Ukraine War Enters Day 16: Russia Forces Move Closer to Kyiv

Live Updates
  • Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky wants a meeting with Vladimir Putin, saying "compromises can be made," as Russia's invasion into Ukraine continued for a fifteenth day.
  • An estimated 2.3 million refugees have fled Ukraine in two weeks, the United Nations estimates. UN data shows at least 549 civilians, including 41 children, have been killed, warning the actual figure is much higher.
  • U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris called for an international war crimes probe of Russia during a visit to Poland.
  • Peace talks between the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia have collapsed after the two sides failed to agree on a 24-hour ceasefire.
  • The Russian bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol has left three dead, including one child, and sparked international condemnation.
  • The House voted for a $13.6 billion aid package for Ukraine, with the U.S. Senate now expected to take up and pass the measure.
Destruction in Ukraine
A destroyed tank is seen after battles between Ukrainian and Russian forces on a main road near Brovary, north of Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 10, 2022. Felipe Dana/AP Photo

Newsweek's live coverage has now ended.

In Moldova, 1 in 8 Children Are Refugees

Ukraine's neighboring countries have stepped up to help the more than 2.3 million refugees who have fled the country in two weeks.

Moldova has received the most refugees per capita. An estimated 82,800 refugees have entered Moldova since Russia began invading Ukraine two weeks ago, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.

"Moldova is the smallest country bordering Ukraine; but it has welcomed the most refugees per capita," United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power said. "Every eighth child in the country is a refugee."

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris announced nearly $53 million in humanitarian assistance from the U.S. government to USAID on Thursday.

"This additional assistance includes support to the UN World Food Program (WFP) to provide lifesaving emergency food assistance to meet immediate needs of hundreds of thousands affected by the invasion, including people who are displaced from their homes and who are crossing the border out of Ukraine," the White House said. "In addition, it will support WFP's logistics operations to move assistance into Ukraine, including to people in Kyiv."

Refugees arrive in Moldova
Refugees walk in a group after fleeing the war from neighbouring Ukraine at the border crossing in Palanca, Moldova on March 10. Sergei Grits/AP Photo

Russia to Open Evacuation Corridors Friday

Russia's Defense Ministry will open humanitarian corridors for Ukrainian civilians to evacuate from several cities on Friday, according to Interfax and RIA.

The corridors will open at 10 a.m. local time on March 11, the agencies reported, citing Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian National Center for Defense Management.

The corridors will allow civilians to evacuate from five cities, Kyiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Chernihiv, to Russia or other Ukrainian cities.

State Dept. Says U.S. Does Not Run Biological Labs in Ukraine

The State Department refuted claims that the U.S. is operating military biological research in Ukraine.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it received evidence that the U.S. Defense Department has a "leading role" in financing and conducting military biological research in Ukraine.

State Department Spokesperson Ned Price denied these accusations during a press briefing Thursday.

"The United States government does not own or operate biological laboratories in Ukraine. Full stop," he said.

Price said American experts have assisted Ukraine, and other countries, at times with laboratory safety issues.

"But that is the extent of the activity," he said, adding that Ukraine officials are in full compliance with biological lab regulations.

Price also said Russia has a track record of using chemical weapons themselves and warned that the Kremlin is "accusing the U.S. of planning what [Russia] may be planning to do."

The White House gave a similar warning that Russia may launch a chemical or biological weapons attack in Ukraine.

Russian Forces Move Closer to Kyiv

Russian forces have moved closer to Kyiv, according to multiple reports citing a U.S. official.

The U.S. official estimated Russian forces advanced about five kilometers, or three miles, closer to Ukraine's capital city Thursday.

A 40-mile-long convoy of Russian tanks and combat vehicles headed to Kyiv was stalled for several days. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said it remained stalled during a press conference Wednesday. The Pentagon believes its main purpose is resupply.

