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Zelensky says Russian hospital bombing is ‘proof of genocide’ against Ukrainians

Ukrainian president slams Western leaders for cowardice after Russia strikes maternity ward in bombardment of Mariupol, as civilian death toll in city passes 1,200

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 7, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 7, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

The Times of Israel live blogged Wednesday’s events as they unfolded.

Sony suspends PlayStation operations in Russia

Sony says it has halted PlayStation shipments to Russia and suspended operations of the gaming giant’s online store there, the latest global brand to shun the country over its invasion of Ukraine.

“Sony Interactive Entertainment joins the global community in calling for peace in Ukraine,” says a statement posted on PlayStation’s Twitter account.

“We have suspended all software and hardware shipments, the launch of Gran Turismo 7, and operations of the PlayStation Store in Russia.”

The statement adds that Japanese tech and entertainment giant Sony Group is donating $2 million to the UN refugee agency and Save the Children “to support the victims of this tragedy.”

A growing number of multinationals, from McDonald’s to Adidas and Samsung, have fully or partially halted business in Russia after its invasion of its neighboring country two weeks ago.

Some have cited supply chain disruption while others have directly linked the move to outrage over President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops to Ukraine.

International Monetary Fund approves $1.4 billion in aid for Ukraine

The International Monetary Fund board approves $1.4 billion in emergency financing for Ukraine to help the country deal with the “massive humanitarian and economic crisis” caused by the Russian invasion.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva says the package provides “critical financial support” which in turn will catalyze a “large-scale mobilization” of funding needed to “mitigate the economic impacts of the war.”

Twitter launches service to bypass Russian censorship

Twitter launches a privacy-protected version of its site to bypass surveillance and censorship after Russia restricted access to its service in the country.

Russia has blocked access to Facebook and has limited Twitter in an attempt to try to restrict the flow of information about its war in Ukraine. Both companies have said they are working on restoring access to people inside Russia even as they restrict the country’s state media from their services.

Known as an “onion” service, users can access this version of Twitter if they download the Tor browser, which allows people to access sites on what is also referred to as the “dark web.” Instead of .com, onion sites have a .onion suffix.

While the term “dark web” connotes illegal sites such as the now-defunct Silk Road drug market, it is also often used by people seeking to remain anonymous for their safety and also to access sites censored by repressive governments.

Facebook and other sites such as the BBC also have versions accessible on Tor.

Software engineer and internet security expert Alec Muffett, who has worked with other companies to set up onion sites, announces Twitter’s new service on his own Twitter account.

“This is possibly the most important and long-awaited tweet that I’ve ever composed,” he writes.

Elderly and disabled Ukrainians trapped by Russian invasion, aid groups say

Millions of elderly and disabled Ukrainians are “at high risk” as they are unable to flee the fighting, the UK Disasters Emergency Committee alliance of leading aid charities warn.

More than two million people have already fled Russia’s military assault and “older people and those with disabilities in Ukraine risk being left behind and urgently need protection and assistance,” the DEC says.

There are more than seven million people aged 60 or more in Ukraine and 2.7 million people with disabilities, according to the European Disability Forum.

“Many cannot escape from affected areas nor seek shelter from bombings due to lack of mobility. They are also at risk of violence and neglect,” says the DEC, which represents the British Red Cross and 14 other groups.

Age International director Chris Roles says that many of the elderly and disabled “may be housebound or unable to walk without support.”

“Many older people will be completely alone, isolated and frightened. Some can’t make the long arduous journey out of the country because their health is bad,” Roles says.

A survey of the eastern Donbas region, where fighting has been going on in places since 2014, indicates that more than 90% of the elderly there need help to get food and cannot heat their homes in freezing conditions.

Around 80% of older people report “insufficient access to clean drinking water due to active shelling and airstrikes disrupting water supplies,” the DEC says.

More than a third of older people are in urgent need of medication for chronic diseases, and three-quarters need hygiene items such as toothpaste, soap and toilet paper.

Ukraine says Russians forcing Ukrainian nuclear plant staff to make propaganda

Ukraine’s energy minister says Russian forces that now control a Ukrainian nuclear plant are forcing the exhausted staff to record an address that they plan to use for propaganda purposes.

Russian troops have been in control of the Zaporizhzhia plant, the largest in Europe, since seizing it an attack on Friday that set a building on fire and raised fears of a nuclear disaster. It was later determined that no radiation was released.

Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko says on Facebook that about 500 Russian soldiers and 50 pieces of heavy equipment are inside the station. He says the Ukrainian staff are “physical and emotionally exhausted.”

Russia describes the war as a “special military operation” and says it is conducting targeted attacks. Halushchenko’s reference to propaganda appears to refer to Russian efforts to show it is not endangering Ukrainian civilians or infrastructure.

New Russian demands reportedly threaten Iran nuclear negotiations

Last-minute Russian demands are threatening negotiations aimed at reviving the Iranian nuclear deal, Reuters reports.

Russia demanded the US guarantee that Western sanctions against Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine not affect Russian trade with Iran, the report says, citing a European diplomat.

Two other diplomats tell Reuters that Russia’s exact demands are unclear.

The US is unwilling to discuss Russia’s new demands, the report says.

The revived deal, which would bring back the US and Iran to the nuclear accord, was said to be nearly complete.

Iran and world powers are holding talks in Vienna. Iran’s negotiator returned to Vienna today from Tehran.

Russian negotiator Mikhail Ulyanov denies that Russia was impeding progress and defends its stance.

“In view of the new circumstances and wave of sanctions against Russia we have the right to protect our interests in the nuclear field and wider context,” he says.

US warns Russia may deploy chemical weapons in Ukraine

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki says Russia may deploy chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, after Russia accused the US and Ukraine of using those weapons, and China repeated Russia’s accusations.

“We should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them. It’s a clear pattern,” Psaki says.

The State Department says in a statement that Russia is “spreading outright lies” that the US and Ukraine are conducting chemical and biological weapons activities, and that Chinese officials are echoing Russian conspiracy theories.

The US calls the claims “total nonsense and not the first time Russia has invented such false claims.”

“Russia is inventing false pretexts in an attempt to justify its own horrific actions in Ukraine,” the statement says.

The US does not own or operate any chemical or biological laboratories in Ukraine or anywhere else, and is in full compliance with international conventions, it says.

“Russia has a track record of accusing the West of the very crimes that Russia itself is perpetrating. These tactics are an obvious ploy by Russia to try to justify further premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attacks on Ukraine,” the State Department says.

US intelligence has consistently warned of Russian moves in Ukraine before they happened in recent weeks.

In the Syrian civil war, the Assad regime, while allied with Russia, used chemical weapons against civilians.

Zelensky: Why are hospitals a threat to Russia?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lashes Western leaders and Russia after a hospital was bombed in the city of Mariupol.

“Today is the day that defines everything. It defines who is on which side,” he says in a video posted to social media, according to a translation by the Kyiv Independent.

“Russian bombs fell on a children’s hospital and maternity hospital in Mariupol. As of now, 17 people are injured. Rescuers are still going through the debris.”

“What kind of country is Russia if it’s afraid of hospitals and maternity wards, and destroys them? Why were they a threat to Russian Federation?”

“Were there little nationalists there? Were pregnant women going to shoot missiles at Rostov? Did someone in that maternity hospital offend Russian-speaking people?”

“Dropping a bomb on a maternity hospital — it’s the ultimate proof that what is happening is genocide of Ukrainians.”

“Europeans, you can’t say you didn’t see what is happening. You have to tighten the sanctions until Russia can’t continue their savage war.”

“Together, we need to return to some Western leaders their bravery, so that they do what they should have done on the first day of this invasion: either close the Ukrainian sky or give us fighter jets so we do it ourselves.”

Усе, що окупанти роблять із Маріуполем, – це вже за межею звірства. Європейці! Українці! Маріупольці! Сьогодні ми…

Posted by Володимир Зеленський on Wednesday, March 9, 2022

1,207 civilians died in 9-day Russian siege of Ukraine’s Mariupol — mayor

People walk next to an apartment building hit by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
People walk next to an apartment building hit by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Mariupol’s mayor says that 1,207 civilians have died in the nine-day Russian siege of the city.

Lapid discusses Ukraine invasion with Italian counterpart

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid says he just got off the phone with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and that the two discussed “the situation in Ukraine and its global consequences.”

“I updated him on the humanitarian aid Israel has sent to Ukraine. I also invited him to visit Israel, and we agreed to continue to work together to strengthen ties between our nations,” Lapid tweets.

US conclusively rejects ‘high risk’ Polish jet transfer to Ukraine

The Pentagon has offered a conclusive rejection of a plan to transfer fighter jets from Poland to Ukraine to battle Russian forces there, saying the “high risk” move could have been interpreted as an escalation.

After US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Polish counterpart earlier today, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby tells reporters that “we do not support the transfer of additional fighter aircraft to the Ukrainian Air Force at this time, and therefore have no desire to see them in our custody.”

“That is something that we are not going to explore right now,” Kirby added, regarding Poland’s offer to send its fleet of Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Kyiv via a US airbase in Germany.

Turkey to host top Russia, Ukraine diplomats in long-shot bid for peace

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) and Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. (Composite/AP)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) and Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. (Composite/AP)

The Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers will Thursday hold face-to-face talks in southern Turkey in the first high-level contact between Kyiv and Moscow since Russia invaded its neighbor two weeks ago.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has pushed for Turkey to play a mediation role, has expressed hope the talks can avert tragedy and even help agree on a ceasefire.

