IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.
EVENT ENDED
Last updated

Kharkiv under fresh attack, more civilians leave Ukraine

Fighting continued in Ukraine as Russia claimed to take control of the southern city of Kherson.

This blog has now ended. Follow our continuing live coverage of the war in Ukraine here.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine entered its seventh day Wednesday, with heavy attacks on the cities of Kharkiv and Kherson.

As civilian areas, including the capital Kyiv, came under increasingly intense shelling, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of "state terrorism."

Meanwhile, Ukrainians continued to defend their cities, with residents of Enerhodar, home to a major nuclear power plant, taking to the streets in a bid to block Russian forces.

In the week since the invasion began, more than 1 million people have fled Ukraine for neighboring countries, according to the U.N., which added that the number could top more than 4 million.

Follow our in-depth coverage of the Russia-Ukraine crisis here.

275d ago / 6:55 AM UTC

6 adults, 2 kids dead in bombing of high-rise, Ukrainian parliament says

Eight people, including two children, were killed after Russian strikes in the Ukrainian city of Izyum, Ukraine's parliament said Thursday.

The parliament tweeted that "a high-rise building and a private house" were hit. NBC News has not confirmed the claim.

Izyum is in eastern Ukraine around 70 miles from the Russian border. Ukraine is in the eighth day of fighting since Russia attacked and invaded last week.

275d ago / 5:50 AM UTC

3,800 troops at Fort Stewart ordered to deploy

SAVANNAH, Ga. — About 3,800 troops based at Fort Stewart in southeast Georgia have been ordered to deploy quickly and bolster U.S. forces in Europe after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s been very hectic and stressful, but overall it’s worked out,” Army Staff Sgt. Ricora Jackson said Wednesday as she waited with dozens of fellow soldiers to board a chartered flight at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah. The soldiers are from the 1st Armored Brigade of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.

In all, the Pentagon has ordered about 12,000 service members from various U.S. bases to Europe, with a couple of thousand more already stationed abroad shifting to other European countries.

The soldiers’ mission overseas is to train alongside military units of NATO allies in a display of force aimed at deterring further aggression by Russia.

Maj. Gen. Charles Costanza, the 3rd Infantry’s commander, said soldiers and their families were told to expect the deployment to last six months, though it could be extended or shortened depending on developments in Ukraine. “There is no intent to have any U.S. service member fight in Ukraine,” Costanza said. “And they know that.”

275d ago / 4:57 AM UTC

State Department: Russia restricting media, 'throttling' Twitter, Facebook

Russia's government has restricted news organizations and throttled internet services to mislead its people about its attack on Ukraine, the State Department said Wednesday.

The government restricted access to Radio Ekho Moskvy and Dozhd TV, the U.S. said.

It is also "throttling" Twitter, Facebook and Instagram platforms, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

"Russia is engaged in an unprovoked war on Ukraine. At home, the Kremlin is engaged in a full assault on media freedom and the truth, and Moscow’s efforts to mislead and suppress the truth of the brutal invasion are intensifying," Price said.

Russian officials have threatened independent media if they use terms that differ from the official narrative, like describing the attack and invasion against Ukraine as an "invasion" or a "war," The Associated Press has reported. 

275d ago / 4:25 AM UTC

Invasion forces Germany into diplomatic U-turn

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has accomplished what four years of hectoring by former President Donald Trump failed to do — persuade Germany to double its defense budget and boost its military contribution to NATO.

And Germany is not the only country that has made a diplomatic U-turn since Putin launched the biggest land war in Europe since World War II, top diplomats say.

“I was talking to my wife and saying that Biden did a good job in uniting the West,” said Ian Kelly, the former U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as the nation of Georgia. “She said, ‘No, Putin did a good job of uniting the West.’”

Read the full story here. 

275d ago / 4:16 AM UTC

Spotify closes office in Russia

Spotify said Wednesday it has closed its office in Russia indefinitely in response to what the audio streaming platform described as Moscow's "unprovoked attack on Ukraine."

Since July, Russian legislation signed by President Vladimir Putin has obliged foreign social media companies with more than 500,000 daily users to open local offices or be subject to restrictions as severe as outright bans.

Ahead of the March deadline, only a few companies, including Spotify, had complied.

"Our first priority over the past week has been the safety of our employees and to ensure that Spotify continues to serve as an important source of global and regional news at a time when access to information is more important than ever," Spotify said in a statement.

Spotify said it has reviewed thousands of pieces of content since the start of the war and restricted the discoverability of shows owned and operated by Russian state-affiliated media.

It also removed all content from state media RT and Sputnik this week in the European Union, the U.S. and other markets around the world, except for Russia, following similar steps by Twitter and Meta Platforms Inc.'s Facebook.

