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Biden may boost troops in NATO countries near Ukraine

Biden is heading to Europe this week as the West rallies behind Kyiv and against Moscow nearly a month into a war that has now forced more than 3.5 million people to flee Ukraine.

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President Joe Biden could announce plans to permanently maintain an increased number of troops in NATO countries near Ukraine, sources said Tuesday, as the president heads to Europe.

It's been nearly a month since Russia attacked and invaded Ukraine in what Western nations have condemned as an unprovoked and unjustifiable assault. More than 3.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations, and bombarded cities are in a humanitarian crisis.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces had captured people fleeing Mariupol after agreeing on a humanitarian corridor.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has tightened his grip at home while stoking fears he may turn to more aggressive tactics abroad, with leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny sentenced to a further nine years in a maximum-security penal colony on Tuesday.

See full coverage here.

Russian forces captured people fleeing Mariupol, Zelenskyy says

Russian forces captured people fleeing the besieged city of Mariupol after agreeing on an escape route, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday night.

Zelenskyy said in a speech that emergency services employees were taken prisoner near the town of Manhush, 12 miles west of Mariupol.

“For more than a week now we have been trying to organize stable humanitarian corridors for Mariupol residents,” Zelenskyy said. “And almost all our attempts, unfortunately, are disrupted by the Russian occupiers. By shelling or deliberate terror.”

According to The Associated Press, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the Russians seized 11 bus drivers and four rescue workers, along with their vehicles. 

It wasn’t clear what happened to them. NBC News couldn’t independently verify her figures or Zelenskyy’s account. 

Zelenskyy made the comments a day after he declined to surrender the strategically important city, which has seen relentless attacks. He said just over 7,000 residents were rescued from the city Tuesday.

The United Nations has said 953 civilians, including 78 children, have been killed since Russia invaded the country last month. The actual toll is much higher, according to the U.N. 

Germany honors survivor of Nazi camps, 96, killed in Ukraine

BERLIN — Germany’s parliament on Tuesday paid tribute to Boris Romanchenko, who survived several Nazi concentration camps during World War II but was killed last week during an attack in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. He was 96.

The Buchenwald concentration camp memorial said Monday that Romanchenko, who survived Buchenwald as well as camps at Peenemuende, Dora and Bergen-Belsen, was killed Friday. It said that, according to his granddaughter, the multistory building where he lived was hit by a projectile.

Romanchenko was dedicated to keeping alive the memory of Nazi crimes and was vice president of the International Buchenwald-Dora Committee, the memorial said.

Opening a session of Germany’s parliament on Tuesday, deputy speaker Katrin Goering-Eckardt paid tribute to Romanchenko.

She said Romanchenko was taken to Dortmund, Germany, as a forced laborer in 1942 and was sent to the concentration camps after an escape attempt in 1943. Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.

“His death reminds us that Germany has a special historical responsibility toward Ukraine,” Goering-Eckardt said. “Boris Romanchenko is one of thousands of dead in Ukraine. Every single life that has been taken reminds us to do everything we can to stop this cruel war that violates international law and to help people in and from Ukraine.”

White House looks to streamline resettlement of vulnerable Ukrainian refugees in U.S.

The Biden administration is preparing to unveil as early as this week a plan to expedite and streamline the resettlement of some Ukrainian refugees in the U.S., according to three sources familiar with the plan.

The plan would allow vulnerable Ukrainians, specifically activists, journalists and those who are part of the LGBTQ community, to safely enter the U.S. at least temporarily. It would also expedite the reunification of Ukrainians with U.S.-based family members, the sources said.

The exact authority President Joe Biden would use to speed the passage of Ukrainians remains unclear, the sources said. The White House is considering both humanitarian parole, a presidential authority that does not guarantee permanent legal status, and the Priority-2 designation program, which has been used for Afghans and others escaping war zones, they said.

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Ukrainian activists in small boat face down oligarch’s superyacht

Hacktivists, new and veteran, target Russia with one of cyber’s oldest tools

LVIV, Ukraine — M, a Ukrainian engineer in his early 20s, is not healthy enough to enlist in the military. So every day, he sits down at his computer to do what he can as part of Ukraine’s IT army, an informal group of volunteer hackers whose job it is to wreak as much havoc on Russian websites as possible.

“I try to do whatever I can, whatever I can reach to end the war, to stop it, to stop killing Ukrainian people,” said M, who asked to use only an initial from his first name out of fear for his and his family's safety.

