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Zelensky says humanitarian corridors ‘working,’ over 12,000 evacuated

Ukrainian president says Russians will be repelled, warns against collaboration with the enemy, pleads again for more international support

  • Ukrainian servicemen are at work to receive the delivery of FGM-148 Javelins, American man-portable anti-tank missile provided by US to Ukraine as part of a military support, at Kyiv's airport Boryspil, on February 11,2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)
    Ukrainian servicemen are at work to receive the delivery of FGM-148 Javelins, American man-portable anti-tank missile provided by US to Ukraine as part of a military support, at Kyiv's airport Boryspil, on February 11,2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)
  • An explosion in an apartment building that came under fire from a Russian army tank in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Friday, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
    An explosion in an apartment building that came under fire from a Russian army tank in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Friday, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
  • Ukrainian soldiers walk in Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 12, 2022, as Russian forces step up pressure on Kyiv. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)
    Ukrainian soldiers walk in Irpin, north of Kyiv, on March 12, 2022, as Russian forces step up pressure on Kyiv. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)
  • A view of Russian-Jewish tycoon Roman Abramovich's superyacht Solaris anchored in Tivat, Montenegro, March 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Risto Bozovic)
    A view of Russian-Jewish tycoon Roman Abramovich's superyacht Solaris anchored in Tivat, Montenegro, March 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Risto Bozovic)
  • Demonstrators carry placards and flags during a protest in Tel Aviv against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, on March 12, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
    Demonstrators carry placards and flags during a protest in Tel Aviv against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, on March 12, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
  • Residents of Kharkiv stand next to a bus as they prepare to evacuate the Ukrainian city on March 12, 2022. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)
    Residents of Kharkiv stand next to a bus as they prepare to evacuate the Ukrainian city on March 12, 2022. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)
  • A giant screen displays an image of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking through a video link at a peace rally for Ukraine, on March 12, 2022, in Florence, Italy. (Carlo Bressan/AFP)
    A giant screen displays an image of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking through a video link at a peace rally for Ukraine, on March 12, 2022, in Florence, Italy. (Carlo Bressan/AFP)
  • A serviceman of the Ukrainian Military Forces in the Lugansk region, on March 11, 2022. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP)
    A serviceman of the Ukrainian Military Forces in the Lugansk region, on March 11, 2022. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP)
  • This photo taken on March 12, 2022, shows a destroyed tram depot in Kharkiv. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)
    This photo taken on March 12, 2022, shows a destroyed tram depot in Kharkiv. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)
  • A man passes by a mural depicting the Russian President Vladimir Putin, that reads: ''Brother'' in Belgrade, Serbia, March 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
    A man passes by a mural depicting the Russian President Vladimir Putin, that reads: ''Brother'' in Belgrade, Serbia, March 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

The Times of Israel live blogged Saturday’s events as they happened.

‘Russian invaders cannot conquer us,’ Zelensky says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russia’s military will be repelled, that humanitarian corridors are “working,” and that the international community must support Ukraine more.

“The 17th day of the war is over. A war for the right to be free,” Zelensky says in a video posted online.

“The Russian invaders cannot conquer us. They do not have such strength. They do not have such spirit. They are holding only on violence. Only on terror,” he says.

“Wherever Russia has come to a foreign land, dreams are impossible. Only a hard struggle for survival,” he says.

The Russian invaders cannot conquer us. They do not have such strength. They do not have such spirit. They are holding…

Posted by Володимир Зеленський on Saturday, March 12, 2022

He says the Russian leadership is turning the country into an isolated state like North Korea, “where poverty will reign,” alongside violence.

He says Russia’s professional class is fleeing the country.

“We still need to hold on. We still need to fight. Every day and every night we must look for ways to cause maximum damage to the enemy,” he says.

He says “Ukraine will not forgive” any collaborators.

He says humanitarian corridors are working and 12,729 people evacuated today.

Humanitarian shipments will arrive in Mariupol tomorrow, he says.

He again implores other countries for more help.

“It’s not only for Ukraine. This is for everyone in Europe,” he says.

Ukrainian child cancer patients board train for treatment in Poland

About 60 child cancer patients from Ukraine board a medical train in a Polish town, bound for hospitals in Warsaw and elsewhere.

Medical workers carry some young patients in their arms, on stretchers and in a wheelchair at a station in Medyka, near the Ukrainian border.

“Some of them will require oxygen, will require some form of intensive care,” and some have COVID-19 and have to be kept separate from others,” says Dominik Daszuta, an anesthesiologist from Warsaw Hospital.

He says the train has transported 120 children with cancer so far.

The United Nations refugee agency says at least 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine in the two weeks since Russia invaded it.

Missiles fired at Kurdistan capital

Several missiles are fired at Erbil, the capital of autonomous Kurdistan in northern Iraq, local authorities report, adding there were no injuries.

“Several missiles fell on the city of Erbil,” says governor Omid Khoshnaw, quoted by the Iraqi news agency INA.

He says it was not clear what the intended target was. An AFP correspondent in Erbil heard three explosions.

Some Arabic media reports report explosions near the US consulate in the city.

Ukraine says Russia taking ‘permanent’ control of Europe’s largest nuclear plant

Ukrainian officials tell the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Russia is planning to take “full and permanent” control of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant, the largest in Europe.

Russia denies the allegation.

Russian forces took over the plant last week in a battle that started fires near a reactor and sparked fears of a nuclear catastrophe.

Around 400 Russian troops have been stationed at the site since then, Ukraine tells the UN watchdog.

US authorizes $200 million in additional military assistance to Ukraine

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden authorizes $200 million in additional military equipment for Ukraine, as Russia widens its bombardment and pummels civilian areas.

Washington already authorized $350 million of military equipment on February 26 — the largest such package in US history.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s pleas for help have grown increasingly desperate, and he has repeatedly urged Washington, the EU, and NATO for help.

In a memorandum to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Biden designates “up to an aggregate value of $200 million in defense articles and services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training, to provide assistance to Ukraine.”

Russia said today its troops could target supplies of Western weapons in Ukraine and that the pouring in of weapons would turn convoys “into legitimate targets.”

