- Blast destroys Mariupol theater used as refuge for hundreds
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to US Congress
- US President Joe Biden announces $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine
- Bilateral talks between Russia and Ukraine to reconvene later
- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned against a direct NATO military confrontation with Russia
This article was last updated at 23:20 UTC/GMT
European nations call for urgent Security Council meeting
The United Kingdom, United States, Albania, France, Norway, and Ireland have requested an emergency UN Security Council meeting for Thursday.
Diplomatic sources said it was because of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Ukraine.
“Russia is committing war crimes and targeting civilians,” the British diplomatic mission to the UN wrote on Twitter. “Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine is a threat to us all.”
Multi-sport European Championships bans Russia and Belarus
Organizers for the multi-sport European Championships have formally banned athletes from Russia and Belarus from competing this August.
Officials for the championships, to take place in the southern German city of Munich, said they would not invite Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials.
This, they said, followed guidance from the International Olympic Committee. “We are united in our condemnation of Russia’s war on Ukraine,” organizing committee chairman Libor Varhanik said.
Sports included in the games are canoeing, cycling, gymnastics, rowing, sport climbing, table tennis, track and field, triathlon and volleyball.
Swimming is an exception among Olympic sports in trying to allow Russians to keep competing, but it is not part of the collective European Championships format launched in 2018.
France opens war crimes probe into cameraman’s death
Prosecutors in France have opened a war crime investigation into the death of Franco-Irish Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski.
Zakrzewski and the Ukrainian producer Oleksandra Kuvshynova died when their vehicle was hit by incoming fire in Horenka, outside the capital, on Monday.
Anti-terror prosecutors will investigate possible charges of causing “deliberate harm to a person protected by international law” and a “deliberate attack against a civilian who was not taking part in hostilities.”
French prosecutors open cases into the violent deaths of citizens overseas as a matter of routine.
Kremlin: Biden war criminal comments ‘unforgivable’
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said US President Joe Biden’s characterization of Russian leader Vladimir Putin as a war criminal was “unacceptable and unforgivable rhetoric,” the Tass news agency reports.
Referring to Putin and the war in Ukraine on Wednesday, Biden told reporters in Washington: “He is a war criminal.”
That comment came a day after the US Senate unanimously asked an for international investigation of Putin for war crimes in Ukraine.
Biden had earlier announced an $800 million ($725 million) aid package to help Ukraine defend itself, including drones and anti-aircraft systems.
Germany calls for global ‘solidarity bridge’ for refugees
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has called for help from non-European countries to deal with the refugee crisis unfolding from the war in Ukraine.
More than 3 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24, the United Nations International Office for Migration says.
Until now, Baerbock said, many of those who arrived in neighboring countries came in cars and had relatives in other European countries. But she said, the situation was changing with refugees starting to arrive who were increasingly vulnerable. “Now the ones are coming who have no one left.”
Baerbock specifically referred to NATO allies in North America, but also around the world in her call for international solidarity in accepting refugees.
“That’s my appeal to our friends in the United States, Canada and around the world… It’s now our task to work together to build a solidarity bridge” across the Atlantic, Baerbock told a session in the Bundestag lower house of parliament.
Most have fled to neighboring nations Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and especially Poland, which has received nearly 2 million refugees.
Some have traveled on to other European Union countries, with Germany welcoming around 160,000 people.
Russia releases detained mayor of Melitopol
Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of the southeastern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, has been freed.
Andriy Yermak, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, made the announcement.
He provided no further details on Fedorov’s release.
Biden promises drones, anti-aircraft systems
US President Joe Biden has said the United States is offering an additional $800 million (€728 million) in security assistance to Ukraine to combat Russia’s invasion.
The new package will include drones and anti-aircraft hardware.
“We’re going to give Ukraine the arms to fight and defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead,” Biden said.
“It includes 800 anti-aircraft systems to make sure that the Ukrainian military can continue to stop the planes and helicopters that have been attacking their people,” Biden said.
The announcement came after Zelenskyy delivered a video address to members of US Congress in which he made an impassioned plea for the US and West to provide more help, urging a no-fly zone.
The extra money makes a total of $2 billion in such aid sent to Kyiv since Biden took office more than a year ago. About $1 billion in aid has been sent in just the last week.