2.3 Million Refugees Fled Ukraine in Two Weeks

More than 2.3 million refugees have fled Ukraine into neighboring countries since Russia began its invasion two weeks ago.

The U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR, provided the estimate Thursday, warning the number may climb as high as four million. The vast majority of Ukrainian refugees have entered Poland.

Where refugees are going, by country:

  • Poland: 1.4 million
  • Other European countries: 258,800
  • Hungary: 214,100
  • Slovakia: 165,200
  • Russia: 97,100
  • Romania: 84,600
  • Moldova: 82,800
  • Belarus: 765

*Estimates above provided by UNHCR as of 3/9.

Crowds fleeing Ukraine, many filled with women, children and the elderly, continue waiting in long lines amid cold temperatures to enter neighboring countries on March 10.

Ukrainian refugees board train
A boy who fled the war from neighboring Ukraine waves as he looks out with other refugees from a train that goes to Warsaw, at the Przemysl train station, Poland, on March 10. Petros Giannakouris/AP Photo
Refugees board train
Refugees fleeing war in neighboring Ukraine board a train at the Medyka border crossing, Poland on March 10. Daniel Cole/AP Photo
Ukrainian refugees
A woman who fled the war from neighboring Ukraine holds a baby as they wait at the Przemysl train station, Poland, on March 10. Petros Giannakouris/AP Photo
Refugees wait at Poland border
Refugees fleeing war in neighboring Ukraine gather at the Medyka border crossing, Poland on March 10. Daniel Cole/AP Photo

UN Ambassador Says Russian Actions 'Constitute War Crimes'

The U.S. Ambassador to United Nations said Russian actions committed against the Ukraine people "constitute war crimes."

"There are attacks on civilians that cannot be justified by any – in any way whatsoever," Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview with BBC.

Thomas-Greenfield said the question of whether Russia is guilty of war crimes is the one "we're being asked every day."

"We're working with others in the international community to document the crimes that Russia is committing against the Ukrainian people," she said.

State Department Spokesperson Ned Price was less explicit about reports of alleged Russian war crimes.

"We've seen credible reports of deliberate civilian attacks which would would, under the Geneva Conventions, constitute a war crime," he said during a press briefing.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken shared a similar update on the investigation into alleged war crimes Sunday, but did not say whether the U.S. had determined that Moscow was guilty.

He followed up saying U.S. officials have seen credible reports of war crimes and support the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into reports of war crimes committed by Russian forces.

Price said the U.S. wants to see evidence preserved in order to marry reports of war crimes with evidence from the ground.

If the ICC determines war crimes or other human rights abuses were committed, Price said the U.S. will hold Russia accountable.

White House Says Gas Prices Will Continue to Climb

Gas and energy prices will continue to "go up," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday, calling the hike "temporary."

"We've seen the price of gas go up at least 75 cents since President Putin lined up troops on the border of Ukraine," Psaki said during Thursday's briefing.

The White House has asked the Federal Trade Commission to monitor potential price gouging on gasoline. Psaki blamed inflation on the COVID-19 pandemic now being exacerbated by Russia's war.

"Global economists have all agreed that [COVID-19 pandemic] has been the biggest contributor to-date of inflation because of the impact on the supply chain," Psaki said.

Inflation is expected to wane by the end of the year, according to predictions from the Federal Reserve, Psaki said. She added it will likely be higher for the "next few months" due to the invasion and its impact on energy prices.

Psaki warned of Russia launching a potential chemical or biological weapons attack in Ukraine in a lengthy statement late Wednesday. When asked if there was evidence pointing to Russia preparing such an attack, Psaki said she would not detail any intelligence.

This comes following Russia's claims about alleged U.S. biological weapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine. Psaki said her statement was aimed to clarify that [Russia's] misinformation and make clear that Russia has a chemical and biological weapons program which has been used in the past.

Psaki was asked Thursday if the U.S. would respond to such an attack.

"We have not let anything go unanswered that President Putin has done to date," she said. "What that would look like, I can't give you an assessment of that from here."

