What you need to know right now:
- Russia said on Saturday that it had used hypersonic Kinzhal (Dagger) missiles to destroy a large weapons depot in Ukraine's western Ivano-Frankivsk region, saying it was the first time it had deployed the system in its "special operation".
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russian forces are blockading his country’s largest cities to wear the population into submission but he warned the strategy will fail.
- Biden warned China's Xi of "consequences", which the White House said could include sanctions, if Beijing gave material support to Russia's invasion. Both sides called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in its fourth week.
- As the prolonged assault has reduced much of the key port city of Mariupol to rubble, Ukraine's defence ministry said it had "temporarily" lost access to the Azov Sea, which connects to the Black Sea and would be a major loss for Ukraine.
- "Russian forces have made minimal progress this week," Britain said. It said Russian attempts to surround Kyiv and Mykolaiv have been pushed back while heavy Russian shelling of encircled cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol was reported on Friday.
- The UN rights office has reported 816 confirmed civilian deaths. The Ukrainian prosecutor general's office said on Saturday that 112 children have been killed so far.
- Ukraine's food supply chains are breaking down and the conflict is leading to "collateral hunger" around the world, the UN food aid agency warned.
- Border crossings from Ukraine have slowed but could rise again if conditions in the west of the country worsen, the UN refugee agency said. The UN says 3.27 million have fled, with 2 million displaced inside the country.
- Ukraine hopes to evacuate civilians today via 10 humanitarian corridors from cities and towns on the front line of fighting, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
9pm: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on Saturday for comprehensive peace talks with Moscow and also urged Switzerland to do more to crack down on Russian oligarchs who he said were helping wage war on his country with their money.
British intelligence warned that Russia, frustrated by its failure to achieve its objectives since it launched the invasion on February 24th, was now pursuing a strategy of attrition that could intensify the humanitarian crisis.
Russian forces have taken heavy losses and their advance has largely stalled since President Vladimir Putin launched the assault, with long columns of troops that bore down on Kyiv halted in the suburbs.
But they have laid siege to cities, blasting urban areas to rubble, and in recent days have intensified missile attacks on scattered targets in western Ukraine, away from the main battlefields.
Zelenskiy, who makes frequent impassioned appeals to foreign audiences for help for his country, told an anti-war protest in Bern that Swiss banks were where the "money of the people who unleashed this war" lay, and their accounts should be frozen.
8.30pm: A total of 6,623 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Saturday, a senior official said, considerably fewer than managed to escape the previous day.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president's office, said in an online post that 4,128 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol. On Friday, he said 9,145 people had managed to leave cities across the country during the day.
6:05pm: An American who was killed in Ukraine this week had gone to the war-torn country to take medical aid to his long-term partner, his family have said.
James “Jimmy” Hill refused to postpone his trip to Ukraine last month to take medicine to his partner, Irina Teslenko, who has been suffering from progressive multiple sclerosis.
Hill, 68, was killed in a Russian attack on the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv as Teslenko received treatment at a local hospital. His family says she and her mother are trying to leave the city, but because of her condition they would need an ambulance to help and it was unclear when or if that could happen.
In an interview from Pittsburgh Saturday, Hill’s sister, Katya Hill, called her brother’s relationship with Irina a “beautiful love story, but unfortunately it has a tragic ending”.
5.12pm: Russian forces pushed deeper into Ukraine’s besieged and battered port city of Mariupol on Saturday, where heavy fighting shut down a major steel plant and local authorities pleaded for more Western help.
The fall of Mariupol, the scene of some of the war’s worst suffering, would mark a major battlefield advance for the Russians, who are largely bogged down outside major cities more than three weeks into the biggest land invasion in Europe since the Second World War.
“Children, elderly people are dying. The city is destroyed and it is wiped off the face of the earth,” Mariupol police officer Michail Vershnin said from a rubble-strewn street in a video addressed to Western leaders that was authenticated by the Associated Press.
