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Russia said to request military aid from China ahead of new round of negotiations

Red Cross warns residents of besieged city of Mariupol face ‘extreme or total shortages of basic necessities’; Kyiv confirms video-conference talks to be held with Moscow on Monday

  • The flags of Ukraine and Russia that were projected onto the walls of Jerusalem's Old City for a short time, March 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
    The flags of Ukraine and Russia that were projected onto the walls of Jerusalem's Old City for a short time, March 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
  • People attend a pro-Ukraine protest rally in Berlin, Germany, March 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
    People attend a pro-Ukraine protest rally in Berlin, Germany, March 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
  • A Ukrainian serviceman guards his position in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)
    A Ukrainian serviceman guards his position in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)
  • Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visits the Siret crossing on Romania's border with Ukraine, March 13, 2022. (Government Press Office)
    Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visits the Siret crossing on Romania's border with Ukraine, March 13, 2022. (Government Press Office)
  • Evacuees walk on a makshift pathway to cross a river next to a destroyed bridge as they flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 13, 2022. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)
    Evacuees walk on a makshift pathway to cross a river next to a destroyed bridge as they flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 13, 2022. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)
  • Russian police officers detain a man during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Manezhnaya Square in central Moscow on March 13, 2022. (AFP)
    Russian police officers detain a man during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Manezhnaya Square in central Moscow on March 13, 2022. (AFP)
  • A woman leaves Kyiv's Mykhailo Golden-Domes Cathedral after a memorial service for Ukrainians who died in the Russian invasion, held by Epiphanius, primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, on March 13, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)
    A woman leaves Kyiv's Mykhailo Golden-Domes Cathedral after a memorial service for Ukrainians who died in the Russian invasion, held by Epiphanius, primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, on March 13, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)
  • Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă in Bucharest, March 13, 2022 (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)
    Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă in Bucharest, March 13, 2022 (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)
  • Ukrainian servicemen carry rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles as they walk towards the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 13, 2022. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)
    Ukrainian servicemen carry rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles as they walk towards the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 13, 2022. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)
  • People walk to take further transportation after crossing the Ukrainian border into Poland in Medyka, on March 13, 2022. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP)
    People walk to take further transportation after crossing the Ukrainian border into Poland in Medyka, on March 13, 2022. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP)

The Times of Israel is liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.

Journalist slain in Ukraine was working on refugee documentary for Time

Video documentary maker Brent Renaud, 50, was working for Time Studios on a project about global refugee issues when he shot and killed in Ukraine, the media outlet says.

“We are devastated by the loss of Brent Renaud,” Time editor in chief Edward Felsenthal says in a statement.

“Our hearts are with all of Brent’s loved ones. It is essential that journalists are able to safely cover this ongoing invasion and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine,” he adds.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky calling his killing “a deliberate attack by the Russian military.”

“They knew what they were doing,” Zelensky says.

Chinese official says he has no knowledge of reported Russian aid request

A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in the US says he has no information about a reported request from Russia for Beijing to provide military aid.

“I’ve never heard of that,” Liu Pengyu says in a statement to CNN.

“The high priority now is to prevent the tense situation from escalating or even getting out of control. … China calls for exercising utmost restraint and preventing a massive humanitarian crisis,” he’s quoted adding.

Earlier, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told the station that the US had concerns over any support China gives Russia. He said a move by Beijing to help Moscow evade sanctions will carry “consequences.”

“We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing, that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them,” Sullivan said. “We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country, anywhere in the world.”

Death toll in Mariupol crosses 2,000 as humanitarian convoy forced to turn back

A fire burns at an apartment building after it was hit by the shelling of a residential district in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A fire burns at an apartment building after it was hit by the shelling of a residential district in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

A total of 2,187 residents have now died in days of relentless Russian bombardment on Mariupol, the city council says.

A humanitarian column headed there had to turn back again, a city official tells AFP, after the Russians “did not stop firing.”

“The enemy is holding the city hostage by performing real acts of genocide,” says Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov.

Zelensky has accused Moscow of both blocking and attacking humanitarian convoys, although he said earlier today that another 125,000 people have been evacuated that way across Ukraine.

“Russians are bombing the city even during official negotiations,” Reznikov says. “They have no dignity, no honor, no mercy.”

Zelensky says without Ukraine no-fly zone, ‘Russian rockets will fall’ on NATO soil

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to reporters in Kyiv, March 12, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to reporters in Kyiv, March 12, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urges NATO to impose a no-fly zone over his country or see its member states attacked by Russia.

“If you don’t close our sky, it is only a matter of time before Russian rockets fall on your territory, on NATO territory,” Zelensky says in a video address released shortly after midnight.

He speaks a day after 35 people were killed and more than 130 injured when Russian troops launched air strikes on a military training ground outside Ukraine’s western city of Lviv, near the border with NATO member Poland.

Obama tests positive for COVID, encourages vaccines

File: Former President Barack Obama speaks at a rally as he campaigns for Joe Biden, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, at Turner Field in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
File: Former President Barack Obama speaks at a rally as he campaigns for Joe Biden, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, at Turner Field in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Barack Obama tests positive for a mild case of COVID-19, the former US president says on his Twitter account.

“I’ve had a scratchy throat for a couple days, but am feeling fine otherwise,” Obama tweets, adding that his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, has so far tested negative.

“Michelle and I are grateful to be vaccinated and boosted,” he writes. 

Obama reiterated his support for the COVID vaccine in his tweet, saying his own positive test was “a reminder to get vaccinated if you haven’t already, even as cases go down.”

Russia said to ask China for military equipment to help with invasion of Ukraine

Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) and Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to their talks in Beijing, China, on February 4, 2022. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) and Russian President Vladimir Putin prior to their talks in Beijing, China, on February 4, 2022. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russia has requested military equipment from China since launching its invasion of Ukraine, US officials tell the Financial Times.

According to the report, the request raised concern in the White House that China could undercut Western efforts to back Ukraine militarily.

The newspaper says the officials would not specify what kind of military equipment Russia asked for.