President Joe Biden has repeatedly said U.S. troops would not be sent into Ukraine.

Zelensky Calls Out Russian 'Lies' About Hospital Attack

During a video address Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called out Russian "lies" about the Mariupol hospital attack and promised to punish Russian propagandists.

Zelensky said the Russian state-run media lied that there were no civilians in the building and that "nationalists" had allegedly taken up position there.

"They lie confidently, as always," he said. "War crimes are impossible without the propagandists who cover them up."

Russian forces claim the attack on a maternity hospital in Mariupol was a "staged provocation" by Ukraine and that the hospital was non-operational and being used as a base for neo-Nazi radicals.

Twitter has since removed tweets from the Russian Embassy in the U.K. making these claims.

"We took enforcement action against the Tweets you referenced as they were in violation of the Twitter Rules, specifically our Hateful Conduct and Abusive Behavior policies related to the denial of violent events," the company told BBC.

Zelensky's message to the Russian propagandists was simple: "You will bear responsibility just as all those who give orders to bomb civilians."

He pledged to seize their property and prosecute them for their "complicity in war crimes."

"War always beats the victims and the aggressor," he said. "The aggressor just realizes it later. But it always realizes it and always suffers."

We all have been defending our state for the 15th day. We endured. The Ukrainian army is repelling attacks in key directions. Thanks to our military,...

Zelensky also said Ukraine continues to provide humanitarian corridors for evacuations and to deliver food, water and medicine.

"Russian troops have created a humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine," he said, adding that Russian "monsters" will "torture" and "humiliate" the Ukrainian people "to give their propaganda channels new material."

He thanked European leaders for their support and the Ukrainian forces for defending their country.

"We have not become slave and we will never become [slaves]," he said. "Because this is our spirit, this is our destiny."

Finally, Zelensky promised that after Ukraine wins the war, they will rebuild the country to "get rid of every trace of the Russian invasion."

WATCH: State Department Press Briefing

The State Department will give its daily press briefing soon.

This is the first briefing since Secretary Antony Blinken and department spokesperson Ned Price returned from their trip to Europe.

The briefing will stream live at 2:30 p.m. ET on the State Department website and YouTube channel.

Biden, Turkish President Discussed Efforts to Hold Moscow Accountable

President Joe Biden spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday to share their support for Ukraine and discuss opportunities to strengthen their bilateral ties.

They discussed their shared concern about Russia's invasion if Ukraine and reaffirmed their support for the Ukrainian government and people and the need for an "an immediate cessation of Russian aggression."

"President Biden expressed appreciation for Turkey's efforts to support a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, as well as Turkey's recent engagements with regional leaders that help promote peace and stability," the White said in a readout.

Earlier Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu facilitated negotiation talks between Ukraine and Russia that failed to yield any major breakthroughs.

During the call, Erdogan said it was important for Turkey to be a "facilitator in the search for a solution in case the crisis deepens," state-run Anadolu Agency said.

Western Union Suspends Operations in Russia, Belarus

Western Union is suspending operations in Russia and Belarus following "extensive" dialogue with stakeholders.

The company made the announcement Thursday, saying it "stands with the world in condemning the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine."

"We have thoroughly evaluated internal and external considerations, including the consequences for our valued teammates, partners, and customers," Western Union said regarding the decision.

Western Union said it continues to support its Ukrainian customers, including those now displaced.

"We join the international community in expressing sincere hope for a diplomatic and peaceful resolution," the company said. "Meanwhile, our priorities remain the well-being and safety of our employees as well as continuing to support the people of Ukraine, including the growing number of refugees seeking safety."

WATCH: White House press conference

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will soon hold the daily press briefing, as Russia's invasion into Ukraine continues for a fifteenth day.

Thursday's briefing is scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m. ET. Watch below or on the White House YouTube page.

