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In phone call, Ukraine’s Zelensky asks Biden for more support

‘The agenda included the issues of security, financial support for Ukraine and the continuation of sanctions against Russia,’ leader tweets

  • Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives in Germany for a meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, March 5, 2022 (PMO)
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives in Germany for a meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, March 5, 2022 (PMO)
  • Prime Minister Naftali Bennett; Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; Russian President Vladimir Putin; and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. (Composite/AP)
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett; Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; Russian President Vladimir Putin; and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. (Composite/AP)
  • Servicemen of the Ukrainian Military Forces prepare their equipment to repel a tank attack on a position in the Lugansk region on March 5, 2022. (Anatolii Stepanov / AFP)
    Servicemen of the Ukrainian Military Forces prepare their equipment to repel a tank attack on a position in the Lugansk region on March 5, 2022. (Anatolii Stepanov / AFP)
  • A militia man stands at a checkpoint set up on a road heading to the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
    A militia man stands at a checkpoint set up on a road heading to the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
  • People make anti-tanks crosses near a checkpoint set up on a road heading to the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
    People make anti-tanks crosses near a checkpoint set up on a road heading to the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, March 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
  • A child evacuates the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, during heavy shelling and bombing on March 5, 2022, ten days after Russia launched a military invasion on Ukraine. (Aris Messinis / AFP)
    A child evacuates the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, during heavy shelling and bombing on March 5, 2022, ten days after Russia launched a military invasion on Ukraine. (Aris Messinis / AFP)
  • This picture taken on March 4, 2022, shows a residential building damaged during a shelling the day before in the city of Chernihiv. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)
    This picture taken on March 4, 2022, shows a residential building damaged during a shelling the day before in the city of Chernihiv. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)
  • A man rides his bicycle in front of residential buildings damaged in shelling in the city of Chernihiv, on March 4, 2022 (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)
    A man rides his bicycle in front of residential buildings damaged in shelling in the city of Chernihiv, on March 4, 2022 (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP)
  • People rest at a reception center for people displaced from Ukraine at the Ukrainian-Polish border crossing in Korczowa, Poland, March 5, 2022. (Olivier Douliery, Pool Photo via AP)
    People rest at a reception center for people displaced from Ukraine at the Ukrainian-Polish border crossing in Korczowa, Poland, March 5, 2022. (Olivier Douliery, Pool Photo via AP)
  • A young woman clutches a doll, after fleeing Ukraine, at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, on March 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
    A young woman clutches a doll, after fleeing Ukraine, at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, on March 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

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

Ukraine’s Zelensky asks Biden for more support

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he spoke by phone with his US counterpart Joe Biden to discuss financial support and sanctions against Russia as his country faces an intensifying onslaught.

“As part of the constant dialogue, I had another conversation with @POTUS,” Zelensky tweets. “The agenda included the issues of security, financial support for Ukraine and the continuation of sanctions against Russia.”

In a readout on the half-hour call, the White House says Biden emphasized steps his administration and allies have taken “to raise the costs on Russia for its aggression in Ukraine.”

He also highlighted efforts by private companies, such as payment giants Visa and MasterCard, to freeze out Moscow by suspending operations in the wake of the February 24 invasion.

Hours earlier, the Ukrainian leader addressed US lawmakers by video call, pleading for further assistance to his besieged country and a blacklisting of Russian oil imports.

Bennett heads back to Israel after meetings with Putin, Scholz

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has concluded his visit to Germany, after a stop in Moscow, and is now on his way back to Israel.

His office says he and Chancellor Olaf Scholz “discussed several issues, including the situation between Ukraine and Russia.”

Bennett also spoke twice throughout the evening with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky following his meeting with Russia Presiden Vladimir Putin.

Zelensky tweets that Bennett called him and “we continue dialogue.”

Visa, Mastercard suspend operations in Russia

Card payment giants Visa and Mastercard announce they will suspend operations in Russia, the latest major US firms to join the business freeze-out of Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

Mastercard says that “noting the unprecedented nature of the current conflict and the uncertain economic environment,” it has “decided to suspend our network services in Russia.”

Visa, for its part, says that “effective immediately” it will “work with its clients and partners within Russia to cease all Visa transactions over the coming days.”

Illustrative: Logos for MasterCard and Visa credit cards at the entrance of a New York coffee shop (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Ukrainian negotiator says Russia realizing ‘real cost of war’

Talks with Russia are beginning to be “constructive,” a Ukrainian negotiator says, describing what he perceives as an apparent shift in Moscow’s attitude towards Ukrainian resistance and biting international sanctions.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, says he has noted a change in Russia’s approach as it realizes “the real price of war.”

“At the very start of the war, they were insisting on total domination. They weren’t expecting that Ukraine would deliver such severe resistance,” Podolyak says in an interview with the Canadian daily The Globe and Mail, in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

“They are starting to realize the real price of war only now. And now we are starting to have constructive negotiations,” adds the official, who participated in the first two rounds of talks between Russia and Ukraine, held on the border of Belarus.

A third session of talks is scheduled for Monday, according to the Ukrainian delegation.

The Russians “have lost massive amounts of equipment and manpower. Sanctions like we’ve never seen before are collapsing their economy. Their country has become an outlaw on the international scene and their propaganda doesn’t work at all,” Podolyak says.

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

Mayor of Mariupol says Russian forces have intensified shelling

Russian forces have intensified shelling in the port city of Mariupol, including with the use of airplanes, the mayor says.

“The city is in a very, very difficult state of siege,” Vadym Boychenko tells Ukrainian TV. “Relentless shelling of residential blocks is ongoing, airplanes have been dropping bombs on residential areas.”

Boychenko says that thousands of children, women and the elderly came under fire as they arrived in the morning for a possible evacuation through a safe passage corridor. Russia promised to stop the shelling of Mariupol, a port city of 430,000, and Volnovakha, a city in the east, but violated the ceasefire.