But analysts fear there are only the lowest chances of a breakthrough at the meeting in Antalya between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.

Senior Ukrainian officials, including the defense minister, have held a sequence of meetings with a Russian delegation in Belarus largely devoted to humanitarian issues, but Moscow has not sent any ministers to the talks.

Lavrov and Kuleba will be joined at the meeting Thursday morning by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, with NATO member Turkey keen to maintain strong relations with both sides despite the conflict.

Kuleba confirms in a video on Facebook he was preparing to meet Lavrov on Thursday, warning that his expectations were “limited.”

He says the success of the talks would depend on “what instructions and directives Lavrov is under” from the Kremlin at the discussions.

“I am not pinning any great hopes on them but we will try and get the most out of” the talks with effective preparation, he says.

Zelensky discusses humanitarian corridors with EU chief

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he discussed humanitarian corridors and other issues with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday.

Zelensky tweets that they agreed on “the need to ensure effective humanitarian corridors for civilians” during the call.

The Ukrainian president notes that he again raised the issue of EU membership for Ukraine and expressed his gratitude for another EU sanctions package against Russia.

Amazon to suspend shipments of products to customers in Russia and Belarus

The Amazon logo in Santa Monica, California, September 6, 2012. (/Reed Saxon/AP)
The Amazon logo in Santa Monica, California, September 6, 2012. (/Reed Saxon/AP)

Amazon says it will suspend shipments of products sold on its website to customers based in Russia and Belarus.

The e-commerce giant says in a blog update on its website that it will also suspend Prime Video access for customers based in Russia and will stop taking orders for New World, the only video game the company says it sells directly in Russia.

The retailer added new Russia and Belarus-based third-party sellers won’t be able to sell on its site.

The retailer had said earlier in the day that its cloud computing network, Amazon Web Services, will also stop allowing new sign-ups in Russia and Belarus.

Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov had called on the company to stop providing AWS in Russia, suggesting in a letter sent to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos that not doing so could be supporting “bloodshed and disinformation that can be leveraged through digital infrastructures.”

Grossi to travel to Turkey as concerns rise over security of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors

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)

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog says he will travel to Antalya in Turkey on Thursday at the invitation of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as concerns rise over the security of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors.

Cavusoglu will host a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in Antalya as the two-week-long war in Ukraine claims more victims.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi tweets that he will attend meetings and hopes “to make progress on the urgent issue of ensuring the safety and security of #Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. We need to act now!”

Concerns rose today over the safety of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant, which Russian troops seized early in the invasion and which lost power and had to revert to backup generators. The state communications agency said the power outage could put systems for cooling nuclear material at risk. The site has been under control of Russian troops since last week.

Ukraine’s nuclear regulator said remote data transmission from monitoring systems at Chernobyl has been lost.

The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog said it saw no critical impact on safety at Chernobyl because there could be “effective heat removal without need for electrical supply” from spent nuclear fuel at the site.

UAE says it’ll urge other OPEC members to boost oil output

UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba speaks on a Zoom panel organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on February 1, 2021. (Screen capture/YouTube)
UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba speaks on a Zoom panel organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on February 1, 2021. (Screen capture/YouTube)

The United Arab Emirates says it will urge OPEC to consider boosting oil output.

The announcement followed a US ban on imports of Russian oil, the latest in a series of sanctions designed to punish Russia for the war in Ukraine. Oil prices have risen sharply since Russia — the world’s third-largest oil producer — invaded Ukraine late last month.

“We favor production increases and will be encouraging OPEC to consider higher production levels,” UAE’s ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, said in a statement posted on his embassy’s website. He said his country believes that stability in energy markets is critical to the global economy.

The UAE is a longtime member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which last week, along with its oil-producing allies including Russia, said it was sticking to its plan to gradually increase oil production rather than opening the spigots further.

The UAE was the world’s seventh-largest oil-producing nation in 2020, according to US Department of Energy figures published in December of last year.

Oil prices surged Tuesday after President Joe Biden announced the US ban on Russian oil. But the possibility of increased OPEC output helped send prices tumbling Wednesday. A barrel of US crude oil dropped 11% to $110.12.

Kerry: Ukraine invasion underscores links between regional security and climate stability

United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry attends a joint press conference with French Economy and Finance minister Bruno Le Maire, at Bercy Ministry in Paris, Wednesday, March 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry attends a joint press conference with French Economy and Finance minister Bruno Le Maire, at Bercy Ministry in Paris, Wednesday, March 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Russia’s “illegal, unprovoked” and “cruel” war against Ukraine is underscoring the many different ways in which peace, security and a stable climate are linked, US climate envoy John Kerry says.

Kerry told an informal UN Security Council meeting on Climate Finance for Sustaining Peace that “the crisis in Ukraine really does underscore the risks that we face in the current volatile and uncertain energy markets.”

The US special presidential envoy for climate says in a virtual speech that “Russia has attacked a nuclear facility in Ukraine, dangerous in and of itself, risky.”

There is increasing concern over the safety of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant, which Russian troops seized early in the invasion and which lost power and had to revert to backup generators. And there is also concern about the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest in Europe, which Russia seized last week.

The United States is responding by banning the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal, “and many other nations are now rethinking their reliance on Russian energy sources,” Kerry says. The “instability, conflict, death destruction” in Ukraine is happening in the context of “a global existential crisis” of global warming that scientists have warned about for decades, he says.

“We are actually living through the consequences of that crisis,” Kerry says.

Omnibus package to be passed by Congress includes Israel Normalization Act

US President Joe Biden is flanked by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., right, after arriving on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 6, 2022.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
US President Joe Biden is flanked by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., right, after arriving on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Wrapped into the $1.5 trillion Omnibus spending bill that Congress is set to pass this week in order to prevent a government shutdown is the Israel Normalization Act.

The legislation will include language supporting a two-state solution, which had been the reason why Republican Senator Ted Cruz was blocking the bill from advancing for months.

The omnibus package will also include $50 million in funding for the Middle East Peace Partnership Act, which grants $250 million in Congressional funding over five years for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue programs and Palestinian business development.

The package also includes $219 million for the Economic Support Fund, which goes toward humanitarian projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This is the highest amount in at least a decade.

Forty million dollars in assistance for the Palestinian security forces is also included in the bill.

JDC says its evacuated 3,000 Jews from Ukraine to Moldova

The Joint Distribution Committee reports that it has evacuated more than 3,000 Jews from Ukraine to Moldova, working together with local Jewish communities in Ukraine, Chabad, the Jewish Agency, and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

The JDC is caring for the Jewish refugees in Poland, Hungary and Romania, together with the local Jewish communities there, providing food, medical care, shelter and other essentials, and a community to connect with until they decide their next steps.

Devout Jews in Ukraine stay to pray and await ‘apocalypse’

In a synagogue in the western Ukrainian city of Uman, two people are worshipping in the cold and darkness.

They carefully lay down their “tefillin” prayer boxes before heading into another room for the morning service, where their voices compete with the sound of air sirens outside.

“We spend the whole day in the synagogue, praying, studying the Torah,” says Odele, 46, who asked to withhold her surname.

She left Israel a year ago to live here, some 200 kilometers south of Kyiv, to be close to the grave of the revered rabbi, Nachman of Breslov, who founded a Hasidic movement that settled in this town in early 1800s.

She leans over her prayer book, lit with a pocket torch. Her son, one of her nine children, is glued to her side.

The war, she says, is “a sign from the messiah.”

“It was written. It will start with war, then will come the apocalypse,” says Odele.

Foreign Ministry caught off guard by Herzog’s announcement of Turkish FM’s visit

President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Screen capture/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Screen capture/GPO)

The Foreign Ministry was caught off guard by President Isaac Herzog’s announcement after his meeting with Turkish President Erdogan that Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu would be visiting Israel in the coming weeks, sources familiar with the matter tell The Times of Israel.

Lavrov lands in Turkey for talks with Ukraine top diplomat

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 Wednesday landed in Turkey for face-to-face talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, the first high-level contact with Kyiv since Russia invaded Ukraine, a Turkish official told AFP.

The talks scheduled for Thursday morning in the southern city of Antalya come as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pushed for Ankara to play a mediation role.

Opposition candidate Yoon elected South Korean president

Yoon Suk-yeol, the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party, raises his hand during a presidential election campaign in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Yoon Suk-yeol, the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party, raises his hand during a presidential election campaign in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Opposition conservative Yoon Suk-yeol has been elected South Korean president, the Yonhap news agency reports after rival Lee Jae-myung from the ruling Democratic Party conceded.

“With 98 percent of the vote counted, Yoon had 48.59 percent of the vote against Lee of the liberal Democratic Party (DP)’s 47.79 percent,” Yonhap reports.

White House slams ‘barbaric’ use of force after Ukraine hospital strike

Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

The White House Wednesday slams the “barbaric” use of force against civilians after an apparent Russian airstrike on a children’s hospital in Ukraine.

“It is horrifying to see the type of, the barbaric use of military force to go after innocent civilians in a sovereign country,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki tells reporters when questioned about the strike.

Zelensky looking to present Ukraine’s case to Israel in speech before Knesset — report

In this March 8, 2022, image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Instagram, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy winks as he speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
In this March 8, 2022, image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Instagram, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy winks as he speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is looking to give a Zoom speech before the Knesset in which he would present his country’s plight and ask for Israel’s support, according to the Walla news site.

He has given similar speeches before the parliaments of the UK, Canada and the EU.

Kyiv’s ambassador to Israel filed a request to Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy, but the matter may be complicated as the parliament begins its recess tomorrow and therefore a special meeting would have to be called.

