U.S. Provides Another $200 Million in Military Aid to Ukraine as Russia Escalates Offensive

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Ukrainians cross an improvised path under a destroyed bridge while fleeing Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Ukrainians cross an improvised path under a destroyed bridge while fleeing Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, Saturday, March 12, 2022.Credit: Efrem Lukatsky /AP
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Russians have neither strength nor spirit to conquer Ukraine, Zelenskyy says

"The Russian invaders cannot conquer us. They do not have such strength. They do not have such spirit," Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video published on his Facebook page on Sunday.

In an 11-minute-long video, Zelenskyy reassured his Ukrainian viewers that international public opinion was favoring Ukraine in the conflict with Russia.

"You can take a public opinion poll in every country and you will see that Ukraine is among the leaders of those who are sympathized with and supported. And Russia is not just among the enemies, it is an even bigger enemy, bigger evil than North Korea," Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy also pleaded for more aid: "I keep reiterating to our allies and friends abroad; they have to keep doing more for our country, for Ukrainians and Ukraine. Because it is not only for Ukraine, but it is for all of Europe.

Reuters

Air strike launched on Ukraine military base near Polish border

An air strike was launched on a Ukrainian military base Yavoriv in the west of the country near the Polish border, the Lviv regional military administration said on Sunday.

"The occupiers launched an air strike on the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security. According to preliminary data, they fired eight missiles," the administration said in a statement.

The center, less than 25 km (15 miles) from the Polish border, did not say whether it had been hit. It said it would release details later.

DPA

Explosions rock Ukraine's Lviv

Multiple explosions rocked the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine on Sunday.

"Multiple explosions heard in Lviv and Kherson and reports that Lviv is under Russian missile attacks," the online news portal Kyiv Independent said.

The explosions could be heard in Poland, a dpa reporter in Przemysl said.

Reuters

Some 13,000 Ukrainians evacuated from cities on Saturday, deputy PM says

Around 13,000 people were evacuated from a number of Ukrainian cities on Saturday, said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, almost twice the number who managed to get out the previous day.

Vereshchuk said in an online message that no one had managed to leave the besieged city of Mariupol and blamed obstruction by Russian forces. Moscow had earlier accused Ukrainian forces of intentionally trapping people there.

Jonathan Lis

Bennett, Zelenskyy speak again about solutions to Ukraine war

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday night for the second time this week, following the Ukrainian leader's suggestion that negotiations with Russia could take place in Jerusalem.

In a conversation that lasted over an hour, the two discussed how to end Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Israel's mediation efforts.

Zelenskyy took to Twitter to say that he asked Bennett to "assist in the release of captive mayor of Melitopol and local public figures," referring to the southeastern Ukrainian city where Russian forces have abducted the mayor.

Earlier on Saturday, Zelenskyy said that "I don’t think it would be right at this point to meet in Russia, Ukraine or Belarus. These aren’t places in which we could reach any understandings on stopping the war. I’m not talking about technical meetings, but about meetings between leaders. I believe Israel could serve as such a meeting place, especially in Jerusalem.”

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Ukraine's Defense Minister: Israel's refusal to support us will hurt ties

Israel's refusal to take a clear position against Russia will damage the trust between Kyiv and Jerusalem, the Ukrainian Defense Minister warned Saturday.

"Israel shows unexplained indifference and unwillingness to take a side in the war," Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said. "This will lead to a lack of trust that will grow between Israel and Ukraine for many years to come, because we will persevere, have no doubt."

Reznikov, who serves as the senior Ukrainian envoy in talks between Russia and Ukraine, also addressed Israelis in a video he posted: "You have great influence in your countries. You can take a more active stance, and shape decisions."

The Associated Press

Mariupol under brutal siege as russia strikes near capital

Russian forces pounded the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Saturday, shelling its downtown as residents hid in its iconic mosque and elsewhere to avoid the explosions. Fighting also raged in the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv, as Russia kept up its bombardment of several resisting cities.

Mariupol, a city of 446,000 people, has endured some of Ukraine’s worst misery since Russia invaded. Unceasing barrages have thwarted repeated attempts to bring food, water and medicine into the city and evacuate its trapped civilians. It has even interrupted the city's efforts to hurriedly bury its dead in mass graves.

The Ukrainian government said Saturday that the Sultan Suleiman Mosque was hit, but an unverified Instagram post by a man claiming to be the mosque association’s president said the building was spared when a bomb fell about 700 meters away. About 80 residents, including children, were reportedly hiding inside.

“They are bombing it 24 hours a day, launching missiles. It is hatred. They kill children,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during a video address.

An Associated Press journalist in Mariupol witnessed tanks fire on a nine-story apartment building and was with a group of hospital workers who came under sniper fire on Friday. A worker shot in the hip survived, but conditions in the hospital were deteriorating: electricity was reserved for operating tables, and people with nowhere else to go lined the hallways.

Bar Peleg

Petition sent to top Israeli court over Ukrainian refugee policy

Ukraine's ambassador to Israel on Friday requested an Israeli attorney to petition the High Court against Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked's stringent guidelines for the entry of non-Jewish Ukrainian refugees to Israel, a policy which has been publicly condemned by Ukraine on numerous occasions.

In a letter sent to attorney Tomer Warsha, Ambassador Yevgen Kornichuk argued the policy violated a bilateral agreement between Ukraine and Israel cancelling visa requirements for travel back in 2010, leaving the embassy no choice but to petition the High Court.

The embassy, however, later said "it did not submit an appeal," but that is does support "the core of the appeal, that is addressed to protect the rights of the Ukrainian refugees, mainly women and children." In the end, Warsha will petition the court, and is requesting to be recognized as a public petitioner.

The Ukrainian ambassador's letter to the attorney requesting he petition the High Court.

Attorney Warsha requested a temporary injunction to halt Shaked's updated guidelines and an urgent hearing over the need for visas. At a press conference on Friday, the ambassador said that he met with Shaked and offered her a number of suggestions for solving the problem while emphasizing that Ukrainians who come here want to ultimately return home.

DPA

Biden approves another $200 million in military funding for Ukraine

U.S. President Joe Biden has signed off on another tranche of military funding for Ukraine, amounting to $200 million, the White House said.

This follows the $350 million in aid for the Ukrainian armed forces approved by Biden just two weeks ago, following Russia's decision to invade Ukraine.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the weapons provided with that money, including modern Javelin anti-tank guided missiles, have already been delivered to Ukraine.

