(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.
Mar 24, 11:00 am
Lavrov’s stepdaughter among those targeted by latest UK sanctions on Russia
The United Kingdom imposed sanctions on another 33 people and 26 legal entities from Russia on Thursday.
Various Russian banks, including Gazprombank and Alfa-Bank, and Russian paramilitary organization the Wagner Group, were targeted, as well as Polina Kovaleva, the stepdaughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Kovaleva reportedly owns a house in London. The assets of these persons and legal entities will be frozen under the sanctions, according to a document published by the U.K. Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation.
The document noted that this latest wave of sanctions were meant to target “key strategic industries and individuals,” as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its second month.
Mar 24, 10:40 am
Putin has record month of international calls
Russian President Vladimir Putin made a record number of international telephone calls over the past month, according to the Kremlin.
The most calls — eight — were placed to French President Emmanuel Macron. Others on the list include leaders of Germany, Israel, India, Turkey, Luxembourg, Uzbekistan, Armenia and the European Council. There were also negotiations with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Finland, Bahrain, Senegal, Abu Dhabi, South Africa, Egypt, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, Syria, Iran and China, according to the Kremlin.
Mar 24, 10:08 am
Russia says talks with Ukraine continue virtually
Russia said Thursday that peace talks with Ukraine are continuing and are being held via video conference.
“Negotiations by the Russian and Ukrainian delegations on a draft treaty on the settlement of the situation in Ukraine, its neutrality and guarantees of its security are currently ongoing via video-conferencing. Military, political, and humanitarian aspects are being discussed,” Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova said during a press briefing.
“We hope that Kyiv will still come to realize the inevitability of a peaceful solution to the problem of demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, its transformation into a neutral state,” she added. “The sooner representatives of the Kyiv regime understand this, the sooner the special military operation will be completed.”
Mar 24, 10:00 am
Ukraine accuses Russia of forcibly deporting Mariupol residents
Ukraine claimed Thursday that residents of Mariupol who have survived Russian bombardment are now being forcibly deported to Russia.
“The Russian Federation has launched a new phase of terror against the city of Mariupol,” the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. “According to available information, the Russian army has forcibly deported about 6,000 Mariupol residents to Russian filtration camps in order to use them as hostages for political pressure on Ukraine.”
“At the same time, the Russian armed forces are firing on evacuation columns trying to leave Mariupol for the unoccupied territory of Ukraine,” the ministry added. “Russian troops continue to hold a humanitarian convoy of buses that arrived a few days ago from Mariupol from Zaporizhia.”
According to the ministry, some 15,000 residents of the besieged port city in southeastern Ukraine are in danger of being forcibly deported to Russia, with Russian troops confiscating peoples’ passports and other identification documents.
“Such actions by Russia are a gross violation of the laws or customs of war, the rules of international humanitarian law,” the ministry said.
The ministry called on world leaders to “take urgent action to save the lives of residents of Mariupol and other Ukrainian cities who have been in an inhumane siege by the Russian army.”
“The international community must impose new tough sanctions on Russia to stop its deadly military machine, as well as cut off all business ties with Russian companies to stop funding Russia’s war against Ukraine,” the ministry said.
-ABC News Julia Drozd
Mar 24, 9:51 am
NATO leaders discuss how to give Ukraine anti-ship missiles
The mood at NATO’s emergency summit in Brussels has been “sober” and “resolute” so far, according to senior U.S. administration officials.
“There was a very strong sense that that we are facing a significant historical moment, and very strong support from all the leaders who spoke about the need to defend our democracy,” one of the officials told reporters during a telephone briefing Thursday.
The officials said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnkyy, who addressed NATO leaders remotely, spoke “very eloquently” and “repeated his requests for continued and increased Western security assistance.”
“But notably, there was not a request for a no-fly zone,” an official added. “There was also not a request for NATO membership.”
U.S. President Joe Biden was the first NATO head of state to speak after Zelenskyy’s speech and noted that Thursday marks one month since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. He discussed the sanctions that have already been imposed and expressed strong support for Ukraine as well as humanitarian and military aid and reaffirmed his support for Article 5, which is the cornerstone of NATO and states that an attack on one member is an attack on all members.
China was also a topic of discussion among “many of the speakers,” officials said, as the world watches whether Beijing offers any military or economic assistance to Moscow.
“We need to continue to call on China not to support Russia in its aggression against Ukraine, and that we need China to call for a peaceful end of the conflict as a responsible member of the international community,” an official told reporters.
NATO allies are now consulting about “providing anti-ship missiles to Ukraine,” following the Ukrainian navy’s attack on a Russian ship earlier Thursday, though officials noted “there may be some technical challenges with making that happen.”
