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Russia-Ukraine updates: Russia responds to Poland offering jets to help Ukraine

Andriy Dubchak/dia images via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Russian forces are continuing their attempted push through Ukraine from multiple directions, while Ukrainians, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, are putting up “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The attack began Feb. 24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation.”

Russian forces moving from neighboring Belarus toward Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, don’t appear to have advanced closer to the city since coming within about 20 miles, although smaller advanced groups have been fighting gun battles with Ukrainian forces inside the capital since at least Friday.

Russia has been met by sanctions from the United States, Canada and countries throughout Europe, targeting the Russian economy as well as Putin himself.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

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Mar 09, 6:45 pm
Russia claims Ukraine put firing positions inside Mariupol hospital

Russia’s foreign ministry has claimed that Ukraine put firing positions inside the children’s hospital and maternity ward in Mariupol, Ukraine, that was destroyed by shelling Wednesday.

There is currently no evidence to support the claim, made by Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova during a daily briefing Wednesday. The comment appears to be an implicit acknowledgement that Russia deliberately targeted the hospital, as Ukrainian officials had claimed.

Independent investigations found that in Syria, Russia’s air force deliberately bombed hospitals in rebel-held areas as a tactic of war.

Mar 09, 6:26 pm
State Department calls Russian bioweapons allegations ‘total nonsense’

The State Department spoke out against the Kremlin’s allegations of U.S. chemical or biological weapons activity in Ukraine.

“Russia has a track record of accusing the West of the very crimes that Russia itself is perpetrating,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement Wednesday, calling the allegations of U.S. biological weapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine “outright lies,” “conspiracy theories,” “disinformation” and “total nonsense.”

“Russia is inventing false pretexts in an attempt to justify its own horrific actions in Ukraine,” he continued. “The United States does not own or operate any chemical or biological laboratories in Ukraine, it is in full compliance with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological Weapons Convention, and it does not develop or possess such weapons anywhere.”

Mar 09, 5:56 pm
Pelosi on call with Zelenskyy: ‘He wants the planes’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated that his country needs aircraft in order to continue its resistance from the Russian invasion.

“He wants planes. He wants anti-missile weaponry. He wants armored cars … tanks,” Pelosi said of the 45-minute call on Wednesday. “He wants the planes, the planes, the planes.”

It was not clear whether Pelosi was aware of the Pentagon’s statement rejecting a plan from Poland to provide Soviet jets to Ukraine in exchange for newer American replacements. She also continued to dim the prospects of the U.S. instituting a “no-fly” zone.

“He also said that we’re going to need everybody’s help rebuilding Ukraine,” Pelosi said.

Mar 09, 5:51 pm
Most humanitarian corridors for evacuees not holding, Zelenskyy adviser says

Ukraine has evacuated about 40,000 people in the last 24 hours, but most of the agreed-upon humanitarian corridors in six cities in Ukraine are still not holding, David Arakhmia, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Wednesday.

Officials had hoped to move at least 100,000 women and children out of the country in that time frame but were not able to because the corridors were not clear, he said.

The northern city of Sumy was again the only place where a substantial evacuation was able to take place, with local authorities estimating 20,000 people left Wednesday.

An evacuation column was also able to bring people out of Energodar, the city that is home to the nuclear power station attacked last week, taking them to Zaporizhzhia.

An evacuation attempt from the besieged city of Mariupol again had to be abandoned, while in the region north of Kyiv, 50 buses attempting to evacuate people via a new humanitarian corridor became trapped after Russia forces blocked them. It was unclear whether those buses were eventually permitted to continue on to Kyiv. Some people, including 50 children, were evacuated today.

About 250 people were evacuated from the northeastern town of Izyum near Kharkiv, the advisor said.

Zelenskyy said humanitarian corridors have again been agreed upon with temporary cease-fires tomorrow.

Mar 09, 4:57 pm
Russia could use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, White House warns

Russia could use chemical or biological warfare as it escalates its attack on Ukraine, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement to ABC News Wednesday.

“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,” Psaki said. “It’s a clear pattern, and no one should fall for it.”

Psaki prefaced that statement by noting false claims from Russia, endorsed by China, “about alleged U.S. biological weapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine,” calling those accusations “preposterous.”