Zelensky confirms Ukraine, Russia to hold video-conference talks on Monday

KYIV, Ukraine – Video-conference talks will take place Monday between Ukraine and Russia, Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and part of the negotiating team, says this evening.

His statement, on Twitter, confirms an earlier statement by Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for the Russian presidency.

Red Cross warns of ‘extreme or total shortages’ of basic goods in besieged city of Mariupol

A Ukrainian soldier in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 12, 2022. (AP/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A Ukrainian soldier in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 12, 2022. (AP/Evgeniy Maloletka)

GENEVA — The Red Cross is warning of a “worst-case scenario” for hundreds of thousands of civilians in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, unless the parties agree to ensure their safety and access to humanitarian aid.

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, said in a statement Sunday that residents of Mariupol “have endured a weeks-long life-and-death nightmare.”

The Geneva-based humanitarian agency said hundreds of thousands of people in the city are “facing extreme or total shortages of basic necessities, like food, water, and medicine.”

“Dead bodies, of civilians and combatants, remain trapped under the rubble or lying in the open where they fell,” the ICRC added. “Life-changing injuries and chronic, debilitating conditions cannot be treated. The human suffering is simply immense.”

The Red Cross called on the parties to agree on the terms of a cease-fire, routes for safe passage, and to ensure the deal is respected. It offered to act as a neutral intermediary in negotiations.

Jerusalem Old City lit up with flags of Ukraine, Russia; city says happy to host ceasefire talks

The flags of Ukraine and Russia that were projected onto the walls of Jerusalem's Old City for a short time, March 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
The flags of Ukraine and Russia that were projected onto the walls of Jerusalem's Old City for a short time, March 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

The Jerusalem Municipality lights up the Old City’s walls with the flags of Ukraine and Russia, saying it would be happy to host ceasefire talks between the countries.

Between the flags is written, “He who makes peace in the heavens,” a biblical verse that is cited in the Kaddish.

“Jerusalem, the State of Israel’s capital, is a city of peace and coexistence. We are in favor of an end to the fighting and the sides reaching understandings,” the municipality says. “We would be happy to answer the request of the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, and host the diplomatic dialogue between the two countries here in Jerusalem.”

Private plane reportedly owned by Abramovich arrives in Israel from Moscow

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

A private plane said to be owned by Russian-Jewish billionaire Roman Abramovich has arrived from Moscow at Ben Gurion Airport, according to flight tracking sites.

It is not clear if Abramovich is aboard.

Abramovich, who holds Israeli citizenship, has been sanctioned by several countries, following Russia’s invasion over his ties to the Kremlin.

Bennett praises Shaked’s new refugee policy: Israel must ‘extend a hand and be a refuge’

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked at the first government conference, at the Israeli parliament, on June 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett with Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked at the first government conference, at the Israeli parliament, on June 13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett praises the announcement by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, the No. 2 in his Yamina party, that Israel will allow in Ukrainian refugees who are not eligible for citizenship if they have relatives in the country.

“The mission of the State of Israel is to be a safe home for all Jews in distress,” Bennett writes on Twitter.

But citing current events, Bennett says Israel must “extend a hand and be a refuge — even if temporarily — to people who fled the war and have relatives here in Israel, who can support them at this difficult time.”

UN says at least 596 civilians killed in Ukraine since Russia invaded

A woman walks past building damaged by shelling, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Marienko)
A woman walks past building damaged by shelling, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Marienko)

GENEVA — The UN human rights office says at least 596 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since the start of the war, and at least 1,067 have been injured.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says today that 43 of those killed were children, while 57 were injured.

The Geneva-based office had documented 579 civilian deaths and 1,002 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 has so far been recorded because the receipt of information has been delayed and many reports still need to be corroborated.

Iraq summons Iranian ambassador to protest missile strike on Erbil

A damaged mansion is shown following an overnight Iranian missile attack in Erbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on March 13, 2022. (Safin Hamed/AFP)
A damaged mansion is shown following an overnight Iranian missile attack in Erbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on March 13, 2022. (Safin Hamed/AFP)

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s foreign ministry summons the ambassador of its ally Iran to protest over a missile attack earlier today on the northern city of Erbil.

Denouncing a “flagrant violation of (Iraqi) sovereignty,” it summons the ambassador, Iraj Masjidi, to “convey the government’s protests over the missile strikes” that had caused “material losses” and “damage to civilian installations and houses.”

Diaspora minister criticizes Shaked’s new Ukrainian refugee policy: ‘Still problematic’

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai attends the Jewish People's Lobby, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on November 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai attends the Jewish People's Lobby, at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on November 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai slams Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s new refugee policy, under which any Ukrainian national with a relative in Israel can enter the country.

Until now, Shaked had agreed to accept 5,000 Ukrainian refugees in Israel, permitting them to enter on tourist visas, meaning they would not be able to work in Israel, study in Israeli schools, or receive healthcare. Facing public criticism, Shaked today agreed to allow in any Ukrainian refugee with a family member in Israel, without limit.

“No other country has imposed limits on refugees. This framework is still problematic, and we are again restricting the arrival of refugees and making a distinction between those who have family in Israel and those who do not,” Shai says.

“As I have said again and again in recent days, Israel must take a broader and more active role in the humanitarian effort to rescue Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war. This is the ethical and human act which we must carry out,” he says.

Shai says he intends to raise the prospect of forming a ministerial committee to consider reforming Israel’s refugee policy in tomorrow’s cabinet meeting.

Ukrainian FM said to snub Lapid’s request for phone call

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks in Copenhagen, Denmark, on January 27, 2022. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP)
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks in Copenhagen, Denmark, on January 27, 2022. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is being snubbed by his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, according to a pair of Hebrew media reports.

The Haaretz daily and Walla news site say Lapid sought to speak with Kuleba last week, but was told the Ukrainian foreign minister was busy. Lapid has not heard back since.

Both reports noted that the two have not spoken for over three months. Walla quoted an unnamed Ukrainian official saying that was one of the reasons Kuleba had not gotten back to Lapid, and also because Israel’s top diplomat phoned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, but not him, in the weeks leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lapid also reportedly did not respond to an invitation to visit Kyiv, which was relayed by Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova, when she visited Israel last month.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid hosts Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova in Jerusalem, February 13, 2022 (via Twitter)

“Israel maintains continuous contact with the government of Ukraine and Foreign Minister Lapid more than once condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We will continue to help Ukraine as much as possible,” Lapid’s office says in response.

