Saturday, April 20, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 16

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.

City council say over 1,500 civilians in Mariupol killed by Russian shelling and blockade

At least 1,582 civilians in Ukraine’s southeastern city of Mariupol have been killed as a result of Russian shelling and a 12-day blockade, the city council said in an online statement today.

“We will never forget and will never forgive this crime against humanity,” it added.

Biden: ‘A direct confrontation between NATO and Russia is World War III’

UN Security Council meeting concludes

A UN Security Council emergency meeting, in which Russia accused Ukraine of having a biological weapons programme, has come to an end.

Russian ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, noted Moscow discovered an “emergency clean-up” of a US-backed military biological programme in Ukraine.

But representatives of the US, UK and Ukraine dismissed the Russian allegations as “conspiracy theories”.

Ukraine urges Belarus to stay out of war

Ukraine is showing restraint towards Belarus but will fight back if Belarusian soldiers join the Russian invasion, Ukraine’s top security official Oleksiy Danilov has said.

Danilov stated Ukraine was being careful in dealing with Belarus despite the country being used as a launchpad for Russian planes. If “one fighter crosses our border, we will fight back,” he added.

US slams Russia for using UNSC to spread disinformation

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, slammed Russia for using the UN Security Council to spread disinformation and legitimize its invasion of Ukraine.

She rejected Russia’s allegations that the US supported biological weapons programs in Ukraine as an outright lie. Instead, she stated, the US had “proudly and openly” supported Ukraine’s medical labs where disease pathogens were researched for public health.

Thomas-Greenfield stated a UN Security Council meeting called by Russia to discuss Moscow’s claims, presented without evidence, of US “biological activities” in Ukraine was a potential “false flag” effort in action.

UK: Russia targeting hospitals, schools in Ukraine

Barbara Woodward, the UK’s ambassador to the UN, has accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

“Russia is invading Ukraine in violation of international law. Russia is killing hundreds of civilians through indiscriminate shelling of Ukrainian cities,” she said on Friday.

“It is using cluster munitions and thermobaric rockets, weapons designed to inflict maximum damage wherever they are deployed. It is targeting hospitals and schools and committing war crimes,” she added.

Ukraine accuses Russia of deliberately targeting residential areas

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, has accused Russia of ‘deliberately’ targeting residential areas in the country.

“A map seized by the Ukrainian troops from Russian prisoners of war confirms that bombardments of residential areas had been planned in advance,” Kyslytsya told the Security Council.

“Captured Russian pilots at today’s press conference in Kyiv have reconfirmed that they deliberately dropped the bombs on residential areas,” Kyslytsya continued.

Kyslytsya has slammed Russia for convening the Security Council over allegations of biological weapons in Ukraine, which Washington, London and Kyiv have dismissed as false.

“I regret that the Security Council is being now manipulated by the Russian Federation to promote such an insane delirium,” Kyslytsya said, adding, “It is an utmost disregard by the Russian Federation [for] the members of [the] Security Council.”

US: Russian forces launched over 800 missiles since the invasion started

Russian forces have launched more than 800 missiles of “all stripes, wide varieties, and sizes” since the beginning of their invasion of Ukraine, a senior US defense official told reporters Friday.

About half of the missile launches have come from locations inside Ukraine, and about half have come from Russia and Belarus combined, the official added.

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 16

WH says there are “strong indications” Russia committing war crimes in Ukraine

The White House said Friday that there are “strong indications” that Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine, stopping short of a declaration, which legally requires an investigation before such an assessment can be made.

“We have all seen the devastating images coming out of Ukraine and are appalled by Russia’s brutal tactics. Pregnant women on stretchers, apartment buildings shelled, families killed while seeking safety from this terrible violence. We are also seeing reports of other types of potential abuses, including sexual and gender-based violence,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told reporters aboard Air Force One.

Bates continued, “These are disgusting attacks. Civilian casualties are increasing. If Russia is intentionally targeting civilians, that would be a war crime. And as we are all seeing on live television, evidence is mounting and we are documenting it as it takes place. There are strong indications that this is occurring and that the heinous way Russia is prosecuting this war will result in war crimes.”

The US, he added, supports the human rights activists, civil society, and independent media documenting, collecting and exposing evidence of possible war crimes, human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law.

The US will share that evidence with allies and partners and will “support accountability” with every tool available, “including prosecutions when appropriate,” Bates stated.

A third Russian general killed by Ukrainian forces

Western officials say a third Russian general has been killed by Ukrainian forces. He was identified as Major General Andriy Kolesnikov.

UN political chief stresses ‘urgent’ need for negotiations to stop war

The need for negotiations to stop the war in Ukraine “could not be more urgent,” UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo has told the UN Security Council, urging Russia and Ukraine to build on contacts like the meeting between their foreign ministers in Turkey on Thursday.

“We call for such efforts to intensify, including to further secure humanitarian and ceasefire arrangements as a matter of priority,” DiCarlo said, adding, “The logic of dialogue and diplomacy must prevail over the logic of war.”

UN: Not aware of any ‘biological weapons program’ in Ukraine

The United Nations is not aware of any ‘biological weapons program’ in Ukraine, the UN disarmament chief told a Security Council meeting, but warned that the possibility of an accident at Ukraine nuclear power plants was ‘growing by the day’.

Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting requested by Russia, to discuss Moscow’s claims, presented without evidence, of US “biological activities”, Izumi Nakamitsu noetd situations like the war in Ukraine required strengthening of the international ban on biological weapons.

ICC: Online portal to gather war crime evidence

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has opened an online portal to gather evidence of war crimes in Ukraine, as he renewed his call to combatants to abide by the laws of war.

Prosecutor Karim Khan stated in a written statement that he is “closely following the deeply troubling developments in hostilities”.

There have been reports in recent days of Russian strikes on civilian infrastructure in Ukrainian towns and cities, including the deadly strike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol earlier this week.

EU: Fourth round of sanctions coming

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

The EU is to “come forward with a fourth package of sanctions,” von der Leyen said at a press conference at an informal EU leaders’ summit in Versailles.

