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U.S., allies move to revoke Russia trade status as Moscow expands offensive

Satellite images appeared to show that a huge military convoy close to Kyiv had dispersed, sparking fears of an imminent ground offensive.

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President Joe Biden called for revoking normal trade relations with Russia on Friday, which would pave the way for new tariffs — a move supported by both parties in Congress and joined by members of the Group of 7 nations and the European Union.

Meanwhile, Russian forces appeared to be stepping up their campaign across Ukraine, edging closer to the capital, Kyiv, and expanding their offensive west.

Satellite images appeared to show that a huge military convoy close to Kyiv had dispersed, prompting fears of an imminent ground offensive. Multiple airstrikes also hit the cities of Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk early Friday, Ukraine's Parliament said, striking farther west than before.

Ukraine continued to try to evacuate civilians from besieged cities, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying that as many as 100,000 people had been brought to safety over the past two days.

Follow our full coverage on the conflict here.

Russian forces around 15 miles from center of Kyiv, U.K. defense ministry says

Russian forces northwest of Ukraine's capital Kyiv were around 15 miles from the city center and fighting was continuing, the United Kingdom's defense ministry said Saturday.

The British assessment said that a larger Russian column north of the city had dispersed, which might be part of an attempt to encircle it. It could also be an attempt to reduce vulnerability to counterattacks, the ministry said.

Elsewhere, the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remained encircled and continue to be shelled by Russian forces, the U.K. said. 

Over 600 Indian students stranded in Ukraine used social media to make it home

Hundreds of Indian students have made it home from Ukraine after being stranded at their schools for days with little food or water. Students from universities in Sumy and Odessa told NBC News that inaction from the Indian Embassy led them to take matters into their own hands. 

“We decided ourselves that we should leave,” Ovais Choudhary, a medical student at Odessa National University, said in an interview translated from Hindi. “The more you wait, the more critical and tense the situation becomes.”

Choudhary traveled with a group of 50 students who left their school housing on foot Feb. 24 as tanks rolled through Odessa. They all moved into a set of three apartments where they spent two sleepless nights trying to figure out what to do. 

Read the full story here

Shelling damages cancer hospital, Ukraine says

The Associated Press

Ukrainian officials accused Russia damaging a cancer hospital and several residential buildings in the southern city of Mykolaiv with shelling from heavy artillery.

The hospital’s head doctor, Maksim Beznosenko, said several hundred patients were in the hospital during the attack but that no one was killed. The assault damaged the building and blew out windows.

Russian forces have stepped up their attacks on Mykolaiv, located 292 miles south of Kyiv, in an attempt to encircle the city.

Ukrainian and Western officials earlier accused Russia of shelling a maternity hospital in the southern city of Mariupol on Wednesday. Three people died in that attack.

More U.S. soldiers deploy to Europe to support NATO allies

The Associated Press

SAVANNAH, Ga. — U.S. soldiers are continuing to deploy to Europe, joining thousands already sent overseas to support NATO allies amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

About 130 soldiers from the 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade gathered Friday at Hunter Airfield in Savannah, Georgia and departed on a chartered flight.

The soldiers are in addition to the estimated 3,800 soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division who deployed recently from nearby Fort Stewart.

A division commander said that soldiers are being told to prepare for about six months overseas. The Pentagon has ordered roughly 12,000 total service members from various U.S. bases to Europe.

The soldiers’ mission is to train alongside military units of NATO allies in a display of force aimed at deterring further aggression by Russia. The Pentagon has stressed U.S. forces are not being deployed to fight in Ukraine.

Ukrainian photographer shares what it's like to live in a bunker

Valeria Shashenok's TikTok account used to portray the life of a travel photographer.

From the Eiffel Tower at sunset to behind-the-scenes clips of a photoshoot on the Mediterranean coast, Shashenok's TikTok gave viewers a glimpse of just how vast the world is.

Now, most of her TikToks are recorded in an underground bunker in Chernihiv, a war-torn city in northern Ukraine.

Read the full story here. 

Actor, host Pasha Lee killed while helping evacuate people in Ukraine

Pasha Lee, a Ukrainian actor and TV host, was killed in Ukraine while helping evacuate people March 6, his employer, the Ukrainian channel DOM, wrote on social media

Lee, 33, hosted “Day at Home” on DOM. When war broke out, he joined the fight against Russia with Ukraine’s Territorial Defense and was killed near the northern city of Irpin.

News of his death led to social media reaction recounting his career, including from the Odesa International Film Festival and president of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine.

Russia could block 80 million Instagram users

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri on Friday said that by blocking the platform in Russia, the country's media regulator would be preventing as many as 80 million people from the communication tool.

State news agency TASS on Friday said the prohibition by the telecommunication and media watchdog known as Roskomnadzor followed the decision by Instagram sister platform Facebook to allow publication of anti-Russian posts such as, "Death to the Russian invaders."

Russia’s Investigative Committee on Friday opened a probe of alleged propaganda, terrorism, threats of violence and hate speech at Meta in response to the Facebook policy. 

Mosseri suggested in a statement Friday that Russia was only harming its own people by restricting access. "This decision will cut 80 million in Russia off from one another, and from the rest of the world," he said.

Research firm Insider Intelligence says Instagram has 50.8 million users in Russia.

