Russian forces shelled a school and cultural centre, killing at least 21 people and wounding 25 in the town of Merefa outside Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine yesterday. Authorities in Ukraine’s Mariupol say they are clarifying information on possible victims of the Russian shelling of a theatre sheltering civilians. Ukrainian officials said more than 1,000 civilians had been sheltering in a basement bomb shelter beneath the theatre, and that Russian shelling was continuing.
A day after pleading with US Congress to send more help to Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky warned German lawmakers that Russia is building a new “Wall” in Europe, evoking the Berlin Wall during the Cold War.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken says President Joe Biden will warn Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping when he speaks to him on Friday of retaliation if Beijing provides military aid to Russia.
At ongoing peace talks, officials in Kyiv say Russia has agreed to nine humanitarian corridors for fleeing refugees, including one out of Mariupol.
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Kyiv city authorities on Friday said 222 people had been killed in the capital since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, including 60 civilians and four children.
A further 889 people have been wounded, including 241 civilians, the Kyiv city administration said in a statement.
Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor on Friday said it had demanded that Alphabet Inc’s Google stop spreading what it labelled as threats against Russian citizens on its YouTube video-sharing platform.
Roskomnadzor said adverts on the platform were threatening the life and health of Russian citizens and that their dissemination was evidence of the U.S. tech giant’s anti-Russian position.
Ukrainian human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova on Friday said 130 people had been rescued so far from the rubble of a theatre hit by an air strike on Wednesday in the besieged eastern city of Mariupol.
In a televised address, Denisova said rescue work was ongoing at the site, where many people were sheltering underground before the building was hit, according to the Ukrainian authorities.
Norway on Friday announced it would provide an additional 3 billion Norwegian kroner (308 million euros) this year to strengthen its military forces in the north near the Russian border.
“Even if a Russian attack on Norway is not likely, we must realise that we have a neighbour to the east that has become more dangerous and more unpredictable,” Norwegian Defence Minister Odd Roger Enoksen told a press conference, referring to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other top world lenders on Friday warned of “extensive” economic fallout from the Ukraine war and expressed “horror” at the “devastating human catastrophe”.
“The entire global economy will feel the effects of the crisis through slower growth, trade disruptions, and steeper inflation,” read a joint statement from institutions including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday said the situation in Ukraine and its implications for the Indo-Pacific will figure in his virtual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 21.
Morrison said ways to deepen bilateral trade and investment ties and harness new economic opportunities to support mutual economic recovery and growth will also be discussed at the summit.
“We will also discuss a range of regional and multilateral issues, including the situation in Ukraine and its implications for the Indo-Pacific, and Myanmar,” the Australian Prime Minister said in a statement.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Friday said he had spoken with the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell about a further package of sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine.
“We discussed the preparation of the 5th EU sanctions package on Russia. Pressure will keep mounting as long as it is needed to stop Russian barbarism. We also discussed protection and help for Ukrainians who fled from Russian bombs to the EU,” he said on Twitter.
A World Food Programme (WFP) official said on Friday that food supply chains in Ukraine were collapsing, with a portion of infrastructure destroyed and many grocery stores and warehouses now empty.
Jakob Kern, WFP Emergency Coordinator for the Ukraine crisis, also expressed concern about the situation in “encircled cities” such as Mariupol, saying that supplies were running out and that its convoys had not yet been able to enter the city.
Pope Francis on Friday called the war in Ukraine a “perverse abuse of power” waged for partisan interests which has condemned defenceless people to brutal violence.
Since the war began, the pope has not used the word “Russia” in his condemnations but has used phrases such as “unacceptable armed aggression” to get his point across.
His latest condemnation came in a message to a Catholic Church conference in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday accused Ukrainian authorities of stalling talks, but added that Moscow was ready to search for solutions as he spoke with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
“It was noted that the Kyiv regime is trying in every possible way to stall negotiations, putting forward more and more unrealistic proposals,” the Kremlin said after the phone call.
“Nevertheless, the Russian side is ready to continue to search for solutions in line with its well-known principled approaches.”
Russia-Ukraine War: Russia’s Illusions About Relying On West Over, Foreign Minister Says
Russia has lost all illusions about relying on the West and Moscow will never accept a view of the world dominated by a United States that wants to act like a global sheriff, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.
Over 2 million refugees have entered Poland from Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, the Polish border guard said on Friday.
“Today, March 18 at 0900 (local time) the number of refugees from Ukraine exceeded 2 million. Mainly women and children,” the border guard wrote on Twitter.