Biden calls for an end to Russia’s ‘most favored nation’ trade status

President Joe Biden on Friday called for the US to revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” status, which would downgrade Russia as a trading partner and open the door to damaging new tariffs on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

Biden said the G7 is adding sanctions to more Russian oligarchs and their families as the invasion of Ukraine continues.

The president stressed the move would hold Russian President Vladimir Putin “even more accountable for his aggression against Ukraine.”

“Putin is the aggressor. And Putin must pay the price,” Biden continued.

He warned that Russia will pay a “severe price” if the country uses chemical weapons in Ukraine.

Zelensky: If Russia continues shelling campaign, then current sanctions “need to be stronger”

If Russia continues its shelling campaign in Ukraine, then the sanctions that have been imposed are “not enough,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday.

In a video address from the streets of Kyiv, Zelensky stated European Union sanctions against Russia “need to be stronger.”

Referring to Thursday’s meeting of EU leaders in Versailles, Zelensky noted Ukraine knows the leaders “who supported us” and those “who kept silent … and tried to water down the wording to make it insufficient for Ukraine, for Europe and for our joint freedom.”

“The European Union must do more for us, for Ukraine and for itself. We are waiting for it,” he added.

Ukraine has organized 12 new evacuation corridors, Zelensky said. He added that cargo with food and medication is on the way to the cities and towns of Izyum, Enerhodar, Volnovakha, Polohy, Bucha, Hostomel, Borodyanka, Andriivka, Mykulychi Makariv, Kozarovychi and Mariupol.

EU Council head says energy plan needed for next winter 

European Council President Charles Michel said on that the European Union needs an energy plan for next winter after the EU Commission announced a plan by mid-March to phase out Russian fossil fuels by 2027.

“We want to release ourselves from dependency so we can act as best we can, in line with our European interests … and obviously for next winter we need a particular plan,” Michel added after a meeting of EU leaders at the Palace of Versailles.

EU plans to present proposals by mid-May on eliminating dependency on Russian energy by 2027

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated on Friday that the European Union plans to present proposals by mid-May on eliminating its dependency on Russian energy by 2027.

“By mid-May, we will come up with a proposal to phase out our dependency on Russian gas, oil and coal by 2027, backed by the necessary national and European resources,” said von der Leyen, speaking alongside EU Council President Charles Michel and French President Emmanuel Macron following the EU leaders’ summit on Ukraine in Versailles, France.

Von der Leyen also added that by the end of March, the commission will present “options to limit the contagion effect of the rise of gas prices to electricity prices,” and that the EU plans to set up a task force that will design a refilling plan for the next winter.

“The European Union needs to define a longer-term EU gas storage policy, and therefore the commission will table a proposal to fill up underground gas storage to at least 90% by the first of October each year,” she said.

“This will be our insurance policy against supply disruption,” she added.

Earlier this week, the EU announced it will cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds this year and eliminate its overall need for Russian oil and gas “well before 2030.”

Kyiv claims Russian aircraft fired at Belarus from Ukrainian airspace

Ukraine’s air force has claimed Russian aircraft fired at a Belarusian settlement near the border with Ukraine from Ukrainian airspace to try to drag Minsk into the war.

“This is a PROVOCATION! The goal is to involve the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus in the war with Ukraine!,” Ukraine’s Air Force Command announced in a statement.

US VP: Putin uninterested in “serious diplomacy”

US Vice President Kamala Harris said Vladimir Putin isn’t interested in “serious diplomacy.”

Speaking in Romania, Harris stated the United States is committed to finding a diplomatic solution. But she didn’t sound optimistic that Moscow was currently seeking one.

“From the beginning, the United States has been attempting sincerely to engage in diplomacy,” she added.

“From everything that we know and have witnessed, Putin shows no sign of engaging in serious diplomacy,” she continued.

She said Russia was engaging in “lies” and “misinformation,” a playbook she said the US had long identified. She added that as efforts for diplomacy proceed, Russia should be held accountable for its actions.

“We maintain that diplomacy is the way to resolve these issues,” she said, adding that should “coexist with our commitment to ensure that our alliances are strong, and that there must be serious consequence and accountability for what Russia is doing.”

Macron: EU is ready to impose new sanctions against Russia, all options on table

The European Union is ready to introduce new sanctions against Russia, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday.

“We are ready to adopt new sanctions, all options are on the table,” Macron stated at a press conference following a summit of the EU leadership at Versailles.

US, G7 allies may strip Russia of ‘most favored nation’ status

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

Russia opens criminal investigation of Meta over death calls on Facebook

Russia opened a criminal case against Facebook’s parent Meta Platforms on Friday and moved to designate it as an “extremist organisation” after the social network changed its hate speech rules to allow users to call for violence against Russians in the context of the war with Ukraine.

Ukraine’s nuclear body: Chernobyl plant still without external power supply

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

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

“Attempts to restore the external power supply to the site are in progress,” the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine said in a statement.

When the external electricity supply is severed, an emergency diesel generator kicks in.

Ukraine warns Russia planning ‘terror attack’ by releasing radioactive waste from Chernobyl

Ukraine has warned that Vladimir Putin is planning to carry out a “terrorist attack” by releasing radioactive waste from Chernobyl.

The country’s Military Intelligence Directorate cited evidence that Russian forces are laying the groundwork to blame Kyiv for a nuclear leak.

It said troops have been seen collecting the bodies of dead Ukrainian servicemen to plant at the scene. Russian forces have been in charge of the disused power plant since capturing it in the first few days of the war.

Ukrainian officials say the occupiers have refused access to the facility’s repairmen.

They’ve warned there is now just 48 hours worth of diesel left with which to power its emergency generators.

Ukrainian presidential adviser: Russian forces have stalled

Russian armed forces have made no progress in Ukraine in the last 24 hours, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych says.

“Our opponent has been halted in practically every direction by air strikes, rocket fire and ground attacks,” Arestovych told a news briefing.

Ukraine’s armed forces had staged counter-attacks near Kyiv and Kharkiv, he added.

