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

Hundreds of Ukraine-bound bulletproof vests stolen in New York

NEW YORK — An NGO in New York had hundreds of bulletproof vests stolen after they were donated by officers and destined for Ukraine as it battles a Russian invasion, police and the organization says.

The theft occurred at the headquarters of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), where police arrived yesterday and learned that “approximately 400 bulletproof vests were removed from the location,” NY Police Department spokeswoman Lieutenant Jessica McRorie says.

“There are no arrests and the investigation is ongoing,” she adds.

A spokesperson for UCCA says a smaller number of vests, about 300, were missing from the group’s Manhattan location. “We don’t know… why, how” the robbery occurred, or who would have committed it, the spokesperson told AFP.

The secondhand vests were donated by the police on Long Island, New York and were to be sent to aid workers who would deliver them by truck throughout Ukraine, the group says.

Four people, including 11-year-old, wounded in shooting in southern Israel

Four people, including an 11-year-old boy are wounded in a shooting incident in the southern town of Ar’ara BaNegev, medics say.

A 21-year-old man is in a serious condition, while three others, including the boy, are in a moderate condition, says the Magen David Adom rescue service.

The men are evacuated to the Soroka Hospital in nearby Beersheba.

Hebrew Media says the shooting is part of a feud between rival clans in the town.

 

US vet jailed in Iran sues for $1 billion, alleges torture

U.S. Navy veteran Michael White stands for a portrait Jan. 13, 2021, in San Diego. White, who was jailed in Iran for nearly two years, sued the Iranian government on Thursday, March 17, 2022, for $1 billion, alleging that he was kidnapped, held hostage and tortured. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
U.S. Navy veteran Michael White stands for a portrait Jan. 13, 2021, in San Diego. White, who was jailed in Iran for nearly two years, sued the Iranian government on Thursday, March 17, 2022, for $1 billion, alleging that he was kidnapped, held hostage and tortured. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

WASHINGTON  — A US Navy veteran who was jailed in Iran for nearly two years sues the Iranian government for $1 billion, alleging that he was kidnapped, held hostage and tortured.

The federal lawsuit describes in unsparing detail the “prolonged and continuous” abuse that Michael White says he suffered behind bars, including being beaten and punched, whipped on his feet, deprived of food and drink, and pressured to falsely confess that he was a spy for the US government.

“Mr. White endured this trauma for nearly two years, never knowing if or when he would be released and reunited with his family, repeatedly promised that his conditions would improve soon, only to be crushed psychologically when they did not,” the lawsuit states.

The allegations in the complaint mirror the claims made by White in a 156-page manuscript that he wrote behind bars and that was later obtained by The Associated Press.

The 31-page complaint traces White’s travel to Iran, saying he was lured there in the summer of 2018 by a woman he considered his girlfriend so that he could be kidnapped by Iranian government agents and put in prison. He was charged with insulting Iran’s Supreme Leader and cooperating with the US government against Iran — charges the lawsuit says were fabricated — and sentenced without a trial to 10 years in prison.

‘Stop this war’: Arnold Schwarzenegger makes appeal to Putin, Russian people

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger looks at a Super Huey, a helicopter used for dropping water at fires, during a tour at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, Calif., on Aug. 1, 2019.  (Daniel Kim/The Sacramento Bee via AP, Pool, File)
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger looks at a Super Huey, a helicopter used for dropping water at fires, during a tour at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, Calif., on Aug. 1, 2019. (Daniel Kim/The Sacramento Bee via AP, Pool, File)

LOS ANGELES — “Terminator” star Arnold Schwarzenegger appeals to Vladimir Putin  to end the “senseless” war in Ukraine and praises Russians protesting the conflict as his “new heroes.”

“Ukraine did not start this war,” the former California governor says in an emotional message to the people of Russia and Russian troops posted to his Twitter account and other platforms.

“I’m speaking to you today because there are things going on in the world that are being kept from you, terrible things that you should know about,” he says in the powerful nine-minute video that was subtitled in Russian.

The Austrian-born former bodybuilding champion, whose film “Red Heat” was the first American movie filmed in Moscow’s Red Square, speaks of his affection for the Russian people and meeting his idol, Russian weightlifter Yuri Vlasov, when he was 14 years old.

“The strength and the heart of the Russian people have always inspired me,” he says. “That is why I hope that you will let me tell you the truth about the war in Ukraine.”

“I know that your government has told you that this is a war to ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine,” he says. “This is not true. Those in power in the Kremlin started this war. This is not the Russian people’s war.”

Schwarzenegger says “the world has turned against Russia because of its actions in Ukraine — whole city blocks have been flattened by Russian artillery and bombs, including a children’s hospital and a maternity hospital.

“Because of its brutality, Russia is now isolated from the society of nations,” he says.

Addressing Putin directly, Schwarzenegger says: “You started this war. You are leading this war. You can stop this war.”

He closed the message with praise for Russians risking arrest by protesting against the war.

“The world has seen your bravery,” he said. “You are my new heroes.”

UN official calls for probe of heavy civilian casualties, damage to Ukrainian infrastructure

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)

The UN political chief calls for an investigation of massive civilian casualties and the destruction of hundreds of residential buildings, schools, hospitals, and other civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, and for those responsible to be held accountable.

Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo tells the UN Security Council that “international humanitarian law is crystal clear” in prohibiting direct attacks on civilians in military operations and ensuring their protection.

Yet, she says, many of the daily attacks that are battering Ukrainian cities “are reportedly indiscriminate, resulting in civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.”

DiCarlo cites the UN human rights office’s latest statistics: 1,900 civilian casualties from the start of the war on February 24 to March 15, comprising 726 people killed, including 52 children, and 1,174 injured — with the actual number likely much higher.

“Most of these casualties were caused by the use in populated areas of explosive weapons with a wide impact area,” she says.

The UN development agency, UNDP, projects that if the war continues, 90% of Ukraine’s population could be facing poverty and extreme economic vulnerability, “setting the country — and the region — back decades, and leaving deep social and economic scars,” she said.

UN health chief says Ukraine in urgent need of medical supplies

World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus report by video on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, on March 17, 2022, at UN headquarters. (AP Photo)
World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus report by video on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, on March 17, 2022, at UN headquarters. (AP Photo)

The UN health chief decries the devastating consequences of war on the Ukrainian people, who are facing severe disruption to services and medication, and stresses that “the life-saving medicine we need right now is peace.”

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells the UN Security Council that WHO has verified 43 attacks on hospitals and health facilities, with 12 people killed and 34 injured.

In a virtual briefing, Tedros says “the disruption to services and supplies is posing an extreme risk to people with cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, HIV and TB, which are among the leading causes of mortality in Ukraine.”

The WHO chief says displacement and overcrowding caused by people fleeing are likely to increase the risks of diseases such as COVID-19, measles, pneumonia, and polio.

In addition, more than 35,000 mental health patients in Ukrainian psychiatric hospitals and long-term care facilities face severe shortages of medicine, food, health, and blankets, he says.

So far, WHO has sent about 100 metric tonnes (110 tons) of medical supplies — enough for 4,500 trauma patients and 450,000 primary health care patients for a month — to Ukraine along with other equipment. Tedros says the agency is preparing a further 108 metric tonnes (119 tons) for delivery.

Tedros urges donors to support the immense and escalating humanitarian needs in Ukraine and fully fund the UN’s $1.1 billion humanitarian appeal.

Russia scraps UN vote on Ukraine resolution over lack of support

Members of the General Assembly vote on a resolution during a special session of the General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters, on March 2, 2022, in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP)
Members of the General Assembly vote on a resolution during a special session of the General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters, on March 2, 2022, in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP)

Russia has canceled a UN Security Council vote on a “humanitarian” resolution on Ukraine, scheduled for Friday, due to a lack of support from its closest allies, diplomats say.

