Ukraine War Enters Day 15: Biden Firm on No-Fly Zone, Russia Bombs Hospital

Live Updates
  • As the Russian invasion of Ukraine passes the two-week mark, losses have been heavy on both sides of the war. The United Nations has reported that at least 516 civilians, including 37 children, have been killed in addition to an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 deaths among Russian soldiers.
  • The war continues to present a major humanitarian crisis, with at least 1.5 million Ukrainians having been displaced from their homes and forced to flee the country. Some Russian soldiers have reportedly been reluctant to provide safe corridors for refugees to pass despite assurances from officials that they would do so.
  • The human toll of the war continues to be seen, as Ukrainian officials say Russian airstrikes have destroyed a children's hospital and maternity ward in the city of Mariupol. These reports have emerged despite the Russian stance that civilian infrastructure is not being targeted.
  • A no-fly zone has still not been implemented by NATO and President Joe Biden, even as calls grow for to do so as a way of preventing further Russian bombing attacks. Some experts, though, have backed the president's decision, warning that a no-fly zone could lead to violence between the U.S. and Russia.
  • Business and large companies continue to blacklist Russia, including new shuns from two large hotel chains and tech companies. This has led to a significant backsliding of the Russian economy.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet with his cabinet in an attempt to workshop ways to stop the economic recession that his country is seeing.
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are meeting in Turkey to begin a new round of negotiations.
Ukraine-Russia War
A Ukrainian women joins Scottish Artist for Ukraine as they demonstrate against the Russian invasion of Ukraine outside the Russian Consulate on March 09, 2022 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine on 24th February 2022, its actions have met with worldwide condemnation with rallies, protests and peace marches taking place in cities across the globe. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

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Vladimir Putin To Meet With Cabinet About Sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with his cabinet to discuss ways in which his government could "minimize the effects of sanctions."

Numerous countries as well as the United Nations and European Union have slapped Russia with economic sanctions in the aftermath of the country's invasion of Ukraine. Putin is planning to work on a plan to minimize further economic losses due to these sanctions, according to the Latvian news outlet Meduza.

Kevin Rothrock, a reporter for Meduza, tweeted regarding the news: "I wonder if nationalization of foreign companies' property & businesses will come up?"

This tweet was in reference to reports that Putin is considering nationalizing the factories and systems of companies that have halted production in Russia. This would allow the state to take ownership of these assets to use towards their advantage.

"This will prevent bankruptcy and save jobs," United Russia, the nation's ruling party, said in a statement Wednesday.

It has been reported that Putin and his advisers are considering a number of other measures aimed at reducing the economic hit to Russia - which has already been considerable.

Recent estimates from the consultancy group Oxford Economics said that the Russian economy could end up shrinking by as much as seven percent as a result of the war in Ukraine. This could come as a result of blowback from sanctions and companies that have halted operations, among other factors.

WarnerMedia, Discovery Pause Broadcasting in Russia

WarnerMedia and Discovery have become the two latest entertainment conglomerates to announce they are cutting ties with the Russian market, with both companies saying they are halting all programming in the country.

The two companies, while still operating independently, will merge in April to form Warner Bros. Discovery following a deal that was announced in 2021.

WarnerMedia, whose numerous properties include CNN, Turner Sports, and Warner Bros., said in an internal memo that it was "pausing all new business in Russia."

"This includes ceasing broadcast of our channels, halting all new content licensing with Russian entities, and pausing our planned theatrical and games releases," said CEO Jason Killar.

CNN itself had previously stopped broadcasting in Russia following the passage of a new law that would criminalize independent journalism. Numerous other large news outlets also declared their intentions to stop reporting directly from Russia as well.

Discovery, meanwhile, followed WarnerMedia's lead by announcing that it was flipping the switch on its 15 Russian channels.

"Discovery has decided to suspend the broadcast of all its channels and services in Russia," the company said in a statement.

The exodus of the two companies is in line with numerous other entertainment and mass media groups that have left Russia, particularly from Hollywood. Warner Bros. in particular made headlines when it announced that it would no longer show one of the year's most anticipated films, The Batman, in Russian theaters as a result of the Ukrainian invasion.

Intelligence Officials Estimate 5,000 to 6,000 Russian Deaths from War

U.S. intelligence officials have estimated Russia has suffered anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 casualties during the first two weeks of the Ukrainian invasion, according to recent reports from the Pentagon.

The deaths on the Russian side were reportedly referred to as "very, very significant casualties" and likened to the numerous losses suffered by all sides during World War II.

Typically, battlefield math generally dictates that, for however many people have been killed, at least three times as many have been wounded. By these statistics, that would put the number of wounded Russians anywhere from 15,000 to 18,000.

This number is significantly higher than even the prior day, when the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency told Congress that the number of Russian deaths was likely from 2,000 to 4,000.

In addition to the human lives lost, Ukrainian officials have estimated that 56 airplanes and 82 helicopters have also been lost by the Russian invaders.

While the exact number of casualties may never be known, losses have been heavy on both sides, particularly among Ukrainian civilians. For those that have not been killed, over 1.5 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee the country as refugees.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister To Begin Talks With Russian Officials

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba arrived in Turkish city of Antalya on Wednesday to begin a round of talks with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, according to the Kyiv Independent.

Turkey has offered to mediate the tense negotiations between the two countries as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to cause large casualties on both sides.

Kuleba has been one of the most outspoken voices from the Ukrainian side of the war, and along with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, has urged the international community to do more in the fight against the Russian invaders. Kuleba has additionally pushed for the European Union to fast-track Ukraine's admission into its ranks.

"Pressure must be elevating until Russia stops its brutal aggression and barbaric war crimes against Ukrainians," Kuleba tweeted Wednesday evening.

IMF Approves $1.4 Billion in Emergency Financing Support to Ukraine

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved $1.4 billion in emergency donations to support Ukrainian humanitarian efforts. The organization said the funds will be used to "help meet urgent financing needs and mitigate the economic impact of the war."

The financing comes as Ukrainian officials have expressed willingness to work with the IMF in order to create an "economic program aimed at rehabilitation and growth, when conditions permit," the group said in a press release Wednesday.

"The war in Ukraine is resulting in tragic loss of life and human suffering," the statement said. "While the outlook is subject to extraordinary uncertainty, the economic consequences are already very serious, with refugee flows of over 2 million persons in just 13 days and large-scale destruction of key infrastructure in Ukraine."

Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director and chair of the IMF's executive board, added that: "The tragic loss of life, huge refugee flows, and immense destruction of infrastructure and productive capacity is causing severe human suffering and will lead to a deep recession this year."

The funds represent one of a number of international organizations that have pledged financial assistance to Ukraine amidst the ongoing Russian invasion.

Hilton, Hyatt Suspend Operations in Russia, Some Companies Remain

Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Hyatt Hotels Corporation, two of the largest global hospitality chains, have announced they are both suspending the development of new hotels in Russia.

The two hotel companies had previously been two of the largest worldwide brands to continue with Russian operations. Existing hotels within Russia will remain open, the companies noted Wednesday, although Hilton has closed its corporate office in Moscow.

Beyond the announcement, Hilton and Hyatt both pledged humanitarian donations to Ukrainian relief efforts.

Hilton, which has 26 current hotels in Russia, pledged to donate any profits from the operation of those hotels to provide Ukrainian assistance. The company will also donate one million room nights to Ukrainian refugees, the statement said.

Hyatt said it is suspending Russian investments and is still determining the most appropriate way to provide help.

While over 300 international brands and companies have halted Russian operations, there are still a number of corporations that have not yet done so.

This includes a trio of large scientific and medical supply companies: ThermoFisher, AbbVie, and Abbott Labs. While AbbVie and Abbott Labs have not disclosed their Russian assets, ThermoFisher has "several" plants within the country.

Other companies that remain open for business in Russia include Amway, Bridgestone Tire, and Citi, among others.

Mykolaiv Almost Completely Surrounded by Russian Troops

The Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv is almost completely surrounded by invading Russian forces, according to the mayor of the city.

Mykolaiv Mayor Alexander Senkevich told CNN's Wolf Blitzer during an interview Wednesday that the southern city was "almost circled by troops of Russian invaders."

"Our city was bombed for the last three days with cluster bombs which are actually illegal," Senkevich said, adding that he "wouldn't be surprised" if Russian President Vladimir Putin used chemical or biological weapons against the Ukrainian people.

"[The Russian invaders] come from Crimea, through the Kherson Oblast...they bombed us, they made heavy bombardment the last few days," Senkevich said, also claiming that the Russians bombed and attacked an elderly person's shelter within Mykolaiv.

Senkevich estimated that at least 140 buildings within the city had been destroyed.

Senkevich did add, though, that the Ukrainians were "ready to put their lives to defend their motherland."

Sony and Epson Both Suspend Operations In Russia

Electronic and technology conglomerates Sony and Epson, two of the largest companies in Japan, have announced that they have suspended operations in Russia as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.

Both companies also pledged to donate millions of dollars to humanitarian relief efforts.

Sony said in a statement Wednesday that it was suspending the sale of all of its hardware and software within Russia. This includes halting all sales of the globally popular Playstation 5 in the country.

"Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) joins the global community in calling for peace in Ukraine," the statement from Sony said. "To support humanitarian aid, Sony Group Corporation announced a $2 million donation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the international NGO, Save the Children, to support the victims of this tragedy."

In addition to Sony, Epson, one of the largest manufacturers of office printers and other business-related devices, similarly pledged to stop all production and sales in Russia.

"Epson and its Group companies are deeply concerned by the conflict in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis in the region," Epson said in a statement. "To support humanitarian relief...we are donating US$1 million [to Ukrainian humanitarian efforts]."

Sony and Epson join the ever-growing list of global companies that are boycotting operations in Russia.

Former Canadian Sniper Arrives In Ukraine To Help Fight War

A former sniper with the Canadian Army has arrived in Ukraine to help lead the fight against the ongoing Russian invasion.

The sniper, who was identified only by the pseudonym of Wali, said during an interview with CBC News that "I want to help [Ukraine] because they want to be free, it's as simple as that."

Wali had entered Ukraine earlier this week under the cover of night from Poland. He told CBC that his arrival was the result of a call for foreign aid from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Wali previously served in Afghanistan and Iraq, having fought against extremists with ISIS as well as Syria. He eventually left the military and took up an IT job, but left to take up arms against the Russians.