E.U. Leaders Meet to Discuss Ukraine, Energy Independence

European Union (E.U.) leaders are meeting in Versailles Thursday to discuss ways to strengthen European sovereignty amid Russia's invasion into Ukraine.

Leaders will tackle three major topics during the two-day summit: bolstering E.U. defense capabilities, reducing Russian energy dependency and building a more robust economic base.

"This is a defining moment for Europe," E.U Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said as she arrived to Versailles.

The E.U. officially started the procedure of considering Ukraine's application for membership into the 27-nation bloc, Ukraine's Parliament said Wednesday. Von der Leyen says the issue will be discussed during the summit.

"We will also certainly discuss Ukraine as part of our European family," she said. "We want a free and democratic Ukraine with whom we share a common destiny."

Tuesday, the E.U. announced plans to reduce dependency on Russian gas by two-thirds before the end of 2022 and fully phase out dependency "well before 2030."

The bloc currently imports 90% of the natural gas used to generate electricity and heat homes, with Russia supplying nearly 40% of E.U. gas and a quarter of its oil, the Associated Press reports.

President of the European Council Charles Michel said "consequences" of Russia's invasion will also be discussed.

"We have imposed on Russia the strictest sanctions ever adopted," Michel said ahead of the summit.

"The European Union and its Member States are providing coordinated humanitarian, political, financial and material support to Ukraine. Member States are also showing immense solidarity in hosting countless people fleeing the war. This conflict and its consequences will be at the heart of our informal meeting in Versailles on 10 and 11 March, which President Macron will kindly host."

EU leaders meet in Versailles
A police officer patrols in front of the Chateau de Versailles, where a European Union summit will take place on March 10, 2022 in Versailles, west of Paris. Michel Euler/AP Photo

Russia Claims Mariupol Hospital Was Occupied by 'Radicals'

Russia struck the maternity hospital in Mariupol to target "ultra-radicals" in the building, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claims.

Lavrov said the hospital was being used as a military base for the "ultra-radical Azov Battalion."

"This is not the first time we have seen pathetic outcried concerning so-called 'atrocities' by the Russian armed forces," Lavrov said during a press briefing Thursday.

He said he presented facts at the U.N. Security Council that the hospital has long been occupied by the "neo-Nazi" Azov Battalion and other radicals.

The Russian army also called the hospital attack a "staged provocation" by Ukraine.

Lavrov denied any civilians were targeted, claiming Ukrainian forces removed all pregnant women and staff from the building days ago and the maternity ward was nonoperational.

He accused western media outlets of manipulating the facts and not giving attention to Russia's side of the story "that enables an objective understanding."

Twitter has since removed several tweets from the Russian Embassy in U.K. pushing these claims.

"We took enforcement action against the Tweets you referenced as they were in violation of the Twitter Rules, specifically our Hateful Conduct and Abusive Behavior policies related to the denial of violent events," the company told BBC.

At Least 549 Civilians Killed, Including 41 Children

At least 549 civilians, including 41 children, have been killed in the first 14 days of Russia's invasion into Ukraine. The United Nations provided the update Thursday, warning actual figures are much higher.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded 1,506 civilian casualties in Ukraine since February 24.

At least 957 civilians have been injured including 52 children, data shows.

"Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes," OHCHR says.

The office believes casualty numbers are "considerably" higher, especially in government-controlled territories. The report does not include a complete estimate from several towns, including Mariupol. OHCHR provided a breakdown by location; however, the figures are higher than the initial report.

By geographic location:

  • Donetsk and Luhansk regions: 608 casualties (123 killed, 485 injured)
  • Government-controlled territory: 469 casualties (99 killed, 370 injured)
  • Territory controlled by self-proclaimed 'republics': 139 casualties (24 killed, 115 injured)
  • *Other regions of Ukraine: 898 casualties (426 killed, 472 injured)

*Others include: Kyiv, Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia and Zhytomyr regions.

