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U.S., allies target Russian oil imports as millions leave Ukraine

Fighting and efforts to evacuate civilians continue in Ukraine after talks between the two countries made little progress.

This live blog has now finished. Find the latest updates here.

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the United States would ban Russian oil imports, likely raising energy prices, in an effort to escalate sanctions on Russia — a move that the United Kingdom and other allies joined with their own efforts to target Russian petroleum.

The move was welcomed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The Ukrainian leader appeared via video before the British Parliament and invoked Winston Churchill's famous 1940 rallying cry against the Nazis in a defiant speech.

“We will not surrender," he said in Ukrainian to thunderous applause. "We will not fail. We will fight till the end. We will fight on the seas, in the air and defend our land at any cost. We will fight in the forests, fields, beaches, cities, villages, on the streets, we will fight in the hills."

Since Russian forces attacked and invaded Ukraine, more than 2 million refugees have fled, the United Nations' refugee agency said.

In Washington, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency told lawmakers that 2,000 to 4,000 Russian soldiers had been killed thus far.

Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska shares frustrations, heartache

Liz Calvario

First lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska is expressing her full sentiments regarding the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy penned an open letter to the global media on Tuesday, explaining that the lengthy and passionate message serves as her "testimony."

"What happened just over a week ago was impossible to believe. Our country was peaceful; our cities, towns, and villages were full of life," she wrote. "On February 24th, we all woke up to the announcement of a Russian invasion. Tanks crossed the Ukrainian border, planes entered our airspace, missile launchers surrounded our cities."

Read the full story here. 

Patriot missile defense batteries being sent to Poland

Two Patriot missile defense batteries are being sent to Poland in support of NATO, a U.S. military official said Tuesday.

The movement of the batteries, which shoot down missiles, comes as tensions with Russia rise over its attack and invasion of Ukraine, but the U.S. military said the batteries are defensive to protect NATO members.

"This defensive deployment is being conducted proactively to counter any potential threat to U.S. and Allied forces and NATO territory," Capt. Adam Miller with U.S. European Command said in a statement.

"This is a prudent force protection measure that underpins our commitment to Article Five and will in no way support any offensive operation," the statement said.

Poland is a member of NATO and Ukraine is not. Article 5 is the NATO principle that an attack on a member would be considered an attack on all.

A look at the companies that have stopped doing business with Russia

Noah Sheidlower

Haley Messenger and Noah Sheidlower

Since Russia went to war with Ukraine nearly two weeks ago, more than 70 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 a matter 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. 

This list, organized by industry, is not intended to be comprehensive, as new companies are joining by the hour. It will be updated frequently. 

See the list here

Cal Perry

Around 5,000 evacuated from Sumy, Ukrainian official says

About 5,000 people have been evacuated from the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy after a humanitarian corridor was opened amid the Russian invasion, a Ukrainian official said Wednesday.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine's Presidential Office, said the number included 1,100 foreign students who would be evacuated to the city of Lviv to the west. 

More than 2 million refugees have fled Ukraine after Russia attacked the country on Feb. 24, according to the United Nations' refugee agency. 

Ukraine defense attache: Additional air defense is top priority

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Additional air defense capabilities are the number one priority for Ukraine’s military right now, the country’s U.S. defense attache, Maj. Gen. Borys Kremenetskyi, said Tuesday after returning from a meeting at the Pentagon.

“It can be ground based air defense systems. It can be fighter jets, whatever possible,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He said there are countries around the world that have Soviet-produced air defense systems that the Ukrainians already know how to operate. “The U.S. government can also motivate those countries to provide us this equipment,” he said.

They also need additional anti-tank, anti-armor weapons and coastal defense capabilities to defend against Russian ships at the south.

He said Ukraine is grateful for the support it has gotten from the U.S. and its allies, which has allowed Ukraine to slow the Russian advance. “As combat is ongoing, we need more right now,” Kremenetskyi said. “So we try to work with our partners to have it as soon as possible.”

U.S. lawmakers eye $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine

Leigh Ann Caldwell

A government funding bill includes about $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine, three senior aides said.

Aides in both parties say they are working out technical issues and hope to release the entire omnibus spending bill later Tuesday night.

The Biden administration last week asked for $6.4 billion in aid to Ukraine, which was Russia attacked and invaded on Feb. 24.

More details about a breakdown of defense, humanitarian and other aid were not immediately available. 

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said earlier Tuesday that lawmakers were "very close" to finalizing an agreement on government spending.