Over 800 detained at rallies across Russia against Ukraine invasion, says monitor

Russian police officers detain a man during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Manezhnaya square in central Moscow on March 13, 2022. (AFP)
Russian police officers detain a man during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Manezhnaya square in central Moscow on March 13, 2022. (AFP)

MOSCOW — Russian police detained more than 800 people for protesting Moscow’s “military operation” in Ukraine today, as the conflict continues for a third week.

OVD-Info, which monitors arrests during protests, says police have detained 817 people during demonstrations in 37 cities in Russia.

An AFP journalist reporting from a protest in the capital Moscow witnessed at least a dozen arrests and says police were taking away anybody without press papers.

A young woman was shouting “peace to the world” as she was taken away by two policemen, the journalist says.

Some of the riot police had the letter “Z” in the colors of the Russian flag on their helmets, the AFP reporter says.

The letter, seen on Russian tanks and vehicles in Ukraine, has become a symbol of support for what Moscow calls its “special military operation.”

Law enforcement in Moscow say this evening that they detained around 300 people in the capital’s center for breaches of public order.

In Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, AFP saw multiple arrests, including a protester being dragged across the ground.

The city’s central Nevsky Avenue was closed off by police, with a dozen police vans parked along the road.

According to AFP, several journalists were detained.

Last weekend, police arrested more than 5,000 protesters across Russia.

Protesters risk fines and possible prison sentences by taking to the streets.

OVD-Info says that 14,804 people have been detained at rallies across the country to protest Russian military incursion in Ukraine, which was launched on February 24.

Pro-Putin supporters hold rally in Serbia’s Belgrade

BELGRADE, Serbia — Dozens of cars drive through the Serbian capital of Belgrade in support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The occupants wave Russian and Serbian flags, honk horns, and chant pro-Putin slogans. Some cars have the letter Z painted on them — a symbol of support for the Russian president.

The protest was organized by a small far-right group.

Serbia has refused to join international sanctions against its ally Russia, despite formally seeking EU membership and voting in favor of the UN resolution condemning Moscow’s aggression.

Serbia’s dominant state-controlled media are daily carrying Moscow’s war propaganda, creating a strong pro-Putin mood among Serbia’s ultranationalists and far-right groups.

Shaked says Ukrainian refugees with relatives in Israel to be exempt from entry cap

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

Amid calls to allow in more non-Jewish refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked announces that Ukrainians who are not eligible for citizenship but who are relatives of Israelis will be allowed to stay in the country without being counted as part of a cap setting how many can remain.

“We’re opening our gates, but not to an unlimited amount,” she says during a press conference at Ben Gurion. “Ultimately the main challenge for the Israeli government and State of Israel is to absorb the masses of new immigrants arriving here, and also those fleeing the battles.

Following Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s call earlier today for Israel to allow in more non-Jewish refugees, Shaked says the two are on the same page.

“Just five minutes ago, we spoke on the phone. Everything is coordinated with him,” she says.

US State Department denounces ‘outrageous’ Iranian missile attack on Iraq’s Erbil

A damaged building after an overnight attack in Erbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, March 13, 2022. (Photo by SAFIN HAMED / AFP)
A damaged building after an overnight attack in Erbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, March 13, 2022. (Photo by SAFIN HAMED / AFP)

The US State Department releases a statement denouncing a missile strike claimed by Iran that struck Iraq’s northern city of Erbil.

“The strikes were an outrageous violation of Iraq’s sovereignty. No US facilities were damaged or personnel injured, and we have no indications the attack was directed at the United States,” the statement says.

It adds: “Iran must immediately cease its attacks, respect Iraqi sovereignty, and halt its interference in Iraq’s internal affairs. The United States stands with our Iraqi partners, including in the Kurdistan Region, and will help our partners in the region defend themselves.”

Croatian defense minister says Soviet-made drone that crashed carried a bomb

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 — A military drone that apparently flew all the way from the Ukrainian war zone over three European NATO-member states before crashing in an urban zone of the Croatian capital was armed with an explosive device, Croatia’s defense minister says.

The Soviet-made aircraft crossed Romania and Hungary before entering Croatia, slamming into a field near a student dormitory late Thursday. About 40 parked cars were damaged in the large explosion, but no one was injured.

“Traces of explosives and clues suggesting that this was not a reconnaissance aircraft were found. We found parts of an air bomb,” Croatian Defense Minister Mario Banozic says at the crash site.

He says that this further raises a question about whether the drone belonged to Russia or Ukraine.

“There are elements that indicated it could have come from both,” he says.

Air crash investigators have pulled most of the drone’s remaining parts from a large crater it created on impact, including a partly damaged black box that should reveal the drone’s flight path.

Croatian officials have criticized NATO for what they called a slow reaction to a very serious incident and called into question the readiness of the military alliance’s member states to respond to a possible attack.

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

“If this situation had been detected and resolved in time in neighboring countries, we would not be here today,” Banozic says.

“We will seek answers to what happened. The defense ministers of Romania and Hungary said that day they were evaluating what happened. We are waiting for an answer,” he says.

Croatian investigators identified the unmanned aircraft that crashed in Zagreb as a Soviet-era Tu-141 that was used for reconnaissance missions in both countries in the 1980s.

Protests against Russian invasion of Ukraine held in cities across Germany

A protester displays a placard featuring a caricature of Russian President Vladimir Putin as Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler during a demonstration against Russia's invasion of the Ukraine, on March 13, 2022, in Berlin. (John MacDougall/AFP)
A protester displays a placard featuring a caricature of Russian President Vladimir Putin as Nazi German leader Adolf Hitler during a demonstration against Russia's invasion of the Ukraine, on March 13, 2022, in Berlin. (John MacDougall/AFP)

FRANKFURT, Germany — Tens of thousands of demonstrators take to the streets in cities across Germany today to call for peace and protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, police and organizers say.

