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Fears of nuclear disaster as large Ukraine plant catches fire amid Russian shelling

Foreign minister says blast at largest plant in Europe would be 10 times worse than Chernobyl, amid reports that firefighters unable to reach blaze due to ongoing fighting

  • A still from a video showing a building on fire at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine on March 2, 2022. (Screen capture: YouTube)
    A still from a video showing a building on fire at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine on March 2, 2022. (Screen capture: YouTube)
  • A burning building is pictured after the shelling is said by Russian forces in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv, on March 3, 2022. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)
    A burning building is pictured after the shelling is said by Russian forces in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv, on March 3, 2022. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference in Kyiv, on March 3, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference in Kyiv, on March 3, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)
  • Kyiv's ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, Ukrainian citizens and supporters attend a special prayer session at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on March 2, 2022, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Kyiv's ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, Ukrainian citizens and supporters attend a special prayer session at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on March 2, 2022, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • The remains of a Russian missile lies on the ground in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Andriy Dubchak)
    The remains of a Russian missile lies on the ground in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Andriy Dubchak)
  • A building is engulfed in flames after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 3, 2022.  (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
    A building is engulfed in flames after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
  • A boy fleeing the conflict in Ukraine walks past a crucifix with a suitcase after crossing the Moldova-Ukraine border checkpoint near the town of Palanca, on March 2, 2022, seven days after Russia's military invasion of Ukraine. (Nikolay Doychinov/AFP)
    A boy fleeing the conflict in Ukraine walks past a crucifix with a suitcase after crossing the Moldova-Ukraine border checkpoint near the town of Palanca, on March 2, 2022, seven days after Russia's military invasion of Ukraine. (Nikolay Doychinov/AFP)
  • A Ukrainian serviceman walks past as fire and smoke rises over a damaged logistic center after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 3, 2022. (AP/Efrem Lukatsky)
    A Ukrainian serviceman walks past as fire and smoke rises over a damaged logistic center after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 3, 2022. (AP/Efrem Lukatsky)
  • Passengers rush to board a train leaving to Slovakia from the Lviv railway station, in Lviv, west Ukraine, March 2, 2022. (AP/Felipe Dana)
    Passengers rush to board a train leaving to Slovakia from the Lviv railway station, in Lviv, west Ukraine, March 2, 2022. (AP/Felipe Dana)
  • People arrive at a train station as they try to leave Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (AP/Emilio Morenatti)
    People arrive at a train station as they try to leave Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (AP/Emilio Morenatti)
  • Firefighters walk  among damages after the shelling by Russian forces of Constitution Square in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-biggest city, on March 2, 2022. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)
    Firefighters walk among damages after the shelling by Russian forces of Constitution Square in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-biggest city, on March 2, 2022. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)
  • Andrey Goncharuk, 68, a member of territorial defense, wipes his face in the backyard of a house that was damaged by a Russian airstrike, according to locals, in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
    Andrey Goncharuk, 68, a member of territorial defense, wipes his face in the backyard of a house that was damaged by a Russian airstrike, according to locals, in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

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

Nuclear plant spokesman: Fires still burning, accident possible at any moment

The spokesman for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant says at least two reactors at the site suffered damage and warns “an accident can happen at any moment.”

“Many buildings are damaged and still on fire,” Andriy Toz tells CNN. He says firefighters still cannot access the site, though he also says Ukraine is in control of the plant.

He clarifies that no reactors have caught fire, though buildings at the site are going up in flames.

“We ask Americans to close the airspace of Ukraine,” he says. “Please help us.”

Ukraine’s emergency service says one fire is continuing to burn in a training complex and firefighting are not able to access the site.

Zaporizhzhia official says safety breached, reactors in danger — report

Ukraine’s Nexta TV quotes Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant general manager Ihor Murashov saying that nuclear safety at the site has been compromised, with fighting ongoing at the plant and a fire still raging.

“Reactors are in danger,” he says.

CNN reports that White House officials monitoring the situation say there are no indications of heightened radiation levels.

Zelensky accuses Russia of ‘nuclear terror’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is accusing Moscow of resorting to “nuclear terror” and wanting to “repeat” the Chernobyl disaster, after he said invading Russian forces shot at a nuclear power plant.

“No country other than Russia has ever fired on nuclear power units. This is the first time in our history. In the history of mankind. The terrorist state now resorted to nuclear terror,” he says in a video message.

The IAEA tweets that Ukrainian authorities say no ‘essential’ equipment was affected by the fire there.

IAEA: Radiation levels normal

The UN’s nuclear watchdog says it has been told radiation levels at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are normal.

Local authorities now say the site has been secured after heavy fighting there.

A senior US official says President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky about the fire at the plant.

IAEA warns of severe danger if reactors hit; official says radiation levels normal

The International Atomic Energy Association is warning of “severe danger” if reactors at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant are hit by ongoing fighting there.

IAEA head Rafael Grossi has spoken to Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmygal and nuclear officials in the country about the fire at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant, the UN nuclear watchdog says.

The country’s emergency services says on Telegram that only one reactor of six in the plant is currently online.

It says radiation there remains within normal limits.

Smoke continues to billow from a building in a live video from the site, but flames are no longer seen.

An analysis of the video shows the reactors to be offscreen behind the camera. The building on fire can be seen to the left in this Google street view image from 2015, with the reactors off to the right.

A Google Maps image of the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, taken in 2015. (Screen capture: Google Street View)

IAEA in touch with Ukraine over fire at nuclear plant

The International Atomic Energy Agency says it is in contact with authorities in Ukraine regarding the fire at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.

There are reports that firefighters have been allowed into the site.

A live feed of the site, which has experienced occasional technical difficulties, shows the blaze still going.

A video claims to show the shelling that apparently started the fire.

 

Zaporizhzhya blast would be 10 times worse than Chernobyl — Ukraine minister

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister says an explosion at the Zaporizhzhya power plant would be 10 times larger than the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

“If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chornobyl! Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!” Dmytro Kuleba tweets.

Reports indicate that Russian shelling hit administrative areas, but several power units have been shut down.

Firefighters have apparently been unable to reach the site due to ongoing fighting, and on a live video, the fire appears to be growing.

Increased radiation levels detected at nuclear plant on fire

A government official tells The Associated Press that elevated levels of radiation are being detected near the site of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is on fire after being hit by Russian shelling.

Two fires, ongoing battles seen at nuclear power plant

A live video of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant shows a fire still raging in a building, and what appears to be smoke coming out of a second building.

Shells can be seen being fired into the air from off screen, with some of the munitions hitting buildings at the site.

“As a result of shelling by Russian forces on the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant, a fire broke out,” spokesman Andriy Tuz says in a video posted on the plant’s Telegram account.

He tells Ukrainian television that it is urgent to stop the fighting to put out the flames.

Facebook, media sites down in Russia amid crackdown

Facebook and multiple media websites are partially inaccessible in Russia, as authorities crack down on critical voices.

AFP journalists in Moscow were not able to access Facebook, as well as the sites of media outlets Meduza, Deutsche Welle, RFE-RL and the BBC’s Russian-language service. The monitoring NGO GlobalCheck also said the sites were partially down.

Nuclear plant spokesman confirms Russians shelling site

A spokesman for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant confirms that Russian troops have begun shelling the plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power station in Ukraine.

“We demand that they stop the heavy weapons fire,” Andriy Tuz, spokesperson for the plant in Enerhodar, says in a video posted on Telegram. “There is a real threat of nuclear danger in the biggest atomic energy station in Europe.”

The plant accounts for about one quarter of Ukraine’s power generation. It is four times the size of the Chernobyl plant.

The mayor of Enerhodar says Ukrainian forces are battling Russian troops on the city’s outskirts. Video earlier showed flames and black smoke rising above the city of more than 50,000, with people streaming past wrecked cars, just a day after the UN atomic watchdog agency expressed grave concern that the fighting could cause accidental damage to Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors.

Fire seen at nuclear plant as fighting rages

A livestream from a YouTube account registered to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant appears to show heavy fighting and a large fire.

It’s not immediately clear whether the video is showing the plant itself or another site in the area.

the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, and accounts for about one quarter of the country’s power generation.

The livestream shows tracer fire and explosions, as well as what appears to be a large fire in or next to a building.

Local reports confirm a fire at the site, blaming it on Russian shelling.

The plant is located in Enerhodar, a major energy hub on the left bank of the Dnieper River and the Khakhovka Reservoir. The mayor of Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, said a Russian military column was headed toward the nuclear plant and loud shots were heard in the city late Thursday.

Pentagon shoots down Ukrainian pleas for no-fly zone: ‘will make conflict worse’

Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby shoots down Ukrainian pleas for a no-fly zone, saying it would only make the conflict worse and turn it into a war between the US and Russia.

“The thing about a no-fly zone is it has to be enforced,” Kirby tells CNN. That escalates this conflict to a level President [Joe] Biden is not willing to do.”

“It’s not going to make things better or easier in Ukraine,” he says. “This should not become a war between the United States and Russia.”

He makes the comments in response to a video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asking how many dead bodies and severed limbs it will take for the West to impose a no-fly zone.

Kirby mostly avoids answering a question from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer regarding Ukrainian requests for Israeli Iron Dome anti-missile batteries, repeating again that the US does not want the conflict to escalate. Israel has refused to ship weapons to Ukraine, citing a need to remain balanced.

He says the Russians are under pressure, without food or fuel, and have been “flummoxed, they have been frustrated” by the Ukrainian resistance.

“They still have not made appreciable progress. They have not made the progress that we expected them to make by this point in the war,” he says.

But he notes that the US now believes the city of Kherson is under Russian control, citing local reports, and says officials think a stalled column of Russian military vehicles outside of Kyiv will eventually surround the city and attack it.

Ukraine PM urges no fly zone above country’s nuclear plants

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has joined Ukraine’s president in calling on the West to close the skies over Ukraine’s nuclear plants as fighting intensified around the city of Enerhodar.

Enerhodar is a major energy hub on the left bank of the Dnieper River and the Khakhovka Reservoir. It is home to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, and accounts for about one quarter of the country’s power generation.

The mayor of Enerhodar, Dmytro Orlov, says a Russian military column was headed toward the nuclear plant and loud shots were heard in the city late Thursday.

On Wednesday, residents of the town gathered on a main road in a bid to block the Russians from reaching the plant.

Unverified videos shared on social media purport to show fighting taking place near the town.

Shmyhal says he already had appealed to NATO and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ atomic watchdog.

“Close the skies over Ukraine! It is a question of the security of the whole world!” Shmyhal said in a statement Thursday evening.

