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Russia intensified its assault around Ukraine's capital Saturday, while continuing to bombard cities already under siege across the country and issuing new threats against the West.
Fighting raged and missile strikes hit outside Kyiv, with Russian forces appearing to make fresh progress in their slow advance on the capital.
As the shelling continued, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he’s open for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Israel, but only if there is a cease-fire in place.
Zelenskyy said Saturday he told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that he would be ready to meet Putin in Jerusalem. Bennett visited Moscow for a meeting with Putin and spoke repeatedly with Zelenskyy and the leaders of France and Germany as he sought to help mediate an end to the war.
Zelenskyy said Bennett informed him about his talks with Putin, adding that he can’t share details.
Putin has ignored numerous previous offers of talks from Zelenskyy.
Speaking at a news conference, Zelenskyy said the Russians could take the Ukrainian capital "only if they kill us all.”
Earlier Saturday, U.S. President Joe Biden authorized the State Department to provide an additional $200 million in military assistance to Ukraine to aid in its defense against invading troops. The package brings the total U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to more than $1.2 billion, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Humanitarian aid expected to reach Mariupol on Sunday
Humanitarian aid that has been delayed in reaching the besieged southern port city of Mariupol is expected to arrive Sunday, Zelenskyy said.
A night after the president said Russian troops did not allow the shipment of food, water and medicine into the city, he announced Saturday that the cargo was expected to arrive Sunday afternoon.
"Due to the complexity of the route they had to spend the night in Berdyansk," Zelenskyy said in an English transcript of his video address.
Russian forces have encircled Mariupol, and the city has been without food, water, heat and medical supplies for more than a week as it has endured heavy shelling, officials have said.
Ukraine resident passes burnt cars while fleeing
A resident passes by cars burnt in the Russian shellfire in the town of Irpin as he flees on Saturday on the road toward Kyiv.
Britain to pay people $456 a month to house Ukraine refugees
Britain will pay people to open their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion as the government moves to deflect anger over its response to the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War Two.
The new scheme called "Homes for Ukraine" will let refugees from the war come to Britain even if they do not have family ties, the government said on Sunday.
Britain will pay people 350 pounds, or $456, a month if they can offer refugees a spare room or property for a minimum period of six months.
Under the new scheme, members of the public, charities, businesses and community groups should be able to offer accommodation via a web page by the end of next week, the government said.
"The UK stands behind Ukraine in their darkest hour and the British public understand the need to get as many people to safety as quickly as we can," Michael Gove, the minister for housing, said in a statement.
"I urge people across the country to join the national effort and offer support to our Ukrainian friends. Together we can give a safe home to those who so desperately need it."
Anyone offering a room or home will have to show that the accommodation meets standards and they may have to undergo criminal record checks.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sought to portray Britain as helping lead the global response to the Russian invasion but his government has faced criticism over delays in accepting refugees.
Lawmakers from all the main political parties have attacked the government's insistence that Ukrainians seek visas and biometric tests before arriving in Britain, saying this prioritized bureaucracy over the welfare of those fleeing war.
The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine could rise to more than 4 million, double the current estimates of about 2 million, the UN's Refugee Agency said last week.
Retired tennis pro Stakhovsky in Ukraine ‘with a gun in my hands’
Less than two months into retirement from his professional tennis career, Sergiy Stakhovsky left his wife and three young children in Hungary and went back to his birthplace to help however he could.
“I don’t have the words to describe it. I would never imagine in my life that it would come to this — that I would be in my home city ... with a gun in my hands,” Stakhovsky, 36, said Saturday during a video interview with The Associated Press from what he said was a residential building in Ukraine's capital Kyiv.
“A lot of people are saying that they’re waking up and hoping ... it was just a bad dream. But, you know, on Day 16, (that) doesn’t work anymore,” he said.
Stakhovsky turned pro in 2003 and pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history when he ended Roger Federer’s record streak of 36 consecutive major quarterfinal appearances by beating him in the second round at Wimbledon in 2013. He walked away from the sport in January after losing in the first round of qualifying for the Australian Open.