Moscow has failed to secure co-sponsorship of the draft text from China and India, suggesting that Beijing and New Delhi would not have supported it, an ambassador tells AFP.

According to Reuters, a draft version of the resolution calls for aid access and civilian protection in Ukraine, but does not address accountability or acknowledge Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.

IDF troops seize handguns apparently smuggled over Jordan border; 6 arrested nearby

Israeli troops spotted a suspicious man close to the border with Jordan last night, and after searching the area, found a bag with two pistols, the military says.

Six other suspects — allegedly involved in the smuggling attempt — who approached the area in vehicles were also detained, the military says.

The IDF has stepped up efforts to halt smuggling attempts along the Jordanian border in recent months.

Last week, two suspects who allegedly smuggled dozens of firearms over the Jordan border were arrested, the military and police announced earlier today.

Holocaust survivors, wounded Ukrainians rescued and brought to Israel

Ukrainian Holocaust survivors and other civilians wounded amid Russia's invasion are taken on a rescue flight to Israel, on March 16, 2022. (Screenshot/Channel 13)
Ukrainian Holocaust survivors and other civilians wounded amid Russia's invasion are taken on a rescue flight to Israel, on March 16, 2022. (Screenshot/Channel 13)

Three rescue organizations have joined up to rescue Ukrainian Holocaust survivors and other civilians wounded amid Russia’s invasion.

Zaka, Hatzolah Air, and Magen David Adom raised some 70,000 dollars to fly a private jet with medical equipment to treat and evacuate the wounded waiting in Moldova, Channel 13 news reports.

The 13 wounded and Holocaust survivors, some of whom cannot walk, are helped onto the luxury jet by the volunteers.

“They want to free us in Ukraine from the Nazis, but that’s how you liberate? By murdering people? Turning them homeless?” 85-year-old Maya Zernova tells the network during the flight.

“What else can I say,” she adds.

They later land at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, before being taken to hospitals for medical treatment.

US citizen killed in Russian shelling in Ukraine

This picture taken on March 4, 2022, shows a residential building damaged during a shelling the day before in the city of Chernihiv. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)
This picture taken on March 4, 2022, shows a residential building damaged during a shelling the day before in the city of Chernihiv. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)

WASHINGTON — The US State Department confirms an American citizen was killed in a Russian attack on the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv.

The department did not immediately confirm the identity of the American, who was at least the second US citizen to be killed in the conflict, after the killing of journalist and filmmaker Brent Renaud last week.

Chernihiv police say on Facebook there was a heavy artillery attack on the city and a US citizen was among the civilians killed.

In Chernihiv, a city north of Kyiv, at least 53 people had been brought to morgues over the past 24 hours, killed during heavy Russian air attacks and ground fire, the local governor, Viacheslav Chaus, tells Ukrainian TV.

Coalition members warn Bennett against mediating between Russia, Ukraine — report

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (center) and Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (right) at Ministerial Committee on Aliyah and Integration, in Jerusalem, on March 7, 2022. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (center) and Immigration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (right) at Ministerial Committee on Aliyah and Integration, in Jerusalem, on March 7, 2022. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Senior members of the coalition have warned Prime Minister Bennett against his mediation efforts between Russia and Ukraine, Channel 13 news reports.

The unsourced report says the coalition members stressed it could be “extremely dangerous” to be associated in any kind of mediation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and say that it looks “increasingly the case now.”

The network notes that Zelensky is winning world public support with parliamentary appearances worldwide, and any international player seen helping Putin achieve anything at all from the war will be damaged if there is an eventual agreement.

If the mediation efforts fail, Bennett risks being seen as part of the failure, and as someone who helped enable Putin to mislead the world while continuing the war, the network adds.

Two Palestinians arrested for shooting at IDF troops in West Bank

Illustrative: Israeli troops carry out searches in the central West Bank village of Deir Nidham, on January 3, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: Israeli troops carry out searches in the central West Bank village of Deir Nidham, on January 3, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces says two Palestinians have been arrested for shooting at troops near the West Bank town of Aqraba last night.

“Last night, during a routine activity by IDF forces on a road near Aqraba… gunfire toward forces operating in the area was identified,” the military said in a statement.

The IDF says the suspects opened fire from Carlo makeshift sub-machine guns.

IDF and Shin Bet forces chased the suspects in the town, during which the suspects opened fire at troops, the IDF says.

One of the suspects is shot by Israeli forces amid the incident, and one of their weapons has been seized, the IDF says.

There are no reports of Israeli soldiers hurt in the two shooting incidents.

Magen David Adom donates 4 bulletproof ambulances to Ukraine

A bulletproof MDA ambulance is loaded onto a flight at Ben Gurion Airport, on March 16, 2022. (Magen David Adom)
A bulletproof MDA ambulance is loaded onto a flight at Ben Gurion Airport, on March 16, 2022. (Magen David Adom)

Israel’s national emergency service, Magen David Adom, is donating four bulletproof ambulances to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion.

The ambulances are being flown to Europe and will be delivered to Ukraine’s health services in an initiative led by Yisrael Beytenu MK Alex Kushnir and with the assistance of the Jewish Agency, MDA says in a statement.

The ambulances had previously been used by MDA to treat wounded in the Second Lebanon War and to rescue wounded soldiers from the northern and southern frontiers while under fire, the statement says.

“The bulletproof ambulances are specially adapted for use in Ukraine and are equipped and designed [for medics] to provide medical care under fire, during war,” MDA says.

Bulletproof MDA ambulances are loaded onto a flight at Ben Gurion Airport, on March 16, 2022. (Magen David Adom)

Western officials say 7,000 Russians killed in Ukraine invasion

In this photo taken from video released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, on Thursday, March 3, 2022, a Russian soldier points a gun from a Russian military truck as it drives through an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
In this photo taken from video released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, on Thursday, March 3, 2022, a Russian soldier points a gun from a Russian military truck as it drives through an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

An estimated 7,000 Russian troops have died and 10% of the army’s equipment has been destroyed during Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, The Guardian reports, citing Western officials.

One official says Russian troops have been trying to encircle the Ukrainian capital for many days but had failed to make any real progress.

Russia has so far admitted 498 of its soldiers were killed, and another 1,597 wounded amid the invasion, as of March 2.

Footage shows Ukrainian forces ambushing Russian military vehicles in Mariupol, Kharkiv

A Russian tank is hit by Ukrainian anti-tank missiles in Mariupol, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, March 2022. (Screenshot/Twitter)
A Russian tank is hit by Ukrainian anti-tank missiles in Mariupol, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, March 2022. (Screenshot/Twitter)

Footage posted on social media shows Ukrainian forces ambushing a Russian tank in the city of Mariupol, and another transport vehicle in Kharkiv.

The drone video from Mariupol is said to show Ukraine’s Azov Battalion launching several anti-tank guided missiles at a Russian tank, which reportedly killed at least one soldier.

Another Russian soldier is seen leaping from the vehicle before it is destroyed.

The second video shows a Ukrainian soldier waiting for a Russian personnel carrier driving through Kharkiv, before launching a rocket at the truck from close range.

The troops are seen ducking down into the truck which veers off the road, before crashing into a utility pole. It is unclear if there were any casualties in that attack.

Both videos are said to be from fighting in the past week.

Hackers vow to release ‘new’ information on Mossad chief

Photos of Mossad chief David Barnea are seen in a video published on an anonymous Telegram channel, on March 16, 2022. (Screenshot)
Photos of Mossad chief David Barnea are seen in a video published on an anonymous Telegram channel, on March 16, 2022. (Screenshot)

The “Open Hands” Telegram channel is vowing to release “new” information on Mossad chief David Barnea, after publishing a video yesterday with his personal documents and photos.

“In response to Israeli Prime Minister’s Office: You’ve said that the material is not new; wait for the next episode to find out whether we are updated or not!” the hackers say in a message written in Hebrew, English, and Arabic.