Americans who travel to Ukraine should draft will, leave DNA samples, State Department says

Abigail Williams

Tim Stelloh and Abigail Williams

U.S. citizens who flout federal guidance to avoid traveling to Ukraine should draft wills, leave DNA samples and designate power of attorney, the State Department said Tuesday.

The State Department, which suspended operations at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv on Feb. 28, also urged Americans who travel to the country to establish personal security and communication plans and share important documents and login information with loved ones.

The State Department released the guidance amid reports that Americans are traveling to Ukraine to help fend off the Russian invasion.

Citing a Ukrainian official, the Military Times reported last week that the country had received 3,000 applications from U.S. citizens after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the formation of “the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine.”

NBC News has not confirmed the reports.

The State Department first issued its level 4 travel advisory on Feb. 28, warning American who remained in the country to "exercise increased caution due to the potential for active combat, crime, and civil unrest."

Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs: 'When magazine covers speak for themselves'

U.N.: At least 474 civilians killed, including 29 children

At least 474 civilians, including 29 children, have been killed in Ukraine since Russia attacked the country almost two weeks ago, the United Nations' human rights office said Tuesday.

"Real toll is much higher," the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Ukraine said. The 474 deaths are just those recorded, and many reports are delayed or pending further corroboration, it said.

The U.N. office said 861 civilians have been reported wounded. Most of the casualties are from explosives affecting large areas like artillery and airstrikes, it said. 

More than 2 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia attacked and invaded Feb. 24, the U.N. refugee agency has said.

Media firm behind People magazine, Entertainment Weekly halts business in Russia

Dotdash Meredith, the media company that owns publications such as People magazine and Entertainment Weekly, told NBC News on Tuesday that it is cutting off business in Russia.

"We had very limited business operations in Russia and those relationships have been, or are in the process of being, terminated," a Dotdash Meredith spokesperson said.

The statement comes the same day Condé Nast, the publishing giant behind Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, announced it was suspending business operations in Russia.

“We continue to be shocked and horrified by the senseless violence and tragic humanitarian crisis in Ukraine,” CEO Roger Lynch said in a memo to Condé Nast’s global employees, according to Vogue Business.

"With journalists and editorial teams around the world, it is paramount that we are able to produce our content without risk to our staff’s security and safety. Recently, the Russian government passed new censorship laws that now make it impossible for us to do so," Lynch added.

The moves are part of a wider corporate backlash against Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. World-famous brands such as McDonald's and Coca-Cola have bowed to pressure to halt business in Russia.

U.S. officials raise doubts about Poland jet plan

U.S. officials expressed doubts Tuesday about Poland's plan to transfer MiG-29 jets to the U.S. amid Russia's invasion and war against Ukraine.

Poland had announced earlier that it was ready to send its MiG fighters to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, "and place them at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the U.S. would give a "green light" if Poland or another NATO member were to send jets to Ukraine. A U.S. official said the U.S. position was in support of Poland's sending the jets directly to Ukraine, not for the U.S. to act as an intermediary.

Defense Department press secretary John Kirby also expressed doubts.

"The prospect of fighter jets ‘at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America’ departing from a U.S./NATO base in Germany to fly into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance," Kirby said in a statement.

He said discussions would continue, but "we do not believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one." 

Ukrainian president says U.S. ban on Russian oil 'will significantly weaken the occupiers'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Joe Biden on Tuesday for a ban on Russian energy products, calling the decision a “step that will significantly weaken the occupiers” and “make them pay” for their aggression.

“I am personally thankful to the United States President Biden for this decision, for this leadership, for this strong signal to the rest of the world,” he said in a video posted on Telegram, according to an NBC News translation.

“Every cent paid to Russia they turn into bullets and missiles that are aimed at other sovereign states," he said. "Either Russia respects international law and does not engage in war, or it will have no money to start wars.”

Biden’s decision, which aims to ramp up pressure on Russia’s oil-dependent economy and takes effect immediately, blocks all new oil and gas contracts. A 45-day wind-down period was provided for existing contracts.

Russian oil accounts for just under 10 percent of all U.S. oil imports. 

Zelenskyy also thanked U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson for a ban on oil Russian products that was also announced Tuesday. Johnson said the U.K., which gets 8 percent of its oil and 4 percent of its gas from Russia, will phase out imports by the end of the year. 

Officials in the European Union, where Russian oil accounts for one-third of the region’s imports, said Tuesday that they want to reduce Russian oil imports by two-thirds by the end of the year and halt all oil purchases by the end of the decade.