Russia has made significant advances in the south, clearly seeking to cut off Ukraine’s access to the sea. Capturing Mariupol, which has been fending off the attack for six days, could allow Russia to build a land corridor to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.

Glass on a hospital window is shattered by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, March 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Zelenskyy’s ‘desperate’ plea to Congress: Send more planes

Fighting for his country’s survival, Ukraine’s leader has made a “desperate” plea to American lawmakers for the United States to help get more warplanes to his military and cut off Russian oil imports as Kyiv tries to stave off the Russian invasion.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy opened the private video call with US lawmakers by telling them this may be the last time they see him alive. He has remained in Kyiv, the capital, which has a vast Russian armored column threatening from the north.

Appearing in what is now his trademark army-green shirt in front of a white wall with the Ukrainian flag, he told them Ukraine needs to secure its skies, either through a no-fly zone enforced by NATO or through the provision of more warplanes so Ukraine could better defend itself. Zelenskyy has been pleading for a no-fly zone for days, but NATO has refused, saying it could provoke a widespread war with Russia.

The hourlong exchange with some 300 members of Congress and their staffs came as Russian troops continue to shell encircled cities and the number of Ukrainians who have fled the country grew to 1.4 million.

“President Zelenskyy made a desperate plea,” says Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

He says Zelenskyy wants the US to facilitate the transfer of planes from Eastern European allies. “I will do all I can to help the administration to facilitate their transfer,” Schumer says.

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

Report: Zelensky aide says not yet clear what Bennett-Putin meeting achieved

Ynet cites the Ukrainian president’s spokesman as saying it is not yet clear what, if anything, Naftali Bennett’s meeting with Vladimir Putin has achieved in efforts to negotiate an end to the fighting.

According to the website, Sergey Nikiforov says that in Bennett’s phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky — after the former’s meeting with Putin in Moscow this evening — the Ukrainian leader did not hear anything particularly new.

“We cannot assess the results of Prime Minister Bennett’s mediation until we get a clear indication from Bennett or Putin on an agreement to a meeting [with Zelensky],” he says.

Putin orders government to compile list of countries that sanctioned Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a flag-raising ceremony on the ferry Marshal Rokossovsky via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, on March 4, 2022. (Andrey Gorshkov/Sputnik/AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a flag-raising ceremony on the ferry Marshal Rokossovsky via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, on March 4, 2022. (Andrey Gorshkov/Sputnik/AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed the government to compile a list of countries that have imposed sanctions on the country, or Russian companies, organizations, and individuals, the state news agency RIA-Novosti reports.

A presidential decree requires the government to compile the list within two days, the report says.

It is not immediately clear what the exact purpose of the list is.

The United States and European allies imposed tough sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Bennett lands in Germany to meet with Chancellor Scholz

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives in Germany for a meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, March 5, 2022 (PMO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives in Germany for a meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, March 5, 2022 (PMO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has landed in Berlin ahead of his meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Bennett flew in from Moscow, after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin for three hours earlier this evening.

Bennett and Putin discussed the war in Ukraine. Bennett is expected to brief Scholz on the details of that meeting.

Russian plane lands in US to remove diplomats expelled for alleged espionage

A Russian plane lands at Washington’s international airport to pick up about a dozen diplomats from Moscow’s UN mission who are accused by Washington of espionage, authorities say.

The United States closed its airspace to all Russian aircraft after Moscow invaded Ukraine.

The Ilyushin Il-96 aircraft was allowed, however, to land at Dulles International Airport. The landing is confirmed by the FlightAware website, which tracks air movement.

“The US government approved a flight chartered by the Russian government to facilitate the departure of Russian UN Mission personnel who were expelled for abuse of their privileges of residence,” a State Department spokesman tells AFP.

“This special exception was done… to ensure Russian mission personnel and their families departed by the date we had instructed,” the spokesman adds.

The US called on Monday for the expulsion of 12 members of Russia’s UN mission by March 7.

A day later, again citing alleged espionage, the US ordered the expulsion of a Russian national working for the UN secretariat.

“This is a hostile move against our country,” the Russian ambassador to the US Anatoli Antonov says in a Facebook message, adding that Moscow “totally rejected” the US claims.

The Russian mission employs about 100 people, according to a Russian diplomatic source.

French presidency says Macron, Bennett discussed efforts to reach Ukraine ceasefire

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets French President Emmanuel Macron at the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets French President Emmanuel Macron at the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

A statement from the French presidency says Emmanuel Macron spoke with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett before the Israeli premier left for Moscow as part of joint efforts to “obtain a ceasefire in Ukraine.”

UN to scale-up humanitarian efforts in Ukraine

Refugees, mostly women with children, wait for transportation at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, on March 5, 2022, after fleeing from Ukraine. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Refugees, mostly women with children, wait for transportation at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, on March 5, 2022, after fleeing from Ukraine. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

NEW YORK — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the United Nations is committed to scaling up its humanitarian operations to help both those who have stayed in Ukraine and the millions who have fled.

Guterres relayed the promise to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in a phone call, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric says.

Dujarric says the two also discussed the conditions for safely evacuating civilians, including foreigners, from combat zones.

The UN estimates that the 12 million people who have stayed in Ukraine and the 4 million who have fled to neighboring countries will need humanitarian aid in the coming months.

The UN Security Council will hold a meeting Monday afternoon on the escalating humanitarian needs that have arisen since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

US State Department says Russia sanctions won’t harm Iran nuclear talks

TV cameras in front of the 'Grand Hotel Vienna' where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, on Sunday, June 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter)
TV cameras in front of the 'Grand Hotel Vienna' where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, on Sunday, June 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Florian Schroetter)

American sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine should have no impact on the potential revival of the Iran nuclear deal, the US State Department says according to Reuters.

“The new Russia-related sanctions are unrelated to the JCPOA and should not have any impact on its potential implementation,” a spokesperson says, referring to the 2015 accord by its initials.

“We continue to engage with Russia on a return to full implementation of the JCPOA. Russia shares a common interest in ensuring Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon,” the State Department spokesperson adds according to the news agency.