According to Hebrew-language media reports, an old phone belonging to Barnea’s wife was hacked by the group, which has been ostensibly tied to Iran.

Channel 13 news reports there was no sensitive information on the phone that could potentially harm state security.

Italy offers to rebuild Mariupol theater destroyed in Russian strike

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba posts a picture of Mariupol's Drama Theater after it was hit by what he says was Russian shelling, on March 16, 2022. (Dmytro Kuleba/Twitter)
Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba posts a picture of Mariupol's Drama Theater after it was hit by what he says was Russian shelling, on March 16, 2022. (Dmytro Kuleba/Twitter)

ROME — Even as rescuers continue to search through the wreckage of a theater devastated by Russian airstrikes in Mariupol, Ukraine, Italy has offered to provide the means and the funds to rebuild it when that becomes possible.

Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini tweets that the government at a cabinet meeting approved his proposal to supply the assistance.

“The theaters of all countries belong to all of humanity,” the minister says.

Rescue efforts were being conducted to find survivors in the wreckage.

Hundreds of civilians in the besieged city had taken refuge in the theater basement and were trapped when the airstrikes collapsed the building onto their shelter.

It is still unknown if there were deaths or injuries.

One of east Europe’s largest markets on fire after alleged Russian shelling

Black smoke rises into the sky from the Barabashovo market which was reportedly hit by shelling, in Kharkiv, on March 17, 2022, amid the ongoing Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)
Black smoke rises into the sky from the Barabashovo market which was reportedly hit by shelling, in Kharkiv, on March 17, 2022, amid the ongoing Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)

Black smoke rises from the Barabashovo market in the city of Kharkiv after it was reportedly hit by Russian shelling.

Barabashovo is one of the largest markets in eastern Europe, covering an area of more than 75 hectares (185 acres).

Some media reports say one person has died amid the firefighting efforts, but there is no immediate confirmation from medical services.

AFP contributed reporting.

Israel Police sending delegation to Poland to assist refugees fleeing Ukraine

Refugees are seen as they wait for further transportation at the raiway station in Przemysl, Poland, on March 17, 2022. (Wojtek Radwanski/AFP)
Refugees are seen as they wait for further transportation at the raiway station in Przemysl, Poland, on March 17, 2022. (Wojtek Radwanski/AFP)

Israel is sending a delegation of 15 Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking police officers to Poland to assist refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine to come to Israel.

The delegation will be stationed at Ukraine’s border for at least two weeks, a statement from Israel Police says.

They will be providing first aid, helping coordinate between various organizations, transportation, and assisting refugees to get on flights to Israel with the Foreign Ministry, the statement says.

Police are also sending Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking officers and volunteers to Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv to help direct those arriving at the country.

Additionally, it is reserving rooms at the National Police Academy to host some 100 refugees. “Police will provide them with accommodation with hotel-level conditions, take care of their needs, and embrace them while their country is at war,” the statement says.

“Our goal is to ensure that civilians leaving the war zone in Ukraine arrive at the country safely, with minimal bureaucracy… and of course to allow them a comfortable and safe stay in Israel,” Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai says.

30,000 civilians flee besieged Mariupol; no confirmation on theater bombing toll

A man looks at a burned apartment building that was damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Sunday, March 13, 2022. (AP/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A man looks at a burned apartment building that was damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Sunday, March 13, 2022. (AP/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Authorities in Ukraine’s Mariupol say around 30,000 people have fled the besieged city and that they were clarifying information on possible victims of the Russian shelling of a theatre sheltering civilians a day earlier.

Mariupol’s city hall said on Telegram that “around 30,000 people have left on their transport,” adding that “80 percent of residential housing was destroyed.”

It said it was “clarifying information on victims” of the theater shelling.

G7 warns war criminals in Ukraine ‘will be held responsible’

Black smoke rises into the sky from the Barabashovo market which was reportedly hit by shelling, in Kharkiv, on March 17, 2022, amid the ongoing Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)
Black smoke rises into the sky from the Barabashovo market which was reportedly hit by shelling, in Kharkiv, on March 17, 2022, amid the ongoing Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)

BERLIN — Perpetrators of war crimes in Ukraine will be called to account, the Group of Seven most industrialized nations warns, condemning “the indiscriminate attacks on civilians” by Russian troops since the invasion began on February 24.

“Due to President [Vladimir] Putin’s unprovoked and shameful war, millions are forced to flee their homes; the destruction of infrastructure, hospitals, theatres and schools is ongoing,” the G7 foreign ministers say in a statement.

“Those responsible for war crimes, including indiscriminate use of weapons against civilians, will be held responsible,” they warn.

Biden: Putin’s ‘brutality’ in Ukraine is ‘inhumane’

US President Joe Biden speaks about additional security assistance that his administration will provide to Ukraine in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus in Washington, DC, on March 16, 2022. (Patrick Semansky/AP)
US President Joe Biden speaks about additional security assistance that his administration will provide to Ukraine in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus in Washington, DC, on March 16, 2022. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden denounces Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “brutality” during a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin.

“Putin’s brutality and what his troops are doing in Ukraine is just inhumane,” Biden says.

The meeting on St. Patrick’s Day was supposed to be held in person in the Oval Office, but it occurred virtually because Martin tested positive for COVID-19 last night.

Kremlin says Ukraine offensive will ‘purify’ Russia of ‘traitors’

Police officers detain a person during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in central Moscow, on March 3, 2022. (AFP)
Police officers detain a person during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in central Moscow, on March 3, 2022. (AFP)

MOSCOW — The Ukraine offensive will expose “traitors” inside Russia, the Kremlin says, echoing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s earlier call to “purify” Russian society.

“In these situations, many people show themselves as traitors,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov says. “They vanish from our lives on their own. Some leave their posts, some leave the country. That is how the purification is happening.”

Thousands of Russians fled their country within days — or even hours — of Putin’s decision to launch a major military offensive in Ukraine on February 24th. Their exact number is unknown.

But Peskov says the “vast majority” of Russians back Putin.

Yesterday, Putin impassionately defended his tactics in Ukraine, while railing against what he called a “fifth column and national traitors” that was “mentally” in the West.

“Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from traitors and just spit them out like a fly that accidentally flew into their mouth,” he said.

“I am convinced that such a natural and necessary self-purification of society will only strengthen our country,” Putin said at a televised government meeting.

The long-time Russian leader also accused the Western press and social media giants of creating an “empire of lies” against Russia.

Slovakia mulls transferring Soviet-era S-300 air defense system to Ukraine

In this August 27, 2013, photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)
In this August 27, 2013, photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — The defense minister of NATO member Slovakia says his country would be willing to provide S-300 long-range air defense missile systems to Ukraine under certain conditions.

Defense Minister Jaroslav Naj’ says at a news conference in Bratislava with visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that the matter is still under discussion.

The Soviet-era anti-air defense systems use long-range missiles that are capable of flying hundreds of miles and knocking down cruise missiles as well as warplanes. They could be valuable in thwarting Russian air attacks on Ukraine.

Naj’ said such a transfer would be possible if his country received a “proper replacement” for its S-300s or if Slovakia received a “capability guaranteed for a certain period of time.”

He stressed that he could not responsibly transfer the S-300s to Ukraine in a manner that left a gap in his country’s defenses. He said Slovakia is open to making an arrangement that preserved its defenses against air threats.

Austin declined to say whether the Pentagon was in a position to provide Slovakia with a replacement for its S-300s.

“These are things that we will continue to work with all of our allies on, and certainly this is not just a US issue, it’s a NATO issue.”

Strongman Kadyrov says ‘thousand’ Chechen volunteers headed to Ukraine

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (photo credit: AP/Mousa Sadulayev/File)
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (photo credit: AP/Mousa Sadulayev/File)

MOSCOW — A thousand Chechen volunteers are on their way to fight for Russia in Ukraine, Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov says.