Nick Clegg, Meta's president of global affairs, said in a statement that Facebook's decision to allow highly critical and even threatening statements regarding Russian troops in Ukraine only applies to Ukraine-based users.

Russia has been in the midst of crackdown on foreign media, independent news, and social media — with the exception of free-for-all messaging and notification app Telegram. On March 4 Russia cut off access to Facebook, and on Thursday its media watchdog said Twitter will face slowdowns as a response to the platform allegedly failing to remove content banned there.

Technicians start repairs to damaged lines at Chernobyl, IAEA says

The Associated Press

BERLIN — Ukraine told the International Atomic Energy Agency on Friday that technicians have started repairing damaged power lines at the decommissioned Chernobyl power plant in an effort to restore power supplies, the U.N. nuclear agency said.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian authorities said that Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster, was knocked off the power grid, with emergency generators supplying backup power.

The Ukrainian nuclear regulator said Friday that workers repaired one section of the lines, but there still appears to be damage in other places, the IAEA said. Repair efforts would continue despite “the difficult situation” outside the plant, which was taken by Russian forces early in the invasion, it said.

The Ukrainian regulator said additional fuel was delivered for generators, but it remains important to fix the power lines as soon as possible. The IAEA reiterated that the disconnection “will not have a critical impact on essential safety functions at the site.”

The Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog said that it still isn’t receiving data from monitoring systems installed to monitor nuclear material and activities at Chernobyl, but transmission from the Zaporizhzhia plant — Ukraine’s biggest, which Russian forces seized last week — has been restored after being lost earlier this week.

Polish mayors say cities are 'at the limit' with refugees, ask for help

The mayor of Poland's second-largest city, Krakow, said Friday it was "already at the limit" with the number of Ukrainian refugees it could reasonably accommodate, and he asked that his nation help move them to less populous areas.

"We are primarily responsible for our inhabitants, we cannot destabilize the city's functioning," Mayor Jacek Majchrowski said. "We are already at the limit of our efficiency." 

He said other big cities in Poland were in the same situation. Earlier in the day, Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski of Warsaw, the country's largest city, pleaded for international help, saying that much of the burden of taking care of those fleeing Ukraine has fallen to everyday volunteers.

"We need relocation in Europe, we need relocation in the world, and that's why I welcome the openness of the United States and Canada and other countries, in welcoming migrants, refugees, because we need that," he said on MSNBC.

On Sunday at Belweder Palace in Warsaw, President Andrzej Duda held a news conference with Vice President Kamala Harris. He estimated that 1.5 million refugees have flooded into Poland since the invasion began on Feb. 24.

Harris suggested that $13.6 billion in humanitarian and security assistance for Ukraine, committed by President Joe Biden and Congress, is intended to help Ukraine's supporters in the region deal with the influx of war refugees.

The flow of humanity "has put an extraordinary burden on Poland and the people of Poland," she said. "And so, we will continue with the support that we can give you, Mr. President."

DOJ: KleptoCapture's goal is 'disruption and discomfort' of Russian oligarchs

The Biden administration’s new task force targeting Russian oligarchs will go after those “who have assisted the regime responsible for the invasion of Ukraine” — meaning not just the elites, but also those within their sphere, a senior Justice Department official said Friday. 

“Our success will be defined as dismantling, disruption and discomfort for these oligarchs, their enablers and their networks,” the official said in explaining the work of the so-called KelptoCapture task force announced last week.

“These people amassed huge wealth through corruption, extortion, and degradation of the rule of law,” the official said. “These are corrupt billionaires who have do so much to hide their assets.”

Read more here.

'Gross violation of norms': Ukraine accuses Russia of kidnapping city's mayor

Ukraine officials on Friday accused the Russian military of abducting the mayor of the southeastern city of Melitopol, a move they called a "war crime" and one of the Kremlin's "gross violations of norms and principles of international law."

According to a statement from Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Russian military kidnapped Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of the city of approximately 150,000, after "cynically accusing" him of "terrorism." Footage from the city earlier this month showed citizens blocking the Russian forces trying to enter the city and yelling at them to, "Go home!" 

The statement did not include details about the alleged abduction.

"The fact of the abduction of the Mayor of Melitopol, along with hundreds of other facts of war crimes by Russian occupiers on the Ukrainian soil, are being carefully documented by law enforcement agencies. The perpetrators of this and other crimes will be brought to the strictest responsibility," the MFA's statement said. 

It called on the international community "to respond immediately to the abduction of Ivan Fedorov and other civilians, and to increase pressure on Russia to end its barbaric war against the Ukrainian people."


YouTube blocks global access to Russian state-funded media channels

YouTube announced on Friday that it would immediately block access globally to channels linked with Russian state-funded media, citing community guidelines that prohibit content that denies, minimizes or trivializes well-documents violent events.

"We are now removing content about Russia’s invasion in Ukraine that violates this policy," the company, which is owned by Google, wrote in a statement on Twitter.

The video-sharing platform said it had also recently paused all YouTube ads in Russia. "We’ve now extended this to all of the ways to monetize on our platform in Russia," YouTube added.

The development is the latest in a wave of efforts targeting an onslaught of misinformation in Russia about its war in Ukraine. Last week, Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor accused YouTube of running ad campaigns for its Russian audience that offered a "distorted perception of current events,” the Wall Street Journal reported

YouTube said on Friday that had stripped its platform of more than 1,000 channels and over 15,000 videos that it said violated the company's hate speech policy and policies around misinformation and graphic content.