M's tool is a simple one: flooding Russian websites with fake web traffic, an old and basic cyberattack more commonly known as a distributed denial of service, or DDoS. He can execute it from the computer in his bedroom in Lviv.

Although it is unsophisticated, the DDoS attack has had a renaissance during the opening weeks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And while the attacks do not tend to do much damage — many websites can either mitigate them or come back online quickly — they’re a way for almost any hacktivist to participate.

“They’re quite an easy task that most people can do on their phones and their laptops,” M said.

Read the full story here.

Biden may boost number of U.S. troops in NATO countries

During his trip to Europe this week, President Joe Biden may announce that the U.S. plans to permanently maintain an increased number of U.S. troops deployed in NATO countries near Ukraine, according to four people familiar with the discussions.

The president, who is attending a NATO summit Thursday, recently reviewed options for permanent increases in the number of U.S. troops in Eastern Europe, and Poland is among the possible locations for the additional forces, the sources said.

“We are looking at additional troop posture adjustments,” an administration official said, adding that no final decisions have been made.

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Russia has lost some combat power, U.S. official says

For the first time, the U.S. has assessed that Russia has lost some of its combat power as Ukrainian forces on Tuesday were fighting to regain the town of Izium, according to a U.S. senior defense official.

“We assess that for the first time, they may be just a little bit below 90 percent," the official said at a briefing. "And no indications, no tangible indications of reinforcements being brought in from elsewhere in the country.” 

The official said that Ukraine was fighting to recapture the town of Izium, southeast of Kharkiv.

“What we’re seeing today is some significant fighting there by Ukrainians in an effort to take it back,” the official said. “We've definitely seen anecdotal evidence anyway, that the Ukrainians are not only defending well, where they choose to defend, but they are making efforts to take back territory that the Russians have taken in.”

Over the last 24 hours, the U.S. has also observed that seven Russian ships in the Sea of Azov have likely been firing to get to the south of Mariupol, the official. Mariupol is significant as an important port and, if captured, could allow the Russians to pin down Ukrainian forces in the Donbas region and cut them off from Kyiv and the country’s west.

Some Russian troops are suffering from frostbite because they don't have cold-weather gear and they're having trouble communicating to manage logistics.

 

The last journalists in besieged Mariupol tell of grief and relief at leaving

MARIUPOL, Ukraine — The Russians were hunting us down. They had a list of names, including ours, and they were closing in.

We were the only international journalists left in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, and we had been documenting its siege by Russian troops for more than two weeks. We were reporting inside the hospital when gunmen began stalking the corridors. Surgeons gave us white scrubs to wear as camouflage.

Suddenly at dawn, a dozen soldiers burst in: “Where are the journalists, for f---’s sake?”

I looked at their armbands, blue for Ukraine, and tried to calculate the odds that they were Russians in disguise. I stepped forward to identify myself. “We’re here to get you out,” they said.

The walls of the surgery shook from artillery and machine gun fire outside, and it seemed safer to stay inside. But the Ukrainian soldiers were under orders to take us with them.

Read the full story here.

4 pediatric oncology patients in Ukraine transported to St. Jude's to continue treatment

Four pediatric oncology patients in Ukraine were transported to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital after Russia's attack on the country disrupted their cancer treatment, the State Department announced Tuesday. 

The children, who are 9 months to 9 years old, as well as some of their immediate family members, were airlifted from Poland to Memphis International Airport in Tennessee and then transported to the hospital. 

"There, the patients will be able to safely resume critical cancer therapy disrupted by the Kremlin’s aggression," the State Department said in a statement. "They will receive the specialized care they desperately need, and their family members will be afforded sustenance, security, and support from St. Jude." 

St. Jude is the first U.S. hospital to accept cancer patients from Ukraine. 

"The work of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Ukraine reflects the hospital’s ongoing commitment to ensure children with cancer have access to lifesaving care, no matter where they live,” President and CEO James R. Downing said in a statement. “Our promise to children with catastrophic diseases extends around the globe, and we are honored to play a part in helping these families move to safety to continue their children’s treatment.”

Kremlin rejects accusations it could be preparing cyberattacks

The Kremlin on Tuesday rejected U.S. warnings that it may be preparing to conduct cyberattacks in response to Western sanctions, and said it did not engage in "banditry."

