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

Biden calls Putin a 'murderous dictator'

He also said the Russian leader is "a pure thug who is waging an immoral war against the people of Ukraine."

This event has ended. For more updates, click here.

Russia's war in Ukraine entered its fourth week Thursday with civilian areas battered from the air, Moscow's military offensive stalled on the ground and little sign of an imminent end to the conflict or the humanitarian crisis it has fueled.

Ukraine accused Russian forces of bombing a theater in besieged Mariupol that was sheltering hundreds of people and, according to satellite images from the U.S. government-linked technology firm Maxar, appeared to have the word "CHILDREN" written outside the building in huge white letters.

"The building was fully damaged, but the shelter fortunately withstood. It did not turn into one of more mass graves," Ukraine's representative to the United Nations, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said Thursday.

Also Thursday, it was confirmed by the U.S. that an American citizen was killed in Ukraine. A Minnesota family said that Jim Hill of Idaho was killed in Chernihiv.

Russia's bombardment of its democratic neighbor has already forced more than 3 million people to flee and stoked an intense global backlash. President Joe Biden labeled Russian President Vladimir Putin "a war criminal" on Wednesday, and matched his rhetoric with a promise of fresh military support for Kyiv after its leader pleaded with the United States and its allies to do more to help his country defend itself against the Russian onslaught.

See full coverage here.

Zelenskyy says some Russian troops captured by Ukraine ‘refuse to go back to Russia’

Russia's U.N. ambassador won't ask for vote on heavily criticized Ukraine resolution

Russia’s U.N. ambassador says he is not asking for a vote Friday on its resolution on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, which has been sharply criticized by Western countries for making no mention of Russia’s responsibility for the war against its smaller neighbor.

Vassily Nebenzia told the U.N. Security Council Thursday that Russia decided at this stage not to seek a vote because of pressure from the United States and Albania on U.N. members to oppose it, but he stressed that Moscow is not withdrawing the resolution.

Nebenzia said Russia plans to go ahead with a council meeting Friday to discuss again its allegations of U.S. “biological laboratories” in Ukraine with claiming new documents. His initial charge was made without any evidence and repeatedly denied by U.S. and Ukrainian officials.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield responded to Nebenzia’s announcement by saying “their farcical humanitarian resolution ... was doomed to fail.”

“We know if Russia really cared about humanitarian crises, the one that it created, it could simply stop its attacks on the people of Ukraine,” she said. “But instead, they want to call for another Security Council meeting to use this council as a venue for its disinformation and for promoting its propaganda.”

At last Friday’s council meeting on Russia’s initial allegations of U.S. “biological activities,” Thomas-Greenfield accused Russia of using the Security Council for “lying and spreading disinformation” as part of a potential false-flag operation by Moscow for the use of chemical or biological agents in Ukraine.

House passes bill to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus

The House passed legislation Thursday that would suspend normal trade relations with Russia, a move designed to further isolate Moscow’s economy in response to President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

The measure passed 424-8, with all opposition coming from Republicans.

The bill would revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” status in the World Trade Organization and pave the way for President Joe Biden to introduce higher tariffs on Russian goods such as steel, aluminum and plywood. It’s the latest in a series of punitive actions in coordination with the European Union and the Group of Seven industrial nations after Russia invaded Ukraine last month.

Read the full story. 

Detained WNBA star Brittney Griner OK, has seen legal team, source says

American basketball star Brittney Griner, who is being detained in Russia, is doing OK and has regularly seen her legal team, a person close to the situation said.

Griner's detention was extended until May 19, Russian state media TASS reported Thursday.

The person familiar with the situation said the decision was not unexpected and that Griner has seen her legal team multiple times a week.

The arrest of Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, was made public March 5. Russian officials said she was arrested after vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis were found in her luggage at Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow.

The order to continue her detention until May 19 was not made on the merits of the case, said the person close to the situation, who said it was instead about her lawyers’ challenging her detention and seeking house arrest.

