- Russian troops no longer fully controlling Kherson, Pentagon official says
- NATO mutual defense is a 'sacred' agreement, Biden assures Poland
- Biden slated to give 'major speech' Saturday on Russia's invasion during Poland visit
- Putin should make an 'honorable exit' from Ukraine, says Turkey's Erdogan
- Ukraine says 10 humanitarian corridors agreed for front line areas
- Russian troops no longer fully controlling Kherson, Pentagon official says
- NATO mutual defense is a 'sacred' agreement, Biden assures Poland
- Biden slated to give 'major speech' Saturday on Russia's invasion during Poland visit
- Putin should make an 'honorable exit' from Ukraine, says Turkey's Erdogan
- Ukraine says 10 humanitarian corridors agreed for front line areas
Russian forces are firing at a nuclear research facility in the city of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian parliament said in a Twitter post on Saturday.
"It is currently impossible to estimate the extent of damage due to hostilities that do not stop in the area of the nuclear installation," the post quoted the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate as saying.
U.S. President Joe Biden told a crowd he promised to support the people of Ukraine as his two-day visit to Warsaw was nearing its end.
"We stand with you," Biden said, adding that Russia was trying to crush democracy in its own country and was also endangering its neighbors.
There was no justification for Russia's brutal war of aggression in Ukraine, Biden said at Warsaw's Royal Castle, a symbol of the Polish capital that was rebuilt after it was largely destroyed in World War II.
"For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power," Biden told the crowd, claiming that Russia's invasion of Ukraine was a strategic failure for Moscow.
"We must commit now to be in this fight for the long haul. We must remain unified today and tomorrow and the day after and for the years and decades to come," he added.
Two rockets hit the outskirts of Ukraine's western city of Lviv on Saturday, wounding five people, regional Governor Maksym Kozytskyy said, as residents were told to seek shelter from what appeared to be the first attack within the city's limits.
In an online post, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy said no residential buildings had been hit by the strikes, which he said had set fire to an industrial facility storing fuel.
The mayor of the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv says it has been destroyed by Russian troops. "The city is completely devastated," Vladyslav Atroshenko said on Saturday, adding that over 200 civilians had been killed in the past few weeks.
The city, located near Ukraine's border with Russia and Belarus, now has just half of its usual 285,000 inhabitants, he said.
Atroshenko described the current conditions in the city as catastrophic. Chernihiv was without power, he said, and it was impossible to establish escape corridors since Russian forces destroyed a bridge leading towards Kiev. Nonetheless, the city would not give up, Astroshenko vowed.
A Ukrainian family was detained at Ben-Gurion International airport for three days due to the Immigration Authority's reliance on their questioning, which was conducted in Russian rather than their native Ukrainian.
The family – a couple and their three children, together with a 17-year-old girl in their care – was denied entry due to fears that they planned to remain in Israel permanently as well as concerns about the teen’s relationship to the family.
On Thursday the Immigration Appeals Tribunal approved the family’s entry to Israel after finding the family’s version of events credible and the interview to which its members were subjected “controversial.”
Russian oligarchs are welcome in Turkey but must abide by international law in order to do any business, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday.
"If Russian oligarchs ... or any Russian citizens want to visit Turkey of course they can," Cavusoglu said in response to a question at the Doha Forum international conference.
"If you mean whether these oligarchs can do any business in Turkey, then of course if it is legal and not against international law, I will consider it," he said, adding: "If it is against international law then that is another story."
Two superyachts linked to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich have docked in Turkish resorts.
Three explosions were heard near Ukraine's western city of Lviv on Saturday, an official from the Lviv city council said.
"There have been three powerful explosions near Lviv... Everyone should keep calm and stay indoors," Igor Zinkevych said in a post on Facebook.
Reuters witnesses saw heavy black smoke rising from the north-east side of the city. The cause could not be immediately verified.
The Russian military fired at the Holocaust Memorial in Drobitsky Yar near the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Saturday.
“Russian invaders fired on and damaged Holocaust Memorial in Drobitsky Yar on the outskirts of Kharkiv. The Nazis have returned. Exactly 80 years later,” the ministry tweeted.
U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to give what his aides have billed as a major speech.
The White House said that Biden "will deliver remarks on the united efforts of the free world to support the people of Ukraine, hold Russia accountable for its brutal war, and defend a future that is rooted in democratic principles".
Biden has held three days of meetings with allies in the G7, Europe and NATO, and visited with U.S. troops in Poland on Friday, before meeting Polish President Andrzej Duda on Saturday.
Biden is also scheduled to visit a refugee reception center at Warsaw's national stadium
U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with top Ukrainian government officials in Warsaw on Saturday during his visit to Poland to show support for the NATO alliance's eastern flank in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The United States expressed "unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters that Ukraine had received additional security pledges from the United States on developing defense co-operation.
"President Biden said what is happening in Ukraine will change the history of the 21st century, and we will work together to ensure that this change is in our favor, in Ukraine's favor, in the favor of the democratic world," Kuleba told Ukrainian national television soon after.
Ukraine's Defense Minister also said he felt a sense of "cautious optimism" following the meeting.
Poland is taking a "significant" responsibility in the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden said during a visit to Warsaw on Saturday, adding that the world should help lessen the burden.
Biden also told his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda he views NATO's Article 5 guarantee of mutual defense between member-states as a "sacred" commitment.
Ukraine is offering its own natural gas storage facilities to store strategic energy reserves of the European Union, Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko announced on Saturday.
His country has the largest underground storage facilities in Europe, Halushchenko wrote in a post on Facebook.