“It’s exactly the kind of disinformation operation we’ve seen repeatedly from the Russians over the years in Ukraine and in other countries around the world, which have been debunked conclusively, and an example of the types of false pretexts we have been warning the Russians would invent,” she said.

The U.S. is in “full compliance” with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention and “does not develop or possess such weapons anywhere,” Psaki said.

Mar 09, 4:44 pm
Russia could see Poland’s MiG-29’s as ‘escalatory,’ Pentagon says

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby explained in a press briefing why accepting Poland’s MIG-29 jets to aid Ukraine is not a good idea, saying that U.S. intelligence has assessed the move is high-risk and that Russia could see it as “escalatory,” therefore increasing the prospects of military escalation with NATO.

“We believe the provision of additional fighter aircraft provides little increased capabilities at high risk,” Kirby said.

In a phone call Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had with Poland Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczakearlier on Wednesday, Austin thanked Błaszczak for the support to Ukraine provided but essentially said the MiG-29 deal was not the optimal way, Kirby told reporters Wednesday.

“We believe that the gain from transferring those MIG-29 is low,” Kirby said, adding that because the Ukrainian Air Force currently has several squadrons of fully mission capable aircraft, adding aircraft to the Ukrainian inventory likely will not significantly change the effectiveness of the Ukrainian Air Force

The U.S. will explore other options to aid Ukraine, including providing them with the weapons and the systems they need most, such as anti-armor and air defense, Kirby said.

“We also believe that there are alternative options that are much better suited to support the Ukrainian military in their fight against Russia,” he said. “We will continue to pursue those options.”

Mar 09, 4:32 pm
UNICEF director condemns Russian attack on Ukraine maternity hospital

The head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) strongly condemned a missile attack apparently launched by Russia Wednesday on a maternity hospital in Ukraine.

“I am horrified by the reported attack today on a maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine — an attack which reportedly left young children and women in labor buried beneath the rubble of destroyed buildings,” UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell said in a statement. “We do not yet know the number of casualties but fear the worst.”

A devastating airstrike destroyed a maternity and children’s hospital in the besieged southeastern Ukrainian city, causing multiple casualties. Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and local officials posted videos on social media of the destroyed hospital.

Zelenskyy called the attack an “atrocity.”

Russell said that if confirmed, the attack “underscores the horrific toll this war is exacting on Ukraine’s children and families.”

“In less than two weeks, at least 37 children have been killed and 50 injured, while more than 1 million children have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries,” Russell said.

Russell added, “Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure –including hospitals, water and sanitation systems and schools — are unconscionable and must stop immediately. UNICEF renews its call for an immediate cease-fire and urges all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect children from harm, and to ensure that humanitarian actors can safely and quickly reach children in need. The children of Ukraine desperately need peace.”

Mar 09, 4:28 pm
Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers to hold face-to-face meeting in Turkey

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to meet with Ukraine foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba in Antalya, Turkey, on Thursday, ahead of the start of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum.

This will be the first face-to-face high-level meetings between Russian and Ukrainian officials since the Russian invasion began.

This meeting is a continuation of the negotiating process “and a very important one,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, according to Russian state-run news agency TASS.

Lavrov is expected to make a speech on Moscow’s position on current issues in Antalya, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is also scheduled to attend the meeting with Kuleba.

The third round of talks between Russian-Ukrainian delegates was held in Belarus on Monday.

Mar 09, 3:40 pm
IAEA head calls Ukraine’s nuclear situation ‘very fragile’

Russian forces severed the electricity to the Chernobyl nuclear power station but there is “no immediate risk” of a radiation leak, International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi told ABC News Wednesday in an interview at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna.

There is active fuel at the site of the original reactors that melted down in 1986 but, for the time being, at least, there is enough capacity to cool spent nuclear fuel.

“There is no immediate risk in the dimensions that were imagined and there is work in progress to restore the electrical capacity,” Mariano Grossi said. Still, he conceded, “It’s a situation that is very fragile.”

The lack of reliable electricity also impedes monitoring abilities, leaving the IAEA occasionally blind to any spontaneous increase in radiation.

“We do have communications and then we lose. Then we recover it. It’s not good in terms of following the safety, the security,” Mariano Grossi said. “I’m concerned. I’m worried.”