Ukrainian refugees taking shelter in churches

WHO: At least 43 attacks on health care facilities; 12 killed and 34 injured

The World Health Organization has verified 43 attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine, with 12 people having been killed and 34 others injured, including health care workers, the WHO's director-general said Thursday.

"In any conflict, attacks on health care are a violation of international humanitarian law," Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the U.N. Security Council.

A maternity hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol was attacked last week, drawing new condemnation of Russia, which attacked and invaded Ukraine three weeks ago.

Ukraine's president said three people died in the attack. A pregnant woman who was seen carried from the hospital died along with her unborn baby, Ukraine's Foreign Affairs Ministry said Monday. It was unclear whether the unnamed woman was included in that number.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "war criminal." Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that Russia has been attacking civilian sites, including, in this week alone, a hospital, three schools and a boarding school for visually impaired children in the Luhansk region. 

Russia has denied targeting civilians. 

The U.N. human rights office said Thursday it has recorded 2,032 civilian casualties in Ukraine. Of those, 780 people were killed, including 58 children, and 1,252 others were injured, it said.

"Actual toll is much higher," the U.N. office said.

American killed in Chernihiv while waiting for food, family says

A U.S. man was killed this week in Ukraine while waiting in a bread line for food in the northern city of Chernihiv, his family said.

Jim Hill, of Driggs, Idaho, who had been living in the capital city, Kyiv, went two hours north to Chernihiv to seek medical care for his partner, who has multiple sclerosis, the family told NBC affiliate KARE of Minneapolis on Thursday.

Hill's sister, Cheryl Hill Gordon, wrote Thursday on Facebook: “My brother Jimmy Hill was killed yesterday in Chernihiv, Ukraine. He was waiting in a bread line with several other people when they were gunned down by Russian military snippers. His body was found in the street by the local police.”

Read the full story

Zelenskyy: Captured Russian conscripts 'refuse to return to Russia'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that Russian conscript soldiers are being captured in his country and some are refusing to return to Russia.

"More Russian conscript soldiers have been taken prisoners. Among those there are soldiers who refuse to return to Russia," Zelenskyy said in a video address. 

A spokesman for Russia's Defense Ministry acknowledged last week that conscript soldiers were being used in Ukraine, despite previous denials by the government, but said "almost all of them" had been returned to Russian territory.

Zelenskyy also thanked French President Emmanuel Macron for coordinating steps toward peace and U.S. President Joe Biden for "new effective support for our country." Biden on Wednesday announced $800 million more in military support for Ukraine.

President Putin calls Russians against invasion ‘scum and traitors’

PayPal makes change so Ukrainians can receive funds

PayPal users will now be able to send money to Ukrainians, both in the war-ravaged country and those who are now refugees across Europe, the company said Thursday.

Previously, people in Ukraine were able to use the payments platform only to send money out of the country. They will now be able to receive funds, as well as make transfers within Ukraine and abroad.

It’s the latest measure by banks and other financial services companies looking for ways to help Ukrainians affected by Russia’s invasion. PayPal cut Russia off from its services last week.

Since the war began, Americans and other supporters of Ukraine have been looking for ways to financially support Ukrainian refugees, as well as those still in the country. Money transfer companies like MoneyGram and Western Union have had surges in demand as people look for ways to send money to friends and family in the region.

PayPal said it will waive fees on transfers of funds to Ukrainian accounts or for anyone receiving funds in Ukrainian accounts until June 30.

Ukrainians told to leave their dead outside because funerals are too dangerous

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, painted a grim picture of life in besieged Ukraine at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Thursday. 

"Local officials have told families to leave their dead relatives lying outside on the streets exposed to the world because it is simply too dangerous with the bombs and shellings to hold funerals," she said.

More than 40 hospitals and medical facilities have been attacked, she added, creating a dire situation for Ukrainians unable to evacuate.

"Russia will be held accountable for its atrocities," she said. "There's only one way, one way to end this madness. President Putin, stop the killing. Withdraw your forces. Leave Ukraine once and for all."

