Russia-Ukraine Live Updates: UN Condemns Invasion, ICC Opens Probe Into Alleged War Crimes

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A woman runs as she flees with her family across a destroyed bridge in the outskirts of Kyiv, Wednesday.
A woman runs as she flees with her family across a destroyed bridge in the outskirts of Kyiv, Wednesday.Credit: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

Russia hits communications facility in Kyiv, takes town near Kharkiv, Russian media reports

Russian forces have struck a radio and television center in Kyiv and captured the town of Balakliya near the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, the Interfax news agency quoted Russia's defense ministry as saying on Thursday.

Russian missiles struck a TV tower in Kyiv this week in what Moscow said was a targeted attack against Ukraine's information warfare.

Pro-Russian troops in the separatist-controlled settlement of Buhas (Bugas), Tuesday.Credit: REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko


Hungary will not veto EU sanctions on Russia

Hungary will not veto European Union sanctions against Russia and the unity of the 27-member bloc is paramount given the war in Ukraine, which Hungary condemns unequivocally, Prime Minister Viktor Orban says.

"We condemn the Russian attack, as they have launched a war against Ukraine," the nationalist Orban told the news website in an interview published on Thursday. Russia calls its onslaught a "special operation. ""The sides should return to the negotiating table as soon as possible," Orban said. "All of Europe should be working for peace."

Orban, who has been strongly criticized by the Hungarian opposition for his friendly ties with Moscow, said Hungary's ties with Russia had been "balanced and fair" until the very recent past, but the war has created a new situation. He added, however, that there was no reason to cut energy ties with Russia.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends a NATO video summit, late last month.Credit: Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

Pro-Russian separatists threaten Ukraine's Mariupol with strikes

Pro-Russian forces may launch targeted strikes on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol unless Ukrainian forces there surrender, the Interfax news agency quoted Donetsk separatist commander Eduard Basurin as saying on Thursday.

Russia and separatists say they have encircled the city of 430,000 located on the Azov Sea coast.


Several heavy explosions reported from Kyiv

Several heavy explosions were registered in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv early Thursday, triggering air raid sirens.

Residents were called upon to seek shelter immediately, the Ukrainian UNIAN news agency reported.

Heavy explosions could be seen in videos posted on social media, but there were few details. Whether the smoke came from an air strike was unclear, as were potential targets.

Ukrainian media reported fighting on the outskirts of Kyiv. A Russian aircraft may have been downed.
There was no independent confirmation.

"The enemy is trying to break through into the capital," Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote on the Telegram channel.

The Associated Press

Ukraine's refugee count tops 1 million

The United Nation's refugee agency said that the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine since Russia's invasion has exceeded 1 million, making it the swiftest exodus of refugees this century.

The tally the UN refugee agency released to The Associated Press was reached Wednesday and amounts to more than 2 percent of Ukraine’s population being forced out of the country in less than a week.

The mass evacuation could be seen in Kharkiv, where residents desperate to escape falling shells and bombs crowded the city's train station and pressed onto trains, not always knowing where they were headed.


ICC begins investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday confirmed he would immediately open an investigation into possible war crimes committed in Ukraine, following a request to do so by 39 of the court's member states.

"These referrals enable my office to proceed with opening an investigation into the situation in Ukraine from 21 November 2013 onwards, encompassing any past and present allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed on any part of the territory of Ukraine by any person", prosecutor Karim Khan said.


China requested Russia to delay invasion until after Olympics, reports NYT

Senior Chinese officials told senior Russian officials in early February not to invade Ukraine before the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, the New York Times reported, quoting Biden administration officials and a European official who cited a Western intelligence report.

The Times said the intelligence report indicated senior Chinese officials had some level of knowledge about Russia's plans or intentions to invade Ukraine before Moscow launched the operation last week.

A source familiar with the matter confirmed to Reuters that China had made the request but declined to provide details. The source declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

"The claims mentioned in the relevant reports are speculations without any basis, and are intended to blame-shift and smear China," said Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington.

The U.S. State Department, the CIA and the White House National Security Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

After weeks of warnings from Western leaders, Russia unleashed a three-pronged invasion of Ukraine from the north, east and south on Feb. 24, just days after the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics ended.

The intelligence on the exchange between the Chinese and Russian officials was collected by a Western intelligence service and is considered credible by officials reviewing it, the Times reported.

Senior officials in the United States and in allied governments passed it around as they discussed when Russian President Vladimir Putin might attack Ukraine but intelligence services had varying interpretations, the Times said, adding that it was not clear how widely the information was shared.

One official the Times said was familiar with the intelligence said the material did not necessarily indicate the conversations about an invasion took place at the level of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin.


Russian troops enter Ukraine's Kherson city hall, says mayor

The mayor of the Ukrainian city of Kherson, Igor Kolykhayev on Wednesday said Russian troops were in the streets and had forced their way into the city council building.

Ukraine's government had earlier played down reports that Kherson had fallen into Russian hands, which would be the first sizeable city to do so since the invasion began last week.

Kolykhayev urged Russian soldiers not to shoot at civilians and publicly called on civilians to walk through the streets only in daylight and in ones and twos. "We do not have the Armed Forces in the city, only civilians and people who want to LIVE here!" he said in a statement.


To ease nuclear tensions with Russia, the U.S. delays ICBM test-launch

The U.S. military said on Wednesday it will postpone a scheduled test launch of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, in a bid to lower soaring tensions after Russia announced it was putting its nuclear forces on high alert.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's weekend announcement on the heightened alert posture fanned fears that Russia's invasion of Ukraine could lead to nuclear escalation, with some European officials seeing it as a veiled threat to the West.

