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Russia asks China for military support, U.S. officials say
‘They started shooting at us’: Friend of American journalist killed in Ukraine speaks on the pair being shot
Zelenskyy bolsters no-fly campaign by pointing to border attack
In public remarks Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy doubled down on his campaign for a NATO-enforced no-fly zone that could thwart some Russian bombing and help end the 18-day invasion of his country.
Zelenskyy argued that an earlier Russian airstrike on a military base in western Ukraine, about 20 miles from the border with Poland, proves that Russian attacks will inevitably cross into NATO turf that the U.S. and fellow members of the military alliance have promised to defend.
His logic concludes that the U.S. and NATO allies will end up battling Russia in the skies above Ukraine in any case, so their resistance to enforcing a no-fly zone is ultimately pointless.
"If you do not close our sky, it is only a matter of time before Russian missiles fall on your territory," Zelenskyy said on Telegram, according to NBC News' translation.
He continued by emphasizing that it would be a direct attack on U.S. allies and the start of the very war the U.S. is trying to avoid by letting Russia fly: "NATO territory. On the homes of citizens of NATO countries."
But with President Joe Biden ruling out direct military combat with Russia, a no-fly dragnet that would be likely to include direct fire has been ruled out.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said last week: "The only way to impose a no-fly zone in a hostile environment, as we see in Ukraine right now, is to massively attack Russian air defense systems. ... This will significantly escalate the war, the fighting in Ukraine. But also, of course, risk a full-fledged war in Europe."
Brent Renaud working on refugee project before death, Time magazine says
Brent Renaud had been hired by Time magazine to work on a project "focused on the global refugee crisis" before his death, Time said.
The State Department confirmed Renaud's death Sunday after Ukrainian authorities reported that he was found dead amid heavy Russian shelling. NBC News was unable to independently verify the circumstances of Renaud's death.
Time CEO Edward Felsenthal and Time Studios President Ian Orefice said in a joint statement that they were "devastated."
"In recent weeks, Brent was in the region working on a TIME Studios project focused on the global refugee crisis. Our hearts are with all of Brent’s loved ones," the statement said. "It is essential that journalists are able to safely cover this ongoing invasion and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine."
'We are horrified' by killing of journalist in Ukraine, Price says
State Department spokesman Ned Price on Sunday condemned the killing of award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist Brent Renaud.
"We are horrified that journalists and filmmakers—noncombatants—have been killed and injured in Ukraine by Kremlin forces," Price said on Twitter. "We extend condolences to all those affected by this horrific violence. This is yet another gruesome example of the Kremlin’s indiscriminate actions."
The New York Times confirmed that while Renaud, who was reported to have been shot dead in Russian shelling in Irpin, was found with an old press badge from previous work with The Times, he was not in the country for the newspaper.
Red Cross warns of 'worst-case scenario' for hundreds of thousands in Mariupol
GENEVA — The Red Cross is warning of a “worst-case scenario” for hundreds of thousands of civilians in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol unless the parties agree to ensure their safety and access to humanitarian aid.
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, said in a statement said Sunday that residents of Mariupol “have endured a weeks-long life-and-death nightmare.”
The Geneva-based humanitarian agency said hundreds of thousands of people in the city are “facing extreme or total shortages of basic necessities like food, water and medicine.”
“Dead bodies, of civilians and combatants, remain trapped under the rubble or lying in the open where they fell,” the ICRC added. “Life-changing injuries and chronic, debilitating conditions cannot be treated. The human suffering is simply immense.”
The Red Cross called on the parties to agree on the terms of a cease-fire, routes for safe passage, and to ensure the deal is respected. It offered to act as a neutral intermediary in negotiations.
Ukraine says Chernobyl power line restored
Ukraine says it has restored a broken power line to the Chernobyl power plant, the scene of a nuclear meltdown in 1986, which is held by Russian troops.
Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said that “heroes” from the national power grid company managed to restore the connection. The power is used to run pumps that keep spent nuclear fuel cool to prevent radiation leaks.