"I had to help, because there are people here, who are being bombarded, just because they want to be European, basically, and not Russian," Wali said.

The sniper also spoke of the personal sacrifices that he made by answering the call to service.

"My son —his first birthday is in a week, yes, so I feel like —it's hard, okay, that's the hardest part, actually," Wali said.

Russians Promise Passports To Citizens of Occupied Berdiansk: Report

Russian officials in the occupied Ukrainian city of Berdiansk are promising Russian passports to citizens of the port city in order to help them flee, according to a report from the Kyiv Independent.

The announcement was reportedly made across local radio channels, the Independent reported.

This news has not been independently confirmed by Russian officials.

In addition to the supposed promise of passports, Russian officials have also reportedly promised to "write-off" all home utility debts for residents of Berdiansk.

Located on the southeast coast of Ukraine, Berdiansk lies on the Black Sea and is a key regional port city for the area. The city, which has an estimated population of just over 100,000 people, has been occupied by the invading Russian forces since the end of February, as a part of the offensive to capture the key maritime city of Kherson.

In Pictures: Aftermath of Mariupol Maternity Hospital Hit by Russian Airstrike

Russia May Use Chemical or Biological Weapons, WH Warns

The White House warned that Russia may use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki made the statement Wednesday, following Russia's claims that the United States is operating biological weapons labs and developing chemical weapons in Ukraine. Psaki called the allegations "preposterous."

"We took note of Russia's false claims about alleged U.S. biological weapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine," Psaki said. "We've also seen Chinese officials echo these conspiracy theories."

"This is preposterous. It's the kind of disinformation operation we've seen repeatedly from the Russians over the years in Ukraine and in other countries, which have been debunked, and an example of the types of false pretexts we have been warning the Russians would invent."

Psaki said the U.S. does not develop or possess biological or chemical weapons anywhere. She pointed to Russia maintaining a biological weapons program and its track record of using chemical attacks.

"Including in attempted assassinations and poisoning of Putin's political enemies like Alexey Navalny," she referenced.

She called Russia's claims an "obvious ploy." Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby echoed similar sentiments during a press briefing Wednesday, calling the claims laughable and absurd.

"Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them," Psaki concluded. "It's a clear pattern."

UN Nuclear Watchdog Calls on Russia to Cease Action at Chernobyl

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors called on the Russian Federation to "immediately cease" all actions against and at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on Wednesday.

The move comes amid growing concern of radiation leaks from the site, which has been under Russian control for nearly two weeks. Ukrainian authorities said the site was knocked off the power grid Wednesday and is running on generators.

"Spare diesel generators will power the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and its facilities for 48 hours," Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's Parliament, said Wednesday. "Then, the cooling system of the spent nuclear fuel storage will be shut down, which will threaten the leakage of radiation."

The IAEA Board de-restricted a resolution Wednesday outlining the the safety, security and safeguards implications of the war in Ukraine. In it, the board "deplored" Russia's actions in Ukraine, including seizing control of nuclear facilities.

"Which have caused and continue to pose serious and direct threats to the safety and security of these facilities and their civilian personnel, significantly raising the risk of a nuclear accident or incident, which endangers the population of Ukraine, neighboring States and the international community," the resolution reads.

The resolution also expresses "grave concern" that Russia's aggression is preventing the IAEA from safely verifying activities at Ukrainian nuclear facilities. The resolution was adopted on March 3.

Wednesday, the IAEA along with a Ukrainian regulator agreed the power outage at Chernobyl would not have a "critical impact" on essential safety functions at the site. However, IAEA said the lack of power could lead to "further deterioration of operational radiation safety" on site and create more stress for workers. In particular, the 210 technical experts and guards who have been working on site for 14 days straight.

"From day to day, we are seeing a worsening situation at the Chernobyl NPP, especially for radiation safety, and for the staff managing the facility under extremely difficult and challenging circumstances," Grossi said Wednesday. "I repeat my urgent appeal to the forces in effective control of the plant to respect internal radiation protection procedures, to facilitate the safe rotation of staff and to take other important steps to ensure safety."

Grossi is headed to the Antalya Diplomacy Forum Thursday in Turkey, at the invitation of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to discuss the safety and security of Ukraine's nuclear facilities.

FILE: Chernobyl NPP
FILE - An operator's arm-chair covered with plastic sits in an empty control room of the 3rd reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine in April of 2018. Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo

Russia Taking Over Ukraine Could Be a Headache for Putin

Experts believe that taking over Ukraine would come at a great cost to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin claims he has no plan to occupy Ukraine, but western leaders continue to question the Kremlin's motive with regard to Ukraine.

If Ukraine falls, rebuilding the country would come at a hefty economic price and require a significant effort to quell Ukrainian resistance.

"He'd have to stabilize Ukraine and it's a heck of a lot harder and costly to stabilize a country than destabilize it," Bruce Jentleson, a professor at Duke University and a fellow at the Wilson Center, told Newsweek.

Jentleson noted that Russia's installation of a puppet government would force insurgents underground, but that the resistance would continue on and wage attacks on Russians.

"Keep in mind that we're only two weeks into what will likely be a protracted, possibly multi-year conflict," Yuri Zhukov, an associate professor of political science at the University of Michigan, said. "This will be an order of magnitude beyond Russia's rebuilding efforts in Chechnya, in terms of sheer scale."

Given the large base of support for future resistance, Zhukov predicted Russian brutality may only generate "more recruits for the insurgency."

Pentagon Says Transfer of Fight Jets is 'High-Risk'

The U.S. does not support the transfer of fighter aircrafts to Ukraine at this time and does not want them in their custody either, the Pentagon said.

Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby said the best way to support Ukraine's defense is through the supply of weapons they need most, like anti-armor and air defense. Kirby said U.S. and their partners are sending these weapons to Ukraine.

Kirby said the Ukrainian Air Force has several squadrons of aircrafts and adding to their inventory won't likely change their effectiveness in relation to Russia's capabilities.

The intelligence community said the transfer of MiG-29s from Poland to the U.S. base in Germany may be seen as "escalatory," Kirby said, and could "increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO."

He added that the "high-risk" transfer would do little to increase Ukraine's capabilities.

The U.S. and its allies are working to provide alternate options better suited to support Ukraine.

"We also believe that there are alternative options that are much better suited to support the Ukrainian military in their fight against Russia," Kirby said.

U.S, U.K. United Against No-Fly Zone Over Ukraine

During a joint press conference, U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken and U.K. Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss condemned the airstrike attacks on Ukrainian civilian infrastructure but remained united on their stance against issuing a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

Blinken called on Russia to respect civilians corridors to allow for safe evacuations out of Ukrainian cities.

"Russia's relentless bombardment, including of civilians trying to flee, prevents people from safely escaping the hellish conditions that they have created," he said.

While Ukrainian officials have called on NATO leaders to "close the skies" to protect civilians, the U.S. and U.K. do no support issuing a no-fly zone because such an action "would lead to a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia," Truss said.

She said the best way to protect the Ukraine skies is through anti-air weaponry.

"What we are looking at is making sure that the Ukrainians are able to defend their own country with the best possible selection of anti-tank weapons and anti-air defense systems," she said.

The U.K. will be supplying Ukraine with air defense systems, U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced Wednesday.

Such systems include new light anti-tank weapons (NLAWs), anti-tank Javelin missiles. The U.K. will also explore donations of Starstreak high-velocity, man-portable anti-air missiles.

"We believe that the best way of tackling this threat is to help the Ukrainians with the Starstreak air defense systems that we will be supplying," Truss said.

Blinken added that NATO's goal is to end the Russian aggression without expanding the conflict.

"Our goal is to end the war, not to expand it, including potentially to NATO territory," he said. "We want to make sure that it's not prolonged to the best of our ability; otherwise it's going to turn even deadlier, involve more people, and I think potentially even make things harder to resolve in Ukraine itself."

Efforts to prevent an escalation of conflict also includes avoiding placing American troops on Ukraine soil or American pilots in Ukraine airspace.

WATCH: Pentagon press briefing

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby will hold a news briefing Wednesday afternoon, as Russia's war against Ukraine continues for a fourteenth day.

The briefing has been delayed and is now scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. EST. Watch live on the U.S. Department of Defense website.

Tuesday, Poland said it would to transfer 28 MiG-29 fighter planes to Ukraine, via delivery by the United States. Kirby called the proposal untenable.

"The prospect of fighter jets at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America departing from a U.S./NATO base in Germany to fly into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance," Kirby said.

"It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it. We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland's proposal is a tenable one."

Pentagon press briefing
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington on March 7. Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

EU Begins to Process Ukraine's Membership Request

The European Union officially started the procedure of considering Ukraine's application for membership into the 27-nation bloc, Ukraine's Parliament said Wednesday.

"For many years, Ukraine has made every effort to implement the Association Agreement with the E.U.," Verkhovna Rada wrote in a tweet. "The [Ukrainian] Parliament has made significant efforts to implement domestic legislation to the requirements of the acquis communautaire."

The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor to accept Ukraine's application to join the E.U. on March 1. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky formally applied to join the day prior.

Among Russia's four demands to end the war is Ukraine not pursuing membership into the E.U. or NATO.

Getting Planes to Ukraine Poses 'Logistical Challenges,' Psaki Says

The White House said it rejected Poland's offer to send fighter jets for Ukraine's defense to a U.S. Air Force base in Germany because it would present "logistical challenges."

Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the logistical question military officials face is finding a way to get planes into Ukraine "that is not escalatory."

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other top U.S. military and Defense Department officials remain in touch with Ukraine and NATO counterparts to have those conversation, Psaki said.

"Carting [planes] down the street is not as easy as you may think it is," she said.

Such "operational issues" include getting people to take apart planes and put them back together and transporting the equipment through a country in the middle of a war.

The U.S. was caught off guard by Poland's offer yesterday, Psaki admits, acknowledging it was a "temporary breakdown" in communication with Poland.

She said the U.S. "would never oppose or stand in the way" of Poland sending their planes directly to Ukraine. The issue for the U.S. comes, she said, when those planes are flying from U.S. bases in Europe.