There are no IAEA inspectors on the ground while the fighting rages. The director-general said he would not send them in unless he can go first.

“I will not put my staff in harm’s way before me going first,” Mariano Grossi said.

Russia is in control of Chernobyl and a second nuclear power station in Zaporizhia. For a time, neither plant had a way to exchange workers or upgrade staffing.

In Zaporizhia, Mariano Grossi said, a shift change is now happening. In Chernobyl, workers are not allowed off-site.

“We all need a break and especially people who are manning extremely sophisticated equipment. The stress is very high,” he said.

Mariano Grossi is traveling Thursday to Turkey, where the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers will meet face-to-face for the first time since the two-week-old invasion began. He said he will ask each side to commit to “fundamentals,” including respecting the physical security of each of Ukraine’s four nuclear power stations, plus Chernobyl.

“We haven’t seen something as critical and worrying as a fire breaking out in a building adjacent to a nuclear reactor,” Mariano Grossi said. “What really worries me is that unlike Fukushima (in Japan), where you had mother nature to blame, now it would be us.”

Mar 09, 3:33 pm
Russia confirmed use of vacuum bombs, says UK defense ministry

Russia has confirmed the use of thermobaric rockets, or vacuum bombs, the U.K. Ministry of Defense tweeted Wednesday.

The weapon uses a fuel container and two separate explosive charges to ignite a blast of extreme pressure and heat, creating a partial vacuum in an enclosed space.

The impact from the bomb is “devastating,” according to the ministry.

Mar 09, 3:21 pm
Papa John’s, Heineken suspend operations in Russia

Papa John’s and Heineken are the latest brands to cease business in Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The American pizza chain and the Dutch beer company join internationally known brands such as McDonald’s, The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo and Starbucks in suspending operations in Russia.

While Heineken has stopped the production and sale of beer in Russia, Papa John’s has suspended all corporate operations there as well.

“It has ceased all operational, marketing and business support to, and engagement with, the Russian market, where all restaurants are owned by independent franchisees, and a master franchisee who controls operations and provides all supplies and ingredients for the restaurants through a supply chain that it owns and operates,” a statement released Wednesday by Papa John’s read.

Mar 09, 2:48 pm
Republican Minority Leader McCarthy calls Putin ‘evil’ in break with Trump

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy broke with former President Donald Trump on Wednesday when he was asked whether he supported Trump’s comments praising Putin as a “genius.”

“I do not think anything is savvy or genius about Putin,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said during a news conference. “I think Putin is evil, he is a dictator and I think he is murdering people right now.”

On Feb. 23, a day before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Trump praised Putin and slammed his successor President Joe Biden in an appearance on a conservative talk radio program.

“This is genius. Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine … Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful,” Trump said of the Russian president’s decision to recognize the two provinces of the Donbas Region of eastern Ukraine as independent republics and claimed rebels there asked him to send troops into Ukraine to protect them from Ukrainian military attacks.

Mar 09, 1:49 pm
Blinken accuses Russia of hitting fleeing civilians, ‘laying waste’ to cities.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the Kremlin to immediately allow Ukrainian civilians to safely depart the cities and towns of Ukraine that are besieged by Russian forces.

Blinken accused Russia of destroying critical civilian infrastructure and blocking people’s safe exodus, describing the Kremlin’s proposed corridors to Russia “absurd” and “offensive” in a press conference Wednesday.

“Russia’s relentless bombardment, including of civilians trying to flee, prevents people from safely escaping the hellish conditions that they’ve created,” Blinken said.

-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan

Mar 09, 1:47 pm
‘If a million more come, we won’t be able to cope,’ Polish mayor says of influx of refugees

While Poland has been welcoming refugees fleeing the destruction in Ukraine, the country will eventually meet its limit on how many people it can take in, Konrad Fijolek, president of Rzeszow, Poland, a city about 60 miles from the Ukrainian border, told ABC News.

Like many cities that border Ukraine, Rzeszow, a town of about 180,000 people, has become a pathway to safety and a lifeline for millions of refugees flooding across the border from Ukraine.

Poland will be able to receive about 1.5 million people, but any more will put the country under strain, Fijolek said.

“If a million or more come, we won’t be able to cope,” he said.