Spotify said it would match employee donations 2-to-1 to support local humanitarian efforts.

275d ago / 3:27 AM UTC
275d ago / 2:55 AM UTC

What to know about Ukraine's first lady, Olena Zelenska

With a massive Russian military convoy moving closer and closer to Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv, all eyes are on President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his family.

Zelenskyy, 44, has inspired many over the past week with his calls for strength and unity. And his wife, Olena Zelenska, 44, has been speaking out with equal passion.

Zelenska’s exact location is unknown. She is believed to have remained in Ukraine along with her husband and their children, Sasha and Cyril — a risky decision, considering that Zelenskyy has said he is Russia’s “target No. 1” and that his family is “target No. 2.”

Zelenska is drawing widespread praise for her presumed decision to remain in Ukraine and for sharing the realities of the crisis on social media.

Read more about Ukraine's first lady here.

275d ago / 2:26 AM UTC

At least 227 civilians killed in Ukraine, real toll 'much higher,' U.N. says

At least 227 civilians have been killed in Ukraine and 525 have been injured, the United Nations' human rights office said — but the real toll is "much higher," it said.

The dead include 15 children, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said Wednesday night. 

The casualties as of midnight Tuesday include only those recorded by the U.N. office. "OHCHR believes that real figures are considerably higher," it said.

Intense fighting in Ukraine has delayed reports, and many other reports are pending corroboration. Most of the casualties were from explosive weapons affecting wide areas, like artillery, rockets and airstrikes, it said.

Ukraine’s state emergency services said Wednesday that since the war began, around 2,000 civilians have died. The agency later walked back that number, calling it “approximate,” as it is unknown how many people are under fire or debris. NBC News has not confirmed the numbers of any deaths.

275d ago / 1:57 AM UTC

U.N.: 1 million refugees have fled Ukraine since invasion

One million people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries since Russia invaded last week, the United Nations' commissioner on refugees said Wednesday.

"In just seven days we have witnessed the exodus of one million refugees from Ukraine to neighbouring countries," High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi tweeted Wednesday.

"For many millions more, inside Ukraine, it’s time for guns to fall silent, so that life-saving humanitarian assistance can be provided," Grandi said.

275d ago / 1:41 AM UTC

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy: 'We will expel them'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that the situation in parts of his country was "very difficult" but that "we are resisting the terror."

Zelenskyy made the comments in a video address early Thursday as Russian forces intensified attacks on key Ukrainian cities.

"Even if they entered somewhere, it is only temporary. We will expel them, with disgrace," Zelenskyy said.

The southern city of Kherson, a major port on the Dnieper River and the Black Sea, has been the subject of fierce fighting, and its status was unclear. Its mayor said Wednesday that the city was encircled and pleaded for an open corridor to move in supplies, such as food and medicine.

Zelenskyy said Thursday that "in just a week we broke the enemy's plans, plans that have been building for years." He vowed that Ukrainians would fight, and he said that "every occupier needs to know they won't get anything here, won't conquer anyone."

Zelenskyy said almost 9,000 Russians have been killed. NBC News has not verified those numbers. The Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday that 498 of its service members have been killed and that 1,597 have been wounded.

275d ago / 1:30 AM UTC
276d ago / 1:08 AM UTC

Oil soars as markets, consumers brace for more volatility

After a steady ascent over the past week, the price of oil skyrocketed Wednesday. Market observers said the spike will continue to fuel volatility in the days and weeks ahead as traders try to sort through the implications for inflation and central bank policy — and whether, or when, ordinary Americans and businesses will hit their limit.

The broader question for investors is not just how much higher oil might go, but how much it could affect inflation. “Higher oil prices mean higher energy costs, and that’s really a key inflationary pressure,” said Will Rhind, the founder and CEO of GraniteShares.

“Like any inflationary factor, there comes a point where it creates demand destruction.”

Read the full story here

276d ago / 12:38 AM UTC

Defense Secretary Austin warns that Russia 'still has a lot of combat power' it hasn't used

Ukrainian forces have been "very effective" in slowing down the Russian military, but "there's a lot of combat power that the Russians still have available to them," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned Wednesday.

In an interview with "NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt," Austin said: 'We are all inspired by what we see, not just the Ukrainian forces but Ukrainian people. The resolve of the people has been has been amazing."

The Russians have made "missteps," and the Ukrainians "have been very effective in slowing down their pace. But I think we need to be clear-eyed about this, Lester. The Russians still have a lot of combat power that's at their disposal," he said.

The Russians "have a number of options going forward," and one is that President Vladimir Putin "can choose to de-escalate. And he can choose to pursue a diplomatic solution. And we hope that he does that," Austin said.

