Live Updates: Red Cross Seeks Greater Access in Ukraine

By The Associated Press, undefined

[EDITOR'S NOTE: There is a photo gallery located at the end of this post that contains images that readers might find disturbing, including images that show injuries and death.  The reader is advised and cautioned to use discretion as the content may not be suitable for all.]

MARIUPOL, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say Russian forces destroyed a theater in the city of Mariupol where hundreds of people were sheltering.

There was no immediate word on deaths or injuries in what the Mariupol city council said was an airstrike on the theater Wednesday.

The Maxar satellite imagery firm said images from Monday showed the word “children” had been written in large white letters in Russian in front of and behind the building.

The Russian defense ministry denied bombing the theater, or anywhere else in Mariupol on Wednesday.

Nowhere has suffered more than the encircled city of Mariupol, where local officials say missile strikes and shelling have killed more than 2,300 people. The southern seaport of 430,000 has been under attack for almost all of the three-week war in a siege that has left people struggling for food, water, heat and medicine.

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HERE ARE TODAY'S KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:

— Russia says Ukraine talks are progressing but the military onslaught continues

— Ukraine's president cites Sept. 11, urges U.S. Congress to help his country

— U.S. President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal”

— The Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has descended into despair

— U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to discuss a possible transfer of Soviet-era S-300 air defense systems to Ukraine

Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for updates throughout the day.

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to discuss a possible transfer of Soviet-era S-300 air defense systems to Ukraine this week when he visits Bulgaria and Slovakia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy mentioned the S-300s by name when he spoke to U.S. lawmakers by video Wednesday, appealing for anti-air systems that would allow Ukraine to “close the skies” to Russian warplanes and missiles.

NATO members Bulgaria, Slovakia and Greece have the S-300s, which are able to fly hundreds of miles and knock out cruise missiles as well as warplanes.

Any such transfer could be a three-country swap, with the U.S. or other NATO country providing Patriots or other air defense systems to make up for any S-300s passed on to Ukraine.

Slovakia has no objections to providing its S-300s to Ukraine, Slovak Defense Ministry spokesperson Martina Koval Kakascikova told The Associated Press. “But we can’t get rid of a system that protects our airspace if we don’t have any replacement.”

The anti-air defense systems could be valuable in thwarting Russian air attacks. Ukraine already has a few S-300s, but wants more.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the U.S. would help provide long-range air defense systems to Ukraine, but gave no details. U.S. officials had no comment on any S-300 swap.

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BERLIN — A group representing dozens of European electricity grid operators says Ukraine and Moldova have been successfully synchronized with the transmission systems of continental Europe, allowing them to decouple from Russia.

Belgium-based ENTSO-E said Wednesday that the grids of Ukraine and Moldova were linked to the Continental European Power System on a trial basis following an emergency request by those countries last month.

ENTSO-E, whose 39 members operate the world’s largest interconnected electrical grid, said the move means it will be able to support the countries in maintaining the stability of the Ukrainian and Moldovan power systems.

The two countries were previously part of the Integrated Power System that also includes Russia and Belarus. This made Ukraine technically dependent on Russia’s grid operator despite there having been no electricity trade between the two countries even before the Russian military assault last month.

Experts say the switch will allow energy suppliers in continental Europe to supply electricity to the Ukrainian market.

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Wednesday called Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal as the atrocities in Ukraine mount and the president there begged the U.S. Congress for more help.

“He’s a war criminal,” the president said of Putin as he left an unrelated event. It’s the sharpest condemnation yet of Putin and Russian actions by a U.S. official since the invasion of Ukraine.

While other world leaders have used the words, the White House had been hesitant to declare Putin’s actions those of a war criminal, saying it was a legal term that required research.

But in a speech Wednesday, Biden said Russian troops had bombed hospitals and held doctors hostage. He pledged more aid to help Ukraine fight Russia.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko says Russian shelling damaged several residences in the city’s Podil neighborhood, just north of the city center and about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) from the so-called “government quarter” that holds the presidential palace, president’s office and other significant offices.