Pelosi reads Bono poem declaring 'St. Patrick's name now Zelenskyy'

Standing in front of an Irish flag on St. Patrick's Day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi read a poem by U2 frontman Bono that likened Ireland's most famous patron saint with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

"Oh St. Patrick, he drove out the snakes with his prayers, but that's not all it takes. When a smoke symbolizes an evil that arises and hides in your heart as it breaks," the poem started.

“But in sorrow and fear, that’s when saints can appear, to drive out those old snakes once again. And they struggle for us to be free, from the psycho in this human family. Ireland’s sorrow and pain is now the Ukraine, and St. Patrick’s name now Zelenskyy,” Pelosi said to cheers and applause before introducing a group of Irish dancers from "Riverdance."

U2 has been outspoken about the band's support of Ukraine, writing this month on Instagram: "The Ukrainian people are teaching the rest of the world what freedom looks like, what freedom feels like, and most importantly what freedom acts like."

Russian forces capture city of Izyum after weeks of 'constant attack'

Russia is now in control of Izyum, a small city in eastern Ukraine between Kharkiv and Donetsk, and could continue its push south, a U.S. senior defense official said.

Two days ago, the deputy mayor of Izyum warned that the city, which has been under siege for more than two weeks, was rapidly running out of supplies and in urgent need of humanitarian corridors to help civilians escape dire conditions. Residents were “without water, without light, heat, food, medicine, communication,” Deputy Mayor Volodymyr Matsokin said in a Facebook post this week.

On Wednesday, Amnesty International said Izyum had approached "its breaking point" and was under "constant attack" from Russian forces.

“The testimonies we have gathered from Izyum reveal the terror experienced by the town’s civilian population, trapped in their basements with almost no food or water, and under constant attack," Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement.

Read the article, Russia stored large amounts of money with many countries. Hundreds of billions of it are now frozen.

U.S. concerned China might supply military equipment to Russia, Blinken says

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday the U.S. is concerned that China might supply Russia with military equipment to use in Ukraine. 

Blinken said at a news conference at the State Department that President Joe Biden will speak with Chinese President Xi Jingping on Friday "and will make clear that China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia's aggression, and we will not hesitate to impose costs."

He said China has a responsibility to use its influence on Putin.

"Instead, it appears the China is moving in the opposite direction by refusing to condemn this aggression, while seeking to portray itself as a neutral arbiter," he said.

Blinken says he 'personally' believes war crimes have been committed in Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that he agrees with President Joe Biden that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine.

"Personally, I agree," Blinken told reporters at a news conference at the State Department, referring to Biden's remark Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a war criminal. 

He continued, "Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime." Blinken said Russia has been attacking civilian sites, including, in this week alone, a hospital, three schools and a boarding school for visually impaired children in the Luhansk region of Ukraine. 

"These incidents join a long list of attacks on civilian, not military locations, across Ukraine," he said. 

Blinken said U.S. experts are "documenting and evaluating potential war crimes being committed in Ukraine." He said the Senate this week confirmed Beth Van Schaack, an ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice, who will lead the effort at the State Department to ensure that U.S. findings "help international efforts to investigate war crimes and hold those responsible accountable."

Ukraine says Starlink internet service is in use

Ukrainians have started using the satellite internet service Starlink, the country's minister of digital transformation said Thursday on Telegram.

Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX, Starlink's parent company, had said on Twitter that he would donate some Starlink receivers to Ukraine. The country has faced significant and scattered disruptions to its internet connectivity since Russia began its invasion late last month.

Starlink didn't respond to questions about how many units it had donated to Ukraine or where they would operate. The service, which works by beaming signals from a fleet of low-orbit satellites to dishes connected to internet routers, is designed primarily for use in rural areas. It's unclear how much internet connectivity it can provide in areas that have lost service because its infrastructure was destroyed in the fighting.

Mykhailo Fedorov, the digital transformation minister, tweeted a photo of a shipment of Starlink dishes on Feb. 28.

An American who owns a MiG-29 isn't sure the fighter jets will help Ukraine much

Jared Isaacman, a billionaire and astronaut, may be the only American individual to own a MiG-29 — the Russian-built fighter jet that has become the center of an international diplomatic conundrum in the global effort to aid Ukraine.

