Russia-Ukraine live updates: Putin calls sanctions from the West ‘akin to a declaration of war’


(NEW YORK) — Russian forces are continuing their attempted push through Ukraine from multiple directions, while Ukrainians, led by President Volodymr Zelenskyy, are putting up “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The attack began Feb. 24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation.”

Russian forces moving from neighboring Belarus toward Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, don’t appear to have advanced closer to the city since coming within about 20 miles, although smaller advanced groups have been fighting gun battles with Ukrainian forces inside the capital since at least Friday.

Russia has been met by sanctions from the United States, Canada and countries throughout Europe, targeting the Russian economy as well as Putin himself.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Mar 05, 5:44 pm
Visa, Mastercard suspend operations in Russia

Visa and Mastercard have suspended their operations in Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, the companies said Saturday.

The announcements came hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for a suspension of Visa and Mastercard transactions in Russia during a Zoom call with U.S. lawmakers Saturday, according to a source on the call.

Visa said in a statement it is working to end all transactions with its clients and partners in Russia “over the coming days,” at which point “all transactions initiated with Visa cards issued in Russia will no longer work outside the country and any Visa cards issued by financial institutions outside of Russia will no longer work within the Russian Federation.”

Mastercard said that cards issued by Russian banks “will no longer be supported by the Mastercard network,” and those issued outside of the country “will not work at Russian merchants or ATMs.”

Visa and Mastercard cards accounted for 74% of payment transactions in Russia in 2020, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Earlier this week, American Express announced it had halted relationships with bank partners in Russia impacted by U.S. and international sanctions.

Mar 05, 3:19 pm
Blinken steps into Ukraine after meeting with foreign minister

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken crossed the border into Ukraine Saturday after meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at the Korczowa Border Crossing Point.

“The entire world stand with Ukraine,” Blinken said, and Kuleba added that he hopes Ukrainians will see this as a “clear manifestation that we have friends who literally stand by us.”

Blinken said the sanctions imposed so far against Russia are “producing very, very concrete results” and that the pressure will “grow” until this “war of choice is brought to an end.”

When asked directly about helping Kuleba with more firepower, Blinken said, “the support for Ukraine not only has been unprecedented, not only is going to continue, it’s going to increase.”

Kuleba said Ukraine “appreciates” sanctions that have been announced in the last week, but that more economic and political pressure and “necessary weapons,” would “save many lives in Ukraine… many sufferings will be avoided.”

Kuleba also said that they are “satisfied” with already arranged supplies of anti-tank weapons and ammunition, but that “it’s no secret” they still want fighter jets and air defense systems.

He also thanked the U.S. for sending stingers, and said they were used on Saturday.

“Just today we shot down three Russian attack aircrafts, which were bombing our cities with the use of stingers but we need — so to say — big air defense systems to ensure the safety of our skies. If we lose the skies, there will be much, much more blood on the ground,”Kuleba said.

In response to questions about NATO’s refusal to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, Kuleba said it’s a “sign of weakness,” but stayed optimistic that they will change their minds.

“The time will come,” he said.

Mar 05, 2:44 pm
Israeli prime minister meets with Putin

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said he is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin Saturday evening.

The two last spoke on Wednesday. Bennett’s office said the White House is aware of the meeting.

The prime minister is being accompanied by several Israeli advisers including Dr. Eyal Hulata, Shimrit Meir and the prime minister’s spokesperson, Matan Sidi. Israeli Construction and Housing Minister, Zeev Elkin, is also attending the meeting and assisting with language translation.

Mar 05, 2:03 pm
Russia claims troops took control of more settlements, damaged Ukraine’s military infrastructure

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Saturday claimed its troops continued to disable military infrastructure in Ukraine and took control of Ukrainian settlements.

Russia claimed its troops took control of seven Ukrainian settlements and that Russian-backed troops in Donetsk moved 7 kilometers forward, Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said at a briefing.

“Units of the Russian Armed forces are advancing as a wide front and have taken control over populated areas of Mala Tokmachka, Marfopil, Remivka, Novokarlivka, Orlinske, Volodine and Malynivka,” Konashenkov said.

Konashenkov claimed that Luhansk’s Russian-backed troops took hold of the settlements of Golikove, Nevske and Katerynivka.

Russia claimed it destroyed five radar stations and two Buk M-1 air defense systems and that it downed four Su-27 aircrafts over Zhytomyr and one Su-27 aircraft near Nizhyn, according to Konashenkov.

Konashenkov also said that Russian troops are resuming their offensive “due to the Ukrainian side’s unwillingness to influence the nationalists or prolong the ceasefire,” Konashenkov said.

Mar 05, 1:27 pm
US State Department tells Americans to depart Russia ‘immediately’

The U.S. State Department on Saturday updated its travel advisory for Russia amid the war in Ukraine and Russia’s tightening crackdown on dissent, reporting and travel and the worsening economic situation, including declined credit cards and cash shortages.

