Live coverage – Zelensky thinks Russia will talk; 6,000 Russian troops dead
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its third week on Thursday, with no progress reported from talks between the nation’s top diplomats.
The news comes as officials in Mariupol say three people were killed an 17 were injured in a Russian attack on a hospital and the Kremlin said it would look into the strike.
Follow The Hill’s live coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine below:
Twitter announced on Thursday it would label accounts and posts sharing content from state media in Belarus, considered an ally to Russia amid its invasion in Ukraine.
“We’re adding labels to accounts and Tweets sharing links of state-affiliated media outlets in Belarus after detailed reporting about their role in the war in Ukraine. This builds on our years-long work to add context to state media outlets and limit their reach on Twitter,” Yoel Roth, head of site integrity at Twitter, said in a tweet.
Roth noted that early data showed similar action taken with Russian state media led to a 30 percent decline in impressions on labeled posts among users.
“As is standard with these labels, we’ll reduce the visibility of labeled Tweets and accounts, and show a prompt before you can share labeled Tweets. And, as a reminder, years ago we banned ads from these outlets and limited their reach on Twitter,” he noted.
— Caroline Vakil
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday that if Russia attempted to seize assets from U.S. or other international companies that had withdrawn or paused business in Russia, it would lead to “even more economic pain” for the country.
“We have seen reports that Russia may be considering seizing the assets of U.S. and international companies that have announced plans to suspend operations in Russia or to withdraw from the Russian market,” Psaki said in a post on Twitter.
“Any lawless decision by Russia to seize the assets of these companies will ultimately result in even more economic pain for Russia. It will compound the clear message to the global business community that Russia is not a safe place to invest and do business,” she added in another post.
The development comes as a slew of businesses and organizations have announced plans to suspend or nix operations in Russia in protest of its invasion into Ukraine. Among the biggest names, those companies include McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Microsoft and Netflix.
— Caroline Vakil
More than 100,000 Ukrainians were evacuated from cities under Russian blockade over the past two days, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech Thursday.
On Thursday alone, almost 40,000 Ukrainians were evacuated, according to Zelensky. However, he said, “Mariupol and Volnovakha remain completely blockaded.”
“Although we did everything necessary to make the humanitarian corridor work, Russian troops did not cease fire,” he continued.
This comes after Ukraine on Saturday paused evacuations in Mariupol and Volnovakha after Ukrainian officials said Russian troops had violated a cease-fire agreement for civilian evacuation routes from both cities.
— Chloe Folmar
Ukrainian Vice President Mykhailo Fedorov confirmed on Wednesday that the country had received its second shipment of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet stations.
“Received the second shipment of Starlink stations! @elonmusk keeps his word! Thank you for supporting Ukraine and peace in the entire world! @OMarkarova thanks!” Fedorov tweeted, including a photo of the shipment.
“You’re welcome. We have also sent power adapters for car cigarette lighters, solar/battery packs and generators for places where electricity is not available,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk responded in a tweet.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed last week that Ukraine would be receiving more Starlink stations for “destroyed cities” after he spoke with the SpaceX executive.
— Caroline Vakil
At the request of Russia, the United Nations Security Council will be convening on Friday to talk about Russian allegations, which were made without evidence and have been disputed by the White House, of U.S. biological activities in Ukraine, Reuters reported.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called Russian allegations of U.S. biological weapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine “preposterous” in a Twitter thread on Wednesday.
“We took note of Russia’s false claims about alleged U.S. biological weapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine. We’ve also seen Chinese officials echo these conspiracy theories,” she said.
“This is preposterous. It’s the kind of disinformation operation we’ve seen repeatedly from the Russians over the years in Ukraine and in other countries, which have been debunked, and an example of the types of false pretexts we have been warning the Russians would invent,” she added.
— Caroline Vakil
Ukraine lost all communications with the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Thursday after the plant was cut off from all external power supplies the day before, officials informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said that the organization has heard unconfirmed reports that power has been restored to Chernobyl, which is located in Ukraine but controlled by Russia.
