Live coverage: Mosque hit in Mariupol, Russian attacks continue in Kyiv
Russian forces continued their slow advance toward the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv on Saturday and bombarded smaller metropolitan areas that have already endured consistent shelling during the war.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry announced at 3 a.m. EST that a mosque in Mariupol had been “shelled by Russian invaders” and officials have accused Russia of shelling a cancer hospital in the southern city of Mykolaiv, according to NBC.
The fighting continues amid claims by Russia that the United States was developing bioweapons in Ukraine, statements that American officials have called “laughable” and “false.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield slammed Russia over the claims, warning that her country has “serious concerns” that Russia may be planning to use chemical or biological agents itself.
Here is the latest on the Russia-Ukraine conflict:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address Saturday that 79 Ukrainian children have been killed in Russia’s invasion of the country, which is now in its third week.
“Now when the war is going on and thousands of people have died in it! And 79 children have died in it. 79 children!” Zelensky said.
“Do you feel why we are different from them?” he asked, addressing people around the world. “We live. And they kill. We are 79 lives. And they are 79 deaths.”
He added that “thousands of adults” had also been killed in the conflict.
Zelensky and other officials, both in and outside of Ukraine, have said Russia has committed war crimes by targeting civilians, a charge Russia denies.
— Lexi Lonas
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that about 13,000 people had been evacuated from Ukrainian cities on Saturday.
She said that no one was able to get out of Mariupol, however, as she said Russian forces made it impossible to do so, Reuters reported.
This comes after Ukraine last 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.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that more than 100,000 people had been evacuated from Ukrainian cities over a two-day period, though he similarly said that “Mariupol and Volnovakha remain completely blockaded.”
More than 2.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country since the invasion began more than two weeks ago.
— Lexi Lonas
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Saturday traveled to Poland, where they will visit refugee sites in the country and meet with Polish officials as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine extends into its third week.
Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) traveled to Poland to reaffirm the U.S.’s commitment to assisting Poland, Ukraine and other allies during the conflict, according to a press release from Wicker’s office.
Klobuchar said in a statement that the senators will meet with Ukrainian refugees and aid workers, military and government leaders and U.S. soldiers stationed in Poland.
This comes after Poland earlier this week proposed sending its MiG-19 fighter jets to a U.S. air base in Germany so that the U.S. could then transfer them to Ukraine. The Defense Department pushed back against the offer, however, calling it “untenable.” A U.S. defense official said Wednesday that American and Polish officials were still discussing how Poland could transfer the jets to Ukraine.
Portman said in a statement that the delegation will send a “clear message” about the U.S.’s gratitude to the Polish people “for their support of Ukraine and their offer of providing fighter jets, as the people of Ukraine continues to endure brutal Russian atrocities.”
Blumenthal said during the trip he will “continue pressing for America to provide more ammunition, Javelin and Stinger missiles, fighter airplanes, and other lethal aid.”
More than two million people have fled Ukraine since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24, with hundreds of thousands of refugees crossing the border into neighboring Poland.
eBay has temporarily suspended transactions involving Russian addresses, the company’s customer service account said in a Twitter post on Thursday.
“As a result of service interruptions by payment vendors and major shipping carriers, we have temporarily suspended all transactions involving Russian addresses,” the account wrote, responding to a Twitter user who asked the company to stop providing services to Russia.
“We will continue to evaluate and make necessary changes to our policies as this situation evolves,” eBay customer service continued.
On Saturday, an eBay spokesperson confirmed to NBC Bay Area that the company had suspended transactions involving Russian addresses, saying, “We stand with Ukraine and are taking a number of steps to support the Ukrainian people and our sellers in the region.”
eBay will also waive seller fees in Ukraine and protect Ukrainian sellers from late shipment penalties, the spokesperson told the outlet.
They added that the company will match donations to Ukraine relief organizations made by employees, as well as a portion of donations made by customers the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia made through a banner and a “Give at Checkout” button on eBay’s website.
The eBay spokesperson said the company will “hope for a rapid, lasting, and diplomatic solution to this crisis,” per NBC Bay Area.
The company has also removed products related to Russian President Vladimir Putin unless they are “clearly anti-Putin,” the spokesperson said, according to the outlet.
The Hill has reached out to eBay for comment.
— Chloe Folmar
The pontiff called for the Russian invasion in Ukraine to end, saying “think first about the children” in a statement posted on Twitter on Saturday.
