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Hundreds at Mariupol hospital held hostage by Russian forces — local official

Some 20,000 manage to flee city via humanitarian corridors, but hundreds of thousands remain; Zelensky speaks to Canadian parliament, hosts EU leaders

  • Firefighters climb a ladder while working to extinguish a blaze in a destroyed apartment building after a bombing in a residential area in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (AP/Vadim Ghirda)
    Firefighters climb a ladder while working to extinguish a blaze in a destroyed apartment building after a bombing in a residential area in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (AP/Vadim Ghirda)
  • An elderly resident waits to be rescued by Ukrainian firefighters after bombing in an apartment building in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
    An elderly resident waits to be rescued by Ukrainian firefighters after bombing in an apartment building in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
  • A Ukraine soldier inspects the rubble of a destroyed apartment building in Kyiv on March 15, 2022, after strikes on residential areas. (Fadel Senna/AFP)
    A Ukraine soldier inspects the rubble of a destroyed apartment building in Kyiv on March 15, 2022, after strikes on residential areas. (Fadel Senna/AFP)
  • Ukrainian firefighters work in an apartment building after bombing in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
    Ukrainian firefighters work in an apartment building after bombing in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
  • Women cry outside a destroyed apartment building after a bombing in a residential area in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 15, 2022.  (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
    Women cry outside a destroyed apartment building after a bombing in a residential area in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
  • A Ukrainian firefighter helps a man remove belongings from a destroyed building after it was hit by artillery shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, March 14, 2022. (AP/Felipe Dana)
    A Ukrainian firefighter helps a man remove belongings from a destroyed building after it was hit by artillery shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, March 14, 2022. (AP/Felipe Dana)
  • In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Facebook early Tuesday, March 15, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
    In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Facebook early Tuesday, March 15, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
  • Marina Ovsyannikova, a Russian state TV employee, interrupts the evening news broadcast, holding a sign condemning President Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine on March 14, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)
    Marina Ovsyannikova, a Russian state TV employee, interrupts the evening news broadcast, holding a sign condemning President Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine on March 14, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)

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

Russian attempt to push into Kharkiv rebuffed — local official

Ukrainian forces have repelled an attack on Kharkiv by Russian troops, who tried to storm the city from their positions in Piatykhatky, a suburb 15 kilometers (9 miles) to the north, the head of the Kharkiv region says.

The Ukrainian army was able “to push the enemy back beyond its previous position,” Oleh Synehubov says on the messaging app Telegram. He calls it a “shameful defeat.”

There is no information about casualties on either side.

After dark, Russian forces increased their shelling of the eastern city, Ukraine’s second largest. On Tuesday morning, Synehubov had said Russian troops the previous night had fired more than 60 missiles at the historical center of the city.

Second gentleman Emhoff tests positive for COVID — White House

The US second gentleman, Doug Emhoff, has tested positive for Covid-19, but his wife Vice President Kamala Harris tested negative, the White House says.

Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff kiss during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, to light the menorah to celebrate Hanukkah, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP/Susan Walsh)

Harris’ deputy press secretary, Sabrina Singh, says that the “vice president tested negative for COVID-19 and will continue to test.”

President Joe Biden tells the audience at White House event celebrating Women’s History Month that Emhoff “is fine.”

He says Harris chose not to attend “out of an abundance of caution.”


Poland calls for armed NATO ‘peace mission’ to aid Ukraine

Poland is calling for a NATO peace mission “protected by armed forces” to help Ukraine.

“This cannot be an unarmed mission,” Vice Premier Jaroslaw Kaczynski says. “It must seek to provide humanitarian and peaceful aid.”

He makes the call as Polish prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visits Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, along with other European leaders.

On Twitter, Mateusz Morawiecki warns against Europe allowing Ukraine to fall to Russia.

AFP contributed.

20,000 have managed to escape Mariupol — Zelensky aide

A senior Ukrainian official says about 20,000 people have managed to leave the besieged port city of Mariupol.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a deputy head of office of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky says that the evacuees left Mariupol in private vehicles via a humanitarian corridor on Tuesday.

He says that 570 of some 4,000 vehicles that left the city have reached the city of Zaporizhzhia some 260 kilometers (160 miles) northwest while others will spend the night in various towns along the way.

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

Mariupol, a strategic port city of 430,000 on the Sea of Azov, has been besieged by Russian troops for more than 10 days, facing heavy shelling that has killed more than 2,300 people and left residents struggling for food, water, heat and medicine.

UK: Russian offensive bogged down as Putin scrambles for warm bodies to deploy

The UK’s Ministry of Defence says Russia is struggling to find more soldiers to make up for personnel losses on the battlefield and is having trouble advancing its assault..

“Russia is increasingly seeking to generate additional troops to bolster and replace its personnel losses in Ukraine,” the ministry says in a daily intelligence brief. “As a result of these losses it is likely Russia is struggling to conduct offensive operations in the face of sustained Ukrainian resistance.”

According to the brief, Russia has tried to pull soldiers from units stationed in the far east and Armenia, and is also looking for mercenaries from Syria and elsewhere. These soldiers would be used to hold Russia’s gains freeing up Russian regulars to take part in the offensive.

Settlers put up illegal outpost in UNESCO heritage area in West Bank — report

Israeli settlers in the West Bank attempted to set up a new outpost in an area designated as a UNESCO heritage site, Haaretz reports.

The outpost was set up last week near the Palestinian village of Battir, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2014 for its ancient agricultural system.

Palestinian media says residents have already managed to dislodge the settlers from the site.

The village is located next to the Green Line separating Israel and the West Bank.

The land’s private owners requested the removal of the new outpost and said they are unable to access their land, the report says.

The settlers put a trailer on the site for living quarters. It was the fourth time settlers have attempted to establish an outpost in the area, a village administrator tells Haaretz.

Video shows Zelensky meeting European leaders in Kyiv

Video shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meeting foreign leaders in Kyiv.

The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia traveled to Ukraine’s capital in a show of support.

They made the risky trip by train, even as Russian troops edge toward the city.

Russia may believe it needs reinforcements, US says

Russian ground troops have made limited progress over the last 24 hours in their effort to seize major cities in Ukraine, a senior US defense official says.

And as deadly airstrikes continue, the US has seen indications that Russia may believe it needs more troops and supplies than it has on hand in the country, and is considering ways to get resources brought in, says the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss US military assessments.

The official did not elaborate on the indications, and says that as of today, however, there has been no actual movement of reinforcement troops currently in Russia going into Ukraine.

According to the official, Russian ground forces are still about 15-20 kilometers (9-12 miles) northwest of Kyiv and 20-30 kilometers (12-19 miles) east of the city, which is being increasingly hit by long-range strikes. The official said Ukrainian troops continue to put up stiff resistance in Kharkiv and other areas.

Russia has launched more than 950 missiles so far in the war, and both Russia and Ukraine still retain about 90% of their combat power, the official says.

‘Very difficult’ Ukraine-Russia negotiations to continue tomorrow, Kyiv says

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who spoke to Russian negotiators via video link on today and yesterday, described the talks as “very difficult.”

He says that “there are fundamental contradictions,” but adds that “there is certainly room for compromise.”

“We’ll continue tomorrow,” he says.

The talks via video link this week follow three rounds of negotiations in Belarus that have failed to produce any visible progress.

Both Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have voiced cautious optimism but haven’t spelled out any details of talks.

Sierra Club reinstates Israel trips after canceling amid anti-Zionist group pressure

The US environmental nonprofit Sierra Club is reinstating trips to Israel after canceling scheduled visits in response to pressure from anti-Israel groups.

Ross Macfarlane, the Sierra Club’s vice president, phoned Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center to inform him of the decision, the center says.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish advocacy group based in California, was one of the leading voices in a campaign against the Sierra Club decision.

Macfarlane apologized for the sudden cancellations of trips to Israel, said the visits will continue in the future and denounced the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, the Weisenthal Center says.

