Moscow has announced a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine for Wednesday morning to carry out the evacuation of the civilian population, Russian news agencies reported. “From 10:00 MSK (0700 GMT) on March 9, 2022, the Russian Federation is declaring a ‘regime of silence’ and is ready to provide humanitarian corridors,” a cell of the Russian defence ministry charged with humanitarian operations in Ukraine said Tuesday.
Amid the fighting, an air alert was sounded over the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv due to fears of incoming Russian missiles and the city’s residents were urged to quickly get to bomb shelters.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he is no longer pressing for NATO membership for Ukraine, and that he is open to “compromise” on the status of two breakaway pro-Russian territories that President Vladimir Putin recognised as independent.
United States President Joe Biden announced a ban on U.S. imports of Russian oil on Tuesday, in the administration’s most far-reaching action yet to punish Moscow for invading Ukraine.
Union Minster Hardeep Puri said on March 8, that all 694 students remaining in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy, had been safely evacuated and were headed to Poltava, in central Ukraine.
The conflict began escalating on February 21, 2022, after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised separatist regions in eastern Ukraine and deployed troops in a peacekeeping role.
Here are the latest updates:
IMF board approves $1.4 bn in 'critical' support for Ukraine
The International Monetary Fund board on Wednesday approved $1.4 billion in emergency financing for war-torn Ukraine to help the country deal with the "massive humanitarian and economic crisis" caused by the Russian invasion.
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said the package provides "critical financial support" which in turn will catalyze a "large-scale mobilization" of funding needed to "mitigate the economic impacts of the war."—AFP
Russia strikes hospital in Mariupol
Ukrainian officials say a Russian strike has hit a children's hospital and maternity facility in the besieged southeastern port city of Mariupol.
A statement on the city council's social media account on Wednesday said the hospital suffered “colossal” damage.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted that there were “people, children under the wreckage.” He called the strike an “atrocity.” The deputy head of Zelenskyy's office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said authorities are trying to establish the number of people who may have been killed or wounded. - AP
Pentagon turns down Poland’s offer of MiG-29s to aide Ukraine
The Pentagon has said a Polish plan to transfer MiG-29 jets to the U.S. airbase in Rammstein, Germany, for deployment in Ukraine is “non-tenable”. Warsaw had offered on Tuesday to make all its MiG-29 aircraft available through the U.S. airbase to be used by Ukraine to defend itself against the Russian invasion. Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has been pressing the administration to make the Russian made aircraft available to it.
“The prospect of fighter jets ‘at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America’ departing from a U.S./NATO base in Germany to fly into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that there is no substantive role for these aircraft. - Sriram Lakshman
Russia keeps pressure on Ukraine cities
Ukrainian forces were bolstering defences in key cities on Wednesday as Russia’s advance faltered amid fierce resistance in some areas, the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said, while the strategic port city of Mariupol remained encircled as a humanitarian crisis grew.
Russian forces have seen their advances stopped in certain areas — including around Kyiv — by fiercer resistance than expected from the Ukrainians. Ukraine’s General Staff said in a statement that it was building up defences in cities in the north, south and east, and that forces around Kyiv are resisting the Russian offensive with unspecified strikes and “holding the line”.
In the northern city of Chernihiv, Russian forces are placing military equipment among residential buildings and on farms, the Ukrainian General Staff said. And in the south, it said Russians dressed in civilian clothes are advancing on the city of Mykolaiv.
It did not provide any details of new fighting. - AP
Russia demands U.S. explain biological programme in Ukraine
Russia demanded on Wednesday that the United States explain to the world why it had supported what Moscow cast as a military biological programme in Ukraine.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova demanded transparency from Washington over the allegation, which is denied by Kyiv and which a Pentagon spokesman has described as absurd.
“We confirm facts, unearthed as part of the special military operations, which testify to an emergency attempt to erase evidence of military biological programmes,” Ms. Zakharova told reporters.
“We are not talking here about peaceful uses or scientific goals,” Ms. Zakharova said. “What were you up to there?”
“These (programmes) were financed by the U.S. Department of Defence.”
In response to earlier Russian allegations about the purported military biological programme in Ukraine, a Pentagon spokesman said on Tuesday: “This absurd Russian misinformation is patently false”. - Reuters
Ukraine bans exports of wheat, oats and other food staples
Ukraine’s government has banned the export of wheat, oats and other staples that are crucial for global food supplies as authorities try to ensure they can feed people during Russia’s intensifying war.
New rules on agricultural exports introduced this week also prohibit the export of millet, buckwheat, sugar, live cattle, and meat and other “byproducts” from cattle, according to a government announcement.
