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Ukraine’s Zelensky appeals to moms of Russian troops: Don’t let your kids go to war

Biden warns of ‘severe’ consequences if Russia uses chemical weapons in Ukraine as it did in Syria; 40-mile long Russian convoy said to split up as it approaches Kyiv

  • A picture shows a destroyed shoe factory following an airstrike in Dnipro, Ukraine on March 11, 2022. (Emre Caylak / AFP)
    A picture shows a destroyed shoe factory following an airstrike in Dnipro, Ukraine on March 11, 2022. (Emre Caylak / AFP)
  • Prime Minister Naftali Bennett poses for a picture at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 26, 2022; Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90; Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett poses for a picture at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 26, 2022; Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90; Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
  • Firefighters spray water on a destroyed shoe factory following an airstrike in Dnipro, Ukraine on March 11, 2022. (Emre Caylak / AFP)
    Firefighters spray water on a destroyed shoe factory following an airstrike in Dnipro, Ukraine on March 11, 2022. (Emre Caylak / AFP)
  • Volunteers prepare food for local residents and members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces at a field kitchen in Kyiv on March 11, 2022. (Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)
    Volunteers prepare food for local residents and members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces at a field kitchen in Kyiv on March 11, 2022. (Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)
  • Ukrainian refugees wait at Przemysl train station, southeastern Poland, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)
    Ukrainian refugees wait at Przemysl train station, southeastern Poland, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)
  • People carry their belongings after fleeing the war from neighboring Ukraine, at the border crossing in Palanca, Moldova, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
    People carry their belongings after fleeing the war from neighboring Ukraine, at the border crossing in Palanca, Moldova, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
  • A woman is seen behind the broken window of a residential building damaged in an airstrike in Dnipro, Ukraine on March 11, 2022. (Emre Caylak / AFP)
    A woman is seen behind the broken window of a residential building damaged in an airstrike in Dnipro, Ukraine on March 11, 2022. (Emre Caylak / AFP)
  • Ukraine army public affairs officer Valentin Yermolenko walks in front of a destroyed shoe factory following an airstrike in Dnipro on March 11, 2022. (Emre Caylak / AFP)
    Ukraine army public affairs officer Valentin Yermolenko walks in front of a destroyed shoe factory following an airstrike in Dnipro on March 11, 2022. (Emre Caylak / AFP)
  • Map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as of March 11, 2022. (Viewsridge/Wikipedia commons)
    Map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as of March 11, 2022. (Viewsridge/Wikipedia commons)
  • A Ukrainian serviceman takes a photograph of a damaged church after shelling in a residential district in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
    A Ukrainian serviceman takes a photograph of a damaged church after shelling in a residential district in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
  • People at a makeshift camp wait to board a train heading for Krakow, after fleeing from Ukraine, at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Thursday, March 10, 2022. (AP/Visar Kryeziu)
    People at a makeshift camp wait to board a train heading for Krakow, after fleeing from Ukraine, at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Thursday, March 10, 2022. (AP/Visar Kryeziu)
  • A police officer stands near messages of support displayed outside the Ukrainian consulate in New York on March 10, 2022. (Ed JONES / AFP)
    A police officer stands near messages of support displayed outside the Ukrainian consulate in New York on March 10, 2022. (Ed JONES / AFP)
  • Residents evacuate the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 2022.  (Aris Messinis / AFP)
    Residents evacuate the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 2022. (Aris Messinis / AFP)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Friday’s events as they unfolded.

More US troops deploy to support NATO allies amid Russian invasion of Ukraine

SAVANNAH, Georgia — US soldiers are continuing to deploy to Europe, joining thousands already sent overseas to support NATO allies amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

About 130 soldiers from the 87th Division Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade gather at Hunter Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, and depart on a chartered flight.

The soldiers are in addition to the estimated 3,800 soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division who deployed recently from nearby Fort Stewart.

A division commander says that soldiers are being told to prepare for about six months overseas. The Pentagon has ordered roughly 12,000 total service members from various US bases to Europe.

The soldiers’ mission is to train alongside military units of NATO allies in a display of force aimed at deterring further aggression by Russia. The Pentagon has stressed US forces are not being deployed to fight in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Zelensky appeals to moms of Russian troops: Don’t let your kids go to war

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in a video statement on March 12, 2022. (Screen capture: Facebook)
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in a video statement on March 12, 2022. (Screen capture: Facebook)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky calls on the mothers of Russian soldiers to prevent their sons being sent to war in Ukraine.

“I want to say this once again to Russian mothers, especially mothers of conscripts. Do not send your children to war in a foreign country,” Zelensky says in a video address released on Telegram.

“Check where your son is. And if you have the slightest suspicion that your son could be sent to war against Ukraine, act immediately” to prevent him being killed or captured, he says.

“Ukraine never wanted this terrible war. And Ukraine does not want it. But it will defend itself as much as necessary,” he adds.

On Wednesday, Russia for the first time acknowledged the presence of conscripts in Ukraine and announced that a number of them had been taken prisoner.

Moscow had previously claimed that only professional soldiers were fighting there.

The announcement came as posts from mothers without news of their sons sent to Ukraine multiply on social networks.

Kyiv last week invited mothers of Russian soldiers captured on its territory to come and pick their children up.

Today, everyone is gaining glory for Ukraine. In his or her place. Shows the world who Ukrainians are and what strength we have. Hold our ground! Hold on! We will win!

Posted by Володимир Зеленський on Friday, March 11, 2022

UK intel: Russia primarily using ‘dumb’ bombs to support ground offensive

A volunteer of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces walks on the debris of a car wash destroyed by a Russian bombing in Baryshivka, east of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
A volunteer of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces walks on the debris of a car wash destroyed by a Russian bombing in Baryshivka, east of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Russia has carried out air and missile strikes on the western Ukrainian cities of Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk over the past day, the UK’s defense ministry says in an intelligence update.

According to British intelligence, “the staunch resistance” of Ukraine’s air defenses have forced Russia to use stand-off munitions to strike deep inside Ukrainian territory. The defense ministry also says Russian aircraft supporting Moscow’s ground offensive are primarily using unguided “dumb” bombs.

“Such weapons are relatively inaccurate and indiscriminate and their use significantly increases the likelihood of civilian casualties,” the ministry says.

Mayor warns of ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol

A man walks with a bicycle in front of a damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A man walks with a bicycle in front of a damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities are warning of a humanitarian catastrophe in the port city of Mariupol, which has been encircled by Russian forces and cut off from deliveries of food and medicine.

Mariupol officials say that 1,582 people have been killed in the 12 days since the siege began.

“There is a humanitarian catastrophe in the city and the dead aren’t even being buried,” Mariupol’s mayor’s office says in a statement, calling for Russian forces to lift the siege.

Ukrainian authorities have accused Russian forces of shelling evacuation routes and preventing civilians from escaping the city of 430,000 people.

Germany’s Deutsche Bank pulls out of Russia to protest Ukraine invasion

FILE — The moon shines next to the headquarters of the Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, October 4, 2020.  (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)
FILE — The moon shines next to the headquarters of the Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, October 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)

BERLIN — Germany’s biggest lender Deutsche Bank says it’s following other international companies in shutting down its operations in Russia in protest of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Like some international peers and in line with our legal and regulatory obligations, we are in the process of winding down our remaining business in Russia while we help our non-Russian multinational clients in reducing their operations. There won’t be any new business in Russia,” the bank says in a statement.

“We condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the strongest possible terms and support the German government and its allies in defending our democracy and freedom.”

It says it has already “substantially reduced” its exposure in Russia since 2014, when Russia invaded Crimea.

It said in a previous statement it valued its gross exposure to loans in Russia at 1.4 billion euros ($1.5 billion).

Deutsche Bank also has a technology centre in Russia employing 1,500 computer specialists.

Among other international companies to have announced they are quitting Russia are the US banks Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, sparking heavy international sanctions.

Chelsea bank accounts suspended as UK sanctions on Abramovich take hold — reports

Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich attends the UEFA Women's Champions League final soccer match in Gothenburg, Sweden, on May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich attends the UEFA Women's Champions League final soccer match in Gothenburg, Sweden, on May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

LONDON — Chelsea have had several accounts and credit cards suspended temporarily following sanctions imposed on club owner Roman Abramovich by the UK government, British media reports.

Russian-born billionaire Abramovich had all his British assets frozen yesterday barring Chelsea, with the Premier League club allowed to continue with “soccer-related activities.”

But the European champions cannot operate as a business and have been banned from selling match tickets or merchandise.

The Independent is one of several British outlets that reports Chelsea had been in discussions with the government in the hope of amending the license and easing the restrictions but were hit today when banks suspended the club’s accounts.

Abramovich, 55, was one of a further seven more oligarchs hit by fresh UK sanctions on Thursday following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

All seven are described as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

Abramovich had already announced he was willing to sell Chelsea, who won 19 major trophies in his 19-year reign.

Chelsea’s strict license is designed to ensure Abramovich will not profit from the London club’s continued operations.

US sanctions Russians over support for North Korea weapons program

The United States has announced economic sanctions against two Russian individuals and three entities over their support for North Korea’s weapons program.

The sanctions target “a network of Russia-based individuals and entities complicit in helping the DPRK procure components for its unlawful ballistic missile systems,” the Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Brian Nelson, says in a statement, referring to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Ukraine notifies IAEA that power line repairs have begun at Chernobyl

Ukraine has told the International Atomic Energy Agency that technicians have started repairing damaged power lines at the decommissioned Chernobyl power plant in an effort to restore power supplies, the UN nuclear agency says.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian authorities said that Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster, was knocked off the power grid, with emergency generators supplying backup power.

The Ukrainian nuclear regulator said Friday that workers repaired one section of the lines, but there still appears to be damage in other places, according to the IAEA. Repair efforts would continue despite “the difficult situation” outside the plant, which was taken by Russian forces early in the invasion, it said.