Ukraine said Wednesday that power had been cut to the site and that there was enough diesel fuel to run on-site generators for 48 hours. Nearby Belarus said it had set up an emergency power line to Chernobyl.
The good news came with bad as the International Atomic Energy Agency said plant workers were suffering physical and mental fatigue after nearly three weeks solid of work: Equipment crucial to safety was not being repaired or maintained, the IAEA said.
The organization wants to step in with a safety initiative, but it would need Russia's blessing. "We can’t afford to lose more time," Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement Sunday.
Journalist Brent Renaud killed during Russian shelling in Ukraine
Award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist Brent Renaud was shot dead in Irpin, Ukraine, the State Department confirmed Sunday.
Reports of Renaud's death first circulated after Andriy Nebytov, the chief of Ukraine's National Police in Kyiv, posted that he had been killed in Russian shelling. NBC News could not independently verify the circumstances of Renaud's death.
"We offer our sincerest condolences to his family on their loss and are offering all possible consular assistance," a State Department spokesperson said Sunday. "Out of respect for his family’s privacy, we have no specifics to offer at this time."
Brent and Craig Renaud have been nominated for and won a bevy of journalism awards, including an Edward R. Murrow award and a Peabody Award. The brothers have traveled the world with their cameras, with experience covering war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The New York Times confirmed that although he was found with an old press badge from previous work with the paper, Renaud was not in Ukraine for The Times.
"We are deeply saddened to hear of Brent Renaud's death. Brent was a talented filmmaker who had contributed to The New York Times over the years," the paper said in a statement. "Though he had contributed to The Times in the past (most recently in 2015), he was not on assignment for any desk at The Times in Ukraine."
Renaud had also contributed to NBC News broadcasts but was not on assignment for the company, NBC News said Sunday.
"We were deeply saddened to learn about the death of award-winning filmmaker and journalist Brent Renaud," NBC News said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."
U.N. agencies call attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine 'an act of unconscionable cruelty.'
BERLIN — Three U.N. agencies are calling for an immediate end to attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine, calling them “an act of unconscionable cruelty.”
In a joint statement Sunday, the U.N. Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization and the U.N. Population Fund said that “horrific attacks are killing and causing serious injuries to patients and health workers, destroying vital health infrastructure and forcing thousands to forgo accessing health services despite catastrophic needs.”
“To attack the most vulnerable — babies, children, pregnant women, and those already suffering from illness and disease, and health workers risking their own lives to save lives — is an act of unconscionable cruelty,” they said.
Since the start of the war at least 12 people were killed and 34 were injured, while 24 facilities and five ambulances were damaged or destroyed, the agencies said.
They said that some 4,300 children have been born since the conflict began and 80,000 Ukrainian women are expected to give birth in the next three months, with oxygen and other medical supplies running dangerously low.
“The health care system in Ukraine is clearly under significant strain, and its collapse would be a catastrophe. Every effort must be made to prevent this from happening,” they said.
Official says Ukraine will work with U.S. to identify Russia's potential use of chemical weapons
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Sunday the country will "work closely" with the U.S. and other partners to try to identify where Russia can or may use chemical weapons.
Asked on CBS's "Face the Nation" whether he is aware of an impending chemical weapons attack in Ukraine, Kuleba responded: "Well, we don't know the details, but we do not exclude that option, because we see that Russia is using one prohibited weapon after another to break us down."
He added that the "United Nations have already confirmed that some of the internationally prohibited weapons have been used against Ukrainian civilians, against our cities."
U.S. officials have warned that Russia could try to justify the invasion by launching a chemical or biological weapons attack — and blaming it on Ukraine.
Sullivan reiterated the concerns Sunday.
“It is a very legitimate concern, fear that Russia would use chemical weapons in Ukraine," Sullivan said when he was asked on CNN's "State of the Union" whether the U.S. would consider intervening more directly if Russia uses such weapons in Ukraine.
"They’re right now accusing the United States and Ukrainians of potentially using chemical and biological weapons, which is a tell, it’s a tell that they themselves may be preparing to do so and then trying to pin the blame on someone else. That's a classic page out of the Russian playbook,” Sullivan said.
