Russia-Ukraine live updates: Kremlin’s forces near Kyiv as Kharkiv faces heaviest shelling since invasion began

Russia-Ukraine live updates: Kremlin’s forces near Kyiv as Kharkiv faces heaviest shelling since invasion began

Kharkiv remains under Ukrainian control but is “surrounded” by Russian troops, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov told The Washington Post. In Kyiv, residents are bracing for an all-out assault as the Russian force, under the command of a president whose country has quickly become an international political and economic pariah, is apparently preparing to encircle the capital. A senior U.S. defense official said the Kremlin seems ready to adopt the same siege tactics that are beginning to strangle Kharkiv.

There, thousands are without power and heat in freezing temperatures, local officials said, and residents braced for more shelling Tuesday. Suspected cluster munitions struck residential parts of Kharkiv on Monday, raising fears that Russia could use tactics similar to those employed in Chechnya and Syria, where it has been accused of war crimes. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the attack on Kharkiv was “terror against the city.”

Five hours of talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations Monday near the Belarusian border failed to yield a breakthrough, with the two sides agreeing only to continue discussions in coming days. Top Russian officials hardened their rhetoric Tuesday, denying attacks on civilian areas, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the war would continue until Moscow’s goals are met.

Here’s what to know

The Russian advance toward Kyiv continues to be slowed by logistical challenges, British Defense Ministry analysts said Tuesday. Having failed to take control of Ukrainian airspace, Russia is shifting to nighttime operations to reduce its risk of losses, they said.Zelensky pleaded with the European Union to admit his country on an emergency basis. “Now we are fighting for survival,” he told the European Parliament via video conference. “But we are fighting also to be equal members of Europe.” Members gave Zelensky a standing ovation, but officials have not said whether his request would be approved.Ukraine has suffered 1,500 civilian and military casualties since the attack began, Biden administration officials told U.S. lawmakers Monday, according to two people in the briefing. It was unclear whether the casualty count referred to fatalities or included those injured as well.Russia is careening toward an economic crisis, with the value of the ruble plunging after several nations severed the Kremlin’s access to its foreign currency reserves in the West and cut off some Russian banks from the international SWIFT financial messaging system.U.S., global boycott of Russian vodka over invasion of Ukraine growsReturn to menu

A boycott of Russian spirits over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is growing in the United States and abroad, as Western nations redouble their efforts to isolate Russia politically and economically.

Over the weekend, Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox (R), Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) issued executive orders restricting the sale of Russian vodka in their states.

DeWine on Saturday banned the purchase and sale of Russian vodka made by the distillery Russian Standard, citing figures from the Ohio Department of Commerce’s liquor control division showing that some 6,400 bottles of vodka made by Russian Standard are available for sale in 487 liquor agencies in the state.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Sunday sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, urging it to pull all Russian-sourced products from stores shelves across the state, in what Wolf called “a small show of solidarity and support for the people of Ukraine, and an expression of our collective revulsion with the unprovoked actions of the Russian state.”

The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority said in a statement that it is removing at least seven Russian-sourced vodka brands, including Russian Standard, from its shelves, and said it will be “reviewing other products that we carry to determine if they have origins in Russia.” The agency said its decision is “in the spirit” of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) “call for decisive action in support of Ukraine.”

And in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said on Twitter that he had “asked the members of the Texas Restaurant Association, Texas Package Stores Association & all Texas retailers to voluntarily remove all Russian products from their shelves.”

The boycott has spread outside of the United States, with retailers in half-a-dozen nations removing Russian vodka from their shelves, including Dan Murphy’s, BWS and Cellarmasters and alcohol delivery service Jimmy Brings in Australia, according to local media. Canadian officials have also ordered Russian liquor to be removed from store shelves, including in the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and Manitoba.

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China starts large-scale evacuations of its citizens in UkraineReturn to menu

China has begun large-scale evacuations of its citizens from Ukraine as authorities have come under growing pressure from Chinese nationals desperate for help in leaving the country.

