Ukraine War Day 21: Zelensky Pleas to America, Russia Bombs Ukraine Shelter

Live Updates

Russia's invasion of Ukraine continued to Day 21. Here are the key developments:

  • Ukraine has accused Russia of destroying Mariupol's Drama Theater in a missile attack while up to 1,200 civilians, including many children, sheltered inside.
  • More than 6,400 Mariupol residents escaped heavy Russian shelling on Wednesday after being transported to Zaporizhia by bus, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.
  • Moscow blocked the BBC News website and other foreign media outlets while vowing to fight "false news" with further censorship.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a powerful address to Congress Wednesday in which he asked lawmakers for more support to help defend Ukrainian airspace from Russian attacks and called for more sanctions on Russian lawmakers
  • Zelensky thanked President Joe Biden for his support and asked him to be the "leader of peace" for the world
  • Biden announced $800 million in new security assistance to Ukraine. He also promised ongoing humanitarian assistance to support the estimated 3 million refugees who have fled Ukraine
Ukraine Russia War Day 21 Theater Children
Ukraine accused Russia of intentionally bombing the Mariupol Drama Theater while up to 1,200 civilians, including many children, sheltered inside. Stuffed animals are pictured on a bed inside a shelter at a theater in Lviv, Ukraine on March 16, 2022. Alexey Furman/Getty

Live updates for this blog have ended.

Japanese, U.S. Air Forces Conduct Joint Stealth Fighter Exercises

Japan's Air Self-Defense Force announced this week that it and the U.S. Air Force had conducted joint exercises involving their respective F-35A stealth fighter jets for the first time.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters the air-to-air combat drill that took place over the Sea of Japan on March 10 represented "a major milestone in the improvement of the ASDF's ability and Japan-U.S. joint response capabilities," according to The Mainichi.

The exercises involved four Japanese jets and four American jets. Japan has reportedly deployed an increasing number of F-35As to bolster its defenses amid the Russian attack on Ukraine and concerns that China could invade Taiwan. The jets were previously deployed due to threats from North Korea.

Russia Claims Ukrainian Nationalists Blew Up Mariupol Theater

Russia has claimed that a battalion of Ukrainian nationalists were responsible for destroying Mariupol's Drama Theater as civilians sheltered inside.

The government of Ukraine said on Wednesday the theater took heavy damage from a Russian missile while as many as 1,200 people, including many children, were taking refuge from Russian attacks inside.

However, Russia has now claimed that the attack was actually carried out by the Ukrainian National Guard's Azov Regiment, a battalion of far-right nationalists who have been accused of Nazism.

"According to the available reliable data, the militants of the Azov nationalist battalion committed a new bloody provocation by blowing up the theater building mined by them," the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of Ukraine's Donetsk Oblast, mentioned the battalion while accusing Russia of "lying" about the attack on the theater.

"Russians are deliberately bombing civilians!" Kyrylenko said. "These scum seek to physically destroy Mariupol and the people of Mariupol, which have long been the symbols of our resistance."

"The Russians are already lying – as if the headquarters of the Azov Regiment were there," he added. "But they themselves are well aware that there were only civilians."

The number of civilian casualties in the theater attack is unknown.

Moscow to Invoke More Media Censorship After Blocking BBC

Moscow has blocked access to the BBC news website while promising more censorship on outside media and lashing out at an "information war" waged by the West.

Russian media watch dog agency Roskomnadzor blocked the website on Wednesday, one of at least 32 sites that have been blocked due to what Russia claims is "false news" about its invasion of Ukraine.

"I think this is only the beginning of retaliatory measures to the information war unleashed by the West against Russia," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in a message posted to Telegram.

Other news outlets that Russia blocked on Wednesday include Bellingcat, Kavkazsky Uzel, Novye Izvestiya, Ust Kut 24 and the Estonian paper Postimees.

Earlier this month, Russia blocked access to social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook, alleging "discrimination" against sharing information from Russian state media.

Over 6,400 Mariupol Residents Escaped to Zaporizhia on Wednesday

Over 6,400 civilians have escaped from Mariupol amid heavy Russian shelling in a single day, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

Vereshchuk said during a briefing that the group of evacuees, which included 2,039 children, had arrived on 15 buses to Zaporizhia on Wednesday and were receiving "assistance."

All of those who arrived did so after first escaping on their own to nearby Berdyansk, where transportation was waiting due to Russian forces blocking buses from entering Mariupol.

Additional private vehicles were also said to be headed towards Zaporizhia, which has become a popular destination for Mariupol residents who have faces relentless Russian attacks since earlier this month.