A sea of people carrying yellow and blue signs that reads “Stop Putin” and “Stop the War” mass at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, with police estimating turnout in the capital at between 20,000 and 30,000.

In Frankfurt, around 11,000 people gather in solidarity with Ukrainians, according to a police spokesman, who said the rallies proceeded “peacefully and without incident.”

Demonstrators there wave Ukrainian and European Union flags and chant “Stoppt den Krieg” (Stop the war), a reporter at the scene says.

Colorful marches also take place in Stuttgart, Leipzig and Hamburg, drawing in young and old, including families with children.

The demonstrations were organized by an alliance of more than 40 rights organizations, campaign groups, unions and church groups.

The organizers put turnout nationwide at around 125,000 people.

In a written appeal, organizers condemned the “increasingly brutal” attacks against civilians in Ukraine, and praised the courage of Russians protesting against Moscow’s actions.

“Together, we call on Putin to immediately stop the attacks, withdraw from Ukraine and restore the nation’s territorial integrity,” the letter says.

The turnout in Berlin today was smaller than the 100,000-strong crowd that attended a Ukraine solidarity march in the capital two weeks ago, three days after Russia launched its invasion.

Russia claims strike near Polish border killed ‘up to 180 foreign mercenaries’

Screen capture from video allegedly showing the Yavoriv military range in Ukraine, near the border with Poland, that was hit in a Russian missile strike, March 13, 2022. (Twitter)
Screen capture from video allegedly showing the Yavoriv military range in Ukraine, near the border with Poland, that was hit in a Russian missile strike, March 13, 2022. (Twitter)

MOSCOW — Russia says that an airstrike it carried out in Ukraine, near the Polish border, killed foreign citizens who had joined Kyiv’s army in its fight against Russia.

“As a result of the strike, up to 180 foreign mercenaries and a large cache of foreign weapons were destroyed,” Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov says, a statement that cannot be independently verified by AFP.

Netanyahu rails at ‘desperate rush’ to restore Iran nuke deal

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on March 7, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a video statement addressed to “every American family,” opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu rails at “the desperate rush” to restore the Iran nuclear deal.

Netanyahu notes the missiles fired overnight by Iran that struck near the US consulate in Iraq’s Erbil, which the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps claimed was targeting an Israeli “strategic center.”

“And the US continues to charge ahead along with the other powers to sign a nuclear agreement that will give the ayatollahs a nuclear arsenal. It will also relieve sanctions and give the ayatollahs hundreds of billions of dollars to continue the terror that they waged yesterday and wage everyday,” he says.

The former prime minister charges that a restored deal “is even worse than its predecessor,” saying it will leave Iran a nuclear-threshold state in three years in terms of uranium enrichment capabilities and allow it develop ICBMS that can reach “any place in the United States.”

“That is unbelievable. It’s not merely unacceptable. It endangers not only my country Israel, but your country the United States, and also the entire world,” says Netanyahu, who was an outspoken critic of the original accord when it was signed in 2015.

Ukraine asks to hold rally at Yad Vashem addressed by Zelensky – report

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Facebook, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 10, 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, March 10, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukraine has asked to hold a large rally at the Yad Vashem that would be addressed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Walla news site reports.

According to the report, Ukrainian Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk met today with Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan to request permission for the rally. Citing sources at Yad Vashem, the news site says Dayan was cool to the idea, expressing solidarity with Ukraine but reluctant to hold a political event at Israel’s national Holocaust memorial.

Mariupol reports over 2,100 residents of besieged city killed since Russia invaded

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)

KYIV, Ukraine — More than 2,100 residents of Ukraine’s besieged city of Mariupol have been killed since hostilities began, the local authorities say today.

“As of today, 2,187 Mariupol residents have died from attacks by Russia,” the city council posts on Telegram, raising the toll by almost 1,000 since Wednesday, when it said 1,207 civilians had died in the first nine days of the siege.

Russian negotiator cites ‘progress’ in talks with Ukraine

Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the Russian State Duma's International Affairs Committee speaks to the media after the Russian-Ukrainian talks in the Belavezhskaya Pushcha National Park, close to the Polish-Belarusian border, northward from Brest, in Belarus, March 7, 2022. (Maxim Guchek/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)
Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the Russian State Duma's International Affairs Committee speaks to the media after the Russian-Ukrainian talks in the Belavezhskaya Pushcha National Park, close to the Polish-Belarusian border, northward from Brest, in Belarus, March 7, 2022. (Maxim Guchek/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW — Russia says that negotiators are making headway at talks to resolve fighting in Ukraine, more than two weeks after President Vladimir Putin ordered his army over the borders of its pro-Western neighbor.

Leonid Slutsky, a senior member of Russia’s negotiating team, tells the state-run television network RT that “significant progress” was made following several rounds of talks hosted on the border of neighboring Belarus.

“If we compare the positions of both delegations at the start of the talks and now, we see significant progress,” he tells the network according to Russian news agencies.

“My own expectations are that this progress could develop over the next few days into a unified position held by both delegations in documents to be signed,” agencies cite him as saying.

Negotiators from Moscow and Kyiv have held several rounds of talks since Putin sent in troops to the country. Turkey this week hosted a first meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers.

Earlier today, a senior Ukraine adviser and presidential aide, Mikhailo Podolyak, wrote on Twitter that Russia had stopped issuing “ultimatums” and instead “carefully listens to our positions.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said yesterday that Russia had adopted a “fundamentally different approach” in the talks.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin this week said there had been “some positive shifts” in the dialogue and that negotiations were being held almost daily.

Lapid says Israel has ‘moral duty’ to let in more non-Jewish refugees from Ukraine

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visits the Siret crossing on Romania's border with Ukraine, March 13, 2022. (Government Press Office)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visits the Siret crossing on Romania's border with Ukraine, March 13, 2022. (Government Press Office)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says Israel has a “moral duty” to allow in more non-Jewish refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, amid growing criticism in the government of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s decision to cap the number of those allowed to stay in Israel.

“We won’t close our gates and our hearts to those who lost everything,” he says during a visit to the Siret border crossing on Romania’s border to Ukraine.