Levy has suggested that Zelensky hold a smaller Zoom with MK members that would not be at the plenum.

Report: Western officials fear Russia will use chemical weapons in Ukraine

A car burns at the side of the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A car burns at the side of the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Western officials are concerned that Russian may begin using non-conventional weapons, such as chemical weapons, in Ukraine, BBC reports.

“We’ve got good reason to be concerned,” one Western official tells the outlet.

The officials point to Russia’s use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria as part of the basis for their concerns.

A US official tells Reuters Washington has reason to believe that Russia has been using “dumb bombs” in Ukraine, which are less accurate and are more likely to lead to civilian casualties.

Israel said readying to establish 2nd field hospital on Ukrainian border

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 is preparing to set up a second field hospital to treat fleeing Ukrainians, Kan reports.

This one will be on Ukraine’s border with Romania.

Report: Pro-Kremlin accounts photoshopping swastikas onto Zelensky photos

A doctored photo of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky alongside the original. (Screen capture/Shayan Sardarizadeh's Twitter account)
A doctored photo of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky alongside the original. (Screen capture/Shayan Sardarizadeh's Twitter account)

A doctored image of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holding a jersey bearing a swastika has been spread by pro-Kremlin accounts, BBC reports.

The original photo was posted by Zelensky on his Instagram account ahead of the 2020 Euro cup.

No fry zone?: McDonald’s in Moscow remains open despite chain claiming otherwise

A McDonald's branch in Moscow open on March 9, 2022. (Screen capture/Channel 12)
A McDonald's branch in Moscow open on March 9, 2022. (Screen capture/Channel 12)

Channel 12 airs footage from Israelis in Moscow that shows Mcdonald’s and Starbucks branches in Russia’s capital remain open, despite announcements yesterday by both chains that they would be shutting down operations in the country due to its invasion of Ukraine.

The footage also shows a supermarket full of produce, apparently not impacted by the sanctions announced against the country.

An H&M store in Moscow is closed though, in line with the company’s decision to freeze its services in Russia.

Czech Republic to allow Ukrainian refugees to work without permit

The Czech government has agreed to give refugees from Ukraine free access to the labor market without any work permit.

Labor and Social Affairs Minister Marian Jurecka says that the refugees will be in a position “of any other citizen” if they want to get a job.

The refugees will only need to get a visa for their stay in the Czech Republic to work. Assistance centers in all regions of the Czech Republic are working around the clock to provide all necessary documents and other initial help, including housing, to the refugees.

It’s estimated some 150,000 people have arrived in the country that doesn’t border Ukraine invaded by the Russian troops.

Jurecka says there are some 350,000 jobs currently available in the Czech Republic.

The government also approved a plan to give all the refugees a financial contribution of $215 on arrival. They would be able to receive it monthly six times if needed.

Report: British intel believes Russian forces will reach Kyiv in four days

A Belarusian volunteer receives military training at the Belarusian Company base in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A Belarusian volunteer receives military training at the Belarusian Company base in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

British intelligence services believe that Russian forces will reach the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in roughly four days, according to Kan, citing foreign media reports.

In addition to FM, Turkish energy minister also to pay visit to Israel next month

Turkey’s Energy Minister Fatih Donmez will visit Israel in the coming weeks in addition to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Kan reports.

The planned visit indicates the issue that is of greatest concern to Turkey, which is ensuring its inclusion in gas agreements Israel has been signing with its European and Middle Eastern neighbors.

Photos show extent of damage at Mariupol maternity hospital from Russian strike

A volunteer works inside of the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A volunteer works inside of the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
An injured pregnant woman walks downstairs in the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A car burns at the side of the shelled maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from the shelled maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A man carries his child away from the shelled maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Gantz hails Herzog’s visit to Turkey, calling effort to renew ties a security interest

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks during a Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, on February 22, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks during a Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, on February 22, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz hails President Isaac Herzog’s visit to Turkey, saying the effort to restore ties with Ankara, “stems from a common security interest of the two countries and the need to maintain world and Middle East stability.”

Gantz makes the comments at an event marking the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the pre-state Zionist paramilitary organization.

UK’s PM calls attack on Ukraine children’s hospital ‘depraved’

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Anglesey, North Wales, January 27, 2022. (Carl Recine/Pool Photo via AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to Anglesey, North Wales, January 27, 2022. (Carl Recine/Pool Photo via AP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemns an air strike on a children’s hospital in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, vowing to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin to account “for his terrible crimes”.

“There are few things more depraved than targeting the vulnerable and defenseless,” Johnson tweets.

Britain calls on all G7 members to ban Russia oil imports

Britain's Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss delivers a speech during the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, on March 1, 2022. (SALVATORE DI NOLFI / various sources / AFP)
Britain's Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss delivers a speech during the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, on March 1, 2022. (SALVATORE DI NOLFI / various sources / AFP)

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss calls on the entire G7 to ban Russia oil imports, saying the world’s leading economies should “go further and faster” in punishing Moscow and President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine.

“We must double down on our sanctions. That includes… the G7 ending its use of Russian oil and gas” and a ban on Russian banks using the SWIFT bank messaging system, Truss says in a joint press conference at the US State Department alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

European stocks close sharply higher

Europe’s main stock markets closes sharply higher as investors took relief at comments by Russian officials on the conflict in Ukraine.

Frankfurt closes with a gain of 7.9 percent, Paris 7.1% and London 3.3%.

‘Big Four’ tobacco producers begin their own sanctions on Russia over invasion

This is a Monday, July 24, 2017 file photo of the logo for British American Tobacco appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew/File)
This is a Monday, July 24, 2017 file photo of the logo for British American Tobacco appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (AP Photo/Richard Drew/File)

LONDON — British American Tobacco says it has suspended all planned capital investment in Russia but continues to operate there, even as many other Western brands announce they’re halting all business in the country because of the Ukraine invasion.

The company, one of the so-called Big Four tobacco producers, says that it has a “duty of care” to all its 2,500 employees in Russia. BAT says it’s focusing on its locally produced tobacco products in Russia, where it has substantial manufacturing and has been operating since 1991.

“Furthermore, we are scaling our business activities appropriate to the current situation, including rationalizing our marketing activities,” the company says, adding it’s complying with all international sanctions related to the conflict.

The company says it is “deeply concerned about the conflict in Ukraine,” where it employs 1,000 people and has suspended all business and manufacturing.

In contrast, another major tobacco producer, Imperial Brands, said earlier Wednesday it would halt all operations in Russia, including production at its factory in Volgograd and ceasing all sales and marketing activity.

Separately, S&P Global Ratings said it has suspended commercial operations in Russia. The credit rating agency said it would maintain analytical coverage from outside Russia.

US says it deployed two Patriot missile defense batteries in Poland

Illustrative: In this handout file photo provided by the Israeli Army on February 22, 2001, a Patriot anti-missile missile is launched on the last day of joint five-day US-Israeli military exercise in the Negev desert. (Israel Defense Forces/AFP)
Illustrative: In this handout file photo provided by the Israeli Army on February 22, 2001, a Patriot anti-missile missile is launched on the last day of joint five-day US-Israeli military exercise in the Negev desert. (Israel Defense Forces/AFP)

The United States has deployed two new Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries in Poland, in keeping with commitments to defend its NATO allies, a senior Pentagon official says.

The missile batteries, normally stationed in Germany, were repositioned at Poland’s “invitation,” the official says on condition of anonymity.

The move is seen as reflecting growing fear that a Russian missile could — deliberately or not — cross the border from neighboring Ukraine into NATO member Poland.

17 staff wounded by airstrike on Mariupol children’s hospital — Ukrainian official

A maternity hospital in Mariupol that was hit by Russian shelling on March 9, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)
A maternity hospital in Mariupol that was hit by Russian shelling on March 9, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)

Seventeen staff members have been wounded in Russian airstrike that hit Mariupol children’s hospital, a Ukrainian official tells AFP.

Putin blames ‘nationalists’ for derailing evacuation of civilians from Ukrainian cities

A Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces member holds an NLAW anti-tank weapon, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 9, 2022.  (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces member holds an NLAW anti-tank weapon, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Russian President Vladimir Putin blames Ukrainian “nationalists” for hampering the evacuation of civilians from besieged Ukrainian cities.

The Kremlin says that Putin discussed the situation in Ukraine in today’s phone call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, with a “special emphasis given to the humanitarian aspects.” It says that Putin told Scholz about Russian “efforts to organize humanitarian corridors for civilians to exit areas of fighting and attempts by militants from nationalist units to hamper safe evacuation of people.”

Ukrainian officials say that the continuous Russian shelling has derailed efforts to evacuate civilians from areas affected by fighting.

‘Alliance of hate’: Coalition MK blasts Pence for meeting with Ben Gvir and Marzel

Meretz MK Mossi Raz attends a lobby meeting in the Knesset, on June 22, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Meretz MK Mossi Raz attends a lobby meeting in the Knesset, on June 22, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meretz MK Mossi Raz tears into former US vice president Mike Pence who, touring the West Bank city of Hebron today with a group of settler leaders, was greeted by far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir and banned would-be Knesset member Baruch Marzel.

“Today Mike Pence met with Baruch Marzel & Itamar Ben-Gvir who have worked for years to cleanse the old center of Hebron of its Palestinian population,” Raz tweets. Marzel was barred from running in Knesset elections due to previous incitement to violence.

“This alliance of hate demands that we strengthen the progressive alliance for justice and freedom on both sides of the Atlantic,” Raz adds.

