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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.

331d ago / 2:06 PM UTC

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.

331d ago / 1:57 PM UTC

U.S. to ban Russian oil imports

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.

331d ago / 1:40 PM UTC

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
331d ago / 1:39 PM UTC

331d ago / 1:38 PM UTC

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.

331d ago / 1:32 PM UTC

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.

331d ago / 1:01 PM UTC

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
331d ago / 12:31 PM UTC

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
331d ago / 12:11 PM UTC

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331d ago / 12:10 PM UTC

Board tells three Arizona universities to sell Russian holdings

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

331d ago / 12:06 PM UTC

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.

331d ago / 11:41 AM UTC

331d ago / 11:36 AM UTC

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

and

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.

331d ago / 11:24 AM UTC

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

Image: TOPSHOT-UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT
Bulent Kilic / AFP - Getty Images
331d ago / 11:19 AM UTC

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.

331d ago / 10:35 AM UTC

331d ago / 10:30 AM UTC

'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.

331d ago / 10:14 AM UTC

331d ago / 9:56 AM UTC

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. 

331d ago / 9:40 AM UTC

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.

331d ago / 9:11 AM UTC

331d ago / 9:10 AM UTC

Rising oil prices could affect thousands of products

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.

Read the full story here

331d ago / 9:01 AM UTC

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.