On Feb. 24, Russia began attacking Ukraine. In the wee hours of Feb. 28, Stakhovsky arrived in Kyiv.
“You’re one second safe. The next second, something flies in, and no one is safe,” he said.
He said he still has family who live, and have remained, in Kyiv, including his grandmother, father and a brother.
As for how long he will stay, he isn’t sure.
“It’s tough to call with kids, because every time they ask, ‘When are you coming?’ or ‘What are you doing?’ I’m just, ‘I don’t know, honestly.’ For me, it’s not a right decision to be here and it was not the right decision to stay home. Any of this is not right,” Stakhovsky said. “But I am here because I believe that the future of my country — and the future of my kids, and the future of Europe as we know it — is under great danger. And if there’s anything I can do to change the outcome, I will try to do it.”
'Do more for Ukraine, for Ukrainians,' Zelenskyy asks partners
A defiant Zelenskyy again requested enhanced response and support from the West for Ukraine as Russian attacks continue across the embattled country.
"On every occasion, I constantly repeat to our friends and partners abroad that they should do more for Ukraine, for Ukrainians," Zelenskyy said in the English transcript of remarks he made on Telegram. "Because it is not only for Ukraine. This is for everyone in Europe."
Earlier Saturday, U.S. President Joe Biden authorized the State Department to provide an additional $200 million in military aid to Ukraine in its defense against a Russian takeover. Zelenskyy was repeatedly asked Ukraine's partners to create a no-fly zone to "close the sky" over the country.
Russian troops encircled the capital and were closer to the center of Kyiv on Saturday as fighting and shelling intensified, making the humanitarian response to those in need of care, shelter or help fleeing a more difficult job, officials said.
Ukrainian officials continued to try to evacuate civilians who are just outside the city. While Russia has said it is not targeting civilians, the U.N. Human Rights office has said at least 579 civilians have been killed, including 42 children, as of Friday. Another 1,002 civilians were injured, the agency said.
Zelenskyy warned about what he describes as a ruthless government that could continue its destruction beyond Ukraine if unchecked.
"Evil that purposefully bombs peaceful cities, evil that fires even at ambulances and blows up hospitals will not be able to stop at one country — If it has the strength to go further," Zelenskyy said.
It's unclear whether Putin's appetite for expansion would extend beyond Ukraine, should the country fall into Russian hands.
Closing out his remarks, Zelenskyy awarded eight members of his military with government recognition that includes the designation of Hero of Ukraine. Six of the eight were recognized posthumously.
Trump shifts tone, says Putin must negotiate peace or face 'blistering consequences'
Former President Donald Trump, who has stood apart from most American politicians by refusing to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin, shifted his message a little during a political rally in Florence, S.C., Saturday night.
While Trump praised Putin again — “a man who is driven” — and continued to blame President Joe Biden for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he inched closer to suggesting Putin is in the wrong.
“The U.S. must make clear to Putin that he has two choices: to negotiate peace right now or else face blistering consequences,” Trump said, contending that could include a long-term ban on Russian energy.
The U.S. and its Western allies have imposed a series of harsh economic and diplomatic sanctions on Russia in recent weeks that do not have end dates.
“It happens to be a man that is just driven, he’s driven to put it together,” Trump said of Putin. “If he respected our president, it never ever would have happened.”
State Department authorizes $200 million in additional security assistance to Ukraine
The United States will provide up to $200 million in additional military assistance to aid Ukraine in its defense against the Russian invasion, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday.
In a written statement, Blinken said he authorized the fourth presidential drawdown package, which will include further defensive assistance to meet "armored, airborne and other threats."
The funding will include additional anti-armor and air defense weapons, according to a White House official.
President Joe Biden had authorized the State Department to provide the additional funding.
The latest aid package brings the total U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to more than $1.2 billion, Blinken said.
"We salute the armed forces of Ukraine and all Ukrainian citizens who are defending their country with great skill, iron will, and profound courage," Blinken said. "America and its Allies support their efforts to defend their country and protect their fellow citizens, and urge Russia to recognize that force will never defeat Ukraine’s spirit."
