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U.S. warns of Russian chemical weapons attack; Mariupol buries dead in mass graves

The besieged city of Mariupol has been without electricity, heat, water or food for many days and Ukrainian officials have called the situation there catastrophic.
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Ukrainian officials on Wednesday accused Russia of destroying a children’s hospital in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, as efforts continue to evacuate civilians from areas worst hit by Russia’s almost two-week-old invasion.

The head of Ukraine's Donetsk region said 17 people were wounded in the attack, including staff and mothers in the maternity ward. There were no immediate reports of injured children or deaths.

In the southeastern port city of Mariupol, meanwhile, workers began burying scores of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers in a mass grave after days of bombardment.

In the United States, officials warned that Russia could try to justify the invasion by launching a chemical or biological weapons attack — and blaming it on Ukraine. The warning came after a Russian official said the country was preparing to use poisonous substances in the war, a claim White House press secretary Jen Psaki called “preposterous.”

The Biden Administration also said it would not participate in a Polish offer to provide jets to Ukraine by way of a U.S. base in Germany. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the proposal would give the country “little increased capabilities at a high risk.”

Tesla to pay Ukrainian employees for up to 3 months if they are conscripted to fight

159d ago / 5:35 AM UTC

Ukrainian Tesla employees who are asked to return to defend their country will receive pay for at least three months, according to an e-mail the company sent Monday to employees in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

It wasn’t clear from the email whether this benefit would be extended to employees in North America and elsewhere.

After three months, Tesla plans to reassess Russia's war in Ukraine and their employees’ situations to decide if more needs to be done.

Read the full story here. 

House OKs funding bill to provide $14B in aid to Ukraine

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159d ago / 3:57 AM UTC

WASHINGTON — The House passed a massive spending bill Wednesday night to fund the federal government through September and provide nearly $14 billion in aid for Ukraine.

The $1.5 trillion bipartisan bill, which now heads to the Senate, is the culmination of months of negotiations on Capitol Hill that included a prolonged stalemate between Democrats and Republicans.

The nearly $13.6 billion devoted to Ukraine includes $6.5 billion for the Defense Department, with $3.5 billion to replenish equipment sent to Ukraine and $3 billion for U.S. troops who are helping to defend NATO in Europe. The bill would also provide money for humanitarian aid, to support Ukraine's energy grid and to combat disinformation.

Read the full story here. 

Video captures Ukrainian theater group performing in bomb shelter

159d ago / 3:47 AM UTC

Video captured actors from a Kyiv theater company performing an updated version of a classic Ukrainian literary work inside a bomb shelter.

The play, Ivan Kotlyarevskiy’s “Eneida,” was performed by Ivano-Frankivsk's Drama Theater, the country’s Culture Ministry said on Instagram.

“Eneida,” published in 1798, is considered the country's first literary work published entirely in Ukrainian. The poem parodies Virgil's epic "Aeneid," about the foundation of Rome.

The version performed in the video included references to the Russian invasion.

The Culture Ministry lauded the group, saying it was “creating a strong movement of relief and resistance” by collecting aid and providing psychological support.

“They work around the clock, and even in the shelter create conditions for those for whom our troops every day defend the Ukrainian land from the aggressor,” the ministry said.

IMF approves $1.4 billion in emergency funding for Ukraine

159d ago / 3:40 AM UTC

WASHINGTON — The International Monetary Fund's executive board on Wednesday approved $1.4 billion in emergency financing for Ukraine to help meet urgent spending needs and mitigate the economic impact of Russia's military invasion, the IMF said.

The global lender said Ukrainian authorities had canceled an existing stand-by lending arrangement with the IMF, but would work with the fund to design an appropriate economic program focused on rehabilitation and growth when conditions permit.

"The Russian military invasion of Ukraine has been responsible for a massive humanitarian and economic crisis," IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said in a statement after the meeting, predicting a deep recession in Ukraine this year.

"Financing needs are large, urgent, and could rise significantly as the war continues," she said. Once the war was over, Ukraine was likely to need additional "large support."

35,000 civilians flee cities and towns along 'humanitarian corridors,' Zelenskyy says

159d ago / 3:24 AM UTC

About 35,000 civilians were able to evacuate from some Ukrainian cities and towns Wednesday during what was supposed to be a daylong cease-fire in six areas around the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

People fled via “humanitarian corridors” from three locations — Sumy, Enerhodar and several towns in the Kyiv region. Zelenskyy said he “prayed” that civilians in three other cities authorities had sought to evacuate — Mariupol, Izyum and Volnovaha — would be rescued Thursday.

The efforts were scuttled after Ukrainian officials said Russian forces were continuing to shell the escape routes or block them with buses.

In Mariupol, where people have been without water and electricity for days in frigid temperatures, 17 people were injured when a maternity ward at a children’s hospital was destroyed in a Russian airstrike, Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy claimed the strike and other similar attacks in other cities were evidence of a “Ukrainian genocide” carried out by Russian forces.

“Europeans: You won't be able to say that you did not see what was happening to Ukrainians, what was happening in Mariupol,” he said. “You saw it. You know it. You need to continue to impose sanctions on Russia so that they would not be able to continue this genocide, so that they would sit at the negotiation table and stop this atrocious war.”

'I forgot when I ate last,' evacuee says while fleeing Irpin

159d ago / 2:14 AM UTC

IRPIN, Ukraine — Hundreds of Ukrainians living in towns occupied by Russian troops on the outskirts of Kyiv fled Wednesday.

Streams of cars — some fixed with white flags — filed down the road, joined by lines of yellow buses marked with red crosses.

The Interior Ministry said about 700 people were evacuated from Vorzel and Irpin. People from three other Kyiv suburbs were unable to leave. Some who managed to get out said they hadn’t eaten in days.

“I forgot when I ate last,” said an Irpin resident who gave only her first name, Olena. “I’m so scared. I need to keep walking.”

Iuliia Bushinska, a Vorzel resident, said: “Occupiers came to our house and they were ready to shoot us.”

