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Kremlin says Biden's Putin comments 'alarming'

President Joe Biden's remarks, which were interpreted by many as tantamount to calling for regime change in Russia, continued to reverberate.

Coverage on this live blog has ended, please click here for the latest developments.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was willing to discuss his country's neutrality in order to end the war "without delay."

But in a video address Sunday, Ukraine’s embattled leader said he would not sacrifice his country's territorial integrity ahead of a new round of peace talks with Russia set to take place this week in Turkey.

The Kremlin offered little hope for an imminent end to the devastating conflict, with Moscow's military growing more focused on defeating Ukraine's forces in the east and fears rising that it may try to split the country in two if it succeeds.

President Joe Biden on Monday said he stood by the remarks he made over the weekend — interpreted by many as tantamount to calling for a regime change in Russia — as the fallout continued to reverberate.

Biden had said Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power," although Secretary of State Antony Blinken was among the U.S. officials to try and clarify the statement.

The Kremlin said Biden's comments were "alarming."

See full coverage here.

U.N. head pursuing humanitarian cease-fire in Ukraine

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said Monday he has asked an official to explore a humanitarian cease-fire in Ukraine.

Guterres said he asked Martin Griffiths, under-secretary-general at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, to start immediately and that "he already made some contacts."

"I think this is the moment in which I believe it makes sense for the U.N. to assume the initiative," Guterres told reporters.

There have been agreements for humanitarian corridors in Ukraine, but relief efforts for some areas, including the besieged city of Mariupol, have been disrupted by shelling.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address Monday that "the Russian army did not let us organize a single humanitarian corridor today, did not provide cease-fire."

Russia attacked and invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in an assault that has been condemned by the U.S., European countries and other nations.

Guterres also called for "military de-escalation and rhetoric de-escalation" after he was asked about President Joe Biden's remark in Poland that Russian President Vladimir Putin "cannot remain in power." Biden said he was expressing his moral outrage, not signaling a policy change.

Ukrainians racing to protect Odesa

The Associated Press

Zelenskyy calls for tougher sanctions against Russia, oil embargo

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Monday for tougher sanctions against Russia.

He criticized what he said were hints surrounding conditions for Europe to impose an embargo on Russian oil.

"Right now there are a lot of hints and warnings that strengthening of sanctions, for example an embargo on Russian oil to Europe, will happen only if Russia uses chemical weapons," Zelenskyy said in a video address. "I am simply speechless. Just think about what it all came to, waiting for chemical weapons."

President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian oil imports on March 8, but most of Europe has not. Europe is more reliant on Russian oil than the U.S.

The United Kingdom said it will phase out Russian oil imports by the end of the year. Germany, Europe's largest economy, has said introducing such an embargo would trigger recession and mass unemployment, Reuters reported.

Zelenskyy said Russia has used phosphorus bombs in Ukraine and fired at nuclear power plants.

U.N. records more than 100 children killed in Russia invasion

The United Nations' human rights office has recorded more than 100 deaths of children in Ukraine since Russia invaded last month.

The real numbers of civilian casualties —  which include 1,151 killed, 103 of whom were children — are much higher, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said Monday.

Ukrainian officials have given higher numbers of civilians killed. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday that 143 have died since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.

The U.N. human rights office has a process to corroborate reports of civilian casualties, and it says fighting has delayed reports from some areas and that other reports are still being corroborated.

"OHCHR believes that the actual figures are considerably higher," it said in Monday's update.

Russia shifts focus of invasion to eastern Ukraine

Missile attack hits oil depot in western Ukraine

The Associated Press

LVIV, Ukraine — A missile attack hit an oil depot in western Ukraine late Monday, Rivne’s regional governor said, marking the second attack on oil facilities in the region and the latest in a series of such attacks in recent days.

Western Ukraine has not seen ground combat, but missiles have struck oil depots and a military plant in Lviv, a major city close to Poland where hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have gone to escape fighting elsewhere.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested in an interview with Russian journalists released Sunday that the attacks on oil depots are intended to disrupt the planting season in Ukraine, which is a major grain producer.

Zelenskyy calls for further sanctions, increased support

Jacob Fulton

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated his refrain Monday that countries must ramp up their sanctions against Russia and military assistance to Ukraine.

