Ukraine War Enters Day 17: U.S., E.U. Launch New Actions Against Russia

Live Updates
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has reported "positive" developments in peace talks; however, Russian forces have stepped up attacks on Ukrainian cities Friday.
  • Dnipro—home to 1 million people—has come under attack for the first time in the war. Russian forces also strike the cities of Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk.
  • The European Union and G7 leaders will launch another round of sanctions against the Russian Federation.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden announced the U.S. will revoke Russia's "most favored nation" trade status, ban key Russian imports, like vodka and diamonds and step up sanctions on Russian oligarchs.
  • Top U.S. officials delivered stark warnings against Russia if the Kremlin uses chemical weapons in Ukraine.
  • U.N.'s nuclear watchdog has warned of "deteriorating and exhausting conditions" for staff at Ukraine's defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
  • More than 2.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine into neighboring countries.

Live updates for this blog have ended.

EU Announces Fourth Sanctions Package Against Russia

The European Union announced it will introduce a fourth package of sanctions against Russia Saturday amid Russia's continued "ruthless" invasion of Ukraine.

"Despite repeated offers by the Ukrainian side, Russia has not shown any willingness to seriously engage so far in negotiations for a diplomatic solution," the EU said in a statement. "Instead, all we hear are new lies and false accusations."

Therefore, the EU will join the U.S. and G7 leaders in denying most-favored-nation trade status to Russia, mounting pressure on Russian elites and banning the import of luxury goods to Russia.

The EU will also prevent Russia and Russian elites from using crypto assets to circumvent sanctions and prohibit the import of iron and steel sector from Russia to "hit a central sector of Russia's system, deprive it of billions of export revenues and ensure that our citizens are not subsidising Putin's war."

Additionally, the EU will propose a "big ban" on new European investments across Russia's energy sector that will cover all investments, technology transfers and financial services for energy exploration and production.

"We should not be feeding the energy dependency which we want to leave behind us," the EU said.

In addition to economic sanctions, G7 leaders also said they will continue to "fight off" Russia's attempt to spread disinformation.

"We are united in our determination to hold President Putin and his regime accountable for this unjustified and unprovoked war that has already isolated Russia in the world," G7 leaders said in a joint statement.

Power Line Repairs Underway at Chernobyl

Technicians have started to repair damaged power lines at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, a Ukrainian regulator told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Friday.

The regulator said work began Thursday night and one section was repaired. "But off-site electrical power was still down, indicating there was still damage in other places," IAEA said in a statement.

The site was knocked off the power grid Wednesday and has been running on emergency diesel generators. The regulator lost communication with the power plant on Thursday and has been unable to provide radiological monitoring information from the facility to the IAEA.

"The regulator has continued to receive information about the situation there through senior off-site management of the plant," the IAEA said.

Earlier Friday, Ukraine's Defense Ministry claimed Russia was preparing a potential "terrorist attack" at Chernobyl. Russian forces have been in control of the site for more than two weeks.

U.S., Ukraine Warn of More Russia Disinformation

As Russia escalates its attacks on the ground in Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba voiced concerns of Russia also stepping up its disinformation campaigns.

The pair spoke on the phone late Friday, the State Department said.

"They shared their concerns that Russia is escalating its disinformation campaigns to deceive the world, including at the United Nations," a State Department statement said.

The pair also discussed Kuleba's meeting with his his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu mediated the conversation between Kuleba and Lavrov on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum on Thursday.

"In our meeting with FM Lavrov... I insisted on the urgent need to allow humanitarian help for Mariupol and a 24-hour ceasefire," Kuleba said Thursday "Unfortunately, FM Lavrov seemed to have come to talk, not to decide. I hope he will convey Ukraine's requests back in Moscow."

Lavrov, Kuleba meet in Turkey
In this photo provided by Turkish Foreign Ministry, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, center, chairs a tripartite meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, right, in Antalya, Turkey on March 10. Cem Ozdel/Turkish Foreign Ministry via AP

Blinken provided Kuleba an update on new U.S. sanctions announced Friday against Russia and an ongoing commitment to provide security, economic and humanitarian support to Ukraine. Blinken additionally shared efforts to hold Belarus accountable for facilitating Russia's combat operations.

Prior to announcing a new round of sanctions Friday, President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Biden provided an update on the new U.S. sanctions against Russia, made in coordination with the G7 and the E.U. He also "underscored" ongoing support for Ukraine.

"President Biden highlighted how the United States is continuing to surge security, humanitarian, and economic assistance to Ukraine," a White House statement reads.