The Ukrainian regulator says additional fuel was delivered for generators, but it remains important to fix the power lines as soon as possible. The IAEA reiterated that the disconnection “will not have a critical impact on essential safety functions at the site.”

The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog says that it still isn’t receiving data from monitoring systems installed to monitor nuclear material and activities at Chernobyl, but transmission from the Zaporizhzhia plant — Ukraine’s biggest, which Russian forces seized last week — has been restored after being lost earlier this week.

Ukraine FM blasts Russia for violating international law with abduction of mayor

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry issues a statement castigating Russia over “gross violations of norms and principles of international law, including international humanitarian law, war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as other human rights violations by the Russian military.”

“Among such gross violations was the abduction of Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov,” which took place earlier today.

The ministry reveals that Fedorov is being held under allegations of “terrorism.”

“The abduction of the Mayor of Melitopol is classified as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocol that prohibit the taking of civilian hostages during the war,” the statement adds.

“We call on the international community to respond immediately to the abduction of Ivan Fedorov and other civilians, and to increase pressure on Russia to end its barbaric war against the Ukrainian people.”

Disney suspends political giving in Florida after ‘Don’t say gay’ bill outrage

Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in front of the Florida State Capitol, on Monday, March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, FL. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in front of the Florida State Capitol, on Monday, March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, FL. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Entertainment and theme park giant Disney has halted all political donations in Florida after an outcry among LGBTQ staff over its silence on perceived “anti-gay” legislation, its CEO says.

Florida’s State Senate this week passed a bill banning lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools, the latest effort by Republicans in the United States to reshape education policy along conservative lines.

Opponents and LGBTQ rights activists lobbied against what they call the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which will affect kids in kindergarten through third grade, when they are eight or nine years old.

Disney, which has a huge presence in the southern state in the form of its Walt Disney World resort, had faced weeks of criticism both internally and externally over its lack of public response.

Chief executive Bob Chapek says he is sorry the company let down its staff, which protested the bill.

“It is clear that this is not just an issue about a bill in Florida, but instead yet another challenge to basic human rights,” he writes in an email, published by Variety.

“You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.”

Chapek says Disney would be bolstering its support for campaigns aimed at preventing similar legislation in other states, as part of an effort to “ensure our advocacy better reflects our values.”

“And today, we are pausing all political donations in the state of Florida pending this review.”

Chapek says the company had to do more, but insisted he had the backs of sexual minority staff.

Russia curbs Instagram over ‘death to invaders’ posting rule

Russia has moved to block Instagram access and launch a criminal case against its owner Meta, as Moscow fired back at the tech giant for allowing posts calling for violence against Russian forces.

This new escalation follows Russia’s blocking of Facebook and limiting of Twitter in a confrontation with US social media platforms that has mushroomed since its invasion of Ukraine.

A day after Meta confirmed a temporary easing of its rules to allow calls to violence like “death to the Russian invaders,” Russia’s media regulator says it would restrict access by Monday to the hugely popular platform Instagram because it contains “calls to commit violent acts.”

In what appeared to be damage control, Meta’s global affairs president Nick Clegg responded by saying the loosened rules would only apply to people posting from inside Ukraine.

“We will not tolerate Russophobia or any kind of discrimination, harassment, or violence towards Russians on our platform,” he adds, echoing the firm’s previous statement excluding civilians.

But Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, had already said it was launching an investigation of Meta, and prosecutors pushed for the Silicon Valley giant to be branded “extremist.”

Only 7.5 million Russians used Facebook in 2021, or about seven percent of the country’s internet users, compared to 51 million for Instagram, according to eMarketer data, with use especially high among young people and smaller businesses.

Meta’s relaxing of its rules had met with controversy almost immediately, and the UN voiced alarm, warning it could spark “hate speech” against Russians.

Russian forces kidnap mayor of captured city of Melitopol — Ukraine official

Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov. (Courtesy)
Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov. (Courtesy)

Russian troops have kidnapped the mayor of the captured city of Melitopol, according to a Ukrainian official who has posted a video of Ivan Fedorov being whisked away by a group of armed soldiers.

The clip is posted by Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior official in Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office.

An earlier version of this post mistakenly referred to the mayor’s city as Mariupol.

US says fate of nuclear deal revival is up to Moscow, Tehran

The United States Friday urged Moscow and Tehran to take the “decisions” needed to revive the 2015 nuclear accord, putting the ball squarely in their courts as last-minute Russian demands threatened to derail the process.

“We are confident that we can achieve mutual return to compliance… [if] those decisions are made in places like Tehran and Moscow,” State Department spokesman Ned Price tells reporters after the European Union announced a pause in negotiations.

YouTube restricts access to channels associated with Russian state-funded media

This photo illustration taken on March 23, 2018, shows YouTube logos on a computer screen in Beijing. (AFP Photo/Nicolas Asfouri)
This photo illustration taken on March 23, 2018, shows YouTube logos on a computer screen in Beijing. (AFP Photo/Nicolas Asfouri)

YouTube announces 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, announces 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.”

YouTube also says it was now removing content about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that violates its policy that “minimizes or trivializes well-documented violent events.” The Kremlin refers to the invasion as a “special military operation” and not a war.

YouTube previously paused YouTube ads in Russia. Now, it is extending that to all the ways it makes money on the platform in Russia.

Ukraine’s digital transformation minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, predicted in his Telegram channel that the Kremlin would soon move to block YouTube in Russia.

“It’s a question of time,” he said.

Interpol: Russia’s ability to input info into global police network restricted

Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France. (CC BY-SA Massimiliano Mariani/Wikipedia)
Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France. (CC BY-SA Massimiliano Mariani/Wikipedia)

Interpol is restricting Russia’s ability to input information directly into the global police organization’s vast network, deciding that communications must first be checked by the general secretariat in Lyon, France.

The French Foreign Ministry said Friday that the beefed-up surveillance measures follow “multiple suspicions of attempted fraudulent use” of the Interpol system in recent days, but it did not elaborate.

Interpol stressed in a statement Thursday that it is maintaining its pledge of neutrality amid war between two of its members, triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But it said that “heightened supervision and monitoring measures” of Moscow’s National Central Bureau were needed “to prevent any potential misuse of Interpol’s channels” like targeting individuals in or outside Ukraine.

The ministry noted that Interpol’s decision has multiple impacts from communications, to putting out so-called “red notices” for criminals on the loose, or even feeding data on lost or stolen documents — all of which must now get compliance checks from Interpol headquarters.

Interpol, which has 195 members, said it had received calls to suspend Russia from the network, along with calls by law enforcement leaders looking for continued cooperation to better fight crime.

“In addition to the tragic loss of life, conflicts invariably lead to an increase in crime,” as organized crime groups try to exploit desperation, Interpol said. Risks include human trafficking, weapons smuggling, and trafficking in illicit goods and medicines.

UN dismisses ‘wild’ Russian claim of Ukraine-US biological weapons program

Western countries are accusing Russia of spreading “wild” conspiracy theories at the United Nations Friday after Moscow’s envoy told diplomats that America and Ukraine had researched using bats to conduct biological warfare.

Moscow has called a meeting of the 15-member Security Council to repeat its previously made, unsubstantiated claims that Washington had funded biological weapons research in Ukraine.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, says Kyiv had operated a network of 30 laboratories carrying out “very dangerous biological experiments” aimed at spreading “viral pathogens” from bats to people.

The pathogens included the plague, anthrax, cholera, and other lethal diseases, Nebenzia says in Russian, without providing any evidence.

“Experiments were being conducted to study this spread of dangerous diseases using active parasites such as lice and fleas,” he tells diplomats.

Washington and Kyiv have denied the existence of laboratories intended to produce biological weapons in the country.

Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General of Disarmament Affairs, tells the meeting the UN “was not aware of any biological weapons program in Ukraine.”

UK Conservative MP’s son joins Ukraine war, despite warnings and without telling his mother

A group of British ex-servicemen — including the son of a Conservative lawmaker — have arrived in Ukraine bent on fighting Russians, despite UK government warnings against joining the war.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss appeared to give Britons license to join up when she said on February 27: “Absolutely, if that’s what they wanted to do.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, and the head of the armed forces have all disowned Truss’ comment, and she reversed herself Wednesday.

Foreign Office advice warns against all travel to Ukraine, and Britons wanting to help should rather donate money to a national fundraising appeal, she told a news conference in Washington.

“What I said the other week was expressing support for the Ukrainian cause. They are fighting a just war, and we are doing all we can to support them,” Truss said.

But Ben Grant, 30, who served for five years as a Royal Marines commando, is among seven British former soldiers who arrived in Ukraine over the weekend, The Guardian reported.

His mother, Helen Grant, is a Conservative lawmaker and former minister who is Johnson’s special envoy on girls’ education.

Ben Grant, a father of three, says he had not informed his mother before going, following a stint working in Iraq as a private security contractor.

Speaking to The Guardian in Lviv railway station before boarding a train for Kyiv, he said he chose to go after viewing television footage of a bombed house in Ukraine where a child could be heard screaming.

Ukraine intel claims Putin ordered troops to create ‘man-made catastrophe’ at Chernobyl

A file picture taken on April 13, 2021, shows the giant protective dome built over the sarcophagus covering the destroyed fourth reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)
A file picture taken on April 13, 2021, shows the giant protective dome built over the sarcophagus covering the destroyed fourth reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

Ukraine’s intelligence service reportedly is claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin has directed his troops who have taken over the Chernobyl nuclear reactor to “create a man-made catastrophe” at the site.

The order appears to be part of what the US is saying will be a “false flag” used by Russia to escalate its fighting in Ukraine and even employ chemical weapons.

The Ukrainian intelligence services say that the “man-made catastrophe” will be carried out by Russian operatives who entered the compound yesterday with a group of specialists sent by Belarus.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has downplayed Ukrainian panic over the Russian takeover, but is trying to negotiate a solution between the sides.

