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Zelensky calls again for peace talks, but says Ukraine won’t give up any territory

Biden compares Russian invasion to Tiananmen Square, calls Putin a ‘war criminal’ during pep talk to US troops in Poland; Ukraine military command center hit by Russian strike;

  • US President Joe Biden meets service members from the 82nd Airborne Division, who are contributing alongside Polish Allies to deterrence on the Alliance's Eastern Flank, in the city of Rzeszow in southeastern Poland, around 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the border with Ukraine, March 25, 2022. (Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)
    US President Joe Biden meets service members from the 82nd Airborne Division, who are contributing alongside Polish Allies to deterrence on the Alliance's Eastern Flank, in the city of Rzeszow in southeastern Poland, around 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the border with Ukraine, March 25, 2022. (Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)
  • A cyclist rides past flames and smoke rising from a fire following an artillery fire on the 30th day of the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces in the northeastern city of Kharkiv on March 25, 2022. (Aris Messinis / AFP)
    A cyclist rides past flames and smoke rising from a fire following an artillery fire on the 30th day of the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces in the northeastern city of Kharkiv on March 25, 2022. (Aris Messinis / AFP)
  • A man walks on the debris of a burning house, destroyed after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine,  March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
    A man walks on the debris of a burning house, destroyed after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
  • A child refugee fleeing the war from neighbouring Ukraine with her family grimaces as she sits in a bus after crossing the border by ferry at the Isaccea-Orlivka border crossing, in Romania, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
    A child refugee fleeing the war from neighbouring Ukraine with her family grimaces as she sits in a bus after crossing the border by ferry at the Isaccea-Orlivka border crossing, in Romania, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
  • A member of the Ukraine territorial defense unit prepares to go to the front line in Yasnogorodk, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/ (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
    A member of the Ukraine territorial defense unit prepares to go to the front line in Yasnogorodk, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/ (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
  • Damage is seen inside a Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Yasnogorodk, a rural town where the Ukrainian army stopped the advance of the Russian army, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/ (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
    Damage is seen inside a Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Yasnogorodk, a rural town where the Ukrainian army stopped the advance of the Russian army, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/ (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
  • Ukrainian runner Valentyna Veretska crosses the finish line at the Jerusalem marathon, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
    Ukrainian runner Valentyna Veretska crosses the finish line at the Jerusalem marathon, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
  • Evacuees from areas including the city of Dnipro walk in the railway station of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on March 25, 2022, following Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP)
    Evacuees from areas including the city of Dnipro walk in the railway station of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on March 25, 2022, following Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP)
  • Ukrainian refugees embark on a ferry to cross the Danube river at the Ukrainian-Romanian border at Isaccea-Orlivka on March 25, 2022. - More than 3.6 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion, with more than two million of them heading to neighbouring Poland, according to the United Nations. A total of 10 million are believed to have fled their homes, according to the world body, representing over a quarter of the population in regions under government control. (Photo by Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP)
    Ukrainian refugees embark on a ferry to cross the Danube river at the Ukrainian-Romanian border at Isaccea-Orlivka on March 25, 2022. - More than 3.6 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion, with more than two million of them heading to neighbouring Poland, according to the United Nations. A total of 10 million are believed to have fled their homes, according to the world body, representing over a quarter of the population in regions under government control. (Photo by Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP)
  • US President Joe Biden listens as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at the US Mission in Brussels, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Brussels. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    US President Joe Biden listens as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at the US Mission in Brussels, Friday, March 25, 2022, in Brussels. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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

First ice shelf collapse recorded in previously stable East Antarctica

This satellite image provided by NASA, Aqua MODIS 12 on March 2022  shows the main piece of C-37 close to Bowman Island.  Scientists are concerned because an ice shelf the size of New York City collapsed in East Antarctica, an area that had long been thought to be stable. The collapse last week was the first time scientists have ever seen an ice shelf collapse in this cold area of Antarctica. (NASA via AP)
This satellite image provided by NASA, Aqua MODIS 12 on March 2022 shows the main piece of C-37 close to Bowman Island. Scientists are concerned because an ice shelf the size of New York City collapsed in East Antarctica, an area that had long been thought to be stable. The collapse last week was the first time scientists have ever seen an ice shelf collapse in this cold area of Antarctica. (NASA via AP)

An ice shelf the size of New York City has collapsed in East Antarctica, an area long thought to be stable and not hit much by climate change, concerned scientists say.

The collapse, captured by satellite images, marks the first time in human history that the frigid region had an ice shelf collapse. I

t happened at the beginning of a freakish warm spell last week when temperatures soared more than 70 degrees (40 Celsius) warmer than normal in some spots of East Antarctica.

Satellite photos show the area has been shrinking rapidly the last couple of years, and now scientists wonder if they have been overestimating East Antarctica’s stability and resistance to global warming that has been melting ice rapidly on the smaller western side and the vulnerable peninsula.

Investigation finds at least 34 Russian attacks on Ukrainian medical facilities

A medical worker walks through the damaged maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. A Russian attack has severely damaged the hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials say. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File)
A medical worker walks through the damaged maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. A Russian attack has severely damaged the hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials say. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File)

The Associated Press has independently documented at least 34 assaults on Ukrainian medical facilities by Russian forces.

AP journalists in Ukraine have seen firsthand the deadly results of Russian strikes on civilian targets, including the final moments of children whose bodies were shredded by shrapnel and dozens of corpses heaped into mass graves.

AP journalists outside Ukraine have confirmed the details of other attacks by interviewing survivors and independently verifying war zone videos and photos posted online.

The accounting is part of the War Crimes Watch Ukraine project, a broader effort by AP and PBS “Frontline” to track evidence of potential war crimes for the duration of the conflict.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights confirms at least 1,035 civilians, including 90 children, have died and another 1,650 civilians have been wounded since the war started a month ago.

Those numbers are certainly an undercount since scores of bodies now lie under the rubble of demolished buildings or were hurriedly buried in mass graves, or the deaths occurred in areas now under Russian control.

Ukraine intel chief: Russian army shown to be a ‘medieval concentration of manpower’

A Ukrainian soldier inspects a destroyed Russian APC after recent battle in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 24, 2022. The writing made by Ukrainian soldiers reads: 'No to War'. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A Ukrainian soldier inspects a destroyed Russian APC after recent battle in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 24, 2022. The writing made by Ukrainian soldiers reads: 'No to War'. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The Russian army is riddled with informers and using “old methods of warfare” against Ukrainian forces, the head of Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency GUR says in an interview published today.

Brigadier General Kyrylo Budanov also tells the US publication The Nation that a “very large number of people” have been mobilized to engage in guerrilla warfare behind Russian lines.

Budanov says that although Ukrainian forces have held out against the Russian military for a month, the situation remains “very difficult.”

“We have large Russian forces on our territory, and they have encircled the cities of Ukraine,” he said. “As for the prospects of peace, despite the negotiations, they still remain vague and unpredictable.”

Budanov tells The Nation that Ukrainian forces have benefitted from “miscalculations” by the Russians.