The Chinese Embassy in Ukraine arranged buses to ferry citizens to neighboring countries where visas had been waived for evacuees. On Monday, 200 overseas Chinese students were evacuated from Kyiv, while 400 were evacuated from Odessa.

On Tuesday, authorities expected to help an additional 700 to 800 Chinese citizens leave Odessa, and around 900 would be evacuated from Kyiv, heading for Moldova or Poland. The embassy said it has hired 18 buses for the evacuation.

Fan Xianrong, China’s ambassador to Ukraine, spoke to a group of 200 overseas Chinese students leaving Kyiv on Monday.

“The motherland is using all its resources to help you leave smoothly and easily. I believe everything will be fine,” Fan said, according to videos posted on social media and by state media outlets.

According to a post on the microblog Weibo by Chinese journalist Bai Yunyi, in Ukraine for the state-run Global Times, the embassy is prioritizing the youngest international students first. According to state media, more than 6,000 Chinese nationals have registered for evacuation.

China, which at first advised its citizens to stay home and display the Chinese flag as protection, has come under criticism for not moving quickly enough to get its nationals out of harm’s way. China’s support for Moscow and refusal to denounce its assault have heightened concerns that overseas Chinese in Ukraine may be at risk.

On Weibo, an audio recording of a woman in Kyiv desperately pleading with a Chinese Embassy staffer over the phone was reposted widely before being made private. In the recording, the woman accused the embassy of not guaranteeing the safety of Chinese citizens.

“I understand the difficulty our country is facing and the difficulties the embassy faces, but the preparation was incomplete. Before the war started, we wondered if a plan was being made, and some of us asked whether we should leave first, but the embassy never responded,” she said.

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South Korean superstar donates $83,300 to UkraineReturn to menu

SEOUL — Lee Young-ae, a South Korean actress and superstar, donated 100 million won (about $83,300) to the victims in Ukraine, the Ukrainian ambassador-designate to South Korea said Tuesday.

In a letter posted on the tweet alongside the check by the ambassador-designate, Dmytro Ponomarenko, Lee expressed her solidarity and wished safety and well-being for Ukrainians.

🇺🇦❤️🇰🇷We are very excited and touched by the letter and the great financial contribution of the famous Korean actress Lee Young-Ae in support of Ukraine and the demand to end the war as soon as possible! The donations will be transferred to the needs of victims of 🇷🇺 aggression.

— Dmytro Ponomarenko (@DP_UA1972) March 1, 2022

“As a family of veterans who have experienced war, I sympathize with the horrors of the current situation more than anyone else,” she said, according to an image of the letter.

Lee is a longtime actress who catapulted to fame as part of the Korean drama wave, is best known abroad for her roles in “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” and “Jewel in the Palace,” and is starring in the Netflix drama “Inspector Koo,” the Korean version of “Killing Eve.” She is one of the richest celebrities in South Korea, according to the South China Morning Post.

“To the people of Ukraine, who love freedom and peace, I hope you don’t lose hope and courage!” she wrote.

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In just 72 hours, Europe overhauled its entire post-Cold War relationship with RussiaReturn to menu

Just last week, many European countries were still so somnolent about the threat Russia posed to Ukraine that Germany’s spy chief was caught unawares in Kyiv when the Kremlin invasion started. He had to be extracted in a special operation.

But over just a handful of days, Europe has been shocked out of a post-Cold War era — and state of mind — in which it left many of the democratic world’s most burning security problems to the United States.

The continent has in some ways leapfrogged the United States, which — though many policymakers credit the Biden administration for helping to coordinate — wasn’t prepared for the speed of the European change. And it has been dizzying for some of the continent’s Russia hawks, especially those in Eastern Europe who campaigned for tougher measures against the Kremlin for years but were ignored by bigger countries including Germany, Italy and France.

That’s how it felt to Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, who sat down in his office in the Latvian capital of Riga late Sunday to take part in a video conference with fellow European Union foreign ministers. On the call they agreed to another round of sanctions that days prior would have been unimaginable. They included banning Russian state media in the E.U., harsh sanctions on Russian banks, and even using E.U. funds to pay for countries’ shipments of weaponry to Ukraine — a step so outside the ordinary operations of the 27-nation bloc that some policymakers didn’t realize it was an option.

