Ukraine War Day 19: Russian Attacks Continue While Peace Talks Linger

Live Updates
  • A fourth round of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have been stalled until Tuesday, as Russia continued its attacks for a nineteenth day.
  • U.S. and Chinese officials are expected to hold separate talks about the war. It comes after U.S. officials said Russian leader Vladimir Putin asked China for military equipment to aid the invasion of Ukraine. Beijing has denied the claim.
  • More than 2.8 million people have fled Ukraine since Feb. 24, according to the United Nations. At least 46 children have died, U.N. reports; Ukraine's Parliament says the number is closer to 90.
  • A Ukrainian news source has said that Russian bombing has destroyed about 600 homes, 50 schools as well as a number of medical institutions and maternity hospitals in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
  • The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense says Russian troops have attacked agricultural machinery across the nation, potentially undermining food security around the world.
  • The White House is weighing the possibility of sending President Joe Biden to Europe to meet with European leaders, AP reports. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address the U.S. Congress virtually on Wednesday.

Live updates for this blog have ended.

U.N. reports 636 Ukrainian civilian deaths, number of Russian deaths remains uncertain

The United Nations (U.N.) said the Russian invasion had killed more than 636 Ukrainian civilians and injured 1,125 more thus far.

Most of the deaths were caused by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including heavy artillery shells, multi-launch rocket systems, missiles, and other air strikes, the U.N. said.

The actual number of Ukrainians killed in the war is likely much higher, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a Monday press statement.

Concurrently, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it had killed over 12,000 Russian troops since the start of the invasion.

Lieutenant General Scott D. Berrier, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, estimated that between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian troops have died since the war began, The Washington Post reported.

On March 4, Russia's defense ministry said that 498 Russian soldiers had died so far in Ukraine. Russia has yet to provide a more recent update on its own death toll, Fortune magazine reported.

"Combatant deaths are particularly vulnerable to misinformation," Shawn Davies, a researcher at the department of peace and conflict at Uppsala University in Sweden, told the aforementioned publication. He also said that Ukrainian authorities may be inflating their reported number of Russian troop deaths as a "morale booster" for those fighting in the country's defense.

Russian attacks on Ukrainian agriculture machinery threaten world food stability, Ukraine ministry says

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense says Russian troops are attacking agricultural machinery across the nation, potentially undermining food security around the world.

Such machinery has been attacked in the cities of Brovary, Melitopol, Priluk, Nizhyn, Novhorod-Seversk, Kherson and Kharkiv, according to Belsat TV, the independent Belarusian language media broadcaster.

The Russian invasion and repurposing of agricultural machinery by Russian forces, especially during the spring planting season, could negatively affect the huge quantities of grains and vegetable oil that the country exports around the globe, the Financial Times reported.

Ukraine and Russia together supply 25 percent of the global wheat trade and 20 percent of the corn trade. But the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said that up to 30 percent of Ukrainian crop areas will likely go unplanted or unharvested this year because of the Russian invasion.

The shortages are likely to drive up wheat and corn prices worldwide. The prices of wheat and corn had already increased worldwide due to labor shortages and chain supply issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The whole world is held hostage!" the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a Monday tweet. "[Russian] occupiers are deliberately and systematically destroying agricultural machinery in the occupied territories. Not only Ukraine is under threat. As a result of their actions, starvation will threaten tens of millions of people around the world!"

The shortage of Ukrainian crops will especially affect developing African and Asian countries that are among those who rely most on Ukrainian grain.

Member nations of the European Union (EU) also acquire half of their corn from Ukraine. However, Janusz Wojciechowski, the EU's agriculture commissioner, said there's no danger of a food shortage.

Even so, several European nations have begun discussing paying domestic farmers to raise more wheat and corn this year to forestall any potential shortages.

Other countries—such as Hungary, Indonesia and Argentina—have begun forbidding exports of wheat to cooking oil to keep national prices low and protect local food supplies, Bloomberg News reported.