Officials did not immediately release additional details about the attack, including whether there were any casualties.

Kyiv residents have been huddled in homes and shelters amid a citywide curfew that runs until Thursday morning, as Russia shelled areas in and around the city. Earlier, a 12-story apartment building in central Kyiv erupted in flames after being hit by shrapnel.

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KYIV, Ukraine — The mayor of the southeastern Ukrainian city of Melitopol has been freed after he was seized by Russian forces five days ago, a Ukrainian official said Wednesday.

Andriy Yermak, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, announced the news but did not share details about how Ivan Fedorov became free.

Surveillance video last week showed Fedorov being marched out of city hall apparently surrounded by Russian soldiers.

Prior to the start of the invasion, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration had warned of Russian plans to detain and kill targeted people in Ukraine, with Zelenskyy himself likely top target.

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SIRET, Romania — Refugees fleeing the Russian invasion continued to arrive at the Romanian border town of Siret on Wednesday.

A nearby sports hall has been turned into a shelter for families that includes numerous children.

Mihaita Musteata, a social worker and volunteer at the center, said many of those arriving have been twice displaced.

“We’ve had some people who’ve lost their home a second time,” Musteata said. “They first lost their home in Donbas, then moved to Kyiv, and now they lost that home too.”

Musteata said most of the refugees are headed elsewhere, but more Ukrainians have decided to remain in Romania and plan to return to Ukraine “if the war ever stops.”

Alexandra Stoleriu, a 19-year-old volunteer, said the children at the shelter do not fully understand what has happened to their country.

“I think they are better here,” Stoleriu said. “We are trying to calm them, to play with them, to give them food or anything, if they want something. We are here to support them.”

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WINONA, Minn. — A Minnesota mother and father fear for the safety of their adult son in Ukraine who they say was taken by the Russian military.

Tina Hauser, of Winona, told KAAL-TV the last time she spoke with her son, Tyler Jacob, was Saturday when he told her he was being forced by the Russian military to board a bus out of Kherson and leave his Ukrainian wife and daughter behind.

“My worst nightmare is coming true, and I’m fearful that they are going to torture him and kill him and I’m not ever going to see my son again,” said Hauser through tears.

Hauser said she has called the U.S. Embassy but has not heard back. She has also reached out to Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office for help.

“My heart goes out to Tyler’s family and we will do everything we can to locate him. My office is working with the State Department and the embassy to find him and resolve this situation as quickly as possible,” Klobuchar said in a statement.

Jacob, 28, was teaching English in Kherson when Russian troops invaded the country, according to his father, John Quinn, of Cannon Falls.

He said Jacob got on an evacuation bus for foreigners headed to Turkey on Saturday. But at a checkpoint in Crimea, the bus was stopped by Russian soldiers and Jacob was detained, WCCO-TV reported.

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Russian law enforcement has announced the first known criminal cases against people posting what is deemed to be “false information” about the war in Ukraine.

The Investigative Committee, a law enforcement agency, listed three suspects, including Veronika Belotserkovskaya, who is a Russian-language cookbook author and popular blogger living abroad.

It said Belotserkovskaya made posts on Instagram containing “deliberately false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to destroy cities and the civilian population of Ukraine, including children.”

Belotserkovskaya, whose Instagram profile says she was born in Ukraine, responded to the announcement by writing that “I have been officially declared to be a decent person!”

The other suspects were identified only as a man and a woman in the Tomsk Region of Siberia. The Investigative Committee said they had posted false messages about Russian military operations and casualties and that their homes had been searched.

The invasion of Ukraine is being characterized in Russia as a “special military operation,” not a war. President Vladimir Putin on March 4 signed legislation allowing for jail terms of up to 15 years for posting false information about the military.

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BRUSSELS – Poland’s defense minister says that at Wednesday's NATO meeting he presented his country's proposal to have the alliance establish a humanitarian and peacekeeping mission in Ukraine, similar to the one in Kosovo.