“Russian command has made miscalculations many times, and we use these miscalculations,” Budanov says.

“The Ukrainian army has shown that the Russian army as the second army in the world is a big myth, and it’s just a medieval concentration of manpower, old methods of warfare,” he said.

He said the Ukrainians have made effective use of informers.

“We have lots of informers within the Russian army, not only in the Russian army, but also in their political circles and their leadership,” Budanov said.

“In November, we already knew about the intentions of the Russians, and you can see that everything came through,” he said. “As for the date, it changed several times.”

He said Ukrainians were tracking Chechen forces fighting for Russia using their cellphones and human intelligence sources.

“We have many informers inside the Chechen ranks,” he said. “As soon as they start preparing any operation, we know that from our informants,” he said.

Budanov said Russian forces would also have to confront insurgents.

“Our warriors, our servicemen, even our hunters will start hunting the aggressor, the Russian forces, with their rifles in the forests,” he said. “I should say that soon the spring will come, our forests will become green, and a real hell will open up for the aggressor.”

The Nation said the interview with the 36-year-old Budanov was conducted over an encrypted line with a translator.

First lady Jill Biden to meet Ukrainian children at St. Jude

First lady Jill Biden was scheduled to travel to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee later today, a visit expected to include meetings with Ukrainian children with cancer and their families fleeing the war and seeking treatment in the US.

Biden’s afternoon visit to the Memphis hospital is the first leg of a trip Friday that also includes travel to Colorado for a Democratic National Committee finance event in Denver, the White House says.

Her visit to St. Jude, considered a leading researcher of cancer and other life-threatening diseases that affect children, is part of her and President Joe Biden’s so-called Cancer Moonshot effort, which aims to reduce the cancer death rate by at least 50% over the next 25 years.

Improving the lives of children with cancer is a main goal of St. Jude, founded by late actor Danny Thomas in 1962. Using mostly private donations, families with children who are patients at St. Jude never receive a bill for treatment, travel, housing and food. Thomas’ daughter, actress Marlo Thomas, is St. Jude’s national outreach director.

Jill Biden will meet with a cancer survivor, tour a laboratory and receive a briefing on St. Jude’s research programs, the White House said. Then she will visit privately with Ukrainian pediatric cancer patients and their relatives.

On Monday, St. Jude received four Ukrainian children, ages nine months to 9 years old. In addition to receiving cancer treatment, the children also will get therapy to address their psychological, emotional and cultural needs, the hospital said.

Putin signs law on jail terms for ‘fake’ news on state actions abroad

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting with winners of state culture prizes via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on March 25, 2022 (Mikhail KLIMENTYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting with winners of state culture prizes via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on March 25, 2022 (Mikhail KLIMENTYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill introducing jail terms of up to 15 years for publishing “fake” information about Russia’s actions abroad, as Moscow’s troops continue their military operation in Ukraine.

The bill, adopted by Russia’s parliament this week, sets out jail terms and fines for people who publish “knowingly false information” about actions abroad by Russian government agencies.

If the false information “caused serious consequences,” it is punishable by up 15 years in jail.

The new bill expands on a law passed earlier in March that allows for up to 15 years in jail for publishing false information about the Russian army.

France, Turkey and Greece working on ‘humanitarian operation’ for Mariupol evacuations

A woman cleans up her kitchen from debris in an apartment block damaged by a bombing the previous day in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, March 21, 2022. As Russia intensified its effort to pound Mariupol into submission, its ground offensive in other parts of Ukraine has become bogged down. Western officials and analysts say the conflict is turning into a grinding war of attrition, with Russia bombarding cities. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A woman cleans up her kitchen from debris in an apartment block damaged by a bombing the previous day in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, March 21, 2022. As Russia intensified its effort to pound Mariupol into submission, its ground offensive in other parts of Ukraine has become bogged down. Western officials and analysts say the conflict is turning into a grinding war of attrition, with Russia bombarding cities. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

President Emmanuel Macron says that France was working with Turkey and Greece on a “humanitarian operation” to evacuate people from the devastated Ukrainian city of Mariupol under attack by Russian forces.

“I will have the opportunity to discuss with President (Vladimir) Putin in the next few hours, but we are going to work with Turkey and Greece to launch a humanitarian operation to evacuate all those who wish to leave Mariupol,” Macron said after an EU summit in Brussels.

Pentagon: Ukrainians fighting to retake Kherson, now ‘contested’ city

A demonstration against occupying Russian forces in Kherson, Ukraine, on March 9, 2022. (Screenshot)
A demonstration against occupying Russian forces in Kherson, Ukraine, on March 9, 2022. (Screenshot)

Ukrainian forces have launched a counter-offensive in Kherson, the country’s only major city seized by Russian troops, and it is once again “contested,” a senior US defense official says.

“The Ukrainians are trying to take Kherson back, and we would argue that Kherson is actually contested territory again,” the Pentagon official tells reporters.

“We can’t corroborate exactly who is in control of Kherson but the point is, it doesn’t appear to be as solidly in Russian control as it was before,” says the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

EU Commission to get mandate for bloc’s joint gas purchases — Macron

EU leaders have agreed for officials in Brussels to make joint gas purchases for the bloc as it struggles with high prices amid Russia’s war on Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron says.

“What we decided, for the first time, is that the European Commission will have a mandate to do joint procurement, which is exactly what we decided, remember, for vaccines at the time of the COVID crisis,” Macron tells journalists after an EU summit in Brussels.

Russia readying to draw troops serving in Georgia as casualty count rises — US official

Russia is readying to draw troops serving in Georgia to fight in Ukraine as its casualty count rises, a senior US defense official tells reporters in a briefing.

“We now have signs that they are drawing upon Russian troops based in Georgia,” the official says.

“It appears that the Russians are at the moment not pursuing a ground offensive towards Kyiv. They are digging in there, establishing defensive positions,” the official says, according to a quote in The National. “Clearly they overestimated their ability to take Kyiv.”

7th Russian general killed in Ukraine, senior commander murdered by own troops — report

Russian Army Lt. Gen. Yakov Rezantsev. (Wikimedia Commons)
Russian Army Lt. Gen. Yakov Rezantsev. (Wikimedia Commons)

Another Russian military general has been killed and a senior commander murdered by his own troops in Ukraine, The National reports, citing Western officials.

Yakov Rezantsev was the seventh Russian general killed since the start of the invasion. Only 13 others remain.

Separately, a colonel in charge of the 37th Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade was killed by his own soldiers, The National reports.

“We believe he was killed by his own troops deliberately as a consequence of the scale of losses that had been taken by his brigade,” a Western security official says during a briefing. “That gives an insight into some of the morale challenges that Russian forces are having.”