The latest US authorization of military aid comes two days after the US State Department ruled out proposals to send MiG fighter jets to Ukraine via an American base, saying Kyiv’s efforts to repel the Russian invasion would be better served by the supply of ground-based weapons.

Washington had previously authorized $60 million in military assistance to Ukraine last fall, followed by another $200 million in December for weapons and ammunition.

Biden has ruled out direct US action inside Ukraine, warning that the ensuing battle against nuclear-armed Russia would lead to “World War III.”

EU leaders yesterday, meanwhile, sought to double financing for military aid to Ukraine by an extra 500 million euros (around $546 million).

In a video message recorded outside his presidential office in Kyiv, Zelensky demanded the EU “do more” to help his country.

Zelensky says he asked Bennett to help with release of abducted Melitopol mayor

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky confirms speaking by phone with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett this evening, after the phone call was announced by the latter’s office.

“We talked about Russian aggression and the prospects for peace talks,” Zelensky tweets. “We must stop repressions against civilians: asked to assist in the release of captive mayor of Melitopol and local public figures.”

Croatia criticizes NATO after Russian drone from Ukraine war crashes in country

ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatian officials criticize NATO for what they say was its slow reaction to a military drone that apparently flew from the Ukrainian war zone through the airspace of three NATO member states, before crashing in the Croatian capital.

The Russian-made unmanned aircraft crossed Romania and Hungary before entering Croatia and slamming late Thursday into a field near a student dormitory. Some 40 parked cars were damaged, but no one was injured after a loud blast.

NATO said the alliance’s integrated air and missile defense had tracked the object’s flight path. But the Croatian prime minister says the country’s authorities were not informed and that NATO reacted only after questions were posed by journalists.

“We cannot tolerate this situation, nor should it have ever happened,” Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic says while visiting the crash site.

“This was a pure and clear threat and both NATO and the EU should have reacted,” he says. “We will work to raise the readiness not only of us but of others as well. ”

Plenkovic says a Soviet-era Tu-141 “Strizh” reconnaissance drone flew for over 40 minutes over Hungary and six to seven minutes over Croatia before crashing. Earlier, Romanian defense authorities said the drone was in Romania’s airspace for only three minutes after crossing from Ukraine, making it hard to intercept.

Plenkovic calls on Hungarian authorities to launch an investigation into why its defenses apparently did not notice the unmanned drone as both Croatia and Romania had little time to react to the fast-moving object.

Bennett, Zelensky discuss ‘ways to end the fighting in Ukraine,’ Israeli mediation efforts

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke by phone this evening with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Israeli premier’s office says.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the conversation lasted more than an hour and “dealt with ways to end the fighting in Ukraine and the efforts that Israel is making on this matter.”

There is no immediate confirmation from Zelensky’s office.

The call comes after Zelensky said earlier today that he proposed to Bennett that Jerusalem host ceasefire talks between Ukraine and Russia, and said Israel can play an “important role” in the efforts to end the war.

Swedish FM dismisses Russian warnings against joining NATO

HELSINKI — Sweden’s foreign minister is dismissing fresh warnings from Russia that the Nordic country’s joining NATO would lead to retaliatory measures from Moscow.

Foreign Minister Ann Linde tells Swedish news agency TT that “Russia has nothing to do with our independent decisions,” referring to Stockholm’s possible move to join NATO.

Russia’s Interfax news agency today quoted a Russian Foreign Ministry official saying the possible accession of Sweden and neighboring Finland to NATO would have serious military and political consequences.

Sergei Belyayev, the head of department for Nordic countries at the Russian Foreign Ministry, said such a situation would require Russia to take “retaliatory measures,” but didn’t specify what those measures could include.

He accused some NATO members, particularly the United States, of deliberately trying to drag the the two non-aligned Nordic countries into the military bloc.

Moscow has repeatedly warned both Finland and Sweden that their possible joining NATO would be seen as a hostile act from Moscow. Both countries have brushed off those warnings.

Since the start of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, polls in both Finland and Sweden have shown a substantially increased support for NATO membership.

Ukraine’s defense chief warns Israel’s stance on war will harm trust between nations

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov is warning that Israel’s lack of clear stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could cast a shadow over ties between Kyiv and Jerusalem in the coming years.

“Israel is showing an unexplained disconnect and reluctance to choose a side in the war in Ukraine. This will cause a growing lack of trust for many years because without a doubt we will win, with you or without you,” he says in a video shared on social media, according to the Walla news site.

“What can you do? You are very influential in the world and in your region,” he adds.

At cabinet meeting, coalition’s left flank to push for raising quota of Ukrainian refugees

During tomorrow’s cabinet meeting, left-wing members of the government are expected to push for raising the cap on the number of non-Jewish Ukrainian refugees allowed to stay in Israel during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Meretz party says its ministers will demand that Israel “give refuge to all refugees.”

“No quotas, without differentiation of religion, race, or gender,” the party writes on its Twitter account. “This is our basic duty as Israelis and human beings.”

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai will demand during the meeting that a ministerial committee be formed to decide on Israel’s refugee policy.

“Israel doesn’t have a defined and clear immigration policy. The refugee crisis from Ukraine requires a government decision that is agreed upon by all the different elements of the government,” Shai, a member of the Labor party, is quoted as saying.

He adds: “The State of Israel, the state of the Jewish people, must extend a hand to refugees in Europe.”

Ukraine accuses Russian troops of shooting at 7 evacuees, including child, near Kyiv

KYIV, Ukraine — Russian troops shot at a group of women and children evacuees leaving a village near Kyiv, killing seven, one of them a child, Ukraine’s military intelligence service says today.

“During an attempt to evacuate from the village of Peremoga… along an agreed ‘green’ corridor, the occupiers opened fire on a column of civilians, consisting exclusively of women and children. The result of this brutal act was seven dead. One of them is a child,” Defense Intelligence of Ukraine says on Facebook.

It adds that the incident happened yesterday.

Peremoga, which means victory in Ukrainian, is a small village around 36 kilometers (22 miles) from Kyiv’s northeastern suburbs, where Russian tanks are advancing towards the capital.

The military intelligence service says that Russian troops forced the group of evacuees to return to their village after the attack, with the number of injured unknown.