“It’s our obligation not only to be good Jews but to be good people,” Lapid adds, in comments that contrast with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s repeated stress that Israel’s “sacred” task is to focus on Jewish refugees. Israel has also capped the number of non-Jewish refugees it will accept at 25,000 — 20,000 of whom were i

“In Israel there are nine millions residents and our Jewish identity won’t be harmed by a few more thousand refugees.”

Lapid calls for Israel to be much “much more generous” about letting in those escaping the war, but says “it’s impossible to allow in refugees without limit. The government will find this balance.”

He also says: “What’s unforgivable and intolerable are the mistakes that were made in dealing with refugees who already arrived in Israel… The pictures of an old woman and her daughter sleeping on the floor at Ben Gurion Airport can’t be repeated.”

In Bucharest, Lapid meets with Jewish refugees from Ukraine before they move to Israel

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visits the Jewish Agency's Aliyah center in Bucharest, Romania, March 13, 2022. (Maxim Dinstein/GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visits the Jewish Agency's Aliyah center in Bucharest, Romania, March 13, 2022. (Maxim Dinstein/GPO)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with Jewish refugees from Ukraine at a Jewish-agency run immigration center in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, ahead of their flight to Israel this evening.

According to a government statement, Lapid heard from the immigrants about “their touching personal stories of fleeing Ukraine” and was briefed by Jewish Agency COO Yehuda Setton on the organization’s efforts to assist refugees looking to move to Israel following the Russian invasion.

Protests against Russian invasion of Ukraine held in Berlin, other cities across Europe

People attend a pro-Ukraine protest rally in Berlin, Germany, March 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
People attend a pro-Ukraine protest rally in Berlin, Germany, March 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

BERLIN — Tens of thousands of people are expected to gather today in cities across Europe to protest against the ongoing war in Ukraine, with small rallies taking place in Russia as well despite a crackdown by authorities against such demonstrations.

Trade unions called a protest in Berlin where sunny weather was expected to boost the turnout. Organizers plan to march from the city’s Alexanderplatz — a large square named after Russian Tsar Alexander I — to a site near the Brandenburg Gate.

Many participants carry flags in the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine, while others carried banners reading “Stop the War” and “Peace and Solidarity for the people in Ukraine.”

Protests are also planned in Warsaw, London, Madrid, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Stuttgart.

In Russia, where protests against the war in Ukraine have typically met with a heavy police response, rights group OVD-Info says more than 200 people have been detained in 23 cities as of early afternoon Moscow time.

Russian police officers detain a man during a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Manezhnaya Square in central Moscow on March 13, 2022. (AFP)

Meanwhile, Ukrainian nationals in Taiwan and supporters staged a march today in Taipei to protest the Russian invasion.

Chief Rabbi Lau: Israel should ‘open the door’ to Ukrainian refugees with ‘no safe harbor’

Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau attends a ceremony of the Israeli police for the Jewish new year at the National Headquarters of the Israel Police in Jerusalem on September 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau attends a ceremony of the Israeli police for the Jewish new year at the National Headquarters of the Israel Police in Jerusalem on September 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau says Israel should accept refugees from Ukraine “that don’t find another country” to stay in amid the Russian invasion.

“Until they can return to their homes,” he tells Kan public radio, “so there won’t be a situation in which a person escapes from the fire, the hostility and has nowhere to go, no safe harbor.”

Lau says granting residency or citizenship to Ukrainians who fled the war “is something else entirely… but first of all, open the door.”

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman urges Israel to accept more refugees from Ukraine who aren’t eligible to immigrate, joining several other ministers who have called for more people fleeing the fighting to be allowed into the country.

“As long as the fighting is going on, [Israel] needs to absorb all those who fled and whose lives are in danger,” he writes on Twitter.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks at a conference of the Israeli newspaper “Makor Rishon” at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, February 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

170 new immigrants from Ukraine arrive in Israel on special flight from Moldova

Illustrative: Ukrainian Jews who fled the Russian invasion are seen at Chisinau International Airport in Moldova as they make their way to Israel, March 6, 2022. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative: Ukrainian Jews who fled the Russian invasion are seen at Chisinau International Airport in Moldova as they make their way to Israel, March 6, 2022. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Some 170 new immigrants from Ukraine land in Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry says.

The 170 Ukrainian refugees flew in a special flight from Kishinev in Moldova. They are beginning their immigration process at the airport before moving to hotel rooms, where they will remain until they find longer-term housing, the ministry says.

US national security adviser: Vladimir Putin is frustrated, lashing out

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan tells CNN the deadly missile strike in western Ukraine this morning shows that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is frustrated by the fact that his forces are not making the kind of progress that he thought that they would make.

“That he is expanding the number of targets, that he is lashing out and that he is trying to cause damage in every part of the country.”

Russian troops said to kill US journalist near Kyiv

An American journalist has been killed by Russian gunfire in Irpin, outside the capital Kyiv, according to regional police.

A second reporter who was with him was injured and rushed to a hospital.

Reports indicate the two were in a car when Russian troops opened fire at them.

Report: Shin Bet chief visited DC, warned of Ramadan flare-up with Palestinians

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar returns from Washington, DC, where he met with FBI Director Christopher Wray and discussed various security challenges, Ynet reports.

According to the website, Bar warned of the possibility of a flare-up with the Palestinians during the month of Ramadan, in April.

The Muslim holy month and the Jewish holiday of Passover overlap this year, and security officials fear tensions in Jerusalem could escalate as worshipers from both faiths flood the city.

Ronen Bar, the new Shin Bet chief, leaves his home in Rishpon on October 11, 2021. (Flash90)

Moroccan carrier launches Israel flights after COVID delay

Royal Air Maroc took off from Morocco’s economic capital Casablanca bound for Tel Aviv earlier, in the carrier’s first direct flight to the Jewish state since the two countries normalized ties in 2020.

Aviation sources and local media sources say a Moroccan business delegation is on the inaugural flight, delayed by three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Casablanca/Tel Aviv for 400 euros ($440). Who would have believed it?” tweets David Govrin, head of Israel’s liaison office in the Arab state.