The exodus came on the same day that Oleksandr Starukh, head of the Zaporizhia Regional Military Administration, said that civilian facilities in Zaporizhia had been targeted for the first time, including a train station and a botanical garden.

Video Reportedly Shows Inside of Drama Theater Before Russian Bombing

A video shared to social media by eastern European media outlet NEXTA appears to show a large number of people, including many children, gathering inside Mariupol's Drama Theater just before it was reportedly reduced to rubble by a Russian missile.

The official Twitter account of the Ukraine parliament claimed that the theatre was destroyed with 1,200 civilians inside despite the word "CHILDREN" being written in Russian in large letters outside.

"Striking satellite imagery shows the inscription in front of and behind the theatre was clearly seen from above," the account tweeted. "Yet this did not stop the occupiers, who fired an airstrike on the theatre."

It is unclear how many people may have been killed or injured in the theatre attack.

Russia is facing multiple allegations of war crimes for allegedly targeting civilians in Ukraine.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ukraine and the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv claimed that Russian forces gunned down 10 civilians who were waiting in a bread line in Chernihiv.

'Children' Was Painted on the Ground Outside of Bombed Theater

A Russian missile blasted a Ukrainian theater Wednesday in Mariupol, a theater that was being used to shelter families. Late last week, the word "children" was painted in large white letters—in Russian—on the parking lots of each side of the building.

There were suspected to be upwards of 1,000 people inside the theater seeking shelter.

The bomb crushed the entire center of the Drama Theater, according to the Mariupol City Council. The number of casualties and injuries is unknown at this time.

Security Along NATO's Eastern Flank Top Priority for Defense Leaders

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with his counterparts in the Quint Wednesday to discuss strengthening NATO's Eastern flank as well as Ukraine.

Leaders of the Quint, comprised of the U.S., France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, gathered in Brussels, Belgium. Austin said he had a "productive" meeting with French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly, German Federal Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht, Italian Minister of Defense Lorenzo Guerini and U.K. Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace.

"The leaders discussed Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, security assistance to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and ways to further strengthen NATO's Eastern Flank," the Pentagon said in a statement.

"The five leaders agreed on the importance of NATO unity to deter Russian aggression against Ukraine's sovereignty in violation of international norms," the Pentagon added.

The U.S. continues to deliver security assistance to Ukraine, as President Joe Biden announced a massive boost Wednesday of $800 million worth of additional assistance.

The Department of Defense shared a video showing a shipment of body armor and helmets being processed by the 436th Aerial Port Squadron at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for Ukraine.

NATO's Defense Ministers also gathered for a meeting on Wednesday. The ministers discussed measures to reinforce long-term NATO security. On Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance needs to "reset its military posture" amid Russia's invasion, which he said creates a new security reality in Europe. The move could include "substantially more forces in the eastern part of the Alliance, more Allied air power and significant numbers of combat ships," NATO wrote in a statement.

"We must reset our collective defense and deterrence for the longer term, today we tasked our military commanders to develop options across all domains," Stoltenberg said.

Ministers also addressed the need for ongoing military, financial and humanitarian support to Ukraine.

Russian Flag Removed from Council of Europe

The Council of Europe has removed the Russian flag from in front of the building.

This comes after the Council expelled Russia from the France-based human rights body after Moscow's "unjustified and unprovoked aggression" in Ukraine.

"In an extraordinary meeting this morning, the Committee of Ministers decided, in the context of the procedure launched under Article 8 of the Statute of the Council of Europe, that the Russian Federation ceases to be a member of the Council of Europe as from today, after 26 years of membership," the CoE said in a statement.

Council of Europe Removes Russian Flag
The Russian flag is removed outside the Council of Europe building, Wednesday, March 16, 2022 in Strasbourg. The Council of Europe expelled Russia from the continent's foremost human rights body in an unprecedented move over its invasion and war in Ukraine. The 47-nation organization's committee of ministers said in statement that "the Russian Federation ceases to be a member of the Council of Europe as from today, after 26 years of membership." Jean-Francois Badias/AP Photo

The Council's Parliamentary Assembly decided Tuesday that "the Russian Federation can no longer be a member State of the Organization," according to a statement.

"Russia's actions alone have led to this outcome," Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said. "We sincerely hope that Russia will one day return to the ideals of peace and democracy, and regain its membership."

Before the official expulsion, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced it was leaving the Council Tuesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that it would have left the body regardless, as Russia believes the Council had devolved into an "anti-Russia" body.