“At present, it is almost impossible to establish contact with them, as well as provide humanitarian and medical assistance,” the statement says.

It doesn’t give details of those killed or the time of the attack.

It accuses Russia of committing a war crime by deliberately targeting innocent civilians.

TV reports offer conflicting accounts of Putin’s attitude on proposed talks in Jerusalem

Russian President Vladimir Putin is opposed to a Ukrainian proposal to hold ceasefire talks in Jerusalem, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

The report says Putin is apparently opposed to any meeting not in Belarus and doesn’t want to sit down in person with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

A report by Channel 12 news, however, says Putin is considering the possibility of talks in Jerusalem.

Neither network cites a source regarding the Russian leader’s purported thoughts on the prospect of negotiations in the Israeli capital.

Separately, Kan quotes Western sources saying Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s mediation efforts have not had any practical impact, and reports that Ukraine sees the Israeli premier as one of several intermediaries through which to relay messages to Russia.

Shaked: Lapid a ‘partner’ in decision to set quota of 25,000 non-Jewish Ukrainian refugees

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked says Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was a “partner” in the decision to cap the number of non-Jewish Ukrainians allowed to stay in Israel amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In an interview with Channel 13 news, Shaked insists determining immigration policy is under her “clear authority” and says the responsibility is on her.

Pressed further on Lapid’s role, Shaked says the two formulated the policy she announced Tuesday together.

“We built this proposal together,” she says.

Under the new plan, 20,000 Ukrainians not eligible to immigrate who were already in the country will be allowed to stay, as well as 5,000 who have fled the war.

Meanwhile, hundreds protest in Tel Aviv against the government’s policies on Ukrainian refugees.

Ukrainian embassy appeals to High Court against Shaked’s refugee policies — report

Ukraine’s embassy in Israel has appealed to the High Court of Justice against Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s policies on Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion, Channel 12 news reports.

Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk hired Israeli law firm Tomer Warsha to file the suit, which charges that appeals by Ukrainians denied entry to the country went “ignored.”

“As arrival in Israel and boarding a flight will be conditional on obtaining prior approval and as the quota of the non-Jewish Ukrainians allowed to enter Israel will most likely be filled up by the time the new policy goes into effect the embassy sees that this new policy violates the Commission Relating to the Status of Refugees,” a letter from the law firm is quoted as saying.

Shaked announced Tuesday that 20,000 Ukrainians who had been in Israel before the outbreak of hostilities, and an additional 5,000 who fled the fighting, will be allowed to remain in the country.

The letter says the policy violates bilateral visa agreements between Jerusalem and Kyiv and that the embassy was turning to the courts “due to the exhausted diplomatic possibilities.”

Warsha himself also tells Channel 12 that Shaked is not authorized to impose the limit without the issue being discussed by the government and/or the Knesset, and that he’s confident the court will “restore good order.”

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at a conference in Jerusalem, on March 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 )

Shaked said Saturday night that the 5,000 cap has almost been reached.

Former Supreme Court judge Eliezer Goldberg, who was later ombudsman, dies at 91

Former Supreme Court judge Eliezer Goldberg, who later served as State Comptroller, has died at age 91, Hebrew media reports.

Goldberg most recently headed the Senior Appointments Advisory Committee, also known as the Goldberg Committee, which vets nominees for top posts such as IDF chief of staff and Bank of Israel governor.

Ukraine urges more sanctions if ‘sham’ referendum held in Russian-held city of Kherson

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba calls for further sanctions on Russia if it goes through with alleged plans to hold a “sham” referendum in the captured city of Kherson.

“Following 2014 playbook, Russians now desperately try to organize a sham ‘referendum’ for a fake ‘people’s republic’ in Kherson. Given zero popular support, it will be fully staged,” Kuleba writes on Twitter.

He adds: “Severe sanctions against Russia must follow if they proceed. Kherson is & will always be Ukraine.”

Biden to authorize a further $200 million in aid for Ukraine, including weapons

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden is authorizing the State Department to provide additional aid to Ukraine of up to $200 million.

The funds would cover weapons as well as military services, education, and training as Ukrainians seek to repel a Russian invasion.

The aid is part of broader US support in the form of aid and sanctions. When Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that $1 billion in aid had been provided to Ukraine.

The ongoing warfare has led to additional support with Congress this week approving $13.6 billion in additional aid, a sum that includes $6.5 billion for the costs of sending troops and weapons to Eastern Europe and $6.8 billion for refugees and economic aid.

Biden plans to sign the spending bill with the additional aid when he receives it next week.

Wealthy Russians said seeking shelter from Western sanctions in Israeli property

Wealthy Russians are looking to invest in Israeli property as they seek shelter from Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, The Times of London reports.

According to the British newspaper, which cites estate agents and tax lawyers, there has been a marked uptick in inquiries from Russian buyers about beachfront properties and plots in Tel Aviv.

The report attributes the interest in Israeli property to the country’s 10-year tax exemption and tax-reporting exemption for new immigrants, and what it says is an agreement between Israel and Russia against carrying out assassinations in each other’s territory.

According to the Times, the areas with the most interest are the upscale suburb of Herzliya Pituach and Tel Aviv’s Neve Tzedek neighborhood, where the report notes sanctioned Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich owns property.

Protest held outside Shaked’s home over Israel’s policy on Ukrainian refugees

A protest is held outside Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s home in Tel Aviv against the government’s policies on Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.

A sign at the protest reads: “A Jew doesn’t expel a refugee.”

The Ynet news site puts turnout in the dozens.

Ukraine releases video of drone strike on Russian missile launcher

Ukraine’s defense ministry releases a video showing a strike by a Turkish-made drone Bayraktar on what it says is a Russian rocket launcher.

 

Zelensky says Russia now taking ‘fundamentally different approach’ in talks with Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says that Russia, which invaded his country on February 24, has adopted a “fundamentally different approach” in talks to end the conflict.

In a media briefing, Zelensky says that the approach was in contrast to earlier talks at which Moscow only “issued ultimatums,” and that he was “happy to have a signal from Russia” after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he saw “some positive shifts” in their dialogue.