Since the beginning of last year, the United States has provided $1.2 billion in military aid to Ukraine, according to a State Department tally. Earlier in the week, Congress also passed a package of humanitarian and military aid for Kyiv as part of the U.S. budget that amounts to $13.6 billion.

Reuters

Ukraine: Russia killed seven evacuating civilians near Kyiv

Ukraine's intelligence service accused Russia on Saturday of firing at a convoy of civilian evacuees from the village of Peremoha near Kyiv region, killing seven people, including one child.

"After the attack, the occupiers forced the remnants of the column to turn back to Peremoha and are not letting them out of the village," the intelligence service said in a statement.

"Russians shot a column of women and children while trying to evacuate from the village of Peremoha in the Kyiv region along an agreed "green" corridor. Seven people died, including one child," it said.

Reuters was unable immediately to verify the report and Russia offered no immediate comment.

Russia has denied targeting civilians since it invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Ben Samuels

Senior U.S. official warns Israel: Don't be last haven for dirty money fueling Putin's wars

WASHINGTON – A senior Biden administration official publicly urged Israel on Friday to join the rest of the Western world in sanctioning Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, in perhaps the most direct official remark from the U.S. relating to Israel's stance on the war ravaging Eastern Europe.

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told Israel's Channel 12 News that "We're asking, among other things, for every democracy around the world to join us in the financial and export control sanctions that we have put on Putin. We have to squeeze the regime. We have to deny it the income that it needs, squeeze the oligarchs around him, we squeeze its economy."

"So in that context, we're asking as many countries as we can to join us. We're asking that of Israel as well. Among other things, you don't want to become the last haven for dirty money that's fueling Putin's wars," she added.

Read the full story here

Reuters

U.S. accuses Russia of 'lying' to UN council, fear use of chemical agents in Ukraine

The United States accused Russia of using a UN Security Council meeting Friday for "lying and spreading disinformation” as part of a potential false-flag operation by Moscow for the use of chemical or biological agents in Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russia was playing out a scenario put forth in the council last month by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken — that President Vladimir Putin would “fabricate allegations about chemical or biological weapons to justify its own violent attacks against the Ukrainian people.”

“The intent behind these lies seems clear, and is deeply troubling,” she said. “We believe Russia could use chemical or biological agents for assassinations, as part of a staged or false-flag incident, or to support tactical military operations.”

The United States has warned about such Russian operations in conjunction with an invasion, which began Feb. 24.

Russia had requested the meeting to address its allegations of U.S. “biological activities” in Ukraine — a charge made without any evidence and denied by both Washington and Kyiv.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said its Defense Ministry had documents charging that Ukraine has at least 30 biological laboratories carrying out “very dangerous biological experiments” involving pathogens, and its work “is being done and funded and supervised by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the United States."

Ukraine does have a network of biological labs that have gotten funding and research support from the U.S. — but they are owned and operated by Ukraine and are part of an initiative called the Biological Threat Reduction Program that aims to reduce the likelihood of deadly outbreaks, whether natural or man made. The U.S. efforts date back to work in the 1990s to dismantle the former Soviet Union’s program for weapons of mass destruction.

Reuters

Ukrainian foreign minister says ready to negotiate, but will not surrender

Ukraine was ready to negotiate to end the war started by Russia more than two weeks ago, but would not surrender or accept any ultimatums, the country's foreign affairs minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Saturday.

Speaking at a virtual event organized by the non-partisan, nonprofit organization Renew Democracy Initiative, Kuleba said civilian lives would be saved if Ukraine had fighter jets and more attack planes to destroy large military columns.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Saturday that the United States is willing to take diplomatic steps that the Ukrainian government would find helpful, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the West should be more involved in negotiations to end the war.

Reuters

Refugee arrivals dip, but Ukraine's neighbours scramble to provide shelter

Ukraine's neighbors reported a dip in numbers of refugees on Saturday as governments and volunteers struggled to find shelter for the nearly 2.6 million mostly women and children who have fled since Russia's invasion two weeks ago.

Arrivals were still building on an influx that is overwhelming volunteers, non-governmental organizations and authorities in Eastern Europe's border communities as well as the big cities to which most of the refugees head.

Poland's Border Guard said 76,200 people arrived on Friday—a drop of 12% from the day before. Slovak police reported a similar dip in numbers, to 9,581 people, and arrivals to Romania dropped by 22% to 16,348, police said.

Germany will take in 2,500 refugees who have fled to Moldova from Ukraine, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Saturday.

Fighting raged near Kyiv on Saturday and Ukrainian officials said heavy shelling and threats of Russian air attacks were endangering attempted evacuations of desperate civilians from encircled towns and cities.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR reported that nearly 2.6 million people had fled Ukraine as of Friday, 1.6 million of them heading to Poland.

Refugees have aimed for cities with established Ukrainian communities and better chances of finding work. In the capital Warsaw, a city of 1.8 million before the Russian attack, refugees now make up more than 10% of the population, the city's mayor said on Friday.

Hungary has received over 230,000 refugees, with 10,530 arrivals on Friday. Romania reported 380,866, including 16,348 on Friday. Slovakia reported 185,660 arrivals, with most continuing their journey further west.

Reuters

Russia says Chernobyl nuclear plant run by Ukrainian staff

The Ukrainian nuclear power plants at Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia, both now under the control of Russian forces, are being run and managed by their Ukrainian staff, Russia's atomic energy agency Rosatom said on Saturday, according to the RIA news agency.

Rosatom's statement said an external power supply was being restored to the defunct Chernobyl plant, site of the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986, with the help of Russian specialists.

It also said activities to ensure safety at the plants were being carried out in coordination with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Ukraine had warned of an increased risk of a radiation leak from Chernobyl if its high-voltage power line, damaged in fighting, was not repaired.

The Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom said on Friday that staff at Zaporizhzhia, Europe's biggest nuclear plant, were under strong psychological pressure from the Russians present.

The IAEA said this week that it had lost touch with remote systems monitoring nuclear material at Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia, and IAEA chief Rafael Grossi voiced concern that staff might be working under undue pressure.

Reuters

1,300 Ukrainian troops killed since start of Russian invasion, says Zelenskyy

Around 1,300 Ukrainian troops have been killed since the start of the Russian invasion, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Saturday.