Injured Fox News Reporter Safely Out of Ukraine

Fox News reporter Benjamin Hall, who was seriously injured in an attack outside of Kyiv earlier this week, is now safely out of Ukraine.

"Ben is alert and in good spirits," Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott said Wednesday. "He is being treated with the best possible care in the world and we are in close contact with his wife and family. Please continue to keep him in your prayers."

Hall was hospitalized after his vehicle came under fire in Horenka, a village outside of Kyiv on Monday. The same attack killed Fox News photographer Pierre Zakrzewski and Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshinova, who was working for Fox News as a consultant.

Benjamin Hall Out of Ukraine
File photograph of Fox News journalist Benjamin Hall. Fox News

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. is investigating if Russian troops are targeting journalists.

"This is something we're looking hard at, we're documenting," Blinken said to NPR. "Others are looking at this. The deliberate targeting of civilians, journalists, and others would constitute a war crime. So it's something that we're very focused on."

Blinken also sent his well wishes to Hall, who often travels with the Secretary of State, calling him a "tremendous" reporter.

"We're also seeing journalists in the crossfire, people doing their jobs to bring the truth to the world," Blinken continued in the NPR interview.

"We've seen a Fox team that was – had two of its members killed, one injured, someone I know very well. This is Ben Hall. He's someone who travels with me when I travel around the world, someone I have great affection for, who's a tremendous reporter who asks me a lot of tough questions every place we go. I'm very much hoping and praying that he'll be back on the job as soon as possible, but meanwhile two of his colleagues lost their lives in this attack, and another very prominent filmmaker lost his life just the other day."

Biden Calls Putin a 'War Criminal'

President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" Wednesday, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continued for Day 21.

"I think he is a war criminal," Biden said to reporters.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden's remarks "speak for themselves."

"He was speaking from his heart," Psaki said during Wednesday's White House press briefing. "And speaking from what he's seen on television, which is barbaric actions by a brutal dictator through his invasion of a foreign country."

She added that a legal process into war crimes continues to be underway at the State Department.

NATO Has No Plans to Send Troops to Ukraine

NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance will bolster its military presence in eastern Europe.

"On land, our new posture should include substantially more forces in the eastern part of the alliance, at higher readiness, with more pre-positioned equipment and supplies," Stoltenberg said during a press conference in Brussels amid a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press conference after a meeting of the alliance's Defense Ministers at the NATO Headquarter in Brussels on March 16, 2022. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images

NATO, however, has no plans to deploy troops on the ground in Ukraine or declare a no-fly zone.

"Allies are united that NATO should not deploy forces on the ground or in the airspace of Ukraine," he said. "Because we have a responsibility to ensure that this war doesn't escalate beyond Ukraine."

The United State echoed this position, saying it does not want to escalate the conflict in Ukraine.

During a press briefing Wednesday, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said NATO allies want to avoid prolonging the war. He said putting American or NATO service members on the ground or in the air in Ukraine "has the potential to expand the conflict."

Stoltenberg promised to continue providing military, financial and humanitarian support to Ukraine and warned Russia that NATO "will not tolerate any attack on allied sovereignty or territorial integrity."

"We have already activated our defense plans to shield the alliance," he said. "Hundreds of thousands of forces on heightened alert across the alliance."

U.S. Waiting for 'Tangible Indication' of Russian De-Escalation

The U.S. welcomes the "optimistic" news coming out of peace talks between Ukraine and Russia, but is still wait for a "tangible indication" that Russian President Vladimir Putin "is changing course."

"What Ukraine needs now more than sentiments, more than hope, more than optimism is de-escalation, is a tangible indication that President Putin is changing course," State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said. "That is something we have not yet seen."

The U.S. supports Ukraine's effort to bring peace and believes that diplomacy should always be at the center of the efforts. However, Price said, the U.S. remains "clear-eyed" that "Russia needs to halt its campaign of death and destruction immediately."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also said the U.S has seen no evidence from Putin to de-escalate.

"It is difficult to have effective negotiations if one party continues to escalate," she said during a briefing Wednesday.

Price said the U.S. will continue to do whatever it can to "give Ukraine the strongest hand at the negotiating table," including providing security aid and issuing harsh sanctions on Russia.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podoliak said his delegation was "quite specific" in their position during peace talks with Russia. Their demands including security guarantees likes a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops.

Nearly Two Million Refugees Have Entered Poland

More than three million people have fled Ukraine in less than three weeks, the United Nations estimates.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have flooded into neighboring countries since the first day of Russia's invasion on Feb. 24. The number of refugees entering Poland continues to near a staggering two million, according to the latest numbers provided March 15 by U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR.