Putin's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, was quoted on Wednesday warning that a Third World War would be a nuclear conflict, remarks that added to growing unease.

The Pentagon strongly condemned Russian rhetoric surrounding the world's most destructive weaponry and said it hoped its decision to delay its ICBM test would serve as an example to Moscow.

"We recognize, at this moment of tension, how critical it is that both the United States and Russia bear in mind the risk of miscalculation and take steps to reduce those risks," said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

He said the decision to delay the test was meant to "demonstrate that we have no intention in engaging in any actions that can be misunderstood or misconstrued."

"We did not take this decision lightly, but instead to demonstrate that we are a responsible nuclear power."

The nuclear-capable Minuteman III is a key part of the American military's strategic arsenal and has a range of 6,000-plus miles (9,660-plus km) and can travel at a speed of approximately 15,000 miles per hour (24,000 kph). Missiles are dispersed in hardened underground silos operated by launch crews.

U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was disappointed by the delay, adding that the test was critical to ensuring America's nuclear deterrent stayed effective. The Pentagon said the delay would have no impact.

Russia's defense ministry said on Monday its nuclear missile forces and Northern and Pacific fleets had been placed on enhanced combat duty, in line with an order the previous day from Putin.

Pavel Podvig, a senior researcher at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research in Geneva, said on Twitter that the order might have activated Russia's nuclear command and control system, essentially opening communication channels for any eventual launch order. Alternatively, he said it might just mean the Russians added staff to their nuclear facilities.

Still, the Biden administration has not confirmed any concrete actions by Russia's nuclear forces following the announcement, including potentially moving warheads out of storage or redeploying nuclear force personnel.

President Joe Biden said on Monday that Americans should not worry about a nuclear war and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said his administration was comfortable with America's defense posture.

Kirby echoed those remarks.

"We remain confident in our strategic posture ... and our ability to defend the homeland and our allies and our partners remains fully intact and ready," Kirby said.

The Associated Press

Ukraine president decries Russian attacks on urban areas

Ukraine’s leader decried Russia's escalation of attacks on crowded urban areas as a blatant campaign of terror, while U.S. President Joe Biden warned that if his Russian counterpart weren’t made to “pay a price” for the invasion, the aggression wouldn’t stop with one country.

“Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed after Tuesday's bloodshed on the central square in Kharkiv.

Biden used his first State of the Union address to highlight the resolve of a reinvigorated Western alliance that has worked to rearm the Ukrainian military.

Credit: Reuters

As Biden spoke, a 40-mile (64-kilometer) convoy of hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles advanced slowly on Kyiv in what the West feared was a bid by Putin to topple the government.

The invading forces also pressed their assault on other towns and cities, including the strategic ports of Odesa and Mariupol in the south.

Jonathan Lis

Israel issues travel warning for nationals in Belarus

Israel's Foreign Ministry issued a travel advisory on Wednesday, warning Israelis in Belarus not to approach its southern borders.

The notice further advised them to keep track of their overland and air transit options.

The ministry requested that Israelis in Belarus register with the Israeli Embassy in Minsk via an online survey.

Judy Maltz

In complex rescue mission, 100 Jewish foster children escape Ukraine

Chiinu, MOLDOVA – The first leg of their 2,300-kilometer, or 1,300-mile, journey to safety began at 7 A.M. on Wednesday.

One hundred Jewish children from a Chabad-run foster home in the Ukrainain port city of Odessa – the youngest one barely a month-and-a-half-old – boarded buses to the Ukrainian-Moldovan border. There, Israeli diplomats waited for them and arranged for them to stay inside the vehicles rather than out in the pouring rain, as they waited to receive their permits to cross the border and escape the conflict in their homeland.

>> Read the full article here.

Ben Samuels

US envoy credits Israel for rallying countries to vote for UN resolution

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides thanked Israel for voting to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.

"Enormous thanks to Israel for helping rally more members to stand with Ukraine in today’s historic UN vote. Over 141 votes to hold Russia accountable. Diplomacy matters," he Tweeted.


Blinken says U.S. open to diplomacy on Ukraine, hard to see without de-escalation

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday the United States had made clear to Ukraine it will support Kyiv's efforts at diplomacy with Russia but it was hard to see a diplomatic path without a military de-escalation.

In a comment addressed to the Russian people, Blinken also told a news conference the United States knew many of them wanted nothing to do with Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine.


U.S. delays test launch in bid to de-escalate Russia nuclear tensions

The U.S. military said on Wednesday it will postpone a scheduled test launch of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, in an apparent bid to de-escalate tensions after Russia announced it was putting its nuclear forces on high alert.

"In an effort to demonstrate that we have no intention in engaging in any actions that can be misunderstood or misconstrued, the Secretary of Defense has directed that our Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch scheduled for this week to be postponed," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said."We did not take this decision lightly, but instead to demonstrate that we are a responsible nuclear power."


UN reports hundreds of civilian deaths

According to the United Nations, 227 civilians have been killed and 525 injured in Ukraine through midnight on March 1.

The civilian casualties recorded in the past week's fighting exceeded those recorded in eastern Ukraine's conflict zone from 2018 to 2021, the United Nations human rights office said.

The real civilian casualty figures are likely 'considerably higher' due to reporting delays after extensive fighting, the UN said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's state rail company said that a Russian air strike hit near Kyiv's train station, where thousands of people were being evacuated.

An adviser to Ukraine's interior ministry said the explosion was caused by wreckage from a downed Russian cruise missile, rather than a direct strike. The impact could leave parts of the city without heating.

Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.