Mayor warns Russia could surround Odesa on three sides

The mayor of Odesa has warned Russian forces could soon surround the Ukrainian port city, located in the country’s southwest, on three fronts.

Gennadiy Trukhanov suggested Moscow’s forces would seek to advance from territories they have occupied in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv region towards Moldova’s separatist-controlled Transdniestria region, where Russian troops are based.

Such a move could cut Odesa, which sits on the Black Sea, off from the rest of Ukraine.

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

Kyiv mayor estimates two million remain in the capital, says supply lines open

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has said he believes there are nearly two million people still left in the Ukrainian capital.

Klitschko told the Reuters news agency that the city, normally home to some 3.5 million people, had enough vital supplies to last a couple of weeks and that supply lines remained open for now.

His brother Wladimir, who was also speaking to Reuters as part of a joint interview, added that some people who had fled Kyiv after Moscow launched its offensive were now returning to take part in the city’s defence as concerns mount over a possible large-scale assault by Russian forces.

EU leaders rule on fast-tracked membership for Ukraine

The EU has condemned the Russian offensive and pledged its support to Ukraine on its path to European Union membership, but stopped short of fast-tracking its application to join the bloc.

Kiev submitted its EU application in late February, with President Volodymyr Zelensky asking Brussels to accelerate its assessment of the bid in view of the ongoing fighting in his country.

The bloc’s leaders debated the issue for hours on the first day of the European Council summit, convened at the Palace of Versailles, outside Paris, issuing a joint statement late on Friday.

UN “gravely concerned” as Ukraine death toll rises

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced Friday it remains “gravely concerned by the rising death toll and human suffering in Ukraine” and called “for an immediate end to the attacks.”

“Civilians are being killed and maimed in what appear to be indiscriminate attacks, with Russian forces using explosive weapons with wide area effects in or near populated areas. These include missiles, heavy artillery shells and rockets, as well as airstrikes,” spokesperson Liz Throssell stated in a statement.

The OHCHR said it had recorded 549 civilian deaths and 957 injuries since the invasion began, “although the actual figure could be much higher.”

Schools, hospitals, and kindergartens have been hit – with hugely devastating consequences,” Throssell added.

Ukraine claims 78 children killed since Russia invaded

At least 78 children have been killed in Ukraine amid Russia’s offensive, Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman has claimed.

Canada imposes sanctions against Russian Defence Ministry

Canada has imposed sanctions against the Russian Defence Ministry over Moscow’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine.

The move is part of Canada’s efforts to sanction five Russian individuals, including Ella Pamfilova, the chairwoman of the Russian Central Election Commission, and billionaire Roman Abramovich, as well as 32 Russian military organisations.

The sanctions stipulate these companies and government entities being banned from receiving any defence equipment or supplies from Canada.

Aside from the Russian Defence Ministry, sanctions were imposed on Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, as well as such companies as Rosoboronexport, the Kazan Helicopter Plant, the aircraft building corporation Irkut, and the Russian Helicopters holding.

The Canadian government announced in a statement that Ottawa is banning imports of oil products from Russia under the sanctions.

Zelensky says Ukraine is on course for victory

President Volodymyr Zelensky says Ukraine has reached a strategic turning point in its war with Russia and will overcome Moscow’s offensive, but cautioned that it was not possible to say how long fighting would continue.

“It is impossible to say how many days we still have to free Ukrainian land. But we can say we will do it. For we have already reached a strategic turning point,” he said in a televised address.

UK slaps hundreds of Russian lawmakers with sanctions

Britain has added 386 Russian lawmakers to a raft of sanctions it has imposed on Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Under the measures, politicians who supported Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine face travel bans and asset freezes, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement Friday.

The lawmakers are members of Russia’s Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, which recognized the independence of the eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk regions and authorized the permanent presence of Russian military there, “acting as a pretext for Russia’s invasion.”

“We’re targeting those complicit in Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and those who support this barbaric war,” Truss stated, adding, “We will not let up the pressure and will continue to tighten the screw on the Russian economy through sanctions.”

Britain has now sanctioned 800 of Russia’s most “significant and high-value individuals, entities and subsidiaries,” including banks, Putin’s inner circle and oligarchs, she continued.

Kharkiv mayor describes “merciless shelling” and freezing conditions

Civilians have been left with no heating in sub-zero temperatures amid relentless shelling and missile strikes, the mayor of Kharkiv said Friday.

Ihor Terekhov stated that for “all 16 days of war the Russian army has been mercilessly shelling Kharkiv with air strikes. But we are holding up and we will win.”

He added that a lot of apartment blocks have been destroyed and that heating systems cannot be restored in more than 400 houses.

Terekhov noted, “Severe frosts are coming so I’m calling on you, whose homes are left without heating due to shelling to please go into the metro stations, shelters, schools and kindergartens, that haven’t been destroyed yet.”

He said that 48 schools had been destroyed so far.

Separately, the State Emergency Service announced that a residential home for the disabled near Izium was hit by an airstrike. There were no casualties among the 30 staff and 300 patients, most of whom are elderly, it added.

Baltic countries rename addresses of Russian embassies to honor Ukraine

Authorities in the Lithuanian of capital Vilnius have renamed the section of road where the Russian embassy is located to “Ukrainian Heroes Street” in an act of support for the people of Ukraine.

Putin tells Lukashenko of ‘some positive developments’ in Ukraine talks

Talks between Ukraine and Russia have seen some “positive developments,” President Vladimir Putin told his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, on Friday. The two heads of state met in the Russian capital for bilateral talks.

Addressing his counterpart, Putin said that he would “definitely inform” him about the “situation around Ukraine, and, first and foremost, of how the negotiations are going now, that are being held almost daily.”

The Russian president added that “there are some positive developments, as our negotiators have told me.”

Navalny calls for anti-war protests across Russia on Sunday

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny has called for anti-war protests to be held in Russia’s capital, Moscow, and other cities across the country on Sunday.

“Mad maniac Vladimir Putin will most quickly be stopped by the people of Russia now if they oppose the war,” Navalny said in a message posted on his Instagram account.