JFNA raises $24.5 million for Ukrainian Jews and others impacted by Russian invasion

The Jewish Federations of North America announces that it has raised $24.5 million in just two weeks, which will go toward supporting Ukraine’s Jewish community as well as others impacted by the Russian invasion.

The aid will go toward “providing housing, clothing, medication, cash assistance, mental health services, security, and transportation for refugees fleeing the war and those seeking to make Aliyah,” the JFNA says.

The funds will also be used to expedite the immigration process for Ukrainian Jews to Israel, securing the evacuations of those fleeing, and safeguarding the Jewish communities wherever they end up.

The JFNA says 5,000 Jewish refugees have been evacuated from Ukraine, with over 650 of them making Aliyah to Israel through the Law of Return.

The federation says 7,000 refugees have received support in Ukraine as a result of the services it has provided.

Ukraine reportedly asked Israel for NSO spyware to use against Russia, was rebuffed

An illustrative photo of a person holding their phone with the NSO logo on a computer screen in the background, in Jerusalem, on February 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
An illustrative photo of a person holding their phone with the NSO logo on a computer screen in the background, in Jerusalem, on February 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A senior Israeli source tells Channel 12 that Ukraine requested cyber weaponry to use against Russia, including the NSO Group’s controversial Pegasus hacking software.

Israel immediately rejected the request, the network says, saying it has rebuffed all Ukrainian demands for weapons in recent weeks and months.

However, it is now beginning to consider supplying Ukraine with helmets and flak jackets — something that Kyiv has been begging to receive for weeks.

Report: 14 private jets from Russia land in Israel in last 10 days as Israel avoids sanctioning oligarchs

Illustrative: Luxury business jet with open door ready for passenger boarding. (dicus63, iStock at Getty Images)
Illustrative: Luxury business jet with open door ready for passenger boarding. (dicus63, iStock at Getty Images)

As Israel effectively avoids joining Western sanctions against Russian oligarchs, Channel 12 reports that in the last ten days, 14 private jets that took off from St. Petersburg landed at Ben Gurion Airport.

Last week, Channel 12 reported that an unusual number of rented private jets have reportedly been flying from Russia to Israel since the invasion of Ukraine, a possible indication that some wealthy Russians are looking at ways to slip around sanctions imposed to punish their country for the attack.

US official warns Israel: ‘Don’t be last haven for dirty money fueling Putin’s war’

State Department Under Secretary for Public Affairs Victoria Nuland speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington, Jan. 27, 2022. (Susan Walsh/AP)
State Department Under Secretary for Public Affairs Victoria Nuland speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington, Jan. 27, 2022. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland tells Channel 12 that Israel should join the Western world’s sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

“You don’t want to become the last haven for dirty money that’s fueling Putin’s wars,” Nuland says.

Asked whether the US has asked Israel to join the Biden administration’s sanctions against Russia, Nuland says: “We are asking among other things for every democracy around the world to join us in the financial and export control sanctions that we have put on Putin. We have to squeeze the regime, we squeeze the oligarchs around him, we squeeze its economy. So in that context, we’re asking as many countries as we can to join us. We’re asking that of Israel as well.

“Among other things, you don’t want to become the last haven for dirty money that’s fueling Putin’s wars. So whatever Israel is able to do, Ukrainians would welcome and the international coalition in support of Ukraine would welcome.”

As for whether Israel should provide military aid to Ukraine, Nuland says, “That’s a sovereign decision for Israel to make. Many, many democracies around the world are stepping out of their comfort zone to supply security and military support to Ukraine. But what’s most important from our point of view right now is [for Israel] to join the financial sanctions.”

Israel nearing quota of 5K non-Jewish Ukrainian refugees, weighs allowing in citizens’ non-Jewish relatives

Israeli and Ukrainian refugees arriving from Ukraine on a rescue flight are welcomed at Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv, on March 3, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Israeli and Ukrainian refugees arriving from Ukraine on a rescue flight are welcomed at Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv, on March 3, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israel is nearing the quota set by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked to take in 5,000 non-Jewish Ukrainian refugees, Channel 12 reports.

It has already taken in 4,000 non-Jewish Ukrainians and is expected to hit the quota in the coming days.

Israel has already taken in roughly 6,000 Jewish and non-Jewish refugees, while turning over 200 away.

Shaked is considering allowing in the non-Jewish relatives of those same 5,000 who have already arrived, Channel 12 says.

6,166 Ukrainian refugees said to have arrived in Israel, 214 refused entry

Jewish immigrants fleeing the war in Ukraine arrive at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, on March 6, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Jewish immigrants fleeing the war in Ukraine arrive at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, on March 6, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

At least 6,166 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Israel, and 214 of them have been barred entry, according to the latest figures from Israeli authorities published by Channel 12.

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi released after 10 years in prison

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been released from prison in Saudi Arabia after serving a 10-year sentence for advocating an end to religious influence on public life, his wife says.

“Raif called me. He is free,” his wife Ensaf Haidar, who lives in Canada with their children, tells AFP.

EU will ban export of luxury goods from bloc to Russia

Brussels will ban the export of luxury goods to Russia, striking a “direct blow to the Russian elite” as the war in Ukraine rages, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen says.

“We will ban the export of any EU luxury goods from our countries to Russia, as a direct blow to the Russian elite,” she says.

US seized cargo of ships allegedly carrying Iranian crude — court docs show

The United States has seized the cargo of two oil tankers accused of carrying 700,000 barrels of Iranian crude in violation of US sanctions, court documents show.

Several weeks ago US authorities seized the oil which they said left Iran in 2020 and was then transferred to other vessels “using surreptitious means to hide the defendant property’s Iranian origin.”

The court case was made public only recently, after the oil was resold for between $38 million and $45 million.

The court documents say that an Iranian tanker targeted by US sanctions, called the Stark I, was repainted in October 2020 to escape detection by satellites, took on oil at an Iranian port and set sail.

While at sea the tanker transferred 733,876 barrels of crude to a Panamanian-flagged ship called the M/T Arina. During this risky operation the vessels turned off equipment that broadcasts their location.

Ukraine ambassador scoffs at Israeli fear that opening border will lead to flood of refugees

Ukraine's ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, gives a statement to the media on the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, in Tel Aviv, on March 11, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90)
Ukraine's ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, gives a statement to the media on the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, in Tel Aviv, on March 11, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90)

Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk rejects the argument by Israeli ministers that opening the countries borders to refugees will lead to a flood of them rushing to Ben Gurion Airport.

“No, don’t please yourself,” Korniychuk tells Channel 12.

“Israel is not the easiest place to come, or the most comfortable place to be. You have one of the most expensive countries in the world,” he says, suggesting that Ukrainian refugees would prefer to escape to other countries if they are able.

Korniychuk also points to countries in the EU that have taken in 2.3 million refugees, providing them with shelter, work permits, and childcare — services that Israel is not yet extending to refugees.

He says Israel’s 25,000 quota for refugees — 20,000 of whom were here before the war, and some 3,000 more of whom have arrived since — is “not acceptable at all” and that Israel should not impose any limits.

UN says it’s received ‘credible reports’ of cluster munitions by Russia in Ukraine

Bodies of civilians lie in a park in Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 2022. (Aris Messinis/AFP)
Bodies of civilians lie in a park in Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 2022. (Aris Messinis/AFP)

The United Nations human rights office has received “credible reports” that Russian forces are using cluster munitions in Ukraine, including in populated areas which is prohibited under international humanitarian law, the UN political chief.

Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo tells a UN Security Council meeting that residential areas and civilian infrastructure are being shelled in Mariupol, Kharkiv, Sumy, and Chernihiv, and “the utter devastation being visited on these cities is horrific.”

Most of the civilian casualties recorded by the UN human rights office — 564 killed and 982 injured as of Thursday — “have been caused by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” she says.

“Indiscriminate attacks, including those using cluster munitions, which are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction, are prohibited under international humanitarian law,” DiCarlo says. “Directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects, as well as so-called area bombardment in towns and villages, are also prohibited under international law and may amount to war crimes.”

As of Thursday, the UN World Health Organization has verified 26 attacks on health facilities, health workers, and ambulances, including the bombing of the Mariupol maternity hospital, which caused 12 deaths and 34 injuries, DiCarlo says.

All alleged violations of international humanitarian law must be investigated and those found responsible must be held accountable, she says.

DiCarlo stresses that “the need for negotiations to stop the war in Ukraine could not be more urgent.”

Biden says Russia to pay ‘severe price’ if it uses chemical weapons

US President Joe Biden speaks about trade with Russia, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 11, 2022. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)
US President Joe Biden speaks about trade with Russia, from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 11, 2022. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

US President Joe Biden vows that Russia would pay a “severe price” if it used chemical weapons in Ukraine, after US intelligence reportedly suggested that Moscow was preparing for such an attack.

“I’m not going to speak about the intelligence, but Russia would pay a severe price if they used chemicals,” Biden says, answering questions at a White House press conference where he announced further sanctions on Russia.

40-mile Russian convoy said to split up as it nears Kyiv

A satellite image taken by the US company Maxar, which it says shows part of a 40-mile-long Russian military convoy assembled northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine. (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Tech/Agencies)
A satellite image taken by the US company Maxar, which it says shows part of a 40-mile-long Russian military convoy assembled northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine. (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Tech/Agencies)

The 40-mile long Russian military convoy that has been making its way toward Kyiv over the past couple weeks has reportedly broken up into multiple convoys in an effort to avoid ambushes by Ukrainian forces.

ICC Online portal to gather war crime evidence from Ukraine

Volunteers pass an improvised path under a destroyed bridge as they evacuate an elderly resident in Irpin, some 25 kilometers (16 miles) northwest of Kyiv, Friday, on March 11, 2022. (AP/Efrem Lukatsky)
Volunteers pass an improvised path under a destroyed bridge as they evacuate an elderly resident in Irpin, some 25 kilometers (16 miles) northwest of Kyiv, Friday, on March 11, 2022. (AP/Efrem Lukatsky)

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has opened an online portal to gather evidence of war crimes in Ukraine, as he renewed his call to combatants to abide by the laws of war.

