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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy invoked the Sept. 11 and Pearl Harbor attacks during an impassioned address to Congress on Wednesday, pleading with American leaders to do more to help stop his country's war with Russia.
Zelenskyy thanked the United States and its allies for their support but also urged more Western military aid for his country's defensive efforts, with Kyiv and other key cities facing intense bombardment.
Ukraine's leader repeated his request for a no-fly zone as Russian forces stepped up their aerial attacks on civilian areas. The Kremlin has warned against such a move and threatened Western shipments of military aid, but its struggles on the ground have raised hopes Moscow might be open to a diplomatic solution.
President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that $800 million of a $13.6 billion spending package for Ukraine will go toward security assistance, bringing the total the U.S. has pledged to $1 billion in the past week.
Russia and Ukraine remain in talks and both sides have signaled that there may be reasons for optimism — but key differences remain and the fighting continues.
Social media platforms fight to keep their sites available in Russia
Ukraine, Russia continue negotiations over video
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian and Russian delegations held talks again Wednesday by video.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s adviser Mikhailo Podolyak said Ukraine demanded a cease-fire, the withdrawal of Russian troops and legal security guarantees for Ukraine from a number of countries.
“This is possible only through direct dialogue” between Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said on Twitter.
Russia has demanded that NATO pledge never to admit Ukraine to the alliance or station forces there.
After Tuesday’s negotiations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said a neutral military status for Ukraine was being “seriously discussed” by the two sides, while Zelenskyy said Russia’s demands for ending the war were becoming “more realistic.”
Ukraine’s military says it hit Kherson airport
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian military forces have dealt a punishing blow to the airport in Kherson, which Russian troops had seized early in the war, the General Staff said late Wednesday. It said the Russians were trying to remove any surviving military equipment.
Ukraine’s military said it hit the airport on Tuesday. Satellite photos taken afterward by Planet Labs PBC and analyzed by The Associated Press show helicopters and vehicles on fire at the air base.
Russia seized the southern port city without a fight in the first days of the war. Control over Kherson allows Russia to restore fresh water supplies to Crimea; Ukraine cut off the water after Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014.
The General Staff said Russia’s ground offensive on major Ukrainian cities has largely stalled.
What it's like inside refugee shelter above Lviv train station
Captured Melitopol mayor is freed, Zelenskyy says in latest video
The mayor of the Ukrainian city Melitopol has been freed after being captured by Russian forces on Friday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday.
Ukrainian diplomat Olexander Scherba said in a tweet that the country conducted a "special operation" and rescued Ivan Fedorov from Luhansk, an eight-hour drive from Melitopol.
"Melitopol is Ukraine!" he said in the tweet.
Zelenskyy had previously decried the kidnapping, saying in a video that Fedorov is a "mayor who had bravely defended Ukraine and the people in his community." Zelenskyy called his capture a "sign of weakness of the invaders."
On Wednesday, the Ukrainian president said Russian forces attempted to coerce Fedorov to cooperate but "our guy is our guy, so he withstood, did not give up."
Zelenskyy added in his video address that 6,000 Mariupol residents were evacuated Wednesday, more than 2,000 of them children. He reiterated that a death toll remains unknown after a theater where hundreds of civilians had sought refuge was bombed during a Russian airstrike.
UNICEF: 55 children flee Ukraine every minute
Every minute, an average of 55 children flee Ukraine, UNICEF spokesperson James Elder said Wednesday in Geneva. Put another way, a Ukrainian child has become a refugee almost every second since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24.
"Like all children driven from their homes by war and conflict, Ukrainian children arriving in neighboring countries are at significant risk of family separation, violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking," Elder said. "They are in desperate need of safety, stability and child protection services, especially those who are unaccompanied or have been separated from their families."
More than 1.5 million children have evacuated Ukraine in the three weeks since the war began, roughly half of all refugees scattered through the region. UNICEF said it has mobilized additional teams to help with protective and mental health services for children who remain in the embattled country.
"The safest and fastest way out of this catastrophe — indeed, the only way out of this catastrophe — is for this war to end, and to end now," Elder said. "We must be clear: Despite tireless efforts from volunteer grandmothers to governments, scouts to U.N. agencies, so long as this war continues, the situation for Ukraine’s children will only get worse."
U.S. seeing increased Russian naval activity near Odesa, defense official says
The U.S. is seeing increased Russian naval activity in the area around the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, a senior U.S. defense official said Wednesday.
