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Key port city Kherson appears to fall to Russians, but fate unclear

Zelensky boasts of thwarting Russian sneak attack in middle of the night video; rabbi in Kherson says Russians controlling movement; ICC opens war crimes probe

  • Members of the civil defense take positions as a vehicle approaches the checkpoint in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP/Vadim Ghirda)
    Members of the civil defense take positions as a vehicle approaches the checkpoint in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP/Vadim Ghirda)
  • An explosion seen near Kyiv on March 3, 2022. (screen capture: Twitter)
    An explosion seen near Kyiv on March 3, 2022. (screen capture: Twitter)
  • US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, appears on a screen as he delivers a remote speech, during the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 1, 2022. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, Pool)
    US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, appears on a screen as he delivers a remote speech, during the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 1, 2022. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, Pool)
  • People cover the windows Museum of Ethnography with metal plates in Lviv, western Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP/Bernat Armangue)
    People cover the windows Museum of Ethnography with metal plates in Lviv, western Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP/Bernat Armangue)
  • Passengers rush to board a train leaving to Slovakia from the Lviv railway station, in Lviv, west Ukraine, March 2, 2022. (AP/Felipe Dana)
    Passengers rush to board a train leaving to Slovakia from the Lviv railway station, in Lviv, west Ukraine, March 2, 2022. (AP/Felipe Dana)
  • Firefighters work to contain a fire at the Economy Department building of Karazin Kharkiv National University, allegedly hit during recent shelling by Russia, on March 2, 2022. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)
    Firefighters work to contain a fire at the Economy Department building of Karazin Kharkiv National University, allegedly hit during recent shelling by Russia, on March 2, 2022. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)
  • A Russian police officer, right, detains a demonstrator during an action against Russia's attack on Ukraine in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP/Dmitri Lovetsky)
    A Russian police officer, right, detains a demonstrator during an action against Russia's attack on Ukraine in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP/Dmitri Lovetsky)
  • 141-5 with 35 abstentions: The results of a UN vote to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, March 2, 2022 (Courtesy)
    141-5 with 35 abstentions: The results of a UN vote to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, March 2, 2022 (Courtesy)
  • A view of the square outside the damaged local city hall of Kharkiv on March 1, 2022, destroyed as a result of Russian troop shelling. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)
    A view of the square outside the damaged local city hall of Kharkiv on March 1, 2022, destroyed as a result of Russian troop shelling. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)
  • Ukrainian firefighters stand beneath a television broadcast tower in the Jewish cemetery located in Kyiv's Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial site on March 1, 2022. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine)
    Ukrainian firefighters stand beneath a television broadcast tower in the Jewish cemetery located in Kyiv's Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial site on March 1, 2022. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine)
  • People gather in a subway, using it as a bomb shelter, in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
    People gather in a subway, using it as a bomb shelter, in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
  • Firefighters work to contain a fire in the complex of buildings housing the Kharkiv regional SBU security service and the regional police, allegedly hit during recent shelling by Russia, in Kharkiv on March 2, 2022. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)
    Firefighters work to contain a fire in the complex of buildings housing the Kharkiv regional SBU security service and the regional police, allegedly hit during recent shelling by Russia, in Kharkiv on March 2, 2022. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)
  • Ukrainian servicemen ride on top of an armored personnel carrier speeding down a deserted boulevard during an air raid alarm, in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
    Ukrainian servicemen ride on top of an armored personnel carrier speeding down a deserted boulevard during an air raid alarm, in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

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

Russians have taken Kherson, local official says

Russian forces have taken over the Ukrainian city of Kherson, a local official confirms after others said fighting for the city was still underway.

“The (Russian) occupiers are in all parts of the city and are very dangerous,” Gennady Lakhuta, head of the regional administration, writes on messaging service Telegram.

Earlier Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky released a video with an upbeat assessment of how the war is going, saying any city captured would be taken back.

“If they went somewhere, then only temporarily. We’ll drive them out,” he said.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry reports that in the past day three planes and two helicopters were shot down.

US official says Kherson ‘very much contested’

A senior US defense official disputes that Kherson is being held by Russian forces.

“Our view is that Kherson is very much a contested city,” the official tells the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office also says fighting is still occurring around the port city of Kherson.

Zelenskyy’s office says it cannot comment on the situation there while the battle is still being waged.

Zelensky in new video: We thwarted sneaky Russian plans in a week

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says that his country has thwarted Russia’s “sneaky” plans, saying he is proud of the “heroic” resistance to Moscow’s invasion.

“We are a nation that broke the enemy’s plans in a week. Plans written for years: sneaky, full of hatred for our country, our people,” Zelensky says in a video posted on Telegram.

Sirens in Kyiv, hour after train station damaged by missile shrapnel

Air raid sirens have sounded again in Kyiv, where it is currently the middle of the night. There are also initial reports of explosions.

Earlier, a train station in the capital was hit with a massive blast. According to reports, the explosion was the result of a piece of a missile that had been intercepted falling nearby.

Kherson rabbi: Russians are everywhere, there’s no food

A rabbi in Kherson tells Israel’s Kan news that Russian forces are everywhere in the city, describing a desperate situation there.

“The city is crawling with hundreds of tanks and Russian soldiers, who have published notices forbidding movement of more than two people together in a car and demanding that people raise their arms when approaching checkpoints,” Rabbi Yosef Wolf says.

He says stores in the city, which has been under Russian siege for days, are out of food and medicine.

“We’re hoping supplies will restart tomorrow,” he adds.

It is currently unclear who holds Kherson. Despite reports that Russians have captured the key Black Sea port city, the mayor maintains that Kherson remains in Ukrainian hands.

ICC prosecutor opens war crimes probe into Russian actions in Ukraine

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor has opened an investigation Wednesday into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in Ukraine dating back to 2013, but also covering the conflict sparked by Russia’s invasion.

Prosecutor Karim Khan says he launched the probe after 39 of the court’s member states requested an investigation, a process known as a referral.

“These referrals enable my Office to proceed with opening an investigation into the Situation in Ukraine from 21 November 2013 onwards, thereby encompassing within its scope any past and present allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed on any part of the territory of Ukraine by any person,” Khan says in a statement.

“Our work in the collection of evidence has now commenced,” he added.

Lviv mayor to ToI: Idiot Russians destroying Jewish-Ukrainian history

The mayor of Lviv tells ToI that Ukraine is the West’s vanguard against anti-democratic forces, comparing it to the biblical David fighting Goliath as the country’s embattled army and citizens face down the larger Russian military.

“Today, Ukrainian citizens [are] like David,” said Andriy Sadovyi, switching between English and Ukrainian in his city hall office. “Our David protects democratic countries in [the] world.”

Responding to damage to the Babyn Yar memorial after a bombing attack in Kyiv, he accuses Russian troops of “attack[ing] Jewish-Ukrainian history.”

“Russian power is idiot[ic]. It’s completely idiot[ic],” he adds.

Lvivi Mayor Andriy Sadovyi in his office on March 2, 2022. (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

Sadovyi says his city, the largest in western Ukraine and currently for from front lines, has been preparing for the Russian onslaught for months and can absorb as many as 200,000 refugees.

“We have a robust self-organization process that is deeply ingrained in our genes,” he explains through his interpreter. “Even our authorities cannot understand sometimes how people self-organize and what they can do for survival.”

Conference of Presidents laments tragedy in Ukraine, avoids faulting Russia for it

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issues a statement expressing outrage over the “humanitarian tragedy” unfolding in Ukraine, while avoiding casting blame on Russia.

“We mourn the many victims of this unnecessary and deadly conflict. We urge a swift and peaceful lasting resolution to the crisis,” the umbrella body representing 50 US Jewish groups says, adding that it is engaged in efforts to bring humanitarian assistance to the affected populations.

The conference commends the countries that have opened their borders to Ukrainian refugees and encourages the US to do the same.

It calls for historical sites such as Kyiv’s Babyn Yar Massacre memorial site to be protected but avoids naming Russia as the country responsible for strikes on those areas.

“We encourage all parties, and particularly the Russian Federation, to refrain from historical revisionism that trivializes and distorts the reality of the Holocaust,” the conference says, in the statement’s only mention of Russia.