In fight against Russia, Ukraine's drones capabilities are effective, but limited

Ukraine's is making good use of its drone supply in repelling Russian forces, an Israeli expert told Haaretz on Wednesday, but it may not be enough to turn the tide of battle.

According to Tal Inbar, a senior research fellow at the U.S.-based Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, video footage of attacks against Russian vehicles released by the Ukrainians appear to show “very accurate hits, which was no surprise.” But footage of downed Ukrainian drones posted on social media also shows that they are no panacea to Kyiv’s defense woes.

>> Read the full article here.

Eitan Nechin

‘What we need is the Israelization of Ukraine’

NEW YORK – Sitting in a Brooklyn apartment last Thursday night, Ivan, Anton and Sasha – three Ukrainians in their 20s who moved to New York over the past five years – were switching between drinking gin, listening to techno, texting intensely and sending WhatsApp audio messages to their kin in Ukraine.

“My mom was supposed to come with my sister on Friday,” Anton said. “She has a green card, and my sister has a U.S. passport. They delayed the flight by a day, and now they’re stuck. It’s so frustrating.”

Ivan’s mother and grandmother live together in Ukraine, and getting out would be too difficult, he said. Sasha’s family, meanwhile, is staying with his grandparents in another part of Kyiv.

>> Read the full article here.


Blinken to go to the Baltics, Brussels, Poland this week

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Brussels, Moldova and the Baltics this week to hold discussions with NATO allies and European partners on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the State Department said on Wednesday.

Blinken will visit Belgium, Poland, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia from March 3 to 8, it said.


Macron says Russia's Putin alone chose war in Ukraine

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday denounced the "lies" spread by the Russian government to justify a war in Ukraine, but said he would remain in contact with President Vladimir Putin to try to obtain a ceasefire.

Macron, who has led European efforts to avert war by visiting Putin in Moscow last month and mediating over the phone between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the Russian leader, squarely put the blame on hostilities on the Kremlin.

"It is alone, betraying his international commitments one by one, that President Putin chose war," Macron said in a nationwide address to the French people.

"This war is not a conflict between the West and Russia, as some would like us to believe. There is no NATO base in Ukraine. These are lies. Russia is not agressed, it is the aggressor. This war is not a fight against Nazism ... it's a lie," Macron added.

Macron, who was speaking less than two months before a presidential election in which he is still to declare his candidacy, said he would continue to defend France's values and standing in the world.


Russia growing more aggressive, ramps up strikes on Kyiv

Russian forces appear to have become more aggressive in their targeting of infrastructure inside Kyiv, which has seen an increase of missile and artillery strikes, as well as throughout the country, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday.

After nearly a week, Russia has yet to achieve its aim of overthrowing Ukraine's government and its claims to have taken a first city were disputed by Ukraine and Washington.

But the war's toll is increasingly dealing a heavy blow to civilians, with Ukrainian authorities estimating more than 2,000 civilians killed so far as Russian strikes destroy hospitals, schools and homes.

"We've observed, certainly as you have all observed, an increase in missiles and artillery that (is) targeting the city and this (increasing) aggressiveness in terms of just the iron that they're lobbing into the city," the official said.

After failing to swiftly take major cities and to subdue Ukraine's military, U.S. officials have said for days that they believe that Russia will move toward shifting its strategy to encircling cities, cutting off supply and escape routes, then attacking with a combined force of armor, ground troops and engineers.

The most intensive bombardment has struck Kharkiv, a city of 1.5 million people in the east, whose center has been turned into a bombed-out wasteland of ruined buildings and debris.

The official stopped short of directly accusing Russian troops of specifically targeting civilians. "The worry is that as they become more aggressive, they will become less precise and less discriminant," the official said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that he believed the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin toward Ukraine already qualified as a war crime.

The official said that 450 missiles had been launched against Ukrainian targets over the past seven days by Russian forces.

Moscow said on Wednesday it had captured Kherson, a provincial capital of around a quarter of a million people on the southern front, but the official said that despite the Russian claims, the city was still being fought for by the Ukrainians.


Russian-Israeli oligarch Abramovich puts Chelsea soccer club for sale

Russian businessman Roman Abramovich said on Wednesday he would sell Chelsea Football Club, 19 years after buying it and setting the team on a path to sporting glory, and promised to donate money from the sale to help victims of the war in Ukraine.

Amid growing calls for Abramovich to be hit by sanctions after Russia's invasion of its neighbor, the metals magnate said in a statement that a sale was in the best interests of the reigning European and world soccer champions.

"In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club's sponsors and partners," he said.
Abramovich said he would not ask for loans he has made to the Premier League club – reported to total 1.5 billion pounds ($2.0 billion) – to be repaid to him and the sale would not be fast-tracked.

He has told his aides to set up a charitable foundation which would receive all net proceeds from the sale.

"The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine," Abramovich said in a statement.

"This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery."

Abramovich bought the West London club in 2003 and his investment has helped produce the most successful era in the team's history – winning five Premier League titles, five FA Cups and the Champions League twice. The 55-year-old, who has Israeli and Portuguese citizenship, became one of Russia's most powerful businessmen by earning fabulous fortunes after the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union. Forbes has put his net worth at $13.3 billion.

The Associated Press

Ukraine, Russia to hold talks on Thursday

A top aide for Russian President Vladimir Putin says Ukrainians are on their way to Belarus for talks that have been scheduled for Thursday.

“As far as I know, the Ukrainian delegation has already departed from Kyiv, is en route ... We’re expecting them tomorrow,” Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian delegation, told reporters Wednesday evening

According to Medinsky, the two sides agreed on the Brest region of Belarus, which borders Poland, as the site of the talks.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office confirmed to The Associated Press that the delegation is on its way, but gave no details on the time of the arrival.


