Russia Ukraine war updates: Chinese vlogger’s defiant Ukraine move

A Chinese vlogger has been accused of “betraying” his country by telling the truth about Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its 24th day, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s outfit at a pro-war rally has raised eyebrows among critics.

Meanwhile, British intelligence has concluded that Russia’s operations “have changed”, and it is now pursuing a “strategy of attrition”.

The fighting has now reached the city centre of Mariupol, in the country’s south, which has been enduring bombardment for days on end. Russia says it is “tightening the noose” on the city of 430,000.

And elsewhere, US President Joe Biden has spoken to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, warning of the “consequences” China will face if it aids Russia.

It comes as the UN Migration Agency puts the number of Ukrainians displaced in their own country because of the war at 6.5 million. A further 3.2 million Ukrainians have fled overseas, with the majority of them — 2 million — now in neighbouring Poland.

The death toll is still not known but Russia has fired 1,080 missiles at Ukraine since the conflict began on February 24, a senior US defence official told BBC.

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Read on for the latest updates.

‘Traitor’: Chinese vlogger’s defiant Ukraine move

A Chinese vlogger currently living in Ukraine has been slammed as a traitor after he shared the truth about the brutal invasion on social media.

Wang Jixian, who lives in Odessa, began documenting the realities of the war after becoming increasingly angry over pro-Russian clips posted by Chinese citizens.

In an interview with CNN, he said he felt he had to act, and started posting daily video updates.

“I was very angry, then I thought I would record videos for them, and I’ll tell them what the real battlefield is,” he told CNN.

However, Mr Wang’s coverage has sparked fierce backlash, with fellow Chinese citizens claiming he had “betrayed” his country, amid strengthening ties between Beijing and Moscow.

Chinese media outlets have also been sharing Russian disinformation regarding the invasion.

Ironic detail in Vladimir Putin’s outfit

On Saturday morning AEDT, Putin hosted a pro-war concert in Moscow as crowds cheered him on.

In his speech, Putin repeated the false pretence that Russia was waging war in Ukraine to protect people from genocide in the country’s east.

There were a few glitches, including the live feed abruptly cutting out while Mr Putin was mid-sentence and one Russian taking to the stage to sing an anti-war song later on.

But one thing critics couldn’t get over was what he was wearing.

According to the UK Telegraph, Putin wore an Italian designer coat priced at £10,500 (A$18,600) and a white roll neck sweater that was a bit more humbling — a mere £3,200 (A$5600).

The Telegraph described him dressing “more like an investment fund manager on the slopes of Gstaad than the increasingly raving mad despot he has become”.

A Russian commentator had an equally as cutting comparison, saying Putin’s get-up was like “Billy Graham meets North Korea”.

Outspoken Russian woman Lyubov Sobol, who supports imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny, said in a tweet that has been roughly translated into English: “Putin stays true to himself: he was sporting a 1.4 million rouble Loro Piana puffer jacket at Luzhniki.”

CNN global affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga quipped about the situation: “The Emperor has no (Russian made) clothes”.

The extravagant lifestyle that Putin is flaunting is a stark juxtaposition to the thousands of Russian soldiers struggling to access basic amenities as they fight in Ukraine.

Zelensky calls on urgent peace talks

Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky called on urgent peace talks during a video address Saturday in which he warned of massive losses for Russia if the conflict continued.

He pleased with Moscow to come to an agreement to restore “territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine”.

““It’s time to meet. Time to talk. It is time to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise Russia’s losses will be so huge that several generations will not be enough to rebound,” president Zelensky said.

“Negotiations on peace, on security for us, for Ukraine – meaningful, fair and without delay – are the only chance for Russia to reduce the damage from its own mistakes.”

He said Russian troops blocking Ukrainians from seeking humanitarian aid in the Sumy and Donetsk region was “a totally deliberate tactic” and a “war crime”.

“They have a clear order to do absolutely everything to make the humanitarian catastrophe in Ukrainian cities an ‘argument’ for Ukrainians to co-operate with the occupiers,” he said.

“This is a war crime.”

Russian lieutenant general killed

Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces confirmed in a Facebook post Saturday that the commander of the 8th Combined Arms Army of the Southern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces had died, BBC reported.

Lieutenant General Andrei Mordvichev was reportedly killed during an artillery strike in the Ukranian town of Chernobayevka.

Russian troops formed up along a 64 kilometre supply train as part of their invasion into Ukraine but parts of the convoy reportedly struggled to access fuel in freezing temperatures and food was scarce.

Russian troops have also broken into grocery stores and taken over farms in search of food as the invasion has progressed, sparking concerns of looting further down the track as well.

Earlier on Saturday, US think tank the Institute of the Study of War concluded that “Russian forces face growing morale and supply problems”.

Three weeks ago, stories started emerging of some Russian units “surrendering without a fight” because they were running out of food and fuel.

