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Massive blasts shake Kyiv; Ukraine rejects Russia’s demand to surrender Mariupol

Capital’s mayor reports at least 1 fatality after explosions hit a residential area and a shopping mall; Russia claims to bomb Ukrainian special forces training center

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

1 confirmed killed in Russian shelling of Kyiv

An airstrike on Kyiv. (Screenshot/Twitter)
An airstrike on Kyiv. (Screenshot/Twitter)

At least one person is killed when Russian forces shell a shopping center in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the city’s mayor says.

A huge blast shook the city at the time of the attack and fires could be seen blazing in the wreckage of the Retroville mall, AFP journalists say.

“One killed so far,” Mayor Vitali Klitschko says on Telegram.

“Enemy shelling” caused a fire on several floors of the mall in the city’s northwestern Podilsky district and set several cars ablaze, emergency services say on Facebook.

They release security camera footage showing a huge explosion and a mushroom cloud, followed by a series of smaller blasts.

Firefighters pulled at least one man covered in dust from the twisted debris, according to more video released by the emergency services.

Soldiers cordoned off the site and told journalists to move back, warning of danger from unexploded munitions without elaborating further.

Neighbors in a housing block whose windows were shattered by the blast say that they had seen a mobile rocket launcher near the mall for several days previously.

Kyiv has been hit by a series of strikes over the past week, with one on an apartment block earlier today wounding five people.

Russia’s advance on Kyiv has however largely stalled. Moscow’s forces engage in sporadic fighting to the northwest and east but have barely moved for two weeks.

No surrender: Ukraine rejects Russia’s demand to give up Mariupol

A Ukrainian serviceman guards his position in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 12, 2022. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)
A Ukrainian serviceman guards his position in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 12, 2022. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

Ukraine rejects Russia’s demand to surrender the besieged city of Mariupol.

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, tells Russia that Ukraine will not surrender the city.

“There can be no talk about surrender and laying down weapons,” she says.

“We have already informed the Russian side about this,” she says.

Kyiv demands Russia open humanitarian corridors immediately, according to the Kyiv Independent.

Russia said earlier today that its troops would only allow people to leave the city if its defenders relinquished their arms and surrendered.

Three injured in airstrike on western Ukraine

Three people are injured in a Russian airstrike on Ukraine’s western Zhytomyr region, emergency services say.

Thirteen buildings are damaged in the attack, which targeted the Korostensky district north of the region’s main city Zhytomyr, Ukraine’s state emergency services says on Facebook.

“Three people were injured,” it says, posting images of burning buildings and scattered charred debris.

Russia’s defense ministry says its “high-precision missiles” hit a training center of Ukrainian special forces in Zhytomyr region, around 150 kilometers (90 miles) west of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.

“More than 100 [Ukrainian] servicemen of the special forces and foreign mercenaries were destroyed,” in the attack, the ministry says.

Explosions reportedly hit shopping mall, houses in Kyiv

Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, reports several explosions in the city’s Podilskyi District.

Houses are damaged, a shopping center is on fire and first responders are at the scene.

There is at least one reported fatality.

CNN reporters on the ground report hearing several blasts.

Ukrainian lawmaker Inna Sovsun posts video said to show the attack on Kyv. In the video, a massive blast sends debris and shattered glass flying through the air.

Russia tells Ukrainian forces in Mariupol to surrender guns for safe passage

A Russian army tank moves through a street on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/ Evgeniy Maloletka)
A Russian army tank moves through a street on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine, March 11, 2022. (AP Photo/ Evgeniy Maloletka)

Russia calls on Ukrainian forces in Mariupol to respond to a surrender deal by 5 a.m. local time tomorrow.

The deal would have Ukrainian combatants lay down their weapons as a condition for safe passage out of the besieged city.

Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian National Center for Defense Management, says “a terrible humanitarian catastrophe has developed” and that civilian corridors going both west and east will be opened tomorrow morning.

“All who lay down their arms are guaranteed safe passage out of Mariupol,” he says at a briefing, according to Reuters.

Blinken to declare Myanmar repression of Rohingya a ‘genocide’ in speech at US Holocaust Museum

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gestures as he speaks during a press conference with Moldova's president at the Presidential Palace in Chisinau, on March 6, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/ Pool/ AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gestures as he speaks during a press conference with Moldova's president at the Presidential Palace in Chisinau, on March 6, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/ Pool/ AFP)

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration intends to declare that Myanmar’s years-long repression of the Rohingya Muslim population is a “genocide,” US officials say.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to make the long-anticipated designation tomorrow at an event at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, according to the officials who speak on condition of anonymity because the move has not yet been publicly announced.

The designation does not in and of itself portend drastic new measures against Myanmar’s military-led government, which has already been hit with multiple layers of US sanctions since the campaign against the Rohingya ethnic minority began in the country’s western Rakhine state in 2017.

But it could lead to additional international pressure on the government, which is already facing accusations of genocide at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Human rights groups and lawmakers had been pressing both the Trump and Biden administrations to make the designation.

At least one member of Congress, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, welcomes the anticipated step.

“I applaud the Biden administration for finally recognizing the atrocities committed against the Rohingya as genocide,” he says in a statement released immediately after the State Department announced that Blinken would deliver remarks on Myanmar at the Holocaust Museum tomorrow and tour an exhibit entitled “Burma’s Path to Genocide.” Myanmar is also known as Burma.

Exhausted Chernobyl staff to be relieved for first time since Russia seized plant

The giant protective dome built over the sarcophagus covering the destroyed fourth reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, April 13, 2021. (Sergei Supinsky/ AFP/ File)
The giant protective dome built over the sarcophagus covering the destroyed fourth reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, April 13, 2021. (Sergei Supinsky/ AFP/ File)

LVIV, Ukraine — Management of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, site of the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986, says today that 50 staff members who had been on the job since the plant was seized by Russian forces on February 24 have been rotated out and replaced.

Officials had repeatedly expressed alarm that the staff was suffering exhaustion after weeks of forced, unrelieved work and that this endangered the decommissioned plant’s safety.

The authority that manages the plant is not providing specifics on how agreement was reached to let the workers leave and others come in to replace them.

Iran returns dual US-UK citizen to prison after brief furlough

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A dual British-US national released from prison last week as part of a deal between Iran and the United Kingdom has been returned to custody and today was transferred to a hotel, the British government says.

Iranian prison officials let the long-held 66-year-old environmentalist, Morad Tahbaz, leave jail on a furlough last Wednesday, the same day as two high-profile British citizens who had been detained in Iran for more than five years were freed and flown home to Britain.

The UK said it secured Tahbaz’s furlough, along with the release and return of charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and retired civil engineer Anoosheh Ashoori, after settling a long-standing debt to Iran that had fueled tensions between the countries for decades.

But barely two days after Tahbaz left jail and headed to his family’s home in Tehran, Iranian security forces forced him to return to Evin Prison, his Tehran-based lawyer says.

“Unfortunately, we have no idea if or when he is going to be released,” Hojjat Kermani tells The Associated Press. “He is back in Evin for the time being.”

Iranian officials and state-run media are not acknowledging Tahbaz’s return to prison. Iran’s mission to the United Nations also is not immediately responding to a request for comment, nor are officials in Iran’s judiciary office.

The State Department said that it is aware of reports that Tahbaz has been returned to prison, allegedly to be fitted with an ankle tag.

However, Tahbaz’s lawyer says he “was not informed about any ankle tag,” and two days later remains behind bars without any update.

“Iran made a commitment to the UK to furlough Morad Tahbaz,” the State Department says. “We are not a party to this arrangement, but would join the UK in considering anything short of Morad’s immediate furlough a violation of Iran’s commitment.”

The statement adds: “We are urgently consulting with the UK on appropriate responses.”

Iranian security forces arrested Tahbaz in January 2018, as part of wide crackdown targeting environmental activists in the Islamic Republic.

Russian officials confirm senior naval officer killed in Mariupol fighting

MOSCOW — A deputy commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet was killed in combat in the besieged port city of Mariupol during what Moscow calls its military operation in Ukraine, officials say today.

“Captain 1st Rank Andrei Nikolayevich Paly was killed in the fighting to liberate Mariupol from Ukrainian Nazis,” the governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev says on Telegram.

Sevastopol is a port city in Crimea — annexed by Moscow from Ukraine in 2014 — and the base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

Paly was an “open and decent person” and “enjoyed great authority in the fleet,” Razvozhayev adds.

Yekaterina Altabaeva, Sevastopol’s lawmaker in the Russian upper parliamentary house, also confirms the death.