Zelenskyy said he was “expecting tough decisions” from the 27-member bloc in the form of additional sanctions against the architects of the invasion of his country.

‍Fitch cuts Russia's rating further into junk, says debt default imminent


Fitch on Tuesday downgraded Russia's sovereign rating by six notches further into the junk territory from "B" to "C," saying a default is imminent as sanctions and trade restrictions have undermined its willingness to service debt.

Western sanctions have thrown Russia's financial markets into turmoil after it invaded Ukraine, raising significant concerns over its ability and willingness to service debt.

Fitch pointed to a presidential decree that could force a redenomination of foreign-currency sovereign debt payments into local currency for creditors in specified countries.

"‍Further ratcheting up of sanctions and proposals that could limit trade in energy increase probability of a policy response by Russia that includes at least selective non-payment of its sovereign debt obligations," the ratings agency said in a statement.

On March 16, Russia is due to pay $107 million in coupons across two bonds, though it has a 30-day grace period to make the payments.

The "C" rating in Fitch's assessment is only one step above default, bringing it in line with the Moody's current equivalent score of "Ca."

The change comes less than a week after Fitch revoked Russia's investment-grade status, slashing its rating to "B" from "BBB." Peers Moody's and S&P had also lowered their sovereign ratings. 

Analysis: Why Biden was forced into a ban on Russian oil

Biden didn't race to ban Russian oil. He was pushed to do it by an unusual alliance of Republicans and climate-conscious liberals.

Of course, supporters of the embargo uniformly cite the defense of innocent Ukrainians as their top priority. But that's not the whole story.

Read the full story here.

Coca-Cola, Pepsi suspending business in Russia

Coca-Cola announced Tuesday it was suspending its business in Russia, while Pepsico said it was halting beverage sales.

The companies — the targets of calls for a boycott on social media in recent days — employ tens of thousands of people in Russia, which has already been hit hard by international financial sanctions. 

In a memo to employees obtained by CNBC, CEO Ramon Laguarta said Pepsico was suspending the sale of its soft drinks in the country but would continue manufacturing some other goods there. Laguarta said the company has "a responsibility to continue to offer our other products in Russia, including daily essentials such as milk and other dairy offerings, baby formula and baby food. By continuing to operate, we will also continue to support the livelihoods of our 20,000 Russian associates and the 40,000 Russian agricultural workers in our supply chain as they face significant challenges and uncertainty ahead."

The Coca-Cola Co. said in a terse statement "that it is suspending its business in Russia" without elaborating on the details. 

"Our hearts are with the people who are enduring unconscionable effects from these tragic events in Ukraine," the statement said. "We will continue to monitor and assess the situation as circumstances evolve."

Coke owns 10 plants and employs thousands of people across Russia, the Russian state news agency Tass reported last week.  

Amazon says it won’t accept new cloud computing customers from Russia and Belarus

Russia’s internet is becoming even more isolated from the rest of the world. Amazon announced Tuesday that it would no longer allow new customers in Russia and Belarus to sign up for Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company’s cloud computing service. 

Amazon previously said that AWS had no data centers, infrastructure or offices in Russia. “Our biggest customers using AWS in Russia are companies who are headquartered outside of the country and have some development teams there,” Amazon said in a blog post.

The move comes after a number of other internet service providers, including Cogent Communications and Lumen, also pulled out of Russia. Other major American tech companies, such as Apple, have also said they would stop selling their products in the country.

Congressional leaders near spending deal that includes millions for Ukraine

Leigh Ann Caldwell

Teaganne Finn

Leigh Ann Caldwell and Teaganne Finn

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said congressional leaders were nearing an agreement to fund the government, which should include around $14 billion in aid for Ukraine. 

"I think it's an important step and needs to be passed. And it needs to be passed quickly," McConnell told reporters Tuesday. 

Later Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said lawmakers were “very very close to finalizing the agreement” on government funding, but he described the Ukraine package as "more than $12 billion."

CORRECTION (March 8, 2022, 4:17 p.m. ET): This blog post has been updated to reflect that the spending deal is not yet finalized.

Republicans cheer Russian oil ban and jeer Biden for rising gas prices

Congressional Republicans are championing President Joe Biden’s decision to ban Russian oil imports, a highly anticipated move that could continue to push gas prices to record highs.

But in the same breath, GOP leaders — eager to win back the House and the Senate this fall — are trying to capitalize by blaming Biden and his energy policies for Americans paying more at the pump.

Republicans argue Biden could have it both ways — sanction Russian oil but also keep American prices down by allowing a rampant increase in domestic production, which they argue Biden isn't doing in furtherance of liberal environment goals.