Prosecutor Karim Khan says in a written statement Friday that he is “closely following the deeply troubling developments in hostilities.” There have been reports in recent days of Russian strikes on civilian infrastructure in Ukrainian towns and cities, including the deadly strike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol earlier this week.

Khan notes in a written statement that “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. I strongly urge parties to the conflict to avoid the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas.”

He says there is no legal justification or excuse “for attacks which are indiscriminate, or which are disproportionate in their effects on the civilian population.”

Khan also says that two more of the global court’s member states, Japan and North Macedonia, have formally requested him to investigate in Ukraine, bringing the number of so-called state party referrals to 41.

The information will bolster evidence gathered by an investigative team Khan sent to the region last week to begin gathering evidence.

Neither Russia nor Ukraine is an ICC member state, but Kyiv has recognized the court’s jurisdiction, allowing Khan to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

US bans exports of American luxury goods to Russia, Belarus

The United States announces a ban on exports of American luxury goods to Russia and Belarus Friday, including jewelry, clothing, and vehicles, as Washington increased its pressure on Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine.

The ban extends to “certain Russian and Belarusian oligarchs and malign actors located worldwide,” a statement from the Commerce Department says, adding that such controls had previously applied only to North Korea.

‘Other options’ possible if Russia blocks Iran nuclear deal — European diplomat

Iran's Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency Kazem Gharib Abadi, Political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran Abbas Araghchi, and Deputy Secretary General and Political Director of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora stand in front of the 'Grand Hotel Vienna' where where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, on June 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)
Iran's Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency Kazem Gharib Abadi, Political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran Abbas Araghchi, and Deputy Secretary General and Political Director of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora stand in front of the 'Grand Hotel Vienna' where where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, on June 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

Other options will have to be explored if Russia keeps blocking progress towards reviving the 2015 deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program, a European diplomat says.

“If the Russian block is confirmed to be definitive, we will be obliged to look at other options,” says the diplomat, who asked not to be named, saying the parties did not want to be left in a situation where Russia is “taking the deal hostage.”

The EU earlier today announced a pause in the talks — despite the final text of the deal essentially being ready.

It came after Russia said it was demanding guarantees that the Western sanctions imposed on its economy following its invasion of Ukraine would not affect its trade with Iran.

The diplomat says that the essential issues in the negotiations between world powers and Iran had been concluded when Russia issued its demands last week through a statement by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“A failure of this deal… would be extremely damaging and it would be irresponsible for Russia to do so,” says the diplomat from the so-called E3 of European powers negotiating the deal.

The diplomat confirms that the talks had been paused because of Russia’s “blockage” so the parties could carry out talks in their capitals.

“We all have an interest in agreeing [to] a deal,” says the diplomat, adding that China has a “very important role to play” at this moment.

Senior Ukrainian official: Bennett pushed Zelensky to ‘surrender’ to Putin — report

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett poses for a picture at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 26, 2022; Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90; Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett poses for a picture at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 26, 2022; Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90; Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to accept an offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin, which would require Kyiv to make significant concessions in order to end Moscow’s invasion, the Walla and Haaretz news sites report.

The Prime Minister’s Office denied the claim.

Walla does not specify the details of Putin’s offer as reportedly conveyed by Bennett, but previous reports from the news site said that Putin is demanding an independent Donbas region, while stopping short of seeking regime change in Ukraine. Other reports have suggested that the plan Bennett brought to Zelensky includes recognizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, recognizing Donetsk and Luhansk as separate entities, and changing the Ukrainian constitution to excise a commitment to joining NATO.

“If I were you, I would think about the lives of my people and take the offer,” Bennett told Zelensky during a phone call on Tuesday, according to a senior Ukrainian official who spoke to Walla and Haaretz on condition of anonymity.

Zelensky did not take well to the proposal, responding with a brief “I hear you.”

“Bennett has proposed that we surrender,” the senior Ukrainian official tells the Hebrew news sites. “We have no intention of doing so. We know that Putin’s proposal is just the beginning.”

The report says that Israel has also asked that Ukraine cease its requests for Israeli military or defense assistance, as this could hinder Jerusalem’s efforts to mediate and maintain neutrality.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett shake hands during their meeting in Sochi, Russia, on October 22, 2021. (Evgeny Biyatov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP/File)

Thus far, Zelensky has been unimpressed with Bennett’s mediation efforts, saying the Israeli premier has sufficed with being a “mailbox” that passes along messages between Russia to Ukraine without coming up with any proposals of his own, the senior official says.

“We do not need a mailbox. We have enough of these,” the senior Ukrainian official says. “President Zelensky’s office does not believe this is the way to mediate. If Bennett wants to be neutral and mediate, we would like to see him appoint someone who will deal with the matter day and night to try and reach a compromise.”

Zelensky is under the impression that Bennett has taken up the role of mediator as part of his effort to avoid picking sides in a war because of the risk of damaging Israel’s ties with Russia, the official claims. (Bennett was asked by Zelensky on February 25 to try to mediate a solution to the crisis, and flew to Moscow on Saturday night for a Kremlin meeting with Putin. Zelensky has also criticized Bennett, however, saying on March 3 that he did not feel the prime minister is “wrapped in our flag.”)

The official reportedly pointed out that other countries such as Germany and France have also played roles in passing along messages between Russia and Ukraine while still maintaining a clear public stance against Moscow’s invasion, unlike the Israeli prime minister, who has not condemned Russia.

Zelensky’s office has identified a wide gulf between Bennett’s position and that of the Israeli public, which has been far more supportive of Ukraine, the official reportedly says. This has led to significant frustration and even personal offense on the part of Zelensky with the Israeli government, according to the senior official.

The official reportedly said Zelensky feels he has all but exhausted his efforts to influence the Israeli government.

Ukraine army public affairs officer Valentin Yermolenko walks in front of a destroyed shoe factory following an airstrike in Dnipro, on March 11, 2022. (Emre Caylak/AFP)

He is hoping to deliver a speech to the Knesset plenum, as he has done in other parliaments around the world. But Israel has instead proposed that he hold a less formal Zoom session with all MKs invited, Walla reports.

Zelensky has rejected the idea and is weighing the possibility of a speech at Yad Vashem, though it is not clear whether the Holocaust museum would be interested in the idea.

Israeli officials have given a number of reasons to Zelensky’s office for why he cannot give a speech at the Knesset plenum — including that parliament is in recess and that the building is undergoing renovation.

But Walla reports that those are mere excuses, as Bennett and Foreign Minister Lapid do not want to anger Russia by granting Zelensky such a high-profile appearance.

Responding to the report, a source in the Prime Minister’s Office says, “It is doubtful whether this is a senior official who is in Ukraine and on [Bennett’s] call [with Zelensky], since it took place on a private line.

A picture shows a destroyed shoe factory following an airstrike in Dnipro, Ukraine on March 11, 2022. (Emre Caylak / AFP)

The PMO source denies that Bennett told Zelensky to take Putin’s offer, “as Israel does not have such an offer.”

“In any case, the prime minister does not intend to give Zelensky recommendations or advice on how to act at any stage,” the source tells Walla. “The conversation between the two was long and positive and included the possibility of a meeting [between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators] in Jerusalem.”

The source declines to say whether Bennett will be prepared to make proposals of his own. “The prime minister’s efforts are aimed at one thing: to stop the bloodshed in Ukraine and the unnecessary suffering.”

Biden announces ban on Russian seafood, says US and allies will end trade ties with Moscow

US President Joe Biden announces a ban on Russian oil imports, toughening the toll on Russia's economy in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington,  DC, on March 8, 2022. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
US President Joe Biden announces a ban on Russian oil imports, toughening the toll on Russia's economy in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on March 8, 2022. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

US President Joe Biden says the United States and its allies will strip Russia of the status guaranteeing equal treatment between international trade partners, the latest punishment for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The United States and our allies and partners continue in lockstep to ramp up the economic pressures on Putin and to further isolate Russia on the global stage,” Biden says at the White House in announcing the move to be taken jointly with NATO allies, the G7 and European Union.

Biden announces a ban on Russian seafood, vodka and diamonds, as Washington tightened sanctions against the Kremlin over its invasion of Ukraine.

The ban targets goods from “several signature sectors of the Russian economy,” Biden said in a speech at the White House.

Health Ministry blasts far-right channel for segment questioning whether Ukrainian refugees tied to polio outbreak

The Health Ministry responds to a segment aired on the far-right Channel 14, which questioned whether there might be a connection between the arrival of Ukrainian refugees and the recent polio outbreak in Jerusalem.

“Absolutely not,” the ministry writes in response to the network that posted the segment on Twitter and speculated whether there might be a connection between the two.

Channel 14 appears to have since deleted the tweet.

Turkey evacuates embassy in Kyiv

People look at the gutted remains of Russian military vehicles on a road in the town of Bucha, close to the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Serhii Nuzhnenko)
People look at the gutted remains of Russian military vehicles on a road in the town of Bucha, close to the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Serhii Nuzhnenko)

Turkey has evacuated its embassy in Kyiv, a Foreign Ministry spokesman says.

Tanju Bilgic says staff at the mission would move to Chernivtsi near the Romanian border for security reasons, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The order to leave Kyiv came as Russian forces fanned out around the city and appeared likely to step up artillery and rocket attacks. Many countries ordered diplomatic staff to leave Kyiv before Russia launched its invasion on February 24.

Turkey has close ties to both Ukraine and Russia and has been seeking to mediate between its warring Black Sea neighbors.

Tel Aviv mayor offers to broadcast Zelensky Knesset speech at major square

Habima square in Tel Aviv, on September 22, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Habima square in Tel Aviv, on September 22, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai tweets that he’s reached out to Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel with a proposal to broadcast the speech President Volodymyr Zelensky is slated to give before Knesset lawmakers at Habima Square in the center of the coastal city.