Some estimates suggest as many as 4 million people could leave Ukraine due to the conflict, but most of the major cities in the country are already full — and officials are attempting to move refugees into smaller cities, a feat that is “not easy,” Fijolek said.

So far, all the shelters set up in Poland are temporary, he added.

“We would like to avoid the view of refugee camps here,” he said. “We would like people who are escaping from the war to think that what awaits here is proper camp not camps.”

In addition, the mental state among the people in Poland is continuing to deteriorate, Fijolek said.

“We as local leaders would like to send the message that if there’s any possible action to stop the war [find it] and then try to negotiate, because every day at the border we can see the human tragedy,” he said.

-ABC News’ Chris Donato and Marcus Moore

Mar 09, 1:17 pm
Over 1,200 killed in Mariupol since start of invasion, deputy mayor says

The southeast Ukrainian city of Mariupol is without power or water after more than a week of heavy shelling and aerial attacks from Russian forces, Serhiy Orlov, deputy mayor of Mariupol, said in a press briefing Wednesday.

More than 1,200 Mariupol residents have been killed in the bombardments, Orlov said, adding that half of those killed are ethnic Russians whom Russia claims it is saving.

A huge steel mill that employs 30,000 people and a maternity hospital with 600 beds are among the obliterated structures in the city, Orlov said.

Orlov accused Russia of indiscriminately bombarding the city because its forces were unable to break through its defenses, saying that Mariupol would not surrender and calling on the outside world to help save it by imposing a “no-fly” zone.

“We understand that Mariupol was a showroom of free Ukraine — a dynamic bustling city compared to ghost towns of the so-called DNR,” Orlov said. “We must not fall. We must win and then rebuild. We can only live and develop in a free and independent Ukraine.”

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Mar 09, 1:01 pm
Russian Defense Ministry claims 180,000 people evacuated from Ukraine to Russia

Roughly 180,000 people have been evacuated to Russia from Ukraine, including the Russian-controlled areas of Luhansk and Donetsk in the Donbas region, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

“As many as 5,460 people, including 1,125 children, have been evacuated from dangerous zones in various regions of Ukraine, as well as the Luhansk and Donetsk people’s republics, without participation of the Ukrainian side over the past 24 hours, Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian National Defense Control Center, said Wednesday. “Over 179,000 people, including 45,436 children, in total have already been [evacuated] since the beginning of the special military operation.”

Mizintsev said a total of 20,961 vehicles crossed the state border of the Russian Federation, including 867 over the past day.

Mizintsev said of the citizens who evacuated to Russia, 166 were from Turkey, 41 Ukraine, 11 Egypt, eight Italy, seven Azerbaijan, six Pakistan, five India, as well as Swedish, Moroccan, and Brazilian citizens.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said earlier Wednesday it has tallied 2.15 million people that have been evacuated from Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, with more than half going to Poland.

Mar 09, 12:21 pm
Russian army claims to introduce temporary ceasefire in 13 humanitarian corridors

Russia is retaining a temporary ceasefire in humanitarian corridors in Ukraine, head of the Russian National Defense Control Center Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev alleged on Wednesday.

Ten of the corridors were proposed by Moscow, while three were proposed by Kyiv, Mizintsev told reporters at a press briefing.

“Today, at exactly 10 a.m. local time, in accordance with agreements reached on 10 humanitarian corridors initiated by the Russian Federation and three more at the request of the Ukrainian side, the Russian Armed Forces introduced a temporary ceasefire, which is being strictly observed until now,” Mizintsev said

No practical measures for the preparation of humanitarian convoys have been carried out so far, and no one has ever arrived at the humanitarian corridors that have been opened, Mizintsev said. The formation of organized humanitarian convoys has also not been recorded, he claimed.

Mar 09, 11:48 am
Russian airstrike destroyed children’s hospital: Ukrainian officials

A devastating Russian airstrike has destroyed a maternity and children’s hospital in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, according to Ukrainian officials.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and local officials have posted videos on social media of what appears to be the devastated hospital, partly caved in and with walls blown out, the grounds littered with burnt-out vehicles.

ABC News is attempting to independently verify the attack.

Ukrainian authorities have said there are casualties and Zelenskyy wrote that there are children under the rubble.

Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of deliberately targeting the hospital.

Pavlo Kirilenko, the head of the Donetsk regional military administration, wrote on Facebook that a Russian aircraft targeted the hospital. Other officials have suggested there were multiple strikes.

Zelenskyy has called it an “atrocity” and called on the international community again to impose a “no-fly” zone.

“Direct strike of Russian troops at the maternity hospital. 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,” Zelenskyy tweeted.

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Mar 09, 11:17 am
Russia claims its Aerospace Forces destroyed 89 combat planes, 57 helicopters in Ukraine

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman claimed Wednesday that Russia’s Aerospace Forces have destroyed more than half of the Ukrainian Armed Forces aircraft.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russian forces have 89 Ukrainian combat planes and 57 helicopters out of an estimated total of 250 combat aircraft once in possession of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and “in good working order” prior to Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine.

“Ninety percent of Ukrainian military airfields, which accommodate the core combat aviation force, have been rendered inoperable,” Konashenkov said.

He said that as of Wednesday, Russia has observed “only isolated attempts” of the Ukrainian Air Force’s combat aircraft to take off.

Neither U.S. Defense officials nor Ukrainian officials has confirmed Konashenkov’s report.

Mar 09, 9:08 am
US to send two Patriot anti-missile batteries to Poland

The United States said it’s sending two Patriot anti-missile batteries stationed in Europe to Poland as a “defensive deployment” at the request of the Polish government.

While testifying before Congress Tuesday on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said there were discussions underway with the Polish government about a possible deployment of Patriot batteries. The U.S. military’s European Command (EUCOM) later confirmed that two batteries already in Europe would be deployed to Poland.

“At the direction of the Secretary of Defense and at the invitation of our Polish allies, General Wolters, Commander of U.S. European Command, has directed U.S. Army Europe and Africa to reposition two Patriot Batteries to Poland,” EUCOM spokesman Capt. Adam Miller said in a statement Tuesday. “This defensive deployment is being conducted proactively to counter any potential threat to U.S. and Allied forces and NATO territory. This is a prudent force protection measure that underpins our commitment to Article Five and will in no way support any offensive operations. Every step we take is intended to deter aggression and reassure our Allies.”

The move came hours after the U.S. dismissed Poland’s offer to transfer all of its MiG-26 fighter jets to a U.S. air base in Germany to boost Ukraine’s fight against Russia, with Pentagon press secretary John Kirby saying in a statement Tuesday that “we do not believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one.”

Poland is expecting delivery later this year of two Patriot batteries it had bought in 2018. The air defense systems are intended to shoot down incoming missiles, so their deployment to Poland means there are concerns about dealing with any incoming missile fire into the country, which shares a 330-mile border with Ukraine. It was unclear exactly where in Poland the Patriot batteries would be placed.

Mar 09, 8:40 am
Ukraine warns of radiation risk after power cut at Russia-occupied Chernobyl plant

Ukraine warned Wednesday that electricity has been entirely cut to its Chernobyl nuclear power plant and radioactive substance could be released because its storage facility cannot cool spent nuclear fuel.

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, a 1,000-square-mile restricted area of deserted land surrounding the shuttered plant, was seized by Russian forces just hours after they launched their invasion on Feb. 24. The plant, situated between the Belarus-Ukraine border and the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, is the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986.

Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection announced via Twitter on Wednesday that the “Kyiv high-voltage line is currently disconnected due to the damage caused by the occupiers.”

“As a result, the Chernobyl station and all nuclear facilities in the Exclusion Zone are without electricity,” the agency tweeted.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also confirmed the news on Twitter, saying the only electrical grid supplying Chernobyl and all its nuclear facilities occupied by Russian forces “is damaged,” causing a loss of power supply.

“I call on the international community to urgently demand Russia to cease fire and allow repair units to restore power supply,” Kuleba tweeted.

However, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it “sees no critical impact on safety.” The nuclear watchdog of the United Nations tweeted that the “heat load of spent fuel storage pool and volume of cooling water” at Chernobyl is “sufficient for effective heat removal without need for electrical supply.”

Some 20,000 spent nuclear fuel assemblies are stored in Chernobyl’s storage facility and “need constant cooling,” which is only possible if there is electricity, according to Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection.