Friday, Biden said he looks forward to "immediately" signing a massive spending bill passed by Congress Thursday night. It includes $13.6 billion in new assistance for the Ukrainian people.

Ukrainian Officials Say Russia Abducted Mayor of Melitopol

Ukrainian officials claim Russian forces abducted Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov.

The Ukrainian Parliament said Russian troops detained Fedorov in the city crisis center and he "refused to cooperate with the enemy."

During Fedorov's abduction, officials said a plastic bag was placed over Fedorov's head and now "Melitopol is under the temporary control of Russian troops."

Fedorov is being accused of assisting and financing terrorist activities and being part of a criminal community, according to the Luhansk prosecutor's website.

He is being accused of being a member of the "Right Sector," a group the Luhansk prosecutor claims has committed acts of terrorism against civilians in the Donbas region.

During the United Nations Security Council meeting, Ukraine ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya asked his Russian counterpart to release Fedorov.

"Please ask Moscow to release the kidnapped mayor of the city of Melitopol," he said. "Please, help us to get him back from the arms of invaders."

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said the the abduction of Fedorov is "classified as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocol that prohibit the taking of civilian hostages during the war."

"We call on the international community to respond immediately to the abduction of Ivan Fedorov and other civilians, and to increase pressure on Russia to end its barbaric war against the Ukrainian people," the Ukraine MFA said in a Facebook post.

Zelensky Says Ukraine Has Reached a 'Turning Point'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says the country has reached a "strategic turning point," as it continues fighting against Russian forces for a sixteenth day.

Zelensky addressed the Ukrainian people in a video Friday.

"I know that many people have started to feel tired, I understand," Zelensky said. "Impatient. I understand. When we mobilize, when we see our victories and the loss of the enemy on the battlefield, we expect the struggle to end sooner. We expect the invaders to fall faster. But this is life, this is war. This is a struggle. Time is still needed. Patience is still needed."

"It is impossible to say for how many more days we must liberate our Ukrainian land," he continued. "But it is possible to say we will do it. Because we have already reached a strategic turning point. We are already moving toward our goal, toward our victory."

Zelensky also addressed Polish government officials Friday via video. More than 1.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine into Poland since February 24, the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates.

State Department Says Americans in Ukraine Face 'Risk of Death'

The State Department is urging Americans to avoid traveling to Ukraine.

Department spokesperson Ned Price said Americans looking to join Ukrainian forces will be treated as "mercenaries" by Russians.

"U.S. citizens should be aware that Russia has stated that it intends to treat foreign fighters in Ukraine as mercenaries rather than as lawful combatants or prisoners of war," he said during a briefing Friday.

Americans who travel to Ukraine, "especially with the purpose of participating and fighting there," face significant risks, Price said, "including the very real risk of capture or death."

He added that the U.S. is not able to provide assistance to evacuate U.S. citizens from Ukraine.

Price encouraged Americans to help the war effort in Ukraine in more "constructive" ways through humanitarian aide channels.

Mariupol Officials Report Over 1,500 Civilian Casualties

Mariupol city officials claim Russian forces have killed over 1,500 civilians since the Ukrainian invasion began.

The Mariupol City Council said "1582 civilians from Mariupol were killed by Russian occupation forces in 12 days of blockade of the city and ruthless shelling of residential neighborhoods."

"We will never forget and will never forgive this crime against humanity, against Ukraine, against Mariupol!," the council said in a Telegram post.

Ukrainian Ambassador to U.N., Sergiy Kyslytsya echoed this report during the U.N. Security Council meeting Friday and decried reports that civilians in Mariupol are being buried in mass graves.

"Ukrainian people are being killed and Ukrainian cities are being destroyed," he said. "The sooner the aggressors is stopped, the safer the world is."

Kyslytsya also said captured Russian troops said they "deliberately threw bombs at residential apartments."

"There is urgent need to stop Russia barbaric actions," he said.

Woman Who Escaped Mariupol Hospital Attack Gives Birth

A pregnant woman who escaped the maternity hospital attack in Mariupol this week has given birth to a daughter.

Mariana Vishegirskaya was pictured by the Associated Press as she escaped the hospital Wednesday, after it was hit by a Russian airstrike. She walked downstairs wearing pajamas and carrying her belongings. The stairs and ground were covered in debris from the bombing.

Aftermath of  maternity hospital attack
Mariana Vishegirskaya walks downstairs in of a maternity hospital damaged by shelling in Mariupol, March 9. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo

Friday, AP shared photos of Vishegirskaya lying in a hospital bed, in another facility, after giving birth to a baby girl. Her husband also held their daughter, named Veronika.