He added that the U.S. is committed to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and will continue to provide support, including humanitarian assistance.
U.S. senators arrive in Poland to visit refugee sites, meet with officials
U.S. senators Roger Wicker, Rob Portman, Richard Blumenthal and Amy Klobuchar arrived in Poland on Saturday to meet with senior government officials and to visit refugee sites "to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to Poland, Ukraine, and other allies," according to a news release.
Wicker said in a statement that he was glad to visit Poland as the delegation works to stop Putin.
"Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked assault on Ukraine has threatened to plunge Europe into the deadliest conflict since 1945,” said Wicker, R-Miss. "I also look forward to meeting with senior Polish officials to find new avenues for cooperation in supporting our brave Ukrainian friends.”
Portman, R-Ohio, said the trip to Poland was important while Blumenthal, D-Conn., said it will give them a first-hand look at the "heartbreaking, exploding humanitarian crisis" and how the U.S. can help.
"I’ll be bringing a message of strong solidarity and support from Connecticut’s people — particularly from our Ukrainian-American community — and I’ll be learning how best we can help," Blumenthal said. "The Ukrainian people are inspiring the world in their bold, brave fight for freedom."
“I am proud to stand with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle with our friend and ally Poland,” added Klobuchar, D-Minn. "We will make clear our commitment to stand with the Ukrainian and Polish people against Vladimir Putin.”
Sweden foreign minister dismisses new warnings from Russia on joining NATO
HELSINKI — Sweden’s foreign minister is dismissing fresh warnings from Russia that the Nordic country’s joining NATO would lead to retaliatory measures from Moscow.
Foreign Minister Ann Linde told Swedish news agency TT on Saturday that “Russia has nothing to do with our independent decisions,” referring to the Stockholm’s possible move to join NATO.
Russia’s Interfax news agency on Saturday quoted a Russian Foreign Ministry official saying the possible accession of Sweden and neighboring Finland to NATO would have serious military and political consequences.
Sergei Belyayev, the head of department for Nordic countries at the Russian Foreign Ministry, said such a situation would require Russia to take “retaliatory measures” but didn’t specify what those measures could include.
He accused some NATO members, particularly the United States, of deliberately trying to drag the the two non-aligned Nordic countries into the military bloc.
Moscow has repeatedly warned both Finland and Sweden that their possible joining NATO would be seen as a hostile act from Moscow. Both countries have brushed off those warnings.
Since the start of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, polls in both Finland and Sweden have shown a substantially increased support for NATO membership.
Putin refuses to end fighting in Ukraine after speaking with Scholz, Macron
EBay suspends transactions involving Russian addresses
EBay on Saturday said transactions involving Russian addresses were temporarily suspended due to "service interruptions by payment vendors and major shipping carriers."
“We stand with Ukraine and are taking a number of steps to support the Ukrainian people and our sellers in the region," an eBay spokesperson said.
The San Jose-based e-commerce company said its actions would include waiving seller fees, protecting sellers from late shipment penalties and matching employee donations to organizations that support Ukraine.
“We will continue to evaluate and make necessary changes to our policies and service availability as this situation evolves and hope for a rapid, lasting, and diplomatic solution to this crisis," the company said.
Customers in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia can also support Ukraine through an on-site banner or through the "Give at Checkout" option. The company said it would match a portion of customer donations.
In addition, eBay removed all products related to Russian President Vladimir Putin "that are not clearly anti-Putin." The company said in a separate statement that merchandise expressing support for Putin violates its policy that prohibits items that promote or glorify hatred or violence.
Ukrainian ambassador to Poland expresses gratitude as country accepts refugees fleeing invasion
WARSAW, Poland — The Ukrainian ambassador to Poland says he is grateful to Poland for its support as his county is under an invasion from Russia.
Ambassador Andrii Deshchytsia expressed his thanks Saturday at an anti-Russia rally in Warsaw organized by a right-wing newspaper, Gazeta Polska, where Poles waved Ukrainian and Polish flags and chanted anti-Russian slogans.
