Thursday, June 13, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 15

Russian forces are pressing ahead with their military operation in Ukraine to counter what they call a “threat” to their national security from the pro-West Ukrainian government. Kiev and Russia’s Western adversaries call the operations an “invasion”. The situation is fluid in Ukraine right now with both sides claiming victories on the battlefield. Iran Front Page brings you the latest developments on the ground live as they unfold in Ukraine.

Russian forces encircle at least four major cities

Ukraine’s capital Kyiv remains under Ukrainian control despite heavy bombardments, though Western observers point to a Russian column of hundreds of vehicles outside the city.

The city of Sumy in northeast Ukraine is now encircled by Russian troops but thousands have been able to leave through a humanitarian corridor.

Ukrainian forces also retain control of the northern town of Chernihiv, which has seen heavy civilian casualties in recent days and appears to be encircled.

Kharkiv remains in Ukrainian hands despite increasingly intense Russian bombardment and the city is likely now surrounded.

UN: Mariupol maternity hospital third to be destroyed

The United Nations’ reproductive health agency has said two other maternity hospitals had been attacked and destroyed in Ukraine before Russia’s strike in Mariupol on Wednesday.

“In Zhytomyr, the maternity (hospital) was completely destroyed. In Saltivsky, the maternity [hospital] was also destroyed,” Jaime Nadal, the Ukraine lead for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), stated in a press conference.

The UN official did not specify who launched the attacks on the other hospitals or if there were any victims.

The agency estimated about 80,000 women will be giving birth over the next three months and over 4,300 women have given birth since Russia’s invasion began on February 24.

YouTube, Google Play suspend payment-based services in Russia

Alphabet Inc’s YouTube and Google Play store are suspending all payment-based services in Russia, including subscriptions, as Western sanctions start to pose banking challenges in the country.

Google will also pause ads for advertisers based in Russia across its properties and networks globally, the company announced. This is in addition to the company’s recent suspension of online advertising following similar pauses by Twitter Inc and Snap.

Trudeau: Putin has chosen to ‘specifically target civilians’ 

Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a choice to “specifically target civilians” and any further targeting of civilians in Ukraine is going to be met with the “severest of responses.”

“Putin’s callous disregard for human life is absolutely unacceptable. It is very clear that he has made the choice to specifically target civilians now,” Trudeau told reporters in Warsaw.

“Putin has made a terrible mistake, and he’s going to lose this war,” Trudeau said.

“He’s going to lose this war because the ferocity, strength and resolve of the Ukrainian people defending their territory is inspiring us all, and because our resolve as friends and allies … cannot allow Putin to be successful,” he continued.

Finance minister: West has defaulted on its financial obligations to Russia

Western countries have failed to honor their financial obligations to Russia by imposing economic restrictions, Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Thursday during a government meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

“The West has defaulted on its financial obligations to Russia, has frozen our gold and foreign exchange reserves,” the official stated, adding that the measures sum up to a full-scale “financial and economic war” against Russia.

According to Siluanov, the US, EU and their allies are using everything within their powers to restrict foreign trade and imports, which not only damages Russia but impacts the entire global trade.

Russia: We have enough oil and gas buyers even with sanctions

Russia has enough buyers for its oil and gas even as Western nations and their allies impose sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine, according to a top Kremlin official.

“We will not persuade anyone to buy our oil and gas,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday at a briefing in Turkey following a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.

“If they want to replace it with something, they are welcome, we will have supply markets, we already have them,” he added.

CIA director: Chinese president “unsettled” by Russian invasion of Ukraine

Chinese President Xi Jinping is “unsettled” by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in part because “his own intelligence doesn’t appear to have told him what was going to happen,” CIA Director Bill Burns told the US Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.

Chinese leadership is also concerned because of “the reputational damage that China suffers by association with the ugliness of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine” and “the economic consequences at a time when growth rates in China are lower than they’ve been in 30 years,” according to Burns.

Finally, he said, “President Xi is probably a little bit unsettled as he watches the way in which President Vladimir Putin has driven Americans and Europeans more closely together and strengthen the Transatlantic alliance in ways that would have been a little bit hard to imagine before the invasion began.”

EU foreign policy chief says Putin “failed” in his belief that “he was going to conquer Ukraine”

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin “believed he was going to conquer Ukraine” but “he failed.”

“He believed he was going to divide us; he failed. He believed that he was going to weaken the transatlantic relationship and he failed. Now he has to stop,” he added while speaking to reporters while entering a summit of EU leaders in France’s Versailles.

Borrell stated after European countries reduce dependency on Russian energy exports, “we will be much safer. Have to spend less gas, use less gas, the climate requires that. For once, geopolitics and climate go together.”

European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen told reporters that this was “a defining moment for Europe and it is a moment when we see that Putin’s war is a question of the resilience of democracies.”

At the summit in Versailles, “we will rethink European defense with strong capabilities. We will rethink energy. We have to get rid of the dependence of Russian fossil fuels and for that we need massive investment in renewables,” she added.

DIA director: No-fly zone would not protect against majority of weapons Russia is using in Ukraine

A no-fly zone over Ukraine would not protect against many of the weapons Russian forces are using in Ukraine right now, stated Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier.

Russian forces are using “a combination of mostly missiles, artillery, multiple rocket launchers. There are some precision guided munitions that are being dropped from aircraft, but that number is small,” Berrier said in an exchange with Sen. Angus King.

A no-fly zone would not protect against “inhibit missiles, rockets and artillery,” Berrier added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly asked NATO allies and the United States to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine. The airspace over Ukraine remains contested, a senior US defense official told reporters on Wednesday.

US considering more sanctions against Russia

The United States and its allies are considering additional sanctions to punish Russia for “atrocities” committed in Ukraine even as existing sanctions deal a powerful blow to the Russian economy, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated Thursday.

“The Russian economy will be devastated as a consequence of what we’ve already done, but we…continue to consider further steps we can take,” Yellen said during a Washington Post Live event.

Yellen did not detail specifics on what additional sanctions could be imposed, though she did note that Russia has not halted its invasion of Ukraine.

“We continue to work very closely with our allies to consider sanctions,” Yellen continued.

“At this point, we are not seeing Russia back off the horrific war they started, an unprovoked invasion of the Ukrainian homeland. In fact, the atrocities they are committing against civilians seem to be intensifying. So, it’s certainly appropriate for us to be working with our allies to consider further sanctions,” she added.

The Treasury secretary spelled out the economic and financial damage caused by Western sanctions imposed in recent weeks.

“We have isolated Russia financially. The ruble has been in a free fall. The Russian stock market is closed. Russia has been effectively shut out of the international financial system,” Yellen said, adding that the Russian central bank’s access to its reserves has been largely cut off.

Yellen conceded there is “certain” to be an economic effect on the United States and Europe from the sanctions, though she said officials have worked to minimize this.

“It’s already pushed up global oil prices. We’re seeing that ourselves in prices at the pump,” Yellen added.