U.S. imposing additional sanctions on Russia, Belarus

The United States is imposing additional sanctions on Russia and Belarus in response to President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, the White House said on Wednesday.

"The United States will take actions to hold Belarus accountable for enabling Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, weaken the Russian defense sector and its military power for years to come, target Russia’s most important sources of wealth, and ban Russian airlines from U.S. airspace," the White House said.

Ofer Aderet

Babi Yar monument unharmed in Russian strike, memorial center says

The Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center said that the monument to the massacre that occurred at the site was not harmed by the Russian strike earlier on Wednesday.

The center told Haaretz that "a building that was intended to serve as one of the museums was hit" at the site, but that it is under construction. The Israeli Ynet news site reported earlier Wednesday that the monument had been damaged by the attack. Due to the volatility in the field, the full extent of the strike's damage is still unclear.

Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.

Jewish Agency gearing up for massive wave of Ukraine aliyah

Up to ten thousand Ukrainian immigrants could arrive in Israel in the near future, and that would only be the first wave of refugees streaming into the country, the head of the Jewish Agency’s regional director for the former Soviet Union said on Wednesday.

Speaking with reporters, Roman Polonsky said that since opening an emergency hotline last Thursday, the agency has received more than 7,000 calls, 5,000 of which were by people inquiring about the possibility of moving to Israel.

>> Read the full article here

Yaniv Kubovich

Gantz: Israel prepared to expand Ukraine aid ''to end the fighting'

Defense Minister Benny Gantz addressed an Israeli Navy graduation ceremony on Wednesday, at which he addressed the situation in Ukraine.

"We see the terrible and painful fighting in Ukraine, and we stand against it," he said. "We are sending humanitarian aid, helping evacuate civilians, taking in immigrants and refugees and prepared to expand our aid in ways that would contribute to ending the fighting and saving human lives."

He added, "Israel is a partner and will continue to be a partner in the international community's efforts to return the peace."


Putin discuss Ukraine with Israel's Bennett

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday. Russian media, citing the Kremlin, said they discussed the situation in Ukraine.

Bennett's office confirmed the call, but did not immediately commented on what was discussed.

Jonathan Lis

UN overwhelmingly votes to condemn Russian invasion of Ukraine

The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine "in the strongest terms" on Wednesday evening.

Russia and only four other countries voted against the motion: Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria.

Israel voted for the measure, as Foreign Minister Yair Lapid noted it would on Monday, after Israel did not publicly endorse a UN vote on condemning Russia last week at the Security Council, of which Israel is not a member.

"Israel has been and will be on the right side of history. Those are our values," the foreign minister said, adding that the country is "thoroughly examining the potential impact of sanctions on Russia." Lapid also noted that Israel has sent three planes containing a large supply of humanitarian aid to Ukraine.


Nearly 500 Russian soldiers dead in Ukraine fighting

Russia's defense ministry said on Wednesday that 498 Russian soldiers had died in Ukraine and another 1,597 had been wounded since the beginning of Moscow's military operation there, Russia's RIA news agency reported.

It was the first time that Moscow had put a figure on its casualties. A U.S. official urged people to be "extremely skeptical" of the figures.

The ministry also said that more than 2,870 Ukrainian soldiers and "nationalists" had been killed and about 3,700 wounded, according to Interfax. The numbers could not be independently verified and there was no immediate comment from Ukraine.

Meanwhile, a military adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday that over 7,000 Russian servicemen have been killed since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, while hundreds have been taken prisoner including senior officers.

A Russian army commander was taken to Belarus after being severely wounded, adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said in a televised briefing.


Ukraine hopes for positive signals on EU bid

Ukraine hopes for positive signals on its bid to join the European Union, the president and foreign minister of the former Soviet republic said on the seventh day of war waged on them by Russia.

Ukrainians said on Wednesday they were battling on in the port of Kherson, the first sizeable city Russia claimed to have seized, as air strikes and bombardment caused devastation in cities that Moscow's forces have failed to capture.

"We discussed the current situation on the battlefield and diplomatic efforts. Waiting for the positive signals about Ukraine's membership in the EU," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said after a call with European Council President Charles Michel.

Zelenskiy's foreign minister said Ukraine was working to quickly finalize accession procedures but that everything depended on political will of the 27-nation bloc.

"Now everything is possible," said Dmytro Kuleba. "The EU has shown itself to be able to make fundamental decision when it had political will. Now is the time to make such a decision on our membership.

"Three other former Soviet republics are already members of the EU, where unanimity is required to allow new ones in. The accession process usually takes years and requires meeting strict criteria from economic stability to eliminating corruption and respecting liberal human rights.

While Ukraine's neighbors in the EU publicly offered help in pushing for Kyiv to get closer to membership, such a move is all but certain to meet skepticism or opposition in some other capitals in the Union.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.

Ukraine needs more than just sympathy. Here's why it won't get it | Analysis

“Prove to us that you’re with us. Prove to us that you won’t let us go. Prove that you really are Europeans so that life will overcome death and light will overcome the darkness,” pleaded Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy through a screen, before members of the European Parliament, which convened for a special session to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. The respected members, sporting small Ukrainian flag lapel pins on their suits, rose and applauded in honor of the president who is fighting for the life of his country as well as his own, and carried on discussing Ukraine’s official request to join the European Union.

At the same time, in London, a center was opened to collect food and clothing for some half a million refugees who have already fled their homeland, most of them to Poland. Social networks are filled with declarations of support, sympathy and pledges to volunteer. The strongest of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the international community have already gone into effect and are throwing the Russian economy into crisis. Only one body – the only one that can significantly threaten the Russian occupation – is still playing hide and seek.