And as one of only a tiny handful of Americans to have ever flown the high-performance Soviet-era jet, he doesn't think it would be very useful to Ukraine.

“On a purely technical level, I don’t know how the good could outweigh the bad of bringing in those MiG-29s,” Isaacman said. “Are people thinking through the implications?"

He said the Russians could eliminate the jets from the battlefield "in a single shot."

"What a momentum swing that would be for Russia," he added. "What a morale boost it would be for them. And it’s been so publicized by now that the Russians could just be waiting for the moment those jets come across the border.”

Read the full story.

Ukraine says Russia continues to attack in the direction of Mariupol

Ukraine's defense ministry said Thursday that Russia continues to attack Ukraine in the direction of Mariupol, a port city that has already experienced the brunt of missiles and shelling. 

The ministry said in a statement that "the enemy" has also launched missile and bomb strikes on civilian infrastructure in places like Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk to the west and in the central and eastern industrial region of Dnipropetrovsk. 

"The enemy is trying to spread disinformation through all available channels of communication, both to the population of the temporarily occupied territories and to its own population in order to form a myth about the 'invincibility' of the armed forces of the Russian Federation," the ministry said. 

The ministry asked that media limit the coverage of where bomb shelters are located for civilians "in order to make it more difficult for the enemy to obtain current information from open sources for rocket and bomb attacks on civilian infrastructure."

Biden calls Putin a 'murderous dictator'

President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "murderous dictator" Thursday. 

Speaking at the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon on Capitol Hill, Biden condemned Putin's invasion and said he is "a pure thug who is waging an immoral war against the people of Ukraine."

Noting that he would be speaking with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday, Biden said he believed the world was confronting an "inflection point in history" that occurs every several generations.

"I think we're in a genuine struggle between autocracies and democracies and whether or not democracies can be sustained," Biden said.

Image: President Joe Biden speaks during the annual St. Patrick's Day luncheon on Capitol Hill March 17, 2022.
President Joe Biden speaks at the annual St. Patrick's Day luncheon Thursday on Capitol Hill.Nicholas Kamm / AFP - Getty Images

'Scum and traitors': Putin turns his ire on Russians

Anyone looking for signs that embattled and isolated Russia might soften its position would not have found much hope in the increasingly belligerent words of President Vladimir Putin.

With his invasion of Ukraine floundering and his economy teetering, Putin doubled down Wednesday — turning his baleful glare on Russians who are against the invasion or who sympathize with the West.

"The Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and will simply spit them out like an insect in their mouth onto the pavement," he said, shoulders hunched and staring down the barrel of the camera.

Read the full story.

80 percent of housing in Mariupol destroyed, city council says

The port city of Mariupol has lost as much as 80 percent of its housing stock, and more than 350,000 residents are hiding in shelters and basements because of continuous Russian shelling, the city council said Thursday.

Nearly 30 percent of the destroyed housing will not be restorable. An average of 50 to 100 bombs are being dropped on the city on a daily basis, the council said.

After 16 days under the Russian blockade, the situation in Mariupol is "critical," it said. Ukraine's armed forces "continue to heroically hold the defense of Mariupol and repel the enemy's attacks, which outnumbers," it said. "The fighting is already on the outskirts of the city. But Ukrainian defenders are selflessly fighting for every street."

On Wednesday, Ukrainian officials said, Russian forces bombed a city theater where hundreds of civilians were sheltering. The theater appeared to have the word "CHILDREN" written outside the building in huge white letters, according to satellite images from the U.S. government-linked technology firm Maxar. The fate of those inside is not yet known as the rescue operation continues.

Image: Evacuees leave the besieged city of Mariupol
Men pool carts while walking past a line of cars with evacuees, who leave the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine on March 17, 2022.Alexander Ermochenko / Reuters

Zelenskyy visits a family that came under fire during evacuation of Vorzel

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited wounded residents in a Kyiv hospital, including a family shot by Russian soldiers during an evacuation. 

