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Russia-Ukraine live updates: US military aid begins to arrive in Ukraine

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(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. Heavy shelling and missile attacks, many on civilian buildings, continue in Kyiv, as well as major cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol. Russia also bombed western cities for the first time this week, targeting Lviv and a military base near the Poland border.

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 23, 12:07 pm
Putin blocking hundreds of ships filled with wheat in the Black Sea: von der Leyen

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday accused Russia’s President Vladimir Putin of blocking hundreds of ships filled with wheat in the Black Sea.

“Our continent is being rocked by a tectonic shift, not seen since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The consequences of this war on Europe’s security architecture will be far reaching. And I’m not just talking about security in military terms, but also energy security and even food security are at stake,” she said in a speech to the European Commission.

Von der Leyen addedd: “The effects of the Russian war go beyond energy of course, they also disrupting vital food supplies and driving food prices up.”

The consequences of this disruption will be felt from Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia to Africa and the Far East, according to von der Leyen.

“We should not forget that Ukraine alone provides more than half of the world food programs’ wheat supply. The shelling and the bumping makes it impossible for Ukrainian farmers to do so,” she said.

“I call on Putin to let those ships go otherwise he will not only be responsible for one death, but also for famine and hunger. Let these ships go,” von der Leyen added.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Mar 23, 11:23 am
NATO allies expected to announce major increases to forces in the east

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Wednesday that he expects allies to announce major increases to forces in the eastern part of the defense alliance at Thursday’s summit.

Stoltenberg said the first step would be the deployment of four new NATO battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. With the existing forces in place, there will be eight multi-national battle groups all along the eastern flank, from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

“We face a new reality for our security, so we must reset our deterrence and defense for the longer term,” Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg said he expects allies will agree to provide additional support to Ukraine, including cybersecurity assistance and equipment to help Ukraine protect against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

He added that NATO has a responsibility to make sure the conflict does not escalate beyond Ukraine, as “this will cause even more death and even more destruction.”

Stoltenberg also called on Belarus to end its complicity in the war.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

Mar 23, 11:13 am
Bridge linking Chernihiv Oblast to Kyiv destroyed, governor says

The governor of Ukraine’s Chernihiv Oblast, Viacheslav Chaus, claimed Wednesday that Russian forces have destroyed the bridge linking the region to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

In a video posted on Telegram, Chaus shows the destroyed bridge over the Desna river, which he said effectively means that the road from Chernihiv to Kyiv is now severed.

-ABC News’ Fergal Gallagher

Mar 23, 10:53 am
Sending NATO peacekeepers to Ukraine would be ‘very reckless’, Russia warns

Russia warned Wednesday that sending NATO peacekeepers to Ukraine would be “a very reckless and extremely dangerous decision.”

Last week, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced that Poland will formally submit a proposal at the NATO summit on Thursday for a peacekeeping mission in Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on Poland’s plans while speaking to reporters Wednesday.

“It would be a very reckless and extremely dangerous decision,” Peskov said. “A special military operation is going on, and any possible contact by our troops with NATO troops can lead to quite clear consequences that would be hard to repair.”

Mar 23, 10:32 am
Russia claims US isn’t interested in progress in Ukraine

Russia claimed Wednesday that the United States isn’t interested in the rapid progress of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.

During a speech to students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in Russia’s capital, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Washington of wanting to keep Moscow and Kyiv “in a state of hostilities” for “as long as possible.”

“Negotiations are difficult because the Ukrainian side seems to have expressed understanding of the things that should be agreed upon during the negotiations, constantly changing its position, refusing its own proposals,” Lavrov said. “It is difficult to get rid of the impression that they are being held by the hand by their American colleagues.”

He alleged “it is unprofitable” for the U.S. “that this process be completed quickly.”

“They expect to continue pumping weapons to Ukraine. Provocative statements are being made,” he added. “Apparently they want to keep us as long as possible in a state of hostilities.”

Mar 23, 10:27 am
US military aid begins to arrive in Ukraine

The first deliveries from the $800 million-military assistance that President Joe Biden authorized for Ukraine a week ago have started to arrive, a White House official confirmed to ABC News.

The military aid package includes Stinger anti-aircraft systems; Javelin anti-armor weapons; light anti-armor weapons; AT-4 anti-armor systems and tactical unmanned aerial systems.

CNN first reported the deliveries.

-ABC News’ Justin Gomez

Mar 23, 10:11 am
Video shows entire neighborhoods destroyed in Mariupol

Video has emerged showing the devastation in Ukraine’s besieged city of Mariupol.

Drone footage recorded Wednesday and released by a Ukrainian right-wing paramilitary group that has been incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard shows entire neighborhoods destroyed in Mariupol. Mere shells are all that remain of buildings and smoke is still rising from some of the wreckage. The video has been verified by ABC News.

Ukrainian troops are continuing to battle persistent efforts by Russian forces to seize the strategic port city in southeastern Ukraine.