Ukrainian teens studying in the U.S. fear for their families, worry for their hometowns

Mary Pflum

When Khrystyna, 16, left her home in Lutsk, Ukraine, in September to take part in a yearlong student exchange program in Connersville, Indiana, she couldn’t contain her excitement.  

She looked forward to embracing American high school customs — homecoming dances, performing in jazz choir concerts — before returning to her beloved homeland. 

But last month, Khrystyna’s world was turned upside down when Russian forces invaded Ukraine.  Khrystyna is among hundreds of Ukrainian exchange students in the United States who fear for the safety of their families and worry about what kind of homeland there will be to return to now that their country is at war.

Read more.

Sony Pictures pauses all business in Russia

The media giant Sony Pictures Entertainment announced Friday that it "paused" all business operations in Russia, including home entertainment releases, television distribution deals and an anime-themed streaming service.

The company previously said it would halt the theatrical release of upcoming movies, including the Marvel thriller "Morbius," starring Jared Leto.

"We stand with many businesses around the world who have now paused their business operations in Russia, and in support of the humanitarian efforts currently underway in Ukraine and the surrounding region," SPE chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra said in a memo to staff shared with NBC News.

Sullivan met with British foreign secretary to discuss Ukraine

White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan on Friday met with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to discuss coordinated efforts to thwart Russia's "unprovoked and unjustified war" in Ukraine, the White House said in a statement.

The pair discussed the ongoing coordination of security and humanitarian efforts to support Ukraine and  inflict costs on Moscow, the White House said.

"Our two countries are working in lockstep to ensure Putin fails in Ukraine," Truss wrote in a statement on Twitter.

The meeting comes after Truss on Thursday called the invasion of Ukraine “a paradigm shift on a scale of 9/11," during a speech at the Atlantic Council. She also suggested in response to a question on the issue at that time that evidence pointed to Russia committing war crimes in Ukraine. 

Pentagon spokesman says U.S. testing deconfliction line with Russia 'once or twice a day'

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday the U.S. has not needed to use its deconfliction hotline with Russia, but has been testing the connection "once or twice a day." 

The hotline, which allows the U.S. military to communicate directly with the Russian military as a way to deconflict tactical movements around Ukraine and avoid unintended clashes or misunderstandings with American or NATO forces, was set up last week, NBC News previously reported. 

"No content has been needed but we do test it once or twice a day," Kirby told reporters during his daily briefing. "Thus far, with maybe only a couple of exceptions the Russians have picked up on the other end. We know they know what the ring tone is and they'll pick up and answer. So we know its functional."

He said he was not aware if the Russians had tried testing the line themselves. 

Asked later what the United States' official ringtone is, Kirby said there wasn't one. "It was a poor attempt at humor. I did not mean we have an exact ringtone here, just that we know they know how to use the system," he said.

'We believe in truth': U.S. ambassador to the U.N. says Russia pushing misinformation

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., on Friday argued Russia is seeking to spread misinformation about their war in Ukraine.

"We believe in truth. We believe in facts. We believe our eyes and our ears. We actually believe what you are reporting every single day. We believe independent media," she told reporters on Friday. "We believe the world is bearing witness to a war of Russian aggression." 

"No matter how much Russia tries, it can’t change that," she added. "Russia is the aggressor here. No one else." 

The comments come a day after Thomas-Greenfield suggested that Russia's assault against the Ukrainian people constituted war crimes. 

In remarks delivered at the U.N. on Friday, Thomas-Greenfield had accused Russia of calling on the Security Council to meet "for the sole purpose of lying and spreading disinformation," echoing concerns that a false-flag operation was at play for Russia to potentially use chemical or biological agents against Ukraine.

Biden blames oil prices on Ukraine war, credits Democrats for improving economy

PHILADELPHIA — President Joe Biden told House Democrats gathered here on Friday that 2022 “may be the most important off-year election in modern history,” gave his party credit for an improving economy and rejected blame for rising gas prices.

Biden, who was greeted by his party to a standing ovation at a caucus retreat, thanked a roomful of Democrats for passing a $1.5 trillion government funding bill this week, which includes aid to Ukraine in Russia's escalating war.

“Democrats didn’t cause this problem. Vladimir Putin did,” Biden said of the Russian president. “Putin’s gas tax has pushed prices higher.”

The president spoke to Democratic lawmakers as the party grapples with fierce political headwinds in the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections, with Republicans attempting to seize on voter angst to capture control of Congress.

If Republicans do so, the president said Friday, “The only thing I’ll have then is the veto pen.”

Read the full story.

Russian projectile hits psychiatric hospital as shelling again prevents evacuation, regional official says

Anjali Huynh

A Russian projectile hit a psychiatric hospital outside the eastern Ukrainian town of Izyum and destroyed two-to-three floors of one of its buildings, regional governor Oleh Synegubov said. He said the 330 patients, including the elderly and disabled, and 30 staff were sheltering at the time.

Meanwhile, Russian shelling again stopped civilians in the Izyum from evacuating, he said. Planned evacuations have been delayed for days as Russia continues to heavily shell the area. 