Kadyrov, whose security forces have been accused of numerous abuses, says on Telegram that one of his relatives, Apty Alaudinov, “is leading a thousand volunteers from the Chechen republic heading to take part in the special operation of denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine.”

Israeli-American flees to Jordan after being barred from leaving country — reports

View of the border fence between Israel and Jordan in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, on February 13, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
View of the border fence between Israel and Jordan in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, on February 13, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An Israeli-American man illegally crossed into Jordan earlier today, where he was detained by Jordanian authorities, his friends say.

Channel 13 reports that negotiations on the matter are ongoing. The Israeli military says it is looking into the reports.

A friend of the border-crosser says the man fled into Jordan after Israeli courts barred him from leaving the country.

Israeli law allows spouses to obtain court orders denying their ex-partners the right to leave Israel until they resolve outstanding child support debts, which can be in the hundreds of thousands of shekels.

US embassies in Amman and Jerusalem did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Europe suspends rover mission to Mars over Ukraine war

File: This photograph taken on February 07, 2019, shows British astronaut Tim Peake posing with a working prototype of the Rosalind Franklin ExoMars Rover following its naming ceremony at the Airbus Defence and Space facility in Stevenage, north of London. (Ben STANSALL / AFP)
File: This photograph taken on February 07, 2019, shows British astronaut Tim Peake posing with a working prototype of the Rosalind Franklin ExoMars Rover following its naming ceremony at the Airbus Defence and Space facility in Stevenage, north of London. (Ben STANSALL / AFP)

PARIS — Europe won’t be attempting to send its first rover to Mars this year because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The European Space Agency confirms it is indefinitely suspending its ExoMars rover mission with partner Roscosmos, Russia’s state space corporation. The ESA had previously said that the mission was “very unlikely” because of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The rover’s primary mission was to determine whether Mars ever hosted life. The decision to suspend cooperation with Roscosmos was taken by ESA’s ruling council, at a meeting this week in Paris.

Because of their respective orbits around the Sun, Mars is readily reachable from Earth only every two years. The next launch window for Mars would be 2024. The mission has already been pushed back from 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic and the need for more tests on the spacecraft.

At least 21 dead after Russian shelling of east Ukraine town

Rescuers remove debris from a building damaged by shelling in central Kharkiv on March 16, 2022, amid the ongoing Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)
Rescuers remove debris from a building damaged by shelling in central Kharkiv on March 16, 2022, amid the ongoing Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)

KYIV — At least 21 people are killed and 25 injured when Russian forces shelled a town in eastern Ukraine, local prosecutors say.

Artillery fire earlier today hit a school and a cultural center in the town of Merefa, outside the city of Kharkiv, regional prosecutors say in a post on Facebook. Of the wounded, 10 people are in serious condition, they add.

‘We all will be judged’ captured Russian soldiers tell CNN

Captured Russian soldiers answer media questions at a press conference in the Interfax news agency in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 5, 2022. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)
Captured Russian soldiers answer media questions at a press conference in the Interfax news agency in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 5, 2022. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

Russian soldiers who have been captured by the Ukrainian army amid Moscow’s invasion speak to CNN.

“I want to tell our commander-in-chief to stop terror acts in Ukraine because when we come back we’ll rise against him,” Vladimir, a reconnaissance officer says.

“The crimes that we committed; we all will be judged the same. Other than that, I cannot say. It’s impossible to guess… They will judge us,” Maxim, an officer and fighter-bomber pilot tells the network.

“It’s not just about demilitarizing Ukraine or the defeat of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but now cities of peaceful civilians are being destroyed. Even, I don’t know, what can justify, fuck, the tears of a child, or even worse, the deaths of innocent people, children,” Maxim adds.

Another pilot, whose first name is Alexei, adds quietly, “It’s not really up to us, who to bomb, what to bomb. It’s a command.”

According to the network, the prisoners did not suggest they were speaking under duress. At no point did Ukrainian Security Services interject or direct CNN or the prisoners to ask or answer specific questions, the network adds.

Hackers break into phone of Mossad chief’s wife — reports

A clip of David Barnea from a video showing a reported hack of his personal device. (screen capture: Channel 13)
A clip of David Barnea from a video showing a reported hack of his personal device. (screen capture: Channel 13)

Hackers broke into a phone belonging to the wife of Mossad chief David Barnea, in order to obtain personal information that was published yesterday, Channel 12 news and the Haaretz daily report.

The reports are not sourced, and the television network initially claimed Barnea’s laptop was hacked.

A video published by the hackers on Telegram shows several personal photos, flight tickets under Barnea’s name, his ID card, tax documents addressed to his wife, and satellite imagery of what it claimed to be his home in the central city of Hod Hasharon.

The Prime Minister’s Office stated yesterday on behalf of Mossad that Barnea’s phone was not hacked and the “materials in question are old,” without elaborating further.

Amid war in Ukraine, Russian Jews immigrate to Israel

Immigrants fleeing from Ukraine arrive at the immigration and absorption office at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on March 15, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Immigrants fleeing from Ukraine arrive at the immigration and absorption office at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on March 15, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Many of the recent Jewish immigrants to Israel since Russia invaded Ukraine three weeks ago are Russians, Channel 12 news reports.

Some of them tell the network they fear their country will be cut off from the world amid the harsh Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over the war.

Others say they are worried about being imprisoned for their involvement in anti-war protests.

“They can put me in jail for many years just because I want to say my opinion on the government. Some people are approached by the police only because they wrote on Facebook that they are not happy with the situation,” says 27-year-old Ivan Grantovski, who participated in protests against Russia’s invasion in 2014.

According to the network, many of the new Russian immigrants are moving to Tel Aviv. There are no official numbers yet, but Channel 12 estimates several thousand Russian immigrants have arrived since the war began on February 24.

According to the Immigration Ministry, 4,940 new immigrants have arrived from Ukraine and surrounding nations, mainly Russia and Belarus.

Chernihiv governor says city suffering ‘colossal losses and destruction’ in Russian strikes

This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows burning buildings in a residential area in northeast Chernihiv, Ukraine, on March 16, 2022. (Maxar Technologies via AP)
This satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies shows burning buildings in a residential area in northeast Chernihiv, Ukraine, on March 16, 2022. (Maxar Technologies via AP)

LVIV, Ukraine — The northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv has experienced “colossal losses and destruction” amid heavy bombardment from Russian artillery and airstrikes, governor Viacheslav Chaus says.

Chaus tells Ukrainian TV that the bodies of 53 people “killed by the Russian aggressor from the ground or from the air” have been delivered to city morgues over the past 24 hours.

The Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office said yesterday 10 people were killed in Chernihiv while standing in line for bread. Russia has denied involvement.

Chaus says civilians are hiding in basements and shelters without access to utilities in the city of 280,000 people.

“The city has never known such nightmarish, colossal losses and destruction,” he says.

Chernihiv, which is close to the borders with Belarus and Russia, was among the first Ukrainian cities to come under attack from Russian forces when the invasion began three weeks ago.

Ukraine says rescue efforts underway at bombed Mariupol theater serving as shelter

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba posts a picture of Mariupol's Drama Theater after it was hit by what he says was Russian shelling, on March 16, 2022. (Dmytro Kuleba/Twitter)
Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba posts a picture of Mariupol's Drama Theater after it was hit by what he says was Russian shelling, on March 16, 2022. (Dmytro Kuleba/Twitter)

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s ombudswoman Ludmyla Denisova says a theater in the besieged city of Mariupol has withstood the impact of an airstrike, and that the rescue of civilians from under the rubble of the destroyed building has begun.

“The building withstood the impact of a high-powered air bomb and protected the lives of people hiding in the bomb shelter,” she says on the messaging service Telegram.

“Work is underway to unlock the basement” and surviving adults and children are coming out, she writes. She says there is no information on casualties so far.

Hundreds of men, women and children had taken shelter in the basement of the theater. Russia has denied attacking the theater.