"Despite Russia's full-scale military aggression, Ukraine remains a strong and reliable partner for Europe in terms of energy security," he said.
The minister welcomed EU efforts to wean the bloc off Russian gas supplies and buy jointly from other suppliers. Ukraine could contribute to this solidarity and balancing mechanism with its storage facilities, Halushchenko said.
At an EU summit on Thursday, member states agreed to the voluntary joint purchase of gas, liquid natural gas (LNG) and hydrogen in an effort to turn away from Russian imports while tackling spiraling energy costs.
To that end, the EU has clinched a deal with Washington to receive at least 15 billion cubic meters of LNG from the United States this year.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has praised Qatar and other Gulf states as "reliable and solid suppliers of energy sources."
Russia has staged military drills engaging S-400 surface-to-air missiles in its western Kaliningrad exclave, Interfax reported on Saturday, citing the Baltic Fleet.
It said that Su-27 fighter jets were also deployed in the exercises.
Russia was also on Saturday conducting drills on islands claimed by Japan.
Ukraine's Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Saturday that he and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had held a joint meeting with their U.S. counterparts for the first time.
"We discuss current issues & cooperation in political and defense directions between Ukraine and the United States," Reznikov said on Twitter, posting a photograph of the meeting in Warsaw with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
A longer curfew in the Ukrainian capital will be imposed from 8:00 P.M. local time (1800 GMT) on Saturday until 8:00 A.M. local time on Monday, the mayor of Kyiv said.
Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in an online post that the decision was made by the Ukrainian military, without giving further details.
Russian forces have taken control of the town of Slavutych, where workers at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant live, the governor of Kyiv region Oleksandr Pavlyuk said on Saturday.
In an online statement, Pavlyuk said Russian troops had occupied the hospital in Slavutych and kidnapped the mayor.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
On Friday, Ukraine said its troops had repulsed a first attack by Russian troops closing in on the town.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said agreement has been reached on the establishment of 10 humanitarian corridors on Saturday to evacuate civilians from front line hotspots in Ukrainian towns and cities.
Speaking on national television, she said civilians trying to leave the besieged southern port of Mariupol would have to leave in private cars as Russian forces were not letting buses through their checkpoints around the southern port city.
Reuters could not independently verify this information.
Ukraine and Russia have traded blame when humanitarian corridors have failed to work in recent weeks.
The war in Ukraine has killed 136 children so far, Ukraine's office of the prosecutor general said on Saturday in a message on the Telegram app, adding that the number of wounded children stood at 199.
Of the total, 64 children have been killed in the Kyiv region, the office said. A further 50 children have died in the Donetsk region, it said.
Reuters could not immediately verify the details.
Britain said on Saturday it would fund 2 million pounds ($2.6 million) worth of vital food supplies for areas of Ukraine which are encircled by Russian forces following a direct request from the Ukrainian government.
Britain said around 25 truckloads of dried food, tinned goods and water will be transported by road and rail from warehouses in Poland and Slovakia to the most at-risk Ukrainian towns and cities.
The headquarters of the Ukrainian Air Force in Vinnytsia, in the west of the country, was hit by several Russian cruise missiles on Friday.
Some of the six missiles were shot down by air defense systems upon approach while the others hit the building, the air force command said on Facebook.
This caused "considerable damage" to the infrastructure. A photo on the Facebook page showed significant destruction.
No details were given about any casualties from the late afternoon attack. Investigations and recovery operations were ongoing.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday formally approved a law which says people found guilty of spreading fake news about the work of officials abroad can be sentenced to up to 15 years in jail, Interfax news agency said.
The penalties are similar to those allowed under a law adopted earlier this month which aims to punish those who spread false information about the Russian armed forces, the agency said. The law was enacted after the invasion of Ukraine.
Interfax cited a senior legislator as saying the new law was needed because people were spreading false news about Russia's embassies and other organizations operating abroad.
Russian forces are no longer in full control of the Ukrainian port city of Kherson, the New York Times said Friday, citing a senior Pentagon official who said the strategically important port city was again “contested territory.”
However, Ukrainians in the city and officials said Kherson remained in Russian hands and that Ukrainian forces were continuing to fight across the Kherson region.
The Pentagon official, who spoke to reporters by phone, was contradicted by Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, the chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian military’s General Staff who said the city was "under full control" on Friday.
Poland will present a plan early next week for the country to move away from Russian hydrocarbons fast, Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said during a news conference in Brussels on Friday.
He added that countries like Germany need more urging to move away from Russian hydrocarbons quickly.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday got a firsthand look at international efforts to help some of the millions of Ukrainian war refugees in Poland, and spoke to American troops bolstering NATO's eastern flank.
Biden shared a meal with soldiers from the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division stationed in the area of Rzeszow airport, and spoke about the high stakes of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
"You are in the midst of a fight between democracies and oligarchs," Biden said, referring to rich Russians who have faced Western sanctions since the war started on Feb. 24. "What's at stake is what are your kids and grandkids going to look like in terms of their freedom," Biden said.
Biden's schedule in Poland was briefly delayed after the plane carrying President Andrzej Duda was turned back en route to Rzeszow and made an emergency landing in Warsaw. Duda later boarded a different aircraft and headed back.
Russia is trying to send in some reinforcements from Georgia, an official said Friday.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday and they discussed the situation on the ground in Ukraine and the stage reached in negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow, Erdogan's office said.
Erdogan told Zelenskyy that he had emphasized at this week's NATO summit his support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and that he had conveyed in bilateral talks there the "effective" diplomatic efforts that Turkey has made, the statement said.