Speaking at a news briefing, Zelenskyy said Ukrainian and Russian negotiating teams had started discussing concrete topics rather than exchanging ultimatums.

He said the West should be more involved in negotiations to end the war but welcomed efforts by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to mediate between Ukraine and Russia, and said he had suggested to Bennett holding talks in Jerusalem.

Reuters

After meeting, France says Putin showed no willingness to end war

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not show a willingness to end a war with Ukraine during a call on Saturday with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a French presidency official said.

The French and German leaders reiterated their call for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine as a condition for full negotiations, the official said.

The Kremlin also said the leaders spoke about the state of negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv and that Putin responded to their concerns about the humanitarian situation in Ukraine during the call.

The Kremlin did not elaborate on Putin's comments about the state of talks, 17 days into the war that began when Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

On Friday, Putin said there had been "certain positive shifts" in the talks, which have been taking place in Belarus, but gave no details.

The talks have continued via a video link, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday, according to the RIA news agency.

He said Vladimir Medinsky, who headed Russia's delegation at the in-person talks, would continue to lead the negotiations on Russia's behalf.

The Kremlin statement said Macron and Scholz raised questions about the humanitarian situation arising from what Russia calls its special military operation in Ukraine, and Putin responded with allegations of human rights abuses by Ukrainian forces.

It did not cite evidence in support of those allegations.

Nir Gontarz

Zelenskyy says Russia-Ukraine talks could take place in Jerusalem

KYIV - Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday he suggested to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that Russia-Ukraine talks could take place in Jerusalem.

Asked by Haaretz in Kyiv about Israeli mediation, Zelenskyy said that "in general, I take a positive view of anyone mediating, but I don't consider Prime Minister Naftali Bennett 'just anyone.' You can play an important role because Israel is a country with a rich history."

Zelenskyy also said Israel could give security guarantees to Ukraine, and that he hopes for significant positive influence from Bennett on the talks.

On Friday, a Ukrainian senior government official harshly criticized Bennett's effort to mediate the crisis with Russia.

The official also claimed Bennett was trying to nudge Ukraine into caving to Russian demands, though both Bennett's office and a senior Ukrainian adviser have disputed this charge since.

The United States is willing to take diplomatic steps that the Ukrainian government would find helpful, a State Department spokesperson said on Saturday, after Zelenskyy said the West should be more involved in negotiations to end the war.

"We are working to put the Ukrainians in the strongest possible negotiating position, including by increasing pressure on Russia by imposing severe costs and by providing security assistance to help Ukrainians defend themselves."

Reuters contributed to this report.

Read Haaretz's full report from Kyiv

Reuters

Russian forces to stage 'pseudo' referendum to claim Ukraine's Kherson

Russian occupying forces are planning to stage a "pseudo" referendum in the southern Ukrainian port city of Kherson to create a breakaway region, the deputy head of the local council said on Saturday.

"The creation of the (republic) will turn our region into a hopeless hole without life or a future," Sergey Khlan said in a post on social media.

Russian forces captured Kherson following the start of an invasion on February 24, but pro-Ukraine protesters have taken to the streets in the city to protest the invasion force.

Reuters

Zelenskyy says Russia sending new troops after heavy losses

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Saturday that Russia was sending new forces to Ukraine after suffering what he said were its biggest losses in decades.

Zelenskyy also said he had spoken to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron about pressuring Russia to release the mayor of the city of Melitopol, who Ukraine says was kidnapped on Friday by Russian forces.

In a televised address, Zelenskyy urged Russia to uphold an agreed ceasefire to allow evacuations to proceed from the besieged port city of Mariupol, after blaming Moscow for the failure of previous attempts.

The Associated Press

Ukraine says Russia shelled mosque; fighting rages near Kyiv

Russian forces pounding the port city of Mariupol shelled a mosque sheltering more than 80 people, including children, the Ukrainian government said Saturday as fighting also raged on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv.

There was no immediate word of casualties from the shelling of the mosque. Mariupol has seen some of the greatest misery from Russia's war in Ukraine as unceasing barrages have thwarted repeated attempts to bring in food and water and to evacuate trapped civilians.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Turkey said that a group of 86 Turkish nationals, including 34 children, were among the people who had sought safety in the mosque of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Roksolana.

Elsewhere, air raid sirens rang out across the capital region and artillery barrages sent residents scurrying for shelter. Fighting erupted in multiple areas around Kyiv.

Russia's slow, grinding apparent attempt to encircle the city and the bombardment of other population centers with artillery and air strikes mirror tactics that Russian forces have previously used in other campaigns, notably in Syria and Chechnya, to crush armed resistance.
Artillery pounded Kyiv’s northwestern outskirts.

To the city’s southwest, two columns of smoke – one black and one white -- rose in the town of Vaslkyiv after a strike on an ammunition depot. The strike on the depot caused hundreds of small explosions from detonating ammunition.

As of Friday, the death toll in Mariupol passed 1,500 during 12 days of attack, the mayor’s office said. A strike on a maternity hospital in the city of 446,000 this week that killed three people sparked international outrage and war-crime allegations.

Reuters

Russian attacks continue during latest evacuation attempts, Ukrainian officials say

The governors of two Ukrainian regions, Kyiv and Donetsk, said in separate statements on Saturday Russian attacks were continuing in areas where Ukraine was trying to evacuate people and bring aid through "humanitarian corridors."

"Humanitarian cargo is moving towards Mariupol, we will inform you how it develops ... The situation is complicated, there is constant shelling," Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told local media. "The situation is extremely difficult."

Reuters

Israel not pushing Ukraine to yield to Russian demands, Ukraine adviser says

A top Ukrainian adviser on Saturday pushed back against suggestions Israel tried to nudge Ukraine into caving to Russian demands during talks.

Israel has been engaged in diplomatic efforts to try to end the war in Ukraine. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

On Friday, an unnamed Ukrainian senior government official harshly criticized Bennett's effort to mediate the crisis with Russia, saying that Bennett pressured Zelenskyy to accept Putin's conditions for ending the war.

Israel, "just as other conditional intermediary countries, does NOT offer Ukraine to agree to any demands of the Russian Federation," Ukrainian adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter. "This is impossible for military & political reasons. On the contrary, Israel urges Russia to assess the events more adequately."

Reuters

Russia says it is in constant contact with U.S., ready for arms control talks

Russia is prepared to resume arms control talks with the United States if Washington is, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Saturday, according to RIA news agency.