Asked if European allies will move to ban Russian oil and gas, Yellen reiterated that US officials recognize “not all countries are in the same position” to cut off shipments of Russian energy.

“We have very little dependence on Russian oil,” Yellen continued.

Moscow blasts claims of Mariupol ‘airstrike’ as ‘provocation’ aimed to fuel anti-Russian hype

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that claims of the “airstrike” that allegedly took place in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol are nothing but a provocation aimed to fuel anti-Russian hype.

The defence official pointed out that the Russian Air Force performed “absolutely no tasks” in the Mariupol area.

“The analysis of statements made by representatives of the Kiev nationalist regime, photographic materials from the hospital leaves no doubt: the alleged ‘airstrike’ that took place is a completely orchestrated provocation to maintain anti-Russian hype among the Western audience,” Konashenkov added.

He explained that although the nature of the external and internal damage to the building can mislead the mass non-professional audience in Europe and the United States, it cannot trick experts, since “a high-explosive aviation munition simply would not have left anything from the outer walls of the building”.

Biden blames Putin’s actions for US inflation reaching new 40-year high

Inflation in the United States has reached new 40-year highs largely because of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military operation in Ukraine, US President Joe Biden stated Thursday.

“Today’s inflation report is a reminder that Americans’ budgets are being stretched by price increases and families are starting to feel the impacts of Putin’s price hike,” Biden said in a White House statement after the 12-month reading for the US Consumer Price Index showed an increase of 7.9% for February, the highest since January 1982.

The annual reading for the so-called CPI had been trending at 40-year highs even before the outbreak of the Ukraine war on February 24.

Biden, however, noted the Russian president had aggravated the pain of Americans, with US food prices registering the largest monthly increase since April 2020 and energy costs rising almost 26% on the year.

“A large contributor to inflation this month was an increase in gas and energy prices as markets reacted to Putin’s aggressive actions,” Biden announced in his statement.

“As I have said from the start, there will be costs at home as we impose crippling sanctions in response to Putin’s unprovoked war, but Americans can know this: the costs we are imposing on Putin and his cronies are far more devastating than the costs we are facing,” he added.

Global crude oil prices rose above $130 a barrel while pump prices for US gasoline crossed $4 a gallon this week, both reaching 14-year highs, as Russian energy exporters found difficulty in getting their products to the world market due to a raft of sanctions leveled by the United States and other Western countries against Moscow.

Biden has also imposed a US ban on oil from Russia, which provides about 10% of global crude supply.

France: EU must agree how fast to reduce reliance on Russian energy

French President Emmanuel Macron noted that European Union countries needed to agree on the pace at which the bloc could wean itself off Russian fossil fuels.

On the issue of Ukraine’s request for a fast-track accession to the EU, Macron, speaking ahead of a summit of European leaders in France, stated he thought it was unrealistic to engage in membership negotiations with a country at war.

UK “very concerned” about Russia’s potential use of chemical weapons

The United Kingdom is “very concerned” about the potential of Russia using chemical weapons in Ukraine, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told CNN on Thursday.

Truss said it would be a “grave mistake on the part of Russia, adding to the grave mistakes that have already been made by Putin.”

Her comments come after the White House warned Wednesday that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine or manufacture a “false flag” operation that uses them.

“We’ve seen Russia use these weapons before in fields of conflict,” Truss continued, echoing White House press secretary Jen Psaki Wednesday, who noted Russia’s “track record” and slammed false claims from Russia that the US is developing chemical weapons in Ukraine.

The UK Prime Minister has also said 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,” Boris Johnson stated 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,” he added.

Here’s what Mariupol, Ukraine, looks like after Russian attacks

These images show the extent of the damage to homes and stores across the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 15

US spy chief says Russian forces show ‘reckless disregard’ for Ukrainian civilians

US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines stated that Russian forces are operating with “reckless disregard” for civilians as they face stronger-than-expected resistance in Ukraine and intelligence agencies are tracking their actions to hold them to account.

“The IC (intelligence community) is engaged across the interagency to document and hold Russia and Russian actors accountable for their actions,” Haines told the Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual hearing on worldwide threats to US security.

Haines has dismissed Russian allegations that Ukraine has biological weapons.

“We do not assess that Ukraine is pursuing either biological weapons or nuclear weapons,” Haines told US lawmakers.

The intelligence chief added that Ukraine has over a dozen biological labs for public health research. She said the US provides – or at least has provided – assistance to such laboratories “in the context of bio safety, which is something that we’ve done globally with a variety of different countries.”

Red Cross employee describes dire conditions in Mariupol

The deputy head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Mariupol, Sasha Volkov, says conditions in the city are increasingly dire.

In an audio recording posted by the aid organisation on Twitter, Volkov stated his supply of food was dwindling and described relying on generators to supply electricity for a few hours a day.

Water, he noted, will soon have to be collected from a local stream as existing stocks get used up.

“People are afraid,” Volkov added.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on national television not a single civilian was able to leave encircled Mariupol today as Russian forces failed to respect a temporary ceasefire to allow evacuations.

Aid workers warn of an imminent ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ as attempts to deliver water, medicines and fuel are thwarted.

People trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol are “attacking each other for food”, as resources including water, medicines and fuel become increasingly scarce, aid workers have warned.

Russian forces are desperate to take control of the strategic port, which is home to roughly 400,000 people, and there is little sign that the conflict will soon let up.

Zelenskyy’s top economic adviser says war damage tops $100bn

Russian forces have so far destroyed at least $100bn worth of infrastructure, buildings and other physical assets in Ukraine, the chief economic adviser to Ukraine’s president has claimed.

Oleg Ustenko told an online event hosted by the Peterson Institute for International Economics that the war has caused 50 percent of Ukrainian businesses to shut down completely, while the other half are operating at well below their capacity.

Russia FM meets UN nuclear watchdog boss amid Ukraine crisis

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in the Turkish resort city of Antalya on Thursday.

“Sergey Lavrov and IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi discussed the issues related to physical protection and functioning of nuclear power facilities amid the special military operation in Ukraine,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Russia has seized control of two out of four Ukrainian nuclear power plants amid the ongoing offensive launched by Moscow in late February. Moscow has outlined the goals of the operation as “demilitarizing” and “denazifying” the country, as well as protecting the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Kiev, however, insisted the attack was unprovoked and denied claims it had been planning to retake the splinter republics by force.

Putin slams sanctions as ‘illegitimate’

President Vladimir Putin has denounced sanctions imposed on Russia as “illegitimate”.

Addressing a government meeting, Putin said Western governments were deceiving their own people as they move to punish Moscow financially for its incursion in Ukraine.

He added that Russia would calmly solve its problems.

Putin said that Russia would ultimately emerge stronger and more independent after overcoming the difficulties caused by what he called the West’s “illegitimate sanctions”.

“These sanctions would have been imposed in any case,” Putin told a meeting of the Russian government, adding, “There are some questions, problems and difficulties but in the past we have overcome them and we will overcome them.”

He claimed global food prices will rise further if the West intensifies its economic pressure on Russia.