Israel to establish field hospital in Ukraine next week

In this handout image from the Health Ministry published March 5, 2022, an example field hospital is seen. Israel is sending a delegation to Ukraine to set up a  field hospital in the country. (Health Ministry)
In this handout image from the Health Ministry published March 5, 2022, an example field hospital is seen. Israel is sending a delegation to Ukraine to set up a field hospital in the country. (Health Ministry)

Israel will set up a field hospital in Ukraine next week, the Health Ministry says.

The site will be operated by the Sheba Medical Center, Clalit Health Services, and medical staff from additional hospitals, the ministry says.

The hospital will include wards for children and adults, an emergency room, a delivery room, and a primary care clinic.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz says Israel will “continue to help as much as necessary to save the lives of citizens whose worlds were destroyed.”

Representatives from the Foreign Ministry will also join the delegation.

The ministry does not immediately say where in the country the hospital will be set up. Channel 12 news says it will be in the western city of Lviv.

Russian troops seize two nuclear plants, heading to a third, Zelensky says

This image made from a video released by Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant shows a bright flaring object landing in the grounds of the nuclear plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, on March 4, 2022. (Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant via AP)
This image made from a video released by Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant shows a bright flaring object landing in the grounds of the nuclear plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, on March 4, 2022. (Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant via AP)

LVIV, Ukraine — Russian forces have now seized two Ukrainian nuclear power plants and are advancing toward a third, Ukraine’s president says during a call with US senators.

Volodymyr Zelensky says the third plant currently under threat is the Yuzhnoukrainsk nuclear power plant, located 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Mykolaiv, one of several cities the Russians were trying to keep encircled.

One of the plants under the Russians’ control is the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in the southeastern city of Enerhodar, the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe. The other is Chernobyl, which is not active but is still staffed and maintained. Previous Russian shelling sparked a fire at the Zaporizhzhia plant that was extinguished without a release of radiation.

Technical safety systems are intact and radiation levels are still normal at the Zaporizhzhia plant, according to the country’s nuclear regulator, the International Atomic Energy Agency says.

Two out of the six reactors at the plant, Europe’s biggest, are now operating after Russian forces took control of the site, the nuclear regulator tells the IAEA.

Ukraine has four nuclear plants with a total of 15 reactors.

Bennett holds call with Ukraine’s Zelensky, after meeting Putin in Moscow

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; Prime Minister Naftali Bennett; and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Composite/AP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; Prime Minister Naftali Bennett; and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Composite/AP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has spoken with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky a short while ago, his spokesperson says.

Bennett is heading to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, after a three-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin earlier this evening.

Ukraine FM asks Blinken for jets, air defense systems

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks in Copenhagen, Denmark, on January 27, 2022. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP)
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks in Copenhagen, Denmark, on January 27, 2022. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP)

Ukraine’s foreign minister tells his US counterpart in a face-to-face meeting his country needs fighter jets and air-defense systems, and called NATO’s refusal to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine a “sign of weakness.”

“It’s no secret that the highest demand that we have is in fighter jets, attack aircraft, and air-defense systems,” Dmytro Kuleba says he told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in talks at the Ukraine-Poland border.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (center) meets with refugees at a reception center at the Ukrainian-Polish border crossing in Korczowa, on March 5, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP)

Zelensky ignored phone call from Bennett on Friday — report

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett poses for a picture at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 26, 2022; Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90; Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett poses for a picture at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on January 26, 2022; Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 24, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90; Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tried to speak with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday, but he didn’t take the call, Channel 12 news reports.

The report says the Ukrainian leader didn’t answer, knowing the Israeli premier was set to meet with Putin today.

The network says Bennett’s office denies there was an effort to initiate such a conversation.

Bennett to meet German Chancellor Scholz in Berlin after meeting with Putin

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, on March 2, 2022, in Jerusalem (Government Press Office)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, on March 2, 2022, in Jerusalem (Government Press Office)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is heading to the German capital to meet with Chancellor Olaf Scholz after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his spokesperson says.

Bennett is expected to update Scholz on the details of his meeting with Putin in Moscow today.

After meeting Scholz, he will return to Israel.

Scholz was in Israel on Wednesday for a brief trip.

Bennett-Putin meeting in Moscow ends after 3 hours

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, on October 22, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, on October 22, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin ends after three hours.

Israel coordinated the meeting with the United States, Germany, and France, while notifying Ukraine, an official says.

The official says Bennett spoke with Putin on the situation of Israelis and Jewish communities in Ukraine amid the conflict.

The meeting also focused on the nuclear talks in Vienna, aimed at restoring the 2015 accord between Iran and world powers. Bennett has openly said Israel opposes a return to the nuclear deal.

Moscow, Kyiv to hold third round of talks Monday, negotiator says

Members of delegations from Ukraine and Russia, including Russian presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky (second left), Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak (second right), Volodymyr Zelensky's 'Servant of the People' lawmaker Davyd Arakhamia (third right), 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 (second left), Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak (second right), Volodymyr Zelensky's 'Servant of the People' lawmaker Davyd Arakhamia (third right), hold talks in Belarus' Gomel region, on February 28, 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Sergei Kholodilin/Belta/AFP)

Russia and Ukraine are expected to hold a third round of talks to end hostilities on Monday, Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamiya says in a Facebook post.

He does not provide any further details.

The first two rounds of talks on resolving the Russia-Ukraine war produced no breakthrough, though the two sides have agreed to meet again.

Russia resumes offensive after Mariupol ceasefire falls apart

Smoke rise after shelling by Russian forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Smoke rise after shelling by Russian forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Russia’s defense ministry says it has resumed “offensive actions” in Ukraine after announcing a ceasefire earlier in the day to allow residents of two besieged cities to evacuate.

“Due to the unwillingness of the Ukrainian side to influence nationalists or extend the regime of silence, offensive actions have been resumed at 18:00 Moscow time,” defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov says in a video briefing.