“Sevastopol has suffered a heavy, irreparable loss,” Altabaeva says on Telegram, adding that Paly had died during “battles for the liberation of Mariupol from Nazis.”

There is no immediate confirmation from Russia’s defense ministry.

Russia, which has been conducting a military operation in Ukraine since February 24, has insisted that its neighbor never join NATO, and has also called for its “demilitarization” and “denazification.”

Israeli field hospital in Ukraine to begin receiving patients on Tuesday

Members of the Israeli field hospital team emerge from the Ukrainian elementary school, whose grounds house the facility, Mostyska, Ukraine, on March 19, 2022. Ukrainian and Israeli flags fly above. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/The Times of Israel)
Members of the Israeli field hospital team emerge from the Ukrainian elementary school, whose grounds house the facility, Mostyska, Ukraine, on March 19, 2022. Ukrainian and Israeli flags fly above. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/The Times of Israel)

A field hospital that Israel is setting up in western Ukraine will begin receiving patients on Tuesday, the Health Ministry says.

According to the ministry, the opening ceremony will be attended by the mayor of Mostyska, the regional governor, and several Israeli officials.

Israel’s policy on Ukraine war to reportedly remain unchanged after Zelensky speech

Demonstrators gather at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on March 20, 2022, to watch a televised video address by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky. (Jack Guez/ AFP)
Demonstrators gather at Habima Square in Tel Aviv on March 20, 2022, to watch a televised video address by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky. (Jack Guez/ AFP)

Israel’s policy vis-a-vis the Russian invasion of Ukraine will not change following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to Knesset members this evening, senior Israeli sources tell Channel 12 news.

The unnamed sources say Israel will continue its diplomatic efforts to mediate between Ukraine and Russia because doing so serves the country’s interests, regardless of the results.

The network also quotes the sources saying Zelensky’s speech was meant to “divert the Israeli ship” in Kyiv’s direction, but failed to do so.

IDF says 2 Gazans with knives nabbed while trying to cross border

Israeli troops arrested two suspects armed with knives as they tried to enter Israel from the Gaza Strip, according to the military.

The Israel Defense Forces says the two were taken for questioning.

‘There is no city anymore’: Fleeing Mariupol residents describe destruction

Ukrainians escaping from the besieged city of Mariupol, along with other passengers from Zaporizhzhia, arrive at Lviv, western Ukraine, on March 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Ukrainians escaping from the besieged city of Mariupol, along with other passengers from Zaporizhzhia, arrive at Lviv, western Ukraine, on March 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian survivors of one of the most brutal sieges in modern history are in the final minutes of their train ride to relative safety.

Some carry only what they had at hand when they seized the chance to escape the port of Mariupol during relentless Russian bombardment. Some fled so quickly that relatives who were still in the starving, freezing Ukrainian city on the Sea of Azov are not aware that they have gone.

“There is no city anymore,” Marina Galla says. She weeps in the doorway of a crowded train compartment that is pulling into the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

Even as they finally fled Mariupol, aiming to reach trains heading west to safety, Russian soldiers at checkpoints made a chilling suggestion: It would be better to go to the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol or the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula instead.

Mariupol authorities say nearly 10 percent of the city’s population of 430,000 have fled over the past week.

Suspect detained in East Jerusalem stabbing of 2 cops

Israeli security forces at the scene of a suspected stabbing attack in East Jerusalem's Ras al-Amud, March 20, 2022. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Israeli security forces at the scene of a suspected stabbing attack in East Jerusalem's Ras al-Amud, March 20, 2022. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

A 23-year-old Palestinian man who allegedly stabbed and wounded two police officers in East Jerusalem’s Ras al-Amud neighborhood earlier today has been detained, police say.

The suspect fled the scene to the home of a relative in nearby Jabel Mukaber.

A man claiming to be the suspect’s brother tells reporters at the scene that he turned the suspect over to police and that the incident was a brawl, not a terror attack.

In Nowruz message, Bennett says Israel hopes Iranians get rid of ‘cruel and ruthless regime’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks in a video statement addressed to Iranians for Nowruz, March 20, 2022. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks in a video statement addressed to Iranians for Nowruz, March 20, 2022. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett releases a video statement congratulating Iranians on Nowruz, the Persian new year.

“I wish you a happy new year – a year of health, prosperity and peace. Nowruz literally means ‘new day.’ And that’s my greatest wish to you, the Iranian people: That you will see a new day – a day of freedom from the cruel Iranian regime,” he says in English. “A new day where you can drink clean water, speak freely, and live your lives with dignity.”

The premier says Israelis and Iranians have much in common, such as their “ancient histories and rich cultures,” and also face a “common threat.”

“The brutal and oppressive Iranian regime, whether the IRGC – the world’s single largest terrorist organization, its proxies, or the ­Basij,” he says, referring to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“We know that the Iranian regime does not represent you and they continue to deny you the freedom that you deserve. We hope you rid yourselves of this cruel and ruthless regime and reach true freedom,” Bennett continues. “May we see a ‘new day,’ where we defeat the forces of darkness with the strength of our friendship and our pursuit of freedom. I hope this new year will free the Iranian people from the shackles of oppression of the Iranian regime.”

Knesset reports thwarting cyber attacks meant to disrupt Zelensky speech

People watch a screening of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's address to Knesset members at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, on March 20, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
People watch a screening of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's address to Knesset members at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, on March 20, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

A Knesset spokesperson says the parliament thwarted attempted cyber attacks during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s video address to lawmakers that were aimed at disrupting the video feed and taking it offline.

The Knesset does not specify who was behind the attempted attacks, but says they were blocked by its information security unit with the help of the Israel National Cyber Directorate.

All roads reopened after closures for Rabbi Kanievsky’s funeral

Police have reopened all the roads that were closed today for Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky’s funeral in Bnei Brak, which was attended by hundreds of thousands of people.

After Zelensky speech, Lapid vows Israel to keep aiding Ukraine ‘as much as we can’

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at a situational assessment on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Niv Musman/GPO)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at a situational assessment on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Niv Musman/GPO)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid thanks Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, following the latter’s Zoom speech to Knesset members.

“I reiterate my condemnation of the attack on Ukraine and thank President Zelensky for sharing his feelings and the plight of the Ukrainian people with members of the Knesset and the government,” Lapid says in a statement. “We will continue to assist the Ukrainian people as much as we can, and we will never turn our backs to the plight of people who know the horrors of war.”

Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai says: “Zelensky’s words pierce the heart. The Ukrainian nation was attacked, Ukrainian democracy was attacked, they are in great distress. We have the human, Jewish and Israeli obligation to help them. Our assistance on Ukraine’s borders and inside the country is impressive. We must also assure asylum for the refugees. We have done and will continue to do everything in our power.”

According to Channel 12 news, 119 parliamentarians and ministers who are not members of Knesset were on Zoom during Zelensky’s address.

High Court refrains from immediate decision on appeal against Ukrainian refugee cap

The High Court of Justice has opted not to intervene in Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s decision to limit the number of Ukrainian refugees that Israel will allow into the country at this time, giving the Knesset and the government additional time to consider the matter.

A number of non-governmental organizations had challenged Shaked’s refugee policy with petitions to the court, with some arguing for more refugees to be allowed in and some calling for fewer. Shaked has called for an unlimited number of refugees to be allowed into Israel, provided they have close family in the country, while restricting the number of refugees without relatives in Israel to 5,000. Opponents of this policy argue that this differentiation based on family ties amounts to unfair discrimination and violates an agreement between Israel and Ukraine, allowing for visa-free travel between the countries.

Upon hearing arguments today, the court decides not to rule on the matter immediately as the matter is due to be discussed in the Knesset on Wednesday, and the policy is only due to go into effect next Sunday. The judges therefore are giving the government until next Monday, March 28, to respond to the petitions.

Israeli lawmakers seethe at Zelensky’s ‘outrageous’ Holocaust comparisons

Several Israeli lawmakers criticize Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for drawing comparisons between the Holocaust and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during his speech to Knesset members.

“I admire the Ukraine president and support the Ukrainian people in heart and deed, but the terrible history of the Holocaust cannot be rewritten,” Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel tweets.

Hendel notes part of Nazi Germany’s genocide of Jews “was also carried out in the land of Ukraine.”

“The war is terrible but the comparison to the horrors of the Holocaust and the final solution is outrageous,” he says.

Hebrew media outlets quote unnamed senior ministers railing at Zelensky’s “outrageous comparison.”

“Zelensky also distorted the part of his country in the murder of Jews,” they say, according to the Ynet news site,

Likud MK Yuval Steinitz, a former minister, says Zelensky’s speech “borders on Holocaust denial.”