276d ago / 11:49 PM UTC

Member of European monitoring mission dies in Kharkiv while gathering supplies for family

A member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, an intergovernmental organization, was killed Tuesday in a shelling as she was monitoring conditions in Ukraine, the agency said in a statement

Maryna Fenina, part of the organization's special monitoring mission to Ukraine, died while she was gathering supplies for her family in Kharkiv, "a city that has become a war zone." 

"In Kharkiv and other cities and towns in Ukraine, missiles, shells and rockets are hitting residential buildings and town centers, killing and injuring innocent civilians — women, men and children alike," the agency said.  

"We strongly condemn the increased shelling in urban areas centres causing death and injury to civilians and reiterate our call on the Russian Federation for an immediate cessation of hostilities and to engage in a meaningful dialogue."

276d ago / 10:46 PM UTC

International Criminal Court to investigate Russia's invasion of Ukraine

The International Criminal Court said Wednesday that it has opened an investigation into Russia's invasion of Ukraine based on the referral of 39 member countries. 

The countries include Poland, Switzerland, Lithuania, Spain, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Canada, Colombia, Australia and New Zealand, among many others. The U.S. was not one of the countries because it is one of only seven countries that voted against the Rome Statute, the court's founding treaty.

"These referrals enable my Office to proceed with opening an investigation into the Situation in Ukraine from 21 November 2013 onwards, thereby encompassing within its scope any past and present allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed on any part of the territory of Ukraine by any person," Prosecutor Karim A.A. Khan said in a statement.

The U.K. foreign office said it was leading the effort to gather referrals and push the court to investigate.

"Any Russian leader or officer carrying out orders that amount to war crimes should know they face ending up in the dock of a court and ultimately in prison," Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said in a statement.

276d ago / 10:20 PM UTC

SWIFT to disconnect seven Russian banks on March 12

SWIFT, a service that facilitates global transactions among thousands of financial institutions, said it will cut off seven Russian banks as of March 12 in accordance with European Union guidance. 

"Diplomatic decisions taken by the European Union, in consultation with the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, bring SWIFT into efforts to end this crisis by requiring us to disconnect select Russian banks from our financial messaging services," SWIFT said in a statement Wednesday. "As previously stated, we will fully comply with applicable sanctions laws."

Cutting off Russian access to SWIFT is one of the toughest financial steps, and it could damage Russia's economy in the long term. The impacts were being felt even in the short term: Because SWIFT handles international bank payments, some Moscow hotels requested that customers settle their bills early in case their credit card systems no longer worked.

The U.S. and its allies moved last week to limit Russia's access to SWIFT, and many in the international community had been pushing for SWIFT to cut ties. As recently as Thursday, however, President Joe Biden had stopped short of pushing for the harsh financial penalty.

"Our deepest thoughts are with those suffering the tragic human consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine," SWIFT said in the statement.

276d ago / 10:01 PM UTC

Biden addresses Ukraine in visit to Wisconsin

President Joe Biden opened his remarks at an event promoting his domestic agenda in Wisconsin on Wednesday by discussing the crisis in Ukraine.

"We, the United States of America, stand with the Ukrainian people," he said. 

Biden said the bravery the Ukrainian people have demonstrated is "amazing," and he criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for believing he could "split" NATO, Europe and the U.S.

"Vladimir Putin's latest attack on Ukraine is premeditated and unprovoked. He's rejected repeated efforts of diplomacy. He thought the West and NATO wouldn't respond. He thought they could divide us at home, but he was wrong. We are ready," Biden said.

276d ago / 9:40 PM UTC

U.S. postpones ballistic missile test in bid to lessen Russia nuclear tensions

and

The U.S. military has postponed a long-planned intercontinental ballistic missile test scheduled for this weekend after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was putting his country's nuclear forces on alert, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday. 

"In an effort to demonstrate that we have no intention in engaging in any actions that could be misunderstood or misconstrued, the secretary of defense has directed that our Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch scheduled for this week to be postponed," Kirby told reporters at his daily briefing. "We did not take this decision lightly, but instead to demonstrate that we are a responsible nuclear power."

While the U.S. and their allies have said they have not seen any actual change in Russia's nuclear readiness posture, Kirby said, "such provocative rhetoric and possible changes to nuclear posture involving the most consequential weapons in our respective arsenals is unacceptable. The United States has not taken any similar steps." But, he added, "we recognize at this moment of tension how critical it is that the United States and Russia bear in mind the risks of miscalculation and take steps to reduce those risks."

He said postponing the test would not affect U.S. military readiness.