Zelenskyy awards medals to wounded soldiers
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited with wounded soldiers and the medics tending to them, according to a video Sunday on his official Telegram channel.
Zelenskyy appears to walk around the hospital speaking with soldiers and medical personnel, offering selfies and smiles. He also awards medals to the wounded in an impromptu ceremony as many still lay in their sick beds recovering.
Sullivan to meet with China’s top diplomat in Italy on Monday
National security adviser Jake Sullivan and other officials of the National Security Council and the State Department will travel to Rome on Monday to meet with their Chinese counterparts to keep talks open over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Sullivan will meet with Yang Jiechi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party Politburo and director of the general office of the Foreign Affairs Commission, "as part of our ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication between the United States and the People’s Republic of China," NSC spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement.
The two sides will discuss efforts to manage competition between the two countries and the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on regional and global security, Horne said.
Sullivan will also meet with Luigi Mattiolo, a diplomatic adviser to the Italian prime minister, to continue coordinating a strong, united international response to Putin.
Pope Francis decries 'barbarianism' at killings of children, defenseless civilians in Ukraine
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has decried the “barbarianism” of the killing of children and other defenseless civilians in Ukraine and pleaded for a stop to the attacks “before cities are reduced to cemeteries.”
In some of his strongest denunciations yet of the war in Ukraine, and in apparent reference to Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the pontiff said that “there are no strategic reasons that hold up” in the face of such armed aggression.
Francis told about 25,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his customary Sunday noon appearance that Mariupol, the southern Ukrainian city that “bears the name” of the Virgin Mary, has “become a city martyred by the heartbreaking war that is devastating Ukraine.”
“In the name of God, I ask: ‘Stop this massacre,’” Francis implored, sparking applause from the pilgrims, tourists and Romans, some of whom held Ukrainian flags, in the square.
Francis prayed for an end of the bombings and other attacks and for ensuring that humanitarian corridors “are safe and secure.”
Sullivan says U.S. prepared to 'increase and intensify' weapons to Ukraine
The U.S. is prepared to "increase and intensify" efforts to supply Ukrainian defenders with weapons and security assistance, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in response to a Russian airstrike in western Ukraine that killed at least 35 people and injured 134 others.
Sullivan said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the Biden administration would ramp up its efforts to defend Ukraine, but he continued to rule out a no-fly zone and other actions that would risk direct conflict with Moscow.
"The American president has been clear for some time now that there are no U.S. troops currently operating in Ukraine, in eastern Ukraine or in western Ukraine, and that we will defend every inch of NATO territory, but U.S. forces will not engage Russian forces inside Ukraine," Sullivan said. "That remains true today, remains true on the ground and in the sky."
Aid convoy is nearing Mariupol, Zelenskyy says
A a shipment of food, water and medicine was a few hours outside the besieged southern city of Mariupol, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a statement Sunday.
The city that has been without heat, water or electricity for days in freezing weather, and help had not been able to make it through as Russian shelling and airstrikes bombarded the city.
Zelenskyy said almost 13,000 Russian troops had been killed and that the Ukrainian military had downed 74 planes and 86 helicopters. NBC News was not able to independently verify those numbers.
"Ukraine does not surrender. The military does not surrender. The people do not surrender," Zelenskyy said. "Ukraine is fighting heroically. We have evacuated almost 125,000 people to safe areas through humanitarian corridors."
GOP balances condemnation of Putin, allegiance to Trump
WASHINGTON — Russia's war on Ukraine is testing former President Donald Trump's sway with Republican officials. Most of them are treating him the way he's treating Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin: seeking distance but refusing to condemn.
While Trump inched closer to criticizing Putin's invasion of Ukraine on Saturday night, he continued to portray Putin in a positive light. "It happens to be a man that is just driven, he’s driven to put it together,” Trump said at a political rally in South Carolina.