The US and NATO allies have ruled out creating a no-fly zone since the move would directly pit Russian and Western militaries.

ToI contributed.

Pelosi throws weight behind push for US ban on Russian oil imports

Amid the escalating war in Ukraine, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Thursday she supports banning Russian oil imports to the US, a hefty nod that could strengthen President Joe Biden’s hand as global allies seek to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Biden has been reluctant to curb Russian oil shipments to the US or slap on energy sanctions in ways that would reduce supply as gas prices at the pump are already climbing for Americans. But Pelosi’s support gives fresh currency for an idea in Congress already backed by wide swaths of Republicans and an increasing number of Democrats.

“I’m all for that,” Pelosi says about ending Russian oil in the US. “Ban it.”

Sen. Ed Markey, a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts and a leading advocate of climate change strategies, also backs an import ban. “We cannot criticize Europe for its reliance on Russian energy as we pour dirty oil money into Russia,” he says.

The remarks come as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, hold a press conference introducing a bipartisan bill to halt Russian oil imports to the US. The two criticize the White House’s reluctance to commit to a ban.

Biden fears a ban could further disrupt global markets and raise already high prices at the pump. He also risks backlash from climate change activists who say US officials must not use the Ukraine war to expand oil or gas drilling in the US, a step Republicans have been urging. Gas prices in the US average nearly $3.73 a gallon Thursday, up almost $1 from a year ago, according to AAA motor club.

10 IDF soldiers injured after armored personnel carrier flips over during drill

Ten soldiers are hurt after an APC overturns at the end of a military drill in southern Israel, the Israel Defense Forces says.

Five of the soldiers are taken for further medical treatment, and are listed in light condition, while the others are just being examined, according to the IDF.

S&P Global Ratings downgrades Russia to ‘CCC-‘ on Ukraine war

S&P Global Ratings have downgraded Russia’s debt rating to “CCC-,” citing Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine that the agency said increased the risk of default.

“The downgrade follows the imposition of measures that we believe will likely substantially increase the risk of default,” S&P Global Ratings says.

“Among these are capital controls introduced by authorities that aim at shielding the ruble from the impact of severe economic sanctions while preserving remaining useable reserve buffers.”

UN: 1 million have already fled Ukraine, 3 million more may follow

A Ukrainian refugee family and other Ukrainians fleeing their country arrive at the Ukrainian-Hungarian border crossing in Tiszabecs, on February 27, 2022. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP)
A Ukrainian refugee family and other Ukrainians fleeing their country arrive at the Ukrainian-Hungarian border crossing in Tiszabecs, on February 27, 2022. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP)

More than 4 million refugees may end up fleeing Ukraine due to Russia’s ongoing invasion, the United Nations says.

On Wednesday, the UN said that 1 million people have already fled since Russia began invading last week, an exodus without precedent in this century for its speed.

The UN says that “while the scale and scope of displacement is not yet clear, we do expect that more than 10 million people may flee their homes if violence continues, including 4 million people who may cross borders to neighboring countries,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday.

Syria, whose civil war erupted in 2011, remains the country with the largest refugee outflows — nearly 5.7 million people, according to UNHCR’s figures. But even at the swiftest rate of flight out of that country, in early 2013, it took at least three months for 1 million refugees to leave Syria.

Pentagon established ‘de-confliction line’ with Russian defense ministry — US official

The Pentagon has established a channel of direct communication with the Russian ministry of defense to avoid unintended conflict related to the war in Ukraine.

A US defense official says the “de-confliction line” was established March 1 “for the purpose of preventing miscalculation, military incidents, and escalation.” The official speaks on condition of anonymity because the communication line has not been announced.

MBS: Israel a ‘potential ally,’ Palestinian issue must be solved before normalization

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, speaks during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday, December 14, 2021. (Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, speaks during the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday, December 14, 2021. (Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman calls Israel a “potential ally,” and says in a wide-ranging interview that he wants to “work it out” with Iran

The de facto leader, 36, also calls the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi “a huge mistake” for which he was unfairly blamed, and revealed a penchant for the hit TV series “Game of Thrones.”

“For us, we hope that the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is solved,” the prince tells The Atlantic, according to a transcript issued by the official Saudi Press Agency.

“We don’t look at Israel as an enemy, we look to them as a potential ally, with many interests that we can pursue together… But we have to solve some issues before we get to that.”

Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, but in 2020 Gulf allies Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates normalized ties with the Jewish state.

The normalization deals under the US-brokered Abraham Accords angered the Palestinians, who condemned them as a “stab in the back.”

Saudi relations with Israel’s arch-foe Iran, blamed by Gulf states for creating chaos in the region, have at the same time shown signs of improvement with several rounds of talks hosted by Iraq.

“They are neighbors. Neighbors forever. We cannot get rid of them, and they can’t get rid of us,” the prince said of Iran.

“So it’s better for both of us to work it out and to look for ways in which we can coexist,” the transcript said he told the US monthly publication.

“Hopefully, we can reach a position that’s good for both countries and is going to create a brighter future for this country and Iran,” he added.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said it would stick to the decades-old Arab League position of not establishing official ties with Israel until the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.

Prince Mohammed has, however, seemed more open than his father, King Salman, towards Israel, allowing its commercial aircraft to pass through Saudi air space.

AIPAC endorses dozens of Republicans who refused to certify Biden’s election

Police hold off violent insurrections loyal to then-US president Donald Trump as they try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021. (Julio Cortez/AP)
Police hold off violent insurrections loyal to then-US president Donald Trump as they try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021. (Julio Cortez/AP)

AIPAC’s new political action committee announces its first string of Congressional endorsements.

They are 120 lawmakers from both parties, but also include 37 Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results after the January 6 insurrection — drawing criticism from rival lobby J Street.

“AIPAC’s support for these candidates endangers American democracy and undermines the true interests and values of millions of American Jews and pro-Israel Americans who they often claim to represent,” says Laura Birnbaum, J Street’s National Political Director.

“Claims of ‘bipartisanship’ cannot excuse support for candidates who only respect election results when their party wins,” the group adds.

Responding to the criticism, AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann says, “as a single-issue organization, we remain focused on our mission of building bipartisan support in Congress to strengthen the US-Israel relationship.

US says significant progress made in Vienna nuclear talks, but some issues remain unresolved

Mohammad Eslami, head of Iran's nuclear agency (left), and Iran's Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Kazem Gharib Abadi, leave the International Atomic Energy's General Conference in Vienna, Austria, on Monday, September 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner, File)
Mohammad Eslami, head of Iran's nuclear agency (left), and Iran's Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Kazem Gharib Abadi, leave the International Atomic Energy's General Conference in Vienna, Austria, on Monday, September 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner, File)

US State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter tells reporters at today’s press briefing that significant progress has been made at the nuclear talks in Vienna, but that a number of critical issues remain unresolved.

Saudi crown prince offers war mediation in call with Putin

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk before a working session of leaders at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk before a working session of leaders at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offers to host mediation talks between Russia and Ukraine in a phone call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin as the conflict enters its second week.

The Gulf state’s de facto leader calls for a “political solution” after the Russian invasion, and also reiterated his support for the OPEC+ group of oil producers, which includes Russia, to stabilize oil markets.

“The crown prince explained the kingdom’s… support for efforts that lead to a political solution that leads to [the war’s] end and achieves security and stability, and that the kingdom is ready to make efforts to mediate between all parties,” the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) says.

Arab countries in the Gulf including Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, have mostly refrained from criticizing the invasion by Russia, with which they have growing ties.

On Wednesday, however, the Gulf states voted for a UN General Assembly resolution that “demands” Russia “immediately” withdraw from Ukraine.

Saudi Arabia and Russia are both members of OPEC+, which opted to keep production steady this week despite the soaring cost of oil, with Brent North Sea crude flirting with $120 a barrel on Thursday.

The prince “reiterated the kingdom’s keenness to maintain the balance and stability of oil markets, highlighting the role of the OPEC+ agreement in this regard and the importance of maintaining it,” SPA said.

US announces new sanctions against Russian oligarchs, figures in Putin’s inner circle

This combination of file photos shows Joe Biden (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Jim Watson and Grigory Dukor/Various Sources/AFP)
This combination of file photos shows Joe Biden (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Jim Watson and Grigory Dukor/Various Sources/AFP)

US President Joe Biden’s administration announces new sanctions against Russian oligarchs and others in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle as Russian forces continue to pummel Ukraine.

Those targeted by the new sanctions include Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, and Alisher Burhanovich Usmanov, one of Russia’s wealthiest individuals and a close ally of Putin. The US State Department also announced it was imposing visa bans on 19 Russian oligarchs and dozens of their family members and close associates.

“These individuals and their family members will be cut off from the US financial system; their assets in the United States will be frozen and their property will be blocked from use,” the White House said in a statement announcing the new penalties.

The White House described Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, as a “top purveyor of Putin’s propaganda.”

Footage shows aftermath of Russian shelling of Ukrainian city of Chernihiv

Video taken in the aftermath of shelling in the city of Chernihiv shows firefighters standing in rubble dousing flames with hoses as rescue crews carried at least one person on a stretcher and another helper assisted a person down a ladder.

Smoke spewed from a high-rise building just behind what appeared to be a children’s swing set, according to video released Thursday by the Ukrainian government.

Ukraine’s state emergencies agency says at least 33 civilians were killed and another 18 wounded in a Russian strike Thursday on a residential area in Chernihiv, a city of 280,000 in Ukraine’s north.

IAEA says Chernobyl staff held by Russia troops face ‘psychological pressure, moral exhaustion’

An operator's arm-chair covered with plastic sits in an empty control room of the 3rd reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine, on April 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)
An operator's arm-chair covered with plastic sits in an empty control room of the 3rd reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, in Chernobyl, Ukraine, on April 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

The United Nations’ atomic watchdog says Ukraine has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that staff who have been kept at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant since Russian troops took control of the site a week ago are facing “psychological pressure and moral exhaustion.”

IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said Thursday that the staff must be allowed to rest and rotate so their crucial work can be carried out safely and securely.

Grossi received “a joint appeal from the Ukraine Government, regulatory authority and the national operator which added that personnel at the Chernobyl site ‘have limited opportunities to communicate, move and carry out full-fledged maintenance and repair work,’” the IAEA said in a statement.

Reactor No. 4 at the power plant exploded and caught fire in 1986, shattering the building and spewing radioactive material high into the sky. Even 36 years later, radioactivity is still leaking from history’s worst nuclear disaster.

Ukraine has lost regulatory control over all the facilities in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone to the Russians and asked the IAEA to undertake measures “in order to reestablish legal regulation of safety of nuclear facilities and installations” within the site, the statement added.