Ryabkov said that Moscow and Washington remain in constant contact, but that the Kremlin sees no signs that Washington is ready to continue a dialogue on Ukraine.

However, Ryabkov said proposals on security guarantees that Russia had sent to the United States and NATO before Russian forces entered Ukraine last month were no longer valid as the situation had now changed completely.

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Russia strikes fourth-largest city in Ukraine as U.S. set to revoke Moscow's trade status

The United States, together with the Group of Seven nations and the European Union, will move on Friday to revoke Russia's "most favored nation" status over its invasion of Ukraine, multiple people familiar with the situation told Reuters.

Stripping Russia of its favored nation status paves the way for the United States and its allies to impose tariffs on a wide range of Russian goods, which would ratchet up pressure on an economy already heading into a recession.

Washington's moves to tighten the screws on Moscow come as U.S. and European officials accuse Russia of war crimes over its bombardment of civilians in Ukrainian cities, amid repeated violations of cease-fires in which each side blames on the other.

Three air strikes early on Friday in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro killed at least one person, state emergency services said, adding that the strikes were close to a kindergarten and an apartment building.

Satellite images showed a Russian military column threatening Kyiv from the north had dispersed to new positions, private U.S. company Maxar Technologies said, possibly in preparation for an assault on the capital

Inside Putin's Mind: LISTEN to Julia Ioffe

Reuters

Fighting rages outside Kyiv, Ukraine says it hopes humanitarian corridors can open

Fighting raged northwest of Kyiv on Saturday, with the bulk of Russian ground forces 25 km (16 miles) from the center of the Ukrainian capital, while several other cities were encircled and under heavy shelling, the UK Defense Ministry said.

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said she hoped that several humanitarian corridors would open on Saturday for thousands of residents in the bombarded cities, including from the besieged port city of Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia. "I hope that the day will go well, all the planned routes will be open and Russia will fulfill its obligations to guarantee the ceasefire regime," Vereshchuk said in a video address after repeated evacuation efforts this week failed.

At least 1,582 civilians in the southeastern city of Mariupol have been killed as a result of Russian shelling and a 12-day blockade, the city council said in an online statement on Friday. It was not possible to verify casualty figures.Air raid sirens blared across most Ukrainian cities on Saturday morning urging people to seek shelters, local media reported, after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the war had reached a "strategic turning point".

Russian forces appeared to be regrouping, possibly for a fresh offensive which could target the capital Kyiv in a few days, Britain's defense ministry said on Friday. In a Saturday update, it said fighting northwest of the capital continued and the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remained encircled under heavy Russian shelling.

Reuters

Russia says destroyed 3,491 Ukrainian military infrastructure facilities

Russian troops have destroyed 3,491 Ukrainian military infrastructure facilities in Ukraine so far, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying on Saturday.

Russian forces "continue the offensive in Ukraine on a broad front," Konashenkov said.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify his statement.

Reuters

Ukraine at 'turning point', Zelenskyy says

Air raid sirens blared across most Ukrainian cities on Saturday morning urging people to seek shelters, local media reported, after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the war had reached a "strategic turning point."

Russian forces appeared to be regrouping, possibly for a fresh offensive which could target the capital Kyiv, Ukraine's military and Britian's defense ministry said.

Efforts to isolate Russia economically stepped up, with the United States imposing new sanctions on senior Kremlin officials and Russian oligarchs and the European Union set to strip Russia of its privileged trade status on Saturday.

With the Russian assault in its third week, Zelenskyy, who has rallied his people with a series of addresses from the capital Kyiv, said Ukraine had "already reached a strategic turning point".

"It is impossible to say how many days we still have (ahead of us) to free Ukrainian land. But we can say we will do it," he said. "We are already moving towards our goal, our victory."

The Associated Press

Russian warplanes, artillery widen attack, hit industry hub

Russia's airplanes and artillery widened their assault on Ukraine on Friday, striking airfields in the west and a major industrial hub in the east, as Moscow's forces tried to regroup from recent losses and their onslaught fast reduced crowded cities to rubble.

American intelligence officials offered an assessment of the Russian air campaign, estimating that invading pilots are averaging 200 sorties a day, compared with five to 10 for Ukrainian forces, which are focusing more on surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and drones to take out Russian aircraft.

New commercial satellite images appeared to capture artillery firing on residential areas between Russian forces and the capital. The images from Maxar Technologies showed muzzle flashes and smoke from the big guns, as well as impact craters and burning homes in the town of Moschun, outside Kyiv, the company said.

In a devastated village east of the capital, villagers climbed over toppled walls and flapping metal strips in the remnants of a pool hall, restaurant and theater freshly blown apart by Russian bombs.

Reuters

Russian shelling prevents Mariupol evacuation again, Ukraine says

Russian shelling prevented evacuees from leaving the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol again on Friday while elsewhere Russian forces also stopped some buses of people trying to flee the Kyiv region, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

In a video address, Vereshchuk said some planned evacuations were successful, including 1,000 people who were evacuated from the village of Vorzel in the Kyiv region.

Russian forces have laid siege to Mariupol. Ukraine says 1,582 civilians have died there in 12 days after the invasion.

Reuters

Ukraine says Russian forces abducted Melitopol mayor

Ukraine on Friday accused Russian forces of violating international law by abducting the mayor of Melitopol, a city in southeastern Ukraine that fell under Russian control during the invasion.

Russia has not commented on the fate of Mayor Ivan Fedorov. Ukraine says Russian forces kidnapped him after falsely accusing him of terrorism.

"The abduction of the mayor of Melitopol is classified as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocol, which prohibit the taking of civilian hostages during the war," Ukraine's foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Associated Press

U.S. accuses Russia of using UN council for 'disinformation'

The United States accused Russia of using a UN Security Council meeting Friday for "lying and spreading disinformation” as part of a potential false-flag operation by Moscow for the use of chemical or biological agents in Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russia was playing out a scenario put forth in the council last month by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken — that President Vladimir Putin would “fabricate allegations about chemical or biological weapons to justify its own violent attacks against the Ukrainian people.”

“The intent behind these lies seems clear, and is deeply troubling,” she said. “We believe Russia could use chemical or biological agents for assassinations, as part of a staged or false-flag incident, or to support tactical military operations.”