Ukraine FM thanks Israel for field hospital treating refugees of Russian invasion

Ukrainian workers construct tents for the Israeli field hospital being established in Mostyska, Ukraine. on March 18, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/The Times of Israel)
Ukrainian workers construct tents for the Israeli field hospital being established in Mostyska, Ukraine. on March 18, 2022. (Carrie Keller-Lynn/The Times of Israel)

Jordan king hosts leaders of UAE, Egypt and Iraq for rare meeting

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Jordan's King Abdullah, UAE Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed and Iraq Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi during a meeting in Amman on March 25, 2022. (Mohamed Al Hammadi / Iraqi Presidential Affairs office)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Jordan's King Abdullah, UAE Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed and Iraq Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi during a meeting in Amman on March 25, 2022. (Mohamed Al Hammadi / Iraqi Presidential Affairs office)

Jordan’s King Abdullah hosts a rare meeting of the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Iraq in his palace in Amman.

The meeting is also attended briefly by Saudi Minister of State Prince Turki bin Mohammed, who addressed ways to expand relations between the countries, according to Emirati state media.

Rowling slams Putin’s ‘cancel culture’ remark

Author JK Rowling accepts an award onstage during the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Hosts 2019 Ripple Of Hope Gala  and Auction In NYC, in New York City, on December 12, 2019. (Bennett Raglin / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)
Author JK Rowling accepts an award onstage during the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Hosts 2019 Ripple Of Hope Gala and Auction In NYC, in New York City, on December 12, 2019. (Bennett Raglin / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

LONDON — Author J.K. Rowling is pushing back after Russian President Vladimir Putin dragged her into a rant against Western efforts to “cancel” Russian culture.

“Critiques of Western cancel culture are possibly not best made by those currently slaughtering civilians for the crime of resistance, or who jail and poison their critics,” the Harry Potter author says in a tweet linked to an article about jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny.

Putin earlier compared recent Western criticism of Russia with efforts to “cancel” Rowling over her views on transgender issues. Rowling has been criticized after saying she supported transgender rights but did not believe in “erasing” the concept of biological sex.

“The notorious cancel culture has become a cancellation of culture. Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov are excluded from concert posters, and Russian writers and their books are also banned,” Putin said during a videoconference with cultural figures.

Ukraine military command center hit by Russian strike

Russian missiles hit a military command center in the city of Vinnytsia in central Ukraine, Kyiv officials say, adding it is unknown if there were any casualties.

“Today at around 4:30 p.m, the Russian occupiers launched a missile strike on the territory of the Air Force Command in Vinnytsia,” the Ukrainian Air Force says on Telegram. It posted an image of the alleged center in rubble and said missiles had hit “several buildings, causing significant damage to infrastructure.”

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix continues ‘as planned’ despite rebel attack on oil facility

A cloud of smoke rises from a burning oil depot in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Friday, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
A cloud of smoke rises from a burning oil depot in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Friday, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

The Saudi Arabian Formula One Grand Prix will continue “as planned” despite an attack by Yemeni rebels on an oil facility that set off a huge fire visible from Jeddah’s street circuit.

Flames ripped through the nearby Aramco oil refinery and was smelt by drivers during the opening practice run.

Drivers and team bosses attended a meeting in the paddock with race organizers and Formula One management shortly before second practice which was scheduled to begin at 1600GMT.

The start of the session was delayed by 15 minutes as F1 boss Stefano Domenicali insisted the race weekend will continue.

“He informed them that the weekend will go ahead as planned and that the safety of the event has been a priority for authorities prior to this incident,” says an F1 spokesman.

“He will continue to update them with any new information and will likely meet with team principals in the evening to share any new information.”

US cancels Doha talks with Taliban over girls school closure

Girls attend a class after their school reopened in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 23, 2022. (Ahmad SAHEL ARMAN / AFP)
Girls attend a class after their school reopened in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 23, 2022. (Ahmad SAHEL ARMAN / AFP)

The United States has cancelled planned talks in Doha with the Taliban after the hardline Islamist rulers of Afghanistan shut girls secondary schools, US officials say.

“On Tuesday, we joined millions of Afghan families in expressing our deep disappointment with the Taliban’s decision to not allow women and girls to return to secondary school,” a State Department spokesperson says.

“We have canceled some of our engagements, including planned meetings in Doha around the Doha Forum, and made clear that we see this decision as a potential turning point in our engagement,” the spokesperson says.

The Taliban, which seized power in August and is eager for international recognition, shut down girls schools this week just hours after reopening them.

“This decision by the Taliban, if it is not swiftly reversed, will profoundly harm the Afghan people, the country’s prospects for economic growth, and the Taliban’s ambition to improve their relations with the international community,” the spokesperson says.

“We stand with Afghan girls and their families, who see education as a path to realizing the full potential of Afghanistan’s society and economy.”

Biden compares Russian invasion to Tiananmen Square, calls Putin a ‘war criminal’

US President Joe Biden (C) meets with service members from the 82nd Airborne Division, who are contributing alongside Polish Allies to deterrence on the Allianc's Eastern Flank, in the city of Rzeszow in southeastern Poland, around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the border with Ukraine, on March 25, 2022. (Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)
US President Joe Biden (C) meets with service members from the 82nd Airborne Division, who are contributing alongside Polish Allies to deterrence on the Allianc's Eastern Flank, in the city of Rzeszow in southeastern Poland, around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the border with Ukraine, on March 25, 2022. (Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

US President Joe Biden compares Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to China’s crushing of protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, speaking during a visit to Poland near the border with Ukraine.

Biden also refers to Russian President Vladimir Putin as “a man who, quite frankly, I think is a war criminal,” adding: “And I think we’ll meet the legal definition of that as well.”

Biden spoke at meetings with US soldiers stationed in Poland close to the border and with aid workers helping to deal with the massive refugee crisis caused by the conflict in Ukraine.

The US president says he would have liked to see the devastation caused by the conflict “first hand.”

“They won’t let me, understandably I guess, cross the border,” he says.

Biden praises Ukrainians for showing “backbone” in their resistance against Russia, giving the example of “a 30-year-old woman standing there in front of a tank with a rifle.”

“I mean, talk about what happened to Tiananmen Square. This is Tiananmen Square squared,” he says.

Speaking to the troops, he says: “You’re in the midst of a fight between democracies and autocrats. What you’re doing is consequential, really consequential.”

Biden landed earlier on Friday in the city of Rzeszow in southeastern Poland — around 80 kilometers (50 miles) in a straight line from the border with Ukraine.

Oligarch who gave up Russian citizenship calls Putin a ‘psychopath’

Leonid Nevzlin, March 25, 2022 (Channel 12 screenshot)
Leonid Nevzlin, March 25, 2022 (Channel 12 screenshot)

Russian-Israeli businessman Leonid Nevzlin, who earlier his month announced that he was giving up his Russian citizenship, calls President Vladimir Putin a “psychopath” during a Channel 12 interview.

Nevzlin, who knew Putin before he left the former Soviet Union, says he is embarrassed to be a Russian citizen as Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine carries on.

He calls for the world to maintain an aggressive stance against Putin, who he says currently feels like a “cornered rat.”

Nevzlin cites a biography of Putin in which he is quoted as saying about himself: “Don’t push the rat into a corner, it is likely to attack and bite.”

