Russia-Ukraine war live updates: Kharkiv under fresh attack, Biden says Putin more ‘isolated’ than ever


European Parliament’s president says Kremlin representatives are banned from parliament’s premises

The president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, said Wednesday that she’s banning representatives from the Kremlin from parliament grounds. 

“The European Parliament has a long, proud, history of being a thorn in the side of autocrats. In that spirit, I will ban representatives of Kremlin from entering @Europarl_EN premises. Aggressors & warmongers have no place in our House of democracy,” Metsola tweeted.

The headquarters for parliament is located in Strasbourg, France.  Parliament committee meetings are mainly held in Brussels, Belgium. 

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich to sell Cheslea Football Club

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich will sell Chelsea Football Club following mounting pressure over his ownership of the prominent team amid the invasion of Ukraine, he announced Wednesday. 

“I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart. In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the Club as I believe this is in the best interest of the Club, the fans, the employees, as well as the Club’s sponsors and partners,” he said in a statement.

He said the sale of the club will not be fast-tracked, and he won’t ask for any loans to be repaid. 

”This has never been about business nor money for me, but about pure passion for the game and Club,” the billionaire, who has owned the team since 2003, said. 

Abramovich said his team will set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated to benefit victims of the war in Ukraine. 

“Please know that this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it pains me to part with the Club in this manner,” he said. “It has been a privilege of a lifetime to be part of Chelsea FC and I am proud of all our joint achievements. Chelsea Football Club and its supporters will always be in my heart.”

The announcement comes after the team decried the conflict as “horrific and devastating.”

Almost 500 troops killed in Ukraine, Russia says in first casualty report since invasion

Almost 500 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine, Russia’s defense ministry said Wednesday in its first report of military casualties since the country invaded its neighbor last week.

“Unfortunately, there are losses among our comrades participating in the special military operation,” Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement, adding that 498 servicemen had died and 1,597 had been wounded. 

In contrast, Ukraine said that more than 5,300 Russian troops have been killed in the conflict, according to The New York Times, which added that it could not independently verify that figure.

Ukraine’s state emergency services said Wednesday that since the war began, around 2,000 civilians have died. The agency later walked back that number calling it “approximate” as it is unknown how many people are under fire or debris.

NBC News has not been able to independently verify any of these numbers.  

Konashenkov said that Russia continued to strike at the military infrastructure of Ukraine and had hit command posts, communication centers and other targets. 

“Russian soldiers and officers show courage, bravery and heroism,” he said. 

 

Africans report racism and hostility trying to flee Ukraine

Alexander Somto Orah, 25, was among thousands of people crowding a Kyiv train station Friday, hoping to flee Ukraine amid the Russian invasion. He said he and his friends hoped to get to safety at the Polish border quickly but that officials wouldn’t allow the group of Africans to board trains out of the region.

“I was like, ‘You are picking only white people!’” Orah said. He said he and his friends briefly made it onto a second train headed to Poland but were quickly kicked off, with officials telling them “Ukrainians only.”

Orah is one of several African citizens living in Ukraine who have reported racist discrimination and abuse at the border. Videos on social media have shown officials appearing to threaten to shoot groups of African students, a woman shielding an infant from the cold, officials chasing groups of people and people reported to be stranded in Ukraine. Representatives from several African countries — Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Gabon — have condemned the reports, and the African Union said Monday that it was disturbed by the news.

Read the full story here.

Russia ‘will not end its military activities’ in Ukraine, U.N. ambassador warns

The Kremlin “will not end its military activities” in Ukraine, Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya warned Wednesday, ahead of a vote to demand it stop its offensive at the U.N. General Assembly.

After the 193-member assembly convened its first emergency session since 1997, the vote saw 141 countries to condemn Moscow’s actions and demand an immediate halt to its use of force. Five countries voted against the resolution and 35 abstained. Assembly resolutions aren’t legally binding, but they do have clout in reflecting international opinion.

Before the vote took place, Nebenzya said his country would not change course. Instead he said Russia was trying to “stop the war,” in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donestk and Luhansk known collectively as the Donbas. Both are controlled by Russian-backed separatists. 