“War is always a terrible thing… but every comparison between a regular war, as difficult as it is, and the destruction of millions of Jews in gas chambers in the framework of the final solution is a complete distortion of history,” he says in a statement.

A number of Religious Zionism MKs also criticize Zelensky, with the far-right opposition party’s leader Bezalel Smotrich slamming the Holocaust comparisons and accusing the Ukrainian leader of trying “to rewrite history and erase the involvement of the Ukrainian people in the destruction of Jews.”

But Yisrael Beytenu MK Eli Avidar, a maverick coalition member, calls Zelensky’s speech “moving.”

“Indifference does kill. Mediation efforts are important but they can’t come at the expense of values. We need to be on the side of good against evil,” he says in a statement.

Pentagon chief says Russian hypersonic missiles not ‘a game changer’ in Ukraine

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin in Vilnius, Lithuania, on February 19, 2022. (PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP)
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin in Vilnius, Lithuania, on February 19, 2022. (PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP)

WASHINGTON — Russia’s claim it used a hypersonic missile in Ukraine was a way to reclaim war momentum, but the next-generation weaponry has not proved to be a “game changer,” the Pentagon’s chief says today.

Moscow has said it has fired two hypersonic missiles in Ukraine, and while US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin won’t “confirm or dispute” whether Russia used such weapons, he warns that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion is undergoing a change in tactics including the targeting of civilians.

Russia’s use of the hard-to-intercept hypersonics would mark a dramatic escalation of its campaign to force Ukraine to abandon hopes of closer ties with the West.

But “I would not see it as a game changer,” Austin tells CBS talk show “Face the Nation.”

“I think the reason he is resorting to using these types of weapons is because he is trying to re-establish some momentum,” he adds. “And again, we’ve seen him attack towns and cities and civilians outright (and) we expect to see that continue.”

Ukraine’s outgunned military has put up unexpectedly intense resistance that has slowed Russia’s advance, stalling its forces outside the capital Kyiv and several other cities, making Moscow’s supply lines vulnerable to Ukrainian attacks.

“They presented some significant problems for the Russians,” and the stalling of Putin’s troops on the ground “has had the effect of him moving his forces into a wood chipper,” Austin says.

“The Ukrainians have continued to trip his forces, and they’ve been very effective using the equipment we provided them.”

Zelensky: Israel will have to ‘live with’ not providing arms to Ukraine, sanctioning Russia

MKs watch Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky's address, March 20, 2022. (Knesset channel screenshot)
MKs watch Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky's address, March 20, 2022. (Knesset channel screenshot)

Zelensky invokes the Russian missile attack that struck near the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv —  “You know that there’s a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust and a Jewish cemetery there” — and says missiles have targeted Uman, “where tens of thousands of Israelis come each year to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman.”

“What will remain of Ukraine’s cities after this war?”

He then appeals to Israeli lawmakers for assistance.

“I’m sure you feel our pain, but can you explain why we’re still waiting… for your help… when other countries are giving help?” Why isn’t Israeli help, “or even entry permits,” forthcoming?

He asks: “What is it? Indifference? Political calculation? Mediation without choosing sides?”

“I’ll leave you to provide the answers to these questions, but I want to point out that indifference kills. Calculations can be wrong. You can mediate between countries, but not between good and evil.”

He questions specifically why Israel has not provided weapons to Ukraine nor imposed sanctions on Russia. He notes that Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system is the best — apparently referring to Israel’s unwillingness to supply it to Ukraine, as Zelensky has previously requested.

“You know how to defend your interests and help Ukraine. To defend Ukrainians. To protect the Jews of Ukraine,” he says. “We can ask many times why we’re not getting weapons from you. Why Israel hasn’t imposed serious sanctions on Russia?”

“You need to provide answers to these questions and live with them.

“Ukrainians made their choice 80 years ago. We saved Jews and that’s why there are righteous Gentiles among us.”

“People of Israel, you too now have a choice,” he concludes.

“Thank you. Thank you for everything.”

In speech to Knesset, Zelensky urges Israel to help prevent Russian ‘final solution’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, to Knesset lawmakers on March 20, 2022. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, to Knesset lawmakers on March 20, 2022. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Beginning his speech to Knesset members, Zelensky says Ukraine and Israel face the same threat from their enemies — “the total destruction of our people, our state, our culture, even the name: Ukraine, Israel.”

Zelensky notes February 24 — the date of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — was also the date on which the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, the Nazi party, was founded in Germany in 1920. “It destroyed entire states and tried to carry out genocide.”

Again on February 24, “102 years after the Nazis, the order was given to begin the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has already killed thousands of people and left millions without a home,” he says. “They’ve become refugees… in dozens of countries.

“Our people are now wandering the world, searching for a place just as you once wandered… seeking security, trying to stay alive and in peace. Exactly what you have sought.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine is not a military operation as it’s presented in Moscow,” he says. “It is an all-out war, illegitimate, intended to destroy our people, our country, our cities, our culture and our children. Everything that makes UkrainiansnUkrainians.”

It is appropriate to make the comparison with the Holocaust, he says.

“The Russians use the terminology of the Nazi party, want to destroy everything. The Nazis called this ‘the final solution to the Jewish question,'” he says. “And now… in Moscow… they’re using those words, ‘the final solution.’ But now it’s directed against us and the Ukrainian question.”

Knesset speaker introduces Zelensky ahead of speech to lawmakers

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is about to remotely address Knesset members.

Ahead of his speech, which is also being shown on Israel’s main television channels, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy thanks Zelensky for taking the time to address Israeli lawmakers “in these difficult days.”

“In my capacity as speaker of the legislature of the State of Israel, I would like to express my sympathy with the pain of the Ukrainian people… and send from here, Jerusalem our capital, condolences to the families of the victims and Ukrainians wounded in the war.”

Levy calls the Russian invasion a “blatant violation of the international order and everything needs to be done to swiftly bring about a ceasefire and an end to the war.”

He also expresses hope that the mediation efforts of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett “and other international figures will bear fruit” and bring an end to the fighting, before giving the floor to Zelensky.

According to Channel 12 news, 112 of the Knesset’s 120 members are currently on the call.

WATCH: Ukraine’s Zelensky about to address Knesset lawmakers

Israel’s Knesset Channel is about to broadcast Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech. It is also being shown on giant screens in Habima Square in Tel Aviv.

Zelensky is expected to speak in Ukrainian with some Hebrew.

C12 reports that 112 of the 120 Knesset members have logged onto the Zoom broadcast. It is also being screened on Israel’s main TV channels

The Times of Israel will liveblog key elements of the speech.

JDC evacuates 300 Jews from Ukrainian city of Chernihiv to Moldova

Ukrainian Jews are evacuated from the city of Chernihiv. (Courtesy, JDC)
Ukrainian Jews are evacuated from the city of Chernihiv. (Courtesy, JDC)

The Joint Distribution Committee evacuates 300 Jews from the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv and takes them over the border with Moldova to Chisinau.

A spokesman says the situation was so bad that the buses could not move around Chernihiv and local teams had to pick up each person, among them elderly people with limited mobility. The convoy was escorted to the city’s exit by the local authorities.

Two vans also collect 33 people in the city of Kharkiv and take them to Poltava in central Ukraine before crossing into Moldova.

A JDC spokesman says, “both convoys faced treacherous conditions, including bombardment and ruined infrastructure, and had to change routes several times, taking dirt roads and indirect paths to reach their destinations. These groups were in constant touch with JDC’s situation room in Jerusalem, staff in Ukraine, and in surrounding countries, to coordinate these rescue operations.”

Herzog, Macron attend memorial ceremony marking 10 years since Toulouse Jewish school attack

President Isaac Herzog (R) and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron attend a memorial ceremony at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, France, to mark 10 years since four people were killed in a terror attack there, on March 20, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (R) and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron attend a memorial ceremony at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, France, to mark 10 years since four people were killed in a terror attack there, on March 20, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog attends a memorial ceremony in Toulouse marking 10 years since four people were killed in a deadly terror attack at a Jewish school in the French city.

A statement from Herzog’s office says he and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron “laid a wreath at the monument commemorating the victims of the attack, stood for a minute’s silence, and then met teachers and students who were present at the school at the time of the attack.”

“The presidents heard from the families about their heavy loss, the challenges that have accompanied them over the past decade, and the strengthening of the Jewish community of Toulouse after the disaster, and they comforted them,” the statement adds.