Russia bombs theater used as shelter in Mariupol, council claims
Video emerged of the Mariupol Drama Theater in the Ukrainian port city after it was flattened by a Russian bomb.
Hundreds of people were said to have been sheltering there at the time. Video from a recent local television station broadcast in Mariupol showed many people had sought shelter in the theater.
Mariupol’s city council claimed in a statement, “It is still impossible to estimate the scale of this horrific and inhumane act.”
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter, “Russians could not have not known this was a civilian shelter.”
Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, tweeted, “Now there are fierce battles. No one can reach the blockages, we don’t know if there are any survivors.”
Russia’s Ministry of Defense denied it had carried out a strike on the theater, Russian state-run Ria reported. The defense ministry also claimed the far-right Azov battalion was responsible for the theater bombing.
IMF suspends Russia’s ceremonial role as ‘dean’
The executive board of the IMF took the decision to suspend the ceremonial role of “dean” held by Russian representative Aleksei Mozhin, according to The Financial Times.
The move comes after pressure from key shareholders the US, the UK and Canada. Mozhin held the role of dean at the multilateral lender since 2015.
The largely honorary title is conferred on the executive board’s longest serving member. The dean has no official responsibility or authority.
NATO chief vows alliance will defend itself
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has warned Russia that any act of aggression against a member of the alliance would not be tolerated.
“Moscow should not be in no doubt, NATO will not tolerate any attack on allied sovereignty or territorial integrity,” he told a briefing after a meeting of defense ministers.
Stoltenberg said defense plans had already been activated to shield the alliance.
“We face a new reality for our security. So we must reset our collective defense and deterrence for the longer term,” Stoltenberg said.
The NATO chief said military commanders had been tasked with bolstering defense across land, air and sea on the the alliance’s eastern flanks.
He said attention was also being paid to cyber and space threats.
“On land, our new posture should include substantially more forces in the eastern part of the alliance, at higher readiness, with more pre-positioned equipment and supplies,” Stoltenberg told reporters.
Ten reportedly killed in breadline in Chernihiv
The US embassy in Kyiv and the attorney general of Ukraine said ten people were killed in the city of Chernihiv while waiting in line for bread.
The claim could not be independently verified.
EU links electricity grid to Ukraine
EU officials and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the EU had linked its electricity grid to Ukraine, making good on an EU promise to keep the lights on in Ukraine.
Zelensky tweeted that “unification” of Ukraine’s and the EU’s “energy systems has been completed.”
EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson tweeted, “In this area, Ukraine is now part of Europe.”
Simson said Moldova is also now connected to the grid.
On February 28, EU energy ministers said they would connect Ukraine to the grid after it disconnected from Russia’s electricity network. Russia hit Ukrainian infrastructure with missiles and shelling following the start of its large-scale invasion of the country on February 24.
UK will supply starstreak anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine
UK defense minister Ben Wallace said the UK would supply starstreak anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine.
“They will go into theater,” Wallace said.
Last week, Wallace announced the decision to supply starstreak had been made in principle.
Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles are short range, highly portable surface to air missiles.
Possible signs of progress on peace talks
Three people involved in talks to broker a 15-point peace plan in Ukraine are claiming “significant progress,” according to The Financial Times.
The deal would reportedly see Kyiv renounce the ambition, enshrined in its constitution, to join NATO as well as make commitment not to host foreign military bases or weaponry. In exchange, Ukraine would receive security protection from the US, the UK and Turkey.
Ukraine remains skeptical Russian leader Vladimir Putin is committed to peace and is not instead using the talks as a way to recover some initiative and regroup his forces before continuing to press on with the siege of Ukraine’s cities.
The question of western guarantees for Ukraine’s security and the acceptability of any such guarantees to Moscow is a major obstacle to securing any deal. The 1994 Budapest Memorandum which made similar guarantees did not prevent Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 nor invasion last month.
US, Russia national security advisors speak
US national security advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with the chair of Russia’s national security council, Nikolai Patrushev.
The White House said Sullivan warned Patrushev of consequences were Russia to use of chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, the White House said.
Sullivan also warned Patrushev that if Russia were serious about a diplomatic path out of the conflict, it would cease bombarding the civilian population centers of cities and towns in Ukraine.
Europe ‘will suffer’ for sanctions imposed on Russia – Putin
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said the numerous sanctions Western countries and businesses are imposing on Russia will be unsuccessful.