Earlier today, Russia announced a ceasefire and said it opened humanitarian corridors for the exit of civilians from the strategic port town of Mariupol and neighboring Volnovakha.

Konashenkov said that “not a single civilian” was able to exit via the humanitarian corridors.

“The population of these cities is held by nationalist formations as a human shield,” Konashenkov adds.

He says “nationalist battalions” used the ceasefire to “regroup and reinforce their positions.”

Officials in Mariupol, surrounded by Russian forces, say they were delaying an evacuation of the civilian population, accusing Moscow’s troops of breaking a ceasefire.

Israel said to have notified US, Ukraine ahead of Bennett’s trip to Russia

Israel notified the White House ahead of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s trip to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Hebrew media reports.

Channel 12 news says the Ukrainians were also given advance notice of Bennett’s trip.

PM’s office confirms Bennett meeting with Putin at Kremlin

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, on October 22, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, on October 22, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is currently meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, his office confirms.

According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, the two have been meeting for the past 2.5 hours.

“The prime minister took off for Moscow early this morning, after the conversation between the leaders last Wednesday,” the statement says.

The Prime Minister’s Office says Bennett is being accompanied by Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who is serving as his translator, along with National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata, diplomatic adviser Shimrit Meir, and spokesman Matan Sidi.

The statement does not include the word Ukraine or mention Russia’s invasion of the country.

Bennett, Israel’s first Orthodox premier, made the flight to Moscow on Shabbat, which observant Jews are barred from doing under Jewish law, though exceptions are made for medical or security situations in which life is threatened.

Bennett flies to Moscow, is holding talks with Putin on Ukraine war

illustrative: Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, on October 22, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
illustrative: Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, on October 22, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has traveled to Moscow and is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin tells Reuters.

According to the news agency, the two are discussing the war in Ukraine.

According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, the two have been meeting for the past 2.5 hours.

“The prime minister took off for Moscow early this morning, after the conversation between the leaders last Wednesday,” the statement says.

The Prime Minister’s Office says Bennett is being accompanied by Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who is serving as his translator, along with National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata, diplomatic adviser Shimrit Meir and spokesman Matan Sidi.

Bennett has offered to mediate between Ukraine and Russia, and held several calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Putin in recent days.

Russia troops seize psychiatric hospital near Kyiv, governor says

The governor of Kyiv says Russian forces have taken over a psychiatric hospital with 670 people inside, in the town of Borodyanka near Ukraine’s capital, Sky News reports.

“Today we do not understand how to evacuate these people, how to help them,” Oleksiy Kuleba says.

“They are running out of water and medicines. These are people with certain special needs, they need constant help… many of them have been bedridden for years,” he adds according to Sky.

Borodyanka was heavily shelled by the invading Russian army last week.

Blinken visits Poland’s border with Ukraine border as refugees spill in

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (center) meets with refugees at a reception center at the Ukrainian-Polish border crossing in Korczowa, on March 5, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (center) meets with refugees at a reception center at the Ukrainian-Polish border crossing in Korczowa, on March 5, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/Pool/AFP)

KORCZOWA, Poland — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the border of Poland and Ukraine, where hundreds of thousands have been fleeing the fighting since Russia invaded its neighbor on February 24.

Blinken hears from Polish officials about the humanitarian crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as hundreds of Ukrainians can be seen spilling over the Korczowa-Krakovets crossing.

Zelensky says Ukrainian forces holding key cities, 10,000 invading Russian troops killed

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky in a video address posted to Facebook, on March 4, 2022. (Screenshot)
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky in a video address posted to Facebook, on March 4, 2022. (Screenshot)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says forces are holding key cities in the central and southeastern part of the country, while the Russians were trying to block and keep encircled Kharkiv, Nikolaev, Chernihiv, and Sumy.

“We’re inflicting losses on the occupants they could not see in their worst nightmare,” Zelensky says.

He alleges that 10,000 Russian troops have been killed in the 10 days of the war, a claim that could not be independently verified.

The Russian military doesn’t offer regular updates on their casualties. Only once, on Wednesday, did they reveal a death toll, numbering nearly 500.

“This is horrible,” Zelensky says. “Guys 18, 20 years old… soldiers who weren’t even explained what they were going to fight for.”

Finland mulls procuring Israeli anti-aircraft systems amid Russian invasion of Ukraine

IAI's MRSAM missile during the test June 2016. (Israel Aerospace Industries)
IAI's MRSAM missile during the test June 2016. (Israel Aerospace Industries)

Finland decides to purchase anti-aircraft systems from one of two Israeli companies, either Israel Aerospace Industries or Rafael, Finland’s defense ministry says according to Reuters.

In October 2020, Finland sent invitations for bids to five companies, including Germany’s Diehl Defence, Norway’s Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace, the UK’s MBDA, as well as the two Israeli companies, the report says.

The ministry says it now intends to continue negotiations with IAI and Rafael.

“In this scheme, we will upgrade the anti-aircraft defense’s high-altitude ability and increase significantly its reach,” the ministry says in a statement.

Finland is not part of the NATO military alliance, but as the country shares a long border with Russia, it has recently stepped up defenses in response to Moscow’s invasion, the report says.

The ministry says it plans to purchase vehicles with integrated missile launchers, radar systems, missiles, and related equipment. The final purchase decision is expected in early 2023, the report says.

Italy public broadcaster latest outlet to suspend reporting from Russia

The Russian national tricolor flag flutters on top of the building of the State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia's parliament, in central Moscow in the evening of March 3, 2022. (AFP)
The Russian national tricolor flag flutters on top of the building of the State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia's parliament, in central Moscow in the evening of March 3, 2022. (AFP)

Italy’s public television channel RAI announces an immediate suspension in reporting from Russia after Moscow backed the imposition of jail terms on media publishing “false information” about the military.

“Following the approval of the law which gives heavy sentences for publishing information considered false by the authorities, RAI is spending from today the journalistic services of its own reporters and correspondents in the Russian Federation,” the channel says in a statement.