“U.S. citizens should depart immediately,” the advisory warns, adding, “If you wish to depart Russia, you should make arrangements on your own as soon as possible.”

The State Department warned Americans, “If you plan to stay in Russia, understand the U.S. Embassy has severe limitations on its ability to assist U.S. citizens, and conditions, including transportation options, may change suddenly.”

The State Department further warned U.S. citizens may be harassed by “Russian government security officials” or face “arbitrary enforcement of local law,” something they’ve warned about for years.

The U.S. embassy has issued detailed instructions on how to flee the country, including over land borders by car and bus as well as limited flights.

Mar 05, 1:14 pm
Russia says it is restarting offensive operations in cease-fire areas

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Saturday announced it will now begin offensive actions again in Ukraine, having never observed the cease-fire it announced earlier in the morning.

A Defense Ministry spokesman, in a briefing, accused Ukraine’s government of failing to restrain “nationalists” or observe the cease-fire saying, “at 18:00 Moscow-time offensive actions are renewed.”

In reality, Russia has continued to shell Mariupol and Volnovakha in Ukraine’s east throughout the day, despite having declared a temporary cease-fire and humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to leave.

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of using the cease-fire period to move forces closer to Ukrainian positions.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said evacuations could not take place today because of shelling. The ICRC branch in Donetsk told ABC News earlier, that its team in Mariupol was forced to take shelter because of shelling.

Mar 05, 12:55 pm
Zelenskyy speaks to more than 300 US lawmakers

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy spoke to over 300 senators, members of Congress and top Hill staff on Saturday, pleading for more lethal and military aid.

Zelenskyy, on an hourlong Zoom call, asked U.S. lawmakers for weapons including drones, planes and stingers; the implementation of a “no-fly” zone over Ukraine; a full ban on the import of Russian oil to the U.S.; and a suspension of the use of Visa and MasterCard in Russia.

In a statement made after the call, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “President Zelenskyy made a desperate plea for Eastern European countries to provide Russian-made planes to Ukraine. These planes are very much needed. And I will do all I can to help the administration to facilitate their transfer.”

According to a source who attended the meeting, Schumer started the call by addressing Zelenskyy, saying, “Mr. President, we are inspired by you and the strength and courage of the Ukrainian people. The people of New York and its large Ukrainian community stand with you.”

“Senator McConnell and I, along with the other members on this zoom, are working very hard in a bipartisan fashion to get all the assistance the administration has requested for the Ukrainian people. Together we will get that assistance of over $10 billion in economic, humanitarian and security assistance to the Ukrainian people quickly,” Schumer said.

One senator on the call told ABC News’ Rachel Scott that at one point, dozens of attendees unmuted and said “Thank you, Mr President,” “We support you,” “Slava Ukraini” and “We will help you.”

The senator told Scott that Zelenskyy “was clearly moved by the cascade of voices lifted in support.”

Senators Rob Portman and Jeanne Shaheen, who recently traveled to Ukraine, are expected to send a letter asking the Department of Defense to send F16 planes to Eastern European countries who donate MiG aircrafts to Ukraine. Poland has said it is willing to do this.

Another senator told ABC News that there are serious concerns about Zelenskyy’s safety, saying, “If he’s dead it makes it that much easier for Russians to seize control. If there isn’t a legitimate government we recognize it’s harder to help.”

According to a source, Zelensky said he and his family have been targeted.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury said Friday that sanctions don’t start until June and omit Russian oil and gas. Senators are going to call for immediate tightening.

Mar 05, 11:48 am
US approves flight from Russia to pick up personnel accused of spying

The U.S. on Saturday confirmed that it approved a flight chartered by the Russian government to pick up the Russian United Nations Mission personnel who were ordered expelled earlier this week for reportedly spying, State Department spokesperson confirmed to ABC News.

“This special exception was done in accordance with federal regulations to ensure Russian mission personnel and their families departed by the date we had instructed,” the spokesperson said.

Mar 05, 11:41 am
Blinken speaks to Chinese counterpart on Russian invasion of Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday spoke to his Chinese counterpart for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine. The State Department said Blinken warned State Councilor Wang Yi that “the world is watching to see which nations stand up for the basic principles of freedom, self-determination, and sovereignty.”

“He underscored that the world is acting in unison to repudiate and respond to the Russian aggression, ensuring that Moscow will pay a high price,” Ned Price, a spokesperson for Blinken, said in a statement.

China, however, continues to do business with Russia and even countries like India hold back from condemning the Kremlin’s war.

Starting late last year, U.S. officials shared privately with the Chinese, just as they did publicly, that they believed Russia was preparing for a potential invasion of Ukraine, urging Beijing to use its influence with the Kremlin “to indicate to Putin that this kind of aggression would be met with a swift and severe response,” a State Department official said last week.

But China’s Foreign Ministry said earlier this week that it did not request Russia to hold off on an invasion until after the Winter Olympics. The State Department had no comment on that report.

