Ukraine latest: Biden accuses Russia of ‘genocide’; US cannot confirm reports of chemical weapons use; last stand in Mariupol

US President Joe Biden has referred to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “genocide” for the first time.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin used a trip to a Siberian space base to declare peace talks were at a dead end.

In Mariupol, Ukrainian marines are running low on supplies as Russia’s forces close in on steelworks which is the last part of the battered city in Ukrainian hands.

Here is the latest on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

Biden calls out ‘genocide’ in Ukraine

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US President Joe Biden calls for an invasion in Ukraine of “genocide”.

Mr Biden said Americans’ ability to pay for petrol should not “hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide a half a world away”.

He said he stood by that characterization when asked later by reporters, saying Mr Putin was trying to “wipe out the idea of ​​even being a Ukrainian”.

“I called it genocide because it has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of ​​being able to be Ukrainian, and the evidence is mounting,” Mr Biden said.

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Mr Biden has repeatedly called Mr Putin a war criminal, but has not previously declared that Russia has committed genocide in Ukraine.

On Twitter Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Mr Biden for his remarks.

“Calling things by their names is essential to stand up to evil,” he wrote, adding Ukraine needed more heavy weapons.

Putin says peace talks are a dead end

Mr Putin used a visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s far east, 5,550 kilometers from Moscow, to insist Russia would “rhythmically and calmly” continue the war in Ukraine, citing the need to achieve security goals.

He described Western sanctions as a “blitzkrieg” which “did not work” and warned that on-and-off peace talks were in a “dead-end situation.”

“Its goals are absolutely clear and noble,” Mr Putin said of what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

“It’s clear that we didn’t have a choice. It was the right decision.” Read more on that story here.

Rumors but no confirmation of chemical weapon use

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said it was possible that phosphorus munitions – which cause horrendous burns but are not classified as chemical weapons – had been used against Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol.

A woman walks down a road pulling bags behind her in front of houses reduced to rubble by bombings
A woman pulls her bags past houses damaged during fighting in Mariupol.(AP: Alexei Alexandrov)

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said it was concerned by a recent unconfirmed report of chemical weapons use in Mariupol and was monitoring the situation closely.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US was not in a position to confirm reports of the use of chemical weapons in Ukraine.

“We’re in direct conversation with partners to try to determine what actually has happened,” Mr Blinken said.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the eastern Donetsk region, which includes Mariupol, said he had seen incident reports on possible chemical weapons use in the city but could not confirm them.

“We know that last night around midnight a drone dropped some so-far unknown explosive devices, and the people that were in and around the Mariupol metal plant, there were three people, they started to feel unwell,” he told CNN.

They were taken to hospital and their lives were not in danger, he said.

Battle for Mariupol at decisive phase

The battle for Mariupol appeared to be reaching a decisive phase, with Ukrainian marines holed up in the Azovstal steelworks.

Reuters journalists accompanying Russian-backed separatists saw flames billowing from the Azovstal district.

The steel plant was reportedly the last part of the city still holding out against the Russian advance.

A view shows a metal plant behind damaged buildings
The Azovstal Iron and Steel Works plant surrounded by buildings damaged in the conflict.(Reuters: Alexander Ermochenko)

Ukrainian authorities admitted they were having trouble resupplying the marines, who are reportedly running out of ammunition.

Russia said its campaign now aims to capture more territory on behalf of separatists in the Donbas region, in Ukraine’s east, which includes Mariupol.

The city has been reduced to a wasteland during the Russian siege, with the local mayor saying as many as 20,000 people may have been killed there.

Ukraine says tens of thousands of civilians have been trapped inside the city with no way to bring in food or water, and accuses Russia of blocking aid convoys.

Late on Tuesday, Ukraine said its forces in the east had beaten off six Russian attacks, destroying two vehicles and three artillery systems as well as shooting down a helicopter and two drones. Reuters could not immediately verify the report.

First Australian Bushmasters arrive in Ukraine, ambassador says

Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia said the first shipment of Australian armored vehicles had arrived in the war-torn country.

The government is committing to send 20 Bushmaster vehicles to Ukraine, to support local forces in their bid to fight invading Russian forces.

A man walks past rows of burned out cars in a forest
Ukraine’s Ambassador to Australia says Russia wants to destroy Ukraine’s statehood.(AP: Evgeniy Maloletka)

Ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko said he thought it was likely chemicals had been deployed by Russia.

“However it is not yet fully verified, I have to be clear about that,” he told ABC’s RN Breakfast.

He said urban warfare continued in besieged Mariupol and that casualties have exceeded 22,000.

“I’m not sure how long Mariupol can still stand,” he said.

“I would like to draw attention to the fact that Russian troops are taking Ukrainian civilians as prisoners of war.”

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians.

“They are on a mission to destroy our statehood, and we, as Ukrainian[s]we have to keep on fighting, “Mr Myroshnychenko said.

He said Kyiv’s view was that Russia was using peace talks – which Mr Putin said hit a “dead end” – to stall.

“Our belief from the very beginning was that Russia used those negotiations as a distraction, as an opportunity to buy more time to regroup and to redirect their forces,” Mr Myroshnychenko said.

“Russia has to withdraw, they have to respect international law, which they have blatantly violated. And they have to recognize us as a sovereign nation.”

Forensic investigators arrive in Bucha

French forensic experts arrived in Bucha near Kyiv to help Ukraine authorities establish what happened in the town where hundreds of bodies have been discovered since Russian forces withdrew.

Ukraine has accused Russian troops of killing the victims during their occupation of the area.

A black car covered in bullet holes.
Investigators are in Bucha after Russia’s retreat.(AP: Rodrigo Abd)

Bucha’s mayor said more than 400 bodies had been found so far, some in mass graves.

Reuters has not been able to verify the number of people found dead in Bucha or the circumstances of their deaths.

The discovery of so many slain civilians in Bucha after the Russian withdrawal has provoked a global outcry.

Moscow has denied responsibility and dismissed allegations its troops committed war crimes as fake news.

“We have now a lot of jobs unfortunately with war crimes,” Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said at a churchyard where locals hastily buried people who died during the town’s occupation.

“When you see dead bodies here, from the other side, from the Russian Federation, they say it’s all fake, all this is our theater.”

Ms Venediktova said international experts would be able to see the situation for themselves.

“They can see everything, they can see the situation here: real graves, real dead bodies, real bomb attacks. That’s why for us this moment is very important.”

Germany politicians call on EU to ban Russian oil

The European Union should impose an embargo on Russian oil as soon as possible, the chairmen of three parliamentary committee committees said after a visit to Ukraine.

The EU is drafting proposals for an oil embargo on Russia although there was no agreement to ban Russian crude oil.

EU diplomats said Berlin, which is heavily reliant on Russian oil, was not actively supporting an immediate embargo.

Germany’s government expects to be able to phase out Russian oil by the end of the year.

German Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael Roth said cutting Russian oil would be a very important signal because it would affect the main source of income.

Meanwhile, Russian Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov told Izvestia newspaper that Moscow was ready to sell oil and oil products to “friendly countries in any price range,” Interfax news agency said.

Mr Shulginov said crude prices in the range of $ US80 to $ US150 ($ 170 to $ 200) a barrel were in principle possible but that Moscow was more focused on ensuring the oil industry continued to function, Interfax said.

ABC / Reuters / AP

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