Zelensky, Biden ‘agree on further steps to support defense of Ukraine’ in call

US President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the Oval Office of the White House, on September 1, 2021, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the Oval Office of the White House, on September 1, 2021, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“Had a substantive conversation with [US President Joe Biden],” Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky tweets.

“Gave him the assessment of the situation on the battlefield, informed about the crimes of Russia against the civilian population. We agreed on further steps to support the defense of Ukraine and increase sanctions against Russia,” he adds.

Canada slaps new sanctions on Russian oligarchs including Abramovich

Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich attends the UEFA Women's Champions League final soccer match in Gothenburg, Sweden, on May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich attends the UEFA Women's Champions League final soccer match in Gothenburg, Sweden, on May 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that Canada is imposing new sanctions on Russian oligarchs, including Roman Abramovich, in punishment for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking in Warsaw, Trudeau said the billionaire owner of Chelsea football club and four other individuals would “be prevented from dealings in Canada and their assets will be frozen.”

Macron threatens further ‘massive sanctions’ against Russia on Ukraine

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the fort of Bregancon in Bormes-les-Mimosas, southern France, on August 19, 2019. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
French President Emmanuel Macron, left, talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the fort of Bregancon in Bormes-les-Mimosas, southern France, on August 19, 2019. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

French President Emmanuel Macron warns Russia it faces further major economic punishment if the Kremlin presses on with its war on Ukraine.

“If things continue in the military way… we will take further sanctions, including massive sanctions,” Macron says after a summit of EU leaders at the Palace of Versailles.

Report: Kohavi met with Qatari military chief in Bahrain

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi attends a conference at Reichman University in Herzliya, on February 13, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi attends a conference at Reichman University in Herzliya, on February 13, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Saudi-owned Elaph news site is claiming Israel Defense Forces chief Aviv Kohavi met with his Qatari counterpart during his visit to Bahrain.

According to the report, Kohavi and Salem bin Hamad bin Mohammed bin Aqeel Al Nabit discussed military cooperation between the countries in light of “recent developments in the region.”

The report also says the two discussed the possibility of Qatar joining a regional alliance against Iran’s aggression, specifically regarding the threat of UAVs. It adds that they discussed the possibility of placing “advanced Israeli radars” in the Gulf state.

Qatar does not have normalized ties with Israel, but officials have been in contact with the Gulf state, as it is a key donor to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, distributing aid payments to Palestinian residents in the enclave.

Kohavi returned to Israel from his official visit to Bahrain earlier, and immediately held a situational assessment with his deputy Herzli Halevi, and head of the Operations Directorate, Oded Basiuk, the military says.

Erdogan: War could’ve been avoided had world called out 2014 Crimea annexation

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a press conference at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on January 22, 2022. (Adem Altan/AFP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a press conference at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on January 22, 2022. (Adem Altan/AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested that the war in Ukraine could have been avoided had the world spoken out against Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

“Would we have faced such a picture if the West, the whole world, had raised their voices?” Erdogan asks. “Those who remained silent in the face of Crimea’s invasion are now saying some things.”

Erdogan spoke Friday at a diplomacy forum near the Turkish Mediterranean city of Antalya, where Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met a day earlier for talks facilitated by Turkey’s foreign minister.

Erdogan says Turkey would continue its efforts for peace.

Defending policy, Shaked says vast majority of Ukrainian refugees have been allowed to stay

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked holds a press conference at the Knesset, on March 8, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked holds a press conference at the Knesset, on March 8, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked defends her refugee policy amid criticism that it is not lenient enough.

“Contrary to criticism, the vast majority of those who came to Israel were allowed to enter and stay here until the [war] passes,” she says in a Facebook post.

Channel 12 reports that over 200 Ukrainian refugees have been turned away after arriving at Ben Gurion airport.

“At the same time, any sane person understands that the tiny nation-state of the Jewish people cannot be a substitute for the various European countries, including Ukraine’s neighbors, who have opened their borders generously [to refugees],” Shaked adds.

Israel has agreed to allow some 20,000 Ukrainians who were residing in the country illegally before the invasion to remain, while also granting temporary visas to 5,000 non-Jewish refugees escaping the war. All Jewish Ukrainians are allowed in and given citizenship under the Law of Return.

Report: Bennett made decision to meet Putin without consulting with Lapid, Gantz

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left), Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (center), and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attend a plenum session in the Knesset, on January 31, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left), Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (center), and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attend a plenum session in the Knesset, on January 31, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made the decision to travel to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin last Saturday without consulting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid or Defense Minister Benny Gantz, according to the Walla news site.

Lapid and Gantz learned about the move, after the fact, the report says, not specifying when exactly that was.

The dynamic is reminiscent of the way former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu kept his fellow cabinet members out of the loop when he made major foreign policy decisions.

Dozens protest outside Ben Gurion demanding better treatment of refugees

Dozens of Israelis are protesting outside Ben Gurion Airport, with signs reading “a Jew does not expel a refugee.”

The demonstrators are protesting against Israel’s current refugee policy, which only allows 5,000 non-Jewish Ukrainians to enter the country.

Footage from Ben Gurion Airport leaked in recent days has shown that many refugees have been left waiting on the floor with minimal food as they wait for approval to enter the country after making the dangerous trek to flee Ukraine.

Israel said to have turned away over 200 Ukrainian refugees

Israeli and Ukrainian refugees arriving from Ukraine on a rescue flight are welcomed at Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv, on March 3, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Israeli and Ukrainian refugees arriving from Ukraine on a rescue flight are welcomed at Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv, on March 3, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israel has turned away over 200 Ukrainian refugees who managed to flee their country and make it to Ben Gurion Airport, Channel 12 reports.

Russian media regulator restricts access to Instagram

Instagram app icon on the screen of a mobile device in New York, on August, 2019. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)
Instagram app icon on the screen of a mobile device in New York, on August, 2019. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)

Russia’s media regulator has restricted access to Instagram, AFP reports.

Hungary PM says EU sanctions on Russia won’t include ban on oil imports

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his annual state of the nation speech in Varkert Bazaar conference hall of Budapest, Hungary, on February 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Anna Szilagyi)
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his annual state of the nation speech in Varkert Bazaar conference hall of Budapest, Hungary, on February 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Anna Szilagyi)

Hungary’s prime minister says that sanctions imposed against Russia by the European Union would not involve a ban on imports of Russian oil and gas.

In a video on his social media channels following a meeting of EU leaders in Versailles, France, Viktor Orban said it was possible that the war in Ukraine “would drag on,” but that “the most important issue was settled in a way that was favorable to us.”

“There will be no sanctions covering oil and gas, which means that Hungary’s energy supply is guaranteed for the next period,” Orban says.

Orban, widely considered to be the Kremlin’s closest ally in the EU, has supported the bloc’s sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Hungary’s neighbor.

But he has remained firm in insisting that the energy sector be left out of sanctions, arguing that such a move would damage EU countries more than Russia.

Last year, Hungary extended by 15 years a natural gas contract with Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom, and has entered into a 12 billion euro ($13.6 billion) Russian build-and-finance agreement to add two nuclear reactors to Hungary’s only nuclear power plant.

Finnish leader urges ceasefire in Putin call

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto speaks in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the war in Ukraine.

Niinistö’s office says in a statement that he informed Putin that he, earlier in the day, had a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and that Zelensky was prepared to talk directly with Putin.

The statement says Niinistö called for an immediate ceasefire and the safe evacuation of civilians, but also spoke to Putin about the security of nuclear energy facilities in Ukraine.

Niinisto is one of the few Western leaders who has kept a regular dialogue with Putin ever since the Finnish leader took office in 2012.

Amnesty’s US director: Israel shouldn’t be Jewish state, rather ‘safe Jewish space’ — report

Amnesty International USA Director Paul O’Brien. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Amnesty International USA Director Paul O’Brien. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Amnesty International USA director Paul O’Brien appears to have taken a position against the notion of Israel being a Jewish state in its current sense, telling the Women’s National Democratic Club at an event earlier this week that it instead should serve as “a safe Jewish space” that adheres to Jewish values.

“The right of the people to self-determination and to be protected is without a doubt something that we believe in, and I personally believe that,” he said, according to Jewish Insider. “We are opposed to the idea — and this, I think, is an existential part of the debate — that Israel should be preserved as a state for the Jewish people.”

O’Brien rejected a 2020 survey that found the vast majority of American Jews identify as “pro-Israel” and feel “attached” to the Jewish state.

“I actually don’t believe that to be true,” O’Brien said. “I believe my gut tells me that what Jewish people in this country want is to know that there’s a sanctuary that is a safe and sustainable place that the Jews, the Jewish people can call home.”

Rather than a Jewish state with a clear Jewish majority, American Jews want “a safe Jewish space,” said O’Brien, who is not Jewish.

“I think they can be convinced over time that the key to sustainability is to adhere to what I see as core Jewish values, which are to be principled and fair and just in creating that space.”

Sweden says its taking in 4,000 Ukrainian refugees each day

A man carries a child after refugees from Ukraine arrive at the main train station in Berlin, on March 1, 2022. (Hannibal Hanschke/Getty Images via JTA)
A man carries a child after refugees from Ukraine arrive at the main train station in Berlin, on March 1, 2022. (Hannibal Hanschke/Getty Images via JTA)

Swedish authorities estimate that about 4,000 Ukrainian refugees are arriving in Sweden every day.

Official figures say a total of 5,200 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Sweden, but the true number is “significantly higher,” Mikael Ribbenvik, head of the Swedish Migration Board, says.

Anders Ygeman, the Swedish Minister for Integration and Migration, stresses that Sweden “must accept its responsibility,” but insisted that other European nations also take their share of refugees.

In neighboring Denmark, authorities were preparing to receive Ukrainian refugees.

“This can be huge,” Niels Henrik Larsen, the head of the Danish Immigration Service, says. “This can be the biggest we ever have seen.”