Russia says Kherson has fallen to Moscow; Ukrainian military denies claim

A member of the Ukrainian Emergency Service looks at the City Hall building in the central square following shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Pavel Dorogoy)
A member of the Ukrainian Emergency Service looks at the City Hall building in the central square following shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Pavel Dorogoy)

A Russian official says troops have taken the Ukrainian port city of Kherson — a claim that the Ukrainian military denies.

The city is under Russian soldiers’ “complete control,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov says Wednesday.

He says that the city’s civilian infrastructure, essential facilities and transport are operating as usual and that there are no shortages of food or essential goods.

Konashenkov says talks between the Russian commanders, city administrations and regional authorities on how to maintain order in the city were underway Wednesday. The claims could not be immediately verified.

A senior US defense official says Wednesday that they have seen claims that the Russians have taken Kherson, but that the Ukrainian military is rejecting that claim.

“Our view is that Kherson is very much a contested city at this point,” says the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to make military assessments.

Kherson mayor Igor Kolykhaev told The New York Times that the city had fallen. But he now appears on the BBC channel, informing viewers that the city has yet to be fully conquered by Moscow.

A Russian armored personnel carrier burns amid damaged and abandoned light utility vehicles after fighting in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on February 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Marienko Andrew)

US envoy praises Israeli role in marshalling votes against Russia at UN

US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Richard Nides speaks during his swearing-in ceremony as new ambassador to Israel, at the President's residence in Jerusalem, on December 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Richard Nides speaks during his swearing-in ceremony as new ambassador to Israel, at the President's residence in Jerusalem, on December 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

United States Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides says Israel persuaded other countries to participate in the overwhelming majority that condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the United Nation’s General Assembly Wednesday.

“Enormous thanks to Israel for helping rally more members to stand with Ukraine in today’s historic @UN vote. Over 141 votes to hold Russia accountable. Diplomacy matters!” Nides says.

The final tally of the vote on the resolution, entitled “Aggression against Ukraine,” was 141-5 with 35 abstentions.

The only countries that voted against the resolution alongside Russia were Syria, North Korea, Belarus and Eritrea — a powerful indication of the international isolation that Russian President Vladimir Putin faces for invading his country’s smaller neighbor. Among those that abstained were China, India, Iraq, Pakistan and South Africa.

Members 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)

Israeli Foreign Ministry issues travel warning to southern Belarus due to crisis

Tanks move during the Union Courage-2022 Russia-Belarus military drills at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground in Belarus, February 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr)
Tanks move during the Union Courage-2022 Russia-Belarus military drills at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground in Belarus, February 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr)

The Israeli Foreign Ministry tells Israelis not to approach Belarus’s southern borders with Ukraine, due to the ongoing Russian invasion.

The government body further asks Israelis remaining in the Russia-aligned dictatorship — officially a republic — to register with the embassy in Minsk as a precaution.

Kherson falls to Russian forces, first major Ukrainian city conquered — NYT

An armed Ukranian man stands by the remains of a Russian military vehicle in Bucha, close to the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Serhii Nuzhnenko)
An armed Ukranian man stands by the remains of a Russian military vehicle in Bucha, close to the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Serhii Nuzhnenko)

After an embattled few days, the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson has fallen to invading Russian troops, The New York Times reports.

Kherson mayor Igor Kolykhaev met today with the local Russian commander who plans to set up a military administration in the area, according to the newspaper.

Russian forces had claimed earlier on Wednesday that the southern city of Kherson had fallen into Russian hands. The Ukrainian government insisted at the time that the local municipality was still functioning.

If confirmed, Kherson would be the first major Ukrainian city to fall into Moscow’s hands since the invasion begin seven days ago. The city lies in a strategically crucial area that connects the Crimean Peninsula, illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, with mainland Ukraine.

A member of the Ukrainian Emergency Service looks at the City Hall building in the central square following shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Pavel Dorogoy)

Another Israeli humanitarian shipment expected, says Israeli envoy in Ukraine

An El Al plane is loaded up with humanitarian aid for Ukraine on March 1, 2022. (GPO screenshot)
An El Al plane is loaded up with humanitarian aid for Ukraine on March 1, 2022. (GPO screenshot)

Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky confirms a Hebrew media report of an additional shipment of Israeli humanitarian aid.

“Israel will send more humanitarian aid, equipment and possibly doctors and a field hospital,” Brodsky tells Kan 11’s diplomatic correspondent, Gili Cohen.

Ukrainian officials have expressed appreciation for Israeli aid to the embattled country over the past few days, but have stressed that they want Israeli military support.

Brodsky adds that he has told his Ukrainian counterparts that there is “no point” in asking for Israeli military aid.

Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Michael Brodsky, at the Medyka crossing point on February 27, 2022 (Twitter)

US top diplomat Blinken: Putin’s nuclear rhetoric is ‘height of irresponsibility’

Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, on February 22, 2022. (Carolyn Kaster / POOL / AFP)
Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, on February 22, 2022. (Carolyn Kaster / POOL / AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken calls President Vladimir Putin’s “provocative” nuclear rhetoric “the height of irresponsibility” Wednesday, days after the Russian leader put his strategic deterrence forces on alert after invading Ukraine.

“It’s dangerous. It adds to the risk of miscalculation. It needs to be avoided,” Blinken tells reporters in Washington.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on February 21, 2022. Putin ordered Russian nuclear deterrent forces put on high alert on Sunday, February 27, amid tensions with the West over his invasion of Ukraine. (Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

Costs of Russian invasion of Ukraine “staggering,” says US top diplomat Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in the briefing room of the State Department in Washington, January 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in the briefing room of the State Department in Washington, January 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

The human costs of Russia’s “unwarranted unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine are staggering,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says tonight, more than a week after Moscow invaded its eastern European neighbor.

“In the face of this violence, the courage of the Ukrainian people is inspiring the world,” Blinken says, shortly after the State Department announces that the diplomat will visit Poland, Moldova and the Baltic states in a bid to reaffirm Washington’s support for Ukraine.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens as he is introduced to speak at a mission Australia meet and greet in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool Photo via AP)

IDF: Troops confiscate $1.8 million in drugs along Egyptian border

Troops stand next to drugs seized during a smuggling attempt on the Egypt border, on March 2, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Troops stand next to drugs seized during a smuggling attempt on the Egypt border, on March 2, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Troops foil an attempt to smuggle drugs into Israel from Egypt, the Israel Defense Forces says.

According to the Israeli military, soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras spotted the drug smuggling attempt and dispatched troops to the scene.

More than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of marijuana flowers and hashish, estimated to be worth NIS 6 million ($1.8 million), were seized, the IDF says. No one was arrested in the raid, according to the army.

US Senate to hold hearings on Biden nominees, including antisemitism envoy

Deborah Lipstadt, US President Joe Biden's nominee to be antisemitism monitor, testifies in the Dirksen Office building near the US Capitol, February 8, 2022. (Ron Kampeas/JTA)
Deborah Lipstadt, US President Joe Biden's nominee to be antisemitism monitor, testifies in the Dirksen Office building near the US Capitol, February 8, 2022. (Ron Kampeas/JTA)

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled a hearing to vote on confirming US President Joe Biden’s nominee for special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt, for next Tuesday March 8.

Lipstadt’s appointment has been held up for months by Senate Republicans who have spoken out about past remarks Lipstadt has made criticizing members of the GOP.

Lipstadt still has enough votes to make it out of committee, after which her nomination will come before the entire Senate for a vote. There too, she is expected to have enough votes to be overwhelmingly confirmed.

Deborah Lipstadt, nominated to be special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, with the rank of ambassador, speaks during her Senate Foreign Relations nomination hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will also vote to advance the nomination of Biden’s nominee for assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, Barbara Leaf, which has also been held up by GOP senators for months.

Sweden says 4 Russian fighter jets violate its airspace over Baltic Sea

The Swedish Armed Forces says that four Russian fighter jets entered Sweden’s air space to the east of the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea.

“Against the background of the current situation we are taking the incident very seriously,” Chief of Sweden’s Air Force Carl-Johan Edstrom says in a statement, adding that the “violation” was brief but that Swedish jets had been scrambled to document the incursion.