Where refugees are going, by country:

  • Poland: 1.85 million
  • Romania: 467,700
  • Moldova: 344,450
  • Hungary: 272,940
  • Slovakia: 220,970
  • Russia: 155,840
  • Belarus: 1,820

*Estimates above provided by UNHCR as of 3/15.

UNHCR Refugee Map

Warsaw has been overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of refugees. The City of Warsaw shared a photo showing a shipment of products headed to those in need on Wednesday.

"Another transport on the way!" the city posted. "300 tons of food and hygiene products thanks to ŻABKA - mały wielki sklep have gone to border crossings, accommodation points in Warsaw and Ukraine. Thank you!"

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

Warsaw also opened a job placement point for Ukrainians on Wednesday, Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski said.

"The interest in job offers among guests from Ukraine is really high, especially among highly qualified employees," Trzaskowski said. "We want to hire incoming people as soon as possible, first of all to provide public services in health care and education."

Bomb Hits Theater Sheltering Civilian in Mariupol

A theater being used as a civilian shelter in Mariupol was hit with a bomb.

Mariupol officials claim the Russian military is behind the attack.

The Mariupol City Council said the central part of the Drama Theater was destroyed, as was the entrance to the bomb shelter in the building.

"It is impossible to find words that could describe the level of civilians population of the Ukraine city by the sea," the city council said in a Telegram post. "It is obvious that the only goal of the Russian army is the genocide of the Ukrainian people."

Up to 1,000 people could have been inside the building, according to local media. The exact number of casualties and injuries is still unknown. The council said it is "impossible to estimate the scale of this horrific and inhumane act, because they city continues to shell residential areas."

Ukraine Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba called this attack "another horrendous war crime."

"Massive Russian attack on the Drama Theater where hundreds of innocent civilians were hiding," he said in a tweet. "The building is now fully ruined. Russians could not have not known this was a civilian shelter. Save Mariupol! Stop Russian war criminals!"

The Russian Defense Ministry denied the accusations from Ukrainian officials that it attacked the theater. Instead, Russian claims the bombing was carried out by the Azov Battalion.

"According to credible data, militants of the nationalist battalion 'Azov' carried out a new bloody provocation by blowing up the theater building they mined, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a Facebook post. "Previously, refugees who had gotten out of Mariupol, it was known that in the theater building of the Azov battalion Nazis could hold civilians hostage, using the upper floors as fire points."

Russia previously said it attacks a maternity hospital in Mariupol because it believes it was occupied by the Azov Battalion.

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Watch: White House press briefing

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold the daily briefing soon.

Wednesday's briefing is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. EST. Watch live on the White House YouTube page, or below:

Biden Vows Putin Will Pay 'A Very Heavy Price'

As President Joe Biden announced additional aid to Ukraine, he vowed Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay a "heavy price" for his "appalling" attack on the country.

"Putin is inflicting appalling devastation and horror on Ukraine," Biden said during his remarks Wednesday. "Bombing apartment buildings, maternity wards, hospitals. I mean it's God-awful."

Biden announced the U.S. will provide an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine Wednesday.

"We're going to give Ukraine the arms to fight and defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead," he said. "I want to be honest with you, this could be a long and difficult battle. But the American people will be steadfast in our support of the people of Ukraine."

Along with military aid, the U.S. continues to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians still in the country and those who have fled to safety. Biden said the U.S. has provided $300 million in humanitarian assistance in recent weeks, which includes tens of thousands of tons of food, water, supplies and medications.

"The world is united in our support for Ukraine and our determination to make Putin pay a very heavy price," Biden said. "Together with our allies and partners, we will keep up pressure on Putin's crumbling economy, isolating him on the global stage. That's our goal, make Putin pay the price, weaken his position."

Biden announced the latest round of security assistance hours after Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky addressed Congress. Biden watched his speech from a private residence, calling it "convincing and significant."

Watch: State Department press briefing

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price will hold a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, following President Joe Biden's announcement of $800 million in additional security assistance to Ukraine.

The briefing is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. EST. Watch live on the State Department YouTube page or below:

Biden Announced $800 Million in Security Assistance to Ukraine

President Biden announced the U.S. will provide an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine.

This new package of "unprecedented assistance" includes:

  • 800 anti-aircraft systems
  • 9,000 anti-armor systems
  • 7,000 small arms, including guns, grenades and launchers
  • 20 million rounds, including drones

This comes after Biden promised $200 million last weekend, bringing the total of new U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to $1 billion in the past week, Biden said.