But oil production isn't a spigot that can just be flipped on, and the domestic market has been suppressed not just by federal rules, but also due to an international market that depressed the price and made drilling unprofitable. Democrats point to the thousands of wells that have been approved but aren't being drilled.

Read more here.

Poland announces deal to send fighter jets to U.S. air base

Teaganne Finn

Poland's minister of foreign affairs has announced a deal to send all of the nation's fighter planes, known as MiG-29s, to a U.S. air base in Germany.

"The authorities of the Republic of Poland, after consultations between the President and the Government, are ready to deploy – immediately and free of charge – all their MIG-29 jets to the Ramstein Air Base and place them at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America," the statement said. 

Poland also requested the U.S. to provide it with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities and requested that other NATO allies do the same.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" that the U.S. would give a "green light" if Poland or another NATO member were to send jets to Ukraine and that the U.S. could "backfill" those jets. 

"We're talking with our Polish friends right now about what we might be able to backfill their needs if, in fact, they choose to provide these fighter jets to the Ukrainians," he said. "What can we do? How can we help to make sure that they get something to backfill the planes that they're handing over to the Ukrainians?"

Zelenskyy praises U.S. move to ban oil, encourages other countries to follow suit

Teaganne Finn

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised America in a tweet Tuesday after President Joe Biden announced that the United States would ban Russian oil imports. 

"Thankful for US and @POTUS personal leadership in striking in the heart of Putin’s war machine and banning oil, gas and coal from US market," Zelenskyy said. 

He added, he encourages "other countries and leaders to follow."

Russia 'has gone all in': Does Putin have a way out of his war in Ukraine?

Ukraine is still standing. That may be a surprise to Russia as its invasion grinds toward a third destructive week. Not only has it seemingly underestimated its neighbor's resolve, but now its ability to wage — let alone win — a prolonged conflict has come into question.

Between the stiffer-than-expected Ukrainian resistance, Russia's early military woes and the expansive penalties that have roiled Moscow's economy, could President Vladimir Putin look for an early offramp to end the war?

Ukrainian officials and Russia experts did not express much optimism.

Read the full story.

U.N. Women's director makes plea for humanitarian corridors

Teaganne Finn

Alia El-Yassir, U.N. Women’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, is urging for humanitarian corridors for Ukrainians to flee the country.

"There has to be safe access to the kinds of needs, the basic items that they need, and also the humanitarian assistance that they need," said El-Yassir on MSNBC, pointing to specific needs women may have when fleeing. 

"We have to make sure that we're looking at the gender dimensions of these issues. We cannot be gender blind," she continued. 

El-Yassir also said she is concerned the women and young girls fleeing the country "are vulnerable to abuse, they are vulnerable to exploitation, and they are vulnerable to violence, gender-based violence, because they are women and girls. This is what we've seen across conflicts, across the world. It is unfortunate." 

House to vote on legislation banning Russian oil Tuesday

Jacob Fulton

The House of Representatives will vote Tuesday on a ban on Russian oil that goes further than the measures President Joe Biden announced earlier in the day, according to a letter from Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

More than just cutting off the import of Russian energy products, the legislation will also review the country's access to the World Trade Organization. Additionally, it will reauthorize and strengthen the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which allows the United States to impose sanctions on countries in response to human rights abuses. 

"Because this legislation is an urgent imperative – both morally and for our security interests – the House will consider this legislation on the Floor today," Pelosi said. "It is our hope that we have a strong, bipartisan vote."

McDonald's to temporarily close 850 restaurants in Russia

Teaganne Finn

McDonald's announced Tuesday it will temporarily close 850 restaurants in Russia and pause all operations in the country. 

"In Russia, we employ 62,000 people who have poured their heart and soul into our McDonald’s brand to serve their communities. We work with hundreds of local, Russian suppliers and partners who produce the food for our menu and support our brand," CEO Chris Kempczinski said in an email to McDonald’s employees and franchisees. 

McDonald's will continue to asses the situation, but can't predict when they might be able to reopen, he added. 

Zelenskyy makes plea for continued aid in speech to U.K. Parliament

Jacob Fulton

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made an impassioned plea for continued aid from the British Parliament on Tuesday, with an emphasis on aerial support. 

During his speech, he recounted Ukraine's experiences since Russia first began its invasion of his country nearly two weeks ago. Zelenskyy also appealed to British history, recalling instances in which the United Kingdom had to protect itself. 