Nebenzya added that Russia was “not carrying out strikes on civilian facilities and civilians.”

“Don’t believe the large number of fakes spread around the internet about this,” he said. “These fakes are distributed like biscuits. These were distributed by Ukraine.”

How Russia’s war in Ukraine came back to bite Putin at home

The currency is nosediving, the market is in panic and frantic citizens are trying to withdraw savings from increasingly barren ATMs. Meanwhile, anti-war protesters are joined by members of the billionaire elite who have broken rank against their embattled president. There are questions about the country’s capacity to survive the crisis — and what it may do next in desperation.

This is not Ukraine under siege, but rather the blowback for its invader, Russia.

When President Vladimir Putin launched his war on Ukraine, few predicted the conflict would have such immediate consequences for the Kremlin and the Russian people.

Not only has it drawn the anticipated barrage of Western sanctions, it has unleashed boycotts of Russian sponsors by Western businesses, countries closing their airspace to Russian planes, and international sports and entertainment events freezing out Moscow’s competitors.

Almost overnight Russia has become a pariah.

Read the full story here.

EA Sports FIFA to remove Russian team and clubs from video games

The video game maker EA Sports FIFA said Wednesday that it will remove the Russian national team and Russian clubs from its products. 

The move comes after FIFA itself said Tuesday that it was kicking Russia out of the World Cup and also suspending all Russian teams and clubs indefinitely. Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic refused to play Russia in any of the qualifying matches. 

Cameraman reportedly killed in bombing of Kyiv television tower

Reporters Without Borders, a non-governmental organization based in Paris, said that Evgeny Sakun, a cameraman with Kiev Live TV, was killed when Russia bombed Kyiv’s television tower on Tuesday. The grouped added that “The targeting of journalists is a war crime.” Like civilians, journalists are protected by humanitarian law in armed conflicts. 

The Russian defense ministry said no residential buildings were damaged, and Ukraine said five people were killed in the bombing.

U.N. General Assembly votes overwhelmingly to censure Russia

The U.N. General Assembly voted Wednesday to reprimand Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and demand that Moscow stop fighting and withdraw its military forces.

The General Assembly voted 141 in favor and 5 opposed, with 35 nations abstaining on the draft resolution “Aggression against Ukraine” which has been co-sponsored by 94 countries.

“We believe this is a simple vote,” said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield during remarks on Wednesday. “Vote yes if you believe you in member states, including your own, have a right to sovereignty and territorial integrity. Vote yes if you believe Russia should be held to account for his actions. Vote yes if you believe in upholding the U.N. Charter and everything this institution stands for.”

Read more about the historic vote on NBCNews.com. 

Justice Department launches special unit to enforce Russia sanctions

The Justice Department launched a task force Wednesday to enforce the new sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Russia.

President Joe Biden previewed the creation of the unit in his State of the Union address, saying it would “go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs.”

“Tonight, I say to the Russian oligarchs and corrupt leaders who have bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime: No more,” Biden said, adding, “We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts your luxury apartments your private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.”

The new unit, known as Task Force KleptoCapture, will investigate and prosecute current and future sanctions resulting from the Ukraine invasion, the Justice Department said. 

Read the full story.

Ukraine’s Svitolina beats Russia’s Potapova at tennis’ Monterrey Open

Elina Svitolina put on the yellow and blue colors of Ukraine and beat Anastasia Potapova of Russia 6-2, 6-1 on Tuesday in the opening round of the Monterrey Open, deciding she could do more for her country by playing than boycotting the match.

Top-seeded Svitolina earlier said she wouldn’t play against Potapova in Mexico or against any Russian or Belarusian opponents until the International Tennis Federation and the men’s and women’s tennis tours barred competitors from those countries using any national symbols, flags or anthems.

Image: Elina Svitolina and Anastasia Potapova
Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, left, and Anastasia Potapova of Russia shake hands after their match at the Abierto de Monterrey tennis tournament in Monterrey, Mexico, on March 1, 2022.AP

The tennis governing bodies issued a statement Tuesday confirming that Russian and Belarusian players will still be allowed to compete at the top level, but without national flags.