US reportedly weighs easing Venezuela sanctions after ban on Russian energy imports

The United States is ready to relax economic restrictions on Venezuela after banning the imports of Russian oil and other energy products, but the final decision will depend on the outcome of talks between Caracas and the opposition, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, citing a senior administration official.

Talks about the oil trade are taking place on a broader level and American officials, who visited Venezuela on Saturday, did not commit to any easing of sanctions, the report said.

Over the weekend, a US delegation paid a rare visit to Venezuela to discuss a range of issues, including energy security and the health of Americans detained in the Latin American country, the White House said.

Russia: Nuclear war is impossible

The nuclear war is “impossible”, said Igor Vishnevetsky, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, adding that many experts understand its disastrous consequences for the world.

“Nuclear war can’t be staged by definition because this would result in the end of civilisation… mankind. We can’t allow it in any way,” he stated.

Russian army discloses how many Ukrainian military facilities have been wiped out

Since the beginning of the special military operation in Ukraine the Russian forces have wiped more than two thousand military facilities, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told the media on Thursday.

“Strikes against Ukrainian military infrastructure are continuing. Since the launch of the operation, Russian forces have incapacitated 2,911 military facilities in Ukraine,” Konashenkov noted.

The Russian operation has disabled 97 planes, 107 unmanned aerial vehicles, 141 anti-aircraft missile defense systems, 86 radar stations, 986 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 107 multiple rocket launchers, 368 field artillery and mortars, and 749 special military vehicles.

WHO says there have been 24 attacks on health care in Ukraine since Russian invasion

The World Health Organization announced Thursday it had recorded 24 verified incidents of attacks on health care in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24.

“These attacks have led to at least 12 deaths and 17 injuries. At least 8 of the injured and 2 of the killed were verified to be health workers. The attacks took place between 24 February and 8 March,” the WHO said in an email to CNN.

A deadly bombing of a maternity and children’s hospital in Mariupol, which Ukrainian officials said killed three people, has been widely condemned.

EU: Russian bombing of Ukraine maternity hospital a ‘heinous war crime’

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has condemned Russia’s bombing of a maternity hospital in Ukraine’s Mariupol and demanded Moscow allow aid into the besieged city.

“Russia’s shelling of maternity hospital is a heinous war crime. Strikes of residential areas from the air and blocks of access of aid convoys by the Russian forces must immediately stop. Safe passage is needed, now,” Borrell wrote in a tweet.

Russia responds to Ukraine maternity clinic bombing accusation

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied Ukrainian claims that Russian troops had shelled an operating maternity hospital in Ukraine.

The building had been used as a base by the far-right Azov Battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard, the top Russian diplomat claimed on Thursday, during a press conference in Turkey.

The hospital in question has been for days under the control of a Ukrainian paramilitary group and Moscow presented evidence of this to the UN Security Council several days ago, Lavrov stated.

Report: France preparing for possible halt in Russian gas supplies to Europe

France is getting ready for the worst-case scenario of Russian gas supplies to Europe being halted or disrupted amid increasing hostilities in Ukraine, the BFMTV broadcaster reported on Thursday, citing sources.

Members of the French energy industry, including oil and gas companies Engie, TotalEnergies, and Gaz de France, among others, have held meetings in the past several days trying to find a solution in case France is left without Russian gas. On Monday, representatives of the companies met in the prime minister’s office to discuss the issue.

Zelensky dismisses Moscow’s claims over hospital bombing as a ‘lie’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has dismissed Moscow’s claim that the hospital in Mariupol hit by Russian bombing had no patients.

“Like always, they lie confidently,” he said in a televised address.

Russia has refuted Ukrainian claims that the site was still functioning as a hospital, claiming it had been taken over by troops.

Mayor: Mass exodus from Kyiv has seen about two million people flee

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko says about two million people have fled the Ukrainian capital since Russia launched its invasion on February 24.

The mass exodus means the city has hemorrhaged nearly half of its pre-war population within two weeks of Moscow beginning its attack.

Head of Ukraine’s gas transit operator demands Russian troops leave gas facilities

The head of Ukraine’s gas transit operator (OGTSU) has demanded that Russian forces withdraw from two gas compressor stations in eastern Ukraine which he said they had occupied.

Sergiy Makogon stated in televised remarks that the troops had been questioning staff about operations at the Novopskov and Kupiansk stations.

OGTSU has warned that the arrival of Russian forces at compressor facilities poses a risk to supplies of the energy source to Europe.

Russia suspends exports of tech, agricultural and medical equipment

Russia’s government says it has banned the exports of telecom, medical, auto, agricultural and tech equipment, among other items, until the end of 2022, in retaliation for Western sanctions on Moscow.

In total, over 200 items were included on the export suspension list, which also covered railway cars, containers, turbines and other goods.

Zelensky signs law on forced seizure of Russian property in Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelensky has signed a law on forced seizure of property that belonged to Russia or its residents in Ukraine, the news agency reported on Thursday.

Zelensky also said that he is ready to do everything to confiscate property of “Russian propagandists”.

Beijing vows harsh response if US slaps sanctions on China over Ukraine

Beijing intends to retaliate with harsh measures, if Washington imposes sanctions on China due to the discord between Russia and the US over the Ukrainian crisis, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Thursday.

“In the process of settling relations with the Russian Federation, the US is not entitled to impose so-called sanctions against Chinese companies and individuals,” the spokesman stressed at a briefing.

“Otherwise, China will provide a resolute and serious response,” he noted.

According to the diplomat, Washington’s sanctions against Russia will not do anything to solve the Ukraine dilemma.

“On the contrary, the US creates more headaches this way,” he added.

Turkey: Talks between Russian, Ukrainian top diplomats held in uneasy atmosphere

The meeting between Russian and Ukrainian Foreign Ministers, Sergey Lavrov and Dmitry Kuleba, in Antalya was not held in an easy atmosphere, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who also took part in the talks, said on Thursday.

“This meeting was held in an uneasy atmosphere, but there were no strains between Russia and Ukraine. It was a very civilized meeting,” he stated.

According to the Turkish top diplomat, his country is ready to organize another meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers, if they want it.

“The meeting in Antalya is just a beginning. Turkey will receive them again, if the sides want it. Ukraine demands Turkey be a [security] guarantor, it handed over this requirement today,” he added.

Poland calls for more sanctions on Russia

Polish President Andrzej Duda has called a Russian strike on a Ukrainian maternity and children’s hospital an “act of barbarity and genocide” and called for further sanctions against Moscow.

Speaking in Warsaw following a bilateral meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris, Duda thanked the US for imposing sanctions on Russia, calling it a “vanguard” while also urging for more help for Ukraine from the international community.

“We need to take a tough stance as representatives of the free world,” he noted, adding that “we have to rescue Ukraine,” and calling for an “all hands onboard” approach.

“Ukraine needs to be helped, and we have to stay united in that respect,” he noted.