Ukraine is proud of its resistance, he said, and continues to hold out hope as it pushes back against Russian forces. But air raids and helicopters have caused significant casualties and the country will continue to need external support, he said.

Zelenskyy says he and Macron discussed humanitarian corridors

Teaganne Finn

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he and French President Emmanuel Macron maintain constant dialogue and discussed humanitarian corridors. Macron continues to be one of the few leaders keeping an open line of communication with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

"We discussed the implementation of agreements on humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of the population and delivery of necessary goods," Zelenskyy said in a tweet Tuesday. 

CIA director says China 'unsettled' by opposition to Russian invasion

Jacob Fulton

Liz Brown-Kaiser

Jacob Fulton and Liz Brown-Kaiser

China is "unsettled" by what is unfolding in Ukraine as it puts up an unexpectedly fierce resistance to Russia and the U.S. and its allies impose a global sanctions regime on Moscow, CIA Director William Burns said Tuesday at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats. 

China's leaders are concerned about both the economic consequences of its relationship with Russia and the "reputational damage that can come by their close association" with President Vladimir Putin, he said.

Russia's actions have also brought the United States and European countries closer together, Burns said — another point of concern for Beijing.  

"I think they've, you know, valued their relationship with Europe and valued what they believe to be their capacity to try to drive wedges between us and the Europeans," he said.

European Commission plans to be Russian-energy free by 2030

Jacob Fulton

The European Commission unveiled a plan Tuesday to make Europe independent from Russian energy before 2030 in response to the invasion of Ukraine. 

The plan would first tackle Europe's use of Russian gas by diversifying supplies to other sources and would reduce the use of Russian fossil fuels by boosting energy efficiency and relying on renewable energy.

The efforts would decrease the E.U.'s demand for Russian gas by two-thirds before the end of the year, the commission said. 

"We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us," Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. "We need to act now to mitigate the impact of rising energy prices, diversify our gas supply for next winter and accelerate the clean energy transition."

U.K. to phase out Russian oil imports by year's end

Teaganne Finn

The United Kingdom will phase out Russian oil imports and petroleum products by the end of 2022, the country's business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, announced Tuesday. 

"Businesses should use this year to ensure a smooth transition so that consumers will not be affected," Kwarteng said in a series of tweets announcing the phaseout. He said the transition will give the market, businesses and supply chains more than enough time to replace Russian imports, which make up 8 percent of U.K. demand. 

The British government will also work with companies through a new task force "to support them to make use of this period in finding alternative supplies," he said.

Additionally, while Russian natural gas only makes up 4 percent of the U.K.'s supply, Kwarteng said he is exploring options to end its use, as well. 

U.S. gas prices soar to record high of $4.17 a gallon

Gas prices soared in the U.S. on Tuesday to a record high of $4.17 for a gallon of unleaded, according to AAA, formerly the American Automobile Association.

That breaks the previous high of $4.10 a gallon, set in July 2008. When adjusted for inflation, that price would be about $5.37 in 2022. 

The average price across the country rose 10 cents in a day and 55 cents since last week, according to AAA data.

Pressure at the pump has only intensified since the Russian invasion of Ukraine two weeks ago and subsequent calls to ban Russian imports of oil. President Joe Biden is expected to announce Tuesday morning that the U.S. will ban imports of Russia oil. 

Read the full story.

U.S. intel agencies: Up to 4,000 Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine invasion

U.S. intelligence agencies estimate that 2,000 to 4,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the first two weeks of the invasion of Ukraine — possibly more than the number of American service members killed in the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said during a worldwide threats hearing before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday morning that analysts give the estimate low confidence, and that it was based in part on information from “open sources,” which can mean media and social media reports.

The estimate underscores the steep price Russia is already paying for a conflict that Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, in the same hearing, called “a shock to the geopolitical order with implications for the future that we are only beginning to understand.”

An estimated 2,448 American service members were killed during two decades of war in Afghanistan, according to The Associated Press.

Read more of the story here.

The New York Times to pull news staff out of Russia

Teaganne Finn

The New York Times has announced it will temporarily remove journalists from Russia in the wake of a new law there that effectively outlaws independent reporting on the invasion. 

“Russia’s new legislation seeks to criminalize independent, accurate news reporting about the war against Ukraine. For the safety and security of our editorial staff working in the region, we are moving them out of the country for now,” a spokeswoman for the Times, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said in a statement published by the outlet on Tuesday. 

The decision comes after Bloomberg News and the BBC announced last week that they were also temporarily suspending their journalistic operations in Russia. 