“Today it was a very special match for me,” Svitolina, 27, said. “I’m in a very sad mood, but I’m happy that I’m playing tennis here.

“All the prize money that I’m going to earn is going to be for the Ukrainian army,” added Svitolina, who won this tournament in 2020. The Monterrey Open has $31,000 in prize money for the champion.

‘My city is dust’: Woman flees Kharkiv after house bombed

LVIV, Ukraine — Katerina Belash is one of many who have fled Kharkiv amidst explosions in the city, telling NBC News, “my house got burnt by a bomb.” She said she lost friends who hid in basements as the city was targeted with “some new kind of forbidden bombs” that “destroy everything.”

“My whole city is just dust,” she said.

She fled on a train through Kyiv where the lights went out for hours. She heard shooting, bombs and planes flying overhead along the way. 

“It was like giving your soul to God every second,” she recalled. “I thought I can die.”

Belash said she now has post-traumatic stress disorder, hasn’t slept in six days and has barely eaten. 

“Every time I hear a sound or anything I start shaking and my friends bring medical stuff to get me back to normal condition,” she said. 

Belash said she wants to get the message out that, “We have been killed by the country that wanted to take Ukraine over and kill our people for being patriotic.”

“Please do cherish the clear sky, every time you see sky. Cherish every moment of your life,” she said. 

A woman cries outside houses damaged by a Russian airstrike, according to locals, in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 2, 2022.

Image: A woman cries outside houses damaged by a Russian airstrike outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 2, 2022.
A woman cries outside houses damaged by a Russian airstrike, according to locals, in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 2, 2022.Vadim Ghirda / AP

Russia criticized after Ukraine says Kyiv airstrike hits near Holocaust memorial site

Moscow has drawn fresh international condemnation after Ukraine said one of the Russian airstrikes hit near a historical memorial site where Nazis massacred tens of thousands of Jews during World War II.

Jewish groups around the world condemned the bombing, which Ukraine said hit the land beside Babi Yar, a Kyiv ravine where the Nazis killed an estimated 33,000 Jews in 1941.

There was no evidence the site, which is thought to be one of the largest mass graves in Europe and is now a Holocaust memorial, was deliberately targeted.

The Russian defense ministry said Tuesday it bombed the Kyiv television tower, a 1,200-foot-high steel structure. It said no residential buildings were damaged, and Ukraine said five people were killed.

The tower is located next to Babi Yar and officials said the bomb hit the territory where the atrocities were committed. Earlier, shelling hit the town of Uman, a significant pilgrimage site for Hasidic Jews.

For many, whether deliberate or not, these strikes exposed the absurdity of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that he launched the war to “denazify” Ukraine.

Read the full story here.

China will not join sanctions on Russia, banking regulator says

China will not join in sanctions on Russia that have been led by the West, the country’s banking regulator said Wednesday, adding that he believed the impact of the measures on China would be limited.

China, which has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has repeatedly criticized what it calls illegal and unilateral sanctions.

“As far as financial sanctions are concerned, we do not approve of these, especially the unilaterally launched sanctions because they do not work well and have no legal grounds,” Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, told a news conference.

“We will not participate in such sanctions. We will continue to maintain normal economic and trade exchanges with relevant parties,” he said.

China and Russia have grown increasingly close in recent years, including as trading partners. Total trade between the two jumped 35.9 percent last year to a record $146.9 billion, according to Chinese customs data, with Russia serving as a major source of oil, gas, coal and agriculture commodities, running a trade surplus with China.

“The impact from the sanctions on China’s economy and financial sector is so far not too significant,” Guo added.

Nord Stream 2 says it fired employees but cannot confirm bankruptcy reports

The Swiss company behind the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline said Wednesday that it could not confirm reports that it had filed for bankruptcy, but it did say it had terminated employees “following the recent geopolitical developments.”

Known as Nord Stream 2 AG, the company’s website only contained a brief statement on Wednesday morning. It said it had taken down its website “due to serious and continuous attacks from outside.”