Minister Mariusz Blaszczak spoke in Brussels following talks among the 30-member alliance’s defense ministers regarding the war in Ukraine.

Blaszczak said he presented a peace mission proposal that Poland’s deputy prime minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, made Tuesday in Kyiv. The proposal will be discussed further, he said.

NATO has been leading a peace-support operation in Kosovo since June 1999 in support of wider international efforts to build peace and stability in the area.

During a visit of support to Kyiv, along with Poland’s, Czech and Slovenian prime ministers, Kaczynski said he thinks a NATO peacekeeping mission is needed in Ukraine, or “possibly some wider international structure, but a mission that will also be able to defend itself and that will operate in Ukraine.”

He maintained it would be in line with international law and would not have any hostile character.

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PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo president awarded a medal to the Ukrainian contingent, part of the NATO-led Kosovo Force, or KFOR, before they left to join fighting in their homeland.

President Vjosa Osmani awarded the Presidential Military Medal to the Ukrainian contingent who have sent 1,400 troops on a rotational basis in the last three years.

“Today’s Medal is an embodiment of our gratitude to your army, and our way of paying respect to the professionalism they have displayed in Kosovo, and the bravery they are displaying during this dark time for the Ukrainian nation,” said Osmani.

The last contingent of 40 Ukrainian officers of the Armed Forces Engineering Regiments will return to Ukraine.

Kosovo has condemned Ukraine’s invasion by Russia and has joined the European Union and the U.S. with sanctions on Russia “over the unjustified and unprovoked aggression toward Ukraine.”

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TIRANA, Albania — Albania has sheltered the first group of Ukrainians who have left the country after Russia's invasion.

Interior Minister Bledi Cuci said 351 Ukrainians are being housed in Albania.

Albania has offered to shelter thousands of Ukrainians. The country housed Afghans last year and Kosovar brethren in their 1999 war.

Ukrainians may enter Albania without visas and stay for a year without being issued a residents’ permission, the ministry said.

Albania has joined the European Union in the hard-hitting sanctions against Russian top officials and institutions.

Tirana also joined the U.S. as a “co-pen holder” in initiating resolutions at the United Nations Security Council against Ukraine’s Russian invasion.

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BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has categorically ruled out any role for the military organization in setting up and policing a no-fly zone over Ukraine to protect against Russian airstrikes.

Stoltenberg says “NATO should not deploy forces on the ground or in the air space over Ukraine because we have a responsibility to ensure that this conflict, this war, doesn’t escalate beyond Ukraine.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly appealed for NATO to set up a no-fly zone given Russia’s air superiority, as civilian casualties mount three weeks into the war.

Speaking Wednesday after chairing a meeting of NATO defense ministers, Stoltenberg conceded that “we see human suffering in Ukraine, but this can become even worse if NATO (takes) actions that actually turned this into a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia.”

He says the decision not to send air or ground forces into Ukraine is “the united position from NATO allies.” Earlier Wednesday, Estonia urged its 29 NATO partners to consider setting up a no-fly zone.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration on Wednesday urged Ukrainians arriving in Denmark with their pets to have them registered with the government agency because of fear that they might carry rabies

”It is important to have a special focus on dogs, cats and ferrets, which can be carriers of the rabies virus which occurs in Ukraine,” the agency said.

People are asked to fill in a form that is available on the agency’s website and pet owners will be contacted and an inspection will take place. That includes visits by an official veterinarian, isolation and various measures, such as rabies vaccination and antibody titration test of the animal, the administration said.

Rabies is usually a fatal disease in animals and humans, caused by a virus that invades the central nervous system. It’s most commonly spread through a bite from an infected animal.

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MADRID — Real Madrid says it will donate 1 million euros ($1.1 million) for humanitarian aid for the war victims in Ukraine.