U.S. intel agencies: Russia does not want to engage directly with U.S. military

U.S. intelligence agencies assessed that Russia does not want to engage directly with the U.S. military in a worldwide threats analysis finalized before the Russian invasion of Ukraine but made public Tuesday with intelligence leaders poised to testify before Congress.

“We assess that Russia does not want a direct conflict with U.S. forces,” said the document by Office of the Director of National Intelligence, released ahead of Tuesday’s worldwide threats hearing before the House Intelligence Committee. “Russia seeks an accommodation with the United States on mutual noninterference in both countries’ domestic affairs and U.S. recognition of Russia’s claimed sphere of influence over much of the former Soviet Union.”

The hearing, featuring testimony from Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, CIA Director William Burns and other intelligence leaders, is expected to focus heavily on the situation in Ukraine.

Read the full story.

NBC News

McDonald's and other U.S. brands under pressure to stop doing business in Russia

McDonald's and other well-known U.S. companies are still raking in the rubles even after Russia invaded Ukraine — and New York state's pension fund chief is not lovin' it.

Neither are many other Americans as calls get louder for boycotting other brands still operating in Russia, and hashtags like #BoycottPepsi, #BoycottCocaCola and #BoycottYumBrands are trending on Twitter.

New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is urging companies to reconsider doing business in Russia because they face “significant and growing legal, compliance, operational, human rights and personnel, and reputational risks.”

Read more here

Ukraine says its strike on Russian troops used public tip through Telegram

Ukraine conducted a successful strike on Russian vehicles in the Kyiv region after local residents alerted the country's automated tip line on Telegram, the country's top security service said Tuesday.

The account, called the Stop Russian War Bot, solicits tips on Russian troop movements from Ukrainian civilians.

Telegram, a messaging app popular in Europe and parts of Asia, has emerged as a crucial communications tool during the war, serving as a way for Ukrainian officials to broadcast even when other outlets are unavailable.

U.S. to ban Russian oil imports

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. is expected to announce it is banning imports of Russian oil as soon as Tuesday, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

The move, which is likely to push energy prices even higher, comes as the administration increases sanctions pressure on the Russian economy over the war in Ukraine. 

President Joe Biden is scheduled to deliver remarks from the White House in the morning to "announce actions to continue to hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine," the White House said Tuesday.

Max Butterworth

A Ukrainian police officer says goodbye to his son as his family flees from advancing Russian troops in the town of Irpin outside Kyiv on Tuesday. 

A Ukrainian police officer says goodbye to his son as his family flees from advancing Russian troops in the town of Irpin outside Kyiv on Tuesday.
Thomas Peter / Reuters

NBC News

Russian families fall out over clashing views of war in Ukraine


When Russian actor Jean-Michel Scherbak wrote on social media that he was ashamed his country had started a war in Ukraine, his mother, a longtime supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, blocked him online.

"She texted me on Facebook saying that I was a traitor and that I had made my choice," Scherbak, 30, an actor and head of a production studio's press relations, told Reuters by telephone.

He declined to say which European country he was speaking from, but said he was outside Russia.

The falling out between mother and son over the war in Ukraine is one of many to divide Russian families and friends since the fighting broke out on Feb. 24.

Ukraine and its allies call Russia's actions a brutal invasion that has killed hundreds of civilians. Apartment blocks have been reduced to rubble, towns have been evacuated and nearly 2 million Ukrainians have fled the country. Kyiv has accused Moscow of war crimes.

Putin says Russia launched a special operation to destroy its neighbour's military capabilities and remove what it regards as dangerous nationalists in Kyiv. Russia denies it has targeted civilians.

Russian and international media have covered the conflict very differently. Most Russians get their news about Ukraine from pro-Kremlin outlets, which present a radically different interpretation of what is happening to others.

Latvian member of parliament joins foreign fighters in Ukraine


Latvian member of parliament Juris Jurass has joined the fight against Russian forces in Ukraine, his party said on Tuesday.

Jurass, 46, heads parliament's Legal Affairs Committee. His party announced his decision to join the fight in a statement published online

"He is in Ukraine. He has joined the fighters for freedom in Ukraine. That was his personal decision, and I fully respect it," Janis Bordans, justice minister and chairman of the New Conservative Party, part of the governing coalition, told Reuters.

Bordans declined to provide more information for safety reasons.

Ukraine has established an "international" legion for people from abroad and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has publicly urged foreigners to fight side-by-side with Ukrainians to show support for his country.

Last week, Zelenskyy said that more than 16,000 foreigners had volunteered, without specifying how many had arrived.