The naval force in the northern Black Sea around Odesa includes Russian LSTs — landing ships and surface combatant ships, the official said, adding that Russian ships have been shelling some cities outside Odesa.
It’s not clear if the movements are a precursor to a larger amphibious assault, the official continued, characterizing the activity as "a change to maritime environment."
Citizens in the city, one of the largest in Ukraine, have been girding for an assault by Russian forces, including by filling and moving over 400,000 sandbags, sometimes while breaking out in song.
Odesa is home to the country's National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, and despite the threat of a Russian attack, its orchestra performed an open-air concert on Saturday to support Zelenskyy's call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
France opens war crimes investigation into killing of Fox News cameraman
France has opened a war crimes investigation into the killing of Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski.
Zakrzewski, who was French-Irish, died Monday after Russian forces fired at a car he and two other people were traveling in near Kyiv. Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra "Sasha" Kuvshynova, who was working with Fox News, was also killed, and Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall was injured.
France's investigation, led by anti-terrorist prosecutors, will examine whether there was an "intentional attack on a person protected by international law" and if the there was a "deliberate attack on civilians not taking part in hostilities."
Kremlin calls Biden's comments 'unacceptable and unforgivable'
President Joe Biden's characterization of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "war criminal" was "unacceptable and unforgivable," a spokesman for the Kremlin said Wednesday.
"We consider unacceptable and unforgivable such rhetoric of the head of the state, whose bombs killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
In a brief exchange with reporters earlier Wednesday, Biden was asked whether he believes Putin is a war criminal. He answered no and then asked the reporter to repeat the question. In response, Biden said: "I think he is a war criminal."
Biden on Putin: 'I think he is a war criminal'
President Joe Biden on Wednesday called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" for the first time.
In a brief exchange with reporters, Biden was asked whether he believes Putin is a war criminal amid the crisis in Ukraine. Biden initially said no and then asked the reporter to repeat the question.
"I think he is a war criminal," Biden said in response.
The Biden administration has been deliberating the potential ramifications of war crimes investigations of Russia and what role the U.S. should play in those international efforts, NBC News has reported.
Among the questions is whether indicting Putin could close the door on diplomacy or prompt him to resort to more drastic measures.
New Zelenskyy video suggests kidnapped Melitopol mayor has been rescued
In a video uploaded to Telegram on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appears to speak with Ivan Fyodorov, the Melitopol mayor who was kidnapped by Russian soldiers nearly a week ago — suggesting the mayor has been released.
In the video, Zelenskyy appears to congratulate Fyodorov on his rescue and reassures him that Ukraine does not leave its people behind. In what seemed to be a tongue-in-cheek exchange, the mayor then says he needs a day or two before he returns to work. In response, Zelenskyy says he cannot promise two days but encourages the mayor to rest.
The video was posted by the deputy head of Zelenskyy's office. The deputy head of the president's office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said in a separate post that the rescue was a special operation.
Russian forces bomb theater in Mariupol, Ukrainian foreign minister says
Russian forces bombed a theater where hundreds of Ukrainian civilians were sheltering in the besieged port city of Mariupol on Wednesday, the country's foreign minister said in a tweet, calling the attack a "horrendous war crime."
"The building is now fully ruined. Russians could not have not known this was a civilian shelter," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted, adding: "Save Mariupol! Stop Russian war criminals!"
It was not immediately clear how many civilians were killed. NBC News has not independently verified the attack. Russia has denied targeting civilians.
In a message on Telegram, Mariupol's city council condemned what it described as Russia's "horrific and inhumane act."
"Today, racist troops purposefully and cynically destroyed the Drama Theater in the heart of Mariupol," the council said, according to an NBC News translation. "The plane dropped a bomb on a building where hundreds of peaceful Mariupol residents were hiding."
Russian media sources, citing the country's Defense Ministry, claimed that "Ukrainian nationalists" blew up the theater, without providing evidence.
Biden announces $800M in new defense assistance for Ukraine, including anti-aircraft systems
President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he is authorizing $800 million in U.S. assistance to Ukraine, bringing the total of announced new security aid for the country to $1 billion just this week.
"These are direct transfers of equipment from our Department of Defense to the Ukrainian military, to help them as they fight against this invasion," Biden said in remarks from the White House, flanked by top officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley.