“Western attempt to organize an economic Blitzkrieg on Russia will not work,” Putin said on Wednesday.
He added: “European countries will suffer because of the so-called reserves (oil and gas), and they need to know that their companies will learn a lesson because we also have their assets here.”
The president also announced that Russia is willing to discuss Ukraine’s neutral status mentioned in the ongoing mediation talks between the two countries.
But he maintained that Moscow will still realize the goals of its “special military operation,” which was “going to plan.”
Putin’s speech came shortly after Zelenskyy addressed the US Congress in a video call from Kyiv in which he called for more sanctions on the Kremlin.
In the address to government ministers broadcasted on state TV, the Russian president said that the West had already declared Russia in default on its debt as part of the sanctions over Ukraine.
He also said that the West was using the war as a pretext to impose sanctions on Russia.
“The West doesn’t even bother to hide the fact that its aim is to damage the entire Russian economy, every Russian,” he said.
‘Peace is more important than income’ – Zelenskyy
In a virtual speech to the US Congress, Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy called on Washington to introduce more sanctions on Russia.
“In this darkest time for our country, for the whole of Europe, I call on you to do more, new packages of sanctions are needed every week, until Russian military machines stops,” the president said.
“Restrictions are needed for everyone on whom this unjust regime is based,” adding that “Peace is more important than income.”
Zelenskyy also renewed calls for a no fly zone over Ukraine, a request he has made multiple time since the invasion began on February 24.
“Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people,” he said after mentioning the events of Pearl Harbor and September 11.
Zelenskyy: Destiny of our country is being decided
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, speaking from Kyiv, told US lawmakers that Ukraine would not give up despite fighting in the “worst war since World War Two.”
Russia “went on a brutal brutal offensive against human values.”
175,000 refugees from Ukraine registered in Germany
Around 175,000 refugees from Ukraine have registered in Germany so far, a government spokesperson said on Wednesday.
The number could be even higher since there is no obligation to register, spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit told a regular news conference, Reuters news agency reported.
Worldwide, the UNHCR estimates that 2.97 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion on February 24.
Zelenskyy orders daily minute of silence for war victims
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered a daily minute of silence for the victims of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Every morning at 9 a.m. we will remember the Ukrainians who gave their lives,” he said in a video statement posted on social media shortly before his address to the US Congress.
Zelenskyy said the initiative mourns both Ukrainian soldiers and civilians killed in the war.
“All of them who could still be alive if Russia had not started this war,” he added.
Real Madrid to donate €1 million for Ukraine’s displaced people
The Spanish soccer club Real Madrid will donate €1 million ($1.10 million) to support those displaced in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, the team tweeted on Wednesday.
Real Madrid said the funds will be donated to organizations such as the Red Cross, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and others working on the ground in Ukraine.
Around 2,97 million refugees have already fled the war-torn country since the start of Russia’s invasion on February 24, according to UNHCR estimates.
Ukraine, Russia disagree on neutrality model
Ukraine’s top negotiator, Mikhailo Podolyak, said Kyiv rejected proposals by Russia to adopt a neutral status comparable to Austria or Sweden as part of a cease-fire agreement.
Russia’s chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, had earlier said that Ukraine offered an Austrian or Swedish model of demilitarization, “but at the same time a state with its own army and navy.”
But Podolyak said, “Ukraine is now in a direct state of war with Russia. Consequently, the model can only be ‘Ukrainian’ and only on legally verified security guarantees.”
Belarus supplies electricity to Chernobyl
Belarusian authorities said on Wednesday the country is supplying electricity to Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power station, which in 1986 was the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.
Electricity at the power plant was cut on Monday after Russian troops damaged the grid, according to Ukrainian authorities.
Later that day the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said external power had been restored and work is being done to reconnect the station’s power.
“The electrical supply to the Chernobyl nuclear power station is completely restored,” the Belarusian Energy Ministry said in a statement published on the Telegram page of the Gomel region.
“At the current time, the electricity supply is being provided from the Belarusian power grid,” it added.
The station is less than 10 miles away from the Ukraine-Belarus border.
The nuclear reactors are bound in a giant steel and concrete structure, but electricity is needed to operate security systems, including the cooling systems for the nuclear fuel storage area.
Earlier this month, the IAEA said the heat load and volume of the cooling pools are together “sufficient” to remove heat without electric power.