"It's not going to change our strategic deterrent posture one bit. It's a wise and prudent decision by the secretary to send a strong, clear, unambiguous message to Mr. Putin how seriously we take our nuclear responsibilities at a potentially tense time."  

276d ago / 8:56 PM UTC
276d ago / 8:49 PM UTC

Sen. Joe Manchin says he'll introduce legislation to prevent U.S. imports of Russian oil

and

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Wednesday he's planning to introduce legislation with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that would prohibit the U.S. and domestic companies from importing Russian crude oil and petroleum.

The bill "declares a national emergency with respect to Russian aggression against Ukraine and the threat to our national security, foreign policy, and economy and directs the President to the authority he has had since 1917 to prohibit imports of crude oil, petroleum, petroleum products and LNG from Russia," the senators wrote in a one-page draft document, obtained by NBC News.

The ban would be in place "during the national emergency and either the President or Congress would be able to terminate the emergency and the import ban," they wrote, adding that continuing to import Russian products "puts our national security at risk and supports Putin's ability to stay in power."

The effort comes after a group of Republicans proposed similar legislation seeking to ban imports of Russian oil earlier this week. While the sanctions imposed by the U.S. against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine so far does not include oil and gas exports, White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said, "We haven't ruled out that."

276d ago / 8:36 PM UTC

Blinken announces sanctions on 22 Russian defense-related entities

Blinken told reporters on Wednesday the U.S. is imposing "sweeping" sanctions on Russia's defense sector. 

In total, 22 Russian defense-related entities will be designated "including companies that make combat aircraft, infantry fighting vehicles, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic warfare systems — the very systems now being used to assault the Ukrainian people, abuse human rights, violate international humanitarian law," Blinken said. 

"All told, these sanctions and restrictions have had a powerful effect on Russia's economy," he continued. 

276d ago / 8:30 PM UTC
276d ago / 8:28 PM UTC

U.S. has sent hundreds of Stinger missiles to Ukraine this week

and

The U.S. has delivered hundreds of Stinger missiles to Ukraine this week, including more than 200 on Monday, two congressional officials briefed on the deliveries said. 

The shipments are part of the $350 million lethal and nonlethal aid package the White House announced late Friday. The package also includes Javelin anti-tank missiles and ammunition, both of which the Ukrainian government has said it needs to fight off the advancing Russian military.

Stinger missiles can shoot down aircraft. During the Cold War, the U.S. government secretly supplied Afghan resistance fighters with Stingers to shoot down Russian helicopters over Afghanistan.

The Defense Department and the National Security Council declined to comment.  

Germany announced over the weekend that it was sending 500 Stinger missiles to Ukraine, as well.

276d ago / 8:26 PM UTC

Russian woman burns passport at Scottish protest: 'I'm ashamed to be Russian'

and

A Russian woman who set fire to her passport at a Tuesday vigil in Edinburgh, Scotland, protesting Russia's invasion of Ukraine has said she is "ashamed to be Russian."

In a phone interview Wednesday, Anna Jakubova said she was horrified by Russia's deadly war. 

"I feel ashamed of being associated with this country," she said. "I feel horrible for Ukrainians. I feel so sad."

Jakubova can be seen in a video posted to Facebook lighting her passport on fire, saying: "I hope the Russian government burns just as well." In photos shared with NBC News after the demonstration, the front cover of the passport can be seen almost completely burned off, along with some of its key pages.

Jakubova, 26, who left Russia around a decade ago because she disagreed with Moscow's treatment of marginalized groups, said giving up her passport was "nothing in comparison" to what Ukrainians have lost.

Jakubova said that she is still an Estonian citizen but that her decision to burn her Russian passport and speak out against Moscow's invasion most likely means she may never see some loved ones still living in Russia again. 

"Despite the Russian government, in some ways, Moscow will always be my home," she said.

However, she said: "This is a sacrifice that I think is worth it to make, because Ukrainians are sacrificing so much more than that." 

She said she hoped her action would also draw attention to protesters' calls for support for Ukraine, including demands for a no-fly zone over the country.

276d ago / 8:20 PM UTC

Russian ambassador to U.N. appears to invoke Trump's stolen election lie

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya invoked former President Donald Trump's stolen election lie on Wednesday in remarks opposing a resolution denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a speech advancing Russia's false narrative about the invasion, Nebenzya said the ousting of a Russian-backed president in Ukraine in 2014 by protestors and the country's own parliament was a “coup” conducted with “the connivance of Germany, France, and Poland, and with the support of the United States, where the legitimately elected president of the country was overthrown,” according to a live English translation of his Russian remarks.

This is false. Numerous investigations, audits, and inquiries in states across the country have concluded the 2020 presidential election was safe, secure, and its results accurate, despite false claims advanced by Trump, who lost the White House to President Joe Biden. Trump's numerous attempts to challenge the results of the election in court also failed.