Biden said the new package includes:
- 800 anti-aircraft systems
- Additional longer-range anti-aircraft systems and their munitions
- 9,000 anti-armor systems, which he said are "portable high-accuracy shoulder mounted missiles"
- 7,000 small arms, including machine guns, shotguns and grenade launchers
- 20 million rounds of ammunition, artillery and mortars for small arms
"The United States and our allies and partners are fully committed to surge the weapons of assistance to the Ukrainians, and more will be coming as we source additional stocks of equipment," Biden said, adding bluntly: "Now, I want to be honest. This could be a long and difficult battle. But the American people will be steadfast in our support of the people of Ukraine in the face of Putin's immoral, unethical attacks on civilian populations."
Biden said the U.S. has provided $300 million in humanitarian assistance in the last few weeks to people in Ukraine and in neighboring countries where Ukrainians are finding refuge. This assistance has included food, medicine and basic supplies, he said.
When the invasion began in late February, Biden said, the U.S. rushed $350 million in additional aid, including anti-tank weapons, transport helicopters, armed patrol boats, unmanned drones, secure communications equipment, tactical gear, other high-mobility vehicles and radar systems that help track incoming artillery. He also said the administration started sending assistance to Ukraine a year ago. "We took the threat of Putin invading very seriously. We acted on it. We sent Ukraine more security systems last year — $650 million in weapons, including anti-air and anti-armor equipment — before the invasion, more than we had ever provided before."
GOP senators praise Zelenskyy, demand that Biden step up U.S. response
A group of Republican senators Wednesday praised Zelenskyy's address to Congress and demanded that the Biden administration send more weapons to Ukraine like the Soviet-era MiG fighter jets.
"What we need to do is change our approach," Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said at a news conference.
Portman said the U.S. needs to be more creative in helping Ukraine — and quickly — such as by providing anti-aircraft systems, drones and everything else it can to protect the country as it faces constant bombardment by Russia.
"If it shoots, we should ship it," Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said, including drones and Javelin and Stinger missiles.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said she will be leading a congressional delegation trip of nine colleagues to Poland. She didn't say when the trip will take place.
"We are going to see firsthand the humanitarian crisis and the devastation that this war has created. And we will ensure that Ukraine and our NATO partners are getting all of the support that they need," she said.
International Court of Justice: Russia must suspend military operations in Ukraine immediately
The International Court of Justice, the world's highest court, ordered Russia on Wednesday to immediately halt military operations in Ukraine, a preliminary decision in response to allegations of genocide brought by Ukraine.
"The Russian Federation shall immediately suspend the military operations that it commenced on Feb 24, 2022 on the territory of Ukraine," the 13-2 ruling read.
A second order, which also received a 13-2 vote, said Russia "shall ensure that any military or irregular armed units which may be directed or supported by it, as well as any organizations and persons which may be subject to its control or direction, take no steps in furtherance of the military operations."
The two votes against the measures were those of the court's vice president, Kirill Gevorgian of Russia, and Chinese jurist Xue Hanqin.
The U.N. body also unanimously voted that both parties should "refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the court or make it more difficult to resolve."
Russian representatives did not attend hearings in the case March 7 and 8.
Ukrainians fleeing Russian invasion mourn what was left behind
MEDYKA, Poland — Parents, spouses, children, grandchildren, sweethearts, friends, careers and homes: That’s just a short list of all that was left behind by so many fleeing war in their homeland.
The immensity of what remains in Ukraine contrasts starkly with the meager possessions these sudden refugees were able to bring with them. All that they own now is crammed into shopping bags and wheeled suitcases that squeak and rattle as they cross into this small red-brick village surrounded by fields.
With shock, grief and relief hanging in the bright, cold air, Alexander Federov greets the new arrivals in Poland with a broad smile and some hearty Ukrainian warmth: “Vse bude dobre” — “Everything will be fine.”
About 3 million Ukrainians have fled since Russia invaded their country — the majority to neighboring Poland — in the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. Thousands of them have crossed through Medyka.
Ukraine news website hacked, used to post Zelenskyy deepfake
The website of a Ukrainian news outlet was hacked Wednesday and used to push a fake video in which someone who appears to be Zelenskyy tells citizens to surrender to Russia, one of the most high-profile uses of "deepfake" technology to date.
The live TV broadcast from the media outlet, Ukraine 24, also showed a chyron that repeated what the fake Zelenskyy video said.