“You need to go to anti-war rallies every weekend, even if it seems that everyone has either left or got scared…You are the backbone of the movement against war and death,” he added.

More than 13,900 people have been arrested for taking part in a string of anti-war demonstrations held in dozens of cities throughout Russia since it began its offensive, according to protest monitoring group OVD-Info.

Kremlin claims no real Russians ashamed of Ukraine conflict

Russians who say they are ashamed of the country’s “special military operation” in Ukraine are not real Russians, the Kremlin has said.

“A real Russian is never ashamed to be Russian,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a news briefing when asked about a slogan – ‘ashamed to be Russian’ – that emerged in the wake of Moscow’s incursion in Ukraine.

“If someone says such things then they are just not Russian,” Peskov added.

Russian DM: Everything is going to plan

Russia’s defense minister has said that its invasion of Ukraine is being carried out successfully, despite claims from Western leaders that Russia’s military has encountered unplanned obstacles and resistance.

“All is going according to the plan, we report to you here every day this week,” Sergei Shoigu told Russian President Vladimir Putin at a televised Security Council Meeting on Friday.

Shoigu also claimed that the Russian army has received over 16,000 applications from volunteers in the Middle East wanting to join the war in Ukraine.

The defense minister also asked Putin for more weapons to arm the separatist regions of Donbas; in particular, air defense systems, including MANPADS, along with light anti-tank missile launchers.

Shoigu continued, “We have accumulated a large number of Ukrainian weapons: tanks, armored vehicles and all types of small arms, quite a lot of artillery. In addition, there are many Javelin and Stinger complexes. It is also proposed to transfer this to the Luhansk and Donetsk republics, to the militia, so that they can more effectively carry out the defense of their republics.”

UN rights office has ‘credible reports’ of Russia using cluster munitions

The UN’s human rights office (OHCHR) says it has received “credible reports” of several cases of Russian forces using cluster munitions in populated areas in Ukraine, adding that indiscriminate use of such weapons might amount to war crimes.

“Due to their wide area effects, the use of cluster munitions in populated areas is incompatible with the international humanitarian law principles governing the conduct of hostilities,” OHCHR spokeswoman Liz Throssell told reporters at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva.

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

Kremlin warns Meta will have to cease work in Russia if Reuters report is true

Moscow will end the activities of Meta Platforms in Russia if a report that it will allow users of its social media sites in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers proves true, the Kremlin has said.

Citing leaked internal emails, the Reuters news agency reported on Thursday that Meta will allow Facebook and Instagram users in some countries to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion, signalling a temporary change to its hate speech policy.

“We don’t want to believe the Reuters report – it is just too difficult to believe,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“We hope it is not true because if it is true then it will mean that there will have to be the most decisive measures to end the activities of this company,” he added.

NATO chief: Turkey is informed alliance expects all members to impose sanctions against Russia

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has stated that Turkey has been informed that the alliance expects all members to impose sanctions on Russia amid Moscow’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine.

“Yes, we expect all our allies to impose the sanctions. This is how we can force Russia to pay the price. I also informed Mr [Mevlut] Cavusoglu about this. Turkey plays a key role here”, Stoltenberg noted referring to the Turkish foreign minister.

Establishing humanitarian corridors in Ukraine for evacuations and aid is the “bare minimum” to be done now, Stoltenberg said, adding it was important for the top Russian and Ukrainian diplomats to have met.

A no-fly zone over Ukraine “would most likely…escalate the war to a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia”, he stressed.

Stoltenberg also reiterated that NATO will not send troops or jets into Ukraine amid fears such a move could lead to a full-fledged war between the alliance’s 30 member states and Russia.

Regional governor: Izyum psychiatric hospital hit by Russian strike

Russian forces have struck a psychiatric hospital near the eastern Ukrainian town of Izyum, according to a regional official who described the alleged attack as a “war crime”.

Oleh Synegubov, the governor of the Kharkiv region, said 330 people had been at the hospital at the time of the attack. He added that 73 people had been evacuated and that the number of casualties was being established.

“This is a war crime against civilians,” Synegubov wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Moscow lashes out at Meta for okaying hate speech against Russians

Meta, the US-based tech conglomerate that runs Facebook and Instagram, greenlighting calls for violence against the Russian military testifies to the fact that an information war has been declared on Russia, the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington DC announced in a statement.

“We paid attention to the Reuters message about the permission of the Meta corporation to post calls for violence against the Russian leadership and our military personnel on Facebook and Instagram,” the diplomatic mission said.

“Meta’s aggressive and criminal policy leading to the incitement of hatred and hostility towards Russians is outrageous,” the embassy emphasized, “The company’s actions are yet another evidence of the information war without rules declared on our country. Media corporations have become soldiers of the propaganda machine of the Western establishment.”

“We demand that the US authorities stop the extremist activities of Meta and take measures to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the statement said, “Users of Facebook and Instagram did not give the owners of these Internet platforms the right to determine the criteria of truth and pit nations against each other,” the Russian Embassy added.

French military spokesperson: Russian army facing difficulties

The Russian army was poorly prepared for its invasion of Ukraine and is now facing many difficulties on the ground, “particularly in the logistical field and in the field of intelligence,” French armed forces spokesperson Pascal Ianni told French TV station France2 on Friday.

“It is possible that an attack on Kyiv will be carried out in the next few days, but actually taking control of Kyiv is a whole other matter and will take a long, long time,” he stated, pointing to the Russian army’s “reserve problem.”

The Russian army is also caught up in a premature spring,” he added, with the defrosting ground causing mobility issues for the military.

Kharkiv mayor says city under ‘non-stop bombardment’

The mayor of Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv says it is under “non-stop bombardment” from Russian forces.

Ihor Terekhov stated in a televised interview that at least 48 of Kharkiv’s schools had been destroyed amid the attacks.

Local official claims two Ukrainian servicemen killed in Lutsk airfield strike

Russian air raids on an airfield in Lutsk airfield killed two Ukrainian servicemen and wounded six other people, the head of the surrounding Volyn region, Yuriy Pohulyayko, has said.