Zelenskyy also said he had spoken to Erdogan about the results of the NATO summit and the threat of a food supply crisis after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier Friday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said peace negotiations with Russia were difficult, and denied reports that progress had been made resolving four out of six key issues.
"There is no consensus with Russia on the four points," Kuleba said in a post on Facebook.
"The negotiation process is very difficult. The Ukrainian delegation has taken a strong position and does not relinquish its demands. We insist, first of all, on a ceasefire, security guarantees and territorial integrity of Ukraine."
Earlier Turkish broadcaster NTV and others cited Erdogan as saying progress had been made in talks.
The governor of Ukraine's Donetsk region on Friday said Ukrainian forces still controlled the besieged southern city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.
Speaking on national television, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said around 65,000 people had so far fled the city in private vehicles or on foot although official efforts to organize mass evacuations under temporary ceasefires have mostly failed.
Russia's defense ministry said on Friday that the first phase of its military operation in Ukraine was mostly complete and that it would focus on completely "liberating" eastern Ukraine's Donbass region.
The announcement appeared to indicate that Russia may be switching to more limited goals after running into fierce Ukrainian resistance in the first month of the war.
Russian news agencies quoted the defense ministry as saying that Russian-backed separatists now controlled 93% of Ukraine's Luhansk region and 54% of the Donetsk region – the two areas that jointly make up the Donbass.
The ministry said it did not rule out storming Ukrainian cities that had been blockaded and that Russia would react immediately to any attempt to close the airspace over Ukraine – something Kyiv has asked NATO to do, but NATO has resisted.
The defense ministry said that the operation would continue until Russian forces had completed the tasks that had been set, without elaborating. Russia's military had considered two options for its operation in Ukraine, one confined to the Donbass and the other on the whole territory of Ukraine, the defense ministry added.
Russian Defense Ministry says 1,351 Russian soldiers have died since the start of the special military operation in Ukraine, the Russian Interfax news agency reported.
Danish immigration minister says Denmark prepared to take more than 100,000 refugees from Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin should be encouraged to "make an honorable exit" to settle the conflict in Ukraine, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in remarks released by his office on Friday.
"We need to tell [Putin] 'now, you should be the architect of a step for peace.' We should seek to settle this conflict by encouraging an honorable exit," Erdogan told reporters on his return flight from a Brussels meeting with NATO leaders.
Erdogan said he plans talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Putin to assess details of his NATO meeting.
Ankara sees itself as a mediator in the Ukraine conflict and has close relations with Ukraine and Russia.
Erdogan recently invited Putin for talks with Zelenskyy in Turkey after the country hosted a foreign-minister-level summit for the first time since the war began.
Ukraine's Defense Ministry said on Friday Russian forces had managed partially to create a land corridor to Crimea from territory in Ukraine's Donetsk region.
"The enemy was partially successful in creating a land corridor between the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and part of Donetsk region," it said in an online post.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
The head of the UN human rights team in Ukraine said on Friday that monitors had received more information about mass graves in the besieged port city of Mariupol, including one that appeared to hold 200 bodies.
"We have got increasing information on mass graves that are there," Matilda Bogner told journalists by video link from Ukraine, saying some of the evidence came from satellite images.
The UN rights office, which has some 50 staff in the country, has so far counted 1,035 civilian deaths since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.
But verification difficulties meant that toll included "very few" from Mariupol, which has been under heavy bombardment for weeks, Bogner said.
"The extent of civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian objects strongly suggests that the principles of distinction, of proportionality, the rule on feasible precautions and the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks have been violated," she said.
A Reuters journalist who reached a part of Mariupol held by Russian forces on Sunday saw several bodies lying by the road and a group of men digging graves in a patch of grass by the roadside.
The Kremlin said on Friday that U.S. talk of Russia possibly resorting to chemical weapons in Ukraine was a tactic to divert attention away from awkward questions for Washington.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters that the military would submit proposals to President Vladimir Putin on how Russia should strengthen its defenses in response to NATO beefing up its eastern flank.
There was no official position on whether Russia would rebuild Ukrainian towns and cities such as Mariupol, Peskov added.
About 300 people died in a Russian airstrike last week on a theater being used as a bomb shelter in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, the city's government said Friday, citing eyewitnesses.
When the theater was struck March 16, an enormous inscription reading “CHILDREN” was posted outside in Russian, intended to be visible from the skies above.
It was not immediately clear whether emergency workers had finished excavating the site or how the eyewitnesses arrived at the horrific death toll. Soon after the airstrike, Ludmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian Parliament’s human rights commissioner, said more than 1,300 people had been sheltering in the building.
Mariupol has been the scene of some of the worst devastation of the war, which has seen Russia relentlessly besiege and pummel Ukraine's cities. The misery inside them is such that nearly anyone who can is trying to leave and those left behind face desperate food shortages in a country once known as the breadbasket for the world.
The northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv has in effect been cut off by Russian forces, the regional governor said on Friday.
"The city has been conditionally, operationally surrounded by the enemy," Governor Viacheslav Chaus said on national television, adding that the city was under fire from artillery and warplanes.
Russian shelling hit a clinic that was acting as a center for humanitarian aid in the eastern city of Kharkiv, killing four people, the regional police said in a statement on Friday.
"As a result of the morning shelling of civilian infrastructure from multiple rocket launchers, seven civilians were injured, four of whom died," said a statement on social media. "There is no military facility nearby."