Disinformation experts have long warned that deepfakes, computer-generated videos of a real person saying or doing things they didn't actually say or do, could be used for malicious political purposes, and Ukrainian government officials have warned for weeks that Russia may try to convince people of false news of surrender.
The simulation was of low quality, with the fake Zelenskyy's mouth moving unnaturally, his head appearing somewhat detached from his body.
Last week, Ukraine provincial government websites were hacked to make similar claims, leading national government officials to rush to debunk it. Channel 24's website was down as of midday Wednesday, but its Telegram channel warned about the hack and said that the message of surrender was fake.
Putin claims, without evidence, Ukraine has nuclear weapons and biological weapons programs
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed without evidence Wednesday that Ukraine has its own nuclear weapons and biological weapons programs.
"Kyiv government announced their own nuclear weapons and the means to transport it. It was a real threat. In the near future, with foreign technical help, the Nazi regime in Kyiv could get hold of weapons of mass destruction," Putin said in remarks on Russia-24, a state-owned Russian news channel. "And Russia would, of course, be the target."
Putin also claimed that Ukraine has laboratories where it conducts experiments with "coronavirus, anthrax, cholera, African swine fever and other lethal diseases," adding: "They are trying to cover the traces of these programs. In essence, they were creating biological weapons in close proximity to Russian borders." He also accused Ukraine of planning to attack Donbas and Crimea in an "ethnic cleansing."
Putin suggested he was forced to authorize the invasion because Russia was "left with no choice for peaceful resolution of problems that we are not to blame for."
U.S. officials have been warning that Russia could implement a false flag operation in which its military would launch a chemical or biological weapons attack in Ukraine.
Zelenskyy full speech: Ukrainian president implores Congress for aid, asks Biden ‘to be the leader of peace’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered an emotional virtual address to members of Congress on Wednesday in which he pleaded for more U.S. aid in his country’s fight against Russia and told President Joe Biden, “Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.” Read his full remarks.
Here's what else the U.S. has given Ukraine in military equipment
A senior administration official provided a list of the military items that the U.S. has given Ukraine over the past year:
- Over 600 Stinger anti-aircraft systems
- Approximately 2,600 Javelin anti-armor systems
- Four counter-artillery and counter-unmanned aerial system tracking radars
- Four counter-mortar radar systems
- 200 grenade launchers and ammunition
- 200 shotguns and 200 machine guns
- Nearly 40 million rounds of small arms ammunition and over 1 million grenade, mortar and artillery rounds
- 70 High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) and other vehicles
- Mi-17 helicopters
- Patrol boats
- Secure communications, electronic warfare detection systems, body armor, helmets and other tactical gear
- Military medical equipment to support treatment and combat evacuation
- Explosive ordnance disposal and demining equipment
- Satellite imagery and analysis capability.
Biden to commit new military aid to Ukraine following Zelenskyy speech
Biden is expected to detail an additional $800 million in military support Wednesday after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleaded with Congress to do more to help Ukraine defend itself against the military onslaught from Russia.
Biden is expected to outline in more detail the types of security assistance the U.S. is providing, including anti-armor and air defense systems, a White House official said ahead of the remarks. The added assistance brings the total authorized by Biden to $2 billion since the start of his presidency.
But Biden wasn't expected to announce any of the actions that Zelenskyy asked for in his remarks to Congress earlier Wednesday, including a no-fly zone over Ukraine to deter Russian bombers that have hit hospitals, schools and residential buildings, as well as fighter jets — two measures the U.S. has repeatedly rejected.
Lawmakers to receive classified briefing on Russia-Ukraine
A classified briefing on Russia and Ukraine will be held Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. ET for Senate leadership as well as chairs and ranking members of relevant committees, a Senate aide said.
The House is set to hold a similar briefing at 2 p.m. ET.
It will take place hours after Zelenskyy's virtual address to Congress.
Ukraine says it has joined its energy networks to the European Union
Ukraine has unified its energy network with that of the European Union, Zelenskyy said in a tweet Wednesday, in a move designed to show its independence and autonomy from Russia. Moldova, which neighbors Ukraine and has raised fears about Putin's aggression, also made the switch, he said.
"Now [Ukrainian] electricity flows [towards the European Union] and vice versa," the president said, shortly after his historic address to Congress.