U.S. State Department warns China not to aid Russia in its invasion of Ukraine

The U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price has warned China not to offer economic or military aid to Russia, amid reports of the Russian government seeking such assistance. Doing so, a U.S. senior administration official said, would result in "consequences" for China.

"We are watching very closely the extent to which the [People's Republic of China] or any other country offer support," Price said during a Monday press briefing. "Any such support would be of great concern to us."

Price added that China's warm ties with Russia could enable China to do more to help end Russia's invasion of Ukraine. However, he also criticized reports of China's possible willingness to help Russia in the days ahead.

"There's nothing ambiguous about this ... big countries should not bully little ones," Price said. "We want every country to stand on the side of the rules-based order."

Last week, China's Foreign Ministry echoed Russia's claims of U.S. bioweapons labs in Ukraine helping to prepare bioweapons for upcoming use. The claim was repeated in the state-run China Global Television Network's website and the Chinese Communist Party's Global Times newspaper, the Associated Press reported.

Chinese media have also followed Russia's approach of refusing to refer to the Ukrainian war as a "war" or an "invasion." Instead, Chinese media has portrayed the invasion as a "humanitarian effort," language that is also used by Russian state media.

On Monday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with the Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission in Rome, Italy, for an "intense" seven-hour talk which covered U.S.-China relations as well as "the potential implications and consequences" of China's aiding Russia.

Both China and Russia have denied reports of any collaboration.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday that China isn't "a party" to Russia's invasion. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said that Russia "has an independent potential to continue the operation" without foreign assistance.

However, despite Peskov's statement, Russia has reportedly asked Belarus and Syria fighters to aid in its campaign. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has also accused Russia of recruiting mercenaries from Libya and Serbia.

Ukrainian authorities have also said that about 20,000 individuals from 52 countries have applied to join Ukraine's foreign legion to defend the country against Russia, Al Jazeera reported.

Ukrainian general says Kyiv's terrain will slow down Russian troops

Ukrainian General Andriy Krischenko has said the terrain of Ukraine's capital city Kyiv will help slow down Russian troops looking to attack and conquer the city.

The city is vast, divided by two rivers and many tributaries, Krischenko told the BBC.

"Around the city there are many small rivers that flow into the Dnieper [River] and there are many peat bogs, so that means the area is not suitable for large-scale movement of troops," Krischenko said.

The general added that citizens have blown up two strategic bridges that would've aided a large influx of Russian forces.

Krischenko also mentioned that Kyiv is an industrial city. Since the start of Russia's invasion, its many workshops and factories have repurposed themselves to produce "concrete blocks, sandbags, and a variety of savage-looking anti-tank obstacles" that will help fortify the city from Russian ground troops.

The city has thus far been spared from the same sorts of artillery attacks that have harmed residential areas and civilians in Kharkiv, a northeastern city located near Russia's border.

Koch Industries, Subway, Bridgestone other companies continue operation in Russia

Even though 375 companies have announced their withdrawal from Russia, Koch Industries, the conglomerate run by right-wing billionaire Charles Koch, has numerous ongoing business operations in Russia, Judd Legum, the founding journalist behind the news outlet Popular Information, has reported.

Guardian Industries, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, has two glass production plants in Ryazan and Rostov, Russia. The Rostov plant produces residential- and commercial-grade glass products.

Two other Koch subsidiaries—Molex, an electronic components manufacturer and Koch Engineered Solutions (also known as Koch-Glitsch), an industrial products distributor—also operate inside of Russia.

"The company has a history of using creative practices to evade sanctions," Legum wrote. "When the U.S. government banned 'American companies from selling materials to Iran,' Koch-Glitsch used subsidiaries in Germany and Italy to continue selling its products.

Other well-known companies—including Bridgestone Tire, General Mills, Halliburton, International Paper, Mondelez-Nabsico, and Subway—have all continued operating in Russia, according to the Yale School of Management.

Russia Using Fake Fact Checkers to Help Disseminate Ukraine War Disinformation

Russian government officials and state-run media outlets are helping to disseminate false "fact-checker" videos meant to cast doubt on Ukrainian reports of Russian attacks, the investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica has reported.