Reuters

'My hope carried me,' an 11-year-old Ukrainian boy fled alone to Slovakia

Hassan Al-Khalaf, 11, clung to hope when he trekked across Ukraine by himself, safely reaching Slovakia after joining the masses of refugees escaping Russia's invasion of their country.

Hassan's widowed mother could not leave his grandmother at home, so she sent the boy off alone on the trip of over 1,000 km (620 miles) to Slovakia, where his older brother studies. He arrived with nothing but a plastic bag, passport and a phone number written on his hand.

"I got my hope from my mom wanting me to go," Hassan said in an interview before appearing as a guest at a pro-Ukraine demonstration in the Slovak capital in Bratislava on Friday. "My hope carried me on my way," he said through an interpreter.

Hassan Alkhalaf, 11, who has escaped Ukraine on his own to join his brother studying in SlovakiaCredit: RADOVAN STOKLASA/ REUTERS

Reuters

Ukraine urges Belarus to stay out of war

Ukraine is showing restraint towards Belarus but will fight back if Belarusian soldiers cross the border to join the Russian invasion, Ukraine's top security official Oleksiy Danilov said on Friday.

Danilov said Ukraine was being careful in dealing with Belarus despite the country being used as a launchpad for Russian planes to attack Ukraine, Danilov said.

If "one fighter crosses our border, we will fight back," Danilov said.

Reuters

Russian shelling blocks evacuation from Ukraine's Izyum

Russian shelling stopped an attempt to evacuate civilians from the eastern Ukrainian town of Izyum through a "humanitarian corridor" on Friday, the regional governor said.

"Izyum remains without electricity, heat, water or a phone signal,” Governor Oleh Synegubov said.

Reuters

Canada sanctions Russian-Israeli oligarch Abramovich

Canada imposed sanctions on five Russian individuals including Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich and is barring 32 Russian companies and government entities from receiving defense equipment or supplies from Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Warsaw on Friday.

The Canadian operations of Russian steelmaker Evraz, of which Abramovich is the largest shareholder, will not be affected by the move, Trudeau said at a news conference.

"The sanctions on Russian officials and oligarchs like Abramovich are directed at them so that they cannot profit or benefit from economic activities in Canada or the hard work of Canadians working in companies that they have investments in," Trudeau said.

Click here to read the full article.

Reuters

Ukraine warns of possible Belarusian invasion plan

Ukraine's state Center for Strategic Communications said it could not rule that Belarus would launch an invasion of Ukraine on Friday after a meeting in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

"According to preliminary data, Belarusian troops may be drawn into an invasion on March 11 at 21:00 (1900 GMT)," the center, which was established under the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, said in a statement.

Reuters

UN is not aware of a biological weapons program in Ukraine

UN Disarmament Chief Nakamitsu said that the UN is not aware of a biological weapons program in Ukraine.

Nakamitsu also said that the possibility of an accident at Ukrainian power plants due to power supply failures or lack of regular maintenance is "growing by the day."

Situations like the one in Ukraine, Nakamitsu said, require strengthening of an international ban on biological weapons.

Jonathan Lis

'Bennett wants us to surrender': Ukraine official slams Israel's mediation efforts

A Ukrainian government official harshly criticized Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's effort to mediate the crisis with Russia.

The official said Friday that Bennett is "using the mediation as an excuse to justify the fact that Israel is avoiding transferring military aid to Ukraine or joining the sanctions slapped on Russia."

The official went on to say that mediation does not mean passing messages between both sides, adding that a mediator needs to present a compromise. "Other counties can provide mail services and Israel's natural status" has no advantage under these circumstances."

"When Bennett told him he should accept the Russian stance, Zelenskyy replied: 'I heard you, thanks,'" the official said, adding that Bennett wants Ukraine to surrender.

A source from Bennett's office later said that the Ukrainian official's description of the prime minister's conversion with Zelenskyy is untrue.

"The prime minister did not recommend that Zelenskyy accept Putin's offer, as Israel does not know what that offer is. In any case Bennett does not intend to give Zelenskyy recommendations or advice on how to act at any stage," the source said.

Click here to read the full article.

Reuters

U.S. to revoke Russia trade status, ban imports of vodka

The U.S. government plans to impose further sanctions on Russia, including revoking the country's "permanent normal trade relations" status and banning the import of seafood, vodka and non-industrial diamonds, the White House said.

In addition to downgrading Russia's trade status and banning some imports, Washington will also stop the export of certain luxury goods that are purchased by Russian elites, including high-end watches, apparel, alcohol and luxury vehicles.

"The elites who sustain Putin's war machine should no longer be able to reap the gains of this system and squander the resources of the Russian people," the White House statement said. More Russian elites and their family members will also be hit with sanctions.

Reuters

Russia is trying to drag Belarus into war - Ukraine deputy interior minister

Russia is trying everything possible to drag Belarus into its 16-day war against Ukraine, said Ukraine's Deputy Interior Minister Yevheniy Yenin in a televised interview on Friday.

"We also understand that the Belarusian government has been doing everything possible to avoid joining this war," Yenin added.

Belarus has served as a staging post for Russian troops, missiles, and aircraft throughout the war, but Belarusian forces have not had any direct involvement.

DPA

More than 10,000 Ukrainian refugees reach Greece and Cyprus

More than 10,000 Ukrainian refugees have reached Greece and Cyprus since Russia's invasion of their country began.

The Greek government said in a statement that, so far, 7,142 people had come to Greece, including 2,289 children.

Ukrainian refugees are receiving social security and tax numbers for the next 12 months without the need for bureaucracy, Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis told reporters on a visit to the border with Bulgaria, which many Ukrainians are using.

Reuters

Russia says Ukraine has agreed to only two of 10 humanitarian corridors proposed by Moscow

Ukraine has agreed to only two of 10 humanitarian corridors proposed by Russia, and none of the proposed corridors into Russia, Tass news agency reported on Friday citing the Russian defense ministry.

The ministry also said that the southern port city of Mariupol, where attempts to establish a local ceasefire have failed so far, was now completely surrounded, with all bridges and roads into the city destroyed or mined by Ukrainian forces, Tass reported.

It was not possible to independently confirm the situation on the ground.

Reuters

Ukraine says Belarus leader was with Putin at time of 'false-flag attack'

An adviser to Ukraine's president said on Friday Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko was meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow as Russian jets carried out what Ukraine said was a false-flag attack on Belarusian villages.

