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Ukraine forces say they've retaken key Kyiv suburb; Biden warns of chemical weapons

Ukrainian service members stand beside a damaged building in a residential area after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18. Photo by Vladyslav Musiienko/UPI | License Photo

March 22 (UPI) -- Ukrainian forces have retaken control of a key suburb of Kyiv and expelled Russian troops, officials said Tuesday, preventing them from encircling the capital that Moscow has been trying to capture for nearly a month.

The Ukrainian army took control of the suburb, Makariv, which is west of downtown Kyiv, according to Ukraine's defense minister.

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The victory came after a tense battle with Russian forces, the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a Facebook post.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's military said about 3,000 people have been evacuated from Mariupol, a key port city in the south of Ukraine that Moscow has been targeting for weeks. Shelling continued overnight and into Tuesday, officials said.

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Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said of the 400,000 people who lived in Mariupol before the Russian invasion, about 100,000 remain. She said food and water there are low because much of the city has been destroyed.

"There is no longer any city there. There is no longer a city of Mariupol," said one resident who escaped, according to CNN. "There isn't a single residential building left."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Monday that Russia attacked a humanitarian corridor in the Zaporizhzhia region that was intended to give safety to fleeing civilians. Several children were injured in the attack, he said.

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Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden warned Monday night that Russian forces are attempting to set up false flag events as a pretext to deploy chemical weapons.

In comments made before a business roundtable event at the White House, Biden said that Russian disinformation about the pretext -- Ukraine possessing chemical weapons -- is a ruse to give Moscow a reason to use chemical weapons of their own.

"[Putin's] back is against the wall and he's talking about new false flags he's setting up, including he's asserting that we, in America, have biological as well as chemical weapons in Europe. [That's] simply not true. I guarantee you," Biden said at the event.

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The president also said late Monday that Russia has used hypersonic missiles in Ukraine, which travel at five times the speed of sound. Pentagon officials had previously said they were unsure whether Moscow had deployed hypersonic missiles in Ukraine.

"They're also suggesting that Ukraine has biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine. That's a clear sign he is considering using both of those," Biden said.

"He's already used chemical weapons in the past, and we should be careful of what about -- of what's about to come. He knows there'll be severe consequences because of the united NATO front, but the point is: It's real."

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The National Union of Journalists of Ukraine said Monday that four reporters were taken from their homes in Melitopol by Russian forces, but were released a few hours later.

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