Ukraine Calls on NATO to Declare No-Fly Zone

The Ukraine Ministry of Foreign Affairs is reiterating its calls on NATO countries to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

"Any delay costs the lives of many Ukrainians," the Ministry said.

The Ukrainian Parliament shared an open letter from foreign policy experts urging the U.S. and NATO leaders to create a "restricted no-fly zone" over Ukraine to provide safe evacuation corridors and "deter Russian bombings."

17 People Injured in Mariupol Hospital Strike

Ukraine officials report 17 people were injured in the airstrike that hit a maternity hospital in Mariupol.

The communications office for the Ukraine Chief of Defense, Armed Forces said there are no casualties reported at this time.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Ukrainian military administration in the Donetsk region, told BCC that staff members and women in labor were among those wounded.

He said no children are among those injured.

"Thank God and I hope it stays that way," he 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

U.S. Gas Prices Hit $4.25, Setting Another Record

U.S. gas prices hit another record Wednesday, costing an average $4.25 per gallon, AAA reports.

Prices are up 8 cents from Tuesday, which was a then-record of $4.17. Wednesday's average price climbed nearly 60 cents in one week and is $1.45 higher compared to one year ago, according to AAA.

Top 5 states with highest prices:

  • California $5.57
  • Hawaii $4.77
  • Nevada $4.77
  • Oregon $4.66
  • Washington $4.63

Top 5 states with lowest prices:

  • Kansas $3.79
  • Oklahoma $3.79
  • Missouri $3.80
  • Arkansas $3.84
  • North Dakota $3.87

*Average prices listed above are for a gallon of regular unleaded gas on 3/9/22, according to AAA.

Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced the U.S. would ban Russian oil imports amid the war in Ukraine. During a speech, he warned gas companies and finance firms against profiteering and price gouging.

"War is causing prices to hike," Biden said. "But it's no excuse to exercise excessive price increases or padding profits or any kind of effort to exploit this situation or American consumers."

At Least 516 Civilians Killed, Including 37 Children

More than 500 civilians have been killed in Ukraine in 13 days, the United Nations reported, warning the actual figure is "considerably higher."

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded 1,424 civilian casualties in Ukraine between February 24 and March 8, including 516 killed and 908 injured.

At least 37 children have been killed and 50 more injured.

"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 said.

OHCHR believes actual numbers are far higher, particularly in government-controlled territories.

"This concerns, for example, the towns of Volnovakha, Mariupol, Izium where there are allegations of hundreds of civilian casualties," OHCHR said. "These figures are being further corroborated and are not included in the above statistics."

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said 50 Ukrainian children had been killed in the invasion as of Tuesday night.

"The scariest number was 50," Zelensky said in a video address. "50 Ukrainian children killed in 13 days of war."

Germany Will Not Send Fighter Jets to Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the country will not send fighter jets to Ukraine, urging a ceasefire.

During a news conference Wednesday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Scholz said a military option "makes no sense."

"Otherwise, we must consider very carefully what we do in concrete terms, and that most certainly doesn't include fighter planes," Scholz said.

"[Trudeau] and I agree the attacks on Ukrainian cities, schools and homes are inexcusable," he said. "It is clear: a military option makes no sense. What we need now is a ceasefire."

Germany has provided financial and humanitarian aid along with some weapons to Ukraine. Scholz continues to urge for a diplomatic solution.

Scholz, Trudeau meet in Berlin
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, welcomes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, for a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany on March 9. Michael Sohn/AP Photo

Tuesday, Poland said it would transfer 28 MiG-29 fighter planes to Ukraine, via delivery by the U.S.

Poland proposed delivering its jets to the U.S. military at its Ramstein Air Base, in Germany for the U.S. to then deliver to Ukraine. The U.S. responded, saying the proposal is not "tenable" but would continue to consult with Allies and partners regarding security assistance to Ukraine.

"The prospect of fighter jets at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America departing from a U.S./NATO base in Germany to fly into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said.

"It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it. We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland's proposal is a tenable one."

Russian Forces Block Evacuations in Bucha, City Officials Say

Russian forces are reportedly disrupting civilian evacuations in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, city officials said Wednesday.

The Bucha City Council said Russian military forces are currently blocking a convoy of 50 buses from passing through the evacuation route.

"The occupants are disrupting the evacuation," the city council said in a Facebook post. "Negotiations are ongoing to unlock traffic."

This comes despite the agreement among Russian and Ukraine delegations to establish and protect this "green corridor" for safe civilian evacuations.

Mariupol Officials Say Russian Forces Destroyed Maternity Hospital

Russian forces have reportedly struck the maternity facility in a children's hospital in Mariupol, officials said.

The Mariupol city council said the destruction is "enormous," as the facility where children were being treated is "completely destroyed."

City officials said they are gathering information on casualties, but Ukrainian MP Dmitry Gurin said there are "a lot of dead and wounded women."

"We don't know about children and newborns yet," he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the "direct strike" and "atrocity."

"People, children are under the wreckage," he said in a tweet. "How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror?"

He called on allies and NATO leaders to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

"Close the sky right now! Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to be losing humanity," he said.

Chernobyl Power Outage Poses Risk of Radiation Leaks

Ukrainian authorities warn Chernobyl could leak radiation if power is not restored at the nuclear power plant.

Authorities told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the plant was knocked off the power grid Wednesday. The site has been under Russian control for nearly two weeks. The power plant is currently running on generators, Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's Parliament, said.

"Spare diesel generators will power the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and its facilities for 48 hours," Verkhovna Rada said Wednesday. "Then, the cooling system of the spent nuclear fuel storage will be shut down, which will threaten the leakage of radiation."

"Very dangerous situation in Chernobyl," Ukrainian Member of Parliament Roman said Wednesday. "We have 48 hours to repair electrical grid. If Russia will not cease fire, we expect radiation leaks."

Verkhovna Rada added if fuel assemblies are not cooled down and a radiation leak occurs, "wind can transfer a radioactive cloud to other regions of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, E.U."

Verkhovna Rada's statement:

"About 20,000 exhausted fuel assemblies are stored at the worked-out nuclear fuel storage facility-1. They need constant cooling, which is possible only if there is electricity. If it is not, the pumps will not cool down. As a result, the temperature in the holding pools will increase, soaring and release of radioactive substances into the environment will occur. Wind can transfer a radioactive cloud to other regions of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, EU."

"Ventilation will also not work at the facility. All personnel there will receive a dangerous dose of radiation. The fire extinguishing system does not work as well, and this is a considerable risk in case of fire, which can occur due to shell hitting. The military operations are currently underway, which makes it impossible to carry out repair work and restore power. The city of Slavutych is also without electricity."

Wednesday, IAEA said there is "no critical impact on safety." However, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the development "violates key safety pillar on ensuring uninterrupted power supply."

Tuesday, Grossi indicated that remote data transmission from safeguards monitoring systems installed at Chernobyl had been lost. The regulatory authority said e-mail is the only source of communication with the plant.

Chernobyl is located in an Exclusion Zone and includes decommissioned reactors as well as radioactive waste facilities.

Russian Defense Ministry Admits Conscripts' In Ukraine After Putin's Denial

Russia's Ministry of Defense has admitted for the first time that Russian conscripts are fighting in Ukraine, undermining President Vladimir Putin's denial on Tuesday.

The MOD conceded some of the conscripts had been captured.

"Unfortunately, it was confirmed that some Russian military service members were indeed deployed during the special operation in Ukraine. Almost all such soldiers have already been extracted back to Russia," said the Russian Ministry of Defense representative Igor Konashenkov, according to Interfax.

"At the same time, one of the units providing rear support was ambushed by the enemy. A number of soldiers, including some that are conscripts, were taken prisoner," Konashenkov said.

It comes just a day after President Vladimir Putin insisted that "professional servicemen," not military reservists, were fulfilling "fixed objectives" in Ukraine.

"Conscripted soldiers are not participating and will not participate in the fighting. There will not be an additional conscription of reservists either," Putin said in a televised address marking International Women's Day on March 8.

Russian Military Claims Ukraine's Air Defense

Russia's Defense Ministry says it has disabled most of Ukraine's air defense system, leaving the country unable to defend against Russian fighter jets.

Major General Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday: "Eighty-one Ukrainian air defense radar posts were destroyed, which led to the loss of combat control of aviation and air defense of Ukraine.

"Currently, the air defense system is only focal in nature and is not capable of providing significant counteraction to Russian aviation."

Russian forces had destroyed 2,786 objects of the military infrastructure, Russian news agency Tass reports. That includes:

  • 953 tanks and other armored vehicles
  • 101 multiple rocket launchers
  • 351 field artillery guns and mortars
  • 718 units of special military vehicles
  • and 93 drones

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly urged Western powers to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, to no avail.

Russia Debt Default 'Imminent,' Credit Agency Warns

Russia will soon be unable to pay its debts and faces an "imminent" default, according to a leading credit agency.

Fitch Ratings has downgraded the country's credit rating—which tells investors of the risks in buying a country's debt—from B to C.

A C-rating is the ninth worst out of 10, and is one away from D for default.

The low rating means investors are thought to face a high risk of not getting their money back, likely leading to Russia having higher borrowing costs.

What Is a No-Fly Zone? Explained

As we've been hearing, Ukraine's leaders are urging Western Powers to impose a no-fly zone over the country.

Not doing so, gives the "green light for further bombing of Ukrainian cities," Ukrainian President Zelesnky said on Friday, in calls he has since repeated.

Yet NATO powers have resisted such calls amid fears of engaging with Russian fighter jets and troops with anti-air missiles—potentially escalating the war beyond Ukraine, a non-NATO member.

A no-fly zone would involve banning certain flights, in this case military flights, over a defined area. Imposing one is likely to require destroying Russian air defences and threatening to down Russian planes.

Michael McFaul, the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, says of the suggestion to implement one: "We should stop calling it a no-fly zone and we should start calling it declaration against Russia to go to war."

Russia Outlines 'Nationalization' in Counter-Sanctions Package

Assets left behind by foreign companies and multinationals that quit Russia following its invasion of Ukraine could be nationalized as part of a "counter-sanctions" package developed by the Russian government in response to Western sanctions.

"United Russia," the country's ruling party, said that the government is close to passing a package of measures to support its ailing economy, which among other things includes a new mechanism of expropriation of assets owned by foreign organizations.