5 wounded in shelling of Kyiv apartment building

KYIV, Ukraine — A shell has exploded outside an apartment building in Kyiv, wounding five people, the mayor says today, the latest bombardment as Russian forces try to encircle the Ukrainian capital.

The ten-story building in northwestern Sviatoshyn district was badly damaged, with all the windows blown out and scorch marks from a fire that broke out, AFP journalists at the scene say.

Firefighters lead an elderly woman and a disoriented man with facial injuries to an ambulance. Two burned-out cars lay in the debris-covered courtyard, which also houses a playground.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko says on Telegram that “the enemy’s airstrikes” had wounded five people, two of whom were taken to the hospital.

“It was lucky” that there were not more casualties, Sviatlana Vodolaga, a spokeswoman for the state emergency service tells AFP, adding that six people were rescued from the building.

A kindergarten was also damaged but was empty at the time.

The boom of shelling and rocket fire could be heard in the distance from the scene, which is only a few kilometers from the frontline commuter town of Irpin.

Police officer lightly hurt in suspected East Jerusalem stabbing attack

Police officers and medics at the scene of a suspected stabbing attack in East Jerusalem's Ras al-Amud, March 20, 2022. (Rescuers Without Borders)
Police officers and medics at the scene of a suspected stabbing attack in East Jerusalem's Ras al-Amud, March 20, 2022. (Rescuers Without Borders)

A police officer has been hurt in a suspected stabbing attack in East Jerusalem’s Ras al-Amud neighborhood, police say.

The officer’s condition is not immediately clear, but the Magen David Adom emergency service says he is conscious.

The alleged attacker has fled the scene, according to police. Officers are searching the area.

Moscow journalist who protested Ukraine war on live TV urges other Russians to speak up

Marina Ovsyannikova, a Russian state TV employee, interrupts the evening news broadcast, holding a sign condemning President Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine on March 14, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)
Marina Ovsyannikova, a Russian state TV employee, interrupts the evening news broadcast, holding a sign condemning President Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine on March 14, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)

WASHINGTON — The Russian editor who protested Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine during a state TV news broadcast calls for other Russians to speak out against the “gruesome war.”

While working for Channel One television in Moscow, Marina Ovsyannikova barged onto the set of an evening newscast Monday, holding a poster reading “No War.”

She was subsequently detained, fined 30,000 rubles ($280), and then freed pending possible further prosecution, but has turned down a French offer of asylum.

Today, she describes to US media her decision to protest as “spontaneous,” but says a sense of deep dissatisfaction with her government had been building for years — a feeling she says many of her colleagues shared.

“The propaganda on our state channels was becoming more and more distorted, and the pressure that has been applied in Russian politics could not leave us indifferent,” she tells ABC News program “This Week.”

“When I spoke to my friends and colleagues, everyone until the last moment could not believe that such a thing could happen — that this gruesome war could take place,” she says from Moscow, speaking through an interpreter.

“As soon as the war began, I could not sleep, I could not eat. I came to work, and after a week of coverage of this situation, the atmosphere on (Channel One) was so unpleasant that I realized I could not go back there.”

Ovsyannikova says she considered joining a protest in a public square, but saw that protesters were being arrested and faced jail time.

“I decided that maybe I could do something else, something more meaningful… and I could show to the rest of the world that Russians are against the war, and I could show to the Russian people that this is just propaganda.”

She says she hopes to “maybe stimulate some people to speak up against the war.”

High Court hears petition against Ukrainian refugee cap; proceedings broadcast live

Supreme Court Justice Uzi Fogelman at a court hearing on a petition against the government's cap on Ukrainian refugees, March 20, 2022. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Supreme Court Justice Uzi Fogelman at a court hearing on a petition against the government's cap on Ukrainian refugees, March 20, 2022. (Screen capture: Twitter)

The High Court of Justice is currently hearing a petition against the government’s policies on refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The hearing is being broadcast live on the court’s website and social media channels.

The petition, submitted by a private law firm but with the backing of the Ukrainian embassy, argues that the government’s cap on refugee entries violates international agreements between the nations as well as international conventions to which Israel is a party, and was not imposed with proper authority.

Dozens demonstrate in support of Putin outside UN headquarters in Beirut

BEIRUT — Dozens of people have demonstrated outside UN headquarters in Beirut to express support for Russia in its war against Ukraine. They contend that Moscow only moved in to protect Russian-speaking people who have been under attack for eight years.

Today’s gathering was held by nearly 150 Lebanese, Syrians and Russians.

Some Lebanese and Syrians support Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose military joined Syria’s civil war in 2015 and helped tip the balance of power in favor of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.

Lebanon is divided between a Western-backed coalition and another by groups supported by Iran and Assad’s government.

Zelensky says ready to meet Putin, warns of WWIII if negotiations fail

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, early on March 20, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, early on March 20, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterates his willingness to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin for talks on ending Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I’m ready for negotiations with him. I was ready for the last two years. And I think that without negotiations, we cannot end this war,” he tells CNN. “If there’s just 1% chance for us to stop this war, I think that we need to take this chance. We need to do that.”

He adds: “I think we have to use any format, any chance in order to have a possibility of negotiating, possibility of talking to Putin. But if these attempts fail, that would mean that this is a third world war.”

US official confirms Russia used at least 1 hypersonic missile

This photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service Feb. 19, 2022, shows a MiG-31K fighter of the Russian air force dropping a Kinzhal hypersonic cruise missile during a military drills. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
This photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service Feb. 19, 2022, shows a MiG-31K fighter of the Russian air force dropping a Kinzhal hypersonic cruise missile during a military drills. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

A senior US official confirms to Fox News that Russia used at least one hypersonic missile yesterday.

According to the network, American officials don’t see Russia’s use of the advanced weapons system as part of a ramp-up for the possible use of nuclear arms, and it suggests the Russian military could be running low on precision missiles.

Zelensky aide says 6 Russian generals, dozens of senior officers killed during invasion

Ukrainian negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak speaks to media after talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus' Gomel region on February 28, 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Sergei KHOLODILIN / BELTA / AFP)
Ukrainian negotiator Mikhailo Podolyak speaks to media after talks between delegations from Ukraine and Russia in Belarus' Gomel region on February 28, 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Sergei KHOLODILIN / BELTA / AFP)

KYIV, Ukraine — Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, says that six Russian generals and dozens of other senior officers have been killed since the start of the Russian invasion.

Podolyak tweets that “the high mortality rate among Russia’s senior military officers” reflects a “total lack of readiness,” adding that the Russian military relies on big number of troops and cruise missiles.

The Russian military hasn’t confirmed the death of any of its generals. But an associate and an officers’ group in Russia confirmed the death of one, Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, the commanding general of the 7th Airborne Division.

In Persian, IDF spokesperson wishes Iranians a happy Nowruz, takes shots at leaders

Incoming IDF Spokesperson Ran Kochav speaks during a ceremony at the IDF Spokesperson's Unit's headquarters in northern Tel Aviv on June 6, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Spokesperson Ran Kochav speaks during a ceremony at the IDF Spokesperson's Unit's headquarters in northern Tel Aviv on June 6, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli military spokesperson wishes Iranians a happy Nowruz, or Persian New Year, in a snarky tweet on the Israel Defense Forces Persian-language Twitter account.

“Happy Nowruz! I hope this blessing will reach every Iranian whether he is young or old, religious or secular, male or female, and whether he lives in Iran or has left it involuntarily,” Ran Kochav says.

“There is much in common between our peoples and nations. Unfortunately, the Iranian regime is hiding this from you,” the post reads.

“I wish the Iranian people a new spring of hope and respect. Missiles and drones will not fix the country’s acute water crisis, just like enriched uranium will not be able to feed any hungry child in Iran,” he adds.

Bennett reiterates Israeli ire at ‘outrageous’ potential US decision to delist IRGC

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on March 20, 2022. (Maya Alleruzzo/Pool/AFP)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on March 20, 2022. (Maya Alleruzzo/Pool/AFP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett repeats his concern about the potential US decision to delist Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps from its list of terrorist groups.

“We are very concerned about the United States’ intention to give in to Iran’s outrageous demand and remove the IRGC from the list of terrorist organizations,” Bennett says at the cabinet meeting.

“This is not just an Israeli problem,” he says. “Other countries – allies of the United States in the region – face this organization day in and day out…. even now, the IRGC terrorist organization is trying to murder certain Israelis and Americans around the world.”

“Unfortunately, there is still determination to sign the nuclear deal with Iran at almost any cost – including saying that the world’s largest terrorist organization is not a terrorist organization,” he adds. “This is too high a price.”

Bennett’s words echoed a joint statement on Friday issued with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid warning against the move.