He said the U.S. is answering President Zelensky's call for more help by committing to sending the most cutting-edge systems to Ukraine for its defense.

"Let there be no doubt," Biden said. "America stands with the forces of freedom. We always have and we always will.

Biden Announces New Ukraine Aid
US President Joe Biden (C) participates in a signing ceremony after delivering remarks on US assistance to Ukraine, in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, in Washington, DC, on March 16, 2022. Also pictured (L-R) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

United Nation's Court Orders Russia to Stop Invasion

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled Russia must suspend its military operation in Ukraine.

"The Court is profoundly concerned about the use of force by Russia in Ukraine, which raises very serious issues of international law," the ICJ said in a summary of the order in "Allegations of Genocide under the Convention on Prevention of Genocide (Ukraine v Russia)."

The ICJ, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, said the Russian Federation must ensure that any military or armed units "take no step in furtherance of the military operations."

Ukraine brought this case in front of the court and the Russian Federation did not participate in the hearing. The ICJ said Russia's non-appearance "has a negative impact on the sound administration of justice."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said "Ukraine gained a complete victory in its case against Russia" and that Russia will be further isolated if it ignores the ICJ, as the order is binding under international law.

Ten Killed While Waiting for Bread in Chernihiv

Ten people were shot and killed while standing in line for bread Wednesday morning in Chernihiv, the Ukrainian General Prosecutor's Office said.

Investigators say Russian forces fired at people standing in line near the grocery store around 10 a.m.

Chernihiv attack
Russian forces open fire, killing 10 people waiting in line for bread in Chernihiv on March 16. Office of the Ukraine General Prosecutor

"Such horrific attacks must stop," U.S. Embassy Kyiv said in response to the attack. "We are considering all available options to ensure accountability for any atrocity crimes in Ukraine."

WATCH: Biden Delivers Remarks on Assistance to Ukraine

President Biden will deliver remarks on sending more support to Ukraine soon.

Biden is set to announce an additional $800 million in security assistance to support the Ukrainian defense effort. This comes after Ukrainian Zelensky asked Congress to provide more humanitarian, financial and military support.

The remarks are expected to begin at 11:45 a.m. ET and will stream live on the White House website and YouTube channel.

U.S. Says Attacks Should Stop if Russia Is 'Serious About Diplomacy'

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned General Nikolay Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, of the consequences in response to any Russian chemical or biological weapon attack in Ukraine.

Sullivan spoke with Patrushev in a phone call Wednesday, according to the White House. Sullivan also said Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities and towns should stop if Russia is "serious about diplomacy."

"Mr. Sullivan clearly laid out the United States' commitment to continue imposing costs on Russia, to support the defense of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and to reinforce NATO's eastern flank, in continued full coordination with our Allies and partners," the White House said in a statement.

Jake Sullivan at presser
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan gives an update about Ukraine during a press briefing at the White House on Feb. 11. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo

Ukraine, EU Synchronize Electricity Grids

Ukraine has become a member of the European Union Energy Union, as the unification of the Ukrainian and EU energy systems have been complete, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

"Now [Ukrainian] electricity flows in [the EU] and vice versa," Zelensky said in a tweet.

EU President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU, Ukraine and Moldova have come together to "stabilize their power systems."

"This will help Ukraine to keep their electricity system stable, homes warm and lights on during these dark times," EU Energy Commissioner Kardi Simson said in a statement. "It is also a historic milestone for the EU-Ukraine relationship – in this area, Ukraine is now part of Europe."

The EU said it will continue to support Ukraine in the energy sector by ensuring the reverse flows of gas to the country and the delivery of energy supplies that are badly needed.

"We are also looking forward to the time when we can continue our excellent cooperation on the green transition and market reforms," Simson said.

Abducted Skadovsk Mayor Reportedly Released

Mayor of Skadovsk Oleksandr Yakovlyev has reportedly been released after being abducted by Russian forces.

Yakovlyev said he was released in a Facebook live video Wednesday, according to the Kyiv Independent. Yakovlyev also said Russian troops promised to free other detainees and urged calm, the outlet adds.

Yakovlyev and his deputy Yurii Palyukh were both abducted, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said earlier Wednesday.

"Russian invaders continue to abduct democratically elected local leaders in Ukraine," Kuleba said. "States & international organizations must demand Russia to immediately release all abducted Ukrainian officials!"

More Reaction to Zelensky Speech from U.S. Lawmakers

House Democrats also affirmed their support for president Zelensky in the aftermath of his speech.