U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday told businesses to do more to protect themselves against possible cyberattacks by Russia, warning there was "evolving intelligence" that Moscow was exploring options on that front.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters: "The Russian Federation, unlike many Western countries, including the United States, does not engage in state-level banditry."

Russia has previously rejected similar allegations, including accusations that it was responsible for hacks on Ukrainian banking and government websites in February.

Food and medical supplies have 'almost run out' in Kherson

An increasingly dire situation is unfolding in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson, where food and medical supplies have "almost run out," Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned.

Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said in a Twitter statement that Kherson’s 300,000 residents were facing "a humanitarian catastrophe owing to the Russian army’s blockade."

"Food and medical supplies have almost run out, yet Russia refuses to open humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians," he said.

"Russia’s barbaric tactics must be stopped before it is too late!" he said. 

Navalny calls for action after fresh sentencing: 'Don't be idle'

Alexei Navalny has called for action, urging people not to be "idle" after he was sentenced to a further nine years in a maximum-security penal colony Tuesday. 

"I am very grateful to everyone for their support," the Kremlin critic said in a series of tweets. However, he said, "The best support for me and other political prisoners is not sympathy and kind words, but actions. Any activity against the deceitful and thievish Putin's regime. Any opposition to these war criminals."

Navalny, already serving a 2 1/2-year sentence for charges he says were contrived to block his political ambitions, also drew comparisons between his experience and the fictional worlds of his favorite television shows and films.

"9 years. Well, as the characters of my favorite TV series 'The Wire' used to say: 'You only do two days. That's the day you go in and the day you come out.' I even had a T-shirt with this slogan, but the prison authorities confiscated it, considering the print extremist," he said.

Alexei Navalny sentenced to nine years in prison

A Russian court has sentenced Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to nine years in a maximum-security penal colony after he was convicted of fraud and contempt of court Tuesday. 

Navalny had been found guilty of large-scale fraud and contempt of court earlier in the day.

He is already serving a 2 1/2-year sentence for parole violations related to charges he says were fabricated to interfere with his political ambitions.

Prosecutors had asked the court to sentence him to 13 years behind bars. 

15 killed in at least 62 attacks on Ukrainian health care facilities, WHO says

At least 15 people have died in attacks on Ukrainian health care facilities in the midst of Russia's invasion, the World Health Organization has said. 

WHO said that as of Friday, there had been at least 62 attacks on Ukrainian health care facilities, leaving 15 dead and 37 injured. The organization said it was still verifying other attacks believed to have taken place since the start of the war.

A WHO spokesperson warned that attacks on health care can constitute a possible breach of international humanitarian law. 

Such attacks "cause death and injury and deprive people of urgently needed health care," it said.

Antonina Pavlenko, 58, from Chernihiv, who fled her home in the midst of Russia's invasion, holds her cat at the train station in Lviv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. 

Antonina Pavlenko, 58, from Chernihiv, who fled Russia's invasion of Ukraine holds her cat at the train station in Lviv, Ukraine on Tuesday.
Zohra Bensemra / Reuters

Zelenskyy warns war could lead to famine in other nations

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that Russia's invasion of Ukraine could cause famine around the world as he called for more support from the international community. 

Addressing the Italian Parliament on Tuesday via video link, Zelenskyy said the consequences of the war in Ukraine were already being felt in other nations as he warned that "the most terrible thing will be the famine that is approaching for some countries."

"Ukraine has always been one of the largest food exporters, but how can we sow [crops] under the strikes of Russian artillery?" he said. A number of countries have relied heavily on Ukrainian wheat in recent years, with Egypt, Lebanon and Yemen among them. 

Replying to Zelenskyy, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi described Ukraine's resistance to Russia's invasion as "heroic" and vowed to continue to provide support for refugees as well as military aid.

Pope and Zelenskyy speak about ‘difficult humanitarian situation’ in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had a phone conversation with Pope Francis about the escalating situation in Ukraine on Tuesday.

In a tweet, Zelenskyy said he spoke with the pope about the "difficult humanitarian situation" in Ukraine "and the blocking of rescue corridors by Russian troops."

"The mediating role of the Holy See in ending human suffering would be appreciated," he said.

The pope has repeatedly expressed concerns over the conflict in Ukraine and called for an end to the fighting. 

He recently denounced the war and called it "a sacrilege without justification," the church-owned Vatican News reported.