“You ask, how is that relevant? Because he feels like a cornered rat. And why? Because he is a psychopath. He pushed himself into the corner,” Nevzlin says.

Nevzlin says Putin has a serious inferiority complex, suggesting that it is because he is short. “I apologize, I don’t want to offend anybody but I see a lot of these ‘Napoleons’ in life.”

Nonetheless, Nevzlin says that Putin is still rational and wants to live. “He’s just not smart.”

“Putin is without a doubt a war criminal,” Nevzlin adds. “His craziness won’t hide that.”

He praises Israel’s efforts to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, and says Israel has a real “advantage” because of its international standing.

A longtime critic of Putin, Nevzlin was the most high-profile of the oil executive associates of Mikhail Khodorkovsky who fled Russian arrest warrants in 2003. Khodorkovsky, the onetime head of the Yukos oil giant, was jailed for several years after clashing with Putin.

Nevzlin was found guilty, in absentia, on several counts of conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to life behind bars. In 2014, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of Nevzlin, accusing Moscow of carrying out “a ruthless campaign to destroy [him] and to expropriate [his] assets.”

In the years since, Nevzlin has established himself as an influential businessman and philanthropist. He was president of the Russian Jewish Congress, became chairman of the board of trustees at Beit Hatfutsot — the Museum of the Jewish People — and is a member of several bodies of the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Fund, Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University. He also owns 25% of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

His daughter Irina is married to Yuli Edelstein, a top politician in the Likud party and a former political prisoner in the Soviet Union.

Aiming to put out media storm, Barlev says Beersheba attacker was ‘murdered’

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Old City, March 4, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Old City, March 4, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After coming under fire for mistakenly saying during a eulogy for one of the victims in the Beersheba stabbing attack that the slain assailant should be put in jail and then later making light of the gaffe in an ill-humored tweet, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev has again put his foot in his mouth.

A recording of a speech he gave earlier today catches him referring to the attacker as the “murdered terrorist,” exposing him to further criticism from those who say the attacker was killed, not murdered.

Following yesterday’s ill-humored tweet, Barlev announced that he has fired his spokesman, ostensibly blaming the aid for the post.

Despite rise in cases, gov’t not expected to impose restrictions on Passover — report

Israelis wear protective face masks in Dizengoff Center, Tel Aviv, on September 13, 2021 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Israelis wear protective face masks in Dizengoff Center, Tel Aviv, on September 13, 2021 (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Despite the ongoing rise in COVID-19 cases, the government is not expected to impose new restrictions over the Passover holiday, Channel 12 reports.

Yemen rebels officially claim oil plant attack as huge fire erupts in Jeddah

Smoke billows from an oil storage facility in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah on March 25, 2022. (ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP)
Smoke billows from an oil storage facility in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah on March 25, 2022. (ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP)

Yemeni rebels say they attacked a Saudi Aramco oil facility in Jeddah as part of a wave of drone and missile assaults on Friday as a huge cloud of smoke was seen near the Formula One venue in the city.

“We did several attacks with drones and ballistic missiles,” the Iran-backed Huthi rebels say in a statement, including an “Aramco installation in Jeddah (and) vital installations in Riyadh.”

France summons Russian envoy over ‘unacceptable’ tweets

France’s foreign ministry says it had summoned the Russian ambassador to protest “unacceptable” tweets issued by the embassy in Paris showing crude cartoons depicting Europe and the United States.

“These publications are unacceptable,” a ministry spokesperson says after two tweets, now deleted, that depicted kneeling Europeans licking the buttocks of a man dressed as Uncle Sam, and another showing two doctors wearing American and EU insignia injecting Europe with syringes marked “Russophobia,” “Neo-Nazism” and “Sanctions.”

Nordic energy firms pledge assistance to Baltic nations if Russia curbs their energy supply

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Four Nordic energy companies say they are ready to help the three Baltic nations in the event Russia curbs or completely cuts electricity exports to its smaller neighbors.

Denmark’s Energinet, Statnett of Norway, Sweden’s Svenska kraftnat and Fingrid Oyj of Finland said in a statement they’ve “secured routines and identified eventual ambiguities in a scenario where the Baltics are disconnected from the Russian grid.”

“In such a scenario, frequency support from the Nordic system will be needed. The Baltic (Transmission System Operators) have restricted the import from Russia in order not to risk a serious situation in the event of a sudden disconnection from the Russian system,” the statement released by Fingrid Oyj said.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are still reliant on their Russian neighbor for much of their electricity needs.

Fire in Saudi city ahead of F1 race as Houthis claim attacks

A cloud of smoke rises from a burning oil depot in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Friday, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
A cloud of smoke rises from a burning oil depot in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Friday, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — A raging fire has erupted at an oil depot in Jiddah ahead of a Formula One race in the Saudi city, according to videos, with Yemen’s Houthis rebels acknowledging they had launched a series of attacks on the kingdom.

While Saudi Arabia and its state-run oil behemoth Saudi Aramco does not immediately acknowledge the blaze, it appeared to be centered on the same fuel depot that the Houthis had attacked in recent days.

The North Jiddah Bulk Plant sits just southeast of the city’s international airport, a crucial hub for Muslim pilgrims heading to Mecca. Videos of the blaze corresponded to known geographic features around the plant.

The Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Saudi Aramco, does not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Those at the F1 track could see the large black smoke cloud in the distance. The cause of the blaze was not immediately known.

The second-ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jiddah is taking place on Sunday, though concerns had been raised by some over the recent attacks targeting the kingdom.

US Supreme Court Justice Thomas released from hospital as wife in news for QAnon ties

In this Nov. 15, 2007, photo, US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, left, sits with his wife Virginia Thomas, as he is introduced at the Federalist Society in Washington(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
In this Nov. 15, 2007, photo, US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, left, sits with his wife Virginia Thomas, as he is introduced at the Federalist Society in Washington(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Clarence Thomas, the longest-serving justice on the US Supreme Court, was released from hospital on Friday after a week-long stay, the court says.

Thomas was admitted to Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington on March 18 with flu-like symptoms, according to the court.

The 73-year-old justice was diagnosed with an infection and treated with intravenous antibiotics, the court said.

The court does not specify what type of infection Thomas had but said he did not have COVID-19.

Announcing his hospitalization, the court said Thomas was expected to be released “in a day or two.”

It did not provide any explanation for why he remained in hospital longer than initially expected.

Thomas, one of six conservative justices on the nine-member court and the only African-American, was nominated by then-president George H.W. Bush in 1991.

Thomas’s wife, Virginia, a conservative activist, has been in the headlines this week following revelations she exchanged text messages with former president Donald Trump’s chief of staff seeking to overturn the 2020 presidential election and dabbling in election conspiracy theories popular in the QAnon movement.

3.7 million people flee Ukraine, per updated UN figures

Evacuees from areas including the city of Dnipro walk in the railway station of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on March 25, 2022, following Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP)
Evacuees from areas including the city of Dnipro walk in the railway station of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on March 25, 2022, following Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP)

Some 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion a month ago, the UN says.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says 3,725,806 Ukrainians had fled the country — an increase of 50,854 from the previous day’s figure.