"President Zelenskyy has met his country's moment. Now, will we meet ours? We've always been the world leader for peace and human rights. Putin is inflicting a level of wickedness most of us have never seen in our lifetime. Let's do all we can through military aid to see him fail," tweeted California Rep. Eric Swallwell.

But despite the largely unanimous support for the Ukrainian president across both isles, there was still room for some partisan bickering.

Bill Pascrell Jr (D-NJ), Chairman of the House Ways & Means Subcommittee on Oversight, took a jab at the former U.S. president Donald Trump, who was impeached for withholding lethal aid to Ukraine in exchange for a "favor" from Zelensky.

Meanwhile, Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) used the opportunity to again lament pandemic-countering measures.

GOP Leaders Hail Zelensky's Speech and 'Unwavering Leadership'

There was bipartisan support for Zelensky from members of U.S. Congress and Senate on social media following his address to Congress.

"President Zelensky has shown unwavering leadership and courage. Ukraine is fighting back against Putin, not just for themselves, but for Eastern Europe and freedom loving countries across the globe," Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

"President Zelensky has shown unwavering leadership and courage. Ukraine is fighting back against Putin, not just for themselves, but for Eastern Europe and freedom loving countries across the globe," wrote Senator Tim Scott (R-SC)

Another GOP senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, urged the Biden administration to heed Zelensky's calls for more military assistance, including MiG-29s and air defense systems.

Zelensky Ends With Message to Joe Biden

Ukraine's President Zelensky ends with a message for his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden. Zelensky delivers this part in English.

He tells him "You are the leader of the nation," and adds: "I wish you to be the leader of the world.

"To be the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace."

As Zelensky concludes: "Slava Ukraini" (Glory to Ukraine), before Congress again erupts in applause.

Standing Ovation for Zelensky
The Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky receives a second standing ovation from U.S. lawmakers upon finishing his address

Zelensky Tells U.S.: 'Peace Doesn't Depend Anymore Only on You'

President Zelensy's tells U.S. lawmakers: "Peace in your country doesn't depend any more only on you and your people. It depends on those next to you, on those who are strong.

"Strong doesn't mean big. Strong is brave and ready to fight for the lives of his citizens and citizens of the world for human rights, freedom for the right to live decently and to die when your time comes and not when it is wanted by someone else, by your neighbor."

He adds: "Today the Ukrainian people are defending not only Ukraine, we are fighting for the values of Europe and the world, sacrificing our lives in the name of the future."

Zelensky Wants More Sanctions on Russian Lawmakers

Zelensky asks for fresh sanctions "until the Russian military machine stops".

He asks the U.S. to sanction every Russian lawmaker who does not condemn the invasion.

"I call on you to do more," he says. "New packages of sanctions are needed constantly, every week until the Russian military machine stops."

"We have proposed that the United States sanctions all politicians in the Russian Federation who remain in their offices and do not cut ties with those who are responsible for the aggression towards Ukraine."

Congressmen Shown Video of Russian Atrocities in Ukraine

More from Zelensky

The president asks Congress to watch a short video collating some of the worst atrocities committed by the Russian forces in Ukraine. Some of the footage is labelled "graphic."

Ukraine Footage Shown in Congress
President Zelensky asked Congressmen to watch a short video showing what is happening in towns and cities across Ukraine

Zelensky Asks for No-Fly Zone—'Remember Pear Harbor'

Zelensky has renewed calls for a no-fly zone.

He asks America to think of Pearl Harbor when "the sky was black from planes attacking you."

He said: "Remember Pearl Harbor. The terrible morning of December 7, 1941 when your sky was black from the planes attacking you. Just remember it.

"Remember September 11 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories into battlefields. When innocent people were attacked from the air."Our country experiences the same every day right now."

With NATO uneasy about a no-fly zone for risk of escalating the war, Zelesnky adds: "If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative. You know what kind of defense systems we need, s-300 and other similar systems.

"You know how much the battlefield depends on the ability to use aircraft, powerful strong aviation to protect our people, our freedom, our land. Aircraft that can help Ukraine, can help Europe."

He says he is grateful for the U.S.'s "overwhelming support," including finances, sanctions and weapons. And thanks Joe Biden personally.

Standing Ovation in U.S. Congress for Zelensky

More on Zelensky address

The Ukrainian president receives a standing ovation from American congressmen and congresswomen, as he did from British and European lawmakers earlier this week.

Zelensky Tells of 'Worst war since World War II'

President Zelensky is now speaking...

He address "Americans, friends" and says he is proud to great them from Kyiv, which he notes is under missile and air strikes from Russia.