Israel reports around 3,000 new immigrants from Ukraine since Russian invasion began

Israeli Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (front left) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz meet Jewish immigrants fleeing from war zones in Ukraine, at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, March 15, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Israeli Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata (front left) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz meet Jewish immigrants fleeing from war zones in Ukraine, at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, March 15, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Over 5,000 new immigrants from Ukraine “and its environs” have moved to Israel since the start of the Russian invasion, the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption announces.

According to the ministry, some 60%-65% of the 5,070 immigrants — around 3,000 people — that it says arrived in Israel as of this afternoon are from Ukraine. The rest are from Russia and Belarus.

Another 400 immigrants from Ukraine are due in Israel later today.

17 tons of gear to build Israeli field hospital in Ukraine is loaded on El Al plane

Equipment for an Israeli field hospital set to be built in the western Ukrainian city of Mostyska is loaded onto a plane at Ben Gurion Airport, March 17, 2022. (Sivan Shahar/Anaba/GPO)
Equipment for an Israeli field hospital set to be built in the western Ukrainian city of Mostyska is loaded onto a plane at Ben Gurion Airport, March 17, 2022. (Sivan Shahar/Anaba/GPO)

An El Al plane has been loaded with 17 tons of equipment to build a field hospital in Ukraine ahead of its departure this afternoon.

The plane will travel to Poland, from where the equipment will be transferred to the western Ukrainain city of Mostyska to set up the hospital.

The Israeli medical team will depart next week.

“The State of Israel is acting to assist Ukrainian citizens who were injured in the war,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweets ahead of the plane’s departure.

UK to deploy missile defense system in Poland after Russian strike near border

WARSAW, Poland — Britain’s defense secretary says his country will deploy a missile defense system to NATO ally Poland in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

During a visit to the Polish capital, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace says the United Kingdom is sending the Sky Sabre medium-range anti-air missile system to Poland with about 100 personnel. He says the move is “to make sure that we stand alongside Poland in protecting her airspace from any further aggression from Russia.”

The decision comes days after Russian missiles struck a military base in Yavoriv, Ukraine, just a few miles from the border with Poland.

The British promise of military support also comes as nearly 2 million of the more than 3 million refugees to flee Ukraine have arrived in Poland.

“As a NATO ally and a very old ally, it is very right that Britain stands by Poland as Poland carries much of the burden of the consequence of this war and stands tall and brave to stand up to the threats from Russia,” Wallace says.

Rights group urges Ukraine to stop parading captured Russian troops before cameras

Captured Russian soldiers answer media questions at a press conference in the Interfax news agency in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 5, 2022. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)
Captured Russian soldiers answer media questions at a press conference in the Interfax news agency in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 5, 2022. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

PARIS — Human Rights Watch is urging Ukraine to stop posting videos of captured Russian prisoners under duress, saying such treatment violated Kyiv’s international obligations.

Ukraine has paraded captured Russian soldiers before the media at news conferences in Kyiv, and these images have been spread via official accounts on social media and messaging apps.

Such actions violate the Geneva Conventions that aim to provide a framework for humanitarian law in conflict, the US-based group says in a statement.

“Ukrainian authorities should stop posting on social media and messaging apps videos of captured Russian soldiers that expose them to public curiosity, in particular those that show them being humiliated or intimidated,” it says.

“Such treatment of prisoners of war violates protections under the Geneva Conventions intended to ensure dignified treatment of captured combatants on all sides,” it adds.

It says social media accounts of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) have posted videos of captured Russian soldiers “who appear under duress or are revealing their names, identification numbers, and other personal information.”

Similar videos have also been posted on accounts apparently run by the interior ministry, it adds.

“The Ukrainian authorities should stop posting these videos online,” says Aisling Reidy, senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch.

“The violations by Russian forces are pervasive and widespread, causing intense civilian harm,” Reidy says. “At the same time, Ukraine has clear obligations that it must uphold, including lawful treatment of POWs.”

Zelensky’s Knesset speech to be screened at Tel Aviv’s Habima Square

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Facebook early March 15, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy 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 March 15, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s scheduled speech to the Knesset on Sunday evening will be screen simultaneously on a large screen at Tel Aviv’s Habima Square for the Israeli public to watch.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said last week that he had suggested the idea to the Ukrainian embassy.

UN says over 100,000 Ukrainian refugees have fled Russian invasion in past day

Ukrainian refugees pick up donated food and hygiene and bayby care products at the Warsaw Centralna train station, in Poland, March 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Ukrainian refugees pick up donated food and hygiene and bayby care products at the Warsaw Centralna train station, in Poland, March 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

GENEVA — The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine since Russia’s invasion grew by more than 100,000 over the past 24 hours, the United Nations says today.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, says 3,169,897 Ukrainians have fled across the border since the war began on February 24, a figure up 106,802 since yesterday’s update.

“More than three million people have fled the country, the vast majority women, children and older people who left behind their homes and often family members, not knowing what’s to come,” the agency says.

“Hour by hour, minute by minute, people are fleeing the terrifying reality of violence in Ukraine. Unless the conflict ends, this heart-breaking crisis is set to grow. We need peace, now.”

The UNHCR says that more than two million people still within Ukraine’s borders had also fled their homes.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration says 162,000 third-country nationals have fled the country, as of yesterday.

The UNHCR initially estimated that up to four million people could leave Ukraine, but last week admitted that figure might well be revised upwards.

Before the conflict, Ukraine had a population of 37 million in the regions under government control, excluding Russia-annexed Crimea and the pro-Russian separatist regions in the east.

Parliament of NATO member Lithuania unanimously backs no-fly zone in Ukraine

People carry a giant Ukrainian flag to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine during a celebration of Lithuania's independence in Vilnius, Lithuania, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)
People carry a giant Ukrainian flag to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine during a celebration of Lithuania's independence in Vilnius, Lithuania, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuania’s parliament has unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, joining countries including Estonia and Slovenia in the appeal.

The resolution says a no-fly zone would allow United Nations peacekeepers to ensure the security of humanitarian corridors and the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and nuclear waste storage facilities.

NATO has categorically ruled out any role for the military alliance in setting up and policing a no-fly zone over Ukraine to protect against Russian airstrikes on Ukraine. Yesterday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said “this can become even worse if NATO (takes) actions that actually turned this into a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia.”

Prime Minister Janez Jansa of Slovenia has publicly called for a no-fly zone and Estonia’s Parliament also has urged its 29 NATO partners to consider the same.

Ukraine’s defense minister urges EU to brand Putin a ‘war criminal’

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov arrive to the talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus' Brest region, on March 3, 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Maxim Guchek/Belta/AFP)
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov arrive to the talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus' Brest region, on March 3, 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Maxim Guchek/Belta/AFP)

BRUSSELS — Ukraine’s defense minister calls on EU lawmakers to recognize Russian President as a “war criminal” and urges the bloc to step up arms supplies to fight Moscow’s forces.

The demand came after US President Joe Biden sparked Kremlin fury yesterday by dubbing the Russian leader a “war criminal” for his forces’ bombings of Ukrainian cities.

“It’s not simply a war. It’s state terror. The regular army of the aggressor is conscientiously annihilating the civil population,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov tells EU legislators via videolink.

“I’m appealing to all European Parliamentary members to recognize that Putin is a war criminal, as has been done in the United States.”

Reznikov points to the ferocious assault on the southern port city of Mariupol and the bombing of a theatre, where authorities say some 1,200 women and children were sheltering.

He says over 400 schools, 110 hospitals and 1,000 residential blocks across Ukraine have been destroyed in the three weeks since Putin launched the invasion.

Ukrainian resistance and logistical problems have stalled Russia’s push for a lightning victory. Reznikov claims more than 14,000 Russian soldiers have been killed.

The defiant minister insists that Kyiv’s outgunned troops will eventually triumph over the Kremlin’s larger forces — but called on Europe to help supply more weapons.