The escalation of sanctions, he said, is influenced by whether Russia uses chemical weapons in the conflict, but Ukrainians have endured enough. 

He criticized hesitation based on the political implications of opposing Russia, saying countries that aren't supporting Ukraine have become complicit in the war.

"No one has the right to use the lives of Ukrainians to save any income in Russia," Zelenskyy said. "Ukrainians should not die just because some cannot find the courage to hand over the necessary weapons to Ukraine."

Biden says he won't walk back weekend comment about Putin

President Joe Biden refused Monday to walk back his comment over the weekend that Russian President Vladimir Putin shouldn’t remain in power, saying his statement reflected "moral outrage," not a policy change. 

Some said Biden's words seemed to suggest he was pushing for regime change in Russia in the ab-libbed line in remarks in Poland. “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said Saturday in reference. 

Although Biden said he doesn't believe the comment will spark further escalation, some world leaders and experts saw the statement as a risky and escalatory move.

Read the full article.

Hospital damaged, apartment building destroyed in Trostyanets

Anjali Huynh

A regional official said Monday that a hospital was severely damaged and that a railway station, bus stations and a five-story apartment building were "completely destroyed" in the town of Trostyanets, about 150 miles east of Kyiv. 

Dmytro Zhyvytskyi, the head of the Sumy Regional State Administration, said Trostyanets has received Starlink internet and generators since Ukrainian forces recaptured the area. Beforehand, Zhyvytskyi said, people in the region were "cut off from the world, cut off from information."

A senior U.S. Defense Department official confirmed Monday that Ukraine had recaptured Trostyanets from Russia.

Ambulances have taken the seriously wounded to the nearest hospitals, he said, adding that people who lost their homes are being resettled in Sumy and provided with food, medicine and clothing.

Russia adding more troops around Kyiv, Ukraine defense ministry says

In an afternoon update, Ukraine's Defense Ministry warned that Russia is increasing the number of troops around the besieged capital, Kyiv, despite "heavy losses."

The ministry also said Russia is still pushing toward the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk, which have been partly controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, and that Russia is recruiting citizen-volunteers, including "people with a criminal record," to keep "order" in those territories.

The ministry claimed Russia is operating its "defense-industrial complex" around the clock to produce missiles, indicating Russia is experiencing "a significant reduction in the arsenal of missile weapons." It praised international sanctions for hindering the trade of high-tech products needed to manufacture missiles.

Another major Ukrainian internet provider says it was hacked

Ukraine's internet connectivity dipped significantly Monday, as one of its major internet providers said it suffered a cyberattack.

One of Ukraine's largest phone and internet service providers, Ukrtelecom, saw internet activity drop to less than 20 percent of its usual rate, according to NetBlocks and Ioda, organizations that monitor such traffic.

In a comment on its Facebook page, Ukrtelecom wrote that the outage was due to a cyberattack.

Internet providers appear to have been the biggest civilian targets for cyberattacks in Ukraine since Russia began its invasion in late February. Another service provider, Triolan, also went down after a cyberattack, and a major satellite internet service company, Viasat, had its European and Ukrainian services severed after hackers targeted it around the start of the invasion.

Latin American students in Russia speak out

Albinson Linares, Noticias Telemundo

Vanesa Rincón said she has barely slept since Feb. 24, when the thunderous sound from the bombs tore her from her sleep. She said she experiences terror daily in Belgorod, a Russian city bordering Ukraine, where she studies international law.

“One wants to get away from the war and the bombs,” said Rincón, who is from Colombia. “We're so anguished that I never want to hear that noise again. I want to return to Bogotá as soon as I can.”

Rincón said that during the first week of the conflict, she was on night duty with her fellow students in case something happened. Belgorod is about 25 miles from the war zone, so Rincón is counting the days to be able to leave.

“It’s not normal, it’s not pretty, and you’re scared all the time. It doesn’t matter who’s good or bad. All you want is to run away,” she said.

Read the full article.

'You cannot think about anything,' says Ukrainian refugee, mom of 3

Iryna Timonshenko managed to flee Ukraine with her three children last month but had to leave her husband, her mother and her pets behind.

She said in an interview with MSNBC's Jose Diaz-Balart that it has been difficult to watch what's happening to her country from the safety of Miami.