US paying $2 million a month to protect Pompeo, ex-aide from Iranian threats

WASHINGTON — The US State Department says it’s paying more than $2 million per month to provide 24-hour security to former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and a former top aide, both of whom face “serious and credible” threats from Iran.

The department told Congress in a report that the cost of protecting Pompeo and former Iran envoy Brian Hook between August 2021 and February 2022 amounted to $13.1 million. The report, dated February 14 and marked “sensitive but unclassified,” was obtained today by The Associated Press.

Pompeo and Hook led the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, and the report says US intelligence assesses that the threats to them have remained constant since they left government and could intensify.

The threats have persisted even as US President Joe Biden’s administration has been engaged in indirect negotiations with Iran over a US return to a landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

As a former secretary of state, Pompeo was automatically given 180 days of protection by the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security after leaving office. But that protection has been repeatedly extended in 60-day increments by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken due to “a serious and credible threat from a foreign power or agent of a foreign power arising from duties performed by former Secretary Pompeo while employed by the department,” the report said.

Hook, who along with Pompeo was often the public face of the Trump administration’s imposition of crippling sanctions against Iran, was granted the special protection by Blinken for the same reason as Pompeo immediately after he left government service. That has also been repeatedly renewed in 60-day increments.

The latest 60-day extensions will expire soon and the State Department, in conjunction with the Director of National Intelligence, must determine by March 16 if the protection should be extended again, according to the report.

The report was prepared because the special protection budget will run out in June and require a new infusion of money if extensions are deemed necessary.

Roman Abramovich’s superyacht spotted in NATO member Montenegro

TIVAT, Montenegro — Roman Abramovich’s superyacht Solaris has been spotted in the small Adriatic Sea state of Montenegro.

The 55-year-old Abramovich is among several wealthy Russians sanctioned by Britain over their close links to the Kremlin following Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

The 533-foot Solaris was seen today outside the Porto Montenegro marina in the coastal town of Tivat. Montenegrin Vijesti daily reports it has arrived from Barcelona.

There is no immediate comment from the Montenegrin authorities on the arrival of the $600-million vessel. The NATO country has joined Western sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Russian oligarchs in the past days have sought to move their superyachts to safe locations to avoid confiscation because of the sanctions. Authorities in Italy, France, and other countries have impounded several luxury vessels.

Russian metals and petroleum magnate Roman Abramovich is believed to have bought or built at least seven of the world’s largest yachts, some of which he has since sold off to other oligarchs.

France says Macron, Germany’s Scholz asked Putin to end siege of Mariupol

PARIS — France and Germany urged Russia’s Vladimir Putin to end a deadly days-long siege of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, the French presidency says.

After a three-way phone call today with the Russian leader and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office also accuses Putin of “lies” for alleging that Ukrainian forces had committed human rights abuses.

Zelensky: Around 1,300 Ukrainian troops killed since start of Russian invasion

KYIV, Ukraine — “Around 1,300″ Ukrainian troops have been killed since Russia invaded its pro-Western neighbor, the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky says on Saturday as Moscow’s forces closed in on the capital Kyiv.

Zelensky makes the disclosure at a media briefing, the first time Kyiv has given such a toll since the beginning of fighting. On March 2, Russia said it had lost nearly 500 soldiers, but has not updated the figure since.

Zelensky also says it will take Russia to carpet-bomb the Ukrainian capital and kill its residents to take the city.

He adds that “if that is their goal, let them come.”

Zelensky says that “if they carry out carpet bombings and wipe off the historic memory of the entire region, the history of Kyivan Rus, the history of Europe, they could enter Kyiv.”

Russia said planning pseudo-referendum in captured Ukrainian city of Kherson

Russian forces are planning to hold a pseudo-referendum in Kherson to declare it a breakaway “people’s republic,” the deputy head of the captured Ukrainian city’s regional council writes on Facebook.

На Херсонщині готують референдум щодо створення ХНР. Окупанти телефонують депутатам Херсонської Обласної ради з…

Posted by Sergey Khlan on Saturday, March 12, 2022

Israeli envoy to Kyiv on proposed Jerusalem talks: Israel ‘must agree’ if it can contribute

Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine says Jerusalem is open to Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky’s proposal that it host ceasefire talks between Kyiv and Moscow.

“The idea to hold a summit in Jerusalem has also been raised before. If it can contribute, I think we, of course, must agree and take the idea forward,” Ambassador Michael Brodsky tells Channel 12 news. “The question is not really where but what. If we get to the ‘what,’ then of course there can be a meeting in Jerusalem.”

“There can be a meeting anywhere, but Jerusalem has symbolic significance, and I think President Zelensky is referring precisely to that significance,” he adds.

Significant to both sides, he’s asked. Yes, he says.

UN says 579 civilians killed in Ukraine since Russian invasion began

GENEVA — The UN human rights office says at least 579 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since the start of the war, and more than 1,000 have been injured.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says that 42 of those killed were children, while 54 were injured.

The Geneva-based office has documented 564 civilian deaths and 982 injured a day earlier.

It says most recorded civilian casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a “wide impact area,” such as shelling from heavy artillery and missile strikes.

UN officials say they believe the actual number of casualties is considerably higher than so far recorded because the receipt of information has been delayed and many reports still need to be corroborated.

Zelensky says he suggested to Bennett that Jerusalem host Ukraine-Russia talks

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he proposed to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that Jerusalem host ceasefire talks between Kyiv and Moscow following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian leader tells media he believes Israel could provide security guarantees for his country, and says he hopes Bennett would have a positive influence on negotiations.

Pro-Putin Bosnian Serbs hold small rally in support of Russian invasion of Ukraine

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia — A few dozen Bosnian Serb nationalists demonstrate in the northwestern Bosnian town of Banja Luka in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Participants wave Russian flags and describe Russia’s decision to invade its much smaller neighbor as a legitimate “battle to liberate [Ukraine’s] subjugated people.”

“Russia is not at war with Ukraine, it is at war with the dark Euro-Atlantic forces that want to dominate the world and destroy it,” says Zdravko Mocevic, one of over 100 people, mostly men, who joined the rally.

