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Pentagon official says Russia now shelling Mariupol from sea; Biden to announce new sanctions

On March 22, Ukrainian officials evacuated people from Mariupol and Russian forces violently dispersed protesters in Kherson. (Video: The Washington Post)
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Russian forces have started shelling Mariupol from the sea, according to a senior Pentagon official — a new development in the continued attacks on a city that’s seen some of the worst bombardment since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

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There were up to seven Russian warships in the Sea of Azov, according to a count from the official, who said the city is key to the Russian attempt to take over the region. With the invasion nearing the one-month mark, British defense officials say Russian forces are making “limited progress” in other areas with “most forces largely stalled in place.” Analysts say Moscow’s tactics may become more aggressive as it seeks to compensate for its military’s initial missteps. The Kremlin’s spokesperson on Tuesday refused to rule out the possibility that Russia would use nuclear weapons in the war, telling CNN that Moscow would consider it in the event of an “existential threat for our country,” without elaborating on what that might be.

The White House said President Biden will announce new sanctions against Russia on Thursday, after summits with European leaders in Brussels. Biden’s trip to the headquarters of NATO and the European Union comes as Western leaders seek to project unity during the increasingly brutal war.

Here’s what to know

  • Roughly 6,000 people were evacuated from Mariupol on Tuesday, officials said, but 100,000 more remain trapped there. The effort to save civilians has taken on new urgency since Ukrainian leaders refused Moscow’s demand that the city surrender.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said talks are underway for two potential state visits from high-level dignitaries: Pope Francis, who has repeatedly expressed his support for Ukraine, and the Greek foreign minister, who offered to lead a humanitarian mission to Mariupol. A papal visit is far from certain, but Zelensky said he expects Greece’s Nikos Dendias to travel there “in the coming days.”
  • At least 82,525 square kilometers (31,863 square miles) of land in Ukraine could be laced with dangerous explosive devices, according to the Ukrainian Sappers’ Association, a national demining nonprofit.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine, providing unlimited digital access to our coverage. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video.