Grossi has repeatedly stressed that any military or other action that could threaten the safety or security of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants must be avoided.

“I remain gravely concerned about the deteriorating situation in Ukraine, especially about the country’s nuclear power plants, which must be able to continue operating without any safety or security threats,” he said. “Any accident caused as a result of the military conflict could have extremely serious consequences for people and the environment, in Ukraine and beyond.”

Sacklers agree to new $6 billion Purdue US settlement over opioids

Worker Gabe Ryan removes a sign that includes the name Arthur M. Sackler at an entrance to Tufts School of Medicine, December 5, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Worker Gabe Ryan removes a sign that includes the name Arthur M. Sackler at an entrance to Tufts School of Medicine, December 5, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The Sackler family will pay up to $6 billion to address damage linked to the US opioid crisis under an amended Purdue Pharma bankruptcy plan following an agreement with holdout states, according to a court filing.

The deal raises the amount that the Sacklers, who own Purdue, must pay, but grants family members immunity from future claims in civil court.

A US bankruptcy judge still must approve the amended version after a US district judge in December struck down the first bankruptcy plan.

The prior agreement had won backing from 40 US states, but was rejected by nine states that argued the family should not receive immunity from future claims.

“This settlement is both significant and insufficient — constrained by the inadequacies of our federal bankruptcy code,” says Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, who had opposed the earlier accord.

“But Connecticut cannot stall this process indefinitely as victims and our sister states await a resolution. This settlement resolves our claims against Purdue and the Sacklers, but we are not done fighting for justice against the addiction industry and against our broken bankruptcy code.”

The new agreement — which does not affect potential criminal cases against the Sacklers — requires the family to pay $5.5 billion, plus another $500 million following the sale of international operations.

Under the prior accord, the Sacklers would have paid $4.3 billion on top of $225 million previously paid to the US Justice Department.

The opioid addiction crisis has caused more than 500,000 overdose deaths in the US over the past 20 years.

Purdue and other opioid makers have been accused of encouraging free-wheeling prescription of their products through aggressive marketing tactics while hiding how addictive the drugs are.

Facing an avalanche of litigation, Purdue last year pled guilty to three criminal charges over its marketing of the painkiller OxyContin.

Erdan meets with new UNIFIL chief, urges him to act against Hezbollah violations

UN military vehicles of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) enter the southern Lebanese border town of Naqura, where the second round of talks started on October 28, 2020, between Lebanon and Israel at a UN base on the demarcation of the maritime frontier between the two countries. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)
UN military vehicles of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) enter the southern Lebanese border town of Naqura, where the second round of talks started on October 28, 2020, between Lebanon and Israel at a UN base on the demarcation of the maritime frontier between the two countries. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan meets with the new commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Aroldo Lázaro Sáenz of Spain.

Erdan “expressed concern about the growing number of recent incidents of UNIFIL forces being attacked by Hezbollah operatives and Hezbollah’s continued infringement on the freedom of movement of the Lebanese people and UNIFIL soldiers,” the Israeli readout says.

Erdan told Sáenz that Hezbollah was using civilian homes to hide missiles and rockets and that the terror group’s actions “could lead to a future military confrontation that would bring disaster to Lebanon… and Israel will have to respond forcefully.”

“I expect UNIFIL to enforce its mandate in southern Lebanon and ensure that Hezbollah cannot continue to do as it pleases,” Erdan adds.

AIPAC hosts Bahrain crown prince, Congressional backers of Abraham Accords

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa​ listens as then-US president Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, on September 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa​ listens as then-US president Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, on September 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee hosts Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad at its headquarters in Washington.

“This historic meeting is the first visit by a head of government from an Arab country to the AIPAC headquarters,” AIPAC says in a tweet.

Also attending the meeting are Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lisa McClain, Brad Schneider, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Josh Gottheimer, Carlos Gimenez, Ritchie Torres, Jake LaTurner, Nicole Malliotakis, Victoria Spartz and Jay Obernolte.

Bennett speaks to IAEA chief, urges body to remain impartial as Vienna talks apex

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks at a press conference after the IAEA Board of Governors meeting on the Situation in Ukraine at the Agency's headquarters in the Vienna International Centre in Vienna, Austria, on March 2, 2022. (Lisa Leutner/AP)
IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks at a press conference after the IAEA Board of Governors meeting on the Situation in Ukraine at the Agency's headquarters in the Vienna International Centre in Vienna, Austria, on March 2, 2022. (Lisa Leutner/AP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks on the phone with IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi urging him not to cave to reported Iranian demands that the agency close its open cases into possible Iranian nuclear violations.

Bennett “also emphasized Israel’s expectation that the IAEA act as a professional and impartial supervisory body,” the Israeli readout adds.

US says Russia has fired 480 missiles at Ukraine since invasion began

The remains of a Russian missile lies on the ground in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Andriy Dubchak)
The remains of a Russian missile lies on the ground in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Andriy Dubchak)

WASHINGTON — US officials say Russia has fired 480 missiles at Ukraine as Russian troops make more progress in the south, but are largely stalled in the north.

The official says about 90% of the Russian combat power that had been arrayed around Ukraine is now in the country.

Specifically, the official says the majority of the Russian missile launches since the war began — or more than 230 of them — are coming from mobile systems within Ukraine. More than 150 missiles have been fired from within Russia, more than 70 from Belarus, and only a very small number from ships in the Black Sea. Ukrainian air defenses are still intact and have been effective against the missiles, the official says.

The official, who speaks on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, says Russian progress in the south has been aided by the country’s eight-year presence in Crimea, where Russia has built infrastructure and systems to sustain troops. As a result, the supply lines to troops in the south are much shorter and more effective.

The official says the US has not seen any Russian naval activity or other appreciable moves by Russia to move on Odesa. He said he is not challenging Ukrainian reports of activity there, but that the US can’t independently confirm them. He adds, however, that the US believes that Russia’s goal may be to move past Kherson to Mykolayiv in order to set up a base of operations there that they can then use in a move to encircle and take Odesa.

The US also assesses that Russian forces are just outside the city of Kharkiv, close to the ring road, the official says.

At US request, Israel said to help convince UAE to back UN resolution condemning Russia

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

At the request of the US, Israel helped convince the United Arab Emirates to back a UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, the Walla news site reports.

Citing American and Israeli officials, the report says the Biden administration contacted Israel for help after the UAE abstained on a UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia in protest of the US response to a deadly attack on Abu Dhabi by Iran-backed rebels in Yemen.

An Israeli official is quoted saying Foreign Minister Yair Lapid phoned his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed to encourage the UAE to vote in favor of the General Assembly resolution.

France seizes Russian oil chief’s superyacht as EU sanctions bite

A picture taken on March 3, 2022, in a shipyard of La Ciotat, near Marseille, southern France, shows a yacht, Amore Vero, owned by a company linked to Igor Sechin, chief executive of Russian energy giant Rosneft. (Nicolas Tucat/AFP)
A picture taken on March 3, 2022, in a shipyard of La Ciotat, near Marseille, southern France, shows a yacht, Amore Vero, owned by a company linked to Igor Sechin, chief executive of Russian energy giant Rosneft. (Nicolas Tucat/AFP)

PARIS — France says it has seized a superyacht owned by Russia’s oil czar Igor Sechin, following through on threats to target sanctioned oligarchs close to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The estimated $120-million vessel “Amore Vero” was seized while undergoing maintenance work at a shipyard at La Ciotat on the French Riviera, a popular summer playground for the super-rich.

“French customs carried out the seizure of the yacht Amore Vero in La Ciotat as part of the implementation of sanctions by the European Union against Russia,” a statement for the French finance ministry says.

The 85.6-meter (280-foot) vessel was owned by a company “in which Sechin is the main shareholder,” the statement adds.

Authorities moved after it “was preparing to cast off in a hurry, without the work on it having been finished,” junior budget minister Olivier Dussopt says.

Sechin, seen as part of Putin’s tightest inner circle and a former deputy prime minister, is chief executive of Russian oil giant Rosneft.

Another superyacht moored in the Mediterranean port of Monaco, the “Quantum Blue,” owned by Russian billionaire Sergei Galitsky, was also being checked by customs on Thursday, a source in the principality tells AFP.

German authorities deny a report in Forbes magazine that they seized the “Dilbar” yacht, belonging to billionaire businessman Alisher Usmanov, in the port of Hamburg.

Part of the challenge for European authorities is determining the ownership of vessels, which are usually registered in low-tax jurisdictions and sometimes owned by trusts or front companies.

Russia says further talks with Ukraine expected held soon

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a damaged logistic center after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a damaged logistic center after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

MOSCOW — Russian negotiators in talks with Ukraine say another round of talks will likely be held shortly.

Vladimir Medinsky, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adviser who led the Russian delegation in the talks Thursday in Belarus near the Polish border, said the parties’ “positions are absolutely clear, they are written down point by point,” including issues related to a political settlement of the conflict. He added without elaboration that “mutual understanding was found on part of them.”

He confirmed that Russia and Ukraine reached a tentative agreement to create safe corridors for civilians to exit besieged cities and observe local cease-fires in areas where they will be created.

Leonid Slutsky, a senior Russian lawmaker who was part of the Russian delegation in talks, said that the details of safe corridors will need to be worked out quickly. He said that the next round of talks could lead to agreements, some of which would need to be ratified by Russian and Ukrainian parliaments.

Rabbi with close Putin ties urges Russia to end war in Ukraine, offers to mediate

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) speaks with Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar (left), during a ceremony unveiling the memorial to members of the Jewish resistance in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, on June 4, 2019. (Sergei Ilnitsky/ Pool/AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) speaks with Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar (left), during a ceremony unveiling the memorial to members of the Jewish resistance in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, on June 4, 2019. (Sergei Ilnitsky/ Pool/AFP)

A prominent rabbi considered close to Russian President Vladimir Putin calls to end the country’s war against Ukraine, offering to help mediate between the two sides.

“God expects every believer to do everything in their power to save human lives. Personally, I am ready for any mediation, ready to do anything I can and more in order to silence the guns and to stop the bombs,” Rabbi Berel Lazar writes in a post on a Russian Jewish website.

Lazar has served as chief rabbi of Russia for some 20 years — though this position is somewhat contested — and has long been known to have the ear of the Russian president.

“Now is the time for joint action. Therefore, I appeal to all religious leaders in Ukraine, Russia, Europe, and other continents to join forces for peace. We, loyal to God alone, should use all our influence, all of our power to stop the madness and prevent more people from dying,” he says.