Mariana with newborn
Mariana Vishegirskaya lies in a hospital bed after giving birth to her daughter Veronika, in Mariupol on March 11. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo
Woman who escaped hospital attack gives birth
Mariana Vishegirskaya lies in a hospital bed after giving birth to her daughter Veronika, held by her husband Yuri, in Mariupol. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo

Several pro-Russian groups accused Mariana of being a "crisis actor." Ukraine's Ambassador to the U.N. Sergiy Kyslytsya slammed the claims during a U.N. Security Council meeting Friday.

"Let me share with you very good news," Kyslytsya said showing a photo. "Miss Mariana, the pregnant woman, gave birth to a healthy daughter last [Thursday] night. Her name is Veronika. Here she is with her father. No matter what the Russian lies are about herself, her family, and the incident."

Russia Makes Momentum Toward Kyiv, Pentagon Says

The Pentagon believes some Russian forces are starting to make momentum toward Kyiv, as a massive convoy remains stalled.

"We do assess that the Russians are beginning to make more momentum on the ground towards Kyiv, particularly from the East," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said during a news conference Friday. "Not quite so much from the North."

The 40-mile-long Russian military convoy is situated to the North of the capital city and has been stalled for days. Pentagon assessments indicate its main purpose is resupply. Kirby was asked Friday about recent satellite imagery appearing to show the convoy dispersing.

"That could just be force protection because Ukrainians have continued to threaten that convoy and its progress," Kirby answered, cautioning against jumping to conclusions.

Ukraine Claims Russia Is Planning 'Terrorist Attack' at Chernobyl

Ukraine's Defense Ministry believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing a "terrorist attack" at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine made the claim Friday in a Facebook post, adding Russia would blame Ukraine for the attack. Russian forces took control of the site more than two weeks ago.

"According to available information, Vladimir Putin has ordered the preparation of a terrorist attack at the Chernobyl NPP," the Ukraine Ministry of Defense post reads. "The Russian-controlled Chernobyl nuclear power plant plans to create a man-made catastrophe, for which the occupiers will try to shift responsibility to Ukraine."

As of Friday, the site remains "completely" disconnected from the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) monitoring systems, the directorate added.

"The service life of the available diesel generators is designed for 48 hours of maintenance of safety systems," the post reads. "The occupiers refused to grant access to the station to Ukraine repairers. Instead, "Belarusian specialists" went there on the instructions of Oleksandr Lukashenko. Among them, under the guise of nuclear power plants, Russian saboteurs also come to organize a terrorist attack."

The IAEA has said the loss of power will not have a "critical impact" on safety functions on site. However, Ukraine's Parliament warned of radiation risks if power was not restored.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi has expressed repeated concern for the 210 Chernobyl technical experts and guards who have been working on site for more than two weeks straight.

WATCH: State Department Gives Daily Press Briefing

The State Department will give its daily press briefing soon.

The briefing is set to begin at 2 p.m. EST and will stream live on the State Department website and YouTube channel.

WATCH: Pentagon press briefing

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby will soon hold a news briefing, as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine for a sixteenth day.

Friday's briefing is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. EST. Watch live on the Department of Defense website.

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

U.S. Denies Russian Reports of Biological Weapons in Ukraine

The United Nations Security Council is holding a meeting a Russia's request to investigate claims of military biological activities in Ukraine.

Russia's ambassador to the U.N., Vasily Nebenzya, said the Russian government has evidence that Ukraine is running a military biological program that is funded and supported by the United States Defense Department. He said there is a network of at least 30 biological laboratories in Ukraine.

Nebenzya said the Ukrainians are engaging in "reckless" and "dangerous" experiments involving the plague, anthrax and cholera that could threaten Europe and the entire world.

At the top of the meeting, U.N. High Representative for Disarmament AffairsIzumi Nakamitsu said the organizations is "not aware of any biological weapons programs" in Ukraine.

The U.S. State Department has dismissed these accusations from Russia as lies, and the U.S. Ambassador the the U.N. echoed this sentiment during the meeting Friday.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield denied these reports and accused Russia of "lying" and "spreading misinformation."

"Ukraine does not have a biological weapons program," she said. "There are no Ukrainian biological weapons laboratories supported by the United States, not near Russia's border or anywhere."

Thomas-Greenfield said the Ukrainian labs in questions are public health facilities used to detect and diagnose diseases. She said the activities at these facilities are "done out in the open" to protect public health.

She accused Russia of using the security council meeting to "legitimize disinformation" and "deceive people" in order to justify Putin's war of choice.

Russia has long-maintained a biological weapon program "in violation of international law," she said, and has a history of using chemical weapons itself.