The export ban is needed to prevent a “humanitarian crisis in Ukraine,” stabilise the market and “meet the needs of the population in critical food products,” Roman Leshchenko, Ukraine’s Minister of agrarian and food policy, said in a statement posted on the government website and his Facebook page. - AP
EU adds 160 Russian oligarchs, lawmakers to sanctions blacklist
The EU agreed on Wednesday to add 160 Russian oligarchs and lawmakers to its sanctions blacklist, target crypto-assets and hit the maritime sector over Moscow’s war in Ukraine, officials said.
The 27-nation bloc also gave the go-ahead to cut three Belarusian banks from the global SWIFT messaging system over Minsk’s support for the Kremlin’s attack.
The EU is looking to close off loopholes in the unprecedented barrage of sanctions it unleashed along with Western allies after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion.
“We are further tightening the net of sanctions responding to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen tweeted. - AFP
Russia admits conscripts ‘take part’ in Ukraine operation
The Russian army on Wednesday admitted for the first time that conscripts were taking part in Moscow’s military advance in Ukraine, after President Vladimir Putin vowed only professional soldiers were there.
Since Moscow poured in troops to Ukraine on February 24th, there have been widespread reports of young conscripts fighting in the pro-Western country, with mothers of conscripts taking to social media to look for their sons and rights groups saying they were inundated with calls from conscripts’ families.
On Monday, Mr. Putin said he will not send conscripts or reservists to fight in Ukraine and that only “professional” soldiers were taking part in the conflict.
The Russian defence ministry spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, said on Wednesday that some conscripts had been captured by Ukrainian forces.
“Unfortunately, several instances of the presence of conscripts in the units of the Russian armed forces participating in the special military operation on the territory of Ukraine have been confirmed,” he said.
“Almost all such servicemen have already been withdrawn to Russian territory,” he said. But he said that some conscripts have been taken prisoner. - AFP
World Health Organization documents 18 attacks on health facilities
The World Health Organization says it has documented 18 attacks on health facilities, workers and ambulances since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.
At a press briefing on Wednesday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the U.N. health agency has delivered 81 metric tons of supplies to Ukraine and is now establishing a pipeline to send further equipment. To date, Mr. Tedros said WHO had sent enough surgical supplies to treat 150 trauma patients and other supplies for a range of health conditions to treat 45,000 people.
Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, acknowledged that sending medical supplies to Ukraine was unlikely to make a big difference.
“This is putting bandages on mortal wounds right now,” he said.
WHO chief Tedros said some of the main health challenges officials were facing in Ukraine were hypothermia and frostbite, respiratory disease, heart disease, cancer and mental health issues. He added that WHO staffers have been sent to countries neighbouring Ukraine to provide mental health support to fleeing refugees, mostly women and children. - AP
Poland ready to supply MiG jets to Ukraine
Poland is ready to make its Russian-made fighter jest available to Ukraine, via NATO, Poland’s prime minister said Wednesday. But he added that it’s a “very serious decision” that should be taken by all NATO alliance members because it affects wider security.
Premier Mateusz Morawiecki says the decision on whether to make the MiG-29 planes available to Ukraine as it fights Russia’s invasion is now in the hands of NATO and the U.S.
“Poland is not a side in this war (...) and NATO is not a side in this war,” Mr. Morawiecki said during a visit to Vienna. “Such a serious decision like handing over planes must be unanimous and unequivocally taken by by all of the North Atlantic Alliance.”
Mr. Morawiecki said talks on the subject are continuing. - AP
Ferrari stands alongside everyone in Ukraine
Luxury Italian car maker Ferrari says it has decided to suspend production of vehicles for the Russian market for now.
Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna said the company “stands alongside everyone in Ukraine affected by this ongoing humanitarian crisis.” He said “we cannot remain indifferent to the suffering,” adding that Ferrari is “playing our small part alongside the institutions that are bringing immediate relief to this situation.”
The company is donating 1 million euros to support Ukrainians in need. - AP
China sends aid to Ukraine, nixes sanctions
China says it is sending humanitarian aid including food and daily necessities worth 5 million yuan ($ 791,000) to Ukraine while continuing to oppose sanctions against Russia over its invasion.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters an initial batch was sent to the Ukrainian Red Cross on Wednesday with more to follow “as soon as possible.” China has largely backed Russia in the conflict and Zhao reiterated Beijing's opposition to biting economic sanctions against Moscow.