“They took away our house, our car, they took away our documents. So we need to start our life from the beginning. We survived things that I never experienced in my life,” Bushinska said.

159d ago / 1:45 AM UTC

Why did the U.S. reject Poland's plan to give Ukraine its Soviet-era fighter jets?

159d ago / 12:15 AM UTC

Ukraine wants warplanes. Its allies have plenty. But getting fighter jets to Ukraine is much more complicated than it might seem.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration rejected a proposal from Poland that would have made its old Russian-made MiG fighters available to a U.S. base in Germany for potential handover to Ukraine, because it would be a “high risk” step that could ratchet up tensions with Russia, the Defense Department said.

The difficulties are legal, logistical and political. Top leaders of NATO — the alliance of 30 countries that includes the U.S. and Germany — want to help Ukraine but have resisted actions that could drag it directly into Moscow’s war against its neighbor.

Officials so far have deemed Ukraine's appeals for additional fighter jets, as well as requests to impose a no-fly zone, as moves that would risk direct conflict with Russia.

Read the full story here. 

159d ago / 11:49 PM UTC

U.S. gas prices hit another record

159d ago / 11:30 PM UTC

WASHINGTON — U.S. gasoline prices hit another record on Wednesday, with the national average rising to $4.25 a gallon, an overnight increase of eight cents, according to AAA.

Motorists in California continue to pay the highest prices, with the statewide average at $5.57 a gallon. Prices topped $4.50 in Illinois, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii.

Gasoline prices have been rising for nearly two years, following the trend in oil prices. Production fell at the outset of the pandemic, and producers have not pumped enough oil since then to meet rising demand.

The national average for gas has spiked 60 cents in just the past week, which analysts say is almost entirely due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which led President Joe Biden to announce Tuesday that the U.S. will ban the import of Russian oil.

U.S. warns Russia could use chemical weapons in false-flag operation in Ukraine

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159d ago / 10:49 PM UTC

U.S. officials say they are concerned Russia could be preparing to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine after the Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukraine of possibly planning a false-flag chemical weapon attack.

An administration official said the U.S. is worried that the Russians are making the claim “to justify a false-flag operation or them using chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine themselves.”

“We do believe that we should be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons,” the official said. The U.S. is also concerned that Russia could be making the claim to justify its continued invasion of Ukraine.

In a false-flag operation, one side of a conflict commits an act and tries to make it appear that the other side committed it, often in order to justify an attack on that other side.

Read the full story here.

Biden admin rules out transfer of Polish fighter jets to Ukraine

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159d ago / 10:37 PM UTC

The Biden administration has ruled out transferring fighter jets to Ukraine because it would be a “high risk” step that could ratchet up tensions with Russia, the Defense Department said Wednesday.

Poland had offered to donate Soviet-era MiG-29 aircraft to Ukraine via a U.S. air base in Germany, but Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his Polish counterpart, Mariusz Błaszczak, that the U.S. opposed the proposal, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters.

In a phone call with the Polish defense minister, Austin “stressed that we do not support the transfer of additional fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian air force at this time, and therefore have no desire to see them in our custody, either,” Kirby said.

Read the full story here.

Pelosi holds 45-minute call with Zelenskyy as Congress readies aid for Ukraine

159d ago / 10:28 PM UTC

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Wednesday that she spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier in the day for more than 45 minutes as Congress prepares to approve almost $14 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine.

Pelosi said the call involved discussion of a Russian airstrike that ravaged a maternity hospital in the southern city of Mariupol. “This is the beast that Putin is,” she said, referring to Russia's president.

The call came as Zelenskyy increased his pleas for NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

Asked about Zelenskyy's call for a no-fly zone, Pelosi responded: “They know that we can’t go there."

"Putin is trying to bait the trap so that we go in — and that could be the beginning of World War III," she added.

Nuclear watchdog loses data transmission from Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhya power plants

159d ago / 10:06 PM UTC

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it has lost data transmission from its systems to monitor nuclear material at Chernobyl and another Ukrainian power plant that is now under the control of Russian troops.

“The remote transmission of data from IAEA safeguards equipment located at nuclear sites around the world is an important component of our safeguards implementation, in Ukraine and globally,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement Wednesday. “Such systems are installed in several facilities in Ukraine, including all nuclear power plants, and enable us to monitor nuclear material and activities at these sites when our inspectors are not present.”

Chernobyl, which was the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986, was overtaken by Russian forces about two weeks ago. Russian forces occupied the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, which also stopped data transmission, five days ago.

Data transmission at other nuclear power sites in Ukraine has continued, Grossi said.

Ukraine previously informed the IAEA that Chernobyl has been disconnected from the electricity grid and that it lost external power. Grossi said the disconnection would not have a critical impact on essential functions, but both developments raise concerns about the safety and security of the country's nuclear facilities.

Which companies have stopped doing business with Russia?

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159d ago / 9:43 PM UTC

Since Russia went to war with Ukraine nearly two weeks ago, more than 100 companies across nearly every industry have severed their business relationships with the country or scaled them back in significant ways.

Whether required by sanctions or simply as matters of choice, their actions include suspending operations in Russia, cutting ties with Russian clients, shutting down online and in-person sales to Russian consumers and freezing financial transactions.

Read the list of companies compiled by NBC News here.

Zelenskyy reiterates calls for the West to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine

159d ago / 9:27 PM UTC

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday again called for Western countries to impose a no-fly zone over parts of his country to stop Russian air attacks.

"If you are united against the Nazis and this terror, you have to close. Don't wait for me to ask you several times, a million times. Close the sky," he told Alex Crawford of Sky News in an interview.

"Close the sky and stop the bombing," Zelenskyy added.

A no-fly zone to stop Russia from using warplanes to attack ground military targets or civilians would require NATO to patrol the airspace, firing at enemy planes when necessary. NATO leaders have said they are against taking that step, arguing it could put the military alliance in direct conflict with Russia.

In Wednesday's interview, Zelenskyy countered that failing to impose a no-fly zone or imposing one later would result in more casualties.