Harris Supports International War Crimes Investigation

Vice President Kamala Harris stopped short of calling Russia's action in Ukraine war crimes during her visit in Poland Thursday.

She condemned the attack on the Mariupol maternity hospital as an "unprovoked," "unjustified" act of violence.

"We have been witnessing for weeks and certainly just in the last 24 hours atrocities of unimaginable proportion," he said alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda.

Duda was more explicit in his characterization of Russian military actions.

"It is obvious to us that in Ukraine, Russians are committing war crimes," he said, adding that the invasion is "bearing the features of a genocide" that aims at "eliminating and destroying a nation."

Harris supports calls for an international war crimes investigation into Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the bombing of civilians. She noted that the United Nations has already began reviewing allegations.

"Absolutely there should be an investigation, and we should all be watching," she said. "I have no question the eyes of the world are on this war and what Russia has done in terms of this aggression and these atrocities."

Harris also praised Poland for taking in nearly 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees and promised continued U.S. support for humanitarian efforts.

"The United States is absolutely prepared to do what we can and what we must to support Poland, in terms of the burden that they have taken on," she said.

She announced the U.S. will provide an additional $53 million in humanitarian aid to support Ukrainian refugees.

During her trip, Harris also visited with a group of Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw.

"We are here to support you, and you are not alone," Harris told them.

Goldman Sachs Winds Down Russia Business Over Ukraine War

Goldman Sachs has become the first major Wall Street bank to pare back its Russian business in response to the country's invasion of Ukraine, Bloomberg reports.

The investment bank said in an emailed statement on Thursday that it is looking to wind down its operations in Russia.

"Goldman Sachs is winding down its business in Russia in compliance with regulatory and licensing requirements," said a bank spokeswoman.

"We are focused on supporting our clients across the globe in managing or closing out pre-existing obligations in the market and ensuring the wellbeing of our people."

Goldman was estimated to have $940 million in total exposure to Russia, Bank of America analysts told CNBC.

Banned High Explosive Incendiary Bomb Reportedly Used by Russia in Chernihiv

Russia is using high explosive incendiary bombs on Chernihiv, which are explicitly banned under international law, the Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), a team of investigators based in Russia and Ukraine, has claimed.

In a Twitter thread on Thursday, CIT said: "We can now confirm that Russia is using incendiary bombs on Chernihiv. Today's post by @SESU_UA shows personnel defusing an airdropped bomb, that appears to be an OFZAB-500 fragmentation high explosive incendiary bomb."

The CIT included a photo of the bomb in its tweet which was getting defused by Ukraine's Emergency Service, that was found in the city of Chernihiv, in northern Ukraine.

"A few days ago OFZAB-500 bombs (correctly ID'd by @idzanagi4) fell on Chernihiv together with a Russian Su-34 jet shot down over the city. Back then we were unable to confirm that the city indeed was its intended target," the CIT added.

"However, today's @SESU_UA post clearly shows the remains of an exploded OFZAB-500 bomb. That confirms that Russia did indeed drop incendiary bombs on Chernihiv, which is explicitly banned by international law."

The photos have not been independently verified.

The CIT pointed out that the pilot of a downed Russian Su-34 told Ukrainian interrogators that he was unaware of his targets, hitting the coordinates given by superiors.

He also admitted to using unguided bombs, suggesting that the Russian military has not been discriminating civilian and military lives.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder Visits Moscow

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder is visiting Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Politico.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, the outlet said that Schröder is hoping to persuade Putin to end the war in Ukraine.

Schröder, who was German chancellor between 1998 and 2005, has many ties to Russia and has been quite defensive of Putin in the past, having called him "a flawless Democrat." His comments were widely condemned by German lawmakers.

In February, Schröder was tapped by Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom to join its supervisory board.

Ukraine Plots Offensive, Plans to Regain Territory Taken by Russia — Report

Ukraine is plotting an offensive and to recapture strategic territories in Eastern Ukraine that have been taken by Russia, Radio Televizija Republike Srpske (RTRS) reported Thursday.