This appears to be a significant break from Lazar’s previous stances on Russia’s policies in Ukraine. In 2014, when Russia effectively annexed the Crimean peninsula, Lazar denounced Ukrainian rabbis who opposed the move and told them to remain quiet about the “activity of politicians.”

Bennett speaks with head of UN atomic watchdog before Iran trip

The flag of Iran waves in front of the International Center building with the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, in Vienna, Austria, on May 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter, File)
The flag of Iran waves in front of the International Center building with the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, in Vienna, Austria, on May 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter, File)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks with the head of the UN’s atomic watchdog, Rafael Grossi, ahead of the latter’s trip to Iran this weekend.

According to a statement from Bennett’s office, the premier stressed “Israel’s positions regarding the nuclear talks in Vienna and in regards to the open IAEA cases dealing with Iran’s [nuclear] weapon program.”

Bennett also tells Grossi he expects the International Atomic Energy Agency will act as a “professional and impartial monitoring body,” the statement says, adding the two agreed to stay in touch.

Israeli satellite images show large aircraft buildup near Minsk, southwest Russia

A satellite photo provided by ImageSat International (ISI) shows aircraft at bases near the Ukraine border, on March 3, 2022. (Courtesy of ISI)
A satellite photo provided by ImageSat International (ISI) shows aircraft at bases near the Ukraine border, on March 3, 2022. (Courtesy of ISI)

Private Israeli intelligence firm ImageSat International (ISI) publishes satellite images of dozens of aircraft at several military bases near the borders of Ukraine.

Fighter jets and helicopters can be seen at the Machulishchy airbase near the Belarusian capital, the Baranovichi airbase in western Belarus, and at the Shatalovo airbase in southwest Russia.

A satellite photo provided by ImageSat International (ISI) shows aircraft at bases near the Ukraine border, on March 3, 2022. (Courtesy of ISI)

Ukraine says agreed with Russia on humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians

A Ukrainian refugee family and other Ukrainians fleeing their country arrive at the Ukrainian-Hungarian border crossing in Tiszabecs, on February 27, 2022. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP)
A Ukrainian refugee family and other Ukrainians fleeing their country arrive at the Ukrainian-Hungarian border crossing in Tiszabecs, on February 27, 2022. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine and Russia have agreed to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians in the second round of talks since Moscow invaded last week, a top Ukrainian official says.

“The second round of talks is over. Unfortunately, Ukraine does not have the results it needs yet. There are decisions only on the organization of humanitarian corridors,” Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak says on Twitter.

Long lines at IKEA stores in Russia before operations suspended over Ukraine invasion

STOCKHOLM — Swedish furniture giant IKEA says today it will suspend its activities in Russia and Belarus, affecting nearly 15,000 employees, 17 stores, and three production sites, in response to the war in Ukraine.

The move is the latest in a slew of responses by companies to Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor, while the United States, the European Union, and Britain have all unleashed severe economic sanctions, including the targeting of Russian banks and its transport sector.

“The war has had a huge human impact already. It is also resulting in serious disruptions to supply chain and trading conditions. For all of these reasons, IKEA has decided to temporarily pause operations in Russia,” the company says in a statement to AFP.

The suspension mainly concerns Russia, where the Swedish group has been present since 2000 and is one of the largest Western employers.

Operations in Belarus will also be halted, though the country hosts only a few suppliers and has no shops, according to IKEA.

Videos on social media show long lines at IKEA stores in Russia as shoppers take their last chance to stock up on the furniture maker’s wares.

Ukraine raises death toll to 33 after Russian attack on Chernihiv

KYIV, Ukraine — Thirty-three people died today when Russian forces hit residential areas, including schools and a high-rise apartment building, in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, officials say.

Ukraine’s emergencies service says 18 people were also injured in the attack, updating an earlier toll.

Putin insists Russian military offensive in Ukraine ‘going to plan’

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on February 21, 2022. (Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on February 21, 2022. (Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Moscow’s advance in Ukraine is going “according to plan” and orders large compensations for Russian soldiers killed in the invasion.

“I want to say that the special military operation is going strictly according to schedule, according to plan,” he says, opening a meeting with his security council.

“We are at war with neo-Nazis,” the Russian leader says, adding: “I will never give up on my conviction that Russians and Ukrainians are one people.”

NY Holocaust survivors support group asks cable company to remove ‘Russian propaganda’

A few visitors and staff of the pub watching the broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses Russian citizens on the State Television channels in Moscow, Russia, on March 25, 2020. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo)
Illustrative: People at a pub watch as Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses Russian citizens on the State Television channels in Moscow, Russia, March 25, 2020. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo)

The Blue Card, a Holocaust survivors support organization in New York, leads a call for the US national cable provider Optimum to remove “Russian propaganda” from its service.

Thirty-five elected officials from New York sign onto the effort, including the borough presidents of Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx.

The letter to Optimum asks the provider to remove state-controlled networks Channel 1 Russia, NTV Rissa, and RTR Planeta from its Russian cable package because they are “known for disinformation campaigns and pro-Putin propaganda.”

“These networks air shows and talk shows that downplay the Holocaust and attempt to cover up the former Soviet Union’s antisemitic practices by brainwashing their viewers,” the letter says.

The Blue Card writes the letter “on behalf of our Russian-speaking constituents and as advocates of Holocaust survivors.”

The majority of the 65,000 survivors in the US today are native Russian speakers, the letter says.

“These survivors turn to Optimum TV as a means of information and entertainment, not to be bombarded with triggering lies and propaganda,” the letter says. “The propaganda aired on these channels can trigger memories from the Holocaust experiences of antisemitism in the Soviet Union, often causing feelings of distress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms.”

Ukraine’s Zelensky calls for meeting with Putin: ‘I don’t bite’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference in Kyiv, on March 3, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference in Kyiv, on March 3, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet him, salting the proposal with sarcasm.

“Sit down with me to negotiate, just not at 30 meters,” he says, apparently referring to recent photos of Putin sitting at one end of an extremely long table when he met with French President Emmanuel Macron.

“I don’t bite. What are you afraid of?” Zelensky says at a news conference.

Zelensky says it was sensible to have talks: “Any words are more important than shots.”

US to expand sanctions on Russian oligarchs, impose travel bans

WASHINGTON — The United States will impose new sanctions on Russian oligarchs today, a source familiar with the latest effort to pressure the Kremlin into stopping its invasion of Ukraine tells AFP.

The sanctions, first reported by Bloomberg, will match earlier EU measures against Russia’s wealthiest figures and expand them to include a travel ban to the US and also prevent oligarchs from transferring their assets to family members.

Israeli man killed in Ukraine by mistaken gunfire to be buried Friday in Israel

Roman Brodsky, an Israeli-Ukrainian man killed in Ukraine, on February 28, 2022. (Courtesy)
Roman Brodsky, an Israeli-Ukrainian man killed in Ukraine, on February 28, 2022. (Courtesy)

The remains of an Israeli man who was killed by Ukrainian troops due to apparent mistaken identity will be flown back to Israel for burial tomorrow, the Foreign Ministry says.

“Following great efforts by representatives from the Foreign Ministry, ZAKA, Chabad officials, and the Menuha La’ad burial society, the body of Roman Brodsky — may his memory be a blessing — will be transferred this evening from Ukraine to Moldova and from there to Romania. Tomorrow morning, Roman’s coffin will be flown in a special flight from Romania,” the ministry says.

Brodsky was shot dead by Ukrainian troops after he was apparently mistaken for a Chechen soldier. His parents asked that his remains be flown back to Israel for burial.

Israel to give another NIS 10 million in aid for Ukrainian Jews, half of it from anonymous donor

Workers load packages of Israeli humanitarian aid to assist people caught up in the fighting in Ukraine, in Ben Gurion airport, on March 1, 2022 (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Workers load packages of Israeli humanitarian aid to assist people caught up in the fighting in Ukraine, in Ben Gurion airport, on March 1, 2022 (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Israel is directing another NIS 10 million ($3.08 million) aid package to Ukrainian Jews, half of it funded by an anonymous Australian donor.

“The money will be transferred to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee for distribution to organizations working to help Jews and Jewish communities in Ukraine,” the Diaspora Affairs Ministry says in a statement.

Half of the funds will come from Israeli government coffers, while the other NIS 5 million ($1.54 million) was matched by an “Australian philanthropic foundation,” the ministry says. “A representative of the foundation, which wishes to remain anonymous, said the organization had been impressed by Israel’s swift actions and that it wanted to be part of this effort,” according to the statement.

This is in addition to a previous NIS 10 million aid package that Israel allocated for Ukrainian Jewry last week.

“Alongside the broader aid we have sent to the Ukrainian people we are adding another NIS 10 million, coming to a total of NIS 20 million ($6.17 million), which will enable the different Jewish communities in Ukraine to cope with the severe difficulties that have been created in recent days,” Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai says.

“This assistance will be designated for buying food, medicine, and emergency equipment for security purposes and transportation.”

Some 170 Ukrainian refugees arrive in Israel on United Hatzalah rescue flight

Israelis gather at Ben Gurion Airport to welcome a group of Ukrainian refugees arriving on a rescue flight organized by United Hatzalah, on March 3, 2022. (The Times of Israel)
Israelis gather at Ben Gurion Airport to welcome a group of Ukrainian refugees arriving on a rescue flight organized by United Hatzalah, on March 3, 2022. (The Times of Israel)

Some 170 refugees from Ukraine arrive in Israel on a rescue flight organized by United Hatzalah.

The refugees all hold Israeli citizenship or are the close relative of someone who does.

They have traveled from towns and cities across Ukraine and then crossed the border into Moldova, where they were met by Israeli representatives who bused them to Romania to catch the flight.

At Ben Gurion Airport, they receive an ecstatic welcome from the crowds who gathered to greet them.

Sacklers to pay $6 billion in opioid settlement between Purdue Pharma, US states

In this photo from August 17, 2018, family and friends who have lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses leave pill bottles in protest outside the headquarters of Purdue Pharma, which is owned by the Sackler family, in Stamford, Connecticut. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)
In this photo from August 17, 2018, family and friends who have lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses leave pill bottles in protest outside the headquarters of Purdue Pharma, which is owned by the Sackler family, in Stamford, Connecticut. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma reached a settlement today over its role in the nation’s deadly opioid crisis that includes US states and thousands of local governments, with the Sackler family members who own the company boosting their cash contribution to as much as $6 billion.

The deal follows an earlier settlement that had been appealed by eight states and the District of Columbia. They agreed to sign on after the Sacklers kicked in more cash and accepted other terms, including apologizing. In exchange, the family would be protected from civil lawsuits.