"They will close the sky, but we will lose millions of people," he said. "The third world war will start, and only then you will make a no-fly zone, but it will be too late."

UNICEF executive director condemns reported attack on Ukranian maternity hospital

159d ago / 8:55 PM UTC

UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell condemned a reported attack on a Ukrainian maternity hospital in the port city of Mariupol on Wednesday.

The attack wounded 17 people, including staff members and mothers in the maternity ward, according to the head of Ukraine's Donetsk region. Russell said the airstrike underscores the "horrific toll" of the war, especially as it affects Ukrainian children and families.

“Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure — including hospitals, water and sanitation systems and schools — are unconscionable and must stop immediately," she said. "UNICEF renews its call for an immediate cease-fire and urges all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect children from harm."

Ukrainian city of Mariupol buries scores in mass graves

159d ago / 8:41 PM UTC
Image:
Bodies are put into a mass grave on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine, on Wednesday.Evgeniy Maloletka / AP

Under steady Russian bombardment, workers in Ukraine’s besieged southern port city of Mariupol are hastily and unceremoniously burying scores of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers in a mass grave.

With morgues overflowing and more corpses uncollected in homes, city officials decided they could not wait to hold individual burials.

A deep trench about 25 meters (27 yards) long dug in an old cemetery in the heart of the city is filling up with bodies collected from morgues and private homes by municipal social service workers.

Some are brought wrapped in carpets or plastic bags. As many as 40 came Tuesday, another 30 so far Wednesday. They include civilian victims of shelling on the city and soldiers, as well as civilians who died of disease or natural causes.

Russian Defense Ministry claims Ukraine planning false flag chemical weapon attack

159d ago / 8:08 PM UTC

The Russian Defense Ministry claims Ukraine is preparing a provocation using poisonous substances to blame Russia for the use of chemical weapons, said the official representative of the Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov. 

U.S. intelligence has repeatedly warned that it was Russia, not Ukraine, that is considering using a false flag attack to justify its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. There has been no evidence of Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil or that the Ukrainians were engaged in false flags.

The Defense Ministry said Wednesday that in the northwest of Kharkiv, Ukrainian nationalists brought in over 80 tons of ammonia and are teaching those in the area how to correctly act after a chemical attack. 

The Russians provided no evidence of chemical weapons. 

NBC News has not confirmed the presence of chemical weapons. 

Former NATO commander says Ukraine supporters 'already at risk'

159d ago / 8:05 PM UTC

Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO's former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, called for the consideration of more extensive global interference in the Russia-Ukraine conflict during an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday. 

Though Breedlove said the widely-imposed sanctions on Russia were an appropriate step, he encouraged NATO allies to look at "all the other instruments of a nation's power" to stop the country's invasion of Ukraine. 

Some global leaders are worried about sparking a war with the imposition of a no-fly zone over Russia, he said. But Putin has already said he considers external actions including sanctions as an act of war. As a result, Breedlove said countries should be open to all methods of opposition to Russia.

"There seems to be this impression out there that we can conclude this conflict with no risk," he said. "And we're already at risk."

CERN particle physics lab suspends new collaborations with Russia

159d ago / 8:00 PM UTC

Officials at the world's largest particle physics lab condemned Russia for invading Ukraine and will halt any new collaborations with the country and its research institutions.

Representatives from the 23 member nations that make up the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) voted Tuesday to suspend Russia's "observer" status, which allowed the country to participate in deliberations and contribute to the organization's various facilities.

"CERN was established in the aftermath of World War II to bring nations and people together for the peaceful pursuit of science: this aggression runs against everything for which the Organization stands," CERN's council said in a statement. "CERN will continue to uphold its core values of scientific collaboration across borders as a driver for peace."

Though the decision stops any new collaborations from getting underway, the council will not remove Russian universities and research institutions from ongoing experiments at the lab. Russian scientists make up around 8 percent of the 12,000 researchers who collaborate on experiments at the European lab, according to Science

CERN straddles the border between France and Switzerland, near Geneva. The lab is home to the Large Hadron Collider, the world's highest-energy particle collider, which was used to discover the famed Higgs boson particle in 2012.

159d ago / 7:32 PM UTC

Amazon suspends retail shipments to Russia, Belarus

159d ago / 7:25 PM UTC

Amazon halted retail shipments to customers in Russia and Belarus on Tuesday as part of its opposition to the invasion of Ukraine. 

The e-commerce giant also suspended Russian access to its streaming service, Prime Video, and will not accept any additional AWS customers or third-party sellers based in Russia or Belarus. 

Many other commercial power players, including Microsoft, Apple and PayPal, have also decided to suspend their business operations in Russia. 

Bombing of Ukrainian children's hospital 'horrifying,' White House press secretary says

159d ago / 7:21 PM UTC

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the bombing of a Mariupol children's hospital was "horrifying." 

"As a mother — I know a number of you are mothers yourself — it is horrifying to see the type of barbaric use of military force to go after innocent civilians in a sovereign country," Psaki said at her daily news briefing. 

Psaki said she had no additional information to share about the attack.

Officials in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol said Wednesday that a children's hospital was "completely destroyed" in Russian airstrikes.

Zelenskyy also tweeted a video showing damage and said "children are under the wreckage." His claims could not immediately be verified; Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians.

U.K. says Russia confirmed use of 'vacuum bombs' in Ukraine

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159d ago / 7:04 PM UTC

The United Kingdom said Wednesday that Russia's Defense Ministry confirmed the use of thermobaric weapons in Ukraine, creating "incendiary and blast effects."

Oksana Markarova, Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S., alleged Feb. 28 that the Russian military had used the weapons in the conflict. Also known as vacuum bombs, the explosives suck oxygen from the air to produce large explosions that cause immense destruction.

Retired Army Col. David Johnson, a Rand Corp. researcher, has said the bomb is called "a poor man's nuclear weapon" because of its ability to obliterate any people in the area. Victims can be killed by the blast or the accompanying shock wave, and the subsequent vacuum can rupture people’s lungs.