Cooper says, “We appreciate that the Sierra Club acted quickly to reverse the announced cancellations of trips to Israel which placed the famed American conservation organization directly into the crosshairs of BDS, anti-Israel, and anti-peace zealots.”

“The Jewish community needs to awaken to the fact that extremist anti-Israel and antisemitic organizations will continue to try to insert their anti-peace poison pill into the mainstream of American corporate culture as they have already done on American campuses,” Cooper says.

The Sierra Club is a national US organization based in California. It said it was canceling its trips earlier this week.

The decision came after activists alleged the organization was “greenwashing the conflict” and “providing legitimacy to the Israeli state, which is engaged in apartheid against the Palestinian people,” a volunteer leader with the nonprofit summarized in an email this week.

Video shows Russian tanks hiding in residential neighborhood

A video shows Russian military vehicles hiding in a Ukrainian residential neighborhood.

The video is shared by Emine Dzheppar, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, and said to be from Bucha, near Kyiv.

The clip shows military vehicles tucked into civilian driveways, yards and parked on the street.

Another video circulating online claims to show an explosion destroying a Russian tank on a snowy road.


Survey says Israelis split on receiving non-Jewish Ukrainian refugees

A survey by Israel’s Channel 12 reports mixed attitudes about receiving Ukrainian refugees.

The survey says 25% of Israelis support only allowing in Jewish refugees who qualify for citizenship under the Law of Return; 24% want to keep the cap on refugees who are not eligible for citizenship the government already announced; 24% want to increase the limit; and 13% want unlimited entry for refugees.

The survey says 53% of Israelis want to maintain Israel’s current policy toward the conflict.

Forty-four percent say Bennett should mediate between Ukraine and Russia, and 41% are against it.

Jewish immigrants fleeing the war in Ukraine arrive at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv on March 9, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)

The survey asks respondents about their voting choices in a hypothetical election, an Israeli survey staple, even though no election is on the horizon at the moment.

It finds that, in the 120-seat Knesset, Likud would win 34 seats; Yesh Atid, 17; Shas, 9; Yamina, 7; Blue and White, 7; Labor, 7; Religious Zionism, 7; United Torah Judaism, 7; Yisrael Beytenu, 6; Joint List, 6; Ra’am, 5; Meretz, 4; New Hope, 4.

The current coalition, consisting of some right-wing parties, centrist factions, left-wing parties and the Islamist Ra’am, would win 57 seats.

The opposition faction, including former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and the religious parties, would also win 57. This would leave the balance of power with the Arab-majority Joint List.

The survey was conducted today by the iPanel and Mano Geva. It queried 507 Israelis and has a 4.4% margin of error.

Ukrainian presidential aide says Russia has softened its stance in negotiations

A senior aide to Ukraine’s president says that Russia has softened its stance in the talks over a possible settlement.

Ihor Zhovkva, a deputy chief of staff to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, says that the talks between Russian and Ukrainian representatives have become “more constructive” and Russia has changed tone and stopped airing demands for Ukraine to surrender — something Russia had insisted upon during earlier stages of talks.

Three rounds of talks in Belarus earlier this month have been followed by video calls between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators, including the one on Tuesday.

Zhovkva says that Ukrainian representatives feel “moderately optimistic” after the talks, adding that it would be necessary for Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet to make major progress.

Former Ukraine PM thanks Israel for ‘formally declaring’ support, which it hasn’t

Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in an interview with Israel’s Channel 13, thanks Israel and Prime Minister Bennett for mediation efforts between Ukraine and Russia.

“We thank your country and your prime minister… for putting yourselves forward as peacemakers. I very much want to believe in this. But at the same time, I am certain that Putin will not stop. He will go on to the end. He wants to win, and take military control of Ukraine, but I can tell you that he won’t achieve this. Ukraine will fight so that victory is ours,” Tymoshenko says.

She says, “I thank Israel for formally declaring today that it stands with Ukraine.”

Israel has not yet made such a formal declaration, however. Tymoshenko appears to be referring to comments yesterday from Foreign Minister Lapid, who said Israel “condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and calls for an end to the fighting.”

“There is no justification for violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and there is no justification for attacks on a civilian population,” Lapid said. “Israel will not be a route to bypass sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and other Western countries.”

Bennett has refrained from taking a side in the conflict, however.

Tymoshenko says, “Today is really a turning point. Today your foreign minister said clearly that Israel will not be a country that allows the aggressor state to evade the sanctions. Nobody can stand in opposition [to Ukraine’s cause]. You have to be without a conscience, heartless and soulless, devoid of any human emotion to see what is happening in Ukraine and not to stand with it.”

Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s only female prime minister, quotes Israel’s only female prime minister, Ukraine-born Golda Meir.

“Regarding negotiations, I want to quote Golda Meir, who was your prime minister and was born in Kyiv. She said, ‘If the enemy lays down his weapons, there will be peace. If we lay down our weapons, there’ll be war.’ We will not lay down our weapons. We will continue to fight. We’ll continue to defend our country. And if peace talks can contribute, and stop the bloodshed, we will rejoice. But we will permit any limitations and any compromises that threaten our independence and territorial integrity.”

“I thank you very much [in Israel] for defending Ukraine,” she says.

Tymoshenko currently serves as a Deputy of Ukraine. She had extensive dealings with Russian President Putin while she was prime minister in 2005, and from 2007-2010.

‘No complaints’: US says Jerusalem coordinating Ukraine mediation with Washington

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides says that Israel has been in complete coordination with the Biden administration as it seeks to mediate between Russia and Ukraine.

“All of the communications have been clear. The prime minister has not made a move without talking to the White House, so we have no complaints with the Israelis,” Nides says during an event hosted by Americans for Peace Now.

The remark is consistent with comments made previously by US and Israeli officials on the matter.

Asked whether he supports Israel’s efforts to mediate between the parties, Nides toes the administration’s line.

“The position of the United States has been, ‘God bless,’ if you can gather information, if you can have conversations,” Nides says, “It’s not risk-free. As the prime minister knows, this never was free to get yourself in the middle of these discussions because you’re dealing with a very precarious situation, but we are very happy with the positions of the countries who are engaged in this, including Israel.”

Prime ministers of Poland, Slovenia, Czech Republic arrive in Kyiv

A delegation of European leaders arrives in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, the Ukrainian prime minister says.

The prime ministers of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic arrive by train on behalf of the European Union Council, Denys Shmyhal says.

Senior Israeli source says Russia and Ukraine positions ‘narrowing’ during Bennett’s talks

A senior Israeli source tells Channel 12 that, amid Prime Minister Bennett’s mediation efforts, “there’s a certain narrowing of positions” between Russia and Ukraine.

“The Russians initially demanded the ouster of Zelensky and disarmament [of Ukraine]. That’s no longer their position. And the Ukrainians have also come down from some of their previous [positions],” the unnamed source says.

“Israel did not start meditating in order to convene a summit for the cameras in Jerusalem. That’s not the goal,” the source says.

The source seems to imply that Israel should not join Western sanctions against Russia, despite what is said to be growing pressure to do so, because staying neutral will allow Israel to mediate between the sides.

“If there a way to put an end to the bloodshed, that’s of the highest value,” the source says.

Bennett has been in repeated contact with Zelensky and Putin in recent days, including a lengthy call with the Russian president and a follow-up call with the Ukrainian president yesterday.

Russian forces reportedly take patients and staff hostage at Mariupol hospital

Russian forces reportedly take hundreds hostage at a hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Sergei Orlov, Mariupol’s mayor, tells the BBC that around 400 people at the Regional Intensive Care Hospital are “hostages.”

“We received information that the Russian army captured our biggest hospital,” Orlov says.

The Russians are “using patients and doctors like hostages,” he says.

In a quote shared by the area’s governor, a hospital employee says, “It is impossible to get out of the hospital. There is a heavy shooting, we sit in the basement. Vehicles have not been able to drive to the hospital for two days. High-rise buildings are burning around.”