In all, the plan could be more than $10 billion over time. It calls for members of the Sackler family to give up control of the Stamford, Connecticut-based company so it can be turned into a new entity with profits used to fight the crisis.

An apology is something Sackler family members have not unequivocally offered in the past. And victims are to have a forum in court to address Sackler family members — something they have not been able to do in a public setting.

The settlement, in a report filed in US Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, New York, still must be approved by a judge.

Russian convoy advances on key energy hub housing Europe’s largest nuclear plant

ENERHODAR, Ukraine — The mayor of Enerhodar, site of Europe’s largest nuclear plant, says Ukrainian forces are battling Russian troops on the edges of the city.

Enerhodar is a major energy hub on the left bank of the Dnieper River and the Khakhovka Reservoir that accounts for about one-quarter of the country’s power generation due to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is Europe’s largest.

Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of Enerhodar, said Thursday that a big Russian convoy was approaching the city and urged residents not to leave their homes.

Zelensky says if Ukraine falls to Russia, Baltic states ‘will be next’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference in Kyiv on March 3, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference in Kyiv on March 3, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky calls on the West to increase military aid to Ukraine, saying Russia would advance on the rest of Europe otherwise.

“If you do not have the power to close the skies, then give me planes!” Zelensky says at a press conference.

“If we are no more then — God forbid — Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia will be next,” he says, adding: “Believe me.”

Ukraine reports at least 22 citizens killed in Russian attack on city of Chernihiv

New shelling is reported in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, where emergency officials say at least 22 civilians have been killed in a Russian bombardment of a residential area.

They warn that the number of casualties could grow as rescuers search the debris. The mayor says he’s struggling to organize safe passage for civilians.

JNF to host 100 orphans from Ukraine in Israel

The Ness Harim Field Center (Boni Sheinman/Jewish National Fund)
The Ness Harim Field Center (Boni Sheinman/Jewish National Fund)

The Jewish National Fund is preparing to host 100 kids and 40 staff members from the Alumim orphanage in the Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr.

According to statement from JNF, the kids will arrive in Israel this Sunday.

The JNF, responding to a request from the Federation of Jewish Organizations in the former Soviet Union, will host children ages of 2-18 and about 40 staff members from the orphanage at the Nes Harim Field Center, outside Jerusalem.

JNF will take care of the children and staff at all times during their stay in Israel, including arranging activities and Torah study for the children, at the request of the orphanage staff.

“The situation in Ukraine is worrying, especially the situation of the children, so we decided to open the gates of the Ness Harim Field Center and host the children as much as possible in such a complex period,” JNF chairman Avraham Duvdevani says.

Ukrainian official says talks with Russia started on Belarus-Poland border

KYIV, Ukraine — Talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials to secure a ceasefire in fighting in Ukraine have started on the Belarus-Poland border, Kyiv’s presidential adviser Mikhailo Podolyak says.

Podolyak postes a photo of the Russian and Ukrainian representatives on Twitter, saying that an “immediate ceasefire” as well as “humanitarian corridors” for civilians were on the agenda, one week after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Zelensky says he expected more support from Bennett amid Russian invasion

Kyiv's ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, Ukrainian citizens and supporters attend a special prayer session at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on March 2, 2022, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Kyiv's ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, Ukrainian citizens and supporters attend a special prayer session at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on March 2, 2022, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tells an Israeli news site that he expected greater support from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I saw a nice picture of Jews covered in Ukrainian flags near the Western Wall. They prayed and I thank them for that,” Zelensky is quoted as saying by the Ynet news site. “We have good relations with the Israeli leadership, but things are tested in a time of trouble. I didn’t feel that the Israeli prime minister was covered in our flag.”

Zelensky makes the remarks during a press conference in Kyiv.

Bennett has refrained from condemning Russia over its offensive in Ukraine in an apparent bid to maintain Israel’s ability to operate against Iranian proxies in Syria, where Russia controls the skies. He spoken twice with both Zelensky and Putin since the invasion began and has offered to mediate between the sides, in line with a request from the Ukrainian leader.

Ukraine has asked Israel to provide military assistance, a request Jerusalem has not granted.

Macron fears ‘the worst is to come’ in Ukraine after speaking with Putin

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron believes “the worst is to come” in Ukraine after a 90-minute phone call with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin who appears intent on seizing “the whole” of the country, an aide to the French leader says.

Putin again justified his invasion in terms of the “denazification” of Ukraine, says the aide, who asks not to be named. The aide describes Putin’s comments as “shocking and unacceptable,” adding that “the president told him it was lies.”

Putin to France’s Macron: Russia to continue ‘uncompromising’ fight in Ukraine

This combination of file photographs created on September 14, 2020, shows (left) Russian President Vladimir Putin and France's President Emmanuel Macron (right). (Mikhail Klimentyev and Gonzalo Fuentes/various sources/AFP)
This combination of file photographs created on September 14, 2020, shows (left) Russian President Vladimir Putin and France's President Emmanuel Macron (right). (Mikhail Klimentyev and Gonzalo Fuentes/various sources/AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin vows to continue fighting against what he describes as nationalists in Ukraine and says the Kremlin could add to its demands at negotiations if Kyiv stalls talks.

“Russia intends to continue the uncompromising fight against militants of nationalist armed groups,” Putin says according to a readout of a call with French leader Emmanuel Macron, which added that attempts to slow conflict talks would “only lead to additional demands on Kyiv in our negotiating position.”

Putin also tells Macron he disagreed with a speech the French leader gave the day before about Ukraine.

Saudi crown prince: Israel a ‘potential ally’ but Palestinian conflict must be resolved

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, December 4, 2021. (Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP, File)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, December 4, 2021. (Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP, File)

Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says his country views Israel as a “potential ally” but the Jewish state must first resolve the conflict with the Palestinians. He is quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency.

UN atomic watchdog assesses Iran has doubled stockpile of 60%-enriched uranium

In this image made from April 17, 2021, video released by the Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, various centrifuge machines line the hall damaged on April 11, 2021, at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, some 200 miles (322 km) south of the capital Tehran. (IRIB via AP, File)
In this image made from April 17, 2021, video released by the Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, various centrifuge machines line the hall damaged on April 11, 2021, at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment Facility, some 200 miles (322 km) south of the capital Tehran. (IRIB via AP, File)

VIENNA — The United Nations’ atomic watchdog says it believes that Iran has further increased its stockpile of highly enriched uranium in breach of a 2015 accord with world powers.

The International Atomic Energy Agency tells member nations in its confidential quarterly report that Iran has an estimated stock of 33.2 kilograms (73.1 pounds) of uranium enriched to up to 60% fissile purity, an increase of 15.5 kilograms since November.

Such highly enriched uranium can be easily refined to make atomic weapons, which is why world powers have sought to contain Tehran’s nuclear program.

The Vienna-based agency tells members that it is still not able to verify Iran’s exact stockpile of enriched uranium due to the limitations that Tehran imposed on UN inspectors last year.

In a report to member states about its work in Iran, the agency says it estimates that as of February 19, Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile was 3197.1 kilograms, an increase of 707.4 kilograms.

Meeting senior US general, Bennett warns restoring Iran nuke deal a ‘real danger’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (C), IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi (R) and Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, pose for a photo on March 3, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (C), IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi (R) and Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, pose for a photo on March 3, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett meets with Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the outgoing commander of the US Central Command, which oversees American military forces in the region.

According to Bennett’s office, the two discuss “common security challenges facing Israel and the United States, and above all Iran’s aggression in the region.”

“The Prime Minister also stressed the real danger of the [world] powers signing the nuclear agreement [with Iran], if and when it occurs,” the statement says.

Bennett thanks McKenzie for his “contribution to strengthening security and stability in the region, as well as for the significant cooperation between the State of Israel and the United States during his tenure.”

Earlier, McKenzie met with President Isaac Herzog and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

He is expected to retire from the US military in the coming months, and will succeeded by Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla, who currently serves as commander of the US Army 18th Airborne Corps.

US officials warn Russia seeking ‘slow annihilation’ of Ukraine’s military

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

Russia is changing up its strategy in Ukraine to increasingly target civilian areas and bring about the “slow annihilation” of the Ukrainian military, CNN reports, citing US and Western officials.

The officials say Russia is sending in more heavy weaponry and carrying out more strikes on civilian infrastructure. One of the officials says the change in tack is likely due to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s realization that Kyiv won’t be swiftly captured.

While Ukrainian resistance has stalled the Russian offensive, a Western official quoted in the report predicts Russian forces will win out.

“The cruel military math of this will eventually come to bear, absent some intervention, absent some fundamental change in the dynamic,” the official says.

Zelensky: Putin won’t be able to hide from God; ‘No bunker can protect you’

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky posts a video of himself and his team outside the presidential headquarters in Kyiv on February 25, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky posts a video of himself and his team outside the presidential headquarters in Kyiv on February 25, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)

In a video address reported by the online Ukrayinska Pravda news site, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky warns Russia’s President Vladimir Putin that “no bunker” will protect him from God’s judgment.

“The enemy has not succeeded on any of their strategic fronts. They are desperate. They are doomed,” Zelensky said in the video earlier today, according to the report. “Kyiv survived last night and withstood another airstrike. Our air defense has done its work.”

The Ukrainian president reportedly added: “Russia targeted the Cathedral of the Assumption [Uspensky Sobor] in Kharkiv. One of the oldest Orthodox monuments of the city and of the country. During wartime, the Cathedral offered shelter to Kharkiv residents. Shelter for everyone: the faithful and non-believers alike. For everyone: because we are all equal. It is a holy place. Now, wrecked by the war.”

Putin and Russia’s forces “count on the fact that God’s retribution isn’t instant,” Zelensky is quoted saying. “But He sees. And answers. You cannot hide from His answers. No bunker can protect you from God’s answers.”

Zelenskyy promised that the cathedral will be restored, the report said, as will every building and street.

Mariupol mayor says Russian forces attempting ‘blockade’ of port city

KYIV, Ukraine — Russian troops are trying to lay siege to the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, seeking to cut it off from electricity, water, heating and transportation, its mayor says today.

“They are trying to create a blockade here, just like in Leningrad,” Vadym Boichenko says in a statement referring to the horrific siege of Russia’s second largest city by the Nazis during World War II, which left hundreds of thousands dead.

IDF helicopter makes emergency landing due to engine issue

A military helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing at the Israeli Air Force Flight Academy in southern Israel, the Israel Defense Forces says.

The cadet and instructor identified a technical issue in the Bell 206’s engine during routine training and landed the aircraft safely, according to the IDF.

The incident is being investigated.