The US State Department has said it will not comment on the potential decision, but did not deny it was possible.

UN says 10 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine since war’s start

A refugee from the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, Ekaterina Mosha, 82, has a meal with her grandson Dmitrii, 3, after fleeing the war from neighboring Ukraine, at the border crossing in Palanca, Moldova, on March 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
A refugee from the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, Ekaterina Mosha, 82, has a meal with her grandson Dmitrii, 3, after fleeing the war from neighboring Ukraine, at the border crossing in Palanca, Moldova, on March 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Ten million people — more than a quarter of the population — have fled their homes in Ukraine due to Russia’s “devastating” war, says the United Nations refugees chief.

“Among the responsibilities of those who wage war, everywhere in the world, is the suffering inflicted on civilians who are forced to flee their homes,” says UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi. “The war in Ukraine is so devastating that 10 million have fled either displaced inside the country, or as refugees abroad.”

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, says that 3,389,044 Ukrainians had left the country since the Russian invasion began on February 24, with another 60,352 joining the exodus since Saturday’s update — a flow roughly the same as the day before.

Some 90% of those who have fled are women and children. Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 are eligible for military call-up and cannot leave.

Bennett defends Shaked over criticism on refugees: She shouldn’t be ‘a punching bag’

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (L) and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Knesset on October 11, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (L) and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the Knesset on October 11, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett defends Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked amid a wave of criticism she’s facing over Israel’s policies on accepting Ukrainian refugees.

“Over the past two weeks a situation has arisen in which everyone has turned the interior minister into a government punching bag,” says Bennett at the cabinet meeting.

The prime minister stresses that all of Israel’s policies on the issue “were decided on in full coordination with all relevant parties,” including the foreign minister and finance minister. Bennett says that some voices in the government “were more conservative than the interior minister herself.”

The prime minister tells gathered cabinet ministers that “anyone who has a problem [with the policy] should respect her and pick up the phone to call her instead of [criticizing] her in the media.”

Originally, Shaked — whose ministry controls entry into the country — had announced that Israel would only accept 5,000 Ukrainian refugees who were not eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. Amid a wave of criticism and legal threats, she then said that any refugees with family in the country would be allowed in. So far, more than 13,500 Ukrainians have entered Israel since the start of the war, with around 10,000 not eligible for citizenship.

Shaked has been the subject of harsh public criticism from many figures including government ministers, with Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai and Welfare Minister Meir Cohen speaking out against the current policy, and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman also offering veiled criticism.

Herzog meets Macron in Paris ahead of Toulouse memorial ceremony

President Isaac Herzog (left) meets with French President Emanuel Macron in Paris on March 20, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (left) meets with French President Emanuel Macron in Paris on March 20, 2022. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog meets with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

According to his office, Herzog tells Macron about the mass funeral taking place in Israel for the late Haredi leader Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky.

Following their meeting in Paris, Macron and Herzog are slated to fly together to Toulouse to take part in a ceremony marking 10 years since four people were killed in a terrorist attack at a Jewish school in the city.

Kanievsky buried as hundreds break through barrier into Bnei Brak cemetery

Ultra-Orthodox Jews attend the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in Bnei Brak, March 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Ultra-Orthodox Jews attend the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in Bnei Brak, March 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky is laid to rest in the presence of Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and David Lau in Bnei Brak.

Police blocked entry to the cemetery to members of the public, allowing only family members and senior public figures to attend over fears of overcrowding.

Nevertheless, hundreds of people manage to break through the barriers and enter the cemetery as police attempt to catch and detain them. Scuffles also break out at the entrance to the cemetery as many of those blocked attempt to enter.

So far, first responders say that 64 mourners have been treated at the scene and five taken to hospitals for further treatment.

At least 500,000 people are believed to be in attendance. Israel Railways is heavily boosting train service in the area to help alleviate traffic.

Pope slams Russian invasion of Ukraine as ‘repugnant’ and ‘cruel’

Pope Francis waves from the window of the apostolic palace during the weekly Angelus prayer on March 20, 2022 in the Vatican. (Tiziana FABI / AFP)
Pope Francis waves from the window of the apostolic palace during the weekly Angelus prayer on March 20, 2022 in the Vatican. (Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Pope Francis denounces Russia’s “repugnant war” against Ukraine as a “cruel and sacrilegious inhumanity.”

In some of his strongest words yet since Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24, Francis tells thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square that every day brings more atrocities in a “senseless massacre.”

“There is no justification for this,” Francis says, in an apparent reference to Russia, which has sought to justify its invasion as vital for its own defense. But Francis again stops short of naming Russia as the aggressor. Pontiffs typically have decried wars and their devastating toll on civilians without citing warmongers by name.

Francis also calls on “all actors in the international community” to work toward ending the war. “Again this week, missiles, bombs, rained down on the elderly, children and pregnant mothers,” the pope says. His thoughts, he says, went to the millions who flee. “And I feel great pain for those who don’t even have the chance to escape.”

UK-US dual citizen returned to prison in Iran after brief furlough

Illustrative: Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran. (CC BY-SA 2.0 Ehsan Iran/Wikipedia)
Illustrative: Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran. (CC BY-SA 2.0 Ehsan Iran/Wikipedia)

A dual British-US national temporarily released from prison last week as part of a deal between Iran and the United Kingdom was taken back into custody just two days later, his lawyer says.

Iranian prison officials let the long-held 66-year-old environmentalist, Morad Tahbaz, leave jail on a furlough last Wednesday, the same day as two high-profile British citizens who had been detained in Iran for more than five years were freed and flown home to Britain.

The UK said it secured Tahbaz’s furlough, along with the release and return of charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and retired civil engineer Anoosheh Ashoori, after settling a long-standing debt to Iran that had fueled tensions between the countries for decades.

But barely two days after Tahbaz left jail and headed to his family’s home in Tehran, Iranian security forces forced him to return to Evin Prison, his Tehran-based lawyer says.

“Unfortunately, we have no idea if or when he is going to be released,” Hojjat Kermani tells The Associated Press. “He is back in Evin for the time being.”

Kanievsky funeral procession begins in Bnei Brak following eulogies

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and children gather outside the home of late Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, ahead of his funeral in Bnei Brak on March 20, 2022. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and children gather outside the home of late Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, ahead of his funeral in Bnei Brak on March 20, 2022. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

The funeral procession of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky begins in Bnei Brak following several eulogies for the late ultra-Orthodox leader, who died Friday at age 94.

Police request that all mourners move out of the streets and into nearby houses to allow the body to pass through on its way to the burial. At least 500,000 people are believed to be in attendance at the funeral in the city, crowding on roofs and balconies across Bnei Brak.

According to officials, at least 50 people have been treated on the scene by first responders so far and four were taken to hospitals.

Slovakia says NATO units armed with Patriot defense system arrive in country

A woman with two children and carrying bags walk on a street to leave Ukraine after crossing the Slovak-Ukrainian border in Ubla, eastern Slovakia, close to the Ukrainian city of Welykyj Beresnyj, on February 25, 2022 (PETER LAZAR / AFP)
A woman with two children and carrying bags walk on a street to leave Ukraine after crossing the Slovak-Ukrainian border in Ubla, eastern Slovakia, close to the Ukrainian city of Welykyj Beresnyj, on February 25, 2022 (PETER LAZAR / AFP)

Slovakia’s Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad says the first multinational NATO units with Patriot air defense systems have been moving to his country.

Nad says the transfers will continue in the next days.

Germany and the Netherlands have agreed to send troops armed with the Patriots to Slovakia. The troops are some of the 2,100 soldiers from several NATO members, including the United States, who will form a battlegroup on Slovak territory as the alliance boosts its defenses in its eastern flank following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Nad says the Patriots will be initially deployed at the armed forces base of Sliac in central Slovakia and then will be stationed at various places to protect the largest possible Slovak territory.

He thanks Germany and the Netherlands for their “responsible decision” to fundamentally boost Slovakia’s defenses.

At the same time, Nad says, the Patriots will not replace the Russian-made S-300 air-defense system his country has relied on, calling their deployment “another component to protect Slovakia’s airspace.”

Mourners eulogize Kanievsky as unparalleled leader at mass Bnei Brak funeral

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men pray and wait as they gather outside the home of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in Bnei Brak, ahead of his funeral on March 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men pray and wait as they gather outside the home of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in Bnei Brak, ahead of his funeral on March 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Eulogies at the funeral of Haredi leader Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky remember him as an unparalleled scholar and spiritual leader.

Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein, 88, delivers a eulogy for Kanievsky, his brother-in-law. Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, 98, seen as the heir to Kanievsky’s leadership, also delivers a eulogy, which appears to be broadcast over loudspeakers from a separate location.