The legislation also proposes an administrative takeover of companies that are at least 25 per cent owned by foreign entities from "undesirable countries," and that chose to leave Russia, the ruling party statement said, according to state news outlet RIA Novosti.

The owner of such a company may be able to avoid the company going into administration if they either choose to remain in Russia, or if they sell their share under the condition of keeping operations active and staff on payroll.

U.S. Gas Prices Hit $4.25

Gas prices continue to climb in the United States, following a bipartisan push to block imports of Russian gas and oil.

As of Wednesday morning, the national average was $4.25 for a gallon of regular gasoline—a rise of 8 cents from Tuesday's $4.17.

The previous high was $4.11 on July 17, 2008, which would equate to about $5.25 today when adjusted for inflation.

Prices are currently highest in California, with a $5.57 average, according to AAA.

Video: Ukrainian Protesters March Through Russian-Controlled Areas

Ukrainian protesters in Kherson and Oleshky braved marching through Russian-controlled areas on Tuesday.

Footage (above) showed people holding giant Ukrainian flags, while some civilians chanted as they protested the Russian military presence in the area.

Demonstrations have also taken place in Nova Kakhovka and Melitopol.

Chernobyl Radiation Fears Amid Power Outage

More details to bring you on Chernobyl...

A power outage at the nuclear plant could put the whole of Europe in danger, Ukraine has warned.

Ukraine's state-run nuclear company Energoatom fears radioactive substances could be released from the plant because its power connection was severed.

Ukraine's communications service said that the high-voltage line is currently disconnected "due to the damage caused by the occupiers."

Meanwhile, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba appealed to the international community "to urgently demand Russia to cease fire and allow repair units to restore power supply."

Kuleba tweeted that reserve diesel generators have a 48-hour capacity to power the plant after which the cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, "making radiation leaks imminent."

"Putin's barbaric war puts entire Europe in danger. He must stop it immediately!" Kuleba added.

Ukraine Says Chernobyl Nuclear Plant 'Without Power'

Chernobyl's nuclear plant, taken over by the Russian forces shortly after the invasion, has been left entirely without power, according to Ukraine's state-run electricity grid operator.

"Because of the military actions of the Russian occupants the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl was fully disconnected from the power grid. The nuclear station has no power supply," the Ukrenergo agency said in a statement on Facebook about 5 a.m. ET Wednesday.

"The military actions are in progress, so there is no possibility to restore the lines," it added.

Russian authorities have not yet responded to the latest claim.

Shortly after the takeover, the Russian Defense Ministry released a video purporting to show Russian and Ukrainian forces in cooperation over maintaining operational safety at the plant.

However, on Tuesday the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a statement expressing concern for Ukrainian staffers who have been working at the plant—the site of the world's worst nuclear accident that occurred in 1986—since Russian forces took control two weeks ago.

IAEA also said that Chernobyl's remote safeguards monitoring system had gone dark following the Russian takeover.

Chernobyl
A nuclear hazard warning sign seen near the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine in February, 2006, which was the site of the worst nuclear power plant accident ever in April, 1986. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) claimed that remote data transmission from the plant has gone dark following the Russian takeover. Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty

Zelensky Tells Russian Soldiers: 'You Still Have a Chance To Survive'

Zelensky gave his daily address a little earlier...

Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has told Russian soldiers, "You still have a chance to survive," as he delivered his daily address on Wednesday.

"Almost two weeks of our resistance have shown you that we will not give up," he said in comments directed at Russian troops.

"We have persevered and inspired the whole world with our determination," Gazeta, one of Ukraine's biggest newspapers, quoted him.

Volodymyr Zelensky gives his March 9 address
Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelensky, addressed Russian soldiers directly in his daily speech on Wednesday. Telegram

Zelensky also renewed his calls for Western powers to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine."If you do not close the skies, you will also be responsible for the catastrophe," he said.

NATO members have so far resisted such calls amid concern it could lead to direct engagement with Russia's military, potentially escalating the conflict.

Ukrainian negotiators returned from peace talks in Belarus on Tuesday, Zelensky added.

Russian Forces Open Fire as Village Evacuated: Ukraine

Disturbing reports from Demydiv evacuation...

Russian forces have opened fire during an evacuation of civilians, killing a police officer, Ukrainian officials report.

The incident took place as officers worked to get civilians out of Demydiv in the Kyiv region as Russia's invasion entered its fourteenth day on Wednesday.

"Today, during the evacuation of people from the occupied Demydiv, a policeman from Kyiv region, senior sergeant Oleksiy Ponomarenko, heroically died," Andriy Nebytoc, the police chief of the Kyiv region said in a post on Facebook.

"The invaders opened fire in the direction of law enforcement officers and civilians," he added.

Ukrainian police officer Oleksiy Ponomarenko
Ukrainian police officer Oleksiy Ponomarenko (pictured) was killed in the attack, Ukrainian TV station 24 reported. Ukraine Police

What Is a 'Dumb Bomb'?

Dumb bombs, also known as unguided missiles or gravity bombs, is an umbrella term for aircraft-delivered bombs that do not contain a guidance system and follow a ballistic trajectory.

This type of weapon was in heavy use until the development of precision-guided missiles and "smart bombs," in the late 1980s.

While largely seen as ineffective for targeted air strikes, the indiscriminate and heavy damage that they deal can have a powerful psychological impact on the civilian population under attack, according to Mark Hiznay, associate arms director at Human Rights Watch.

"They scare people to death," Hiznay told IRIN News, a UN-linked non-profit. "Any time you hear a helicopter, you're wondering whether this thing is going to throw out a barrel bomb out the back and land in your neighbourhood."

The use of barrel bombs and other types of missiles that are used indiscriminately, including dumb bombs", on civilian areas is prohibited under international humanitarian law and may constitute a war crime, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.

Chernihiv after bomb strikes
A man walks in front of a residential building damaged in March 3 shelling in the city of Chernihiv. An Amnesty International investigation indicated that "dumb bombs" may have been used by Russia to hit civilian areas in the city. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images

Russia Says It Has No Plan to Overthrow Ukraine Government

Russia has said it does not intend to overthrow President Volodomyr Zelensky's government, nor occupy Ukraine.

Russian foreign affairs spokesman Maria Zakharova said Russia's "special military operation" (the official Kremlin term for the war) was aimed at "the protection" of the self-proclaimed people's republics in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Russia was also pursuing the "demilitarization and denazification" of Ukraine, she said, and sought to eliminate the military threat it posed by its NATO ties.

Maria Zakharova at a press conference
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova speaks to the media in Moscow on March 29, 2018. Zakharova has insisted Russia does not want to overthrow the Ukrainian government. YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images

She told a briefing on Wednesday, that Russia's tasks "do not include either the occupation of Ukraine or the destruction of its statehood, nor the overthrow of the current government," according to state news agency Tass.

"It is not directed against the civilian population," she said.

The U.N. says at least 406 civilians have been killed since the start of the invasion on February 24; U.S. intelligence puts it closer to 2,000 deaths.

President Zelensky has said he has been marked as the no.1 target of the Kremlin. Ukraine's military says it has prevented several attempts on his life.

Six Humanitarian Corridors Open for Evacuations

Six humanitarian corridors will allow civilians to leave several Ukrainian cities today, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk has said.

"The military agreed to cease fire from 9 a.m. [2 a.m. ET] till 9 p.m. [2 p.m. ET]," she told a news briefing on Wednesday, Russian news agency Tass reports.

Ceasefires exists on the these routes, Tass said: Energodar-Zaporozhye, Sumy-Poltava, Mariupol-Zaporozhye, Volnovakha-Pokrovsk and Izyum-Lozovaya.

And towards Kiev from: Vorzel, Bucha, Borodyanka, Irpen and Gostomel.

Russian "Dumb Bomb" Air Strike 'May Constitute a War Crime': Amnesty

Russian airstrikes that reportedly killed more than 40 civilians in the town of Chernihiv could constitute a war crime, an Amnesty International investigation found.

The airstrike, which took place at noon, Thursday, March 3, may have involved the use of so called "dumb bombs" — unguided aerial bombs that cause indiscriminate widespread destruction.

Amnesty International's Crisis Evidence Lab verified footage of the aftermath of the strike that showed damage to buildings and bodies in the street, with some of the videos showing the devastation caused by the bombs, including a distinctive crate of a size consistent "with surface impacted munitions of approximately 500kg."

Additionally, the investigators also verified videos from another strike location that shows Ukraine's territorial defense forces removing an unguided dud FAB-500 M62 bomb after the area was shelled by Russian forces. They also found an official video published by the Russian military showing the sortie launch of Su-34 Fullback aircraft loaded with eight FAB-500 bombs.

Amnesty also said it could not establish a legitimate military target in the vicinity of the bomb site that could have been targeted in the strikes.

Aftermath of bombing in Chernihiv
Fourty-seven people died on March 3 when Russian forces hit residential areas, including schools - such as the one depicted on this photo - and a high-rise apartment building, in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. Biological Weapons in Ukraine—Facts and Fiction

As part of its latest attempts to justify its invasion, Russian officials are once again pushing a false narrative that Ukraine is developing biological weapons with the assistance of the U.S.

In fact, the U.S. Defense Department has never had a biological laboratory in Ukraine, as repeatedly stated by Ukrainian and U.S. officials.

Yet false claim has been pushed by Russia since 2018, and remerged in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19.

Andy Weber, a former assistant secretary for biological defense programs, explained to PolitiFact last month, the U.S. has "provided technical support to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health since 2005 to improve public health laboratories."

"These laboratories have recently played an important role in stopping the spread of COVID-19," he added.

Biden Snubbed by Arab Leaders Over Gas—Report

Mohammed bin Salman Saudi Arabia dissident
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a signing ceremony following a meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin with Saudi Arabia's King Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 14, 2019. Alexey Nikolsky/Getty Images

Middle Eastern leaders have reportedly snubbed U.S. President Joe Biden, who was hoping to discuss boosting oil exports from the region.

The Wall Street Journal said leaders in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) declined to take Biden's call as the U.S. banned Russian gas and oil imports.

"There was some expectation of a phone call, but it didn't happen," a U.S. official told the Journal regarding a call between Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. "It was part of turning on the spigot [of Saudi oil]."