276d ago / 8:07 PM UTC

Blinken to travel to Europe Thursday, will visit countries on NATO's eastern flank

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will leave Thursday for a trip to Europe, which will include stops in a number of countries on NATO's eastern flank, the State Department said. 

Blinken will first arrive in Brussels where he's expected to participate in the NATO and G7 meetings of foreign ministers. 

On Saturday, Blinken will travel to Poland where State Department press secretary Ned Price said America's top diplomat will meet with Polish leaders, "including Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, to discuss further security assistance in the face of Russia’s continued aggression and unprovoked attack on Ukraine."

"He will also thank Poland for generously welcoming hundreds of thousands of displaced persons from Ukraine and discuss how the United States can augment humanitarian assistance efforts for those fleeing Putin’s war," Price added. 

Blinken will then travel to Lithuania on Sunday, to Latvia on Monday and to Estonia on Tuesday. 

"During all three stops, he will discuss joint efforts to support Ukraine, strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defense, promote democracy and human rights, and pursue deeper economic and energy cooperation with our Baltic Allies," Price said. 

276d ago / 7:59 PM UTC

The lives of Ukraine's Black immigrants come into focus as reports of racism at Polish border emerge

After having studied in India, Heidi Nguema visited Ukraine a few years ago with no plans to make it his home. But as an African from the country of Gabon, in the central part of the continent, he said, he “fell in love” with Ukraine and “decided to stay.”

Part of the reason for his affection for the European country that neighbors Russia is that he never had problems with racism in Ukraine, “even if I know some who did. It can’t compare with the U.S., for sure,” said Nguema, who lives in Uman, a city in central Ukraine.

So it jolted him when he heard from others that many Black people of Ukraine, most of them African, had been prevented from entering Poland and other safe countries to elude the Russian attacks that started last week.

Nguema, the owner of a digital agency who also teaches English and French in Ukraine, said life had been solid before the invasion. “I have great colleagues, my brother who helped me a lot, his family and awesome friends,” he said.

But the war is taking a toll.

Read the full story here.

276d ago / 7:52 PM UTC

276d ago / 7:18 PM UTC

White House targets items critical to oil refining in new round of Russia sanctions

The White House announced new sanctions Wednesday on Russia and its ally, Belarus, for "enabling Putin's invasion of Ukraine." 

As the administration continues to spare Russia's energy sector from direct sanctions, but the action Wednesday represents a first: export controls on items critical to oil refining.

"Through export controls on oil and gas extraction equipment, the Commerce Department will impose restrictions on technology exports that would support Russia’s refining capacity over the long term," the White House said in a statement.

The Commerce Department will also extend export control policies put in place for Russia to Belarus, which the White House said will "severely limit the ability of Russia and Belarus to obtain the materials they need to support their military aggression against Ukraine." 

The State Department will also impose sanctions that target Russia's defense sector such as on weapons development and production companies.

276d ago / 6:59 PM UTC

European Parliament's president says Kremlin representatives are banned from parliament's premises

The president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, said Wednesday that she's banning representatives from the Kremlin from parliament grounds. 

"The European Parliament has a long, proud, history of being a thorn in the side of autocrats. In that spirit, I will ban representatives of Kremlin from entering @Europarl_EN premises. Aggressors & warmongers have no place in our House of democracy," Metsola tweeted.

The headquarters for parliament is located in Strasbourg, France.  Parliament committee meetings are mainly held in Brussels, Belgium. 

276d ago / 6:47 PM UTC

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich to sell Chelsea Football Club

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich will sell Chelsea Football Club following mounting pressure over his ownership of the prominent team amid the invasion of Ukraine, he announced Wednesday. 

“I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart. In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the Club as I believe this is in the best interest of the Club, the fans, the employees, as well as the Club’s sponsors and partners,” he said in a statement.

He said the sale of the club will not be fast-tracked, and he won’t ask for any loans to be repaid. 

”This has never been about business nor money for me, but about pure passion for the game and Club,” the billionaire, who has owned the team since 2003, said. 

Abramovich said his team will set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated to benefit victims of the war in Ukraine. 

“Please know that this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it pains me to part with the Club in this manner,” he said. “It has been a privilege of a lifetime to be part of Chelsea FC and I am proud of all our joint achievements. Chelsea Football Club and its supporters will always be in my heart.”

The announcement comes after the team decried the conflict as "horrific and devastating."

276d ago / 6:20 PM UTC

Almost 500 troops killed in Ukraine, Russia says in first casualty report since invasion

Almost 500 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine, Russia's defense ministry said Wednesday in its first report of military casualties since the country invaded its neighbor last week.