Reuters could not independently verify the report.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to Poland as his final stop in Europe this week offers a chance to underscore U.S. commitment to protect a key NATO member on Ukraine’s doorstep, and thank Poles for their generous welcome to refugees fleeing Russia's invasion.
The two-day visit starting Friday follows a trio of emergency war summits in Brussels. It brings Biden to a country that has accepted the lion’s share of the more than 3.5 million Ukrainians who have fled the month-old war. More than 2.2 million have entered Poland and many propose to stay there.
Poland also hosts thousands of additional U.S. troops, beyond the thousands deployed on a rotational basis since Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014.
Biden will be welcomed by President Andrzej Duda, who is allied with a right-wing political party accused of eroding democratic norms, and who clearly preferred ex-President Donald Trump.
Duda, speaking after a NATO meeting on Thursday in Brussels, said Biden’s upcoming visit underlined the importance of the U.S.-Polish strategic alliance, coming shortly after visits by other top officials in Biden's administration.
“These ties are independent of all political relations. We are democratic countries, the authorities change and strategic interests remain,” Duda said.
Before Biden returns to Washington on Saturday, he is expected to address the Polish people. The White House said he would “deliver remarks on the united efforts of the free world to support the people of Ukraine, hold Russia accountable for its brutal war, and defend a future that is rooted in democratic principles.”
Anatoly Chubais, who was President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to international organizations on sustainable development, is the latest government official in Russia to quit in light of the war.
Chubais held high profile posts for nearly three decades, beginning under Boris Yeltsin, the first post-Soviet leader. Chubais also served as deputy prime minister from 1994 to 1996 and first deputy prime minister from 1997-98. On Wednesday, the Kremlin confirmed his resignation. Reports, citing anonymous sources, said he stepped down because of the war.
So far there have been no indications that the resignations have reached into Putin's inner circle, but Chubais is not the first high-profile figure to step down.
Arkady Dvorkovich, who served as Russia’s deputy prime minister and is currently chairman of the International Chess Federation, or FIDE, also reportedly left his role. He criticized the war with Ukraine in comments made to Mother Jones magazine on March 14, adding the FIDE was "making sure there are no official chess activities in Russia or Belarus, and that players are not allowed to represent Russia or Belarus in official or rated events until the war is over and Ukrainian players are back in chess." He later came under fire from the Kremlin, and a top official in the United Russia party demanded he be fired as chair of the state-backed Skolkovo Foundation. Last week, the foundation reported that Dvorkovich had stepped down.
Lilia Gildeyeva, who was a longtime anchor at the state-funded NTV channel, which for two decades has carefully toed the Kremlin line – also quit the job and left Russia shortly after the invasion. Gildeyeva said news coverage on state TV channels was tightly controlled by the authorities, with channels getting orders from officials.
Another journalist, Zhanna Agalakova, who worked for the state-run Channel One for over 20 years also followed suit. She also worked as an anchor and correspondent in Paris, New York, and other Western countries. Following the invasion, reports emerged that Agalakova had quit her job. This week, she held a news conference in Paris confirming the reports and explaining her decision.
“We have come to a point when on TV, on the news, we're seeing the story of only one person — or the group of people around him. All we see are those in power. In our news, we don't have the country. In our news, we don't have Russia," Agalakova said.
Rescuers were searching for survivors among the debris on Friday after two missiles hit a Ukrainian military unit on the outskirts of the city of Dnipro, causing "serious destruction", regional governor Valentyn Reznychenko said on social media.
Ukraine has re-occupied towns and defensive positions up to 35 kilometers east of Kyiv, helped by Russian forces falling back on overextended supply lines, Britain's defense ministry said on Friday.
President Joe Biden on Friday is expected to announce increased shipments of liquefied natural gas to Europe, part of a long-term initiative to wean the continent off Russian energy after the invasion of Ukraine.
He plans to discuss the issue with Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Union’s executive arm, shortly before leaving for Poland, the final leg of his four-day trip.
Earlier this week, Von der Leyen said "we are aiming at having a commitment for additional supplies for the next two winters.” And Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, recently told reporters that the administration wants to quickly “surge” gas to Europe.
Russian energy is a key source of income and political leverage for Moscow. Almost 40 percent of the European Union's natural gas comes from Russia to heat homes, generate electricity and power industry.
It is "foolish" to believe that Western sanctions against Russian businesses could have any effect on the Moscow government, Russian ex-president and deputy head of security council Dmitry Medvedev was quoted as saying on Friday.
The sanctions will only consolidate the Russian society and not cause popular discontent with the authorities, Medvedev told Russia's RIA news agency in an interview.
Russia's space director said on Thursday that Europe had wrecked cooperation by imposing sanctions against his agency, and rockets that were meant to launch European satellites would now be used for Russian companies or countries friendly to Moscow.
Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, said in a Chinese television interview that this would apply to about 10 rockets.
"At this moment, after the European Space Agency and the whole European Union have taken a frenzied position on the conduct of (Russia's) special military operation in Ukraine and introduced sanctions against Roscosmos, we consider further cooperation impossible," Rogozin said.
The space rift has had a tangible impact since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 and was hit with a wave of international sanctions.
Rogozin said a resumption of space cooperation with Europe in some form would only be possible if the European side reflected on "what they've destroyed with their own hands" and held a frank conversation with Moscow.
Russia lashed out on Thursday at NATO plans to establish four additional multinational battle groups on its eastern flank.
"Any argument will serve to justify the dangerous and destabilizing build-up of forces on the eastern flank," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
"The militarization of Europe is gaining pace owing to the efforts of the alliance," she added, saying NATO was confirming its anti-Russian course.