Oil prices are surging following the U.S.'s announcement of the ban on Tuesday, hitting $130 a barrel—the highest level in 14 years.

Shelling Destroys Warehouse Near Kyiv, Ukraine Says

Just in...

Ukraine's State Emergency Service has released a photograph of what it says shows a destroyed warehouse in Kalynivka, on the outskirts of Kyiv.

It was destroyed by Russian shelling, it said, causing a major fire in an area.

There were no victims, it said.

A destroyed warehouse in Kalynivka, Ukraine
Ukraine's State Emergency Service released this picture which it said showed a destroyed warehouse in Kalynivka, a town to the north east of Kyiv. Ukraine's SES

Gold Soars in Value

Spooked investors are turning to gold.

It shot to an 18-month high yesterday (Tuesday) as people looked for safe havens for their wealth. Gold is worth $2,040 an ounce, according to goldprice.org; up more than 12 percent in 30 days.

Silver's value has also jumped, but at a slower rate, in recent days.

Heineken Joins Brands'Boycott of Russia

Heineken, the European beer juggernaut, will stop producing, advertising and selling beer in Russia, the company has said.

The Amsterdam-based company's chief executive, Dolf van den Brink, said in a statement on Wednesday morning: "Heineken no longer accepts any financial advantage from the Russian operations."

Budweiser, the Belgian-based official beer of soccer's World Cup Russia 2018, has cut ties with its Russian can supplier.

More than 300 brands, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and McDonalds have pulled out of the Russian market over the invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine's First Lady Olena Zelenska Releases Statement on War

Olena Zelenska looks on in Virginia
Olena Zelenska looks on as her husband, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky participates in an Armed Forces Full Honor Wreath Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery on September 1, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. Zelenska has released her first public statement on the war via an open letter addressed to the global community. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Ukraine's first lady, Olena Zelenska, has told Western powers: "Close the sky and we will manage the war on the ground ourselves"—echoing her husband.

In an open letter addressed to the global community, Zelenska—wife of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky—said noted Putin's nuclear capabilities and said: "If we don't stop Putin ... there will be no safe place in the world for any of us."

Zelenska named child casualties of the war, including Polina from Kyiv, who died in shelling with her parents, to dispute Russia's claims it is not attacking civilians.

In her first public statement since the Russian invasion began on February 24, she wrote: "When Russia says that it is 'not waging war against civilians,' I call out the names of these murdered children first," she wrote.

NATO has resisted calls to create a no-fly zone over concern of engaging with Russian militarily. Ukraine says nations should act separate to NATO.

"We need those in power to close the sky,"Zelenska wrote. "Close the sky and we will manage the war on the ground ourselves."

"With this letter, I testify and tell the world: the war in Ukraine is not a war 'somewhere out there'. This is a war in Europe, close to the EU borders."

"If we don't stop Putin, who threatens to start a nuclear war, there will be no safe place in the world for any of us."

She added: "If we don't stop Putin, who threatens to start a nuclear war, there will be no safe place in the world for any of us."

List of Companies Pulling Out of Russia Grows to 300

More than 300 companies have withdrawn or suspended operations in Russia, according to a list compiled by researchers at Yale University.

The list, updated daily by Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and his research team at the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute, shows the extent of the commercial backlash to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

As of Tuesday evening, the list shows a range of companies offering goods and services including beer, banking, sneakers, motorcycles, internet and others that are curtailing business operations in Russia.

However, the list shows differing degrees of businesses turning away from Russia.

For example, companies like Accenture, an Ireland-based consulting firm is listed as "closing business in Russia." Adidas and Apple are suspending all sales in the country. Bain is suspending consulting for all Russian government entities. Yum Brands, which owns KFC and other fast-food restaurants, is suspending "new investments" in Russia.

The list also includes nearly 40 companies that remain in Russia with "significant exposure," including Marriott, Papa John's and Philip Morris.

Ukraine Offers Foreigners Who Volunteer for Armed Forces Citizenship

Foreigners who volunteer to fight alongside Ukraine's armed forces will have a pathway to citizenship in the country.

First Deputy Interior Minister Yevhen Yenin made the offer Wednesday morning local time, reports The Kyiv Independent. According to the paper, at least 20,000 foreign volunteers have applied to join Ukraine's military legion to fight Russian forces since March 6, the paper reports.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky formed the International Legion of Territorial Defense to take on volunteers wanting to help the country. More than 3,000 applications have reportedly come from U.S. citizens.

Dual Citizen Charged for Acting as Unregistered Russian Agent

Federal prosecutors have charged a dual citizen of the U.S. and Russia with running a Russian propaganda campaign.

Elena Branson, 61, was charged on Tuesday with evading requirements she register as an agent of a foreign government. Additionally, prosecutors say she participated in a scheme to fraudulently secure visas for Russian officials and made false statement to the FBI.

According to a U.S. Justice Department press release, since 2011, Branson was part of a Russian government campaign spreading "aggressive propaganda" aimed at recruiting its diaspora and consolidating the Russian-speaking youth community.

Branson formed the "Russian Center New York," which the Justice Department described as "a Russian propaganda center" that launched an "I Love Russia" promotional campaign. The Justice Department alleges Branson corresponded with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other high-ranking government officials. She also received tens of thousands of dollars in funding from the Russian government she used "to host events and engage in public messaging."

She left the U.S. in 2020 for Russia and remains at large.

Russian Central Bank Restricts Withdrawals of Dollars

With the ruble in freefall, Russia's central bank announced limits on the amount of foreign currency citizens can purchase or withdraw from their accounts.

The Bank of Russia posted a statement to its website Wednesday morning local time outlining the restrictions that would be in place from March 9 through September 9, 2022.

"Banks will not sell cash to citizens during the term of the temporary order," the Bank of Russia said in its statement.

Under the restrictions, customers could withdraw foreign currency accounts up to $10,000 dollars in cash, with any other funds issued in rubles at an amount determined at the market rate of the day of issue. The bank said that about 90 percent of foreign currency accounts do not exceed $10,000.

Customers cans still open new foreign currency accounts and make deposits, but they will only be able to withdraw cash in rubles.

UN Gives Update on Civilian Casualties in Ukraine

Civilians killed or injured during Russia's invasion of Ukraine now stands at 1,335, according to a United Nations monitor.

Since Russia launched its invasion February 24, a total of 474 civilians have been killed and another 861 injured, according to the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.

"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," the agency said in a statement.

Of those killed, included 97 men, 54 women, 8 boys, and 4 girls, as well as 17 children and 294 adults whose sex is yet unknown. Of those injured, 76 are men, 55 women, 11 girls, and 3 boys, as well as 30 children and 686 adults whose sex is yet unknown.

The contested Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the eastern part of Ukraine saw higher casualties at 545 (96 killed and 449 injured), according to the agency.

The mission said it believes the "real figures are considerably higher" because intensive fighting has delayed the transfer of information.

1,335 civilian casualties in the country: 474 killed and 861 injure

Pentagon Says Poland Jet Transfer Idea Not Feasible

The Pentagon shot down an idea floated by the Polish government to transfer its entire MIG-29 jet fleet to help Ukrainian armed forces combat Russia.

The Polish Foreign Ministry outlined its plan in a statement earlier Tuesday that involved Poland's military delivering all of its MIG-29 jets to the U.S. military at its Ramstein Air Base, in southwestern Germany. The jets would be expected to be passed along to the Ukrainian armed forces.

"It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby stated on Twitter. "We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland's proposal is a tenable one."

Kirby said a particular problem with the plan is fighter jets, in the possession of the U.S., departing a NATO-aligned air base and flying into air space contested by Russia. He said the Pentagon will continue consulting with its allies and that "Poland's proposal shows just some of the complexities this issue presents."

Hungarian prime minister says sanctions on Russian energy would harm his country's economy

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine but opposes oil and gas sanctions, saying they would hurt his country's economy.

Orbán declared his opposition to energy sector sanctions in London, following talks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The two agreed "we all have a vested interest in this war coming to an end as soon as possible through negotiation."

But Orbán said they also discussed how crippling economic sanctions against Russia are "taking their toll on everyone throughout Europe." According to Orbán, Russia provides most of Hungary's oil and natural gas imports, and 90 percent of Hungarian families use gas to heat their homes. He said: "The Hungarian economy simply cannot function without oil and gas."

"The extension of the sanctions to the energy sector, to the oil and gas sectors, would represent a disproportionately large burden for Hungary," Orbán said in a statement. "Therefore I made it clear that while we condemn Russia's armed offensive and we also condemn the war, we will not allow Hungarian families to be made to pay the price of the war; and so the sanctions must not be extended to the areas of oil and gas."

Thousands of Babies Born, Marriages in Ukraine

There has been a glimmer of hope in the face of war as thousands of Ukrainians welcomed babies and tied the knot during the first days of the invasion.

More than 4,300 babies were born in Ukraine and 3,973 Ukrainian couples exchanged vows in the first 10 days of Russia's invasion. The Ministry of Justice of Ukraine posted the celebratory news on March 5.

"No matter how the enemy wants to destroy and break us, but life goes on.. and a new is born, despite the war," the ministry said. "Despite Russia's armed aggression, Ukrainians do not lose their spirit and strength of faith. The enemy will be destroyed! We will win!"

Couples exchange vows in Ukraine
The Ministry of Justice of Ukraine/Facebook

Wladimir Klitschko, heavyweight boxing star and brother of Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, posted a video from inside a Kyiv hospital on March 7. He said 82 babies were born in the hospital since the war began.

"There are very precious moments in life," Klitschko said. "Even in desperate, challenging times like these. So heartwarming."

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Rolex Stop Business in Russia

Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Rolex are among the latest major companies to suspend business in Russia.

Pepsi-Co has operated in Russia for more than six decades, entering the market at the height of the Cold War. Tuesday, the company announced it's suspending the sale of Pepsi-Cola and global beverage brands including 7Up and Mirinda amid the "horrific" events in Ukraine. PepsiCo is also pulling capital investments and advertising in Russia.

"As a food and beverage company, now more than ever we must stay true to the humanitarian aspect of our business," PepsiCo CEO Ramon Laguarta wrote in a letter to associates. "That means we have a responsibility to continue to offer our other products in Russia, including daily essentials such as milk and other dairy offerings, baby formula and baby food."

