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The Russian military operation on Ukraine entered its third week on Thursday, with Russian forces continuing to bombard major cities.
Satellite photos show that a massive Russian convoy that had been mired outside the Ukrainian capital since last week has fanned out into towns and forests, with artillery pieces moved into firing positions
Thousands of people have been killed and more than 2.3 million have fled the country since Russian troops crossed into Ukraine on February 24. Besieged cities have been suffering from shortages of food, medicine, heat and electricity.
The foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine met on Thursday in a Turkish resort but weren’t able to find common ground. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said concerns expressed about civilian casualties are “pathetic shrieks” from Russia’s enemies. He also denied that Ukraine has been attacked.
10.34pm: YouTube blocks Russian-funded media globally
YouTube announced Friday that it has begun blocking access globally to channels associated with Russian state-funded media. It had previously blocked them — specifically RT and Sputnik — across Europe.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, announced the move in a Twitter post and said that while the change is effective immediately, “we expect our systems to take time to ramp up.”
9.45pm: International court warns attacks on civilians a crime
The International Criminal Court on Friday warned warring parties in Ukraine that attacks on civilians are a crime as invading Russian forces ramp up bombardments of city infrastructure.
“If attacks are intentionally directed against the civilian population: that is a crime. If attacks are intentionally directed against civilian objects: that is a crime,” ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan said.
8.57pm: UN says not aware of any ‘biological weapons program’ in Ukraine
The United Nations is not aware of any ‘biological weapons program’ in Ukraine, the UN disarmament chief told a Security Council meeting on Friday, but warned that the possibility of an accident at Ukraine nuclear power plants was ‘growing by the day.’
Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting requested by Russia, to discuss Moscow’s claims, presented without evidence, of US “biological activities”, Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said situations like the war in Ukraine required strengthening of the international ban on biological weapons.
8.43pm: Ukraine warns of possible Belarusian invasion plan
Ukraine’s state Centre for Strategic Communications said it could not rule that Belarus would launch an invasion of Ukraine on Friday after a meeting in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
“According to preliminary data, Belarusian troops may be drawn into an invasion on March 11 at 21:00 (1900 GMT),” the centre, which was established under the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, said in a statement.
8.01pm: Ukraine's Mariupol says 1,582 civilians killed by Russian shelling and blockade
At least 1,582 civilians in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol have been killed as a result of Russian shelling and a 12-day blockade, the city council said in an online statement on Friday.
"We will never forget and will never forgive this crime against humanity," it said.
7.50pm: Biden warns direct NATO-Russia clash would trigger ‘World War III’
President Joe Biden again ruled out any direct intervention by the United States to halt Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Friday, warning that such conflict pitting the NATO alliance against the Kremlin “is World War III.”
“We will not fight a war against Russia in Ukraine,” Biden said in a speech at the White House, refuting increasingly desperate calls from Kyiv for NATO to intervene against the Russian assault.
7.48pm: Biden says Russia ‘would pay severe price’ if it uses chemical weapons
President Joe Biden on Friday vowed that Russia would pay a “severe price” if it used chemical weapons in Ukraine, after US intelligence reportedly suggested that Moscow was preparing such an attack.
“I’m not going to speak about the intelligence, but Russia would play a severe price if they used chemicals,” Biden said, answering questions at a White House press conference where he announced further sanctions on Russia.
7.25pm: Russia says Ukraine has agreed to only two of 10 humanitarian corridors proposed by Moscow
kraine has agreed to only two of 10 humanitarian corridors proposed by Russia, and none of the proposed corridors into Russia, Tass news agency reported on Friday citing the Russian defence ministry.
The ministry also said that the southern port city of Mariupol, where attempts to establish a local ceasefire have failed so far, was now completely surrounded, with all bridges and roads into the city destroyed or mined by Ukrainian forces, Tass reported.
It was not possible to independently confirm the situation on the ground.
6.34pm: Russian media regulator restricts access to Instagram
Russia’s media regulator restricted access to Instagram on Friday after prosecutors opened a case against the social media giant’s parent company Meta, saying the company was permitting calls for violence against Russians on its platforms.
“The Instagram social network distributes materials containing calls to commit violent acts against citizens of the Russian Federation, including military personnel,” Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor said in a statement explaining the decision.
6.27pm: Ukraine says Russian aircraft fired at Belarus from Ukrainian air space
Ukraine’s air force said on Friday Russian aircraft had fired at a Belarusian settlement near the border with Ukraine from Ukrainian air space to try to drag Belarus into Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.