Mr. Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing that “wielding the stick of sanctions at every turn will never bring peace and security but cause serious difficulties to the economies and livelihoods of the countries concerned.” He said China and Russia will “continue to carry out normal trade cooperation, including oil and gas trade, in the spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.” - AP
Harris heads to Poland amid turbulence over jets for Ukraine
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Warsaw to thank Poland for taking in hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion took an unexpected turn before she even left Washington. She’ll be parachuting into the middle of unexpected diplomatic turbulence over fighter jets.
The Polish government on Tuesday came out with a plan to transfer its Russian-made fighter planes to a U.S. military base in Germany, with the expectation that the planes would then be handed over to Ukrainian pilots trying to fend off Russian forces. In turn, the U.S. would supply Poland with U.S.-made jets with “corresponding capabilities.”
But the Poles didn’t run that idea past the Biden administration before going public with it, and the Pentagon quickly dismissed the idea as not tenable. Warplanes flying from a U.S. and NATO base into airspace contested with Russia would raise the risk of the war expanding beyond Ukraine.
It was a rare moment of disharmony in what has been a largely united effort by NATO allies to assist Ukraine without getting embroiled in a wider war with Russia. And it meant Harris was flying into fractious terrain Wednesday as she opens a two-day visit to Poland and Romania and tries to patch things up.
“This fighter jet situation is a messy deal, and Harris will have to go there and smooth things out,” said Daniel Fried, who served as U.S. ambassador to Poland for President Bill Clinton and was a senior adviser in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. “There’s plenty of discussion on the way ahead that needs to be had with the Poles that is better to have in an in-person conversation.” Ms. Harris is expected to continue talks with the Poles about getting fighter jets to the Ukrainians during her visit to Warsaw, according to a senior administration official who previewed the trip on the condition of anonymity. The matter remains a priority to the Biden administration, the official added. - AP
Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska condemns Russian ‘mass murder’
The Ukrainian president’s wife thanked the country’s allies Tuesday for their support and urged them to do more to deter Russia.
Olena Zelenska said in an open letter to global media released Tuesday that the Russian invasion amounted to “the mass murder of Ukrainian civilians.”
She said that “the most terrifying and devastating of this invasion are the child casualties,” mentioning eight-year-old Alice who died on the streets of Okhtyrka while her grandfather tried to protect her. She also cited 14-year-old Arseniy was hit in the head by wreckage, and could not be saved because an ambulance could not get to him on time because of intense fires.
Ms. Zelenska added that “this war is being waged against the civilian population, and not just through shelling,” citing the lack of basic medicines in the besieged Ukrainian cities.
She seconded President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call on Western allies to help counter the Russian air superiority, saying “close the sky, and we will manage the war on the ground ourselves.” - AP
Chernobyl nuclear plant ‘completely halted’ due to Russian offensive
The power supply to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, site of a nuclear disaster in 1986, and its security systems has been entirely cut due to the Russian military’s offensive, Ukraine’s energy operator Ukrenergo said. - AFP
Russia had previously announced that the country’s armed forces have established control over Ukraine’s Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plants “to prevent any attempts to stage nuclear provocations.”
Russia says not working towards toppling govt in Ukraine
Russia said that the country’s military was not working towards toppling or overthrowing the government in Ukraine. Further, Russia also said that the negotiations with officials in Kyiv to resolve the ongoing war in Ukraine were making headway.
The development came as the two countries agreed upon establishing day-long evacuation corridors in Ukraine.
Ukraine and Russia officials have been meeting on the Belarus-Poland border for talks to end fighting. - AFP
Ukraine to attempt civilian evacuation from Mariupol, other cities
Ukraine’s deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that the country will attempt to evacuate citizens through six “humanitarian corridors” from the besieged southern port city of Mariupol and other cities.
In a video statement, she said that the Ukrainian armed forces had agreed to stop firing in the areas from 9am to 9pm and also urged the Russian forces to fulfill their commitment to local ceasefires.
The corridors would open from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, Enerhodar to Zaporizhzhia, Sumy to Poltava, Izyum to Lozova, Volnovakha to Pokrovsk and from several other towns around Kyiv which were identified as Vorzel, Borodyanka, Bucha, Irpin and Hostomel to the capital. - Reuters
U.S. to send $13.6 billion to war-hit Ukraine, European allies
Congressional leaders reached a bipartisan deal early Wednesday providing $13.6 billion to help Ukraine and European allies plus billions more to battle the pandemic as part of an overdue $1.5 trillion measure financing federal agencies for the rest of this year.
Though a tiny portion of the massive bill, the money responding to the Russian blitzkrieg that’s devastated parts of Ukraine and prompted Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II ensured robust bipartisan support for the legislation. President Joe Biden had requested $10 billion for military, humanitarian and economic aid last week, and Democratic and Republican backing was so staunch that the figure grew to $12 billion Monday and $13.6 billion just a day later.