“There is a man who is weighed against the whole rest of the nation,” says Zilberstein. “God almighty takes the man who is weighed against all the people in order to atone for the people of Israel.”

Edelstein says that there is nobody else who can parallel Kanievsky’s level of influence “here and anywhere else in the world.”

Rabbi Shlomo Kanievsky, the late rabbi’s son, calls him “unparalleled in his generation” and praises his dedication to Torah study and to encouraging ultra-Orthodox youth to dedicate themselves to full-time study.

Nearly 40,000 have fled Mariupol in past week, say authorities

Evacuees from Mariupol are seen upon arrival at the car park of a shopping centre on the outskirts of the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is now a registration center for displaced people, on March 16, 2022. (Emre CAYLAK / AFP)
Evacuees from Mariupol are seen upon arrival at the car park of a shopping centre on the outskirts of the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is now a registration center for displaced people, on March 16, 2022. (Emre CAYLAK / AFP)

Authorities in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol say that nearly 40,000 people have fled over the past week. That’s nearly 10% of its 430,000 population.

The city council in the Azov Sea port city says that 39,426 residents have safely evacuated from Mariupol in their own vehicles. It says the evacuees used more than 8,000 vehicles to leave via a humanitarian corridor via Berdyansk to Zaporizhzhia.

The strategic city has been encircled by the Russian troops and faced a relentless Russian bombardment for three weeks, coming to symbolize the horror of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Local authorities have said the siege has cut off food, water and energy supplies, and killed at least 2,300 people, some of whom had to be buried in mass graves. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said early this morning that the siege of Mariupol will go down in history for what he said were war crimes committed by Russian troops.

More than 5,500 new immigrants said to arrive from Eastern Europe since start of war

Ukrainian immigrants to Israel who fled fighting in Ukraine arrive on a rescue flight at Ben Gurion Airport, on March 17, 2022. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Ukrainian immigrants to Israel who fled fighting in Ukraine arrive on a rescue flight at Ben Gurion Airport, on March 17, 2022. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

More than 5,500 people have immigrated to Israel from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus since Moscow invaded neighboring Ukraine last month, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry says.

According to the ministry, roughly two-thirds of the 5,583 people who have immigrated to Israel since February 24 have come from Ukraine, with the rest coming from Russia and Belarus.

At least another 350 new immigrants from Ukraine are expected to arrive throughout the day, mostly on flights organized by the Jewish Agency and funded by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews from Poland, Moldova and Romania.

Roughly the same number are expected to arrive every day this week, for a total of more than 2,000 new immigrants this week alone, according to Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata.

Tamano-Shata says her office is working to streamline the citizenship process in order to handle the incoming massive wave of immigration.

“Our goal is to shorten the process, to provide immediate assistance to immigrants as much as possible. I am glad that thousands of immigrants are getting their needs met by the Immigration and Absorption Ministry, and we expect another 2,000 immigrants to arrive this week,” she says.

Hundreds of thousands crowd into Bnei Brak for Kanievsky funeral

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and children gather outside the home of the late Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, ahead of his funeral in Bnei Brak on March 20, 2022 (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and children gather outside the home of the late Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, ahead of his funeral in Bnei Brak on March 20, 2022 (GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP)

The funeral for Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a prominent leader of the ultra-Orthodox world who died on Friday at age 94, begins in Bnei Brak.

Approximately 750,000 people have turned out, according to Channel 12 news, and dozens of schools were shut and highways closed down ahead of the funeral.

Officials have warned against overcrowding and pushing and shoving at the event amid fears that people could be hurt or killed during the proceedings. Around 3,000 police officers are deployed around the event, and police warned people to avoid unnecessary travel to the entire central area of Israel.

Herzog lands in Paris ahead of Toulouse memorial, meeting with Macron

President Isaac Herzog speaks to reporters before departing for a visit to Turkey on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog speaks to reporters before departing for a visit to Turkey on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog and his wife, Michal, land in Paris.

Herzog will begin his trip to France by meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, and then they will fly together to Toulouse to participate in a memorial ceremony marking 10 years since the terror attack at the Ohr Torah Jewish school in the city.

They will meet with family members of those killed, accompanied by former French presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande.

Police beg mourners not to push and shove at Kanievsky funeral: ‘There are children’

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men pray and wait as they gather outside the home of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in Bnei Brak, ahead of his funeral on March 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men pray and wait as they gather outside the home of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in Bnei Brak, ahead of his funeral on March 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Police at the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky are trying to prevent a crush of mourners, with hundreds of thousands of people crammed into the narrow streets of Bnei Brak.

“Don’t move forward, please, stop moving forward,” a police officer says over a loudspeaker in footage broadcast by Channel 12

“I am talking about pikuah nefesh. There are small children and old people. Please stop moving forward,” he says, citing the Jewish concept of the importance of saving a life.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend the funeral of the leading ultra-Orthodox rabbi, with some estimates saying that a million mourners could converge on Bnei Brak.

Authorities are concerned that the funeral has the potential to become a mass casualty event, reminiscent of the deadly crush at an ultra-Orthodox festival in the northern town of Meron in 2021 that saw 45 people killed and 150 injured in Israel’s worst-ever civilian disaster.

Bennett warns against Kanievsky funeral turning into a repeat of Meron tragedy

Men gather outside the home of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky on March 20, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Men gather outside the home of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky on March 20, 2022 (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warns that the funeral this afternoon of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky must not turn into a mass disaster with overcrowding and potential stampeding.

“The funeral is a mass event, and we must make sure that it does not end – God forbid – in a mass disaster,” Bennett says at the start of the cabinet meeting. “I call on those attending not to crowd and squeeze together.”

Bennett says that “the trauma of the Meron disaster is still fresh for all of us. This tragedy must not be repeated.” He asks for “everyone to take personal responsibility, to look after the children in particular.”

Last year 45 people were crushed to death at Mount Meron on the festival of Lag Ba’omer, the deadliest civilian disaster in Israeli history.

At least one Joint List MK to boycott Zelensky speech to Knesset

Joint List MK Ofer Cassif eats a lollipop in the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 3, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Joint List MK Ofer Cassif eats a lollipop in the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 3, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Hard-left Joint List parliamentarian Ofer Cassif says he will boycott Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech to the Knesset later this afternoon.

“Very sad that good leftists are being deceived after false propaganda — and even expect my friends and me to align with the lies being fed to us,” Cassif says in a tweet.

“I do not take sides in unnecessary wars that harm innocent civilians, strengthen those in power and enrich the lords of war,” adds Cassif.

The Joint List, a bloc of mostly Arab parties in the opposition, has yet to announce whether the whole faction will boycott. Cassif, who is Jewish, is a member of Hadash, a Communist Arab-Jewish party with historic ties to the Soviet Union and Russia.

MK Aida Touma Suleiman, also of Hadash, is also likely not to attend. A spokesman for faction head Ayman Odeh did not respond to a request for comment.

Cassif’s decision sparked widespread criticism, including from fellow leftists.

“Nothing can justify boycotting the speech of a democratically elected leader who is representing people under savage attack by a totalitarian nuclear power,” says left-wing human rights attorney Michael Sfard.

Zelensky speech to Knesset to be livestreamed on TV and in central Tel Aviv square

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the US Congress on March 16, 2022, at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC. (J. Scott Applewhite / POOL / AFP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky virtually addresses the US Congress on March 16, 2022, at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium, in Washington, DC. (J. Scott Applewhite / POOL / AFP)

Members of the Knesset will gather through a Zoom link to watch Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky address the country this evening.

Following hesitation by Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, some MKs will attend online while a small number of MKs may sit together in a Knesset committee room. The Knesset is in recess until May 8 and there are renovations taking place in the MKs’ chambers and in the plenum.

In addition to the Zoom link, the 6 p.m. speech will be broadcast on the official Knesset channel, and the Knesset will offer simultaneous translation from Ukrainian to Hebrew.

The Tel Aviv Municipality is hosting a live stream of the speech on a large screen in Habima Square. A spokesman for the municipality told The Times of Israel that they are expecting thousands of people to attend the live event.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will watch the speech from his chambers in the Prime Minister’s Office. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has yet to decide where he will view the address.

Some 16 MKs from the Haredi factions may skip the Zoom event altogether due to the mass funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a leader in the ultra-Orthodox world, taking place in Bnei Brak today.