>> Read the full article here


UAE tightens entry for Ukrainians as thousands flee war

The United Arab Emirates has temporarily suspended a visa waiver for Ukrainian citizens, Kyiv's embassy in the Gulf Arab state said, at a time thousands of people are fleeing war in Ukraine.

The UAE decision went into effect on Tuesday, the embassy said in a notice to citizens on its Facebook page, without providing a reason. Emirati authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

Ukrainian Anna Goncharnco, speaking to Reuters in Dubai where she is on holiday, slammed the decision at a time the "whole world is helping". She lives in the Netherlands, but her daughter lives in Kyiv with her father.

"I find it actually a crime from this country (UAE) if they don't let Ukrainians enter the country right now and require a visa. How they should get a visa at this moment, it's impossible," she said, tearing up outside the Ukraine pavilion at the Dubai Expo world fair.

More than 650,000 people have fled Ukraine to neighboring European states since Russia's invasion. The European Union has said it is preparing for millions of refugees.

The UAE, which has adopted a neutral stance in the conflict and called for a ceasefire and diplomacy, said on Wednesday it would provide aid assistance to civilians in Ukraine worth $5 million, state media reported.

Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.

Kharkiv Hillel house destroyed in Russian strike

Kharkiv’s Hillel house was destroyed by Russian shelling on Wednesday afternoon, amidst Moscow's attempts to capture the strategically important eastern Ukrainian city.

The center was closed at the time and nobody affiliated with the Jewish organization was injured, Hillel director Yulia Pototskaya told Haaretz. “It’s horrible. It was my home and home for my students,” she told Haaretz.

Only hours after a Russian missile attack struck the Kharkiv city center on Tuesday, Pototskaya told Haaretz that multiple Hillel-affiliated students had joined the army as part of a national wave of civilians rallying to protect their homeland.

According to regional governor Oleg Synegubov, at least 21 people were killed and 112 wounded by shelling in Kharkiv over the last 24 hours. The authorities have said Russian missile attacks hit the center of Ukraine's second-largest city, including residential areas and the regional administration building.

Ben Samuels

U.S. losing patience as Israel backs Ukraine but pulls punches on Russia

WASHINGTON – U.S. officials are growing increasingly impatient with Israel’s attempts to support Ukraine without alienating Russia, arguing that anything less than full support for the beleaguered nation falls short.

Israel’s stance is out of sync with the international community and has provoked rare bipartisan criticism in Washington, as Jerusalem strives to maintain Moscow’s permission to operate over Syria, where Russia effectively controls the airspace and lets Israel attack Iranian targets according to numerous foreign reports.

>> Read the full article here

Jonathan Lis

Zelenskyy, Bennett hold phone conversation

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Wednesday that he spoke with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in their second call in a week.

In a short Tweet, he said that the two discussed Russian aggression. According to the Prime Minister's Office, they also talked about Israel continuing its humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and Kyiv's needs.

According to sources who are familiar with the conversation, Zelenskyy once again requested that Israel send Ukraine weapons, and he and Bennett also discussed the bombing of Babi Yar by Russian forces. Another source said that Zelenskyy asked for bulletproof vests and helmets, and spoke of the need for arms.

The two leaders agreed to stay in close contact.

Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.

Russian chief rabbi, seen as Putin ally, calls for end to Ukraine war

Russia’s chief rabbi spoke out against his country’s invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday, and offered to mediate between Kyiv and Moscow.

“In one thing we must be united: our duty to God is to strive with all our might for mutual understanding, for mutual respect, and in no case raise a sword against our brother,” said Rabbi Berel Lazar in a statement posted on the website.

Lazar, who heads the Chabad movement in Russia, is considered close to Putin and is often accused of supporting the president unconditionally in exchange for his regime’s seal of approval for Chabad. Citing reports of civilian casualties he has received from Ukrainian rabbis in recent days, Lazar said that “the continuation of the current situation cannot be allowed,” adding that “any conflict can and should be resolved only by peaceful means.”

Prayer, while encouraged, is in itself insufficient, he said. He stated that God expects every believer to “do everything in his power to save human lives.” He added, “I myself am ready for any mediation, ready to do everything in my power, and even more, just so that the guns fall silent, the bombs stop exploding! But now is the time for joint action. Therefore, I appeal to all religious leaders – in Ukraine, in Russia, in Europe and on other continents – with an appeal to come together for peace, for an immediate cessation of bloodshed.”

Erdogan is the biggest winner in Ukraine so far | Opinion

Against a backdrop of Russian bombs falling indiscriminately on civilians in Kharkhiv and Kyiv, Ukrainian and Russian delegations met for an initial round of ceasefire talks – and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reiterated that Turkey could not cut off ties with either Russia or Ukraine.

Since the war broke out, Erdogan has condemned the Russian aggression and voiced full support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, falling in line with NATO allies. However, Turkey has opted out of sanctioning Russia.

That insistence on maintaining warm and equidistant ties with both Russia and Ukraine will soon come under perhaps impossible strain. But for now, if you thought this policy would outrage the defiant Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, think again.

>> Read the full article here

Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.

Kremlin fires back at Israeli Holocaust memorial: We'll show you mass graves

The Kremlin has invited officials from Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum to examine purported mass graves after the fighting with Ukraine ends, maintaining its widely debunked stance that Kyiv is committing genocide against Russian-speakers in two separatist regions backed by Moscow.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, a day after a Russian strike on Kyiv’s main TV transmitter killed at least five people and damaged a memorial at the Babi Yar Holocaust massacre site, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called on Yad Vashem to send observers to occupied eastern Ukraine.

