Live coverage – Russian push for Ukrainian cities accelerates
Russian forces pressed their attacks on crowded Ukrainian cities on Wednesday after President Biden’s warned during his State of the Union address that Russian President Vladimir Putin wouldn’t stop with one country if he doesn’t “pay a price.”
Russia claimed that its forces control the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, but that could not be immediately verified
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Seven Russian banks will be removed from SWIFT, the international banking network announced on Wednesday.
SWIFT said the banks will be disconnected on March 12, adding to the multiple other banks that were taken off this past week.
“Our deepest thoughts are with those suffering the tragic human consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Equality, diversity, mutual respect and global cooperation are the bedrock SWIFT stands on, and the ideals we stand for as a global and politically neutral cooperative,” SWIFT said in a statement.
The World Bank announced on Wednesday it was ending all programs in Russia and Belarus, citing “hostilities against the people of Ukraine.”
The decision comes as a large number of countries, organizations and businesses are severing ties with Russia over the country’s invasion of Ukraine last week, and with Belarus for its support and cooperation with Moscow.
After Russia invaded Ukraine last week, World Bank President David Malpass condemned the assault, saying the group was “horrified by the shocking violence and loss of life as a result of the events unfolding in Ukraine.”
Russia took control of its first city in Ukraine on Wednesday, a week after the invasion began.
Kherson is now under Russian control as the city was surrounded earlier in the day, a senior Ukrainian official said, The New York Times reported.
Igor Kolykhaev, the mayor of the city with 300,000 people, confirmed in an interview with the Times that the city was surrounded and the Ukraine army was not in the area.
Macron to keep open line with Putin
French President Emmanuel Macron says he will keep an open line of communication with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I chose to stay in touch as much as I can and as much as it’s needed with President Putin to try and convince him to lay down his arms … and to prevent the spread and widening of the conflict,” Macron said in a speech Wednesday, Politico reported.
Most western countries, including France, have imposed harsh sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine.
“It is alone and in a deliberate manner that, reneging on [his previous] commitments … President Putin has chosen war,” Macron said. “Russia is not being aggressed, it is the aggressor.”
— Lexi Lonas
Ukraine’s internal affairs ministry says 80,000 Ukrainians who were abroad have returned to the country to fight against the invading Russians.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs said Tuesday the majority of the Ukrainians who returned were men living in neighboring countries, according to a group of Ukrainian journalists who have organized a fact-checking service on the war.
The Ukrainians that returned joined the Armed Forces, territorial defense forces, and other military formations.
“We are proud of our countrymen!” the ministry stated.
The Spanish defense minister said on Wednesday that Spain will be sending grenade launchers and machine guns to Ukraine amid Russia’s ongoing invasion into the country.
“In this first shipment that will go aboard two planes, we expect to send 1,370 anti-tank grenade launchers, 700,000 rifle and machine-gun rounds, and light machine guns,” Defense Minister Margarita Robles told Antena3 television, Reuters reported.
“It is very important because (the equipment) allows for a very individualized defense that can be used even by people who do not have much experience using weapons,” she added.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Europe to consult with NATO allies and other European partners as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine.
Blinken will travel to Belgium, Poland, and Moldova, as well as the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia from March 3 to 8, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
Twitter will comply with European Union sanctions on Russian state-controlled media, meaning content from such publishers will be withheld for users in EU member states, a Twitter spokesperson said Wednesday.
“The European Union (EU) sanctions will legally require us to withhold certain content in EU member states, and we intend to comply,” the spokesperson said.
Outside of the EU, the platform said it will continue to focus on “de-amplifying this type of state-affiliated media.”
“We continue to advocate for a free and open internet, particularly in times of crisis,” the spokesperson said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the United Nations General Assembly for voting to condemn Russia’s invasion.
“I praise the approval by the #UN GA with an unprecedented majority of votes of the resolution with a strong demand to Russia to immediately stop the treacherous attack on [Ukraine]. I’m grateful to everyone & every state that voted in favor. You have chosen the right side of history,” Zelensky tweeted.
“Destructive results of the vote in [the U.N.] for the aggressor convincingly show that a global anti-Putin coalition has been formed and is functioning. The world is with us. The truth is on our side. Victory will be ours !”
The U.N. resolution that passed earlier Wednesday “demands that the Russian Federation immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”
United Airlines said Wednesday that it has temporarily suspended flying through Russian airspace.
United told The Hill that its flights were avoiding Russian airspace beginning on Tuesday amid Russia’s invasion into Ukraine.
The airline noted that while it does not operate flights to and from Ukraine or Russia, Russian airspace has been used for flights to Mumbai and Delhi. United said that some of those flights had to be canceled while they were rerouted, but that the airline are still operating their India flights.