International Red Cross chief arrives in Kyiv
President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer arrived in Kyiv for a five-day visit to Ukraine.
“I find it utterly important that we have person-to-person contacts, that we are able to go in-depth into the understanding of neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian work, and that our license to operate in the country is fully understood by the authorities,” Maurer said in a statement.
Maurer added that he also continued his regular humanitarian dialogue with government officials in Russia.
Norway to increase natural gas production
Norwegian energy operator Equinor announced plans to increase natural gas production in the coming months to increase supply to Europe this summer.
Equinor said adjusted government permits for the Oseberg field could boost gas exports by more than 1 billion cubic meters by September 30.
The operator said the increase will “meet the gas demand of around 1.4 million European homes during a year.”
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck is traveling on Wednesday to Norway, Germany’s second-largest supplier of natural gas, as part of efforts to broaden Germany’s energy imports.
“The Russian war of aggression on Ukraine has made it abundantly clear that we must become independent of Russian energy imports,” Habeck said.
Polish, Czech and Slovenian delegations return from Kyiv
The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia have “safely returned” from Kyiv to Poland, Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller said.
Delegations, including prime ministers, from the three countries had traveled to Kyiv by train to pledge support to Ukraine.
They met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.
Ukraine says no agreement on humanitarian corridors today
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said there was still no agreement on safe evacuations of civilians out of embattled towns and villages.
“The question of humanitarian corridors for Izyum and Mariupol is open. It is currently impossible to get people out of there safely,” Vereshchuk said in a video address.
“Ways for the delivery of food and medicines to captured cities are being worked out,” she added.
The northeastern city of Izyum has been under siege by Russian forces, and the port city of Mariupol has been enclosed for days.
Vereshchuk said Russian forces were in control of a hospital they captured on Tuesday in Mariupol and accused them of holding 400 staff and patients hostage.
Russian foreign minister says there is ‘hope for compromise’
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said some formulations for agreements with Ukraine are close to being finalized.
Speaking to the Russian RBC news outlet, Lavrov said that though peace talks with Ukraine were not easy, there was hope for compromise.
“I am guided by the assessments given by our negotiators. They say that the negotiations are not easy for obvious reasons. But nevertheless, there is some hope of reaching a compromise,” Lavrov said.
He said that sticking points included not only the issue of the neutrality of Ukraine but also the usage of the Russian language in the country and what he called the question of freedom of speech.
Russian rockets hit refugee hub of Zaporizhzhia
The southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, which has been serving as a safe haven for thousands of people fleeing the besieged port city of Mariupol, came under fire from Russian forces on Wednesday, Ukrainian officials said.
“Civilian objects have been bombed for the first time in Zaporizhzhia,” the regional governor Alexander Starukh wrote on Telegram. “The rockets landed in the area of the Zaporozhye-2 railway station.”
He said that there had been no casualties.
Zaporizhzhia is situated some 230 kilometers (143 miles) northwest of Mariupol, which aid agencies say is facing a humanitarian catastrophe amid drastic water, food and power shortages.
Russia denies targeting civilians.
Ukraine’s Kyiv hit by fresh shelling
Apartment buildings in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, have been hit by shrapnel from artillery fire, wounding two people, according to emergency services, as the city comes under intensified attack by Russian forces.
“Two residential buildings were damaged in an overnight bombardment in the central part of Kyiv, Shevchenkivskyi district. Two people reported wounded, 35 evacuated,” the Ukrainian state emergency service said on Telegram.
Journalists from the AFP news agency confirmed that several explosions took place in the city in the early morning on Wednesday.
Kyiv was placed under curfew late on Tuesday, with its mayor speaking of a “difficult and dangerous moment.”
Instigator of TV anti-war protest ‘interrogated for 14 hours’
Marina Ovsyannikova, a Russian state television employee arrested for protesting live on-screen against the war in Ukraine, has said police subjected her to sleep deprivation during her detention.
“These were very difficult days of my life because I literally went two full days without sleep; the interrogation lasted for more than 14 hours and they didn’t allow me to contact my family and close friends, didn’t provide any legal support,” Ovsyannikova said after she was released.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a briefing that Ovsyannikova’s action was “hooliganism.” So far, she has been fined about $270 (€246) but could end up facing a prison sentence.
In her protest during a live news broadcast on Monday evening, Ovsyannikova held a poster saying, among other things, “Stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here.”