Citing the adviser to the Ukraine presidential office, the radio station reported that Ukraine's government wanted to regain Donbass and Crimea, both which were captured by Russia after a 2014 annexation.

Both areas have high numbers of pro-Russian separatists living there, and have also been fast-tracking Russian passport applications for local citizens since the takeover in 2014.

Ukrainian officials have not yet responded to the report.

Ukraine troops train in Kyiv park Russia
Members of the Territorial Defence Forces learn how to use a weapons during a training session held in a public park on March 9, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Russian Bombing of Ukraine Maternity Hospital 'A Heinous War Crime,' Says EU

The European Union's top diplomat called the Russian bombing on Wednesday of the Ukrainian maternity hospital in Mariupol, which has left three dead, "a heinous war crime."

In a tweet on Thursday afternoon, Josep Borrell said: "#Mariupol is under siege. Russia's shelling of the maternity hospital is a heinous war crime."

"Strikes of residential areas from the air and blocks of access of aid convoys by the Russian forces must immediately stop. Safe passage is needed, now. #PutinsWar #Accountability"

Ukrainian officials said three people died in the bombing of the hospital, including one child. Seventeen more people were injured, officials said.

Mariupol maternity hospital shelling
A woman walks outside the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo

Kamala Harris Says U.S. and Poland 'United' Over Ukraine Despite Fighter Jets Mishap

Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday said the U.S. and Poland were "united," and are prepared to help Ukraine and its people "full stop," in a joint news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw.

"I want to be very clear. The United States and Poland are united in what we have done and are prepared to help Ukraine and the people of Ukraine, full stop," Harris said, after arriving in Poland this morning.

Like the United States, Poland is a NATO country. But there were recent disagreements between the two: earlier this week Poland said it would hand over its jets to the U.S. instead of giving them directly to Ukraine. The U.S. rejected the offer.

Harris emphasized cooperation between the two countries, saying her presence in the Polish capital showed American commitment to NATO.

She said the U.S. is in the process of providing Poland with Patriot missiles and that America "is prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory."

"The United States takes seriously that an attack against one is an attack against all," she added.

Poland has admitted the most Ukrainians since the Russian invasion began on February 24, taking in 1.3 million refugees.

Kamala Harris and Andrzej Duda in Poland
US Vice President Kamala Harris and Polish President Andrzej Duda shake hands after holding a press conference in Warsaw, Poland, March 10, 2022. JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Drone Footage Shows Russian Tanks Come Under Attack In Kyiv Suburbs

Ukraine's Defense Intelligence Service said "significant losses in personnel and equipment" were caused to a Russian tank regiment in the village of Skybyn, on the eastern outskirts of Kyiv.

Footage posted to Twitter shows a large convoy of stationary tanks in Skybyn, before several explosions are seen. The convoy then moves in the opposite direction to Kyiv, as smoke is seen rising from a number of damaged tanks.

NATO Could Enter Ukraine War Against Russia on This One Condition, U.K. Says

The U.K.'s under-secretary of state for the armed forces has warned that NATO could intervene in the Russian-Ukraine war if Russia uses chemical weapons.

James Heappey told Times Radio: "Putin needs to be clear that when other countries have used chemical weapons it has caused an international response."

"The use of chemical weapons is the most despicable thing," he added.

The U.K is one of the 30 members of NATO, which are mainly located in Europe but also include the U.S.

Heappey warned that a war between Russia and the West would not be like the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The consequences of entering the war would be that cruise miles and airstrikes would be launched against the U.K," he said.

During the Syrian civil war, which began in March 2011 and is still ongoing, president Bashar al-Assad's forces, which are Russian-backed, were reported to have used chemical weapons, such as chlorine and mustard gas against rebel fighters.

Russia Suggests U.S. Studying COVID in Bats and Birds in Ukrainian Labs

Russian defense ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov on Thursday made unevidenced claims that the U.S. was experimenting with COVID-19 in bats and birds in Ukrainian biolabs it purportedly helps fund.