In this photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Monday, Jan. 31, 2022, Russian Su-30SM2 fighter jets taxi after landing on the airfield in Chernyakhovsk, Russia (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Report: Israel planning to set up field hospital in Ukraine

Israel is planning to set up a field hospital in Ukraine as soon as next week, Kan news reports.

The unsourced report does not detail where such a hospital would be opened.

Air raid sirens sound in Lviv

Air raid sirens sound in Lviv in western Ukraine. They also sounded at 10:15 this morning.

Our diplomatic correspondent Lazar Berman reports from his hotel shelter in Ukraine that guests are largely calm, looking at their phones or working on their laptops.

Hundreds of immigrants fleeing Ukraine war will land in Israel on Sunday

Hundreds of immigrants fleeing the ongoing war in Ukraine will land in Israel on Sunday, the Jewish Agency for Israel says.

The Ukrainian Jewish refugees will travel on three separate flights, leaving from Poland, Moldova and Romania.

“These olim escaped the harrowing fighting in Ukraine and were assisted by aliyah (immigration to Israel) centers operated by the Jewish Agency and International Fellowship of Christians and Jews in four bordering countries,” the Jewish Agency says.

They will be greeted at the airport by Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata, Acting Chairman of the Jewish Agency Yaakov Hagoel, and President and CEO of the IFCJ Yael Eckstein.

“[Ministry of Immigration and Absorption] teams will provide each immigrant with an extended benefits package and will arrange temporary housing in hotels across the country,” the Jewish Agency says.

Illustrative: An El Al plane lands at Ben Gurion Airport on October 13, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Abramovich confirms he’ll sell Chelsea; net proceeds will go to Ukraine war victims

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich confirms he will sell the Premier League club amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian billionaire Abramovich has decided it is in the “best interest” of the Champions League holders if he parts ways with the club he has transformed since his purchase in 2003.

“As I have stated before, I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart,” Abramovich says in a statement.

“In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club’s sponsors and partners.”

The British government has yet to order sanctions against Abramovich, who is said to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the Chelsea owner’s concern about potential seizing of assets is said to have sparked his move to off-load the Blues.

“The sale of the club will not be fast-tracked but will follow due process,” Abramovich says. “I will not be asking for any loans to be repaid. This has never been about business nor money for me, but about pure passion for the game and club. Moreover, I have instructed my team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated.

“The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine. This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery.”

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

Ukraine’s UN envoy accuses Russia of ‘genocide’

Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations has accused Russia of seeking to commit genocide in his country.

“They have come to deprive Ukraine of the very right to exist,” Sergiy Kyslytsya told the General Assembly earlier, before it passed a resolution demanding Russia withdraw its forces from the eastern European country.

“It’s already clear that the goal of Russia is not an occupation only. It is genocide.”

Russia’s envoy Vassily Nebenzia, speaking shortly after, accused Ukraine of “rampant neo-Nazism” and the West of using “open and cynical threats” to persuade other countries at the UN to vote in favor of the resolution. He said Russia only wants to stop a separatist conflict in Donbas, in eastern Ukraine.

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, takes off his mask as he prepares to speak during a special session of the General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters on March 02, 2022 in New York City (Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images via AFP)

US CENTCOM chief Kenneth McKenzie arrives in Israel for final official visit

Kenneth McKenzie, head of the United States Central Command, arrives in Israel for a final official visit during his tenure, the Israel Defense Forces says.

During his trip, he will meet with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi to discuss “the ongoing cooperation between the militaries, maintaining regional stability and operational cooperation,” the IDF says.

Commander of US CENTCOM Kenneth McKenzie (right) is seen with Maj. Gen. Hidai Zilberman, Israel’s defense attaché to the United States, after landing in Israel, March 2, 2022 (IDF)

IDF to hold drill Thursday in northern city of Kiryat Shmona

The Israel Defense Forces will be holding a drill tomorrow morning in the northern city of Kiryat Shmona, near the Lebanon border.

During the exercise, military vehicles will be moving through the area, the IDF says.

The drill was planned in advance, and is aimed at “maintaining the competency and vigilance of the troops,” the military says.

One of the goals of the exercise is to improve the military’s ongoing cooperation with the municipality and other local authorities, the IDF adds.

Gantz says nuclear deal with Iran could be signed within days

Speaking at a graduation ceremony of navy officers, Defense Minister Benny Gantz vows Israel will never give up on making sure Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons.

“In the coming weeks, perhaps even in the coming days, a nuclear agreement may be signed between [world] powers and Iran. Whether that happens or not, Israel will continue to do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from becoming an existential threat and possessing nuclear capability,” Gantz says.

“We will continue our diplomatic activity, because Iran is first and foremost a global and regional problem, and we will continue to build our military force. All means are valid.

“Even if an agreement is signed, we will never stop operating in diplomatic channels with the goal of tightening observation on Iran, and with real and painful consequences for any violation [of the agreement] and progress in nuclear development,” he says.

Speaking on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Gantz says: “We see the difficult and painful fighting in Ukraine, and we do not stand by idly. We are sending humanitarian aid, helping evacuate our citizens, absorbing immigrants and refugees, and are willing to expand aid in ways that will stop fighting and save lives.”

“Israel is a partner and will continue to be a partner in the international community’s effort to restore order,” he adds, without mentioning Russia by name.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks during a graduation ceremony for Israeli Navy officers at the Haifa naval base, March 2, 2022. (Screenshot: Youtube)

After conversation with Zelensky, Bennett also talks to Putin

Prime Minister Bennett has also spoken on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin this evening.

According to the Kremlin, the call came at Israel’s initiative, and Putin told the Israeli leader the key to ending the crisis in Ukraine was an agreement that would protect Russia’s defensive interests.

The call came as Israel voted to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations.

Ukraine invasion hastens Putin’s downfall, exiled opponents says

Russian President Vladimir Putin has hastened his own downfall with a war in Ukraine that he cannot win, exiled opponent the former tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky charges.

Khodorkovsky tells France 24 television in an interview from London that Putin’s decision to order an invasion of Ukraine was an “emotional” move by a leader who is increasingly “paranoid.”

“It is a suicide. He cannot win in Ukraine, even if they take Kyiv and the [eastern city] of Kharkiv. This is hastening his end.”

“The regime will decompose. It will not be rapid, we are talking about one or two years,” says Khodorkovsky, adding that the end could come about due to a collapse of the economy.

Khodorkovsky was long Russia’s most famous prisoner, jailed from 2003 to 2013 on charges his supporters said were manufactured for his daring to challenge Putin.

Russian opposition figure and former owner of the Yukos Oil Company Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Vilnius, Lithuania, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021 (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

Georgia to apply ‘immediately’ for EU membership, ruling party says

Georgia will “immediately” apply for EU membership, the Black Sea nation’s ruling party says, a day after the European Parliament backed war-torn Ukraine’s bid to apply for EU membership.

The ruling Georgian Dream party chairman, Irakli Kobakhidze, announces the party’s “decision today to immediately apply for the EU membership.”

Georgia calls on the EU “to review our application in an urgent manner and to make the decision to grant Georgia the status of an EU membership candidate,” he tells a press conference.

Georgia’s decision follows a similar move by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who won backing from MEPs in a non-binding resolution recommending that EU bodies grant Ukraine the status of candidate country.

UN General Assembly, including Israel, votes overwhelmingly to condemn Russia

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly, on February 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly, on February 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to adopt a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Israel is among the 141 countries that have voted in favor of the resolution. Five countries — Russia, North Korea, Syria, Belarus and Eritrea — vote against.

Thirty-five countries abstain, including China, India, Iraq, Pakistan and South Africa.

The plenum breaks out into applause and standing ovations as the speaker announces the results.

The resolution demands that Russia “immediately” withdraw from Ukraine. It “deplores” the invasion “in the strongest terms” and condemns President Vladimir Putin’s decision to put his nuclear forces on alert.

The results of a UN vote to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, March 2, 2022 (Courtesy)

Ukraine emergency service says over 2,000 civilians killed so far

Ukraine’s emergency service says over 2,000 civilians have been killed so far in Russia’s invasion of the country, according to Reuters.