"We all now have the ,fear but we're trying to not [think] about it, because if I will try, I just need to [cry] every day," Timonshenko said. "I will not be so good mother, you know, if I be like in the full distress."

Her children "think they're on vacation," Timonshenko said, but they know that their country is at war, having escaped while bombs were falling.

U.S. can't confirm who controls Ukrainian city of Irpin

Anjali Huynh

Courtney Kube and Anjali Huynh

The U.S. cannot confirm who is in control of the Ukrainian city of Irpin, a senior Defense Department official said.

Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushin announced on the Telegram social media app early Monday that the city "has been liberated" from Russian forces.

But the defense official said Ukraine has recaptured the town of Trostyanents from Russian forces.

Russia has launched more than 1,370 missiles since the beginning of the conflict, the official said.

Kharkiv nuclear plant shelled, severely damaged, agency says

Anjali Huynh

Ukraine's State Nuclear Regulation Inspectorate, the country's nuclear watchdog, said the neutron source nuclear facility in Kharkiv was severely damaged when it was shelled again Saturday.

The installation, part of Kharkiv's Institute of Physics and Technology, performs experimental research on radioisotopes for medical and industrial needs. Russian shelling also hit it earlier this month. 

The agency said it could not assess the extent of the damage and its impact on nuclear and radiation safety because of intense fighting in the area.

Many cultural landmarks in Ukraine destroyed

Conor Devlin

Ukraine is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and since Russia launched its invasion, at least 39 landmarks across the country have been damaged, looted or reduced to ruins, according to the Transatlantic Dialogue Center, a Ukrainian political nonprofit based in Kyiv.

Mariupol’s city council confirmed via Telegram last week that the Russian military destroyed the city’s Arkhip Kuindzhi Art Museum, housing over 2,000 exhibits and an extensive collection of works by prominent Ukrainian artists. The fate of the artwork remains unclear.

Targeting historic monuments and cultural heritage sites is a war crime under international law, according to the Hague Convention of 1954. But that all seems to be part of Russia’s plan, some cultural authorities say.

“They just want to erase from the map Ukraine — our heritage, our history, our identity and Ukraine as an independent state,” said Iryna Podolyak, Ukraine’s former vice minister of culture, according to whom Russia’s military seems to be targeting cultural heritage sites in addition to houses, hospitals and schools.

Read the full article.

Zelenskyy posts interview with Russian journalists

U.S. deploys 6 aircraft, 240 Navy personnel to Germany

Anjali Huynh

Courtney Kube and Anjali Huynh

Six U.S. aircraft and about 240 Navy personnel are scheduled to arrive at Spangdahlem Air Base on Monday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.

The EA-18 Growlers are designed for electronic warfare to "jam the enemy," he said

This transfer is not in response to any acute threat, Kirby said, but is part of efforts to bolster readiness and heighten NATO deterrence. They will not be used against Russian forces in Ukraine, he said.

Kirby called the aircraft shipment a "prudent decision" as the U.S. continues to re-evaluate force posture on the Eastern flank.

Biden's suggestion that Putin must go causes anxiety in Europe

LONDON — Until the final line of President Joe Biden's speech, Western allies had been in near lockstep against Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Nine words have caused perhaps the most significant cracks to date.

“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said of Russian President Vladimir Putin in an ad-libbed line at the end of an otherwise carefully measured speech in Poland on Saturday, capping three days of diplomacy in Europe.

U.S. officials have hurriedly tried to walk back and clarify Biden's comments. And the president himself gave an unequivocal "no" when a reporter asked him Sunday whether he backed regime change in Moscow.

Read the full article.

1 in 2 Ukrainian children have fled their homes, UNICEF says

The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is displacing half of the country's 7.5 million children, with 1 in 2 having to flee their homes, a spokesman for the U.N.'s child protection agency said Monday.

Fleeing may mean the children have had to go to bunkers or have left Ukraine entirely, UNICEF spokesman James Elder said on MSNBC.

"It's a deadly situation. It's a war," he added. "It has not got better."

He added that UNICEF has counselors who are working with children and pregnant women to help them through the trauma they're facing, and that the aid organization is continuing to supply equipment, including surgical and oxygen kits and water purification tablets.