The Kyiv Independent says the area’s governor also reported the hospital hostage situation. It says the Russians took residents of neighboring homes to the hospital and won’t allow them to leave.

Other reports said patients and staff are among the hostages.

One of the hospital’s employees alerted authorities to the situation, the Pravda news outlet says.

The hospital was hit by a Russian airstrike last week.

White House won’t say if Biden will meet Zelensky, go to Poland next week

The White House declines to say whether US President Joe Biden will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky next week. Biden is traveling to Europe to meet with NATO partners on March 24.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also won’t say if Biden plans to go to Poland during the trip, which was reported by some news outlets.

“We’re still working through the final details of the trip and what it may look like, but I don’t have any more details at this point in time,” Psaki says. “The real focus right now is to meet with NATO partners in Brussels.”

Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps sets up ‘nuclear command center’

Iran’s terrorist Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) sets up a “nuclear command center,” according to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency.

The IRGC intelligence and security branch’s new center will enforce nuclear defense and security, the report says.

The announcement cites Israeli attacks against Iran’s nuclear program and Iranian scientists.

Yesterday, Iran claimed the IRGC had arrested members of a “network” working for Israel that planned to sabotage Iran’s major underground nuclear facility at Fordo.

Abramovich confirmed in Moscow after stop in Israel

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who holds Israeli citizenship, has arrived in Moscow, Reuters reports.

He was seen in a VIP departure lounge at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport last night, then his private plane stopped in Turkey before continuing to Moscow, but until now it wasn’t certain that he was on board.

Reuters says Abramovich is not in Russia to meet with Putin, citing “a source familiar with the matter.”

Abramovich’s superyacht Solaris is off the coast of Greece. It has been dawdling in the eastern Mediterranean for the past few days.

Much of Europe has sanctioned Russian oligarchs and confiscated assets, but Israel has not followed suit.

Biden to visit NATO next week for ‘extraordinary meeting,’ US says

US President Joe Biden will visit NATO headquarters in Brussels next week, the US mission to NATO says.

Biden will meet with the leaders of all NATO allies on March 24, the announcement says.

The White House says Biden will use the trip to the emergency summit to assert Washington’s backing for its allies.

Biden will “reaffirm our iron-clad commitment to our NATO allies,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki says.

Biden will also attend an EU summit in Brussels to discuss the invasion of Ukraine and Western efforts to impose “economic costs on Russia, provide humanitarian support to those affected by the violence and address other challenges,” Psaki says.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says he convened the summit for the military organization’s 30 leaders to discuss the Russian invasion.

The summit “will address the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, our strong support for Ukraine, and further strengthening NATO’s deterrence and defense in response to a new reality for our security.”

“At this critical time, North America and Europe must continue to stand together in NATO,” Stoltenberg says.

He said earlier today that NATO will come up with new strategies and troop deployments due to Russia’s invasion.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, February 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

The US-led NATO military alliance has been a focal point of the war in Ukraine.

Russian President Putin claimed NATO encroachment, and possible Ukraine membership, as a pretense for invasion.

Kyiv has consistently pleaded for help from NATO fending off the Russians.

Ukrainian President Zelensky said today that Ukraine “must recognize” it’s not going to join the alliance.

Russian ambassador to Israel reportedly seeks Knesset meeting ahead of Zelensky talk

Ahead of Ukrainian President Zelensky’s planned address to the Knesset, Russia’s ambassador to Israel seeks an urgent meeting with Knesset Speaker Micky Levy, the Walla news site reports.

Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov is set to meet with Levy tomorrow, the report says.

One official said the goal of the meeting will likely be to protest Zelensky’s speech to Israeli lawmakers.

There are fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin may also request a speech to the Knesset, the report says.

IDF: Suspect arrested after crossing from Israel into Lebanon, then coming back

The Israel Defense Forces says a man crossed from Israel into Lebanon last night, before being arrested when he returned.

The man stayed in Lebanese territory for an hour before coming back to the border fence area, where he was detained by IDF troops, the military says.

He has been taken to the police for further questioning.

It is not immediately clear what the man was doing in Lebanon, and the incident is under investigation.

Russian TV protester emerges from court, says police questioned her for 14 hours

A journalist who protested Russia’s war during a live broadcast of Russian state television emerges from court.

Marina Ovsyannikova says she was fined 30,000 rubles ($280) for an anti-war video she released ahead of the TV protest, and has not yet been sentenced for the TV stunt.

She says police interrogated her for 14 hours after her arrest.

Ovsyannikova, a staffer at Russia’s Channel 1 news, walked into a TV studio yesterday during a live show holding a sign protesting the war in Ukraine.

The sign had “No War” scrawled in English across the top, with a message in Russian saying: “Don’t believe the propaganda. They’re lying to you here.” It was signed in English: “Russians against war.”

Her lawyers were unable to locate her after her arrest, with one saying police were “hiding” her.

Zelensky to Canadian parliament: Imagine the bombing of Ottawa airport

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asks Canadians to imagine bombs landing in their communities as he tells the Canadian Parliament that his people want to live.

Zelensky urges Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canadian lawmakers to help enact a no-fly zone over Ukraine and calls for greater economic pressure on Russia.

“Justin, can you imagine you and your children hearing all these severe explosions, the bombing of the airport, the bombing of the Ottawa airport,” Zelensky says. “Cruise missiles are falling down and your children are asking you, ‘What happened?’”

Speaking by video from Ukraine to a packed Canadian House of Commons chamber, Zelensky says the Russian war is designed to annihilate Ukraine and subjugate its people.

Russian UN resolution expresses ‘grave concern’ for Ukraine, without mentioning war

Russia is circulating a proposed UN Security Council resolution demanding protection for civilians “in vulnerable situations” in Ukraine and safe passage for humanitarian aid and people seeking to leave the country — but it makes no mention of Russia’s responsibility for the war against its smaller neighbor.

The draft resolution released today expresses “grave concern” at the deteriorating humanitarian situation and reports of civilian casualties in and around Ukraine. It endorses UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s call for dialogue and negotiations and calls for a negotiated cease-fire to rapidly evacuate “all civilians,” and underscores “the need for the parties concerned to agree on humanitarian pauses to this end.”

The draft, which never identifies “the parties concerned,” could be put to a vote as early as Wednesday, according to a Russian diplomat who was not authorized to speak publicly because discussions have been private.

A woman walks past a burning apartment building after shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, March 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

The Russian measure was circulated a day after France and Mexico announced that a humanitarian resolution on Ukraine they co-sponsored, which had been discussed for two weeks in the Security Council, was being moved to the 193-member General Assembly for discussion and a vote.

That draft resolution called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and deplored the dire humanitarian consequences of the hostilities in Ukraine, provisions which are not in the proposed Russian resolution. The France-Mexico resolution would almost certainly have led to a Russian veto in the Security Council, but there are no vetoes in the General Assembly.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia tells reporters that his country is prepared to support a humanitarian resolution and after Monday’s announcement by the French and Mexican ambassadors Russia thinks “the chances are still there,” so he was putting forward its “roadmap” and will see whether the council adopts it.

Russia said planning mass deforestation in occupied areas of Ukraine

Russia is planning a mass deforestation campaign in areas of Ukraine it has occupied, Ukraine’s military intelligence says.

The wood created by the mass logging campaign will be sold to fund the Russian military, Ukraine says, according to Ukrainian media.

97 Ukrainian children killed in Russian invasion, Zelensky says

Ninety-seven Ukrainian children have died since the start of Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says in a speech to Canada’s parliament.

“They’ve already killed 97 Ukrainian children,” Zelensky says in the video address, adding that Russia’s military was “destroying everything: memorial complexes, schools, hospitals, housing complexes.”

“We’re not asking for much. We’re asking for justice, for real support, which will help us to prevail, to defend [ourselves], to save lives,” he says, receiving a standing ovation from lawmakers.

NATO again warns that Russia may use chemical weapons in Ukraine

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is concerned that Russia might be trying to create a pretext to use chemical weapons in Ukraine.