Around 90 percent of them are women and children, it adds.

Of those who have left, 2.2 million have fled for neighboring Poland while more than half a million have made it to Romania. Around 20,000 have gone to Russia.

Before the crisis sparked a month ago, EU member Poland was home to around 1.5 million Ukrainians.

In total, more than 10 million people — over a quarter of the population in regions under government control before the February 24 invasion — are now thought to have fled their homes, including nearly 6.5 million who are internally displaced.

Ukraine’s refugee crisis is Europe’s worst since World War II.

The UN children’s agency Unicef said Thursday that 4.3 million children — more than half of Ukraine’s estimated 7.5 million child population — had been forced to leave their homes.

It puts at some 1.5 million the number of those children who have become refugees, while another 2.5 million are displaced inside their war-ravaged country, it said.

As leaving becomes ever more perilous even as living conditions in their country worsen, the UNHCR calculated that since Tuesday the number leaving daily has dropped below 100,000.

The figures do not include citizens of neighboring states who have left Ukraine to return home.

Ukraine says Russia talks ‘very difficult’

Ukraine's negotiation team (left) meets with the Russian delegation for talks in Belarus, close to the Polish-Belarusian border, March 7, 2022. (Maxim Guchek/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)
Ukraine's negotiation team (left) meets with the Russian delegation for talks in Belarus, close to the Polish-Belarusian border, March 7, 2022. (Maxim Guchek/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)

Ukraine says that talks with Moscow were “very difficult” and vowed not to back down on its demands, more than a month into Russia’s invasion.

“The negotiation process is very difficult,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says. “The Ukrainian delegation has taken a strong position and does not relinquish its demands. We insist, first of all, on a ceasefire, security guarantees and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” he adds.

Erdan mocks Iran’s election to UN Commission on Status of Women

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office in Bnei Brak, east Tel Aviv, on Thursday, October 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office in Bnei Brak, east Tel Aviv, on Thursday, October 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Israeli UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan trolls Iran over its election to sit on the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

“You read that correctly. A country that oppresses women & whose intelligence officers beat them in broad daylight will be a member for the next 4 years. When the UN criticizes Israel, remember this shameful hypocrisy,” he tweets.

Russia claims it’s largely completed 1st phase of operation, turns focus to ‘liberating’ Donbass

A tank of the Ukrainian Army drives towards the front line in Yasnogorodk, a rural town where the Ukrainian army stopped the advance of the Russian army, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/ (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A tank of the Ukrainian Army drives towards the front line in Yasnogorodk, a rural town where the Ukrainian army stopped the advance of the Russian army, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 25, 2022. (AP Photo/ (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Russia’s defense ministry claims it has largely completed the first phase of its military operation in Ukraine.

It will now turn its focus to “liberating” eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region.

The announcement suggests Russia is now focusing on more modest military goals amid unanticipated Ukrainian resistance.

Russian news agencies quote the defense ministry as claiming that Russian-backed separatists now control 93% of Ukraine’s Luhansk region and 54% of the Donetsk region — the two areas that jointly make up the Donbass, Reuters reports.

The ministry says it has not ruled out storming Ukrainian cities currently under siege and that Moscow would respond to any no-fly zone imposed over Ukraine.

Iran FM says Russia told Tehran it will back nuclear deal once its signed

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, speaks during a joint press conference with his Lebanese counterpart Abdallah Bouhabib in Beirut, Lebanon, on March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, speaks during a joint press conference with his Lebanese counterpart Abdallah Bouhabib in Beirut, Lebanon, on March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tells the Lebanese news channel Al Mayadeen that Russia has informed Tehran that it will support a nuclear deal once it is signed.

Abdollahian is currently in Lebanon where he met with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.

Asked to comment on the summit of Egyptian, Israeli and Emirati leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh earlier this week, Abdollahian says “every meeting with a senior Israeli official is a betrayal of Jerusalem and Palestine.”

North Korea has ‘likely more in store’ after missile test — White House

Illustrative: A new hypersonic missile launched from Toyang-ri, Ryongrim County, Jagang Province, North Korea, September 28, 2021. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
Illustrative: A new hypersonic missile launched from Toyang-ri, Ryongrim County, Jagang Province, North Korea, September 28, 2021. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korea likely has “more in store” after successfully test-firing its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile this week, a top White House official says.

Thursday’s launch was the first time Pyongyang has fired Kim Jong Un’s most powerful missiles at full range since 2017.

It was conducted under Kim’s “direct guidance,” and ensures his country is ready for “long-standing confrontation” with the US, state media outlet KCNA reports.

“We see this as part of a pattern of testing and provocation from North Korea… we think there is likely more in store,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan tells reporters on board Air Force One.

The missile appears to have traveled higher and further than any previous ICBM tested by the nuclear-armed country — including one designed to strike anywhere on the US mainland.

State media photographs showed Kim, wearing his customary black leather jacket and dark sunglasses, striding across the tarmac in front of a huge missile, with other images of him cheering and celebrating the test launch with uniformed military top brass.

‘We want to stay out of this war’: Hungary PM rejects Zelensky appeal for tougher Russia sanctions

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his annual state of the nation speech in Varkert Bazaar conference hall of Budapest, Hungary, February 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Anna Szilagyi)
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his annual state of the nation speech in Varkert Bazaar conference hall of Budapest, Hungary, February 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Anna Szilagyi)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban dismisses an EU summit appeal by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for weapons and tougher sanctions against Russia as it would be “against Hungary’s interests.”

The nationalist premier “rejected (Zelensky’s) demands at the European Council because they are contrary to the interests of Hungary,” says Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltan Kovacs.

“Hungary wants to stay out of this war, so it will not allow the transfer of arms and weapons to Ukraine,” Kovacs says in a statement.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began last month, EU and NATO member Hungary, while letting in over half a million Ukrainian refugees, has refused to send military aid to Kyiv, or let it cross its territory.

A significant ethnic-Hungarian minority in Ukraine’s westernmost region of Transcarpathia would be threatened if Hungary sent weapons to Kyiv, Orban has insisted.

Hungary’s dependency on Russian gas and oil also means it cannot support an import ban according to Orban who has cultivated close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent years.

“That would mean Hungarian families paying the price of war,” Orban says.

“Listen, Viktor, do you know what’s going on in Mariupol?” said Zelensky during an address to EU leaders in a video message Thursday, referring to Ukraine’s besieged southeastern port city.

“Once and for all, you should decide who you are with,” he says.

Urging Orban to approve expanding sanctions, let weapons through to Ukraine, and cut off business ties with Russia, Zelensky said “there is no time for hesitation”.

“The time has come for you to make a decision,” he says.