Pohulyayko added on the Telegram messaging app that four rockets had been fired at the site by a Russian bomber at about 5:45am local time (03:45 GMT).

European Commission aims to double military aid for Ukraine

The European Union’s executive arm aims to double the bloc’s military aid to Ukraine and has proposed earmarking another 500 million euros ($550m) for this purpose, the EU’s foreign policy chief has said.

“Everybody was completely aware that we have to increase our military support to Ukraine,” Josep Borrell told reporters as he arrived for the second day of a meeting of EU leaders in Versailles, noting, “I am sure the leaders will approve this money.”

The EU is also considering imposing more sanctions on Russian oligarchs and the Russian economy, Borrell added.

DM: Ukraine civilian deaths higher than military losses

Ukraine’s defence minister said Russian forces have killed more Ukrainian civilians than soldiers.

“I want this to be heard not only in Kyiv but all over the world,” Oleksii Reznikov added.

UN: Over 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine

More than 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, according to the UN’s migration agency.

“The number of people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance is increasing by the hour,” the International Organization for Migration (IOM) tweeted.

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

Putin agrees to idea of sending volunteers to Ukraine

The Russian president stated that volunteers from who want to help Russia in Ukraine should be assisted in reaching the area of combat operations.

“If you see people who want – on a voluntary basis, especially not for money – to come and help people living in the Donbass – well, you need to cooperate with them and help them move to the war zone,” Vladimir Putin stated during a National Security Council meeting.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu noted that there is a vast number of people who want to help the DPR and LPR in the special operation – over 16,000, with many of them coming from the Middle East.

The president also approved an idea put forward by Shoigu, suggesting that western-made weapons seized in Ukraine should be transferred to the troops of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

Facebook & Instagram let users call for death to Russian soldiers over Ukraine

Facebook and Instagram users in some countries will be allowed to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers in the context of the Ukraine invasion, after parent company Meta made a temporary change to its hate speech policy.

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

Authorities say Ukraine trying to open new evacuation routes on Friday 

Ukraine is trying to open evacuation corridors in several regions on Friday, according to the country’s Minister of Reintegration Iryna Vereshchuk.

The planned routes include:

  • Mariupol-Zaporizhzhia
  • Volnovakha-Pokrovsk
  • Polohy-Zaporizhzhia
  • Enerhodar-Zaporizhzhia
  • Izium-Lozova

Routes from Mariupol and Volnovakha have been repeatedly blocked or inaccessible over the past week amid heavy fighting and shelling by Russian forces. There has been more success in evacuating people from Izium, which has seen widespread destruction.

These routes have not been agreed with Moscow, which announced different routes leading into Russia.

Vereshchuk stated further attempts would be made to allow people to escape fighting around Kyiv, with routes from the capital to destinations including Bucha, Hostomel, Kozarovychi and Mykulychi.

Routes were also announced near Zhytomyr, west of Kyiv, opening corridors to Andriyivka, Makariv, and Borodianka.

UN nuclear agency warns of ‘deteriorating’ conditions for staff at Chernobyl plant

The International Atomic Energy Agency has warned of what it calls “deteriorating and exhausting conditions” for staff at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine.

Russian troops have occupied the facility, north of Kyiv and near the border with Belarus, since the early days of the invasion last month.

Russia creating a ‘false narrative’ that Ukraine is preparing to use chemical weapons

Technology Minister Chris Philp has accused Russia of sharing disinformation online to create a “false narrative” that Ukraine is preparing to use chemical weapons, possibly as a pretext to Moscow launching a “barbaric” attack.

He told Sky News, “We have seen in the last 24 or 48 hours what appear to be bits of disinformation published by Russian state outlets, including in fact the Russian embassy here in London, putting on things like Twitter information that appear to be creating a false narrative that Ukrainians are considering using chemical weapons, which is clearly ridiculous and totally untrue.”

“Sometimes they do that in preparation but I hope that’s not what they’re contemplating, the use of chemical weapons in any theatre of war, certainly one where there are lots of civilians, is totally unacceptable,” he said.

“I’m not going to talk about intelligence but using chemical weapons in an area which has lots of civilians would be a barbaric thing to do and I would say to Vladimir Putin and the Russian regime not to cross that line, not do that to Ukrainian civilians,” he added.

Deputy economy minister: Ukraine suffered $119 billion in losses because of war

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused $119 billion in damages to Ukraine’s economy, the deputy economy minister Denys Kudin stated on Friday.

He said 75pc of enterprises in war-hit areas had stopped operating and most metallurgical enterprises in eastern Ukraine were not working.

“This means we will have fewer exports of metals,” he ntoed, adding that metals exportst accounted for a “significant share” of Ukraine’s overall exports.

Russian gas flows on key pipelines to Europe remain steady

Russia continued to send pipeline gas into Germany via Nord Stream 1 and Poland and into Slovakia via Ukraine at broadly unchanged levels, pipeline operator data has shown.

The pipeline usually accounts for about 15 percent of Russia’s supply of gas to Europe but had been operating in reverse mode at Mallnow from December 21, which helped drive up European gas prices.

Russia asks for UN Security Council meeting over Ukraine’s ‘biolabs’

Russia has called for a UN Security Council meeting to discuss purported US-backed biological weapons programs in Ukraine. Washington has denied that it owns or operates any such biolabs in the country, while Kiev insisted that the facilities were engaged only in civilian research.

Moscow’s deputy UN envoy Dmitry Polyanskiy announced the move early on Friday, stating the mission had requested a Security Council summit for March 11, while citing a Defense Ministry briefing claiming that the United States and NATO allies ran “military biological programs” in Ukraine.

Satellite images show suburbs of Kyiv sustained significant damage

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 16

Zelensky deputy: “We are ready to talk to Putin anytime he is ready”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is ready to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin directly — but “will not make any compromise to the Russian position during these negotiations,” his deputy told CNN.

Though talks between the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers, held Thursday in the Turkish city of Antalya, did not yield any major breakthrough, Ukraine hadn’t been too optimistic from the start, said Igor Zhovkva, Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.