“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… In the name of God, stop!” Pope Francis said.
The pontiff previously called for an end to the conflict during an address on Sunday, saying “rivers of blood and tears are flowing” in Ukraine. He did not mention Russia by name in the address.
“Even if the pope did not say the word ‘Russia’, everyone in the world knows who the aggressor that invaded us is and who started this unprovoked war,” Ukrainian ambassador to the Vatican Andriy Yurash said in a statement at the time.
— Caroline Vakil
Russian forced killed seven civilians, including one child, as they sought to evacuate Peremoha village in Ukraine, Ukrainian officials allege, Reuters reported.
Those seeking to flee the Ukrainian village were forced to turn around, Ukraine’s intelligence service said, after Russian forces killed the civilians, according to the news outlet, which noted it could not verify the claim immediately.
Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of attacking other sites including a cancer hospital, a children’s hospital, a Holocaust memorial site and a mosque.
A comment from Moscow was not immediately issued, Reuters noted, but comes as the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor earlier this month said it would launch an investigation into possible war crimes that have occurred in Ukraine.
Italy on Saturday seized a super-yacht valued at $578 million from a Russian billionaire, Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko, a few days after he was placed on a sanctions list.
Italian police seized the 470-foot Sailing Yacht A, the world’s largest sailing yacht, and sequestered it at the northern port of Trieste, the prime minister’s office said on Saturday, according to Reuters.
Melnichenko owned two Russia-based companies, fertilizing producing company EuroChem Group and coal company SUEK, but he resigned as a board member from both companies this week, according to Reuters.
Melnichenko was also placed on the European Union sanctions list this week.
A spokesperson for the Russian oligarch told Reuters the businessman had no ties to the Ukraine conflict and no political affiliations.
Last week, Italy seized $156 million worth of villas and yachts from Russian oligarchs.
A French presidency official said on Saturday that Russia did not demonstrate a willingness to halt its conflict with Ukraine during a call between the leaders of France, Russia and Germany, The Guardian reported.
The leaders of the three countries held a 75-minute call on Saturday in which French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged for a cease-fire immediately, according to the government of Germany, the news outlet reported.
A readout from Russia’s government did not include talk of a cease-fire, but said that Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed humanitarian concerns related to the conflict and the current status of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, according to outlet.
The development comes over two weeks since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, which has led to the exodus of more than 2.5 million people.
President Biden directed on Saturday Secretary of State Antony Blinken to provide $200 million in defense aid for Ukraine, including military education and training.
Biden issued the order via a drawdown memorandum, an order to assist countries in an emergency without first seeking approval from a legislative authority or budgetary appropriations.
The memorandum notes military training and education, but gives the Department of Defense the order to provide “assistance to Ukraine and to make the determinations required.”
The U.S. has contributed $1 billion to Ukraine over the past year and a $13.6 billion aid package for Ukraine was passed by Congress this week.
Roughly 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since Russia began its invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a Saturday news conference, while vowing that Russian forces would need to carpet-bomb Kyiv to enter the capital, NBC News reported.
“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,” Zelensky said, according to the network.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian president said on Friday that more than 12,000 Russian troops have died since their invasion began.
Data from the United Nations refugee agency shows that more than 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine, which has sparked a major humanitarian crisis.
Russian officials traveled to Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant and claimed control of the facility, CNN reported, citing information from the country’s state-operated nuclear energy company.
Eleven officials from Russian atomic energy company Rosatom arrived Friday at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Station, claiming that the plant now belonged to their company.
Previously, the plant was occupied by the Russian army for over a week.
The group of Russians included two high-level engineers from large Russian nuclear power plants in Balakovo and Rostov.
“According to a representative of this group, they were sent to assess nuclear and radiation safety after the shelling and seizure of the station, as well as to provide assistance with repairs,” read a statement from Ukrainian nuclear energy company Energoatom, according to CNN.
“Another reason for their appearance was voiced as the refusal of the pro-Ukrainian leadership and ZNPP personnel to cooperate with the invaders,” it continued.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to enact an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine.
Scholz’s office said the European leaders held a 75-minute call with Putin as part of “ongoing international efforts to end the war in Ukraine,” The Associated Press reported.
Scholz and Macron pressed Putin to begin finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict, the AP noted.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Saturday that he had spoken with the leaders of Germany and France about efforts to release the mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol from Russian custody.