Biden lands in Poland near Ukraine border, meets US soldiers stationed there

US President Joe Biden (C) meets with service members from the 82nd Airborne Division, who are contributing alongside Polish Allies to deterrence on the Allianc's Eastern Flank, in the city of Rzeszow in southeastern Poland, around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the border with Ukraine, on March 25, 2022. (Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)
US President Joe Biden (C) meets with service members from the 82nd Airborne Division, who are contributing alongside Polish Allies to deterrence on the Allianc's Eastern Flank, in the city of Rzeszow in southeastern Poland, around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the border with Ukraine, on March 25, 2022. (Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

US President Joe Biden has landed in the city of Rzeszow in southeastern Poland — around 80 kilometers (50 miles) in a straight line from the border with Ukraine.

Biden is due to meet US soldiers stationed in the area and non-governmental organizations helping Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion.

Visiting the region more than a month after Russia launched its assault, Biden will travel on to Warsaw to meet Polish leaders and visit a reception center for refugees.

He is due to wrap up the visit on Saturday with a major speech.

Poland is an EU and NATO member that has taken in millions of Ukrainians, offered financial support to Ukraine and sent arms.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday that there were around 10,500 US soldiers currently in Poland and reiterated Biden’s promise to defend “every inch” of NATO territory.

US has ‘no intention’ of using chemical weapons, even if Russia uses them — White House

In this Saturday, May 20, 2000 file photo, two Russian soldiers make a routine check of metal containers with toxic agents at a chemical weapons storage site in the town of Gorny, 124 miles south of the Volga River city of Saratov, Russia. (AP Photo, File)
In this Saturday, May 20, 2000 file photo, two Russian soldiers make a routine check of metal containers with toxic agents at a chemical weapons storage site in the town of Gorny, 124 miles south of the Volga River city of Saratov, Russia. (AP Photo, File)

The United States has “no intention” of using chemical weapons under any circumstance even if Russia uses such weapons in Ukraine, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan says.

“There will be a severe price if Russia uses chemical weapons. And I won’t go beyond that other than to say the United States has no intention of using chemical weapons, period, under any circumstance,” he tells reporters on board Air Force One.

Sullivan says there was now a “convergence” between Western leaders on what measures to take in case Russia uses chemical weapons and added that the White House had set up a working group on the issue.

“We have made considerable efforts to put ourselves in a position to respond effectively,” he said, shortly before a plane carrying US President Joe Biden landed in Poland — around 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the border with Ukraine.

Putin compares attacks on Russian culture to Nazi book burnings, J.K. Rowling

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets people after his speech at the concert marking the eighth anniversary of the referendum on the state status of Crimea and Sevastopol and its reunification with Russia, in Moscow, March 18, 2022. (Ramil Sitdikov/Sputnik Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin greets people after his speech at the concert marking the eighth anniversary of the referendum on the state status of Crimea and Sevastopol and its reunification with Russia, in Moscow, March 18, 2022. (Ramil Sitdikov/Sputnik Pool Photo via AP)

President Vladimir Putin slams the West for discriminating against Russian culture, which he likens to Nazi supporters burning books in the 1930s.

“Today they are trying to cancel a thousand-year-old country,” Putin says during a televised meeting with Russian winners of culture-related prizes.

“I am talking about the progressive discrimination against everything connected with Russia, about this trend that is unfolding in a number of Western states, with the full connivance and sometimes with the encouragement of Western elites,” Putin adds.

“The proverbial ‘cancel culture’ has become a cancellation of culture,” Putin says, adding that works by Russian composers were being excluded from concerts and books by Russian authors “banned.”

“The last time such a mass campaign to destroy unwanted literature was carried out was by the Nazis in Germany almost 90 years ago… books were burned right on the squares,” Putin says.

Since Putin sent Russian troops into Ukraine on February 24, the West has piled sanctions on Moscow that have seen Russia increasingly isolated, politically and financially, and extending to spheres such as sports and culture.

Speaking about “cancel culture,” Putin singled out British author J.K. Rowling, who was criticized following controversial tweets about the transgender community.

“Not so long ago children’s author J.K Rowling was cancelled because she, a writer of books that have sold millions of copies around the world, didn’t please fans of so-called gender freedoms,” Putin said.

Dozens of Ukrainian officials, journalists detained, disappeared — UN

Dozens of Ukrainian officials, journalists and activists have been detained or forcibly disappeared by invading Russian forces, the UN says, warning that some cases resembled “hostage-taking.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine just over a month ago, the United Nations rights office said it had documented the arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of 22 local Ukrainian officials, 13 of whom had subsequently been released.

The most famous case was perhaps the mayor of Ukraine’s southern city of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, who Ukrainian authorities said was abducted by occupying Russian forces and held for several days before being released.

“This does seem to be a pattern that is occurring in areas that are occupied by the Russian Federation,” says Matilda Bogner, who is the UN rights office’s representative in Ukraine.

“Forces of the Russian Federation are going specifically to detain, and do not inform relatives and others where they are taking people,” she told journalists in Geneva via video link from Uzhhorod in western Ukraine.

“That does in some cases appear to be a form of hostage-taking.”

Bogner says 15 journalists and civil society activists “who vocally opposed the invasion” in several regions had also been taken.

US sanctions on China over Ukraine not ‘necessary or appropriate’ — Yellen

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks to lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on December 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, File)
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks to lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on December 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, File)

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says that sanctions against China are “not necessary or appropriate” since its support for Russia following the invasion of Ukraine was still unclear.

“I don’t think that that’s necessary or appropriate at this point,” Yellen says in an interview with CNBC, adding that “senior administration officials are talking privately quietly with China to make sure that they understand our position.”

She notes Washington “would be very concerned if they were to supply weapons to Russia. Or to try to evade the sanctions that we’ve put in place on the Russian financial system and the central bank. We don’t see that happening at this point.”

Yellen also warns that gasoline prices could rise further in the United States, where inflation is already at a rate not seen since the 1980s, sapping President Joe Biden’s popularity.

“It’s conceivable that they could move higher,” she says, but adds that the administration is trying to ensure adequate supplies of oil and natural gas, and also aid its European allies.

“But when the 11th-largest economy faces sanctions because of their horrific behavior in Ukraine, there just are going to be spillovers that are unavoidable,” she says.

Russian negotiator says no progress on main political issues with Ukraine

Ukraine's negotiation team (left) meets with the Russian delegation for talks in Belarus, close to the Polish-Belarusian border, March 7, 2022. (Maxim Guchek/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)
Ukraine's negotiation team (left) meets with the Russian delegation for talks in Belarus, close to the Polish-Belarusian border, March 7, 2022. (Maxim Guchek/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)

Russia says there has been no progress on the main political issues at talks with Ukraine, 30 days into Moscow’s military campaign in the pro-Western country.

“On minor issues, positions are drawing closer now, but on major political issues we are actually marking time,” Kremlin aide Vladimir Medinsky tells reporters, Russian news agencies reports.

Russian army says 1,351 soldiers killed in Ukraine; first Russian civilian casualty reported

A cyclist rides past flames and smoke rising from a fire following an artillery fire on the 30th day of the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces in the northeastern city of Kharkiv on March 25, 2022. (Aris Messinis / AFP)
A cyclist rides past flames and smoke rising from a fire following an artillery fire on the 30th day of the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces in the northeastern city of Kharkiv on March 25, 2022. (Aris Messinis / AFP)

The Russian army updates its losses in Ukraine to 1,351 soldiers, while saying that it had evacuated more than 400,000 civilians and condemning Western supplies of weapons to Kyiv.