"We believe Russia could use chemical or biological agents for assassinations, as part of a staged or false flag incident, or to support tactical military operations," Thomas-Greenfield said. "Russia has a track record of falsely accusing other countries of the very violations that Russia itself is perpetrating."

She then turned focus to alleged Russian actions in Ukraine, saying Russia called this meeting to use "lies" in an attempt to "cover up atrocities in Ukraine."

The U.S. "will not let atrocities slide," Thomas-Greenfield said, adding that she is confident the "truth and transparency will prevail."

Over 2.5 Million Refugees Have Fled Ukraine

The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine continues to climb more than two weeks since Russia began invading the country. More than 2.5 million refugees have left Ukraine as of March 11, the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates.

Refugees have flooded into neighboring countries, the vast majority to Poland. Warsaw's mayor has called for global support to respond to the crisis.

"300,000 refugees have arrived in Warsaw since Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24," Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski said. "Our city remains the main destination for Ukrainian refugees. Situation is getting more and more difficult every day."

Where refugees are going, by country:

  • Poland: 1.5 million
  • Other European countries: 282,497
  • Hungary: 225,046
  • Slovakia: 176,092
  • Russia: 105,897
  • Moldova: 104,929
  • Romania: 84,671
  • Belarus: 858

*Estimates above provided by UNHCR as of 3/11.

A Warsaw sports center has transformed into shelter for some Ukrainian refugees. Many are women, children and the elderly.

Refugees in Warsaw
Volunteers entertain children who fled the war in Ukraine at a sports center that has been turned into an accommodation center in Warsaw on March 11. Czarek Sokolowski/AP Photo
Refugees in Poland
Refugees from the war in Ukraine seek shelter in a sports center in Warsaw. Czarek Sokolowski/AP Photo

Harris Says Putin is Not Interests in 'Serious Diplomacy'

Vice President Kamala Harris said Russian President Vladimir Putin is not interested in "serious diplomacy."

During a press conference with Romanian President Klaus Friday, Harris said the United States is still hoping to find a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine, but is not optimistic Moscow is willing to engage in good faith negotiations.

"From the beginning, the United States has been attempting sincerely to engage in diplomacy," she said. "From everything that we know and have witnessed, Putin shows no sign of engaging in serious diplomacy."

She said diplomacy should coexists with efforts to hold Russia accountable for its actions, including spreading "lies" and "misinformation."

"We are clear that any intentional attack or targeting of civilians is a war crime. Period," she said.

The vice president also reiterated the United States' commitment to its NATO allies.

"We take very seriously our role and the relationships that we have within the NATO alliance," she said. "We take seriously and are prepared to act on the words we speak when we say an attack against one is an attack against all."

Harris in Romania
US Vice President Kamala Harris holds a press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis following meetings at Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest, Romania, March 11, 2022. SAUL LOEB/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Biden Warns a Chemical Attack Would Cost a 'Severe Price'

President Joe Biden threatened "severe" consequences if Russia were to launch a chemical weapons attack in Ukraine.

"Russia would pay a severe price if they use chemical weapons," Biden said during a press conference Friday.

The White House issued warnings of the potential warfare Wednesday, after Russia made claims about alleged U.S. biological weapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine. The White House has repeatedly refuted the claims, saying the U.S. has no such program anywhere.

Biden spoke with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky prior to announcing another round of sanctions against Russia Friday, in what Zelensky called a "substantive conversation."

"Gave him the assessment of the situation on the battlefield, informed about the crimes of Russia against the civilian population," Zelensky said. "We agreed on further steps to support the defense of Ukraine and increase sanctions against Russia."

The U.S. continues to send security assistance to Ukraine daily, as Russia's invasion continued for a sixteenth day.

Congress passed a massive spending bill Thursday night, including $13 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. Biden said he looks forward to signing the bill "immediately."

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris announced nearly $53 million in humanitarian assistance from the U.S. government to United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Thursday. Biden said the U.S. continues to provide humanitarian support including food, money and aid.

U..S. Revokes Russia's 'Most Favored Nation' Trade Status

President Biden announced that the U.S., along with NATO and G7 allies, will deny "most favored nations" status to Russia.

Most favored nation status means that two countries agree to trade under the best possible terms, Biden said, including low tariffs and few trade barriers.

"Revoking [permanent normal trade relations] will make it harder for Russia to do business with the United States," Biden said. "And doing it in union with other countries that make up half the world's economy will be another crushing blow to Russia's economy."

Biden also announced the U.S. will ban key imports from Russia, including seafood, vodka and diamonds.

"Putin is the aggressor," Biden said. "He has to pay the price."