Stoltenberg says that Russia’s “absurd claims” about biological labs and chemical weapons in Ukraine are “an absolute lie.”

“This is just another lie. And we are concerned that Moscow could stage a false flag operation, possibly including chemical weapons,” he tells reporters in Brussels.

Stoltenberg says that any use of chemical weapons by Russia would be a violation of international law but he refused to say whether it would be a red line that might draw a military response from NATO.

NATO and US officials have warned several times in recent days about Russia using chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.

Stoltenberg says the 30-nation military alliance is set to radically change its security posture in Europe in the future in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and its military integration with Belarus, create a new security reality on the European continent,” Stoltenberg says.

“We need to reset our military posture for this new reality,” he says.

“On land, this could include substantially more forces in the eastern part of the alliance, at higher readiness, and with more prepositioned equipment,” Stoltenberg says.

In recent years, NATO has deployed a relatively small force of around 5,000 troops to the Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – and Poland on a rotating basis to deter Russia from invading.

Fox News cameraman, Ukrainian journalist killed outside Kyiv

A cameraman for Fox News, Pierre Zakrzewski, has been killed in Ukraine, the network says.

Ukrainian media says local journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova is killed in the same incident.

Zakrzewski’s vehicle was hit by incoming fire yesterday in Horenka, outside Kyiv, Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott says.

His colleague Benjamin Hall was wounded in the incident. He remains hospitalized.

Zakrzewski was a veteran war zone photographer who covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

It’s unclear who fired on their vehicle.

Russia sanctions Biden and Blinken

Russia sanctions US President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The sanctions are not expected to have any practical effect.

The Kremlin sanctions other top US officials and political personalities, including:

  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley
  • Hillary Clinton
  • National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan
  • CIA Director William Burns
  • White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki
  • Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh
  • Hunter Biden
  • USAID Administrator Samantha Power

Zelensky says Ukraine is not joining NATO

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Ukraine should accept that it will not become a member of NATO.

“Ukraine is not a member of NATO. We understand that. We have heard for years that the doors were open, but we also heard that we could not join. It’s a truth and it must be recognized, and I’m glad that our people are starting to realize that and count on themselves and our partners who are helping us,” Zelensky says during a call with to representatives of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force.

Russia used the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO, a US-led military alliance, as a justification for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Russian journalist who protested war during live TV show turns up in court

A woman who protested Russia’s war during a live broadcast of Russian state television turns up in court after disappearing for around 24 hours.

Marina Ovsyannikova walked into a TV studio yesterday holding a sign protesting the war in Ukraine. She was arrested immediately.

Her lawyers were unable to locate her after her arrest, with one saying police were “hiding” her.

Russian authorities have decided to not charge her under a new law against “fake news,” which carried a heavy possible punishment. She will be instead charged with a misdemeanor related to protesting and faces a 10-day jail sentence.

Ovsyannikova’s father is Ukrainian.

She stormed the TV station yesterday while an anchor was speaking during a newscast holding a sign with “No War” scrawled in English across the top, with a message in Russian saying: “Don’t believe the propaganda. They’re lying to you here.” It was signed in English: “Russians against war.”

Within seconds, the news program cut away to another scene.

Russia halts grain exports to some countries to secure food supply

Russia introduces a temporary ban on exports of grain, of which it is a major supplier, to four former Soviet countries to secure domestic supplies and avoid a spike in prices.

“Russia is introducing a temporary ban on the exportation of grains to the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union,” the government’s press service says in a statement.

The EEU is a Moscow-led trade club of ex-Soviet republics, which comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.

The Russian government also says it will stop exports of both “white and raw cane sugar to third countries.”

The restrictions on grain exports expire on June 30 and those on sugar on August 31, the government said, adding that the decision was taken “to protect the domestic food market given the situation of external restrictions.”

Western nations have imposed a spate of sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine that make it difficult to import goods into the country.

For several days, some Russian supermarkets have imposed limits on how much people can buy of several products, including sugar.

Images of empty shelves have circulated on social networks but visits by AFP journalists to a selection of food shops did not find any shortages.

According to Russia’s national statistics agency, Rosstat, the price of sugar jumped by 13 percent over the week of March 5-11.

In countries such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, sugar has largely disappeared from the shelves and its price has doubled.

The Russian restrictions on grain exports include wheat, rye, barley and corn, as well as silage.

Both Russia and Ukraine are major wheat exporters and the conflict has already sent waves through global commodities markets and seen prices for grain climb precipitously.

Ukraine says ceasefire negotiations with Russia restart

A senior Ukrainian negotiator says that talks between Moscow and Kyiv on ending nearly three weeks of fighting in Ukraine have restarted, with both sides having signaled progress.

“Negotiations are ongoing,” a member of the Ukrainian delegation and presidential aide, Mykhailo Podolyak, writes on Twitter, adding that his side would be pushing for a “ceasefire [and] withdrawal of troops from the territory of the country.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that Moscow is pressing its demands for Ukraine to drop its bid to join NATO, take a neutral status and “demilitarize.”

The negotiations are being held via video link.

Officials: More than 2,100 residents killed in Mariupol since Russian invasion

More than 2,100 residents have been killed in the besieged southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol since the Russian invasion, according to the city authorities.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says the situation in Mariupol “remains dire” and that it is not able to deliver aid to the city.

“The bottom line is that hundreds of thousands of people are still suffering,” the ICRC says.

Some 2,000 civilian cars have been able to drive out of Mariupol today along a humanitarian evacuation route, city authorities say.

“As of 14:00 (1200 GMT) it is known that 2,000 cars left Mariupol,” the city council says on Telegram, adding that a further 2,000 vehicles were waiting to leave the city.

The statement does not specify how many people left in the vehicles.

Another 160 cars had left the city yesterday, the council says.

A woman walks past a burning apartment building after shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, March 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

The successful evacuations come after several failed attempts since Russian forces surrounded the port city on the Azov Sea early this month.

Heavy bombardment has left some 400,000 inhabitants with no running water or heating and food running short.

Foreign Ministry: 1,500 applications received from Ukrainian refugees, 800 approved

A Foreign Ministry representative tells the Knesset that over the last two days Israel has received 1,500 applications for residency from Ukrainian refugees and 800 have already been approved.

The applications were made under a new framework approved by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked in which Ukrainian refugees with family members in Israel can enter the country regardless of the quota of refugees set by the country.

“Out of those, 910 applications have been dealt with and 800 approved. Those who were rejected were usually illegal residents,” says Eyal Siso, adding that 30 ministry staffers are dealing solely with the issue.

Amid sanctions, Chelseas ask for soccer game to be played without fans

Chelsea is asking for its FA Cup game against Middlesbrough to be played without a crowd because the government won’t allow it to sell any tickets under the terms of its license to operate after owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned.

Chelsea says it had been in “extensive discussions” with the office of financial sanctions implementations ahead of Saturday’s away game.

“It is important for the competition that the match against Middlesbrough goes ahead,” Chelsea says in a statement, “however it is with extreme reluctance that we are asking the FA board to direct that the game be played behind closed doors for matters of sporting integrity.

“Chelsea FC recognizes that such an outcome would have a huge impact on Middlesbrough and its supporters, as well as our own fans who have already bought the limited number of tickets that were sold before the license was imposed, but we believe this is the fairest way of proceeding in the current circumstances.”

Abramovich’s assets were frozen after he was sanctioned by the British government last week over his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin following the start of the war on Ukraine.

Israeli ‘medical clowns’ helping refugee children on Ukraine border

Among the many efforts by the Israeli government and people to assist Ukrainian refugees is a delegation of “medical clowns.”

While the clowns are used to working in a hospital setting, they are now trying to bring some cheer to refugee children who have crossed the border into Moldova.