Mar 05, 11:16 am
Safe passage operations from Ukraine cities will not start Saturday: ICRC

The International Committee of the Red Cross said safe passage operations from Ukrainian cities will not start on Saturday.

“We understand that the safe passage operations from Mariupol and Volnovakha will not start today,” the ICRC said in a statement.

The ICRC said it remains in dialogue with the parties about the safe passage of civilians from different cities affected by the conflict, saying, “The scenes in Mariupol and in other cities today are heart-breaking.”

“As a neutral and impartial humanitarian intermediary, we stand ready to help facilitate the safe passage of civilians once the parties have reached an agreement and that its terms are strictly humanitarian for the ICRC to be involved,” the ICRC said.

Adding, “Regardless of whether humanitarian corridors are implemented in the coming days, parties must continue to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure under international humanitarian law both for those who choose to leave and those who remain.”

Mar 05, 10:55 am
Zelenskyy claims more than 10,000 Russian troops have been killed

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy on Saturday claimed that more than 10,000 Russian army troops have been killed in the war.

“It’s young men, 18 to 20-year-old boys, who lost their lives having no idea why their country sent them to war,” Zelenskyy said during a speech.

“We’re inflicting such heavy losses on the enemy that they couldn’t have imagined in their worst nightmares,” Zelenskyy said.

He said Ukraine is managing to hold the line on all key fronts and directions and that the Ukrainian army has gone on counterattack in Kharkiv.

Zelenskyy also thanked Polish President Andrzej Duda for the country’s support which helped prevent a humanitarian crisis at the border.

“There’s practically no border between Ukraine and Poland any more,” Zelenskyy said.

The Ukrainian president said he has already begun discussions on post-war reconstruction efforts.

“I spoke to World Bank President and IMF managing director, and we have an agreement on measures to support Ukraine. Tens of billions of dollars will be provided for renovation after the war, and that’s just the beginning,” Zelenskyy said.

“I’m grateful to Americans, to bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, but also to millions of ordinary people who call for tougher sanctions against the aggressor and better protection of Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said.

Mar 05, 9:58 am
Putin says it’s ‘impossible’ to implement ‘no-fly’ zone, calls sanctions ‘akin to a declaration of war’

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday dismissed the idea of imposing a “no-fly” zone over Ukraine, which Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy has been calling for.

“It’s impossible to do it, any attempts by other countries to do it will be regarded as their participation in military conflict,” Putin said Saturday while speaking to female pilots and stewardesses from Russia’s national airline Aeroflot.

Putin claimed that Ukrainian “neo-Nazis” were not allowing people to leave Ukrainian cities in order to use them as human shields. The Red Cross on Saturday confirmed that the evacuations were stopped because of Russian shelling.

Putin also commented on the sanctions the West imposed on Russia, calling them “akin to a declaration of war,” but insisted that Russia could adapt and suggested the countries imposing them would reverse because it also hurt their interests.

On the invasion of Ukraine, Putin claimed again that it was going “according to plan, to schedule.” He also claimed that Russia was only using professional soldiers, not conscripts in Ukraine and would continue to do so.

Talks with Ukraine are continuing, according to Putin, with Russia’s key demand being the “de-militarization” of Ukraine.

Putin also made threatening comments about Ukraine’s statehood.

“Especially those from today’s leadership, should understand that if they continue doing what they are doing, they call into question the future of Ukrainian statehood. And if it happens it will be wholly and fully on their conscience,” Putin said.

Putin said there is no current plan to implement martial law in Russia and would only do so in the case of “outside aggression” against specific regions of Russia.

Putin also suggested that Russia might try to block international airlines from flying over Siberia, which would disrupt international airlines trying to fly from Europe to Asia.

Mar 05, 8:36 am
Blinken says visit to Poland comes at ‘one of the most urgent moments’

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday his visit to Poland comes at “one of the most urgent moments in the long history of friendship between our two countries.”

Speaking at a joint press conference with Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau in the southeastern city of Rzeszow, Blinken said the ideals that bind Poland and the United States are “under threat in this region like never before.”

“We will stand together, as we’ve been standing together, in support of Ukraine and against Russia’s unprovoked unwarranted premeditated invasion,” Blinken told reporters.

Out of the more than 1.36 million people who have been forced to flee Ukraine since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24, over 756,000 have crossed into neighboring Poland, according to the latest figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Blinken noted that “at this moment of crisis for millions of Ukrainians and as the security of Europe hangs in the balance,” it’s an “incredibly powerful reflection of Poland’s values that those fleeing the war will find refuge in Poland.”

He outlined U.S. funding to support the needs of Ukrainian refugees in Poland and other countries, including a $2.75 billion requested aid package and the $54 million in humanitarian assistance announced last week.

Meanwhile, Rau warned Russia that Poland would not recognize any territorial transfers taken by force. He told reporters that Russian shelling of residential areas and a nuclear power plant in Ukraine “are war crimes under international law” and should “be prosecuted with utmost determination.”