“Right now I’m taking part in the E.U. foreign affairs council …” Rinkevics wrote on Twitter, posting a photo of his computer screen showing a checkerboard of small video images of foreign ministers. “We’re deciding on things that seemed unbelievable a week ago.”

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ICRC warns of ‘deteriorating’ humanitarian situation, appeals for global donationsReturn to menu

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned Tuesday that the humanitarian situation in Ukraine and neighboring countries is “deteriorating rapidly,” as it called for more global donations.

Along with its sister organization, the International Federation of the Red Crescent, the agency launched an appeal for $272 million to fund its operations in Ukraine and the broader region this year.

The ICRC said it is providing food to the internally displaced, supporting health facilities, reuniting separated families and “carrying out its work to ensure that dead bodies are treated with dignity.”

Martin Schüepp, the ICRC regional director for Europe and Central Asia, told a news briefing Tuesday that all sides to the conflict have an obligation to facilitate the return the bodies of dead service members, Reuters reported. He added that ICRC teams are ready to help but are limited in their movement by the poor security situation.

The global aid agency also said it would pay special attention to vulnerable groups in the conflict, among them unaccompanied minors, single women with children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

“The escalating conflict in Ukraine is taking a devastating toll. Casualty figures keep rising while health facilities struggle to cope,” ICRC Director General Robert Mardini said in a statement. “People calling our hotline in Ukraine are desperately in need of food and shelter. To respond to this massive emergency, our teams must be able to operate safely to access those in need.”

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As Russia’s war expands, a Ukrainian tourist hub becomes a refuge for the displacedReturn to menu

LVIV, Ukraine — After the Mudrianyets fled their home ahead the Russian advance, they embarked traumatic 560-mile, three-day journey to Lviv, a western city that has become something of a refuge. Previously a hub for tourism, with its historic old town a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is now a hub for the internally displaced.

Its main train station heaves with a mass of people attempting to move on to Poland or other areas in Ukraine’s west. Some 152 community buildings such as schools, theaters and art galleries have been turned over to house the displaced, as well as 100 religious institutions. Residents have also opened up their homes to those from cities under bombardment.

As they arrived in Lviv over the weekend, the Mudrianyets family rode the tram that rings the city for four hours in an attempt to keep warm, before seeing a sign for a restaurant that was giving free food to the displaced. “Our teeth were chattering,” said Tetanya’s husband, Anatoly, speaking after the family’s first hot meal in days.

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Zelensky says Russian missile hit square in Kharkiv in ‘terror against the city’Return to menu

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia on Tuesday of a missile strike on a central square in Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, in what he described as “undisguised terror.”

While a convoy of tanks and artillery threatened the capital, Kyiv, a projectile appeared to hit near an administration building in Kharkiv, where local officials said earlier that attacks had caused at least 11 casualties and that the Opera and Ballet Theatre downtown were hit. The eastern city remains under the control of Ukrainian authorities but is being “surrounded” by Russian troops, its mayor said.

“The missile that hit the face of our Kharkiv is terror against the city,” Zelensky said in a video Tuesday, adding that there were “dozens of victims” in the city. “This attack on Kharkiv is a war crime.”

The Kremlin has dismissed Kyiv’s accusation that Russia was committing war crimes.

The Ukrainian leader said Kharkiv and Kyiv were now “the most important targets for Russia,” vowing to defend the capital as it braced for an all-out assault: “We will protect Kyiv. We will protect the state,” Zelensky said. “This is the heart of our country, and it must beat.”

Security cameras captured a missile strike on a government building in Kharkiv on March 1, as Russian troops continued to attack the city. (Twitter)Updates continue below advertisement

Photos: As refugees flee Ukraine, a crisis takes shape at its bordersReturn to menu

The United Nations estimates that more than 660,000 people have fled Ukraine since Russian forces invaded the country last week — the “largest exodus in Europe since the Balkan wars of the 1990s.”