At a Moscow briefing, senior military officials gave the first update on Russian deaths in weeks and says 419,736 civilians had been evacuated from Ukraine.

A senior representative of the General Staff, Sergei Rudskoi, says: “We consider a huge mistake the supplies of arms to Kyiv by Western countries. That prolongs the operation.”

There have also been reports of a Russian pastor who was killed by a Ukrainian missile fire that struck a Russian village near the Ukrainian border. This would be the first casualty on Russian soil since the start of Russia’s invasion a month ago.

Finland suspends trains between Helsinki and St. Petersburg, a key route for Russians to reach EU

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Finland’s national railway company says it will suspend services between Helsinki and the Russian city of St. Petersburg from this weekend, closing one of the last public transport routes for Russians who want to reach the European Union.

Citing the sanctions imposed on Russia, the head of passenger traffic with state-owned VR, Topi Simola, said that “people who wanted to depart from Russia have had adequate time to leave.”

Only the morning train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg will be operated on Sunday while the afternoon train will be canceled. Both services from St. Petersburg will be operated. After that, trains will be suspended until further notice.

VR said customers can cancel their tickets at no cost.

UN human rights team in Ukraine says evidence of ‘mass graves’ in Mariupol

Screen capture from unconfirmed video said to show the destruction in Mariupol caused by the Russian siege and bombardment of the southern Ukrainian city, March 2022. (Twitter)
Screen capture from unconfirmed video said to show the destruction in Mariupol caused by the Russian siege and bombardment of the southern Ukrainian city, March 2022. (Twitter)

The UN human rights office says it is receiving increasing information on mass graves in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, including one that appears to hold around 200 bodies.

“We have got increasing information on mass graves that are there,” says Matilda Bogner, who heads the rights office’s Ukraine branch, according to the Reuters news agency.

Bogner says some of the information has been gathered using satellite imagery.

The UN’s strict methodology in counting casualties in Ukraine’s conflict has yielded “very few” confirmed casualties in Mariupol, largely because of difficulties getting access in and information out of the encircled port city.

Bogner notes that council leaders in Mariupol have estimated more than 2,000 civilian deaths in the city following Russia’s military invasion on February 24.

Overall, the rights office has counted at least 1,035 civilians killed in Ukraine and 1,650 injured but Bogner says it doesn’t have a “the full picture of locations that have seen intense fighting, in particular Mariupol and Volnovakha.”

The office has acknowledges that its tally is likely to underestimate the actual toll.

Top IDF brass meet with head of Moroccan army, agree on military cooperation

Tal Kelman, the military official in charge of Iran affairs, and other senior Israeli officers met with the chief of Morocco’s military, Belkhir El Farouk, in Rabat this week, the Israel Defense Forces says.

Kelman was joined by Effie Defrin, the military’s international cooperation commander, and Brigadier General G., the Intelligence Directorate’s Operations Division commander.

The three officers met with El Farouk and senior Moroccan military officials, including the head of the intelligence division and the head of the operations division.

Tal Kelman (left), head of the Strategic Division of the IDF Planning Directorate, meets with Belkhir El Farouk, Inspector General of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces in Rabat, March 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

“The officials discussed the historical and cultural connection between the countries and mutual interests in the Middle East, and expressed their desire to promote extensive military cooperation,” the IDF says in a statement.

According to the IDF, during the meetings an accord was signed on the two militaries collaborating in exercises and intelligence.

Israel to host top diplomats of US, UAE, Morocco and Bahrain in ‘historic summit’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, on March 21, 2022. (Kevin LaMarque/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, on March 21, 2022. (Kevin LaMarque/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

The Foreign Ministry announces a “historic diplomatic summit” in Israel of five foreign ministers — those of Israel, the US, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain.

The summit will take place on Sunday and Monday, the ministry says, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Israel.

It says more details will come later.

Ukraine urges EU to close Russia, Belarus borders to enforce sanctions

Ukraine calls on the European Union to close land, sea and air connections with Russia and Belarus to tighten a sanctions package the West imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The infrastructure ministry says in a statement it is calling on the bloc to “completely block land and sea connections with Russia and Belarus,” as part of proposals to “increase economic pressure” on the countries.

Erdogan says Israeli PM could soon visit Turkey, advancing ties

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett may soon visit Turkey, paving the way for a “new process in bilateral relations,” the country’s Anadolu news agency says.

He adds that cooperation on natural gas could be a key step to developing ties.

The basis for Erdogan’s claim of a coming Bennett visit is not clear. There is no confirmation from Israeli authorities.

300 feared dead in Russian strike on Mariupol theatre, city hall says

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

Ukrainian officials in the strategic port city of Mariupol say some 300 people could have died in last week’s Russian strike on a theater where hundreds were sheltering.

“From eyewitnesses, information is emerging that about 300 people died in the Drama Theater of Mariupol following strikes by a Russian aircraft,” Mariupol city hall says.

Two Jerusalem Marathon runners taken to hospital during race

Two runners from the Jerusalem Marathon were taken to hospital during the race, one with hypothermia and the other with a fever, the capital’s Hadassah Hospital says.

This year’s marathon appeared to be the coldest and wettest yet, with temperatures far below normal, blustery winds and frequent rain showers.

One of the runners, a 55-year-old man, was taken to the hospital with a body temperature of 31 degrees Celsius (87.8 degrees Fahrenheit), well below normal levels. The hospital says he is being warmed up “with various means” and has mild symptoms.

The second runner, a 19-year-old man, is also in mild condition with a high fever and general weakness, the hospital says.

US, EU announce new partnership to undercut Russian energy

US President Joe Biden, center, speaks with from left, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and European Council President Charles Michel during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, March 24, 2022 (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
US President Joe Biden, center, speaks with from left, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and European Council President Charles Michel during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, March 24, 2022 (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

The United States and European Union announce a new partnership to reduce the continent’s reliance on Russian energy, the start of a years-long initiative to further isolate Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine.

As part of the plan, the US and other nations will increase liquified natural gas exports to Europe by 15 billion cubic meters this year, the White House says. Even larger shipments will be delivered in the future.

At the same time, they will try to keep their climate goals on track by powering gas infrastructure with clean energy and reducing methane leaks that can worsen global warming.

Russia says it destroyed Ukraine’s largest military fuel storage site

Russia says it has destroyed the largest remaining military fuel storage site in Ukraine, attacking it with Kalibr cruise missiles.

“On the evening of March 24, Kalibr high-precision sea-based cruise missiles attacked a fuel base in the village of Kalynivka near Kyiv,” the Russian defense ministry says in a statement.

The ministry says it was Ukraine’s largest remaining military fuel storage facility, supplying troops in the central part of the pro-Western country.