Moscow did not immediately comment on a statement by Ukraine’s border service that several Belarusian border villages had been bombed by Russian warplanes to create a reason for Belarus to join Russia’s war against Ukraine.

"I believe that (the Belarusian military command) will do everything they can to avoid this scenario," presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a televised interview.

DPA

Instagram blocked in Russia after Facebook and Twitter

Instagram has been blocked in Russia, just like fellow social media platforms Facebook and Twitter.

The Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor made the announcement in a statement, saying Instagram had been used to spread calls for violence against Russian citizens and soldiers amid the war in Ukraine.
The state prosecutor's office had earlier ordered Roskomnadzor to restrict access to Instagram – and also announced the deletion of its own Instagram account.

A spokesperson for US parent company Meta – which owns Instagram, Facebook and messaging service WhatsApp – said the phrase "Death to Russian invaders" was permissible – sparking widespread outrage in Moscow.

DPA

EU prepping fourth round of sanctions on Russia over Ukraine war

The European Union is preparing a fourth round of sanctions on Russia, according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The EU is to "come forward with a fourth package of sanctions," von der Leyen said at a press conference at an informal EU leaders' summit in Versailles near Paris.

Von der Leyen did not give details on the package, but sources told DPA that EU countries and allies including the United States are to revoke Russia's "most favored nation" trade status as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

DPA

Zelenskyy says EU must 'do more' after Ukraine accession hopes dashed

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has responded to EU leaders pouring cold water on his country's membership ambitions, saying that the bloc needs to "do more" for Ukraine.

"The European Union should do more. It must do more for us, for Ukraine," Zelenskyy said in a video published on Telegram.

"The decisions of politicians must coincide with the mood of their people," he said as EU leaders were concluding their talks at an informal summit in Versailles, France.

DPA

EU leaders green-light €500 million military aid package for Ukraine

EU leaders have agreed to send another €500 million ($550 million) in military aid to Ukraine, European Council President Charles Michel said on Friday.

The news comes just more than a week after the bloc announced for the first time in its history that the EU would finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and equipment to a non-EU country under attack.

The first defense contribution also came in the form of a €500-million funding mechanism.

Reuters

Ukraine air force says Russian aircraft fired at Belarusian settlement

Ukraine's air force said on Friday Russian aircraft had fired at a Belarusian settlement near the border with Ukraine from Ukrainian airspace to try to drag Belarus into Moscow's war on Ukraine.

"This is a PROVOCATION! The goal is to involve the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus in the war with Ukraine!," Ukraine's Air Force Command said in an online statement.

Bar Peleg

'Tiny' Israel cannot take in as many refugees as Europe, says Shaked

Facing backlash over Israel's policy on Ukrainian refugees, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said Thursday that "the tiny nation state of the Jewish people" cannot accommodate Ukrainians fleeing war like other European countries.

“As of today, Israel is hosting over 25,000 Ukrainians, and contrary to criticism, the vast majority of those who have come to Israel were allowed to enter and stay here until the fury passes,” wrote Shaked in a Facebook post.

Israel's policy on refugees seeking entry, which limited entry to those with relatives in the country and often required Ukrainians to leave 10,000 shekel deposits, has faced backlash.

Israel's revised policy, announced on Tuesday, will grant entry to 5,000 non-Jewish Ukrainians fleeing war, who will be given three-month tourist visas which do not include social benefits or work permits. It's estimated that 2,500 non-Jewish Ukrainians already arrived before the policy was announced, essentially halving the number of those who will be admitted.

“Any intelligent person understands that the tiny nation state of the Jewish people cannot be a substitute for the countries of Europe, including Ukraine’s neighbors that have opened their borders widely,” wrote Shaked, adding that Israel expects to take in 100,000 Ukrainians eligible to become Israeli citizens under the Law of Return.

The European Union said on Tuesday its member states had so far taken in two million refugees fleeing the Russian invasion and expected millions more to follow.

Finland's president, Putin discuss cease-fire, evacuation routes in phone call

Finland's President Sauli Niinisto and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed the need for cease-fire and humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians in Ukraine in a phone call on Friday, the Finnish president's office said in a statement.

In the call, which lasted for one hour, Niinisto told Putin the worsening crisis in Ukraine was strongly impacting Western opinion.

"President Niinisto emphasized the need to establish an immediate ceasefire and ensure the safe evacuation of civilians along humanitarian corridors," the statement read.

Niinisto earlier in the day also spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to discuss Russia's invasion, and the Finnish president later tweeted that he was "doing my best for peace".

Russian offensive stalled, says Ukrainian presidential adviser

Russian territorial advances in Ukraine have stalled and the Russian armed forces have made no progress in the last 24 hours, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said on Friday.

"Our opponent has been halted in practically every direction by air strikes, rocket fire and ground attacks," he told a news briefing. Ukraine’s armed forces had staged counter-attacks near the capital Kyiv, and Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, he said.

Reuters

Chernobyl plant still without external power supply - Ukraine nuclear body

Ukraine's state nuclear power regulator said on Friday the electricity supply to the Chernobyl nuclear power station had not yet been restored, despite Russia's energy ministry saying it was restored by Belarusian specialists on Thursday.

Ukraine has warned of an increased risk of a radiation leak if the high-voltage power line, damaged in fighting, is not repaired to the plant, which is occupied by Russian forces."

Attempts to restore the external power supply to the site are in progress," the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine said in a statement. When the external electricity supply is severed, an emergency diesel generator kicks in.

Reuters

UN says 564 civilians, including 41 children killed so far in Ukraine

The United Nations human rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday it has confirmed the deaths of 564 civilians in Ukraine since February 24, including 41 children.

The real toll is thought to be considerably higher since it has not yet been able to corroborate reports from areas where intense hostilities are ongoing, OHCHR said. Most died from the use of explosive weapons, including heavy artillery shelling, missile and air strikes, it added.

DPA

Deputy mayor of Mariupol: 'City doesn't really exist any more'

More than 200,000 people are waiting to flee, according to the administration of the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which officials say is under constant shelling and bombardment by the Russian army.

"They have cut off the city from all directions," Deputy Mayor Serhiy Orlov told Germany's "Mittagsmagazin" programme on public broadcaster ARD on Friday. According to him, no humanitarian trucks are being allowed into the city. So far, several attempts to create humanitarian corridors to rescue civilians have failed.