"We prepared 20 buses and everything we needed. A 'green corridor' was created, but due to shelling by the occupiers, it was never launched," Synegubov said.

The city, which lies in the Kharkiv region, does not have electricity, heat, water or communications, he said, adding. "This is a brutal terror against the civilian population of Izyum region."

'Absolutely critical': Ukraine's wartime supply chain essential to its defense

Serhiy Prytula, a beloved television and radio show host in Ukraine, dreamed he would make an office building in downtown Kyiv into the headquarters of his new political party. From a table in front of a backlit cutout of Ukraine, he would help mold his country's future.

Now that Russia has invaded Ukraine, his goal has shifted. Instead of a center for politics, the building has become a center to organize and coordinate supplies for military volunteers.

Inside, there are no politicians or leaflets featuring candidates or talking points. There are only soldiers and volunteers picking up boxes full of medicines, canned food, bulletproof vests, helmets, uniforms and remote control drones that are used to surveil and drop bombs on the Russian military.

“We don’t care about politics in Ukraine now,” Prytula said over the phone. “We are all soldiers or volunteers now, and we have only one question: How can we save our state?”

Leveraging his fame and social media reach, Prytula has organized a major supply network. He is taking in donations, negotiating the purchase of bulletproof vests and helmets from manufacturers in countries like Turkey, pressuring car dealers to provide vehicles to the territorial defense at steep discounts, operating warehouses from Poland to Kyiv, and moving numerous buses and trucks full of supplies throughout the country.

His work is just one example of the largest supply effort since the Cold War and the Berlin airlift. As millions of Ukrainians flee across the borders, numerous groups are coordinating how to move in humanitarian, medical and military aid to assist in the country's defense.

Read the full story here.

Lviv mother transporting refugees to Poland: 'A lot of women are now truck drivers'

Ali Arouzi

Shanshan Dong

Ali Arouzi and Shanshan Dong
Image: Lilia Tymoshenko
Lilia Tymoshenko, 33, is a resident of Lviv who has been taking in refugees from the east and driving some of them to the Polish border. Paul Rigney / NBC News

LVIV, Ukraine – Lilia Tymoshenko, 33, is a resident of Lviv, a city in western Ukraine about 50 miles from the Polish border. 

She’s been offering temporary housing to refugees from the east and helping to transport them to the Poland-Ukraine border to get them out of the country.

“A lot, a lot of women are now truck drivers. We have to do it,” Tymoshenko said Friday. “We have to do it because our men cannot cross the border. So that's why we are now truck drivers. And we fight how … this way.” 

But if the war comes west, she said, she would take her two children and leave — while her husband and elderly father stay behind and fight. 

Chinese ambassador to U.N. expresses support for Russia

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

The Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, expressed support for Russia at a Security Council meeting Friday. 

He said China consistently stands for "complete prohibition and a thorough destruction of all WMD, including biological weapons, firmly opposes the development, possession, and the use of biological and chemical weapons by any country and under any circumstances, and encourage those countries that have not yet destroyed their stockpiles of chemical weapons to do so as soon as possible."

Zhang said Russia's concerns should be "properly addressed."

"China urges relevant parties to effectively implement their obligations under the convention, provide a comprehensive clarification and accept a multilateral verification," he continued. "We have taken note of the press report that the WHO has advised to the Ukrainian government to destroy the pathogens located in those labs in order to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We look forward to receiving more specific information on this. Under the current situation and for the sake of public health, we call for ensuring the safety and security of relevant laboratories."

Russian forces make some headway outside Kyiv, conduct airstrikes in western Ukraine

Anjali Huynh

Courtney Kube and Anjali Huynh

Russian forces have made some progress to the east of Kyiv and have begun airstrikes on military airfields in Western Ukraine, a U.S. senior defense official told NBC News.

Forces east of the capital have moved closer to the city over the last 24 hours and are between 12 and 19 miles from its center, the official said.

Northwest of Kyiv, Russia has moved some rear elements closer to those in the lead, but the frontline has not advanced and remains about 10 miles from the city's center, the official said. 

Some vehicles in the convoy heading toward Kyiv have moved off the road and into the tree lines in what appears to be a force protection measure, but the U.S. doesn't believe the convoy has made progress towards re-supply or linking up with other elements, the official said.

Russia conducted airstrikes on military airfields in Lutsk and Ivano-Frankovsk in western Ukraine, with the apparent goal of stopping Ukrainians from being able to use them. The U.S. does not know to what extent they were damaged, the official said.

The Ukrainians, meanwhile, are using drones to defend themselves to "terrific effect", especially against Russian ground forces, according to the official. The official said they are also effectively using surface-to-air missiles and still have more than 80 percent of their aircraft available for use.

Ukrainian teens studying in the U.S. fear for their families, worry for their hometowns

Mary Pflum

When Khrystyna, 16, left her home in Lutsk, Ukraine, in September to take part in a yearlong student exchange program in Connersville, Indiana, she couldn’t contain her excitement.

“I wanted to live with American hosts. I wanted to exchange experiences,” she said.

She looked forward to embracing American high school customs — homecoming dances, performing in jazz choir concerts — before returning to her beloved homeland. 

But last month, Khrystyna’s world was turned upside down when Russian forces invaded Ukraine.  Khrystyna is among hundreds of Ukrainian exchange students in the United States who fear for the safety of their families and worry about what kind of homeland there will be to return to now that their country is at war.