“We can talk with officials from [Luhansk People’s Republic] and [Donetsk People’s Republic], and I am sure that after this is all over, they will gladly invite Yad Vashem officials and show them mass graves,” state news agency Sputnik quoted Peskov as saying.\

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Russia's opposition leader calls on citizens to stand against war in Ukraine

People across Russia should protest their country's invasion of Ukraine every day it goes on, Russia's leading opposition figure Alexey Navalny urges from his detention camp.

"Wherever you are, in Russia, Belarus or on the other side of the planet," read the call on Navalny's Twitter feed.

Alexey Navalny's Twitter.Credit: Alexey Navalny's Twitter.

"We – Russia - want to be a nation of peace. Alas, few people would call us that now. But let's at least not become a nation of frightened silent people. Of cowards who pretend not to notice the aggressive war against Ukraine unleashed by our obviously insane czar," he wrote in a series of tweets.

"If in order to stop the war we have to fill prisons and paddy wagons with ourselves, we will fill prisons and paddy wagons with ourselves," he added, alluding to the fact that Russian police have cracked down on anti-war protests in recent days.

"Everything has a price, and now, in the spring of 2022, we must pay this price."


Kharkiv mayor says four more killed, city will not surrender

Four more people were killed and nine wounded as a barrage of Russian air and rocket strikes pounded the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Wednesday morning, the local emergency services and Mayor Ihor Terekhov said.

"Kharkiv is a Russian-speaking city. Every fourth person in Kharkiv has relatives in the Russian Federation. But the city's attitude to Russia today is completely different to what it ever was before," he said in an online video statement.

"We never expected this could happen: total destruction, annihilation, genocide against the Ukrainian people - this is unforgivable."

He added that the city will not surrender to Russian forces.


Kremlin says ready for negotations with Ukraine

Russia says it is ready to continue negotiations with Ukraine on Wednesday.

"This afternoon, late afternoon, our delegation will be on the ground waiting for the Ukrainian negotiators," spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to Interfax news agency. "Our delegation will be ready to continue the talks this evening."

Peskov made it clear that Russia insists on the demands formulated by President Vladimir Putin, primarily that the government in Kyiv must recognize the "people's republics" of Luhansk and Donetsk as well as Russia's sovereignty over the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. Russia also demands the “demilitarization” of Ukraine.

The Russian delegation is again to be led by former Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky. The first round ended without tangible results.

Anshel Pfeffer

Putin and Zelenskyy Are Both Running Out of Options in Ukraine | Analysis

After six full days of fighting, the only way to summarize the Russia-Ukraine war is that it is unlike any we have ever seen before.

The Russian plan to topple the Ukrainian government in a series of swift moves has totally failed. On the other hand, Russia has yet to throw into battle its main armored formations and hundreds of combat aircraft. It is a hesitant, stammering war, influenced by the narratives each side is telling itself – and trying to sell to the world. And the options facing the two presidents, Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, are steadily decreasing.

Read the full analysis here.


Lavrov says Russia would face danger if Kyiv acquires nuclear weapons

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that if a third World War were to take place, it would involve nuclear weapons and be destructive, the RIA news agency reported.

Lavrov has said that Russia, which launched what it calls a special military operation against Ukraine last week, would face a "real danger" if Kyiv acquired nuclear weapons.

Jonathan Lis

Bennett alongside Germany's Scholz: Israel stands with the people of Ukraine

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Wednesday that Israel stands with the people of Ukraine as German Chenclleor Olaf Scholz's was visiting Israel for the first time since taking office.

"We have agreed on creating a new strategic partnership between Israel and Germany," Bennett said, calling it a "big upgrade" to the countries' relations.

Turning to Scholz, Bennet said: "You come here during a very fateful, sensitive time." The Israeli premier said he spoke with Scholz about the situation in Ukraine [and] our duty as leaders to do everything to stop the bloodshed."

Bennett also mentioned Iran nuclear talks, saying that Israel has a responsibility to ensure Iran does not have nuclear weapons. Chancellor Scholz on the other end acknowledged Israel's concerns over Iran, but said the talks in Vienna "should not be postponed or suspended." Scholz also invited the entire Israeli cabinet to Berlin, praising the beginning of a "strategic dialogue between Germany and Israel."

Jonathan Lis

Israel to open 'welcome stations' at border for Israelis and Jews fleeing Ukraine

Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid held a situational assessment this morning on the rescue of Israelis from Ukraine, following a political and intelligence review.

It was decided to open welcome stations to Israelis and Jews at the border crossings with Ukraine, and to provide them with initial assistance in cooperation with the Jewish Agency and Nefesh B' Nefesh: including food, medical treatment, and consular assistance.

Other issues discussed included the two buses of Ukrainian orphans that arrived at the crossing (one yesterday, one this morning), accompanied by Foreign Ministry personnel, as well as the ongoing organization of buses to transport Israeli citizens from Kyiv and Lviv to the border crossings.

Lapid said the opening of welcome stations at the border crossings is “a new and important task. The citizens are arriving after days and hours on the road need us. The rescue operations are highly appreciated. We work in all areas, from the political sphere to humanitarian aid.”


India's opposition steps up pressure on government to condemn Russia

India's opposition on Wednesday stepped up pressure on the government to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a day after an Indian student died during shelling in the eastern city of Kharkiv.

India is yet to criticize long-standing arms supplier Russia publicly, instead urging both sides to cease hostilities, causing frustration among its other allies including the United States.