“The sadness here is tremendous,” Gad Nevo tells Channel 12.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard unveils unmanned ‘smart submarines’

TEHRAN, Iran  — Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard has added “smart submarines,” unmanned underwater vehicles, to its navy for the first time, state TV reports

The Guard’s navy unveiled the vessels, along with new missiles and speedboats, at a ceremony in Iran’s southern port city of Bandar Abbas.

Its new speedboats can travel at up to 95 knots (about 109 mph) and are able to launch missiles and rockets.

The report also said the Guard’s navy was equipped with new maneuverable missiles with an extended range.

Since 1992, Iran has developed a homegrown defense industry that produces light and heavy weapons ranging from mortars and torpedoes to tanks and submarines.

Zelensky asks European leaders for more weapons, full trade embargo on Russia

LONDON — Ukraine’s president has told northern European leaders that they could “help yourself by helping us,” as he appealed for more weapons to counter Russia’s invasion of his country.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking to leaders of the Joint Expeditionary Force via videolink, says the Ukrainian military is rapidly using up weapons and other hardware that Western nations have shipped to his country.

He also appealed for a full trade embargo on Russia, saying sanctions have not been enough to counter the Russian advance.

“We have to acknowledge Russia as a rogue state and there has to be a trade embargo with Russia,” Zelensky says. “This is something that we need and you need as well, just like the rest of the world, to make sure there is peace in Europe and Ukraine.”

Zelensky also repeated his frustration with NATO over its refusal to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine as he addressed JEF leaders meeting Tuesday in London.

The United Kingdom-led JEF is a grouping of 10 north Atlantic countries designed to react quickly to international crises. It includes NATO members such as Britain and the Baltic states, as well as non-NATO countries such as Sweden and Finland.

Russia says it received guarantees from US on Iran nuclear deal

MOSCOW — Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that Moscow has received guarantees from the US on its ability to trade with Tehran as part of ongoing talks to salvage the Iran nuclear deal.

“We received written guarantees. They are included in the text of the agreement itself on the resumption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program,” Lavrov tells reporters during a press conference with his Iranian counterpart in Moscow.

UK chief rabbi urges ‘full support’ to plan to house Ukraine refugees in homes

UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis is urging the British Jewish community to give “their full support” to a government plan aiming to provide homes in the country to Ukrainian refugees fleeing war.

“Many Jews are alive today because people were prepared to open their borders and their homes to their ancestors when they were fleeing for their lives,” UK Jewish News quotes Mirvis as saying.

“Many more did not survive because not enough did. I urge all who are able to give this scheme their full support,” he says.

Nearly 89,000 Britons have expressed interest in hosting Ukrainian refugees as of Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after the launch of the “Homes for Ukraine” program.

The program enables individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to volunteer accommodation for refugees for a minimum of six months.

It is open to Ukrainian nationals and their immediate family members and will allow them to live and work in the UK for up to three years and access healthcare, benefits and education.

Hosts, who will be given £350 ($457; 418 euros) a month, must submit the names of those they wish to sponsor, with NGOs and charities working to identify those most in need.

The UK has faced criticism over its policy towards those fleeing the violence in Ukraine, with places limited to those who already have family in the country.

AFP contributed to this report

Lapid speaks to Ukraine FM, updates him on mediation, relief efforts

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks to his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kulebo and updates him on Israeli efforts to mediate between Ukraine and Russia.

Lapid says the conversation was “long and positive.”

It comes after reports that Kulebo had rebuffed appeals from Lapid to talk, apparently angry over Israel’s tepid support for Ukraine.

“The Minister thanked Israel for our mediation efforts and our position on the matter of sanctions,” Lapid tweets.

Lapid says he updated Kulebo on the “humanitarian aid that Israel has already sent to Ukraine and on the field hospital we are sending.”

“He also welcomed our policy for absorbing refugees, and we agreed to stay in touch,” Lapid says.

Zelensky to address a recessed Knesset next week

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is slated to address the Israeli parliament via Zoom next week, Hebrew media reports.

Zelensky had asked to address the Knesset last week but was originally rebuffed as the Knesset would be going on recess.

But after an outcry, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy spoke with Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk to reiterate his invitation to Zelensky to address members of the Knesset.

Efforts are underway to ensure that as many MKs as possible will attend the special session next week, even though the Knesset is on recess, Ynet reports.

UN says Ukraine refugee numbers top 3 million

GENEVA — More than three million people have now fled Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24, the United Nations says.

“We have now reached the three-million mark in terms of movement of people out of Ukraine,” Paul Dillon, spokesman for the UN’s International Organization for Migration, tells reporters in Geneva.

BBC uncovers papers said to show corrupt deals behind Abramovich fortune

The BBC says it has received documents smuggled out of Russia that allegedly detail corrupt deals that helped Russian-Israeli oligarch Roman Abramovich establish his vast fortune.

Abramovich, the owner of the Chelsea soccer team, is one of several Putin-linked oligarchs sanctioned in recent days.

According to the BBC’s “Panorama” investigative program, the documents detail efforts to defraud the Russian government and say an investigation into Abromovich was quashed by politicians.

Abromovich made billions after buying an oil company from the Russian government in a rigged auction in 1995. He paid some $250 million for Sibneft, before selling it back to the Russian government for $13 billion a decade later.

According to the BBC, the document says that the Russian government was cheated out of $2.7bn in the Sibneft deal. The document also says that the Russian authorities wanted to charge Abramovich with fraud.

“The Dept. of Economic Crimes investigators came to the conclusion that if Abramovich could be brought to trial he would have faced accusations of fraud… by an organized criminal group,” the document says.

A former Russian chief prosecutor tells the BBC he was stopped from investigating Abromovich by ex-Russian president Boris Yeltsin and fired.

The document also details Abromovich’s involvement in another rigged auction two years later, involving a Russian oil company called Slavneft.

Abramovich won the auction even though a Chinese company planned to submit a bid for double the amount.

The document says a member of the Chinese delegation to Moscow was kidnapped and only released when the Chinese company pulled out of the auction.

The document did not link Abromovich to the kidnapping, noting that many groups wanted the Chinese out of the picture.

Lawyers for Abromovich say there is no basis for alleging he has amassed his very substantial wealth through criminality.

Iran returns passport of UK charity worker detained for 6 years

LONDON — Iranian authorities have returned the passport of a UK woman who has been detained in the country for almost six years, raising hopes of progress in negotiations toward her release.

Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe remains at her parents’ home in Tehran, says Tulip Siddiq, her local lawmaker in the UK.

“I also understand that there is a British negotiating team in Tehran right now,’’ Siddiq says on Twitter. “I will keep posting updates as I get them.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has dual UK-Iranian citizenship, served five years in prison after being taken into custody at Tehran’s airport in April 2016. She was later convicted of plotting the overthrow of Iran’s government, a charge that she, her supporters and rights groups deny.

She has been held under house arrest and unable to leave the country since her release.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s local lawyer, Hojjat Kermani, also tells The Associated Press she has received her British passport. However, Kermani says she remained banned from leaving the country.

“We hope that these negotiations will be concluded soon,” he says.

High court refuses petition, paving way for arrival of thousands of Ethiopian refugees

The High Court of Justice refused to hear a petition that prevented the government from bringing over Ethiopians eligible for Israeli citizenship, clearing the way for thousands of Ethiopian refugees to arrive shortly, Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata says.

In November, the government approved a plan to let some 9,000 Ethiopians with first-degree relatives in Israel immigrate under the Law of Return. However, this effort was blocked by the right-wing Israeli Immigration Policy Center, which petitioned the High Court of Justice on the grounds that the Ethiopians in question were not themselves Jewish or the direct descendants of Jews.

As the court considered the matter, the government’s plan was not able to proceed.

Today, the court determined that the government’s decision was not subject to judicial review, prompting the Israeli Immigration Policy Center to take back its petition. As a result, the court removed its injunction on the plan.

“These immigrants waited for no reason and were left separated from their families, their parents, their siblings, their children and more. The war in Ethiopia and the coronavirus pandemic made their situation worse and the time has come to bring them home to Israel,” Tamano-Shata says in a statement.