Regarding the US rejection of a Polish plan to send Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine by way of a US-NATO air base in Germany, he said Poland had been ready to supply the fighter jets to Ukraine but wanted it to be a common decision made by NATO.

“We want Poland to remain a credible member of NATO,” he added.

More than 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees have entered Poland, Duda said, adding that he was “proud” of how ordinary Polish families have received them in their “private homes.”

None of the refugees are being housed in camps, he continued.

US VP calls for probe into Russian ‘atrocities’

US Vice President Kamala Harris has called for an investigation into Russia’s conduct in Ukraine and condemned what she said were “atrocities of unimaginable proportions” carried out by Moscow’s forces.

“Absolutely there should be an investigation and we should all be watching and I have no question that the eyes of the world are on this war and what Russia has done in terms of this aggression and these atrocities,” she told reporters at a news conference during a visit to the Polish capital, Warsaw.

Russia calls its offensive in Ukraine a “special military operation” and claims the incursion is aimed at disarming its neighbour and removing leaders it considers dangerous.

Kyiv officials say there is heavy fighting in many directions around the Ukrainian capital

The Kyiv regional administration says there are several dangerous routes beyond the capital because of heavy fighting, including the main highway westward to Zhytomyr and the town of Makariv, which is on that route.

It also added that areas to the north remained among the most dangerous, including the suburbs of Bucha, Irpin and Hostomel, as well as the district of Vyshorod further north from the capital.

The administration highlighted fresh fighting in settlements around Brovary, which is across the Dnieper River, east from the capital.

“Evacuation through humanitarian corridors from Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel and Borodianka is planned today,” the administration said, after limited success in evacuating civilians from those areas Wednesday.

Separately, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko stated on Ukrainian television that “the key goal of the Russians is to capture Kyiv.”

“Their task from the first day of war is to surround Kyiv, to encircle it and then continue to attack, overthrow the government,” he added.

“Their plans are not being realized, thanks to our guys who are now in Bucha, Vorzel, Irpin, Hostomel, where fierce fighting is taking place. Our guys are thwarting all plans to surround Kyiv,” Klitschko said.

He also discussed refugees leaving the capital.

“Every second Kyiv resident has left the city, there are just a bit less than two million residents now in Kyiv,” he continued, adding, “now Kyiv has become a fortress, every street and every building.”

In apparent first, China’s foreign minister calls Ukraine conflict a ‘war’

China’s foreign minister has publicly described the situation in Ukraine as a “war” for what appears to be the first time, adding he hopes the conflict can be stopped as soon as possible.

“We hope to see fighting and the war stop as soon as possible,” state broadcaster CCTV quoted Wang Yi as saying in talks via video link with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Wang also called on all sides to take more actions to prevent escalation in Ukraine, CCTV reported.

Beijing has so far attempted to strike a delicate balancing act over Moscow’s incursion, refusing to condemn or condone Russia’s actions while signaling a willingness to mediate between Kyiv and Moscow.

Germany & France demand ceasefire in call with Putin

The leaders of Germany and France demanded an “immediate ceasefire” in Ukraine during a three-way phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, according to an Elysée Palace readout.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron also “insisted that any solution to the crisis must be negotiated between Russia and Ukraine,” said the Elysée.

The three leaders stated they would remain in close contact with each other over the next few days.

European Union leaders are meeting Thursday outside Paris to discuss the war in Ukraine.

Mariupol authorities accuse Russia of bombing evacuation corridor

Local authorities in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol say Russian forces have started dropping bombs on the “green corridor” designated to evacuate Mariupol residents.

“Right now, the air bombardment of Mariupol is underway,” said Petro Andryushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol.

Andryushchenko claimed that the airstrikes were being carried out in order to destroy road infrastructure and completely isolate the city.

There is no word from the Russian side on the Ukrainian claim.

Late Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that its forces had advanced in several districts around Mariupol.

Russian FM says West behaving dangerously over Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused Western powers of behaving dangerously over Ukraine by supplying the country with weapons, warning the moves will affect the region’s security for years to come.

Addressing reporters at a news conference following his talks with Dmytro Kuleba, Russia’s foreign minister also said Moscow’s offensive, which he described as a “special military operation”, was going according to plan.

“We are not planning to attack other countries and we did not attack Ukraine either, we were just dealing with the issues there,” Lavrov added.

Commenting on the possibility of holding negotiations at the presidential level, Lavrov stated Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will not meet Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky just for the sake of having a meeting.

Lavrov stated he doesn’t think that a nuclear war is possible. This topic, in his words, has been raised only by the West in the context of the ongoing developments in Ukraine.

Moscow hoped to settle issues of security in Europe by diplomatic means to the very last, the foreign minister noted.

NATO’s expansion has entailed an unprecedented growth of tensions in Europe, Lavrov added.

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 15

Ukraine FM says no agreement on ’24-hour ceasefire’

Ukraine’s foreign minister has said he raised the prospect of a 24-hour ceasefire during his talks with Sergey Lavrov, but the pair did not make progress on the issue.

“It seems there are other decision-makers for this matter in Russia,” Dmytro Kuleba told reporters at a news conference following the pair’s discussions.

He added the ceasefire was necessary to ”resolve the most pressing humanitarian issues” in Ukraine.

The foreign minister noted they did agree to continue efforts to “seek a solution to the humanitarian issues on the ground,” and added that he is ready to meet again “in this format if there are prospects for substantial discussion and seeking solutions.”

Kuleba reiterated that his country does not intend to meet Russian demands.

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 15

France: Ukraine likely to join European Union

French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said that Ukraine, among other Eastern European countries, will “probably” join the European Union “in a few years.”

“It is my deep conviction that there will be a European Union which will be in a few years, I don’t know when, in a few years, probably extended to Ukraine, to Moldova, to Georgia, perhaps to other countries,” Beaune told French broadcaster France Inter, speaking ahead of a meeting of EU leaders today and Friday in Versailles, outside Paris.

The admission of Ukraine to the EU though “is not for tomorrow,” he added.

US VP: Russia to ‘pay a price’ for Ukraine invasion

US Vice President Kamala Harris will discuss issues with Poland that will force Russia to pay a price for its invasion of Ukraine, she said on Thursday during a visit to Warsaw, as Moscow continues its bombardment of Ukrainian cities.

Harris also stated Poland was doing “extraordinary work” with the refugees who have fled Ukraine.

“EU has reached limit of its capabilities to impose financial sanctions on Russia”

The European Union has reached the limit of its capabilities to impose financial sections on Russia, the bloc’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said on Thursday.

“With regard to financial sanctions, of course, you can always go further, but we have already reached the limits of what we can do. We did everything we could”, Borrell told France Info in an interview.

The EU foreign policy chief added that the bloc must “avoid going to war with Russia because otherwise it would be the third world war”.

Regarding a possible ban on Russian gas and oil – a measure taken earlier by the United States – Borrell said that it would be much more difficult for the EU to do than for Washington.

“For the United States, it’s not too difficult because they consume almost no Russian oil,” he explained, adding, “Saying ‘I won’t do what I’m not already doing’ doesn’t have much merit”.