Russia told an international watchdog on Wednesday that it controls the territory around Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) held an emergency meeting after Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi was told by Russian authorities that the nation’s forces control access to the Zaporizhzhya power plant, Bloomberg reported.
“Any military or other action that could threaten the safety or security of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants must be avoided,” the IAEA said. “Operating staff must be able to fulfill their safety and security duties and have the capacity to make decisions free of undue pressure.”
Ukraine authorities say they still have control of the facility itself.
EA Sports announced it is removing Russian teams from its FIFA and NHL video games, citing decisions that professional sports leagues have taken in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
“EA Sports stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and like so many voices across the world of football, calls for peace and an end to the invasion of Ukraine,” the video game developer said in a statement on Wednesday.
“In line with our partners at FIFA and UEFA, EA Sports has initiated processes to remove the Russian National Team and all Russian clubs from EA Sports FIFA products: FIFA 22, FIFA mobile, FIFA online. We’re also actively evaluating related changes to other areas of our games,” EA Sports added.
The announcement referred to decisions made by FIFA and UEFA earlier this week to suspend Russian teams from competitions.
The Biden administration is restricting exports of key technologies to Belarus in response to its support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and leveling new sanctions on Russia’s defense sector, the White House announced Wednesday.
The Commerce Department is also restricting exports of oil and gas extraction equipment to Russia, which the White House said would degrade Russia’s refining capacity over time without reducing the global supply of energy.
The U.S. has avoided imposing restrictions on Russia’s energy sector due to European reliance on Russian oil and gas and a fear additional shocks to the oil market could further raise gas prices domestically.
The Russian Ministry of Defense announced on Wednesday that 498 of its soldiers had died in Ukraine.
Russian officials reportedly acknowledged Sunday there had been casualties but this was the country’s first time offering a specific number.
That number, however, stands in stark contrast to the figures cited by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
During a video address on Wednesday, Zelensky said that close to 6,000 Russian soldiers had died within six days.
”Think of this number: almost 6,000 Russians died. Russian military. In six days of war,” the Ukrainian president said. “This is without counting the losses of the enemy last night. Six thousand. To get what? Get Ukraine? It is impossible.”
Russia also said 1,597 of its soldiers were injured in Ukraine.
— CAROLINE VAKIL
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich is reportedly in talks to sell English Premier League club Chelsea, amid fear of personal sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Abramovich is likely concerned about impending sanctions imposed by the British government, and is reportedly conducting an immediate sale of his U.K. assets.
The assets he is looking to offload include his a $260 million London property empire and his stake in the Chelsea football club, British Member of Parliament Chris Bryant said, according to The Associated Press.
Bryant said in a speech at U.K.’s House of Commons that he was “terrified of being sanctioned” and that, “the danger is that Mr Abramovich will have sold everything by the time we get round to sanctioning him.”
The U.K. has currently sanctioned eight Russians since the invasion of Ukraine, with the EU freezing their assets and has since imposed travel bans on several others. Abramovich has not been sanctioned by Britain or the European Union.
President Biden said he received ashes from the cardinal for Ash Wednesday and they prayed together for the people of Ukraine.
“I was with the cardinal this morning. He came over and he gave me ashes. We both prayed for that, for the people of Ukraine,” Biden told reporters, with ashes noticeably on his forehead.
Pope Francis has encouraged people to fast and pray for Ukrainians on Ash Wednesday and Biden said he agreed with the pope.
“I think he’s right,” Biden said.
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent for Roman Catholics. The president, who is a well-known ice cream lover, said he gave up sweets for Lent.
“All sweets and you know me, I start off with dessert. No ice cream, nothing,” Biden told reporters.
Ukraine will now accept donations to its military in the form of dogecoin and other cryptocurrencies as Russia continues to attack the country.
Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov announced that dogecoin, which began as a joke and has been referred to as a “memecoin,” would be accepted as donations.
“We start to accept donations in meme coin,” Fedorov tweeted on Wednesday. “Now even meme can support our army and save lives from Russian invaders.”
Since the start of the invasion, the Ukrainian government has already raised about $35 million through over 35,000 cryptoasset donations, CNBC reported, citing Elliptic, a blockchain analytics company.
The country has been accepting cryptocurrency donations since Feb. 26 and started taking contributions in the form of bitcoin, ether and a stablecoin known as tether, CNBC added.
A Kremlin spokesperson said that the Russian economy was taking “serious blows” amid sanctions imposed by foreign governments.
“Russia’s economy is experiencing serious blows,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a call with foreign reporters, according to CNN.
“But there is a certain margin of safety, there is potential, there are some plans, work is underway,” he added.
Peskov’s remarks came after a question about a comment made by President Biden during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.
