As the war enters its 754th day, these are the main developments.

Here is the situation on Tuesday, March 19, 2024.

Fighting

  • Ukrainian air defence systems shot down 17 out of 22 Russian Shahed drones that targeted nine Ukrainian regions. The attack triggered a fire in a residential building in the central city of Kryvyi Rih, but emergency services were able to evacuate residents and disable the drone’s payload before it blew up. Russia also fired seven missiles at northeastern Ukraine, including the Sumy region.
  • Authorities said the intensity of ground and air attacks on the Sumy region had increased since the start of the year. The regional government said the area had been struck more than 3,000 times, compared with a total of some 8,000 strikes in 2023. The number of aerial bomb attacks had tripled and Russian saboteurs were highly active, officials said.
  • Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, said four people were killed after Ukrainian shelling hit a house in the village of Nikolskoye.
  • Ukrainian Presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak told the Reuters news agency that Russian President Vladimir Putin planned to escalate the war after the Russian leader suggested a “security zone” be established in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region to “protect” Russian territory.

Politics and diplomacy

  • China, India and North Korea congratulated Putin on securing a further six-year term after the Kremlin said the long-time leader got 87 percent of the vote. The election, which was also organised in four Ukrainian territories that Russia partly occupies and claims to have annexed, was condemned by Ukraine and its European allies as “illegal” and “undemocratic”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at an event in Red Square. His face is also on massive screens alongside the stage. Some of the crowd are waving Russian flags. The Kremlin is in the background.
Russian President Vladimir Putin at an event to mark 10 years since Russia invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine in a move condemned as illegal by the international community [Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP]
  • Putin appeared briefly in front of a flag-waving crowd at an open-air concert on Red Square to mark the 10th anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The annexation of the Black Sea peninsula has been condemned as illegal by most countries at the United Nations.
  • Russia’s state news agency TASS reported the Federal Security Service (FSB) detained a 24-year-old Russian woman in Crimea who was allegedly attempting to sabotage rail infrastructure bringing military equipment to the front line in Ukraine.
  • US Senator Lindsey Graham visited Kyiv and met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The two discussed the $60bn military aid package for Ukraine that is being held up by Republicans in the United States Congress. Zelenskyy said the package’s approval was “critically important”. Graham suggested that aid in the form of a no-interest loan might get more support.

Weapons

  • South Korea’s Defence Minister Shin Won-sik told reporters that North Korea had shipped about 7,000 containers of weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine since the transfers began last July. Some had been sent by sea and others by rail as a result of UN sanctions on both countries, Shin added.
  • The Council of the European Union ratified an agreement to increase the EU’s support for Ukraine’s Armed Forces by 5 billion euros ($5.44 billion) through a dedicated assistance fund.
  • During a visit to Warsaw, Germany’s Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said Germany and Poland planned to work jointly on producing more ammunition for Ukraine. He did not go into detail.

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