Washington plays down claims of UAE, Saudi Arabia declining US calls to discuss oil output increase

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has played down media reports about the heads of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia declining US requests to speak with President Joe Biden in recent weeks.

Kremlin says it will seek information from military about hospital bombing

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Moscow will seek information from the Russian military over its alleged bombing of a children’s hospital in Mariupol.

“We will certainly ask our military about this, since we don’t have clear information about what happened there. And the military are very likely to provide some information,” Peskov told reporters at a news briefing.

Peskov stated that anyone who attacks the Russian military will become a target. He stressed that attacks by Ukrainian paramilitary troops force Russian servicemen to return fire.

Peskov also recalled that Russian President Vladimir Putin had urged people in Ukraine to lay down their weapons, adding it will prevent possible clashes.

The warning from the Kremlin comes in response to steps by Kiev, as the Ukrainian government has handed out military weapons to civilians and freed violent criminals from jail.

Ukraine opening seven humanitarian corridors

Ukraine is opening seven humanitarian corridors through which civilians can evacuate cities besieged by Russian forces, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said.

Evacuees have already started leaving the northeastern city of Sumy under a local ceasefire, the regional governor added.

Russia accuses US of funding biological weapons research in Ukraine

Russia on Thursday accused the United States of funding research into the development of biological weapons in Ukraine, as Moscow stepped up its campaign to gain control of key Ukrainian cities.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a televised briefing that “the purpose of this – and other Pentagon-funded biological research in Ukraine – was to establish a mechanism for the stealthy spread of deadly pathogens.”

Konashenkov claimed the ministry had obtained documents detailing US military-biological activities in Ukraine, including on the transfer of Ukrainians’ biomaterial abroad.

He stated Washington “planned to carry out research on bird, bat and reptile pathogens”, as well as on African swine fever and anthrax.

“Biolaboratories set up and funded in Ukraine have been experimenting with bat coronavirus samples,” Konashenkov added.

Both Washington and Kyiv have denied the existence of laboratories intended to produce biological weapons in the country, which has faced a Russian assault by tens of thousands of troops since February 24.

Ukraine claims Russia switched tactics to targeting civilians

Russia has switched tactics to targeting civilians after its invasion on Ukraine slowed, an adviser to Ukraine’s presidential office stated on Thursday.

Ukraine has accused Russia of genocide after officials said Russia bombed a children’s hospital in the port city of Mariupol on Wednesday, a charge Moscow dismissed as “fake news”. Russia has also denied targeting civilians.

Adviser Oleksiy Arestovych also added Ukraine had enough troops to withstand Russian efforts to capture the capital Kyiv.

Kremlin admits Russian economy in ‘shock’ from unprecedented economic war

The Kremlin announced on Thursday that Russia’s economy was experiencing a shock and that measures were being taken to soften the impact of what it described as an “absolutely unprecedented” economic war being waged against Moscow.

The West has imposed sweeping sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

“Our economy is experiencing a shock impact now and there are negative consequences, they will be minimised,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

He described the situation as turbulent, but said that measures to calm and stabilise it were already being taken.

“This is absolutely unprecedented. The economic war that has started against our country has never taken place before. So it is very hard to forecast anything,” he added.

Britain freezes Roman Abramovich’s assets

Britain has frozen the assets of seven Russian businessmen including Roman Abramovich, IBgor Sechin, Oleg Deripaska and Dmitri Lebedev after they were added to the country’s sanctions list.

“There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson noted.

Lavrov and Kuleba begin talks in Turkey

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba have begun talks a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry has said.

“The meeting has started,” Maria Zakharova told reporters.

The discussion was being brokered by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 15 Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 15

UK says Russian commanders will be held to account for ‘war crimes’

Russian military commanders as well as people at the very top of the Russian government will be held to account for any war crimes in Ukraine, Britain’s armed forces minister said.

“Russian commanders need to remember that war crimes are not just committed by those at the very top of the Russian government,” James Heappey told Sky News.

“They are committed all the way down the chain of command by all who are involved and these atrocities are being watched, they’re being catalogued and people will be held to account,” Heappey added.

Ukraine to create state food reserve to feed entire country

Ukraine’s government will create a food reserve big enough to feed the country’s people and armed forces during the Russian invasion, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal has stated.

“The state will redeem grain and other stocks in the volumes of annual consumption by the whole country at the expense of the state budget,” Shmygal was quoted by the government press agency as saying.

“This will provide the country with enough food,” Shmygal added, without providing additional details.

Russia claims to have destroyed 2,900 military buildings in Ukraine

Russia has destroyed 2,911 Ukrainian military infrastructure facilities in Ukraine so far, Russia’s Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed.

He also stated that the Russian troops had taken control of a number of neighbourhoods in besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

NATO says alliance is not at war with Russia, wants to avoid escalation

NATO is not waging a war against Russia and wants to avoid escalation of situation in Ukraine, Assistance Secretary General Camille Grand said on Thursday.
“NATO is not at war with Russia and wants to avoid and manage the risks of escalation in this conflict. I think we need to help the Ukrainians wherever possible, but not let us be drawn into this conflict,” Grand told the BFMTV broadcaster.

The official also added that NATO calls on Russia to halt hostilities and withdraw its forces from Ukraine.

Two other hospitals bombed on Wednesday

Bombs reportedly fell on two other hospitals in another city west of Kyiv on the same day as an airstrike on a maternity hospital in the port city of Mariupol wounded women waiting to give birth and buried children in the rubble.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported Wednesday that it has confirmed 18 attacks on medical facilities since the Russian invasion began two weeks ago.

In Zhytomyr, a city of 260,000 to the west of Kyiv, bombs fell on two hospitals, one of them a children’s hospital, Mayor Serhii Sukhomlyn said on Facebook. He added there were no injuries.

Six-year old girl among three killed in bombing of Mariupol children’s hospital

At least three people, including a six year-old child, have been killed after Russia shelled a children’s hospital and maternity ward in Mariupol on Wednesday, the city’s deputy mayor has said.

Sergei Orlov added he “hopes and prays” for a ceasefire in the besieged city.

Officials had previously given a toll of 17 injured in the bombing.

Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has accused Russia of “genocide” calling the strike “beyond atrocity”.

He stated its a “crime that reflects all evil that the invaders have brought on us”.

Ukrainian leader signs law allowing civilians to use weapons during martial law

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has signed a law allowing the country’s civilians, foreign citizens and stateless persons to use small arms as part of its ‘national resistance’ to Russia, according to the parliament’s website.

Top Russia, Ukraine diplomats in Turkey for first talks

The foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine are set for face-to-face talks in Turkey in the first high-level contact between the two sides since Moscow invaded its ex-Soviet neighbour last month.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba landed in Antalya for negotiations “on Russia ceasing its hostilities and ending its war against Ukraine”, foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko tweeted.

His Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov was also in Turkey.