Earlier, several Western media organizations — including the BBC, CNN International, Bloomberg News, ABC, and CBS News — also suspended their media operations in the country.

Thousands protest in Kherson after Russian troops occupy Ukrainian city

Thousands of Ukrainians protest in the city of Kherson this morning, after it was captured by Russian forces a few days ago, video footage shows.

One video posted online shows a protester jumping on top of a Russian military vehicle while waving a Ukrainian flag.

Ukraine claims video shows Russian military helicopter being shot down

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry publishes a video of a Russian military helicopter being shot down.

British investigative website Bellingcat says the video is from north of Kyiv, in the town of Kozarovychi.

It is not immediately clear when the video was taken.

The low-flying helicopter is seen being hit by a missile, before crashing moments later.

UN says confirmed civilian death toll at 351

A man walks past an apartment building hit by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A man walks past an apartment building hit by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

BERLIN — The UN human rights office says it has confirmed the deaths of 351 civilians in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began.

The Geneva-based office said that another 707 civilians were injured between February 24 and midnight Friday.

The rights office uses strict methodology and only reports casualties it has confirmed.

It says it believes the real figures are considerably higher, “especially in government-controlled territory and especially in recent days,” as the receipt of information from some places where there was intense fighting was delayed and many reports were still undergoing corroboration.

Ukrainian officials have presented far higher numbers, claiming over 2,000 civilians killed.

Putin: Countries that impose no-fly zone over Ukraine would be parties to conflict

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a flag-raising ceremony on the ferry Marshal Rokossovsky via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, on March 4, 2022. (Andrey Gorshkov/Sputnik/AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a flag-raising ceremony on the ferry Marshal Rokossovsky via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, on March 4, 2022. (Andrey Gorshkov/Sputnik/AFP)

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says any country that sought to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine would be considered by Moscow to have entered the conflict.

“Any movement in this direction will be considered by us as participation in an armed conflict by that country,” the Russian leader says during a meeting with Aeroflot employees.

Putin also says he had no intention of declaring martial law, as his country’s military incursion in Ukraine enters its second week.

“Martial law should only be introduced in cases where there is external aggression… we are not experiencing that at the moment and I hope we won’t,” he says.

Russian jet said shot down over northern Ukraine city of Chernihiv

Ukraine’s state emergency services say a Russian plane is shot down over the northern city of Chernihiv.

It says the plane crashes into a residential area, but it is not clear if there are any casualties.

A video posted online is said to show the plane being shot down. Media reports claim one of the Russian pilots is captured and interrogated, while the other died.

Aeroflot to halt international flights with exception of Belarus

Aeroflot's passengers planes are parked at Sheremetyevo airport, outside Moscow, Russia, on March 1, 2022 (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Aeroflot's passengers planes are parked at Sheremetyevo airport, outside Moscow, Russia, on March 1, 2022 (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

NEW YORK — Aeroflot, Russia’s flagship carrier, announces that it will halt all international flights except to Belarus starting March 8.

The move by Russia’s biggest state-owned airline comes after the country’s aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, recommended that all Russian airlines with foreign-leased planes halt both passenger and cargo flights abroad.

It cited a high risk of foreign-leased planes being impounded as part of Western sanctions that ban leasing of planes to Russia.

Rosaviatsiya’s recommendation doesn’t apply to Russian airlines that use Russian planes or foreign planes that aren’t at risk of being impounded.

It also doesn’t apply to foreign airlines from countries that have not imposed sanctions on Russia and have not shut down their airspace for Russian planes.

Aeroflot’s statement cites “circumstances that hinder operating flights” as a reason for its move.

Aeroflot says it will cancel return tickets for passengers who are scheduled to depart Russia after March 6 and travel back after March 8. Those with one-way tickets will be allowed to fly up until March 8. Earlier this week, S7, Russia’s biggest private airline, announced that it was halting all international flights starting Saturday.

Ukraine refugee tally reaches 1.45 million people, UN says

Refugees, mostly women with children, wait for transportation at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, on March 5, 2022, after fleeing from Ukraine. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Refugees, mostly women with children, wait for transportation at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, on March 5, 2022, after fleeing from Ukraine. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

GENEVA — The International Organization for Migration says the number of people who have left Ukraine since fighting began has now reached 1.45 million.

The UN migration agency, citing figures from government ministries in countries where they have arrived, says that 787,300 of them went to Poland. Some 228,700 fled to Moldova, 144,700 to Hungary, 132,600 to Romania and 100,500 to Slovakia.

The IOM says that nationals of 138 countries have crossed Ukraine’s borders into neighboring nations.

Israeli woman lightly hurt when vehicle stoned in West Bank

A 41-year-old Israeli woman is lightly hurt after stones are hurled at her vehicle on Route 55, between the Palestinian towns of Khirbat al-Nabi Elias and Azzun in the West Bank, medics say.

She is taken by the Magen David Adom ambulance service to the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba.

MDA says she is suffering from blunt trauma to her face.

Lavrov: Moscow needs US guarantees over Russia sanctions before backing Iran nuke deal

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with his Kyrgyz counterpart in Moscow. on March 5, 2022. (Sergei Ilnitesky/Pool/AFP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with his Kyrgyz counterpart in Moscow. on March 5, 2022. (Sergei Ilnitesky/Pool/AFP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow is demanding guarantees from the US before backing the Iran nuclear deal, citing the current wave of Western sanctions against Russia.

“We requested that our US colleagues … give us written guarantees at the minimum level of Secretary of State that the current [sanctions] process launched by the US will not in any way harm our right to free, fully-fledged trade and economic and investment cooperation and military-technical cooperation with Iran,” Lavrov says at a news conference.

Officials say won’t allow US-sanctioned Russian oligarchs to stash private jets in Israel

Israeli officials say that while there has been no decision by Jerusalem to join the United States and numerous other countries in sanctioning Russian oligarchs after the invasion of Ukraine, they will not be allowed to park their private jets in Israel in an attempt to circumnavigate sanctions.