“This is a really good thing that they met, but unfortunately we can say that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia is not the one making the final decision. The final decision to stop war, to make a ceasefire, to withdraw troops is made by one person only,” he added, apparently referring to Putin.

Zhovkva stated that though Zelensky was ready for a diplomatic solution, he has not heard from the Russian President personally or his aides.

“The last thing I heard from them was we have to still work under the format of two delegations … But, look, even the agreements reached during these negotiations are not held,” Zhovkva noted, pointing to humanitarian corridors in Ukraine that are “being kept in custody by Russian forces.”

Zhovkva said Ukraine was open to neutrality “if the NATO bloc is not ready for the time being to accept Ukraine.”

“But at the same time, we do need hard security guarantees for Ukraine so these awful wars, this awful aggression does not repeat in the future,” he added.

Zhovkva said Ukraine wanted to work with Putin and its neighbors to establish a system he called “the renewed security system of Europe.”

“My country, the Ukrainian people deserve to become a part of the European family…Ukraine is fighting for the security of all of Europe. So when (French) President (Emmanuel) Macron talks about possible European security, how can he talk without having President Zelensky at the table? Without having President Zelensky and Ukraine in the European Union?” Zhovkva added.

Several major cities in Ukraine are “under attack”

Major Ukrainian cities including Dnipro and Lutsk are being “subjected to devastating blows,” said Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to the head of the Ukrainian President’s office on Friday.

Explosions shut down two boiler houses in Lutsk, located in the far west near the Polish border, while three major explosions were reported in the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk, he wrote on Twitter.

“Dnipro is also under attack,” he continued, adding, “Russia’s destructive war against civilians and major cities continues.”

Lutsk mayor says at least 1 person killed in explosions

At least one person was killed by explosions in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk on Friday, the city’s mayor Ihor Polishchuk said on his official Facebook page.

“Today at approximately 5:45 there were three explosions. Three missiles hit our military airfield. There is one dead. Information about the injured is being clarified. The SES (State Emergency Service) is working on the spot,” he stated.

The city’s alert system “did not work at all,” and the “military administration and the military will work on this issue,” he added.

Emergency services: Air strikes in Ukraine’s Dnipro kill one

Three air raids in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro have killed at least one person, state emergency services have claimed, in what appeared to be the first direct attack on the city.

“There were three air strikes on the city, namely hitting a kindergarten, an apartment building and a two-story shoe factory, starting a fire. One person died,” the emergency services announced in a statement.

WHO says it advised Ukraine to destroy pathogens in health labs to prevent disease spread

The World Health Organization advised Ukraine to destroy high-threat pathogens housed in the country’s public health laboratories to prevent “any potential spills” that would spread disease among the population, the agency told Reuters news agency.

In response to questions from Reuters about its work with Ukraine ahead of and during Russia’s invasion, the WHO said in an email that it has collaborated with Ukrainian public health labs for several years to promote security practices that help prevent “accidental or deliberate release of pathogens”.

“As part of this work, WHO has strongly recommended to the Ministry of Health in Ukraine and other responsible bodies to destroy high-threat pathogens to prevent any potential spills,” the WHO, a UN agency, added.

Biden to call for an end of normal trade relations with Russia

US President Joe Biden on Friday will call for an end of normal trade relations with Russia and clear the way for increased tariffs on Russian imports, a source familiar with the situation has told Reuters news agency.

Russia to lose ‘most favoured nation status’ over Ukraine

The US, together with the Group of Seven nations and the EU, will move to revoke Russia’s “most favoured nation” status, multiple people familiar with the situation told Reuters.

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

Hungary PM says EU will not sanction Russian gas or oil

The EU will not impose sanctions on Russian gas or oil, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said in a video posted on his Facebook page, amid a summit of EU leaders in France.

“The most important issue for us has been settled in a favourable way: there won’t be sanctions that would apply to gas or oil, so Hungary’s energy supply is secure in the upcoming period,” Orban added.

Russia says military airfields in Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk taken out

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

The mayor of Ivano-Frankiivsk, Ruslan Martsinkiv, ordered residents in the neighbouring areas to head to shelters after an air raid alert. The mayor of Lutsk also announced an airstrike near the airport.

The strikes were far to the west from the main Russian offensive and could indicate a new direction of the war.

Air raid sirens west of Kyiv

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Kyiv, said air raid sirens have been going off from what it was believed to be the west of the capital.

“We did hear that early in the morning there were some strikes in the west of the city,” he added.

TASS: About 222,000 evacuated to Russia from Ukraine

About 222,000 people have been evacuated to Russia from Ukraine and its two Russian-backed rebel regions, the TASS news agency reported, citing an unidentified source.

RIA: Russian-backed separatists capture Ukraine’s Volnovakha

Russian-backed separatists have captured the Ukrainian city of  Volnovakha north of the besieged Azov Sea port of Mariupol, the RIA news agency has quoted Russia’s defence ministry as saying.

Volnovakha is strategically important as the northern gateway to Mariupol.

EU leaders agree to boost sanctions pressure on Russia & Belarus over situation in Ukraine

The leaders of EU member states have agreed to intensify the sanctions pressure on Russia and Belarus over the situation in Ukraine, a document adopted on the first day of the EU Summit in Versailles said.

“We are determined to increase even further our pressure on Russia and Belarus. We have adopted significant sanctions and remain ready to move quickly with further sanctions”, the document added.

They also expressed their willingness to assist in the restoration of Ukraine after the termination of Russia’s special military operation in the country.

IMF chief says Ukraine war to lower global growth forecast 

The war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia will force the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to lower its global growth forecast next month, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said.

Georgieva stated the unprecedented sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine had caused an abrupt contraction of the Russian economy and it faced a “deep recession” this year.

She added the IMF had no programme or policy relations with Russia at this point and its Moscow office was not operating. Fund member countries have condemned the war, but there is no discussion currently about ending Russia’s membership in the global lender.