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 15

Russia will no longer participate in council of Europe

The Russian Foreign Ministry has announced that Moscow will no longer participate in Council of Europe sessions.

“Unfriendly to Russia, EU and NATO states, abusing their absolute majority in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE), continue destroying the Council as well as the common humanitarian and legal expanse in Europe”, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Referring to an “irreversible course of events”, the ministry made it clear that Russia does not want “to put up with these subversive actions carried out by the collective West in line with the imposition of a ‘rules-based order’ to replace international law trampled by the United States and its satellites”.

According to the statement, Moscow will not participate in NATO and EU turning “the oldest European organisation into another platform for mantras about Western superiority and narcissism”.

“Let them enjoy communicating with each other, without Russia”, the ministry added.

Zelensky believes Putin will soon ‘negotiate’

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin will eventually enter negotiations and end the invasion, after seeing Russian forces encounter fierce resistance from Ukrainians.

“I think he will. I think he sees that we are strong,” Zelenskyy said in an interview with Vice from Kyiv, adding, “We need some time”.

“How to stop this war? Only dialogue,” he stated.

When asked what his message to Putin would be, Zelenskyy noted “Stop the war. Begin to speak. That’s it.”

UK Defence Ministry claims Russian column outside Kyiv makes little progress

The United Kingdom’s defence ministry has said that the large Russian column northwest of Kyiv has made little progress in over a week and is suffering continued losses.

As casualties mount, President Vladimir Putin will be forced to draw from across Russian armed forces and other sources to replace the losses, the UK ministry announced in a statement.

There has also been a notable decrease in overall Russian air activity over Ukraine in recent days, it added.

US speeds licensing for gun, ammunition shipments to Ukraine

The US is rapidly processing requests from Americans to export firearms and ammunition to Ukraine, the US commerce department has said.

The department announced it had imposed export controls on Russia to “degrade its ability to sustain military aggression” and Americans should check agency regulations to see if a licence was needed to ship specific firearms to Ukraine.

“The department has been processing requests rapidly for the export of firearms and ammunition to Ukraine under its existing processes and authorities,” a department spokesperson added.

Americans are donating thousands of sets of body armour and millions of rounds of ammunition in response to Ukraine’s pleas for military support.

Top US, Ukraine diplomats discuss additional aid for Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, in a phone call, discussed additional security and humanitarian support for Ukraine, the State Department has said.

Blinken and Kuleba also discussed Russia’s “unconscionable attacks harming population centers,” the statement added.

For his part, Kuleba stated his call with Blinken was “on further steps to strengthen Ukraine’s defence capabilities”.

UNICEF says at least 37 children killed in Ukraine

At least 37 children have been killed and 50 injured “in less than two weeks”, UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell has said, adding that more than one million children were forced to flee.

“Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure – including hospitals, water and sanitation systems and schools – are unconscionable and must stop immediately,” Russell said in a statement.

“The children of Ukraine desperately need peace,” Russell added.

World Bank warns war-related inflation may drive protests and riots

Soaring energy and food prices triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could exacerbate existing food security concerns in the Middle East and Africa, and may fuel growing social unrest, World Bank chief economist Carmen Reinhart has said.

“There will be important ramifications for the Middle East, for Africa, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, in particular,” which had already been experiencing food insecurity, Reinhart told Reuters news agency.

“I don’t want to be melodramatic, but it’s not a far stretch that food insecurity and riots were part of the story behind the Arab Spring,” she continued, adding that successful and unsuccessful coups had increased over the past two years.

IMF approves $1.4bn emergency funding for Ukraine

The International Monetary Fund announced its executive board approved $1.4 billion (about £1bn) in emergency financing for Ukraine to help meet urgent spending needs and mitigate the economic impact of Russia’s military invasion.

The global lender said Ukrainian authorities had canceled an existing standby lending arrangement with the IMF, but would work with the fund to design an appropriate economic program focused on rehabilitation and growth.

Russian inflation strikes six-year high

Consumer price inflation in Russia, which has been accelerating for months, hit a six-year high in February, Russia’s national statistics agency announced.

The 9.15 percent annual inflation rate recorded last month by Rosstat was also the first time it has exceeded nine percent since January 2016.

Food prices were up nearly 11.5 percent on an annual basis.

The inflation rate is more than double the four percent target of the Russian central bank and the data does not yet include the effect of Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over Ukraine.

High inflation has already hit the purchasing power of Russians, who have little savings, and proved a headache for the authorities in recent months.

Western sanctions are likely to drive up prices for many goods even higher, especially as the Russian ruble has lost around 40 percent of its value since the start of the year, making any goods that Russia manages to import even more expensive for consumers.

Bodies buried in mass grave as Mariupol endures unrelenting Russian assault

Disturbing photos show bodies being lowered into a mass grave in the besieged city of Mariupol, southern Ukraine on Wednesday.

The images from the Associated Press show men, some dressed in overalls or blue protective suits, placing bodies into a trench.

In some photos, the corpses are in body bags, but others are wrapped only in what appear to be blankets.

The city has been under attack for days, bombarded and isolated by Russian forces.

At least 1,300 civilians have been killed in Mariupol since the Russian invasion began, an adviser to the city’s mayor has claimed.

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 15

US: Ukrainian air defenses denying Russians access to airspace

Ukrainian air defenses are largely denying the Russian military access to Ukrainian airspace, a US official has claimed, but cautioned Russia’s superior combat power still has the capability to overwhelm the country’s defenses.

Russia’s air force is largely avoiding Ukrainian airspace because of an array of anti-aircraft systems that have denied Russia air superiority, according to the US official.

Russia is flying 150-200 sorties per day, but they’re virtually all over Russian territory, the official stated. Russian pilots have not ventured far into Ukrainian airspace because of the effective use of surface-to-air missiles, including portable Stingers provided by the US and larger systems.

Although some Russian aircraft have entered Ukrainian airspace quickly for an attack, they don’t loiter or provide significant cover for Russian ground forces.

Ukrainian air defenses have denied Russia the freedom to maneuver in the skies, underscoring what Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said earlier Wednesday about the “limited” effectiveness of Russian air operations.

In addition, Ukraine has operational jets, but they are not flying a significant number of combat missions, the official added. The air defense is coming primarily from their anti-aircraft systems, which is why it’s more effective to provide Ukraine with the weapons that have proven most problematic for the Russians: anti-armor missiles and anti-aircraft missiles.

Russia has lost approximately 20-25 helicopters and 15-20 other aircraft, the official noted, while also losing hundreds of vehicles, including tanks and armored equipment.

US claims about 6,000 Russian troops may have been killed in Ukraine

Russia has potentially suffered 6,000 troops killed in action since its invasion of Ukraine began, according to a US official, who cautioned that an accurate estimate of combat casualties is incredibly difficult to make — especially as the fighting unfolds in real time.

The official said the number of Russian troops killed could be in the 5,000 to 6,000 range or even higher, but emphasized there is low confidence in the numbers.

The latest assessment comes after the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier told the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday the intelligence community assesses that 2,000 to 4,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine.