"Unfortunately, there are losses among our comrades participating in the special military operation," Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement, adding that 498 servicemen had died and 1,597 had been wounded. 

Two Western officials told NBC News that about 5,800 Russians have been killed, a number in line with Ukraine’s estimates. However, one U.S. official is cautioning that the estimates have been all over the map, ranging from as low as 500 to more than 5,000, and are extremely difficult to pin down.

Ukraine’s state emergency services said Wednesday that since the war began, around 2,000 civilians have died. The agency later walked back that number calling it "approximate" as it is unknown how many people are under fire or debris.

NBC News has not been able to independently verify any of these numbers.  

Konashenkov said that Russia continued to strike at the military infrastructure of Ukraine and had hit command posts, communication centers and other targets. 

"Russian soldiers and officers show courage, bravery and heroism," he said. 

 

276d ago / 5:57 PM UTC

Africans report racism and hostility trying to flee Ukraine

Alexander Somto Orah, 25, was among thousands of people crowding a Kyiv train station Friday, hoping to flee Ukraine amid the Russian invasion. He said he and his friends hoped to get to safety at the Polish border quickly but that officials wouldn’t allow the group of Africans to board trains out of the region.

“I was like, ‘You are picking only white people!’” Orah said. He said he and his friends briefly made it onto a second train headed to Poland but were quickly kicked off, with officials telling them “Ukrainians only.”

Orah is one of several African citizens living in Ukraine who have reported racist discrimination and abuse at the border. Videos on social media have shown officials appearing to threaten to shoot groups of African students, a woman shielding an infant from the cold, officials chasing groups of people and people reported to be stranded in Ukraine. Representatives from several African countries — Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Gabon — have condemned the reports, and the African Union said Monday that it was disturbed by the news.

Read the full story here.

276d ago / 5:50 PM UTC

Russia 'will not end its military activities' in Ukraine, U.N. ambassador warns

The Kremlin "will not end its military activities" in Ukraine, Russia's Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya warned Wednesday, ahead of a vote to demand it stop its offensive at the U.N. General Assembly.

After the 193-member assembly convened its first emergency session since 1997, the vote saw 141 countries to condemn Moscow's actions and demand an immediate halt to its use of force. Five countries voted against the resolution and 35 abstained. Assembly resolutions aren't legally binding, but they do have clout in reflecting international opinion.

Before the vote took place, Nebenzya said his country would not change course. Instead he said Russia was trying to "stop the war," in Ukraine's eastern regions of Donestk and Luhansk known collectively as the Donbas. Both are controlled by Russian-backed separatists. 

Nebenzya added that Russia was "not carrying out strikes on civilian facilities and civilians."

"Don’t believe the large number of fakes spread around the internet about this," he said. "These fakes are distributed like biscuits. These were distributed by Ukraine."

276d ago / 5:40 PM UTC

How Russia's war in Ukraine came back to bite Putin at home

The currency is nosediving, the market is in panic and frantic citizens are trying to withdraw savings from increasingly barren ATMs. Meanwhile, anti-war protesters are joined by members of the billionaire elite who have broken rank against their embattled president. There are questions about the country’s capacity to survive the crisis — and what it may do next in desperation.

This is not Ukraine under siege, but rather the blowback for its invader, Russia.

When President Vladimir Putin launched his war on Ukraine, few predicted the conflict would have such immediate consequences for the Kremlin and the Russian people.

Not only has it drawn the anticipated barrage of Western sanctions, it has unleashed boycotts of Russian sponsors by Western businesses, countries closing their airspace to Russian planes, and international sports and entertainment events freezing out Moscow's competitors.

Almost overnight Russia has become a pariah.

Read the full story here.

276d ago / 5:32 PM UTC
276d ago / 5:29 PM UTC

EA Sports FIFA to remove Russian team and clubs from video games

The video game maker EA Sports FIFA said Wednesday that it will remove the Russian national team and Russian clubs from its products. 

The move comes after FIFA itself said Tuesday that it was kicking Russia out of the World Cup and also suspending all Russian teams and clubs indefinitely. Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic refused to play Russia in any of the qualifying matches. 

276d ago / 5:20 PM UTC

Cameraman reportedly killed in bombing of Kyiv television tower

Reporters Without Borders, a non-governmental organization based in Paris, said that Evgeny Sakun, a cameraman with Kiev Live TV, was killed when Russia bombed Kyiv's television tower on Tuesday. The grouped added that "The targeting of journalists is a war crime." Like civilians, journalists are protected by humanitarian law in armed conflicts. 

The Russian defense ministry said no residential buildings were damaged, and Ukraine said five people were killed in the bombing.