The use of the bombs adds to concerns from human rights organizations that Russia has carried out indiscriminate attacks in populated civilian areas that could be considered war crimes.

Russian businesses in the U.S. face backlash over war

159d ago / 6:42 PM UTC

Russian restaurants across the U.S. have been vandalized and some owners have received bomb threats as part of the domestic fallout from Russia's escalating war in Ukraine.

Ike Gazaryan, the owner of the Pushkin restaurant in downtown San Diego, said in a phone interview that people have twice threatened to blow it up and that the threats started shortly after the invasion began.

“At first I thought it was just isolated incidents," he said. "But I’ve had about 20 calls and people leaving messages on our doorstep.”

His family has been called “disgusting Russian pigs,” he said. “People are just ignorant,” said Gazaryan, who is Armenian and lived in Russia for four years. The restaurateur has lived in the U.S. for 24 years and said he supports Ukraine in the war effort.

Read the full story here.

159d ago / 6:38 PM UTC

At least 17 injured in Russian strike on children's hospital, Ukraine official says

159d ago / 6:35 PM UTC

At least 17 people were reported injured after a Ukrainian children's hospital in the southern city of Mariupol was severely damaged by a Russian airstrike, a regional official said.

The head of Ukraine's Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said in an interview posted on YouTube that staff and mothers in the maternity ward were among the wounded, but no deaths were immediately reported.

In a tweet accompanying video of the wreckage, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the attack an "atrocity" and claimed that “children are under the wreckage.” Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians and had said it would allow civilians to leave Mariupol. 

Image:  maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine
Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 9, 2022.Evgeniy Maloletka / AP

Blinken says Poland's fighter jets proposal raises 'serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance'

159d ago / 6:14 PM UTC

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday questioned Poland's proposal to transfer MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, saying, "It's not simply clear to us that there's a substantive rationale for doing it in the way that was put forward yesterday."

"Poland's proposal shows that there are some complexities that the issue presents when it comes to providing security assistance. We have to make sure that we're doing it the right way," Blinken said from the State Department. 

He also reiterated a message from the Defense Department that the idea of transferring fighter jets from Poland to Ukraine by having them depart from a U.S. base in Germany "raises some serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance."

The U.S. ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith, said in an interview Wednesday on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" that the Biden administration will continue to provide lethal support to Ukraine. 

She called the process of supplying fighter jets to Ukraine "complicated" and said: “Poland could get the MiGs over to Ukraine directly. They proposed a different path. The United States, the Pentagon specifically, said they thought that particular proposal was untenable, but again, it comes from the best of intentions.”

Ukraine really needs anti-tank capabilities, as well as more assets like Stingers, Javelins and air defense, Smith added.

Former NATO secretary general: The alliance must do more to defend Ukraine

159d ago / 6:08 PM UTC

Former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Wednesday that the alliance needs to do more to respond to Russia's invasion into Ukraine. 

"First, the European Union should immediately cut off all import of oil and gas from Russia. We must deprive Russia of the revenues that are financing Putin's brutal war," Rasmussen said in a video posted on Twitter. "This will have an economic cost, but this is small compared to the suffering of the Ukrainian people and tiny compared to the loss of freedom all of us will face if we don't act now."

Second, he said, Ukraine should be given a "clear and realistic path to E.U. membership." Ukraine applied to be a member of the European Union on Feb. 28, several days after Russia launched its war on the country. 

"Third, even without putting boots on the ground, NATO allies can do far more to help Ukrainians defend themselves," he said. This means supplying higher-caliber weapons and better air defense systems. Yes, these ideas carry economic and political risks, but these are worth taking because peace is precious and freedom is priceless." 

The U.S. and the rest of NATO cannot leave Ukrainians to their fate, he added, because "their fight is our fight." Rasmussen served as the head of NATO from 2009 to 2014 and, before that, as prime minister of Denmark. 

Russian shelling prevents thousands from evacuating Ukrainian town, official says

159d ago / 6:01 PM UTC

Thousands of civilians were prevented from evacuating the Ukrainian town of Izyum in the eastern Kharkiv region due to Russian shelling, the region's governor, Oleh Synegubov, said in a statement on Telegram. 

Dozens of buses were unable to reach the city, Synegubov said, adding that only about 250 people were evacuated. Preliminary data shows more than 5,000 people need to be evacuated, he said.

“The city is practically destroyed. No electricity, gas, heat, water. Mobile, Internet, radio and TV do not work in Izyum. All are in shelters,” Synegubov said. 

The shelling also prevented a humanitarian convoy with food, water, warm clothes and other necessities from arriving in the city, he said. 

Russia has made progress advancing on Kharkiv and Mykolayiv, senior U.S. defense official says

159d ago / 6:01 PM UTC

Russia has made progress around the two Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv and Mykolayiv, a senior U.S. defense official said Wednesday. 

Russians are outside Kharkiv, a city in the northeast of the country, and appear to have gained about 12 miles in the past 24 hours, the official said, adding that there is still “heavy, heavy fighting” and they haven’t taken the city but have closed in on it.

Russian forces are also about nine miles away to the north of Mykolayiv, increasing shelling on the city, the official said. The city is located in the south of the country near the Black Sea in between the major cities of Kherson and Odessa. 

The U.S. still assesses that Russia has greater than 90 percent of its combat power ready for use and intact, the official said.

Meanwhile, the official said Ukraine still has the vast majority of its air fleet.

Former U.S. marine imprisoned in Russia may have tuberculosis and a new injury, parents say

159d ago / 5:11 PM UTC

The parents of a former U.S. Marine who was sentenced in 2020 to nine years in a Russian prison said that they spoke to him by phone Wednesday morning and said he's displaying symptoms of tuberculosis and now has a new injury. 

Joey Reed, the father of Trevor Reed, said that he and his wife spoke to their son for the first time Friday in 232 days. Trevor also called his parents on Monday and early Wednesday morning. 

"He called and he could barely talk. He had some sort of accident," his father said in an interview on CNN about their phone conversation Wednesday. "He believes he might have broken a rib. So now as he's coughing, he has shooting, stabbing pains in his chest...he just seems to be getting worse and worse."