>>> For India, Putin's War Presents a Dangerous Dilemma

Thousands of Indian students remain trapped in Ukraine, leading to calls for the government to step up pressure on Russia to assist evacuation efforts.

"The Government of India should stop its verbal balancing act and sternly demand that Russia stop immediately the bombing of key cities in Ukraine," said P. Chidambaram, a lawmaker from the opposition Congress party, in a tweet.

India abstained in a United Nations Security Council vote condemning the invasion last week, though in recent days it has subtly shifted tone.

India has taken a critical stand privately with Russian president Vladimir Putin, an Indian foreign ministry source said.

Russia has long supported India internationally on critical issues including Kashmir, a territory disputed between India, Pakistan and China, as well as provided the bulk of its military capability.

"India is increasingly uncomfortable with the position that Russia has taken, but it is very difficult for it to voice it in public," said Harsh Pant, a defense and geopolitical analyst at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.

Shairee Malhotra

For India, Putin's War Presents a Dangerous Dilemma | Opinion

On February 24th, the world awoke to the news of Russia’s invasion of the sovereign state of Ukraine. As the West levies harsh sanctions to punish Russia, it is no secret that India is caught between a rock and a hard place, given its simultaneously close ties with both Moscow and the West, and its desire for a multipolar world order in which middle powers India and Russia are key actors.

On January 31, India abstained from the UN Security Council vote to discuss the Ukraine crisis, thus replicating the neutral position it took in 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea. At this week’s UN General Assembly vote on condemning the Russian invasion, India is likely to abstain again.

But New Delhi won’t be able to bridge what is becoming a geopolitical and normative chasm for much longer.

Read the full story here.


European Commission proposes temporary residence rights for Ukranian refugees

The European Commission on Wednesday proposed to grant temporary protection to people fleeing war in Ukraine, including a residence permit and access to employment and social welfare.

Over 650,000 people have fled Ukraine to neighboring EU member states since the Russia's military invasion of Ukraine, the EU executive said.

Designed to deal with such mass arrivals of displaced persons in the EU, the new legislation will apply in all member states, without requiring Ukrainians to go through lengthy asylum processes.

The proposal, which had been previously announced, will be discussed by EU interior ministers on Thursday.

Once adopted, temporary protection will start applying to Ukrainian refugees immediately for one year, and can last for up to three years – unless the situation in Ukraine improves sufficiently for people to go back home and the scheme to end.


Ukranian authorities say Mariupol under constant shelling, unable to evacuate injured

Ukrainian authorities said on Wednesday that Ukraine's south-eastern port of Mariupol was under constant shelling from Russia, and that they were unable to evacuate the injured from the city.

The basement of the maternity hospital in Mariupol has been transformed into a bomb shelter and nursery as Russian forces escalated their attacks on crowded urban areas Tuesday.

Shelling casualties streamed into the Mariupol maternity hospital, including the body of a young man on a stretcher

An industrial center on the Azov Sea, Mariupol is seen as a key target for Russian forces for its economic value and its location, which would help Russia establish a land corridor between the Crimean Peninsula and the Russian mainland.

“We are fighting, we are not ceasing to defend our motherland,” Mariupol mayor Vadym Boichenko said live on Ukrainian TV.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the latest attacks a brazen campaign of terror.

Liza Rozovsky

'Nazism is born in silence': Ukraine president urges world Jews to speak up

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Wednesday nearly 6,000 Russians had been killed in the first six days of Moscow's invasion, and that the Kremlin would not be able to take his country with bombs and air strikes.

Referring to Russia's attack on Babi Yar – the site of a World War Two massacres of Jews by German occupation troops and Ukrainian auxiliaries – Zelenskyy said: "This strike proves that for many people in Russia, our Kyiv is absolutely foreign."

"I am now addressing all the Jews of the world," Zelenskyy said, "can't you see what is happening?" He then urged world Jews to speak up. "Nazism is born in silence," Zelenskyy said urging Jews to talk "about the killings of civilians and the killings of Ukrainians."

"They don't know a thing about Kyiv, about our history. But they all have orders to erase our history, erase our country, erase us all," he added in the address made on video.

"For anyone who knows world history, our history – Babi Yar is a special place in Kyiv, in Ukraine. It's a place of remembrance for one hundred thousand people killed by the Nazis, a place of old cemeteries in Kyiv. You are killing the victims of the Holocaust for the second time."

"On the first day of the war, Uman was severely bombed, a place which hundreds of thousands of Jews come to pray. Then – Babi Yar," Zelenskyy said.

He then addressed the Jews, calling on them to support Ukraine, "Do you not see what is happening? It is very important that all of you together, millions of Jews around the world, do not remain silent."

"Shout for the murder of innocent people. Shout for the murder of Ukrainians!"


Germany is prepared if Russia stops gas exports, economy minister says

Germany is prepared should Russia stop exporting gas to the country, which is Europe's largest economy, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Wednesday.

Asked by Deutschlandfunk radio what the government would do if Russia stops gas exports, Habeck replied: “We are prepared for that. I can give the all-clear for the current winter and summer.”

“For the next winter, we would take further measures,” he added, pointing to planned new legislation to ensure gas storage is full for winter.

“So we are also taking precautions for the worst case, which has not happened yet because the Russians are delivering,” he said, adding that in a worse case scenario Berlin could keep “coal-fired power plants in reserve, maybe even keep them running,” but that it was committed to moving to renewables in the medium-term.


At least 21 killed and 112 wounded in Kharkiv shelling, Ukraine says

At least 21 killed and 112 wounded in Kharkiv shellingAt least 21 people were killed and 112 wounded in shelling in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv in the last 24 hours, regional governor Oleg Synegubov said on Wednesday.