She adds: “Soon landing alongside the immigrants from Ukraine will be immigrants from Ethiopia.”

The decision and the remarks came a day after Tamano-Shata accused her ministerial colleagues of hypocrisy in fighting far harder to bring Ukrainian refugees eligible for citizenship who were fleeing a brutal war to Israel than they did to bring Ethiopians facing similar circumstances.

“All Israelis are brothers. As I promised, I will be a minister for everyone. I will fight to bring over Jews from Ukraine alongside immigration from Ethiopian and from anywhere in the Diaspora where someone wants to immigrate to Israel,” she says.

Cyberattacks surrounding Ukraine crisis reach all-time high — Israeli report

Cyberattacks surrounding the Ukraine crisis have reached an all-time high over the past week, according to new research by Israeli cybersecurity firm Check Point Software.

A study by the company’s research division, Check Point Research, says cyberattacks on government and military sectors globally were up 21% over the past week, compared to the period before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, and 19% higher than the first two weeks of the war. The global average of cyber attacks on government organizations alone was 14% higher, the study says.

These attacks were intercepted, Check Point says.

Average weekly attacks on the Ukrainian government and military sectors were 20% higher over the past seven days than before the military assault on the country, and 13% higher than the first two weeks of the war, according to the research. Check Point noted that the number of active digital networks in the country has dropped significantly, by 27% over the past three weeks.

In Israel, researchers report an increase of 22% in attempted cyberattacks on government and military organizations since late February, with an average of 1,715 weekly attacks.

“We see a focused effort on attacking government/military targets, possibly part of diplomatic impact surrounding the war, and also taking advantage of higher interest which allows pulling off phishing attacks,” the researchers write.

Israeli cybersecurity firm Check Point Software reported an all-time high in cyberattacks over the past week. March 15, 2022. (Check Point)

On Monday evening, Israeli government websites were downed for over an hour due to a major cyber assault, officials said.

Israeli officials did not immediately say who was behind the attack, but some media reports were quick to point the finger at Iran.

Ukraine TV tower attack death toll rises to 19

LVIV, Ukraine — Local authorities say the number of people killed in a Russian rocket attack on a TV tower in western Ukraine has risen to 19.

The Rivne regional government posts on its Facebook page that 19 people were killed and nine were injured in the strike on the TV tower in Antopol, a village outside the city of Rivne.

The village is only about 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the border of NATO member Poland and comes as Russia presses its invasion of Ukraine.

Initial casualty reports had put the death toll from Monday’s TV tower attack at nine.

EU leaders traveling by train to Kyiv, have crossed into Ukraine territory

The Polish, Czech and Slovenian prime ministers are traveling to Kyiv by train in the first visit by foreign leaders to Ukraine’s besieged capital since Russia invaded last month.

The visit comes as Russia pummels targets across Ukraine including Kyiv, which has nearly been encircled by Moscow troops, and as Russia and Ukraine are due to resume talks to end the nearly three-week war.

Mateusz Morawiecki, Petr Fiala and Janez Jansa are visiting as “representatives” of the European Union and are due to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Polish government says in a statement.

Top Polish government official Michal Dworczyk says the train crossed into Ukraine at around 0730 GMT.

The trio is accompanied by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s populist right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, and will also meet Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal.

Ukraine says ‘massive destruction’ at Dnipro airport after shelling

KYIV, Ukraine — Overnight shelling causes massive damage at the airport in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro, regional authorities say.

“During the night the enemy attacked the Dnipro airport. Two strikes. The runway was destroyed. The terminal is damaged. Massive destruction,” Dnipro region governor Valentin Reznichenko says on Telegram.

UK’s Johnson says West’s addiction to Russian oil paved way for Ukraine invasion

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson underscores his drive for energy independence, saying the West’s failure to wean itself from Russian oil and natural gas after the annexation of Crimea paved the way for the invasion of Ukraine.

Western countries made a “terrible mistake” in returning to normal economic relations with Russia after the Crimean incursion and becoming even more dependent on Russian energy exports, Johnson writes in a front-page article in The Telegraph newspaper.

“And so when (Vladimir Putin) finally came to launch his vicious war in Ukraine, he knew the world would find it very hard to punish him. He knew that he had created an addiction,” he says. “That is why he feels able to bomb maternity hospitals. That is why he is emboldened enough to launch indiscriminate assaults on fleeing families.”

Ending the world’s dependence on Russian energy will starve Putin of cash, Johnson says as he made the case for the UK government’s plan to phase out imports of oil and gas from Russia by the end of this year.

To replace Russian energy and cut carbon emissions, the UK must expand production of wind power, and invest in other forms of renewable energy including solar, tidal, geothermal and hydroelectric power plants, Johnson says. The UK must also reverse the “historic mistake” of moving away from nuclear energy, he says.

Children brought from Ukraine to Israel make Purim packages for those left behind

Some 100 Ukrainian children who were brought to Israel from the bombed-out city of Zhytomyr in recent weeks are making packages for the Jewish holiday of Purim to deliver to other children still in refugee camps on Ukraine’s border.

The children, who were residents of the Alumim Center, the children’s home of Chabad Zhytomyr, are now staying at a Jewish National Fund field school.

The children are preparing blessings and holiday cards in Ukrainian and packed candies in parcels.

“It’s good for me to be here where there are no frightening noises of boom, but I miss my father and my friends who stayed in Zhytomyr very much,” says 7-year-old Senijna, according to a press release from the children’s home.

UK warns Russia planning to install pro-Moscow government in captured Kherson

LONDON — Britain’s defense ministry says Russia may be planning to install a pro-Moscow government in Kherson, a Ukrainian city it has occupied, as it attempts to assert “political control” over areas of Ukraine.

The Ministry of Defense says Russia “may seek to stage a ‘referendum’ in Kherson in an attempt to legitimize the area as a ‘breakaway republic’ similar to Donetsk and Luhansk and Crimea.”

UK Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly says any attempt at local referendums would “be another attempt to put a veneer of credibility on what is an unacceptable, unjustified illegal invasion.”

In an intelligence update, the defense ministry says protests have been held against occupying Russian forces in the cities of Melitopol, Berdyansk and Kherson, where troops fired warning shots at demonstrators on Monday.

It says Russia has reportedly installed its own mayor in the southern city Melitopol following the alleged abduction of her predecessor on Friday, and the mayor of another city, Dniprorudne, has also reportedly been abducted by Russian forces.

India: Missile systems ‘safe and reliable’ after accidentally firing one at Pakistan

NEW DELHI — India’s defense minister says the country’s missile systems are “very reliable and safe” after one was accidentally fired last week and landed in a residential area inside nuclear-armed rival Pakistan.

Defense Minister Rajnath Singh tells Indian lawmakers a formal inquiry was ordered to determine the cause of the firing as well as a review of the standard procedures for operations, inspections and maintenance of its weapons systems. Any shortcomings would be fixed immediately, he adds, but does not say which missile was mistakenly launched.

Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations since gaining independence from British rule in 1947.

Pakistan says the unarmed surface-to-surface missile violated Pakistan’s airspace and damaged a wall in a residential area in Punjab province on Wednesday. No casualties were reported.

Border Police say heavy objects dropped from roofs on troops during West Bank raid

The Border Police say undercover officers conducting an arrest raid in the Qalandiya refugee camp north of Jerusalem opened fire after coming under attack.

Palestinians say one person was killed and six others injured.

The police say there were riots with hundreds of participants that included heavy objects being dropped on troops from the roofs of buildings, endangering the officers.

They responded with riot control methods and live fire.

Two terror suspects were arrested during the raid, police say.

Polish, Czech and Slovenian prime ministers to visit Kyiv, meet Zelensky

WARSAW, Poland — The Polish, Czech and Slovenian prime ministers will visit Kyiv on Tuesday to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Polish government says in a statement.

“The purpose of the visit is to confirm the unequivocal support of the entire European Union for the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and to present a broad package of support for the Ukrainian state and society,” the statement says.