The gathering was organized by Bosnian Serb members of the Night Wolves, a Russian motorcycle club that staunchly supports Putin and, by extension, also his Balkan protege, Bosnian Serb secessionist leader Milorad Dodik who was recently slapped with US sanctions for alleged corruption.

Political power in multi-ethnic Bosnia is shared between Bosniak, Croat, and Serb ethnic communities. Dodik currently serves as the Serb member of the country’s tripartite presidency. Despite Dodik’s vocal opposition, Bosnia joined a historic vote earlier this month in the UN General Assembly denouncing Russia for invading Ukraine.

Amid Russian sanctions demands, European powers warn not ‘to exploit’ Iran nuke talks

PARIS — Britain, France, and Germany warn against moves to “exploit” the Iran nuclear negotiations — a tacit warning to Russia which is accused of delaying an agreement to gain leverage in its invasion of Ukraine.

Negotiators in Vienna said yesterday they had halted talks despite having almost sealed a deal to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to contain Iran’s nuclear activities.

The setback 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.

“Nobody should seek to exploit JCPOA negotiations to obtain assurances that are separate to the JCPOA,” says a statement from the spokespersons for the British, French and German foreign ministries — the three European parties to the negotiations.

“This risks the collapse of the deal, depriving the Iranian people of sanctions lifting and the international community of the assurance needed on Iran’s nuclear program,” they add.

UN says negotiating for aid corridors in Ukraine

The UN’s crisis coordinator for Ukraine says the global body is seeking agreement with both sides in the conflict to establish corridors for delivering much-needed aid.

Amin Awad tells The Associated Press on Saturday that progress is being made on the corridors and accompanying ceasefires but expressed frustration over resistance to quickly implement them.

He says the most pressing humanitarian needs are in Mariupol, a besieged city on the eastern edge of Ukraine near the Russian border that would be one of the most difficult for aid convoys to reach.

Several attempts to establish evacuation routes from Mariupol have failed.

Awad says overall as many as 12 million Ukrainians may need aid.

Premier League bans Roman Abramovich from running Chelsea

The Premier League is banning Roman Abramovich from running Chelsea after the club owner was sanctioned by the British government over Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The league board’s decision Saturday to disqualify the Russian oligarch from being a director ends his 19 years in control of the west London club but does not directly affect the players.

“Following the imposition of sanctions by the UK Government, the Premier League board has disqualified Roman Abramovich as a director of Chelsea Football Club,” a Premier League statement said on Saturday.

“The board’s decision does not impact on the club’s ability to train and play its fixtures, as set out under the terms of a license issued by the government which expires on 31 May 2022,” the league said.

Abramovich, a Russian-Israeli oligarch, was one of seven more oligarchs sanctioned this week by the UK following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The European champions have been placed under tough restrictions due to the sanctions on Abramovich.

The team is able to continue operating under the terms of a license issued by the British government when it froze Abramovich’s assets on Thursday while imposing sanctions.

Abramovich has owned Chelsea since 2003.

Ukraine says third Russian general killed in fighting

A Ukrainian official says that another Russian general has been killed in the fighting.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, says Saturday that Russian Maj. Gen. Andrei Kolesnikov was killed in action during the fighting over Mariupol. He would be the third Russian general to die in the war, according to Ukrainian officials.

Kolesnikov’s death wasn’t confirmed by the Russian military, which has kept a tight lid on information about its losses.

Previously, unofficial Russian sources confirmed the death of one Russian general.

The death of Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, the commanding general of the Russian 7th Airborne Division, was confirmed by his colleague and the officers’ association in southern Russia. The death of another general, Maj. Gen. Vitaly Gerasimov, wasn’t confirmed by any Russian sources.

Ukraine military says Russian troops capture outskirts of Mariupol

Ukraine’s military says Russian forces have captured the eastern outskirts of the besieged city of Mariupol.

In a Facebook update Saturday, the military said the capture of Mariupol and Severodonetsk in the east were a priority for Russian forces. Mariupol has been under siege for over a week, with no electricity, gas, or water.

Repeated efforts to evacuate people from the city of 430,000 have fallen apart as humanitarian convoys come under shelling.

Zelensky urges release of abducted mayor, says Russian army suffers ‘great losses’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russia’s military is suffering “great losses” in its war on Ukraine and called to urgently release the mayor of Melitopol, who was allegedly abducted Friday by Russian forces.

“The Russian troops are suffering great losses. We could even now talk about the greatest blow to the Russian troops in tens of years,” Zelensky says in his latest video address.

The Ukrainian president also calls on the leaders of France, Germany, Israel and other countries to help secure the release of Ivan Fedorov, who Kyiv says was abducted by invading Russian forces. Melitopol, a town in southern Ukraine halfway between Mariupol and Kherson, was captured by the Russian military on February 26.

“During the night and today we are talking to our partners about the situation with our mayor. Our demand is clear: he must be released immediately… I have already phoned (German) Chancellor Olaf Scholz. I have spoken to (French) President Emmanuel Macron… I will speak to all the necessary people to get our people released,” Zelensky says in a video released by the Ukrainian presidency.

“We appeal to all world leaders who speak to Moscow – France, Germany, Israel, and others,” he says.

“We expect world leaders to show us how they can influence the situation,” Zelensky adds.

According to the Ukrainian parliament, the mayor was arrested while at the city’s crisis center tackling supply issues.

Zelensky says 2,000 Ukrainians demonstrated in Melitopol on Saturday against the Russian invasion and to demand the release of their mayor.

“Do you hear, Moscow? If 2,000 people demonstrate in Melitopol against the occupation, how many are there in Moscow against the war?” he says in his video.

Before the Russian invasion began on 24 February, Melitopol had a population of just over 150,000.

France’s Macron, Germany’s Scholz hold new talks with Putin

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are holding new talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the war in Ukraine on Saturday, the Elysee palace says.

The three leaders spoke by telephone on Thursday when both Macron and Scholz had “demanded an immediate ceasefire by Russia,” the French palace said.

Since meeting Putin in the Kremlin on February 7, Macron has had nine phone calls with the Russian leader, his office said.

Russia threatens to target Western arms supplies to Ukraine

Russia says its troops could target supplies of Western weapons in Ukraine, where the Russian army has been advancing since late February.