The authorities have said Russian missile attacks hit the center of Ukraine's second-largest city, including residential areas and the regional administration building.


Google blocks RT, Sputnik from app store in Europe

Alphabet Inc's Google said on Tuesday that it has blocked mobile apps connected to RT and Sputnik from its Play store, in line with an earlier move to remove the Russian state publishers from its news-related features.

A number of tech companies have limited distribution and advertising tools to Russian news outlets in recent days as the European Commission readies a ban on them out of concern that they are spreading misinformation about the war in Ukraine.

RT Deputy Editor-in-Chief Anna Belkina said in a statement on Tuesday that technology companies that have cut her outlet's distribution have not pointed to any evidence that it has reported falsehoods. Sputnik did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Blinken 'appalled' by reports Kyiv Holocaust memorial bombed

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemns Russia's "brutal war against Ukraine" and says Washington is "appalled by reports that Russian bombs have struck near the memorial site of Babyn Yar, killing more people where tens of thousands of Jews were massacred in the Holocaus

The Associated Press

Biden vows to check Russian aggression in Ukraine

Addressing a concerned nation and anxious world, President Joe Biden vowed in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night to check Russian aggression in Ukraine, tame soaring U.S. inflation and deal with the fading but still dangerous coronavirus.

Biden highlighted the bravery of Ukrainian defenders and the commitment of a newly reinvigorated Western alliance that has worked to rearm the Ukrainian military and cripple Russia’s economy through sanctions.

Biden announced that the U.S. is following Canada and the European Union in banning Russian planes from its airspace in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine. He also said the Justice Department was launching a task force to go after crimes of Russian oligarchs, whom he called “corrupt leaders who have bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime.”

“Putin may circle Kyiv with tanks, but he will never gain the hearts and souls of the Ukrainian people,” Biden said. “He will never extinguish their love of freedom. He will never weaken the resolve of the free world.”


U.S. shuts airspace to Russian aircraft over Ukraine invasion

The United States is closing its airspace to Russian aircraft over the Ukraine invasion, U.S. President Joe Biden has said.

"We will join our allies in closing off American airspace to all Russian flights – further isolating Russia," Biden said in his State of the Union address.

The move follows similar measures imposed by the European Union and Canada. Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsiya in response announced that it was closing Russian airspace to 35 countries.

"When dictators do not pay a price for their aggression they cause more chaos," Biden said.


Ankara rejects passage of Russian warships through Turkish straits

Turkey has rejected further access to the Turkish straits for Russian warships, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu told Turkish Habertürk radio late Tuesday.

Under the 1936 Montreux Convention, Turkey has control over the Bosporus and Daradanelles Strait connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. While trade ships may pass the strait freely in peacetime, battleships face certain restrictions.

Moscow had submitted requests for the passage of ships and withdrawn them after the Turkish side had asked it to do so, Cavusoglu added in the interview with Habertürk.


Four dead in Russian strike on Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr

Four people were killed when homes in the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr were hit on Tuesday by a Russian cruise missile apparently aimed at a nearby air base, Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister, said on his Telegram channel.

He said the residential buildings near the base of the 95th Airborne Brigade in Zhytomyr, 120 km (75 miles) west of the capital Kyiv, had been set on fire, "So far, four people have died. Including a child," he said.

Moscow warned residents of the capital Kyiv on Tuesday to flee their homes and rained rockets on Ukraine's second city, Kharkiv, as Russian commanders intensified their bombardment of urban areas in a shift of tactics after their six-day assault stalled.

Bar Peleg

50 Ukrainians were denied entry to Israel since Russian invasion

Israel has authorized 303 Ukrainian citizens to enter Israel since war broke out on Thursday, but rejected entry to 50 Ukrainians, according to Population and Immigration Authority figures released on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, only two people were denied entry, and 97 were let into the country. The lower number of refusals stems from Israel’s amendment to the policy of entry of Ukrainians overnight into Tuesday.

Presently, Ukrainians fleeing the war are being required to show that they do not intend to settle in Israel as a condition to their being allowed into the country.


U.K. imposes sanctions on Belarusian figures over Ukraine invasion

Britain said on Tuesday it had imposed sanctions against Belarusian individuals and organizations over the country's role in facilitating the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Four defense officials, including the Belarus Chief of the General Staff and First Deputy Minister of Defense Major General Victor Gulevich, and two military enterprises have been included, the British foreign office said.

“The (Belarusian President Alexander) Lukashenko regime actively aids and abets Russia’s illegal invasion and will be made to feel the economic consequences for its support for Putin,” Foreign Minister Liz Truss said in a statement.


Lapid condemns Babi Yar bombing without naming Russia

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid took to Twitter to condemn the Russian missile attack that hit the Babi Yar Holocaust monument, without mentioning Russia by name.

“We condemn the attack on the Jewish cemetery near the memorial site commemorating the Holocaust of the Jews of Kyiv and the murder of the Jewish people in Babi Yar," he wrote. "We call for preserving and respecting the sanctity of the site.”


Putin reiterates conditions to end 'military operation' in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated that the government in Kiev must recognize the "people's republics" of Luhansk and Donetsk as a condition for the end of the “military operation” in Ukraine, according to the Kremlin.

Kiev must also acknowledge Russia's sovereignty over the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and commit to further renounce nuclear weapons in the future, the Kremlin announced.

In addition, Western-friendly Ukraine must be demilitarized and adopt a neutral status, he said.

It was the first statement of this kind after representatives of Ukraine and Russia held peace talks in Belarus on Monday. The first meeting ended without a breakthrough.

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