Max Butterworth

Ukrainian officers assist an elderly woman as civilians evacuate from Irpin on Tuesday due to ongoing Russian attacks.

Civilians fleeing from Irpin, near Kyiv
Ukrainian officers assist an elderly woman as civilians continue to flee from Irpin due to ongoing Russian attacks as snow falls on Tuesday.Emin Sansar / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

NBC News

Firefighters extinguish a blaze at an oil depot that Ukraine's State Emergency Services say was caused by Russian strikes in Zhytomyr on Monday.

Fire burns in an oil depot that Ukraine's State Emergency Services say was caused by Russian strikes in Zhytomyr region
Ukraine State Emergency Service / via Reuters

NBC News

Board tells three Arizona universities to sell Russian holdings

The Associated Press

The board that oversees Arizona’s three public universities on Monday ordered their presidents to sell any Russian investments they hold as quickly as possible because of ongoing war it is waging against Ukraine.

The Arizona Board of Regents also voted to exclude Russian investments from the board’s retirement plan.

Read more here

Ukraine accuses Russian forces of shelling key evacuation route

Ukraine has accused Russian forces of violating a cease-fire agreement and shelling a humanitarian corridor from Zaporizhzhia to Mariupol as buses waited to collect evacuees from the latter city in southeastern Ukraine.

"Ceasefire violated! Russian forces are now shelling the humanitarian corridor from Zaporizhzhia to Mariupol," Ukraine's ministry of foreign affairs said in a tweet Tuesday.

The ministry said the shelling came as eight trucks and 30 buses were ready to deliver humanitarian aid to Mariupol and to evacuate civilians to Zaporizhzhia. 

Russia had on Monday named Mariupol as one of several cities where humanitarian corridors would be opened.

Both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said resources to Mariupol had been cut off by Russian forces. They said a child had died of dehydration. NBC News was not able to independently verify the death. 

In a tweet, Kuleba said Russian forces were effectively holding "300k civilians hostage in Mariupol" and preventing humanitarian evacuation. 

"Pressure on Russia MUST step up to make it uphold its commitments," he said.

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U.N. rights chief urges the safe evacuation of civilians in Ukraine


Livia Liu

Reuters and Livia Liu

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on Tuesday for civilians trapped in active hostilities in numerous areas of Ukraine to be able to leave safely.

Pro-Ukrainian activists have been unlawfully detained in the east of their homeland, while people considered pro-Russian have been beaten in Ukraine, she said in a speech to the Human Rights Council by video message, citing reports received by her office.

She added that the ability to criticize public policy in Russia, particularly its invasion of Ukraine, is narrowing, with some 12,700 people unlawfully detained in anti-war protests.

"I remain concerned about the use of repressive legislation that impedes the exercise of civil and political rights and criminalizing non-violent behavior," she said.

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People rush to the train as an officer takes women and children onto an evacuation train in Odessa, Ukraine, on Monday.

Bulent Kilic / AFP - Getty Images

Shell to withdraw from Russian fossil fuels, shutter gas stations across Russia

Oil giant Shell will withdraw from Russian fossil fuels in addition to closing all of its service stations across the country, the company announced Tuesday.

Shell Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden confirmed the news in a statement and also apologized for buying Russian crude oil last week. 

“We are acutely aware that our decision last week to purchase a cargo of Russian crude oil to be refined into products like petrol and diesel — despite being made with security of supplies at the forefront of our thinking — was not the right one and we are sorry," he said. 

"As we have already said, we will commit profits from the limited, remaining amounts of Russian oil we will process to a dedicated fund," van Beurden said, adding: "We will work with aid partners and humanitarian agencies over the coming days and weeks to determine where the monies from this fund are best placed to alleviate the terrible consequences that this war is having on the people of Ukraine."

Shell said it would be withdrawing from its involvement "in all Russian hydrocarbons, including crude oil, petroleum products, gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) in a phased manner, aligned with new government guidance."

"As an immediate first step, the company will stop all spot purchases of Russian crude oil. It will also shut its service stations, aviation fuels and lubricants operations in Russia," it said.

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'Anti-war momentum' will only keep growing across Russia, Navalny says

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny has said he believes anti-war sentiments in Russia are growing as he called on residents to continue taking to the streets to protest the war in Ukraine. 

In a Twitter thread Tuesday, Navalny said he believed the "anti-war momentum" was on the rise in Russia and would only "keep growing across the society." 

