Live coverage: Russian attack on nuclear plant draws condemnations
Russian forces seized a Ukrainian nuclear power plant early Friday as the conflict enters its second week and troops close in on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
Follow The Hill’s live coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine below:
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in a press release on Friday he will meet allies in Europe next week to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
Trudeau will travel to the UK as well as Latvia, Poland and Germany, to discuss the conflict in Ukraine as well as other security and business matters with the country’s leaders.
In the multi-day visit, the prime minister will also meet with leaders of the Netherlands, Lithuania, Estonia and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“Canada stands united with our partners and allies in support of Ukraine,” the Canadian government said in the press release. “During the visit, the Prime Minister will engage with close allies to build on our coordinated response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustifiable military aggression against Ukraine.”
Trudeau will also pledge support to assist refugees fleeing Ukraine.
Stocks that are domiciled or listed in Russia will be dropped from S&P Dow Jones Indices (S&P DJI) standard equity indices before Wednesday’s opening, the index giant announced on Friday.
“Additionally, given the deterioration in the level of accessibility of the Russian market which may impact the ability of market participants to replicate S&P DJI Indices containing Russian securities, S&P DJI will reclassify Russia from an emerging market to ‘standalone’ effective prior to the open on Wednesday,” S&P DJI said.
The moves continue to economically isolate Russia after the country began its invasion of Ukraine last week, which has since been widely condemned around the world.
Businesses like IKEA and Nike have closed their stores in Russia while others have nixed business with Moscow, including ExxonMobil.
— Caroline Vakil
President Biden welcomed Finnish President Sauli Niinistö to the White House on Friday and the two discussed their commitment to standing against the Russian invasion into Ukraine.
“We agree it’s not only an attack on Ukraine, it’s an attack on the security of Europe and the global peace and stability. And Finland is a critical partner of the United States, a strong defense partner as well, a partner to NATO especially in the strength and security of the Baltic Sea area,” Biden said before the leaders’ bilateral meeting in the Oval Office.
“We’re committed to helping Ukraine defend itself and support of the humanitarian need of the Ukrainian people,” Biden added.
Niinistö noted that we are living in “very difficult times” and thanked Biden for his leadership.
“We need it now,” he said.
Biden joked with Niinistö that former President Obama used to say, “it would be alright if we left everything to the Nordic countries.”
“Well, we usually don’t start wars,” Niinistö replied.
— Alex Gangitano
President Biden on Friday spoke to President Andrzej Duda of Poland to discuss the response to Russia’s invasion into Ukraine and underscored his commitment to the security of Poland.
Poland has hosted 9,000 U.S. troops, including 4,700 additional servicemembers deployed there in recent weeks, to reassure eastern flank Allies and deter Russian aggression, according to the White House. Biden thanked Duda for hosting the service members and also thanked him for accepting the nearly 700,000 Ukrainians and others who have fled the war so far.
Biden and Duda also reaffirmed their commitment to the people of Ukraine.
Vice President Harris will travel to Poland and Romania next week, which The Hill first reported discussions about on Thursday, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also traveling to the region this week and is scheduled to be in Poland on Saturday to meet with officials.
— Alex Gangitano
The United Nations Human Rights Council is establishing a commission to look into allegations of human rights violations in Russia’s invasion in Ukraine.
Thirty-two countries voted in favor of creating the commission. Thirteen countries abstained, including China, India and Cuba. Two, Russia and Eritrea, voted against the measure.
The UN council during its meeting also held a moment of silence for the Russian invasion’s victims and urged Russian troops and Russia’s allies to leave Ukraine.
Data from the U.N. refugee agency indicates 1.2 million people have fled Ukraine since Feb. 24, and more than 500 Ukrainian civilians have died from the conflict.
— Caroline Vakil
The Novaya Gazeta newspaper, an independent Russian news outlet whose editor-in-chief shared a Nobel Peace Prize last year, announced on Friday it would no longer be posting about the Ukrainian invasion, citing the dangers of Russia’s new censorship law.
“Dear friends military censorship in Russia has shifted to the threat of criminal prosecution of both journalists and citizens who disseminate information about hostilities that differs from Defense Ministry press releases,” the newspaper tweeted. “Therefore, we remove materials on this topic.”
The news outlet earlier this week condemned Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, with its editor Dmitry Muratov saying “we are ashamed.”
“Ukrainian and Russian. We do not recognize Ukraine as an enemy; we do not recognize the Ukrainian language as the language of the enemy. We never will,” he said.