Ukraine FM: Russia could be preparing ‘horrific false flag operation’

“The manic obsession with which various Russian officials fantasize about non-existent biological or chemical weapons or hazards in Ukraine is deeply troubling and may actually point at Russia preparing another horrific false flag operation. This tweet is for the record,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Ukraine claims Russia ‘bombs nuclear research facility’

Ukrainian authorities have claimed that Russian forces bombed a nuclear research facility on Thursday night.

The State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation of Ukraine, quoted by the Kyiv Independent, said the institute in Kharkiv is home to an experimental nuclear reactor.

According to officials, the facility suffered a hit to the exterior and the extent of damage is not yet known. No injuries or fatalities have been reported but it is understood there is a fire at the site.

Moscow: Only 4 out of 14 humanitarian corridors agreed by Ukrainian side

The Ukrainian side has agreed only four out of 14 humanitarian corridors suggested by Russia for March 10, Mikhail Mizintsev, chief of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, announced.

Russia claims all war crimes in Mariupol are being committed by nationalists

Nationalists trapped in Mariupol commit all war crimes in the city, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov told reporters.

“I underscore that all these and other war crimes in Mariupol are being committed by the punishers trapped in the city. We have warned repeatedly that, as the ring contracts, the number of provocations from the Nazis will keep growing. They have nowhere to run from there,” Konashenkov noted.

According to the spokesman, “it was these Azov battalion Nazis who had been exterminating civilian population in Donetsk and Lugansk republics, deliberately and with exceptional cruelty, for eight years”.

Zelensky hits back at Russian chemical weapons propaganda

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has hit back at widely discredited Russian disinformation suggesting Ukraine is preparing a chemical attack.

Zelensky stated no chemical weapon or weapons of mass destruction were developed in Ukraine, and Moscow’s accusations that Kyiv was developing biological weapons and preparing a chemical attack made him “really worried.”

“We’ve been repeatedly convinced: If you want to know Russia’s plans, look at what Russia accuses others of,” he said. “We are accused of attacks on allegedly peaceful Russia. And now what? … What else have you prepared for us? Where will you strike with chemical weapons?” Zelensky asked, addressing Russia.

US warns Russia is “gaslighting world” as UN Security Council discusses chemical weapons claims

The United Nations Security Council will hold a meeting Friday at the request of Russia about an allegation the United States is developing chemical weapons in Ukraine.

The US’ UN Mission spokeswoman Olivia Dalton said the move was “exactly the kind of false flag effort we have warned Russia might initiate to justify a biological or chemical weapons attack.”

“Russia has a well-documented history of using chemical weapons and has long maintained a biological weapons program in violation of international law. Russia also has a track record of falsely accusing the West of the very violations that Russia itself is perpetrating,” Dalton continued, adding, “We’re not going to let Russia get away with gaslighting the world or using the UN Security Council as a venue for promoting their disinformation.”

UN nuclear watchdog: Ukraine has lost all communications with Chernobyl

Ukraine has lost all communications with the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced.

The statement comes a day after the Russian-controlled site lost external power supplies.

Satellite images show stalled 40-mile-long Russian convoy near Kyiv now largely dispersed

With the clouds temporarily clearing around the Ukrainian capital, new satellite images taken earlier on Thursday show that the Russian military convoy northwest of Kyiv that stretched more than 40 miles (more than 64 kilometers) has “largely dispersed and redeployed,” Maxar Technologies says.

The satellite images show that some elements of the convoy have “repositioned” into forests and treelined areas near Lubyanka, Ukraine, according to Maxar.

The satellite images were taken at 11:37 a.m. Kyiv time (4.37 a.m. ET) on Thursday.

Just north of the Antonov Airbase in Hostomel, Ukraine, Russian military vehicles are seen sitting on roadways in residential areas in the town of Ozera — 17 miles northwest of Kyiv.

Towed artillery and other vehicles are seen taking cover in a sparse patches of trees near Lubyanka — about three miles northwest of the Antonov Airbase.

In Berestyanka — 10 miles west of the airbase — a number of fuel trucks and, what Maxar says, appears to be multiple rocket launchers are seen positioned in a field near trees.

Southeast of Ivankiv — the end of what was the 40+ mile convoy — a number of trucks and equipment are still seen on the roadway.

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 16

UK defense ministry: More Russian forces are being sent to encircle key cities, slowing Russian advance

Due to “strong Ukrainian resistance,” Russian forces are increasing their number of deployed forces to encircle key cities which will reduce the number of forces available to continue advancing, according to an intelligence update from the UK’s Ministry of Defence on Thursday.

The UK MoD tweeted the update saying, “Due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian forces are committing an increased number of their deployed forces to encircle key cities. This will reduce the number of forces available to continue their advance and will further slow Russian progress.”

The UK MoD also added that protests against Russian occupation have been reported throughout the week in the occupied cities of Kherson, Melitopol and Berdyansk, with 400 “reportedly detained by Russian forces in the Kherson Oblast yesterday.”

US officials believe Ukraine can keep control of Kyiv for another four-to-six weeks

US intelligence believes Ukraine will be able to maintain control of Kyiv for several more weeks, according to NBC News, even as Russian troops continue to encircle the capital city.

US official told the outlet that while Russia’s troops are in a position to completely circle Kyiv in the coming week or two, the fight to take total control of the capital will likely take much longer.

The same official stated US intelligence believes the battle to take Kyiv could take another four-to-six weeks, though the official acknowledged that the US’ assessment is fluid and frequently changing.

Ukraine: Over 400,000 people evacuated from conflict areas: 

More than 400,000 civilians have so far been evacuated in Ukraine, Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said on national television.

“They have been evacuated primarily from areas where there is ongoing combat,” he added.

UN estimates 549 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russian invasion began

At least 549 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24, according to the latest figures from the United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR).

US: Russian forces have moved about 3 miles closer to Kyiv and Chernihiv is now “isolated”

Russian forces have moved forward, in the vicinity of Hostomel Airport, by about 5 kilometers (or about 3 miles) in the last day, a senior US defense official told reporters Thursday.

