at any moment, the Ukrainian military said.

Reuters contributed to this report.