The U.S. will also add more Russian oligarchs to the sanctions list and ban the import of certain luxury goods to Russia.

G7 leaders are restricting Russia's ability to borrow from leading multilateral institutions, including International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

E.U. Threatens More Sanctions Against Russia

The European Union is willing to impose another set of sanctions against Russia, leaders said during a summit in Versailles Friday.

"We're willing to adopt other sanctions and all options are on the table," French President Emmanuel Macron said.

"Our initial objective is, of course, a rapid return to peace. Starting with a ceasefire, followed by a rapid withdrawal of Russian troops."

The E.U. will also roll out a plan by the end of May, detailing ways to phase out dependency on Russian gas, oil and coal by 2027.

"It will be backed by the necessary national and European resources," President of the E.U. Commission Ursula von der Leyen said Friday.

"Consumers and businesses need relief now," she continued. "On top of price regulation and State Aid, Member States are given the option to tax windfall profits from energy groups. End of March, [the] E.U. Commission will present options to limit the contagion of the rise of gas prices to electricity."

E.U. leaders discussed three major topics during a two-day summit in Versailles: bolstering E.U. defense capabilities, reducing Russian energy dependency and building a more robust economic base amid Russia's invasion into Ukraine.

Biden to Announce New Actions Against Russia

President Joe Biden is set to announce new actions against Russia Friday morning.

Biden is expected to downgrade the U.S. trade status with Russia.

The announcement will stream live at 10:15 a.m. ET on the White House website and YouTube channel.

In Pictures: Russia-Ukraine War on Day 16 (Friday)

Photographs taken in Ukraine and Moscow earlier today have been recording the conflict on Day 16 of the invasion. Here are a few:

Shell damage in Dnipro, Ukraine
Ukraine's State Emergency Services shared pictures, including this one, purporting to show damage caused by shelling in Dnipro on Friday. Russian shells damaged a kindergarten, apartment block and a shoe factory. Ukraine's SES
Ukraine's first female volunteer fighter
Iryna Sergeyeva, Ukraine's first female volunteer fighter to get a full military contract of the Territorial Defense Forces of Ukraine, the military reserve, holds her Kalashnikov during a military training in an underground garage in Kyiv, on March 11, 2022. Ukraine says about 20,000 international volunteers have come forward. on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin touted the prospect of Russia's own volunteer force. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images
Vladimir Putin poses with Alexander Lukashenko
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko pose for a photo during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, Friday, March 11, 2022. Putin told Lukashenko there had been "positive shifts" in Ukraine peace negotiations. Kremlin Pool Photo via AP/Mikhail Klimentyev for Sputnik
Mourners in Mykolaiv
Mourners pay their last respects as a woman (L) grieves during the funeral of a man killed in shelling at a cemetery in Mykolaiv. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images
A packed Lviv railway station
Passengers depart the railway station after disembarking trains from the east on March 11, 2022 in Lviv, Ukraine. More than 2.3 million people have fled Ukraine following Russia's large-scale assault on the country, with hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians passing through Lviv on their way to Poland. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Mykolaiv Oblast Governor Vitaly Kim walks away
Mykolaiv Oblast Governor Vitaly Kim walks away after giving a fresh briefing to journalists in Mykolaiv, a city on the shores of the Black Sea that has been under Russian attack for days. Russian forces stepped up attacks on Ukrainian cities on Friday morning. Dnipro—home to 1 million people—came under attack for the first time in the war, while Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk were also hit. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images

Russian Pilot of Downed Jet: 'We Realized the Targets Were Civilian'

The pilot of a Russian jet downed shortly after carrying out airstrikes in Ukraine has said that during one mission he "realized that the target was not a enemy military objects, but civilian homes and peaceful people."

Lieutenant Colonel Maxim Krishtop said: "After I dropped the bombs, I was shot down by Ukraine's air defense systems. I was then taken prisoner," in a video broadcast by Interfax Ukraine news agency.

The order to carry out airstrikes came on February 23, the day before Russia began its invasion, the captured pilot claimed. But he also admitted that he was made aware of war preparations upon being assigned to join training exercises in Belarus in January 2022.

He also said he carried out three bombing missions in Ukraine in total, some of which involved deployment of FAB-500— Soviet-era air-dropped bombs with a high-explosive warhead.

"I fully comprehend and accept the horrific nature of my crimes. I will do everything in my power to end this war as quickly as possible, and bring those responsible for this genocide of Ukrainians to justice," the pilot concluded.

Krishtop appeared in a line-up of several Russian officers that Ukraine claims to have captured and brought to speak with journalists.