The U.S. has yet to say whether Russia has engaged in war crimes in Ukraine.

Mar 05, 8:19 am
Russia’s indiscriminate bombing of Ukraine will increase: US official

A senior U.S. official told ABC News on Saturday that they have no doubt Russia’s indiscriminate bombing of Ukraine will increase in the coming days.

When asked how long they think Ukraine can hold out, the official said Ukrainian forces as a “whole” are degrading but are strong and growing as individuals or “partisans.” At least 500 “fighters” from elsewhere crossed into Ukraine on Friday to join the fight against Russia, according to the official.

Mar 05, 8:10 am
Over 1.3 million refugees have fled Ukraine: UNHCR

More than 1.36 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24, according to the latest figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

More than 756,000 of the refugees from Ukraine are in neighboring Poland, UNHCR figures show.

Mar 05, 7:37 am
Russia’s Aeroflot to suspend all international flights

Russia’s flagship airline Aeroflot announced Saturday that it will temporarily suspend all international flights from March 8.

In a statement on its website, the airline cited “the occurrence of additional circumstances that impede the operation of flights.”

“The cancellation also applies to international destinations in the schedule of Rossiya and Aurora airlines,” Aeroflot said.

Mar 05, 7:02 am
Ukraine postpones civilian evacuations from Mariupol, accusing Russia of breaking cease-fire

Russian forces continued to shell Ukraine’s strategic port city of Mariupol on Saturday despite agreeing to a temporary cease-fire to allow civilians to evacuate, according to the regional governor.

“Due to the fact that the Russians do not observe the regime of silence and continue shelling of Mariupol and its environs, for security reasons, the evacuation of the population has been postponed,” Donetsk Oblast Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a statement posted on social media. “We ask people to leave the gathering places and go to the shelters. Additional information about the evacuation will be posted soon. Police officers will also use loudspeakers to inform the city’s residents.”

Earlier Saturday, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that it has agreed with Ukrainian forces to open humanitarian corridors in Mariupol, a strategic port in the southeast, and in the eastern city of Volnovakha between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Moscow time. The deal was reached during the second round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations earlier this week.

Mariupol has been under ferocious, indiscriminate bombardment with heavy artillery and missile strikes for days, causing the city to sometimes lose power and water. Local officials have described bodies strewn across the streets because authorities are unable to collect them.

Mar 05, 2:25 am
Russia announces temporary cease-fire to let civilians leave 2 Ukrainian cities

Russia announced Saturday a temporary cease-fire in two besieged cities of Ukraine to allow civilians to evacuate.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement carried by state news agencies that it has agreed with Ukrainian forces to open humanitarian corridors in the strategic port of Mariupol and the eastern town of Volnovakha beginning at 10 a.m. Moscow time.

“Starting at 10 a.m. Moscow time today, on March 5, the Russian side declares a ceasefire and opens humanitarian passages for civilians to leave Mariupol and Volnovakha,” the ministry said. “Humanitarian passages and exit routes have been coordinated with the Ukrainian side.”

There was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine, and it was unclear how long the evacuation routes would remain open.

Mar 04, 9:27 pm
‘They even sent skis’: Donations pile up at Poland-Ukraine border

Deb Parry, who is currently leading Save the Children’s team in Poland, told ABC News she has never seen anything like the outpouring of help on the Polish border.

“I’ve worked for Save the Children for 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. There’s a phenomenal amount of aid being sent. Everything these families could possibly need.”

“They even sent skis!” she exclaimed.

The donations are piling up all over Poland and being dropped near the crossings and reception centers throughout the country. Piles of skis and snowboards were stacked up at Dolhobyczow, a village near the Ukraine border.

“I’m not sure why people think they need skis,” Parry said.

Because of this effort by local communities, Save the Children can focus on things other than the distribution of necessities. More than 700,000 refugees have streamed across the Poland border since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 — almost all of whom are women and children.

Save the Children is helping parents talk to their children about war. They have teamed up with the telecom companies providing SIM cards and hand out leaflets with information for how best to cope in these trying conditions.

“It’s important to keep children in some sort of a routine,” Parry explained, adding that parents or caretakers need to be careful about what they expose children to.

“Don’t have the news on all the time,” she said.

Mar 04, 8:03 pm
Facebook, Twitter respond to Russia blocking services

Representatives from Facebook and Twitter provided updates about their services after the Russian government announced it would block both services.

Twitter security chief Yoel Roth said the company has not confirmed its services are completely disabled in Russia during a public panel Friday evening.

Meta, Facebook’s parent company, put out a statement contending, “despite the Russian government’s announcement that they will be blocking Facebook, we are working to keep our services available to the greatest extent possible.”

Meta added that “ads targeting people in Russia will be paused, and advertisers within Russia will no longer be able to create or run ads anywhere in the world, including within Russia.”