"I don't know how to describe the destruction in our city. The city doesn't really exist anymore. The images of Grozny and of Aleppo - that's what Mariupol looks like right now," Orlov said.

The aftermath of Russian artillery shelling on a residential area in Mariupol on ThursdayCredit: ARMED FORCES OF UKRAINE/ REUTE

Reuters

Kyiv mayor says supply lines open, people returning to fight Russians

Kyiv mayor and former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko told Reuters on Friday that he believed there were nearly 2 million people still left in the city, which is being squeezed by advancing Russian forces on several fronts.

He said that the Ukrainian capital, normally home to some 3.5 million people, had enough vital supplies to last a couple of weeks, and that supply lines in and out remained open for now.

His brother Wladimir, also a heavyweight boxing star, added in the joint interview that some of the men and women who had accompanied their families to the relative safety of the west of the country were returning to take part in the city's defense.

Reuters

Russia has fired 328 cruise missiles at Ukrainian communities

The commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces said on Friday Russia had launched 328 cruise missiles at Ukrainian cities, towns and villages since the start of its invasion on Feb. 24.

"This bloody crime of (Russian president) Putin's regime is a blatant violation of the international humanitarian law," General Valeriy Zaluzhny said in an online post.

Russia has denied targeting civilians during what it calls its “special operation” in Ukraine.

Reuters

Russia could surround Ukrainian city of Odessa on three sides, mayor says

The mayor of Odesssa said on Friday Russian forces could soon surround his southern Ukrainian port city on three fronts.

Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov suggested Russian forces would seek to advance from territories they have occupied in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv region towards Moldova's separatist-controlled Transdniestria region, where Russian troops are based. Such a move could cut Odessa off from the rest of Ukraine."

Also, we think that while this is happening, Russian landing ships could surround us from the sea," Trukhanov added.

DPA

Russia's attacks on civilians could be war crimes, UN spokesperson says

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has documented numerous Russian attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine that could be classified as war crimes, a UN spokesman said in Geneva on Friday.

At least 26 health facilities have been attacked since the war began on February 24. Twelve people have been killed and 34 injured, according to World Health Organization figures.

"Civilians are being killed and maimed in what appear to be indiscriminate attacks," the spokesperson said. Russian forces used rockets and heavy artillery shells near populated areas and attacked from the air. There were credible reports of cluster munitions being used.

"We remind the Russian authorities that directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects, as well as so-called area bombardment in towns and villages and other forms of indiscriminate attacks, are prohibited under international law and may amount to war crimes."

She reiterated that a building attacked in Mariupol a few days ago was a functioning maternity hospital. Representatives of Russia say there was a camp of Ukrainian fighters in the building.

DPA

Britain sanctions 386 Russian lawmakers over support of Ukraine breakaway regions

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has sanctioned 386 members of the Russian Duma for their support for the Ukrainian breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, the Foreign Office said in London.

The Foreign Office said the new sanctions "will ban those listed from travelling to the UK, accessing assets held within the UK and doing business here."

It added: "The Russian State Duma ratified treaties in February which recognized the independence of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions – part of Ukrainian sovereign territory – and authorized the permanent presence of Russian military there, acting as a pretext for Russia's invasion."

"We're targeting those complicit in Putin's illegal invasion of Ukraine and those who support this barbaric war. We will not let up the pressure and will continue to tighten the screw on the Russian economy through sanctions.

"Together with our allies, we stand firmly beside our Ukrainian friends. We will continue to support Ukraine with humanitarian aid, defensive weapons and diplomatic work to isolate Russia internationally," Truss said.

Reuters

Putin sees 'certain positive shifts' in talks with Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday there had been some progress in Moscow's talks with Ukraine, but provided no details.

"There are certain positive shifts, negotiators on our side tell me," Putin said in a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, adding that talks continued "practically on a daily basis".

Putin did not elaborate, but said in the televised remarks that he would go into more detail with Lukashenko.

Reuters

Zelenskyy says Ukraine reached strategic turning point in war with Russia

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday Ukraine had reached a strategic turning point in its war with Russia, but cautioned that it was not possible to say how long fighting would continue.

"It is impossible to say how many days we still have to free Ukrainian land. But we can say we will do it. For we have already reached a strategic turning point," he said in a televised address, urging the international community to increase sanctions pressure on Russia.

Reuters

Ukraine says 78 children have been killed since Russia invaded

At least 78 children have been killed in Ukraine since Russian invaded, Ukrainian human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said on Friday.

She said fighting around the southern city of Mariupol, the eastern town of Volnovakha and the town of Irpin in the Kyiv region meant the authorities had not been able to establish how many people had been killed or wounded in those places.

Reuters

Forty-eight schools destroyed in Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, says mayor

The eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv is under relentless bombardment from Russian forces, the city's mayor said in a televised interview on Friday.

"As of today, 48 (of the city's) schools have been destroyed," said Mayor Ihor Terekhov. The city has a peacetime population of about 1.4 million.

Reuters

Ukrainian nuclear plants stable, staff under 'psychological pressure'

All Ukrainian nuclear power stations are operating stably but staff in the Zaporizhzhia plant that was captured by Russian forces are facing psychological pressure, the Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom said on Friday.

Radiation levels at all plants had not changed, it said. "Employees of the station are under strong psychological pressure from the occupiers, all staff on arrival at the station are carefully checked by armed terrorists," it said, referring to the Russian forces in Zaporizhzhia.

"All this negatively affects work and endangers nuclear and radiation safety."

Bar Peleg

Ukraine envoy expects Israel to sanction Russia

Ukraine's ambassador to Israel said Friday he expects Israel to also sanction Russia over its invasion of Ukraine as the United States and European Union did.

Speaking at a press conference, Yevgen Kornichuk said Israel should provide Ukraine with more medical equipment as well as military supplies.

Kornichuk also said that regardless of the government's decision on sanctions, he hoped that every major company in Israel would halt its business cooperation with Russia.

When asked about his opinion for Israel's policy on Ukrainian asylum seekers, Kornichuk refrained from criticizing Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, but said that Israel is "a country that is difficult to arrive to," since it is very expensive.

"Most European countries provide Ukrainian refugees with food and shelter, and I don’t expect Israel to do that" he said. "I hope the government will understand us and find a solution to this very painful situation."