The Moroccan carrier RAM is to fly four times a week between Casablanca and Tel Aviv. Israeli airlines launched flights to Morocco’s Marrakesh last July, although they were suspended in late November because of coronavirus travel curbs.

Morocco is counting on 200,000 visitors from Israel, many of whose 700,000-strong Jewish community of Moroccan origins have retained close cultural links.

Illustrative: A Royal Air Maroc airliner (CC BY-SA Styyx/Wikimedia Commons)

Moscow accused of phosporous gas attacks in Donbas

A senior Ukrainian police officer has accused Russian forces of launching phosphorous bomb attacks in the eastern region of Luhansk.

International law prohibits the use of white phosphorous shells in heavily populated civilian areas, but allows them in open spaces to be used as cover for troops.

Oleksi Biloshytsky, head of police in Popasna, around 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Lugansk city, says Russian forces used the chemical weapon in his area.

“It’s what the Nazis called a ‘flaming onion’ and that’s what the Russcists (amalgamation of ‘Russians’ and ‘fascists’) are dropping on our towns. Indescribable suffering and fires,” he writes on Facebook.

It is not immediately possible to verify the comments.

Bus hits store in Tel Aviv; 2 passengers lightly hurt

A bus driver lost control of his vehicle in Tel Aviv and hit a storefront a short time ago.

The accident occurred on Ahad Ha’am Street. Two passengers were lightly hurt.

Pope Francis says ‘massacre’ in Ukraine must stop

Pope Francis issues a heartfelt plea for an end to the “massacre” and the “unacceptable armed attack” in Ukraine, which Russia invaded last month.

Speaking after his weekly Angelus prayers Sunday, he condemns the “barbarity” of killing children and civilians, adding: “In the name of God… stop this massacre.”

Pope Francis speaks from the window of the apostolic palace during the weekly Angelus prayer on March 13, 2022 in The Vatican (Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

Report: Iran suspends talks with Saudis after mass execution

Iran has decided to temporarily suspend its secret Baghdad-brokered talks aimed at defusing yearslong tensions with regional rival Saudi Arabia, Iranian state-linked media reports, a day after Saudi Arabia carried out the largest known mass execution in its modern history.

The Iranian news website Nournews, considered close to the country’s Supreme National Security Council, reports the government unilaterally paused the talks with Saudi Arabia that have been ongoing in Baghdad over the past year aimed at restoring diplomatic ties.

The report does not give a reason for Iran’s suspension, but it comes after Saudi Arabia put to death 81 people convicted of crimes ranging from killings to ties to militant groups, a group that activists believe included over three dozen Shiites.

Shiites, who live primarily in the kingdom’s oil-rich east, have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens. Saudi Arabia’s executions of Shiites have stirred regional unrest in the past.

Iran, the largest Shiite Muslim country in the world, and Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties in 2016 after Saudi Arabia executed prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Liberman: Israel needs to allow in Ukrainian refugees who come here

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman says Israel must allow Ukrainian refugees arriving at its border to enter.

“So long as the cannons are booming, we must accept all those fleeing whose lives are in danger,” he tells Walla news.

“When the fire stops we need to stop accepting refugees, but at the moment there is mortal danger, people are coming from all sorts of places where battles are taking place… There is no danger they will settle here for work purposes,” he says.

“We need to allow in those who come.”

But Liberman also says “the self-criticism here went a bit overboard,” in an apparent reference to the treatment of some refugees who were held up for days at the airport.

He says that “when there is a war thousands of kilometers from here and people come suddenly and without warning, there are some errors.”

Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, January 31, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ukraine says Russian troops abduct another mayor in country’s south

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says Russian forces have kidnapped a second Ukrainian mayor — of Dniprorudne, a southern town located near Melitopol.

“Today, Russian war criminals abducted another democratically elected Ukrainian mayor, head of Dniprorudne Yevhen Matveyev,” Kuleba tweets.

“Getting zero local support, invaders turn to terror. I call on all states & international organizations to stop Russian terror against Ukraine and democracy.”

Lapid, Romanian PM conclude meeting on situation in Ukraine

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid concludes a meeting with the prime minister of Romania, Nicolae Ciucă.

The meeting dealt with the situation in Ukraine and its impact on Romania. The two discussed the situation of refugees at the border and Israel and Romania’s humanitarian aid.

Lapid thanks Ciucă for Romania’s assistance and close cooperation with Israel’s Foreign Ministry during the emergency situation.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă in Bucharest, March 13, 2022 (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO)

35 killed in airstrikes on military base near Lviv, governor says

The death toll from the strikes on the military training base in Yavoriv, near Lviv in western Ukraine, has risen to 35, the regional governor says.

Iran claims it targeted ‘strategic Zionist center’ in Iraq missile strike

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards take responsibility for the missile attack on the US consulate complex in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil early this morning.

A “strategic center for conspiracy and mischiefs of the Zionists was targeted by powerful precision missiles,” says a statement on the Guards’ official website.

It warns that any future attacks by Israel “will face harsh, decisive & destructive responses.”

Iranian state media agency IRNA, citing local reports, earlier claimed without evidence that “secret Israeli bases” were targeted in the attack.

The attack caused some material damage but no casualties.

The attack comes several days after Syrian state media reported a strike it blamed on Israel near Damascus. The reports said the airstrike killed two members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Iran’s foreign ministry strongly condemned the attack and vowed revenge.

A picture taken on March 13, 2022, shows a view of a damaged building after an overnight attack in Irbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region (SAFIN HAMED / AFP)

Bus full of Ukrainian refugees overturns in Italy; 1 dead

A bus lies on its side after overturning near Forli, Italy, Sunday, March 13, 2022 (Vigili del Fuoco via AP)
A bus lies on its side after overturning near Forli, Italy, Sunday, March 13, 2022 (Vigili del Fuoco via AP)

A bus carrying about 50 Ukrainian refugees overturns on a major highway in northern Italy, killing one person, Italian firefighters say.

Italian state radio says there were several injured in the accident on the A14 autostrada near Forli, a town in the Emilia-Romagna region in northeastern Italy. It says the rest of those aboard were safely evacuated.