“We will win. It’s a question only of the price which the Ukrainian people will pay,” Reznikov says.

“The Russians can be stopped, victory can be gained, but we need assistance.”

He calls for more financial help “very quickly” to help Ukraine acquire a raft of hardware including jets, armored vehicles, anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems.

The 27-nation EU has already stumped up 500 million euros ($550 million) to provide arms to Kyiv and there is a proposal to add an extra 500 million.

Ukraine reports further Russian airstrikes on Mariupol

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office says Russia carried out further airstrikes on the besieged port city of Mariupol early this morning.

Zelensky’s office doesn’t report casualties for the latest strikes. They come amid rescue efforts in the city after a theater where hundreds had been sheltering was destroyed yesterday in what Ukrainian authorities say was a Russian airstrike.

“People are escaping from Mariupol by themselves using their own transport,” Zelensky’s office says, adding the “risk of death remains high” because of Russian forces previously firing on civilians.

The presidential office also reports artillery and airstrikes around the country overnight, including in the Kalynivka and Brovary suburbs of the capital, Kyiv. It says fighting continues as Russian forces try to enter the Ukraine-held city of Mykolaiv in the south and that there was an artillery barrage through the night in the eastern town of Avdiivka.

Ukraine says Russian forces are increasingly resorting to artillery and airstrikes as their advance stalls.

The Ukrainian General Staff says “the enemy, without success in its ground operation, continues to carry out rocket and bomb attacks on infrastructure and highly populated areas of Ukrainian cities.”

Kremlin dismisses top UN court’s order to halt invasion of Ukraine

MOSCOW — The Kremlin rejects an order by the UN’s top court for Russia to suspend the military offensive in Ukraine, a day after judges in The Hague announced their ruling.

“We cannot take this decision into account,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says.

He adds that both parties — Russia and Ukraine — had to agree for the ruling to be implemented.

“No consent can be obtained in this case,” Peskov says.

OECD warns Ukraine war could slash global growth by a percentage point

Customers walk past a closed shop counter at the Atrium shopping center in Moscow on March 17, 2022. (AFP)
Customers walk past a closed shop counter at the Atrium shopping center in Moscow on March 17, 2022. (AFP)

PARIS — The fallout from the war in Ukraine could cut global economic growth by “over one percentage point” in the first year after the invasion, the OECD says in a report.

The impact “if sustained” would produce “a deep recession in Russia, and push up global consumer price inflation by approximately 2.5 percentage points,” the group of developed economies says in its report.

Hamas announces death of military chief Mohammad Deif’s father

Hamas mourns the death of Diab al-Masri, the father of the notorious Hamas commander Mohammad Deif, who leads the terror group’s military wing.

The story swamps Gaza media as Palestinians in the coastal enclave, which is ruled by Hamas, prepare to hold a funeral procession.

UN agency warns Ukraine war hindering food access for world’s poor

BANGKOK — A UN agency is warning that the conflict in Ukraine is likely to hinder access to food and fuel for many of the world’s most vulnerable people.

A report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development notes that Russia accounted for nearly a third of wheat imports for Africa, or $3.7 billion, in 2018-2020, while 12%, worth $1.4 billion, came from Ukraine.

The report says initial assessments point to a “substantive reduction” in access to food and fuel despite efforts to prevent disruptions of supplies of key commodities such as wheat. Meanwhile, rising costs for shipping and for grains and other staple foods is pushing prices higher, hitting poorest people the hardest, the report says.

The report says up to 25 African countries, especially the least developed economies, relied on wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine. The lack of spare capacity in Africa limits the ability of those countries to offset any lost supplies, while surging costs for fertilizer will be an extra burden for farmers.

Russia reports making debt interest payments, avoiding default

MOSCOW — Russia’s finance ministry says it has carried out interest payments on two foreign bonds following fears Moscow may default on its debt after facing unprecedented Western sanctions over Ukraine.

“The payment order… worth $117.2 million due on March 15 was sent to a correspondent bank account on March 14 and was executed,” the ministry says in a statement.

Citing Holocaust slogan ‘never again,’ Zelensky tells Germany the phrase is now ‘worthless’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on a screen to address via videolink the German lower house of parliament, at the Bundestag in Berlin, March 17, 2022. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on a screen to address via videolink the German lower house of parliament, at the Bundestag in Berlin, March 17, 2022. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also evokes the Holocaust in his address to Germany’s parliament.

“Every year politicians say never again. Now I see that these words are worthless. In Europe a people is being destroyed,” he says, according to a translation of his remarks by CNN.

Evoking Reagan, Zelensky urges Germany to ‘tear down’ new Russian ‘wall’ in Europe

Members of the German government, among them Chancellor Olaf Scholz (bottom center), applaud as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on a screen to address via videolink the German lower house of parliament, at the Bundestag in Berlin, March 17, 2022. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP)
Members of the German government, among them Chancellor Olaf Scholz (bottom center), applaud as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on a screen to address via videolink the German lower house of parliament, at the Bundestag in Berlin, March 17, 2022. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP)

BERLIN — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urges Germany in an emotional video address before parliament to help destroy a new “wall” Russia was erecting in Europe.

“It’s not a Berlin Wall — it is a Wall in central Europe between freedom and bondage and this Wall is growing bigger with every bomb” dropped on Ukraine, Zelensky tells MPs.

“Dear Mr. Scholz, tear down this Wall,” he implores German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, evoking US President Ronald Reagan’s Cold War appeal in Berlin.

Zelensky accuses Germany of putting its economy before his country’s security in the run-up to the Russian invasion, criticizing the German government’s support for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project meant to bring natural gas from Russia. Ukraine and others had opposed the project, warning that it endangered Ukrainian and European security.

Zelensky also notes Germany’s hesitancy when it came to imposing some of the toughest sanctions on Russia for fear it could hurt the German economy.

UAE-flagged ship with 30 crew aboard reportedly capsizes off Iran coast

TEHRAN, Iran — An Emirati-flagged cargo ship capsized today in the Persian Gulf, Iranian state media reports.

The vessel was some 30 miles off the coast of Asaluyeh, the state-run IRNA news agency reports. IRNA says Iranian rescuers are trying to reach the vessel, which it says had 30 crew.

Search and rescue crews encountered rough and windy conditions at sea, port authorities tell IRNA.

Marine tracking data analyzed by The Associated Press suggests the vessel was the roll-on roll-off cargo ship Al Salmy 6. The Dubai-based company that owns the Al Salmy declines to immediately comment.

Images released by IRNA and Iranian state television match with the Al Salmy 6.

The US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols in the Mideast, doesn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Officials: Mariupol theater serving as shelter blocked by rubble after Russian strike

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say the status of people sheltering in a theater in Mariupol is still uncertain because the entrance was under the rubble caused by a Russian airstrike.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional administration, says on Telegram that “several hundred” residents of Mariupol were sheltering in the Drama Theater. He rejects the claims by the Russian military that the Azov battalion was headquartered in the theater, stressing that “only civilians” were in it when it was struck.

Kyrylenko says the airstrike also hit the Neptune swimming pool complex. “Now there are pregnant women and women with children under the rubble there. It’s pure terrorism!” the official says.

At least as recently as Monday, the pavement outside the once-elegant theater was marked with huge white letters spelling out “CHILDREN” in Russian, according to images released by the Maxar space technology company.

Population authority: 11,390 Ukrainians have arrived in Israel since war began

Immigrants fleeing from Ukraine arrive at the immigration and absorption office at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on March 15, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Illustrative: Immigrants fleeing from Ukraine arrive at the immigration and absorption office at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on March 15, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Population and Immigration Authority reports that 11,390 Ukrainians have arrived in Israel since the Russian invasion began.

The figure includes those eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.

The population authority says 258 Ukrainain nationals were denied entry to Israel.

