Day 36 of Putin's war. Russians intensify attacks in Donbas, prepare to hold sham referendum in occupied Kherson (UPDATED)

31 March, 10:35 AM
A man walks by a school in Kharkiv destroyed by Russian shelling. (Photo:REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

A man walks by a school in Kharkiv destroyed by Russian shelling. (Photo:REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine has been going on for more than a month. Today, March 31, is the 36th day of Putin's war. NV has been tracking main events of the day.

UPDATE(2037): Russian occupiers took prisoners with them while leaving Chornobyl Zone, Slavutych Mayor Yuriy Fomichev has said in an interview to Ukrainian media.

While leaving they took Ukrainian National Guardsmen as prisoners with them, the mayor said.

According to him, Russians have retreated from Slavutych, a town close to Chornobyl Zone,  as far as 40 kilometers away. 

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"Now we are trying to resolve humanitarian issues, we have already brought some food to the city, volunteers are coming and taking people to Kyiv - this is not yet a green corridor, people are driving their own cars, ”the mayor told Babel.

UPDATE (1900): Invading Russian troops opened fire on a column of volunteers trying to reach encircled Chernihiv to evacuate civilians, Ukrainian human rights ombudswoman Liudmyla Denysova said in a statement.

"Five busses with civilian volunteers inside came under fire. As a result, one person was killed and four more were injured," Denysova said.

UPDATE (1844): Russian invading forces have claimed they are going to withdraw their forces from Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant and its exclusion zone, Energoatom has reported.

Two columns of Russian troops have already left the exclusion zone for Belarus.  There are still some Russian soldiers left in the zone. But the invaders have confirmed their plans to withdraw with a document, which Energoatom has published. The document reads that Russian forces "were guarding the station from Feb. 24 until March 31, and have not disrupted the work of the nuclear object."  The Chornobyl NPP workers were forced to sign the document, which says they have no complaints about Russia's actions in the zone. 

"So it seems the invaders have been "guarding the station for a month. Maybe they want us to thank them," Energoatom press service stated in an ironic comment. 

Фото: Energoatom

UPDATE (1607): Russia on March 31 agreed to allow Ukrainian humanitarian aid to come closer to Mariupol, and Ukraine opened a humanitarian corridor from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia. 

In the morning, Ukraine sent 45 buses to Mariupol, and there are plans to deliver aid using the same corridor, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the President's Office of Ukraine, reported on the Telegram instant messenger.

Mariupol City Council has reported that according to their plans, today the evacuation buses are to reach occupied Berdyansk, and from tomorrow, April 1, the evacuation will start. The enemy still hasn't let the buses come directly to Mariupol. Instead the evacuation buses are to take people from nearby villages and towns.

As of today 80,442 Mariupol residents have been evacuated to Zaporizhzhia, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko has reported. According to him, the Ukrainian government asked Russia to allow the full evacuation of civilians from the destroyed city. But the occupiers instead kidnapped more people and sent them to Russia. Some 30,000 Ukrainians have been forcibly deported to Russia.

Meanwhile the Russian proxy leader in Donetsk, Denis Pushylin, ordered the creation of a Russian-backed city administration for Mariupol.

UPDATE (1553): The Russians have struck a military unit in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. An administrative building and a fuel storage depot have been destroyed. Two people were killed, and five were wounded, Dnipropetrovsk governor Valentyn Reznichenko reported.

This is the second major strike in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast in two days. Rescuers are still working at the site of yesterday's attack on an oil depot in Dnipro.

- Meanwhile the number of victims of the March 29 Russian strike against Mykolaiv Oblast council has risen to 20 people killed. Two more people died in hospital, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine reported.

- In Donetsk Oblast the Russians have again used phosphorous shells, in Maruyinka, Khasnohorivka and Novomykhailivka, Donetsk Oblast Council has reported. As a result 11 people were injured, four of them children. 

The Russians intensified their shelling of Kharkiv on March 30-31.  Russian shelling caused massive fires in several residential districts of Kharkiv and also in the town of Izyum and Chuhuiv District of Kharkiv Oblast.

Ukraine plans to continue peace talks with Russia on April 1. Meanwhile, the Russians have partially withdrawn their troops from Kyiv and started to withdraw from the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. At the same time, the enemy has intensified attacks against cities and towns in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. 

In Luhansk Oblast, Russian shelling killed two people, wounded two children, and set a school, an oil depot and dozens of houses on fire, regional governor Serhiy Haidai said at a morning briefing. 

“Nine residential buildings were set on fire by the Russians in Lysychansk, in Severodonetsk - five houses and a school, and in Rubizhne - one house," Haidai said. "A number of houses were damaged but did not go on fire. Two people died, and two children are in serious condition." 

The number of casualties in the March 29 Russian srike of Mykolaiv Oblast Council has risen to 16 people killed, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine has reported. 

Russian forces have reportedly started withdrawing from the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone, AFP reported, citing a US defense official. 

Belarusian Telegram instant messenger channels reported that seven buses with Russian soldiers arrived at the Republican Scientific and Practical Center for Radiation Medicine and Human Ecology in Homel.   

Reports of Russian troops' possible exposure to radiation cannot be verified by the New Voice of Ukraine. However, Yaroslav Yemelianenko, the head of Chornobyl Exclusion Zone tourism association, has published a Facebook post, saying that this is not the first time Russian soldiers from Chornobyl have been taken too the radiation medicine facility in Homel. "Have you dug enough trenches in the Red Forest? Now live with it for the rest of your short life," Yemelianenko said, referring to a heavily irradiated forest in the Chornobyl Zone, where the trees turned red from exposure to radiation.

"The Chornobyl Zone has strict rules of how you should behave. Radiation is physics - it works without regard to status or epaulettes. With minimal intelligence among commanders or soldiers, these consequences could have been avoided," Yemelianenko added.

Meanwhile on the occupied territories in the south of Ukraine the Russians are planning to create occupation administrations, Ukraine's Army General Staff has reported.  Russia's FSB security service has been preparing to conduct a sham referendum inn Kherson Oblast aimed at creating another fake pro-Russian republic in Ukraine. The FSB has been conducting psyops on the local population, recruiting local pro-Russian collaborators, and kidnapping pro-Ukrainian activists and politicians. 

The Armed Forces of Ukraine have liberated the villages of Orlovo, Zahradovka, Kochubeyevka, about 50 km from Kryvyi Rih. The settlements are located on the border of Kherson and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts, local governor Mykola Lukashuk said in a statement.

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