Zelensky said that he discussed “countering the aggressor” with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and asked them to help with the release of Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov.
They discussed prospects for peace talks with Russia as well, Zelensky said.
“We must stop the aggressor together,” he added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Friday that more than 12,000 Russian soldiers have died during their invasion in Ukraine.
“The number of killed Russian servicemen on the territory of Ukraine already exceeds 12,000 people. 12,000. The number of wounded invaders is many times bigger. We did not invite any of them here,” Zelensky said.
“And we repeat to each of the invaders: You can still save yourself. At any moment. Just lay down your weapons and go home, just leave our land.”
Russia is likely to offer lower figures of the assessment. Earlier in March, Russia acknowledged that close to 500 of its soldiers had died during the conflict, while Zelensky said the figure around that point was close to 6,000.
Ukrainian officials announced on Saturday that the country’s state postal company would be printing a “Russian warship, go f— yourself” stamp.
“The postage stamp named ‘Russian warship, go f**k yourself!’ will appear in [Ukraine]. The sketch by artist Boris Groh received the most votes and will soon be published by Ukraine’s state postal company. #StandWithUkraine #StopRussianAgression,” First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzheppar tweeted.
The stamp appears to depict a Ukrainian soldier giving the middle finger to a Russian ship.
The stamp is meant to commemorate Snake Island border guards who supposedly used an expletive toward Russian forces while defending the area, according to The Washington Post.
Ukraine has alleged Russian forces shelled a cancer hospital and a few other buildings in the southern city of Mykolaiv several days after Ukrainian officials accused Russia of hitting a children’s hospital, The Associated Press reported.
A doctor at the hospital, Maksim Beznosenko, said that the building suffered damage but no one was killed during the attack, the news outlet noted. A couple hundred patients were inside during the shelling.
The development comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Thursday that it had verified at least 26 attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine.
“As of today, @WHO has verified 26 attacks on health care in #Ukraine between 24 Feb-9 Mar, incl. the maternity hospital in Mariupol; In total, 12 people died and 34 have been injured. More incidents are being verified. WHO strongly condemns these attacks,” the organization tweeted.
Earlier this week, Ukraine alleged that Russian forces had hit a children’s hospital in the southeastern city of Mariupol, which officials said killed three people and injured many more.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of kidnapping the mayor to the southern city of Melitopol and equated Russian forces to “ISIS terrorists” during a video address late Friday night.
“Today in Melitopol the invaders captured mayor of the city, Ivan Fedorov. A man who courageously defends Ukraine and the people of his community. Obviously, this is a sign of the weakness of the invaders. They did not find any support on our land. Although they counted on it. Because for years they have been lying to themselves that people in Ukraine were supposedly waiting for Russia to come,” Zelensky said.
Zelensky said that the move constituted a “crime against democracy” and added that Ukraine demanded the release of the mayor.
“They have switched to a new stage of terror, when they are trying to physically eliminate representatives of the legitimate local Ukrainian authorities. It is clear to any democratic state in the world that a legitimately elected mayor is a true representative of the people,” the Ukrainian president said, later hitting Russia over its “autocratic rule.”
Footage that appeared to show Russian soldiers taking Fedorov away in Melitopol was broadcasted by CNN.
Ukrainian officials reported on Saturday that a mosque in Mariupol had been shelled by Russian forces, the latest in a spate of attacks on the southeastern Ukrainian city.
“The mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Roksolana (Hürrem Sultan) in Mariupol was attacked by Russian invaders,” the Ukrainian Embassy in Turkey tweeted. “More than 80 adults and children, including Turkish citizens, are hiding from the shelling.”
Emine Dzheppar, the first deputy minister of foreign affairs for Ukraine, also said on Twitter that the mosque had been attacked.
“At this very moment, the [Russian] army is bombing the Magnificent Mosque, which was built in memory of Suleiman the Magnificent and Hürrem Sultan,” she tweeted. “Many adults and children, including Turkish citizens, are hiding from the bombardment in the mosque.”
The development comes as Mariupol continues to endure heavy fire. The attacks have forced a pause on the digging of trenches for mass graves, with the mayor saying that the “dead aren’t even being buried,” according to The Associated Press.
In the span of 12 days alone, the Mariupol mayor’s office said more than 1,500 people had died from the conflict, as of Friday.