Researchers associated with the nonprofit and Clemson University's Media Forensics Hub have identified more than 12 videos purporting to debunk "nonexistent Ukrainian fake" footage of Russian attacks. These so-called fact-checking and debunking videos have received over 1 million views through pro-Russian channels on the messaging app Telegram and have gained thousands of likes and retweets on Twitter, ProPublica reported.

For example, on March 3, Daniil Bezsonov, an official with the pro-Russian separatist Ukrainian region calling itself the Donetsk People's Republic, posted a video entitled, "How Ukrainian fakes are made."

The video showed a huge explosion in the urban area of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city. Bezsonov said that the video actually came from a 2017 explosion of an arms depot in the same region. However, "little to no evidence" suggests that the footage in question was recently circulated or passed off as a Russian attack.

"The fake fact-check videos capitalize on these efforts to give Russian-speaking viewers the idea that Ukrainians are widely and deliberately circulating false claims about Russian airstrikes and military losses," the nonprofit wrote. "Transforming debunking into disinformation is a relatively new tactic, one that has not been previously documented during the current conflict.

Nearly 600 Homes, 50 Schools Bombed in Kharkiv

Russian bombing has destroyed about 600 homes, 50 schools as well as a number of medical institutions and maternity hospitals in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, according to the Ukrainian news site NV.ua.

Igor Terekhov, the city's mayor, spoke of the devastation during his Monday call with Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, Illinois. He said the destruction of homes would leave its residents without shelter indefinitely.

"We have to relocate, transport people, deliver aid," Terekhov reportedly told Lightfoot. "We must also organize hot meals, provide people with medicines, including insulin. We are monitoring the situation in the city."

Terekhov said that a no-fly zone is needed over Ukraine to "stop the bloodshed." However, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has refused to help enforce one, worried it would escalate the invasion into a full-scale international conflict.

Numerous western politicians have criticized Russia for targeting civilians in its attacks.

Over the weekend, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Russian naval forces had established a blockade of Ukraine's Black Sea coast. The blockade could deprive Ukraine of agricultural imports that help feed civilians, the ministry said.

Russian space head says American astronaut won't be abandoned on International Space Station

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has said that—despite media reports—it will not leave American astronaut Mark Vande Hei strangled on the International Space Station (ISS).

Worries about Hei's stranding began after the Russian state media outlet RIA Novosti posted a video on Telegram showing Russian astronauts waving goodbye to Hei and then departing from the ISS. The Telegram video was found and posted to Twitter by the group NASA Watch, a group that has provided NASA news coverage since 1996.

RIA Novosti's video was captioned (in Russian), "The Roscosmos television studio jokingly demonstrated the possibility of Russia withdrawing from the ISS project—the undocking of the Russian segment of the station, without which the American part of the project cannot exist."

But because many western viewers couldn't read Russian, it left some worried.

In a March 14 article, Russian state media TASS wrote, "American astronaut Mark Vande Hei will return to Earth on March 30 aboard the Russian Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft, together with Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov. Roskosmos has never given reason to doubt its reliability as a partner."

Worries about Hei's abandonment were likely intensified due to Roscosmos' head Dmitry Rogozin's recent claim that the ISS could crash on the U.S. or Europe in response to western sanctions on Russia.

"If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled de-orbit that falls into the United States or Europe?" he tweeted on February 24. "There is also the option of dropping the 500-ton structure to India and China. Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect?"

Lindsey Graham Would Support No-Fly Zone If Russia Uses Chemical Weapons

Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham has said he would support the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine if Russia uses chemical weapons on Ukrainian citizens.

"If (Putin) uses chemical weapons, it destroys the international regime around chemical weapons we've tried to build up since World War II," Graham said during a talk at the University of South Carolina on Monday, according to MyrtleBeachOnline.com. "If he goes down that road, it's an even larger war crime."

