(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, have advanced closer to the city center in recent days despite the resistance, coming within about 9 miles as of 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:
Mar 11, 5:05 am
Number of refugees from Ukraine rises to 2.5 million
The number of refugees in the Ukraine crisis has increased to 2.5 million, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Commissioner Filippo Grandi called the conflict “senseless” in a tweet and said that the number of displaced people inside Ukraine had reached about two million.
Mar 11, 4:49 am
Putin orders Russian military to help volunteer fighters from Middle East travel to Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his defense minister to assist “volunteer” fighters to travel to Ukraine to join Russian forces there.
The order appears to relate to Russian efforts to recruit Syrian fighters that U.S. officials have said are underway.
Russia’s defense minister, Sergey Shoigu, claimed to Putin that 16,000 volunteers from “the Middle East” had expressed a desire to come.
Shoigu claimed that the fighters, who he said had experience fighting ISIS, wanted to come not for money but a “sincere” desire to help.
U.S. officials have said they believe Russia is recruiting Syrians experienced in urban combat from its areas held by its ally, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. They are reported to be being offered just a few hundred dollars.
Mar 10, 11:08 pm
Senate approves $1.5 trillion funding bill with supplemental aid to Ukraine
The Senate passed a $1.5 trillion government funding bill late Thursday that includes $13.6 billion in supplemental aid to Ukraine by a vote of 68-31.
The legislation will now head to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
In a statement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki thanked leaders for “getting this bill done” and said Biden “looks forward to signing it into law.”
“With these resources, we will be able to deliver historic support for the Ukrainian people as they defend their country and democracy,” she said in part.
The supplemental Ukrainian aid is split between defense and nondefense funding. The $1.5 trillion also includes funding for many of the administration’s priorities as well as sizable amounts for defense spending.
Mar 10, 10:43 pm
Biden to call for end to normal trade relations with Russia: Source
President Joe Biden will call for an end to normal trade relations with Russia on Friday, following their invasion of Ukraine, according to a source familiar with the matter. The decision would give the White House clearance to increase tariffs on the Kremlin.
“Tomorrow President Biden will announce that the U.S., along with the G-7, European Union, will be calling to revoke Most Favored Nation status for Russia, or called permanent normal trade relations, ‘PNTR,’ in the U.S.,” according to the source. “Each country will implement based on its own national processes. President Biden and the administration appreciate the bipartisan leadership of Congress and its calls for the revocation of the PNTR. Following the announcement tomorrow, the Admin looks forward to working with Congress on legislation to revoke PNTR.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers has already publicly voiced support for this move.
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