“This is a PROVOCATION! The goal is to involve the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus in the war with Ukraine!,” Ukraine’s Air Force Command said in an online statement.
6.15pm: Russia opens criminal investigation of Meta over death calls on Facebook
Russia opened a criminal case against Facebook’s parent Meta Platforms on Friday and moved to designate it as an “extremist organisation” after the social network changed its hate speech rules to allow users to call for violence against Russians in the context of the war with Ukraine.
“A criminal case has been initiated ... in connection with illegal calls for murder and violence against citizens of the Russian Federation by employees of the American company Meta, which owns the social networks Facebook and Instagram,” Russia’s Investigative Committee said.
The committee reports directly to President Vladimir Putin. It was not immediately clear what the consequences of the criminal case might be.
5.41pm: Chernobyl plant still without external power supply
Ukraine’s state nuclear power regulator said on Friday the electricity supply to the Chernobyl nuclear power station had not yet been restored, despite Russia’s energy ministry saying it was restored by Belarusian specialists on Thursday.
Ukraine has warned of an increased risk of a radiation leak if the high-voltage power line, damaged in fighting, is not repaired to the plant, which is occupied by Russian forces.
“Attempts to restore the external power supply to the site are in progress,” the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine said in a statement. When the external electricity supply is severed, an emergency diesel generator kicks in.
5.25pm: Russian advances have stalled in Ukraine, says Ukrainian presidential adviser
Russian territorial advances in Ukraine have stalled and the Russian armed forces have made no progress in the last 24 hours, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said on Friday.
“Our opponent has been halted in practically every direction by air strikes, rocket fire and ground attacks,” he told a news briefing. Ukraine’s armed forces had staged counter-attacks near the capital Kyiv, and Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, he said.
4.36pm: Putin sees some ‘positive shifts’ in Russia-Ukraine talks
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that there were some “positive shifts” in talks between Russian and Ukraine, two weeks into Moscow’s military campaign in the country.
“There are certain positive shifts, negotiators from our side reported to me,” Putin told his Belarus counterpart Alexander Lukashenko during a televised meeting in Moscow.
He added that negotiations are “now being held on an almost daily basis.”
4.30pm: Ukraine’s president says Ukraine is on course for victory
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday Ukraine had reached a strategic turning point in its war with Russia, but cautioned that it was not possible to say how long fighting would continue.
It is impossible to say how many days we still have to free Ukrainian land. But we can say we will do it. For we have already reached a strategic turning point.
4.03pm: Four Ukraine soldiers killed at Lutsk airbase
At least four Ukrainian soldiers were killed and six injured on Friday in Russian strikes on the Lutsk military airport in northwest Ukraine, local authorities said.
The information was given by Lutsk mayor Igor Polishchuk, updating a previous toll of two killed.
3.22pm: Ukraine says Russian forces hit psychiatric hospital but no one hurt
Ukraine accused Russian forces of hitting a psychiatric hospital near the eastern Ukrainian town of Izyum on Friday but emergency services said no one was hurt.
“All 30 staff and 330 patients were in a bomb shelter at the time of the strike,” Ukraine’s State Emergencies Service said in a statement.
2.03pm: VP Harris heads to Romania as Ukraine refugee crisis grows
US Vice President Kamala Harris and Romania’s president will meet Friday to discuss growing concerns about the influx of displaced people fleeing Ukraine for Romania and elsewhere in eastern Europe due to Russia’s invasion.
It’s a problem that Biden administration officials and European leaders warn will likely get more complicated in the days and weeks ahead.
Harris’ talks in Bucharest with President Klaus Iohannis come after she spent Thursday in Poland, which has already welcomed some 1.5 million Ukrainians since the attack began. She met in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Ukrainian refugees, and others in hopes of getting a fuller picture of the unfolding humanitarian crisis.
The southeastern European country of Romania — a nation of about 19 million — had taken in more than 84,000 displaced people as of Tuesday, according to United Nations data. Other countries on NATO’s eastern flank, including Hungary, Moldova and Slovakia, have also welcomed tens of thousands of refugees.
1.29pm: 2.5 million people have now fled Ukraine, says UN
Two and a half million people have fled Ukraine since Russia attacked on February 24, the United Nations said Friday.
“Two and a half million people have now fled Ukraine, including 116,000 third-country nationals,” Paul Dillon, spokesman for the UN’s International Organisation for Migration, announced on Twitter.
12.50pm: Putin backs plans to send volunteer fighters to Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday backed plans to allow volunteers to fight in Ukraine, where he has sent thousands of Russian troops in what he calls a “special military operation”.
