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Kremlin is targeting all of Europe, Zelenskyy says as the war moves east

The “whole European project is a target for Russia,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a late-night address.

Coverage on this live blog has ended, please click here for the latest updates.

British defense officials said Sunday that more evidence has been uncovered of war crimes by Russian troops and that it includes the reported discovery of a mass grave containing bodies of civilians near Burzova.

NBC news has been unable to confirm the report with the U.S. Department of Defense or Ukrainian officials.

Civilians continued to flee the Russian onslaught in the eastern parts of the country.

Meanwhile, Russia’s reported appointment of Gen. Alexander Dvornikov to take over operations in Ukraine marked what some military analysts see as an indication that Moscow intends to terrorize civilians as the war progresses.

Dvornikov, working to crush resistance to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country’s civil war, destroyed whole cities while dropping barrel bombs targeting civilians.

Also Sunday, a British military intelligence briefing reported that Russia’s armed forces were seeking to strengthen troop numbers with personnel discharged from military service since 2012.

And in a late-night address posted Saturday to his Telegram channel, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russia is targeting the whole of Europe with its aggression and that stopping the invasion of Ukraine is essential for the security of all democracies.

Zelenskyy repeated his call for a complete embargo on Russian oil and gas, saying they were “the two sources of Russian self-confidence” and “their sense of impunity.” He added that the “whole European project is a target for Russia.”

See full coverage here.

More Americans view Russia as an enemy since the invasion

128d ago / 4:25 AM UTC

Former President Donald Trump made clear his policy on Russia: Friendship is better than war. It's a reasonable concept, but more and more Americans don't buy it now that they've seen the devastation in Ukraine.

In fact, without Trump in office, with Russia meddling in a second presidential election and with the daily imagery of Ukraine's manifest demolition, U.S. views have shifted dramatically: Seven in 10 Americans see the country as an enemy, compared with 4 in 10 in January, the Pew Research Center said in an email blast over the weekend about its latest polling data.

But the real mind-blower here is that Republicans and Democrats agree to nearly within the +-2.3 percentage-point margin of error. About 72 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of Republicans now describe Russia as an enemy.

Republicans had the biggest change of heart, with the proportion of GOP adults who have very unfavorable views of Russia doubling to 67 percent since 2020, Pew said.

The highest proportion of American adults since Pew began measuring attitudes on Russia in 2008 now believes Russia is a major threat to the nation: 65 percent.

U.K. defense ministry: Evidence of war crimes continues to mount

129d ago / 12:38 AM UTC

The British defense ministry said Sunday that evidence of war crimes by Russian troops continued to mount as the invaders' retreat pulled the covers off new scenes of carnage.

The ministry, citing intelligence, said the latest evidence was uncovered in northern Ukraine and that it includes the reported discovery of a mass grave containing the bodies of civilians near Burzova.

NBC News has been unable to confirm the report with the U.S. Defense Department or Ukrainian officials.

The U.K. ministry added that allegations of sex crimes by Russian troops have persisted as the forces appeared to ebb in the north.

Zelenskyy accuses Russia of 'cowardliness' in latest video address

129d ago / 8:47 PM UTC

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused the Russian military of lying and cowardliness in his latest official video post Sunday as he proposed and promoted new sanctions against Russia.

“The Russian military are lying so much that even after six weeks of the war they claim that they did not hit a single civilian target. You know why? Because it is cowardliness. Total. Of everyone, from top to bottom,” he said. 

“They captured Crimea and blamed us. They destroyed normal life in Donbas, and we are somehow to blame. They shot down the Malaysia Airlines Boeing, and we are somehow to blame. For eight years, they have been killing the people, children on our land. And we are somehow to blame,” Zelenskyy added.

Zelenskyy said that when people lack the courage to admit their mistakes, apologize, adapt to reality and learn, they become "monsters." "And when the world ignores it, the monsters decide that the world must adapt to them. Ukraine will stop all this. Nothing will help Russian cowardice. The day will come when they will have to admit everything, admit the truth.”

New Russian commander dubbed 'war criminal' for brutal tactics

129d ago / 8:00 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — Russia’s newly appointed battlefield commander in Ukraine made his reputation crushing resistance to Syrian President Bashar Assad during that country’s devastating civil war.