‘Deeply regrettable’: India claims it accidentally fired missile into Pakistan

India’s military accidentally fired a missile into Pakistan, New Delhi’s defense ministry says, calling it “deeply regrettable.”

“In the course of a routine maintenance, a technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile” on Wednesday that landed in “an area of Pakistan,” it said in a statement, adding that a high-level inquiry had been ordered.

Saudi oil refinery hit by Houthi drone attack that causes fire but doesn’t disrupt supplies

This file photo taken on September 15, 2019, shows an Aramco oil facility near al-Khurj area, just south of the Saudi capital Riyadh. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP)
This file photo taken on September 15, 2019, shows an Aramco oil facility near al-Khurj area, just south of the Saudi capital Riyadh. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP)

A drone attack claimed by Yemen rebels on a Saudi oil refinery caused a fire but did not disrupt supplies, officials say, as oil prices soar after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The pre-dawn attack has been claimed by the Iran-backed Houthis and follows a series of similar assaults on Saudi facilities by the rebels, who are fighting a Saudi-led coalition.

“The Riyadh oil refinery was attacked by a drone, resulting in a small fire that has been brought under control,” the energy ministry says, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

“The attack did not result in any injury or death, nor was the supply of oil or its derivatives affected,” it adds, calling it an act of “sabotage and terrorism” but without directly blaming the rebels.

The Houthis say they fired three drones at the Aramco refinery and six more at the oil giant’s facilities in the southwestern cities of Jizan and Abha “and other sensitive locations.” The Saudis did not report any other attacks.

Zelensky slams Russia deploying Syria ‘murderers’ to Ukraine

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 6, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 6, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russia is hiring “murderers” from Syria to fight in Ukraine after Moscow said fighters from the war-torn nation would be allowed to join its forces.

“It’s a war with a very stubborn enemy… who has decided to hire mercenaries against our citizens. Murderers from Syria, a country where everything has been destroyed… like they are doing here to us,” he says in a video statement on Telegram.

Zelensky says EU ‘should do more’ for Ukraine

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Facebook, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Facebook, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

KYIV — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky says the European Union “should do more” for his embattled country, a day after EU leaders doused its hopes of quick accession to the bloc.

“The European Union should do more. It must do more for us, for Ukraine,” he says in a video statement on Telegram.

“The decisions of politicians must coincide with the mood of their people.”

Gantz allocates nearly 100 IDF soldiers to assist fleeing Ukrainians

Jewish immigrants fleeing the war in Ukraine arrive at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, on March 6, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Jewish immigrants fleeing the war in Ukraine arrive at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, on March 6, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has allocated nearly 100 Israel Defense Forces soldiers, some of who speak Ukrainian and Russian, to assist with the hundreds of refugees fleeing the war in Europe.

Gantz held a situational assessment with top defense officials, including the commander of the IDF’s Home Front Command, to decide how the army will assist.

Some 50 soldiers will be tasked with helping direct those arriving at the country, and another 40 will be assisting the Jewish Agency’s call centers, serving those interested in coming to Israel, the Defense Ministry says.

Dozens of rooms have been reserved at Tel Aviv’s Dan Panorama Hotel for refugees who are awaiting answers to whether they can enter the country or not. The hotel was partially operated by the Home Front Command as a state-run quarantine facility amid the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

The IDF is also preparing to run Hebrew study centers for immigrants, using teacher-soldiers, if needed, the ministry says.

Moscow opens case against Meta for allowing users to call for ‘murder’ of Russians

In this illustration photo taken in Los Angeles on October 28, 2021, a person watches on a smartphone as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveils the Meta logo. (Chris Delmas/AFP)
In this illustration photo taken in Los Angeles on October 28, 2021, a person watches on a smartphone as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveils the Meta logo. (Chris Delmas/AFP)

MOSCOW — Russia says it is opening a criminal case against Meta for “calling for the murder” of Russians, saying the parent company of Facebook and Instagram had relaxed its rules on violent messages aimed at Russia’s army and leaders.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, says it is launching an investigation “due to illegal calls for the murder of Russian nationals by employees of the American company Meta.”

Russia’s General Prosecutor’s Office also requested that the internet giant be branded “extremist,” and called for Instagram to be blocked in the country.

UN says 549 confirmed civilian deaths in Ukraine, but true tally likely higher

Bodies of civilians lie in a park in Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 2022. (Aris Messinis/AFP)
Bodies of civilians lie in a park in Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 2022. (Aris Messinis/AFP)

GENEVA — The UN human rights office says it has documented 549 civilian deaths and 957 injuries so far following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying the toll and “general human suffering” are rising.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says it has verified 29 attacks on health care facilities, workers, and ambulances in the hostilities, including a high-profile one on a maternity hospital in southeastern Mariupol on Wednesday. In those, 12 people were killed and 34 injured, WHO spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris says in an email.

The figures from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which run from the February 24 start of the fighting to midnight Wednesday, focus on civilians in general. It uses a strict methodology and counts only confirmed casualties. It acknowledges that its tally is likely to underestimate the real toll.

“Civilians are being killed and maimed in what appear to be indiscriminate attacks, with Russian forces using explosive weapons with wide-area effects in or near populated areas,” spokeswoman Liz Throssell tells a UN briefing.

“Civilian casualties are rising daily, as is general human suffering,” Throssell says.

4 Ukraine soldiers killed in Lutsk airbase strikes, local authorities say

At least four Ukrainian soldiers are killed and six injured in Russian strikes on the Lutsk military airport in northwest Ukraine, local authorities say.

The information is given by Lutsk mayor Igor Polishchuk, updating a previous toll of two killed.

Putin sees some ‘positive shifts’ in Russia-Ukraine talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Belarus' counterpart Alexander Lukashenko at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 11, 2022. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Belarus' counterpart Alexander Lukashenko at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 11, 2022. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFP)

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says there are some “positive shifts” in talks between Russia and Ukraine, two weeks into Moscow’s military invasion of the country.

“There are certain positive shifts, negotiators from our side reported to me,” Putin tells his Belarus counterpart Alexander Lukashenko during a televised meeting in Moscow.

He says negotiations are “now being held on an almost daily basis.”

Japan freezes Belarusian bank assets, bans technology exports to Russia

TOKYO — Japan’s government is freezing the assets of three Belarusian banks in Japan and banning exports of high technology equipment to Russia and Belarus, as Tokyo steps up sanctions against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Japan is taking additional steps to remain in concert with the United States and European countries in their effort to pressure Russia and Belarus, which is helping Moscow, to stop the war.

Japan has previously frozen the assets of individuals and organizations from the two countries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top government officials, as well as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, and cut seven Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system.

Japan is also banning exports of semiconductors, telecommunication equipment, and other high-technology goods to Russia and Belarus from March 18 to prevent them from bolstering their military capabilities.

UK says slapping sanctions on 386 Russian lawmakers

The Russian national tricolor flag flutters on top of the building of the State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia's parliament, in central Moscow in the evening of March 3, 2022. (AFP)
The Russian national tricolor flag flutters on top of the building of the State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia's parliament, in central Moscow in the evening of March 3, 2022. (AFP)

LONDON — Britain slaps a fresh wave of sanctions on Moscow, targeting 386 members of Russia’s parliament who supported President Vladimir Putin’s devastating invasion of Ukraine.

The lawmakers were sanctioned after they voted in February to recognize the breakaway republics of Lugansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, providing a pretext for the war, Britain’s foreign ministry says.

The new sanctions against members of Russia’s Duma, the lower house of parliament, ban them from traveling to Britain as well as accessing any assets they hold in the UK.

Kremlin says Syrians can volunteer to fight for Russia in Ukraine

A picture shows Russian troops in the Syrian district of Daraa al-Balad in Syria's southern province of Daraa, on September 1, 2021. (Sam HARIRI / AFP)
A picture shows Russian troops in the Syrian district of Daraa al-Balad in Syria's southern province of Daraa, on September 1, 2021. (Sam HARIRI / AFP)

MOSCOW — The Kremlin says fighters from Syria will be allowed to fight for Russia in Ukraine, after President Vladimir Putin backed a plan to send volunteers to battle there.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov tells reporters that Russia’s defense minister had said that “most of those who want and who asked (to fight) are citizens of Middle East countries and Syrians.”

EU says ‘pause’ in Iran nuclear talks needed due to ‘external factors’

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell arrives at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, on March 11, 2022, for the EU leaders summit to discuss the fallout of Russia's invasion in Ukraine. (Ludovic MARIN / AFP)
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell arrives at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, on March 11, 2022, for the EU leaders summit to discuss the fallout of Russia's invasion in Ukraine. (Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

The European Union’s foreign policy chief says “a pause” is needed in ongoing talks over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers, blaming “external factors” for the delay.

The comments by Josep Borrell come as a roadmap appeared imminent for the US to rejoin an accord it unilaterally withdrew from in 2018 and for Iran to again limit its rapidly advancing nuclear program.

“A final text is essentially ready and on the table,” Borrell says on Twitter. “As coordinator, I will, with my team, continue to be in touch with all #JCPOA participants and the US to overcome the current situation and to close the agreement.”

The JCPOA, of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is the 2015 nuclear deal’s formal name.

There was no immediate reaction from Iran.

Home for disabled near Kharkiv hit by Russian strikes, Ukrainian official says

Ukrainian police officers patrol a street following a shelling in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv on March 7, 2022. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)
Ukrainian police officers patrol a street following a shelling in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv on March 7, 2022. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)

KHARKIV, Ukraine — A care home for disabled people near Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine is hit by Russian airstrikes, a local official says, without confirming casualty figures.

“The enemy today hit a specialized establishment for disabled people near Oskil,” regional official Oleg Sinegubov writes on Telegram.

There were 330 people in the building at the time of the attack, he says, including 10 who required wheelchairs and 50 with reduced mobility.

He added that 63 had since been evacuated, without giving details on the others.