Ukrainian forces retake control of Irpin, near Kyiv, mayor says

Ukrainian forces have retaken control of the Kyiv suburb of Irpin from Russian troops, the city's mayor has said.

“We have good news today. Today, Irpin is released," Mayor Alexandar Markushin said in a video posted Monday to Facebook. He thanked Ukrainians who had been engaged in intense fighting with Russian forces near the capital, adding that "now, mopping up is carried out." 

NBC News could not immediately verify the claim.

Markushin said it was still "impossible" for residents to return to Irpin, from which thousands of civilians have been evacuated in perilous circumstances over the past few weeks. "It is still dangerous," he said. 

Markushin said Ukrainian forces would "continue to go and liberate" nearby Bucha, Hostomel and Vorzel as it seeks to push Moscow's troops back from around Kyiv.

"We understand that there will be more attacks on our city, and we will courageously defend it," he said, adding: "Irpin is Ukraine. Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes.”

Russian stocks slide as trading resumes for all companies

The Associated Press

Russian shares slumped as its stock market resumed trading of all companies Monday after a monthlong halt following the invasion of Ukraine.

The benchmark MOEX index slid 2.2% after the Moscow Exchange reopened for all of its several hundred listed companies, but with restrictions still in place to limit volatility. State-owned energy giant Gazprom fell 3.7%, while airline Aeroflot was up 3%.

The last full trading session in Moscow was on Feb. 25, a day after the index tumbled by a third after President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine.

Prices whipsawed last week when the exchange tentatively reopened for two days of limited trading, with investors allowed to trade only 33 of the MOEX index's 50 companies.

Some restrictions remained in place Monday to prevent another big selloff, including the daily session shortened to four hours and a ban on short-selling, which essentially involves betting on stock prices to go down. Foreigners also are unable to sell shares until Friday — a restriction Russia put in place to counter Western sanctions against its financial system and the ruble, which has been sharply devalued.

Ukraine publishes personal information of purported Russian spies

The SBU, Ukraine's main intelligence service, published what it says are the names, home addresses and other personal details of 620 Russian spies Monday.

The SBU alleged that all of them work for Russia's FSB agency and are involved with Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Governments occasionally name alleged spies of rival governments, but it's very rare to do so at such a scale, said Thomas Rid, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University who studies intelligence and cybersecurity.

Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta to suspend publication until war ends

Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta said Monday it is suspending publication online and in print until the end of the war in Ukraine. 

The newspaper is known for its investigative reporting and its editor, Dmitry Muratov, was a co-winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize.

The newspaper announced it would be halting publication in a tweet, saying it had made the decision after receiving a fresh warning from state communications regulator Roskomnadzor.

In its post, it referred to Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a "special operation," using the Kremlin's language for the attack as it has throughout in an apparent effort to avoid punishment. 

Ukraine has suffered $564.9 billion in losses since beginning of war, economy minister says

Ayumi Fujimoto

Ukraine has already suffered $564.9 billion in losses due to the ongoing Russian invasion, the country's economy minister has said.

Yulia Svyrydenko, Ukraine's economy minister, said in a Facebook post Monday that the losses stemmed from damage to infrastructure and lost economic growth, among other factors.

"Every day the numbers change and, unfortunately, they are growing," she said. 

The economy minister said Ukraine would "seek compensation from the aggressor" through "court decisions and by transferring to our state frozen assets of Russia."

"Evil will inevitably be punished and Russia will feel the full weight of its own criminal actions on the territory of Ukraine," she said.

All Mariupol residents face 'humanitarian catastrophe' if they are not evacuated out of city, mayor says

Livia Liu


Livia Liu and Reuters

The mayor of Mariupol has said that all residents must be evacuated out of the besieged city or there will be a “humanitarian catastrophe."

Speaking on national television Monday, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said the situation in Mariupol "remains extremely difficult" with 160,000 civilians still trapped in the southern port city on the Sea of Azov. He said it was “impossible to live” in the besieged city with no heat, power, or communication after weeks of Russian bombardment.

Boichenko said the city has been under blockade since March 1 and said Russian forces had “systematically and methodically” destroyed public transport, making it more difficult for residents to flee. 

