Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Russian forces move in on Kiev

19 March 2022

9:00 AM

19 March 2022

9:00 AM


More than 100,000 people registered interest in giving a place in their homes for Ukrainian refugees under a government scheme, after widespread criticism of bureaucratic obstacles, though refugees would still require a visa. The scheme was the responsibility of Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary; asked if he would take in a refugee, he said: ‘Without going into my personal circumstances, there are a couple of things I need to sort out – but, yes.’ He thought it might be an idea to lodge refugees in oligarchs’ empty properties. Anarchists occupied a house in Belgrave Square belonging to Oleg Deripaska; four were arrested.

Roman Abramovich was sanctioned and his assets were frozen; Chelsea football club was allowed to function under licence and anyone interested in buying it was invited to contact the government. An appeal by the UK Disasters Emergency Committee to help Ukrainians raised £150 million in a week. The price of petrol (more than half of which is tax) rose to £1.63 a litre. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, flew off to Saudi Arabia with the hope of persuading the Kingdom to disgorge more oil. The first 36 T-shaped pylons were connected in Somerset, replacing the lattice-work design of which 22,000 remain.

In the seven days up to 7 March, 726 people had died with coronavirus, bringing total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive) to 162,873. In the previous week 786 had died. Numbers with Covid remaining in hospital in the United Kingdom rose from about 10,700 to about 12,000. A fourth vaccination would be offered from April starting with those aged over 75 or vulnerable. All remaining UK Covid travel measures ended. The Queen, who has made Windsor Castle her stable base, did not attend the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey.


Russian forces moved in on Kiev. By night, blocks of flats were destroyed by bombardment. A two-day curfew was imposed. Mariupol, population 400,000, endured another week of constant bombardment with no light, no heat, no sanitation and a severe shortage of food and water. A pregnant woman photographed wounded on a stretcher at the maternity hospital bombed the week before died, as did her baby. The city authorities said 2,187 people had been killed there in the first 18 days of the war; on the 20th day, 20,000 people left the besieged city, but aid lorries were not allowed in. Volnovakha in the south, population 20,000 before the war, had been completely destroyed according to the Ukrainian governor of Donetsk. By 15 March more than 3 million Ukrainians had left the country and 1.8 million were internally displaced.

‘We are concerned that Moscow could stage a “false flag” operation, possibly including chemical weapons,’ Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of Nato said in a press conference. A Russian attack with about 30 cruise missiles on a military training base at Yavoriv, 15 miles from the Polish border, killed at least 35. The mayor of occupied Melitopol was reported to have been abducted; a puppet replacement was installed by Russia. The mayor of occupied Dniprorudne was also reported to have been abducted. In occupied Kherson people demonstrated in the street against Russian soldiers. A Russian journalist, Marina Ovsyannikova, held up a placard saying ‘No war’ during the state-controlled Channel 1 news; she was arrested and fined. Talks between Russian and Ukrainian diplomatic delegations sounded ‘more realistic’, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia travelled by train to Kiev for talks with the president and prime minister. President Zelensky was to address the US Congress by video. An American journalist Brent Renaud, 50, was killed when his car was fired upon at Irpin; two Fox News journalists were killed on the outskirts of Kiev. US officials said that Russia had asked China for military assistance in its war against Ukraine.

The total in the world reported to have died with coronavirus reached 6,065,862 by the beginning of the week. China imposed lockdowns on tens of millions of people, including the entire Jilin province and the technology hub Shenzhen. The British-Iranian detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had her British passport returned and was due to return to England. Chad handed over to the International Criminal Court a former militia leader, Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom, suspected of crimes against humanity in the Central African Republic in 2013.

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