Ukraine live briefing: Xi departs Russia with no clear progress on peace; Zelensky visits Bakhmut

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping toast during their dinner at the Kremlin on Tuesday. (Pavel Byrkin/AP)
7 min

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on European governments to detain Russian President Vladimir Putin, under an arrest warrant issued earlier this month by the International Criminal Court, if he were to visit their countries. The warrant, connected to accusations of war crimes in Ukraine, is largely symbolic, as Russia, like the United States, does not accept the court’s jurisdiction, and Putin is not likely to travel anywhere he would be detained.

Blinken’s remarks, in response to questions from lawmakers during a budget hearing, came after Chinese leader Xi Jinping departed Moscow, ending a three-day trip that underscored Beijing and Moscow’s desire to reshape the global order against Western power. He and Putin signed a series of agreements to expand trade and deepen strategic ties but offered little concrete progress on China’s pledge to promote peace in the Ukraine conflict. Xi said China has an “impartial position” on the war in Ukraine. The United States has accused China of “parroting the Russian propaganda.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday made a visit to the front line in Bakhmut, where Russian forces have almost encircled Ukrainian troops, cutting off major transport and supply lines. “It is an honor for me to support our warriors who are defending the country in the toughest frontline conditions,” he said in his nightly address.

Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the globe.

Key developments

  • Kyiv has asked Beijing to endorse a Ukrainian peace formula to end the conflict, Zelensky told reporters alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was in Kyiv on Tuesday. The peace formula calls for the restoration of Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and a withdrawal of Russian troops. Zelensky said he was still waiting for an answer from China.
  • Zelensky said Zaporizhzhia was under attack on Wednesday, after missiles hit a residential building. He tweeted a video appearing to show an apartment block near a mall on fire. “Right now, residential areas where ordinary people and children live are being fired at,” he said. “The world needs greater unity and determination to defeat Russian terror faster and protect lives.” The Washington Post could not independently verify the reports.
  • Zelensky vowed to “respond to the occupier for every attack on our cities,” during his nightly address Wednesday. “All Russian strikes will receive a military, political and legal response,” Zelensky said. “Every Russian murderer should understand that an arrest warrant is the best thing that can happen to them.”
  • Russia’s defense minister on Tuesday awarded Orders of Courage to the Russian Su-27 aircraft pilots who intercepted a U.S. spy drone over the Black Sea. The pilots “prevented the violation by the American MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle of the borders of the area of ​​​​the temporary regime for the use of airspace,” the defense ministry said on Telegram. The ministry added that the U.S. drone “went into uncontrolled flight” as a result of “abrupt maneuvering.”
  • Nuclear safety at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant occupied by Russian forces remains “perilous,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement Wednesday. The plant’s last remaining back up 330 kilovolt power line at the plant was damaged March 1 and remains disconnected and under repair, the agency said. The nuclear facility has since been relying on one 750 kV line for power.
  • Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said the risk of nuclear conflict is the highest it has been in decades. “I would not like to indulge in a discussion whether the probability of a nuclear conflict is high today, but in any case it is higher than anything that we have seen over the past decades, let’s put it this way,” he said.

Battleground updates

  • One person was killed and 32 others injured when a Russian rocket hit two nine-story buildings in Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday, according to Ukraine’s State Emergency Services on Telegram. “Right now, residential areas where ordinary people and children live are being fired at,” Zelenksy said on Twitter. “The world needs greater unity and determination to defeat Russian terror faster and protect lives.” The Washington Post could not independently verify the reports.
  • Drone attacks hit Kyiv overnight, killing seven and injuring at least nine people in dormitories and an educational institution, according to the Kiev regional police chief Andrii Nebytov on Telegram. He said one child was among the injured. Ukrainian forces shot down another 12 drones during the nighttime attack, Nebytov said.
  • The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine said the drone attack showed Moscow was not committed to ending the war. “After all the talk in Moscow yesterday, more Russian missiles and more drone attacks on civilians overnight make it perfectly clear how much interest President Putin has in a just peace,” tweeted Ambassador Bridget Brink on Wednesday.
  • The Pentagon is accelerating shipment of M1 tanks to Ukraine, moving up deliveries to the fall, after earlier saying it could take a year or more to get them battle-ready. “This is about getting this important combat capability into the hands of the Ukrainians sooner rather than later,” Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters.
  • Zelensky visited wounded Ukrainian soldiers at a hospital in Donetsk, where he presented a military award to representatives of the Medical Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “Until victory it is necessary to save the lives of many people who are defending our country. You are defending it at your front,” he told them, according to a presidential statement.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping departed Russia on March 22 after a historic three-day trip to Moscow. (Video: Reuters)

Global impact

  • Prince William made a surprise trip to Poland, where he met with British and Polish troops near the Ukrainian border. He also visited a shelter housing refugees in Warsaw, commending the community and volunteers for welcoming the hundreds of Ukrainian women and children staying there.
  • Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called Xi’s trip “very worrying,” in a meeting Wednesday alongside Kishida in Warsaw. “The China-Moscow axis is dangerous,” he said. Adding that a “new geopolitical order is being born before our eyes.” Morawiecki said Western nations were working to “convince China not to support Russia in its aggressive international politics.”
  • Putin has criticized British plans to send tank ammunition to Ukraine that includes depleted uranium, valued for its ability to pierce armor. In another veiled threat about Russia’s own nuclear capabilities, he said Moscow will “respond accordingly” if this happens, Reuters reported. British defense officials say uranium is a standard component for some of the ammunition it is sending Kyiv with its Challenger 2 battle tanks.
  • “This kind of ammunition is a fairly commonplace been in use for for decades,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday. “I think what’s really going on here is Russia just doesn’t want Ukraine to continue to take out its tanks and and render them inoperative. And if that’s really the concern, the Russians are very concerned about their tanks staying fully operational.”

From our correspondents

Xi’s Russia trip marks the arrival of a more ambitious ‘Global China’: The business deals inked on day two of the Chinese leader’s visit to Moscow represent something of a lifeline for Putin, isolated from the West due to sanctions imposed on Russia following his decision to wage a full-blown war across the border in Ukraine, writes The Post’s Ishaan Tharoor.

The trip is the latest sign of Xi’s “Global Security Initiative,” a vision the Chinese leader debuted last year of a parallel order to the West. Some analysts believe it marks Beijing’s desire to transition out of the global security architecture that was orchestrated by the United States in the aftermath of World War II.

Naomi Schanen contributed to this report.