The loss of communication prevented the Ukraine regulatory authority from providing updated information about the Chernobyl plant to the IAEA.
This comes after the plant’s operator on Wednesday announced that Russian forces had disconnected the facility’s power grid. Prior to Ukraine losing communications with the site, IAEA said the country’s regulatory authority said systems important for safety, including those for spent nuclear fuel and water control and chemical water treatment, were being powered by diesel generators.
The IAEA reiterated that the nuclear plant being disconnected from the grid would not have “a critical impact on essential safety functions at the site.”
— Chloe Folmar
Over 1 million children have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began two weeks ago, UNICEF said Thursday.
“Children are leaving everything they know behind in search of safety. This is heart-breaking,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia Afshan Khan in a statement.
Most children have fled to neighboring countries including Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova and Romania, according to the United Nations agency.
UNICEF said it is working with partners to supply medical supplies to benefit 20,000 children and mothers in Ukraine.
The agency called for $349 million “to prevent a further deterioration of the welfare of children in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.”
“We’re doing everything we can to help the children and families in need but the war must end,” said Khan. “Peace is the only sustainable solution.”
— Chloe Folmar
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday vowed to “rebuild everything that was destroyed” in Ukraine during Russia’s invasion once his country declares victory in the conflict.
“After the war, after our victory, we will rebuild everything that was destroyed. Very quickly and with a very high quality,” Zelensky said. “A special state program for reconstruction will be created for each affected city. I have already instructed the government to start the elaboration.”
The president said the best architects, companies and projects would be used for all affected cities. He pointed to Kharkiv as an example.
“I want to say this on the example of Kharkiv. Our Kharkiv, which is now experiencing the worst suffering since World War II… Freedom Square will be such that everyone, all of us, all Europeans will be there!” Zelensky said.
“Poltava Way, Belgorod Highway, Myronosytska Street, Regional Children’s Hospital, Kharkiv Oncology Center, Karazin University, Labor Palace, Korolenko Library… We will rebuild everything! I promise you personally,” he added.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has wreaked damage on a number of cities throughout the country. Moscow’s forces have utilized airstrikes, missiles and rocket launchers, according to officials.
— Mychael Schnell
Defense Intelligence Agency Director Scott Berrier on Thursday said a no-fly zone over Ukraine would not protect against most weapons Russia is using as it invades Ukraine.
Asked by Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) during an Intelligence Committee hearing what kind of weapons Russia is using against Ukraine, Berrier said Moscow is utilizing “a combination of mostly missiles, artillery, multiple rocket launchers, there are some precision-guided munitions being dropped from aircraft, but that number is small.”
Pressed by King on the idea that “a no-fly zone wouldn’t inhibit missiles, rockets and artillery,” Berrier responded “that is correct.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and some U.S. lawmakers have called for a no-fly zone to be imposed over Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion, but the White House has said it will not take such a step because the move would put the U.S. in a “potential direct war with Russia.”
The United Nations reported on Thursday that roughly 550 civilians have been killed so far since Russia began its invasion into Ukraine, but noted that the true figures were likely higher.
In an update, the U.N. said the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had recorded 549 civilians deaths between the beginning of the invasion on Feb. 24 and midnight local time on March 9, in addition to 957 civilian injuries.
The U.N. office noted that explosive weapons, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, air strikes and missiles were behind most of the civilian casualties.
“OHCHR believes that the actual figures are considerably higher, especially in Government-controlled territory and especially in recent days, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration,” the update read.
“This concerns, for example, the towns of Volnovakha, Mariupol, Izium where there are allegations of hundreds of civilian casualties. These figures are being further corroborated and are not included in the above statistics,” it continued.
— Caroline Vakil
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Thursday that no residents were able to leave the city of Mariupol as Russian troops laid siege to the city.
Vereshchuk told national television that the Russian military chose not to respect a ceasefire agreement with Ukraine that would have allowed civilian evacuations of the city, Reuters reported.
— Chloe Folmar
US considering more sanctions on Russia, Yellen says
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Thursday the U.S. is considering more sanctions against Russia.