CNN also wrote about how Russia had reached out to China asking for supply pre-packaged, non-perishable military food known as “meal, ready-to-eat,” otherwise known as MREs, to help with the war effort.

There were also reports that Russian troops were supplied MRE packs that had expired years ago, with one pack not fit to eat since 2015 – seven years past its expiry date.

And it’s not just Russian troops, either.

Everyday Russians have endured a collapsing economy amid sanctions from the west, making it more difficult to afford the bare necessities – let alone a designer brand jacket.

Russian businesses are unable to get paid or pay their staff as a result because of the nation being booted out of the SWIFT system. Businesses also can’t pay for imported goods or machinery or any input they need for business.

The central bank has increased the interest rate to 20 per cent, which is a doubling of previous rates.

Now the cost of debt and cost of essential items like food and fuel has skyrocketed.

There are warnings Russia could default on paying $210 billion worth of foreign debt, which would have “astronomical” consequences for the country.

Old couple drive away armed invaders with swear words

An elderly Ukrainian couple have been hailed as heroes after forcing four heavily armed Russian invaders to leave them alone by profusely swearing at them.

At one point Russian troops levelled a gun at the married woman and another time, out of frustration, the soldiers fired their guns into the air to scare the husband and wife duo.

But in the end the Ukrainian pair walked the soldiers out of their courtyard and slammed the gate behind them.

Volodymyr Doshkar recounted the terrifying ordeal to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which was also captured on CCTV footage.

“I saw three Russians breaking into my front yard. The fourth one stayed on the street,” he said in a video which has been translated.

Bravely, he and his wife came out to meet the soldiers, who were demanding they raise their hands in surrender and lie on the ground — which they refused to do.

“I can’t repeat what we said to them — Russian curse words,” Mr Doshkar said.

“We told them to get the hell out. They started shooting in the air to scare us. Then they pointed a gun at my wife and told her to give them her phone.”

Instead of backing down, his defiant wife replied “Over my dead body”.

Luckily the Russians didn’t take her words literally. While two of the soldiers were “boneheads”, one was “reasonable”, according to Mr Doshkar, and the Ukrainian couple managed to persuade them to leave.

“We gradually pushed them away from our courtyard. They went back down the street.”

It is unclear whereabouts in Ukraine this occurred.

Russians self-mutilating to avoid going to war

Morale among Russian soldiers is low that some of them are reportedly mutilating themselves to avoid having to fight.

That’s according to a report released on Saturday morning by the Institute of the Study of War (ISW), a US think tank tracking the invasion of Ukraine.

It’s not an unheard of practice, with incidents of self-inflicted wounds known to have occurred in World War I and the Vietnam War in particular, when conscription was rife.

Soldiers most commonly shot themselves in the hands or feet so they would be taken away from active duty.

“Russian forces face growing morale and supply problems,” the ISW noted.

“Russia has failed to achieve its strategic objectives in Ukraine.”

In what can only be considered another blow to Russia’s military aims, the ISW believes they have lost the Ukrainian city of Mykolayiv.

Ukrainian forces are believed to have launched a victorious counter-attack around have regained control.

Russians arrive at space station wearing yellow and blue

The first three Russian astronauts to arrive at the International Space Station since the Ukraine invasion did so wearing yellow and blue suits – the colours of Ukraine’s national flag.

According to ABC News, cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveyev and Sergey Korsakov departed a Russian-leased launch pad in Kazakhstan Friday evening.

Footage from their arrival showed Mr Artemyev wearing a blue and yellow suit.

When he later made contact with earth, he explained it was up to the astronauts to pick their own colours, and “we had accumulated a lot of yellow material so we needed to use it”.

It was unclear if their selection was representative of their solidarity with Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict.

Fresh blow for hated Russian oligarch

Filthy rich Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has yet again been humiliated after his private jet was grounded in the US.

The 55-year-old billionaire owned one of the 100 planes in the US that were found to have breached sanctions.

Early on Saturday morning AEDT, around 100 planes with ties to Russia were unable to leave because all services were denied to them.

The US Commerce Department said the aircraft had violated the country’s export laws because they had ignored sanctions and flown to Russia in recent weeks.

As a result, their owners, operators and servicers could be facing substantial jail time, fines, loss of export privileges or other restrictions.

The planes grounded included 99 Boeing aircraft carrying passengers or cargo from Russia through companies such as Aeroflot, AirBridge Cargo, Utair, Nordwind, Azur Air and Aviastar-TU.

Mr Abramovich’s private Gulfstream G650 jet was also among those caught up in the crackdown.

In a statement, the department explained: “By preventing these aircraft from receiving any service, for example, including from abroad, international flights from Russia on these aircraft are effectively grounded.”

Hidden message during Putin’s speech

On Saturday, Putin hosted a concert in the heart of Russia’s capital city.

Local police claimed the city’s Luzhniki stadium, which hosted the World Cup final in 2018 and also today’s concert, was packed with 200,000 people, though its capacity is only 80,000.