He also earlier this week told The New Yorker: “We received an order to ban the use of the words ‘war,’ ‘occupation,’ ‘invasion.’ However, we continue to call war war. We are waiting for the consequences.”
— Caroline Vakil
The BBC has suspended its operations in Russia, according to a statement released Friday.
Russian authorities have passed legislation that “appears to criminalise the process of independent journalism,” BBC Director-General Tim Davie wrote.
“It leaves us no other option than to temporarily suspend the work of all BBC news journalists and their support staff within the Russian Federation while we assess the full implications of this unwelcome development,” Davie announced.
Davie added that Russian language BBC news services will continue to operate and that the company’s journalists “in Ukraine and around the world will continue to report on the invasion of Ukraine.”
“We remain committed to making accurate, independent information available to audiences around the world, including the millions of Russian who use our news services,” the statement read.
— Chloe Folmar
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield condemned Russia’s attack on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine as “reckless and dangerous,” calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw troops from the plant and cease his military attack on Ukraine.
“Russia’s attack last night put Europe’s largest nuclear power at grave risk. It was incredibly reckless and dangerous. And it threatened the safety of civilians across Russia, Ukraine and Europe,” Thomas-Greenfield said during an emergency U.N. security council meeting Friday. “Nuclear facilities cannot become part of this conflict.”
— Morgan Chalfant
Cruz criticizes Graham over Putin assassination comment
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is among the Republicans criticizing a remark by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that appeared to call for the assassination of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“This is an exceptionally bad idea. Use massive economic sanctions; BOYCOTT Russian oil & gas; and provide military aid so the Ukrainians can defend themselves. But we should not be calling for the assassination of heads of state,” the Texas senator said in response to Graham.
Graham has asked if there was a “Brutus” in Russia who might “take this guy out.”
“You would be doing your country — and the world — a great service,” Graham said in a tweet.
— Caroline Vakil
Latvia to rename Russian embassy road to Independent Ukraine street
Latvia will rename the street where the Russian embassy is located in the Latvian capital Riga to Independent Ukraine Street, Reuters reports.
The party coalition that governs Riga announced its agreement to change the street name Friday.
The move comes a day after Lithuania announced it would change the road its Russian Embassy is on to Heroes of Ukraine Street.
President Biden will hold a phone call with Polish President Andrzej Duda on Friday morning, the White House said, which is certain to focus on Russia’s unfolding war in Ukraine.
Poland is among a handful of NATO countries that share a border with Ukraine, where Russia has launched a large-scale invasion. Biden has deployed thousands of troops to Poland and other allies in Europe, though not Ukraine, to fortify NATO’s eastern flank amid the conflict. Ukraine is not a member of NATO.
The call won’t be Biden’s sole engagement with a foreign leader on Friday. He is also scheduled to welcome Finnish President Sauli Niinistö to the White House Friday afternoon.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also traveling to the region this week and is scheduled to be in Poland to meet with officials there on Saturday to discuss security assistance.
A Turkish official said the country is seeking to have Russian and Ukrainian diplomats meet for talks from March 11 to March 13 at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Friday the Turkish government wants to mediate talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, The Associated Press reported.
Lavrov confirmed he would participate in the negotiations, but Kuleba has not said if he would be able to go, according to Çavuşoğlu.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance won’t police a no-fly zone over Ukrainian airspace despite pleas from the country’s government.
“Allies agree that we should not have NATO planes operating over Ukraine airspace or NATO troops in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told reporters following a meeting of NATO’s foreign ministers.
The comment echoes similar responses to the idea of a no-fly zone given by the Biden administration this week. Ukrainian officials were on Capitol Hill Monday pressing lawmakers to back a no-fly zone as Russian planes target hospitals and other civilian targets.
But the administration quickly rejected the idea, arguing that it requires the U.S. Air Force to shoot down Russian airplanes flying into Ukrainian airspace.
Stoltenberg echoed these concerns on Friday, arguing that the alliance would have to send fighter planes into Ukrainian airspace to enforce the no-fly zone.
“We understand the desperation, but we also believe that if we did that, we’ll end up with something that could end in a full fledge war in Europe, involving many more countries and causing much more human suffering,” Stoltenberg said. “So that’s why we make this painful decision to impose heavy sanctions, provide significant support, stepping up support, at the same time not involving NATO forces.”
Ukraine and the former prime minister of the United Kingdom are seeking a tribunal to prosecute Russian President Vladimir after his invasion of Ukraine.