That followed a Fox News interview Thursday in which host Sean Hannity tried — and failed — to get Trump to offer anything but praise for Putin.
The war in Ukraine has created a rare break between Trump and many Republican elites who fell into lockstep with him during his presidency but now see moral and political imperatives in calling Putin out as a villain. Yet there are hard limits to how far they will go in crossing Trump.
"It suggests a lack of political fear that they previously would have had," said former Rep. David Jolly of Florida, who served in the House as a Republican but has since left the party. "Many will criticize Putin — not all — but they are not going to take the moment they have to turn around and criticize Donald Trump, because they don’t need to. It would be an unforced error."
American veterans join Ukrainian resistance: ‘We’re here to help the people’
LVIV, Ukraine — A gas station on the rural outskirts of Lviv in western Ukraine may be an unlikely place to encounter two former U.S. servicemen from San Diego, but for a country under siege and on the move, such stations have turned into surprisingly colorful and cosmopolitan places.
As Ukrainian soldiers in uniform rubbed shoulders with mothers bouncing babies on their hips, an ersatz food truck loaded with donations filled up and children chased errant pets.
You can also bump into foreigners who have volunteered to support the Ukrainians as they fight the Russian invasion, including two former U.S. servicemen from San Diego.
“We’re here to help the people. There’s a group of Americans, all veterans, out here to help in any way we can,” Lane Perkins, 26, a former Navy boatswain mate, said Tuesday.
Kyiv has two-week supply of food, city official says
The Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, has stockpiled two weeks of food for the 2 million residents who remain there, a local official said. The preparations were made in case of a blockade as Russian forces remain outside of the city.
"The main task of the city authorities is to provide everything necessary for every Kyiv citizen and to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Kyiv," Valentyn Mondryivskyi, the deputy chairman of the Kyiv City State Administration, said in a statement online.
"By involving all city services, foreign partners and Ukrainian business in the process, we have formed the necessary needs and have already prepared for possible actions in case of a blockade. Those 2 million Kyiv citizens who have not left their homes will not be left alone in case the situation worsens."
He encouraged residents to continue buying daily necessities at local stores and pharmacies, which remain open ,along with public transportation, banks, gas stations and car services.
City officials and businesses have worked to keep prices affordable, Mondryivskyi said. He thanked Ukrainian and foreign partners for continuing to supply the city.
Bus carrying dozens of Ukrainians overturns in Italy; one woman dead
A bus carrying around 50 Ukrainians left the road and overturned in Italy on Sunday, leaving one woman dead and several injured, fire fighters and police said.
The accident occurred at dawn on the highway between Cesena and Rimini, on the northeastern coast. Pictures released by the interior minister show the bus overturned and a crane lifting up the vehicle.
The bus, coming from Ukraine, was heading to the city of Pescara, the ministry said.
The passengers, mostly women and children, were believed to be fleeing the country after the military attack of Russia, a police source said.
Humanitarian corridors are operational, Ukraine's deputy PM says
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Sunday that 10 humanitarian corridors were open for evacuating civilians and transporting aid into the besieged southern city of Mariupol.
"A convoy of humanitarian cargo and buses for evacuation continues to move to Mariupol from Berdyansk," Vereshchuk said on Telegram. Buses will depart from Kyiv and other locations, she added.
Humanitarian corridors have been established in the past with varying success. Ukrainian officials have previously accused Russia of shelling while the corridors were supposed to be open and of breaking cease-fire agreements. Russian officials have blamed Ukrainian forces for their failing.
Mayor of Dniprorudne captured by Russian forces, Ukrainian official says
The mayor of Dniprorudne, a city of about 18,000 in southwestern Ukraine, was captured by Russian forces on Sunday, according to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
“Today, Russian war criminals abducted another democratically elected Ukrainian mayor, head of Dniprorudne Yevhen Matveyev," Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
Ukrainian President Volodymur Zelenskyy said in a tweet on Saturday that he had spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for help in the release of Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of the city of Melitpol, who Ukrainian officials said was captured by Russian forces on Saturday.