Mar 04, 5:48 pm
Key national security officials to testify on Capitol Hill over Ukraine crisis

As tensions rise between the United States and Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, national security officials will appear on Capitol Hill March 8 at 10 a.m. for the House Intelligence Committee’s annual worldwide threats hearing.

The public portion of the hearing will include CIA Director Bill Burns, FBI Director Chris Wray and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. Burns notably traveled to Moscow last fall reportedly to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin over the troop buildup on Ukraine’s borders and his plans to invade the country.

Publicly and privately, lawmakers have criticized the Biden administration over the pace and scope of intelligence sharing with Ukraine over the last week.

The officials will also testify before the Senate later in the week.

Mar 04, 4:58 pm
Zelenskyy slams NATO for denying no-fly zone request

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy angrily denounced NATO in a televised address Friday over its refusal to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

“Knowing that new strikes and casualties are inevitable, NATO has consciously taken the decision not to close the sky over Ukraine. All the people who will die from this day, will die also because of you,” he said.

Zelenskyy accused NATO of creating a narrative “that the closure of the sky will allegedly provoke a war with Russia.”

“It’s a self-hypnosis of those who are weak, unconfident inside, though it can possess weapons a lot bigger than we do. You should have thought about people, about humanity,” he said.

Zelenskyy said the alliance did agree to purchase 50 tons of fuel, but the president scoffed at the move.

“I don’t know who you can defend and whether you are capable. You can’t pay off with liters of diesel fuel for the liters of our blood, shed for our common Europe, for our common freedom, for our joint future,” he said.

Mar 04, 4:43 pm
Harris to travel to Poland, Romania next week

Vice President Kamala Harris has scheduled a trip to Warsaw, Poland, and Bucharest, Romania, next week, according to her office.

Harris will meet with leaders of both countries from March 9 to March 11, deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said in a statement.

“They will discuss our continuing support for the people of Ukraine through security, economic, and humanitarian assistance and our determination to impose severe economic consequences on Russia and those complicit in Russia’s invasion,” she said.

“The vice president’s meetings will also focus on how the United States can further support Ukraine’s neighbors as they welcome and care for refugees fleeing violence,” Singh added.

Mar 04, 4:24 pm
White House says it’s ‘looking at ways to reduce’ Russian oil imports

The White House on Friday did not rule out banning Russian oil imports to the U.S., saying it was “looking at ways to reduce the import of Russian oil,” but showed continued reluctance in light of the impact it would have on energy prices.

“We are considering a range of options, but what’s really essential is that we maintain a steady supply of global energy,” Cecilia Rouse, the chair of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, said at the White House press briefing.

Adding, “Energy is a global market and we do not want to disrupt that market.”

Bloomberg on Friday reported that “the administration is weighing a ban on U.S. imports of Russian crude oil,” and that “conversations are taking place within the administration and with the U.S. oil and gas industry on the impact such a move would have on American consumers and the global supply,” citing unnamed “people familiar with the matter.”

An expert at GasBuddy told ABC News on Thursday that banning Russian oil imports would, in fact, likely raise gas prices in the U.S.

Psaki said there wasn’t any “outside event” for which the U.S. was waiting to implement a ban, but that the White House was “mindful of not taking steps” that would raise energy prices for Americans and that the U.S. also wanted to take steps in concert with allies.

There would be a much larger impact on energy prices in Europe, which is a lot more reliant on Russian oil, according to experts.

Mar 04, 4:00 pm
Russia blocks Twitter

The state censor on Friday added Twitter to the list of banned sites in the country, based on a request from Russia’s Prosecutor General.

Earlier Friday, Russia banned Facebook as the government moves to limit dissent over the war in Ukraine.

Mar 04, 3:44 pm
Russia claims Ukraine forces were responsible for the attack on Zaporizhzh

Russia’s representative to the United Nations on Friday reiterated the Kremlin’s claim that Ukrainian forces were responsible for the attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The representative said Russian forces came under small arms fire by a “Ukrainian sabotage group” that was stationed in a training complex building on site.

The representative claimed that Russian troops returned fire, but that as they departed, Ukrainians set the building on fire.

The Russian representative claimed Ukrainian “radicals” are under the West’s “close guardianship and protection,” giving them “carte blanche,” and allowing them to act like “ISIS terrorists” by “hiding behind civilians and placing heavy weaponry and multiple rocket launchers in residential areas.”

Ukraine, the U.S. and its allies have denied these claims.

The UN relief chief also fact-checked the Russian delegate on Monday, saying Russia’s claim about Ukraine placing weapons in civilian areas was false.

Mar 04, 3:26 pm
US to deliver bulk of weapons to Ukraine within the next week

The majority of military capability the U.S. promised to send Ukraine, part of a $350 million package, will be delivered within the next week, a senior U.S. defense official told reporters Friday.

In addition to the U.S., 14 countries are also providing military assistance to Ukraine.