Italy’s Interior Ministry says the bus had set out from Ukraine and was heading south to Pescara, an Adriatic port city, when it overturned. The passengers were taken to a nearby police barracks for initial assistance, and will later resume their journey, the ministry says.

Some 35,000 Ukrainians refugees who fled war in their homeland have entered Italy, most of them through its northeastern border with Slovenia.

Elderly couple killed in fire at their Galilee home

An elderly couple has been killed in a fire at their home in the Galilee.

The blaze erupted in the couple’s home in Yarka. The cause is not currently clear.

The two, in their 80s, were extracted from the home after inhaling smoke. They were declared dead at the scene.

FM Lapid: ‘No justification’ for Russian invasion of Ukraine, stop the attacks

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says “there is no justification” for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We urge Russia to cease fire and attacks and solve the problems at the negotiating table.”

He speaks while meeting with Romanian counterpart Bogdan Aurescu in Bucharest.

Lapid adds that Israel will do all it can to help mediate a peaceful resolution “to this violent tragedy.”

UK invites Britons to open homes to Ukrainians

Stung by criticism of its lackluster approach to refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UK unveils a new plan to allow them to stay with Britons for up to three years.

The “Homes for Ukraine” program will allow “tens of thousands” to gain access to work, healthcare and education, even without family ties to Britain, cabinet secretary Michael Gove says.

The government wants to try to ensure that “every available home” is opened up “to those who are fleeing persecution,” he tells Sky News. “There are a large number of people in this country, generous-hearted and in a position to provide homes, and businesses and charities as well,” adds Gove, whose portfolio includes housing.

Hosts will be given £350 ($457) a month and must commit to a minimum stay of six months.

Ukraine says foreign instructors working at Lviv military base attacked by Russia

Foreign instructors work at the military base that was struck by Russian missiles close to Lviv, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Polish border, the Ukrainian defense minister says.

Russia “has attacked the International Center for Peacekeeping & Security near Lviv. Foreign instructors work here,” Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov tweets.

Renikov says “information about the victims is being clarified.”

Ukrainian officials say 9 killed, 57 wounded in missile strikes on military range

Ukrainian officials say nine people were killed and 57 wounded in the morning’s missile strikes on the Yavoriv military site, located 30 kilometers (19 miles) northwest of Lviv.

Israeli expects 600 new ‘olim’ from Ukraine today, highest daily number yet

The Immigration Absorption Ministry says it expects some 600 new Jewish immigrants from Ukraine to arrive today.

This would be the highest number of “olim” in a day since the war in Ukraine began.

Israeli officials have said they expect tens of thousands of immigrants from Ukraine and Russia as a result of the war.

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

New photos purport to show results of Russian strike on Yavoriv, western Ukraine

New photos purport to show the results of the earlier Russian strike on the international training site in Yavoriv, western Ukraine.

Russia installs a new mayor in the Ukrainian city of Melitopol

Russia installs a new mayor in the Ukrainian city of Melitopol, which is under Russian control, after its elected mayor was kidnapped, allegedly by Russian troops.

The city is strategically located between Mariupol and Kherson. The Russians took it over quickly during the invasion and there have been protests since.

The city’s mayor, Ivan Fedorov, was taken away by armed men from a government building on Friday. Russian officials later claimed he had committed terror offenses.

The area’s regional administration says a former member of the city council, Galina Danilchenko, is now the mayor. She was reportedly a member of the opposition on the council.

In a video statement Danilchenko says her main job now is to “take all necessary steps to get the city back to normal.”

Screen capture from video showing Galina Danilchenko, a former city council member in the Ukrainian city of Melitopol who Russia installed as its mayor after reportedly arresting the elected council leader, March 12, 2022. (Twitter)

Minister Horowitz: Russia must withdraw from Ukraine immediately

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, of the left-wing Meretz party, tells Army Radio that “Israel recognizes the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia must withdraw immediately.”

He is one of very few cabinet members to make such comments publicly. Israel has attempted to maintain good relations with both Ukraine and Russia. Though it has condemned Russia’s invasion, including at the UN, it has done so in a very limited manner, and most ministers have avoided criticizing Moscow directly.

Jerusalem’s main concern is believed to be Russia’s control of the skies above Syria, where Israel must operate to tackle Iranian proxy forces.

Horowitz adds that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is the one who started this brutal war. International judicial bodies will decide on whether he is a war criminal.”

Ukraine readies for ‘relentless defense’ of Kyiv

Ukraine is preparing for a “relentless defense” of Kyiv as the capital faces possible encirclement by advancing Russian forces who have also kept up a bombardment of the besieged southern port city of Mariupol.

In a video address posted on social media late Saturday night, President Volodymyr Zelensky said nevertheless the Russians did not have the strength or spirit to conquer Ukraine.

“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. Only on weapons, which they have a lot,” he said.

A passenger walks past a tram in Kyiv, on March 12, 2022 (Aris Messinis / AFP)

Ukraine confirms Russian military fired 8 rockets at military range near Lviv

Ukraine confirms Russian forces carried out an airstrike on a military range near Lviv in western Ukraine, expanding its offensive closer to the border with Poland.

The Russian military fired eight rockets at the Yaroviv military range 30 kilometers northwest of Lviv, the Lviv regional administration says, without offering any details about possible casualties.

The Yaroviv military range, also known as the Yaroviv International Peacekeeping and Security Center, is located 35 kilometers from Ukraine’s border with Poland.

Video said to show blast near airport in western Ukraine

Here is a video purportedly showing an explosion near an airport in the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk.

Explosions heard in Western Ukrainian cities amid apparent missile attack

There are reports of Russian missile strikes on western Ukraine.

Sirens and multiple explosions rocking the city of Lviv. Some reports indicate the target may not be the city, but rather an international military training ground in nearby Yavoriv.

The BBC, citing eyewitnesses, also reports sirens and explosions in the western Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk.

Western Ukraine has until now mostly been spared from fighting. Lviv has become a hub for refugees, journalists and foreign officials in Ukraine.