There are reports that people were paid by the government to attend.

Also somewhat awkwardly, one-time Eurovision Russian hopeful Polina Gagarina took to the stage to belt out a tune by 1980s band Kino which is reportedly an anti war song.

In his speech, Putin repeated the false pretence that Russia was waging war in Ukraine to protect people from genocide in the country’s east.

The feed abruptly cut out. The Kremlin later clarified that the broadcast was “interrupted due to technical problems on the server”.

The TV station was then forced to run the entire speech again from the top.

Eagle-eyed viewers spotted a more subliminal message in his surroundings as well, featuring the letter Z – which is painted on Russia’s military vehicles in Ukraine.

In the past three weeks, the letter Z has become widely known as the Russian military’s identifying symbol in Ukraine. It’s painted on tanks and other military vehicles, and has been adopted by some civilians to indicate their support for the war.

A Russian Olympian even emblazoned a Z on his shirt as he went to collect a medal alongside a Ukrainian athlete.

The exact meaning of the Z is ambiguous, though the Russian Ministry of Defence has described it as an abbreviation of the phrase “for victory”.

At the event Vladimir Putin hosted in Moscow overnight, it was noticeable that various large banners around him displayed words featuring Z as their first letter.

The banners read “For a world without Nazism“, “For Putin” and “For Russia”. In Russian, the first letter of For is a “Z”.

Some suggested a bit of subliminal messaging was going on.

Heroic way 1 month old baby was saved in shelling attack

Ukraine’s Centre for Strategic Communications has shared the story of a heroic mother as parts of the country continue to be shelled by Russian invaders.

Early on Saturday, Ukrainian authorities released an image of a mother scratched and covered in blood, with her head bandaged.

She had sustained those injuries by using her body as a shield to spare her one-month-old baby from a shelling attack in Kyiv, the country’s capital city.

The baby appears unscathed while the mother also luckily survived the attack.

It comes as the city of Mariupol has been enduring heavy shelling all day Friday.

Meanwhile, dozens of victims have been reported in Mykolaiv from its March 18 shelling and air strike attack.

Mayor of Mykolaiv, Oleksandr Senkevich, said the city had no time to sound air raid sirens, according to The Kyiv Independent.

Russians ‘tightening the noose’ on Ukrainian city

Russia’s defence ministry announced on Friday night AEDT that Russian and pro-Russian forces were “tightening the noose” around the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, according to Russia‘s RIA Novosti news agency.

Separatists in eastern Ukraine have been aided by Russia’s military have been “fighting against nationalists”, the defence ministry reportedly said.

The southern city, with a population of 430,000, has been enduring heavy bombardment for several days now.

The fighting has spread into the city’s centre.

Mariupol’s mayor Vadym Boichenko told the BBC that fighting was “really active”.

“Tanks and machine gun battles continue,” he said. “Everybody is hiding in bunkers.”

Tragically, a theatre that Mariupol residents were using as a shelter was bombed on Thursday.

At least 130 managed to escape but a further 1300 are still stuck inside, according to the BBC.

Russia now pursuing ‘strategy of attrition’

Russia has switched up its military strategy which could be bad news for Ukrainians in the long run.

So far, Ukrainians have frustrated their attackers because they are fighting back more ferociously than was expected, thwarting Russian efforts to take major cities key to their invasion.

But this has reportedly caused a major shift in Putin’s tactics — they are now reportedly focusing on tiring out their opponent.

British Chief of Defence Intelligence Lieutenant General Jim Hockenhull warned that Russian forces had changed to a “strategy of attrition”.

This is could considerably increase the number of casualties among Ukrainians, with Lieutenant Hockenhull ominously adding this new strategy will entail ”reckless and indiscriminate use of firepower.”

“This will result in increased civilian casualties and the destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure,” he added.

China’s surprise stance on Russia

US President Joe Biden has warned his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that he will face “costs” if Beijing rescues fellow authoritarian ally Russia from intense Western sanctions aimed at punishing Moscow‘s invasion of Ukraine.

But in an almost two hour teleconference on Friday, Mr Xi told Mr Biden that while “the world is neither peaceful nor tranquil … the Ukraine crisis is not something we want to see,” according to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Conflict and confrontation are not in the interests of anyone,” Mr Xi reportedly said to Mr Biden.

“China and the US have a responsibility to work for peace.”

The call marked the first official contact between the US and Chinese presidents since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

It was seen as a critical test of whether Mr Biden can convince China to stay on the sidelines of the conflict in Ukraine, and to turn down Russian requests for military or economic aid.

Russia’s economy has been brought to its knees after the West imposed strict sanctions and investors are concerned the same would happen in China if the nation sided with Russia.

For its part, the White House said Mr Biden laid out to the Chinese leader the “consequences” of any support for Russia in its war against neighbouring Ukraine.

“He described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians,” the White House said in a statement

— Megan Palin in the US

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