"So, the anti-war protests should not be halted under any circumstances," Navalny, who is currently serving two years and eight months in prison for charges that human rights groups have criticized as being politically motivated, said via his team. 

Navalny said his team had run a series of "4 quick, ultra-short online polls," with each survey including 700 participants from Moscow.

While he acknowledged the limitations of such a survey, he said the results suggested a rise in the percentage of people who view Russia as the "aggressor" in the current conflict. The findings also noted a rise from late February to early March in the share of people in Moscow who believe "conflicting parties should immediately cease all military operations and engage in peace talks." 

"Whether Russians actually support the hideous war that Putin has waged against Ukraine is a matter of utmost political importance. The answer to this question will largely define Russia’s place in the history of the 21st century," Navalny said.

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Irpin mayor refuses to surrender city, tells Russians to leave within 24 hours or risk troops' lives

The mayor of Irpin, a city in northern Ukraine neighboring the capital, Kyiv, has refused to surrender his city to Russian forces, vowing to put up a fight. 

In a Facebook post Tuesday morning, Irpin Mayor Alexandar Markushin said he had received a message from Russian forces on Monday "threatening my life and health" and demanding the "complete surrender" of his city. 

"I'm surprised that these monsters still haven't understood — Irpin doesn't give up, Irpin doesn't sell, Irpin fights!"

The mayor said he was making a counter offer for Russian forces to "leave the Irpin community within 24 hours" if they want to "save the lives and health of several thousand Russian conscripts, who are awaited at home by their mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers and lovers."

"Return to Russia, and I will greet the women of the Irpin community without you," he said. 

Evacuation begins in Sumy as 'green corridor' opens after deadly overnight attack

Ukraine has begun evacuating residents from Sumy after the northeastern city was given a "green" humanitarian corridor Tuesday following a deadly overnight attack. 

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine's Presidential Office announced Tuesday morning that the "first stage" of evacuations had begun in the city. 

It comes after Ukrainian officials accused Russia of carrying out an air attack Monday night that Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said left at least 18 people dead, including two children. 

Accusing Russian pilots of committing "another crime against humanity in Sumy," Herashchenko said in a Telegram post that efforts were still underway to clear away the debris. 

"You will not break the resistance of the defenders of Sumy by killing civilians!" he said. "They will only be even angrier, more cunning, more effective and more painful to hit the enemy!"

He also said that "the death of peaceful people is also on the conscience of those European politicians and the grief of strategists who have not yet made a decision to give us powerful anti-aircraft missiles or close the sky," referring to calls for the air space over Ukraine to be closed. 

"Bundestags, Parliaments, Houses of Lords have to know that children are dying. Let them know that it is because of their indecisiveness or cowardice that children, women and old people die every day in Ukraine," he said.

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Rising oil prices could affect thousands of products

Martha C. White

American drivers were in for another unwelcome surprise at the pump Monday. The national average for a gallon of gas rose about 5 cents overnight to $4.065, an astonishing 46 cents higher than it was only a week ago, according to AAA, and only a nickel shy of the record set in 2008. 

With the war in Ukraine escalating and talk of the U.S. imposing sanctions on Russian oil, the price of West Texas Intermediate crude — the U.S. benchmark — topped $120 a barrel Monday afternoon. Andrew Lipow, the president of Lipow Oil Associates, said traders were steering clear of Russian oil ahead of a possible embargo. “What you see is that the oil industry is imposing a de facto ban on oil from Russia, so, in essence, that takes oil off the market,” he said. 

Climbing prices at the pump are the most visible reminder of the rising cost of oil. But what people can’t see is also costing them. Petroleum derivatives hide in thousands of everyday goods and household products, from microfiber to moisturizer to medicine. Their prices are rising, too.

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Russia playing up fears of Ukraine developing nuclear weapons to justify war, British defense ministry says

Britain's defense ministry has said that Russia is likely ramping up accusations of Ukraine developing nuclear weapons in a bid to justify its invasion of the country.

In an intelligence update published Tuesday, the defense ministry said that there has been a "notable intensification" of Russia's accusations of Ukraine developing nuclear or biological weapons since the end of February. 

The ministry said that while "these narratives are longstanding," they are "likely being amplified as part of a retrospective justification for Russia's invasion of Ukraine." 

The warning came after Russian media on Sunday cited an unnamed source saying Ukraine was close to building a "dirty bomb" nuclear weapon, without providing any evidence. 

Such claims appear to have intensified since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion in Ukraine on Feb. 24, saying the goal was to "demilitarize" and "denazify" Ukraine, an explanation that has been dismissed by the West as a pretext.