Zelenskyy formally announced his country's bid to join the 27-nation European Union four days after the Russian invasion on Feb. 24 and he has consistently described the conflict as one between Russia and the wider democratic West.
Ursula Von Der Leyen, president of the executive body of the E.U., said in a tweet: "Ukraine, Moldova and Europe: shared values, shared power and solidarity."
Spam campaigns look to capitalize on Ukraine donations
Online scammers are trying to capitalize on the Ukraine crisis by sending a massive amount of email spam, researchers say.
Many appear to try to take advantage of the fact that the Ukrainian government has taken the novel and successful step of soliciting cryptocurrency donations from the public. That's led to scammers flooding email addresses with their own crypto addresses, falsely claiming to be the Ukrainian government or working for Ukrainian refugees, according to Andrew Brandt, principal researcher at the cybersecurity company Sophos.
Despite the dramatic spike in such emails, they may not be working. None of the scammers' cryptocurrency addresses that Sophos has monitored have received any funds, Brandt said.
Speaking in English, Zelenskyy pleads with U.S. to 'be the leader of peace'
Zelenskyy concluded his speech by addressing lawmakers in English, making an emotional plea for help.
"Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace," he said.
"Strong doesn't mean weak," he continued. "Strong is brave and ready to fight for the life of his citizens and citizens of the world, of human rights, for freedom, for the right to live peacefully and to die when your time comes and not when it's wanted by someone else, by your neighbor."
Zelenskyy said Ukrainians are not only defending Ukraine, but they're "fighting for the values of Europe and the world, sacrificing our lives in the name of the future."
"That's why today the American people are helping not just Ukraine, but Europe and the world to keep the planet alive, to keep justice in history," he said, adding that he's 45 years old, but his age stopped when the hearts of more than 100 children stopped beating. "I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths."
Concluding his speech to Congress, Zelenskyy said in English he had a message for President Joe Biden.
"You are the leader of the nation, of your great nation, I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace," Zelenskyy said.
The auditorium on Capitol Hill full of members from the House and Senate then gave the Ukrainian president a standing ovation.
Zelenskyy shows graphic video of missiles destroying Ukrainian cities, dead bodies in streets
After Zelenskyy called for a no-fly zone and more U.S. assistance, he played a brief video that displayed a montage of video clips and images showing Russia's attacks on Ukraine.
The video first appeared to show Ukrainians in their country before the invasion, and then it continued by showing numerous shots of Russian missiles hitting Ukrainian buildings.
It showed Ukrainian people crying, including children, as well as wounded civilians and bodies lying all over the streets. The video also showed dead bodies being tossed into a trenchlike ditch to bury them.
"Close the sky over Ukraine," the video said at the end.
Zelenskyy pleads with U.S. to do more to protect Ukraine
Throughout his address to Congress, Zelenskyy made a plea for the U.S. to take more action against Russia, including imposing a no-fly zone over his country, saying "Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for the Ukrainian people."
"This is a terror that Europe has not seen for 80 years. We are asking for a reply, for an answer to this terror from the whole world. Is that a lot to ask for, to ask for a no-fly zone?" he said.
Zelenskyy also called for:
- anti-aircraft defense systems
- additional sanctions
- a new international alliance
He also invoked Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I have a dream" speech as he said he needed military aircraft from the West. "I have a dream — these words are known to each of you. Today I can say, I have a need. I need to protect our sky.”
"We need to create new tools to respond quickly and stop the war, the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine," he said.
Council of Europe expels Russia from human rights body
BRUSSELS — The Council of Europe on Wednesday expelled Russia from the continent’s foremost human rights body in an unprecedented move over its invasion and war in Ukraine.
The 47-nation organization’s committee of ministers said in statement that “the Russian Federation ceases to be a member of the Council of Europe as from today, after 26 years of membership.”
The decision comes on the heels of weeks of condemnation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Early in the week, the group’s parliamentary assembly already initiated the process of expulsion and unanimously backed that Russia would be kicked out.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov insisted Wednesday that it would have left the body regardless. In an interview with Russian broadcaster RBK, he accused NATO and EU countries of “abusing their majority in the council, eventually transforming it into a tool for anti-Russian policy.
Zelenskyy invokes 9/11, Pearl Harbor in address to Congress
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy opened his virtual address to members of Congress from the capital city of Kyiv stating that Russia has not just attacked his country but "basic human values."