"But it doesn't give up," he says, despite the "Worst war since World War II."

"Right now the destiny of our country is being decided," he says.
Russia has attacked not just Ukraine, he adds, but a brutal assault on its values.

Zelensky addressing the U.S. Congress

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the U.S. Congress via videolink on March 16.

Zelensky via videolink
Volodymyr Zelensky, addressing the U.S. Congress via videolink on March 16

Zelensky Laughs Off 'Capitulation' Claims After TV Hack

We're expecting to here from Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, addressing U.S. Congress, in a moment. But first...

President Zelensky has laughed off a "fake" claim, broadcast in a hacked TV text news reel, that he has called for the Ukrainian army to "lay down its weapons."

On Wednesday, unknown hackers, reportedly from Russia, managed to tap into a Ukraine 24 news channel livestream to distribute a fake surrender message, purporting to be from Zelensky

.In the fake statement he reportedly said he was "capitulating" and preparing to surrender and "give up arms," leading to brief alarm among members of the audience who saw the broadcast.

Shortly after the incident Zelensky posted a video laughing off the "childish provocation," and affirming that the only people he would ask to lay down their arms are the Russian forces."This was a childish provocation about supposed agreement to "lay down our weapons.

"I can say that the only people I can ask to lay down their weapons are the Russians. But we are defending our land, our children, our families so we are not planning on laying down any weapons, until our victory," the Ukraine leader said.

In Pictures: Mykolaiv—a Port City Under Siege

Mykolaiv is being constantly shelled by Russian forces.

The Ukrainian port city is seen by Russia as its gateway into Odessa, the last major port remaining under Ukraine's control.

Russia believes that if it can take Mykolaiv, its navy would be able to launch an assault on Odessa from the Black Sea.

These pictures show scenes from the besieged city in recent days.

Orthodox Church Leaders Slam Patriarch Kirill for Putin Support

Orthodox church leaders have condemned the support by Russia's top priest, Patriarch Kirill, for the war being waged by President Vladimir Putin.

Orthodox Public Affairs Committee (OPAC), a global advocate group for the faith, said it was "deeply concerned" the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church has been "enabling the war by giving religious cover to this unconscionable and unjustified conflict."

Patriarch Kirill has been long-tied to Putin and has publicly backed the war.

Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia at a ceremony in Moscow on November 20, 2021. The Orthodox Public Affairs Committee (OPAC) in the U.S. has condemned the Patriarch's support for Putin's war in Ukraine. Mikhail Metze/Getty Images

Earlier this week, he presented an image of the Virgin Mary to Russian National Guard leader Viktor Zolotov who said he hoped it would "bring our victory faster," the Orthodox Times reported.

"Ukraine represents at least one third of the Moscow Patriarchate's clergy and laity," said OPAC. "Kirill's statements ring hollow and have the stench of direct government interference. Is this because he owes his position and the lucrative benefits he receives to Vladimir Putin?"

The Russian Orthodox church in Amsterdam split with the Moscow patriarchate in protest at support for the war shown by Kirill who called Russia's opponents "evil forces" and said gay pride parades in the west helped cause the conflict.

Five Things to Look Out For in Zelensky's Address

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is schedule to address U.S. lawmakers in a little over an hour. Here are five things to look out for...

  1. Zelensky is expected to appeal for more U.S. military help. He has pushed for the U.S. to help broker the transfer of weapons, including MiG fighter jets. However, the Biden administration has not yet helped on those jets amid concerns Moscow would view it an escalation in hostilities
  2. Zelensky is likely to repeat his call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine to stop Russian air bombardments which have devastated Ukrainian cities. This has been rejected by NATO and so far, by many western leaders concerned this would mean a direct confrontation between Moscow and the alliance
  3. Zelensky will be able to use the address to make a direct appeal to an American audience about the Russian aggression his country faces. Zelensky's addresses to the British and European parliaments have prompted standing ovations, so it will be interesting to see how U.S. lawmakers react
  4. The Ukrainian president may call for the U.S. to impose harsher sanctions on Russia. So far, the U.S. has imposed a ban on Russian energy imports and backed restrictions on using the SWIFT money transfer system
  5. Zelensky may also call for the U.S. to welcome refugees who have fled Ukraine. More than 3 million people have left the country since February 24 with neighboring European countries bearing the brunt of the influx

Russia Could Be Forced Into Debt Default Today

Russia's economy has reached a perilous point, with some predicting a partial default as early as today.

Squeezed by a hailstorm of international economic sanctions, an exodus of foreign brands and companies and an increasingly expensive war in Ukraine, Russia is due to make $117 million in interest payments to investors later.