"Our hearts are with the people who are enduring unconscionable effects from these tragic events in Ukraine," The Coca-Cola Company wrote in a statement Tuesday. "We will continue to monitor and assess the situation as circumstances evolve."

Rolex also announced Tuesday it will halt exports to Russia, Bloomberg reports.

Currently, the only Rolex watches sold in Russia are by independent and privately owned local retailers with inventory received before February 24, a Rolex spokesperson told the publication.

Blinken Wraps Up Eastern European Tour in Estonia, France

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up his European trip Tuesday.

Blinken began his day in Estonia, the final stop on his tour of the Baltics, where he met with Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets and Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

Kallas said their discussion focused on "the sharply deteriorated security situation in Europe" and ways to support Ukraine, isolate Russia and "adapt to the new reality and make changes in our own defense."

"Putin's war against Ukraine is an act of military aggression against an independent and sovereign state that wants to fulfill its European dream," she said. "The democratic world has stepped up against the war with speed, strength, and determination.

She said NATO needs to remain united and "prepared for the worst" that is still yet to come.

"Putin's violence must be in correlation with the further sanctions and also isolation decisions," she said. "We are in this for the long haul."

Blinken thanked Estonia for providing humanitarian and military aide to Ukraine, joining European Union sanctions against Russia and welcoming more than 10,000 Ukrainian refugees. He also reiterated the U.S.'s "ironclad" commitment to defend NATO allies.

He said it is important for the alliance to "build up" efforts to support Ukraine and hold Russia accountable for its continued aggression.

"We're reminded today especially of how important it is that we have that [U.S. -Estonia] partnership, that we have the alliance that joins us, and that we have the extraordinary coordination and cooperation that we've experienced over the last month's especially, and I think we're both determined to see that continue," he said.

Kallas said NATO's eastern flank needs "everything" from its western allies, including troops and technology.

"Considering that we are a border country to a very aggressive Russia, we need to enhance our defense posture," she said. "So far it has been deterrence posture, but we have to have a defense posture."

Blinken also spoke with this Estonian counterpart about strengthening NATO's eastern flank and imposing consequences on Russia is its aggressions against Ukraine continue. He then spoke at the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn

"I leave Tallinn confident that U.S.-Estonian relations are stronger than ever," Blinken said in a tweet.

Blinken also spoke with her German counterpart Annalena Baerbock about their unified commitment to supporting Ukraine and imposing costs on Russia.

He then traveled to France to meet with President Emmanuel Macron.

"Here in Paris to continue to work in solidarity with our French Allies to counter the threats that Kremlin aggression pose to democracy and peace in Europe," Blinken said in a tweet. "France's leadership has been crucial to Europe's unified, unprecedented response to Putin's war of choice."

Blinken and Macron talked about "the need for continued strong U.S.-France cooperation in the face of the Russian government's unprovoked war against Ukraine," according to a readout from the State Department.

Staffing Concerns Grow at Chernobyl

A Ukrainian regulator raised concern of the "worsening" situation for the more than 200 personnel who have been working at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant for 13 days straight.

The regulator told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Tuesday of the "increasingly urgent and important" need to rotate staff to ensure safe management. The shift includes more than 200 technical personnel and guards. Russian forces took control of the site on the first day of its invasion of Ukraine, February 24.

Staff access to food, water and medicine is limited, the regulator told IAEA. The regulator asked the agency to lead efforts to replace current personnel and provide an effective staff rotation system.

"I'm deeply concerned about the difficult and stressful situation facing staff at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the potential risks this entails for nuclear safety," IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said Tuesday. "I call on the forces in effective control of the site to urgently facilitate the safe rotation of personnel there."

Grossi also indicated that remote data transmission from safeguards monitoring systems installed at Chernobyl "had been lost."

The Ukrainian regular said the handling nuclear material has been paused at the site. The regulatory authority said e-mail is the only source of communication with the plant, IAEA said.

Grossi offered to travel to Chernobyl to speak with both parties to ensure the security of Ukraine's nuclear sites. IAEA is investigating the status of safeguards monitoring systems at other sites in Ukraine.

Chernobyl was the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster in 1986.

IAEA Press Conference
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi provides an update about the situation of nuclear powerplants in Ukraine during a special press conference at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria on March 4. Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

Poland Ready to Supply U.S. With Stockpile of Fighter Jets

Poland said it is ready send air support to a U.S. air base in Europe to help aid Ukraine's defensive efforts.

The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it can deploy all of their MIG-29 jets to the Ramstein Air Base, a U.S. Air Force base in southwestern Germany, "immediately and free of charge."

The jets will be placed at the disposal of the U.S. government.

In return, Poland is asking that the U.S. provides them with "used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities."

The Polish government is also calling on other NATO allies with MIG-29 jets to do the same.

Johnson Calls for Reconstruction Fund for Ukraine

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on leaders of the Visegrad Group Tuesday to develop a reconstruction fund to aid Ukraine following the war.

The group, also called V4, is comprised of Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Leaders met Tuesday to discuss the Ukraine crisis at Lancaster House in London.

Johnson called for a "Marshall Plan for Ukraine" to help with rebuilding efforts, the Financial Times reports.

"We will employ every method we can for however long it takes to ensure Putin's invasion fails and Ukraine is free once more," Johnson said earlier Tuesday.

Boris Johnson at V4
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, with Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Petr Fiala meet for a bilateral meeting, as the V4 leaders meet in London on March 8. Leon Neal/Associated Press

An associate of Johnson's said the plan could be financed, in part, by the alienated property of Russian oligarchs, the Kyiv Independent reports.

The Marshall Plan was a U.S. program that provided foreign aid to Western Europe after World War II. The program was crafted by U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall and enacted in 1948. Also called the European Recovery Program, it provided over $15 billion in rebuilding efforts to several European countries.

Ukraine Official: Russian Military Actions Killed at Least 400 Civilians

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov released a report of estimated casualties, injuries and damages from Russian military action since the invasion in Ukraine began.

At least 400 civilian deaths and 800 injuries have been recorded, though Reznikov said the data is "definitely incomplete."

This includes 38 children who were killed and the more than 70 who are wounded. During an address to British Parliament, Ukrainian President Zelensky said at least 50 children had died.

Reznikov said Russian strikes have destroyed more than 200 Ukrainian schools, 34 hospitals and 1,500 residential buildings.

He estimated10,000 foreign students, from places including India, China and the Persian Gulf, are stuck in Ukraine due to the fighting.

Reznikov also claimed Ukrainian forces have killed more than 11,000 Russian troops.

McDonalds to Close Russian Restaurants

Fast food giant McDonalds has decided to temporarily close all restaurants in Russia.

While McDonalds has "become an essential part of the 850 [Russian] communities" in which they operate, the company said, "our values mean we cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine."

Therefore, the company has closed all Russian restaurants and paused all operations in the Russian market.

McDonalds has 62,000 Russian employees and works with hundreds of local Russian suppliers and partners.

"We understand the impact this will have on our Russian colleagues and partners, which is why we are prepared to support all three legs of the stool in Ukraine and Russia," the company said in a statement. "This includes salary continuation for all McDonald's employees in Russia."

Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) in Russia will continue to operate, as will those in Ukraine and in neighboring countries to provide medical and humanitarian aid for children and their families.

McDonalds said it is "impossible to predict" when they will reopen those restaurants and will continue to monitor the ongoing situation.

"As always, McDonald's will be guided by our values and our purpose to feed and foster communities across the globe," the statement said.

Zelensky Open to Negotiate With Russia's Demands

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is open to compromising with Russia's list of demands to end the war.

Russia's wish list includes Ukraine not pursuing NATO membership. Zelensky seemed open to negotiating the issue, saying NATO is not "ready to accept Ukraine."

Russia's Four Demands:

  • Ukraine must not pursue membership into NATO or the European Union
  • Acknowledge Crimea as Russian territory
  • Recognize the Lugansk and Donetsk regions as independent states
  • Ukraine to stop all military action

Several rounds of peace talks between Ukraine and Russia have yielded few results in recent days. In an interview with ABC News late Monday, Zelensky reiterated the wide implications if the war continues, saying "the more this beast eats, he will want more."

"I think he's capable of stopping the war that he started," Zelensky said.

"He should know one important thing that he cannot deny, that stopping the war is what he's capable of. This war will not end just like this. This will trigger the world war, it should be stopped now."

U.S. Gas Prices Reach Record $4.17

U.S. gas prices soared to a record $4.17 on Tuesday, AAA reports, as President Joe Biden announced the U.S. will ban Russian oil imports.

Tuesday's national average is up 10 cents from Monday, 55 cents higher than one week ago and a staggering $1.40 higher than one year ago, according to AAA.

The price of benchmark U.S. crude jumped 8% to nearly $130 per barrel on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

Top 10 states with highest prices:

  • California $5.44
  • Hawaii $4.72
  • Nevada $4.67
  • Oregon $4.59
  • Washington $4.55
  • Alaska $4.50
  • Illinois $4.42
  • New York $4.37
  • Connecticut $4.35
  • District of Columbia $4.35

*Prices are for a gallon of regular unleaded gas on 3/8/22, according to AAA.

LA gas prices near $7
Gas prices are advertised at over $6 a gallon on March 7 in Los Angeles. Jose Sanchez/AP Photo

E.U., U.K. to Reduce Russian Oil Dependency

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

"We are too dependent on Russian fossils fuels," E.U Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. "We must ensure a reliable, secure and affordable supply of energy to European consumers."

The measures introduced Tuesday include responding to rising energy prices in Europe and ways to replenish gas stocks for next winter.

"RePowerEU will diversify our gas supplies, speed up the renewable roll-out, improve energy efficiency and replace gas in heating and power," von der Leyen said.

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

"Putin's war in Ukraine demonstrates the urgency of accelerating our clean energy transition," Executive Vice President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said.

The United Kingdom will phase out importing Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022, U.K. Business & Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said Tuesday.

"This transition will give the market, businesses and supply chains more than enough time to replace Russian imports – which make up 8% of U.K. demand," Kwarteng said. "Businesses should use this year to ensure a smooth transition so that consumers will not be affected."