The Spanish soccer club said Wednesday that the money will be used by its own charity foundation which “works alongside the main international NGOs” including the Red Cross and UNHCR, among others. The aid will go to fund relief projects both inside Ukraine and in neighboring countries to help refugees.

The club added that it will also donate 13,000 items of clothing and sporting goods to the Spanish Red Cross and other charity-run centers in Madrid for refugees coming to Spain.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The United Nations’ top court ordered Russia to stop hostilities in Ukraine on Wednesday, granting measures requested by Kyiv, but many are skeptical that Russia will comply.

Ukraine asked the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, to intervene two weeks ago, arguing Russia violated the 1948 Genocide Convention by falsely accusing Ukraine of committing genocide and using that as a pretext for the ongoing invasion.

The court’s president, U.S. judge Joan E. Donoghue, demanded that “the Russian Federation shall immediately suspend the special military operations it commenced on Feb. 24.”

Following the news, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweeted: “Ukraine gained a complete victory in its case against Russia at the International Court of Justice. The ICJ ordered to immediately stop the invasion. The order is binding under international law. Russia must comply immediately. Ignoring the order will isolate Russia even further.”

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MARIUPOL, Ukraine — An Associated Press video captured graphic images of the badly wounded and the dead in and around a hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol on Tuesday.

Medical workers wheeled an injured man into the hospital, the incessant sounds of warfare pounding in the distance. Badly injured and bloodied civilians lay on stretchers in a hallway, some moaning in pain. Dead bodies were scattered alongside a wall outside the hospital.

In the hospital’s basement, Dr. Valeriy Drengar used the flashlight on his cellphone to illuminate the bodies of the dead. He pulled back a blanket to show one of two infants lying across from each other in a hallway. The infant died after being brought to the hospital for injuries caused by Russian shelling. The baby was just 22 days old, Drengar said.

He cast his cellphone light on at least seven wrapped bodies, some likely children given their size, that had been placed in a basement room. “These are the people we could not save,” Drengar said.

Drengar said his hospital is the only one left in Mariupol that treats the injured because of bomb damage to other medical facilities. The city morgue no longer accepts the dead, he said.

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SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria is beefing up its refugee registration system by opening additional border points where documents are issued to Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion.

According to latest government figures, more than 81,000 Ukrainian citizens have entered Bulgaria trough the border crossings since the war broke out, and almost half of them have said that they want to stay in the Balkan country.

After initial registration, refugees are accommodated with families or in apartments provided by NGOs and local communities.

Bulgaria, which is the European Union’s poorest member, is facing a serious demographic crisis as its population has shrunk from almost nine million in 1989 to 6.5 million now, mainly due to a massive west-bound emigration.

In the wake of the current refugee influx, Bulgarian employers in the IT, tourism and construction sectors have offered to hire tens of thousands of Ukrainians.

Bulgaria is also concerned over the safety of some 200,000 ethnic Bulgarians, most of whom have been living for over a century mainly in the southern Ukrainian region of Odesa.

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NEW YORK — Fox News reporter Benjamin Hall, who was seriously injured in the wartime incident that killed two colleagues on Monday, is out of Ukraine, the network said on Wednesday.

“Ben is alert and in good spirits,” said Suzanne Scott, Fox News Media CEO, in a memo to staff. “He is being treated with the best possible care in the world and we are in close contact with his wife and family.”

Fox video journalist Pierre Zakrzewski and Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova, a Ukrainian journalist working with the Fox crew, were both killed when their vehicle was struck by incoming fire in Horenka, outside of Kyiv. Hall survived the blast.

The network offered no other details of Hall’s whereabouts or his condition.

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NEW YORK — The Russian Orthodox Church says Pope Francis discussed the war in Ukraine with its leader, Patriarch Kirill, in a call on Wednesday.

The Russian Orthodox Church said the call, which included other senior figures from both churches, included expressions from both sides “that a just peace is achieved soon” and the importance of negotiations, as well as “humanitarian aspects of the current crisis.”

The Vatican didn’t immediately respond when asked to confirm the call or comment on its contents.