A no-fly zone would prohibit Russian airplanes from flying over Ukrainian territory for airstrike attacks. However, critics have said that Ukraine lacks the capability of enforcing such a prohibition by shooting down all Russian aircraft.

As such, maintaining a no-fly zone would require another country, most likely a western ally in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), to do so. International observers declare that if a NATO country fights Russia in Ukraine, it could set off an international conflict akin to a potential "World War III."

On March 4, Graham said that the only way to stop Russia's attack on Ukraine would be to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House condemned his comments.

WATCH: White House Press Briefing

The White House press briefing will begin soon.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki is set to give the briefing at 3 p.m. ET.

The briefing will stream live on the White House website and YouTube channel.

White House Considers Biden Trip to Europe

The White House is considering the possibility of sending President Joe Biden to Europe in the coming weeks, U.S. officials told the Associated Press.

The possible trip would involve face-to-face talks with European leaders. NATO Headquarters in Brussels was listed as a potential meeting location, a U.S. official told AP, possibly on March 24.

President Joe Biden
A majority of U.S. adults say that President Joe Biden's response to the Russia-Ukraine War makes them feel "insecure." Above, Biden announces new economic actions against Russia in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on March 11 in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Poland and Romania last week to reaffirm U.S. support of NATO allies.

WATCH: State Department Press Briefing

The State Department will give its daily press briefing soon.

The briefing from spokesperson Ned Price is set to begin at 2 p.m. ET and will stream live on the department website and YouTube channel.

Ukraine Prime Minister Calls for Russian Expulsion from Council of Europe

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal called for Russia to be immediately expelled from the Council of Europe.

During an address to the Council of Europe, he said Russia has no right to remain a member of the body after the invasion of its neighbor.

"Russia and President Putin have started a full-scale war at the center of Europe that can become a third world war," he said.

The Council of Europe suspended the Russian Federation from its right of representation in the Committee of Ministers and in the Parliamentary Assembly on Feb. 25.

Shmyhal also called on the council to stop the Russian propaganda effort and to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

The Prime Minister filled in for Ukrainian President Zelensky and received a standing ovation at the end of his remarks.

U.N. Announces $40 Million in Humanitarian Aid

The United Nations (U.N.) announced $40 million in humanitarian aid to help Ukraine's "most vulnerable," as steps are taken to address a growing concern of global food insecurity amid the war.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres announced the additional $40 million in funding Monday, from the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund. The U.N. and its humanitarian partners continue to provide aid and ensure safe passage for Ukrainians fleeing besieged areas.

"This funding will help get critical supplies of food, water, medicines and other life saving aid into the country as well as provide cash assistance to the needy," Guterres said.

Guterres warned of skyrocketing food and fuel prices amid the war, especially impacting developing countries already struggling with inflation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Russia and Ukraine provide half of the world's supply of sunflower oil and about 30 percent of the world's wheat, Guterres said. In response to the growing concern, he announced the establishment of a Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance in the UN Secretariat on Monday.

"This war goes far beyond Ukraine," he said. "Food, fuel and fertilizer prices are skyrocketing. Supply chains are being disrupted. All of this is hitting the poorest the hardest and planting the seeds for political instability and unrest around the globe."

Guterres says he has been in "close contact" with a number of leaders who are in permanent contact with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Those countries include China, France, Germany, India, Israel and Turkey. The Secretary-General called the talks "essential" to ending the war and reaching "serious" negotiations.

"Ukraine is on fire and being decimated before the eyes of the world," he said.

Explosion Reported at Ukrainian Nuclear Plant

Russian forces have reportedly blown up explosives at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom said in a Telegram post that 11 representatives from Russia's Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation are on the scene at the plant.

"It is obvious that the detonation of ammunition on the site of the station is carried out with their direct participation," Energoatom said. "So it turns out that Rosatom is also involved in this terrorism."

Energoatom said this incident violates all established international rules and requirements for nuclear and radiation safety.

The Ukrainian Parliament gave a warning that such an attack would happen outside the power plant Monday morning.