It adds that hundreds of buildings have been destroyed, among them hospitals, homes, kindergartens and more.

“Children, women and defense forces are losing their lives every hour,” the service says.

Meanwhile Moscow says 498 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine, in the first death toll it has published since the invasion began.

Ukraine has claimed the toll is far higher, at nearly 6,000.

Video purportedly shows Ukrainians in separatist Luhansk blocking Russian convoy

A video, purportedly from the separatist Luhansk region, shows residents of Starobilsk standing in the way of a Russian military convoy.

US pledges to crack down on Russian oligarchs

The US Justice Department says it will crack down on Russian oligarchs and anyone else who violates the sweeping sanctions imposed by the Biden administration in response to the war against Ukraine.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announces the creation of Task Force KleptoCapture, a team of federal agents and prosecutors responsible for investigating and prosecuting any violations of new and future sanctions.

That includes seizing the assets belonging to oligarchs and others who violate the sanctions, and thwarting any efforts to use cryptocurrency to get around sanctions.

Garland says in a statement announcing the sanctions that the Justice Department “will leave no stone unturned” in investigating and prosecuting “those whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue this unjust war.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, October 27, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Pool via AP)

Israeli man stabbed in Palestinian village of Hizme, moderately hurt

A Jewish Israeli man in his 50s is moderately hurt after apparently being stabbed in the Palestinian village of Hizme, police and medics say.

Police say the man, a resident of Jerusalem, arrived at a nearby checkpoint and claimed he was stabbed while in a store in the town.

The background of the incident is not immediately clear, and is being investigated, police say.

The man has been taken by medics to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Medics are seen at Hizme checkpoint in the West Bank, north of Jerusalem, on March 2, 2022. (Rescuers Without Borders)

Two Ukrainian soccer players, one of them Jewish, killed in fighting

Two Ukrainian soccer players, one of them Jewish, have been killed in fighting in Ukraine, according to local media.

The players were named as 21-year-old Vitaliy Sapilo, who was killed in battle near Kyiv; and 25-year-old Dmitry Martynenko, who was killed along with his mother when their home was bombed near the capital.

Martynenko’s family is Jewish. His father survived the blast.

Israel says outreach to Turkey won’t come at Cyprus’s expense

Any bid by Israel to improve strained ties with Turkey won’t come at the expense of its “strategic relationship” with neighboring Cyprus, President Isaac Herzog said earlier in the island nation.

Herzog, speaking after talks with his Cypriot counterpart, said he’s aware next week’s visit to Turkey has touched a raw nerve in ethnically-split Cyprus, which accuses Ankara of trying to place the entire island under its control.

Herzog told Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades that “nothing in my visit and what would ensue will be on the account of this strategic relationship with your country.”

He said Israel seeks to strengthen relations and pursue dialogue with all nations and all faiths, including Turkey, which he called “a very important neighbor of ours that has a huge impact on our lives in many fields.”

“We have to…if possible to lower the tension and move on in a true dialogue that would definitely include issues of climate and the economy,” said Herzog.

President Isaac Herzog, left, and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades speak to the media, during a press conference after their meeting at the presidential palace in Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday, March 2, 2022 (Iakovos Hatzistavrou/Pool via AP)

Russian forces shell Ukrainian cities as troops battle in streets of Kharkiv

Russian forces shell several Ukrainian cities as troops battle in the streets of Kharkiv.

Several victims were reported killed by the shelling in southern and eastern Ukraine, adding to a civilian death toll of at least 350 people, including 14 children, according to Ukrainian authorities.

AFP saw the aftermath of apparent Russian bombing on a market and a residential area in Zhytomyr, around 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Kyiv, and in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-biggest city.

“There is nowhere in Kharkiv where shells have not yet struck,” says Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, after Russian airborne troops landed in the city before dawn.

A woman stands in the backyard of a house damaged by a Russian airstrike, according to locals, in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022 (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Ukrainian, Israeli leaders hold another phone call on Russian invasion

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has had yet another phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Zelensky tweets of the phone call, which was about “Russian aggression,” but gives no further details.

Ukraine chief rabbi: World didn’t stop Hitler, it must stop Putin — bomb his army convoy

The chief rabbi of Ukraine is urging the world to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin before he destroys the country, beseeching the US or NATO to bomb the huge miles-long convoy of Russian military vehicles headed for the capital Kyiv.

“From Friday it went from a war against the Ukrainian army to a war against the people,” Rabbi Yaakov Bleich tells CNN. “I’m not gonna call it a genocide because he’s just killing everybody indiscriminately, he doesn’t care about what their genetics are or where they’re coming from.

“He’s killing those people that he said he wants to protect. He’s bombing Kharkiv, which has many Russian-speaking people. Wasn’t he coming to save the Russian-speaking people?”

On Putin’s claim that he seeks to “de-Nazify” Ukraine with the offensive, Bleich says: “The Nazi that should be de-Nazified — his name is Vladimir Putin.”

Bleich says he’s calling on the entire world: “Let’s get up and do something. We can still stop him. We couldn’t stop Hitler in World War II — well maybe we could have but we didn’t — but now we could stop [Putin].

“The world can stop him, NATO can stop him, the United States can stop him. And we can save millions of lives, just by destroying his echelon, 37 miles long of tanks and armored vehicles, where he’s going to destroy the capital of Ukraine and the people that live there. It’s time for the world to do something.”

Russian POWs say they ‘were used like a meat shield’; ‘They sent us to death’

Ukrainian forces continue to publish videos of captured Russian prisoners describing being kept in the dark about the invasion even as it was underway, and condemning the Russian military’s conduct.

Though the videos were likely made under some duress, they are still striking.

In one, a soldier says his commander refused to tell him where the unit was going.

“I didn’t know we were going to Ukraine, I was tricked,” another says.

“We were deceived and used like a meat shield,” says yet another, according to the translation provided in the clip.

“We acted like Nazis. We attacked people here, so they were forced to defend their territory,” a soldier adds.

“Everything they say to us is bullshit… I just don’t understand why we were told all this crap in Russia,” a soldier says in another video while talking to his family. “We have been fu**ing left here just like pigs.”

In another clip, a captured trooper tells his mom: “They sent us to death, the whole fu**ing battalion. Everybody was killed… They don’t even take away the bodies.”

He warns her, however, not to make too much trouble back home. “If you start making a lot of noise the FSB will be after you,” he says, in reference to the Russian internal security agency.

Ukraine says it will free Russian POWs — if their mothers come to collect them

Ukraine invites the worried mothers of Russian troops captured on the battlefield to come and collect their sons, in an apparent attempt to embarrass Moscow.

“A decision has been taken to hand over captured Russian troops to their mothers if they come to collect them in Ukraine, in Kyiv,” the defense ministry says in a statement.

Kyiv has sought to undermine Russian public support for the invasion by opening a telephone hotline for Russian parents to find out if their sons are among the dead or captured.

The defense ministry has published telephone numbers and and an email address to provide information about captured Russians, and mothers will be invited to Kyiv to collect their missing sons.

“You will be received and taken to Kyiv where your son will be returned to you,” the ministry statement says. “Unlike Putin’s fascists, we Ukrainians are not waging war against mothers and their captured children.”

Knesset speaker to Scholz: ‘You’re facing a challenge we hoped belonged in history’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meets with Israeli Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, in Levy’s parliamentary office.

“In your short time in office, you are facing a challenge that we hoped would belong in the history books,” the Knesset speaker tells Scholz.

In January, Levy delivered an emotional speech in Germany’s Bundestag in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Today, Levy invites Scholz to make a reciprocal address to the Knesset plenum in the future.

Levy says he and Scholz also discussed the chancellor’s decision to invest €100 billion ($110 billion) in a special military fund to strengthen Germany’s army and security, announced on Sunday along with Germany’s intention to increase its NATO funding, both in response to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

“You have made a quick decision that looks reality in the eye and looks to the future,” Levy says. “Recent developments require us all to rethink foreign and security issues.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (right) meets with Israeli Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy (2nd left), at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 2, 2022 (Courtesy)

Zelensky in Hebrew appeal to world Jews: ‘Cry out’ against Russian invasion

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posts a Hebrew appeal to world Jewry on his official Telegram channel, repeating in Hebrew comments he made earlier in the day.