Russian forces led by Gen. Alexander Dvornikov destroyed whole cities while dropping barrel bombs that targeted civilians. With Moscow supporting Assad, the war in Syria has killed more than 350,000 people.

Lt. Col. Fares al-Bayoush, a Syrian army defector, said Sunday he expects a similar “scorched-earth” strategy under the commander in Ukraine. Speaking by telephone from Turkey, al-Bayoush said he believes the aim of naming Dvornikov as Ukraine war commander is to cause widespread destruction in many places at once.

“He has very good experience in this policy,” al-Bayoush said. “This commander is a war criminal.”

Search for survivors continues in Borodianka after Russian occupation

129d ago / 7:00 PM UTC

BORODIANKA, Ukraine — Firefighters continued searching Saturday for survivors or the dead in the debris of destroyed buildings in a northern Ukrainian town that was occupied for weeks by Russian forces.

Residents of Borodianka expect to find dozens of victims under the rubble of the several buildings destroyed during fighting between Russian forces and Ukrainian troops. The town is about 75 kilometers (47 miles) northwest of the capital of Kyiv and had more than 12,000 residents.

Russian troops occupied Borodianka while advancing towards Kyiv in an attempt to encircle it. They retreated during the last days of March following fierce fighting. The town is without electricity, natural gas or other services.

A 77-year-old resident, Maria Vaselenko, said her daughter and son-in-law’s bodies have been under rubble for 36 days because Russian soldiers would not allow residents to search for loved ones or their bodies. She said her two teenage grandchildren escaped to Poland but are now orphans.

“The Russians were shooting. And some people wanted to come and help, but they were shooting them,” she told The Associated Press. “They were putting explosives under dead people.”

Biden will press India to take hard line against Russia’s Ukraine invasion

129d ago / 6:00 PM UTC

WILMINGTON, Del. — The White House said President Joe Biden will press Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take a hard line against Russia’s Ukraine invasion. Press secretary Jen Psaki says the leaders plan a virtual meeting on Monday.

India’s neutral stance in the war has raised concerns in Washington and earned praise from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who lauded India this month for judging “the situation in its entirety, not just in a one-sided way.”

India abstained when the U.N. General Assembly voted Thursday to suspend Russia from its seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council over allegations of war crimes. India continues to purchase Russian energy despite Western pressure to avoid buying Russian oil and gas. And the U.S. has considered sanctions on India for its recent purchase of advanced Russian air defense systems.

Psaki’s statement says Biden will discuss how Russia’s war against Ukraine is destabilizing the global food supply and commodity markets, and the need to strengthen the global economy while ”upholding a free, open, rules-based international order to bolster security, democracy, and prosperity.”

Airport hit twice by missile attacks on Sunday

129d ago / 5:01 PM UTC

KYIV, Ukraine — The governor of the region that includes Ukraine’s fourth-largest city, Dnipro, says the airport was hit twice by missile attacks on Sunday. The Ukrainian military command said Russian forces also keep shelling Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and have kept up their siege of Mariupol, the key southern port city that has been under attack for nearly six weeks.

The Russian Defense Ministry says it’s air-launched missiles hit Ukraine’s S-300 air defense missile systems in two locations, while sea-launched cruise missiles destroyed a Ukrainian unit’s headquarters in the Dnipro region. Neither side’s military claims could be independently verified.

The Pentagon said Russia has a clear advantage in armored forces for its next phase in its war on Ukraine. Press secretary John Kirby said Friday that the Russians spread themselves too thin to take the capital, but now they’re more focused on a smaller region, and still have the vast majority of their combat power. A major effort by Ukrainian defenses and more Western assistance will be needed to push them back.

Austrian Chancellor to meet with Putin in Moscow on Monday

129d ago / 4:40 PM UTC

BERLIN -- Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday.

The Austria Press Agency reported that Nehammer told reporters in Vienna on Sunday that he plans to make the journey. It follows a trip on Saturday to Kyiv, where he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

APA reported that Nehammer aims to encourage dialogue between Ukraine and Russia and also address Russian “war crimes” in his meeting with Putin.

Austria is a member of the European Union and has backed the 27-nation bloc’s sanctions against Russia, though it so far has opposed cutting off deliveries of Russian gas. The country is militarily neutral and is not a member of NATO.