Asked during an interview with The Washington Post Live if the U.S. will unveil new sanctions on Russia today or this week, Yellen said, “We continue to work very closely with our allies to consider sanctions.”
“Certainly at this point we’re not seeing Russia back off the horrific war that they’ve started, an unprovoked invasion of Ukrainian homeland, and in fact, the atrocities that they’re committing against civilians seem to be intensifying. So it’s certainly appropriate for us to be working with our allies to consider further sanctions,” she added.
The U.S. has already imposed sanctions on top Russian government officials, including President Vladimir Putin, and the country’s central bank. On Tuesday, President Biden announced that the U.S. will ban Russian oil, natural gas and coal imports.
Yellen on Thursday said “the Russian economy will be devastated as a consequence of what we’ve already done, but we do consider, continue to consider, further steps we can take.”
The Red Cross said Thursday that the humanitarian situation in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol was “increasingly dire and desperate” amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The humanitarian situation in the city of Mariupol is becoming increasingly dire and desperate. Hundreds of thousands of people have no food, water, heat, electricity, or medical care. People urgently need respite from violence and humanitarian aid,” the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement.
Through an audio recording, ICRC’s deputy head of sub-delegation Sasha Volkov said that Mariupol residents have no electricity, water and gas supply and are still searching for other necessities.
“The city council delivers some bottles of water to major user points, but it’s insufficient to cover. Many have no water at all for drinking,” Volkov said in the audio recording. “Many people report having no food for children.”
Western Union announced on Thursday that it is suspending operations in Russia and Belarus.
The money-transfer and payments company, based in Denver, said it decided to cease operations in the two nations “in light of the ongoing tragic impact of Russia’s prolonged assault on Ukraine.”
“We have thoroughly evaluated internal and external considerations, including the consequences for our valued teammates, partners, and customers,” the company added in a statement.
Western Union also condemned Russia’s invasion and expressed “shock, disbelief and sadness” over the situation unfolding.
President Biden spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the White House said.
“The presidents discussed their shared concern about Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” White House said in a readout of the call. “They reaffirmed their strong support for the government and people of Ukraine, underscored the need for an immediate cessation of Russian aggression, and welcomed the coordinated international response to the crisis.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the conversation lasted almost an hour and was “constructive.” She also said that Biden expressed his gratitude for Turkey’s willingness to host recent diplomatic talks between Russia and Ukraine representatives.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said the country would emerge stronger from the sanctions that Western governments have imposed over its war on Ukraine.
“These sanctions would have been imposed in any case,” Putin said during a Russian government meeting. “There are some questions, problems and difficulties but in the past we have overcome them and we will overcome them now.
“In the end, this will all lead to an increase in our independence, self-sufficiency and our sovereignty,” Putin added, according to Reuters.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says 60,000 Ukrainians were able to get out of cities taken over by Russians.
“Despite everything, updated information was received every hour yesterday about people who managed to be evacuated to the free territory of Ukraine,” Zelensky said, NBC News reported.
“In total, more than 60,000 of our citizens were rescued yesterday — plus those who did not have time until night and continued to evacuate in the morning,” he added.
More than 60 hospitals have been damaged during the fighting in Ukraine, with at least five workers killed, according to a Ukrainian official.
Ukraine’s Health Minister Viktor Liashko posted the information on his Facebook Thursday, saying the destruction is from “the bullets of Russian terrorists,” NBC News reported.
Russia has attacked hospitals and schools in multiple cities in Ukraine since the invasion began as it has launched dozens of rockets at the areas.
The latest hospital attack killed three people, including a child, in Mariupol. The attack was condemned by Ukrainian officials and renewed calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
— Lexi Lonas
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked to speak at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel, about Russia’s ongoing invasion of his country.
In a statement on Thursday, Yad Vashem said it would talk over the request with Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel on Sunday, according to Reuters.
Zelensky is Jewish and has family members who died in the Holocaust. Upon launching a military operation in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country “will strive for the demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine,” a claim that was jeered in the West but which experts say resonates in Russia.