“If you see that there are people who want on a voluntary basis (to help east Ukraine’s separatists), then you need to meet them halfway and help them move to combat zones."
12.34pm: 2 Ukraine soldiers killed at Lutsk airbase
Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed on Friday in Russian strikes on the Lutsk military airport in northwest Ukraine, local authorities said.
“At 05.45am, four rockets were fired... by a Russian army bomber on the Lutsk military airfield,” said regional administration official Yuriy Pohuliayko on Telegram, adding that “two soldiers were killed and six wounded”.
10.45am: Civilian targets hit in Ukraine’s Dnipro
Civilian targets came under Russian shelling in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro Friday, killing one, emergency services said.
Early on Friday, “there were three air strikes on the city, namely hitting a kindergarten, an apartment building and a two-story shoe factory, starting a fire. One person died,” the emergency services said in a statement.
9.02am: Facebook, Instagram to allow posts calling for violence against Russians
Meta, the parent company of social networks Facebook and Instagram, is planning to allow the publication of calls for violence against Russians in response to the military operation in Ukraine, media reports said on Friday.
“As a result of the Russian attacks on Ukraine, we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian attackers.’ We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians."
8.41am: Russian forces edge closer to Kyiv as city becomes ‘fortress’
Russian troops edged closer to Kyiv on Friday, as officials said the Ukrainian capital was being transformed into a “fortress” and President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of again targeting humanitarian corridors.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians remain holed up in Ukrainian cities, including besieged Mariupol, under a Russian bombing campaign after the first talks between Moscow and Kyiv’s top diplomats ended without any progress.
8.37am: UN Security Council to convene today at Russia’s request
The United Nations Security Council will convene on Friday at Russia’s request, diplomats said, to discuss Moscow’s claims, presented without evidence, of US “biological activities” in Ukraine, a move Washington described as gaslighting.
The meeting is expected to be in the morning.
8.29am: Japan to freeze assets of three Belarus banks
Japan will freeze the assets of three Belarusian banks, the government said Thursday, days after EU countries agreed to toughen sanctions on Minsk over its support for Russia’s attacks on Ukraine.
The Japanese government also announced a $100 million humanitarian donation to Ukraine and its neighbouring nations to help Ukrainians fleeing the war.
8am: Russia never wanted war, says FM
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Moscow has never wanted war and seeks to end the ongoing conflict.
During a press conference following a meeting with his Ukrainian and Turkish counterparts, Dmitry Kuleba and Mevlut Cavusoglu, Lavrov pointed out that Moscow was ready to discuss security guarantees for Kyiv, according to TASS News Agency.
7.26am: US, allies to revoke ‘most favoured nation’ status for Russia
President Joe Biden will announce Friday that, along with the European Union and the Group of Seven countries, the US will move to revoke “most favoured nation” trade status for Russia over its military operation in Ukraine.
Biden’s move comes as bipartisan pressure has been building in Washington to revoke what is formally known as “permanent normal trade relations” with Russia.
The move would allow the US and allies to impose tariffs on Russian imports.
7.22am: Premier Li offers China’s help for ‘grave’ Ukraine situation
"We support and encourage all efforts that are conducive to a peaceful settlement of the crisis. The pressing task now is to prevent tension from escalating or even getting out of control."
7.17am: WHO advises Ukraine to destroy 'high-threat pathogens'
The World Health Organisation (WHO) advised Ukraine to destroy high-threat pathogens housed in the country’s public health laboratories to prevent “any potential spills” that would spread disease among the population, the agency told Reuters on Thursday.
Biosecurity experts say Russia’s movement of troops into Ukraine and bombardment of its cities have raised the risk of an escape of disease-causing pathogens, should any of those facilities be damaged.
6.24am: Zelensky says 100,000 evacuated amid blockade
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said 100,000 people have been evacuated during the past two days from seven cities under Russian blockade in the north and centre of the country, including the Kyiv suburbs.
But he said the Russian refusal to allow evacuations from Mariupol, a port city in the south, was “outright terror.”
“They have a clear order to hold Mariupol hostage, to mock it, to constantly bomb and shell it,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address to the nation. He said the Russians began a tank attack right where there was supposed to be a humanitarian corridor.
6am: Satellite photos show breakup of Russian convoy outside Kyiv
Satellite photos show that a massive Russian convoy that had been mired outside the Ukrainian capital since last week appeared to have dispersed.
Satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies showed the 40-mile (64-km) line of vehicles, tanks and artillery has broken up and been redeployed, with armoured units seen in towns near the Antonov Airport north of the city. Some of the vehicles have moved into forests, Maxar reported.
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