 

Oil slips below $114 as E.U. split on Russian ban

Oil slipped below $114 a barrel Tuesday as European Union members disagreed on the possibility of an oil embargo on Russia.

European Union foreign ministers have been divided on whether to join the United States in the ban, with some countries saying the bloc is too reliant on Russia's fossil fuels to go through with the embargo.

Brent crude fell $1.92, or 1.7 percent, to $113.70 a barrel at 9:20 a.m. GMT (5:20 a.m. ET). U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude slipped $2.82, or 2.5 percent, to $109.30. Both contracts had settled up more than 7 percent on Monday.

Oil slipped as the dollar strengthened after U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Monday suggested there would be a more aggressive tightening of monetary policy than previously expected. 

Powell said the U.S. central bank is prepared to raise interest rates as needed to contain "much too high" inflation.

Russian Nobel winner to auction medal for Ukraine refugees

Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov says he wants to auction off his 2021 Nobel Peace Prize medal to raise funds for Ukrainian refugees.

Muratov called Tuesday in the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper, which he edits, for people to “share with refugees, the wounded and children who need urgent treatment what is dear to you and has a value for others.”

Muratov is asking auction houses about the possibility of organizing a sale.

Muratov said last year he was giving away his share of the Nobel prize money to causes including independent media, a Moscow hospice, and care for children with spinal problems. He said he wouldn’t keep any himself.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov of Russia poses with the Nobel Peace Prize diploma and medal during the gala award ceremony in Oslo, Norway on Dec. 10, 2021.
Odd Andersen / AFP - Getty Images file

Biden warns Putin considering using chemical weapons in Ukraine

President Joe Biden warned Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use chemical weapons in Ukraine now that his "back is against the wall."

With Moscow facing crippling sanctions from the United States and its allies, and with Russian forces facing a strong fight from Ukrainian troops, Biden warned that "the more [Putin's] back is against the wall, the greater the severity of the tactics he may employ."

"Whenever he starts talking about something he thinks NATO, Ukraine or the United States is about to do, it means he’s getting ready to do it," he said late Monday. Noting Russian claims of Ukraine having biological and chemical weapons, Biden said, "That’s a clear sign [Putin] is considering using both of those."

The president also warned of potential cyberattacks from Russia, warning that "the magnitude of Russia’s cyber capacity is fairly consequential, and it’s coming."

Ukraine needs a 'Marshall Plan,' German finance minister says

Ukraine needs a Marshall Plan to deal with the consequences of Russia's invasion, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said on Tuesday.

"Our support for the (Ukrainian) people's fight for freedom will continue," Lindner said in a speech to the Bundestag lower house of parliament as he called for a Marshall Plan, referencing the U.S. program that provided aid to Western Europe after World War II.

"Our solidarity with our European neighbor has a lasting basis and that's why we need an international Marshall Plan for Ukraine," he said.

This Maxar satellite image taken on Saturday and released on Monday shows burning apartment buildings in northeastern Mariupol, Ukraine.

This Maxar satellite image taken on March 19, 2022 and released on March 21, 2022 shows burning apartment buildings in northeastern Mariupol, Ukraine.
Maxar Technologies / AFP - Getty Images

More than 3.5M people have now fled Ukraine, UNHCR says

Ukraine has now seen more than 3.5 million people fleeing to other countries, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

As of Tuesday morning, the figure stood at 3,556,924, with more than 2 million people seeking refuge in neighboring Poland and more than 500,000 crossing into Romania, according to the latest data from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Millions have also been displaced within Ukraine, with many fleeing besieged cities. The United Nations on Monday reported that about 6.5 million people were internally displaced.

“Many of those displaced are particularly vulnerable, pregnant and breastfeeding women, elderly persons, those with disabilities, chronic illnesses and people directly affected by violence,” the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration said.

Russian court finds jailed Kremlin critic Navalny guilty of fraud

A Russian court found jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny guilty of large-scale fraud and contempt of court Tuesday, a move likely to see the time that President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic spends in jail extended by years.

Navalny is already serving a 2 1/2-year sentence at a prison camp east of Moscow for parole violations related to charges he says were fabricated to thwart his political ambitions.

In the latest criminal case against him, which he has also dismissed as politically motivated, he could have up to 13 years added to that sentence.

Prosecutors had asked the court to send him to a maximum-security penal colony for 13 years on charges of fraud and contempt of court.

