“This will be a war crime,” Zelensky said in an emotional video Sunday.
The city council in one of the hardest-hit cities, Mariupol, said it would again try to evacuate people from the battle zone Sunday — after a temporary truce broke down less than 24 hours earlier, as Ukrainian officials accused Russian troops of shelling what was supposed to be safe escape route there and Volnovakha.
A rocket blast ripped through homes south of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. Russia is responding to the surprising “scale and strength” of Ukrainian resistance by targeting residential areas of several cities — Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Mariupol — in an apparent effort to “break Ukrainian morale,” Britain’s Defense Ministry said, noting that Russia deployed “similar tactics” in Chechnya in 1999 and in Syria in 2016. Western officials are cautioning it could be a long-haul, with Britain’s deputy prime minister saying Sunday that thwarting Putin’s invasion could take “months, if not years.”
Here’s what to know
- In his first extended remarks about the invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday threatened Ukraine’s statehood, while Zelensky appealed the same day to U.S. lawmakers for help securing more Soviet-era fighter jets to keep repelling the Kremlin invasion.
- The financial fallout for Russia continued to mount, with Visa and Mastercard announcing that they would suspend transactions in Russia over what Visa CEO Al Kelly described as Russia’s “unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.” Zelensky had made the suggestion earlier in a virtual call with members of Congress. He had also requested a ban on the purchase of Russian oil, a measure the White House said it is considering.
- Following a new Russian law that would imprison those who spread what the Kremlin considers “fake” news about the country’s invasion of Ukraine, independent media outlets are shuttering their operations in Russia and Western news organizations are limiting their newsgathering activity there.
UNDERSTANDING THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE CONFLICT
McDonald’s, Pepsi face growing calls to suspend operations in Russia
Global companies including McDonald’s and Pepsi are facing political pressure and calls on social media to suspend operations in Russia as a slew of other brands cut ties there in a show of support for Ukraine.
On Friday, Thomas DiNapoli, the New York state comptroller, sent letters to several companies urging them to halt or pause operations in Russia. DiNapoli cited “significant and growing legal, compliance, operational, human rights and personnel, and reputational risks.”
Estee Lauder, Pepsi and snack company Mondelez International — which produces Cadbury chocolate, Oreo cookies and Philadelphia cream cheese — were among those DiNapoli contacted, Reuters reported. DiNapoli oversees New York’s pension fund, which has shares in the companies, according to Reuters.
Halting operations across Russia “would address various investment risks associated with the Russian market and play an important role in condemning Russia’s role in fundamentally undermining the international order that is vital to a strong and healthy global economy,” the letter said, according to Reuters.
On Sunday, #BoycottMcDonalds trended on Twitter in the United Kingdom as thousands called for the fast-food giant to review operations in Russia, where it has more than 800 restaurants. The country’s first McDonald’s opened in Moscow’s Pushkin Square in 1990.
U.S. ‘looking actively’ at helping supply Ukraine with fighter jets, Blinken says
TALLINN, Estonia — The United States is exploring how it might facilitate supplying Ukraine with fighter jets from NATO nations, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday, suggesting a step-up in western military aid to Kyiv as it faces Russia’s deepening invasion.
“We are looking actively now at the question of airplanes that Poland may provide to Ukraine and looking at how we might be able to backfill should Poland choose to supply those planes,” he told reporters during a visit to Chisinau, Moldova.
“I can’t speak to the timeline but I can just tell you that we’re looking at it very, very actively,” Blinken said.
Blinken’s remarks will be welcomed in Kyiv, where Ukrainian leaders have appealed to the West for additional military aid as they face a punishing assault by Russian forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged U.S. lawmakers in a video call on Saturday to help ensure his country gets additional air power to bolster its meager air force and stave off Russia’s attempt to capture major cities.
Ukrainian officials have also called for NATO establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, a move the Western alliance has rejected because, NATO officials say, it could trigger war with Russia.
Blinken, who is making a tour of European countries as he seeks to signal Western unity against President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, this week ruled out U.S. support for a no-fly zone. But he has not spoken in recent days of a potential American effort to help Ukraine obtain European fighter jets.
While those nations have supported strong moves against Russia, there are also concerns that supplying combat aircraft could prompt the Kremlin to retaliate against them.