“If it is not there, the pumps will not cool. As a result, the temperature in the holding pools will increase,” the agency tweeted. “After that evaporation will occur, that will lead to nuclear discharge.”

Kuleba noted that reserve diesel generators have a 48-hour capacity to power Chernobyl.

“After that, cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, making radiation leaks imminent,” he tweeted. “Putin’s barbaric war puts entire Europe in danger. He must stop it immediately!”

Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection warned that “the wind can transfer the radioactive cloud” to other areas of Ukraine as well as Belarus, Russia and elsewhere in Europe. There is also no ventilation inside the Chernobyl storage facility.

“All personnel there will receive a dangerous dose of radiation,” the agency tweeted.

Meanwhile, the facility’s fire extinguishing system is not functioning and the agency warned of “a huge risk of fire caused by shelling.”

“The fight still goes on making it impossible to carry out repairs and restore power,” the agency tweeted.

Mar 09, 8:08 am
Russia responds to Poland offering fighter jets to help Ukraine

Russia warned Wednesday of “an extremely undesirable and potentially dangerous scenario” if other countries use their airfields to support Ukraine.

When asked by reporters during a daily press briefing to comment on Poland’s announcement Tuesday that it’s “ready” to “immediately” hand over all its MIG-29 fighter jets “free of charge” to a U.S. air base in Germany to boost Ukraine’s fight against Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “The [Russian] Defense Ministry has already commented on the possibility of using any other airfields for takeoffs of military planes.”

“This is an extremely undesirable and potentially dangerous scenario,” he added.

Mar 09, 6:12 am
Over 2.15 million refugees have fled Ukraine: UNHCR

More than 2.15 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24, according to the latest figures from the United Nations refugee agency.

The tally from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) amounts to nearly 5% of Ukraine’s population — which the World Bank counted at 44 million at the end of 2020 — on the move across borders in just two weeks.

More than half of the refugees are in neighboring Poland, UNHCR figures show.

Mar 09, 5:19 am
Ukraine says humanitarian corridors confirmed with Russia, Red Cross for Wednesday

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said six humanitarian corridors have been agreed with Russian officials and confirmed with the International Committee of the Red Cross to operate during a temporary cease-fire Wednesday.

According to Vereshchuk, the evacuation routes for civilians are open from towns north of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, where there has been heavy fighting, as well as from the besieged southeastern port city of Mariupol, where an evacuation failed yesterday. Another route goes from the town of Izium near hard-hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and another from the eastern city of Volnovakha, where civilians have been trying to evacuate for several days. Another route leads from northeastern city of Energodar, where shelling caused a fire at Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant last week.

Vereshchuk said Russian officials had sent a letter to the Red Cross confirming the routes and a cease-fire for Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. local time. She called on Russia to keep to its commitment and not to violate the cease-fire, as she said it did in Mariupol and Volnovakha on Tuesday.

“We ask Russian forces to commit to their obligations and keep the ceasefire till 9 p.m. as agreed,” Vereshchuk said in a statement Wednesday morning.

Vereshchuk noted that an orphanage with 55 children and 26 staff also needs to be evacuated from Vorzel, a town just north of Kyiv.

“The evacuation of them will be done as a separate special operation,” she said.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement Wednesday that it has discussed the interaction on the Ukraine track with the Red Cross.

Mar 08, 9:59 pm
Biden calls family of US Marine detained by Russia

U.S. President Joe Biden called the parents of Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine who has been detained in Russia for nearly three years and whose case has gotten renewed attention amid the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

The president spoke to Joey and Paula Reed after an event in Fort Worth, Texas, on Tuesday, according to the White House.

On the call, the president reiterated his commitment to doing everything he can to bring their son home, to staying in close touch with them through his national security team and to finding a time to meet in person, the White House said.

A Reed family spokesperson also confirmed to ABC News that Biden called them to apologize for not being able to stop and meet them in person.

The family says they have been asking to meet with the president for several months to help free Reed, a Texan who they say has been denied treatment for suspected tuberculosis, and specifically asked to meet the president in Texas on Tuesday but were denied.

Reed and another former Marine, Paul Whelan, have spent years in Russian custody on charges that their families and American officials say were fabricated by Russia in order to seize them as bargaining chips.

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