The Vlasenko family, whose hometown of Vorzel was hit by an airstrike March 2, was attempting to evacuate when Russian soldiers fired on their car.

Tetyana, 42, Roman, 50, and their daughter, Katherina, 16, were all hit. Only 8-year-old Igor escaped unscathed. 

Zelenskyy also visited other residents, including the driver of Brent Renaud, an award-winning journalist who was killed by Russian fire March 13. 

A Kremlin climbdown? Ukraine neutrality emerges as potential basis for agreement

Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to bend Ukraine to his will, but a new peace proposal being floated by the Kremlin suggests Moscow may be bowing to reality.

Russia has been forced by its own military struggles, unexpectedly fierce Ukrainian resistance and worldwide opposition to scale back its demands three weeks after it invaded its democratic neighbor, experts said.

Instead of replacing Kyiv's pro-Western government and permanently crippling its military, Moscow now appears prepared to accept a scenario in which Ukraine commits to being a neutral country with its own armed forces, along the lines of Sweden or Austria.

That, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday, "could be viewed as a certain kind of compromise."

Read the full story.

Image: Rescuers remove debris from a residential building damaged by shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on March 16, 2022.
Rescuers remove debris from a residential building damaged by shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday.Sergey Bobok / AFP - Getty Images

European Space Agency suspends joint Mars mission with Russia

The European Space Agency has suspended a joint mission to Mars with Russia amid a barrage of sanctions against the country over its invasion of Ukraine.

"We deeply deplore the human casualties and tragic consequences of the aggression towards Ukraine. While recognizing the impact on scientific exploration of space, ESA is fully aligned with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its Member States," the space agency said in a statement Thursday.

Director General Josef Aschbacher called the decision to halt the 2022 ExoMars rover mission, which had been due to launch in September, "tough — but necessary" in a tweet.

The International Space Station program, however, will continue to "operate nominally," the agency said, adding that the "main goal is to continue safe operations of the ISS, including maintaining the safety of the crew."

Arnold Schwarzenegger makes plea to Putin: 'You can stop this war'

Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday made a direct appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin: "You started this war. You are leading this war. You can stop this war."

In a nine-minute video uploaded to Twitter, the former California governor and Hollywood star pleaded with the Russian government, military and civilians to end the bloodshed in Ukraine.

"The strength and the heart of the Russian people have always inspired me," said Schwarzenegger, who has a devoted following in Russia. "That is why I hope that you will let me tell you the truth about the war in Ukraine and what is happening there.

"No one likes to hear something critical of their government, I understand that. But as a longtime friend of the Russian people, I hope that you will hear what I have to say."

He compared Russian soldiers to his father, Gustav Schwarzenegger, a Nazi brownshirt "pumped up on the lies of his government" during World War II. He called on everyday Russians to reject Putin's propaganda and falsehoods.

"See, Ukraine did not start this war. Neither did nationalists or Nazis," Schwarzenegger said. "Those in power in the Kremlin started this war. This is not the Russian people's war."

He closed with a direct address to Russians who have protested Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

"The world has seen your bravery. We know that you've suffered the consequences of your courage. You have been arrested. You've been jailed and you've been beaten," he said. "You are my new heroes."

Arnold Schwarzenegger admires the Kremlin during a guided tour in Moscow on Sept. 25, 1996.
Arnold Schwarzenegger admires the Kremlin during a guided tour in Moscow on Sept. 25, 1996.Alexander Korolkov / AFP via Getty Images file

Defense Secretary Austin: 'No such thing as a no-fly zone lite'

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday that the United States remains opposed to a no-fly zone over Ukraine due to its potential escalatory effect. 

"There's no such thing as a no-fly zone lite," he said during a press conference with Slovakia's defense minister. "A no-fly zone means that you're in a conflict with Russia."

However, he said the U.S. will continue to find other ways to support Ukrainian defense efforts.

His counterpart, Slovakian Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad, said his country is willing to provide Ukraine with S-300 missile defense systems, but would only do so after obtaining a "proper replacement."