Nehammer said he was taking the trip on his own initiative, and that he had consulted with the European Union’s top officials. He said that he also informed Zelenskyy and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

129d ago / 4:03 PM UTC

129d ago / 4:03 PM UTC

Russia assigns new ground commander for Ukraine

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129d ago / 3:28 PM UTC

Russia has assigned Gen. Aleksandr Dvornikov as the new ground commander in Ukraine, according to a U.S. official and a Western official.

The Western official said it had not been known that Russia had a single commander on the ground coordinating the entire military campaign across Ukraine until now. Instead, regional commanders had been in place.

Both officials who identified the new commander spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be identified.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the general would “just be another author of crimes and brutality against Ukrainian civilians.”

Dvornikov became prominent when he led the Russian group of forces in Syria, where Moscow has waged a military campaign since 2015 to shore up President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in a devastating civil war.

Dvornikov, a career military officer, has steadily risen through the ranks after having started as a platoon commander in 1982. He fought during the second war in Chechnya and took several top positions before he was placed in charge of the Russian troops in Syria in 2015.

In 2016, Russia President Vladimir Putin awarded him the Hero of Russia medal, one of the country’s highest awards. Dvornikov has been the commander of Russia's Southern Military District since 2016.

Provide weapons ‘so that you don’t have to step up and fight’ Putin: Ukraine's foreign minister

129d ago / 3:04 PM UTC

In an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba talks Wbout western support for Ukraine and what the battle for eastern Ukraine will require.

NATO working on plans for permanent military presence on borders, secretary-general says

129d ago / 2:45 PM UTC

NATO is working on plans for a permanent, full-scale military force on its borders in an effort to prevent future Russian aggression, according to the organization's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

NATO was “in the midst of a very fundamental transformation,” that will reflect “the long-term consequences” of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions, Stoltenberg said in an exclusive interview with British newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph.

“What we see now is a new reality, a new normal for European security,” he added. “Therefore, we have now asked our military commanders to provide options for what we call a reset, a longer-term adaptation of NATO.”

Stoltenberg added that decisions on the reset would be made at a NATO summit to be held in Madrid in June.

Pope calls for Easter truce in Ukraine leading to peace negotiations

129d ago / 1:59 PM UTC

Image: VATICAN-POPE-MASS-PALM-SUNDAY
Pope Francis blesses the olive branches as he leads the Palm Sunday mass in St. Peter square, at the Vatican on Sunday.Filippo Monteforte / AFP - Getty Images

Pope Francis on Sunday called for an Easter truce in Ukraine, leading to negotiations and peace.

“Put the weapons down!” he said at the end of a Palm Sunday service for tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.

“Let An Easter truce start. But not to rearm and resume combat but a truce to reach peace through real negotiations,” he said.

Earlier in the morning, Pope Francis condemned the “folly of war,” as he led Palm Sunday services in St. Peter’s Square, saying in a reference to Ukraine that those who cause mothers to mourn and soldiers to kill know nothing of God.

7.1 million people displaced by war in Ukraine, U.N. says

129d ago / 1:18 PM UTC

The number of internally displaced people in Ukraine rose to 7.1 million as of Wednesday, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced Sunday.

The preliminary estimate of internally displaced people was between 6.5 million and 6.7 million.

Russia seeks to bolster forces as losses mount, U.K. says

129d ago / 12:45 PM UTC

Russian armed forces was seeking to strengthen troop numbers with personnel discharged from military service since 2012 in response to mounting losses in its invasion of Ukraine, an intelligence briefing from Britain's defense ministry said Sundy.

The Russian forces’ efforts to boost their fighting power also includes trying to recruit from the unrecognised Transnistria region of Moldova, it said in a bulletin posted on Twitter.

129d ago / 12:05 PM UTC

Russia’s target is ‘the whole European project,’ Zelenskyy says

129d ago / 11:15 AM UTC

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged for more pressure to be applied on Russia in a late-night address Saturday, calling it the “moral duty” of all democratic countries to support his country and curb Moscow's threat to the rest of Europe.

“The Russian aggression did not have an objective to limit itself with just Ukraine, with ruining just our freedom and our life,” Zelenskyy said in the daily address. “The whole European project — that’s the target for the Russian Federation.”

His comments came after he was was visited by the Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer in Kyiv Saturday.

Zelenskyy also called for a complete oil and gas embargo on Russia, calling them “the two sources of Russian self-confidence and their sense of impunity.”