Calling yesterday’s missile strike that caused damage at the Babyn Yar memorial site “beyond human comprehension,” he urges world Jewry to “cry out” against the Russian invasion.

“The seventh day of this terrible war has begun,” he says. “A war in which we all feel we are one. We were all bombed yesterday in Kyiv, and we all died again in Babyn Yar from a missile attack. Even though the world regularly promises ‘Never again!'”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky posts a Hebrew-language appeal to world Jews on Telegram (screenshot)

He continues: “For a normal person who knows history, Babyn Yar is a special place in Kyiv, a special place in Europe. A place of prayer, a place of memory of the thousands and hundreds of thousands of people who were murdered by the Nazis. A place of Kyiv’s ancient cemeteries. Why does such a place become the target of a missile strike? You are killing the Holocaust victims again.”

He says the bombing shows Russians “know nothing of our capital, of our history.”

Zelensky goes on to note that on the first say of the war, the city of Uman was bombed, “the place where hundreds and thousands of Jews come every year to pray. Then they struck Babyn Yar….

“I call now on all the Jews of the world — do you not see what is happening here? This is why it’s important for millions of Jews around the world not to stay silent in the face of such sights. Because Nazism was born in silence.

“Cry out against the killing of civilians. Cry out against the killing of Ukrainians!”

Russians to compete as ‘neutral athletes’ at Paralympics

Russians and Belarusians at the Winter Paralympics in Beijing will compete as “neutral athletes” because of their countries’ roles in the war against Ukraine, the International Paralympic Committee says.

Russian athletes had already been slated to compete as RPC, short for Russian Paralympic Committee, as punishment for the state-sponsored doping scandal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and a subsequent cover-up.

The IPC added more restrictions when the Paralympics open on Friday, but stopped short of expulsion. Belarus was sanctioned for its part in aiding Russia with the invasion and war against Ukraine.

Both delegations will be excluded from the medal table, and the IPC says it will not hold events in either country “while the present situation continues.”

“What we have decided upon is the harshest possible punishment we can hand down within our constitution and the current IPC rules,” IPC President Andrew Parsons says in a statement.

A helicopter flies past the Beijing Olympic Tower ahead of the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing, China, Wednesday, March 2, 2022 (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Boris Johnson calls Putin a war criminal, urges UN vote against invasion

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson calls Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal and urges UN unanimity in condemning his invasion of Ukraine.

His comments come in parliament, where MPs give a standing ovation to Ukraine’s ambassador in attendance.

Johnson wears a UK-Ukraine flag pin, and many lawmakers wear clothing in Ukraine’s blue and yellow colors.

“What we have seen already from Vladimir Putin’s regime, in the use of the munitions that they have already been dropping on innocent civilians, in my view already fully qualifies as a war crime,” Johnson says.

UK ministers have been warning that Putin, his cronies and commanders could face prosecution at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which has already opened a probe into the invasion.

Ahead of a vote by the UN General Assembly in New York, Johnson adds: “We call on every nation to join us in condemning Russia and demanding that Putin turns his tanks around.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for Prime Minister’s Questions, in London, Feb. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/David Cliff)

EU ousts 7 Russian banks from SWIFT under sanctions

The EU excludes seven Russian banks from the global SWIFT network, as sanctions are ratcheted up over Moscow’s war on Ukraine.

The banks immediately cut out from the secure interbank messaging network that permits transactions are Russia’s second-biggest lender VTB Bank as well as Bank Otkritie, Novikombank, Promsvyazbank, Rossiya Bank, Sovcombank and VEB (Vnesheconombank), according to an official EU publication.

Their listing is the latest package of coordinated Western punishment of Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, now in its seventh day.

“At the speed of light, the European Union has adopted three waves of heavy sanctions against Russia’s financial system, its high-tech industries and its corrupt elite,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen says in a statement.

“This is the largest sanctions package in our Union’s history. Today’s decision to disconnect key Russian banks from the SWIFT network will send yet another very clear signal to Putin and the Kremlin.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a press statement on Ukraine, at EU headquarters in Brussels, Feb 24, 2022. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool Photo via AP)

Lapid tells German leader: Your commitment to our friendship warms our hearts

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

“It is a great pleasure that you are here with us. The fact that you have arrived at such chaotic times is proof that even in a world so unstable, which has become even less stable in recent days, the friendships between our people and countries are stable and steadfast,” Lapid says at the outset of the meeting.

“The commitment you and your government have to cultivate this friendship warms the hearts of us all.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meets with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Jerusalem, March 2, 2022 (GPO)

Germany’s DHL suspends deliveries to Russia and Belarus

German logistics giant DHL announces it is stopping deliveries to Russia and Belarus, joining a growing list of Western businesses to cease operations in the countries after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The “inbound services to Russia and Belarus have been suspended,” DHL says in a statement, adding that it is “not accepting shipments to those countries until further notice.”

DHL, one of the world’s largest logistics groups, also closes its operation and offices in Ukraine until further notice to protect the “safety of our employees,” it says.

An increasing number of Western companies have broken off ties with Russia, which is the target of sanctions.

Buses arrive to evacuate Israelis from Lviv to Polish border

Israelis board a bus outside Israel’s honorary consulate in Lviv, to take them to the Polish border, March 2, 2022. (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)
Israelis board a bus outside Israel’s honorary consulate in Lviv, to take them to the Polish border, March 2, 2022. (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

LVIV, Ukraine — Two buses have arrived at Israel’s honorary consulate in Lviv to take Israelis to the Polish border.

About 50 Israeli citizens and non-Israeli families are beginning to board in a very orderly fashion.

Those needing extra care are asked to sit in the back of the bus.

Passengers seem calm, but the three dogs making the journey are excited and probably confused.

Israelis board a bus outside Israel’s honorary consulate in Lviv, to take them to the Polish border, March 2, 2022. (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

Alongside German chancellor, Bennett vows to prevent Iran from obtaining nukes ‘not on our watch, and never’

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz give a joint press conference in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on March 2, 2022 (Government Press Office)
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz give a joint press conference in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on March 2, 2022 (Government Press Office)

In remarks given at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem along with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says that he and Scholz met that morning to discuss the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, and establishing a new strategic partnership.

Addressing his German counterpart, Bennett says, “We also have a responsibility to make sure that Iran does not have nuclear weapons, and that there will be no possibility of acquiring nuclear weapons — not on our watch, and never,” in line with Israel’s longstanding view of nuclear Iran as one of its greatest security threats.

“We are following with concern the talks in Vienna, and the possibility that an agreement will be signed that will allow Iran to install centrifuges on a large scale within a few years is not acceptable to us.”

Regarding the war in Ukraine, Bennett expresses support for civilians, but does not address military aid, requests for which Israel has previously denied.

“Israel stands by the Ukrainian people,” Bennett says, noting that Israel on Monday and Tuesday sent 100 tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine. “We are dedicated to continue [supporting the Ukrainian people] and to do more.”

However, Bennett declined to respond to questions regarding whether Israel would change its decision not to send military aid to Ukraine.

Israel is walking a tightrope in its policy toward Ukraine, professing support for Ukraine while endeavoring to maintain good relations with Russia, which has a military presence in Israel’s northern neighbor Syria.

Focusing on the German-Israeli relationship, Bennett says he and Scholz are forging new partnerships, in addition to thanking Scholz for insisting on their visit to Yad Vashem earlier in the day.

“I’m happy to report that today the chancellor and I agreed upon the creation of new strategic cooperation between Germany and the State of Israel,” says Bennett. “It’s the format of a dialogue that will happen twice a year, on security and state issues.”

Despite Scholz’s short visit, Bennett says that the chancellor “insisted that the visit to Yad Vashem would [happen in full]. And I could see that your mind was there as well as your heart.”

The German chancellor arrived in Israel last night and will depart later today.

Suspected ‘price tag’ vandalism in West Bank village

Palestinians in the West Bank village of Iskaka woke up this morning to discover their town had been targeted in an apparent hate crime, with 11 vehicles vandalized and Hebrew graffiti spray-painted on buildings.