Read the full story.

Biden speaks with Zelenskyy about further support, Russia sanctions

Anjali Huynh

President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday about the U.S.'s continued support for Ukraine and increased sanctions on Russia, the White House said.

Biden updated Zelenskyy on security, humanitarian and economic assistance for his country and the sanctions that the Group of 7 industrial nations and the European Union are undertaking to "further raise the costs on Russia," the White House said in a release.

Earlier Friday, Biden called for the suspension of normal trade relations with Russia, allowing increased tariffs on Russian goods, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will vote on next week. He also said the U.S. will ban imports of more Russian products, including seafood, vodka and diamonds, as well as U.S. exports of luxury goods to Russia.

In addition, the U.S. and European allies will halt Russia's ability to obtain financing from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, Biden said. 

E.U. announces new punitive measures to intensify economic pressure against the Kremlin

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced plans on Friday to intensify economic pressure against the Kremlin, laying out efforts by the European Union and the G-7 to " further isolate Russia and drain the resources it uses to finance this barbaric war." 

In its latest punitive measures, she said that the European Union would revoke Russia's "most favored nation" status, depriving Russia of privileged treatment in E.U. economies. Her remarks follow Biden's remarks calling on Congress to do the same.

Von der Leyen also said the E.U. was working to cut off Russia's membership rights in leading financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and would ban iron and steel goods from Russia. In an effort to target Russian elites, she said luxury goods would no longer be exported from E.U. countries to Russia.

She also said that E.U. leaders would draft proposals by mid-May detailing how the bloc of nations would sever its dependency on Russian energy by 2027.

U.S. ambassador to U.N.: Russian allegations could lead to use of biological weapons against Ukraine

Anjali Huynh

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on Friday denounced longstanding Russian allegations that the U.S. has operated a biological weapons labs in Ukraine as “lies” aimed at creating a precursor for Russia to use chemical or biological weapons itself. 

“The intent behind these lies seems clear, and it is deeply troubling," she said in remarks to the U.N. Security Council. "We believe Russia could use chemical or biological agents for assassinations as part of a stage or false flag or to support tactical military operations."

On Friday, Russian ambassador to the U.N., Vasily Nebenzya, again leveled the claim about such a lab, saying research was being conducted "at the very heart of Eastern Europe and in immediate proximity of the Russian border.”

Washington and Kyiv have repeatedly denied the accusation. 

Thomas-Greenfield responded that Ukraine “does not have a biological weapons program” and the U.S. has not supported any bioweapons laboratories. She pointed to Ukraine’s public health laboratory infrastructure as the source of Nebenzya's assertions, saying that their work “has everything to do with protecting the health of people” and “nothing, absolutely nothing to do with biological weapons.”

She called Russia's statements "a malicious effort to cover for the atrocities being committed by Russia as part of their illegal and unprovoked attack on Ukraine. It is a page directly out of the Russian playbook. And it will not convince us one bit.”

Pelosi: House will vote on revoking normal trade relations with Russia next week

Anjali Huynh

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that the House will vote on revoking Russia's permanent normal trade relations status next week.

Changing the status would remove Russia's benefits as a "most favored nation," which the World Trade Organization uses to exempt a country from tariffs. 

Pelosi's announcement follows President Joe Biden's calls to remove their trade status earlier Friday, an action that must be approved by Congress.

"Today, America and our allies take a strong step to further isolate Russia from the global economy," Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. "By revoking permanent normal trade relations from Russia, and doing so with an historic level of coordination with our partners abroad, we will further counter Putin‘s diabolical aggression against the people of Ukraine." 

"Putin’s premeditated, unprovoked war is an attack on the Ukrainian people and an attack on democracy — and the House remains steadfast in our commitment to partnering with President Biden and our allies to level swift, severe punishment and stand with the Ukrainian people," she continued.

Rebuilding in Lviv: 'I do my job and it helps my country'

Ali Arouzi

Shanshan Dong

Ali Arouzi and Shanshan Dong
Yevhen Tanchik in Lviv, Ukriane on March 11. The 36-year-old data engineer fled the city of Kharkiv after his apartment building was badly damaged in the conflict last week.
Yevhen Tanchik in Lviv, Ukriane on March 11. The 36-year-old data engineer fled the city of Kharkiv after his apartment building was badly damaged in the conflict last week.Paul Rigney / NBC News

LVIV, Ukraine — Yevhen Tanchik, 36, used to live in Kharkiv, a city in Ukraine’s northeast that has come under heavy Russian attack

After his apartment building was badly damaged during a Russian assault last week, Tanchik fled the city with his wife and mother-in-law, driving west for four days to reach Lviv.

“I wouldn't wish anyone to know this feeling,” Tanchik said in Lviv on Friday. “Not only my building was bombed. Lots of buildings in Kharkiv were destroyed during this terrible war.” 

He said he still has friends who are stuck in the city and can’t get out. They tell him the situation has only gotten worse with bombings every day. 

“I didn't recognize my city when I was driving out of there. It was kind of a terrible feeling to see what happened to my hometown,” he said. “Many, many historical places. I guess we've lost them forever."

Now he’s trying to rebuild his life in Lviv and do his part for his country by getting back to work as a data engineer for an IT company. “War has different fronts,” he said, explaining that his job, now that he’s left the war zone, is to get back to work on the "economic front."