Ukrainian girl who sang ‘Let It Go’ in Kyiv bomb shelter performs national anthem in Poland

A young girl who won hearts after a video of her singing "Let It Go" from the film "Frozen" in a bomb shelter in Kyiv went viral has now sought shelter in Poland, where she performed a rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem Sunday.

Amellia, 7, sang the national anthem in front of thousands of spectators at the "Together With Ukraine" concert, which was organized as a show of solidarity with Ukraine. 

The concert featured performers from Ukraine and Poland, with the event helping raise funds for Ukrainian refugees.

The original video of Amellia singing "Let It Go" spread quickly across social media, attracting the attention of Idina Menzel, the voice behind Elsa from "Frozen."

Seven-year-old Amelia, a refugee from Ukraine, sings the Ukrainian national anthem at the start of a fundraising concert in Lodz, Poland, on Sunday.
Marian Zubrzycki / AP

Russia ends WWII peace talks with Japan over Ukraine sanctions

Russia has responded to Japanese sanctions by terminating World War II peace treaty talks with the country, which responded angrily Tuesday. 

The two countries never formally ended hostilities because of a territorial dispute over an island chain that lies between them. The islands, which Russia calls the Kurils and Japan calls the Northern Territories, were occupied by the Soviet Union in 1945. 

Moscow is halting the talks with Tokyo as well as efforts toward joint economic activity on the islands, Russia's Tass news agency reported Monday, citing the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“It is impossible to discuss the signing of a fundamental treaty in bilateral relations with a country that takes an outspokenly unfriendly stance and tries to cause harm to the interests of our country,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Japan has banned strategic exports, frozen bank assets and imposed sanctions on individuals and companies. Last week, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan would revoke Russia's most-favored-nation trade status. On Tuesday, he criticized Russia's decision to end the talks, which have made little progress in seven decades despite more than 20 meetings between Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“The current situation is entirely the result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and for them to shift this onto Japan-Russia relations is extremely unjust and absolutely unacceptable,” Kishida said.

Ukraine prepared to 'compromise' on NATO to bring end to war, Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Monday he was prepared to discuss a commitment from Ukraine not to seek NATO membership in exchange for a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Russian troops and a guarantee of Ukraine’s security.

“It’s a compromise for everyone: for the West, which doesn’t know what to do with us with regard to NATO; for Ukraine, which wants security guarantees; and for Russia, which doesn’t want further NATO expansion,” Zelenskyy said late Monday in an interview with Ukrainian television channels.

He also repeated his call for direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Unless he meets with Putin, it is impossible to understand whether Russia even wants to stop the war, Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy said Kyiv will be ready to discuss the status of Crimea and the eastern Donbas region held by Russian-backed separatists after a cease-fire and steps toward providing security guarantees.

Solaris, a superyacht linked to the sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, is pictured in Bodrum, southwest Turkey, on Tuesday. 

Image: Solaris, a superyacht linked to Russian oligarch Abramovich, docks in Turkey's Bodrum
Yoruk Isik / Reuters

Ukraine says more than 2,000 children 'illegally deported' to Russia

Ukraine has accused Russian forces of illegally deporting 2,389 children from occupied regions in Ukraine to Russia. 

In a statement Monday, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Russian forces had illegally displaced children from the long-disputed regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.

“Forced displacement of civilians into the territory of the aggressor state, including children, shows signs of abduction. Such actions are a gross violation of international law, in particular international humanitarian law,” the ministry said.

It also appealed to the international community to condemn the “illegal removal of children,” put more strain on Russia and “stop the barbaric war against the Ukrainian people.”

Ukrainian forces repel Russian attempts to occupy Mariupol despite 'heavy fighting,' U.K. says

Ukrainian forces have continued to repulse Russian efforts to occupy the besieged city of Mariupol, despite "heavy fighting," Britain's Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update Tuesday. 

On Monday, Kyiv rejected demands from Russia to surrender the key port city, where as many as 300,000 people have been trapped without access to water, heat or medicine amid a weekslong bombardment.

Britain's Defense Ministry said Russian forces elsewhere in Ukraine had "endured yet another day of limited progress with most forces largely stalled in place."

Several Ukrainian cities continue to fall under heavy Russian air and artillery bombardment, it noted, with the United Nations reporting that more than 10 million Ukrainians have fled Russia's invasion.