“Russia’s economy is reeling and Putin alone is to blame,” Biden said in his speech.
The president also asserted that the sanctions in place against Russia thus far contributed to a 30 percent loss in the value of the ruble and to the Russian stock market losing 40 percent value in less than a week.
Nearly 900,000 Ukrainians have fled the country amid the Russian invasion that began last week, according to figures from the United Nations.
The region has seen a rapid uptick in the number fleeing Ukraine, with 50,000 Ukrainians reportedly having left the country as of last Friday.
“I have worked in refugee crises for almost 40 years, and I have rarely seen such an incredibly fast rising exodus of people,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Monday, when refugee figures were hovering around 500,000.
According to the U.N., the bulk of Ukrainian refugees — 453,982 — have headed to Poland, with another 116,348 landing in Hungary. Moldova has taken in nearly 80,000 refugees, while nearly 70,000 Ukrainians have reached other European countries.
Ukraine’s emergency service said that the Russian invasion of the country has claimed the lives of over 2,000 Ukrainian civilians.
Hundreds of structures, including transport facilities, hospitals, kindergartens and homes, have also been destroyed, according to Reuters.
“Children, women and defence forces are losing their lives every hour,” the emergency service said in a statement, Reuters reported.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian officials reported a civilian death toll of over 350 people, including at least 14 children.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that roughly 4,300 Russian servicemen had been lost in the invasion.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on Wednesday that Japan will accept refugees from Ukraine, as the number of people fleeing the country grows amid Russia’s invasion.
Kishida, after a phone call with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, told reporters that Japan will “proceed to accept those who are seeking refuge in a third country” in an effort to “demonstrate solidarity with the Ukrainian people,” according to Reuters.
He said Japan will “strengthen coordination” with the Group of Seven countries and the international community, according to the news service. The promise to take in refugees was first made during the phone call with Morawiecki, Kishida said.
The prime minister said his country is planning to first take in refugees who have friends and family in Japan. He added, however, that the country “will not stop there and will respond from a humanitarian viewpoint,” according to The Associated Press.
Hundreds of Ukrainian nuclear power plant workers and nearby citizens on Wednesday blocked Russian troop access to a nuclear power plant, attempting to prevent Russian forces from advancing in the area, according to a video shared to social media and verified by CNN.
In the video, the crowd of people is seen holding up Ukrainian flags and impeding roadway access to a facility in the Ukraine town of Enerhodarby standing in the way of the route and using garbage trucks to block streets, CNN reports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced during a televised address on Wednesday that nearly 6,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the start of the invasion.
“Think of this number: almost 6,000 Russians died. Russian military. In six days of war,” Zelensky noted in his speech. “This is without counting the losses of the enemy last night. Six thousand. To get what? Get Ukraine? It is impossible.”
Zelensky also encouraged Ukrainians to keep fighting.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Wednesday that Russian forces have an order to “erase” Ukraine as he spoke about the areas targeted by Russia’s military, including a Holocaust memorial site that was bombed.
Zelensky said that Russian forces “destroyed us all by striking at residential buildings in Borodyanka.”
“We were all bombed in Kyiv last night. And we all died again in Babyn Yar – from a missile strike,” he said.
Russia is claiming that its forces have seized the first major city in Ukraine almost one week after Moscow’s invasion was launched, though a military adviser to the Ukrainian president reports that the battle in Kherson rages on.
“The city is not experiencing shortages in food and essential goods,” the Russian Defense Ministry claimed in a statement regarding Kherson, according to The New York Times. “Negotiations are ongoing between the Russian command, the administration of the city and the region to address issues of maintaining the functioning of social infrastructure facilities, ensuring law and order and the safety of the population.”
The Times noted that it could not immediately verify Russia’s claim, adding that Oleksiy Arestovich, a military adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said that the battle for the city, located northwest of Crimea, is ongoing.
Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov announced that four people had been killed during airstrikes on Wednesday as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its seventh day.
Nine other people were injured as a result of the attack, Terekhov added, according to Reuters.
“Kharkiv is a Russian-speaking city. Every fourth person in Kharkiv has relatives in the Russian Federation,” Terekhov reportedly said in a video statement. “But the city’s attitude to Russia today is completely different to what it ever was before.”
BY CAMERON JENKINS
MARIUPOL, Ukraine (AP) — In a makeshift maternity ward in the basement of a Ukrainian hospital, new mother Kateryna Suharokova struggled to control her emotions as she held her son while doctors upstairs raced to treat victims of Russian shelling.
“I was anxious, anxious about giving birth to the baby in these times,” the 30-year-old said, her voice trembling. “I’m thankful to the doctors, who helped this baby to be born in these conditions. I believe that everything will be fine.”
–THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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