The company, which built the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, said its mobile and network lines are also unreachable at this time and provided a single email address for contact. 

Reuters reported Tuesday that the company, controlled by Russian state-owned energy corporation Gazprom, had considered going bankrupt after the U.S. sanctioned it last week. 

Its signature project, the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, was completed in September but had not begun operations. It was awaiting certification from Germany and the European Union when the project was halted last week. The pipeline would have doubled the capacity to pump gas between the Russia and Germany.

Historic Italian opera house replaces Russian conductor for failing to condemn invasion

One of Italy’s most historic opera houses has replaced its Russian conductor because he failed to condemn his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Milan’s Teatro alla Scala said in a statement that it had written a letter to Maestro Valery Gergiev “inviting him to express his support for the peaceful resolution of disputes,” on the morning of Feb. 24 shortly after Russian forces moved into Ukraine. 

Having received no reply six days later it said “a different solution is inevitable.” The next performances of Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades” will be conducted by Maestro Timur Zangiev, it added. 

Zangiev had already conducted part of the rehearsals and was appreciated by the orchestra, it said.

First medical aid shipment from World Health Organization to arrive in Poland Thursday

The World Health Organization says the first shipment of medical aid for Ukraine will arrive in Poland on Thursday. 

WHO is working with partners to assess and respond to the impact of the war on the health of Ukraine’s people and health system, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a media briefing on the pandemic Wednesday. 

WHO will deliver essential medical supplies from its hub in Dubai.

The shipment includes 36 metric tons of supplies for trauma care and emergency surgery that will meet the needs of 1,000 patients. It also includes other health supplies to meet the needs of 150,000 people. 

Before the war broke out, WHO distributed emergency supplies to 23 hospitals. WHO noted that prepositioned supplies in Kyiv are “currently inaccessible.”

“There is an urgent need to establish a corridor to ensure humanitarian workers and supplies have safe and continuous access to reach people in need,” Tedros said.

More than 1 million sign petition launched by prominent Russian activist to ‘stop the war’ in Ukraine

More than 1 million people have signed a petition started by a prominent Russian human rights activist calling on Russia to “stop the war” in Ukraine.

Launched on change.org by Lev Ponomaryov, chairman of the nongovernmental organization For Human Rights, the petition announced the formation of a new “anti-war movement.”

The petition calls for a stop to the conflict in Ukraine to “prevent it from developing into a war on a planetary scale.”

Specifically, it calls for an “immediate cease-fire” by Russia forces, as well as the immediate withdrawal of troops from Ukraine. 

The petition has spread despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s growing crackdown on dissent.

The petition has gained the attention of a number of prominent people, including actor Mark Ruffalo, who shared it on Twitter. As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, the petition had garnered more than 1.1 million signatures. 

Psaki says administration open to sanctions on Russian oil and gas industry

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the Biden administration was “very open” to the idea of sanctioning Russia’s oil and gas industry, though it is considering how it might affect the global economy. 

“I think it’s important for people to know is how we can maximize the impact on the squeeze on President Putin and the financial sector. We’re already seeing that. You know, the ruble, their currency is plummeting, we’re seeing the stock market plummet there, inflation is skyrocketing,” Psaki said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Way Too Early.”

Psaki said, however, that the administration wants to “minimize the impact on the global marketplace.”

“That includes the global oil marketplace, and the impact of energy prices for the American people. So, that’s one of the factors that we really look at,” she said. “We’re considering it, it’s very much on the table, but we need to weigh what all of the impacts will be. We’re not trying to hurt ourselves, we’re trying to hurt President Putin and the Russian economy.”

‘We can’t stand this anymore’: Kharkiv resident trying to escape amid constant shelling

Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, faced fresh shelling and an overnight attack from paratroopers on Wednesday. 

Denys Pavlenko, born and raised in the city, told NBC News on the phone that food is running low in Kharkiv, with most shops closed and bread one of the only staples available to purchase.

Pavlenko, 33, has been spending most of his time in the basement of his office with other family members and his Yorkshire terrier, Richard. He recently decided that it was time to leave and said he plans to head to Lviv in the country’s west.