This comes after reports that Russian forces damaged a line at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

According to Ukraine's national energy company Ukrenergo, a high-voltage power line was repaired Sunday. But before the line was fully restored, officials said "the occupying forces damaged it again."

"Ukrenergo emphasizes that the Chornobyl NPP is an important facility that cannot be left without a reliable energy supply," Ukrenergo said in a statement. "Therefore, unimpeded and quick access of Ukrenergo repair crews to these lines for inspections and repairs is extremely important not only for Ukrainian consumers but also for Europe as a whole."

A stable power supply will also help avoid "a repeat of the Chernobyl disaster" and save countless lives, officials said.

Over 2.8 Million Refugees Have Fled Ukraine

More than 2.8 million refugees have fled Ukraine in less than three weeks, the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates.

Data from UNHCR shows some 300,000 people fled Ukraine into neighboring countries over the weekend. The vast majority continue seeking refuge in Poland, the country has taken in more than 1.7 million people since Russia began its invasion.

Where refugees are going, by country:

  • Poland: 1.7 million
  • Other European countries: 304,150
  • Hungary: 255,290
  • Slovakia: 204,860
  • Russia: 131,360
  • Moldova: 106,990
  • Romania: 84,670
  • Belarus: 1,220

*Estimates above provided by UNHCR as of 3/13.

Many young families are making the long journey to safety, travelling by bus, train and on foot. A woman named Valentina from Kharkiv arrived in Poland with her eight-year-old daughter, sister and baby nephew, UNHCR said. The group is staying at a sports hall turned reception center in Medyka. The courts are now filled with hundreds of camp beds.

Medyka refugee center
Valentina cradles her baby nephew Andrii in a reception center in the Polish border town of Medyka. Valerio Muscella/UNHCR

"We are helping and can do more in areas like protection and registration, organizing reception capacity, providing emergency relief and cash assistance, and in identifying and responding to the needs of the most vulnerable, many of them women and children, including a growing number of unaccompanied and separated children," Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.

Korczowa refugee center
Kate, who fled Ukraine, reads a story to her daughter Dianna in a refugee center in Korczowa, Poland, on March 13. Petros Giannakouris/AP Photo
Korczowa refugee center
A man who fled Ukraine sleeps at a refugee center in Korczowa, Poland, on March 13. Petros Giannakouris/AP Photo

Zelensky to Address Congress This Week

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will speak before Congress later this week.

In a letter to Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Zelensky will give a virtual address on Wednesday, March 16 at 9 a.m. EST.

"The Congress remains unwavering in our commitment to supporting Ukraine as they face Putin's cruel and diabolical aggression, and to passing legislation to cripple and isolate the Russian economy as well as deliver humanitarian, security and economic assistance to Ukraine," the letter said.

"We look forward to the privilege of welcoming President Zelenskyy's address to the House and Senate and to convey our support to the people of Ukraine as they bravely defend democracy."

Peace Talks 'Paused' Until Tuesday

A fourth round of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine has been put on "pause" until Tuesday, Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said.

"A technical pause has been taken in the negotiations until tomorrow," he said Monday. "For additional work in the working subgroups and clarification of individual definitions. Negotiations continue."

The new round of talks Monday took place by video conference as Russia's invasion into Ukraine stretched into Day 19. Prior talks in Belarus did not produce any results. Ukraine continues to ask for peace, ceasefire, an immediate withdrawal of troops and security guarantees.

"Hard discussion," Podolyak said earlier Monday. "Although Russia realizes the nonsense of its aggressive actions, it still has a delusion that 19 days of violence against peaceful [Ukrainian] cities is the right strategy."

Podolyak said both sides laid out their positions, calling the communication difficult and contrasting the countries' differing political systems.

"Communication is being held yet it's hard," he said. "The reason for the discord is too different political systems. Ukraine is a free dialogue within the society and an obligatory consensus. Russia is an ultimatum suppression of its own society."

How Close Is Russia to Dragging NATO Into the War?

It is "only a matter of time" before a Russian air strike hits a NATO country, Ukrainian President Vlodomir Zelensky said earlier on Monday.