Russia has accused Ukraine of mistreating and "parading" war prisoners, who it claims are speaking under duress. Ukraine has refuted those accusations.

What Putin Might Mean by 'Positive Shifts' in Peace Talks

As we've been hearing, Vladimir Putin has suggested peace negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian delegates are improving.

But what exactly did he mean by "certain positive shifts?" Here's the situation:

  • The Kremlin has said it will halt military action in Ukraine if Kyiv meets four conditions: sign a neutrality agreement barring NATO entry, recognize Crimea as Russian, and Luhansk and Donetsk as independent, and cease military action.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky won't accept Russia's demands for ending the war unconditionally, but he appeared to make a concession recently.
  • In an interview with ABC News on Tuesday, Zelensky said he was "cooling down" to the idea of joining NATO, and that there was room for negotiating on the occupied territories of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Here's What Putin Said to Lukashenko

Russian president Vladimir Putin met with the leader of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to discuss progress of peace talks with Ukraine, and the impact of Western sanctions imposed on the two countries by the West.

"Naturally I will inform you about the situation with Ukraine, and first and foremost about the progress of negotiations, which are taking place on an almost daily basis. There are certain positive shifts, according to the negotiators on our side. I will tell you in more detail," Putin told Lukashenko. He did not elaborate on the specifics of those discussions.

Putin also commented on Western sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus, saying the "USSR did in fact live under sanctions, was able to develop and achieve colossal victories."

"The sanctions against us present a moment of opportunity," Putin's Belarusian counterpart echoed. "We've always been under sanctions and continued to thrive and develop."

Lukashenko also proposed that Russia and Belarus build a "joint economic policy."

Earlier Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov claimed that Putin "was not opposed to meeting [Ukraine president Volodymyr] Zelensky," but the Russian side wants for such a meeting to be arranged "only if concrete agreements can be put in place."

The president of Ukraine on several occasions publicly called on Putin to meet with him directly, but the Kremlin dismissed such suggestions, saying that there was "no need" for high-level talks.

Putin and Lukashenko in the Kremlin
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Belarus' counterpart Alexander Lukashenko at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 11, 2022. MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

Video: Long Lines Outside McDonald's in Russia

Long lines formed outside McDonald's restaurants across Russia following the company's announcement it would temporarily close there, local media reported.

Social media video (above) taken on March 9 at 6:30 pm local time showed vehicles waiting at a drive-thru in the city of Surgut in western Siberia.

More than 300 international brands, including Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Ikea, have paused operations in Russia following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (More on that here)

Ex-NATO Officials Lament 'Embarrassing' Collapse of Fighter Jet Plan

We're translating Vladimir Putin's remarks to Alexander Lukashenko and will bring you more shortly. First...

Former senior NATO officials have told Newsweek that the organization's failure to transfer fighter jets to Ukraine is an embarrassing stain on an alliance that has made so much of its support for Kyiv in the face of Russian invasion.

Our senior reporter David Brennan details concerns on the plan's collapse deepening Ukrainian animosity towards NATO and encourage Russian aggression.

Alexander Vershbow, former Deputy Secretary-General of NATO, told him it was "very embarrassing that the administration seemed to greenlight it's saying they wouldn't stand in the way and then had second thoughts."

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said the U.S. is still "surging security assistance to Ukraine" along with its partners and allies.

Bulgaria mig-29 fighter jet Ukraine Russia NATO
A Bulgarian Air Force MiG-29 is pictured on February 17, 2022 in Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria. Hristo Rusev/Getty Images

Russian Prosecutors Want Meta Platforms Labeled 'Extremist'

U.S. tech giant Meta is facing the wrath of Russian authorities after leaked emails showed the company temporarily lifted its own restrictions around hate speech to allow users to post calls for violence against Russian soldiers.

Russian state prosecutors called on the tech firm on Friday to be labeled "extremist organization," a move likely to leave its platforms—including Instagram, Whatsapp and Facebook— blocked in Russia.

Meta's temporary policy changes on calls for violence against Russian soldiers apply to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine.

"As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules, like violent speech such as 'death to the Russian invaders'. We still won't allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians," Meta said in a statement earlier this week.

Video Shows Russian Tanks Being Destroyed, Ukraine Says

More footage of fighting in Ukraine.

Shortly after the Russian defense ministry published a video of a purported drone strike on Ukrainian forces, The General Staff of the Armed forces of Ukraine published footage of what it claims to be an enemy tank being destroyed by a rocket strike.

"Here goes. Little tank. One shot, one hit [...] Glory to Ukraine!" the caption under the video states.