But with about half of its $630 billion of foreign currency reserves frozen, its ability to make the payments has come into question, with some credit ratings agencies warning of an "imminent" default.

What would that mean for Russians?

"Russia's government appears to be heading towards a default on its foreign currency debts for the first time since the Bolshevik revolution," William Jackson, the chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics wrote on Monday.

"This won't affect the Russian government's ability to finance itself (beyond what sanctions have already done) and it seems unlikely that there will be significant spillovers elsewhere. Perhaps the bigger risk is that it may be a prelude to defaults by Russian corporates, whose external debts are more than four times larger than those of the sovereign."

Ukraine's Zelensky To Address U.S. Congress Shortly

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address the U.S. Congress in a couple of hours.

Zelensky will speak to House and Senate members via video link in an appearance scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. and end about 9:15 a.m. He will be introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Newsweek will bring you rolling text updates and how to get live stream footage.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference in Kyiv on March 3, 2022. He has made a direct appeal to Russian soldiers to surrender. SERGEI SUPINSKY/Getty Images

Zelensky held a Zoom call earlier this month in which almost 300 members of Congress participated. The Ukrainian leader's earlier virtual addresses European Union and British lawmakers have received standing ovations.

Ahead of Zelensky's appearance U.S. President Joe Biden is to announce more than $1B in military aid for Ukraine, officials told The Wall Street Journal.

The aid will fund anti-armor and anti-air systems, such as Javelins and Stingers, the newspaper reports.

Ukrainian Counter-Offensive 'Radically Changes' Talks: Kyiv Adviser

More on the ceasefire negotiations...

Mykhailo Podoliak, an advisor to Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, expressed hope that his country's counter-offensive against Russian forces "radically changes the parties' dispositions."

In a tweet on Wednesday Podoliak also pointed to apparent increase in dissent within Russia, citing reports of mass exodus of journalists from state TV and news outlets in Russia, as well as Russia's reported attempts to engage Middle Eastern and African mercenaries on its side.

Earlier this week Ukraine's military reported that another top Russian general was killed in action in Ukraine. If confirmed, General Major Oleg Mityaev would be the fourth top rank Russian to die in the invasion since it began on February 24. The Russian defense ministry has not confirmed or denied the report.

Russian PoW Warns Putin: 'We'll Rise Against Him'

Russian prisoners of war have spoken of their regret at fighting in Ukraine and the suffering that Vladimir Putin's war has caused the Ukrainian population.

A reconnaissance officer named Vladimir appealed to other Russian servicemen to "lay down your arms and leave your stations."

Referring to Putin, he told CNN: "I want to tell our commander-in-chief to stop terror acts in Ukraine because when we come back we'll rise against him."

One air force pilot, named only as Maxim, rejected the reasons the Kremlin gave for the war, which include demilitarizing Ukraine and clearing it of Nazis.

"Now cities of peaceful civilians are being destroyed," he said, "what can justify..the tears of a child, or even worse, the deaths of innocent people, children."

Russian prisoners of war in Kyiv
Russian prisoners of war are presented to the press by Ukrainian Secret Services (SBU) on March 5, 2022 at the Interfax press agency in Kyiv. DAPHNE ROUSSEAU/AFP/Getty Images

The accounts by the prisoners add to the anecdotal evidence of low morale among Russian troops. Nearly a dozen Russian PoWs have appeared in news conferences held by the Ukrainian authorities.

It is possible the prisoners felt they had to express views sympathetic to those of their captors; they did not suggest to reporters that they were under duress.

What Ukraine, Russia Have Said About Peace Talks

Ceasefire talks between Russia and Ukraine are continuing on Wednesday, with both sides issuing statements on their progress. Here's the latest:

Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian delegation, said the talks were "slow" but progressing, with disputed regions Crimea and Donbas still crucial issue in the talks, alongside the "rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine." Ukraine has repeatedly dismissed claims of rights abuses against Russian speakers.

He said Ukraine must not join NATO and that Kyiv had made proposals including "demilitarization under Swedish or Austrian format."

Earlier on Tuesday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky admitted Ukraine would not be joining NATO.

"We realized that Ukraine will not become a member of NATO," he told British officials via video link, calling for "new formats of interaction with the West."

Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, welcomed Zelensky's words.

"Zelensky's statement on NATO suggest that adequacy is forging a path in Kyiv," Lavrov told RBC, a Russian newspaper. "NATO's refusal to close the skies over Ukraine indicates that there are still reasonable people in the alliance.

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