“I just do what I can do best: I do my job and it helps my country.” 

White House debates U.S. role in international war crimes probe

Carol E. LeeCarol E. Lee is the Washington managing editor.

Biden administration officials are holding internal deliberations about the potential ramifications of war crimes investigations against Russia, and what role the U.S. should play in those international efforts, according to current and former officials and human rights advocates with knowledge of the discussions.

Administration officials are wrestling with a number of questions, including whether an indictment against Russian President Vladimir Putin would close the door on any potential diplomacy to stop or de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine. Officials said that would not affect decisions about what evidence to hand over to investigating bodies.

But some Western officials say if Putin faced charges of war crimes or believed the U.S. was intent on toppling his regime, the Russian president could conclude there was no point in negotiations and might resort to more drastic measures.

Read the full story.

Biden announces steps to cut off normal trade relations with Russia

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Biden announced Friday that the U.S. and its allies from the G7 will take steps to deny the "most favored nation" status designation to Russia, putting an end to normal trade relations and paving the way for higher tariffs.

The move "is going to make it harder for Russia to do business with the United States and doing it in unison with other nations that make up half of the global economy will be another crushing blow" to Russia and President Vladimir Putin, Biden said. 

Biden said he's spoken to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who plans to bring legislation to the floor revoking that status once the U.S. coordinates similar moves with its allies. 

"The free world is coming together to confront Putin. Our two parties sure at home are leading the way," he said. 

Biden said the U.S. will also ban imports of additional Russian goods including seafood, vodka and diamonds and will join its allies in cutting off Russia's ability to seek financing from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The president added that the U.S. will ban exports of luxury goods manufactured in America to Russia. 

Read more here.

Harris on bombing of Mariupol hospital: 'Any intentional targeting of civilians is a war crime'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Vice President Kamala Harris reiterated Friday that the U.S. commitment to Article 5 of NATO is "ironclad" and suggested that the bombing of the maternity and children's hospital in Mariupol earlier this week was a war crime. 

"We are clear that any intentional targeting of civilians is a war crime. Period," she said at a press conference in Bucharest with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis when asked about the airstrike on the hospital. 

Harris also described the horrific images coming out of Ukraine as its residents flee. 

"It is painful to watch what is happening to innocent people in Ukraine who just want to live in their own country and have pride in themselves as Ukrainians, who want to be home speaking the language they know, going to the church that they know, raising their children in the community where their families have lived for generations and by the millions now, are having to flee with nothing but a backpack," Harris said. "We have the unfortunate experience all of us right now who are not in Ukraine of witnessing horror."

'We need only, we need sleep,' says teen refugee at Polish border

Kelly Cobiella

Yuka Tachibana

Kelly Cobiella and Yuka Tachibana
Image: Diana Prudska
Diana Prudska,16, on the train platform in Przemsyl, Poland, on March 10 after fleeing Kyiv, Ukraine, with her dog, Rona, as well as her mother and grandparents.Yuka Tachibana / NBC News

PRZEMYSL, Poland — More than 2.5 million refugees have now fled Ukraine, the United Nations refugee agency reported Friday. 

Diana Prudska, 16, was one of them. She fled her hometown of Kyiv with her dog, Rona, as well as with her mother and grandparents. After an arduous journey that included multiple lengthy and cramped train rides over two days, she arrived at the Przemsyl train station in Poland Thursday. 

Initially looking relieved to have finally made it over the border, when asked what it was like in Kyiv, she began to break down. 

It “was not comfortable to stay there because every night we heard,” she paused as she tried to describe what life in Ukraine’s capital was like. “Very horrible sounds every night. And we, like, can’t sleep … Some nights we spent at a safe place like underground.”

The teen said she had to leave her father behind in Ukraine. She said she felt “safe and comfortable” now even though she faced another six-hour train ride within Poland because there was no place to stay in Przemsyl. 

She was full of gratitude for the kindness people had shown her family in Poland — even offering her dog treats.

Asked what she needed now, she replied: “We need only, we need sleep.”

Injured pregnant woman seen after hospital shelling gives birth to daughter

NBC News

Mariana Vishegirskaya, who was injured during Russian shelling of a maternity hospital in Ukraine on Wednesday, has given birth to a daughter, Veronika. 

Image: An injured pregnant woman walks downstairs in the maternity hospital damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 9, 2022.
Mariana Vishegirskaya leaves the hospital after the shelling on Wednesday.Evgeniy Maloletka / AP
Image: Mariana Vishegirskaya
Vishegirskaya lies in a hospital bed after giving birth to Veronika in Mariupol on Friday.Evgeniy Maloletka / AP
Image: Mariana Vishegirskaya's husband, Yuri, holds their newborn daughter, Veronika, in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 11, 2022.
Vishegirskaya's husband, Yuri, holds their daughter on Friday.Evgeniy Maloletka / AP

Russia restricts access to Instagram, moves to designate Meta 'extremist organization'

Russia has restricted access to Instagram, in addition to launching a criminal case against its parent company Meta Platforms and moving to designate it an "extremist organization."

The developments came following a policy change allowing users of the social media platform to call for violence against Russian soldiers within the context of the war.