Israeli forces arrest Palestinian man over pair of stabbing attacks

Israeli troops are seen in the Palestinian town of Hizme, northeast of Jerusalem, March 3, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli troops are seen in the Palestinian town of Hizme, northeast of Jerusalem, March 3, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian man for allegedly carrying out two stabbing attacks in the West Bank town of Hizme outside Jerusalem.

Police say the 20-year-old suspect was arrested in the Shuafat refugee camp by Border Police and IDF troops a short while ago.

Two Israeli men were moderately hurt in the attacks in Hizme this morning and yesterday afternoon.

Amid Ukraine invasion, Jerusalem court nixes transfer of Old City property to Russia

The Jerusalem District Court reverses the transfer of a Russian Orthodox Church property in Jerusalem’s Old City to Russia’s ownership, kicking the issue to the Israeli government.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved giving Alexander’s Courtyard to Russia in 2020, a move seen as a goodwill gesture for Russia’s release of an Israeli woman it imprisoned after a small quantity of marijuana was found in her backpack during a layover in Moscow.

The ruling came in response to a petition filed by the Orthodox Palestine society of Holy Land, which owned Alexander’s Courtyard until it was given to Russia.

The court decision comes amid the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Israel, which enjoys close ties with both countries, has largely refrained from condemning Moscow, apparently due to ensure it can continue to act against Iranian-linked targets in Syria, where Russia maintains a military presence.

Ukraine says it wants agreement with Russia on ‘humanitarian corridors’

KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian negotiator headed for ceasefire talks with Russia says that his objective was securing humanitarian corridors, as Russian troops advance one week into their invasion.

“We start in two hours,” Ukrainian lawmaker David Arakhamia writes on Facebook, adding that “humanitarian corridors will be on the agenda, at a minimum. More will depend on the circumstances.”

Russian envoy to Israel claims Russia not seeking to conquer Ukraine, rails at ‘fake news’

Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov at the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv, November 2019. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)
Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov at the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv, November 2019. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

The Russian ambassador to Israel claims his country is not seeking to conquer Ukraine and decries “fake news” about Russia’s invasion of its western neighbor.

“We are only acting against those who took Ukraine hostage,” Ambassador Anatoly Viktorov says at a press briefing.

He rails against media coverage that he says is trying to portray Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin as “monstrous,” particularly regarding a deadly strike in Kyiv near the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial.

The strike did not appear to cause any direct damage to the memorial itself, though at least one missile struck a crop of buildings in a Jewish cemetery located in the Babyn Yar complex.

“Ukraine claimed we bombed the Babyn Yar memorial. This is fake news,” Viktorov says.

Ukrainian delegation en route to 2nd round of ceasefire talks with Russia

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

KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian delegation says it’s en route for a second round of ceasefire talks with Russia on the Belarus-Poland border on the day Ukraine lost its first major city to Russian forces.

“On our way to negotiations with the Russian Federation. Already in helicopters,” presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak says on Twitter, posting a photo of himself with lawmaker David Arakhamia in what appears to be a helicopter cabin.

IDF says Hizme stabbing an apparent terror attack

Israeli troops are seen in the Palestinian town of Hizme, northeast of Jerusalem, March 3, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli troops are seen in the Palestinian town of Hizme, northeast of Jerusalem, March 3, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces says a stabbing that occurred this morning in the Palestinian town of Hizme was apparently a terror attack.

According to the IDF, an Israeli man in his 40s entered a store in the West Bank town and was stabbed. He was taken in moderate condition to a Jerusalem hospital after arriving at a nearby checkpoint.

It was the second knifing in Hizme in the past 24 hours, after an Israeli man was hurt in a similar stabbing yesterday afternoon.

Troops continue to search the area, the military says.

France’s Macron speaks with Putin for third time since Russia invaded Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) listens to French President Emmanuel Macron during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on February 7, 2022. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) listens to French President Emmanuel Macron during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on February 7, 2022. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron held a new 90-minute phone call with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin today, his office says, the third conversation since the invasion of Ukraine.

An aide to Macron, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, says the French leader spoke with Putin, “then called President (Volodymyr) Zelensky” in Kyiv.

Moldova, Georgia expected to ask to join EU amid Russian invasion of Ukraine

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, second right, poses with Prime Minister Moldova Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita, left, Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, second left, and Georgia Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, right, ahead of a meeting at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, November 30, 2021. (Stephanie Lecocq/Pool Photo via AP)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, second right, poses with Prime Minister Moldova Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita, left, Ukraine Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, second left, and Georgia Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, right, ahead of a meeting at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, November 30, 2021. (Stephanie Lecocq/Pool Photo via AP)

BRUSSELS — A senior European Union official says that in the wake of Ukraine’s formal application this week to join the bloc, bids for entry are also expected “imminently” from Moldova and Georgia.

The two Eastern European countries are already part of EU outreach programs, but a membership request would be a major development in their relations with the 27-nation bloc.

Any membership application and consideration is a process that would take many years and involve fundamental political adjustments, ranging from trade to rule of law measures and anti-corruption commitments.

The EU officials speaking today asks not to be identified because of the sensitivity of recent geopolitical developments after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Netanyahu urges end to ‘bloodshed’ in Ukraine, calls for visas for computer programmers

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the audience at Tel Aviv's CyberTech conference, March 3, 2022. (Gilad Kavalerchik)
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the audience at Tel Aviv's CyberTech conference, March 3, 2022. (Gilad Kavalerchik)

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu urges an end to “the bloodshed” in Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion.

“Every effort must be made to stop the tragedy and bloodshed in Ukraine… helping Jews in Ukraine who want to immigrate to Israel, to the home of all the world’s Jews, is a supreme value,” Netanyahu says at Tel Aviv’s CyberTech conference, without naming Russia.

The former prime minister says he supports granting temporary visas to non-Jews fleeing the fighting in Ukraine, and also calls for Israel to give visas to Ukrainian computer programmers.

“We now have tens of thousands of programmers in Ukraine, almost 50,000 according to some estimates. If we don’t find a solution for them, the Israeli cyber and tech [industries] will have a problem,” Netanyahu says.

Interior minister says Israel expects hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Ukraine, Russia

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked says Israel believes hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine will immigrate to Israel.

“We think tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of immigrants will arrive from Russia, Ukraine, and former Soviet states,” Shaked says during a conference with local council leaders.

“What will happen when new immigrants from Ukraine and Russia come to us… even though we’re at full throttle now, we’ll need [to build] even more [homes].

“You in the regional councils can help with absorption,” she says.

Shaked says at least seven new localities are to be established in southern Israel, following expected government approval this month.

Deputy foreign minister says Israel has ‘clear’ position on Russian invasion

Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll attends a ceremony at the ministry in Jerusalem on December 1, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll attends a ceremony at the ministry in Jerusalem on December 1, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll says Israel has a “clear” position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which included condemning it at the United Nations.

“We have diplomatic relations with both sides… and we have considerations that we operate according to,” Roll tells Army Radio.

“Israel’s position is very clear. It was also expressed in the condemnation at the UN… we support Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and are against any act of war,” he says, without mentioning Russia by name.

Israel has so far been careful in its comments on the conflict. This is believed to be at least partly due to its need to work with the Russian military presence in neighboring Syria.

Russia vows to continue invasion, aiming to destroy Ukraine’s military

MOSCOW — Russia’s foreign minister says Moscow is ready for peace talks but will press its effort to destroy Ukraine’s military infrastructure, which the Kremlin claims is threatening Russia.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the Russian delegation to the talks submitted its demands to Ukrainian negotiators earlier this week and is now waiting for Kyiv’s response in a meeting set for later today.

Lavrov said that Russia will insist on provisions that Ukraine will never again represent a military threat to Russia. He says it will be up to Ukrainians to choose what government they should have.

Lavrov voices regret for civilian casualties during the Russian action in Ukraine, which started last week, and insists that the Russian military is using only precision weapons against military targets.

He tacitly acknowledges that some Russian strikes could have killed civilians, saying that “any military action is fraught with casualties, and not just among the military but also civilians.”

Bennett: Ukraine faces ‘total destruction’ if world leaders don’t act quickly

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the Tel Aviv’s CyberTech conference, March 3, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the Tel Aviv’s CyberTech conference, March 3, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warns Ukraine faces “total destruction” if world leaders don’t act quickly amid Russia’s invasion of the country.

“Things are looking bad on the ground right now, but it’s important to understand that if world leaders don’t act quickly it can get much worse,” he warns. “I’m talking about untold loss of life, total destruction of Ukraine. Millions of refugees. And it’s not too late,” Bennett says at Tel Aviv’s CyberTech conference.

“It’s the responsibility of the major players in the world to get the two sides out of the battlefield and on to the negotiation table.” he adds.

“I participated in five or six different conflicts as a soldier, a commander and later on as a security cabinet member. It’s just a horrible thing,” he says.

“We in Israel have had our fair share of wars, and I can tell you one big lesson: Wars are easy to start and very difficult to finish.”

I’m talking about untold loss of life, total destruction of Ukraine, millions of refugees and it’s not too late. It’s the responsibility of the major players in the world to act rapidly to get the two sides out of the battle field and on to the negotiation table.”

Zelensky vows invading Russian army will face ‘fierce rebuff’

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky in a video address posted to Facebook, on March 3, 2022. (Screenshot)
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky in a video address posted to Facebook, on March 3, 2022. (Screenshot)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says the invading Russian army will face “a fierce rebuff” from the military and citizens of Ukraine.

“Wherever they enter, they will be destroyed everywhere, they will not have peace, they will not have food, they will not have a single quiet moment,” Zelensky says in a video statement.

“The invaders will only receive a rebuff from Ukrainians. Fierce rebuff,” he says.

“Such a rebuff they will forever remember, that we will not give up what is ours.”

Zelensky also promises Ukrainians that damage to infrastructure inflicted by invading Russian forces would be repaired and that Moscow would foot the bill.

“We will restore every house, every street, every city and we say to Russia: learn the word of reparations and contributions. You will reimburse us for everything you did against our state, against every Ukrainian in full,” he says.

Russian foreign minister accuses West of considering ‘nuclear war’

In this handout photo released by Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a meeting with top envoys from the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, Vladislav Deinego of the Luhansk People's Republic and Sergei Peresada, of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022 (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)
In this handout photo released by Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a meeting with top envoys from the separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, Vladislav Deinego of the Luhansk People's Republic and Sergei Peresada, of the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022 (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accuses Western politicians of considering nuclear war, one week after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine.

“I would like to point out that it’s in the heads of Western politicians that the idea of a nuclear war is spinning constantly, and not in the heads of Russians,” Lavrov says in an interview with Russian and foreign media.