He said 26 buses were waiting to evacuate civilians from Mariupol, which normally has a population of about 400,000 people, but Russian forces had not agreed to give them safe passage. 

Kremlin says Russia-Ukraine talks could start in Turkey on Tuesday

Max Burman


Max Burman and Reuters

The Kremlin has said that a new round of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine may get underway in Turkey on Tuesday and it was important that they would take place face-to-face.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan agreed in a call on Sunday for Istanbul to host the talks, which follow recent negotiations held via video link.

Turkey said the talks could begin as early as Monday, but Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that was unlikely as the negotiators would only be arriving in Turkey on Monday.

"We cannot and will not talk about progress yet. But the very fact that it was decided to continue the talks in person is certainly important," Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

"So far, unfortunately, we cannot state any significant achievements or breakthroughs" in talks, he added.

Biden comment that Putin 'cannot remain in power' was 'alarming,' Kremlin says

The Kremlin has expressed alarm over President Joe Biden's comments about the leadership of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

"For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power," Biden said of Putin on Saturday during a speech in Warsaw.  The White House sought to clarify Biden's remark and the president said Sunday he had not been calling for regime change.

Asked Monday about Biden's comment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "This is a statement that is certainly alarming."

"We will continue to closely monitor the statements of the U.S. president," Peskov said. "We are carefully recording them — and we will continue to do so."

"As for the essence of these statements, I already commented on Saturday," he said, referring to his immediate response in the wake of the speech that the future of Russia's leadership was "not for Biden to decide."

Russian forces near Kyiv 'trying to break through' Ukrainian defense, Ukraine says

Livia Liu

Russian military forces near Kyiv are "still trying to break through" the Ukrainian defense in order to take control of key roads and settlements, Ukraine’s ministry of defense said Monday in a statement on operational updates.

“The grouping of Ukrainian forces and means of defense of the city of Kyiv is deterring the Russian enemy,” the ministry said.

The Ukrainian defense forces continued operations in eastern, southeastern and northeastern directions across the country, it said.

In the south, defense forces were mainly focused on the cities of Kryvyi Rih, Zaporizhzhia and Mykolayiv in an effort to maintain parts of the coast and to protect critical infrastructure, it added.

Heineken exits Russia in response to Ukraine war

Ayumi Fujimoto

Dutch beer company Heineken has announced it will be exiting Russia in response to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The decision comes following an exodus of Western brands from Russia in response to the Ukraine war. 

Heineken had previously said it would only stop new investments and exports to Russia. 

In a statement, Heineken said the company had "concluded that Heineken's ownership of the business in Russia is no longer sustainable nor viable in the current environment."

It said the company would not benefit from any transfer of ownership and expected an impairment charge and other non-cash exceptional charges of around 400 million euros ($438 million). 

Heineken said it would guarantee the salary of Russian employees until the end of the year.

NBC News

A Russian tank destroyed following a battle in the town of Trostyanets, Sumy region, in an image released by the armed forces of Ukraine on Sunday.

A Russian tank destroyed following a battle in the town of Trostyanets, Sumy region in an image released by the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Sunday.
Armed Forces of Ukraine / via AFP - Getty Images

Russian gas flows to Europe remain stable

Livia Liu


Livia Liu and Reuters

Russian gas deliveries to Europe on three main pipeline routes were stable on Monday morning, despite threats from Moscow that they would retaliate for Western sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine. 

Russia's Gazprom said on Sunday it had continued to supply gas to Europe via Ukraine in line with requests from European customers. Gazprom, the world's biggest natural gas company, supplies 40 percent of Europe's gas.

Facing its gravest economic crisis since the years following the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia on Friday warned that billing in roubles for billions of dollars of natural gas exports to Europe could be just days away, its toughest response yet to crippling sanctions imposed by the West.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the West had declared economic war by freezing Russian assets, and so Russia saw no point in receiving dollars or euros for Russian exports anymore.

Russian forces have made no progress in past 24 hours, U.K. says

Livia Liu

Britain’s defense ministry said Monday morning that Russian forces had made no significant progress over the last 24 hours amid continuing supply issues and aggressive resistance from Ukrainian fighters. 

A continued "lack of momentum and morale" among Russian military members has compounded the ongoing logistical shortages, the ministry said in an intelligence briefing on the situation in Ukraine posted on Twitter.