Konashenkov said it was part of a project to study the transfer of pathogens by wild birds migrating between Russia, Ukraine and other Eastern European countries, State-run news agency RIA Novosti reported on Thursday.

The spokesperson said that Russia has intelligence documents suggesting the U.S. planned to study pathogens in birds, bats and reptiles and the possibility of these animals carrying African swine fever and anthrax.

Earlier this week the Russian defense ministry shared a number of document screenshots that it purports provide evidence that Ukrainian health authorities advised several laboratories in the country to destroy samples of dangerous pathogens stored in their facilities.

Those files also do not mention any U.S. involvement. Their authenticity could not be independently corroborated.

"The purpose of this and other Pentagon-funded biological research in Ukraine was to create a mechanism for the covert distribution of deadly pathogens," the general added.

Ned Price, the State Department spokesperson, on Wednesday said that the biolab comments were "disinformation" and "total nonsense," pointing out that it was not the first time that Russia had made up false claims against another country.

Russian defense ministry spokesperson (For video)
Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov made a series of unevidenced claims about Ukrainian biological laboratories

Macron, Scholz Call For Immediate Ceasefire on Putin Phone Call

The leaders of France and Germany demanded an immediate ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine, in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, a German government official told Reuters.

The official said Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron told Putin that the resolution of the Ukraine-Russian war must come from talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials.

The German official, who remained anonymous, said the three men would remain in close contact in the coming days.

Russia's Lavrov: 'I Do Not Believe A Nuclear War Could Start'

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that he did not believe a nuclear war between his country and the West was likely.

"I do not believe, and don't want to believe, that nuclear war can start," Lavrov said at a news conference after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Turkey.

The Russian foreign minister also said that his President Vladimir Putin would not refuse to meet with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy to discuss "specific" issues. Zelensky previously called for a one-on-one meeting with Putin.

Russia's chief diplomat also dismissed rumors of a potential Russian invasion against former Soviet Baltic states as "old hoaxes." He also claimed, falsely, that Russia did not invade Ukraine.

Some Western officials fear that the war may turn nuclear, and Putin himself signaled on February 27 in a televised address that the country's nuclear forces have been put on a "special regime on combat duty."

Senior intelligence officials told U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday that they should take Russia's escalating nuclear threats very seriously, Defense One reported.

Has Russia Committed War Crimes in Ukraine? Analysis From Newsweek

There are growing calls from the international community to investigate what some believe to be violations of human rights laws by Russian forces in Ukraine, and to hold Russian leadership and president Vladimir Putin accountable amid Kyiv's rising civilian death toll.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan announced on March 2 that his office would be investigating possible war crimes committed in Ukraine, following requests to do so by nearly 40 of the court's member states.

But even as more atrocities in Ukraine are being broadcast worldwide on a daily basis, the process of establishing whether war crimes have been committed is more complicated, analysis indicates.

Newsweek spoke to legal experts about what could be counted as war crimes - such as possible use of cluster bombs and indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas - and whether Putin or the officials implicated in these attacks could later be held to account.

Read more here.

Aftermath of bombings in Kharkiv, Ukraine
A photograph taken on March 7, 2022 shows destructions following a shelling in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv. The ICC has opened an investigation into potential war crimes committed in Ukraine by Russian forces. SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images

Uniqlo and Eni Join Russia Exodus Following Ukraine Invasion

The Japanese clothing giant Uniqlo has joined the growing list of companies boycotting Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Uniqlo's parent company Fast Retailing initially said it would keep Russian shops open, saying that clothing is a "necessity of life." But on Thursday Fast Retailing made a U-turn, saying its Russian business can "no longer proceed due to a number of difficulties."

"Fast Retailing is strongly against any acts of aggression. We condemn all forms of aggression that violate human rights and threaten the peaceful existence of individuals," the company said in a statement.