In the early days of the invasion, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian nuclear deterrent forces put on high alert. The alert means Russia’s nuclear weapons are prepared for increased readiness to launch.

Herzog meets outgoing US CENTCOM chief Kenneth McKenzie

President Isaac Herzog meets with Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM).

“It was a pleasure to host you at [IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv] and discuss the strategic importance of Israel-US military cooperation. Thank you for your contributions to Israel’s security. Best of success in your next chapter in life!” Herzog says according to his spokesperson.

During his three-day trip, McKenzie will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem and tour Masada National Park in southern Israel.

McKenzie is expected to retire from the US military in the coming months. He is to be succeeded by Michael Kurilla, who currently serves as commander of the US Army 18th Airborne Corps.

Bennett says it’s ‘right’ but unrealistic to draft ultra-Orthodox to military

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says that while it would be the “right” to integrate Israel’s ultra-Orthodox sector into the military, it’s unrealistic, and it’s better to enable them to join the workforce.

“About ten years ago, everyone was talking about getting the Haredim to serve in the military, which would be right… but it’s not going to happen,” says Bennett, at Tel Aviv’s CyberTech conference.

“My dream was the opposite, to let them off the hook at a young age so they can go into the workforce. It’s not fair, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Israel’s eclectic Bennett-led coalition in late January passed the first reading of its controversial military enlistment bill, which met fierce opposition from the Knesset’s ultra-Orthodox factions. The bill has moved into a committee for further discussion.

“And pretty soon, we’re going to complete the legislation that’s going to let tens of thousands of young ultra-Orthodox men go out and work – if they want. They don’t have to stay in yeshiva… but they don’t have English and they don’t have math and we’ll have to figure out how to get the smarter ones in.”

Bennett says IDF preparing for future of hybrid cyber and physical warfare

Bennett says the Israel Defense Forces recognizes the need to bring technological skills out of secure spaces and into the battlefield.

“On the operational level, the IDF is now promoting a remarkable hybrid program where folks who are brilliant, boys and girls who are fighters will also be trained in various cyber activities and bring them to a tactical level,” Bennett says.

“The future is hybrid warfare, cyber and physical combined. If a hundred years ago we were talking about tanks to tanks, tanks to airplanes, infantry… in the past few decades, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of cyber to cyber. Hacking websites, or hacking critical internet infrastructure.

In apparent confirmation of two 2020 Iranian attacks against Israeli water systems, Bennett says cyberwarfare can create physical world consequences.

“We’re seeing a lot more cyber that creates a physical impact. It can change sewage systems. It can change the amount of chloride in the water and poison people. It can have a real-life effect.”

Russian army claims advances around Mariupol

The Russian military claims to have made advances around the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

“The units of the armed forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic narrowed the encirclement of the city of Mariupol, and also took control of the settlements of Vinogradnoye, Sartaka and Vodyanoye,” army spokesman Igor Konashenkov says in a video briefing according to CNN.

Norway provides thousands of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A Hercules C130 transport aircraft with some 2,000 anti-tank missiles for Ukraine has taken off from Norway.

The weapons are to help Ukrainian forces resist Russia’s invasion, which began last week.

Norway’s national news agency NTB said the shipment was being sent from Oslo to a third country before being transported to Ukraine.

Without mentioning Russia, Bennett says world powers have ‘responsibility’ to end Ukraine crisis

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the Tel Aviv’s CyberTech conference, March 3, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the Tel Aviv’s CyberTech conference, March 3, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Without mentioning Russia by name, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says that world powers have a “responsibility” to end fighting in Ukraine, at Tel Aviv’s CyberTech conference.

“It’s the responsibility of major players of the world to act rapidly and get the two sides in Ukraine out of the battlefield and to the negotiating table,” says Bennett.

“Things are looking bad on the ground right now, but it’s important to understand that if world leaders don’t work quickly, it can get much worse.”

Bennett has spoken at least twice with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin to offer Israel’s service as an intermediary since the conflict broke out, in line with a request from Zelensky.

UN says at least 227 confirmed civilian deaths in Ukraine, actual toll likely much higher

Three men stand in the rubble in Zhytomyr on March 2, 2022, following a Russian bombing the day before. (Emmanuel DUPARCQ / AFP)
Three men stand in the rubble in Zhytomyr on March 2, 2022, following a Russian bombing the day before. (Emmanuel DUPARCQ / AFP)

The UN human rights office says 227 civilians have been killed and another 525 injured in its latest count of the toll in Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s military invasion that began a week ago.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says the tally eclipses the entire civilian casualty count from the war in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces in 2014 — which left 136 dead and 577 injured.

The rights office admits that the figures so far are a vast undercount. It uses a strict methodology and counts only confirmed casualties. Ukrainian officials have presented far higher numbers.

The rights office says in a statement that “real figures are considerably higher, especially in government-controlled territory and especially in recent days, as the receipt of information from some locations where intensive hostilities have been going on was delayed and many reports were still pending corroboration.”

Most of the casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and airstrikes, the rights office says.

Russian army stalls outside Ukraine capital, making ‘little progress’

A satellite image taken by the US company Maxar, which it says shows part of a 40-mile-long Russian military convoy assembled north-west of Kyiv, Ukraine (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Tech/Agencies)
A satellite image taken by the US company Maxar, which it says shows part of a 40-mile-long Russian military convoy assembled north-west of Kyiv, Ukraine (Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Tech/Agencies)

LONDON — Britain’s Ministry of Defense says that a Russian military column heading for Kyiv has made “little discernible progress” over the past three days and remains over 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the center of the city.

The column has been delayed by Ukrainian resistance, mechanical breakdowns and congestion, the ministry says in its daily intelligence briefing.

Despite heavy Russian shelling, the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol remain in Ukrainian hands, the department says. Some Russian forces have entered the city of Kherson, but the military situation remains unclear, it adds.

The ministry also noted that Russia has been forced to admit that 498 of its soldiers have been killed in Ukraine and another 1,597 have been wounded. The actual number of those killed and wounded will almost certainly be considerably higher and will continue to rise, it says.

Ukrainian servicemen ride on top of an armored personnel carrier speeding down a deserted boulevard during an air raid alarm, in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Russia’s liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy shut down after critical coverage of invasion

Police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Moscow on February 24, 2022 (Alexander NEMENOV / AFP)
Police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Moscow on February 24, 2022 (Alexander NEMENOV / AFP)

The Ekho Moskvy radio station — a symbol of newfound media freedom in post-Soviet Russia — says it will shut down after it was taken off air over its coverage of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“By a majority vote of the Ekho Moskvy board of directors, it was decided to liquidate the Ekho Moskvy radio station and website,” its editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov says on Telegram.

In this file photo dated Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, Ekho Moskvy radio station journalist Tatyana Felgenhauer speaks to the Associated Press in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, FILE)

Russian, Belarusian athletes banned from Paralympic Games over Ukraine invasion

Dancers perform during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Dancers perform during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The International Paralympic Committee announces that Russian and Belarusian athletes will not be allowed to compete in the upcoming competition for excellence in sport among persons with disabilities.

In a statement, IPC President Andrew Parsons appears to blame political pressure for the decision.

“At the IPC we are very firm believers that sport and politics should not mix. However, by no fault of its own the war has now come to these Games and behind the scenes many Governments are having an influence on our cherished event,” Parsons says.

Parsons apologizes to the Russian and Belarusian athletes, calling them “victims of [their] governments’ actions.”

UN nuclear watchdog chief to travel to Iran on Saturday

Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks during a press conference in Vienna, Austria, on December 17, 2021. (Michael Gruber/AP)
Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks during a press conference in Vienna, Austria, on December 17, 2021. (Michael Gruber/AP)

The head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, will travel to Iran on Saturday in order to meet with officials there, the IAEA says.

“Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi will travel to Tehran for meetings with senior Iranian officials on Saturday,” an IAEA spokesman said in a statement, adding that Grossi would hold a press conference on his return to Vienna on Saturday evening.

Grossi’s visit comes as Western diplomats come ever nearer to reaching a new agreement with Iran that aims to restrain its nuclear program.

“We’re one minute from the finish line,” Russian envoy Mikhail Ulyanov said yesterday in Vienna.

The flag of Iran waves in front of the the International Center building with the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, in Vienna, AustriaI, May 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter, FILE)

Israeli soldiers searching for alleged Palestinian stabber — IDF

Israeli soldiers patrol in the West Bank city of Hebron on May 21, 2019. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers patrol in the West Bank city of Hebron on May 21, 2019. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

The Israeli army launches a manhunt for a Palestinian who stabbed and moderately hurt an Israeli civilian yesterday in the Palestinian town of Hizme.

According to the military, the stabbing appears to be a terror attack.A similar stabbing that occurred this morning in the same area is still being investigated.

Israeli troops are searching the area, the military says.

Israeli soldiers observe the Palestinian village of Beita with binoculars as settlers evacuate the newly-established wildcat outpost of Evyatar near the northern Palestinian city of Nablus in the West Bank, on July 2, 2021 (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

 

Germany sends 2,700 anti-aircraft missiles to back Ukraine

Ukrainian servicemen move US-made FIM-92 Stinger missiles and other military assistance shipped from Lithuania to Boryspil Airport in Kyiv, on February 13, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)
Ukrainian servicemen move US-made FIM-92 Stinger missiles and other military assistance shipped from Lithuania to Boryspil Airport in Kyiv, on February 13, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

The German government announces it will send 2,700 anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine in an attempt to help the embattled country combat the Russian invaders, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports.

Last week, Germany decided to supply 1,000 anti-tank missiles and 500 surface-to-air rockets to Ukraine. The move was a reversal of decades of German foreign policy that have rarely seen arms transferred to war zones.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on February 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

US experts: Militarily, the Russian invasion so far a disaster

A Russian military vehicle burns next to a soldier's body in Kharkiv, Ukraine, February 27, 2022. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)
A Russian military vehicle burns next to a soldier's body in Kharkiv, Ukraine, February 27, 2022. (Sergey Bobok/AFP)

The Russian military’s initial invasion of Ukraine has been a surprising strategic and tactical blunder marked by food and fuel shortages, abandoned armored vehicles, aircraft losses and troop deaths, US experts say.

US specialists who study the Russian military say they have been astonished by the mismanagement of the campaign, which has seen invading columns stalled, apparently hundreds of Russian armored vehicles lost, and the Ukrainians preventing the Kremlin’s air force from controlling the skies.

“If you were going to screw it up two or three weeks in, I might understand it,” says Scott Boston, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corp. think tank.

“But if you, like, tripped over the doorframe on the way into the house, you have another issue,” he says.