Russian forces have come close to doing so twice already striking:

  • a military station in Western Ukraine, located less than 15 miles from Ukraine's border with Poland, a NATO member: on March 13
  • Snake Island in the Black Sea, less than 30 miles from Romania, another alliance member: on February 24, the day the full-scale invasion began

NATO leaders have so far not given into multiple pleas by Ukrainian officials to establish a no-fly zone over the country, fearing doing so might escalate the war.

But Polish President Andrezej Duda told the BBC in an interview that aired on Sunday, that NATO could be dragged in if Russia used weapons of mass destruction.

"As we say in Poland, using a little bit of an English expression, if he uses any weapons of mass destruction then this will be a game changer in the whole thing.
"For sure, NATO and its leaders, led by the United States, will have to sit at the table and will really have to think seriously about what to do.

"Because when it starts to be dangerous, not only for Europe, not only for our region, but for the whole world."

46 Civilian Children Confirmed Dead in War: U.N

The U.N. said on Monday at least 636 civilians died in Ukraine through to March 13—a little more than two weeks into Russia's full-scale invasion.

Of these confirmed deaths, 46 children were children, its human rights office (OHCHR) said.

Last Monday, the U.N. said it has confirmed 406 civilian deaths.

The total death toll is likely much higher. Analysts collecting the data told Newsweek last week that the total number of civilian deaths could be five times higher than official estimates.

Surgeon on Battle to Save Pregnant Women Killed in Blast

More now on the tragic news from Mariupol.

As we've been hearing, a pregnant woman and her baby died after a maternity hospital in the besieged Ukrainian port city was hit by shelling.

Surgeon Timur Marin was among those who tried to save them. He spoke to reporters earlier today...

Chinese Delegates Head to Talks With U.S.

Chinese delegates are meeting American officials in Rome today.

U.S. national security chief Jake Sullivan is holding talks with senior Chinese Communist Party diplomat Yang Jiech.

The two officials and their teams "will discuss ongoing efforts to manage the competition between our two countries and discuss the impact of Russia's war against Ukraine on regional and global security," according to White House spokesperson Emily Horne.

The photo below shows the Chinese officials leaving their hotel a little earlier.

India Mulls Buying Cheap Russian Oil—Report

Could India be about to sidestep Western sanctions on Russia?

India is considering taking up a Russian offer to buy some of its crude oil and commodities at a discount, Reuters reports.

Such a move would prove controversial amid tough Western tough sanctions on Moscow for the Ukrainian war.

"Russia is offering oil and other commodities at a heavy discount. We will be happy to take that. We have some issues like tanker, insurance cover and oil blends to be resolved. Once we have that we will take the discount offer," an Indian official told the news agency on condition on anonymity.

India imports 80 percent of its oil, with only 3 percent from Russia.

Oil prices are up 40 percent so far this year.

White House adviser Jake Sullivan warned China on Sunday that it would face "consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts."

Squatters 'Liberate' Mansions of Oligarchs, Putin's Daughter

Properties belonging to a number of sanctioned Russian oligarchs and even president Vladimir Putin's daughter have been taken over by squatters in some of Europe's most elite locations.

In London, squatters appear to have occupied a luxury house in Belgravia, one of the most expensive areas of the city.

They hung a number of banners atop the property, including ones saying "***k off, Putin!" and "This property has been liberated," a dig at the Russian president's persistent and false use of the term with regards to the Russian forces' "special operation" in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, a pro-Ukraine activist reportedly raided and took control of a mansion owned by Vladimir Putin's daughter in Biarritz, southern France, as Newsweek reported earlier today.

Some politicians in the U.K. have also called on hundreds of millions worth of sanctioned oligarch properties across the U.K. to be expropriated and used to house Ukrainian refugees.