Update: The Times of Israel was told Thursday that Pence did not tour with Ben Gvir and Marzel, but rather that they greeted him at their initiative during his visit.

Mothers’ exposure to air pollution linked to low birth weight of babies — Israeli study

A coal-fired power plant and steam from a refinery next to a wind generator in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, on January 16, 2020.  (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
A coal-fired power plant and steam from a refinery next to a wind generator in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, on January 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

A new study from Hebrew University links mothers’ exposure to air pollution to low birth weights among the babies they deliver.

The study examines the birth weight of 380,000 babies born to mothers throughout Israel during the years 2004-2015.

“The study clearly showed the association between the level of the air pollutant PM 2.5 and low birth weight,” according to a press statement from Hebrew University. “It also revealed that mothers who were underweight and those of lower socioeconomic status were more vulnerable to exposure to air pollution.”

Mike Pence tours Hebron with settler leaders, run into Ben Gvir, Marzel

Former US vice president Mike Pence outside Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs on March 9, 2022. MK Itamar Ben-Gvir is at far right. (Mike Pence/Twitter)
Former US vice president Mike Pence outside Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs on March 9, 2022. MK Itamar Ben-Gvir is at far right. (Mike Pence/Twitter)

Former US vice president Mike Pence tours the West Bank city of Hebron, meeting with leaders of the Jewish settler community in the flashpoint town.

Greeting Pence in the course of his visit are neo-Kahanist MK Itamar Ben Gvir and Baruch Marzel, who was barred from running in Knesset elections due to incitement to violence. Marzel served as chief of staff to the extremist former lawmaker Meir Kahane.

Update: The Times of Israel was told Thursday that Pence did not tour with Ben Gvir and Marzel, as reported earlier, but rather that they greeted him at their initiative during his visit.

“Great honor for Karen Pence and I to travel to Hebron today to visit the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs at the Cave of Machpelah that Abraham bought to bury Sarah nearly 4,000 years ago,” Pence tweets.

Senior PA official says he met with Lapid, raised need for political horizon

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, left, and Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Commissioner Hussein al-Sheikh. (Flash90; Wafa)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, left, and Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Commissioner Hussein al-Sheikh. (Flash90; Wafa)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh, in the second such meeting over the past few months, Israeli and Palestinian officials say.

Al-Sheikh is a close adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the official responsible for managing Ramallah’s ties with Israel. For decades, senior Israeli officials rarely met with their Palestinian counterparts, but that has begun to change under the current government.

Al-Sheikh writes in a tweet that he told Lapid about the need for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as well as the “regional and international situation.”

“I assured him of the need for a political horizon based on signed agreements [between Israel and the PA] and international resolutions, as well as the cessation of unilateral measures that impede a two-state solution,” writes al-Sheikh.

A spokesperson for Lapid confirms the meeting but adds no further details.

Putin, Scholz discuss ‘diplomatic’ efforts to settle Ukraine conflict

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz discuss diplomatic ways to settle the Ukraine conflict and the implementation of humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians, the Kremlin says.

“In the context of the developing situation around a special military operation to protect Donbas, various political and diplomatic efforts have been discussed, in particular a third round of talks between a Russian delegation and representatives of the Kyiv authorities,” the Kremlin says in a statement, referring to eastern Ukraine.

The Kremlin says that the two leaders discussed “the humanitarian aspects of the situation” in Ukraine and separatist regions.

Putin informs Scholz of measures being taken to evacuate civilians and “attempts of fighters of nationalist groupings” to scupper those plans.

Russia and Ukraine agreed to open more humanitarian corridors on Wednesday to evacuate terrified civilians from bombarded cities, while new concerns emerged over the Chernobyl nuclear plant after a power cut.

As fighting raged on the 14th day of what the Kremlin has termed a “special military operation”, safe routes were opening out of five Ukrainian areas including suburbs of the capital Kyiv that have been devastated by Russian shelling and air strikes.

Herzog, Erdogan discuss creating mechanism for solving possible spats in the future

President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Screen capture/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Screen capture/GPO)

During their closed-door meeting, presidents Herzog and Erdogan discussed establishing a mechanism that will help lower tensions if diplomatic spats arise in the future, an Israeli official says.

The two leaders also discussed Israel’s ties with Greece and Cyprus, which is a matter of concern for Turkey, the official says.

They discussed Hamas, which received backing from Turkey — a matter of concern raised by Israel in the past.

The possibility of returning ambassadors to each other’s capitals will be discussed by foreign ministers when Turkey’s Mevlut Cavusoglu visits Israel in the coming weeks.

Turkish FM to visit Israel, West Bank in coming weeks

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gives a statement in Brussels, January 21, 2021. (Stephanie Lecocq/Pool Photo via AP)
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gives a statement in Brussels, January 21, 2021. (Stephanie Lecocq/Pool Photo via AP)

President Herzog announces that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will visit Israel in the coming weeks, the first such visit in roughly 15 years

Cavusoglu tells the Walla news site he will also visit the West Bank.

In effort to bury the hatchet, Herzog says actions will determine nature of ties with Turkey

President Isaac Herzog meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog thanks Turkish President Erdogan for hosting him during his remarks to reporters after their closed-door meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara.

Speaking in Hebrew, Herzog acknowledges the recent difficult period in relations between the two countries, but says that the nature of ties will be determined by actions from here on out.

Herzog says their renewed dialogue can lead to boosted collaboration in the tourism, economy, energy, security and climate crisis sectors.

“The visit is an important moment in the relations between the countries and a great privilege for both of us to lay the foundations of this new development in friendship between our peoples,” Herzog says, saying the relations have “ancient historical and cultural roots.”

“We will strive to resolve disputes with respect and openness,” he says.

“Partnership in the Middle East is important to all of us,” Herzog continues. “All of us, Muslim Jews and Christians can and should live in peace in this beautiful space.”

The president notes that the Israeli government is working to end the conflict in Ukraine. “I hope that those efforts will yield positive results.”

“In these days we want to convey a message to the world about creating hope. I pray that God will be by our side and accompany us on our new path,” he ends.

Erdogan: Herzog’s visit will be turning point in Turkey’s ties with Israel

President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Screen capture/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Screen capture/GPO)

President Erdogan and President Herzog have begun their opening remarks to the press after their closed-door meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara.

“I am pleased to welcome President Herzog to the Presidential Complex in Ankara. Welcome to Turkey. I believe that this historic visit will be a turning point in relations between Turkey and Israel. Strengthening relations with the State of Israel has great value for our country,” Erdogan says.

Erdogan says expanding the dialogue between the countries will help lead to solutions to issues of controversy. He notes that trade has flourished in recent years, despite the lag in ties.

Erdogan emphasizes energy and trade collaborations and discusses the recent visit of a delegation of Turkish leaders in Israel.

The Turkish leader says the two discussed the Palestinian issue during their closed-door meeting. “It is important to reduce tensions in the region and preserve chances for a two-state solution,” Erdogan says.

Erdogan closes by condemning antisemitism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism. “Antisemitism is a crime against humanity,” he says.

Russia admits conscripts ‘take part’ in Ukraine operation, some captured

This picture shows an apartment building damaged after shelling the day before in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv on March 8, 2022. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)
This picture shows an apartment building damaged after shelling the day before in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv on March 8, 2022. (Sergey BOBOK / AFP)

The Russian army admits for the first time that conscripts were taking part in Moscow’s military advance in Ukraine, after President Vladimir Putin vowed only professional soldiers were there.

Since Moscow poured in troops to Ukraine on February 24, there have been widespread reports of young conscripts fighting in the pro-Western country, with mothers of conscripts taking to social media to look for their sons and rights groups saying they were inundated with calls from conscripts’ families.

On Monday, Putin said he will not send conscripts or reservists to fight in Ukraine and that only “professional” soldiers were taking part in the conflict.

The Russian defense ministry spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, says that some conscripts had been captured by Ukrainian forces.

“Unfortunately, several instances of the presence of conscripts in the units of the Russian armed forces participating in the special military operation on the territory of Ukraine have been confirmed,” he says.

“Almost all such servicemen have already been withdrawn to Russian territory,” he claims.

First pig heart transplant patient dies after two months

In this photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, members of the surgical team show the pig heart for transplant into patient David Bennett in Baltimore on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. (Mark Teske/University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP)
In this photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, members of the surgical team show the pig heart for transplant into patient David Bennett in Baltimore on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. (Mark Teske/University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP)

The first person to receive a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig has died two months after the medical milestone, the hospital that carried out the surgery says.

The procedure raised hopes that advances in cross-species organ donation could one day solve the chronic shortage of human organs available for donation, and the team behind the operation say they still remain optimistic about its future success.

David Bennett, 57, had received his transplant on January 7 and passed away March 8, the University of Maryland Medical System said in a statement.

“His condition began deteriorating several days ago. After it became clear that he would not recover, he was given compassionate palliative care. He was able to communicate with his family during his final hours,” the statement says.

Following surgery, the transplanted heart had performed very well for several weeks without any signs of rejection, the hospital adds.

In the time after his surgery, Bennett spent time with family, participated in physical therapy, watched the Super Bowl and spoke often about wanting to go home to see his dog Lucky.

“He proved to be a brave and noble patient who fought all the way to the end. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family,” said Bartley Griffith, the surgeon who led the procedure.

Bennett came to the hospital in the eastern US state of Maryland in October 2021. He was bedridden and placed on emergency life support machine. He had been deemed ineligible for human transplant — a decision that is often made when the recipient has very poor underlying health.