Russia is using tanks and planes against Ukrainians' freedom and "our right to live freely," he said. He said he remembers Mount Rushmore and seeing the faces of prominent U.S. presidents, who laid the foundation of America as it exists today.
"Democracy, independence, freedom and care for everyone for every person, for everyone who works diligently, who is honest, who respects the law. We in Ukraine want the same for our people. All that is normal part of your own life," he said.
Zelenskyy told lawmakers to remember Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 and the 9/11 terror attacks.
Netflix makes Zelenskyy's TV series available to stream in U.S.
"Servant of the People," a Ukrainian television series starring Volodymyr Zelenskyy before he became president, is available on Netflix in the United States, the streaming service tweeted Wednesday.
The show, which was also produced by Zelenskyy, is a political satire that ran for three seasons from 2015 to 2019. Zelenskyy plays a high school history teacher who goes viral after a student records him going on an anti-government corruption tirade, catapulting him into politics and eventually helping him win an election as president of Ukraine.
As it turned out, life imitated art: Zelenskyy, who had no prior experience or solid policies, was elected Ukrainian president in 2019 with a pledge to bring integrity to his country's leadership.
War could contribute to biggest oil supply crisis in decades, International Energy Agency warns
The International Energy Agency has cut its 2022 forecast for global oil demand amid the disruption to Russian oil production which threatens a “global oil supply shock.”
“The implications of a potential loss of Russian oil exports to global markets cannot be understated,” it said in a monthly report released Wednesday. “Faced with what could turn into the biggest supply crisis in decades, global energy markets are at a crossroads,” it said.
As the world’s largest oil exporter, Russia continues to send oil due to deals made before the invasion, but new business has “all but dried up,” it said. According to the report, after the exports are shunned, only the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia hold the spare capacity to offset the Russian shortfall.
“Indeed, today’s alignment of energy security and economic factors could well accelerate the transition away from oil,” the agency said.
More than 100 children have died since Russian invasion began, Ukraine's president says
More than 100 children have died since Russia's invasion began three weeks ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday, as he vowed to hold Moscow responsible for "war crimes."
“We are stepping up work to bring the occupiers to justice," Zelenskyy said in a video message posted to his Telegram page, adding that he had spoken with Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
Zelenskyy said that 103 children had died since the start of the conflict. NBC News has not been able to verify this number.
He added that in the besieged southern city of Mariupol, Russian soldiers had captured the regional hospital and patients and doctors had been taken hostage.
Ukrainian presidential adviser rejects Russia's 'compromise' of NATO neutrality
An adviser to Ukraine's president has rejected the idea of taking a neutral stance similar to Sweden or Austria — after Russia said this was a possible compromise that could lead to an end to hostilities.
"The Russian Federation believes that the Swedish version of a neutral state in Ukraine can be seen as a compromise," Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said during a regular press briefing Wednesday. Both Austria and Sweden are outside the NATO alliance but act as partner nations.
The adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said on Telegram on Wednesday he understood why the neutrality point was being raised, but added: "Ukraine is now in a state of direct war with the Russian Federation. Therefore, the model can only be Ukrainian and only about legally verified security guarantees. And no other models or options."
He said Ukraine needed a security deal that would ensure foreign support in the event of an attack, without the need for any "bureaucratic procedures" to enforce a no-fly zone.
9 in 10 Ukrainians could face poverty as a result of war, U.N. agency says
Almost 90 percent of Ukraine’s population could face poverty and extreme economic vulnerability if the war drags on for a year, wiping out two decades of development, according to a projection from the United Nations Development Program.
“An alarming economic decline, and the suffering and hardship it will bring to an already traumatized population must now come into sharper focus,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said Wednesday. Half of Ukraine's businesses are shut completely while the remaining operate below capacity, he said.
The UNDP estimates that emergency cash of approximately $250 million per month would cover “partial income losses” for the 2.6 million people expected to fall below poverty.
Three European leaders are first in Kyiv since Russian invasion
NATO allies will continue to deliver weapons to Ukraine, Dutch defense minister says
The Netherlands and other NATO allies will continue to deliver weapons to Ukraine even as these deliveries could become the target of Russian attacks, Dutch defense minister Kajsa Ollongren said Wednesday.
"The Netherlands and other countries will continue to deliver weapons to Ukraine," Ollongren said at her arrival for a meeting with NATO defence ministers in Brussels. "Ukraine has the right to defend itself, we will continue to support it."