By pledging further armaments to Ukraine, "the alliance is confirming its interest in a continuation of hostilities," Zakharova said.
The White House has set up a team of experts to plan how the United States could respond should Russia use weapons of mass destruction – chemical, biological or nuclear – during its invasion of Ukraine, senior administration officials said on Thursday.
Russia has repeatedly raised the prospect of using nuclear weapons as it struggles to overcome Ukraine's military during the month-old war that the Russian government calls a "special operation." This week, the Kremlin said such weapons would only be used in the case of an "existential threat."
U.S. officials have warned that Russia's accusations that Ukraine might use chemical weapons are a lie, and also an indication Moscow may resort to their use, given past precedent.
President Joe Biden said on Thursday that if Russia were to use chemical weapons in its invasion of Ukraine, the United States would respond.
"We would respond, we would respond if he uses it. The nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use," Biden said at a news conference in Brussels.
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday that China understands its economic future is more closely tied to the West than to Russia, after warning Beijing it could face consequences for aiding Moscow's war in Ukraine.
"I made no threats, but I made it clear to him – made sure he understood the consequences of helping Russia," Biden said of a recent conversation with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
"China understands that its economic future is much more closely tied to the West than it is to Russia."
Speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of emergency meetings in Europe, Biden said he also pointed out to Xi the number of American and foreign companies that have left Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine's foreign ministry said on Thursday it had told Russia-allied Belarus to cut its diplomatic staff in Kyiv to five, responding to the expulsion of a dozen Ukrainian diplomats from Belarus a day earlier.
"We caution the Belarusian authorities that any further unfriendly steps towards Ukraine will receive a decisive response," the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement.
The Swiss authorities have to date frozen Russian assets and funds worth 5.75 billion Swiss francs ($6.17 billion) due to the war in Ukraine, Erwin Bollinger of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) announced in Bern on Thursday.
Despite not being an EU member state, Switzerland has matched the European Union's sanctions on Moscow.
The frozen sum could not be equated with all Russian assets in Switzerland, said Bollinger, who is responsible for bilateral economic relations at SECO.
Assets seized include properties, bank accounts, and even high-value art and precious metals held in Swiss storage, though these do not become property of the state, as no legal basis for such a transfer exists in Switzerland, Bollinger said.
Ukraine accused Moscow on Thursday of forcibly taking hundreds of thousands of civilians from shattered Ukrainian cities to Russia, where some may be used as “hostages” to pressure Kyiv to give up.
Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine's ombudsperson, said 402,000 people, including 84,000 children, have been taken against their will.
The Kremlin gave nearly identical numbers for those who have been relocated, but said they wanted to go to Russia. Ukraine's rebel-controlled eastern regions are predominantly Russian-speaking, and many people there have supported close ties to Moscow.
A month into the invasion, meanwhile, the two sides traded heavy blows in what has become a devastating war of attrition.
Ukraine’s navy said it sank a large Russian landing ship near the port city of Berdyansk that had been used to bring in armored vehicles. Russia claimed to have taken the eastern town of Izyum after fierce fighting.
The 193-member UN General Assembly overwhelmingly demanded aid access and civilian protection in Ukraine on Thursday and criticized Russia for creating a "dire" humanitarian situation after Moscow invaded its neighbor one month ago.
The resolution, drafted by Ukraine and allies, received 140 votes in favor and 5 votes against – Russia, Syria, North Korean, Eritrea and Belarus – while 38 countries abstained.
Ukraine's deputy prime minister says 40 buses are waiting to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, but Russian forces are not letting people leave.
Russia said that it had taken control of the eastern Ukrainian town of Izyum while the Ukrainian navy said it had destroyed a Russian Black Sea vessel, as the conflict showed no sign of letting up one month after the invasion began.
Russian troops had taken "complete control" of Izyum, Defense Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said in Moscow. There was no confirmation from the Ukrainian side.
The town, which had about 48,000 residents before the war, had been besieged for days.
The Defense Ministry also said more than 60 Ukrainian military installations were hit in overnight attacks.
The United States is imposing sanctions on more than 400 people and entities including Russian oligarchs, politicians and defense companies in connection with the invasion of Ukraine, as Western leaders met in Brussels to discuss their response to the war.
The U.S. is to admit 100,000 refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine and provide more than $1 billion in humanitarian assistance to the country, a White House official said.
As the talks in Brussels were reaching their close, NATO announced that Jens Stoltenberg would remain its secretary general for an additional year due to the war in Ukraine. His current term at NATO expires on September 30.
NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the military alliance will ramp up its assistance to Ukraine, and that it will station four battle groups in Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia in a bid to "reset its deterrence" against Russia amid a "new reality" in the region.
The battalions will reinforce four other battle groups already deployed in the Baltics.
Speaking after the address by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Stoltenberg said that they will send additional anti-tank missiles, air defense systems and drones to Ukraine, as well as "substantial financial and humanitarian aid."
This would also include cybersecurity assistance and protection against chemical and nuclear threats, he added.
Stoltenberg, who extended his tenure as secretary general by an additional year on Thursday, said that NATO agreed to continue to "impose unprecedented costs on Russia."
However, he ruled out "deploying troops on the ground in Ukraine," in order to avoid further escalation.
On a broader level, the secretary general said that member states redoubled their commitment to meet NATO's 2014 defense investment pledge in 2014.
The United States will announce $1 billion in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and a plan to accept up to 100,000 Ukraine refugees, a senior administration official said.