Second Palestinian said killed in West Bank clashes

The Palestinian Health Ministry says a man has been shot dead by Israeli troops during clashes in the Qalandiya refugee camp north of Jerusalem, the second Palestinian fatality today in the West Bank.

The ministry identifies him as Alaa Shaham, a man in his 20s, and says he was shot in the head by live fire.

Another six Palestinians were wounded by live fire, the ministry says.

The Israeli army does not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Qalandiya incident.

Earlier, a Palestinian was killed in the northern West Bank when shots were fired at a Border Police force.

Border Police say Palestinian killed in West Bank raid opened fire on troops

The Border Police say a Palestinian youth shot and killed during a raid in Nablus’s Balata refugee camp had opened fires on the officers as they left the camp.

“During the operation, two terrorists arrived on a scooter, one of the terrorists shot at the troops. Undercover Border Police officers fired back and neutralized him,” police say in a statement.

Palestinians also threw stones and objects at the soldiers as they sought to leave the camp with a man who had been arrested in the raid.

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry identifies the deceased as 16-year-old Nader Rayan.

“Many bullets were fired upon him, wounding him in the head, the chest and hand,” the ministry says in a statement.

Another three Palestinians remain in a local hospital in Nablus, including one in serious condition after having been shot with live fire, the ministry says.

Palestinians say Israeli troops kill teenager in West Bank raid

Israeli troops shot and killed a teenager and wounded at least three other Palestinians during an early morning raid in a West Bank refugee camp, the Palestinian Health Ministry says.

It identifies the deceased as 16-year-old Nader Rayan. The Israeli military referrs questions to the Border Police, who do not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The raid took place in Balata, a sprawling refugee camp in the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Israeli forces operating in such densely packed areas are often met with stones, firebombs and gunfire.

Some schools closed, others delayed as snow falls in Galilee

Several schools are closed for the day in the Galilee, while others open with a delay as snow falls in some of the higher areas.

All schools in the Merom HaGalil regional council will start at 9.30 a.m.

Three schools — Psagot school in Kibbutz Yir’on and the Nof Harim and Anne Frank schools in Kibbutz Sassa — are closed for the day.

Light snow is also falling intermittently in the areas around Jerusalem, but no delays are reported.

Death toll rises to 2 in Kyiv apartment shelling

KYIV, Ukraine — Strikes on residential areas in Kyiv killed at least two people, emergency services say, as Russian troops intensified their attacks on the Ukrainian capital.

Two bodies are pulled from the rubble after a strike on a 16-story building in the Sviatoshynsky district, the emergency service says in a Facebook post, adding that 27 people had been rescued from the site.

Another residential building in the Podilsk area also came under attack, it says.

“A fire started on the first five floors of a ten-story residential building on Mostytska street as a result of ammunition fire,” it says.

Japan adds 17 Russians to sanctions list, including Jewish billionaire Vekselberg

TOKYO — Japan’s government is freezing the assets of 17 more Russian politicians tycoons and their relatives to step up sanctions and pressure Moscow to end its invasion of Ukraine.

The list of sanction targets include 11 members of the Russian parliamentary chamber of Duma, banker Yuri Kovalchuk and his relatives, as well as billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, chairman of Renova Group, according to a statement jointly issued by the foreign, finance and trade ministries.

Vekselberg, a prominent philanthropist to Jewish causes, was also linked to lobbying efforts in the US, and was accused of involvement in the Donald Trump-Stormy Daniels affair.

The move brings the number of Russians targeted by Japan’s asset freezes to 61.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno tells reporters that the additional steps were taken “in order to stop Russia’s invasion (of Ukraine) as soon as possible.”

Matsuno said Japan will cooperate with other Group of Seven nations and other international community to respond appropriately in case of further sanctions.

Japan has previously imposed sanctions against Russian central bank, seven private banks, and Russian and Belarusian individuals and groups. Tokyo also imposed an export ban to Russia of items including high technology equipment that may be used for military purposes.

ToI Staff contributed to this report

One killed, others trapped in Russian artillery strikes on Kyiv apartment

KYIV, Ukraine – A series of Russian strikes hit a residential neighborhood of Ukraine’s capital this morning, igniting a huge fire and frantic rescue effort in a 15-story Kyiv apartment building. At least one person was killed and others remain trapped inside.

The Ukrainian military says in a statement that the strikes were artillery strikes. They hit the Svyatoshynskyi district of western Kyiv, adjacent to the suburb of Irpin that has seen some of the worst battles of the war.

Flames shot out of the apartment building as firefighters rescued people from ladders. Smoke choked the air.

A firefighter at the scene confirmed one person died and that several have been rescued alive but others are still inside as rescuers try to reach them.


India court upholds ban on hijab in schools and colleges

NEW DELHI  — An Indian court today upholds a ban on wearing hijab in class in the southern state of Karnataka, saying the Muslim headscarf is not an essential religious practice of Islam.

The high court in Karnataka state delivers the verdict after considering petitions filed by Muslim students challenging a government ban on hijabs that some schools and colleges have implemented in the last two months. The ban does not extend to other Indian states, but the court ruling could set a precedent for the rest of the country.

The dispute began in January when a government-run school in Karnataka’s Udupi district barred students wearing hijabs from entering classrooms, triggering protests by Muslims who said they were being deprived of their fundamental rights to education and religion. That led to counterprotests by Hindu students wearing saffron shawls, a color closely associated with that religion and favored by Hindu nationalists.

More schools in the state followed with similar bans and the state’s top court disallowed students from wearing hijab and any religious clothing pending a verdict.

The court in its ruling said the state government had the power to prescribe uniform guidelines for students as a “reasonable restriction on fundamental rights.”

The hijab is worn by many Muslim women to maintain modesty or as a religious symbol, often seen as not just a bit of clothing but something mandated by their faith.

Hijab restrictions have surfaced elsewhere, including France, which in 2004 banned them in schools. But in India, where Muslims make up 14% of the country’s 1.4 billion people, the hijab has historically been neither prohibited nor limited in public spheres. Women donning the headscarf is common across the country, which has religious freedom enshrined in its national charter with the secular state as a cornerstone.

Some rights activists have voiced concerns that the ban could increase Islamophobia. Violence and hate speech against Muslims have increased under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Hindu nationalist party, which also governs Karnataka state.

UN chief warns Ukraine war will be economic disaster for poor countries

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations chief warns Monday that Russia’s war on Ukraine is holding “a sword of Damocles” over the global economy, especially poor developing countries that face skyrocketing food, fuel and fertilizer prices and are now seeing their breadbasket “being bombed.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tells reporters that “Russia and Ukraine represent more than half of the world’s supply of sunflower oil and about 30 percent of the world’s wheat” and that “grain prices have already exceeded those at the start of the Arab Spring and the food riots of 2007-2008.”

He tells reporters that 45 African and least developed countries import at least one-third of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia, and 18 of them import at least 50%. These countries include Egypt, Congo, Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, he said.

“All of this is hitting the poorest the hardest and planting the seeds for political instability and unrest around the globe,” Guterres warned.

Hundreds of Iranian drones said destroyed in strike blamed on Israel

Hundreds of Iranian drones were destroyed during airstrikes on a base in western Iran last month, which Tehran blames on Israel, the Haaretz daily reports.

The strike on the base in Kermanshah was carried out in mid-February by at least six attack drones, Haaretz says citing reports in the Hezbollah affiliated Al-Maydan news.

The attack caused major damage to Iran’s drone fleet, the report says.

Until now, neither Iran, nor Israel has commented on the strike.

The report says that the recent Iranian missile attack on Erbil, Iraq was a response to this strike on the airbase.

Light snow falling in Jerusalem area, north; school delayed in Safed

Light snow can be seen falling in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas as a cold front moves through the country.

Snow is also reported in the Galilee. In the northern city of Safed, classes are delayed until 9 a.m.

In Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, snow was starting to stick on the ground.