Slogans reading: “Enemies live here,” “The people of Israel live,” and “Fight the enemy and not the lover,” are graffitied, according to the Yesh Din rights group reports.

In a statement, Yesh Din blames the Israeli government, police, and justice system for allowing “settlers to continue disturbances in Palestinian villages.”

“The rioters know they are almost completely immune, and are encouraged. This reality of apartheid must be changed,” it says.

Incidents of vandalism against Palestinians and Israeli security forces are commonly referred to as “price tag” attacks, with perpetrators claiming that they are retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement.

There was no immediate comment from police on the matter.

In Jerusalem, Germany’s Scholz says he’s ‘extremely worried’ about Ukraine crisis

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gives a joint press conference with the Israeli prime minister at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on March 2, 2022. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / POOL / AFP)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gives a joint press conference with the Israeli prime minister at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on March 2, 2022. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / POOL / AFP)

Speaking from the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says he discussed the ongoing developments in Ukraine with Israeli premier Naftali Bennett during his lightning visit to Israel.

“We are extremely worried about the further course of the conflict. I want to repeat my call for all military action to stop immediately. Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure must cease. And of course it’s now about giving diplomacy a big opportunity again,” Scholz says.

Scholz says that he decided to make the trip despite the global crisis “and it was only right to do so.”

“Germany will always stand fast by Israel’s side,” Scholz says, emphasizing the country’s “responsibility” to the Jewish state.

UN: Nearly 836,000 refugees have fled Ukraine conflict

A Ukrainian mother and her child walk at the Siret border point with Ukraine in Siret city March 1, 2022. (Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP)
A Ukrainian mother and her child walk at the Siret border point with Ukraine in Siret city March 1, 2022. (Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP)

GENEVA, Switzerland — Nearly 836,000 refugees have now fled the conflict in Ukraine for safety in neighboring countries, United Nations figures show.

In all, 835,928 people have fled the country’s borders, according to the website of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR — a huge jump from the 677,000 announced yesterday afternoon by agency chief Filippo Grandi.

More than half have headed west into Poland.

Kremlin critic Navalny urges Russians to protest daily against Ukraine invasion

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gestures as he stands in a cage in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gestures as he stands in a cage in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

MOSCOW, Russia — Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny urges Russians to stage daily protests against Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, saying the country should not be a “nation of frightened cowards.”

“I am urging everyone to take to the streets and fight for peace,” he says in a statement posted on Facebook, calling on Russians not to be afraid of going to prison.

“Everything has a price and now, in the spring of 2022, we should pay that price.”

Germany’s Scholz says Iran deal can’t be ‘postponed any longer’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (R), on March 2, 2022. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (R), on March 2, 2022. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says a new Iran nuclear agreement “cannot be postponed any longer,” speaking during a visit to Israel.

“What we would like to see is that an agreement is reached in Vienna,” Scholz tells reporters alongside Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a vocal critic of the international talks in Austria’s capital.

“Now is the time to make a decision. This must not be postponed any longer and cannot be postponed any longer.”

Four killed, nine wounded in Kharkiv strikes, Ukraine emergency services say

Firefighters work to contain a fire at the Economy Department building of Karazin Kharkiv National University, allegedly hit during recent shelling by Russia, on March 2, 2022. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)
Firefighters work to contain a fire at the Economy Department building of Karazin Kharkiv National University, allegedly hit during recent shelling by Russia, on March 2, 2022. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)

KHARKIV, Ukraine — Four people have been killed and nine wounded during shelling in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, the emergency services says.

“Four dead, nine injured,” the services say, citing preliminary information.

Russia ‘ready’ to continue talks with Ukraine tonight, Kremlin says

Members of delegations from Ukraine and Russia, including Russian presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky (2L), Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak (2R), Volodymyr Zelensky's "Servant of the People" lawmaker Davyd Arakhamia (3R), hold talks in Belarus' Gomel region on February 28, 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Sergei KHOLODILIN / BELTA / AFP)
Members of delegations from Ukraine and Russia, including Russian presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky (2L), Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak (2R), Volodymyr Zelensky's "Servant of the People" lawmaker Davyd Arakhamia (3R), hold talks in Belarus' Gomel region on February 28, 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Sergei KHOLODILIN / BELTA / AFP)

MOSCOW, Russia — The Kremlin says a Russian delegation is ready to continue peace talks with Ukraine as Moscow’s invasion of the pro-Western country enters its seventh day.

“Our delegation will be ready to continue talks,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says, adding that Moscow’s delegation expects the talks to resume tonight.

President Isaac Herzog lands in Cyprus for official visit

President Isaac Herzog is received at an 
airport in Cyprus by Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ioannis Kasoulides, March 2. 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog is received at an airport in Cyprus by Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ioannis Kasoulides, March 2. 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog has just landed in the Republic of Cyprus, thus beginning his official visit, his spokesperson says.

Herzog is received at the airport by Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs Ioannis Kasoulides.

Ukraine chief rabbi slams Russian Jews for standing idly by as Moscow ‘indiscriminately’ bombs Ukraine

Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Moshe Azman is seen in a video statement, March 2, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Moshe Azman is seen in a video statement, March 2, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Ukrainian Chief Rabbi Moshe Azman issues a fiery condemnation of Russian people, specifically Russian Jews, for standing idly by as Moscow pummels Ukraine.

“Remember, that he who does not care and he who agrees silently, that is an accomplice to a crime. A war crime! A crime against humanity!” says the St. Petersburg-born Azman, speaking in Russian in a video statement.

“I never thought, even in my worst nightmare, that I might have to perish under the shells of Russia, where I was born, where I went to school, where I have many friends, who are silent. Basically no one has called and asked. People call from all over the world. From all over the world. Jews and non-Jews. Even Arabs call me from Israel and support me,” he says.

Azman accuses the Russian military of indiscriminately bombing Ukraine using GRAD rockets, contrasting it to the Israeli military’s use of “high accuracy missiles” to kill terrorists “so as to not, God forbid, hurt peaceful population.”

“Here? Look. Look at the videos. Maybe you’re not shown this. They shoot with Grad (MLRS). Grad are not high-accuracy weapons. Grads, tanks, ballistic rockets, planes. What’s going on? War. War! War!” he says.

Holding a Torah scroll, Azman says he “curses” those who are “silent accomplices in this horrible crime.”

“I’m standing with the holy Torah. This Torah has been given to us by the Almighty. And I’m telling you on the Torah,” he says.

Spain to send ‘offensive military hardware’ to Ukraine, PM says

MADRID, Spain — Spain will supply “military hardware” to Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of its pro-Western neighbor, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tells parliament.

“I… want to announce to you that Spain will deliver offensive military hardware to the Ukrainian resistance,” Sanchez said.

Until now, Spain had said it would send military support only as part of a wider package unveiled by the European Union on Sunday, in which Brussels agreed to unblock 450 million euros ($500 million) for member states to buy arms for Ukraine.

Sanchez says Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine “is a brutal attempt to stop the construction of a European space based on values radically opposed to the authoritarianism he represents.”

Shaked hits back at Ukraine envoy after claims of denying refugees entry

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at a conference in Jerusalem, February 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at a conference in Jerusalem, February 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked responds to accusations made by Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel that the Jewish state has denied entry to dozens of refugees fleeing the war in Europe.

“Yesterday, 97 refugees entered Israel and two were refused, for justifiable reasons. Let the professionals of the Population and Immigration Authority do their job,” she tells Army Radio.

“Along with helping Ukraine, we must ultimately safeguard the interests of the State of Israel,” Shaked declares.

Several Ukrainians who fled the fighting but lack legal status in Israel were detained at Ben Gurion Airport, Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk said yesterday.

According to Korniychuk and a lawyer representing the refugees, they came to Israel to stay with family, but the state was requesting a deposit of several thousand shekels before they were allowed to enter. The deposit is held to guarantee that the Ukrainians will eventually leave Israel.

German Chancellor Scholz visits Vad Vashem with PM: ‘We will never forget the millionfold suffering’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial hall of remembrance, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (C) and chairman of Yad Vashem Dani Dayan (R), on March 2, 2022. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial hall of remembrance, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (C) and chairman of Yad Vashem Dani Dayan (R), on March 2, 2022. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

In German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s first stop in Israel after arriving late last night, he and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visit Yad Vashem this morning.