-ABC News’ Fergal Gallagher

Mar 23, 9:39 am
Russia, Ukraine agree on nine humanitarian corridors for Wednesday

Russia and Ukraine have agreed on nine humanitarian corridors to try to evacuate civilians trapped in embattled Ukrainian towns and cities on Wednesday, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

But the agreement does not include a safe passage from the heart of Mariupol, Vereshchuk said in an address Wednesday, adding that she hopes people wishing to leave the besieged southeastern port city can make it to nearby Berdyansk, where humanitarian aid awaits them. She said 24 buses are on standby to transport people.

Some of the previous attempts to evacuate civilians from Mariupol have failed after Russian forces continued to shell the city, despite agreeing to temporary cease-fires.

Mar 23, 9:17 am
Belarus expels several Ukrainian diplomats, closes Ukrainian Consulate General

Belarus announced Wednesday its decision to expel several Ukrainian diplomats and close the Ukrainian Consulate General in Brest.

“The Ukrainian embassy will continue to work in Belarus in a 1+4 format, that is, an ambassador and four staff members,” Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Anatoly Glaz said in a statement, according to the state-run news agency BelTA.

Mar 23, 8:27 am
Ukraine says 100,000 remain trapped in besieged Mariupol

Fierce fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces continued in Mariupol on Wednesday morning, with the Ukrainian government warning that as many as 100,000 people remain trapped in the besieged port city.

One Mariupol resident, who managed to escape with her elderly parents and four cats, told ABC News her home had no electricity or heat and that she would have to scavenge for food and other supplies under Russian bombardment. She recalled seeing bodies strewn in the streets because residents had no choice but to leave them there.

“We understood anytime we might be killed by the next bomb,” she said during an interview Tuesday.

Pro-Russia separatist forces from the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic in Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region said Wednesday that 562 civilians, including 110 children, were evacuated from encircled Mariupol to the occupied town of Bezymenne in the past 24 hours. A total of 4,621 civilians were evacuated from Mariupol between March 5 and March 23, according to the separatist forces.

Mar 23, 7:59 am
Russia claims to have swapped prisoners with Ukraine

Russia and Ukraine have exchanged prisoners twice since the start of the war, according to Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova.

“Two prisoner exchanges have been completed between Russia and Ukraine,” Zakharova said in a statement Wednesday.

Mar 23, 7:56 am
Poland expels 45 Russian diplomats for espionage

Russia’s ambassador to Poland, Sergey Andreev, said Wednesday that he has received a note from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanding the expulsion of 45 Russian diplomats on charges of espionage.

The diplomats must leave Poland within five days, according to Andreev.

The news came after a spokesperson for Poland’s Internal Security Agency announced on Polish television that authorities had compiled a list of 45 Russian diplomats in the country who were suspected of spying.

Mar 23, 7:45 am
Two residential areas of Kyiv shelled overnight, officials say

Russian shelling hit two residential areas of Kyiv on Tuesday night, according to the city administration.

A shopping center and two private houses were damaged in the Sviatoshynskyi district of the Ukrainian capital, but no one was injured and the fires have been extinguished, officials said.

Several private houses and high-rise buildings were on fire in the Shevchenkivskyi district, where four people were injured. Rescuers and medics were still on the scene Wednesday, and the extent of the damage was under assessment, according to officials.

Mar 23, 7:32 am
Russia doesn’t believe claims of civilian deaths in Ukraine

Moscow doesn’t believe Kyiv’s claims of civilian deaths in Ukraine caused by Russian forces, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday.

“We don’t believe the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office. Russian troops are carrying out no strikes, aren’t firing on civilians,” Peskov told reporters during a daily call. “Russian servicemen are helping civilians and, regrettably, more and more eyewitnesses get out of the cities saying that they are being held there as human shields, and that nationalist battalions are firing — and there are plenty of such cases — on civilians.”

Mar 23, 6:42 am
Over 3.6 million refugees have fled Ukraine: UNHCR

More than 3.6 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 just over 8% of Ukraine’s population — which the World Bank counted at 44 million at the end of 2020 — on the move across borders in 28 days.

More than half of the refugees crossed into neighboring Poland, UNHCR figures show.

Mar 23, 5:45 am
Russian forces allegedly destroy Ukrainian weapons depot

Russia claimed Wednesday that its forces carried out an airstrike destroying a weapons depot of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The Russian Ministry of Defense also alleged that troops have destroyed 430 aircraft, including drones, as well as more than 1,500 tanks and other combat armoured vehicles belonging to the Ukrainian Armed Forces since the “special military operation” began Feb. 24.

Mar 23, 5:20 am
Talks with Moscow ‘are moving forward,’ Zelenskyy says

Negotiations between Ukraine and Russia are “very difficult” but “moving forward,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday.

“It’s very difficult, sometimes confrontational,” Zelenskyy said in an early morning address. “But step by step, we are moving forward.”

Zelenskyy added that he is “grateful to all international mediators who are standing up for Ukraine.”

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