“We warned the United States that the orchestrated pumping of weapons from a number of countries is not just a dangerous move, it is a move that turns these convoys into legitimate targets,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov says on state television.

He said Moscow had warned “about the consequences of the thoughtless transfer to Ukraine of weapons like man-portable air defense systems, anti-tank missile systems and so on.”

Ryabkov says Washington had not taken Moscow’s warnings seriously and added that Russia and the US were not holding any “negotiation processes” on Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops into Ukraine on February 24.

Moscow has been hit by a barrage of international sanctions since Putin sent in troops.

In captured city of Melitopol, residents protest Russian abduction of mayor

Residents of the captured Ukrainian city of Melitopol, the country’s southeast, are said to be protesting the alleged abduction on Friday of the town’s mayor.

Videos circulating on social media show a large demonstration in front of city hall, with protestors demanding the release of Ivan Fedorov, who was abducted by Russian troops, according to Ukrainian officials.

A video clip shared Friday by Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a senior official in Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, showed a person said to be Fedorov being whisked away by a group of armed soldiers.

According to Ukraine’s parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada, the Russian forces put a plastic bag on Fedorov’s head when they abducted him.

“He refused to cooperate with the enemy,” it wrote on Twitter. “The Ukrainian flag stood in the mayor’s office.”

Russian forces captured the southern port city of Melitopol, with a population of 150,000, on February 26.

Berlin working with allies to airlift Ukrainian refugees, says German FM

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock says Germany is working with allies to airlift people who have fled Ukraine to countries farther away as neighboring nations struggle to cope with all new arrivals.

Baerbock said Saturday that Moldova, a nation of 2.5 million on the border with Ukraine, has taken in 100,000 people — almost as many as Germany, which has a population over 30 times bigger.

Speaking in Chisinau alongside her Moldovan counterpart, she said Germany had “only taken over a small share of the responsibility” so far and praised the poor Eastern European nation for its efforts to help refugees.

Baerbock said the European Union is setting up a “green corridor” to bring people by bus through Romania to other EU nations, but also working with partners to help fly their citizens who have fled Ukraine back home and “in particular also to fly Ukrainians for example across the Atlantic.”

She urged allies to show solidarity toward those affected by the war and accused Russia of spreading “ever more crazy propaganda that now doesn’t even shrink from threats to use weapons of mass destruction.”

Bennett didn’t push Zelensky to accept Putin offer, says adviser to Ukraine premier

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Israel did not push the premier to accept an offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin — said to have included significant concessions — to end the Russian war on Ukraine.

Mikhail Podolyak tweets Saturday that Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett did not urge Ukraine to agree to the Russian demands, as reported Friday by two Hebrew-language outlets.

Bennett, Podolyak writes, “just as other conditional intermediary countries, does NOT offer Ukraine to agree to any demands of the Russian Federation. This is impossible for military & political reasons.”

Podolyak says that, instead, Israel has urged Russia “to assess the events more adequately.”

The reports in Walla and Haaretz Friday did not specify the details of Putin’s offer as reportedly conveyed by Bennett, but previous reports from Walla said that Putin is demanding an independent Donbas region, but 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.

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

The prime minister’s office denied the reports.

Israel has long had good relations with both Ukraine and Russia, and has been seeking to use its position to broker an agreement, as it also tries to walk a tightrope maintaining its ties to both countries. But its relationship with Kyiv has strained as Bennett has avoided directly blaming Russia for the war, although Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has done so.

Bennett traveled to Moscow last Saturday to meet with Putin.

Ukraine deputy PM says several humanitarian corridors to open

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says she is hoping several humanitarian corridors would operate Saturday for thousands of civilians in cities under Russian siege, including Mariupol which has suffered from sustained shelling.

Vereshchuk says some 13 such corridors are set to operate.

“Today, a convoy with humanitarian cargo and buses for the evacuation of people (…) is departing from the city of Zaporizhzhia to the city of Mariupol, Donetsk Region, through the following populated localities: Zaporizhzhia, Melitopol, Vasylivka, Berdyansk, Mangush, Mariupol, with mandatory mine sweeping along the entire route,” she says in a video address cited by CNN.

“I hope that the day will go well, all the planned routes will be open and Russia will fulfill its obligations to guarantee the ceasefire regime,” she adds.

Repeated evacuation efforts failed this week amid reports that Russia targets the humanitarian corridors.

On Tuesday, some 60 buses in two convoys were able to evacuate civilians out of Sumy, 350 kilometers (220 miles) east of Kyiv, Kyrylo Timoshenko of the Ukraine president’s office told local media.

Ukraine says mosque housing civilians shelled by Russians in Mariupol

A mosque in the southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, where 80 civilians were taking shelter, has been shelled by Russian forces, says Ukraine’s foreign ministry.

“The mosque of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and his wife Roxolana (Hurrem Sultan) in Mariupol was shelled by Russian invaders. More than 80 adults and children are hiding there from the shelling, including citizens of Turkey,” the ministry writes on its Twitter account.

The Ukrainian Embassy in Turkey said a group of 86 Turkish nationals, including 34 children, are among those sheltering in the mosque

An embassy spokeswoman, citing information from the city mayor, said they had taken shelter in the mosque along with others seeking refuge from the Russian attack on the encircled port on the Sea of Azov.

She says, “There are really big communication problems in Mariupol and there’s no opportunity to reach them.”

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been trapped in Mariupol for more than a week with no food, water, heat, or power amid freezing temperatures. Efforts to establish a cease-fire to let them leave have repeatedly broken down.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Friday that Turkey has evacuated nearly 14,000 of its citizens from Ukraine.

Russia space agency demands end to sanctions, says ISS under threat

Russia’s space agency has sent NASA and other international partners a letter demanding an end to sanctions, saying they could threaten the International Space Station (ISS).

In a tweet Saturday, the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said the letter appealed to the space agencies of the United States, Canada, and Europe to keep the space station operational.

He illustrated the appeal with a map showing the flight path of the ISS — and a potential fall zone that straddles much of the world but barely touches upon Russia.