Earlier Wednesday, during his weekly general audience, Francis made reference to a “final catastrophe” of an atomic war that would extinguish humanity. While he didn’t reference Ukraine explicitly in that part of his speech, he did elsewhere call for prayers for Ukraine and for God to protect its children and to forgive those who make war.

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BUCHAREST, Romania — Three Romanian citizens are being investigated by prosecutors after a car was discovered by security officials carrying six Ukrainian men in a city near the Ukraine border, Romanian border police said.

“Upon entering the city … the driver abandoned the car and fled to the nearby houses, and inside the car was discovered six men of Ukrainian citizenship,” border police said in a statement Wednesday. “They had not completed the entry formalities in Romania through the border point.”

More than 3 million refugees from war-torn Ukraine, mostly women and children, have fled into neighboring countries since Russia’s invasion started on Feb. 24. Men in Ukraine aged between 18 and 60 years old are not allowed to legally leave, unless they have three or more children.

The car carrying the Ukrainian nationals failed to stop when signaled Monday by police, resulting in a car chase that ended in the town of Radauti, border police said.

The town of Radauti in Suceava County is situated about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Romania’s northern Siret border crossing with Ukraine, where tens of thousands of refugees have entered since Russia began its attacks.

The men have asked for protection from the Romanian state and have applied for asylum, authorities said.

GENEVA — The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross is in Kyiv to try to obtain greater access for humanitarian groups in Ukraine and better protection for civilians.

The ICRC said Wednesday that the planned five-day visit by its president, Peter Maurer, aims to view first-hand the challenges facing civilians, meet with members of Ukraine's government and explore ways the ICRC can expand its work in the country.

The trip came a day after the Geneva-based organization helped shepherd out hundreds of people in an evacuation from the northern city of Sumy in some 80 buses.

KYIV, UKRAINE - MARCH 14: People look out from a damaged balcony of a residential apartment block that was hit by Russian shelling on March 14, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Russian forces continue to attempt to encircle the Ukrainian capital, although they have faced stiff resistance and logistical challenges since launching a large-scale invasion of Ukraine last month. Russian troops are advancing from the northwest and northeast of the city. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
KYIV, UKRAINE - MARCH 14: People look out from a damaged balcony of a residential apartment block that was hit by Russian shelling on March 14, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Russian forces continue to attempt to encircle the Ukrainian capital, although they have faced stiff resistance and logistical challenges since launching a large-scale invasion of Ukraine last month. Russian troops are advancing from the northwest and northeast of the city. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
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The ICRC also announced the delivery of 200 tons of aid to Ukraine, including kits for the war-wounded, blankets, kitchen sets, water and more than 5,200 body bags.

The ICRC has been working in Ukraine since 2014 and has a team of more than 600 staffers there, it says.
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HERE ARE TODAY'S KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Russia says Ukraine talks are progressing but military onslaught continues

— Ukraine's president is preparing to make a direct appeal to the U.S. Congress for more help

— Ukraine sees possible room for compromise in talks with Russia despite new assaults on Mariupol

— Mariupol descends into despair

— Russia could default - what then?

— U.S. President Joe Biden will travel to Europe next week for face-to-face talks with European leaders about Russia's invasion

Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for updates throughout the day.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 15: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and attendees applaud after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed them by video link during a meeting of the leaders of the the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), a coalition of 10 states focused on security in northern Europe, at Lancaster House on March 15, 2022 in London, United Kingdom. The Joint Expeditionary Force, (JEF) is a UK-led multilateral framework for defence cooperation formed by ten countries. In addition to the United Kingdom, the group includes Finland, The Netherlands, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Estonia. Their aim is to develop military capabilities through joint exercises, prevent various crises and act together in crisis situations. JEF's main operating environment is Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea region. (Photo by Justin Tallis - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 15: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and attendees applaud after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed them by video link during a meeting of the leaders of the the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), a coalition of 10 states focused on security in northern Europe, at Lancaster House on March 15, 2022 in London, United Kingdom. The Joint Expeditionary Force, (JEF) is a UK-led multilateral framework for defence cooperation formed by ten countries. In addition to the United Kingdom, the group includes Finland, The Netherlands, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Estonia. Their aim is to develop military capabilities through joint exercises, prevent various crises and act together in crisis situations. JEF's main operating environment is Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea region. (Photo by Justin Tallis - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
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HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
ROME — Italy is bolstering its refugee reception system to accommodate the around 47,000 Ukrainian refugees who have arrived since the start of the Russian invasion.