A spokesperson for Meta Platforms said the company was lifting a ban for residents of a number of countries on posting information containing calls for violence against Russian citizens, including military personnel, on its social networks.

During a daily briefing Friday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would take the most drastic measures available if the company did not revoke the change.

Drone likely flying from Ukraine war zone crashes in Croatia

The Associated Press

A drone that apparently flew all the way from the Ukrainian war zone crashed overnight on the outskirts of the Croatian capital, Zagreb, triggering a loud blast but causing no injuries, Croatian authorities said Friday.

A statement issued by Croatia’s government said the “pilotless military aircraft” entered Croatian airspace from neighboring Hungary at a speed of 430 mph and an altitude of 4,300 feet.

The government said that an official criminal investigation will be launched and that NATO will be informed about the incident. The crash means that the large drone flew for at least 350 miles apparently undetected by air defenses in Croatia, Hungary and possibly Romania, all members of the Western military alliance.

NBC News

GOP senators demand that U.S. help transfer fighter jets to Ukraine

More than 40 Senate Republicans are calling on the Biden administration to assist in the transfer of Soviet-era aircraft to Ukraine so it can defend itself against Russian forces.

"So far, Russian forces have been stymied by stiff Ukrainian resistance, and we must redouble our efforts to prevent a brutal and unlawful takeover of Ukraine. We urge your administration to work with Poland and our NATO allies to expedite the transfer of urgently-needed airpower, air defense systems and other combat and support capabilities from the United States, NATO allies, and other European partners to Ukraine," the senators wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden on Thursday.

The letter, signed by 42 Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, came after U.S. officials rejected a proposal from Poland to transfer its Soviet-era MiG fighter jets to Ukraine through a U.S. military base in Germany.

The Defense Department has said such a handover would be a “high risk” step that could ratchet up tensions with Russia and risk direct military conflict.

Read the full story.

NBC News

The coffin of Roman Rushchyshyn, a senior Ukrainian police officer, is lowered into a grave during his funeral in the village of Soposhyn, on the outskirts of Lviv.

Image: funeral in the village of Soposhyn
Bernat Armangue / AP

Defiant Putin 'convinced' Russia will 'overcome' impact of sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared defiant in the face of mounting international pressure on Friday, saying he was convinced his country would "overcome" the impact of the West's economic penalties over the war in Ukraine.

Speaking ahead of talks in Moscow with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally, Putin noted his country was facing "problems connected to recent events, the restrictions and sanctions we all know about." 

"There have always been attempts to curtail our development and they are happening now, obviously on a larger scale," he said. 

However, Putin said he was "convinced we will overcome these difficulties and, in fact, will gain more competencies, more opportunities to feel independent."

"This will, in the end, benefit us just like it happened before," he said. 

Lukashenko also appeared to frame the growing list of sanctions against Russia as an opportunity. 

"Today, the sanctions are an opportunity for us. I have lived through the Soviet Union and so have you. We were always under sanctions," he said.

Putin did say, however, that there had been some "positive shifts" in talks with Ukraine. He did not immediately expand on the comment, but said he would share more details with his Belarusian counterpart.

NBC News

A Ukrainian serviceman takes a photo of a damaged church after shelling in a residential district of the city of Mariupol on Thursday. 

Image: damaged church after shelling in a residential district in Mariupol
Evgeniy Maloletka / AP

Biden to revoke normal trade relations with Russia

President Joe Biden is expected to announce Friday morning that Washington will be revoking Russia’s status as a “most-favored nation,” a classification that exempts a country from tariffs, a senior administration official familiar with the matter has said.

The status change will allow Biden's administration and Congress to slap tariffs on goods Russia exports to the United States. These totaled $29 billion in 2021, with oil and gas products making up about 60 percent of that amount. 

Among the goods that could be impacted are caviar, vodka, plywood and more.  

The expected move follows bipartisan calls in Congress for the classification change. It also comes after the U.S. banned imports of Russian oil and gas and as the West adds to an ever-growing list of sanctions targeting Russia's powerful and wealthy.

NBC News

U.N. warns of 'significant food security repercussions'

The war in Ukraine will cause “significant food security repercussions,” especially for the world's poorest countries, the director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations warned Friday.

Qu Dongyu said in a statement that this was “especially true” for some 50 countries that depend on Russia and Ukraine for 30 percent or more of their wheat supply. 

“Many of them are least developed countries or low-income, food-deficit countries in Northern Africa, Asia and the Near East,” he said. 

“The likely disruptions to agricultural activities of these two major exporters of staple commodities could seriously escalate food insecurity globally, when international food and input prices are already high and volatile,” he added. 

It could also lead to increasing food insecurity inside Ukraine, he said.   

NBC News

Rescuers search through rubble after an airstrike in Dnipro.

Image: Rescuers work among remains of buildings damaged by an airstrike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Dnipro, Ukraine.
State Emergency Service of Ukraine via Reuters

NBC News

Russia steps up Ukraine offensive as Biden increases economic pressure

Russia appeared to ramp up its military offensive in Ukraine Friday, widening its aerial campaign to hit targets further west as its forces edged closer to an assault on the capital, Kyiv, and kept up the pressure on besieged cities across the country like Mariupol.

Moscow’s troops have struggled to make progress in more than two weeks of war, but their assault has left people trapped and bombarded in worsening conditions. Ukraine continued its efforts to evacuate residents from hard-hit areas, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying as many as 100,000 civilians had been brought to safety over the past two days.