“We can’t stand this anymore,” he said, adding that the strikes come constantly, and residential areas are being hit. “All I feel right now is anger.”

The city had come under an intensifying assault on Tuesday from the ground and the air, with around 21 people killed and 112 injured during the course of the day, according to Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional council.

Ukraine ‘ready to negotiate’ but won’t accept Russian ultimatums, foreign minister says

Ukraine’s foreign affairs minister said his country is “ready to negotiate” with Russia, but will not accept any ultimatums from the Kremlin.

With a first round of talks already having taken place on Monday, Dmytro Kuleba said on Wednesday “there has been no betrayal. The demands of the Russians remain unchanged.”

Speaking in a Facebook livestream, he said Russia’s demands were the same as those Russian President Vladimir Putin announced “before the war.”

Kuleba said it was not known when a next round of talks might take place.

A couple with their newborn baby take shelter in the basement of a perinatal center in Kyiv on Wednesday as air-raid sirens are heard amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Image: A couple with their newborn baby take shelter in the basement of a perinatal centre as air raid siren sounds are heard amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv
Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

What are vacuum bombs? Concerns grow about Russia’s thermobaric weapons

Accusations that Russia may be using thermobaric weapons in Ukraine have raised fears about the potential devastation that could result from attacks with the so-called vacuum bombs.

Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, said Monday that the Russian military had used a vacuum bomb, which sucks oxygen from the air to trigger a huge explosion. Markarova did not provide additional details and NBC News has not independently verified that the weapon has been used in Ukraine, but Russian thermobaric rocket launchers have been photographed entering the country by a CNN team. 

The accusation adds to mounting concerns voiced by several human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, that Russia is conducting indiscriminate attacks in densely populated civilian areas that could constitute war crimes.

The potential use of vacuum bombs is of particular concern because these thermobaric munitions are designed to cause immense destruction.

“It’s just a horrible, devastating weapon,” said David Johnson, a retired U.S. Army colonel and a principal researcher at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit policy research organization headquartered in California.

Read the full story here.

Ukraine’s president appeals to Jewish community for support

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appealed to the world’s Jewish community for support.

“It is very important that you, millions of Jews, do not remain silent right now,” Zelenskyy said in a video posted to his channel on the Telegram messaging app. 

“Do not remain silent now, because Nazism is born in silence,” he added. “So shout about killing civilians, shout about Ukrainians.”

He also urged his countrymen to take care of each other.  

“I admire each of you, the whole world admires you, from Hollywood stars to politicians,” he said. “Today you, Ukrainians, are the symbol of invincibility, symbol of the fact that people in any country, at any moment can be the best people on earth.”

Wary soldiers at checkpoints as thousands drive to western Ukraine

LVIV, Ukraine — The roads to Ukraine’s western city of Lviv are lined with checkpoints, manned by uneasy Ukrainian soldiers.

Guns cocked and barking orders, one set of soldiers pulled an NBC News team out of its car and forced them to kneel in the road with their hands up. They apologized after searching the car.

Thousands are on the move and the roads are clogged up. All are hoping to be in a safer place.

A replica of the Statue of Liberty covered with fabric bearing the national colors of Ukraine stands in Colmar, eastern France, on Wednesday. 

TOPSHOT-FRANCE-UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT
A replica of the Statue of Liberty covered with a giant fabric bearing the national colors of Ukraine stands in Colmar, eastern France, on Wednesday.Sebastien Bozon / AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian forces defeated an elite Russian unit in Kharkiv, presidential adviser says

Ukrainian armed forces have defeated an elite Russian unit in Kharkiv, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday. 

The Ukrainian military defeated the Russian army’s 200th brigade during a counterattack on Tuesday, Oleksiy Arestovich said in a briefing on the conflict. 

Russia continued to launch fresh attacks on Ukraine’s second-largest city on Wednesday. Ukrainian officials have accused Russian of shelling residential districts and causing civilian deaths. 

