Russian cruise missiles hit Ukrainian Air Force command center, Ukrainian military says


These are the biggest updates so far on Friday as the war in Ukraine enters its fifth week:

Ground combat: Ukrainian forces have recaptured towns and defensive positions on the eastern outskirts of kyiv, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in its latest intelligence update on Friday.

Meanwhile, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed on Friday that Russian forces had destroyed “the largest of the remaining fuel depots” near kyiv, with a strike carried out with cruise missiles. Kalibr launched by the sea.

Mariupol Theater Survivors: An adviser to the mayor of Mariupol said around 600 people survived a Russian airstrike on a theater in the city on March 16.

The Mariupol city council said earlier that based on eyewitness reports, it now estimates around 300 people died in the strike. CNN has not independently verified the casualty figures. New footage has emerged on social media showing people escaping from the theatre.

Biden in Poland: US President Joe Biden hailed the bravery of Ukrainian civilians during an interview with US troops in Poland, saying they “have a lot of courage”. He also addressed the growing refugee crisis, thanking humanitarian organizations in Poland for sending aid to Ukraine and helping the refugees. One in two Ukrainian children has been displaced since Russia began its invasion on February 24, according to a statement released Thursday by the United Nations Children’s Fund.

He is expected to meet Polish President Andrzej Duda and deliver a “major speech” on Saturday, according to the White House. Learn more about Biden’s events in Poland here.

Russia takes stock of military deaths: The Russian military said at a briefing on Friday that more than 1,300 servicemen had been killed in Ukraine and more than 3,800 had been injured, in the first major casualty update since March 2. US, Ukrainian and NATO estimates have significantly increased Russian troop losses.

Two senior NATO military officials estimated on Wednesday between 7,000 and 15,000 the number of Russian soldiers killed in combat in Ukraine. Other US officials have estimated Russian casualties in a similar range – between 7,000 and 14,000 Russian troops killed – but expressed “low confidence” in those estimates.

Ukrainian forces also said they killed a Russian general in the Kherson region.

Putin claims to “cancel culture”: During a videoconference on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin filed a complaint about the so-called “nullification of culture”, saying the West was trying to “nullify” Russia.

He compared his country’s treatment to a public backlash against ‘Harry Potter’ creator JK Rowling, who has been criticized in the past for views labeled as transphobic. Putin, who presents himself as a standard bearer for conservative cultural values, has spoken out against the rights of transgender people and gay people. Rowling responded, saying criticism of cancel culture is “no better done” by these “civilian slaughterers” in Ukraine and posting a link to a news article about imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny.

In his remarks, Putin went on to compare the current situation of Russian culture in the West to censorship in Nazi Germany. Putin framed his invasion of Ukraine — a country with a Jewish president — as a campaign of “denazification,” a description that historians and political observers emphatically reject.

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