More than 1.5 million refugees fled Ukraine in 10 days, U.N. agency says
More than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine have fled to neighboring countries over the last 10 days, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said Sunday. He tweeted that the mass exodus is “the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.”
Grandi recently predicted that more than four million people could be displayed by the conflict in the days to come.
The majority of those fleeing have entered Poland, while others have sought safety in Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia and Romania, according to U.N. data.
In recent days, Grandi has led calls for support and hailed locals and officials in other countries for welcoming Ukrainian refugees in recent days, the thousands experiencing “separation, anguish, and loss.”
As the number of refugees from Ukraine in neighbouring countries reaches 1.2 million I am in Moldova, where the government, local authorities and overall population are making huge efforts to welcome and organize those arriving across the border.
Moldova needs more support! pic.twitter.com/9fzj6wRxXF
— Filippo Grandi (@FilippoGrandi) March 4, 2022
U.S. and allies quietly prepare for a Ukrainian government-in-exile and a long insurgency
The Ukrainian military has mounted an unexpectedly fierce defense against invading Russian forces, which have been dogged by logistical problems and flagging morale. But the war is barely two weeks old, and in Washington and European capitals, officials anticipate that the Russian military will reverse its early losses, setting the stage for a long, bloody insurgency.
The ways that Western countries would support a Ukrainian resistance are beginning to take shape. Officials have been reluctant to discuss detailed plans, since they’re premised on a Russian military victory that, however likely, hasn’t happened yet. But as a first step, Ukraine’s allies are planning for how to help establish and support a government-in-exile, which could direct guerrilla operations against Russian occupiers, according to several U.S. and European officials.
The weapons the United States has provided to Ukraine’s military, and that continue to flow into the country, would be crucial to the success of an insurgent movement, officials said. The Biden administration has asked Congress, infused with a rare bipartisan spirit in defense of Ukraine, to take up a $10 billion humanitarian aid and military package that includes funding to replenish the stocks of weapons that have already been sent.
Russian forces preparing to bomb Odessa, Zelensky says: ‘This will be a war crime’
ODESSA, Ukraine — Russian forces are preparing to bomb Odessa, which is a critical port and Ukraine’s third-largest city with about 1 million people, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday in an emotional video.
“Russians always traveled to Odessa, always felt only warmth in Odessa,” Zelensky said. “And now what? Bombs against Odessa? Artillery against Odessa? Rockets against Odessa? This will be a war crime.”
Odessa is the most economically strategic port of Ukraine’s southern cities, making it a clear target for Russian troops who have already laid siege to shipping hubs across the Black Sea coastline. The city’s beach — normally full of sunbathing tourists — is now littered with mines. Sand has been shoveled into sacks for roadblocks. Russian warships have been visible from the shore for days.
The threat on Odessa builds after a rocket blast tore through homes south of Kyiv, the capital, as Russia targets residential areas across several cities in a push to “break Ukrainian morale,” Britain’s Defense Ministry said.
Areas that were bustling 12 days ago — with people dining, shopping and taking afternoon strolls — now lack electricity, heat and running water. More than 1.5 million people have fled the country, and thousands of others are rushing to evacuate during a cease-fire planned for Sunday. But uncertainty looms over the escape effort: Russian shelling broke another temporary truce less than 24 hours earlier.
Attacks on Ukrainian health-care facilities have killed 6, injured 11, WHO says
At least six people have been killed and nearly a dozen more injured following several attacks on health-care facilities in Ukraine, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus confirmed Sunday.
“Attacks on healthcare facilities or workers breach medical neutrality and are violations of international humanitarian law,” he tweeted, adding that additional incidents are being investigated.
The organization has recorded six deaths and 11 injuries as a result of the attacks since Russian forces began invading Ukraine on Feb. 24. The WHO reported that some health-care facilities were attacked by heavy weapons, which can include tanks, missiles or bombs.
.@WHO has confirmed several attacks on health care in #Ukraine, causing multiple deaths and injuries. Additional reports are being investigated. Attacks on healthcare facilities or workers breach medical neutrality and are violations of international humanitarian law. #NotATarget https://t.co/Wdc2jeoHIB
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) March 6, 2022
Many in Ukraine are in dire need of health services, the organization tweeted Saturday, adding, “Even in times of conflict, we must protect the sanctity and safety of health care, a fundamental human right.”