Top government officials from Italy's interior, economy and labor ministries, as well as the Civil Protection agency, met Wednesday to coordinate Italy's response. To date, 47,153 Ukrainians have arrived, including 19,069 minors, the government said in a statement.

Italy initially processes refugees in welcome centers. They are then placed with families or in apartments run by NGOs, church groups or other agencies.
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MOSCOW — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says a "business-like spirit" is emerging at talks with Ukraine that are now focused on a neutral status for the war-torn country.

"A neutral status is being seriously discussed in connection with security guarantees," Lavrov said Wednesday on Russian channel RBK TV. "There are concrete formulations that in my view are close to being agreed."

He didn't elaborate, but said "the business-like spirit" starting to surface in the talks "gives hope that we can agree on this issue."

Russia's chief negotiator in the latest round of talks with Ukraine, which started Monday and are set to continue Wednesday, said earlier the sides are discussing a possible compromise idea for a future Ukraine with a smaller, non-aligned military.

"A whole range of issues tied with the size of Ukraine's army is being discussed," Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said, according to Russian news agencies.
There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian officials. Ukrainian President

Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday that the country realizes it can't join NATO. Ukraine's bid to join the Western military alliance has been a sore point for Moscow.
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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is begging for prayers and protection for the children of Ukraine as the Vatican intensifies its appeals for peace while still refraining from condemning Russia by name for its invasion.

Francis met with Italian school children in St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday and urged them to think of their Ukrainian counterparts who are hungry, cold and have been forced to flee their homes.

Francis has stepped up his criticism of the war but has refrained from condemning Russia by name. That is evidence of his aim to keep open a dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church and reflects the Vatican's tradition of not calling out aggressors amid its efforts to position itself as a possible mediator.

Meanwhile, Francis is to celebrate a Mass on Friday during which he will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in a ritual that holds deep significance for the Catholic faithful. According to tradition, one of the so-called secrets of Fatima concerns the consecration of Russia to "the Immaculate Heart of Mary," prophesizing that peace will follow if the consecration is done.

St. John Paul II performed the consecration on March 25, 1984, and Francis will repeat the gesture 38 years later. On the same day, Francis' chief alms-giver, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, who recently returned from a humanitarian mission to Ukraine, will celebrate a consecration Mass in Fatima, Portugal, the site of the early 20th century Marian apparitions that formed the basis of the "secrets of Fatima."
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DUBAI — Ambulances and trauma and emergency surgery supplies are on their way to Ukraine from Dubai, via Poland.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday sent the shipment from their warehouses in the United Arab Emirates on two chartered flights provided for free by the government.

These were the third and fourth flights by the WHO to be sent to Ukraine through Dubai and were carrying 36 tons of medical supplies, including medicines for noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes or hyper-tension.

The International Humanitarian City, a Dubai-based hub, has so far sent a total of 36 shipments worth approximately $4 million in response to the Ukraine emergency. They have included trauma and emergency supplies, shelter and food.
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WARSAW, Poland — The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia have returned safely from a visit to Kyiv, as invading Russian forces menace the embattled Ukrainian capital.

The visit was meant to show support for Ukraine as it endures heavy bombardment.

The leaders met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday to send the message that Ukraine is not alone and that they support the nation's aspirations to one day join the European Union.

They went ahead with the hours-long train trip despite worries within the European Union about the security risks of traveling within a war zone.

Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller said Wednesday morning that they had returned safely to Poland.

Officials had not given details about their schedule for security reasons.
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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Ukraine is not going to join NATO "any time soon," after the country's president acknowledged Ukraine would not become part of the Western military alliance.

President Vladimir Putin has long depicted Ukraine's NATO aspirations as a threat to Russia, something the alliance denies.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday that Ukraine realized it could not join NATO, his most explicit acknowledgment that the goal, enshrined in Ukraine's constitution, was unlikely to be met.

It came as Russia and Ukraine held a new round of talks, with Zelenskyy saying Wednesday that Russian demands were becoming "more realistic."

On Wednesday, Johnson — one of the most vocal Western supporters of Ukraine — said "the reality of the position" is that "there is no way Ukraine is going to join NATO any time soon." But he said the decision had to be for Ukraine to make.
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LVIV, Ukraine — Satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC analyzed by The Associated Press show a suspected Ukrainian strike on the Russian-held Kherson International Airport and Air Base set several helicopters and vehicles ablaze.

The images Tuesday at the dual-use airfield show thick black smoke rising overhead from the blazes. At least three helicopters appeared to be on fire, as well as several vehicles. At a pad further away, other helicopters appeared damaged from an earlier strike.

The Ukrainian president's office said that fighting had continued at Kherson airport on Tuesday, with "powerful blasts" rocking the area during the course of the day. They said they were assessing damage in the area, without elaborating.

Kherson is about 450 kilometers (275 miles) southeast of Ukraine's capital, Kyiv.
Meanwhile, satellite images Tuesday of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, showed no damage to the site's six reactors after Russian forces engaged in a firefight to seize the facility. Zaporizhzhia is Europe's largest nuclear power plant and the fighting raised fears about safety there.

Zaporizhzhia is about the same distance and direction as Kherson from Kyiv. Residents in the region are building barricades and setting up firing positions.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office said some 4,000 vehicles left Mariupol in the first major evacuation from the besieged southern city, but most of the convoy spent the night on the road out toward Zaporizhzhia.
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NEW YORK — Russia's Defense Ministry reported fighting near the separatist-held eastern regions Wednesday but did not comment on Russian military activity elsewhere.

Defense Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov claimed Russian forces have destroyed 111 Ukrainian aircraft, 160 drones and more than 1,000 tanks or other military vehicles since the start of what Russia calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

The Russian military's daily public statements on the war focus almost exclusively on fighting in the separatist-held Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and on Ukrainian military targets, without acknowledging attacks on civilians.
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KHARKIV, Ukraine — Hospital workers in Ukraine's second-largest city find themselves on two frontlines, battling COVID-19 in intensive care units as war rages outside.

The Kharkiv Regional Clinical Infectious Diseases Hospital, the city's leading facility for treating virus patients throughout the pandemic, has barricaded its windows and is adapting every day.

Hospital director Dr. Pavel Nartov said air raid sirens go off multiple times daily, forcing fragile patients into the hospital's makeshift bomb shelter. Handling ICU patients on ventilators is the most difficult and dangerous part of the process, but also the most crucial, given the dangers of exposing oxygen tanks to bombings and shrapnel, he said.

"Bombing takes place from morning into night. Thank God a bomb has not yet hit our hospital. But it could hit at any time," he told The Associated Press.

Kharkiv has been under sustained fire from Russian forces since the outbreak of the war, with shelling hitting residential buildings and sending masses of people fleeing.
Ukraine's official daily COVID-19 cases reached record highs in February but have declined since Russia invaded amid the chaos of war. COVID-19 concerns have fallen by the wayside as people focus on fleeing the fighting.
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TOKYO — U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel praised Japan Wednesday for standing with the U.S. and other Western nations in announcing its latest sanctions to oppose Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Emanuel noted Japan's ban on the exports of about 300 goods to Russia and Belarus, including semiconductors and communications equipment, as well as its stripping Russia of its most favored nation trade status.