The United States is also launching the 'European Democratic Resilience Initiative' with $320 million in funding to support media freedom, social resistance, and human rights in Ukraine and nearby countries, the official said.
The expected announcement would coincide with U.S. President Joe Biden's meeting with European leaders on Thursday to coordinate the Western response to the crisis. More than 3.5 million people have fled since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, according to the United Nations.
The sources who spoke to Reuters did not clarify how the United States would handle travel and immigration logistics. Not all of the accepted Ukrainians will go through the U.S. refugee program, one Biden administration official said, with others coming on family-based visas or another temporary process known as "humanitarian parole".
Washington has already said it would speed up visa processing for relatives of U.S. citizens and residents, and increase staff to process humanitarian applications, which let people in on an emergency basis even without a visa.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Moscow will respond to Poland's expulsion of 45 Russian diplomats, which it said threatened to destroy their already fraught relations.
"Russia will not leave this hostile attack without a response, which will make Polish provocateurs think and will hurt them," the ministry said in a statement.
U.S. President Joe Biden gave his backing to NATO's decision to boost troops in the eastern front on Thursday, as leaders of the military alliance gathered for an emergency summit in Brussels.
The summit was addressed by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy via video link, but a senior U.S. administration official said that he did not request a no-fly zone or for the admission of Ukraine into NATO.
In the speech, Zelenskyy requested fighter jets, tanks, anti-ship weapons and improved air defense to repel Russian troops, as the war enters its second month. He also warned that other NATO members, including Poland and the Baltic states, could be the next target for Russia.
The United States and its allies are already working on supporting Ukraine with anti-ship missiles, a senior U.S. administration official said.
"We have started consulting with allies on providing anti-ship missiles to Ukraine," the official said on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels. "There may be some technical challenges with making that happen but that is something that we are consulting with allies and starting to work on."
While NATO is expected to step up support for Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said the alliance will not send troops or planes to Ukraine.
One of Russia's most successful singers Alla Pugacheva and her TV presenter husband Maxim Galkin have fled to Israel, in the latest in a torrent of entertainment industry departures from Moscow since its invasion of Ukraine.
Israel's Justice Ministry is seeking to provide legal representation to minors who came to Israel from Ukraine alone, according to discussions with state authorities about their entry into the country.
This follows several cases of Ukrainian minors arriving in Israel without legal guardians identified by members of the Population Authority.
The move still requires the approval of the Justice Ministry's director general.
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday that an agreement between the Russian and Ukrainian armies was needed before civilians could be evacuated properly from Ukraine.
"We think we are confronted with a very complex frontline at the present moment in Ukraine which sees a lot of people trapped and people caught people in between front lines," Red Cross chief Peter Maurer told a news conference after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.
"It's not possible to think about access or evacuation, either in Mariupol or another place, if we don't have a solid … and detailed agreement between the militaries on the ground.
"Street fighting and bombardments have raged in the besieged city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. Hundreds of thousands are believed to be trapped inside buildings, with no access to food, water, power or heat.
Millions of people have fled Ukraine since Russian forces entered on Feb. 24 in what Moscow called a special operation to degrade its southern neighbor's military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists.
Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its forces. Maurer, who visited Ukraine last week, said he would raise the issues of prisoners of war, missing people and detained civilians in his talks in Moscow.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed to NATO leaders on Thursday to increase military support for his country against Russian forces that he warned would next target alliance members in Eastern Europe including Poland.
Russia "wants to go further. Against eastern members of NATO. The Baltic states. Poland for sure," Zelenskyy said in a pre-recorded video address to a NATO summit which was released in advance by the Ukrainian presidency.
"But NATO has yet to show what the alliance can do to save people," he said.
In addition, Ukraine president has accused Russia of using Phosphorous bombs without citing any evidence.
The Kremlin on Thursday said sanctioned Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich played an early role in peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, but the process was now in the hands of the two sides' negotiating teams.
"He did take part at the initial stage," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "Now the negotiations are between the two teams, the Russians and Ukrainians.
"Western governments have targeted Abramovich and several other Russian oligarchs with sanctions as they seek to isolate President Vladimir Putin and his allies over events in Ukraine.
Half of all children in Ukraine have been displaced by Russia's invasion of the country, the United Nation's Children Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday.
4.3 million out of the country's 7.5 million children have been displaced in the month of war, the agency said.
Out of the children who have fled, 1.8 million children have crossed into neighboring countries, while 2.5 million have been internally displaced.
“The war has caused one of the fastest largescale displacements of children since World War II,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
A senior Ukrainian intelligence officer tells Haaretz why he never expected Russia to invade, how he fears Ukraine could become the next Syria and why he doesn’t buy into the rumors about Putin’s mental state. Read Anshel's dispatch
Since Russia invaded Ukraine a month ago, 294 civilians, including 15 children, have been killed in the north-eastern city of Kharkiv, local police said on Thursday on Telegram.
People were hardly leaving the bunkers where they sought refuge from attacks, and residential buildings, schools, hospitals, utilities and businesses were on fire, they said.
Before the war, 1.5 million people lived in Kharkiv. The city has repeatedly been targeted by air strikes, the Ukrainian army said.
Russia is stepping up its airstrikes, with more than 250 flights registered in 24 hours, the Ukrainian military's general staff said on Thursday morning.
This was 60 more flights than the day before, the Ukrainian side said. The main targets remain the areas in and around Kiev, Chernihiv, and Kharkiv.
The Ukrainian army said 11 "enemy air targets" were hit Wednesday, including seven planes, a helicopter, a drone and two cruise missiles.