The United Nations high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said Monday at a meeting of the Security Council that if the fighting continues, there could be as many as 4 million refugees in the coming weeks. And as those refugees head for countries on Ukraine’s borders, several of which have said they are ready to welcome them, officials have warned that a humanitarian crisis is in the making.

Photos from Ukraine’s borders with Poland, Hungary, Moldova and Romania show crowds of refugees — many of them women and children after Ukrainian authorities forced men 18 to 60 to stay so they could fight the invasion — huddled in groups to fight the cold, sleeping on the ground and sorting through boxes of donations from around the world.

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Rapid escalation of Ukraine crisis fuels fear of confrontation between Russia and the WestReturn to menu

Russia, careening toward economic crisis under the weight of devastating Western sanctions, has put its nuclear forces on alert as the Kremlin’s siege of Ukraine intensifies.

The United States and its NATO partners have sent thousands of troops and advanced weaponry to harden defenses in the alliance’s eastern flank while funneling billions of dollars worth of military hardware to Kyiv — moves met by the Kremlin with threats of “consequences.”

The rapid escalation, observers say, has made the once-theoretical risk of direct confrontation between Russia and the West a tangible possibility with little hope of the tension subsiding, maybe for years to come.

“My worry is that there’s a miscalculation, a misunderstanding, an accident, a mistake” that touches off more widespread conflict, said Jim Townsend, who managed Europe and NATO policy at the Pentagon during the Obama administration.

Zelensky to European Union: ‘Prove that you are with us’Return to menu

BRUSSELS — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the European Parliament on Tuesday, urging the bloc to stand with Ukraine by allowing it to join the European Union.

“Now we are fighting for survival,” he said via videoconference. “But we are fighting also to be equal members of Europe.”

“We have proven our strength,” he continued. “So do prove that you are with us. Prove that you will not let us go. Prove that you, indeed, are Europeans.”

The speech followed Zelensky’s making a formal pitch to join the 27-bloc union under a special procedure.

“We are grateful to our partners for being with us,” he said Monday. “But our goal is to be together with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be on an equal footing.”

In recent days, the 27-member bloc has made dramatic moves to back Ukraine and isolate Russia, including financing the sale and delivery of weapons to Kyiv, blocking Russian planes from E.U. skies and imposing tough economic measures.

In an interview with Euronews, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen again voiced support, saying Ukraine is “one of us and we want them in the European Union.”

However, von der Leyen did not offer details on if or how Ukraine might join — nor have other senior officials. European Council President Charles Michel later noted that there are “different opinions and sensitivities” among E.U. member states on the issue.

On Tuesday, he said the council would consider the request.

Russian rhetoric hardens, as it denies killing civilians in a war it refuses to call warReturn to menu

MOSCOW — As unprecedented Western sanctions shook Russian finances, top Moscow officials doubled down on their war against Ukraine, with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu saying the war would not stop until Moscow’s goals to “denazify” Ukraine were met and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accusing Kyiv of plans to acquire nuclear weapons.

Shoigu hit out at the West for “trying to use the Ukrainian people in the fight against our country.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Ukrainian claims that Russia had used cluster bombs and vacuum bombs a “canard.” He denied a war or invasion was taking place, calling it a “special operation” in the Kremlin’s approved terminology.

Speaking in his daily press call, Peskov dismissed Ukraine’s accusation that Russia was committing war crimes and claimed that “nationalist groups” were using people as human shields, claims for which Russia has offered no evidence.

Asked by a journalist about Russia refusing to use the term “war” when Russian Grad multiple-rocket launchers were striking residential areas such as Kharkiv, Peskov replied: “You are asking the question from the point of view of emotions. I’m telling you officially, President Putin as commander in chief gave the order to launch a special operation, and a special operation is underway.”

Peskov said the West had revealed its true nature, with its tough sanctions against Russian officials, banks and oligarchs and its efforts to isolate Russia’s financial system and impact its economy.

“And now these aggressive actions against our country are of a sharply concentrated nature,” he said.

Shoigu, who has put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert on President Vladimir Putin’s orders, said Russian forces were “not occupying Ukrainian territory” and that Russia was taking “every measure” to protect lives.