The new aid package was expedited so quickly because it has been categorized as “a presidential drawdown,” which bypasses the traditional process of congressional notification, according to the official.

According to another official, this is the largest-ever military support that falls under “a presidential drawdown.”

A second official told reporters that weapons were getting into Ukraine through “multiple venues.”

Instead of providing new weapons, the U.S. will provide weapons that are in the existing U.S. military arsenal and are eligible to be replaced. The official said the Ukrainians are being provided with weapons they have already received training for in the past.

“I think all of us have been tremendously impressed by how effectively the Ukrainian Armed Forces have been using the equipment that we’ve provided them,” said the official.

Adding, “I think that Kremlin watchers have also been surprised by this, and how they have slowed the Russian advance and performed extremely well on the battlefield.”

Mar 04, 2:35 pm
US says nuclear catastrophe ‘narrowly averted,’ thousands of Ukrainians, Russians killed in war

U.S. envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield addressed the Security Council Friday, warning that, “the world narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe last night. We all waited to exhale as we watched the horrific situation unfold in real time.”

She called Russia’s attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant “incredibly reckless and dangerous” and said it “threatened the safety of civilians across Russia, Ukraine and Europe.”

Thomas-Greenfield urged Russia to withdraw troops from the facility, give operators full access to ensure continued safe operation and assess any damage and to halt any further use of force near Ukraine’s nuclear facilities.

She said Russia has killed “thousands of Ukrainians” and “thousands” of Russian soldiers have been killed as well, adding, “President Putin must stop this humanitarian catastrophe by ending this war.”

She called on Russia’s envoy in the chamber to “say this won’t happen again.”

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi attended the meeting remotely, saying the agency was ready to deploy to Ukraine and establish “basic principles of safety and security starting with the physical integrity” of its nuclear power plants.

Ukraine has requested direct assistance, he said, calling it his agency’s “duty” to assist.

The IAEA remains in contact with Ukrainian authorities, including Ukraine’s nuclear regulatory agency and the company operating the facility, he said.

Mar 04, 1:41 pm
Russia blocks Facebook in the country

Russia’s state censor on Friday announced it is blocking Facebook in the country.

The state censor, Roskomnadzor, claimed it was taking the step because of alleged freedom of speech violations by Facebook, citing the blocking of several Russian state media channels from the platform.

This is part of a broader push by Russian authorities to shut down independent media and social media platforms that might spread dissent against the war in Ukraine.

On Friday, the BBC announced it is temporarily pausing reporting from Russia because of a new law that imposes 15 years in jail for anyone spreading information the authorities claim is “fake” about the war in Ukraine.

Mar 04, 1:34 pm
100,000 Ukrainian children live in institutions, UNICEF says

Approximately 100,000 children in Ukraine were raised in institutions prior to the war, according to government statistics, a United Nations Children’s Fund spokesperson told ABC News.

The spokesperson said many of these institutions are located in hot spots.

These institutions are being evacuated without proper monitoring of the children’s situation, according to UNICEF.

The spokesperson said many of the children in institutions like boarding schools and orphanages have disabilities.

Mar 04, 1:24 pm
Still ‘no appreciable movement’ of convoy approaching Kyiv: US defense official

A senior U.S. defense official told reporters Friday that there is still “no appreciable movement” by a convoy of Russian forces approaching Kyiv, with the closest forces still about 25 kilometers from the city.

The official said a sabotaged bridge and Ukrainian attacks have contributed to the stalling of the convoy.

As for Kharkiv and Cherniv, the official said the U.S. estimates that Russian forces are about 10 kilometers from both city centers.

The official confirmed Russia took control of the Zaparozhye nuclear power plant.

The official said the U.S. is not in a position to independently verify that Russia has taken control of Kherson, saying fighting between the Russians and Ukrainians around the city has been seen as recently as today.

Mariupol is still under Ukrainian control, but Russians are bombarding the city and approaching from the north and up from the Azov coast, the official said.

Ukraine is still assessed to have “a strong majority” of its combat air power in tact, according to the official. Both Ukraine and Russia are also both believed to be using drones.

Russia has sent in approximately 92% of the forces it had arrayed at the border, up from about 90% yesterday, the official said.

Russians have now fired more than 500 missiles against Ukraine, according to the official.

Mar 04, 12:46 pm
UN Security Council meets over Russian attacks on nuclear power plant

The United Nations Security Council met Friday in an emergency session over Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The British representative said this is the first time a state has attacked a functioning nuclear power plant.

Senior U.N. diplomat and Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo condemned active military activity near a nuclear site as “not only unacceptable, but highly irresponsible.”

“Every action should be taken to avoid a catastrophic nuclear incident,” she added, saying an attack on a functioning nuclear power plant is contrary to international humanitarian law.

Mar 04, 12:13 pm
‘Fake news’ law passes in Russia carrying stiff jail sentences

A new Russian law could send people to prison for up to 15 years for posting “fake news” about the war.