“The Russians have again carried out a brutal attack against civilians,” says Sinegubov.

“It is a war crime against civilians.”

Tel Aviv mayor offers to broadcast Zelensky speech at Habima Square

Habima square in Tel Aviv, on September 22, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Habima square in Tel Aviv, on September 22, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai offers to broadcast an expected upcoming address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“This morning we offered the Embassy of Ukraine to broadcast the speech at Habima Square — so that the Israeli public can hear the President live,” Huldai writes on Twitter.

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy says he and Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk agreed to schedule a date for Zelensky’s address in the coming days.

Zelensky had first asked to address the Knesset plenum, but Levy said the Knesset was going on recess, and the building is scheduled for renovations.

Instead, he is expected to address the Knesset members on Zoom.

Suspected Soviet-era drone possibly used by Ukraine, crashes in Croatian capital

This picture taken on March 11, 2022 shows a crater on the ground after a flying object crashed overnight on the outskirts of the Croatian capital, Zagreb. (AFP)
This picture taken on March 11, 2022 shows a crater on the ground after a flying object crashed overnight on the outskirts of the Croatian capital, Zagreb. (AFP)

ZAGREB, Croatia  — An unidentified flying object, which local media reported could be a Soviet-era drone, crashed in the Croatian capital Zagreb Thursday night, police say.

Several parked vehicles were damaged in the 9:00 p.m. accident, but there are no reports of anyone injured, an interior ministry statement says this morning.

Police rushed to the scene after residents reported that they “felt a detonation preceded by a fall of an object from the sky,” the statement says.

In a park close to the Jarun lake, some six kilometers (four miles) from the city center, police found a crater and two parachutes nearby, it adds.

Local media quoted military aviation experts as saying that the device that crashed could have been a Soviet-era Tu-141 reconnaissance drone used by Ukraine.

Police sealed off the site and temporarily halted public transport in the area.

Zagreb is located some 550 kilometers (341 miles) flying distance from the border with Ukraine, which Russia invaded on February 24.

EU proposes extra 500 million euros in military aid for Ukraine

European Union Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell speaks during a debate on Foreign interference in all democratic processes in the European Union, including disinformation, during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France on March 8, 2022. (Frederick FLORIN / AFP)
European Union Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell speaks during a debate on Foreign interference in all democratic processes in the European Union, including disinformation, during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France on March 8, 2022. (Frederick FLORIN / AFP)

VERSAILLES, France — The European Union proposes to double financing for military aid to Ukraine by an additional 500 million euros to help Kyiv’s forces battle Russia’s invasion, the bloc’s foreign policy chief says.

Josep Borrell says he is “certain” EU leaders meeting in France will agree to expand the spending package that has seen the bloc fund weapons going to Ukraine.

Ukraine envoy says Zelensky can’t understand Israel’s refusal to provide defensive equipment

Ukraine's ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk gives a statement to the media on the Russian invasion to the Ukraine, in Tel Aviv, March 7, 2022 (Avshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90)
Ukraine's ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk gives a statement to the media on the Russian invasion to the Ukraine, in Tel Aviv, March 7, 2022 (Avshalom Sassoni‎‏/Flash90)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “does not” understand Israel’s refusal to provide defensive equipment, such as helmets and flak jackets, to Ukraine, says his envoy to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk.

“I, as an ambassador do,” understand Israel’s position, “but our president does not,” Korniychuk tells journalists in a briefing at his Embassy’s Cultural Center in Tel Aviv.

“You do have a few airplanes and anti-missile systems in Syria that belong to Russians and you are afraid,” Korniychuk charged.

“And the same time let me point you to Baltic states that have a joint border with the Russian federation. And they don’t care, they bring everything they could to Ukraine, they’re not afraid.”

Israel has provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine, including 100 tons of medical and cold-weather equipment flown out of Ben Gurion Airport last week.

However, it has sought to walk a tightrope to maintain good relations with both Ukraine and Russia, the latter of which maintains a military presence in Syria and is negotiating Iran’s return to a nuclear deal.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, gives a statement to the media on the Russian invasion to the Ukraine, in Tel Aviv, March 11, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)

Russian defense minister says 16,000 volunteers from Mideast seek to join fighting

In this photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on February 15, 2022, Russian Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, and Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, smile during their meeting in Damascus, Syria. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
In this photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on February 15, 2022, Russian Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, and Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, smile during their meeting in Damascus, Syria. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says more than 16,000 volunteers — mostly from the Middle East — have appealed to join the war in Ukraine, during a televised security council meeting.

It is thought the volunteers are from Syria. Russia is seen as using its heavy military presence in Syria to gain a foothold in the Middle East, and President Vladimir Putin is considered one of few allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

During the meeting, Putin says he backs plans to allow volunteers to fight in Ukraine, where he has sent thousands of Russian troops in what he calls a “special military operation.”

UN says 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion

GENEVA, Switzerland — Two and a half million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24, the United Nations says.

“Two and a half million people have now fled Ukraine, including 116,000 third-country nationals,” Paul Dillon, spokesman for the UN’s International Organization for Migration, writes on Twitter.

Putin says he backs plans to send volunteer fighters to Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting via videolink in Moscow on March 11, 2022. (Mikhail KLIMENTYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting via videolink in Moscow on March 11, 2022. (Mikhail KLIMENTYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin backs 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,” Putin tells Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu during a televised security council meeting.

Lapid to head to Romania, Slovakia, meet with leaders, tour Ukraine border crossing

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at a situational assessment on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Niv Musman/GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at a situational assessment on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Niv Musman/GPO)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will head to Romania and Slovakia, both of which border Ukraine, tomorrow night, his office says.

During the three-day visit, Lapid will meet Israeli Foreign Ministry officials who have been working at border crossings with Ukraine for the past two weeks, helping Israeli citizens flee the war.

Lapid will also meet the Romanian and Slovakian leaders and foreign ministers to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as bilateral relations with Israel.

2 Ukraine soldiers killed at Lutsk airbase, officials say

Two Ukrainian soldiers are killed in Russian strikes on the Lutsk military airport in northwest Ukraine, local authorities say.

“At 05:45 am (0345 GMT), four rockets were fired… by a Russian army bomber on the Lutsk military airfield,” says regional administration official Yuriy Pohuliayko on Telegram, adding that “two soldiers were killed and six wounded.”

Ukraine to try humanitarian routes again after earlier targeting by Russian shelling

Residents evacuate the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 2022.  (Aris Messinis / AFP)
Residents evacuate the city of Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 10, 2022. (Aris Messinis / AFP)

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities announce plans for several evacuation and humanitarian aid delivery routes, with the support of the Red Cross.

The top priority remains freeing people from the besieged city of Mariupol and getting aid to its hungry, thirsty, freezing, and terrified population.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says in a video message that Ukrainian authorities are trying yet again to send aid into Mariupol and bring evacuees out to the city of Zaporizhzhia.

Repeated previous attempts have failed, as aid and rescue convoys were targeted by Russian shelling.

Vereshchuk says buses would be sent today to multiple Kyiv suburbs to bring people to the capital, and to bring aid to those staying behind.

She also announces efforts to create new humanitarian corridors to bring aid to people in areas occupied or under Russian attack around the cities of Kherson in the south, Chernihiv in the north and Kharkiv in the east.

Russia says it targeted two Ukrainian military airfields

The Russian defense ministry says in a briefing that its troops targeted airports in Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, another western Ukrainian city some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of Lutsk.

“Military airfields in Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk have been put out of order,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov says.

The mayor of Ivano-Frankiivsk Ruslan Martsinkiv ordered residents in the neighboring areas to head to shelters after an air raid alert. The mayor of Lutsk also announced an airstrike near the airport.

No casualties were immediately reported.

The strikes were far to the west from the main Russian offensive and could indicate new direction of the war.

Kazakh, Turkish airlines suspend Russia flights over sanctions

File: A Pegasus Airlines passenger plane prepares to land at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen Airport, February 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Mehmet Guzel)
File: A Pegasus Airlines passenger plane prepares to land at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen Airport, February 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Mehmet Guzel)

MOSCOW — Kazakhstan’s national airline Air Astana and Turkish budget airline Pegasus Airlines say they are temporarily suspending flights to Russia, following sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

The companies made the decision because of uncertainties over insurance of aircraft bound for Russia, they say in separate press releases.

Air Astana, which operates flights to several destinations in Russia says it is seeking to “restore flights as soon as possible.”

Pegasus Airlines said that its flights to Russia are to be suspended from March 13 to 27.

The Turkish airline says this measure is linked to “operational risks” due to the sanctions imposed by the European Union.

As a result of Western sanctions, the insurances of air carriers operating flights to Russia are no longer valid.

UK Defense Ministry says Russia likely failed in its objectives in Ukraine so far

A destroyed tank is seen after battles between Ukrainian and Russian forces on a main road near Brovary, north of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
A destroyed tank is seen after battles between Ukrainian and Russian forces on a main road near Brovary, north of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

The United Kingdom’s Defense Ministry says in a new intelligence report that Russia has likely failed to achieve its objectives in Ukraine so far.

“It remains highly unlikely that Russia has successfully achieved the objectives outlined in its pre-invasion plan,” the report says.

“Russian ground forces continue to make limited progress. Logistical issues that have hampered the Russian advance persist as does strong Ukrainian resistance.”

“Russia is likely seeking to reset and re-posture its forces for renewed offensive activity in the coming days. This will probably include operations against the capital Kyiv,” it adds.

One killed in Russian strike on civilian targets in Dnipro, Ukraine says

Russian airstrikes in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro this morning killed one person, the Ukrainian parliament says.

In a tweet, the Verkhovna Rada says Russian missiles landed near a kindergarten, an apartment building, and a factory, the latter of which caught fire.

Several firefighting units are at the scene to extinguish the flames, it says.

Dnipro is Ukraine’s fourth-largest city, and is situated southeast of the capital Kyiv, on the Dnieper River.