“The oil embargo has to be the first step, on the level of all democratic countries, the whole civilized world,” the Ukrainian leader said. “Then Russia will feel it, it will be a reason for them to search for peace, to stop the useless violence.” 

Russian speakers in Estonia live in a tug-of-war between Russia and the West

129d ago / 10:30 AM UTC
A residential area in the suburbs of Narva.
A residential area in the suburbs of Narva. Alessandro Rampazzo for NBC News

This town of about 55,000 on the border with Russia could be at the edge of a new Iron Curtain created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s a place between two worlds, where Russia and Russian identity meets Estonia and the West. 

That’s apparent even in the architecture: Hard-edged brutalist buildings of the Soviet era house or sit between sushi restaurants, a German grocer and a startup incubator. A curvy new shopping center that boasts shops like H&M contrasts with a well-guarded and busy border checkpoint less than a mile away. Around 3,000 people cross daily. Russians come to Estonia to buy cheese they can’t buy at home or other Western goods, and Estonians sometimes travel to Russia for cheap fuel and building supplies. 

Estonia, as well as the neighboring Baltic countries of Latvia and Lithuania, have populations that reflect this mix and the tense geopolitics. Many here describe three camps among Russian speakers. About a third are entirely opposed to Russia’s war in Ukraine, while a middle group says it desires peace but expresses a sense of confusion among vacillating reports from Western news media and Russian propaganda sources. A small minority support Russia’s invasion.

Read full story here.

9 humanitarian corridors to open Sunday

129d ago / 9:45 AM UTC

Nine humanitarian corridors will be set up to evacuate Ukranian civilians on Sunday, the country's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a statement posted to her Telegram channel.

The majority will open in the country's east where Russia is expected to re-focus its onslaught in the near future.

Vereshchuk said the people could use their own transport to leave the besieged southern city of Mariupol and head towards the city of Zaporizhzhia.

Evacuations to Zaporizhzhia by bus and private transport would also be permitted from the towns of Berdyansk, Tokmak and Enerhodar, she added.

In the Luhank region, she said that people from the towns of Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna, Rubizhne and Hirs’ke village would be allowed to travel to the town of Bakhmut in the nearby Donetsk region.

Global donors pledge nearly $10 billion to support Ukrainian refugees

129d ago / 9:00 AM UTC

Donors including the Canadian government and the European Commission on Saturday pledged nearly $10 billion in donations, loans and grants to support refugees fleeing the war following Russia’s invasion.

The fundraising event in Warsaw, Poland, yielded nearly $2 billion to support internally displaced people inside Ukraine, and nearly $8 billion for refugees who have fled the country to neighbouring states.

Governments, companies and individuals together pledged $4.5 billion in donations, which will be distributed largely via the Ukrainian authorities or the United Nations.

129d ago / 8:02 AM UTC

Zelenskyy thanks Boris Johnson for Kyiv meeting as U.K. offers more aid

129d ago / 8:02 AM UTC

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his Saturday visit to Kyiv where he briefed him on the ongoing war with Russia.

For his part Johnson said the U.K. would provide Ukraine with additional financial and military aid.

“This visit is a manifestation of strong, significant, constant support of the United Kingdom for Ukraine. We appreciate it and will remember it,” said Zelenskyy in a news release.

He added: “I am grateful to the United Kingdom for continuing these powerful sanctions, constantly increasing its packages, and also helping Ukraine by strengthening our defense capabilities.”

Zelenskyy said that other Western democracies should follow the example of Great Britain, saying that it is time “to impose a full embargo on Russian energy, to increase the supply of all weapons to us.”

Boris Johnson in Kyiv: ‘Putin must fail’

129d ago / 8:02 AM UTC

KYIV, Ukraine — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s surprise visit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv included a pledge of 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems, part of another 100 million pounds ($130 million) of high-grade military equipment. Johnson also confirmed an additional $500 million in World Bank lending, taking Britain’s total loan guarantee up to $1 billion.

Johnson said Ukraine defied the odds pushing Russian forces “from the gates of Kyiv, achieving the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century.″

Johnson also described a vision for a future Ukraine so fortified and protected by the equipment, technology and know-how of Britain and its partners that it can never be threatened in the same way again. In the meantime, Johnson said, “there is a huge amount to do to make sure that Ukraine is successful, that Ukraine wins and that Putin must fail.”