“We have gained invaluable insights learning that the genetically modified pig heart can function well within the human body while the immune system is adequately suppressed,” says Muhammad Mohiuddin, director of the university’s cardiac xenotransplantation program.

“We remain optimistic and plan on continuing our work in future clinical trials.”

Reporting in US media also revealed Bennett was convicted of stabbing a man several times in 1988, leaving the victim paralyzed and needing to use a wheelchair before he died in 2005.

Medical ethicists hold that a person’s past criminal history should have no bearing on their future health treatment.

Posting clip of maternity hospital hit by Russian shelling, Zelensky slams global inaction

A maternity hospital in Mariupol that was hit by Russian shelling on March 9, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)
A maternity hospital in Mariupol that was hit by Russian shelling on March 9, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posts footage of what he says is a maternity hospital in Mariupol that was hit by Russian shelling.

“People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity! How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror? Close the sky right now! Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to be losing humanity,” he tweets.

WATCH: Classical orchestra plays at main Kyiv square in effort to raise morale

A classical orchestra performs in Independence Square in Kyiv on March 9, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)
A classical orchestra performs in Independence Square in Kyiv on March 9, 2022. (Screen capture/Twitter)

Seeking to raise morale in Kyiv as Russian forces inch closer to Ukraine’s capital, a classical orchestra is playing in the capital’s Independence Square.

While a number of civilians have stopped to watch the performance, the majority of the several dozen onlookers are journalists.

Shaked and Shai spar over Israel’s Ukrainian refugee absorption policy

A woman, traveling with others fleeing Ukraine, is wrapped up in a blanket at a border crossing in Palanca, Moldova, March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Aurel Obreja)
A woman, traveling with others fleeing Ukraine, is wrapped up in a blanket at a border crossing in Palanca, Moldova, March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Aurel Obreja)

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai lambasts Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked for the Ukrainian refugee absorption policy that she introduced earlier this week.

Shaked says Israel will take in 25,000 non-Jewish Ukrainians, but Shai says she is “playing” with the numbers as 20,000 of the approvals are for Ukrainians who were already in Israel residing illegally before the Russian invasion began.

Shai says 2,000 Ukrainian non-Jews have arrived since the invasion began, leaving just 3,000 more approvals left to hand out to those fleeing.

“What will happen when the 3,001st person person comes? We’ll send them back on a plane to Ukraine? No other country does this,” Shai says during a Channel 12 interview from Poland’s border with Ukraine.

Shaked has slammed Shai in return, saying he should focus on evacuating Jews to Israel and not on smearing Israel’s name abroad.

Shai tells Channel 12 that Israel is indeed the homeland of the Jewish people, but has the capacity of helping non-Jews as well.

He says a cabinet meeting should be held to discuss Israel’s refugee policy.

Kohavi arrives in Manama for first official visit to Bahrain

Lieutenant General Aviv Kohavi, Israel's army chief of general staff, pictured by the newly completed barrier above and below the border with the Gaza Strip, near Moshav Netiv HaAsara in southern Israel on December 7, 2021 (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)
Lieutenant General Aviv Kohavi, Israel's army chief of general staff, pictured by the newly completed barrier above and below the border with the Gaza Strip, near Moshav Netiv HaAsara in southern Israel on December 7, 2021 (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

Israel Defense Force chief Aviv Kohavi landed in Bahrain earlier today for a first official trip to the Gulf state.

Kohavi traveled alongside Tal Kelman, the commander in charge of Iran matters, among other senior commanders, the IDF says.

Kohavi is meeting with top Bahraini defense officials, and is expected to also visit the commander of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is stationed in the area.

Deputy Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi is commanding the military in Kohavi’s absence.

After months of delays, $1 billion extra for Iron Dome wrapped into Congress’ must-pass 2022 spending bill

An Iron Dome anti-rocket battery seen in the city of Haifa, on August 30, 2013. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)
An Iron Dome anti-rocket battery seen in the city of Haifa, on August 30, 2013. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

After months of maneuvering over $1 billion to replace Iron Dome batteries Israel lost in last year’s Gaza conflict, the money is to be included in a bipartisan spending bill Congress will consider this week as it looks to avoid a government shutdown.

Also included in the $1.5 trillion Omnibus Appropriations Agreement announced early today by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is substantially increased funding for nonprofit security, a key request by major Jewish groups over the last year.

The House is likely to vote on the bill later today, as stopgap funding for the government ends Friday.

The massive 2,741-page bill makes clear that the $1 billion is in addition to a separate $500 million in the bill for Israel’s missile defense. The $500 million in funding, brokered in the last months of US president Barack Obama’s administration, is part of a $3.8 billion annual defense assistance package for Israel that has been written into law.

It comes after progressive Democrats in the House last year insisted on considering the funding separately from another massive spending bill, a signal that defense assistance for Israel will from now on be under much stricter scrutiny going forward.

Despite that fraught debate, the House then overwhelmingly approved the standalone $1 billion for additional Iron Dome spending in September. The Senate was also set to push it through when a single senator — a Republican this time, Rand Paul of Kentucky — used his prerogative to hold up the bill.

Germany’s Scholz indicates opposition to supplying jets to Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz waits for the arrival of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz waits for the arrival of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is indicating that he doesn’t favor supplying old MiG fighter jets to Ukraine.

Poland late Tuesday offered to give the US 28 MiG-29 fighter planes for Ukraine’s use. US officials said the proposal was “untenable,” but they would continue to consult with Poland and other NATO allies.

Scholz is asked whether Germany would be prepared to allow such a delivery, and whether he feared being drawn into the conflict by a jet delivery via the United States’ Ramstein Air Base in Germany — which Poland had proposed.

Scholz notes that Germany has given Ukraine financial and humanitarian aid, as well as some weapons. He adds: “Otherwise, we must consider very carefully what we do in concrete terms, and that most certainly doesn’t include fighter planes.”

Herzog’s office says meeting with Erdogan running overtime

President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan outside the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan outside the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog’s office says his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is running longer than expected, using what has become a long-worn tactic by senior officials aimed at demonstrating the success and seriousness of their meetings.

Canada to send drone cameras to Ukraine, Trudeau announces during Berlin visit

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leves his car as he arrives for a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leves his car as he arrives for a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Canada will soon send Ukraine “highly specialized equipment.”

Trudeau says during a visit to Berlin that Zelensky also accepted an invitation to address the Canadian Parliament during their conversation. Zelensky spoke to the British Parliament on Tuesday.

Trudeau says Canada will be able to start sending “in the coming days” equipment including cameras used in drones. He acknowledged that “there are challenges at the borders in terms of getting equipment securely across and into Ukrainian hands, but we are working through that.”

Haifa council member seeks to change name of Russian consulate’s street to ‘Zelensky Street’

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

A Haifa city council member has filed a request to change the name of Haparsim Street where the Russian Consulate is located to “Zelensky Street.”

“The president did not abandon his people in this difficult moment when he could have saved himself and his family. Instead, he has led the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people,” writes Kirill Karetnik in a letter requesting the change.

Haifa is the sister city of Odesa.

‘Seek peace and pursue it’: Herzog’s signed message at Turkish memorial

The note left by President Isaac Herzog in the guest book at the Mustafa Kemal Atatürk Memorial on Turkey March 9, 2022 (Haim Zach/GPO.)
The note left by President Isaac Herzog in the guest book at the Mustafa Kemal Atatürk Memorial on Turkey March 9, 2022 (Haim Zach/GPO.)

President Isaac Herzog writes the following message in the guestbook at the Kemal Atatürk Memorial for the founding father of modern Turkey.

“It is a distinct privilege to be visiting this historic site, immortalizing the great visionary Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. May we follow in the wisdom of this great leader’s legacy of progress and peace, boldly choosing the path of collaboration and welcoming the many fruits to be reaped from the promise of a safer and more stable world for our nations, our faiths, our region and the world,” he writes in English.

He then finishes with a Hebrew quote from the book of Psalms, chapter 34.

“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”

Herzog currently meeting Erdoğan at presidential palace in Ankara

President Isaac Herzog meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the presidential complex in Ankara on March 9, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog is currently meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the presidential palace in Ankara.

Before entering the meeting, Herzog signed the guestbook and laid a wreath at the Kemal Atatürk Memorial for the founding father of modern Turkey.

With individual funerals too dangerous, authorities in besieged Mariupol burying dead in mass grave

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

MARIUPOL, Ukraine — City authorities in the besieged southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol are burying their dead in a mass grave.

With the city under steady bombardment, officials have been waiting for a chance to allow individual burials to resume. But with morgues overflowing, and many corpses uncollected at home, they decided they had to take action.

A deep trench some 25 meters long has been opened in one of the city’s old cemeteries in the heart of the city. Social workers have brought 30 bodies wrapped in carpets or bags today, and 40 were brought Tuesday.

The dead include civilian victims of shelling on the city as well as some soldiers. Workers with the municipal social services have also been collecting bodies from homes, including some civilians who died of disease or natural causes.

No mourners are present, no families say their goodbyes.

IAEA says Chernobyl power loss not impacting safety

A radiation sign outside the deserted town of Pripyat, some 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, February 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A radiation sign outside the deserted town of Pripyat, some 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, February 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The UN atomic watchdog says it saw “no critical impact on safety” from the loss of power at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant, site of the 1986 disaster.

“Ukraine has informed IAEA of power loss,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says in a tweet, adding that “in this case IAEA sees no critical impact on safety.”

Erdogan greets Herzog with guard of honor

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan welcomes President Isaac Herzog to his presidential complex with a guard of honor.