Russian troops in occupied areas such as Kherson are using "terror" tactics against locals protesting against the occupation and deploying units from the Russian national guard to prevent protests, according to the Ukrainian military.
The information could not be verified.
As Ukrainian cities came under renewed Russian attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on people around the world to demonstrate on Thursday to mark one month since the start of Russia's attack on its western neighbor.
"Come from your offices, your homes, your schools and universities. Come in the name of peace, come with Ukrainian symbols to support Ukraine, to support freedom, life. Come to your squares and streets, make yourself visible and heard," Zelensky said in a video message early Thursday.
"Say that people matter, freedom matters, Ukraine matters," the president asserted.
"Russia started the war against freedom as it is," Zelensky said, adding that Moscow "is trying to defeat the freedom of all people in Europe, of all people in the world."
For that reason, Zelensky concluded, "I ask you to stand against the war starting from March 24, exactly one month after the Russian invasion."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has advised U.S. President Joe Biden not to carry out punishing sanctions against Russian-Israeli oligarch Roman Abramovich, who may act as a go-between in peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, according to the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
The U.S. sanctions, drafted earlier this month, were expected to be released along with those from the U.K. and European Union, according to the report.
Read the full report here.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on people worldwide to gather in public Thursday to show support for his embattled country as he prepared to address U.S. President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders gathered in Brussels on the one-month anniversary of the Russian invasion.
“Come to your squares, your streets. Make yourselves visible and heard,” Zelenskyy said in English during an emotional video address late Wednesday that was recorded in the dark near the presidential offices in Kyiv. “Say that people matter. Freedom matters. Peace matters. Ukraine matters.”
Zelenskyy said he would ask in a video conference with NATO members that the alliance provide “effective and unrestricted” support to Ukraine, including any weapons the country needs to fend off the Russian onslaught.
Biden was expected to discuss new sanctions and how to coordinate such measures, along with more military aid for Ukraine, with NATO members, and then talk with leaders of the G7 industrialized nations and the European Council in a series of meetings on Thursday.
On the eve of a meeting with Biden, European Union nations signed off on another 500 million euros ($550 million) in military aid for Ukraine.
The UN General Assembly votes Thursday on a resolution backed by over 90 countries that blames Russia for the escalating humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and demands an immediate halt to hostilities, especially attacks on civilians and their homes, schools and hospitals.
Russia has denounced the resolution as “anti-Russian” and accuses its supporters of not really being concerned about the humanitarian situation on the ground, saying they want to politicize aid.
The vote follows the Security Council’s overwhelming defeat on Wednesday of a Russian resolution that would have acknowledged Ukraine’s growing humanitarian needs -- but without mentioning Russia's invasion that has left millions of Ukrainians in desperate need of food, water and shelter.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy released a Facebook video on Thursday speaking in multiple languages including English and Russian, calling on the "free people of the world" to demonstrate against the monthlong invasion.
"Come to your squares, your streets. Make yourselves visible and heard. Say that people matter. Freedom matters. Peace matters. Ukraine matters."
NATO estimated on Wednesday that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in four weeks of war in Ukraine, where fierce resistance from the country's defenders has denied Moscow the lightning victory it sought.
By way of comparison, Russia lost about 15,000 troops over 10 years in Afghanistan.
A senior NATO military official said the alliance's estimate was based on information from Ukrainian authorities, what Russia has released — intentionally or not — and intelligence gathered from open sources. The official spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by NATO.
Ukraine has released little information about its own military losses, and the West has not given an estimate, but President Volodymr Zelenskyy said nearly two weeks ago that about 1,300 Ukrainian servicemen had been killed.
A total of 4,554 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors on Wednesday, a senior official said, considerably fewer than managed to escape the previous day.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president's office, said in an online post that 2,912 people had left the besieged city of Mariupol in private vehicles. On Tuesday, he said 8,057 people had managed to escape from cities across the country.
With Europe facing its most precarious future since World War II, President Joe Biden will huddle with key allies in Brussels and Warsaw this week as the leaders try to prevent Russia’s war on Ukraine from spiraling into an even greater catastrophe.
Biden embarked Wednesday on a four-day trip that will test his ability to navigate the continent’s worst crisis since WWII ended in 1945. There are fears that Russia could use chemical or nuclear weapons as its invasion becomes bogged down in the face of logistical problems and fierce Ukrainian resistance.
“I think it’s a real threat,” Biden said of the possibility of Russia deploying chemical weapons. He spoke during a brief exchange with reporters at the White House before departing for Brussels.
Russia told Washington on Wednesday it would throw out a number of American diplomats in response to a U.S. move to expel Russian staff from the permanent UN mission, Interfax news agency said.
The agency also cited the foreign ministry as telling the United States any hostile actions against Russia would provoke a decisive response.
The Biden administration on Wednesday made a formal determination that Russian troops have committed war crimes in Ukraine and said it would work with others to prosecute offenders, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
“Today, I can announce that, based on information currently available, the U.S. government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine,” Blinken said in a statement released as he was traveling to Brussels with President Joe Biden for an emergency summit of NATO leaders.
The assessment was based on a “careful review” of public and intelligence sources since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last month, he said.
America’s top diplomat said the United States would share that information with allies, partners and international institutions tasked with investigating allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The mayor of Kyiv said one person was killed and two seriously wounded on Wednesday after shells hit a shopping center's parking lot in a northern district of the Ukrainian capital.
"The enemy continues to fire at the capital," Mayor Vitali Klitschko said in an online post.