Journalists and media in Russia will now only be able to report what is happening as the Kremlin reports it.

Duma, Russia’s legislative body, passed the rule Friday. It will be sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desk for it to be signed into law.

Mar 04, 11:34 am
US targets Russian oil refining sector with export controls

The U.S. Commerce Department announced restrictions on certain goods used to refine oil preventing them from going into Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The restrictions build upon a 2014 rule put in place on the Russian deepwater oil and gas exploration and extraction industries, by denying such items and placing restrictions on a wide variety of items necessary for refining oil.

“These actions will further restrict access to U.S. commodities, software, and technology as part of our ongoing efforts to degrade Russia’s ability to acquire the items it needs to sustain its military aggression,” the Commerce Department said in a statement.

The U.S. also added 91 entities to its “Entity List,” banning them from use in the U.S. for their involvement in, contributions to or support of Russian security services, military and defense sectors and military and/or defense research and development efforts, the Commerce Department said.

“With each passing day, as Russia continues its assault on Ukraine, it finds itself with fewer places to turn for economic and material support,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo.

She added, “The United States and our allies and partners will continue to stand strong with the people of Ukraine and today’s actions will further restrict Russia’s access to revenue to support its aggression.”

Mar 04, 11:12 am
More than 700,000 refugees arrived in Poland, president says

More than 700,000 Ukrainian refugees have crossed the border into Poland, President Andrzej Duda told reporters Friday.

When asked whether he was concerned the conflict in Ukraine will spill into Poland, Duda said, “We are a NATO member, I believe in NATO. NATO is the strongest alliance in the world. Much stronger than Russia and any other aggressor in the world.”

“We cooperate with our allies. Americans are not far from here on our land,” Duda said.

Duda told reporters that Poland will welcome refugees with open hearts. He said they’re doing everything in their power to expedite the entry process into Poland, no matter what passport they have.

He said some without documents have been allowed into the country. Duda had just finished touring a border crossing facility in Korczowa where he met with refugees who walked across the border in groups of at least 50 people at a time.

Mar 04, 10:22 am
Putin says Russia will ‘cope’ with sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday addressed the sanctions imposed by the West, saying his country will “benefit” in the end.

“Of course it will cause damage to us as well,” Putin said during an appearance on a Russian news channel. “We will simply have to postpone some projects a little, acquire additional expertise, just as we did it in a whole range of other projects, including in aviation.”

“But in any case we will cope with these tasks before us and will even benefit from this situation in the end, because we will acquire additional expertise,” Putin said.

Putin also spoke about Ukraine: “We have absolutely no ill intentions with regard to our neighbors.”

He added, “I would advise them against escalating tensions and imposing any restrictions. We are honoring all our obligations, and we will continue to do so.”

Mar 04, 9:08 am
Over 1.2 million refugees have fled Ukraine: UNHCR

More than 1.2 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24, according to the latest figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Over 50% of the refugees from Ukraine are in neighboring Poland, UNHCR figures show.

UNHCR spokesperson Chris Melzer said the refugee flow from Ukraine into Poland appears to be slowing down, for now.

“The flow of people is lessening,” Melzer told ABC News on Friday. “The lines are much shorter.”

Melzer, who is currently at Budomierz on the Polish border, has been hearing reports of similar scenes at other crossings. But he cautioned that this doesn’t mean the situation is over.

“The process has been streamlined and less people seem to be coming,” he said. “Here, there are about two-hour waits for cars and pedestrians are passing through freely.”

-ABC News’ Zoe Magee

Mar 04, 8:33 am
Zelenskyy alleges Russia is planning to stage ‘fake rally’ in Kherson

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russian forces of planning to stage “a fake rally in support of Russia” in the strategic port city of Kherson.

In a televised address Friday morning, Zelenskyy claimed that Russian troops were busing in “outsiders” from Moscow-annexed Crimea and “trying to recruit traitors from among the locals” to demand that Kherson be a Russian city.

“I appeal to the residents of Kherson: You can stop that, show them that Kherson is your city,” Zelenskyy said. “We will not let go of what is ours.”

“Show them our flags, sing our anthem, show your spirit, let them know that they can only stay in Kherson temporarily and would never be able to claim ownership of Kherson or any other city of our country,” he added.

Russian forces took control of Kherson in southern Ukraine on Wednesday night. The Ukrainian government said earlier Friday that Russian troops have taken over Kherson’s television tower and are broadcasting Russian channels, suggesting that Moscow may be planning to permanently occupy the city.

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Mar 04, 8:17 am
Over 1.2 million refugees have fled Ukraine: UNHCR

More than 1.2 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24, according to the latest figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Over 50% of the refugees from Ukraine are in neighboring Poland, UNHCR figures show.

-ABC News’ Zoe Magee

Mar 04, 7:46 am
Russia has prepared puppet government for Kyiv: US official

Russia has selected and prepared a puppet government to install in Kyiv once its forces seize the Ukrainian capital, a senior U.S. administration official told ABC News.