Rob Lee, a military expert and senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a U.S.-based non-profit think tank, suggested on Twitter the footage may show a Ukrainian Stugna-P ATGM strike.

Newsweek is unable to independently verify the footage and the weapon that appears to be used in the video.

'We know The Kremlin's Tactics': U.S. Warns Russia Over Chemical Weapons

More now on concerns Russia is preparing to use chemical weapons...

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price has this morning warned Russia about using chemical weapons on Ukraine.

"This is a government that has used banned chemical weapons on its own people in the past," he said.

He said that the U.S. knows the "Kremlin's tactics, especially its disinformation tactics." His comments come after the Russian Defense Ministry accused Ukraine of possibly planning a false-flag chemical weapon attack.

Referencing several incidents that have taken place since the invasion, including the bombing of the maternity hospital in Mariupol, Price added that if war crimes have been committed the "perpetrators" will be held "accountable."

Russia Claims Video Shows Drone Strikes, 'Trophy Javelin' in Ukraine

Several new videos published on official and unofficial Russian channels appear to show strikes on Ukrainian forces and a captured U.S.-made anti-tank missile system.

The first video, published on the Russian defense ministry on its official YouTube channel, claims to show the moment a Russian Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) fired at what it describes as "a fortified base of Ukrainian nationalists."

The Russian government and media have continued to peddle a false narrative that Ukraine is "occupied by neonazis," a claim that Western officials and media outlets dismiss as part of a propaganda campaign to justify the invasion of Ukraine.

"A Russian military UAV hit the target with a guided missile from the height of 4 kilometers," the caption to the video states.

In another video on a pro-Russian Telegram channel a "trophy FGM-148 Javelin," the portable anti-tank missile system that Ukraine acquired from the U.S., is being handled by Russian soldiers. If proven true, this may be the first reported successful capture of a functioning "Javelin" by the Russian forces in Ukraine.

Putin Reports 'Positive Shifts' in Peace Negotiations

Breaking news...

Vladimir Putin has positive developments in peace negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian delegates in Belarus.

Putin told Belarussian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko that there had been "certain positive shifts" after he was briefed by those taking part in the talks.

"There are certain positive shifts, negotiators on our side tell me," Putin said in a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, adding that talks continued "practically on a daily basis."

Vladimir Putin talks to Alexander Lukashenko
Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko that there had been "positive" developments in pace talks between Moscow and Kyiv. Russia-24 TV

Putin added that attempts to "restrict our development, contain it" would not succeed, and said Russia had achieved "colossal" successes under sanctions.

Video clips of Putin Lukashenko have been broadcast on Russia-24 TV this morning.

So far, three rounds of talks have failed to bring a full ceasefire.

Ukrainian Forces Claim Back Five Settlements in Chernihiv

Ukrainian forces say they have taken back five settlements in the Chernihiv region, north Ukraine, from Russian occupiers.

Operational Command "North" made the announcement this morning, reporting that Ukrainian fighters also seized Russian armored personnel carriers.

"We have state flags of Ukraine and two armored personnel carriers over our settlements of Chernihiv region, which will now serve the benefit of the Ukrainian people," fighters added.

As we've previously reported, 47 civilians were killed in a suspected "dumb bomb" attack by Russian forces on Chernihiv city, about 90 miles north of Kyiv, on March 3. Human rights group Amnesty said the attack could be a "war crime."

"Unknown Object" Drops From Sky in Croatia, Reportedly Ukrainian Drone

An unidentified object, possibly a Ukrainian military drone, has crashed on the outskirts of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, after allegedly flying all the way from the conflict zone.

The object landed in the Sava suburb of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, located nearly 400 miles from Ukraine's border to the east of neighboring Hungary.

The crash caused a small but loud explosion, but did not result in any injuries or casualties, according to a statement issued after Croatia's National Security Council.

Videos of the aftermath of the crash have been shared extensively on social media by local residents.

According to Croatian authorities, the "pilotless military aircraft" entered Croatian airspace from neighboring Hungary at a speed of 700 kph (430 mph) and an altitude of 1,300 meters (4,300 feet).

"The Emergency Situations Office immediately sent a response team to the crash site, with initial accounts from eyewitnesses and officials suggesting that it was some kind of aircraft. Firefighters also received a report of a parachute found on a tree nearby," Croatian daily newspaper Jutarnji reported Friday.

Local reports say the drone is likely a Topulev Tu-141 'Strizh' UAV, though it is not clear whether it belonged to the Russian or Ukrainian military.

Shells Hit Dnipro Kindergarten, Homes, Shoe Factory: Ukraine

Here's the latest from Dnipro...