Snow began falling in the Golan Heights yesterday.

Cold temperatures and intermittent rain are forecast for most of the country, while higher areas will continue to see some snow through the day.

Police kill man who opens fire on them during raid in southern Israeli town of Rahat

Police say they have shot and killed a man who opened fire on officers during a raid in the southern Israeli town of Rahat.

Undercover officers were searching for Palestinians in Israel without permits when a man opened fire with a pistol.

Police returned fire, killing him. Officers recovered a pistol and a magazine at the scene.

“The officers’ lives were in danger,” a spokesperson says. No police were injured.

The dead man was identified as a 27-year-old resident of the town.


Russia fired over 900 missiles at Ukraine, ground offensive stuck — Pentagon

A senior defense official at the Pentagon says Russia has fired over 900 missiles at targets in Ukraine since the start of the war nearly three weeks ago.

“”What we’re seeing on the ground is a continued military effort to subdue these population centers and to do it now with ever more violence using more and more long-range fires, which are increasingly indiscriminate in terms of what they’re hitting,” the official says in a Defense Department release.

The official says Russia has not managed to secure air superiority, noting that Ukraine is still well stocked with arms to continue frustrating Russia’s advance.

“Almost all of Russia’s advances remain stalled,” the official says.

Videos show apartments in Kyiv totally engulfed after large blasts

Pictures and videos are being posted on social media claiming to show the aftermath of Russian missile strikes on Kyiv, after several loud explosions were heard.

One video shows what appears to be at least one large building almost completely engulfed in flames.

Another video shows damage to surrounding building as well.

It’s not known if there are injuries or deaths.

China reports over 3,500 new COVID cases as ‘stealth’ strain fuels record outbreak

China’s new COVID-19 cases Tuesday more than doubled from the previous day as the country faces by far its biggest outbreak since the early days of the pandemic.

The National Health Commission said 3,507 new locally spread cases had been identified in the latest 24-hour period, up from 1,337 a day earlier.

A fast-spreading variant known as “stealth omicron” is testing China’s zero-tolerance strategy, which had kept the virus at bay since the deadly initial outbreak in the city of Wuhan in early 2020. While the numbers are low compared to elsewhere in the world, the more than 10,000 cases China recorded in the first two weeks of March far exceed previous flare-ups.

No new deaths have been reported in the multiple outbreaks across China. Most of the new cases were in northeast China’s Jilin province, where 2,601 were reported. Smaller outbreaks have hit more than a dozen provinces and major cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Large blasts heard in central Kyiv

Several large explosions are being reported in downtown Kyiv.

The source of the explosions are not immediately clear, but come as the city has girded for what is expected to be an massive assault on the city by Russian forces massing on its outskirts.


Abramovich plane nears Moscow after scenic tour of Caucasus

A Gulfstream Jet belonging to Russian-Israeli-Portoguese billionaire Roman Abramovich is set to land in Moscow in the coming moments, after leaving Israel for Turkey and then the Russian capital on Monday.

The plane reaches Moscow after taking a circuitous route to avoid both southeastern Ukraine, where there is heavy fighting, and the north Caucasus, instead flying through Georgia, Azerbaijan, the Caspian sea, Kazakhstan and finally Russia.

It is not know if Abramovich is on the plane, which arrived in Israel on Sunday. Abramovich was photographed in Israel Monday before leaving for Turkey as Jerusalem agreed to block sanctioned Russians from hiding their assets in Israel.

Fires in Mariupol, destroyed hospital buildings seen from space

New satellite pictures published by Maxar show the extent of carnage in the key port city of Mariupol, subjected to days of relentless shelling by Russian forces.

Pictures show fires there burning, and extensive damage to buildings, including hospitals, according to reports.

NATO heads may huddle in Belgium next week — report

Discussions are underway for an extraordinary meeting of leaders of NATO countries in Brussels next week, CNBC reports.

Planning is not yet final for the meeting, according to to the report.

CNN reports that there are talks for US President Joe Biden to fly to Europe for the meeting.

Power back on at Chernobyl, IAEA says

Power has been restored at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power station, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986, the International Atomic Energy Agency says.

“Ukraine has informed IAEA that external power had again today been restored to the (Chernobyl) Nuclear Power Plant after line had been again damaged ‘by the occupying forces’,” the UN’s atomic watchdog tweets.

“Staff had restarted operations to reconnect the plant to the electricity grid.”

Energy operator Ukrenergo had earlier said the power line supplying the Chernobyl plant had been “damaged by the occupying forces.” Power to the site was lost on March 9, over two weeks after Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24 and seized the power station in the first days of the assault.

Power was partially restored Sunday, but officials said Monday morning that the line had been damaged before being repaired again Monday.

The IAEA says 8 reactors out of 15 in Ukraine are operating, including two at Zaporizhzhya, the site of an intense firefight earlier this month that raised fears of nuclear fallout.

Russia talks to continue after call with Bennett on ‘honest peace’ – Zelensky

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky says that talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations will continue Tuesday.

Speaking in a video address, Zelensky says that the Ukrainian delegation did good work during Monday’s talks. He doesn’t provide further details.

“Pretty good, as I was told, but let’s see,” he says. “They’ll continue tomorrow.”

He says he spoke Monday to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as part of efforts to “quickly end the war” and achieve “honest peace.” Zelensky does not list Bennett with a number of other leaders he said he spoke to, who share “100% mutual understanding” with him, but he says talks with the Israeli premier were “also important.”

Bennett, who has sought to mediate a peaceful settlement and has kept lines with Moscow open, also spoke Monday to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Zelensky hails a Russian state TV employee who interrupted the main evening news program on Russian Channel 1 by running into a studio with a poster against the war in Ukraine. The employee was later arrested by police.

The Ukrainian president again addressed the Russian soldiers, urging them to stop fighting and saying: “I’m offering you a chance to survive.” He claims Russian forces have lost 80 aircraft, hundreds of tanks and more military equipment in 19 days of fighting, figures which cannot be independently verified.

In a bid to shore up the economy badly battered by the war, Zelensky also announcec a plan to sharply reduce taxes for business.

Abramovich plane leaves Istanbul ‘for Moscow,’ heads for Caucasia

Flight tracking data shows that a plane belonging to Roman Abramovich has left Turkey, some eight hours after arriving in Istanbul from Tel Aviv.

The data shows a Gulfstream G650 belonging to the sanctioned owner of the Chelsea soccer club supposedly on its way to Moscow from Istanbul. It was slated to land just after 4 a.m. local time.

However, the plane appears to be following a path taking it through the Caucasus Mountains, and as of 2 a.m. local time was some 100 miles east of Batumi, Georgia and seemingly headed toward Baku, Azerbaijan. It later turned north toward Russia.

The plane was in Baku in late February, before leaving and making several trips between Moscow, Istanbul and Ankara over the previous two weeks.

It is not known if Abramovich, who was spotted Monday at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, is aboard the plane.

UK fetes Israel for backing sanctions after Lapid vows no safe harbor for oligarchs

The UK’s top diplomat is welcoming news that Israel apparently will back sanctions against Russia, after Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced that the country would not give haven to Russian oligarchs seeking to evade Western penalties in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

“Welcome news from @YairLapid that Israel will support sanctions against Russia. We are working with our allies and partners to apply pressure on Putin and challenge his unprovoked and needless attack on Ukraine,:” tweets Liz Truss. She attaches a tweet by an Israeli reporter claiming that Lapid committed to comply with international sanctions.

In actuality, Lapid only said that Israel would not harbor rich Russians seeking to avoid sanctions from the US and other unspecified countries. After he spoke, oligarch Russian Abramovich, an Israeli citizen targeted by the sanctions, left Israel, where he arrived less than a day earlier.

“Israel will not be a route to bypass sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and other Western countries,” Lapid said. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is coordinating the issue together with partners, including the Bank of Israel, the Finance Ministry, the Economy Ministry, the Airports Authority, the Energy Ministry, and others.”


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