Hebrew-language media reports say that the Israel Airports Authority has instructed staff at Ben Gurion Airport not to approve long-term parking of private jets belonging to US-sanctioned Russians to prevent them from being stashed in Israel in an attempt to bypass sanctions.

Officials issue the clarification in the wake of a Ynet news site report.

Ukraine halts Mariupol evacuation as it accuses Russia of breaking local ceasefire

Officials in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which is surrounded by Russian forces, say they are delaying an evacuation of the civilian population, accusing Moscow’s troops of breaking a ceasefire.

“Due to the fact that the Russian side does not adhere to the ceasefire and has continued shelling both of Mariupol itself and its environs and for security reasons, the evacuation of the civilian population has been postponed,” city officials say in a statement on social media.

British nationals should consider leaving Russia, UK Foreign Office says

The British Foreign Office says that UK nationals who are in Russia should consider leaving the country if their presence is non-essential.

“Advise British nationals whose presence in Russia is not essential to consider leaving by remaining commercial routes,” the ministry says in a tweet.

Britain has already advised its citizens against travel to Russia due to a lack of travel options in the wake of sanctions, and increased economic volatility, the Reuters news agency reports.

Mariupol deputy mayor: Russia continuing to shell city despite local ceasefire for evacuation

Russian troops are continuing to shell Mariupol and the evacuation route out of the city despite an agreement for a local ceasefire to allow civilians to leave, the deputy mayor says.

“The Russians are continuing to bomb us and use artillery. It is crazy,” Mariupol deputy mayor Serhiy Orlov tells BBC.

“There is no ceasefire in Mariupol and there is no ceasefire all along the route. Our civilians are ready to escape but they cannot escape under shelling,” he says.

A resident of the city tells the British broadcaster that they can hear the shelling, adding that residents who have left the city along the evacuation route are turning around and coming back when they come under attack.

US-sanctioned Russian oligarchs won’t be allowed to land planes in Israel – report

Russian oligarchs who are under sanctions from the United States will reportedly be prevented from landing their planes in Israel.

The Ynet news site says they will also be not be allowed to moor their yachts at Israeli ports.

An unnamed Israeli official tells the site that “we must not be seen as a country through which sanctions can be circumvented.”

The United States imposed sanctions on the ultra-wealthy Russian oligarchs at the heart of President Vladimir Putin’s regime on Thursday in the latest ratcheting up of pressure on the Kremlin to halt its invasion of Ukraine.

They 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.

“The United States and governments all over the world will work to identify and freeze the assets Russian elites and their family members hold in our respective jurisdictions — their yachts, luxury apartments, money, and other ill-gotten gains.”

Blinken arrives in Poland for talks near Ukraine border

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he boards a military aircraft in Brussels, March 5, 2022 (Olivier Douliery, Pool Photo via AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he boards a military aircraft in Brussels, March 5, 2022 (Olivier Douliery, Pool Photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Poland for talks with officials as hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees pour into the country to escape the conflict.

The most senior US official to visit Poland since the war began, Blinken will hold talks with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau in Rzeszow, near the border with Ukraine.

More than 780,000 people have fled Ukraine into Poland since the invasion began on February 24.

Blinken is visiting key allies in Europe that are feeling the pressure from the war, to demonstrate Washington’s support for their security and shore up Western unity against Moscow.

Following his stop in Poland he will travel to Moldova, which has also experienced an inflow of Ukrainians, and the three Baltic states which are particularly concerned by Russian actions.

F1 team Haas sacks Russian driver Mazepin, ends his father’s team sponsorship

FILE - Haas driver Nikita Mazepin of Russia arrives to the Losail International Circuit in Losail, Qatar, Nov. 18, 2021 ahead of the Qatar Formula One Grand Prix (AP Photo/Darko Bandic, File)
FILE - Haas driver Nikita Mazepin of Russia arrives to the Losail International Circuit in Losail, Qatar, Nov. 18, 2021 ahead of the Qatar Formula One Grand Prix (AP Photo/Darko Bandic, File)

The Haas Formula One team terminates Russian driver Nikita Mazepin’s contract “with immediate effect” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Haas also ends its sponsorship with Russian company Uralkali, owned by Mazepin’s father.

Haas says in a statement that “the team is shocked and saddened by the invasion of Ukraine.”

Mazepin, 23, had raced for just one season with Haas but failed to register a point in the championship.

Mariupol city council: Russia not keeping to ceasefire terms for evacuation corridor

Mariupol’s city council says Russian troops are not keeping to the terms of the ceasefire along the entire route of a corridor planned for evacuation of civilians, the Reuters news agency reports.

Local officials say “fighting is taking place” in the Zaporizhzhia region.

“We are negotiating with the Russian side to confirm the ceasefire along the entire evacuation route,” the city says in a statement.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Saturday it agreed to open an evacuation route for residents of the strategic port of Mariupol in the southeast of Ukraine and Volnovakha in the east.

The ministry did not say for how long the routes would remain open.

UN says Ukraine refugee tally expected to reach 1.5 million in coming hours

Refugees, mostly women with children, arrive at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, March 5, 2022, after fleeing Russian invasion in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)
Refugees, mostly women with children, arrive at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, March 5, 2022, after fleeing Russian invasion in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, says he believes the number of refugees who have fled the Russian invasion of Ukraine will reach 1.5 million in the coming hours.

Grandi tells Sky News that the “human avalanche” of people leaving Ukraine will continue and in fact increase as Moscow’s aggression continues.

The United Nations’ Security Council will meet on Monday to discuss the worsening humanitarian crisis.

Red Cross acting as ceasefire guarantor to allow evacuation of Mariupol, Volnovakha – report

The Red Cross international aid organization is reportedly acting as guarantor for a ceasefire that has been negotiated to allow the evacuation of Mariupol and Volnovakha, which have been blockaded by Russian troops.