He added Trevor said he was told he would be sent to a hospital prison on Friday. 

Trevor's father also said his son has "been sounding horrible," suffering from constant coughing and coughing up blood throughout the day. He has also had a fever of over 100 degrees and pain in his chest, which Joey said are "all the signs of tuberculosis."

Paula Reed, Trevor's mother, said during the interview their son said of his new injury that "something fell on him from a shelf and he immediately felt pain after it occurred."

Trevor's parents spoke to President Biden Tuesday after he saw them holding signs about their son as the president's motorcade passed them in Fort Worth, Texas. A White House official said Biden reiterated "his commitment to doing everything he can to bring their son home, to staying in close touch with them through his national security team, and to finding a time to meet in person."

Trevor had been detained in 2019 on charges of assaulting a police officer after a heavy night of drinking in Moscow. His family and his Russian girlfriend denied the charges.

Crossing Poland-Ukraine border with hopes to return and 'rebuild' one day

159d ago / 5:05 PM UTC
Tetyana, 66, a retired teacher originally from Donetsk, speaks to NBC at the Poland / Ukraine border on Wednesday.
Tetyana, a retired teacher, originally from Donetsk, Ukraine, at the Herbenne border in Poland on March 9, 2022. Mo Abbas / NBC News

“I’m going to go to Denmark. There were too many rockets falling in Kyiv,” said Tetyana, 66, a retired teacher originally from the now separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine, at the Hrebenne border in Poland on Wednesday.  

She had been staying with friends in Kyiv before deciding to flee the country. 

“But I want to come back to Ukraine and rebuild and make a new Ukraine,” she said, declining to give her full name because she is nervous about being tracked by Russia.

”My husband is in Crimea. We’ve been apart for 10 years. He likes Russia. The TV and radio there have made him a different man. I wouldn’t have married him as he is now.”

“My name is Tatyana in Russian and Tetyana in Ukrainian,” she said. “Call me Tetyana.”

U.K. says it will send anti-aircraft weapons, anti-tank missiles to Ukraine

159d ago / 4:50 PM UTC

U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Wednesday that his government would send anti-aircraft weapons and Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. The Russians are "changing their tactics, and so the Ukrainians need to, too," he told British lawmakers.

Britain's defense ministry said that Ukraine appears "to have enjoyed considerable success against Russia’s modern combat aircraft, probably preventing them achieving any degree of control of the air."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that his government was exploring more support for Ukraine to defend against Russian airstrikes. The moves came after Ukrainian officials said Russians had destroyed a children's hospital in the port city of Mariupol.

159d ago / 4:37 PM UTC

E.U. grows sanctions list against Russian leaders and targets Belarus banks

159d ago / 4:32 PM UTC

The European Union said it was imposing additional sanctions that would target 160 Russian leaders and prominent figures in addition to banks in Belarus as punishment for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The new sanctions extending to Belarus, which include reduced access to the SWIFT banking system, came in response to the country's role in Russia's aggression, the European Commission said in a news release.

"The EU stands united in its solidarity with Ukraine and will continue to support Ukraine and its people together with its international partners, including through additional political, financial and humanitarian support," it added.

The E.U. also announced sanctions against 160 Russian oligarchs and prominent business leaders, as well as members of the Russian Federation Council. The European Commission said it would ban exports of maritime navigation technology to Russia and added that its financial restrictions against the country would include crypto-assets.

VP Harris en route to Poland, where she'll meet with displaced Ukrainians

159d ago / 4:03 PM UTC

Vice President Kamala Harris was en route Wednesday morning to Poland, where she'll meet with President Andrzej Duda and some of the Ukrainian citizens who've been forced to flee their homeland. 

In Warsaw, Harris is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with Duda and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who's also in Poland. A NATO ally, Poland shares a 300-mile border with Ukraine and has welcomed over a million Ukrainian refugees since the Russian invasion.  

A senior administration official said Harris will meet people who've fled the violence, as well as the displaced staff from the U.S. embassy in Kyiv. 

The trip comes shortly after the U.S. rejected an offer by Poland to transfer custody of Soviet-era fighter jets that would then be sent on to Ukraine, a topic that's sure to be discussed by Harris and Duda. The administration official said the White House doesn't consider the plan "tenable," but "we want and certainly are encouraging all allies to bring ideas forward, and for us to stay in very close coordination across the board.”

Harris is scheduled to sit down with Duda on Thursday, and will also meet with U.S. and Polish soldiers to thank them for their service. On Friday, she's scheduled to travel to Romania, another NATO ally that borders Ukraine, where she will meet with President Klaus Iohannis.

 

Russia destroyed children's hospital, maternity ward in Mariupol, officials say

159d ago / 3:30 PM UTC

Residents in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol once again saw their hopes dashed after Ukrainian officials accused Russia of shelling the evacuation route.

On Wednesday, the city council said Russian airstrikes there destroyed a children's hospital. “The destruction is enormous,” it said in a Telegram post. Video on the post showed a charred building missing windows and surrounded by piles of debris. Zelenskyy also tweeted a video of what he said was a maternity ward hit by the strikes.

NBC News has verified the videos of the destruction.

The city has been without electricity, heat, water or food for many days and Ukrainian officials have called the situation there catastrophic. Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia of holding 400,000 residents hostage by continuing to shell the city.

Orchestra plays national anthem in central Kyiv as Russian forces advance

159d ago / 2:50 PM UTC

On a Kyiv square where recent popular uprisings have scuppered Moscow's ambitions in Ukraine, an orchestra assembled before a small crowd Wednesday to play the national anthem as Russian forces advanced on the city.

The Kyiv-Classic Symphony Orchestra also performed an excerpt from Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," on which the European Union's anthem is based — a nod to the Ukraine government's desire to move closer to Europe and away from Russia's orbit.

Dozens of people gathered to watch on the central Maidan Square, some waving Ukrainian flags. They applauded when the national anthem was finished and a woman cried out "To Ukraine!"