Valentyna Veretska, Ukrainian refugee, is female winner of Jerusalem Marathon

Valentyna Veretska, a refugee from Ukraine, has won the women’s side of the Jerusalem Marathon.

The 32-year-old athlete finished the race with a time of 2:45:54. Veretska’s husband is still in Ukraine fighting against the Russian invasion.

Celebrating her victory, Veretska held up the flags of both Israel and Ukraine.

Health Ministry: 12,000 new coronavirus cases Thursday

The Health Ministry says 12,003 people were diagnosed with coronavirus yesterday, a slight decrease from recent days (Wednesday saw 14,000 new cases).

The number of active cases in the country is 67,026. There are 300 people in serious condition, and the death toll stands at 10,460.

Moscow accused of forcibly removing civilians to Russia

A picture taken on March 23, 2022 shows the damage at a school which has been destroyed in a Russian air bomb in Kharkiv. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)
A picture taken on March 23, 2022 shows the damage at a school which has been destroyed in a Russian air bomb in Kharkiv. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)

Ukraine is accusing Moscow of forcibly removing hundreds of thousands of civilians from shattered Ukrainian cities to Russia to pressure Kyiv to give up.

Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine’s ombudsperson, says 402,000 people, including 84,000 children, have been taken against their will into Russia, where some may be used as “hostages” to pressure Kyiv to surrender.

The Kremlin has given nearly identical numbers for those who have been relocated, but says they wanted to go to Russia. Ukraine’s rebel-controlled eastern regions are predominantly Russian-speaking, and many people there have supported close ties to Moscow.

Zelensky says he spoke again with Bennett

A composite photo shows Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem, on Sunday, March 6, 2022; and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 12, 2022. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool via AP; Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
A composite photo shows Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem, on Sunday, March 6, 2022; and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 12, 2022. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool via AP; Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says that he spoke again with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

There is no immediate confirmation from Israel or details of the conversation that comes a day after Bennett spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Bennett has been trying to mediate an end to hostilities.

In a late-night address, Zelensky says he spoke with several world leaders.

“All the conversations and speeches are so that Russia will understand one thing: We need to reach peace, Russia should also want peace,” he says.

Zelensky asks EU leaders for quick membership

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to world leaders attending the NATO summit in Brussels from Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 24, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to world leaders attending the NATO summit in Brussels from Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 24, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanks EU leaders for working together to support Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia, including Germany’s decision to block Russia from delivering natural gas to Europe through the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

But he laments that these steps weren’t taken earlier, saying there was a chance Russia would have thought twice about invading.

He then appeals to the EU leaders, who had gathered in Brussels, to move quickly on Ukraine’s application to join the bloc. “Here I ask you, do not delay. Please,” Zelensky says by video from Kyiv. “For us, this is a chance.”

He then lists the 27 member countries, noting those he said were “for us.” He appeals to Germany and particularly to Hungary not to block Ukraine’s bid.

“Listen, Viktor, do you know what is happening in Mariupol?” Zelensky said, addressing Hungarian President Viktor Orban. “I want to be open once and for all — you should decide for yourself, who you are for.”

Orban is widely considered to be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest ally among EU leaders.

Zelensky says Ukraine is certain that “in the decisive moment, Germany also will be with us.”

Biden to visit Polish town near Ukraine border

US President Joe Biden gestures ahead of a European Union (EU) summit at EU Headquarters in Brussels, March 24, 2022. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)
US President Joe Biden gestures ahead of a European Union (EU) summit at EU Headquarters in Brussels, March 24, 2022. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

US President Joe Biden will visit a town in Poland that is near the border with Ukraine, the White House says, as he seeks to show Western resolve against Russia’s invasion.

Biden will be greeted by Polish President Andrzej Duda in Rzeszow, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the Ukrainian border, the White House says in a statement on the president’s travel plans for Friday, during an emergency visit to Europe that was prompted by the war in Ukraine.

Daylight saving time goes into effect in Israel

A young man who has difficulty getting up in the morning (iStock via Getty Images)
A young man who has difficulty getting up in the morning (iStock via Getty Images)

Move your clocks forward. Summer time goes into effect in Israel.

Daylight saving began at 2 a.m. when clocks moved forward by one hour to 3 a.m.

Summer time will run until 2. a.m. on October 30.

US Supreme Court Judge’s wife urged officials to overturn 2020 election

Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, arrives to watch Amy Coney Barrett take the Constitutional Oath on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington,Oct. 26, 2020, after Barrett was confirmed by the Senate earlier in the evening. Virginia Thomas sent a series of increasingly urgent text messages imploring White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to act to overturn the 2020 presidential election according to copies of the messages obtained by The Washington Post and CBS News. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, arrives to watch Amy Coney Barrett take the Constitutional Oath on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington,Oct. 26, 2020, after Barrett was confirmed by the Senate earlier in the evening. Virginia Thomas sent a series of increasingly urgent text messages imploring White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to act to overturn the 2020 presidential election according to copies of the messages obtained by The Washington Post and CBS News. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Virginia Thomas, the wife of US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, sent weeks of text messages imploring White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to act to overturn the 2020 presidential election — furthering then-president Donald Trump’s lies that the free and fair vote was marred by nonexistent fraud, according to copies of the messages obtained by The Washington Post and CBS News.

The 29 messages the pair exchanged came in the weeks after the vote in November 2020, when Trump and his top allies were still saying they planned to go to the Supreme Court to have its results voided.

The Post reports that on Nov. 10, three days after the election and after the Associated Press and other news outlets declared Democrat Joe Biden the winner, Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist, texted to Meadows: “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!! … You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

Copies of the texts — 21 sent by her, eight sent in reply by Meadows — were provided to the House select committee investigating the deadly insurrection that saw a mob of mostly Trump supporters overrun the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Chechen leader says his forces ‘liberated’ Mariupol city hall

Chechnya's regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov addresses servicemen attending a review of the Chechen Republic's troops and military hardware in Grozny, the capital of the Chechen Republic, Russia, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022.  (AP Photo/Musa Sadulayev)
Chechnya's regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov addresses servicemen attending a review of the Chechen Republic's troops and military hardware in Grozny, the capital of the Chechen Republic, Russia, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Musa Sadulayev)

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov says that forces from his Russian region have taken control of the city hall in Ukraine’s besieged southeastern port of Mariupol and hoisted the Russian flag.

Kadyrov posts on Telegram a video of a phone recording in Chechen, which he said was Russian parliamentary lawmaker Adam Delimkhanov speaking to “our valiant men”.

“The guys are radioing to say that they liberated the building of the Mariupol authorities and put up our flag over it,” the Chechen leader says on his Telegram, which has more than 1.4 million subscribers.

The former rebel-turned-Kremlin-ally writes that Ukrainian “bandits who remained alive did not risk it and abandoned their positions… and fled”.

“Other units are moving in parallel through the city and clearing it of Azov filth,” he adds, referring to Ukraine’s far-right Azov Battalion.

“God willing, soon Mariupol will be completely cleansed,” he writes.

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