Gaming giants PlayStation and Nintendo have announced the suspension of sales in Russia in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
A Sony spokesperson told CNBC on Wednesday that the company has suspended all PlayStation console and software shipments to Russia, adding that the PlayStation store will no longer be available in the country.
“Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) joins the global community in calling for peace in Ukraine,” the company said in a statement.
Nintendo, meanwhile, said its plans to suspend all shipments to Russia “for the foreseeable future,” citing “considerable volatility surrounding the logistics of shipping and distributing physical goods,” according to CNBC.
The Kremlin on Thursday said Russia’s economy was experiencing a “shock,” after the U.S. and its allies imposed sanctions on the country.
The Russian government said that efforts are being made to minimize the impact of crippling economic sanctions imposed on Moscow.
“Our economy is experiencing a shock impact now and there are negative consequences, they will be minimized,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on press call, Reuters reported.
“This is absolutely unprecedented. The economic war that has started against our country has never taken place before. So it is very hard to forecast anything,” he added.
German fashion brand Hugo Boss has announced it is closing its stores in Russia to protest the war in Ukraine.
In a statement on Thursday, Hugo Boss said it will temporarily suspend its retail stores and e-commerce business activities in the country, according to the Associated Press.
The German retailer also said that it will give all affected employees “financial and operational support” throughout the ongoing conflict.
— Olafimihan Oshin
The World Economic Forum is freezing all relations with Russian entities amid Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The organization — which hosts an annual meeting of top government officials, business leaders and others in Davos, Switzerland — also said it “will not engage with any sanctioned individual or institution in any of our activities,” according to The Associated Press.
Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in a virtual “Davos Agenda” gathering in January 2021, and he has previously attended the meeting in person, the AP noted.
The United Kingdom leveled new sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs on Thursday, including Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.
The sanctions froze the assets of Abramovich — who is worth more than nine billion euros — and the other oligarchs. Additionally, the seven individuals are barred from traveling to the U.K. and are prohibited from doing business with any citizen or company in the country.
“There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement. “Today’s sanctions are the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people. We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of sovereign allies.”
A major mining company said on Thursday that it is cutting ties with Russia due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
A Rio Tinto spokesperson said the company is “in the process of terminating all commercial relationships it has with any Russian business,” Reuters reported.
It has an 80 percent stake in a joint venture with a Russian aluminum company, the news service noted.
Rio Tinto joins dozens of other private businesses that have halted operations in Russia in the past two weeks.
A U.S. official said Wednesday as many as 6,000 Russian troops have been killed in the first two weeks of fighting in Ukraine, CBS News reported.
The estimate comes after Ukraine said more than 11,000 Russian troops had been killed and Russia said 3,000 were killed.
The U.S. official noted, however, that it is hard to calculate the total number of troop deaths.
Zelensky says he thinks Putin will soon negotiate end to war
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a new interview that he believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin will soon negotiate to end the war following strong resistance from Ukrainians.
“I think he will. I think he sees that we are strong,” Zelensky told Vice News. “He will. We need some time.”
Zelensky also said from his stronghold in Kyiv that he does not trust Putin.
Top Ukrainian and Russian officials failed to agree to a cease-fire on Thursday as Moscow’s invasion enters a third week and the humanitarian crisis worsens.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said no progress was made on a cease-fire during discussions with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, according to Reuters. He said that Lavrov did not commit to a humanitarian cease-fire in one of the most critical areas, the southern port city of Mariupol.
The Kremlin said on Thursday that it would look into an attack on a Ukrainian hospital one day earlier that officials said killed three people and injured 17 others.
“We will definitely ask our military, because you and I don’t have clear information about what happened there,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, Reuters reported, after the strike on the children’s hospital in the city of Mariupol sparked international condemnation.
“And the military are very likely to provide some information,” Peskov added.
Three people were killed and 17 other were injured in an attack on a hospital Mariupol, Ukrainian officials confirmed Thursday.
The Mariupol city council announced that one child died in Wednesday’s strike and children, doctors and pregnant women were hurt, The Associated Press reported.
BY LEXI LONAS
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.