Austin also condemned recent Russian attacks, which he said appear to be targeting civilians. Doing so constitutes a war crime, he said, and the State Department is currently reviewing these attacks.

21 killed, 25 injured in artillery attack in eastern city, prosecutor's office says

Twenty-one people were killed and 25 others were injured after Russian forces fired artillery shells at the Ukrainian town of Merefa in the besieged region of Kharkiv, destroying a secondary school and a city house of culture, the regional prosecutor's office said in a Facebook post Thursday.

The Kharkiv regional prosecutor's office said 10 of the 25 people who were wounded in the attack were in critical condition.

NBC News has not independently verified the claim of the prosecutor's office.

U.S. citizen killed in Chernihiv, head of regional police says

A U.S. citizen was among those killed in an attack Thursday on the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, the head of police for the region said.

Volodymyr Nidzelskyi said on Facebook that enemy forces shelled unarmed people in a residential area in the center of the city. The attack resulted in deaths and injuries, he said.

A State Department spokesperson confirmed the death of the American, providing no other details.

“We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss," the spokesperson said. "Out of respect to the family during this difficult time, we have no further comment.”

Two Russian strikes destroy huge food storage facility

KYIV, Ukraine — It was one of Ukraine's biggest food storage facilities, but now the roof has collapsed, a mesh of metal and wires, and the floor is a blackened mess.

The huge facility in Kyiv stored 50,000 tons of food, brought in from across Ukraine before it was picked up by trucks and distributed around the capital. 

But it was destroyed by two Russian strikes, the second one early Saturday doing the most damage. At the time, 12 workers were in the building. All survived, Ukrainian officials said. 

A similar food storage facility nearby was also hit, indicating that as its forces continue to meet stiff Ukrainian resistance, Moscow maybe trying to starve the city into submission.   

Brittney Griner’s detention extended until May, Russian news agency says

American basketball star Brittney Griner's detention in Russia has been extended until May, the Russian state news agency TASS reported, citing the Khimki City Court of the Moscow Region.

Griner has been detained for weeks after Russian officials said they found vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis in her luggage at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow.

The offense could carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Griner, a center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, has played in Russia in the winter for the last seven years. She has won two Olympic gold medals with the U.S., a WNBA championship with the Mercury and a national championship at Baylor University. She is a seven-time All-Star.

Read the full story.

Las Vegas Aces v Phoenix Mercury - Game Four
Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury during the WNBA semifinals on Oct. 6.Christian Petersen / Getty Images FILE

U.N. Security Council to meet Thursday on Ukraine

A United Nations Security Council briefing on Ukraine will take place at 3 p.m. ET Thursday, a U.S. diplomat confirmed to NBC News. 

The briefing was called by the United States, the United Kingdom, France and several other countries, the diplomat said, adding that Ambassador Thomas Greenfield would deliver remarks for the U.S.  

“Today marks three weeks since the Russian invasion, in which time 3 million refugees have been forced to flee the country and we’ve witnessed a worsening humanitarian situation,” the diplomat said.

Parents who fled Kyiv worry about future but try to make life in war fun for their children

Alina Kotenko and Igor Lazarev with their children Marta, 8, and Masha, 2.NBC News

LVIV, Ukraine — As the explosions roared and the air-raid sirens wailed, Alina Kotenko and her partner, Igor Lazarev, tried to shield their children, Marta, 8, and Masha, 2, from the worst of the war in Ukraine. 

Sleeping in their car in the underground carpark of their Kyiv apartment block became a game. They played soccer and board games. 

"Both of them basically do not understand what's going on," Kotenko, 39, said, although she added that for her it was "emotionally hard to be in such circumstances."

Eventually they felt the situation in Kyiv was too dangerous for their young family, so like many others they traveled west to the city of Lviv, where they are sharing an apartment with two other families. 

It's "not comfortable, but it's OK," said Lazarev, 44, adding that he was prepared to go back and fight if necessary. 

Kotenko said it was "OK for the kids because they all know each other and they are friends" and "they have fun." For the adults however, she said that "it's hard just to understand that we do not know the future, and this is the worst."