"We have recently faced a number of difficulties, including operational challenges and a worsening conflict situation. For this reason, we will temporarily suspend our operations," the company said.

Meanwhile, Italian oil giant Eni said it has ceased all purchases of oil and oil-based products from Russia, joining BP and Shell in the boycott.

Uniqlo store
A Uniqlo store operated by Japan's Fast Retailing in Tokyo on January 13, 2022. Uniqlo is the latest international company to pull out of Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

Ukraine, Russia Make 'No Progress' On Ceasefire at Turkey Talks: Kuleba

Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has said there had been "no progress" in ceasefire talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Antalya, Turkey.

Kuleba said the two sides would continue talks, in a bid to end what has so far been a two-week war between Russia and Ukraine.

The two men gave two separate press conferences after the talks on Thursday, the first high-level discussions the countries have had since Russia invaded its neighbor on February 24.

Lavrov described the West's supply of weapons to Ukraine as "dangerous." He claimed that the maternity hospital bombed by Russian forces in Mariupol on Wednesday was being used as a base by Ukrainian nationalists.

Three people were killed and another 17 were injured in that attack, according to Ukrainian officials.

Sergei Lavrov in Turkey
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov giving a press conference after meeting Ukraine's Foreign Minister for talks in Antalya, on March 10, 2022, 15 days after Russia launched a military invasion on Ukraine. OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images

UK Freezes Assets of Seven Russian Businessmen Including Roman Abramovich

Britain has frozen the assets of seven Russian oligarchs with close ties to President Vladimir Putin, including Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, in an estimated £15 billion ($19.8 bn) sanction hit.

Abramovich, who also has stakes in steel giant Evraz and Norilsk Nickel, is a close ally of Putin and continues to do business in Russia.

The UK government announced the latest sanctions via a statement on Thursday.

They will impact Abramovich, Oleg Deripaska, who has a stake in En+ Group; Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft; Andrey Kostin, chairman of VTB bank; Alexei Miller, CEO of energy giant Gazprom; Nikolai Tokarev, President of the Russia state-owned pipeline company Transneft; and Dmitri Lebedev, chairman of the board of directors of Bank Rossiya.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin's vicious assault on Ukraine."

"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."

Roman Abramovich in the Kremlin
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, seen here attending a meeting alongside representatives of the business community at the Kremlin in December 2016, is among those sanctioned by the UK. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

More Than 2,000 Ukrainian Refugees Have Immigrated to Israel Since War Began

More than 2,000 refugees from Ukraine have immigrated to Israel since the Ukraine-Russia war began two weeks ago, according to Zvika Klein of the Jerusalem Post.

The analyst at the Israeli newspaper tweeted: "More than 15,000 Jews who are entitled to immigrate according to the Law of Return have applied for aliyah to Israel (also from Russia)."

Some two million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24. More than 1.2 million have gone to Poland alone, according to UN data.

Hundreds of thousands have also gone to other Eastern European countries, including Hungary and Slovakia.

How Many Refugees Are Leaving Ukraine map
How Many Refugees Are Leaving Ukraine map Newsweek

Kremlin to Ask Russian Military For Information About Mariupol Hospital Air Strike

The Kremlin is to ask the Russian military for information on the air strike on a children's hospital and maternity ward in the southern port city of Mariupol yesterday, AFP reports.

Ukrainian officials announced the strikes yesterday, despite Moscow continuously denying it is targeting civilian infrastructure.

Three people including a child were killed in the strike, Ukrainian officials said on Thursday. Some 17 more were injured, local officials said.

Mariupol Hospital Hit
Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. A Russian attack has severely damaged a maternity hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials say. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo

Ukraine War Enters Day 15

Good morning — it is exactly two weeks since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. Since then, the world has turned upside down as the largest conflict in Europe since World War Two has seen thousands killed, millions of Ukrainians flee as refugees and the international community impose unprecedented sanctions on Russia.