Russia denies targeting civilians.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Russia's Vladimir Putin discussed the war in Ukraine in a phone call on Wednesday, Russian news agency RIA reported, citing the Kremlin.
This is the two leaders' first call in just over a week, as Bennett seeks a mediator role in the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Ukraine’s Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center announced on Wednesday that it is partnering with the French organization Yahad In Unum in order to document and investigate the “horrors of the crimes committed on a massive scale, day after day, against the Ukrainian civilian population” by Russian forces.
In a statement, the memorial said that it planned to “collect a maximum of filmed testimonies of the victims of these crimes,” noting that “women old people, children” are dying from “bullets or missiles without any link with military targets.”
Close Russia ally Belarus has told Ukraine to cut its diplomatic presence in the country citing unfriendly actions and meddling in its internal affairs, the Belarusian foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
Russia has used Belarusian territory as a staging post for its attack on Ukraine and the Ukrainian president's office on Sunday warned it saw a high risk of an attack on western Ukraine's Volyn region being launched from Belarus.
The foreign ministry said in a statement that an unspecified number of Ukrainian diplomats would have to leave within 72 hours and that the Ukrainian consulate in the city of Brest would be closed due to a lack of staff. It said the Ukrainian ambassador and four other diplomats would be allowed to stay. On Tuesday the Belarusian security service, the KGB, accused eight Ukrainian diplomats of espionage.
Anatoly Chubais, the architect of Russia's post-Soviet economic reforms, has quit his post as a Kremlin special envoy and left the country, a source told Reuters, in the highest profile protest by a Russian figure against the Ukraine invasion.
Chubais, who once served as former President Boris Yeltsin’s chief of staff, left his post as Vladimir Putin's special representative for ties with international organizations, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
He was appointed to the post, which was charged with "achieving goals of sustainable development", in 2020 days after resigning as the head of state technology firm RUSNANO which he had run since 2008.
The source did not say why he decided to leave the country. Asked to comment by a Reuters reporter, Chubais hung up his phone. According to Bloomberg News, Chubais left his position citing his opposition to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Click here for the full story.
Poland is expelling 45 Russian diplomats suspected of working for Russian intelligence, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
Russia said the accusations were baseless.
Relations between Russia and Central European countries that once formed part of its sphere of influence have long been fraught but the invasion of Ukraine has significantly increased fear and suspicion about Moscow's intentions."
In total, 45 people with varying diplomatic status... were ordered to leave the territory of the Republic of Poland within 5 days," Foreign Ministry spokesman Lukasz Jasina told a news conference. One person had been given 48 hours to leave, he added."
The outpouring of popular support in the West for Ukraine, and the international community’s almost unanimous denunciations of Russia’s invasion, together with an avalanche of sanctions and boycotts imposed on Russia, have been greeted with a quizzical, if not cynical, response by many Palestinians and their supporters.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said sending peacekeepers to Ukraine may lead to a direct confrontation between Russia and the NATO military alliance.
Poland last week said an international peacekeeping mission should be sent to Ukraine and be given the means to defend itself.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday said peace talks with Russia to end the war were tough and sometimes confrontational but added "step by step we are moving forward.
"In an early morning video address, Zelenskyy also said 100,000 people were living in the besieged city of Mariupol in inhuman conditions, without food, water or medicine."
The president of Poland compared Russia’s attacks on Ukraine to Nazi forces during World War II, saying Tuesday that besieged Mariupol looks like Warsaw in 1944 after the Germans bombed houses and killed civilians “with no mercy at all.”
During a visit to Bulgaria, Duda compared the Russian shelling of schools, hospitals and other civilian targets, to the atrocities committed by German forces during their occupation of Poland during World War II.
“My countrymen, Poles, are looking today at Mariupol and are saying, ‘God’ — they say it with tears in their eyes — ‘Mariupol looks like Warsaw did in 1944 when Nazis, Hitler’s Germans, were brutally bombing houses, killing people, killing civilians with no mercy at all,’” Duda said.
“Today the Russian army is behaving in exactly the same way. Russian leaders are behaving in exactly the same way, like Hitler, like the German SS, like the German pilots of the fascist army during World War II."
Read the full article here
Ukraine wants China to play a more "noticeable role" in halting the war being waged by Russia on its territory and also to become a future guarantor of its security, a senior aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Tuesday.
Andriy Yermak, who heads Zelenskyy's office, also said he expected a dialogue "very soon" between Ukraine's leader and Chinese President Xi Jinping, without elaborating.
China, the world's no. 2 economy, has long been forging closer energy, trade and security ties with Russia but is also Ukraine's biggest trading partner. It has resisted pressure from Western countries to condemn Russia's invasion.
"So far we've seen China's neutral position. And, as I said before, we believe that China ... should play a more noticeable role in bringing this war to (an) end and in building up a new global security system," Yermak told a virtual news conference organized by the Chatham House think-tank in London.
"We also expect China to contribute meaningfully to this new system of security for Ukraine, and we also expect China to be one of the guarantors within the framework of this security system," he said, speaking through an interpreter. "We treat China with utmost respect, and we expect it to play a proactive role there."
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Tuesday at least 100,000 civilians wanted to escape from Mariupol in southern Ukraine but could not because of a lack of safe corridors out of the besieged port city.
She said shelling by Russian forces was also preventing rescue workers from accessing the site of a bombed theater in Mariupol where city officials say hundreds were believed to be sheltering underground when it was hit by an air strike last week.
Russia has denied bombing the theater or attacking civilians.