The lyrics of the anthem include the lines, "Ukraine has not yet perished ... our enemies will vanish like dew in the sun."

Conductor Herman Makarenko told reporters that the concert was a call for peace.

"We would like to support our president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who called, calls and will call to all governments of the world [to] stop the war in Ukraine."

He said he managed to gather around 20 musicians for the performance, instead of the 65-70 who normally make up the ensemble.

159d ago / 2:48 PM UTC

Amnesty: Chernihiv strike that killed 47 is a possible war crime

159d ago / 1:58 PM UTC

Amnesty International has accused Russia of killing 47 civilians in the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv last week, an act it said "may constitute a war crime."

The human rights group said Wednesday that multiple bombs hit a small public square at about 12.15 p.m. local time March 3, citing its own investigation, based on interviews and video footage.

The Chernihiv Regional Administration said last week that 38 men and nine women were killed in the strike.

Amnesty said that satellite imagery shows people were likely waiting in line for food at the time. The group also said it couldn't find a legitimate military target at or near the scene of the attack.

Russia has not commented on the incident and maintains that its invasion of Ukraine is a limited military operation.

“The airstrike that hit the streets of Chernihiv shocks the conscience. This was a merciless, indiscriminate attack on people as they went about their daily business in their homes, streets and shops,” said Joanne Mariner, Amnesty International’s crisis response director.

Nuclear watchdog: Chernobyl nuclear power plant's loss of power grid access poses 'no critical impact on safety'

159d ago / 1:57 PM UTC

The Chernobyl nuclear power plant losing access to Ukraine's national power grid should not pose a "critical impact on safety," the International Atomic Energy Agency has said. 

The IAEA said Ukraine had informed it that the power plant had been cut off from access to the national power grid Wednesday, with officials blaming Russian military actions. 

The agency said the development violates a "key safety pillar" but posed no critical impact. 

Diesel generators are being used to power the plant, but Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the generators only have a 48-hour capacity. After that, he warned that cooling systems for spent nuclear fuel would stop, "making radiation leaks imminent." 

The IAEA said, however, that "due to time elapsed since the 1986 Chernobyl accident, the heat load of the spent fuel storage pool and the volume of cooling water contained in the pool is sufficient to maintain effective heat removal without the need for electrical supply."

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the Biden administration supports the IAEA's assessment.

"While there is no near-term risk to public health, these latest developments are another example of Russia’s extraordinarily reckless and dangerous actions," tweeted Granholm, who said that her department will continue to coordinate with federal and international partners. 

159d ago / 1:32 PM UTC

A lion, which was in an animal shelter in Kyiv, is seen in a cage at the Natuurhulpcentrum nature center in Oudsbergen, Belgium, on Wednesday.

Clement Rossignol / Reuters
A lion, who was in an animal shelter in Kyiv, is seen in a cage at "Natuurhulpcentrum" nature center in Oudsbergen, Belgium on Wednesday.
Clement Rossignol / Reuters

Congressional leaders reach government funding deal with almost $14B in Ukraine aid

and

159d ago / 1:18 PM UTC

House and Senate appropriators struck a bipartisan deal early Wednesday on a massive bill to fund the federal government through September and provide nearly $14 billion in aid for Ukraine.

The House is expected to vote on the $1.5 trillion package Wednesday, with a possible vote in the Senate by the end of the week. The bipartisan agreement is the culmination of months of negotiations on Capitol Hill that resulted in a prolonged stalemate between Democrats and Republicans.

The nearly $13.6 billion devoted to Ukraine includes $6.5 billion for the Defense Department, with $3.5 billion to replenish equipment sent to Ukraine and $3 billion for U.S. troops who are helping to defend NATO in Europe. The bill would also provide money for humanitarian aid, to support Ukraine's energy grid and to combat disinformation.

Read the full story.

Ukraine calls for urgent cease-fire to restore power to Chernobyl nuclear power plant

160d ago / 1:04 PM UTC

Ukraine has warned of dangerous radiation leaks from the Chernobyl power station unless Russia allows an urgent cease-fire for crews to reconnect it to the national power grid.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday the power plant would be connected to back-up diesel generators after officials said it was disconnected from the national power grid due to Russia's military actions.

However, he said this was only a temporary solution and warned that a failure to fully reconnect the site could lead to the release of radioactive substances. 

"Reserve diesel generators have a 48-hour capacity to power" the plant, Kuleba said in a tweet. "After that, cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, making radiation leaks imminent."

"Putin’s barbaric war puts entire Europe in danger," Kuleba continued. "He must stop it immediately!"

Energoatom, Ukraine's nuclear power operator, had warned earlier Wednesday that the situation could lead to the release of radioactive substances because the plant cannot cool spent nuclear fuel without a power connection. 

It further warned that "the wind can transfer the radioactive cloud to other regions of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Europe."

NBC News has contacted the International Atomic Energy Agency for comment but has not yet gotten a response. We are also attempting to get comment from the Russian government. 

160d ago / 12:17 PM UTC

160d ago / 12:16 PM UTC

Ukrainians cross an improvised path under a destroyed bridge while fleeing Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Wednesday.

Ukrainians cross an improvised path under a destroyed bridge while fleeing Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Wednesday.
Felipe Dana / AP

Ukraine's president says allies must 'close the sky' over Ukraine

, and

160d ago / 12:14 PM UTC

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Ukraine's allies will "share the responsibility" for the "humanitarian catastrophe" unfolding in his country if they do not "close the skies" over the nation. 

Zelenskyy said Ukraine had asked its partners to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine "from the first day" of the conflict. 

Now, 14 days later, he said, Ukraine continues to come under "constant bombing."

"Russia has been using missiles, helicopters, aviation against us, civilians, cities, infrastructure," Zelenskyy said. "This is a humanitarian obligation for the whole world to react — but there is no decision."

Zelenskyy said he was grateful to Poland for its willingness to supply Ukraine with Soviet-era fighter jets in a plan that would see Poland offer up old Russian-made MiG fighters, with the U.S. replacing them by sending F-16 jets to Warsaw. 