Senate Republicans threaten to slow efforts to deliver aid to Ukraine, fund federal agencies
Senate Republicans have issued a series of early threats against a still-forming deal to fund the federal government, signaling that they could delay the package — which may include emergency aid to Ukraine — over concerns about excessive spending and vaccine mandates.
The early warnings, delivered in two letters to Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), could slow lawmakers’ time-sensitive work as Russia’s incursion into Ukraine is intensifying — all while Washington faces a March 11 deadline to fund federal agencies and avoid a government shutdown.
In the first letter, sent Thursday, eight GOP lawmakers complained that “families are feeling the pressure of skyrocketing prices,” which they blamed on “reckless government spending.” In response, they said they “cannot allow another massive spending package to be rushed through Congress without proper consideration and scrutiny.”
Zelensky praises Ukrainian resistance in latest address: ‘This is a special heroism’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the fighting spirit of his people and called on them to “go on the offensive,” as Britain’s Defense Ministry said Saturday that four of the country’s cities — Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Mariupol and Sumy — are “highly likely” to be surrounded by Russian forces.
“This is a special heroism — to protest when your city is occupied,” Zelensky said Saturday evening local time, in a speech posted to his Telegram channel. “Our people, Ukrainians, do not retreat, do not give up, do not stop their resistance.”
The wartime president addressed people living in areas occupied by Russian forces, urging them to “fight for your freedom.” And he praised Ukrainians for responding in whatever way they could, from soldiers on the front lines to doctors saving lives and civilians working to provide essential services amid the violence.
Since the invasion began 11 days ago, reports have highlighted Ukrainians’ efforts to fight back, even when outgunned by Russian forces. Some have removed road signs to throw off incoming Russian forces, while a government unit has documented the invasion, one meme at a time.
“We are all rebuilding the country together,” Zelensky said.
Britain’s Defense Ministry also noted Sunday that the “scale and strength of Ukrainian resistance continues to surprise Russia.”
Mission to stop Putin in Ukraine could take ‘months, if not years,’ U.K. official says
The effort by Western nations to make sure Russia does not succeed in its invasion of Ukraine could take “months, if not years,” a top British official said Sunday.
Dominic Raab, Britain’s deputy prime minister, said the effort to “ensure Putin fails in Ukraine … is going to take some time. We’re talking about months, if not years.”
Speaking on the Sky News show “Trevor Phillips on Sunday,” Raab added, “Therefore, we’ll have to show some strategic stamina, because this is not going to be over in days.”
The comments come as Britain’s Defense Ministry on Sunday said that the “scale and strength of Ukrainian resistance continues to surprise Russia,” which had anticipated a weaker response from Ukraine that would have allowed it to quickly take the capital, Kyiv — and, along with it, control over the government.
Raab noted that although “none of the major cities have yet fallen,” Russia has responded with “evermore brutal tactics.”
Governments around the world have responded to the invasion by hitting Russia with crippling sanctions, as companies — including major payment platforms like Visa, Mastercard and American Express — have joined in the effort.
Ukrainian resistance ‘continues to surprise Russia,’ British intelligence says
Britain’s Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update Sunday that the “scale and strength of Ukrainian resistance continues to surprise Russia” as Moscow targets populated areas.
The Ukrainian military has hampered Russia’s advances by advising civilian defense volunteers to attack fuel trucks — which are unarmored and often driven by poorly trained Russian soldiers — instead of armored vehicles. Although Ukraine’s military is severely outmanned and outgunned, Russia has faced stronger resistance than anticipated, exacerbating struggles of its own accord, including supply shortages and low morale. Road signs have been painted over or torn down to confuse Russian troops, many of whom are young and inexperienced in combat.
In response to the Ukrainian tactics, Britain said there was a “realistic possibility that Russia is now attempting to conceal fuel trucks as regular support trucks to minimise losses.”
The intelligence update added that Russia has responded to the resistance “by targeting populated areas,” including Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol. The move was probably “an effort to break Ukrainian morale,” it said. Russia has used similar tactics of air and ground-based munitions in Chechnya, where heavy bombing took place in 1999 after Russian forces invaded following its declaration of independence, and in Syria in 2016. A month-long bombing campaign in Aleppo, Syria, that year amounted to war crimes and “barbarism,” the United States said at the time.