Berrier also added there is “low confidence” in the assessment.

The number of wounded could be three times as high, he continued.

White House dismisses Russia’s claims of US involvement in biological warfare labs

The White House has stated Russia’s claims about alleged US involvement in biological weapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine were false.

“We took note of Russia’s false claims about alleged US biological weapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a series of tweets.

She added Russia could possibly be laying the groundwork for the use of chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine “or to create a false flag operation using them” but did not offer evidence.

Moscow: Washington concerned of disclosed truth about biological program near Russian borders

The US Administration shows by its statements that they are highly concerned of disclosed truth about their military biological program near Russian borders, Russian Ambassador in Washington Anatoly Antonov said in response to mass media questions.

“Such nervous statements by the US authorities indicate the serious concern of The White House about the revelation of the truth about the ongoing work on the military biological program near the borders of the Russian Federation funded by the USA,” the Ambassador stated, cited by the Embassy’s press service in Facebook.

“We call on the United States to immediately wrap up illegal work in the field of military biology, including on the territory of the post-Soviet space,” the Ambassador noted.

“Moreover, it is time for Washington to accelerate the destruction of national chemical weapons stockpiles,” Antonov continued, adding, “I would like to remind that the United States is still the only state party to CWC, which has not yet fulfilled its international obligations,” the Russian diplomat added.

Moscow: UN spread wrong information about Mariupol hospital

The UN disseminated wrong information about the ‘attack’ against a hospital in Ukraine’s Mariupol turned into a military installation by local radicals, First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN Dmitry Polyansky tweeted.

“That’s how Fakenews is born. We warned in our statement back on 7 March that this hospital has been turned into a military object by radicals. Very disturbing that UN spreads this information without verification,” Polyansky wrote.

“Today’s attack on a hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, where maternity & children’s wards are located, is horrific,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted earlier.

Russia claims Ukrainian nationalists attempted to cut power to Chernobyl

The Russian Ministry of Defense on Wednesday accused “Ukrainian nationalist forces” of committing an “extremely dangerous provocation” by attacking a substation and power lines which provide the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant with electricity.

Earlier, Ukrainian authorities claimed that the power cut was Russia’s fault, and could put “Europe in danger.”

“At the moment the Ukrainian side is doing everything possible to avoid the organization of repair and restoration work. In our opinion, this once again confirms the absolutely deliberate and provocative character of the actions of the nationalists,” Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov stated during a special briefing.

Pankov noted that Russian specialists have ensured that the plant will be powered by backup diesel generators, while Russian Deputy Minister of Energy Pavel Sorokin indicated that the plant could be hooked up to the Belarusian energy grid to ensure power on a permanent basis.

“We would like to emphasize and warn that any disruption of the work of compressor stations, or provocations against them, is the responsibility of Ukrainian authorities. This is their contractual obligation, it is the responsibility of the Ukrainian side,” Sorokin continued.

Russian troops took control of the Chernobyl plant within hours of entering Ukraine, two weeks ago, though sporadic fighting has been reported in the days since.

Russia notifies OPCW of Ukraine’s plans to stage provocation at Kharkov’s nuclear reactor

Alexander Shulgin, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), informed the organization about Ukraine’s plans to arrange a provocation at an experimental nuclear reactor in Kharkov.

US Commerce Secretary says “there’s no expiration date” on sanctions against Russia

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said the export controls that have been leveled against Russia by the United States and its allies in response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine have “no expiration date.”

“We’re in it for the long haul and our allies are in it for the long haul,” Raimondo told CNN, adding that the Joe Biden administration is prepared to stick with the measures designed to inflict economic pain on Russia for “as long as it takes.”

“There’s no expiration date,” Raimondo continued, adding, “We’re in it to win it and our allies are too.”

The comments, coming from a member of Biden’s Cabinet, is yet another indication that the administration is bracing for a potentially prolonged and protracted conflict in Europe that has already roiled financial markets and that the White House has assessed would hurt American consumers’ wallets.

“This is going to be messy and probably extremely long term,” Raimondo predicted about the crisis.

Raimondo also warned that any country that does not abide by US restrictions on exporting to Russia would pay a heavy price — including China. She said her administration was prepared, for example, to cut China off from American or European equipment and software that are necessary to make semiconductors.

“We’re going to prosecute any company, wherever they are, in China or elsewhere, who violates the rules,” she stated, noting, “So our expectation is that China won’t violate the rules, and if they do, there will be consequences.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said the administration had observed China “largely [abiding] by the sanctions that have been put in place.”

“I would note, though, that if any country tries to evade or work around our economic measures, they will experience the consequences of those actions,” Psaki added.

Johnson vows to impose “maximum economic cost” on Russia in call with Zelensky

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to tighten sanctions and “impose the maximum economic cost on Russia” during a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday.

According to a Downing Street spokesperson, Johnson told Zelensky of “the work the UK is doing to provide the military equipment Ukraine needed to defend itself.”

Ukrainian president says Mariupol maternity hospital strike is “proof” of a “genocide of Ukrainians”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol is “proof of a genocide of Ukrainians taking place” in a video message posted to Telegram late Wednesday night.

“The hospitals are ruined, the schools are ruined, the churches are ruined, ordinary buildings and all the dead people, dead children, he stated, adding, “a strike on a maternity hospital is a final proof, proof of a genocide of Ukrainians taking place.”

Zelensky called on Europeans to condemn the “Russian war crime” saying, “Europeans! Ukrainians! Citizens of Mariupol! Today we have to be united in condemning this Russian war crime in which is reflected all the evil that Russian occupants brought to our land.”

The Ukrainian president addressed Europeans and called on them to ramp up sanctions on Russia.

“Europeans you won’t be able to say you haven’t seen what was going on to the Ukrainians, what was going on in Mariupol, to the residents of Mariupol, you have seen it and you know what’s going on so you have to strengthen sanctions against Russia in a manner that leaves it no more chance to continue this genocide,” he added.

US House passes bill banning Russian oil imports, authorizing sanctions

The House passed legislation on Wednesday to ban imports of Russian oil and authorize further sanctions, following a similar executive order from President Joe Biden

Lawmakers passed the bill on a bipartisan basis, 414-17. Only 15 Republicans and two Democrats voted against the bill.

US House passes government funding bill with $13.6 billion in Ukraine aid

The US House of Representatives voted late Wednesday night to pass a massive government funding bill that includes $13.6 billion in desperately needed aid for Ukraine as the country fights back against Russia’s deadly invasion.

Congress is racing against the clock ahead of a Friday deadline when government funding is set to expire — but a shutdown is not expected.

That’s in part because many lawmakers are anxious to demonstrate support for Ukraine amid Russia’s unprovoked assault on the country.

As part of the effort to prevent a shutdown, the House also passed a stopgap bill to extend government funding through Tuesday.

White House warns Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine

The White House warned that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine or manufacture a “false flag” operation that uses them.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, slamming what she called false claims from Russia that the US is developing chemical weapons in Ukraine, tweeted:

“Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them. It’s a clear pattern.”