He thanked both the Polish government and Polish society. Poland has accepted more refugees than any other country since the war began on Feb. 24.
Deshchytsia said he was “really very, very grateful to the Polish people for such strong support of Ukraine.”
Deputy head of Russia’s flagship carrier Aeroflot resigns, leaves country
A deputy head of Russia’s flagship carrier Aeroflot says he has resigned and left the country.
Andrei Panov, Aeroflot’s deputy director in charge of marketing, wrote on Facebook on Saturday that “the old life is over.”
Earlier this month, Russian news reports claimed that Aeroflot’s CEO Mikhail Poluboyarinov also has left the country. Aeroflot has denied that.
Aeroflot has been badly hit by Western sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine. Western allies have barred Aeroflot planes from their skies and banned the supply of spare parts, among other measures taken against the airline. Aeroflot responded to the sanctions by cutting all flights abroad.
7 people, including child, are killed after Russians fired on an evacuation convoy
Seven people, including a child, were killed after Russian forces fired on an evacuation convoy attempting to flee the Ukrainian village of Peremoha, said the country's State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection.
The agency said in a tweet Saturday that the convoy of women and children were traveling to the village of Gostroluchcha along an agreed "green" route when Russian forces began shooting at them.
"The result of this brutal act - seven dead. One of them is a child. The exact number of wounded is currently unknown," SSSCIP wrote. "After the shooting, the occupiers forced the remnants of the column to return to the village of Peremoha and did not let them out of the village."
SSSCIP said it had not been able to make contact with the survivors to provide aid.
Russian oligarchs moving superyachts to safe locations to avoid confiscation because of sanctions
Roman Abramovich’s superyacht Solaris has been spotted in the small Adriatic Sea state of Montenegro.
The 55-year-old Abramovich is among several wealthy Russians sanctioned by Britain over their close links to the Kremlin following Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
The 533-foot Solaris was seen on Saturday outside the Porto Montenegro marina in the coastal town of Tivat. Montenegrin Vijesti daily reported it has arrived from Barcelona.
There was no immediate comment from the Montenegrin authorities on the arrival of the $600-million vessel. The NATO country has joined Western sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Russian oligarchs in the past days have sought to move their superyachts to safe locations to avoid confiscation because of the sanctions. Authorities in Italy, France and other countries have impounded several luxury vessels.
Russian metals and petroleum magnate Roman Abramovich is believed to have bought or built at least seven of the world’s largest yachts, some of which he has since sold off to other oligarchs.
French officials said Putin gave no indication during call that he intends to stop war
PARIS — The office of French President Emmanuel Macron said his three-way call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Russian President Vladimir Putin was “very frank and also difficult."
French officials said the Russian leader gave no indication during the call Saturday, which lasted more than an hour, that he intended to stop the fighting in Ukraine. European leaders were working on what they described as a punishing new set of “massive” economic sanctions against Moscow in the hope of getting Putin to change his mind.
'Think first about the children': Pope Francis renews calls to end the war
Pope Francis on Saturday renewed calls to end the war in Ukraine, writing in a tweet that it was depriving children "of the hope for a dignified life."
“Never war! Think first about the children, about those who are deprived of the hope for a dignified life: dead or wounded children, orphans, children who play with the remnants of war," he wrote in a translated tweet. “In the name of God, stop!”
Ukrainians stock up at gun stores as Russian attacks intensify
LVIV, Ukraine — Mounting fears after the Russian invasion are evident in the long lines outside gun stores, even in parts of Ukraine that have not been directly attacked.
Some citizens who are not enlisted in the military have been looking to get their hands on their own firearms in the western city of Lyiv.
Ukraine relaxed its gun laws after the Russian invasion, giving civilians the right to use weapons to resist Russian aggression.
“Now it seems like all of Ukraine wants to buy weapons to keep at weapons home in order to defend their families and themselves,” Zakhar Sluzhalyy, who runs a gun shop and firing range in Lviv told NBC News Friday.
He estimated 70 to 80 percent of the stock at his store has been sold.