This is first visit by an Israeli president to Turkey since Shimon Peres made the trip in 2007, as the two regional powers seek to mend ties.

Visiting Turkey, Herzog lays wreath at Atatürk mausoleum

President Isaac Herzog lays a wreath at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of modern Turkey March 9, 2022 (Haim Zach/GPO.)
President Isaac Herzog lays a wreath at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of modern Turkey March 9, 2022 (Haim Zach/GPO.)

President Isaac Herzog makes his first stop on his visit to Turkey, laying a wreath at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of modern Turkey.

Herzog and his wife also tour the Anıtkabir Atatürk Museum.

Netanyahu tests positive for COVID

Opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 22, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 22, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu tests positive for COVID-19, his spokesperson says.

Netanyahu, 72,  is feeling well and following coronavirus guidelines, the spokesperson says.

Ukraine warns 48 hours until radiation leaks after power lost at Chernobyl

In this March 23, 2016, photo, a worker checks the radiation level on barrels in a storage of nuclear waste taken from the 4th unit destroyed by explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Chernobyl, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)
In this March 23, 2016, photo, a worker checks the radiation level on barrels in a storage of nuclear waste taken from the 4th unit destroyed by explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Chernobyl, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

Ukraine’s foreign minister says reserve diesel generators can power the Chernobyl nuclear plant for 48 hours after power was knocked out, warning that after that radiation leaks were “imminent.”

“Reserve diesel generators have a 48-hour capacity to power the Chornobyl NPP. After that, cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, making radiation leaks imminent,” tweets Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

“Putin’s barbaric war puts entire Europe in danger. He must stop it immediately,” says Kuleba, calling for pressure on Russia to allow repairs to be made.

Ukrainian grid operator Ukrenerho says that according to the national nuclear regulator, all Chernobyl facilities are without power and the diesel generators have fuel for 48 hours. Without power the “parameters of nuclear and radiation safety” cannot be controlled, it says.

The cause of the damage to the power line serving Chernobyl was not immediately clear, but it comes amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The site has been under control of Russian troops since last week.

Agencies contributed to this report

EU adding 160 Russian oligarchs, senators to sanctions blacklist

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

The European Union agrees to add 146 members of Russia’s upper house of parliament and 14 Kremlin-linked oligarchs and relatives to its sanctions list over Moscow’s war in Ukraine, officials say.

“We are further tightening the net of sanctions responding to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine,” European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen tweets.

US wants Israel to join sanctions against Russia

A senior official at the US Embassy in Jerusalem says that the US has imposed “unprecedented” sanctions against Russia and wants to see Israel join the West in its effort.

“We would like to see our allies and partners imposing strong sanctions, Israel falls into the category of our allies and partners,” the Embassy official says.

“Putin chose to start this war and the Russian Federation will be held accountable and bear the consequences of his actions,” the official adds.

Last week, a senior Foreign Ministry official told The Times of Israel that there is currently no legal infrastructure in place that enables Israel to impose sanctions.

Zelensky urges US to accept Polish offer to supply Ukraine with fighter jets

Two Polish Air Force Russian made Mig-29's fly above and below two Polish Air Force US made F-16's fighter jets during the Air Show in Radom, Poland, Aug. 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
Two Polish Air Force Russian made Mig-29's fly above and below two Polish Air Force US made F-16's fighter jets during the Air Show in Radom, Poland, Aug. 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky calls for Western powers to urgently decide on a Polish offer that would see his country supplied with fighter jets.

“When will there be a decision? Look, we’re at war!” Zelensky says in a video on his Telegram channel. “We ask you again to decide as soon as possible. Send us planes.”

Yesterday, the United States rejected a plan put forward by Poland to send its fleet of Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine via a US air base in Ramstein, Germany.

Poland had suggested that its air force would receive F-16 fighters as replacements.

“We have seen in the media that there are discussions between the American and Polish sides. But we sense that the Polish offer is not supported,” says Zelensky.

“We don’t have time for the media, for all these signals. This isn’t ping-pong. It’s human lives,” he adds.

UN says more than 140,000 fled Ukraine in 24 hours

Ukrainians enter a bus as they are evacuated from Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Ukrainians enter a bus as they are evacuated from Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine increases by more than 140,000 in 24 hours, according to United Nations figures issued today, with more than 2.15 million now having fled since Russia invaded on February 24.

UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, records 2,155,271 refugees on its dedicated website — 143,959 more than the previous count yesterday.

“Behind the monolithic statistics are two million stories of separation, anguish, and loss,” UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi says.

Zelensky says thousands being evacuated from Kyiv, calls on Russians to go home

In this March 8, 2022, image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Instagram, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy winks as he speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
In this March 8, 2022, image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office and posted on Instagram, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy winks as he speaks in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says efforts are underway to evacuate some 18,000 people from the capital Kyiv and embattled towns near it.

He says the efforts are part of broader evacuation attempts by multiple humanitarian corridors within Ukraine, and warns Russian forces against violating ceasefire promises.

He appeals again for foreign air support, saying “send us planes.” Western powers have sent military equipment and beefed up forces on Ukraine’s eastern flank, but have been wary of providing air support and getting drawn into a direct war with Russia.

He also issues an appeal, unusually in Russian, to urge Russian soldiers to leave.

“Our resistance for almost two weeks has shown you that we will not surrender, because this is our home. It is our families and children. We will fight until we can win back our land,” he said. “You can still save yourselves if you just go home.”

Herzog lands in Turkey for first top-level visit since 2008

President Isaac Herzog lands in Ankara for the first top-level visit by an Israeli to Turkey since 2008.

Ahead of his trip, Herzog said he hoped the visit would help to “restart relations” between the nations that have been long-strained.

Herzog will hold a series of meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who will also host him and his wife, Michal Herzog, for a state dinner.

Operator says power completely cut at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear plant

A file picture taken on April 13, 2021, shows the giant protective dome built over the sarcophagus covering the destroyed fourth reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)
A file picture taken on April 13, 2021, shows the giant protective dome built over the sarcophagus covering the destroyed fourth reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

Power has been entirely cut to the Chernobyl power plant, site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986, and its security systems, Ukraine’s energy operator Ukrenergo says.

The nuclear power plant “was fully disconnected from the power grid,” it says in a statement on its Facebook page, adding that military operations meant “there is no possibility to restore the lines.”

Meet Alex, a Ukrainian officer going into battle with a Golda Meir book in his pack

A Ukrainian officer shows off a biography of Golda Meir that he carries into battle with him. (Screen capture: Twitter)
A Ukrainian officer shows off a biography of Golda Meir that he carries into battle with him. (Screen capture: Twitter)

An Israeli reporter touring a Ukrainian military outpost on the northern outskirts of Kyiv is surprised to run into an officer named Alex, who says his fellow soldiers call him “Zion.”

The soldier tells Yedioth Ahronoth’s Ron Ben Ishai that he got the name because he is an ardent Zionist.

To prove his point he shows him the contents of his combat backpack, taking out his night vision goggles, water and earmuffs.

“And this is my favorite book, Golda” he says pulling out a hefty biography of former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir.

“I take it with me even if it will be my last battle.”

Alex, who is not Jewish and calls himself a Ukrainian nationalist and patriot, says he is also a Zionist because “Ukraine has to say thanks to the Jewish people because of your support.”

Two arrested for violent robbery of 92-year-old-woman in Beersheba

Police says they have arrested two men suspected of robbing and injuring a 92-year-old woman overnight in the southern city of Beersheba.

During the arrest, one of the suspects tried to stab a police officer with scissors, police say, adding that the officer was not injured.

Magen David Adom medics say they treated the woman but did not give details of her injuries.

Shaked slams Shai for ‘libeling’ Israel in debate over accepting Ukrainian refugees

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

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked slams Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai, accusing him of “libeling” Israel after he criticizes the number of Ukrainian refugees Israel is prepared to accept.

Shaked announced yesterday that Israel will allow 25,000 Ukrainians who are not eligible for immigration to stay in the country as refugees amid Russia’s invasion of their nation.

The minister said 20,000 of those had been in Israel before the outbreak of hostilities, and an additional 5,000 would be accepted from the time the invasion began.

This in addition to tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants it expects to arrive in the country in the wake of the war, Shaked said.

But Shai says Israel is obligated to take in a lot more refugees, adding that decisions like this should be made by the government and not be left to Shaked alone.

Fellow Labor party MK Gilad Kariv defends Shai, telling Radio 90FM that “ministers don’t need reprimands from other ministers.”

Kariv, too, calls for increasing the number of refugees allowed to enter Israel.

UNICEF: More than 1 million Ukraine refugees are children

Groups of Ukrainian refugees walk along the road between Lviv and Shehyni, in Volytsya, Ukraine, March 5, 2022. The number of Ukrainians forced from their country since the Russian invasion has been increasing on a daily basis. (AP Photo/Marc Sanye)
Groups of Ukrainian refugees walk along the road between Lviv and Shehyni, in Volytsya, Ukraine, March 5, 2022. The number of Ukrainians forced from their country since the Russian invasion has been increasing on a daily basis. (AP Photo/Marc Sanye)

More than 1 million children have fled Ukraine in the less than two weeks since Russia first invaded the country, says UNICEF spokesperson James Elder, calling it “a dark historical first.”

That means that children represent around half of the more than 2 million people that have fled the war, an exodus that the UN refugee agency has called the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

Most of those fleeing the war have entered countries on Ukraine’s western border, like Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova. The majority have gone into Poland, where 1.33 million refugees have crossed according to the Polish Border Guard agency.