Francis X. Suarez, the president of the United States Conference of Mayors and mayor of Miami, also demanded his "immediate release" in a statement.
“America’s mayors stand united in support of Ukraine and the country’s mayors who continue to fight to protect their citizens at great personal risk. We remain humbled by the remarkable courage of the Ukrainian people and their leaders," he said.
Some in Ukraine’s Russian-occupied southern cities take to the streets in show of defiance
Chernyshova, 28, was among the hundreds of people facing off with the Russian invaders and protesting the war. Videos shared on social media last week and verified by NBC News showed crowds marching in Kherson, as well as in Nova Kakhovka and Melitopol in Ukraine’s south, carrying flags and shouting “go home” to the Russian troops.
“It was scary,” Chernyshova, who works stints as a receptionist on international cruise ships, said of the protests in which she has taken part. “You just don’t know what to expect from them.”
She was among the protesters who took to the streets in Kherson on Monday. She said the crowd marched toward the city council building, now under Russian control, stopping within about 550 yards of the Russian soldiers. The Russians, who she said were armed and masked, did not move, although some recorded the protesters, she added.
Such protests strike at the heart of Russia’s stated reason for invading. President Vladimir Putin has used the pretext of protecting Russian speakers from what he termed “genocide” and oppression by the government in Kyiv to justify his invasion.
Chernyshova, a Russian speaker, and others were angered and alarmed by reports in the Russian state media suggesting that the residents of Kherson — a city of almost 300,000 that is a two-hour drive from Russian-annexed Crimea — welcomed the invading troops. This allegation shocked and angered many in the city, who fear Russia will try to annex the region, where many people are bilingual and speak Russian as their first language.
Ukrainian Americans push for stronger U.S. intervention
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Alona Vakal knows that a more forceful military response by the U.S. government against Russia — whose president, Vladimir Putin, has bloodily invaded Ukraine — risks causing an all-out world war.
But her concern isn’t what will happen if Washington intervenes more aggressively. Her concern is what may happen if it doesn't.
“Putin is not going to stop," said Vakal, who came to Green Bay in 2008 from Berdyansk, a port city in southeastern Ukraine. "If America doesn’t do more to stop him, he won't stop. The longer we wait, the worse it will be."
Vakal, whose mother and sister still live in Berdyansk, which is occupied by Russian forces, stopped short of saying she’d want the U.S. or NATO to put troops on the ground in Ukraine. But she implored Washington and Europe to set up a no-fly zone, even if it risks drawing them into open war.
“People worry about World War III. World War III is right now already. It’s here already. What more do you need to see?” she said. “Ukraine is just the first step for Putin.”
Russia launches attack on military facility in western Ukraine
At least 35 people were killed and 135 others were injured as Russian forces fired more than 30 missiles early Sunday toward a military facility and training center in western Ukraine, officials said.
Preliminary information from the regional military administration reported that an "airstrike" was launched toward the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security in Yavoriv, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said on Telegram, according to an NBC News translation.
The facility, where the U.S.'s and other foreign militaries have conducted joint training exercises with Ukraine's military, is in the Lviv Oblast, or region, about 20 miles from the border with Poland.
The offensive marks the latest in a series of strikes in the western part of the country. Russia has expanded its military offensive farther west, having launched airstrikes Friday on Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk.
Humanitarian aid expected to reach Mariupol on Sunday
Humanitarian aid that has been delayed in reaching the besieged southern port city of Mariupol is expected to arrive Sunday, Zelenskyy said.
A night after the president said Russian troops did not allow the shipment of food, water and medicine into the city, he announced Saturday that the cargo was expected to arrive Sunday afternoon.
"Due to the complexity of the route they had to spend the night in Berdyansk," Zelenskyy said in an English transcript of his video address.
Russian forces have encircled Mariupol, and the city has been without food, water, heat and medical supplies for more than a week as it has endured heavy shelling, officials have said.
Ukraine resident passes burnt cars while fleeing
A resident passes by cars burnt in the Russian shellfire in the town of Irpin as he flees on Saturday on the road toward Kyiv.