Nearly 150,000 Ukrainian Refugees Enter Germany

Ukraine Refugees
Experts have warned that vulnerable Ukrainian refugees could be subject to exploitation or human trafficking. Here, refugees are seen getting food, clothing and toiletries at Hauptbahnhof main railway station on March 2, 2022 in Berlin, Germany. Hannibal Hanschke/Getty Images

About 147,000 Ukrainian refugees have registered in Germany during the nearly three weeks since the Russian-Ukraine war began.

A spokesperson for the German interior ministry told a news conference Monday that 146,998 people had registered so far, before saying that the true number of Ukrainian refugees in Germany could be much higher.

Poland has taken in the most Ukrainian refugees out of any other country, providing refuge to more than 1 million people.

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

However, Rafal Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw, Poland's capital told the Telegraph on Saturday that the city's ability to absorb refugees fleeing the war is at its limit and that an international re-location scheme must be established.

Read more about Europe's refugee crisis and the response.

FE Cover Refugee Crisis BANNER NEW
Photo-illustration by Newsweek; Source photo by Pavlo Palamarchuk/Getty

Russia's Influencers in Tears as Instagram Block Begins

"I don't want to lose my audience, you matter to me because you helped me in dark days. I feel like my life is being taken away," Olga Buzova, one of the most popular Instagram influencers in the country and a prominent supporter of Vladimir Putin, said in her final Instagram video as she wept.

Russian Instagram users flocked to alternative social media platforms on the first day the that country's full ban of the Meta-owned platform was implemented.

In a video posted to Telegram, a visibly upset influencer Evexalin said: "It's not even the Western sanctions, it's on your own people, including those who supported you! What did the teenage bloggers do to you? Where's the f***ing logic?"

Thousands of other Instagram users posted parting messages where they are seen weeping or decrying the government's ban of the platform that, for many, became a chief source of income.

Influencers and Insta-bloggers also posted videos and QR codes linking to their new accounts on alternative platforms, including Telegram and VK, the latter of which is majority-owned by a company linked to the Kremlin.

Russia's state censor, Roskomnadzor, officially banned Instagram on Friday and gave users a 48-hour grace period to say goodbye to the popular app and "move their content," to alternative services, including "VK and Odnoklassniki."

Roskomnadzor cited a decision by parent company Meta to allow posts calling for violence against Russians on Instagram and Facebook. Meta said nearly 80 million in Russia will be cut off from one another, and from the rest of the world as "80% of people in Russia follow an Instagram account outside their country."

Meta initially said it would allow posts calling for violence against president Vladimir Putin and the Russian military in Ukraine. It later clarified calls for violence against ordinary Russian citizens would remain prohibited.

Russia Shells Apartment Block In Kyiv, Ukraine Officials Say

At least two people were killed and 12 more injured as an exploding shell hit a residential building in northern Kyiv on Monday morning, according to local emergency services.

Harrowing social media video showed explosions rock the nine-story building. Footage from the scene (above) showed the aftermath of the attack.

Ukrainian officials blame the attack on Russia, which so far has not caused much damage to the capital.

However, a huge convoy of Russian tanks is situated on the outskirts of the city, and there are fears that Russia plans an attack in the coming days.

U.N Warns Chernobyl Staff 'Can No Longer Maintain Plant Safety'

Staff at the Chernobyl nuclear plant are no longer carrying out repair and maintenance of safety-related equipment, in part due to their physical and psychological fatigue after working non-stop for nearly three weeks, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog has warned.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the more than 200 workers "have still not been able to rotate from the facility" since February 24, the day before Russian forces took the site.

Last week the IAEA said the temporary loss of power at the Chernobyl plant posed "no immediate threat," but said that the site had stopped transmitting data on ambient radiation.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows the locations of Ukraine's nuclear plants.

Ukraine's Nuclear Power Plant's
This Statista graph shows the locations of all of Ukraine's nuclear plants, including the now decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear station. Statista

Pregnant Woman, Baby Die After Maternity Hospital Shelled

Ukraine pregnant woman hospital shelling
Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from the maternity hospital that was damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. The woman and her child were declared dead on Saturday. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo

A pregnant woman and her baby have died after Russian forces bombed a maternity hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol, the Associated Press reports.