4.10pm: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged Switzerland on Saturday to crack down on Russian oligarchs who he said were helping to wage war on his country from the safety of "beautiful Swiss towns".
In an audiolink address to thousands attending an anti-war protest in Bern, Zelenskiy thanked Switzerland for its support since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, but also had clear language about the Swiss financial sector.
"Your banks are where the money of the people who unleashed this war lies. That is painful. That is also a fight against evil, that their accounts are frozen. That would also be a fight, and you can do this," he said via a translator.
Neutral Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union, has fully adopted EU sanctions against Russian individuals and entities, including orders to freeze their wealth in Swiss banks.
3.55pm: Ukraine has evacuated 190,000 civilians from frontline areas via humanitarian corridors since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a televised interview on Saturday.
She said corridors in the Kyiv and Luhansk regions were functioning on Saturday, but a planned corridor to the besieged eastern port city of Mariupol was only partially operational, with buses not being allowed through by Russian troops.
3.35pm: Boris Johnson has compared the struggle of Ukrainians fighting the Russian invasion to British people voting for Brexit.
In his speech to the Tory spring conference in Blackpool, Mr Johnson said it is the “instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom”, with the Brexit vote a “famous recent example”.
The comparison was criticised by Tory peer Gavin Barwell, who pointed out Ukraine is seeking to join the European Union.
3.22pm: China should make the "right decision" and join other nations in condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine's negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter on Saturday.
"China could become an important part of the global security system if it takes the right decision to support the coalition of civilised nations and condemn Russia's barbarism," said Podolyak, who is also an adviser to the Ukrainian president's chief of staff.
🇨🇳 can be the global security system’s important element if it makes a right decision to support the civilized countries’ coalition & condemn 🇷🇺 barbarism. It is a chance to sit at the table as equals. The West must explain to Beijing how $1.6 trillion differs from $150 billion
— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) March 19, 2022
3.05pm: Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his neighbour was motivated by the fear a successful Ukraine would trigger a pro-democracy revolution in Russia, Boris Johnson said.
The British prime minister told the Conservative Party spring conference in Blackpool that Putin was in a “total panic” about the prospect of a popular uprising if freedom was allowed to flourish in Kyiv, and his actions were not the result of concern about Nato.
“I think he was frightened of Ukraine for an entirely different reason,” Johnson said. “He was frightened of Ukraine because in Ukraine they have a free press and in Ukraine they have free elections.”
2.30pm: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on Saturday for comprehensive peace talks with Moscow to stop its invasion, saying it would otherwise take Russia "several generations" to recover from its losses in the war.
Russian forces have taken heavy losses and their advance has largely stalled since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the assault, and Zelenskiy said refusal to compromise would come at a steep price.
"I want everyone to hear me now, especially in Moscow. The time has come for a meeting, it is time to talk," he said in a video address early on Saturday.
"The time has come to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, Russia's losses will be such that it will take you several generations to recover."
2.15pm: Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said his country would take care of the "wives and children" fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has driven about three million Ukrainians to seek refuge in the EU's eastern flank.
Fiala, who travelled to Kyiv earlier this week with his Polish and Slovenian counterparts to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, added that the Czech Republic could cope with further refugee arrivals from Ukraine.
With men of conscription age prevented from leaving Ukraine, mostly women and children have crossed into the European Union at border points in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.
Uprchlická vlna je svou rychlostí a velikostí nesrovnatelná s minulými vlnami. ČR to zvládne.
Nechceme od EU, aby se zaváděly kvóty, ale aby existovala finanční solidarita k zemím, které jsou nejvíce postiženy uprchlickou vlnou. pic.twitter.com/yevVJVCtSl
— Petr Fiala (@P_Fiala) March 19, 2022
1.30pm: Ukraine may not produce enough crops to export if this year's sowing campaigns are disrupted by Russia's invasion, presidential adviser Oleh Ustenko said in a televised interview on Saturday.