Biden to discuss Ukraine in call with China's Xi on Friday

President Joe Biden will hold a call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Friday, the White House has said in a statement. 

"The two Leaders will discuss managing the competition between our two countries as well as Russia’s war against Ukraine and other issues of mutual concern," the statement said. 

Hope rises for survivors in rubble of Mariupol theater

Ukraine has expressed growing optimism that some civilians trapped in the rubble of a Mariupol theater where they were sheltering could be pulled out alive, a day after officials said it was hit by a Russian airstrike.

“The bomb shelter under the theater withstood the attack, and people are still being evacuated this moment,” Dymtro Gurin, who is from Mariupol but represents an area of Kyiv in the Ukrainian parliament, said in an emailed statement to NBC News. "There is no information yet on injuries, deaths, and other numbers," he added.

It was unclear exactly how many people were sheltering in the building, which he said was mainly holding women and children. Russia has denied targeting civilians.

Serhiy Taruta, a former Donetsk Governor and member of parliament, wrote on Facebook early Thursday that “the blockages began to be dismantled, people come out alive!”

Ukraine won't accept change to its recognized borders, presidential adviser says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s position on Ukraine’s borders has not changed, a senior adviser said Thursday, amid hopes for progress in negotiations with Russia.

Kyiv's position remains that the country's international borders in place when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 must be recognized, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a briefing on Thursday.

Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in 2014 but the region is still regarded as part of Ukraine by the United Nations. In the run-up to its invasion last month, Russia also recognized the independence of two breakaway states in the country's east. The fate of those three areas is likely to prove a key sticking point in negotiations.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters earlier Thursday that the two countries were not close to signing any agreement but that the work was continuing.

U.K. moves to stop 'corrupt elites' using legal system to stifle critics

The British government has accelerated plans to strengthen court checks against oligarchs and large businesses who intimidate critics with costly lawsuits, Deputy Prime Ministry Dominic Raab announced on Thursday.

“The Government will not tolerate Russian oligarchs and other corrupt elites abusing British courts to muzzle those who shine a light on their wrongdoing,” he said. “We’re taking action to put an end to this bullying and protect our free press,” he added.

In a press release, the government said that it was looking to amend existing laws to prevent people “who publish private information from being sued if it was done for the public good.”  It was also considering capping legal costs that can be claimed with the aim of “stopping the super-rich, such as Russian oligarchs, from ‘weaponizing’ the high cost of litigation,” it said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “For the oligarchs and super-rich who can afford these sky-high costs the threat of legal action has become a new kind of lawfare.”

Biden has 'no right' to call Putin a war criminal given U.S. history, Kremlin says

President Joe Biden' has no right to call Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal since the United States has "bombed people all over the world for many years," the Kremlin said Thursday.

Asked why Putin had not responded to Biden's claim, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said his leader was "a very wise, far-sighted and cultured international figure."   

Biden's statement is "absolutely inadmissible and inexcusable," Peskov told reporters. "The president of such a country has no right to such words at all."

He added that Russia was "ready to work around the clock" to resolve the conflict, "but the Ukrainian side does not show zeal." 

UNESCO to send armor and helmets to journalists in Ukraine

UNESCO is providing protective armor and training to journalists in Ukraine.

“Thousands of journalists are reporting from the ground in Ukraine, many without the necessary protective equipment or training,” the United Nations' cultural agency's director-general, Audrey Azoulay, said in a statement on Thursday. 

Journalists have been “thrust into the role of war correspondents” unprepared, he said.

Initially, 125 sets of protective equipment will be provided, including bulletproof press vests and helmets, according to the statement.

UNESCO will also organize Hostile Environment and First Aid Training through online courses as well as support efforts for in-person training, it added.

System outage halts Polish railways, a key route for people fleeing Ukraine

Railways ground to a halt in many places across Poland Thursday, hit by a widespread traffic control system outage, operator PKP PLK said, disrupting an important means of transport for refugees fleeing Ukraine.