Reuters

Over 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine, UN says

More than 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine as of March 11, the United Nations migration agency said on its website on Friday.

That represents around 200,000 additional refugees since the International Organization for Migration's last report through to March 10.

Separately, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Friday that at least 1.85 million people were displaced within Ukraine.

Reuters

Russian forces hit psychiatric hospital in Ukraine - regional governor

Russian forces hit a psychiatric hospital near the eastern Ukrainian town of Izyum on Friday, regional authorities said.

Oleh Synegubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, said 330 people had been at the hospital and that 73 had been evacuated. The number of casualties was being established, he said, describing it as a "brutal attack on civilians".

Reuters was unable to verify the report immediately.

Jonathan Lis

Israel's Lapid to depart for Romania, Slovakia on Saturday

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will depart for a visit to two countries bordering Ukraine on Saturday – Romania and Slovakia – to meet with their leaders and with Israeli Foreign Ministry officials who have been working along the Ukrainian border since Russia's war began two weeks ago.

Lapid is scheduled to meet with Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuc and Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu on Sunday to talk about the bilateral relations between Israel and Romania.

The meeting will be followed by a visit to the Siret border crossing where foreign ministry personnel have been working to evacuate Israelis and Jews from Ukraine to Israel.

On Monday, Lapid will head to Slovakia's capital, Bratislava, for a meeting with President Zuzana Caputova and Foreign Minister Ivan Korcoc.

Reuters

Russian strikes hit western Ukraine far from main offensive

Local authorities say Russian strikes hit near airports in the western Ukrainian cities of Ivano-Frankiivsk and Lutsk, far from Russia’s main attack targets elsewhere in Ukraine.

The mayor of Ivano-Frankiivsk, Ruslan Martsinkiv, ordered residents in the neighboring areas to head to shelters after an air raid alert. The mayor of Lutsk also announced an airstrike near the airport.
The strikes were far to the west from the main Russian offensive and could indicate a new direction of the war.

Russia says two Ukrainian military airfields taken out

Russian troops have launched a high-precision, long-range attack on two military airfields in the Ukrainian cities of Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk and taken them out of action, Russian news agencies quoted Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov as saying on Friday.

He also said that Russian forces had destroyed 3,213 Ukrainian military installations since the launch of what Russia calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Reuters

U.S. gov't spending bill passes in Senate providing $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine

The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved legislation providing $1.5 trillion to fund the federal government through Sept. 30 and to allocate $13.6 billion to aid Ukraine.

The 2,700-page bill passed in a bipartisan 68-31 vote, one day after the House of Representatives approved the package.

President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law, averting agency shutdowns ahead of the midnight Friday deadline when existing U.S. government funds expire.

The Associated Press

Russian convoy outside Kyiv reorganizes, moves artillery pieces

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows troops and military vehicles deployed in Ozera, Ukraine, northeast of Antonov Airport, during the Russian invasion, Thursday, March 10, 2022.Credit: Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies via AP

Russian forces kept up their bombardment of the port city of Mariupol on Thursday, while satellite photos showed that a massive Kremlin convoy that had been mired outside the Ukrainian capital split up and fanned out into towns and forests near Kyiv, with artillery pieces moved into firing positions.

Reuters

Meta allows calls for violence against Russian forces and leaders on its platforms

Meta Platforms (FB.O) will allow Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion, according to internal emails seen by Reuters on Thursday, in a temporary change to its hate speech policy.

The social media company is also temporarily allowing some posts that call for death to Russian President Vladimir Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in countries including Russia, Ukraine and Poland, according to internal emails to its content moderators.

"As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as 'death to the Russian invaders.' We still won't allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians," a Meta spokesperson said in a statement.

The calls for the leaders' deaths will be allowed unless they contain other targets or have two indicators of credibility, such as the location or method, one email said, in a recent change to the company's rules on violence and incitement.

The temporary policy changes on calls for violence to Russian soldiers apply to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine, according to one email.

Reuters

UN Security Council to convene at Russia's request on Friday

The United Nations Security Council will convene on Friday at Russia's request, diplomats said, to discuss Moscow's claims, presented without evidence, of U.S. biological activities in Ukraine.

The United States has dismissed Russian claims as 'laughable,' warning Moscow may be preparing to use chemical or biological weapons.

Reuters

Ukraine tells IAEA it has lost all contact with Chernobyl after power cut

Ukraine told the UN nuclear watchdog on Thursday it has lost all contact with the radioactive waste facilities at Chernobyl next to the defunct power plant at the site of the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986, which is now held by Russian forces.

"Ukraine informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it had lost today all communications with the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), the day after the Russian-controlled site lost all external power supplies," the IAEA said in a statement, adding that before there was contact by email.

Reuters

Russia to open humanitarian corridors on Friday, state news says

Russian will open humanitarian corridors on Friday from a number of Ukrainian cities, Russian state news reported.

Citing an official, the RIA News Agency said the corridors will open from Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kahrkiv and Mariupol.

Russia will require lists of people and vehicles in advance before allowing them to enter the corridors, the report said.

The announcement fallows calls on the Russian government from the U.S. State Department to allow civilians to safely depart Ukrainian cities and towns besieged by Russian forces.

The State Department added that forces now encircle multiple cities after having destroyed much of the critical infrastructure.

"Putin's military plan to quickly capture Ukraine, it is clear now has failed. So he's now turning to a strategy of laying waste to population centers to try to break the will of the people of Ukraine, something he will not be able to do," State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters Thursday.

Reuters

U.K. PM Johnson says he fears Russia will deploy chemical weapons in Ukraine

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday he feared Russia would deploy chemical weapons in Ukraine.

"The stuff that you're hearing about chemical weapons, this is straight out of their playbook," Johnson said in an interview with Sky News.

"They start saying that there are chemical weapons that have been stored by their opponents or by the Americans, and so when they themselves deploy chemical weapons, as I fear they may, they have a sort of ... fake story, ready to go."

Reuters

Russia says there was no airstrike on Ukraine hospital

Russia's defense ministry on Thursday denied having bombed a maternity and children's hospital in Ukraine's Mariupol the previous day, accusing Ukraine of a "staged provocation" there.

The ministry said that Russia carried out no air strikes on ground targets in that area on Wednesday, respecting an agreed "silent regime."

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier that Ukrainian forces had taken over the hospital, while the Kremlin said there was a need to establish clear facts.

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