Kyiv rabbi: Remember the Jews of Ukraine’s capital during megilah reading

Illustrative: Ukrainian Jewish refugees who fled the Russian invasion celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim at the Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue in Chisinau, Moldova, on March 16, 2022. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)
Illustrative: Ukrainian Jewish refugees who fled the Russian invasion celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim at the Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue in Chisinau, Moldova, on March 16, 2022. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)

A top rabbi in Kyiv urges those celebrating the Jewish festival of Purim to remember the Jews of Ukraine’s capital during the traditional megilah reading.

Rabbi Jonathan Markovitch, who returned to Kyiv after fleeing the Russian invasion, tells Israel’s Walla news site that a private security firm and Ukrainian troops are guarding the synagogue and Jewish community center.

“They sleep with us and eat with us and we feel safe with them and are very happy in their company,” he says.

The rabbi adds: “Today it’s a risk to read the megillah in Ukraine, but we are reading it live, not on Zoom… We will read the megillah across the world and whoever can should remember the Jews of Kyiv when he reads it.”

Regarding his decision to return, Markovitch says he wanted to help the Jews of Kyiv.

“These are the most miserable people possible. Jews who can’t leave for various reasons. Some are kids, women and the parents of men of enlistment age who didn’t want to leave them here alone. Some are old, disabled and sick,” he says.

Melitopol mayor was freed in exchange for 9 captured Russian conscripts — official

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

LVIV, Ukraine — Russian forces freed the mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol in exchange for nine of their captured conscripts, an official from Ukraine’s presidential office says.

Kyiv accused the Russians of kidnapping Mayor Ivan Fedorov about a week ago. Surveillance video showed him being marched out of city hall apparently surrounded by Russian soldiers.

Residents of Melitopol, a city in southeast currently under Russian control, have been protesting to demand his release.

Daria Zarivna, spokeswoman of the head of Ukraine’s president’s office, says that Fedorov has been released from captivity, and Russia “got nine of its captive soldiers, born in 2002-2003, practically children, conscripts Russia’s Defense Ministry said weren’t there.”

Moscow initially denied sending conscripts to fight in Ukraine, but later the Russian military admitted that some conscripts have been involved in the offensive and even got captured by Ukrainian forces.

UK intel says Russian offensive ‘has largely stalled on all fronts’

A Ukrainian national guard soldier inspects a damaged Russian military vehicle in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Marienko)
A Ukrainian national guard soldier inspects a damaged Russian military vehicle in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Marienko)

The UK defense ministry says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “has largely stalled on all fronts,” in its daily intelligence update.

“Russian forces have made minimal progress on land, sea or air in recent days and they continue to suffer heavy losses,” the ministry says.

It also says Ukrainian resistance “remains staunch and well-coordinated” and that “the vast majority” of the country remains under Ukraine’s control, “including all major cities.”

IDF: 3 Gazans with knives, bottles of gasoline caught trying to enter Israel

Illustrative: A IDF military vehicle drives near the border with Gaza east of Bureij, on December 6, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)
Illustrative: A IDF military vehicle drives near the border with Gaza east of Bureij, on December 6, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

Israeli troops detained three suspects overnight as they tried to cross into Israel from the Gaza Strip, according to the military.

“The suspects were caught with knives, lighters and bottles of gasoline on them,” an Israel Defense Forces statement says.

The three were taken for further questioning.

Ukraine reports 1 killed, 3 hurt after remains of missile hit building in Kyiv

At least one person was killed and three injured after the remains of a missile struck an apartment building in Kyiv, according to Ukraine’s emergency services.

Firefighters were called to the scene due to a blaze that broke out, and 30 people were evacuated from the building, the emergency services say.

У Києві внаслідок падіння залишків збитої ракети сталося руйнування та загоряння у багатоповерхівці ⤵️17 березня о…

Posted by ДСНС України on Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Ukraine’s military: Russian ground offensive unsuccessful, cities continue to be bombed

The Ukrainian military claims Russia’s ground offensive in Ukraine has been unsuccessful, with Russian forces continuing to bomb cities.

Ukraine’s military also accuses Russia of using cyberattacks, “physically destroying” television and radio signals, and continuing “to actively disseminate misinformation” about the war.

“The occupation forces continue to bear losses. They have major problems with the assembling of combat units and security units. The personal composition of the opponent is demoralized, which led to an increase in the number of cases of desertification and the refusal of the military forces of the Russian Federation to participate in the war on Ukraine,” the military says in a statement on its Facebook page.

Bennett and Lapid decide to both sit in on Zelensky video speech to Knesset

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

Prime Minister Bennett and Foreign Minister Lapid decide they will both attend a video speech to the Knesset by Ukrainian President Zelensky on Sunday.

They make the decision partly because they fear not many lawmakers will attend the Zoom speech and they want to encourage higher attendance, Haaretz reports.

The Knesset is in recess and a number of lawmakers are abroad.

Zelensky will address the Knesset on Sunday at 6 p.m.

Ukrainian officials say over 1,000 people were in theater when it was bombed

The bombed Mariupol theater in Ukraine on March 16, 2022. (Screen capture: @Mariupolnow)
The bombed Mariupol theater in Ukraine on March 16, 2022. (Screen capture: @Mariupolnow)

Ukrainian officials from the city of Mariupol claim over 1,000 people were in a theater bombed by Russia on Wednesday.

“The invaders destroyed the Drama Theatre. A place where more than a thousand people found refuge. We will never forgive this,” the Mariupol City Council said in a Telegram post.

The number of casualties is unknown.

Zelensky says Russia attacked humanitarian corridors

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a nightly video address, March 17, 2022. (Screenshot)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers a nightly video address, March 17, 2022. (Screenshot)

Ukrainian President Zelensky says Russia attacked Ukrainian evacuees on Wednesday during his nightly video address.

“Unfortunately, the humanitarian corridors did not work on Wednesday. The Russian military did not stop shelling, did not guarantee security,” he says. “We are ready to take people out and send humanitarian aid, but we can’t expose people to shelling on the road.”

He says 6,000 residents of besieged Mariupol escaped, including over 2,000 children, despite the attacks on the corridors, which caused some injuries, but no fatalities.

“Our hearts are broken by what Russia is doing to our people,” he says. “For the Russian military, there is no war crime which they would not commit.”

He asks Russians, “How is your blockade of Mariupol different from the blockade of Leningrad during World War II?”

He calls on Russian troops to surrender.

“Every Russian soldier will get a chance, a chance to survive. I appeal specifically to the conscripts, who were thrown into the furnace of the war… and to the rest of the Russian soldiers who still have the instinct of self-preservation, lay down your weapons.”

He again pleads for more help from Western leaders.

“How many more people do they have to kill?” he asks. “The world must finally realize that Russia has become a terror state.”

My priorities in the negotiations are absolutely clear: the end of the war, security guarantees, sovereignty,…

Posted by Володимир Зеленський on Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Zelensky sitcom ‘Servant of the People’ showing on Netflix

Volodymyr Zelensky in a scene from his sitcom, "Servant of the People." (Screenshot)
Volodymyr Zelensky in a scene from his sitcom, "Servant of the People." (Screenshot)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s sitcom, “Servant of the People,” is available on Netflix, the company says.

“You asked, and it’s back,” Netflix says.

Zelensky was a famous comedian and actor before entering politics.

In the 2015 TV show, he plays a teacher who gets elected president of Ukraine after a rant he delivers about government corruption goes viral.

Powerful 7.4-magnitude earthquake shakes Japan, killing 2

Sushi maker Akio Hanzawa walks in front of his damaged restaurant in Shiroishi, Miyagi prefecture on March 17, 2022, after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake jolted east Japan the night before. (Charly Triballeau/AFP)
Sushi maker Akio Hanzawa walks in front of his damaged restaurant in Shiroishi, Miyagi prefecture on March 17, 2022, after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake jolted east Japan the night before. (Charly Triballeau/AFP)

Two people are killed and dozens injured in a powerful earthquake that rattles large parts of east Japan and prompts a tsunami warning.