Over $4 billion of the Ukraine aid was to help the country and Eastern European nations cope with the 2 million refugees who’ve already fled the fighting. Another $6.7 billion was for the deployment of U.S. troops and equipment to the region and to transfer American military items to Ukraine and U.S. allies, and there was economic aid as well. - Associated Press
Air Alert declared in Kyiv
An air alert was declared Wednesday morning in and around Kyiv, with residents urged to get to bomb shelters as quickly as possible.
“Kyiv region- air alert. Threat of a missile attack. Everyone immediately to shelters,” regional administration head Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram.
On Tuesday, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had stated that most of the civilian casualties were being caused from airstrikes and explosive weapons used by Russia. - Associated Press
1,335 civilian casualties in Ukraine between Feb 24- March 7: Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) informed there have been a total of 1,335 civilian casualties in Ukraine, 474 people have been killed and 861 injured, between Feb 24- March 7.
Additionally, the OHCHR said most of the civilian causalities were from airstrikes and explosive weapons used by the Russian forces. It added that hundreds of residential buildings in many cities, including Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Mariupol and Kyiv have been damaged or destroyed.
“This situation is really apocalyptic for people, it is getting worse, they are running out of essential supplies,” said Ewan Watson, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Lost contact with safeguard monitoring system at Chornobyl- IAEA
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has indicated that it has lost connection with the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant. “The Director General also indicated that remote data transmission from safeguards monitoring systems installed at the Chornobyl NPP had been lost,” the IAEA update read.
It added the agency was looking into the status of the safeguard monitoring system and would provide further information soon. Further, according to the regulator, eight of the country’s 15 reactors were operating, including two at the Zaporizhzhya NPP. Radiation levels at the sites were normal, it stated.
Safeguards are the means by which the IAEA verifies a state’s legal commitments under their respective safeguard agreements with the organisation. These ensure that nuclear facilities are not misused and nuclear material is not diverted from peaceful uses.
Russia underestimated Ukraine’s resistance, U.S. officials say
The United States believes Russia underestimated the strength of Ukraine’s resistance before launching an invasion that has likely caused thousands of Russian casualties, the Biden administration’s top intelligence official told lawmakers Tuesday.
The testimony, in a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee, amounted to the first public assessment of the 2-week-old war by the nation’s senior intelligence officials, who offered their insights into the thinking and motives of Russian President Vladimir Putin as his forces continue their march through Ukraine.
The officials made clear that Russia’s assault has been slowed by unexpected resistance by Ukrainian defenders and that it was now uncertain if Mr. Putin would proceed with a “maximalist” strategy to try to capture all of Ukraine or would settle for something short of that. Either way, they said they believed he was determined to press his invasion forward despite mounting casualties, global sanctions and efforts by Western nations to isolate the Kremlin, including a U.S. ban on Russian oil imports.
“We assess Putin feels aggrieved the West does not give him proper deference and perceives this as a war he cannot afford to lose,” Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said. “But what he might be willing to accept as a victory may change over time given the significant costs he is incurring.” - AP
Russia announces humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine for Wednesday morning
Moscow has announced a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine for Wednesday morning to carry out the evacuation of the civilian population, Russian news agencies reported.
“From 10:00 MSK (0700 GMT) on March 9, 2022, the Russian Federation is declaring a ‘regime of silence’ and is ready to provide humanitarian corridors,” a cell of the Russian defence ministry charged with humanitarian operations in Ukraine said Tuesday.
It added that Russia proposes to agree the routes and start time of the humanitarian corridors with Ukraine “before 03:00 MSK on March 9”. — AFP
Ukraine drops pitch for NATO membership
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he is no longer pressing for NATO membership for Ukraine, a delicate issue that was one of Russia’s stated reasons for invading its pro-Western neighbour.
In another apparent nod aimed at placating Moscow, Mr. Zelenskyy said he is open to “compromise” on the status of two breakaway pro-Russian territories that President Vladimir Putin recognised as independent just before unleashing the invasion on February 24.
U.S. bans Russian oil imports over Ukraine invasion: Joe Biden
United States President Joe Biden announced a ban on U.S. imports of Russian oil on Tuesday, in the administration’s most far-reaching action yet to punish Moscow for invading Ukraine.
“We’re banning all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy. That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at U.S. ports and the American people will deal another powerful blow to (President Vladimir) Putin,” President Biden said in an address from the White House, adding that the decision was taken “in close consultation” with allies.
The ban came with Democrats threatening legislation to force President’s Biden’s hand, despite the likely impact on already soaring gas prices. - AFP