"Ukraine has enough grain and food reserves to survive for a year, but if the war continues... (Ukraine) will not be able to export grain to the world, and there will be problems," he said, adding that Ukraine is the world's fifth-largest wheat exporter.
1.02pm: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday it would be a mistake to normalise relations with President Vladimir Putin following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"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.
12.30pm: A Russian mortar attack on Ukrainian town of Makariv in the Kyiv region killed seven people and hospitalised five on Friday, local police said in a statement on Saturday.
"As a result of enemy shelling of Makariv, seven civilians were killed," the statement said. Russia denies targeting civilians.
12pm: Russian President Vladimir Putin is healthy, sane and "in better shape than ever", his close ally Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview, dismissing the notion that Putin is not at the height of his powers.
"The West, and you, should get this stupidity, this fiction out of your heads," he told the interviewer.
"Putin is absolutely fit, he's in better shape than ever... This is a completely sane, healthy person, physically healthy - he's an athlete."
11.10am: Poland has proposed to the European Union that the bloc impose a total ban on trade with Russia, Prime Minister Mateus Morawiecki said, urging tougher sanctions on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.
"Fully cutting off Russia's trade would further force Russia to consider whether it would be better to stop this cruel war," Morawiecki said.
Earlier this week EU member states agreed on a fourth package of sanctions against Russia. Details were not disclosed, but the French presidency said Russia's "most-favoured nation" trade status would be revoked.
10.35am: Ukrainian authorities have not noticed any significant shifts over the past 24 hours in front line areas where Ukrainian troops are battling Russian forces, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said on Saturday.
In an online video address, he said fighting was ongoing and named the southeastern city of Mariupol, the southern cities of Mykolaiv and Kherson, and the eastern town of Izyum as particular hotspots where Russian troops were on the offensive.
10.15am: Russia said on Saturday that it had used hypersonic Kinzhal (Dagger) missiles to destroy a large weapons depot in Ukraine's western Ivano-Frankivsk region.
Russia's Interfax news agency said it was the first time Russia had deployed the hypersonic Kinzhal system since it sent its troops into Ukraine on February 24th.
Defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told a briefing that the underground depot hit by the Kinzhal system on Friday housed Ukrainian missiles and aircraft ammunition, according to a recording of the briefing shared by Russian news agencies.
Russia prides itself on its advanced weaponry, and President Vladimir Putin said in December that Russia was the global leader in hypersonic missiles, whose speed, manoeuvrability and altitude make them difficult to track and intercept.
9.30am: Nine people were killed and 17 wounded in shelling of the suburbs of the city of Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine on Friday, deputy mayor Anatoliy Kurtiev said on Saturday.
The military has since declared a 38-hour curfew in Zaporizhzhia, which was being attacked by Russian forces with mortars, tanks, helicopters and rocket systems, Kurtiev said in an online post.
9am: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said Russian forces are blockading Ukraine’s largest cities to create a “humanitarian catastrophe” with the aim of persuading Ukrainians to cooperate with them.
In a video address to the nation, filmed outside in Kyiv with the presidential office behind him, Zelenskiy said Russian forces are preventing supplies from reaching surrounded cities in the centre and southeast of the country in “a totally deliberate tactic”.
8.10am: Russia's defence ministry said on Saturday it had destroyed a large underground depot for missiles and aircraft ammunition in Ukraine's Ivano-Frankivsk region using hypersonic missiles, the Interfax news agency reported.
The ministry said it had also destroyed Ukrainian military radio and reconnaissance centres near the port city of Odessa using a coastal missile system, Interfax reported. Reuters was not able to independently verify the ministry's statements.
8am: Ukraine hopes to evacuate civilians on Saturday via 10 humanitarian corridors from cities and towns on the front line of fighting with Russian forces, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
She said a corridor had been agreed for the besieged city of Mariupol, although the authorities' previous efforts to evacuate civilians there under a temporary ceasefire have mostly failed, with both sides trading blame.