When asked whether there were discussions about NATO responding to a potential chemical attack by Russian forces in Ukraine, the officials told reporters: “Yes, there were some references to that.”
“It’s something that NATO as a military alliance is already postured to do,” one official said, “and it’s something that they’re recognized that they need to continue to do given the various scenarios that could emerge as part of this conflict.”
Mar 24, 9:09 am
Ukraine accuses Russia of using phosphorus bombs on civilians
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of using phosphorous bombs on civilians in Ukraine on Thursday.
“This morning, by the way, there were phosphorus bombs — phosphorus Russian bombs. Adults were killed again and children were killed again,” Zelenskyy told NATO leaders via video link from Kyiv, during an emergency NATO summit in Brussels. “I just want you to know that the alliance can still prevent the deaths of Ukrainians from Russian strikes, from Russian occupation, by providing us with all the weapons we need.”
Phosphorus munitions inflict excruciating burns and can lead to infection, shock and organ failure.
Mar 24, 8:30 am
Zelenskyy addresses NATO virtually: Never tell us our army doesn’t meet your standards
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned NATO leaders on Thursday that Russia’s offensive will ultimately go beyond Ukraine, unless the Western defense alliance takes stronger action.
“Ukraine never wanted this war and does not want to fight for years. We just want to save our people,” Zelenskyy said in an impassioned speech via video link from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. “I am sure you already understand that Russia does not intend to stop in Ukraine — does not intend and will not. It wants to go further.”
As all 30 NATO heads of state meet in Brussels for an emergency summit to discuss their response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Zelenskyy lamented that “the worst thing during the war is not having clear answers to requests for help.”
“On Feb. 24, I addressed you with a perfectly clear, logical request to help close our skies — in any format. Protect our people from Russian bombs and missiles. We did not hear a clear answer,” he told NATO leaders. “And you see the consequences today — how many people were killed, how many peaceful cities were destroyed.”
“I have been repeating the same thing for a month now: To save people and our cities, Ukraine needs military assistance without restrictions, as Russia uses without restrictions its entire arsenal against us,” he continued. “Ukraine asked for your planes so that we do not lose so many people. And you have thousands of fighter jets, but we haven’t been given any yet.”
“We asked for tanks so that we can unblock our cities that are now dying,” he added. “You have at least 20,000 tanks. Ukraine asked for a percent — 1% — of all your tanks to be given or sold to us. But we do not have a clear answer yet.”
Zelenskyy criticized NATO for “worrying about how Russia will react” but said he wants “to be clear” that he does not “blame” the alliance.
“It’s not your missiles, it’s not your bombs that are destroying our cities,” he told NATO leaders. “I just want you to know that the alliance can still prevent the deaths of Ukrainians from Russian strikes, from Russian occupation, by providing us with all the weapons we need.”
While Ukraine has been refused NATO membership, “the most powerful defense alliance in the world,” Zelenskyy noted how his country has been defending “all our common values” for the last month.
“Yes, we are not in the alliance,” he said. “But Ukrainians never thought that the alliance and the allies were different.”
After a month of war, Zelenskyy said the “only thing” he demands from NATO now is: “Never, please, never tell us again that our army does not meet NATO standards.”
Mar 24, 7:44 am
Russia claims to have seized city of Izyum in eastern Ukraine
Russia claimed Thursday that its troops have seized Izyum, a city in eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv Oblast.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement that units of the Russian Armed Forces had taken control of the city by Thursday morning.
Izyum is about 75 miles southeast of the oblast capital, Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, which has faced relentless bombardment by Russian forces since the start of the invasion a month ago.
Ukraine did not immediately comment on the claim.
Mar 24, 7:22 am
Ukraine claims to have sunk large Russian ship at occupied port
The Ukrainian Naval Forces said Thursday that it has sunk the Russian ship Orsk in the Sea of Asov near the southeastern Ukrainian port city of Berdyansk.
The Ukrainian Naval Forces released a video, verified by ABC News, showing a large ship burning in the Russian-occupied port of Berdyansk, with flames and thick smoke billowing into the sky. The Orsk, a Russian Navy amphibious landing ship that was used to ferry Russian troops to Ukraine, was docked in the port.
Russia did not immediately comment on the claim.
Mar 24, 6:50 am
Over 3.67 million refugees have fled Ukraine: UNHCR
More than 3.67 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 29 days.
More than half of the refugees crossed into neighboring Poland, UNHCR figures show.