Radio Free Europe shutters Russia operations, citing crushing regulation
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the network that broadcast uncensored news across the Iron Curtain in Cold War-era Europe, said Saturday it will shutter its operations in Russia, citing mounting fines over its refusal to be identified as a “foreign agent” and a new law stifling freedom of the press.
“This is not a decision that RFE/RL has taken of its own accord, but one that has been forced upon us by the Putin regime’s assault on the truth,” Jamie Fly, the network’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. “Following years of threats, intimidation and harassment of our journalists, the Kremlin, desperate to prevent Russian citizens from knowing the truth about its illegal war in Ukraine, is now branding honest journalists as traitors to the Russian state.”
RFE said that on Friday, the tax authorities in Russia started bankruptcy proceedings against its operations there, stemming from more than $13.4 million in fines for 1,040 violations of Russia’s “unlawful demand” that RFE’s content be labeled as produced by a “foreign agent.”
RFE added that 18 of its journalists also had been designated “foreign agents.” Nine of its Russian-language websites were blocked in the past week, it said, over its refusal to delete information about the invasion of Ukraine.
A law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that threatened 15 years in prison for, as RFE said, “any journalist who deviates from the Kremlin’s talking points on the Ukraine war” played a role in its decision to shut down its Russian operations.
The network, which provides news programming online and through radio and television broadcasts, began as a radio network founded at the beginning of the Cold War “to transmit uncensored news and information to audiences behind the Iron Curtain.”
RFE’s website says it “played a significant role in the collapse of communism and the rise of democracies in post-communist Europe.”
Russian demand for sanctions relief threatens Iran nuclear talks
VIENNA — Russia presented a new condition for a revival of the Iran nuclear deal on Saturday: A U.S. guarantee that the sanctions that have been imposed on Moscow for invading Ukraine won’t be applied to Russian trade and investment with Iran.
The demand, made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, threatens to derail talks to restore the 2015 deal just as diplomats in Vienna hoped to finalize an agreement by early next week.
Lavrov told a news conference that Russia was ready to accept a draft document restoring the deal. But he said there were “problems that have appeared recently from the point of view of Russia’s interests.”
Under the new agreement, the Biden administration is expected to lift sanctions on Iran imposed by President Donald Trump after he pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018, and Iran will be required to revert to restraints on its nuclear program. The original agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, would then be restored.
Ukraine’s military adapts tactics after enduring Russia’s initial invasion
An outgunned but resilient Ukrainian military is adopting a two-prong strategy in the face of a flawed but fierce Russian assault, relying on hit-and-run tactics and the fortification of major cities as President Vladimir Putin’s campaign enters a more perilous phase, military experts said.
The odds remain stacked against Ukraine, even as it exceeds Western intelligence assessments that had predicted Kyiv, the capital, would fall within days. Russian forces have begun employing siege tactics, aiming to flatten civilian infrastructure and exact maximum punishment for Ukrainian resistance. While Russia has mostly failed, so far, to seize major cities and effectively supply its soldiers with food and fuel, the Pentagon believes it is probable that Russia will regroup and press its massive advantage in firepower.
John Spencer, a retired Army officer who studies urban warfare for the Madison Policy Forum, said Ukraine’s top objective is to make the war as bloody as possible for Russia, as it does not appear Putin will withdraw anytime soon. Giving up secondary cities may become necessary to allow the Ukrainian government to endure in the capital as long as possible, he said.
Protests against Russian invasion of Ukraine fill streets around the globe
From Europe, to Asia, to Africa to North America, people around the globe took to the streets Saturday to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin and plead for peace Russia’ invasion has killed hundreds of Ukrainian civilians.
Seas, borders, languages and cultural differences separated the protesters, but the imagery of their pleas was similar: sunflowers, Ukraine’s national flower; Ukraine’s blue-and-yellow flag; the phrase “no war” translated into a slew of languages; banners with Putin’s face vandalized.
The similarities underscore how the invasion, which began late last month, has quickly turned public opinion against Putin and Russia in a war much of the world has followed online. Across social media, videos of Ukraine’s defiance and of Russia’s assault have rallied support for Ukraine.