Bomb reportedly hits boiler plant in Lutsk

A video shared on social media purports to show a large bomb hitting the city of Lutsk.

According to reports, the shell hit a boiler plant in the city.

The city is in western Ukraine, about 85 miles northeast of Lviv.

Russia to lose favored trade status with US

US 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 favored nation” trade status for Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

That’s according to a source familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the announcement.

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.

China offers help in ‘grave’ Ukraine situation

China’s Premier Li Keqiang on Friday is calling the situation in Ukraine “grave” and offered Beijing’s help in playing a “positive role” for peace while continuing to refuse to criticize Russia.

China has largely sided with Russia, refusing to refer to its actions in Ukraine as a war or invasion. Chinese officials and state media have parroted Russian claims while Beijing calls itself neutral and defending national sovereignty above all else.

“We support and encourage all efforts that are conducive to a peaceful settlement of the crisis,” Li tells reporters at an annual news conference.

“The pressing task now is to prevent tension from escalating or even getting out of control,” Li says. “China calls for exercising utmost restraint and preventing a massive humanitarian crisis.”

Li talks following the close of the annual session of China’s rubber-stamp legislature.

Russia’s war in Ukraine was not openly discussed at the meeting, although it echoes in Beijing’s approach to Taiwan — the self-governing island democracy China claims as its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary.

Senate okays spending bill with billions for Iron Dome, Ukraine

A $13.6 billion emergency package of military and humanitarian aid for besieged Ukraine and its European allies, as well as money to resupply Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile batteries, easily won final congressional approval Thursday, hitching a ride on a government-wide spending bill that’s five months late but loaded with political prizes for both parties.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion killing thousands and forcing over 2 million others to flee, the Senate approved the overall $1.5 trillion overall legislation by a 68-31 bipartisan margin.

The bill includes $1 billion in supplemental funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system that Jerusalem has been seeking for months but watched from afar as it was held hostage by partisan mudslinging.

Democrats and Republicans have battled this election year over rising inflation, energy policy and lingering pandemic restrictions, but they’ve rallied behind sending aid to Ukraine, whose stubborn resilience against brutal force has been inspirational for many voters.

“We promised the Ukrainian people they would not go at it alone in their fight against Putin,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said just before the vote. “And once we pass this funding in a short while, we will keep that promise.”

US President Joe Biden is slated to sign it on Friday in order to prevent a government shutdown.

Jerusalem was looking for additional Iron Dome funding beyond the $500 million it already receives annually in missile defense after it was forced to use up significant amounts of interceptor missiles and batteries during last May’s Gaza war. Israel says Hamas fired over 4,300 rockets at Israeli cities over an 11-day period.

Rockets from Gaza, on right, are seen in the night sky fired toward Israel from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021, while Iron Dome interceptor missiles, on left, rise to meet them. (Anas Baba/AFP)

 

US warns Moscow against grabbing assets of firms pulling out of Russia

The White House is warning Russia against taking steps to seize the assets of US and international companies that have announced plans to suspend operations in Russia or to withdraw from the Russian market in response to Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

Jen Psaki, the press secretary, was responding to reports in Russian and other news media about a proposal to nationalize the property of major foreign companies that are leaving Russia.

Psaki says Thursday on Twitter that such a step would be a throwback to 1917 and that Russia will have to live for decades with investor distrust. She says Russia also could face legal claims from companies whose property is seized.

Psaki says the White House stands with American companies that are making what she called “tough decisions” about the future of their Russian operations.

Women walk in front of a McDonald’s restaurant in central Moscow on March 9, 2022 (Photo by AFP)

The Russian newspaper Izvestia reported earlier Thursday that the government and the general prosecutor’s office were considering a proposal to nationalize foreign companies that have announced they are pulling out of Russia because of the war in Ukraine. The newspaper said it had a list of nearly 60 companies, including IKEA, McDonald’s, Apple, Microsoft, IBM and Porsche, among others.

The article said some were urging caution. One expert quoted warned against hasty actions, saying some of the businesses were acting under pressure from their governments and that it would be wrong to conclude that they have closed their doors on the Russian market forever.

Report: Ukraine fears too few MKs will show up for Zelensky Zoom chat

Hurdles reportedly remain regarding plans for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to address member of the Knesset.

Asked by ambassador Evgeniy Korniychuk to ensure that most of the Knesset would be present for the speech, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy says he can only control members of his own party, but predicts that most coalition members will attend, Israel’s Kan network reports.

According to the report, Levy’s office had feared having Zelensky give the speech to the actual Knesset plenum risked an embarrassing situation if a live broadcast showed a half-empty hall, since the Knesset will be in recess starting next week. Instead, he will speak to the MKs over Zoom.

Rocket sirens sound in Lviv

Air raid sirens are being heard in Lviv, in western Ukraine, CNN reports.

The city has not seen any attacks or direct fighting, but air raid sirens there have gone off sporadically since the start of the war.

The city has swelled in recent days with hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the Russian invasion from the east.

US official says Russia trying to ‘gaslight’ world with chemical weapons claims

Olivia Dalton, spokesperson for the US Mission to the United Nations says Russia is trying to “gaslight” the world by accusing the US of “biological activities” in Ukraine.

“This is exactly the kind of false flag effort we have warned Russia might initiate to justify a biological or chemical weapons attack,” she says. “We’re not going to let Russia gaslight the world or use the UN Security Council as a venue for promoting their disinformation.“

“Russia has a well-documented history of using chemical weapons and has long maintained a biological weapons program in violation of international law” as well as “a track record of falsely accusing the West of the very violations that Russia itself is perpetrating,” Dalton says, after the UN scheduled a Security Council meeting to discuss Russia’s claims.

A tweet from Russia’s Ministry of Defense refers to a “briefing on the results of the analysis of documents related to the military biological activities of the United States on the territory of Ukraine.”

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric says the World Health Organization, which has been working with the Ukrainian government, “said they are unaware of any activity on the part of the Ukrainian government which is inconsistent with its international treaty obligations, including on chemical weapons or biological weapons.”

At a Security Council meeting on Syria’s chemical weapons held earlier in the day, US deputy ambassador Richard Mills said that unfortunately Syria has help on the council from its ally Russia, which he said “has repeatedly spread disinformation regarding Syria’s repeated use of chemical weapons.”

“The recent web of lies that Russia has cast in an attempt to justify the premeditated and unjustified war it has undertaken against Ukraine, should make clear, once and for all, that Russia also cannot be trusted when it talks about chemical weapon use in Syria,” Mills said.

Facebook says it won’t block anti-Russian hate speech

Facebook says it has temporarily eased its rules regarding violent speech due to the invasion of Ukraine, to allow statements like “death to Russian invaders,” but not credible threats against civilians.

Moscow’s internationally condemned invasion of its neighbor has provoked unprecedented sanctions from Western governments and businesses, but also a surge of online anger.

“As a result of the Russian invasion of 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 invaders,'” Facebook’s parent company Meta says in a statement.

“We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians,” it adds.

Facebook’s statement comes after a Reuters report, citing the firm’s emails to its content moderators, which said the policy applies to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine.

Security Council to meet Friday on Russian claims of US bio-weapons in Ukraine

The UN Security Council will meet on Friday to discuss what Russia claims are “the military biological activities of the US on the territory of Ukraine.”

Council diplomats confirm the meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. EST, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement.

Russia announced the request in a tweet Thursday afternoon from its first deputy UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky.

The request came after the Biden administration rejected the accusation, made without evidence by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, that Ukraine was running chemical and biological labs with US support.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki Psaki has called Russia’s claim “preposterous” and warned that Russia might seek to use chemical or biological weapons against Ukraine, the neighbor it has invaded.

Zelensky says Russian bio-weapon claims show what they are planning

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is also using his nightly video address to push back on Russian claims of plans for biological attacks committed by Ukraine.

“No chemical or any other weapons of mass destruction were developed on my land,” he says, according to a translation sent out on his Telegram channel. “The whole world knows that. You know that. And if Russia does something like that against us, it will get the most severe sanctions response.”

Echoing the US and others, Zelensky says the accusations show what Russia is actually scheming.

“If you want to know what Russia’s plans are, look at what Russia accuses others of,” he says, noting that he is “really worried.”

He says Russia will continue using biological and chemical weapons “again, again and again,” unless they are stopped.

Top Iran diplomat says nuke deal ‘within reach’ but stymied by US

Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says that a nuclear deal is close, but blames the US for the agreement being delayed.

“Efforts to reach a good & durable agreement continue; it is within reach if US acts realistically & consistently,” he tweets in English.

He also accuses the US of making new demands, the Foreign Ministry tweets.

The comments come after Amir-Abdollahian spoke to EU foreign policy cheif Josep Borrell. A spokesperson for Borrell confirms that the two held “a constructive call on the need to immediately” finalize the pact. The spokesperson says he cannot confirm a report that Borrell called for Iran and US to show more flexibility, with time running out.

Russia wants UN meeting over ‘US biological activities’ in Ukraine

Russia has called for a UN Security Council meeting to discuss what it claims are “the military biological activities of the US on the territory of Ukraine.”

The Russian request, announced in a tweet Thursday afternoon from its deputy UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, follows the Biden administration’s rejection of Russian accusations that Ukraine is running chemical and biological labs with US support.

In response to this week’s accusations by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova — without evidence — White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a public warning Wednesday that Russia might seek to use chemical or biological weapons against Ukraine, the neighbor it has invaded.

Now, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accuses Russians in a tweet of “manic obsession” and “fantasiz[ing] about non-existent biological or chemical weapons or hazards in Ukraine,” echoing Psaki’s concerns of a false flag operation.

Psaki had called Russia’s claim “preposterous” and tweeted: “This is all an obvious ploy by Russia to try to justify its further premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on Ukraine.”

Polyansky says Russia has asked for the Security Council to meet on Friday. It is not immediately clear when or whether a council meeting would take place.

 

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