Mar 24, 5:48 am
NATO leaders pose for photo ahead of emergency summit
NATO leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, posed for a photo at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels on Thursday ahead of an emergency summit, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine grants into a second month.
Biden stood in the front row in between NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Biden and Stoltenberg were the last of the leaders to arrive for the photo-op. As they walked in the room, Biden ignored a question from a reporter about what his message is to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Instead, Biden went to shake hands with Johnson and then greeted French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi
Mar 24, 5:20 am
Biden arrives at NATO headquarters for emergency summit
U.S. President Joe Biden arrived in Brussels on Thursday morning ahead of an emergency NATO summit to discuss the Western defense alliance’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The European diplomatic capital is also hosting a gathering of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and a summit of the 27 members of the European Union on Thursday. Biden is scheduled to attend all three meetings and hold a press conference at the end of the day.
Upon his arrival at NATO headquarters, Biden was greeted by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. The two leaders stood and spoke for a few moments, though their conversation was inaudible. Biden and Stoltenberg then walked into the building and down the hallway, where they did not stop to speak to reporters who asked whether Russia’s potential use of chemical weapons in Ukraine are a red line that would trigger a response from NATO.
Biden and Stolenberg will now meet privately before taking a photo with other NATO leaders.
Earlier Thursday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced the same question from reporters when he arrived at NATO headquarters.
“Look, I think that the reality is that President Putin has already crossed a red line in barbarism and it’s now up to NATO to consider together the appalling crisis in Ukraine, the appalling suffering of the people of Ukraine,” Johnson replied. “And see what more we can do to help the people of Ukraine protect themselves. See what more we can do to tighten the economic vice around the Putin regime.”
Mar 24, 5:03 am
Ukraine calls Russian military ‘a gang of terrorists’
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on Thursday lambasted Russia’s military as “a gang of terrorists, criminals and cowards” who she claimed are committing war crimes.
In a statement posted on her official Facebook account, Reznikov marked one month since Russian forces invaded Ukraine and warned that Ukrainians “still have a very difficult period ahead.”
“The Russian military machine will not stop until it is drenched in the blood of its soldiers,” Reznikov said.
Earlier this month, Russian troops opened fire on a nursing home in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kreminna, killing 56 people, according to Reznikov.
“This is not an accidental hit,” she said. “This is the deliberate killing of defenseless people — a war crime. That’s why the Russian army is a gang of terrorists, criminals and cowards.”
Still, Reznikov remained confident that Ukrainian forces will prevail with international support.
“We will drive them out. We will rebuild everything,” she added. “We will clean our land from the effects of war. It will take a lot of effort and time.”
Mar 24, 4:36 am
Russian military leaders repeatedly decline calls from US counterparts
Top Russian defense and military leaders have repeatedly declined telephone calls from their U.S. counterparts since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
Kirby said in a statement Wednesday that, over the last month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, “have sought, and continued to seek, calls with” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces. But the Russians “have so far declined to engage,” he said.
“We continue to believe that engagement between U.S. and Russian defense leaders is critically important at this time,” Kirby added.
Mar 24, 3:31 am
US slams Russia’s plans to partially reopen stock market
The United States is slamming Russia’s plans to reopen its stock market for limited trading on Thursday for the first time in a month since Russian forces invaded Ukraine.
“What we’re seeing is a charade: a Potemkin market opening,” White House deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh said in a statement early Thursday. “After keeping its markets closed for nearly a month, Russia announced it will only allow 15% of listed shares to trade, foreigners are prohibited from selling their shares, and short selling in general has been banned. Meanwhile, Russia has made clear they are going to pour government resources into artificially propping up the shares of companies that are trading.”
“This is not a real market and not a sustainable model—which only underscores Russia’s isolation from the global financial system,” he added. “The United States and our allies and partners will continue taking action to further isolate Russia from the international economic order as long it continues its brutal war against Ukraine.”
Shares plunged and the Moscow Exchange was shut down following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Mar 23, 11:39 pm
White House team plans for worst-case scenarios, including chemical attacks
A team set up by the White House has been gaming out worst-case scenarios in Ukraine, mostly focused on the possibility Russia carries out chemical and biological attacks, according to a National Security Council official.
The so-called “Tiger Team,” set up at the request of national security adviser Jake Sullivan in late February after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, has analyzed the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons, but the NSC official emphasized that is not the team’s focus. The official said the group is mostly focused on protecting supply chains, security operations of U.S. personnel and planning for chemical or biological weapon attacks.
U.S. officials have repeatedly warned that Russia may be considering using chemical weapons in Ukraine and say Russian allegations that Ukrainians were developing chemical weapons may be a pretense to use such weapons themselves.
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