Of the visit, Bennett said: “The first stop on your visit to Israel, your first as chancellor of Germany, is also the most important. The Holocaust, the systematic annihilation of Jews, is the wound that forms the basis of ties between Germany and Israel. From this wound we have built significant and steadfast relations.

“Mr. Chancellor, even today, 80 years after the war, there is no Jew who does not carry within him the memory of his six million brothers and sisters – men, women and children – who perished in the camps. Even today, in a strong and prosperous state, a state of warmth and happiness, in each one of us, even several generations later, there is deep sadness that does not disappear.

“Mr. Chancellor, I would like to thank you for your visit here and for your commitment to the memory of the Holocaust and to the Jewish people.”

A senior historian at Yad Vashem led the pair’s tour at the Holocaust History Center. In addition, Bennett and Scholz visited the Hall of Remembrance, an official memorial service, and the Children’s Museum.

“The crime against humanity that is the Shoah granted humanity a glimpse into the abyss. The mass murder against Jews was instigated by Germany. It was planned and executed by Germans. From this arises an everlasting responsibility of every German government for the safety of the State of Israel and the protection of Jewish life. We will never forget the millionfold suffering and the victims!” Scholz writes in his guestbook entry at Yad Vashem.

Sirens sound in west Ukraine city of Lviv

LVIV, Ukraine — Air raid sirens sound over the western Ukraine city of Lviv at around 10:15 a.m.

By 10:30 all was quiet again and residents were out in the streets walking their dogs.

There are no immediate reports of strikes in the city.

Zelensky claims almost 6,000 Russian soldiers killed in invasion

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on a screen as he speaks in a video conference during a special plenary session of the European Parliament focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the EU headquarters in Brussels, on March 01, 2022. (JOHN THYS / AFP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears on a screen as he speaks in a video conference during a special plenary session of the European Parliament focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the EU headquarters in Brussels, on March 01, 2022. (JOHN THYS / AFP)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky claims almost 6,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since Russia’s full-scale invasion began last Thursday.

Russia has not released overall casualty numbers and the figure could not be independently verified.

Russia defends airstrike on Kyiv TV tower, doesn’t comment on damage to Holocaust memorial

Ukrainian firefighters stand beneath a television broadcast tower in the Jewish cemetery located in Kyiv's Babi Yar Holocaust memorial site on March 1, 2022. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine)
Ukrainian firefighters stand beneath a television broadcast tower in the Jewish cemetery located in Kyiv's Babi Yar Holocaust memorial site on March 1, 2022. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine)

MOSCOW — Russia’s Defense Ministry claims Russian aviation disabled the main TV tower in Ukraine’s capital in an airstrike yesterday, but says the attack did not hit any residential buildings.

Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov does not address deaths from the strike or damage to the adjacent Babi Yar memorial to Kyiv’s Holocaust victims. He said the attack was aimed at disabling Ukraine’s ability to stage “information attacks.”

Ukraine’s State Service for Emergency Situations says the strikes on the TV tower killed five people and left five wounded. Ukrainian television stations briefly went down after the strike but were later restored.

Foreign Ministry preparing bus for Israelis from Lviv to Polish border today

Deserted suitcase and a baby cart are left beside the road as Ukrainian refugees flee Russian invasion at a border crossing in Medyka, Poland, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
Deserted suitcase and a baby cart are left beside the road as Ukrainian refugees flee Russian invasion at a border crossing in Medyka, Poland, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

The Foreign Ministry says it is organizing transportation for Israelis and their families from the Ukrainian city of Lviv to the Polish border at 1 p.m. today.

“Representatives from the Foreign Ministry will be at the border crossing to help you,” the ministry says.

Thousands of Israelis are believed to still be in Ukraine.

The ministry says the buses will leave from Gazova 36 in Lviv and that people must register in advance by calling +380-67-911-1764.

Zelensky urges Jews not to remain silent on Ukraine, after strike hits Holocaust memorial

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers his speech addressing the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 25, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers his speech addressing the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 25, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky urges the world’s Jews to speak out after a Russian missile strike on a Kyiv television tower built on the site of a Holocaust massacre.

“I am now addressing all the Jews of the world. Don’t you see what is happening? That is why it is very important that millions of Jews around the world not remain silent right now,” he says.

“Nazism is born in silence. So shout about killings of civilians. Shout about the murders of Ukrainians.”

Footage shows strike on police station, university in Kharkiv; 3 injured

The Ukraine parliament says at least three people are hurt in a Russian missile strike on the main police station in Kharkiv and a building of the Kharkiv National University.

Footage posted online shows the building on fire, as firefighters reach the scene.

Russian military claims to have taken control of Ukraine’s Kherson

MOSCOW — The Russian army claims to have taken control of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson as Moscow’s invasion of the pro-Western country goes into its seventh day.

“The Russian divisions of the armed forces have taken the regional center of Kherson under full control,” defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov says in televised remarks.

Final reading of bill to limit PM’s term to 8 years delayed until next week

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar speaks during a plenum session in the Knesset on December 15, 2021. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)
Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar speaks during a plenum session in the Knesset on December 15, 2021. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar announces the final reading of a bill limiting prime ministers to a maximum of eight years in office would be delayed until next week, after an all-nighter in the Knesset.

The coalition apparently lacked a majority without Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who is meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Sholz. Opposition lawmakers pulled all their reservations that would have delayed the votes until Bennett arrived, forcing Sa’ar having to delay the reading.

[The law] passed overnight and in the morning hours in a second reading. All its clauses were approved by the required majority… Next week we will vote on the third reading and god willing the work will be completed,” Sa’ar writes on Twitter.

Minister likens Ukraine refugees to Jews fleeing Holocaust, says Israel must open its doors

Women and children refugees fleeing the Russian invasion from Ukraine board a bus to Warsaw in Przemysl, Poland, March 1, 2022 (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
Women and children refugees fleeing the Russian invasion from Ukraine board a bus to Warsaw in Przemysl, Poland, March 1, 2022 (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai calls on Israel to open its doors to Ukrainian refugees, comparing their plight to those of Jews trying to flee the Holocaust.

“Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees have already crossed into neighboring countries or have been stranded outside of their country and are unable to return. We remember today the Jewish refugees 80 years ago who crossed continents and seas but were rejected,” Shai says.

“The State of Israel, the state of the Jewish people, must open its gates to these refugees. This is our basic humanitarian obligation,” he says.

Shai’s comments come a day after Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk criticized Jerusalem for failing to let in Ukrainian refugees.

Though it has not opened itself to mass migration, Israel is allowing Ukrainian citizens into the country and has agreed to halt deportations of those staying here without visas.

PM, Germany’s Scholz meet at Yad Vashem during chancellor’s lightening visit to Jerusalem

German Chancellor Olaf Sholz (L) and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at Yad Vashem on March 2, 2022 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
German Chancellor Olaf Sholz (L) and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at Yad Vashem on March 2, 2022 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at Yad Vashem during the German leader’s lightening visit to Israel.

The Prime Minister’s Office says the two will tour the Holocaust memorial and attend a memorial service.

The two leaders will hold a private meeting and press conference later in the day.

The visit is Scholz’s first to Israel since he assumed the role, and comes against a background of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and talks for a renewed nuclear deal with Iran.

UK envoy to Ukraine: Babi Yar strike shows ‘sickening hollowness’ of Putin’s denazification claim

Ukrainian firefighters stand beneath a television broadcast tower in the Jewish cemetery located in Kyiv's Babi Yar Holocaust memorial site on March 1, 2022. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine)
Ukrainian firefighters stand beneath a television broadcast tower in the Jewish cemetery located in Kyiv's Babi Yar Holocaust memorial site on March 1, 2022. (State Emergency Service of Ukraine)

The British ambassador to Ukraine condemns the Tuesday Russian missile attack on a television transmitter in Kyiv that killed five people and also struck the city’s Babi Yar Holocaust memorial site, saying it underlines Russia’s false claim that it is “denazifying” Ukraine.