Neutrality for Ukraine being seriously discussed, Russia's Lavrov says
Russia's foreign minster said Wednesday there was some hope of a breakthrough in talks with Ukraine and that neutrality for Ukrainian neutrality was being seriously discussed.
Sergey Lavrov told RBC news, a Russian business news channel, that discussions were not easy "for obvious reasons" but said there was "some hope of reaching a compromise."
He added that "neutral status is now being seriously discussed along, of course, with security guarantees."
Ukraine has also made cautiously positive statements on peace talks. It says it is willing to negotiate to end the war, but will not surrender or accept Russian ultimatums.
Ukraine's military launching counteroffensives, Zelenskyy adviser says
Ukraine's military has launched counteroffensives against Russian forces in a number of areas, a move that "radically changes the parties’ dispositions," according to a senior official in Kyiv.
Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak hailed the fight back in a post on Twitter early Wednesday, though he offered no further details to support the claim.
Western officials have said that Moscow's offensive has been bogged down by fierce Ukrainian resistance, as well as the conditions on the ground. Russia's military struggles have raised hopes of progress in peace talks, where Podolyak is a top Ukrainian negotiator.
Russia has taken six hostages in Bucha, north-west of Kyiv, officials say
Russian forces have ransacked an administrative building and taken six civilian hostages just outside of Kyiv, Bucha City council said on Wednesday.
In a statement on Telegram, it said that staff and volunteers at the council were captured Tuesday evening. “The occupiers threw away their passports and other documents as they were leaving,” it said.
The council has asked the presidential office and Kyiv administration to assist in their release.
Fresh Russian strikes hit residential areas in Kyiv, Kharkiv
A new set of Russian attacks have hit apartment buildings in Ukraine's capital and its second-largest city.
In Kyiv, which is facing increasing bombardment and is under a new curfew, a 12-story residential building collapsed after being hit by Russian shelling, the city's emergency services said early Tuesday.
The building partially collapsed but rescuers were able to evacuate 37 people, 2 of whom were injured, they said.
In Kharkiv, Russian artillery strikes on high-rise buildings destroyed several apartments and killed two people, Ukraine's state emergency services said.
Swiss step up economic sanctions against Belarus
Switzerland has tightened its economic sanctions against Belarus, the government said on Wednesday, citing the eastern European country's support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Neutral Switzerland has adopted in full the economic sanctions against Belarus already imposed by the European Union on March 2 and 9.
The sanctions, which come into force on Wednesday, mainly concern trade and financial sanctions, Switzerland said, and include an export ban of dual-use items which can be used for both military or civilian purposes.
Russia 'systematically destroying' Ukrainian infrastructure, foreign ministry says
Russian forces are "systematically destroying" Ukraine's civilian infrastructure, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday, citing the country's special emergency services.
Around 3,500 facilities have been destroyed by Russian shelling, including transport, healthcare, educational, and social institutions, the ministry said in a twee, in addition to more than 2,700 houses.
Russian advance stalled by Ukraine’s terrain, British Defense Ministry says
Russian ground forces are struggling to advance on Ukraine’s terrain, according to the British Defense Ministry.
“Russian forces have remained largely tied to Ukraine’s road network and have demonstrated a reluctance to conduct off-road manoeuvre,” the ministry said in an intelligence update on Wednesday, noting Ukraine's armed forces have taken advantage of that situation.
Russia's advance has also been stalled by the destruction of bridges and further limited by “Russia’s continued failure to gain control of the air," the defense ministry said.
Last week, the ministry said Ukraine’s air defense system has held up against Russia’s aerial forces and prevented them from achieving “any degree of control of the air.”
Russian TV employee who staged on-air protest says she was interrogated for more than 14 hours
The Russian TV employee who interrupted a widely viewed evening news broadcast holding a “No war” sign told reporters Tuesday that authorities interrogated her for more than 14 hours.
The Channel One employee, identified by Russian rights-monitoring group OVD-Info as Marina Ovsyannikova, said that after being taken into custody she was denied access to a lawyer and barred from contacting her family.
“I was in a rather tough situation,” she said outside a Moscow courthouse, according to an NBC News translation. “All the comments will be made tomorrow. I just need to rest today.”
A judge fined Ovsyannikova 30,000 rubles, or $280, for flouting protest laws, according to Reuters.
Her lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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