U.S. intelligence believes Russian troops will ultimately crush Kyiv and decapitate its government, amid mounting evidence of indiscriminate shelling and a barrage against civilian targets across Ukraine, according to the official.

The official expressed concern that Ukraine lacks air power and what air force they had has been attacked, allowing Russia to mass its forces en route to Kyiv.

-ABC News’ Martha Raddatz

Mar 04, 7:32 am
Russian forces advancing on major Ukrainian city, local official warns

Russian forces are advancing on Mykolaiv, another key city in southern Ukraine, the regional governor warned Friday.

In a video message posted on social media, Mykolaiv Oblast Gov. Vitaliy Kim said Russian troops are moving on Mykolaiv city from two directions and that some have already entered the city limits but are not yet inside in significant numbers.

The city is preparing to defend itself, according to Kim.

“Don’t panic,” Kim said. “At the moment, the enemy is approaching from two directions but they’re not on our streets yet. We’re preparing the defenses, so women and children should get home now and the men join the defense lines.”

Kim said the Ukrainian military has a large amount of armour in Mykolaiv and urged residents “not to shoot at every vehicle,” since some could be Ukrainian.

“No need to shoot at everything that’s moving in the city. There’s a lot of our armor in the city,” he said. “{lease do not shoot inside the city, there’s no enemy here yet, but they are approaching.”

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Mar 04, 6:45 am
US embassy calls nuclear power plant shelling ‘a war crime’

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv took to Twitter on Friday to condemn Russia’s shelling of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe.

“It is a war crime to attack a nuclear power plant,” the embassy tweeted. “Putin’s shelling of Europe’s largest nuclear plant takes his reign of terror one step further.”

Mar 04, 6:25 am
Blinken: ‘If conflict comes to us, we’re ready for it’

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on Friday morning to discuss the response to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

During a press conference prior to the meeting at NATO headquarters, Blinken and Stoltenberg condemned Russia’s attacks on civilians in Ukraine and expressed concern over the reports of Russian shelling at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant.

“This just demonstrates the recklessness of this war and the importance of ending it, and the importance of Russia withdrawing all its troops and engage in good faith in diplomatic efforts,” Stoltenberg told reporters. “We provide support to Ukraine. At the same time, NATO is not part of the conflict. NATO is a defensive alliance, we don’t seek war conflict with Russia.”

Blinken emphasized that NATO and the United States “seek no conflict.”

“But if conflict comes to us, we’re ready for it,” he added. “And we will defend every inch of NATO territory.”

Mar 04, 5:41 am
No radioactive material released at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant: IAEA

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said Friday that no radioactive material was released at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant amid shelling from Russian forces overnight.

The shelling sparked a fire in a training building at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, in the eastern Ukrainian city of Enerhodar. The blaze has since been extinguished, according to Ukraine’s State Emergency Service.

Two security employees at the plant were injured during the incident, according to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi.

“The safety systems at the six reactors were not effected,” Grossi said at a press conference in Vienna on Friday morning. “No radioactive material was released.”

“We are following the situation very, very closely,” he added.

-ABC News’ Joe Simonetti

Mar 04, 2:57 am
Fire at Ukraine’s largest nuclear facility extinguished as Russian forces take control

A fire at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in the eastern Ukrainian city of Enerhodar was extinguished Friday, according to Ukraine’s State Emergency Service.

The fire occurred in a training building at the site after shelling from Russian forces. There were no victims, the emergency service said.

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is the largest in Europe.

Meanwhile, Energodar Mayor Dmytro Orlov told reporters Friday morning that the city is now under the control of Russian forces and fighting near the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant has stopped.

Ukraine’s national nuclear regulator has said that the plant’s employees are being permitted to work as normal, safety systems are currently functioning and there was no reported change in radiation levels at the site.

-ABC News’ Brian Hartman and Patrick Reevell

Mar 04, 2:12 am
UN nuclear watchdog warns of ‘severe danger if any reactors were hit’ at plant

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has appealed for a halt of the use of force at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant and warned of “severe danger if any reactors were hit.”

The United Nations nuclear watchdog said in a statement early Friday that it was informed by Ukraine that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, had been shelled overnight in the eastern city of Enerhodar. IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi “immediately” spoke with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal as well as the country’s national nuclear regulator and operator about the “serious situation.” Grossi is expected to hold a press conference later Friday.

According to IAEA, the Ukrainian regulatory authority said a fire at the site had not affected “essential” equipment and plant personnel were taking mitigatory actions, and that there was no reported change in radiation levels at the plant.

Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said the blaze, which occurred in a training building after shelling from Russian forces, was extinguished Friday morning.

The IAEA said it is putting its Incident and Emergency Center (IEC) in “full response mode” due to the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The agency continues to closely monitor developments at the facility and remains in constant contact with Ukraine.

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