Underworld assassination attempt reported in Ashkelon

Illustrative: Police and medical personnel outside an apartment building in Ashkelon, April 15, 2017. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Police and medical personnel outside an apartment building in Ashkelon, April 15, 2017. (Flash90)

The son of a well known underworld criminal was shot and seriously wounded in Ashkelon, according to Hebrew media reports.

The wounded man, said to be in his 30s, was brought to Barzilai Medical Center, after what appears to be a mob assassination attempt, and is currently not stable.

At least 5 civilians, including 9-year-old, said killed in Russian shelling of Kharkiv

Rescue workers clear the rubble of a building of the Kharkiv Regional Institute of Public Administration damaged by shelling in Kharkiv on March 18, 2022. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)
Rescue workers clear the rubble of a building of the Kharkiv Regional Institute of Public Administration damaged by shelling in Kharkiv on March 18, 2022. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)

Authorities in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kharkiv say at least five civilians have been killed in the latest Russian shelling.

Regional police in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, say the victims of the Russian artillery attack early this morning include a 9-year-old boy.

Kharkiv has been besieged by Russian forces since the start of the invasion and has come under a relentless barrage.

COVID positivity rate jumps to 21%, with close to 8,000 new cases

A Magen David Adom worker takes a COVID-19 test sample at a drive through complex in Jerusalem, on January 17, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom worker takes a COVID-19 test sample at a drive through complex in Jerusalem, on January 17, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The rate of positive COVID tests rises to 21.17%, according to the latest Health Ministry statistics, with 7,783 testing positive yesterday — the highest one-day caseload since March 2.

Overall there are 43,630 active cases in the country, with 331 serious cases and 143 of those on ventilators.

A day earlier the positivity rate was just under 16%, and on Tuesday it was just under 11%.

Authorities have warned that cases could continue to rise following last week’s Purim holiday, and ahead of Passover in mid-April.

Car rams into dawn carnival revelers in Belgium, killing several

A car slams into carnival revelers in a small town in southern Belgium, killing several people and injuring about two dozen, the mayor reports.

Media reports say at least four people are killed when a car drove into the crowd who where gathered at dawn for celebrations in Strépy-Bracquegnies, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Brussels.

“A car drove from the back at high speed. And we have a few dozen injured and unfortunately several people who are killed,” Mayor Jacques Gobert tells RTBF radio.

Media reports say the crash may have been caused by a car chased by police.

Russia claims to have again fired hypersonic missiles in Ukraine

This file photo taken on May 9, 2018 shows Russia's MiG-31 supersonic interceptor jets carrying hypersonic 'Kinzhal' (Dagger) missiles flying over Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow. (AFP)
This file photo taken on May 9, 2018 shows Russia's MiG-31 supersonic interceptor jets carrying hypersonic 'Kinzhal' (Dagger) missiles flying over Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow. (AFP)

Russia says it has again fired its newest hypersonic missiles in Ukraine, destroying a fuel storage site in the country’s south.

“Kinzhal aviation missile systems with hypersonic ballistic missiles destroyed a large storage site for fuels and lubricants of the Ukrainian armed forces near the settlement of Kostyantynivka in the Mykolaiv region,” the Russian defense ministry says.

Russia bombs art school-turned-shelter in Mariupol, say authorities

Local residents carry water from the food warehouse, on the territory which is under the Government of the Donetsk People's Republic control, on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine, March 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)
Local residents carry water from the food warehouse, on the territory which is under the Government of the Donetsk People's Republic control, on the outskirts of Mariupol, Ukraine, March 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)

Authorities in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol say that the Russian military has bombed an art school where about 400 people had taken refuge.

Local authorities say that the school building was destroyed and people could remain under the rubble. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Two Arab Israeli citizens arrested for Hezbollah activities, Shin Bet reveals

Sultan Atallah, 55, and Rami Shammi, 33, who were arrested for working with Hezbollah in February 2022. (Shin Bet)
Sultan Atallah, 55, and Rami Shammi, 33, who were arrested for working with Hezbollah in February 2022. (Shin Bet)

Two Israeli citizens who are residents of the Galilee were arrested last month for operating on behalf of Hezbollah or orders from Iran, the Shin Bet reveals.

The two men, named as Sultan Atallah, 55, and Rami Shammi, 33, have both been convicted in the past of drug smuggling from Lebanon, the Shin Bet says. The two men were in contact, in Turkey, with a Lebanese drug smuggler connected to Hezbollah who has previously served time in Israeli prison.

In November, the pair met with the Hezbollah operative and were requested to smuggle weapons into Israel in order to hide them for other Hezbollah operatives in Israel to find. They were also asked to lay the groundwork for carrying out terrorist attacks in Israel, identify sensitive sites for Hezbollah to aim missiles at, and carry out a kidnapping in Israel.

Atallah and Shami were indicted in the Northern District Court earlier today following a joint investigation of the Shin Bet, IDF and Israel Police, Israeli officials say.

Hospital in northern Ukraine reportedly hit by Russian shelling

A view of the damaged city center after a Russian air raid in Chernigiv, Ukraine, on March 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Dmytro Kumaka)
A view of the damaged city center after a Russian air raid in Chernigiv, Ukraine, on March 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Dmytro Kumaka)

In the encircled northern Ukrainian city of Chernigiv, the mayor says dozens of civilians have been killed by “indiscriminate artillery shelling,” and that a hospital has been hit.

“In Chernigiv, indiscriminate artillery shelling in residential neighborhoods continues, killing dozens of civilians, children and women,” Mayor Vladislav Atroshenko says on television.

“The city is suffering from an absolute humanitarian catastrophe.”

Zelensky suspends 11 Ukrainian political parties with Russian ties

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, early Sunday, March 20, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, early Sunday, March 20, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky orders the suspension of activities of 11 political parties with links to Russia.

The largest of them is the Opposition Platform for Life, which has 44 out of 450 seats in the country’s parliament. The party is led by Viktor Medvedchuk, who has friendly ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter.

Also on the list is the Nashi (Ours) party led by Yevheniy Murayev. Before the Russian invasion. the British authorities had warned that Russia wanted to install Murayev as the leader of Ukraine.

Speaking in a video address, Zelensky says that “given a large-scale war unleashed by the Russian Federation and links between it and some political structures, the activities of a number of political parties is suspended for the period of the martial law.” He adds that “activities by politicians aimed at discord and collaboration will not succeed.”

Health Ministry director: We hope rising COVID cases won’t reach high numbers

A technician collects nasal swab samples for COVID-19 at the coronavirus lab, at the Ben Gurion International Airport on March 2, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
A technician collects nasal swab samples for COVID-19 at the coronavirus lab, at the Ben Gurion International Airport on March 2, 2022. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Health Ministry director general Nachman Ash says that he hopes rising COVID figures do not indicate a new wave of the virus.

“I hope and believe that this rise won’t reach high numbers,” Ash tells Kan public radio. “Our concern is over the waning of the vaccine, and therefore we call on the older population to get vaccinated.”

Anyone over 60 in Israel is eligible for a 4th dose of the COVID vaccine, but only about 50% have received it.

The R number in Israel surpassed 1 last night for the first time since January, Health Ministry figures show. More than 7,000 new cases were diagnosed on Friday, the highest one-day figure in more than 10 days.

North Korea fires ‘multiple rocket launchers,’ says Seoul

People watch a TV showing a file image of North Korea's missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, March 5, 2022 (AP Photo /Ahn Young-joon)
People watch a TV showing a file image of North Korea's missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, March 5, 2022 (AP Photo /Ahn Young-joon)

North Korea fired multiple rocket launchers, Seoul says, the latest in a series of provocations by the nuclear-armed nation to heighten tensions in the region.

Pyongyang launched a string of banned weaponry this year and tested what it claimed were components of a “reconnaissance satellite” — although Seoul and Washington have described them as a new ICBM system.

“There were shots suspected to be from North Korea’s multiple rocket launchers this morning,” says the South Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff in a text message to reporters. “Our military is maintaining our defense readiness while closely following related developments,” it adds, without further detail.

Four shots were fired into the western waters during a span of an hour from 7:20 am from an unspecified location in South Pyongan province, Yonhap news agency reports citing unnamed officials.

The intention of the firing was being evaluated, the report adds.

Israeli diplomat in Ukraine says rate of refugees exiting country slowing down

People who fled the war in Ukraine rest inside an indoor sports stadium being used as a refugee center, in the village of Medyka, a border crossing between Poland and Ukraine, on March 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
People who fled the war in Ukraine rest inside an indoor sports stadium being used as a refugee center, in the village of Medyka, a border crossing between Poland and Ukraine, on March 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Yoav Bistritsky, Israel’s deputy ambassador to Ukraine, says that the rate of refugees exiting the country appears to have slowed down.