“This act of aggression by Russia … cannot go uninvestigated, unprosecuted and unpunished,” former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, The Associated Press reported. “Putin must not be able to escape justice.”
A war crimes investigation into Russia’s actions has already been announced by the International Criminal Court.
“We are fighting against an enemy who is much stronger than us. But international law is on our side,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said, supporting the call for a tribunal.
The city of Bucha is back under Ukrainian control after it was taken by Russians over the course of the invasion.
A video posted by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense showed Ukrainian soldiers raising the country’s flag over the city after winning a fight to regain control.
The flag was lifted in a ceremonial act outside the City Council of Bucha.
Airbnb has announced that it will suspend all operations in Russia and Belarus.
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, who has added a Ukrainian flag to his name on Twitter in solidarity with the country, tweeted the news Thursday night, shortly after Russian infantry attacked the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant near Energodar, Ukraine.
Airbnb previously housed more than 20,000 Afghan refugees in the span of six months, boosting its goal number to 40,000 on Feb. 22.
The news of Airbnb’s suspension of operations in Russia and Belarus comes amid increasing diplomatic pressure against Russia to retreat from Ukraine.
Russia’s parliament on Friday passed a law that makes publishing “fake” news a crime, according to multiple reports.
If enacted, the law would punish any journalist who contradicts Moscow’s official statements on the war in Ukraine with punishments resulting in up to 15 years in prison.
Under the new law, journalists must verify their reports on the invasion of Ukraine with official Russian government sources.
The law comes as Moscow has also restricted access to several international news outlets, such as the BBC and Deutsche Welle.
In addition to penalizing journalists who publish prohibited content, individuals could also face criminal charges for reposting content on social media that does not follow the Kremlin’s guidelines on depicting the war, reports the Post.
The operator of the Ukrainian power plant that was captured by Russians on Friday said the employees of the facility are now working at “gunpoint.”
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was seized by Russia and a fire was extinguished at the facility in its training center.
Petro Kotin, the head of the state-owned nuclear power site in Energoatom, said in a Telegram post that Russian troops “entered the territory of the nuclear power plant, took control of the personnel and management of the nuclear power plant,” CNN reported.
“The station management works at invaders’ gunpoint,” Kotin said, according to CNN.
Russia has falsely blamed Ukraine for the attack on the facility and says it is operating normally.
The United States Embassy in Ukraine on Friday called the Russian attack on the Ukrainian nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia a “war crime.”
“It is a war crime to attack a nuclear power plant. Putin’s shelling of Europe’s largest nuclear plant takes his reign of terror one step further,” wrote the embassy, responding to the attack that broke out into fire Friday. The fire has since been extinguished.
Russian forces took control of the power plant shortly after the strikes. The fire is believed to have been ignited by the strike of a Russian projectile, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The six reactors at the nuclear power plant have enough energy to power four million homes and they were reported as undamaged in the strike and international monitors said they did not detect any increased spike in radiation, according to a report by CBS News.
“Is there a Brutus in Russia? Is there a more successful Colonel Stauffenberg in the Russian military?” Graham posted on Twitter, referring to the assassin of Julius Caesar and the attempted assassin of Adolf Hitler, respectively.
“The only way this ends is for somebody in Russia to take this guy out. You would be doing your country — and the world — a great service,” Graham added.
Graham’s tweet came as Russia and Putin face accusations of committing war crimes with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and U.S. officials saying the Russian president has been targeting civilian areas such as hospitals and schools.
Graham’s comments quickly drew rebukes on Twitter by Republicans and Democrats, who found it irresponsible for a U.S. official to call for the death of a leader of another country.
“Seriously, wtf?” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted. “I really wish our members of Congress would cool it and regulate their remarks as the administration works to avoid WWlll. As the world pays attention to how the US and it’s leaders are responding, Lindsey’s remarks and remarks made by some House members aren’t helpful.”
Fellow GOP Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) also decried Graham’s comments.
“This is an exceptionally bad idea. Use massive economic sanctions; BOYCOTT Russian oil & gas; and provide military aid so the Ukrainians can defend themselves,” Cruz tweeted. “But we should not be calling for the assassination of heads of state.”
A fire is out at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as Russian forces have taken control of Europe’s largest nuclear site.
Officials said the fire that started in the training center of the facility has been extinguished and Russian troops had taken over after an intense day of fighting, Reuters reported.
The fire and damage that occurred was believed to be started by a Russian projectile according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Russia has falsely blamed Ukraine for the fire at the facility.
Russia also seized the Chernobyl nuclear plant at the beginning of the invasion.