Russia installs new mayor in Ukrainian city after allegedly kidnapping predecessor

Russia installs a new mayor in the Ukrainian city of Melitopol, which is under Russian control, after its elected mayor was kidnapped, allegedly by Russian troops.

The city is strategically located between Mariupol and Kherson. The Russians took it over quickly during the invasion and there have been protests since.

The city’s mayor, Ivan Fedorov, was taken away by armed men from a government building on Friday. Russian officials later claimed he had committed terror offenses.

The area’s regional administration says a former member of the city council, Galina Danilchenko, is now the mayor.

She says her main job now is to “take all necessary steps to get the city back to normal.”

Ukrainian President Zelensky has appealed to international leaders, including Prime Minister Bennett, for Fedorov’s release.

He said earlier Russia was trying to set up “pseudo-republics” in areas it occupied and said collaborators “would not be forgiven.”

UK offers $455 per month to take in Ukrainian refugees

The UK says it will pay people 350 pounds ($455) per month to take Ukrainian refugees into their homes.

The plan, called “Homes for Ukraine,” will take in refugees who do not have family in the UK.

Participants will need to house refugees in a spare room or property for at least six months.

NATO chief warns Russia may use chemical weapons

NATO’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, says Russia may deploy chemical weapons in Ukraine.

Stoltenberg tells the German news outlet Welt am Sonntag that such a chemical attack would be a war crime.

Russia in recent days has accused the US and Ukraine of developing chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine, claims widely dismissed in the West as baseless propaganda.

“In recent days, we have heard absurd claims about chemical and biological weapons laboratories,” Stoltenberg says.

“We must remain vigilant because it is possible that Russia itself could plan chemical weapons operations under this fabrication of lies. That would be a war crime,” he says.

US officials have issued similar warnings in recent days.

US police say woman stabbed her date in revenge for Soleimani killing

A woman stabbed her date whom she had met online in retaliation for the 2020 death of an Iranian military leader killed in an American drone strike, Nevada police say.

Nika Nikoubin, 21, has been charged with attempted murder, battery with a deadly weapon and burglary, KLAS-TV reports.

Nikoubin and the man met online on a dating website, Henderson police write in an arrest report. The pair then agreed to meet at Sunset Station hotel on March 5, renting a room together.

While in the room, the pair began having sex when Nikoubin put a blindfold on the man, police say. Nikoubin then turned off the lights, and several minutes later, the man “felt a pain on the side of his neck,” KLAS reports.

Nikoubin reportedly stabbed the man in the neck “for revenge against US troops for the killing of Qassem Soleimani in 2020,” police write in a report.

This undated photo released by the Henderson Police Department shows suspect Nika Nikoubin, 21. (Henderson Police Department via AP)

US forces killed Soleimani, a top general in Iran’s military, in a drone strike in January 2020. Soleimani headed the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, a terror group responsible for the Islamic Republic’s foreign operations. He gained prominence for advising Shiite paramilitary forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq, before it was defeated in 2017.

After the stabbing, the man pushed Nikoubin off of him and ran out of the room to call 911, police say.

Nikoubin also ran out of the room, telling a hotel employee that she had just stabbed a man, police say.

When talking to police, Nikoubin told an investigator “she wanted revenge,” police say. She said she had listened to a song called “Grave Digger,” which “gave her the motivation… to carry out her revenge.”

The man’s current condition was not available, the Las Vegas Review Journal reports.

Nikoubin is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing March 24, the newspaper says, It’s not clear if she has a lawyer yet.

Air raid sirens blare across Ukraine

Air raid sirens wail in most of Ukraine’s major cities, including the capital Kyiv, and in almost every region of the country.

The sirens go off in Kharkiv, Uman, Odesa, and the western city of Lviv, which has been relatively quiet, among other population centers.

Residents are instructed to find shelter immediately.

UN to hold more meetings this week on Ukraine war

The United Nations will have multiple meetings this week about Russia’s war in Ukraine, though it is unclear if they will lead to the adoption of an official text, diplomats say.

On Monday, the Security Council will discuss the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Polish foreign minister Zbigniew Rau is expected to speak during the session, one of the diplomatic sources tells AFP.

Although this is an annual meeting, it will place special focus on the war in Ukraine and will likely see fresh calls for peace.

For two weeks, a French-Mexican draft resolution on humanitarian aid has been debated by some council members. Members originally hoped to vote on the text in early March, but a date for a vote has not yet been set.

On Friday, China’s ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun told AFP he had not yet seen a finalized text.

According to the draft version, obtained by AFP, the council would deplore “the dire humanitarian consequences of the hostilities against Ukraine.”

The body would demand an “immediate cessation of hostilities,” particularly all attacks on civilians.

The text would also require the protection of civilians, including humanitarian personnel and “persons in vulnerable situations” such as children.

The draft is at risk of being vetoed by Russia, which has been rejecting all political texts, according to diplomats — some of whom have suggested the draft be submitted directly to the UN General Assembly.

There is no veto power in the larger forum, but resolutions passed by the assembly are not binding like those passed by the Council.

Zelensky: ‘They are blackmailing local leaders’

Russia is trying to create new “pseudo-republics” in Ukraine to break his country apart, President Volodymyr Zelensky says in his nightly address to the nation.

Zelensky called on Ukraine’s regions, including Kherson, which was captured by Russian forces, not to repeat the experience of Donetsk and Luhansk. Pro-Russian separatists began fighting Ukrainian forces in those eastern regions in 2014.

“The occupiers on the territory of the Kherson region are trying to repeat the sad experience of the formation of pseudo-republics,” Zelensky says. “They are blackmailing local leaders, putting pressure on deputies, looking for someone to bribe.”

City council members in Kherson, a southern city of 290,000, rejected plans for a new pseudo-republic yesterday, Zelensky says.

Russia recognized the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic before invading Ukraine in February. Moscow said it had to protect the separatist regions, and is demanding that Ukraine recognize their independence too.

“Ukraine will stand this test. We need time and strength to break the war machine that has come to our land,” Zelensky says.

He says Ukraine “will not forgive” those who collaborate with Russia.

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