“A Russian missile hits the Babyn Yar memorial park in Kyiv where thousands of Jews were murdered by Nazis. In case anyone bought Putin’s ‘denazification’ objective, here’s the stark staring proof of its sickening hollowness,” tweets Melinda Simmons.

Russian officials have frequently claimed that Russia is “denazifying Ukraine,” despite the fact that the Ukrainian president is Jewish and providing no evidence to back up its allegations.

Mayor of Kherson in southern Ukraine: ‘Occupation of our city is under way’

The mayor of Kherson on the Black Sea, where Russian forces took control of the railway station and the port overnight, says the occupation of the city is underway.

“The fighting is going on now, and the occupation of our city is under way,” Igor Kolykhayev tells local radio, according to the BBC.

The exact situation in the city remains unclear.

Meanwhile, the southern city of Mariupol is without electricity after Russian bombardment.

In a key victory for Moscow, Russia’s defense ministry says its troops linked up with pro-Moscow rebel forces from eastern Ukraine along the Azov Sea coast.

Blinken ‘appalled’ by Russian strike that hit Babi Yar memorial complex

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Feb. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Feb. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, Pool)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemns a Russian missile attack on a Ukrainian television transmitter in Kyiv that killed five people and also struck the city’s Babi Yar Holocaust memorial site.

“We are appalled by reports that Russian bombs have struck near the memorial site of Babyn Yar, killing more people where tens of thousands of Jews were massacred in the Holocaust. We condemn this brutal war against Ukraine,” Blinken tweets.

At least one missile struck a crop of buildings in a Jewish cemetery located in the Babi Yar complex. The missile strike sparked a fire in the building.

The Babi Yar memorial sits atop a mass grave containing some 34,000 Jews who were slaughtered there over a two-day period in 1941.

Blinken has previously shared the story of his Jewish Holocaust survivor stepfather, who in the 1970s combated Soviet attempts to erase the memory of the Babi Yar massacre.

Oil tops $110, equities sink amid investor concern over Russian invasion of Ukraine

A man wearing a face mask walks past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index in Hong Kong, March 2, 2022 (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
A man wearing a face mask walks past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index in Hong Kong, March 2, 2022 (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Crude surges past $110 a barrel and equities sink with investors growing increasingly fearful about the Ukraine war’s impact on global energy supplies and the economic recovery.

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his neighbor has sent world markets into a spiral over the past week, further fraying nerves on trading floors caused by runaway inflation and tighter central bank monetary policies.

The crisis sees numerous countries hammer Moscow with a series of wide-ranging sanctions that have isolated Russia and threaten to crash its economy.

The measures have injected a huge amount of uncertainty into markets with supplies of crucial commodities including metals and grains soaring. The price of global staple wheat is sitting at a 14-year high — having risen 30 percent in the past month.

UN to vote on resolution condemning Russian invasion of Ukraine; Israel to back it

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly, on February 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly, on February 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The General Assembly of the United Nations will vote on a resolution demanding Russia stop its invasion of Ukraine.

The 193-member General Assembly will vote Wednesday afternoon after hearing 120 speeches, including one from Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN Noa Furman which called Russia’s invasion “a serious violation of the international order.”

Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but they do have clout in reflecting international opinion.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Monday that Israel will vote in favor of the resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, days after Jerusalem refused to co-sponsor a similar measure in the Security Council in a move that disappointed the United States.

Russians attack Kharkiv hospital, take Kherson port and railway station — Ukraine

Ukraine’s army says a hospital in Kharkiv is being attacked by Russian troops invading the city.

“Russian airborne troops landed in Kharkiv… and attacked a local hospital,” the army says in a statement on messaging app Telegram. “There is an ongoing fight between the invaders and the Ukrainians.”

Kharkiv, a largely Russian-speaking city near the Russian border, has a population of around 1.4 million.

It has been a target for Russian forces since President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine last Thursday.

In Kherson on the Black Sea, where officials had on Tuesday reported Russian checkpoints encircling the city, Russian forces took control of the railway station and the port overnight, city mayor Igor Kolykhayev is quoted saying by local media.

Israel’s name added to UN resolution on Ukraine

Israel’s name has been added to a list of 94 countries co-sponsoring a UN resolution condemning Russia, Kan news reports.

Israel’s US ambassador earlier announced that Israel would back the resolution, following criticism over attempts by Jerusalem to balance support for Ukraine and its relationship with the Kremlin.

Oil prices rocket to seven-year highs on supply fears

Brent crude broke has shot above $110 a barrel and WTI is up more than five percent as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to fan fears over supplies of the crucial commodity from the resource-rich region.

Brent has climbed 4.88 percent to $110.09, while WTI was up 5.06 percent at $108.64. Both are at more than seven-year highs.

Traders will be keeping a close eye on a meeting of OPEC and other major producers, including Russia, later in the day where they will discuss whether to ramp up output to temper the price rises, which are helping fan inflation.

In his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden said the United States would join a 30-country deal to release 60 million barrels to help temper the surge in prices, though analysts have warned such moves would likely only have a limited impact.

Ukraine banks nearly $34 million in crypto donations since invasion’s start

A firm that tracks cryptocurrency transactions says $33.8 million in the digital currency has been donated to Ukraine’s government and non-governmental organizations there since the start of Russia’s invasion, nearly a third of it on Tuesday.

Chief Scientist Tom Robinson of Elliptic says most donations to date have been in bitcoin and ether. Some people are sending non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, to the Ukrainian government’s ethereum account.

Ukraine issued a plea for contributions on Twitter last week. To date, it has received 30,000 donations, including $5.8 million from Gavin Wood, the British programmer who co-founded ethereum. There have been several other donations of more than $1 million.

Elliptic also warns of scammers tricking unsuspecting cryptocurrency holders wanting to donate to Ukrainian causes.

Elliptic is among firms that help law enforcement track cryptocurrency to combat money laundering.

Biden says battling inflation his top priority, ends with ‘go get ’em’

With prices rising at rates not seen for four decades, US President Joe Biden names fighting the inflation wave his “top priority,” and vows to wean American supply chains off foreign dependence.

“Too many families are struggling to keep up with their bills,” Biden says in his first State of the Union speech. “That’s why my top priority is getting prices under control,” he says, while encouraging companies to “make it in America” and lower costs that have risen due to global supply chain snarls.

President Joe Biden arrives to deliver his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Washington, as Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., applaud. (Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

He concludes by defiantly declaring America’s strength: “We are stronger today than we were a year ago. And we will be stronger a year from now than we are today. Now is our moment to meet and overcome the challenges of our time. And we will, as one people. One America. The United States of America. May God bless you all. May God protect our troops. Go get ’em.”

ToI contributed.

Biden vows support for Ukraine, punishment for Putin as Congress cheers

With the world watching, Joe Biden has begun delivering his first State of the Union, vowing to check Russian aggression and tame US inflation.

He asks the lawmakers crowding the House chamber to stand and salute the Ukrainians as he began his speech. They stand and cheered.

Biden, in remarks before Congress, highlights the bravery of Ukrainian defenders and the resolve of a newly reinvigorated Western alliance that has worked to rearm the Ukrainian military and cripple Russia’s economy through sanctions.

“From President Zelensky to every Ukrainian, their fearlessness, their courage, their determination, inspires the world,” he says.

He also warns of costs to the American economy, as well, but warns ominously that without consequences, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression won’t be contained to Ukraine.

“Throughout our history we’ve learned this lesson – when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos,” Biden says. “They keep moving. And, the costs and threats to America and the world keep rising.”

“We are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine. Putin is now isolated from the world more than ever.”

In an apparent slip of the tongue, he also mentions support for “Kiev and the Iranian people.”

Russian forces assaulting Kharkiv — reports

Ukraine’s security service says a large contingent of airborne Russian soldiers has landed in Kharkiv, touching off street battles for control of Ukraine’s second largest city.

The northeastern city has repelled earlier incursions by Russian forces, but reports indicate the current assault is larger than previous attempts, including an air assault. The news cannot be immediately confirmed.

A video purportedly from the city shows a man pointing out damage to his apartment, and then running for cover as a jet screams overhead.

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