The U.K. will additionally work with companies throughout the year to find alternative supplies.

"Beyond Russia, the vast majority of our imports come from reliable partners such as the U.S., Netherlands and the Gulf," Kwarteng explained. "While the UK is not dependent on Russian natural gas - 4% of our supply - I am exploring options to end this altogether."

Zelensky Receives Standing Ovation from U.K. Parliament

During an address to British Parliament, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky asked the lawmakers to do more to protect Ukraine and reiterated the enduring strength of Ukrainian forces.

Zelensky received a standing ovation from the House of Commons ahead of his address as he outlined what the fight against Russian forces has looked like over the last 13 days.

He said 50 children have been killed since the Russian invasion began.

"These are children that could have lived," he said. "But these people have taken them away from us."

Zelensky also compared Ukraine's battle against Russian aggression to the British war effort against Nazi Germany in World War II.

"We do not want to lose what we have, what is ours, our country, Ukraine, just the same way you once didn't want to lose your country when Nazi's started to fight your country," he said.

Zelensky asked the U.K. to recognize Russia as a "terrorist state," increase pressure of sanctions against the Kremlin and to continue to support the Ukrainian defense efforts, including issuing a no fly zone to "make sure that our Ukrainian skies are safe."

He said Ukraine will continue to fight Russian forces "in the forests, in the streets, on the banks of rivers."

"We will not give up and we will not lose," Zelensky said. "We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised Zelensky's speech and promised to "employ every method" to ensure Putin's invasion of Ukraine fails.

'Ukraine Will Never Be a Victory for Putin,' Biden Says

As the war continues for a thirteenth day, President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin will never be able to take all of Ukraine.

"Russia may continue to grind out its advance at a horrible price, but this much is already clear... Ukraine will never be a victory for Putin," Biden said during a speech Tuesday. "Putin may be able to take a city but he'll never be able to hold the country."

The U.N. estimates two million people have fled Ukraine in the past 13 days, as Russian forces target cities, apartment buildings, hospitals and schools.

"Putin seems determined to continue on his murderous path, no matter the cost," Biden said. He also referred to Russia's attack last week on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, saying Putin did so "with an apparent disregard for the potential of triggering a nuclear meltdown."

The U.S. will continue to provide security, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. Thus far, the U.S. has provided more than $1 billion in security assistance. Shipments of defensive weapons arrive in Ukraine on a daily basis. Biden said the U.S. is also working with humanitarian organizations to send tens of thousands of tons of food, water and medical supplies into Ukraine.

Biden praised the Ukrainian people for their bravery the past two weeks.

"They've inspired the world with their bravery, their patriotism, their defiant determination to live free," Biden said.

"When the history of this war is written, Putin's war on Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger," he concluded.

Biden Says 'Defending Freedom is Gonna Cost'

Biden blamed the rise in gas prices on "Russian aggression."

"Putin's war is already hurting American families at the gas pump," he said. "I'm going to do everything I can to minimize Putin's price hike here at home."

Gas prices in the U.S. went up 75 cents since Putin began his military buildup in Ukraine, Biden said.

Biden said, however, that the decision made today to ban Russian oil imports "is not without cost here at home," as gas prices will continue to go up.

"Defending freedom is gonna cost," he said.

The White House already announced the release of 60 million barrels of oils from joint reserves with partners. About 30 million barrels are coming from the United States, Biden said.

Biden called on oil and gas companies and finance firms to back his decision and warned that this is "no time for profiteering or price gouging."

"War is causing prices to hike," he said. "But it's no excuse to exercise excessive price increases or padding profits or any kind of effort to exploit this situation or American consumers."

He also said it was "not true" that his administration or his policies are "holding back domestic energy production."

Biden said the U.S. companies pumped more oil in his first year in office than during President Donald Trump's first year.

"Ninety percent of U.S. onshore oil production takes place on land not owned by the federal government," he said.

Biden said this crisis highlights the need to become energy independent and transition to clean energy.

In doing so, Biden said it will "allow the United States to not worry about prices at gas pump in the future."

Biden Says European Allies May Not be Able to Join in Ban

Biden said the decision to ban Russian oil was made in consultation with partners and allies.

However, he said many of our European allies "may not be in a position to join us" in enacting a similar ban.

The U.S. produces more oil domestically than all of Europe combined, Biden said.

He said the U.S. is working with partners to develop a long-term strategy to "keep pressure mounting on Putin."

Biden added that he is pushing European allies to move off their dependence on Russian energy and move towards clean energy.

He said this "crisis is a stark reminder" that "we need to become energy independent."

U.S. Bans Russian Oil Imports

Biden just announced the U.S. is banning all Russian oil imports.

This means Russian oil "will no longer be accepted at U.S. ports," he said.

He called the move "another powerful blow to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's war machine."

"We will not be part of subsidizing Russia's war," he said

Two Million Have Fled Ukraine in 13 Days

Two million refugees have fled Ukraine in 13 days, U.N. officials said Tuesday.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi provided the figure, calling it "the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II."

The U.N. estimates some 12 million people inside Ukraine and more than four million refugees will need protection and assistance in the months to come.

Where are refugees going?

Below are the most updated numbers compiled by the UNHCR as of Tuesday.

  • Poland: 1.2 million
  • Hungary: 191,000
  • Slovakia: 141,000
  • Moldova: 83,000
  • Romania: 82,000
  • Russia: 99,300
  • Belarus: 453
  • Other European countries: 210,000
Map of where Ukrainian refugees are fleeing
UNHCR

Wait times continue to be long as hundreds of thousands flee Ukraine daily. The vast majority are headed to Poland. Below, crowds wait in cold temperatures at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland after fleeing Ukraine on March 7.

Refugees arrive in Poland
Markus Schreiber/AP Photo

WATCH: Biden Announces New Actions to 'Hold Russia Accountable'

President Joe Biden will address the nation this morning on the situation in Ukraine.

Biden is set to announce new actions to "continue to hold Russia accountable," which will reportedly include banning Russian energy imports.

The remarks will stream live at 10:45 a.m. ET on the White House website and YouTube channel.

China Issues First Evacuation Notice

Newsweek's John Feng, contributing Asia editor, reports...

The Chinese Embassy in Ukraine has issued its first evacuation notice nearly two weeks into a Russian invasion it sought to convince its citizens would never happen.

The short bulletin, released via the embassy's official account on messaging and social media app WeChat on Monday, predicted a further escalation of fighting, saying the "worsening tensions" looked to be "rising sharply."

The majority of its citizens in Ukraine had already left the country, the security notice said. It urged remaining Chinese nationals to leave "as soon as possible."

The government placed the number of Chinese citizens in Ukraine at around 6,000, the first of whom were evacuated west in buses on February 28, a full four days after the hostilities began.

Full story here.

China Issues Evacuation Notice After Russian Invasion
Barricades are erected in Kyiv’s central square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti, to prevent Russian forces from entering the city on March 4, 2022, in Kyiv, Ukraine. China issued its first formal evacuation notice to citizens in Ukraine on March 7, 2022, a full 12 days after the offensive began. Murat Saka/dia images via Getty Images

Shell Ends Russian Oil Imports, With Profits To Help Ukrainians

This just in...

Well, expectations of a U.S. ban on Russian all seem to be having an effect.

Oil company Shell has said it will stop buying Russian oil and give the remaining profits from the oil it has already bought to set up a fund for Ukrainians.

The company said it would work with aid partners and humanitarian agencies to determine where the funds can be best distributed to "alleviate the terrible consequences that this war is having on the people of Ukraine," the company said in a statement.

Follow the story here.

Russian Economy Could Default on April 15—Morgan Stanley

As the U.S. plots to ban Russian oil...

Russia may default on its foreign debt by the middle of next month, experts have warned, makes borrowing funds significantly more difficult and expensive.

"We see a default as the most likely scenario," Simon Waever, Morgan Stanley's head of emerging-market sovereign credit strategy, wrote in a note on Monday, Bloomberg reports.

That assessment came before the import ban looked likely.

Russia's economy is reeling from tough international sanctions, many targeting the country's financial sector. Russia's top banks have been cut off from SWIFT international payments system and its currency, the ruble, went into free fall.

A default, which happens when a government is unable to service its national debts, may come as soon as April 15, after the end of a 30-day grace period.

Sumy Evacuation Continues

Away from concerning claims in Maripoul...

The evacuation in the eastern city of Sumy appears to be going smoother at present.

As of about 30 minutes ago, Ukraine's emergency service said a second convoy of more than 35 buses, carrying more than 600 people, had left the city

The corridor is scheduled to be open until 19:00 GMT today.

Ukrainians board a bus in Sumy
Ukrainians board a bus in Sumy, where cold weather has raised concern about the growing humanitarian crisis. Ukraine's SES

'Ceasefire Violated!' Russians Shell Escape Corridor, Ukraine Says

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry's spokesman Oleg Nikolenko has accused Russian forces of breaching an agreed ceasefire in Mariupol.

The Ukrainian Defence Ministry has joined him in accusing Russian troops of shelling an humanitarian corridor out of the southern port city.

U.S. To Ban Imports of Russian Oil—Reports

Joe Biden's administration looks set to ban imports of Russian oil, according to Washington Post and Bloomberg News reporters.

A White House announcement could be made later today, Bloomberg's senior White House reporter Jennifer Jacobs tweeted a short while ago.

Full story here.

Axios first broke the news that the White House was considering talks with Saudi Arabia about how the middle east might boost oil supply.

The U.S. only imports about 8 percent of its oil from Russia; Europe, however, is much more dependent, with about 40 percent of its gas coming from the country.

Amid concern from Germany (which already shut Putin's $11bn Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline) and Netherlands, sources told Reuters this week that the U.S. could act alone in imposing a ban.

Russia's economy is still largely powered by energy sources, and any sanctions could potentially cripple its economy.

In Pictures: Civilians Flee Irpin, Near Kyiv

Civilians are attempting to leave Irpin, near Kyiv, today (Tuesday) via humanitarian corridors.

Many will be feeling anxious after Russian forces shelled at a battered bridge used by evacuees fleeing the fighting on Sunday. It left four dead.