One customer, Vasyl Slotylo, 32, said he wanted "to feel safe" and protect his family. "I want to have the ability protect them from other people that are invading our country and our cities,” he said.
“I hope I don’t have to kill the Russian soldiers but if it will be needed, I’ll do it," Slotylo, a programmer, added.
Max Turyanskyy, also came to the store for accessories to the firearm he already has.
“Everyone is a soldier right now,” said the 26-year-old. “I am a civil soldier I would say, so I do what I can. I support my family. We are actually hosting people in my apartment from Kyiv and Kharkiv. We are all united, that’s what we should do.”
President Biden authorizes State Department to provide additional $200 million in aid to Ukraine
U.S. President Joe Biden is authorizing the State Department to provide additional aid to Ukraine of up to $200 million.
The funds would cover weapons as well as military services, education and training as Ukrainians seek to repel a Russian invasion.
The aid is part of broader U.S. support in the form of aid and sanctions. When Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that $1 billion in aid had been provided to Ukraine.
The ongoing warfare has led to additional support with Congress this week approving $13.6 billion in additional aid, a sum that includes $6.5 billion for the costs of sending troops and weapons to Eastern Europe and $6.8 billion for refugees and economic aid.
Biden plans to sign the spending bill with the additional aid when he receives it next week.
Zelenskyy says about 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers killed in fighting since start of invasion
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says about 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in fighting since the start of the Russian invasion.
Speaking at a news conference Saturday, Zelenskyy said it would take Russia to carpet-bomb the Ukrainian capital and kill its residents to take the city.
He added that “if that is their goal, let them come."
Zelenskyy said that “if they carry out carpet bombings and wipe off the historic memory of the entire region, the history of Kyivan Rus, the history of Europe, they could enter Kyiv.”
Ukrainian President calls for release of Melitopol's mayor Ivan Fedorov
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is calling for the release of Melitopol's mayor, who was abducted by Russian forces.
"I ask my partners to help in releasing the captive mayor of Melitopol," Zelenskyy tweeted early Saturday after talks with leaders in Germany and France. "Prospects for peace talks also discussed. We must stop the aggressor together."
On Friday, Ukraine officials accused the Russian military of abducting Mayor Ivan Fedorov after "cynically accusing" him of "terrorism." Video footage from the city of approximately 150,000 showed citizens blocking Russian forces from entering the city while yelling at them to, "Go home!"
Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said kidnapping Fedorov is a "war crime."
Ukrainian family shot at checkpoint while trying to flee
KYIV, Ukraine — Tetyana Vlasenko was bleeding from 12 bullet wounds to her legs when she begged a Russian military officer nearby for help. His soldiers had opened fire on her family’s car, yet the officer was apologetic as the soldiers gave them first aid.
While she lay there seriously hurt, she recalls him saying, “I’m sorry for doing this but we have an order to shoot everything that is moving, and you cannot imagine how many cars like this we have full of Nazis who are trying to bomb us,” Tetyana, 42, told NBC News on Wednesday from her bed in Kyiv City Hospital 17.
Her husband, Roman, 50, and their daughter, Katherina, 16, were also hit in their legs.
Read the full story here.
Russia's war in Ukraine threatens to upend Democrats' election-year agenda
House Democrats gathered in Philadelphia this week to revive their flagging domestic agenda. They held closed-door strategy sessions about how to talk to voters about rising inflation, tackle the climate crisis and move forward on immigration reform and voting rights.
But Russia’s bloody, televised war in Ukraine — and the humanitarian disaster that has followed — overshadowed Democrats’ annual winter conference. And the burgeoning crisis is threatening to upend the party’s midterm agenda as President Joe Biden and the Democrats seek to defend razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate.
The raging war and Biden’s decision to ban all Russian oil imports have driven U.S. gas prices to record highs, leaving Democrats struggling to craft a response to voters paying more at the pump and to Republicans seizing it as a wedge issue to hammer opponents.
Read the full story here.
French, German leaders demand cease-fire in call with Putin
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and urged him to agree to an “immediate cease-fire in Ukraine.”