Moldova’s Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita told CNN on Sunday that 1 in every 8 children in Moldova is a refugee.

In addition to children, most other refugees are women — the mothers and grandmothers of the children that are bringing them to safety — since Ukrainian men from age 18 to 60 aren’t permitted to leave the country.

Russia says ‘some progress’ in talks, no plans to topple Ukraine government

File: Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020 (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
File: Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020 (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

MOSCOW — Russia says negotiations with officials from Kyiv to resolve the conflict in Ukraine were making headway and underscored that Moscow’s troops were not working to topple the Ukrainian government.

“Some progress has been made,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says during a press briefing, referring to three rounds of talks with Kyiv. She said the Russian military had not been tasked to “overthrow the current government.”

Red Cross official: No water, electricity or heat for civilians in Mariupol

People sit around a lamp in a bomb shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
People sit around a lamp in a bomb shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, March 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

MARIUPOL, Ukraine — The besieged Azov Sea port city of Mariupol has seen some of the most desperate scenes of the war, with civilians struggling without water, heat, basic sanitation or phones for several days.

With water supplies cut, people have been collecting water from streams or melting snow.

The representatives of Ukraine’s Red Cross are trying to deliver first aid to those who need it the most, but resources are scarce.

“There is no heating, electricity, water, natural gas… In other words there is nothing. No household commodities. The water is collected from the roofs after the rain,” says Aleksey Berntsev, head of Red Cross of Mariupol.

People sheltered in underground basements, anxiously waiting for news of evacuation efforts as they struggled to survive in a city where bodies have been left uncollected on the streets.

Berentsev said that apart from delivering aid, giving local residents information is one of the most important tasks they are undertaking.

“Sometimes information is more important for the people than food,” he says.

Power cuts mean that many residents have lost internet access and now rely on their car radios for information, picking up news from stations broadcast from areas controlled by Russian or Russian-backed separatist forces.

Israel-Turkey relations important for region, says Herzog as he leaves for Ankara

President Isaac Herzog speaks to reporters before departing for a visit to Turkey on March 9, 2022 (Tal Schneider)
President Isaac Herzog speaks to reporters before departing for a visit to Turkey on March 9, 2022 (Tal Schneider)

President Isaac Herzog tells reporters that relations between Israel and Turkey are important for the stability of the entire region as he departs for a rare trip to Turkey.

“Israel-Turkey relations are important for Israel, important for Turkey, and important for the whole region. And for the first time in many years, there will be a visit to Turkey,” Herzog says.

“We will not agree on everything, and the relationship between Israel and Turkey has certainly known ups and downs and not-so-simple moments in recent years, but we shall try to restart our relations and build them in a measured and cautious manner, and with mutual respect between our states,” he tells reporters before boarding the flight.

“I always emphasize that my vision is that Jews, Muslims, and Christians will live in peace in our region in a manner that will bring them prosperity and perfect lives,” he says.

Herzog says the diplomatic goals of his visit are completely coordinated with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

Herzog’s trip marks the highest-level visit by an Israeli official since former prime minister Ehud Olmert made the trip in 2008, and is being seen as an important step toward rekindling the two countries’ relationship.

The president is set to land in Ankara this afternoon and will hold a series of meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who will also host Herzog and his wife Michal Herzog for a state dinner.

Poll: Majority of Israelis support cautious approach to Russia-Ukraine conflict

Nearly two-thirds of Israelis support the government’s cautious approach to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, according to a new poll.

“A large majority (67%) think that the Israeli government’s cautious approach to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and not taking a firm stance against Russia, is the right thing to do – 21% think not,” says a survey released by the Israel Democracy Institute.

Israel has tried to offer support to Ukraine without alienating Russia, which has forces based in Syria on Israel’s northern border.

Russia confirms ceasefire along humanitarian corridors for civilian evacuations

Russia confirms it will abide by a daylong ceasefire to allow for the evacuation of civilians from besieged Ukrainian cities.

According to the Reuters news agency, Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia’s National Defence Control Centre, is quoted as saying that Russian forces would “observe a regime of silence” from 10 a.m. Moscow time to ensure safe passage for civilians wishing to leave Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol.

Ukraine earlier said it would also abide by the truce along the humanitarian corridors.

Ukraine declares daylong ceasefire along civilian evacuation routes

A refugee child fleeing the conflict from neighboring Ukraine holds flowers as he sits on a bus, at the Romanian-Ukrainian border, in Siret, Romania, Tuesday, March 8, 2022.  (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
A refugee child fleeing the conflict from neighboring Ukraine holds flowers as he sits on a bus, at the Romanian-Ukrainian border, in Siret, Romania, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Ukrainian authorities announce a 9 a.m.-9 p.m. ceasefire along several evacuation routes for civilians in besieged or occupied cities, though it is unclear whether Russian forces will respect it.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says Russian authorities on Wednesday confirmed the ceasefire along the evacuation corridors to Ukrainian counterparts and the Red Cross.

She says the routes lead out of Sumy in the northeast, Mariupol on the Azov Sea coast, Enerhodar in the south, Volnovakha in the southeast, Izyum in the east, and several towns in the Kyiv region.

All the corridors lead to sites elsewhere in Ukraine that are currently held by the Ukrainian government.

The route out of Sumy, on the Russian border, is the only one that has been used successfully so far, allowing for the evacuation of 5,000 people on Tuesday southwest to the city of Poltava.

Ukrainian officials release videos Wednesday showing trucks and buses with red cross symbols heading to besieged cities.

Austria suspends mandatory COVID vaccination law

Austria will suspend a law making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all adults, the government says, just a month after the legislation took effect in an EU first.

“After consultations with the health minister, we have decided that we will of course follow what the (expert) commission has said –- we will suspend mandatory vaccination,” minister Karoline Edtstadler tells reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

Iran condemns killing of 2 officers in alleged Israel strike in Syria, vows revenge

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s foreign ministry strongly condemns the killing of two Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers in an alleged Israeli missile attack on the Syrian capital.

The foreign ministry’s website quoted ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh as saying revenge for the Monday strike will definitely be taken.

The Guard in a statement late Tuesday identifies the two dead men as colonels Ehsan Karbalaipour and Morteza Saeednejad. It says in the same statement that Israel would “pay for this crime.”

 

10 said dead in Russian strikes in Severodonestk in eastern Ukraine

At least 10 people were killed in a Russian military attack in the eastern Ukrainian town of Severodonestk yesterday, a local official for the Lugansk region says in a statement on Telegram.

The Russian military “opened fire” on residential homes and other buildings in the town, he says, without immediately specifying whether it was an artillery attack.

The region has seen heavy fighting in recent days.

UAE envoy says Gulf state, Israel to sign major economic agreement by end of month

Israel's President Isaac Herzog, left, cuts a ribbon with United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja during the opening ceremony for the new UAE Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Israel's President Isaac Herzog, left, cuts a ribbon with United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Al Khaja during the opening ceremony for the new UAE Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The United Arab Emirates and Israel will sign a broad trade and investment pact by the end of the month, the Gulf state’s ambassador to Israel says.

“The #UAE and #Israel are looking forward to conclude the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement “CEPA” before the end of the month,” Mohamed Al Khaja tweets.

“The UAE remains confident that the CEPA with Israel will serve as a catalyst for even greater economic prosperity.”

Russia says invasion thwarted Ukraine plan to attack separatist-held regions

Pro-Kremlin activists and students rally with Russian and Donetsk People republic flags and a poster that reads: 'Donetsk Luhansk People republics we are together' celebrating the recognition of rebel-controlled regions in Donbas, at the Palace Square in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Wednesday, February 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Ivan Petrov)
Pro-Kremlin activists and students rally with Russian and Donetsk People republic flags and a poster that reads: 'Donetsk Luhansk People republics we are together' celebrating the recognition of rebel-controlled regions in Donbas, at the Palace Square in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Wednesday, February 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Ivan Petrov)

Russia’s Defense Ministry says its operation thwarted a large-scale plot to attack separatist-held regions of eastern Ukraine.

Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov today cites from what he claimed was an intercepted Ukrainian National Guard document laying out plans for a weekslong operation targeting the Donbas region.

Konashenkov says in a televised statement: “The special military operation of the Russian armed forces, carried out since Feb. 24, preempted and thwarted a large-scale offensive by strike groups of Ukrainian troops on the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, which are not controlled by Kyiv, in March of this year.”

He does not address Russia’s shelling, airstrikes and attacks on Ukrainian civilians or cities, Russian military casualties or any other aspect of its bogged-down campaign.

Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation,” and official statements about the war have focused almost exclusively on fighting and evacuations in the separatist-held regions, where Russian-backed forces have been fighting Ukraine’s military since 2014.

Further civilian evacuation planned for Ukraine border city of Sumy

The administration of the northeastern border city of Sumy says further civilian evacuations are planned today.

In a Telegram post, regional administration chief Dmytro Zhyvytskyy says a safe corridor will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 22 buses that traveled the day before from Sumy southwest to the city of Poltava would return Wednesday afternoon to pick up more people seeking to flee.

Priority will go to pregnant women, women with children, the elderly and the disabled.

Sumy is on the Russian border and has seen deadly shelling in recent days. The Sumy-Poltava route is the only one successfully used so far for humanitarian evacuations, and some 5,000 people, including 1,700 foreign students, were brought out Tuesday. Other evacuation efforts stalled or were thwarted by Russian shelling.

UK Defense Ministry says Ukraine air defenses having ‘success’ against Russian jets

Britain says Ukraine’s air defenses are having success against the Russian airforce, likely preventing Moscow from controlling the airspace over Ukraine.