Thousands from Ukraine’s besieged cities gather in Lviv

LVIV, Ukraine — The art nouveau architecture dates back to the early 20th century. Today the train station in central Lviv serves as a central hub for thousands of people attempting to flee Ukraine.

When air raid sirens blare out, people barely acknowledge it. Some look at their phones, others continue their conversations.Many are wheeling small suitcases and carrying backpacks containing all the possessions they could carry.

In the frigid temperatures, they are wrapped up in thick winter coats and hats, their children’s faces red.

Four killed in morning attack on Kharkiv, officials say

At least four people were killed and nine wounded after a fresh attack in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv Wednesday morning, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine said.

In a statement, the state emergency service said that at least 10 people were rescued from the rubble. 

It said at least 90 people were involved in response efforts. 

Indian Embassy asks people to leave Kharkiv ‘under all circumstances’

The Indian Embassy in Ukraine has issued an urgent advisory to all Indian nationals to leave Kharkiv immediately for their “own safety and security” given the quickly escalating situation in the country.

In a statement on its official Twitter account, the embassy shared the checkpoints people could use and said “under all circumstances they must reach these settlements by 1800 hrs (local time) today.”

Earlier Wednesday, the Indian government chartered three aircrafts to evacuate nationals stuck in Ukraine.

The Indian government also recently opened a hotline for nationals in Ukraine. They have advised students to walk to the checkpoints in case they are unable to find public transportation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, currently campaigning in India’s Uttar Pradesh amid state elections, said earlier Wednesday: “It’s because of India’s rising power that we are able to evacuate citizens from Ukraine.”

Residents in Enerhodar defend nuclear plant amid Russia’s attack

Residents of Enerhodar took to the streets to defend their city, as Russian forces advanced towards them Wednesday.

The city is home to the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant.

“Because of Putin’s madness, Europe is again on the verge of a NUCLEAR DISASTER!” Anton Gerashchenko, Ukraine’s Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs, said. 

“Now, more than ever, we need to mobilize our forces, to be together, so that the enemy does not enter the city where the largest nuclear power plant in Europe is located! Let’s be ready, friends!” Enerhodar Mayor Dmitri Orlov said, as he warned that Russian troops were approaching the city again.

In video shared by the mayor, crowds of unarmed civilians could be seen amassing along the road leading to the entrance of the city, with some waving Ukrainian flags. Parked trucks and stacked up tires appeared to be used as blockades. 

The Russian armed forces were stopped at the entrance, according to Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to the head of the President’s Office.

As of 9 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET) Wednesday, the National Nuclear Energy Generating Company of Ukraine had said its nuclear plants were operating as normal. 

On Wednesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Russia had informed the agency that its military forces have taken control of the territory around the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. That claim appeared to be disputed by Ukrainian officials, however, with Orlov saying Russian troops repeatedly approached the city and left. 

“The situation in Ukraine is unprecedented and I continue to be gravely concerned,” Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi said Wednesday. “It is the first time a military conflict is happening amidst the facilities of a large, established nuclear power program, which in this case also include the site of the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.”

Staff at the Consulate General of Ukraine in St. Petersburg remove the national flag as they prepare to leave Russia on Wednesday. 

Consulate General of Ukraine in St Petersburg, Russia
Staff at the Consulate General of Ukraine in St. Petersburg remove the national flag as they prepare to leave Russia on Wednesday.Alexander Demianchuk / TASS via Getty Images

Dissident Alexey Navalny calls on Russians to fight against war

Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny has called on Russians and people worldwide to take to the streets to “fight for peace” and against Putin’s war on Ukraine. 

“Putin is not Russia. And if there is anything in Russia right now that you can be most proud of, it is those 6824 people who were detained because – without any call – they took to the streets with placards saying ‘No War’,” a tweet from Navalny’s verified Twitter account read on Wednesday. 

Navalny called on Russians and Belarusians to protest every weekday and at 2pm on weekends at their city’s main square. He also urged people everywhere to protest in front of Russian embassies across the world.

Rallies in support of Ukraine drawing thousands have taken already place in major cities in democratic countries in the past week. 