Residents in Dnipro, central Ukraine, awoke in the early hours to find their city under attack for the first time in Russia's invasion.

Ukraine's State Emergency Service said a kindergarten, residential block and shoe factory were hit by shelling shortly after 6 a.m. this morning (Friday).

One person died, with the blasts damaging windows in eight apartment buildings, it said. Dnipro is home to about 1 million people, about the same size as Austin.

Nadezhda, a woman who lives near the site of the airstrike, told BBC News she and her granddaughter ran to a shelter at a Metro station after explosions rocked their building at about 6 a.m. local time.

"There were lots of people there - men, women, little dogs, elderly and the young - it was the first time we went down there.

"It's really scary, it was really frightening when this happened."

Shell damage in Dnipro, Ukraine
Ukraine's State Emergency Services shared pictures, including this one, purporting to show damage caused by shelling in Dnipro on Friday. Ukraine's SES

Mariupol Hospital Bombing Victim Gives Birth, Targeted by Russian Smear Campaign

The pregnant woman pictured escaping from the Mariupol maternity hospital that was destroyed by the Russian artillery fire has become a target of abuse by pro-Russian trolls on social media.

The woman, whose first name is Marianna, gave birth to a baby girl at 10pm local time on Thursday, according to Ukrainian journalist Olga Tokariuk.

"They are ok, but it's very cold in Mariupol and the bombing doesn't stop," the journalist tweeted.

Marianna, reportedly a beauty blogger originally from Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, has become a target of a Russian disinformation campaign, with dozens of pro-Russian accounts making unevidenced claims she is a "crisis actor" and the photo of her escape as "staged."

In the aftermath of the bombing the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov claimed the hospital was targeted because it was cleared days earlier to "host Ukrainian nationalists." Later the Russian defense ministry altogether denied that Russia was behind the bombing, which, it falsely claimed, was "faked."

Mariupol maternity hospital shelling
An injured pregnant woman walks downstairs in the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol. Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo

White House Vows More 'Economic Pain' if Russia Seizes U.S. assets

The White House has hit back following reports Russia might look to seize assets from U.S. companies in retaliation for the West's crippling sanctions.

Any such move by Russia would end in "more economic pain" for Russia, White House press secretary Jen Psaki warned on Thursday morning.

In a series of tweets, she wrote: "Any lawless decision by Russia to seize the assets of these companies will ultimately result in even more economic pain for Russia. It will compound the clear message to the global business community that Russia is not a safe place to invest and do business."

Vladimir Putin Touts Russia's Rival Foreign Legion

Vladimir Putin Comments on Sanctions
Russian President Vladimir Putin said western sanctions would have come regardless of an invasion into Ukraine. Above, Putin gestures during a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in the sidelines of the G20 Leaders' Summit in Buenos Aires on November 30, 2018. Photo by Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been spoken of attracting volunteer fighters to join his war against Ukraine.

"If you see that there are people who want on a voluntary basis, especially not for money, to come and help people living in the Donbass - well, well, you need to meet them halfway and help them move to the war zone," he told security chiefs, Russian news agency Tass reported a little while ago.

His comments come after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on February 27 an "international legion" volunteer force to defend his country

More than 20,000 from 52 countries had volunteered as of Monday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia too had many requests from volunteers, largely from the Middle East.

"The largest number of countries from the Middle East, more than 16,000 applications. And here, of course, we consider it right to respond positively to requests, especially since these requests are not for money, but for the personal convictions of these people," Shoigu said a recent Security Council, state-controlled TV station Zvezda reports.

While the number claimed by Shoigu could not be independently confirmed, a report in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, March 6, claimed that Russia was recruiting Syrians skilled in urban combat to fight in Ukraine.

Dmytro Demyanenko, Kiev's Ex-Security Chief, Killed—Reports

Ukraine and Russia media is reporting that Dmytro Demyanenko, a Ukrainian former security services in Kiev, has been killed.

Ukrainian journalist Volodymyr Boyko wrote on Telegram that Demyanenko was found dead in a Toyota car with gunshot wounds. Boyko shared photos showing several bodies in a car.

Demyanenko's reported death is unverified. We'll bring you more as we get it.

Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform and Ukrainian newspaper Pravda said he was shot dead at a roadblock after purportedly firing at patrol officers in the Darnitskiy district of southeastern Kiev.

Social media posts show CCTV footage of a gunfight at a checkpoint, purportedly showing Demyanenko's final moments.

Demyanenko is a former deputy head of the SBU Main Directorate in Kyiv and Kyiv Oblast, Boyko said. Ukrinform reports he previously worked as an advisor to current Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, the former heavyweight boxing champion.