"Japan's actions demonstrate its steadfast commitment to stand in unity with the United States, our allies and partners in Europe and around the world, and the Ukrainian people," he said.

The U.S. also welcomed Japan's recent decision to freeze the assets of 17 more Russian politicians, tycoons and their relatives. The number of Russians targeted by Japan's sanctions that freezes their assets now totals 61.
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KYIV, Ukraine — A plume of smoke was seen rising up over western Kyiv on Wednesday morning after shrapnel from an artillery shell slammed into a 12-story apartment building in central Kyiv, obliterating the top floor and igniting a fire, according to a statement and images released by the Kyiv emergencies agency.

The neighboring building was also damaged. The agency reported two victims, without elaborating.

Russian forces have intensified fighting in Kyiv suburbs, notably around the town of Bucha in the northwest and the highway leading west toward Zhytomyr, the head of the Kyiv region Oleksiy Kuleba said Wednesday.

He said Russian troops are trying to cut off the capital from transport arteries and destroy logistical capabilities even as they plan a wide-ranging attack to seize Kyiv.
Twelve towns around Kyiv are without water and six without heat.

Russia has occupied the city of Ivankiv, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Kyiv, and controls the surrounding region on the border with Belarus, Kuleba said.

Across the Kyiv region, he said, "Kindergartens, museums, churches, residential blocks and engineering infrastructure are suffering from the endless firing."
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LVIV, Ukraine — Russian warships around midnight fired missiles and artillery at the Ukrainian sea coast near Tuzla, to the south of Odesa, Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said.

"They fired a huge amount of ammunition from a great distance," he said on Facebook.
Gerashchenko said Russia wanted to test Ukraine's coastal defense system.

He said there was no attempt to land troops. He didn't say whether any of the shelling hit anything.
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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine said a fourth Russian general has been killed in the fighting.
Maj. Gen. Oleg Mityaev died Tuesday during the storming of Mariupol, said Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko, who published a photo on Telegram of what he said was the dead officer.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported the death of another Russian general in his nighttime address but didn't name him.

Mityaev, 46, commanded the 150th motorized rifle division and had fought in Syria, Gerashchenko said.

There was no confirmation of the death from Russia.
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NEW YORK — The Russian state television employee who was arrested after interrupting a live news program by protesting the war in Ukraine said she was not allowed to sleep in police custody and was interrogated for 14 hours.

"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," Marina Ovsyannikova said after she was released.

Ovsyannikova, an employee of Channel 1, walked into the studio during Monday's evening news show with a poster saying "stop the war, don't believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here." In English, it said "no war" at the top of the poster and "Russians against the war" at the bottom.

In a video recorded before her action, she urged Russians to join anti-war protests and said that "Russia is the aggressor country and one person, Vladimir Putin, solely bears responsibility for that aggression."

She was fined 30,000 rubles (about $270) on charges of organizing unsanctioned actions for her call to take part in demonstrations against the war.

The state news agency Tass said Ovsyannikova was fined for the video, not for her appearance during the news show.

She remains under investigation for that on-air protest, Tass said, citing a law enforcement source. Tass said Ovsyannikova is being investigated under a new law against the dissemination of "deliberately false information" about the use of Russian armed forces, which carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The photo gallery located at the end of this post contains images that readers might find disturbing, including images that show injuries and death.  The reader is advised and cautioned to use discretion as the content may not be suitable for all.]

Ukraine and the World's Response to Russia's Attack - February 24, 2022 to Present

The following images help document Russia's invasion of Urkaine, and the world's response. The reader is STRONGLY CAUTIONED that this gallery CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES, some of which include IMAGES OF DEATH. As of March 5, 2022 the gallery includes images that are not suitable for all readers. The reader is cautioned not to view this gallery without discretion.

Some Major US Companies Pulling Out Of Russia Over Ukraine

Here are some of major U.S. corporations who are halting business operations in Russia to protest the ongoing war with Ukraine.