“Ukrainian air defences appear to have enjoyed considerable success against Russia’s modern combat aircraft, probably preventing them achieving any degree of control of the air,” according to a UK Ministry of Defence intelligence update posted on Twitter.

It also says Russian forces are not making any significant breakthroughs in ongoing fighting north-west of Kyiv.

Meanwhile, the ministry says “the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remain encircled by Russian forces and continue to suffer heavy Russian shelling.”

 

Ukraine military says it is ‘holding the line’ in defense of Kyiv

Tania Boyko, 20, and her dog Kari sit on a makeshift bed in a underground metro station used as a bomb shelter in Kyiv on March 8, 2022. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / STF / AFP)
Tania Boyko, 20, and her dog Kari sit on a makeshift bed in a underground metro station used as a bomb shelter in Kyiv on March 8, 2022. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / STF / AFP)

LVIV — The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces says the country is building up its defense of key cities in the north, south and east as Russia’s advance has stalled.

In a statement early Wednesday, it said that forces around Kyiv are resisting the Russian offensive with unspecified strikes and “holding the line.”

The Ukrainian general staff says that in the northern city of Chernihiv, Russian forces are placing military equipment among residential buildings and on farms.

And in the south, it says Russians dressed in civilian clothes are advancing on the city of Mykolaiv.

Striking workers at Defense Ministry to halt weapons exports

Israel’s defense exports will halt this morning as workers at the Defense Ministry step up a labor dispute, the Walla news site reports.

Workers are protesting against their employment conditions and a lack of positions for new workers.

Israel’s defense exports are a major component of the Israeli economy and are currently estimated at some $10 billion annually.

Ashkelon couple arrested after signs of drugs found in 4-year-old daughter’s blood

A couple from the southern city of Ashkelon are arrested after signs of drugs were found in blood tests conducted on their four-year-old daughter, Channel 12 reports.

The two are being held on charges of child neglect and possession of narcotics.

Universal Music Group suspends all operations in Russia

Universal Music Group says it is suspending all operations in Russia and closing its offices to protest the invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reports.

“We urge an end to the violence in Ukraine as soon as possible,” Universal Music says in a statement. “We are adhering to international sanctions and, along with our employees and artists, have been working with groups from a range of countries (including the US, U.K., Poland, Slovakia, Germany, Czech Republic and Hungary) to support humanitarian relief efforts to bring urgent aid to refugees in the region.”

The world’s largest music company’s decision follows the announcement last week by Spotify that it would close its offices in Russia.

 

Russian-Israeli billionaire Leonid Nevzlin giving up Russian citizenship

Portrait of Leonid Nevzlin, a Russian-born Israeli business magnate, September 4, 2011. (Flash90)
Portrait of Leonid Nevzlin, a Russian-born Israeli business magnate, September 4, 2011. (Flash90)

Russian-Israeli billionaire Leonid Nevzlin says he is giving up his Russian citizenship amid Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Nevzlin writes in a Facebook post that he can’t allow himself to remain a citizen of a country that is murdering the children of another nation.

“Everything Putin touches dies,” he writes.

Nevzlin has been a longtime critic of Putin and was forced to flee Russia.

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

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

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

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

Air raid alert in Kyiv, residents urged to go to bomb shelters

An air alert is declared in and around Kyiv, with residents urged to get to bomb shelters as quickly as possible.

“Kyiv region – air alert. Threat of a missile attack. Everyone immediately to shelters,” regional administration head Oleksiy Kuleba says on Telegram.

LA city council comes out in support of Ukraine

Lawmakers in Los Angeles have approved a resolution condemning the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin in waging war against Ukraine.

The Los Angeles City Council votes 14-0 to pass the resolution, which also urges international divestment of holdings in Russia.

Members of the City Council express support for Ukraine, denouncing “horrific acts against humanity” and expressing concern that history is repeating itself.

“What’s happening in Ukraine right now is close to home for me,” Councilmember Paul Koretz says.

“My mother’s family fled Kyiv a hundred years ago to avoid the Russian pogroms, and I’ve been sick to my stomach seeing the photos of innocent men, women and especially children who have been murdered in this invasion,” he says.

Koretz also says it is important to support LA’s Russian communities and businesses.

“They are not responsible for the actions of an out-of-control madman,” he says.

The Board of Supervisors in neighboring Orange County also unanimously passes a similar resolution. It encourages the county to sever ties with any Russian-backed bank or financial institution. The county currently doesn’t have any direct investments in Russia.

De facto leaders of Saudi Arabia, UAE refused calls with Biden — report

The crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates both refused to take calls with US President Joe Biden in recent weeks, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The reported snubs by Riyadh’s Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, both the de facto leaders of their countries, came as Biden was attempting to rally allies around sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin before he invaded Ukraine while keeping oil flowing. The two were said to have been reacting to unhappiness about Biden’s policies in the region.

According to the report, both agreed to take calls with Putin.

Saudi Arabia has said it is not abandoning an agreement with Russia to control oil prices, even as sanctions have sent costs at the pump rocketing to near-record highs.

US sending Patriot air defenses to Poland

The US says it is sending two Patriot air defense batteries to Poland to help protect the NATO ally and its own troops from the threat of Russian missile spilling over from the war in Ukraine.

“This defensive deployment is being conducted proactively to counter any potential threat to U.S. and allied forces and NATO territory,” the US military says in a statement, according to the New York Times.

Ukraine has pleaded with NATO and other Western countries for air defenses, but has been rebuffed by fears of donors being targeted by Russia in retribution.

Images show shelled tanker still on fire, helicopter buildup in Belarus

New satellite images show that a Moldovan-flagged tanker shelled in the Black Sea last month is still on fire, posing a potential environmental hazard to the area.

The Millennial Spirit was believed to have 600 tons of diesel fuel when it was hit by what Ukraine says was Russian shelling on February 25.

Smoke coming off the Millenial Spirit tanker in the Black Sea on March 8, 2022. (Planet Labs PCB)

A picture released by Planet Labs PCB show the ship still ablaze, with heavy smoke pouring out of it. All Source Analysis says the ship is off the coast of Odesa and could dump toxic chemicals into the sea.

A separate picture from Planet shows a large buildup of helicopters, many of them suspected to be Russian, at the Machulishchy air base outside Minsk, Belarus.

A satellite photo of Machulishchy air base in Belarus on March 8, 2022. (Planet Labs PCB)

Ukraine envoy describes slaughter of women and children, says evacuations blocked

Natalia Mudrenko, the highest-ranking woman at Ukraine’s UN Mission, is accusing Russia of effectively holding civilians “hostage,” and says “the critical situation” in Mariupol and other cities demands immediate action by world leaders and humanitarian and medical organizations.

She tells a UN Security Council meeting Tuesday afternoon on women in conflict that civilians, mostly women and children, “are not allowed to leave and the humanitarian aid is not let in.”

“If they try to leave, Russians open fire and kill them,” Mudrenko says, her voice shaking with emotion. “They are running out of food and water, and they die.”

The Russian military has denied firing on convoys and charged that the Ukrainian side was blocking the evacuation effort.

Mudrenko says a 6-year-old girl died Monday in the besieged city of Mariupol on the Azov Sea, “alone in the last moments of her life as her mother was killed by Russian shelling.”

On Tuesday in the Mykolaiv region, she says “Russian occupiers fired at a van with a group of female teachers of the local orphanage (and) three of them were killed.” She says there are also “cases of child sexual violence committed by occupiers.”

Mudrenko says the war has highlighted the role of Ukrainian women in defending their country, saying there were 57,000 women in the army at the start of 2021, comprising 22.8% of the force.

Ukraine army says Russian offensive slackened Tuesday

The General Staff of Ukraine’s military says the pace of the Russian offensive slowed over Tuesday, but missile and bomb strikes in major cities persisted.

Bombardments and siege tactics were focused on Kyiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Mykolaiv, and Chernihiv, it says.

People walk next to an apartment building hit by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

The army claims significant gains by Ukrainian forces, killing 400 Russian soldiers and forcing a brigade to retreat back into Russia. The claims, which are often thought to be unreliably optimistic, cannot be verified independently.

According to the general staff, Russian attempts to block off Kharkiv from the north were unsuccessful.

Amid claims that Russian soldiers are facing logistical issues and shortages of food and fuel, it claims that the Kremlin is planning to set up a supply chain using existing infrastructure, and to build a new oil pipeline network to bring in fuel from Belarus.

Securing air defenses No. 1 priority for Ukraine, general says

Additional air defense capabilities are the number one priority for Ukraine’s military right now, the country’s US defense attache Maj. Gen. Borys Kremenetskyi says after returning from a meeting at the Pentagon.

“It can be ground based air defense systems. It can be fighter jets, whatever possible,” he tells The Associated Press.

He says there are countries around the world that have Soviet-produced air defense systems that the Ukrainians already know how to operate. “The US government can also motivate those countries to provide us this equipment,” he said.

Ukraine has asked Israel to sell it Iron Dome air defense systems, but Jerusalem has refused the requests to avoid antagonizing Russia.

An Iranian Russian-made S-300 missile is displayed during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of its devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, on September 22,2017 in Tehran. (AFP/ str)

They also need additional anti-tank, anti-armor weapons and coastal defense capabilities to defend against Russian ships at the south.

He says Ukraine is grateful for the support it has gotten from the U.S. and its allies, which has allowed Ukraine to slow the Russian advance. “As combat is ongoing, we need more right now,” Kremenetskyi says. “So we try to work with our partners to have it as soon as possible.”

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