That proposal appeared to hit a snag on the U.S. side, however, with three U.S. officials telling NBC News that the Biden administration was reviewing whether the plan is feasible. The officials cautioned that such a plan was unlikely to be enacted any time soon.

“It’s a lot easier to give hand-held weapons than it is to transfer a plane,” a source familiar with the discussions said on Monday. The U.S. also does not have a surplus of F-16s, officials said.

Zelenskyy struck out at the uncertainty, asking when a decision would be made.

"We are at war, we have no time for these signals. It's not a ping pong game — it's human lives we are talking about," he said. "We ask again — don't toss responsibility, just send us the planes."

Carol E. Lee and Dan De Luce contributed to this post.

160d ago / 11:54 AM UTC

Ukraine facing major regional internet outages as Russian invasion continues

and

160d ago / 11:43 AM UTC

Internet outages in Ukraine are becoming more common — with at least one city almost completely offline for a week — as Russia continues its advance on the country, cutting off civilians’ connections with the rest of the world.

While war zones are inherently hectic, the British ministry of defense warned Monday that “Russia is probably targeting Ukraine’s communications infrastructure in order to reduce Ukrainian Citizens’ access to reliable news and information.”

John Spencer, the chair of urban warfare studies at the Madison Policy Forum in New York City, said that eliminating communications infrastructure is often a first objective for an invading army.

“Step one of invading a country is to take out the enemy’s ability to talk to each other,” he said.

Read more here

Chernobyl nuclear power plant disconnected from power grid, officials say

160d ago / 11:38 AM UTC

Ukrainian officials said Wednesday that the Chernobyl nuclear plant was disconnected from the national power grid due to Russia's military actions. 

"BECAUSE OF MILITARY ACTIONS OF RUSSIAN OCCUPIERS NUCLEAR POWER PLANT IN CHERNOBYL WAS FULLY DISCONNECTED FROM THE POWER GRID," the  Ukrainian Mining and Energy Ministry said on its Facebook page.

Energoatom, Ukraine's nuclear power operator, warned that the situation could lead to the release of radioactive substances because the plant cannot cool spent nuclear fuel without a power connection. 

"The wind can transfer the radioactive cloud to other regions of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Europe," it warned in a Telegram post.

It also said that if the situation continued, "all personnel there will receive a dangerous dose of radiation."

Ukraine's parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada, also announced the development on its official Telegram channel, warning that the nuclear plant had been cut off from the power supply.

It said there was no possibility of restoring the lines due to ongoing fighting and said the city of Slavutich was also disconnected from the power supply. 

NBC News has contacted the International Atomic Energy Agency for comment but has not yet had a response. We are also attempting to get comment from the Russian government. 

160d ago / 11:22 AM UTC

Diners at a McDonald's restaurant in Moscow on Wednesday as some major brands continue to pull out of Russia.

Diners at a McDonald's restaurant in Moscow on Wednesday as some major brands continue to pull out of Russia.
AFP - Getty Images

Workers at nuclear power plant 'exhausted' after being held hostage for days, minister says

160d ago / 11:04 AM UTC

Workers at a nuclear power plant that was attacked and taken over by Russian forces have been left "physically and psychologically exhausted" after being held hostage for four days, Ukraine's energy minister has said.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenk accused Russian forces of torturing the staff at the Zaporizhzhia plant.

"There are about 500 Russian soldiers and 50 units of heavy equipment inside the station," he said. 

Halushchenk called on Ukraine's international partners "to take all measures to withdraw Russian occupation forces from captured nuclear objects and close the sky over Ukraine."

The energy minister also warned that "a breakdown at a nuclear power plant due to the use of weapons by Russian troops will lead to a disaster for the whole of Europe. The responsibility for this will be entirely on Russia."

Russians flee Putin's crackdown as Ukraine invasion reshapes Moscow's future

160d ago / 10:53 AM UTC

With Russia cracking down on dissent and being hit with more international sanctions than Iran and North Korea, some fear a new “Iron Curtain” may be closing as Putin leaves his country deeply isolated both culturally and economically from a scornful world.

“We were very scared,” said Aglaia, a student and activist who managed to get a rare plane ticket Thursday with her family to the Armenian capital, Yerevan, one of the few nearby places where Russian flights aren’t banned. “We just had this feeling of deep, deep sadness — but also mixed with anger.”

Read more here

Ukraine renews effort to free civilians as isolated Russia promises cease-fires

160d ago / 10:51 AM UTC

Ukraine launched a fresh effort to evacuate residents from battered areas across the country Wednesday, a day after thousands escaped the Russian assault through the war's first successful safe corridor.

Russian forces have besieged Ukrainian cities but struggled to make progress in their military offensive after nearly two weeks of an increasingly devastating war. Hundreds of civilians have died and more than 2 million people have fled to neighboring countries in the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

Read more here

E.U. expands sanctions against Russian oligarchs and Belarusian banks

160d ago / 10:26 AM UTC

The European Union has approved new sanctions against more Russian oligarchs and their families, the E.U. Council’s French presidency announced on Wednesday.

Three Belarusian banks will be excluded from the SWIFT payment clearing system and cryptocurrencies will also be affected by the new measures, it said in a tweet.

Sanctions targeting the maritime industry were also approved by the Council's permanent member states.

160d ago / 10:24 AM UTC

Women and children cross into Poland at the Hrebenne border on Wednesday.

Women and children cross into Poland at the Hrebenne border on Wednesday.
Mo Abbas / NBC News

As millions flee, many are entering Ukraine — some to join the resistance, officials say

160d ago / 10:14 AM UTC

As millions flee Ukraine, thousands of people are also entering the country, with many determined to join the fight against Russia's invasion. 

On Tuesday night alone, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said as many as 14,500 people had arrived in the country. 

Almost 12,000 of them were Ukrainians, mostly men planning to join the country's defense. It is unclear which nationalities were represented among the outstanding 2,500 or why they had entered Ukraine.