Meanwhile, it said heavy fighting continues around Mariupol as Russian forces try to capture the port on the Sea of Azov, which connects to the Black Sea.

In a previous post, the ministry had said Russia was maintaining a blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, "effectively isolating Ukraine from international maritime trade." It said Russian naval forces were also "continuing to conduct sporadic missile strikes against targets throughout Ukraine." 

American pastor allegedly kidnapped by Russian forces has been freed, family says

Gabe Gutierrez

Erika Angulo

Gabe Gutierrez and Erika Angulo

Dmitry Bodyu, an American pastor allegedly abducted in Ukraine earlier this month, has been freed, his family said on Monday.

The family was "relieved" after Bodyu's release, his daughter Esther Bodyu-Ogana told NBC News.

Bodyu, 50, a well-known pastor in Ukraine who had invited people to seek shelter in his church, was taken by about eight to 10 Russian soldiers in the Russian-controlled city of Melitopol on March 19, his wife Helen had told NBC News last week. 

"They just came in in the morning," wife Helen Bodyu said. "They took our phones, gadgets, computers, documents — and took him somewhere. I don’t know where," she said at the time.

Ukrainian forces capture Russian equipment near Kyiv

NBC News

A Ukranian serviceman stands on top of a Russian tank captured after fighting in the village of Lukyanivka outside Kyiv on Sunday.

A Ukranian serviceman stands on top of a Russian tank captured after fighting with Russian troops in the village of Lukyanivka outside Kyiv on Sunday.
Marko Djurica / Reuters

Ukraine opens no new humanitarian corridors, cites fears of Russian attack

Ayumi Fujimoto


Ayumi Fujimoto and Reuters

Ukraine announced that it would not seek to open so-called humanitarian corridors on Monday, citing the possibility of Russian attacks on civilians trying to flee frontline areas. 

"Our intelligence reported possible provocations by the occupiers on the routes of humanitarian corridors. Therefore, for reasons of public safety, we do not open humanitarian corridors today," Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said via Telegram. 

Humanitarian corridors intended to help civilians escape the fighting have come under fire since the war began. Following several attacks on humanitarian corridors, Secretary General at Amnesty International Agnès Callamard has condemned the "deliberate targeting of civilians" during the conflict and called for all "unlawful attacks to cease."

Oscars holds a moment of silence for Ukraine

The Oscars held a moment of silence acknowledging the war in Ukraine.

Up until the moment, which featured slides with a message of support, the only other official acknowledgment of the conflict came from actor Mila Kunis, who was born in Ukraine.

Here's the text of the statement, which ran during the brief moment of silence:

"We'd like to have a moment of silence to show our support for the people of Ukraine currently facing invasion, conflict and prejudice within their own borders. While film is an important avenue for us to express our humanity in times of conflict, the reality is millions of families in Ukraine need food, medical care, clean water, and emergency services. Resources are scarce, and we — collectively as a global community — can do more. We ask you to support Ukraine in any way you are able. #StandwithUkraine"

A message in support of Ukraine is displayed on a screen at the 94th Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday
Robyn Beck / AFP - Getty Images

Will Clark

Russia shifts focus to try to grind Ukraine's army in east

The Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine — With its aspirations for a quick victory dashed by a stiff Ukrainian resistance, Russia has increasingly focused on grinding down Ukraine's military in the east in the hope of forcing Kyiv into surrendering part of the country's territory to possibly end the war.

The bulk of the Ukrainian army is concentrated in eastern Ukraine, where it has been locked up in fighting with Moscow-backed separatists in a nearly eight-year conflict. If Russia succeeds in encircling and destroying the Ukrainian forces in the country's industrial heartland called Donbas, it could try to dictate its terms to Kyiv and, possibly, attempt to split the country in two.

The Russian military declared Friday that the “first stage of the operation” had been largely accomplished, allowing Russian troops to concentrate on their "top goal — the liberation of Donbas.”

Many observers say the shift in strategy could reflect President Vladimir Putin’s acknowledgment that his plan for a blitz in Ukraine has failed, forcing him to narrow his goals and change tactics amid a disastrous war that has turned Russia into a pariah and decimated its economy.