276d ago / 5:11 PM UTC

U.N. General Assembly votes overwhelmingly to censure Russia

The U.N. General Assembly voted Wednesday to reprimand Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and demand that Moscow stop fighting and withdraw its military forces.

The General Assembly voted 141 in favor and 5 opposed, with 35 nations abstaining on the draft resolution “Aggression against Ukraine” which has been co-sponsored by 94 countries.

"We believe this is a simple vote," said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield during remarks on Wednesday. "Vote yes if you believe you in member states, including your own, have a right to sovereignty and territorial integrity. Vote yes if you believe Russia should be held to account for his actions. Vote yes if you believe in upholding the U.N. Charter and everything this institution stands for."

Read more about the historic vote on NBCNews.com

276d ago / 5:08 PM UTC

Justice Department launches special unit to enforce Russia sanctions

The Justice Department launched a task force Wednesday to enforce the new sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Russia.

President Joe Biden previewed the creation of the unit in his State of the Union address, saying it would “go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs.”

"Tonight, I say to the Russian oligarchs and corrupt leaders who have bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime: No more," Biden said, adding, "We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts your luxury apartments your private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains."

The new unit, known as Task Force KleptoCapture, will investigate and prosecute current and future sanctions resulting from the Ukraine invasion, the Justice Department said. 

Read the full story.

276d ago / 5:04 PM UTC

Ukraine's Svitolina beats Russia's Potapova at tennis' Monterrey Open

Elina Svitolina put on the yellow and blue colors of Ukraine and beat Anastasia Potapova of Russia 6-2, 6-1 on Tuesday in the opening round of the Monterrey Open, deciding she could do more for her country by playing than boycotting the match.

Top-seeded Svitolina earlier said she wouldn’t play against Potapova in Mexico or against any Russian or Belarusian opponents until the International Tennis Federation and the men’s and women’s tennis tours barred competitors from those countries using any national symbols, flags or anthems.

Image: Elina Svitolina and Anastasia Potapova
Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, left, and Anastasia Potapova of Russia shake hands after their match at the Abierto de Monterrey tennis tournament in Monterrey, Mexico, on March 1, 2022.AP

The tennis governing bodies issued a statement Tuesday confirming that Russian and Belarusian players will still be allowed to compete at the top level, but without national flags.

“Today it was a very special match for me,” Svitolina, 27, said. “I’m in a very sad mood, but I’m happy that I'm playing tennis here.

“All the prize money that I'm going to earn is going to be for the Ukrainian army,” added Svitolina, who won this tournament in 2020. The Monterrey Open has $31,000 in prize money for the champion.

276d ago / 4:59 PM UTC

‘My city is dust’: Woman flees Kharkiv after house bombed

and

LVIV, Ukraine — Katerina Belash is one of many who have fled Kharkiv amidst explosions in the city, telling NBC News, “my house got burnt by a bomb." She said she lost friends who hid in basements as the city was targeted with “some new kind of forbidden bombs” that “destroy everything.”

“My whole city is just dust,” she said.

She fled on a train through Kyiv where the lights went out for hours. She heard shooting, bombs and planes flying overhead along the way. 

“It was like giving your soul to God every second," she recalled. "I thought I can die.”

Belash said she now has post-traumatic stress disorder, hasn't slept in six days and has barely eaten. 

"Every time I hear a sound or anything I start shaking and my friends bring medical stuff to get me back to normal condition," she said. 

Belash said she wants to get the message out that, "We have been killed by the country that wanted to take Ukraine over and kill our people for being patriotic."

“Please do cherish the clear sky, every time you see sky. Cherish every moment of your life,” she said. 

276d ago / 4:55 PM UTC

A woman cries outside houses damaged by a Russian airstrike, according to locals, in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 2, 2022.

Image: A woman cries outside houses damaged by a Russian airstrike outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 2, 2022.
A woman cries outside houses damaged by a Russian airstrike, according to locals, in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 2, 2022.Vadim Ghirda / AP
276d ago / 4:45 PM UTC

Russia criticized after Ukraine says Kyiv airstrike hits near Holocaust memorial site

Moscow has drawn fresh international condemnation after Ukraine said one of the Russian airstrikes hit near a historical memorial site where Nazis massacred tens of thousands of Jews during World War II.

Jewish groups around the world condemned the bombing, which Ukraine said hit the land beside Babi Yar, a Kyiv ravine where the Nazis killed an estimated 33,000 Jews in 1941.

There was no evidence the site, which is thought to be one of the largest mass graves in Europe and is now a Holocaust memorial, was deliberately targeted.

The Russian defense ministry said Tuesday it bombed the Kyiv television tower, a 1,200-foot-high steel structure. It said no residential buildings were damaged, and Ukraine said five people were killed.