Russian forces continue to “advance their troops” along two parallel lines outside of Kyiv, and in those lines, the closest line has “reached about 40 kilometers east of Kyiv,” the official said.

“We see Russian forces continue to advance their troops, they’re really along two sort of parallel lines there, and we assess that the northern most of those two lines, the closest line has reached about 40 kilometers east of Kyiv,” the official added.

Out of those two lines, “the one that’s to the south of the two which kind of emanated out of Sumy, we also assess that some of [the Russian forces] might have reached approximately 40 kilometers from Kyiv,” the official said.

On the southern line, the official believes Russian forces “might be repositioning themselves back towards Sumy,” but it is not clear how many forces, how fast they are moving back, or why they are doing that, the official added.

The town of Chernihiv is “now isolated,” the official stated.

The official also noted that Russian forces have conducted “775 missile launches” of “all stripes, all different varieties” since the beginning of their invasion in Ukraine. The US has seen “reports of internet outages particularly around Mariupol and Kherson,” over the last 24 hours, the official continued.

Mariupol “on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe” as food supply decreases daily

Food supply in the city of Mariupol is “decreasing day by day,” according to a statement from the Mariupol city council on Thursday.

The statement called the situation in the city “critical” and said with blocked entrances to the city, there is no way to deliver food and water.

“The city of Mariupol is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe,” the city council added.

Mariupol mayor Vadym Boychenko has stated 400,000 people were trapped in the port city which had gone through “two days of hell”.

“Every 30 minutes planes arrived over the city of Mariupol and worked on residential areas, killing civilians – the elderly, women, children,” he said in an online post.

Petro Andrushenko, an adviser to the mayor, noted the Russians wanted to “delete our people”.

“They want to stop any evacuation,” he added.

White House continues to blame Putin for skyrocketing gas prices

There is “no question” that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has impacted gas prices in the US, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday after a new consumer price index report showed consumer prices spiked more than 7.9% over the last 12 months.

“There’s also no question that when a foreign dictator invades a foreign country, and when that foreign dictator is the head of a country that is the third largest supplier of oil in the world, that that is going to have an impact, and it is,” Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing.

Psaki added, “We’ve seen the price of gas go up at least 75 cents since President Putin lined up troops on the border of Ukraine.”

State Department stops short of calling Russia’s actions “war crimes” after US ambassador to UN says they are

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said actions committed by Russia against the Ukrainian people are “war crimes.”

“They constitute war crimes; they are attacks on civilians that cannot be justified by any – in any way whatsoever,” Linda Thomas-Greenfiel said in an interview with BBC Newshour.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price stopped short of declaring Russia’s actions against Ukrainian civilians “war crimes” during a briefing Thursday, instead reiterating that the United States is “supportive of efforts to document and to investigate reports of potential war crimes in Ukraine.”

“The fact is that we’ve seen very credible reports of deliberate attacks on civilians, which would, under the Geneva Conventions, constitute a war crime,” he said at a State Department briefing Thursday, citing attacks on the hospital in Mariupol and strikes on schools, hospitals, buses, cars, and ambulances.

“We are appalled by the brutal tactics that the Russian Federation, the Kremlin, has employed in prosecuting this war of choice,” Price added.

Thomas-Greenfield stated the question of whether Russia is guilty of war crimes is the one “we’re being asked every day, and we’re working with others in the international community to document the crimes that Russia is committing against the Ukrainian people.”

Germany: There will be no fast-track procedure for Ukraine EU membership

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that he rejects a fast-track procedure for Ukraine’s membership in the European Union.

“It is very important that we continue to pursue the things that we have indeed decided in the past,” Scholz told reporters ahead of an EU summit in Versailles, France.

Scholz referred to the association agreement that the EU and Ukraine concluded in 2017 that aims to deepen political and economic ties.

“This is the course we have to follow,” Scholz added.

Moscow to open daily humanitarian corridors from Ukraine to Russia

Moscow has said it will open daily humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians fleeing fighting in Ukraine to Russian territory, despite Kyiv insisting that no evacuation routes should lead to Russia.

“Humanitarian corridors towards the Russian Federation will now be opened, without any agreements, every day from 10:00am,” defence ministry official Mikhail Mizintsev was quoted as saying by Russian agencies.

He added evacuation routes in other directions would proceed “in agreement with the Ukrainian side”.

UN says 2.3m people fled Ukraine amid war with Russia

More than 2.3 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched a war on its neighbor late February, the UN refugee agency announced.

“The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused destruction of civilian infrastructure and civilian casualties and has forced people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection, and assistance,” the UNHCR said on its website.

“As the situation continues to unfold, an estimated 4 million people may flee Ukraine,” it added.

Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan unwinding Russia businesses

Goldman Sachs Group Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co announced they were unwinding their Russian businesses, becoming the first major US banks to exit following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and putting pressure on rivals to follow.

Ukraine-Russia war poses new threat to global food security

The crisis in Ukraine and Russia, one of the world’s main sources of grain, fertilisers and energy, presents new challenges in securing food supplies on top of a prolonged pandemic, according to the United Nations.

“We weren’t going well even before the pandemic, the hunger was rising slowly and then the pandemic hit,” said Gabriel Ferrero de Loma-Osorio, head of the Committee on World Food Security, a platform within the UN for the fight against hunger.

US Senate averts shutdown, passes $13.6B in Ukraine aid

The Senate passed a massive bill to fund the government and provide new Ukraine-related aid, sending the 2,741-page bill to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Senators voted 68-31 on the bill, which includes $1.5 trillion in government funding and $13.6 billion in aid tied to Ukraine.

EU leaders set to agree on phasing out Russian fuels

European Union leaders are set to agree to cut their reliance on Russian fossil fuels, although are divided over whether to cap gas prices and to sanction oil imports.

As part of a two-day summit in Versailles, France, the leaders are expected to agree to the phasing out of Russian oil, gas and coal, according to a draft statement, which gives no end-date.

Russia’s invasion prompted Brussels on Tuesday to publish plans to reduce its use of gas from Europe’s top supplier this year and end it within the decade.

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