The Reuters news agency says the Ukrainian government hopes to evacuate around 200,000 people from Mariupol and 15,000 from Volnovakha.

There is still no official confirmation that firing has stopped to allow civilians to leave.

Mariupol deputy mayor: 9,000 people can leave city if ceasefire holds

Illustrative -- Ukrainian citizens are seen in front of a bus linking the Polish city of Swinoujscie with the Ukrainian city of Mariupol as they cross the border from Ukraine to Poland at the Korczowa-Krakovets border crossing on February 26, 2022 (JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP)
Illustrative -- Ukrainian citizens are seen in front of a bus linking the Polish city of Swinoujscie with the Ukrainian city of Mariupol as they cross the border from Ukraine to Poland at the Korczowa-Krakovets border crossing on February 26, 2022 (JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP)

Mariupol’s deputy mayor Serhiy Orlov tells the BBC that while officials believe up to 9,000 people will be able to leave the besieged city under a local ceasefire, it has been hard to update residents because Russian attacks have destroyed the infrastructure.

“The agreement was set up just a few hours ago, it was announced, and we confirmed the ceasefire started at 9 a.m. local time,” Orlov says.

“We immediately started our procedure to try and get people out. We have arranged 50 buses and we think 5 – 6,000 people can get out by bus to Zaporizhzhia,” he says.

“People can also leave by private car we believe. We think in total 7 – 9,000 people can escape by bus and by private car, if the ceasefire holds,” Orlov says. “You have to understand that the city has been without infrastructure for four days, so getting information out to people is difficult.”

Ukraine confirms humanitarian corridors will open from Mariupol and Volnovakha

A Ukrainian official confirms that humanitarian corridors will open from Mariupol and Volnovakha, to allow civilians to evacuate from the cities now under Russian blockade.

“In Mariupol and Volnovakha, evacuation humanitarian corridors are being prepared for opening,” tweets Mykhailo Podoliak, adviser to the head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office.

“The parties temporarily ceased fire in the area of corridors,” he says.

A top official in Mariupol says the ceasefire there is to last until 4 p.m. (2 p.m. GMT) and an evacuation along a humanitarian corridor would begin at 11 a.m. (9 a.m. GMT.)

Pavlo Kirilenko, head of the Donetsk military-civil administration that includes Mariupol, says the humanitarian corridor will extend from the city to Zaporizhzhia.

Ukraine says 66,224 men returned from abroad to fight Russian invasion

Roman, a former Ukrainian soldier injured in combat, gives instructions on how to handle weapons and move during conflict to civilians in the outskirts of Lviv, west Ukraine, March 3, 2022 (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Roman, a former Ukrainian soldier injured in combat, gives instructions on how to handle weapons and move during conflict to civilians in the outskirts of Lviv, west Ukraine, March 3, 2022 (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov says 66,224 Ukrainian men have returned to the country from abroad to fight Russia’s invasion.

“That’s how many men returned from abroad at this moment to defend their Country from the horde. These are 12 more combat and motivated brigades! Ukrainians, we are invincible!” tweets Oleksii Reznikov.

Ukraine has banned men aged 18-60 from leaving the country and has also called on foreign volunteers to join the country’s defense forces.

Washington Post removes bylines of Russia journalists; BBC promotes Russia site on dark web

The Washington Post says it will remove bylines and datelines on stories written by the newspaper’s journalists’ in Russia to ensure their safety.

The move comes after Russia signed into law a bill that criminalizes the intentional spreading of what Moscow deems to be “fake” reports.

Blocks were imposed on the BBC, the US government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based website Meduza.

In response, the BBC promoted it Ukrainian- and Russian-language services on the dark web.

The government’s sweeping action against the foreign outlets that publish news in Russian seeks to establish even tighter controls over what information the domestic audience sees about the invasion of Ukraine.

France says will work to secure Ukraine nuclear sites

This image made from a video released by Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant shows bright flaring object landing in grounds of the nuclear plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, March 4, 2022. (Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant via AP)
This image made from a video released by Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant shows bright flaring object landing in grounds of the nuclear plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, March 4, 2022. (Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant via AP)

PARIS — The office of President Emmanuel Macron says France will soon propose concrete measures to ensure the safety and security of Ukraine’s five main nuclear sites.

The safeguards will be drawn up on the basis of International Atomic Energy Agency criteria, a statement from the French presidency says.

A Russian attack on a nuclear plant sparked a fire on Friday and briefly raised worldwide fears of a catastrophe.

The statement says Macron is “extremely concerned about the risks to nuclear safety, security and the implementation of international safeguards resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Macron says Russia “must immediately cease its illegal and dangerous military actions” and allow Ukrainian authorities full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders.

He urges Russia to allow “free, regular and unhindered access for facility personnel to ensure their continued safe operation.”

Singapore announces sanctions for Russia over Ukraine invasion

A general view shows Parliament House in front of commercial buildings in the financial district in Singapore on March 1, 2022. (Roslan RAHMAN / AFP)
A general view shows Parliament House in front of commercial buildings in the financial district in Singapore on March 1, 2022. (Roslan RAHMAN / AFP)

Singapore announces sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, becoming one of the few governments in Southeast Asia to do so.

“The sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of all countries, big and small, must be respected,” says an announcement by the Foreign Ministry.

The tiny city-state imposes controls on exports or transshipments of military-related or dual use items considered “strategic goods.” It says the sanctions were aimed at constraining Russia’s ability to wage war and engage in “cyber aggression.”

The regional commercial hub also says it will prohibit all financial institutions from doing business with four Russian banks: VTB Bank, Bank Rossiya, the Promsvyazbank Public Joint Stock Co., and the Corporation Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs Vnesheconombank. Companies with existing dealings with the four must freeze their assets, it says.

The order also bans providing financial services or enabling financing for the Russian central bank, Russian government and entities owned or controlled by them.