Four NASA astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts, and one European astronaut are currently on the space station

Ammunition depot at airbase near Kyiv on fire after Russian missile strike

Ukrainian authorities say an ammunition depot at a large airbase near Kyiv is on fire after being struck by Russian missiles.

The Kyiv Independent says six Russian missiles struck a local military airfield at about 7 am Saturday in the city of Vasylkiv, some 36 kilometers south of the capital.

Kyiv regional police aired footage of a large plume of heavy smoke it said was from the attack.

Earlier, the news agency reported that an oil depot in Vasylkiv was struck, and another was hit in the village of Kryachky, southwest of Kyiv.

Russia says over 3,000 Ukrainian military infrastructure facilities destroyed so far

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov says troops have destroyed some 3,491 Ukrainian military infrastructure facilities in Ukraine so far, Reuters reports citing local news agencies.

Russian forces “continue the offensive in Ukraine on a broad front,” Konashenkov is quoted as saying.

Italian authorities seize Russian oligarch’s $578 million mega yacht

Italian authorities have seized a $578 million mega yacht belonging to Russian oligarch Andrei Igorevich Melnichenko, CNN reports citing Italian police.

The sailing yacht, ” SY A,” is the largest private sail-assisted motor yacht in the world, according to the Italian government, and was in storage at the northeastern port city of Trieste.

Italy’s financial crimes police said the yacht had been found to be “indirectly attributable, through a company based in Bermuda, to Andrei Melnichenko”.

Melnichenko, a coal and fertilizer magnate, was sanctioned by the EU this week alongside over 100 other Russian figures including lawmakers, oligarchs and their close circles. They are subject to an assets freeze and visa ban.

Italian news outlet Tg La7 posted a short clip it said was from the seizure.

Russian troops about 25 km from Kyiv; other cities under siege, shelling

The majority of Russia’s ground forces were now about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, according to the UK’s latest Defence Intelligence report Saturday.

“Elements of the large Russian column north of Kyiv have dispersed,” the report said. “This is likely to support a Russian attempt to reduce its vulnerability to Ukrainian counter attacks, which have taken a significant toll on Russian forces.”

Elsewhere across Ukraine, the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, and Mariupol are encircled and under heavy Russian shelling, according to the report.

On Friday, new satellite photos showed that the long Russian convoy outside Kyiv appears to have dispersed to surrounding areas.

Satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies showed the 40-mile (64-kilometer) line of vehicles, tanks and artillery has broken up and been redeployed, with armored units seen in towns near the Antonov Airport north of the city. Some of the vehicles have moved into forests, Maxar reports, including howitzers set up near Lub’yanka, north of Kyiv.

The satellite intel came as a US defense official said Russian forces have begun making progress toward the capital, after having appeared to stall for the last week.

The official said that the US expects the Russians to eventually overcome initial logistical challenges to mount a full-scale attack on the city, CNN reported.

Two oil depots near Kyiv on fire after Russian attacks — Ukrainian media

Two oil depots near Kyiv are said to be on fire following Russian attacks overnight Friday-Saturday, including one at a military base close to the capital

One depot was struck in the town of Vasylkiv, the site of a large airbase some 36 kilometers south of the capital, and another was hit in the village of Kryachky, southwest of Kyiv, according to the Kyiv Independent.

According to another Ukrainian outlet, Ukrinform, Russian strikes also targeted an ammunition depot in Vasylkiv.

In Kvitneve, a city northeast of the capital, Russian shelling set a warehouse for frozen food products on fire, according to the report.

Putin said to be conducting internal purge of military generals, intel personnel

Russian President Vladimir Putin is said to be conducting purges of military generals and intelligence personnel, including arrests of FSB (Federal Security Service) officers, according to an analysis by the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, which cited Ukrainian officials and media reports.

The institute says that Ukrainian Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov estimated on Wednesday, March 9, that Putin had replaced at least eight generals “due to their failures in Ukraine” and authorities have detained personnel from the FSB’s 5th Service, which the institute says is responsible for gathering information on the political situation in Ukraine.

According to Ukrainian outlets and a report in an independent Russian outlet, the head of the 5th service, Sergey Beseda, and his deputy Anatoly Bolyukh were under house arrest on Friday.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, launching a military assault that has targeted civilian areas and laying siege to a number of Ukrainian cities by the 17th day of the onslaught. But the invasion has been slowed by an array of failings, including a lack of coordination between air and ground forces and an inability to fully dominate Ukraine’s skies.

Russia is also said to have sustained many casualties and destroyed equipment and vehicles, as the Ukrainian resistance is reported to have surprised Moscow.

Although a detailed picture of the unfolding war is difficult to acquire, American and European officials and analysts say the Russians started slowly and have since been hobbled by a combination of inadequate planning, flawed tactics, and possibly an erosion of spirit among troops not ready to fight.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Mariupol family makes desperate plea for help in message to teen daughter in Israel

The mother of a 14-year-old girl who came to Israel in September has managed to get a message out saying she and her family are unable to leave their home in the besieged city of Mariupol and their food will run out in two days, making a desperate plea for help.

Mariupol, under siege for 13 days now, has sustained heavy Russian bombing and the population has no electricity, food, water, or communications. Repeated evacuation efforts have been stymied by Russian shelling.

On Tuesday, the Times of Israel reported that Vika Korotkova, who has been sheltering with her husband and younger daughter Sofia in Mariupol, managed to get a message out to her daughter Ksiusha in Jerusalem that the family was still alive.

Ksiusha, 14, came to Israel in September with the Jewish Agency’s Naaleh program for high school students from the former Soviet Union and elsewhere.

That first message was relayed to Christians for Israel, a Netherlands-based organization devoted to bringing Jews to Israel that also operates in Ukraine. It was Christians for Israel that had sponsored Ksiusha’s flight to Israel.

The latest message was delivered directly to Ksiusha and then, via one of her teachers, to Christians for Israel.

Mariupol officials said Friday that 1,582 people had been killed since the siege began.

Ukrainian authorities have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in the port city.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Russians push toward Kyiv, lay siege to other cities

LVIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces appear to make progress from the northeast in their slow fight toward Ukraine’s capital, while tanks and artillery pounded places already under siege with shelling so heavy that residents of one city were unable to bury the growing number of dead.