The tower is located next to Babi Yar and officials said the bomb hit the territory where the atrocities were committed. Earlier, shelling hit the town of Uman, a significant pilgrimage site for Hasidic Jews.

For many, whether deliberate or not, these strikes exposed the absurdity of Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim that he launched the war to "denazify" Ukraine.

Read the full story here.

276d ago / 4:30 PM UTC

China will not join sanctions on Russia, banking regulator says

China will not join in sanctions on Russia that have been led by the West, the country's banking regulator said Wednesday, adding that he believed the impact of the measures on China would be limited.

China, which has refused to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, has repeatedly criticized what it calls illegal and unilateral sanctions.

"As far as financial sanctions are concerned, we do not approve of these, especially the unilaterally launched sanctions because they do not work well and have no legal grounds," Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, told a news conference.

"We will not participate in such sanctions. We will continue to maintain normal economic and trade exchanges with relevant parties," he said.

China and Russia have grown increasingly close in recent years, including as trading partners. Total trade between the two jumped 35.9 percent last year to a record $146.9 billion, according to Chinese customs data, with Russia serving as a major source of oil, gas, coal and agriculture commodities, running a trade surplus with China.

"The impact from the sanctions on China's economy and financial sector is so far not too significant," Guo added.

276d ago / 4:18 PM UTC
276d ago / 4:18 PM UTC

Nord Stream 2 says it fired employees but cannot confirm bankruptcy reports

The Swiss company behind the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline said Wednesday that it could not confirm reports that it had filed for bankruptcy, but it did say it had terminated employees "following the recent geopolitical developments."

Known as Nord Stream 2 AG, the company's website only contained a brief statement on Wednesday morning. It said it had taken down its website "due to serious and continuous attacks from outside."

The company, which built the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, said its mobile and network lines are also unreachable at this time and provided a single email address for contact. 

Reuters reported Tuesday that the company, controlled by Russian state-owned energy corporation Gazprom, had considered going bankrupt after the U.S. sanctioned it last week. 

Its signature project, the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, was completed in September but had not begun operations. It was awaiting certification from Germany and the European Union when the project was halted last week. The pipeline would have doubled the capacity to pump gas between the Russia and Germany.

276d ago / 4:04 PM UTC

Historic Italian opera house replaces Russian conductor for failing to condemn invasion

One of Italy’s most historic opera houses has replaced its Russian conductor because he failed to condemn his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Milan’s Teatro alla Scala said in a statement that it had written a letter to Maestro Valery Gergiev “inviting him to express his support for the peaceful resolution of disputes,” on the morning of Feb. 24 shortly after Russian forces moved into Ukraine. 

Having received no reply six days later it said “a different solution is inevitable.” The next performances of Tchaikovsky's “The Queen of Spades” will be conducted by Maestro Timur Zangiev, it added. 

Zangiev had already conducted part of the rehearsals and was appreciated by the orchestra, it said.

276d ago / 3:54 PM UTC

First medical aid shipment from World Health Organization to arrive in Poland Thursday

The World Health Organization says the first shipment of medical aid for Ukraine will arrive in Poland on Thursday. 

WHO is working with partners to assess and respond to the impact of the war on the health of Ukraine’s people and health system, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a media briefing on the pandemic Wednesday. 

WHO will deliver essential medical supplies from its hub in Dubai.

The shipment includes 36 metric tons of supplies for trauma care and emergency surgery that will meet the needs of 1,000 patients. It also includes other health supplies to meet the needs of 150,000 people. 

Before the war broke out, WHO distributed emergency supplies to 23 hospitals. WHO noted that prepositioned supplies in Kyiv are “currently inaccessible.”

"There is an urgent need to establish a corridor to ensure humanitarian workers and supplies have safe and continuous access to reach people in need," Tedros said.

276d ago / 3:35 PM UTC

More than 1 million sign petition launched by prominent Russian activist to 'stop the war' in Ukraine

More than 1 million people have signed a petition started by a prominent Russian human rights activist calling on Russia to "stop the war" in Ukraine.

Launched on change.org by Lev Ponomaryov, chairman of the nongovernmental organization For Human Rights, the petition announced the formation of a new "anti-war movement."

The petition calls for a stop to the conflict in Ukraine to "prevent it from developing into a war on a planetary scale."

Specifically, it calls for an "immediate cease-fire" by Russia forces, as well as the immediate withdrawal of troops from Ukraine. 

The petition has spread despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's growing crackdown on dissent.

The petition has gained the attention of a number of prominent people, including actor Mark Ruffalo, who shared it on Twitter. As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, the petition had garnered more than 1.1 million signatures.