Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

KYIV: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine pushed for further talks with Russia as Moscow signalled it was scaling back its ambitions, focussing on territory claimed by Russian-backed separatists in the east after attacks elsewhere stalled.

FIGHTING/DIPLOMACY

* Russia said the first phase of its military operation was mostly complete and it would focus on “liberating” Ukraine’s breakaway Donbas region. Reframing his goals may make it easier for Putin to claim a face-saving victory, analysts said.

* Three hundred people may have been killed in the bombing of a Mariupol theatre, local officials said. Russia said 1,351 of its soldiers had died, while the UN said it had confirmed 1,081 civilian deaths in Ukraine.

* It is “foolish” to believe Western sanctions could affect Moscow, as they will only unite Russian society, said ex-president Dmitry Medvedev.

* Thousands of miles from Ukraine, Russia was conducting military drills on islands claimed by Tokyo, Japanese media said, days after Moscow halted peace talks with Japan because of its sanctions over the invasion.

REFUGEES

* About 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine, which had a prewar population of 44 million.

* The UN is looking into allegations that civilians were forcibly moved from the besieged southern city of Mariupol to Russia.

ENERGY/MARKETS/BUSINESS

* The United States will supply Europe with more liquefied natural gas to help curb reliance on Russia, Biden said.

* France’s Macron said there was no reason to accept Russia’s demand to pay in roubles for Russian gas, calling it “forbidden”.

* China’s state-run Sinopec Group suspended talks for a major petrochemical investment and a gas marketing venture in Russia, sources told Reuters, heeding a government call for caution as Western sanctions mount.

QUOTES

* “I told my wife to grab the children and to hide in the basement, and I went to the drafting station and joined my unit straight away.” — Andriy, a Ukrainian soldier on the frontline northwest of Kyiv.

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