Residents and officials in the country’s northeast are still trying to assess the damage early, after the 7.4-magnitude quake.

A tsunami warning for waves of up to a meter in parts of northeast Japan is lifted, after authorities recorded water levels up to 30 centimeters higher than usual in some areas.

Multiple smaller jolts continue to hit the region throughout the night and morning.

Initial reports of damage appear relatively minor, in a country with tough building codes intended to protect against devastation from frequent earthquakes, and officials say there were no abnormalities at nuclear plants.

Two people are killed in the quake, one in the Fukushima region and a second in neighboring Miyagi, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, with over 90 people injured across several regions.

The quake struck at a depth of 60 kilometers (37 miles) off the Fukushima coast and was preceded minutes earlier by another strong 6.1-magnitude shake in the same area, Japan’s Meteorological Agency says.

The night-time shaking comes just days after Japan marked the 11th anniversary of a massive quake that triggered a deadly tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.

US officials estimate 7,000 Russian troops dead in Ukraine

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)

US intelligence estimates over 7,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine in only three weeks of fighting.

At least three generals are among the dead.

Between 14,000 and 21,000 soldiers are estimated injured.

The staggering toll, called a “conservative” estimate, will likely start to prevent some Russian units from carrying out necessary operations in combat, The New York Times reports.

When a single unit reaches a 10% casualty rate, including dead and wounded, it has trouble functioning, the Pentagon says. Morale, unit cohesion and situational awareness all drop with heavy losses.

A recent Pentagon report about Russia’s plummeting morale described troops parking their vehicles and deserting into the woods, the report says.

Ukraine’s casualty estimates for the Russians are far higher, and the Kremlin’s figures are much lower.

Around 150,000 Russian troops are involved in the fighting.

Jussie Smollett is released from county jail pending his appeal

Actor Jussie Smollett is led out of the courtroom after being sentenced at the Leighton Criminal Court Building on March 10, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois (Brian Cassella-Pool/Getty Images/AFP)
Actor Jussie Smollett is led out of the courtroom after being sentenced at the Leighton Criminal Court Building on March 10, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois (Brian Cassella-Pool/Getty Images/AFP)

Jussie Smollett is released from jail after an appeals court agreed with his lawyers that he should be free pending the appeal of his conviction for lying to police about a racist and homophobic attack.

Smollett walks out of the Cook County Jail after spending six nights behind bars, surrounded by security, and did not comment as he got into an awaiting SUV.

Smollett defense attorney Nenye Uche, speaking to reporters outside the jail after Smollett left, says the Smollett family is “very very happy with today’s developments.”

He criticizes the special prosecutor’s decision to charge Smollett again after the initial charges were dropped by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and he paid a fine.

“Let me make something clear: There is no room for politics in our court system and our appellate courts in this great state do not play politics,” Uche says.

The appeals court ruling came after a Cook County judge sentenced Smollett last week to immediately begin serving 150 days in jail for his conviction on five felony counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police. The appeals court said Smollett could be released after posting a personal recognizance bond of $150,000, meaning he doesn’t have to put down money but agrees to come to court as required.

French foreign minister says Russia only ‘pretending to negotiate’

In this file photo taken on September 10, 2021 French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attends a meeting in Budapest, Hungary (Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP)
In this file photo taken on September 10, 2021 French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian attends a meeting in Budapest, Hungary (Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP)

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says Russia is only “pretending to negotiate” with Ukraine.

He says that talks need to focus on a ceasefire above all else, because “you don’t negotiate with a gun to your head.”

He tells the French newspaper Le Parisien that Russia is carrying out a  “dramatic process of long-lasting brutality” in Ukraine.

Ukrainian negotiators are also reportedly skeptical or Russia’s intentions at the negotiating table, suspecting that the Kremlin may be buying time to regroup its military forces.

Two British-Iranians land in UK after imprisonment for years in Iran

An undated file photo provided by the family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national detained in Iran. (Family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe via AP, File)
An undated file photo provided by the family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national detained in Iran. (Family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe via AP, File)

Two British-Iranians who spent years detained in Iran arrive back in the UK after London settled a longstanding debt over a canceled defense contract with Tehran.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori touch down at RAF Brize Norton in southwest England at 01:08 a.m. local time after being released yesterday.

‘Kamikaze drones,’ Stingers, Javelins: Washington’s new weapons for Ukraine

In this image released by Ukrainian Defense Ministry Press Service, Ukrainian soldiers use US Javelin missiles during military exercises in Donetsk region, Ukraine, December 23, 2021. (Ukrainian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
In this image released by Ukrainian Defense Ministry Press Service, Ukrainian soldiers use US Javelin missiles during military exercises in Donetsk region, Ukraine, December 23, 2021. (Ukrainian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

The United States says that Ukraine will be given long-range missile defense and Switchblade armed drones, enabling Kyiv’s forces to better defend against Russian aircraft and armor from a distance.

The new arms and equipment that US President Biden announced for Ukraine include:

S-300 long-range missile defense

Ukraine has had the ability to shoot down Russian aircraft and cruise missiles at relatively close quarters. Washington is arranging for it to acquire systems that can strike attacking aircraft from much farther away.

According to a military source, the systems are the Soviet/Russian-made S-300, which like the US-made Patriot system, is a fully automated, ground-based radar-and-missile launcher unit that can detect, track and fire at multiple incoming aerial threats at long distances.

Ukrainians already know how to operate the S-300, and the United States and a number of NATO countries possess the systems or components of them to supply Ukraine.

‘Kamikaze drones’

Washington will send Ukraine 100 Switchblade drones, essentially camera-equipped, remote-controlled flying bombs that can be directed by an operator to find and then, when ready, plunge onto a target, exploding on contact.

Dubbed “kamikaze drones,” Switchblades can extend the range of attack on Russian vehicles and units to beyond the sight of the user. That gives them an advantage over the guided heat-seeking missiles that Ukrainians have used against Russian tanks.

Anti-aircraft Stingers

The United States is also giving 800 more Stingers, which are shoulder-mounted infrared anti-aircraft missiles. The US provided Stingers to Afghan fighters in the 1990s to shoot down Russian helicopters; Ukrainians have used them effectively against Russian helicopters and slower, lower-flying fixed-wing attack aircraft.

‘Saint Javelin’

Western allies have already provided the Ukrainian army with some 17,000 lightweight, shoulder-launched, self-guided missiles which have become the weapon of choice in the ground war. These are being used with great effect to destroy armored vehicles at close quarters.

Among those, the US-made Javelin, with dual charges designed to defeat Russian tanks’ anti-missile defenses, has become legendary in its effectiveness. A popular Ukrainian song extols it and there is now even a viral depiction of “Saint Javelin,” an Eastern iconography-style image of a woman cradling the weapon. Biden said Washington will send 2,000 more javelin missiles to Ukraine.

Guns, ammunition, body armor

The new US arms provisions also include 7,000 other anti-armor weapons, thousands of machine guns, rifles, and grenade launchers, 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition fitting both Russian and NATO standards, and 25,000 sets of body armor and helmets.

Russian troops now using munitions ‘more likely to result in civilian casualties’

A Ukrainian soldier inspects the rubble of a destroyed apartment building in Kyiv on March 15, 2022. (Fadel Senna/AFP)
A Ukrainian soldier inspects the rubble of a destroyed apartment building in Kyiv on March 15, 2022. (Fadel Senna/AFP)

An intelligence update from the British Ministry of Defense says Russian forces in Ukraine have stalled, failed to achieve their objectives and have not been able to control Ukrainian airspace.

The delays have made the Russians use up more of their modern weaponry, and they are therefore resorting to “older, less precise weapons.”

These weapons “are less military effective and more likely to result in civilian casualties,” the update says.

The update comes as Russia already inflicts horrific damage on Ukrainian cities.

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