Putin’s fiercest critic broadcast his message via his team from behind bars, where is serving a two year and eight month sentence for charges rights groups have criticized as politically motivated. He made similar calls in a video in Russian posted on his official Youtube channel on Wednesday. 

“Let’s not ‘be against the war.’ Let’s fight against the war,” he urged. 

EU seeking to allow Ukraine refugees to live in member countries

The European Commission has proposed to allow refugees from Ukraine to seek residency and work permits in member countries for up to three years.

This will allow those fleeing conflict in Ukraine, regardless of nationality, to live in any EU country without having to apply for a visa the conventional way.

Hundreds of thousands of people have already fled the country to seek asylum in neighboring countries such as Poland, Hungary, Slovakia.

On Tuesday, the United Nations refugee agency said around 660,000 refugees were estimated to have fled from Ukraine to neighboring countries.

“All those fleeing Putin’s bombs are welcome in Europe,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet Wednesday. “We will provide protection to those seeking shelter and we will help those looking for a safe way home.”

The EU interior ministers are scheduled to discuss the proposal on Thursday.

India charters more flights to evacuate students amid safety concerns

The Indian government has chartered three aircraft to expedite the evacuation of its citizens from Ukraine, Air Force Vice Chief Sandeep Singh said Wednesday at a news briefing in New Delhi.

Concern for the safety of Indian nationals has risen after the death on Tuesday of an Indian student during shelling in the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

Indians make up about 25 percent of the 76,000 foreign students in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian government data.

Many of them are evacuating through neighboring Poland, which is facilitating their return to India via the Budomierz border checkpoint. In a phone call on Tuesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked Polish President Andrzej Duda for the assistance.

China says over 2,500 citizens evacuated from Ukraine, reports one citizen injured

Over 2,500 Chinese nationals have been evacuated out of Ukraine, spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry Wang Wenbin said on Wednesday, according to Reuters. 

Wang also confirmed that one of its citizens was shot and injured while leaving the country on their own on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

The Chinese Embassy in Kyiv has made contact with the person, who is now out of danger, the spokesperson said. The details of the shooting remain unclear. 

Around 6,000 Chinese nationals live in Ukraine, Beijing has previously confirmed. 

Kyiv bolsters defense as Russian forces move ‘closer to the capital’, mayor says

Kyiv is preparing to defend the city as the Russian forces move closer to the capital, the mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a video statement on Wednesday.

“The enemy is bringing forces closer to the capital,” he said, asserting that fighting had continued in multiple parts of the Kyiv region overnight.

“We are preparing and will defend Kyiv!” he said.

Critical services will remain operational, and a curfew will be imposed starting 8 p.m. which will last until 7 a.m. on Thursday. Klitschko has urged residents to stay indoors and trust only official sources for information.

Britain’s defense ministry says Russian gains hit by ‘strong Ukrainian resistance’

Britain’s ministry of defense has said that “strong Ukrainian resistance” has likely hindered Russia’s “overall gains” in the past day.

In an intelligence update posted to Twitter Wednesday, the ministry said Russian forces had reportedly moved into the center of Kherson in the south as Russia said its armed forces had taken full control of the southern Ukrainian city, which is strategically located on the the Dniepr river.

However, it said “overall gains across axes have been limited in the past 24 hours.”

“This is probably due to a combination of ongoing logistical difficulties and strong Ukrainian resistance,” it said.

The defense ministry also noted that heavy Russian artillery and airstrikes have continued to target built-up areas over the past 24 hours, including in the cities of Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol and Chernihiv.

Moscow Stock Exchange remains shut on Wednesday

The Bank of Russia has announced that the Moscow Exchange will not resume stock trading for the third day in a row on Wednesday with limited exceptions allowed.

Russian exchange-traded funds (ETFs) continued to plunge on Tuesday amidst piling sanctions. Earlier on that day, Visa, Mastercard and American Express blocked the country’s financial institutions from their networks.  

The Exchange’s opening hours will announced at 9:00 a.m. Moscow time (1 a.m. ET) on Thursday, said The Bank of Russia in a statement on Wednesday. 