Norway believes the country will receive around 30,000 Ukrainian refugees this year but is preparing for a situation in which up to 100,000 may arrive as more people flee the Russian invasion, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told parliament on Friday.
Some 3.2 million people have fled Ukraine in the last three weeks, almost all to Poland and other neighbouring countries, United Nations data shows. Around 2,000 have so far arrived in Norway.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Friday sanctions imposed by Western countries on Russia in reaction to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine were starting to have a “real impact”.
“We hope these sanctions will force (Russian President) Vladimir Putin to change his plans,” Attal told BFM TV.
Earlier this week, European Union member states agreed on a fourth package of sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
Britain’s media regulator said on Friday it has revoked Russian-backed television channel RT’s licence to broadcast in the UK with immediate effect after a probe into the impartiality of its coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The regulator, Ofcom, said in a statement it was not satisfied that RT could be a responsible broadcaster.
“Freedom of expression is something we guard fiercely in this country, and the bar for action on broadcasters is rightly set very high. Following an independent regulatory process, we have today found that RT is not fit and proper to hold a licence in the UK,” Ofcom Chief Executive Dame Melanie Dawes said.
Russia-Ukraine War: Ukraine President Could Address Japan Parliament On Tuesday
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy may deliver an online speech to Japan’s parliament as soon as March 22, broadcaster TV Asahi said on Friday, citing a ruling party lawmaker.
- Russia has established a no-fly zone over Ukraine’s Donbass region, according to a separatist official from the Donetsk People’s Republic.
- Russian forces struck an area near Lviv’s airport in western Ukraine, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said on Friday. Ambulance and police vehicles have rushed to the scene.
- Rescuers are combing the rubble of a theatre in Mariupol bombed on Wednesday for survivors. Russia denies striking it. Italy said it will rebuild it.
- The governor of the northern Chernihiv region said 53 civilians had been in killed in the past 24 hours. The dead included a US citizen as he waited in a bread line, his family said. Russia denies targeting civilians.
- Mariupol authorities say around 30,000 people have fled the besieged port city, adding that “80 percent of residential housing was destroyed”.
- Mariupol bombed on Wednesday for survivors. Russia denies striking it. Italy said it will rebuild it.
Saudi Arabia issued a royal directive extending tourist and business visas of Ukrainian citizens without fees or fines for humanitarian considerations, state news agency SPA said on Friday.
The extension will be automatic without the need to visit the migration authorities.
Russian forces struck an area around Lviv’s airport in western Ukraine, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said on Friday, with ambulance and police vehicles racing to the scene.
Writing on messaging app Telegram, Sadovyi said he could not give a precise address of the targeted area ” but it’s definitely not an airport.”
At least three blasts were heard in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Friday morning, Ukraine 24 television station reported through the Telegram messenger.
It published a short video in which a mushroom-shaped plume of smoke could be seen rising on the horizon.
PayPal Holdings Inc on Thursday expanded its services to allow Ukrainian citizens and refugees to receive payments from overseas, a move a senior Ukrainian official called a huge help as Russian forces continued to attack the country.
PayPal Chief Executive Dan Schulman told Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov in a letter that Ukrainians would also be able to transfer funds from their PayPal accounts to eligible credit and debit cards. The company has waived its fees on such transactions through June 30.
Australia imposed sanctions on Friday on two Russian oligarchs with links to its mining industry, one of them a billionaire with an investment connection to Rio Tinto’s Gladstone alumina refinery joint venture.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia was working in close cooperation with international partners to increase sanctions pressure on oligarchs close to Russian President Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine.
From her shelter in Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv, Vera Lytovchenko has become a social media sensation with her violin performances that help her forget the war, if only for a few minutes.
Her renditions of Vivaldi and Ukrainian melodies have triggered an avalanche of messages of support from around the world and she has used the attention to launch a fundraiser.
“I’m not a doctor, a soldier, or a politician. I just play the violin,” Lytovchenko told AFP over WhatsApp. Read here
The United States has anecdotal signs of flagging Russian troop morale in some units in Ukraine as the war enters its fourth week, a senior US defense official said on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A Chinese foreign ministry official met with Russia’s ambassador to China on March 17 to exchange views on bilateral relations, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.
Cheng Guoping, Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Affairs at China’s foreign ministry, met with Andrey Denisov of Russia and exchanged views on bilateral counter-terrorism and security cooperation, according to the statement.