The call lasted 75 minutes and was part of “ongoing international efforts to end the war in Ukraine,” Scholz's office said in a statement Saturday.
It said the French and German leaders called on Putin to begin the process of finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict. Scholz spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier Saturday, his office added.
The Kremlin said that Putin briefed the two European leaders on the status of talks between Kyiv and Moscow.
It also said that Putin responded to concerns raised by Macron and Scholz about the humanitarian situation by informing them "about the real state of affairs," accusing Ukraine of being to blame for growing civilian suffering.
The French and German leaders have maintained contact with their Russian counterpart in the weeks since the invasion, hoping to keep diplomatic efforts going in spite of the escalating conflict.
Russian forces moving through outskirts of Kyiv, regional governor says
Fighting and shelling have worsened the humanitarian situation in the Kyiv region outside Ukraine's capital city, its governor said Saturday.
Russian troops and equipment were moving through a number of districts, Governor Oleksiy Kuleba said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
He added that two people were killed by heavy shelling which also destroyed a military airfield and set an ammunition depot on fire overnight. NBC News has not verified the report of people killed.
Kuleba's comments came as Ukrainian officials continued to try to evacuate civilians from a number of areas around the capital as Russian forces press towards the city.
Zelenskyy praises protests demanding release of Melitopol mayor
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has backed protesters in the southern city of Melitopol who took the streets to demand the release of the city's mayor.
Ivan Fedorov was captured by Russian forces on Friday, Zelenskyy said in a video posted to his Telegram channel. NBC News has not verified this claim.
Zelenskyy added that he was "grateful to every Melitopol citizen for this rebellion." More than 2,000 people had joined the protest, he said.
One of his aides also posted video of the protest outside the Melitopol District State Administration building.
Zelenskyy also called on world leaders for help to free Fedorov.
First drought, now war: Global wheat supplies in peril
The pandemic already had food prices rising.
Now, Russia’s war in Ukraine — between two top wheat producers and in a region known as Europe’s breadbasket — has sent wheat prices soaring, raising the risk of severe food shortages and hunger in some regions of the globe and threatening to further ratchet up food prices in the United States.
The instability leaves many U.S. farmers, particularly those in the drought-stricken West, scrambling as costs soar for fuel, fertilizer and other key agricultural components.
Read the full story here.
Fire engulfs warehouse on the outkirts of Kyiv
Russia warns West's weapons shipments to Ukraine 'legitimate targets'
Russia has suggested it could try to destroy foreign shipments of weapons to Ukraine, branding them "legitimate targets."
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also warned that the Kremlin had prepared retaliatory sanctions against the United States and its allies that would be made public soon.
"We have warned the United States that pumping Ukraine with weapons from a number of countries orchestrated by them is not just a dangerous move, but an action that turns the respective convoys into legitimate targets," Ryabkov told Russia's Channel 1 TV station.
Proposals on security guarantees Russia demanded from the U.S. and NATO before its forces invaded Ukraine last month were no longer valid since the situation had changed completely, he added.
But he said that the Kremlin was prepared to resume arms control talks with Washington.
Russian missile attacks destroy Ukrainian airbase near Kyiv
Russian forces have destroyed a Ukrainian military airfield near the capital, Kyiv.
"The airport in Vasylkiv in the Kyiv region has been completely destroyed," Mayor Natalia Balasynovych said in a Facebook post early Saturday.
She said that eight "enemy missiles" hit the airbase, as well as a nearby ammunition depot, as explosions and fighting raged around the capital.
Russia's defense ministry also said it had destroyed the military airfield.
Russia warns sanctions could threaten International Space Station
Russia’s space agency has sent NASA and other international partners a letter demanding an end to sanctions, saying they could threaten the International Space Station.
In a tweet Saturday, the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said the letter appealed to the space agencies of the United States, Canada and Europe to keep the space station operational.
He illustrated the appeal with a map showing the flight path of the ISS — and a potential fall zone that straddled much of the world but barely touched upon Russia.