People from around the world, including U.S. veterans, however, have vowed to join the country's fight against Russia's attack.  Ukraine has also put out the call for foreign fighters to join the effort, with the country establishing the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine.

Russia, Ukraine establish ceasefire on humanitarian corridors to allow evacuation

160d ago / 10:09 AM UTC

Russia has said it will temporarily stop military advances to allow evacuations, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a briefing Wednesday.

Russia has committed to observe the ceasefire from 09:00 to 21:00 local time (2 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET) along several humanitarian corridors, including Enerhodar to Zaporizhia, Sumy to Poltava and Mariupol to Zaporizhia, Vereshchuk said.

Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council said there would be a special operation to allow children and staff members from an orphanage in the village of Vorzel to leave the area..

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday it had confirmed the humanitarian corridor routes from the Russian side, Vereshchuk said.

Ukraine accused Russian forces of violating a cease-fire agreement on Tuesday by shelling a humanitarian corridor from Zaporizhzhia to Mariupol as buses waited to collect evacuees.

Ukrainian biathlete pulls out of event after father captured by Russian forces

160d ago / 9:41 AM UTC

Ukrainian biathlete Anastasiia Laletina was forced to pull out of the middle distance sitting event at the Beijing Winter Paralympics on Tuesday after her father was captured by Russian forces, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian paralympic committee told Reuters.

Laletina's father is a soldier in the Ukrainian army. The spokesperson said they had no further details on his capture.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine last month, which Moscow describes as a "special operation" to disarm the country, prompted the International Paralympic Committee to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Games

U.N. warns of risk of gender-based violence, sexual abuse as more than 2M flee Ukraine

160d ago / 9:33 AM UTC

The United Nations' humanitarian affairs office has warned of the risk of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse as hundreds of thousands of people flee Ukraine. 

In a situation report on the humanitarian impact of Russia's invasion in Ukraine, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that with more than two million people forced to flee Ukraine, the situation was "generating evergrowing protection risks." 

It said that the possibility of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse were among those risks "as the majority of people on the move are women and children." 

UNICEF has said that of the more than two million people who have already fled Ukraine, around half are believed to be children.

"Persistent challenges in accessing basic goods and services and lack of access to safe shelter leave women and girls extremely vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and violence," OCHA said in its situation report.

The U.N. body said that while specialized services, including gender-based violence hotlines, had been reported to remain partially functional, it said access was "extremely limited for both staff and survivors due to the ongoing hostilities and movement restrictions." 

'Relentless shelling' causing major destruction across Ukraine, U.N. agency says

160d ago / 9:12 AM UTC

As fighting continues across Ukraine "relentless shelling" is causing major damage and destruction across the country, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has warned.

In addition to the rising number of deaths, the office said in a report Tuesday night that the "destruction of civilian objects continues to be reported."

"According to the Government of Ukraine, relentless shelling across the country has damaged or destroyed more than 210 schools, at least 34 hospitals and more than 1,500 residential buildings, figures that continue to climb with each passing day," its report said. 

The report said Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, has called on on all parties of the conflict to "allow the safe passage of civilians out of hardest-hit areas and safe delivery of humanitarian supplies into those areas"

Family and friends lay flowers on Ukrainian soldier's grave

160d ago / 8:37 AM UTC
Men dig graves for Ukrainian soldiers Ivan Koverznev and Viktor Dudar, who were both killed on March 2 in the war launched by Russia, at Lychakiv Cemetery in Lviv on Tuesday.
Men dig graves for soldiers at the Lychakiv Cemetery in Lviv on Tuesday.Oksana Parafeniuk / NBC News
Family members and friends put flowers on the grave of a Ukrainian soldier Ivan Koverznev at Lychakiv Cemetery in Lviv on Tuesday.
Family members and friends are seen putting flowers on the grave of Ukrainian soldier Ivan Koverznev, who was killed on March 2.Oksana Parafeniuk / NBC News

IMF considers $1.4 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine

160d ago / 8:21 AM UTC

The International Monetary Fund will consider approving $1.4 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine on Wednesday.

“We have sent to our executive board a proposal they will consider for approval tomorrow for $1.4 billion in support for Ukraine, to help it cope with the shock caused by this war,” Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Tuesday.

This aid is in addition to a separate $700 million payment agreed in December. Georgieva said the IMF had also provided a $2.7 billion Special Drawing Rights allocation — a supplement to its official reserves — that has come in “very handy” to Ukraine.

IMF said it was increasing contact with Ukraine and said talks were ongoing despite the “sirens that can be heard even as discussions go on".

Russian forces fail to advance in Kyiv, British defense ministry says

160d ago / 7:38 AM UTC

Russian forces continued to shell major Ukrainian cities but have yet to make significant breakthroughs in the capital of Kyiv, according to the British defense ministry.

"Fighting north-west of Kyiv remains ongoing," the ministry said in an intelligence update published Wednesday. 

The Ukrainian air defense system has also held up against Russia's aerial forces, preventing them from achieving "any degree of control of the air," the ministry said. 

However, the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remain encircled and are suffering heavy Russian shelling, it said.

160d ago / 7:34 AM UTC

Air alert declared in Kyiv

160d ago / 7:34 AM UTC

An air alert was declared Wednesday morning in and around Kyiv, with residents urged to get to bomb shelters as quickly as possible.

“Kyiv region – air alert. Threat of a missile attack. Everyone immediately to shelters,” regional administration head Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram.

Nearly two weeks into the invasion, Russian troops have advanced deep along Ukraine’s coastline. The city of Mariupol, which sits on the Azov Sea, has been surrounded by Russian soldiers for days and a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the encircled city of 430,000

For days, as Moscow’s forces have laid siege to Ukrainian cities, attempts to create corridors to safely evacuate civilians have stumbled amid continuing fighting.

Across the country, thousands of people are thought to have been killed, both civilians and soldiers, in nearly two weeks of fighting. Russian forces have seen their advances stopped in certain areas — including around Kyiv, the capital, — by fiercer resistance than expected from the Ukrainians.