In past offensives in Syria and Chechnya, Russia’s strategy has been to crush armed resistance with sustained airstrikes and shelling that levels population centers. That kind of assault has cut off the southern port city of Mariupol, and a similar fate could await Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine if the war continues.

In Mariupol, unceasing barrages into the city have thwarted repeated attempts to bring in food and water and evacuate trapped civilians. On Friday, an Associated Press photographer captured the moment when a tank appeared to fire directly on an apartment building, enveloping one side in a billowing orange fireball.

A deadly strike on a maternity hospital there this week sparked international outrage and war-crime allegations.

Mariupol’s death toll has passed 1,500 in 12 days of attack, the mayor’s office said. Shelling forced crews to stop digging trenches for mass graves, so the “dead aren’t even being buried,” the mayor said.

Invading Russian forces have struggled far more than expected against determined Ukrainian fighters.

But Russia’s stronger military threatens to grind down Ukrainian forces, despite an ongoing flow of weapons and other assistance from the West for Ukraine’s westward-looking, democratically elected government.

The conflict has already sent 2.5 million people fleeing the country.

Ukraine says Russian shelling damaged cancer hospital

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials accuse Russia of damaging a cancer hospital and several residential buildings in the southern city of Mykolaiv with shelling from heavy artillery.

The hospital’s head doctor, Maksim Beznosenko, says several hundred patients were in the hospital during the attack but that no one was killed. The assault damaged the building and blew out windows.

Russian forces have stepped up their attacks on Mykolaiv, located 470 kilometers (292 miles) south of Kyiv, in an attempt to encircle the city.

Ukrainian and Western officials earlier accused Russia of shelling a maternity hospital in the southern city of Mariupol on Wednesday. Three people died in that attack.

Air raid sirens heard in cities across Ukraine

Air raid sirens are heard across large swathes of Ukraine, including the major cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa and Lviv, according to local reports cited by Reuters.

US hedge funds said to freeze assets of Roman Abramovich following British sanctions

Several hedge funds in the United States have been instructed to freeze assets that Roman Abramovich has invested with them after the Russian-Jewish billionaire was hit with British sanctions amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Large explosions reportedly heard in Kyiv

Large explosions are heard in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, according to reporters for CNN and Fox News.

Fox’s Trey Yingst describes it as the “heaviest shelling” of Ukraine since Russia invaded.

It is not clear if Russia or Ukraine is behind the blasts.

Portugese rabbi said nabbed in inquiry into how Roman Abramovich got citizenship

A top rabbi in Portugal’s second-largest city has been detained amid an inquiry into how Roman Abramovich, the Russian Jewish oligarch sanctioned this week in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, obtained Portuguese citizenship last year.

Rabbi Daniel Litvak of the Jewish Community of Porto, an organization representing Jews in that city, was arrested yesterday as he was preparing to depart for Israel, according to the Portuguese news organization Publico.

Multiple Portuguese agencies have been investigating whether Abramovich’s citizenship was properly awarded under Portugal’s 2013 law allowing naturalization for descendants of Sephardic Jews. The law represented an attempt to atone for the Inquisition, a campaign of religious persecution in Spain and Portugal in the 16th century that forced tens of thousands of Jews to emigrate, hide their Jewish identity or denounce it altogether.

Abramovich’s citizenship — which gave him a European Union passport for the first time — raised questions because most Russian Jews are Ashkenazi and do not have Sephardic roots. But Litvak said in January that he was certain an investigation would show that his organization had assessed Abramovich’s application as it would anyone else’s.

The Jewish Community of Porto doesn’t immediately reply to a query by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about Litvak’s detainment.

Publico reports that investigators are examining whether “influence peddling, active corruption, forgery of documents, money laundering” and other crimes played a role in how Porto awarded citizenship. Portuguese criminal investigators conducted additional raids, the news organization reports.

The inquiry into how the Jewish Community of Porto awarded citizenship to Sephardic Jews began well before Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine last month.

But the war has intensified scrutiny of Abramovich and other people tied to Putin. On Thursday, the United Kingdom, where he lives and owns the Chelsea soccer club, placed him under sanctions for the first time.

Ukraine says cancer hospital in Mykolaiv struck by Russian shelling

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials accuse Russia of damaging a cancer hospital and several residential buildings in the southern city of Mykolaiv with shelling from heavy artillery.

The hospital’s head doctor, Maksim Beznosenko, says several hundred patients were in the hospital during the attack but that no one was killed. The assault damaged the building and blew out windows.

Russian forces have stepped up their attacks on Mykolaiv, located 470 kilometers (292 miles) south of Kyiv, in an attempt to encircle the city.

Ukrainian and Western officials earlier accused Russia of shelling a maternity hospital in the southern city of Mariupol on Wednesday. Three people died in that attack.

US says no sign Belarusian forces are fighting alongside Russia in Ukraine

WASHINGTON — The United States has not seen evidence that troops from close Russian ally Belarus are in Ukraine, the Pentagon says.

“We haven’t seen any indications that Belarusian troops or forces have moved inside Ukraine,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby tells reporters.

“We’re not tracking any imminent involvement by Belarusian forces,” Kirby says. “That’s not to say that it couldn’t happen or that it wouldn’t happen.”

The Pentagon spokesman says the United States has noted comments by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that his country’s forces would “come to the defense of the rear of Russian forces should they be attacked.”

“That’s the first time that he’s ever said anything about Belarus perhaps getting involved,” Kirby says, but there are “no indications at this time that they have or that that’s in the offing.”

A senior US defense official said earlier that Russian forces have launched more than 80 missiles into Ukraine from Belarus.

That represents about 10 percent of the more than 800 Russian missiles fired into Ukraine since the invasion began, the official said.

Russian troops have fired nearly 400 missiles from inside Ukraine while just under half have been fired from Russia, the official said.

Russian troops said bringing ‘chem-bio suits’ to Ukraine amid attack warnings

A senior US official tells ABC News that some Russian forces are bringing protective “chem-bio suits” with them to Ukraine, as the United States warns Moscow may be planning a so-called false flag attack on which to blame Kyiv.

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