A photo of the woman lying in a stretcher carried by officials through the rubble following the attack on Wednesday.

The woman was rushed to two hospitals, but doctors could not save her, AP said. Medics said she shouted "kill me now!" to them when she realized her baby would not live.

Surgeon Timur Marin said that the woman's pelvis was crushed and her hip detached.

Sullivan Warns Russia Might Be Planning Chemical Attack

Ahead of his meeting with China today, White House advisor Jake Sullivan was asked about the risk of a chemical attack by Russia.

The U.S. National Security Adviser said on Sunday that Russia may try and use chemical weapons in Ukraine and pin the blame on another country.

Sullivan was asked on Face the Nation on Sunday whether he believed chemical attacks by Russia were imminent in Ukraine.

He said: "We can't predict a time or place. All we can say is that there's an escalation level of rhetoric on the Russian side trying to accuse the Ukrainians and the United States of potentially using chemical or biological weapons and that's a tell, that's an indicator that the Russians are getting ready to do it and pin the blame elsewhere and nobody should fall for that."

China Denies Russia Asked for Military Help in Ukraine

China has denied reports that Russia asked Beijing for military support in its war with Ukraine, accusing the U.S. of "spreading disinformation" with the claims.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry dismissed the allegations that Russia had asked China for drones and financial assistance to assist with its invasion in a statement to state-run news service China Global Television Network (CGTN).

In a tweet, CGTN said: "The U.S. is spreading disinformation about China on the Ukraine Crisis, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in response to U.S. allegations that Russia has requested military assistance from China, adding that China is willing to play a constructive role in promoting negotiations."

The claims were first reported in The Financial Times and Washington Post, citing U.S. officials.

Freeze on Russian Reserves Amounts to Forcing an 'Artificial Default' — Finance Minister

Russia continues to service its foreign debts despite sanction pressures and freezing of assets that amounts to efforts to generate an "artificial default," Anton Siluanov, the Russian Finance Minister, told journalists.

"The partial freeze on foreign currency reserves of the Russian central bank can be interpreted as an attempt by several Western nations to induce an 'artificial default,' which has no underlying economic basis," the minister said, according to RIA Novosti.

He added that one option was that Russia would service some of its foreign currency debt, including Eurobonds, in rubles.

Several Russian banks have been banned from the Swift international payment system among other sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine. Around $300 billion of the Russian Central Bank reserves held in the West have also been frozen — about half of its total reserves.

Russia's credit ratings have been downgraded across the board as a result of the worst international sanctions in history, leading to rising cost of debt servicing and concerns about a possible sovereign default.

Anton Siluanov and Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to Anton Siluanov, now Russia's finance minister, at the EEU Summit meeting on December 20, 2019 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Siluanov has accused the West of trying to induce an "artificial default" through sanctions on Russia. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

U.S.-China Talks After Russia Asks China for Help

The Kremlin asked the Chinese government for military equipment and financial help to support the invasion of Ukraine, according to several reports on Sunday.

The Financial Times, which first reported the story, cited U.S. officials who understand that Russia may have been running out of weaponry.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan plans to meet China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, in Rome on Monday and is expected to emphasize that Beijing will face fresh sanctions if it helps Russia in the war.

There are fears that China is amplifying Russian disinformation about the war and may help Moscow evade punishment from economic sanctions imposed on it by the West.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian embassy in the U.S. for comment on the accusations.

Moscow-Kyiv Negotiators Narrow in on 'Joint Position'

Good morning. Peace talks are back underway between Russia and Ukraine.

There is renewed hope this morning that the delegates could reach an agreement to end the fighting.

Ukrainian negotiator Leonid Slutsky said Sunday that draft agreements could soon be made following "substantial progress" over the weekend,

Mr Slutsky said: "According to my personal expectations, this progress may grow in the coming days into a joint position of both delegations, into documents for signing," news agency RIA reported.

Three rounds of talks between the two sides in Belarus led to humanitarian corridors for civilians to escape fighting, but failed to bring a wider ceasefire.