Russia has introduced strict laws imposing possible 15-year prison sentences on those spreading what the Kremlin calls disinformation or “fake news” about Russia’s military. That includes calling Russia’s attack on Ukraine an invasion or a war.
Ukraine reports death of another Russian general
Ukraine says four Russian generals have now been killed since Moscow’s invasion began on February 24.
Russian Major General Oleg Mityaev was killed on Tuesday in fighting around the southeastern city of Mariupol, said Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko.
Mityaev, 46, was the commander of the 150th motorized rifle division and saw action in Syria, Gerashchenko said.
The death of another Russian general was also mentioned by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a nighttime address, though he did not mention the general’s name.
There has been no confirmation from Russia of the death.
China: Taiwan ‘taking advantage’ of Ukraine war
The Chinese government criticized Taiwan’s aid to Ukraine and sanctions on Russia.
China accused Taiwan of “taking advantage of other’s difficulties” by providing aid and imposing sanctions.
A spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Zhu Fenglian, said Taiwan’s government was using the issue for its own purposes.
“The Democratic Progressive Party authorities are using the Ukraine issue to validate their existence and piggy back on a hot issue, taking advantage of other’s difficulties,” she said. The Taiwanese nationalist and center-left Democratic Progressive Party has been in power since 2016.
On the other hand, Taiwan’s government said it had a duty to stand with other democracies and support Ukraine.
Recently, Taiwan has engaged in military drills to deter what it sees as a threat from China.
Zelenskyy to speak at US Congress
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to address the US Congress on Wednesday by video stream, the second such address in the past month.
US President Joe Biden is expected to announce an additional $800 million (€729 million) in security assistance to Ukraine in the aftermath of Zelenskyy’s speech.
This would bring the total announced over the last week up to $1 billion (€910 million), according to a White House official.
Meanwhile, Zelenskyy told European leaders gathered in London on Tuesday that he realized NATO has no intention of accepting Ukraine, while still urging the alliance to enforce a no-fly zone over the country.
Zelenskyy said in his Wednesday video address that Russia’s demands were becoming “more realistic,” following Tuesday cease-fire talks between the two countries. The two sides are expected to meet again on Wednesday.
IMF warns Ukraine war is a ‘major blow to the global economy’
The IMF warned in a report published on its website that the crisis in Ukraine will cause slower growth and faster inflation around the world.
Higher prices for commodities like food and energy will push up inflation further, the IMF said. Ukraine and Russia are major wheat exporters and the war may strain on the global supply of the staple grain, while a number of countries depend on Russian energy exports. The price of wheat has reached a record high in recent days, the IMF said.
Countries dependent on oil imports may see wider deficits and more inflationary pressure, according to the IMF. Some oil-exporting countries in the Middle East and Africa may benefit from higher prices.
“The consequences of Russia’s war on Ukraine have already shaken not just those nations but also the region and the world”, the IMF said. To this end, the IMF suggested a “global safety net and regional arrangments” as a way to “buffer economies.”
Summary of events in Ukraine-Russia crisis on Tuesday
Talks between Ukraine and Russia resumed on Tuesday. This was the fourth round of talks between the two countries since Russia’s invasion in late February.
Without going into specifics, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the positions in the negotiations were starting to sound “more realistic.”
Polish, Czech and Slovenian leaders met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Kyiv.
Poland’s deputy PM and leader of the ruling PiS party Jaroslaw Kaczynski called for a peacekeeping force to be created for Ukraine, and said that the force could be sent by NATO or another international organization.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, on the other hand, said that “nobody can want” direct military confrontation between NATO and Russia, saying that sanctions were already hitting Moscow harder than the Kremlin had envisioned.
NATO itself has so far ruled out sending troops to Ukraine in any capacity.
Meanwhile, Ukraine said that around 20,000 people managed to escape Mariupol on Tuesday. Those fleeing the besieged port city left in private cars along a humanitarian corridor.
Ukrainian officials also said that forces in the second-largest city, Kharkiv, repelled an attempted Russian advance on Tuesday.
Explosions were reported in the capital Kyiv.
UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi said that more than 3 million people had fled Ukraine since the invasion began.
Also on Tuesday, the European Union announced a fourth wave of sanctions against 15 individuals connected to the Kremlin.
tj, sdi, ar, rc/sms, aw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)