Russia announces humanitarian corridor for civilian evacuation from Mariupol, Volnovakha

MOSCOW — Russia’s defense ministry announces a ceasefire to allow residents of two besieged cities, including the strategic port city of Mariupol, to evacuate.

“Today, March 5, from 10 am Moscow time, the Russian side declares a regime of silence and opens humanitarian corridors for the exit of civilians from Mariupol and Volnovakha,” it says.

The announcement comes after Mariupol’s mayor Vadim Boychenko said that the city was under “blockade” by Russian forces after days of “ruthless” attacks.

While laying siege to Mariupol for days, Russian forces have cut its electricity, food, water, heating and transportation in the depths of winter, prompting comparisons to the Nazi blockade of Leningrad in World War II.

Investigative journalist says he left Russia in middle of the night after crackdown on media

The investigations editor at news site Meduza says he left Russia in the middle of the night after the signing into law of a bill that criminalizes the intentional spreading of what Moscow deems to be “fake” reports.

“Never thought it’d come to this, but I did have to leave Russia, crossing the border on foot in the middle of the night, with my panic-packed bags on my back and my dog in tow,” tweets Alexey Kovalyov.

“Felt a massive door slam shut behind my back. Barely had enough time to call my parents. Crazy times,” he says.

Russian authorities have repeatedly and falsely decried reports of Russian military setbacks or civilian deaths in Ukraine as “fake” news.

State media outlets refer to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation” rather than a war or an invasion.

Russia has now blocked five foreign media organizations based abroad that publish news in Russian. The organizations are the BBC, the US government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based website Meduza.

UN Security Council to meet on deteriorating Ukraine humanitarian situation

A child fleeing form Ukraine waits with her family at a railway station in Zahony, Hungary, March 4, 2022 (AP Photo/Anna Szilagyi)
A child fleeing form Ukraine waits with her family at a railway station in Zahony, Hungary, March 4, 2022 (AP Photo/Anna Szilagyi)

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council is to hold an open meeting on the worsening humanitarian situation in Ukraine as the Russian offensive intensifies.

The United States and Albania request the meeting, which will hear briefings by UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and Catherine Russell, executive director of the UN. children’s agency UNICEF, diplomats say.

At the request of France and Mexico, the council meeting on Monday will be followed by closed consultations on a draft resolution on the humanitarian plight of millions of Ukrainians that the two countries have been spearheading, the diplomats say, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations on the meeting have been private.

The United Nations launched an emergency appeal on March 1 for $1.7 billion to respond to soaring humanitarian needs of both people who fled Ukraine and who remain in the country. It immediately received pledges of $1.5 billion, and has urged that the pledges be turned into cash quickly.

The UN estimates that 12 million people staying in Ukraine and four million fleeing to neighboring countries in the coming months will need humanitarian aid.

UN nuclear watchdog chief arrives in Tehran as UK says deal ‘close’

The UN nuclear watchdog’s chief has arrived in Tehran amid hopes of reviving the 2015 accord between Iran and world powers, with Britain saying a deal is “close.”

The visit by International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi, who is set to meet Iranian officials today, is seen as critical to clinching an agreement over a return to the nuclear deal, and comes in parallel to negotiations in the Austrian capital to salvage the accord.

Grossi “was received on arrival in Tehran by Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organisation” of Iran, the Iranian body says in a statement on its website. He is to meet with its chief later.

“This is a critical time but a positive outcome for everyone is possible,” Grossi wrote on Twitter Friday.

The next few days are widely seen as a crunch point for the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program — the latest round of which started in late November in Vienna.

Rafael Grossi, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, speaks to the press at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on March 4, 2022. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

China sets lowest GDP target in decades over ‘grave’ outlook

China sets its lowest GDP target in decades, as Premier Li Keqiang warns of a “grave and uncertain” outlook against the backdrop of the coronavirus, a property slump and uncertainty over the war in Ukraine.

Li announces the unusually modest target of around 5.5 percent — the lowest since 1991 — in his speech opening the annual session of China’s rubber-stamp parliament.

Addressing about 3,000 members of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing’s cavernous Great Hall of the People, Li says the world’s second-largest economy “will encounter many more risks and challenges, and we must keep pushing to overcome them.”

The target is based on a need to maintain stable employment, basic living needs and “guard against risks,” according to his speech, which is China’s version of an annual state of the nation address.

Samsung Electronics suspends shipments to Russia

Samsung Electronics has suspended shipments to Russia over “geopolitical developments,” the firm says, as major firms including Apple cut ties with the country over its invasion of Ukraine.

The South Korean tech giant is the world’s biggest memory chip maker and the leading smartphone seller in Russia.

“Due to current geopolitical developments, shipments to Russia have been suspended,” Samsung says in a statement. “We continue to actively monitor this complex situation to determine our next steps.”

The decision comes as Western governments, sporting organizations and big companies cut Russia off and deal it punishing sanctions over the internationally condemned attack on its neighbor.

Samsung controls just above 30 percent of the smartphone market share in Russia, according to Bloomberg News — four percent of the tech giant’s total global smartphone revenues.

A logo of Samsung Electronics is seen at Korea Electronics Show in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021 (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Strategic Ukrainian port Mariupol ‘blockaded’ by Russian forces: mayor

Ukraine’s strategic port city of Mariupol is under a “blockade” by Russian forces after days of “ruthless” attacks, its mayor says, calling for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor.

Located on the Sea of Azov, the city of 450,000 people has been bombarded by shellings and cut off without water or electricity in the depths of winter.

“For now, we are looking for solutions to humanitarian problems and all possible ways to get Mariupol out of the blockade,” says Vadim Boychenko in a message posted to the mayor’s Telegram account.

“Our priority is the establishment of a ceasefire so that we can restore vital infrastructure and set up a humanitarian corridor to bring food and medicine into the city,” he adds.

Capturing Mariupol would give Moscow’s invasion a strategic advantage, connecting it to the Russian forces coming from annexed Crimea — which have already taken the key ports of Berdiansk and Kherson — as well as to the troops in the Donbas.

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