As the West moved to ramp up its bid to isolate and punish Moscow for its invasion, the White House said President Joe Biden will announce new measures to "hold Russia accountable" Friday morning. Vice President Kamala Harris was heading to Romania on the next leg of a trip to reassure European allies.

Read the full story here

Moscow stock market remains shut for 11th consecutive day

Moscow's stock exchange was closed on Friday for the 11th consecutive day with only limited exceptions allowed, The Bank of Russia announced in a statement posted online.

JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs have announced their exit from the Russian market, reported CNBC. The Russian ruble continued to plunge after the central bank allowed its trading on Wednesday.

The trading sessions in the foreign exchange and money market opened at 10.00 a.m. local time on Friday (2 a.m. ET).

The Associated Press

China’s No. 2 leader offers help for ‘grave’ situation in Ukraine

The Associated Press

BEIJING — China’s Premier Li Keqiang on Friday called the situation in Ukraine “grave” and offered Beijing’s help in playing a “positive role” for peace while continuing to refuse to criticize Russia.

China has largely sided with Russia in the conflict, which it has refused to refer to as an invasion. The U.S. accuses Beijing of helping spread false news and disinformation coming out of Moscow.

China has offered to serve as a facilitator of talks between the sides, although it has little experience in such a role and would not likely be viewed as a neutral party.

“We support and encourage all efforts that are conducive to a peaceful settlement of the crisis,” Li told reporters at an annual news conference. “The pressing task now is to prevent tension from escalating or even getting out of control.”

Beijing this week said it was sending humanitarian aid including food and daily necessities worth $791,000 to Ukraine while continuing to oppose sanctions against Russia over its invasion and pledging to continue normal trade and economic cooperation with Moscow.

Please read full story here.

Russian forces killed more civilians than soldiers, Ukraine Defense Minister says

Russian forces have killed more civilians than soldiers in Ukraine, Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov has said.

“The Kremlin is bombing schools and hospitals, including maternity hospitals. Moscow does not protect anyone. It destroys,” he said in a statement posted on Facebook. On Thursday, Russia was accused of bombing a maternity hospital in the southern city of Mariupol.

“They are not able to fight with our army, the national guard and territorial defense forces. So, they attack the most vulnerable ones,” he said.

NBC News is not able to confirm the death toll claims. 

Reznikov said the authorities are working to evacuate people from the most affected areas, including Mariupol, Sumy, and Kharkiv.

Tens of thousands of helmets and bulletproof vests are also on the move to Ukraine to strengthen the military, he said.

Russia says 16,000 volunteers from the Middle East ready to fight in Ukraine


Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that he wanted to allow volunteers to fight against Ukrainian forces and approved handing over captured Western missile systems to Russian-backed rebel fighters.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu proposed handing over American made anti-tank systems such as Javelin and Stinger to fighters from the rebel regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Putin, speaking at a Russian security council meeting, said he supported such an idea. He also said that those who wanted to volunteer to fight with Russian-backed forces should be allowed to.

Shoigu said there were 16,000 volunteers in the Middle East who were ready to come to fight with Russian-backed forces.

Cities in western Ukraine hit by airstrikes

Multiple airstrikes hit the western Ukraine cities of Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk early Friday morning, according to a statement issued by Ukraine's Parliament. 

The strikes were farther west than previous Russian attacks. 

Airstrikes in Lutsk hit at 6 a.m. local time and targeted the airfield, the statement posted to Telegram added.

Reports on the number of casualties varied. Lutsk Mayor Ihor Polishchuk said one person died in the strike, according to the Telegram statement. Yurii Pohuliaiko, head of the Lutsk regional council, said two people died and six were injured when four rockets hit the military airport.

NBC News has not independently confirmed the strikes or casualties. 

An hour later, Ivano-Frankivsk was hit, the parliamentary statement said. 

“In both Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, the air-raid siren did not go off before the cities were hit,” it added. 

Missile strikes were also recorded at the central Ukraine city of Dnipro.

How Goldman Sachs profits from war in Ukraine, loophole in sanctions


Stephanie Ruhle

Charlie Herman

Jonathan Allen, Stephanie Ruhle and Charlie Herman

Goldman Sachs, the giant New York investment bank, is cashing in on the war in Ukraine by selling Russian debt to U.S. hedge funds — and using a legal loophole in the Biden administration’s sanctions to do it.

As the Western world scrambles to defend Ukraine by locking down Russian money, the company is acting as a broker between Moscow’s creditors and U.S. investors, pitching clients on the opportunity to take advantage of Russia’s war-crippled economy by buying its debt securities low now and selling them high later, according to four financial world sources familiar with the strategy. 

An investor who declined a Goldman trader’s offer to add Russian debt to his hedge fund’s portfolio — because of the war — said the trader suggested he could “just put it in your personal account” to avoid scrutiny.

Read the full story here. 

Biden reportedly set to call for revoking Russia's favored trade status


President Joe Biden on Friday will call for an end to normal trade relations with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, clearing the way for increased tariffs on Russian imports, five people familiar with the situation told Reuters.

The move would mark the latest escalation of a push by the U.S. and its allies to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the largest war in Europe since World War II.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation.”

Read the full story here.