Infrastructure Minister Andrzej Adamczyk said that railway workers were dealing with the situation and normal service would be resumed as soon as possible.

Almost 2 million people have fled to Poland from Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion. Poland has offered free rail tickets to refugees, allowing them to travel to stay with friends and family around the country.

"Regarding the transport of refugees, which has been the key task of the railway over the past few days, we are in full coordination of the process together with the ministry of infrastructure ... so that the process is not halted and can be carried out to the extent possible," PKP PLK deputy chief executive Miroslaw Skubiszynski told reporters.

The traffic control outage was nearly nationwide, affecting 510 miles of track, he added.

Zelenskyy accuses Germany of prioritizing economy over Ukraine's security

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Germany of prioritizing its economy over the security of his country.

Invoking Cold War history, he said that while Ukraine was fighting for its life and freedom, Germany was enjoying peace and liberty. “You're not behind the Berlin Wall now, but you're in the middle of Europe,” Zelenskyy said in an address to the German Parliament on Thursday.

He called on Germany not to let a new wall divide Europe and urged support for Ukraine’s membership in the European Union and NATO.

“We told you that the Russians were preparing weapons and troops, and we knew that they were preparing for war, but all you cared about was the economy,” he said, referring to Germany's support for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project meant to bring natural gas from Russia, which has now been halted. He also criticized Germany for its delay imposing sanctions.

U.S. has a clear warning for China: Don’t come to Russia’s aid. Will Beijing heed it?

HONG KONG — At high-level talks this week, the United States had a clear warning for China: Don’t come to Russia’s aid in its invasion of Ukraine

China has so far avoided condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine or calling it an invasion, describing its growing ties with Moscow as “rock solid.”

While expressing concern for the humanitarian situation and calling for a peaceful resolution, Beijing has blamed the United States for the Ukraine crisis and said Western countries should respect Russia’s “legitimate security concerns.” It has also amplified a Russian conspiracy theory that the U.S. is funding chemical and biological weapons activity in Ukraine.

Analysts say what may appear to be China’s silence or even support for Russia’s actions obscures the complex calculus that it faces on the Ukraine crisis, which has not gone the way it expected.

Read the full story here.

One dead after missile debris hit Kyiv residential building, Ukraine says

One person was killed and three more injured after the debris of a broken Russian missile fell on a residential building in Kyiv, Ukraine's State Emergency Service has said.

Rescue services responded to an emergency report at a building in the capital's Darnytsky district early Thursday, it said in a statement on Facebook. The roof and the floor beneath were completely destroyed from the missile debris, it added.

“The evacuation of people from the 11th and higher floors of the building and emergency rescue work to dismantle structures and search for people is underway,” it said, adding that 30 people were evacuated from the building.

It was unclear what exactly caused the incident, but Kyiv's air defense systems have been downing Russian missiles throughout the war. Moscow has consistently denied targeting civilians.

Russian advance in Ukraine stalled on all fronts, British defense ministry says

Russian forces are seemingly struggling to advance on every front as the war in Ukraine enters its fourth week.

"The Russian invasion of Ukraine has largely stalled on all fronts," Britain's defense ministry said Thursday. “Russian forces have made minimal progress on land, sea or air in recent days and they continue to suffer heavy losses,” it said in the intelligence update posted to Twitter.

"Ukrainian resistance remains staunch and well-coordinated. The vast majority of Ukrainian territory, including all major cities, remains in Ukrainian hands," it added.

On Wednesday, the ministry said the Russian forces remained reluctant to perform off-road maneuvers and were stalled by the destruction of bridges.

Despite heavy shelling and attacks in some regions, the ministry said the vast majority of Ukraine's territory, including all major cities, remains under Ukrainian control. 

Cathay Pacific routing flights around Russia's airspace

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said Thursday it was not routing flights through Russia's airspace, joining a growing number of Asian airlines avoiding the area after the invasion of Ukraine despite longer flight times.

"We regularly review our flight routings internally and also with information provided by external parties," Cathay said in a statement to Reuters. "We are currently not flying through Russian airspace."