“There is a drop in the movement of refugees heading west, including among Israelis and Jews,” Bistritsky tells Kan radio. Nevertheless, he says, “there are hundreds of inquiries a day to assist Jews in crossing the border.”

Amid a wave of criticism over Israel’s entry policy for refugees, Welfare Minister Meir Cohen says the country should do more.

“The State of Israel is strong enough to deal with a wave of refugees and provide them with whatever they need,” Cohen tells Army Radio. “We must do what the heart orders us to… We need to be much more generous than we seem.”

Currently, any Ukrainian refugee with family in Israel is allowed entry even if they do not qualify for citizenship under the Law of Return. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, 13,662 Ukrainians have entered Israel, and 283 have been refused entry.

Roads shut, trains overcrowded hours ahead of Kanievsky funeral

Police erect temporary roadblocks off Route 1, near Route 4, ahead of the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands in Bnei Brak, March 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Police erect temporary roadblocks off Route 1, near Route 4, ahead of the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands in Bnei Brak, March 20, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Several hours ahead of the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, many major roads in central Israel have already been shut down and train stations around the country are packed with travelers heading to the funeral.

Hundreds of schools and pre-schools have been shut down ahead of the funeral proceedings in Bnei Brak, which are expected to draw hundreds of thousands of mourners. A portion of the Route 4 major highway has been shut to all traffic.

Photos and video on social media show major overcrowding at the train station in Jerusalem as thousands of ultra-Orthodox men make their way to the funeral. Israel Rail issued a call for people to avoid unnecessary travel due to the overcrowding.

One of Europe’s largest steel plants damaged during Russian siege of Mariupol

The Azovstal metallurgical plant is seen on the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, February 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
The Azovstal metallurgical plant is seen on the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, February 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

One of Europe’s biggest iron and steel works, Azovstal, is badly damaged as Russian forces lay siege to the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, officials say.  

“One of the biggest metallurgic plants in #Europe destroyed. The economic losses for #Ukraine are huge. The environment is devastated,” tweets Ukrainian lawmaker Lesia Vasylenko. 

Vasylenko posts a video of explosions on an industrial site, with thick columns of grey and black smoke rising from the buildings. 

One of her colleagues, Serhiy Taruta, writes on Facebook that Russian forces “had practically destroyed the factory.”

“We will return to the city, rebuild the enterprise and revive it,” Azovstal’s director general Enver Tskitishvili writes on messaging app Telegram, without specifying the extent of the damage. 

Azovstal is part of the Metinvest group, which is controlled by Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov. 

Considered pro-Moscow before the war began, Akhmetov has since accused Russian troops of committing “crimes against humanity against Ukrainians.”

Shooting at Arkansas car show kills at least 1, wounds 20, including children

At least one person is killed and 20 people wounded, including children, in a shooting outside a car show in southeast Arkansas, local police say.

Keith Finch, chief of police in the town of Dumas, provides the increased number of casualties but says it isn’t immediately clear how many kids had been hurt.

One person is in custody, although there may have been multiple shooters, Finch tells reporters.

State troopers were dispatched to Dumas, located about 90 miles (144 kilometers) south of Little Rock, following a report of gunfire outside a local business where the car show was underway, Arkansas State Police spokesperson Bill Sadler says.

The car show is an annual community event held each spring to raise funds for scholarships and school supplies, according to the Delta Neighborhood Empowerment Youth Organization, which put on the event.

Additional information, including conditions of the wounded, isn’t immediately available.

20 babies from Ukrainian surrogate moms waiting in bomb shelter

Nannies take care of newborn babies in a basement converted into a nursery in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 19, 2022. Nineteen babies were born to surrogate mothers, with their biological parents still outside the country due to the war against Russia. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Nannies take care of newborn babies in a basement converted into a nursery in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 19, 2022. Nineteen babies were born to surrogate mothers, with their biological parents still outside the country due to the war against Russia. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

KYIV, Ukraine — In peacetime, Ukraine has a thriving surrogate industry, one of the few countries where foreigners can get Ukrainian women to carry their pregnancies. Now at least 20 of those babies are stuck in a makeshift bomb shelter in Ukraine’s capital, waiting for parents to travel into the war zone to pick them up.

They’re well cared for at the moment. Surrogacy center nurses are stranded with them, because constant shelling makes it too dangerous for them to go home. Russian troops are trying to encircle the city, with Ukrainian defenders holding them off for now, the threat comes from the air.

Nurse Lyudmilla Yashchenko says they’re staying in the bomb shelter to save their lives, and the lives of the babies, some of whom are just days old. They have enough food and baby supplies for now, and can only hope and wait for the newborns to be picked up, and the war to end.

UK defense ministry says Ukraine holding its airspace

Ukrainian air force Su-27 fighter jet is in the sky outside Slovyansk, 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the Russian border, in eastern Ukraine, on, April 15, 2014. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made a “desperate” plea to the United States to help Kyiv get more warplanes to fight Russia's invasion. (AP Photo/Alexander Ermochenko, File)
Ukrainian air force Su-27 fighter jet is in the sky outside Slovyansk, 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the Russian border, in eastern Ukraine, on, April 15, 2014. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made a “desperate” plea to the United States to help Kyiv get more warplanes to fight Russia's invasion. (AP Photo/Alexander Ermochenko, File)

The British defense ministry says the Ukrainian Air Force and air defense forces are “continuing to effectively defend Ukrainian airspace.”

“Russia has failed to gain control of the air and is largely relying on stand-off weapons launched from the relative safety of Russian airspace to strike targets within Ukraine,” the ministry says on Twitter.

“Gaining control of the air was one of Russia’s principal objectives for the opening days of the conflict and their continued failure to do so has significantly blunted their operational progress.”

Zelensky says Mariupol terror a war crime that will be remembered for centuries

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, early Sunday, March 20, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, early Sunday, March 20, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says the siege of Mariupol will go down in history for what he’s calling war crimes by Russia’s military.

“To do this to a peaceful city, what the occupiers did, is a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come,” he says early Sunday in his nighttime video address to the nation.

Zelensky tells Ukrainians the ongoing negotiations with Russia were “not simple or pleasant, but they are necessary.” He says he discussed the course of the talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday.

“Ukraine has always sought a peaceful solution. Moreover, we are interested in peace now,” he said.

Meanwhile, Russia’s military isn’t even recovering the bodies of its soldiers in some places, Zelensky says.

“In places where there were especially fierce battles, the bodies of Russian soldiers simply pile up along our line of defense. And no one is collecting these bodies,” he says. He described a battle near Chornobayivka in the south, where Ukrainian forces held their positions and six times beat back the Russians, who just kept “sending their people to slaughter.”

Thousands crash barriers to reach Kanievsky home, Netanyahu briefly trapped at site

People gather outside the home of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky who passed away, in the city of Bnei Brak, on March 19, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)
People gather outside the home of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky who passed away, in the city of Bnei Brak, on March 19, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)

Thousands of people have breached barriers set up around the home of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in Bnei Brak ahead of his funeral.

The Walla news site reports that opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who was visiting the home to pay his respects ahead of the funeral, was trapped at the site by the crowd and only managed to leave after two hours.

The Bnei Brak municipality urges people to leave, saying the home is now closed to visitors.

People at the scene tell Channel 12 that there is dangerous overcrowding and some express fears there could be a repeat of the Merom disaster where dozens of people were crushed to death at a religious ceremony last year.

Officials say Mariupol residents being taken to Russia against their will

People cover from shelling inside an entryway to an apartment building in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 13, 2022. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)
People cover from shelling inside an entryway to an apartment building in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 13, 2022. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

Residents of Mariupol are being taken to Russian territory against their will by Russian forces, CNN reports, citing a statement from the Mariupol City Council.

According to the council’s statement, captured residents are being taken to camps where Russian forces check their phones and documents.

They are then being sent to remote Russian cities.

 

Funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky delayed until 12 p.m. Sunday

People gather outside the home of Rabbi Haim Kanievsky who passed away, in the city of Bnei Brak, on March 19, 2022.(Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)
People gather outside the home of Rabbi Haim Kanievsky who passed away, in the city of Bnei Brak, on March 19, 2022.(Avshalom Sassoni/ Flash90)

The funeral procession of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky is being delayed until 12 p.m. on Sunday.

It was originally scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Organizers say the hour delay is done in cooperation with the police.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend the funeral in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, with major highways set to be blocked off and heavy traffic congestion expected throughout central Israel. Police urged the non-attending members of the public to avoid roads if possible.

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