Four NASA astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts and one European astronaut are currently on the space station.
Russia shelled mosque sheltering civilians in besieged Mariupol, Ukraine says
Ukraine has accused Russian forces of shelling a mosque that was sheltering more than 80 civilians in Mariupol, the besieged southern port city.
"The mosque of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Roxolana (Hurrem Sultan) in Mariupol was shelled by Russian invaders," Ukraine's foreign ministry said on Twitter Saturday.
"More than 80 adults and children are hiding there from the shelling, including citizens of Turkey," it said.
Local officials have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in the city, which has been left without water, food, heat and medical supplies for more than a week while encircled and bombarded by Russian troops.
The city council said Friday that at least 1.582 people had died in 12 days under siege.
Russia has consistently denied targeting civilians and NBC News has not verified the death toll.
Ukraine launches fresh humanitarian corridor effort for Mariupol, other areas
Ukraine launched a fresh effort to open humanitarian corridors from several areas, including the besieged city of Mariupol where residents are trapped without water or food.
Previous attempts have been disrupted by Russian shelling.
Ukraine's deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said in a video posted to Telegram that she hoped civilians could be evacuated from several cities, towns and villages that have faced heavy Russian bombardment.
The routes included one between Mariupol and Zaporizhzhia, with authorities once again hoping to get thousands of people out and aid into the strategic port city.
They also included a number of areas around Kyiv, where heavy fighting has been taking place as Russian forces step up their attempts to encircle the capital.
Russian forces around 15 miles from center of Kyiv, U.K. defense ministry says
Russian forces northwest of Ukraine's capital Kyiv were around 15 miles from the city center and fighting was continuing, the United Kingdom's defense ministry said Saturday.
The British assessment said that a larger Russian column north of the city had dispersed, which might be part of an attempt to encircle it. It could also be an attempt to reduce vulnerability to counterattacks, the ministry said.
Elsewhere, the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remained encircled and continue to be shelled by Russian forces, the U.K. said.
Over 600 Indian students stranded in Ukraine used social media to make it home
Hundreds of Indian students have made it home from Ukraine after being stranded at their schools for days with little food or water. Students from universities in Sumy and Odessa told NBC News that inaction from the Indian Embassy led them to take matters into their own hands.
“We decided ourselves that we should leave,” Ovais Choudhary, a medical student at Odessa National University, said in an interview translated from Hindi. “The more you wait, the more critical and tense the situation becomes.”
Choudhary traveled with a group of 50 students who left their school housing on foot Feb. 24 as tanks rolled through Odessa. They all moved into a set of three apartments where they spent two sleepless nights trying to figure out what to do.
Read the full story here.
Shelling damages cancer hospital, Ukraine says
Ukrainian officials accused Russia damaging a cancer hospital and several residential buildings in the southern city of Mykolaiv with shelling from heavy artillery.
The hospital’s head doctor, Maksim Beznosenko, said several hundred patients were in the hospital during the attack but that no one was killed. The assault damaged the building and blew out windows.
Russian forces have stepped up their attacks on Mykolaiv, located 292 miles south of Kyiv, in an attempt to encircle the city.
Ukrainian and Western officials earlier accused Russia of shelling a maternity hospital in the southern city of Mariupol on Wednesday. Three people died in that attack.
More U.S. soldiers deploy to Europe to support NATO allies
SAVANNAH, Ga. — U.S. soldiers are continuing to deploy to Europe, joining thousands already sent overseas to support NATO allies amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
About 130 soldiers from the 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade gathered Friday at Hunter Airfield in Savannah, Georgia and departed on a chartered flight.
The soldiers are in addition to the estimated 3,800 soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division who deployed recently from nearby Fort Stewart.
A division commander said that soldiers are being told to prepare for about six months overseas. The Pentagon has ordered roughly 12,000 total service members from various U.S. bases to Europe.
The soldiers’ mission is to train alongside military units of NATO allies in a display of force aimed at deterring further aggression by Russia. The Pentagon has stressed U.S. forces are not being deployed to fight in Ukraine.