Psaki also noted Russia’s “long and well-documented track record of using chemical weapons” as well as its pattern of “accusing the West of the very violations that Russia itself is perpetrating.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned earlier this year of the possibility of Russia carrying out a fake or real chemical weapons attack as a manufactured pretext for an invasion into Ukraine. But his comments came before Russia’s full invasion began.

Mariupol mayor asks for help & calls for no-fly zone after maternity hospital bombing

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko called on the global community for help and called on them to “close the sky over Ukraine” following the bombing of a maternity hospital in the city.

“Today I am asking the global community for help. Close the sky over Ukraine. Our will has not been broken, we will fight to the end,” Boichenko said, noting, “We have motivated soldiers and officers who defend our homeland. But today we need support.”

The mayor added he is sure the time will come when “all these occupiers will face justice at The Hague” and said this “war crime will be punished, and the perpetrators will burn in hell.”

What happened at the children’s hospital is pure evil,” Boichenko stated.

But Russia claims Ukraine was establishing combat positions at the hospital.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked why a maternity hospital was a “threat” to Russia.

“Russian bombs fell on a hospital and maternity center in Mariupol. A children’s hospital, a working maternity hospital, those buildings are ruined!” the president stated.

“Children`s hospital? Maternity ward? Why were they a threat to Russian Federation? What kind of country is the Russian Federation that is afraid of hospitals, afraid of maternity wards and destroys them?” he asked.

In pictures: Maternity hospital bombed in Ukraine

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 15 Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 15

Zelensky calls Putin’s nuclear threats a “bluff”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to resort to nuclear weapons a “bluff.”

“I think that the threat of nuclear war is a bluff. It’s one thing to be a murderer. It’s another to commit suicide,” Zelensky said in an interview with prominent German newspaper Die Zeit.

Zelensky went on to say that Putin’s nuclear threat “shows a weakness.”

You only threaten the use of nuclear weapons when nothing else is working,” Zelensky stated, adding, “Every use of nuclear weapons means the end for all sides, not just for the person using them.”

White House points to “serious logistical bottleneck” with plans to send jets to Ukraine

The White House suggested that there are “clearly logistical challenges” with a proposal from Poland to provide Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine.

“Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman Mark Milley and members of our defense department are in touch with Ukrainian counterparts, NATO counterparts, discussing what are clearly logistical challenges here,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated while offering a status update Wednesday amid uncertainty over how and if to proceed with plans to send jets to Ukraine.

She pointed to a statement from Pentagon press secretary John Kirby Tuesday, saying the Pentagon did not believe Polish proposal was “tenable.”

New satellite images show homes, buildings, grocery stores & shopping malls destroyed in Mariupol

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 15

IAEA chief to take part in Russia-Ukraine meeting in Turkey

Rafael Grossi, director-general of the UN nuclear watchdog group the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), will fly on Thursday to the Turkish city of Antalya, where the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine plan to meet.

“In meetings there I hope to make progress on the urgent issue of ensuring the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. We need to act now!” Grossi wrote on Twitter.

Russia has seized a nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia and radioactive waste facilities near the defunct nuclear power plant at Chernobyl.

Ukrainian staff are still operating both, but in conditions Grossi has stated put the facilities’ safety at risk. The watchdog announced monitoring systems in both sites have stopped transmitting data to its headquarters.

Pentagon: US does not support transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine

The US does not support the transfer of combat aircraft to Ukraine, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said Wednesday.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told the Polish Minister of Defense that Washington does not support the transfer of MiG-29s to the Ukrainian air force “at this time,” either by Poland transferring them to Ukraine with the US backfilling Poland’s fleet or by Poland transferring the MiG-29s to the US to then give those to Poland.

“He stressed that we do not support the transfer of additional fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian air force at this time, and therefore have no desire to see them in our custody either,” Kirby added.

US secretary of defense: Russian aggression has “already killed and injured innocent people” in Ukraine

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Vladimir Putin’s “unprovoked invasion of Ukraine” has “already killed and injured innocent people” and forced more than 1.5 million people to “flee their country.”

Austin was speaking ahead of a bilateral meeting with Finland’s Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen at the Pentagon on Wednesday. Austin also thanked Finland for sending aid to Ukraine amid the crisis.

“Your government’s decision to send assistance will certainly help the brave people of Ukraine, and I know that they are grateful for it,” Austin added.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general calls for special tribunal on war crimes in Ukraine

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova has called for a “new model” of investigative efforts to tackle alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Venediktova thanked 39 countries that reportedly joined Ukraine’s appeal to the International Court of Justice against Russia.

Venediktova also called for a special tribunal to be created for the “unprecedented” crisis in Ukraine.

UN: No evidence of weapons of mass destruction produced in Ukraine

The United Nations has seen no evidence of weapons of mass destruction allegedly produced in Ukraine, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric stated.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is “unaware of any activity on the part of the Ukrainian government, which is inconsistent with its international treaty obligations, including on chemical weapons or by biological weapons.”

The UN statement follows Russian allegations that Ukraine is developing nuclear or biological weapons.

Zhytomyr mayor says another air strike hit civilian building & thermal power plant

There has been another air strike in Zhytomyr, according to the city’s mayor Serhii Sukhomlyn.

This comes after Sukhomlyn said an apartment building and a major textile factory in Zhytomyr were destroyed by Russian military strikes on Tuesday night. There was also a Russian military strike that leveled a part of a Ukrainian tank factory outside of Zhytomyr on Saturday.

In Wednesday’s message, the mayor stated, “An air strike has just been made. Thermal power plant of Zhytomir has been hit and a civilian building.”

In the civilian building hit, the mayor added an elderly woman living there was hiding in the basement and came out alive with minor injuries, which she is being treated for at a hospital.

The mayor also noted all the windows were blown out at two hospitals including a children’s hospital but that there were no casualties and everyone was in a bomb shelter. Sukhomlyn added that he would write an appreciation letter to the doctors for “such a great job.”

So far, there are no casualties associated with the strike on the thermal power plant but the plant will “most likely” have to be shut down, according to the mayor. The plant powers a large portion of the city, he said, providing heat to 30% of Zhytomyr. Sukhomlyn noted officials will do their best to get it up and running again.

Sukhomlyn stated the city is shutting off its streetlights after the Ukrainian army advised officials to do so because the Russian air force “changed its strategy” with aircraft coming in “very low”.

“We are holding on. We’ve got a night ahead of us and we understand it can be very heated. Russians realize they are losing on all fronts. They don’t demand what they used to demand any more. We should survive and continue to hold on,” the mayor continued.

Ukraine evacuated 40,000 civilians in one day

Ukraine has evacuated more than 40,000 people in one day but has fallen short of the target of 100,000, one of the negotiators in the talks with Russia said.

David Arakhamia noted evacuations remained problematic around the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol.

Moscow has rejected accusations that it is breaching an agreed ceasefire to allow the evacuation of Ukrainian civilians.

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