Members of the civil defense take positions as a vehicle approaches the checkpoint in Gorenka, outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. (AP/Vadim Ghirda)

Jewish Israeli said stabbed in Hizme in second incident in two days

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

A Jewish Israeli man in his 40s is moderately wounded after allegedly being stabbed in the Palestinian town of Hizme this morning, in the second reported stabbing there in two days.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says the man arrived at the nearby Hizme checkpoint and was taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

There is no immediate comment from police on the incident.

Yesterday, another Israeli man was wounded in Hizme, allegedly under similar circumstances. He was hospitalized in moderate condition.

Spotify shutters Russia office in response to invasion of Ukraine

Customers walk at an Apple Premium reseller inside the Moscow GUM State Department store in Moscow, Russia, Nov. 28, 2014. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)
Customers walk at an Apple Premium reseller inside the Moscow GUM State Department store in Moscow, Russia, Nov. 28, 2014. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

The Spotify streaming service will close its offices in Russia following Moscow’s “unprovoked attack” on Ukraine, the company says in a statement.

According to a Spotify spokesperson, Spotify will also limit the accessibility of Russian state-backed streaming content on its platform. But the company won’t ban the service entirely in Russia.

“We think it’s critically important to try to keep our service operational in Russia to allow for the global flow of information,” the spokesperson says.

Music streaming apps clockwise from top left, Apple, Spotify, Amazon, Pandora and Google on an iPhone. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

Israel to set up field hospital in Ukraine, says health minister

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

Israel is preparing to send a field hospital to Ukraine as part of its next humanitarian aid shipment to the embattled country, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz tells Reshet Bet radio.

Horowitz clarifies that the hospital will be managed and manned exclusively by civilians. “We do not intend to send soldiers to Ukraine,” Horowitz says.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz speaks during a press conference about COVID-19, on December 30, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Over 4,000 Israelis estimated to remain in Ukraine — Foreign Ministry

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

Over a week into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, thousands of Israelis remain in the embattled country, the Foreign Ministry says.

“Over the past week, we’ve extracted around 3,000 Israelis. We estimate that another 4,000-5,000 remain in Ukraine,” ministry spokesperson Lior Hayat tells Reshet Bet radio.

“The difficult problem is those Israelis who remain in Kyiv and Kharkiv, who cannot head safely to the borders,” Hayat adds.

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

Steady flow of injured Russian troops returning from front seen in Belarus

In Mazyr, Belarus, a string of seven bus-size Russian military ambulances — their windows blocked with gray shades — pulled up to the back entrance of the main hospital about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the border with Ukraine on Tuesday evening, ferrying casualties from the front.

The convoy was part of what residents and doctors said has in recent days become a steady flow of Russian soldiers wounded in fierce fighting around Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, where a Russian advance has stalled in the face of strong resistance.

A doctor at the hospital — which is in southern Belarus’s Gomel region, a main staging ground for Russia’s offensive — said injured Russian troops began arriving on Monday. “I hope they don’t jail me for sharing this,” she said.

UAE says Ukrainians can still enter without a visa

The United Arab Emirates says Ukrainian passport holders continue to be eligible for visas on arrival to the Gulf state.

The UAE’s Foreign Ministry statement on Thursday came in response to media coverage quoting Ukraine’s Embassy in the UAE saying that the Gulf country is reimposing visa requirements on Ukrainians and suspending an agreement for visa-free travel between the two countries.

The energy-rich UAE, which relies on Russian and Ukrainian wheat exports, is home to some 15,000 Ukrainian residents among its roughly 8 million foreign residents and 1 million Emirati citizens. Before the coronavirus pandemic, around a quarter-million Ukrainian tourists visited the UAE.

The UAE, like other Gulf Arab states, does not recognize individuals fleeing war and has not permitted refugees from Syria, Iraq and other wars to seek asylum or seek resettlement.

The UAE, which is home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, abstained in a U.N. Security Council vote late last week condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. It is also chair of the Security Council.

Uman turns mikveh into bomb shelter as Jewish community said to clear out

A Jewish ritual bath under a central synagogue in the Ukrainian city of Uman has been converted into a shelter for locals, CNN reports.

The city, about 125 miles south of Kyiv, has not seen any major fighting, but residents are preparing. According to the station, most of the Jewish community of 500 has left, with only some 50 people remaining.

The burial place of Rabbi Nahman of Breslau, Uman draws tens of thousands of Hasidic Jewish pilgrims every Rosh Hashanah.

Despite reports of fraught ties between the Hasidic visitors and Ukrainian locals, those in the shelter speak supportively of the Jewish community to CNN, and scoff at the idea that Russian forces are there to “denazify” the country.

 

Planeload of Israeli aid, medical volunteers sets out for Moldova-Ukraine border

A plane carrying 15 tons of humanitarian aid for Ukrainian refugees from Israel’s United Hatzalah organization is being loaded up at Ben Gurion Airport for teams working on the ground at border crossings from Moldova.

The flight, which will reach Moldova via Romania, will also transport a 40-strong team of medical personnel who will join a group of volunteers the organization sent earlier this week to work at three field hospitals the rescue organization is setting up at Moldova’s Ukraine border for people fleeing Russia’s invasion.

The team is made up of EMTs, paramedics and doctors, as well as members of the organization’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, which provides aid in the field for people who are undergoing trauma. Many of medics expect to be deployed for around two weeks, but the fast-moving crisis means that many could be away from home for longer.

The team from United Hatzalah en route to Moldova, March 3, 2022 (Times of Israel)

Much of the aid on the plane is medical equipment for the field hospitals, but there is also food, warm clothing, blankets, heat pads, diapers, formula and feminine hygiene products – many of the supplies have been donated by a number of Israeli companies.

In a move that distinguishes the team from other aid organizations, they are also transporting two Torah scrolls for religious members of their teams on the ground.

The plane will return to Israel later in the day carrying some 150 refugees with Israeli citizenship back to Israel.

“The complexity of this operation is immense. It involves travel permits, diplomatic relations, and travel between three countries by land and by air,” says Eli Beer, president of United Hatzalah.

A pile of aid being sent with United Hatzalah to the Moldova-Ukraine border. (Courtesy of United Hatzalah of Israel)

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the international body’s refugee agency, said Wednesday that over 1 million people are now refugees as a result of the fighting in Ukraine, with concerns that figure will keep climbing. There were 44 million Ukrainians on the eve of the invasion.

Refugees are crossing the borders from Ukraine into neighboring countries to the west — Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Moldova.

The airlift is the latest in a number of deliveries sent from Israel this week to Ukraine and its neighboring countries to deal with the growing humanitarian crisis there.

House committee probing Jan. 6 accuses Trump of ‘criminal conspiracy’

The House Committee investigating the US Capitol insurrection says that its evidence shows former President Donald Trump and his associates engaged in a “criminal conspiracy” to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the presidential election, spread false information about it and pressured state officials to overturn the results.

The committee makes the claims in a filing in response to a lawsuit by Trump adviser John Eastman. Eastman, a lawyer who was consulting with Trump as he attempted to overturn the election, is trying to withhold documents from the committee as it investigates the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. The committee argued there is a legal exception allowing the disclosure of communications regarding ongoing or future crimes.

“The Select Committee also has a good-faith basis for concluding that the President and members of his Campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States,” the committee wrote in a filing submitted in US District Court in the Central District of California.

International body says monitor killed in Kharkiv bombing

A Ukrainian member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s monitoring mission was killed in a bombing while collecting supplies for her family, the international body says.

“Maryna Fenina, a national member of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), died in shelling in Kharkiv” Tuesday, the OSCE says in a statement.

Kharkiv, the country’s second city, has come under intense shelling by Russian forces, with police and university buildings bombarded and government offices reduced to rubble.

A view of the central square following shelling of the City Hall building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Pavel Dorogoy)

“In Kharkiv and other cities and towns in Ukraine, missiles, shells and rockets are hitting residential buildings and town centers, killing and injuring innocent civilians – women, men and children alike,” the OSCE says.

“We strongly condemn the increased shelling in urban areas,” it added, reiterating its call “on the Russian Federation for an immediate cessation of hostilities”.

Biden hails lopsided UN vote as proof of ‘global outrage’ at Russia

US President Joe Biden is hailing Wednesday’s vote by the United Nations General Assembly demanding an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops, saying it “demonstrates the extent of global outrage at Russia’s horrific assault on a sovereign neighbor.”

In a statement Wednesday evening, Biden said the UN vote recognizes that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “attacking the very foundations of global peace and security — and everything the United Nations stands for.”

The vote on the “Aggression against Ukraine” resolution was 141-5, with 35 abstentions. Israel co-sponsored the measure after initially balking at supporting it.

Echoing his State of the Union address Tuesday, Biden said: “Together, we must — and we will — hold Russia accountable for its actions. We will demonstrate that freedom always triumphs over tyranny.”

Unprecedented Ukraine refugee tally tops 1 million in single week — UN

The UN refugee agency says 1 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion less than a week ago, an exodus without precedent in this century for its speed.

The tally from UNHCR amounts to more than 2 percent of Ukraine’s population on the move in under a week. The World Bank counted the population at 44 million at the end of 2020.

The UN agency has predicted that up to 4 million people could eventually leave Ukraine but cautioned that even that projection could be revised upward.

In an email, UNHCR spokesperson Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams writes: “Our data indicates we passed the 1M mark” as of midnight in central Europe, based on counts collected by national authorities.

On Twitter, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, writes: “In just seven days we have witnessed the exodus of one million refugees from Ukraine to neighboring countries.”

Syria, whose civil war erupted in 2011, currently remains the country with the largest refugee outflows – at more than 5.6 million people, according to UNHCR figures. But even at the swiftest rate of flight by refugees out of Syria, in early 2013, it took at least three months for 1 million refugees to leave that country.

UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said Wednesday that “at this rate” the outflows from Ukraine could make it the source of “the biggest refugee crisis this century.”

Videos show Kyiv sky light up from huge explosion

More videos are coming in of massive explosions in Kyiv, which several witnesses are saying were the largest they’ve ever seen.

A CBS News reporter tweets a video in which the flash of the explosion lights of the sky just as he signs off from a live standup.

Other videos show explosions in Kyiv from different angles.

There are not yet any details on the source of the blast or aftermath.

Massive explosions heard in Kyiv, sirens in Lviv

Kyiv residents are reporting massive explosions heard in the city following air raid sirens there.

Two blasts are heard near the city center and two more near the Arsenalnaya metro station, according to Nexta TV.

A video purports to show a massive fireball near the capital.

Air raid sirens are going off in Lviv, in western Ukraine, a ToI correspondent there reports.

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