Scores of Japanese nationals reportedly volunteering to fight for Ukraine

Up to 70 Japanese men have signed up as volunteers to fight for Ukraine as of Tuesday, according to Reuters citing the Japanese Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.

The surge in interest came following an appeal by the Ukrainian embassy in Japan for volunteer fighters on Monday.

The embassy made new calls on Wednesday via Twitter for volunteers with medical, IT, communication, or firefighting experience, according to Reuters. 

The Kharkiv regional police department building burns after appearing to be hit by shelling in Ukraine on Tuesday.

Image: UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT
Firefighters tackle a blaze at the Kharkiv regional police department building hit by shelling in Ukraine on Tuesday.Ukrainian Emergency Service / AFP – Getty Images

Kherson mayor ‘waiting for a miracle’ as Russia says it has seized control of city

Russia’s armed forces have taken full control of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, reported Russian state media RIA Novosti.

Defense Ministry Representative Major General Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday that the administration is working to ensure the functioning of civil infrastructure and public transport.

The statement came after Kherson Mayor Igor Kolykhayev addressed the city’s residents on Tuesday night and assured them that “Kherson was and remains Ukrainian.” 

In a Facebook post Wednesday morning, Kolykhayev said: “It’s hard to call this morning good, but let’s try. We are still Ukraine. Still persistent. But already very much in smoke.”

“Last night, when my team and I were in the city hall, the building was shelled. Everyone is alive,” he said on Wednesday morning. He strictly urged residents to not leave the house and provoke shooting.

“Today I will work to find a way to collect the dead, how to restore light, gas, water and heat where it is damaged,” he said.

“We are all waiting for a miracle now. We need it.”

Taiwan President donates one month’s salary to Ukraine

Taiwan’s three top political leaders will donate one month of their salaries to the Ukrainian war relief effort, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday. 

The president, along with Vice President William Lai and Vice Premier Su Tseng-chang, will each donate the equivalent of one month’s salary to a bank account set up by Taiwanese government’s Relieve Disaster Association for humanitarian relief in Ukraine, according to Reuters. 

“As a member of the global partners of democracy, Taiwan is not absent, and we fully support Ukraine,” Tsai said. 

Taiwan has firmly joined international efforts to support Ukraine since the Russian invasion last week, imposing sanctions on Russia and sending 27 tons of medical supplies to Ukraine on Tuesday. Its Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also set up a dedicated bank account to receive public donations. 

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy tells Russia “just stop the bombing” before more ceasefire talks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Tuesday Russia must stop bombing Ukrainian cities before meaningful talks on a ceasefire could start, as a first round of negotiations this week had yielded scant progress.

Speaking in an interview in a heavily guarded government compound, Zelenskyy urged NATO members to impose a no fly zone to stop the Russian air force, saying this would be a preventative measure and not meant to drag the alliance into war with Russia.

Zelenskyy, who has refused offers to leave the Ukrainian capital as Russian forces advanced, also said Ukraine would demand legally binding security guarantees if NATO shut the door on Ukraine’s membership prospects.

Setting out his conditions for further talks with Russia, Zelenskyy told Reuters and CNN in a joint interview: “It’s necessary to at least stop bombing people, just stop the bombing and then sit down at the negotiating table.”

State of the Union: Biden to announce appointment of prosecutor focused on Covid fraud

President Joe Biden plans to announce in his address Tuesday night that the Justice Department is appointing a chief prosecutor to focus on pandemic fraud, including identity theft, according to an administration official.

Biden will also announce that he plans to sign an executive order in coming weeks that will include new directives to help prevent and detect identity theft in public benefits programs, as well as enhance support for victims of identity fraud, according to a White House fact sheet on the issue provided to NBC News.

The new prosecutor will “lead teams of specialized prosecutors and agents focusing on major targets of pandemic fraud, such as those committing large-scale identity theft, including foreign-based actors,” according to the fact sheet. The procesutor will also investigate criminal fraud in federal programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, and Unemployment Insurance benefits, according to the fact sheet.

 




Reference-www.nbcnews.com

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