A Ukrainian serviceman holding a sa-16 gimlet
A Ukrainian serviceman holding a sa-16 gimlet Man-portable air-defense system looks at people crossing a destroyed bridge during the evacuation by civilians of the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 8, 2022. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images
Soldiers and civilians pass in Irpin
People walk by Ukrainian soldiers as they cross a destroyed bridge during the evacuation by civilians of the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 8, 2022. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images

Kremlin Calls for Cold War-esque U.S.-Russia Relations

This just in...

Russia's foreign ministry has suggested Russia and the U.S. should return to peaceful co-existence like during the Cold War, reports Interfax news agency.

Russian Foreign Ministry's Alexander Darchiyev, director of the North America Department, said he hoped relations would return to normal swiftly.

"We are open for an honest and mutually respectful dialogue to the same extent as the U.S. will be ready for it," he said.

"Perhaps, it would do well to remember the well-forgotten principle that worked during the Cold War, peaceful coexistence, despite the values and ideals separating us which must not be forced on each other," Darchiyev told Interfax.

"And the proverbial 'rule-based order' alongside the 'progressive' norms rejecting the traditional morals also must not be forced upon us," the diplomat said.

"If we proceed from this understanding of the basis of bilateral relations in light of Russia and the U.S.'s special responsibility for the fate of the world as nuclear superpowers, we retain hope that normalcy in relations between our countries will come back," he said.

"But it, of course, demands the reciprocal movement of both parties. I would like to reiterate that we are ready for such reciprocity," Darchiyev said.

How Many Civilians Have Died in the War?

Estimating the number of civilian casualties is difficult.

Latest U.N. figures put the number at 1,207 civilian casualties—406 killed and 801 injured—since Russia first launched its full-scale invasion.

It is "likely to be much higher," admits Liz Throssell, spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

U.S. intelligence suggests it could be five-fold, with close to 2,000 deaths and as many as 10,000 injured in the first 11 days of fighting.

Newsweek's William M. Arkin reports.

ukraine russia invasion military refugees casualties
- A 19 year old Ukrainian soldier named Yevhen lays in bed in a military hospital in Lviv on March 1, 2022, after being injured by a mine in the Luhansk region. DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images

12,000 Russian Fighters Killed in War, Ukraine Says

Latest figures from the Ukrainian government report that 12,000 Russian personnel have been killed as of Tuesday since Russia invaded.

That's a rise of 1,000 since it's last assessment on Sunday.

Ukraine's ministry of foreign affairs also said 48 aircraft, 80 helicopters, 303 tanks, 1,036 armed vehicles, 120 artillery pieces and 27 anti-aircraft warfare systems were also destroyed.

Russia is yet to respond to Ukraine's figures, but acknowledged early last week that 498 Russian troops had been killed and 1,597 injured.

Video: Civilians Flee Cities Via Humanitarian Corridors

Residents are leaving Ukrainian cities this morning as humanitarian corridors open.

Video footage (above) posted by the Ukrainian government on Tuesday showed people on boarding buses heading out of north-eastern city Sumy.

People are also leaving the besieged southern port city Mariupol.

Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine's deputy prime minister said 30 buses were heading to the city to take people west to Zaporizhia, Reuters reports.

The evacuation of civilians from Irpin, near Kyiv, is also underway, the news agency reports, citing a Ukrainian official.

New humanitarian corridors were agreed by Ukrainian and Russian negotiators in the third round of talks on Monday.

Global Wheat Markets in Turmoil

Price of wheat is approaching an all-time high as Russia's invasion of Ukraine threatens to cause unprecedented supply shortages of the essential grain.

Wheat futures rose 85 cents to reach $12.94 a bushel on Monday, capping a 40 percent price increase over the past week, and 70 percent rise this year.

Ukraine, often referred to as "The Breadbasket of Europe," is the third largest exporter of wheat, holding a share of 12 percent of the global export market. If Russia succeeds in taking control over Ukraine's wheat exports, it would hold a quarter of the total wheat exports worldwide.

According to ING Think analysis, concerns over Ukraine will be largely related to domestic production as well as disruptions to export flows, which can be affected by closure or loss of control over ports. The conflict could also disrupt husbandry and the application of necessary fertilizers, the analysts warned.

"Assuming the conflict ends before the 2022/23 harvest starts in July, we could still see lower yields impacting output next season. In addition, if the conflict persists, there is the potential that not all areas will be harvested for the upcoming season," ING's Warren Patterson wrote on Monday.

A wheat field in Ukraine
File photo: Wheat is pictured as a farmer harvests a field on land near Zhovtneve village, in the region of Chernigov, some 220km north of Kiev on August 11, 2009. Global wheat prices have jumped 40 percent in the past week. GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images

Planespotters Puzzled By Qatar Flight Path Over Ukraine Conflict Zone

A Doha-Montreal flight was initially projected to head straight through the airspace closed for commercial flights because of intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

The Canada-bound Qatar airliner was spotted via Flightradar24, a free online service that maps real-time commercial aircraft flight tracking data.

The Boeing 777 airliner flight QR763 was projected to fly over Crimea and Odessa, heading in the direction of Central Ukraine, where airspace is closed because of the security threat due to ongoing fighting and artillery fire.

At one point 85,000 people were following the flight live on FlightRadar24.

But Flightradar24 later updated the plane's path, showing it passing through Turkey, approaching the Black Sea coast.

It is unclear whether the original path projection was a mistake, or whether the plane did indeed cross into the closed airspace.

International airlines have been warned to avoid the Ukraine airspace, partially due to concerns stemming from the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in July 2014, allegedly by the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. Russia has repeatedly denied its involvement in the incident.

Zelensky Posts from Snowy Kyiv, Amid Fears Over Cold Weather

Volodymyr Zelensky on the streets of Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a video on Tuesday morning, showing himself on the streets of Kyiv . Volodymyr Zelensky

Volodymyr Zelensky has posted another video via Instagram in the last hour.

In it, Ukraine's president is seen on the snowy streets of Kyiv, where he is based.

Ukrainian soldiers have been building makeshift urban defences in the capital, using subway entrances and other landmarks.

"Snow has fallen. Such a spring. What a war, such a spring, sad... but everything will be fine. We will overcome everything," he said.

However there are fears the cold weather could lead to a worsening crisis across Ukraine, where—as we've been reporting—between 220,000 and 640,000 are without power.

Zelensky's defiant video posts have won him many fans in Ukraine and the West.

In his previous video, the 44-year-old leader vowed to push back Russian forces and rebuild Ukraine.

220,000 - 640,000 Ukrainians Are Without Power

More than 200,000 Ukrainians are without energy this morning (Tuesday), according to a U.S. company tracking power outages in the country.

Poweroutage.com, which is reporting on most but not all regions, has found the most widespread outages are in:

  • Donetsk 88,941
  • Chernihiv 73,836
  • Luhansk 42,989
  • Kyiv 25,289

Russian attacks have left in excess of 900 communities without electricity, water or heating, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Monday.

"Barbarians of the XXI century. Russia damaged/destroyed 202 schools, 34 hospitals, 1500+ residential buildings," he wrote on Twitter.

The energy ministry said 646,000 people across Ukraine had no electricity, and that 130,000 were without gas.

Ukraine Claims to Have Killed Top Russian General That Helped Annex Crimea

Major General Vitaly Gerasimov
Ukrainian military intelligence sources claim to have eliminated a top Russian military chief, Major General Vitaly Gerasimov. Russia has not confirmed or denied the claim. Wiki

The Ukrainian military claims to have eliminated the second high ranking Russian military officer in a week.

Major General Vitaly Gerasimov, a top Russian military official who received medals for his roles in the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and Russia's war in Chechnya, was allegedly killed in action near Kharkiv on Monday.

Moscow has not yet commented on the reports. Christo Grozev, executive director of investigative journalism outfit Bellingcat, corroborated the report, citing an intercepted phone call between a Russian officer and an FSB contact in Russia.

If confirmed, this is the second death among Russia's top brass in Ukraine in a week, after Russian Major General Andrey Sukhovetskiy was reported to have died in combat last week.

Read more on the story here.

Russia Warns Oil Could Fetch $300 a Barrel

More now on the surge in oil prices...

Russia has warned that oil prices could hit an an astonishing $300 a barrel.

That's more than twice the current price of $139—already a near 14-year peak.

Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, Alexander Novak, made the claim in response to Ukraine and Western lawmakers for a ban on Russian gas and oil.

Novak said Russia could close its main gas pipeline to Germany if the West went ahead with such a ban, causing "catastrophic consequences" for the market, and that it is "impossible to quickly find a replacement for Russian oil" for Europe.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Alexander Novak
Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Alexander Novak, attends a news conference after a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, and non OPEC members, at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on Dec. 7, 2018. Novak was minister of energy from 2008 until 2020, and has warned of a possible surge in oil prices. Ronald Zak/AP Photo

U.S. lawmakers are trying to push a bill through to secure the ban, and is reportedly considering a move to ask Saudi Arabia to boost supply.

But Europe is much, much more dependent on Russian fuel, getting about 40 percent of its gas and 30 percent of its oil from there.

Read more about Russia's reliance on energy: As in the Cold War, Russia Is Vulnerable on Energy

This graphic, produced by Statista, shows key exporters of Russian fuel.

statista oil
Statista

What Did Zelensky Say in Defiant Video from Kyiv?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a defiant speech (above) on Monday evening, pledging to beat back invading Russian forces and rebuild.

In a video message, Zelensky was seen in his Kyiv office for the first time since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Here are some of the key lines:

  • Zelensky vowed to stay in Kyiv. "I'm not hiding," he said. "And I'm not afraid of anyone. As much as it takes to win this patriotic war of ours."
  • He said "everyone," including civilians who protest the invasion "contribute to our victory," which he said will "definitely be achieved."
  • In an apparent swipe to Putin's assertion that Ukraine and Russia are one civilization, Zelensky said, "and the one who repeated: 'We are one people'—certainly did not expect such a powerful reaction."
  • In his speech, Zelensky pointed to destruction caused by Russian troops to civilian infrastructure, including a bread factory and church built in 1862
  • Zelensky said his government will continue to participate in negotiations after having concluded the third round on Monday in Belarus
  • "We know that hatred that the enemy brought to our cities with shelling and bombing will not remain there," he said. "There will be no trace of it. Hatred is not about us. Therefore, there will be no trace of the enemy. We will rebuild everything."