Wall-to-wall coverage on Russian state television calls the “operation” defensive, aimed at dealing with “nazis” and “nationalists” who have taken the country hostage with the help of the West, turning Ukraine into an “anti-Russia project.”

Belarusian president says country isn’t planning to join Russian attack in UkraineReturn to menu

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said his country does not plan to join Moscow’s military assault in Ukraine, after U.S. officials said the Russian ally might send soldiers there.

In comments carried by state news agency BelTA on Tuesday, Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said his army “has not taken and does not take any part in the hostilities.”

U.S. officials have said intelligence reports showed Belarus preparing to send forces into Ukraine to back Russia. The officials cited that support as a key factor behind a State Department decision Monday to suspend U.S. Embassy operations in Minsk, the Belarusian capital.

Satellite images from above southern Belarus showed ground force deployments and attack helicopter units, according to U.S. firm Maxar Technologies. Russian troops have in recent weeks assembled and conducted large-scale military drills in Belarus, where Lukashenko on Sunday pushed through a constitutional amendment ending the country’s nonnuclear status.

The Belarusian leader also said Tuesday that air defense systems were on high alert in the country and the defense minister was “ready to cover the western border with another five battalions.”

French task force to target Russian oligarchs’ assets ‘at the heart of Russian power’Return to menu

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said Tuesday that a task force has been created to identify Russian oligarchs with assets in France and ultimately freeze or seize those assets — part of a broader strategy to “cause the collapse of the Russian economy” in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The task force, made up of France’s public finance authority, customs services and financial intelligence agency, will work to identify Russian oligarchs with ties to France, as well as their property and their assets in the country “to be able to freeze them,” Le Maire said in an interview with France Info and on Twitter.

It comes as reports emerge of tensions between Russian President Vladimir Putin and members of the oligarch class who made billions of dollars while showing fealty to the autocratic leader but now see their fortunes threatened by Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

Le Maire said the task force would seek to go beyond a freeze and “equip ourselves with the legal means necessary to seize all of these assets.”

Le Maire said the French task force would cast a wide net, searching not just for known Russian oligarchs in France, but also for their spouses, their children and the vehicles through which they co-own property in France with others, “so that they cannot hide behind financial arrangements.”

“We are going to touch at the heart of Russian power,” he said.

Speaking of the broader European strategy of pursuing sanctions against Putin and his allies to starve the Russian military effort of its resources, Le Maire said there should be no doubt that Europe intends to wage a “total economic and financial war” against oligarchs and the Russian government that could “cause the collapse of the Russian economy.”

Une task force, comprenant la DGFIP, TRACFIN et les douanes, a été créée pour repérer l’ensemble des oligarques russes en France, leurs biens et leurs avoirs afin de pouvoir les geler. Nous nous doterons des moyens juridiques nécessaires pour saisir l’intégralité de ces biens.

— Bruno Le Maire (@BrunoLeMaire) March 1, 2022

Greg Miller contributed to this report.

Indian, Algerian students killed in Ukraine as others stranded beg for helpReturn to menu

From Nigeria to Ghana and Iraq to India, tens of thousands of students studying abroad in Ukraine are desperately calling for support from their governments as Russia’s invasion escalates.

Arindam Bagchi, India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a tweet: “With profound sorrow we confirm that an Indian student lost his life in shelling in Kharkiv this morning. The Ministry is in touch with his family.”

Bagchi added that the Indian foreign secretary is calling on the ambassadors of Russia and Ukraine to help ensure “urgent safe passage for Indian nationals” stuck in Kharkiv and other conflict areas in Ukraine.

Other students allege they have been abandoned by their home countries and that they have not been offered help, with relatives of those stranded in Ukraine heading to local embassies to demand support.

Ghanaian engineering student Percy Ohene-Yeboah told Reuters in an interview Thursday that it was probably “a bit too late for evacuation” and that he would remain hunkered down in an underground bunker.

“In a situation like this, you’re on your own. You’ve got to find the best way to find refuge for yourself,” he said.

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