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Russia-Ukraine live updates: 'Don't even think' about moving in NATO territory: Biden

SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP 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, 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 last 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 26, 3:17 pm
Biden tells Ukrainian people: ‘We stand with you’ in Warsaw address

President Joe Biden told the Ukrainian people, “We stand with you” in an address he gave at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday.

“We’ll not cease the efforts to get humanitarian relief wherever it is needed in Ukraine and for the people who’ve made it out of Ukraine. Notwithstanding the brutality of Vladimir Putin, let there be no doubt that this war [has] already been a strategic failure for Russia,” Biden said.

“Putin thought Ukrainians would roll over and not fight, not much of a student of history,” Biden said.

Biden also addressed the Russian people, telling them: “You, the Russian people, are not our enemy.”

“The American people stand with you and the brave people of Ukraine for peace,” Biden said.
 

Mar 26, 2:59 pm
‘This man cannot remain in power’ Biden says in Warsaw speech

In an address from Warsaw Saturday, President Joe Biden made remarks seemingly directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. “For god’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden said.

After the speech, the White House released a statement saying the president wasn’t calling for a regime change.

“The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change,” a White House official said.

“These are not the actions of a great nation,” Biden said, addressing the Russian people during his speech.

“Vladimir Putin’s aggression have cut you, the Russian people, off from the rest of the world, and it’s taking Russia back to the 19th century. This is not who you are,” Biden said.

Biden praised Ukrainian resistance, saying the U.S. stands with the people of Ukraine and will continue to support them.

“A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never erase a people’s love for liberty. Brutality will never grind down their will to be free. Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, for free people refuse to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness,” Biden said.

Mar 26, 2:00 pm
‘Don’t even think’ about moving in NATO territory: Biden warns in Warsaw speech

President Joe Biden warned: “Don’t even think about moving onto one single inch of NATO territory,” Saturday in an address that just ended.

Biden spoke to an audience of between 750 and 1,000 attendees in Warsaw, Poland, including Polish President Andrzej Duda, members of parliament, local officials, students from local universities and U.S. embassy staff, according to the White House.

Mar 26, 1:01 pm
There are ‘continuous battles’ for Mariupol’s territory that continue daily: Ukrainian official

“Continuous battles” for Mariupol’s territory continue daily, the city’s deputy mayor, Serhiy Orlov, told ABC News Saturday.

The deputy mayor estimated that 150,000 people remain in the city.

He was unable to give an update on the hundreds of of civilians believed to have been killed in Russian strikes that hit a theater that was being used as a shelter. A sign indicated that children were sheltering inside satellite imagery shows.

“The situation becomes worse, so people still have a lack of everything,” he told ABC News in a remote interview.

The mayor added: “The lack of water, electricity, heat and sanitary system, lack of medicine, food. So they’re just surviving … it’s not a secret that from 50 to 100 airstrikes, the Russian aircraft do each day and the one-third or one-half of all the bombing of airstrikes in Ukraine goes on Mariupol.”

Mar 26, 12:24 pm
Missile strikes in Lviv leave 5 injured, Ukrainian official says

Two missile strikes in Lviv left five people injured on Saturday, according to preliminary data, the governor of Lviv, Maksym Kozytskyi, said in a statement.

The official said there is still a threat of a missile strike and told people to stay in shelters, not to walk down the street or take pictures of anything.

The Governor of Lviv has asked people not to share footage of the blast site, in a statement.

“Everything that can be reported for security reasons, I will report,” Kozytskyi said.

The official could not confirm reports that there was an impact on a residential building or other infrastructure facilities.

Home to many refugees passing through on their way out of the country, Lviv has been spared some of the worst shelling seen so far.

Mar 26, 12:03 pm
Biden meets with refugees in Warsaw, calls Putin a ‘butcher’

President Joe Biden met with Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday. When asked by reporters what he thought of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin after meeting with refugees, Biden said, “He’s a butcher.”

Biden was greeted by Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki outside the PGE Narodowy Stadium and he met several volunteers and refugees.

After meeting with refugees, Biden briefly spoke with reporters and said he’s always in awe of the depth and strength of the human spirit of refugees.

“I’ve been to an awful lot of places like this, a lot of refugee camps, in my life, and what I’m always surprised by, is the depth and strength of the human spirit. I mean it sincerely. They’re — it’s incredible. It’s incredible. See all those little children? Just want to hug, they just want to say thanks. I mean — I mean, it just makes you so damn proud,” Biden said.

“Each one of those children said something to the effect, say a prayer for my dad, or my grandfather or my brother, who’s back there fighting. And I remember what it’s like when you have someone in a war zone. Every morning you get up and you wonder. You just wonder, you pray you don’t get that phone call,” Biden said.

Mar 26, 11:39 am
Zelenskyy calls for increased energy production to prevent Russian ‘blackmail’ of the world

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a surprise video appearance at the Doha Forum in Qatar, addressing the energy-rich nation directly, calling on it and other energy-producing countries to increase energy production.

“The responsible states, in particular the State of Qatar, are reliable and reputable suppliers of energy resources. And they can contribute to stabilizing the situation in Europe. They can do much to restore justice,” Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy added, “The future of Europe depends on your efforts! I urge you to increase energy production! So that Russia understands that no state should use energy as a weapon to blackmail the world.”

Zelenskyy also warned that a food crisis will come after the migration crisis.

“Wheat, oil, corn and other agricultural products from our country are the basis of stability and internal security of many countries in different parts of the world… Russian troops mine fields in Ukraine, blow up agricultural machinery, destroy fuel reserves needed for sowing. They blocked our seaports,” Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy added: “Our state will have enough food. But the lack of exports from Ukraine will hit many nations in the Islamic world, Latin America and other parts of the world. Where some invaders still dream of going to strengthen their old privileges.”

Zelenskyy also drew direct comparisons between the destruction of Mariupol and the Russian bombing of Aleppo.

He criticized Russia for threatening the world with nuclear weapons, and called on countries to boost their production to counteract the global dependence on Russian oil.

Mar 26, 10:47 am
Biden, Duda give joint remarks ahead of meeting

President Joe Biden and Polish President Andrjez Duda delivered brief remarks ahead of their expanded bilateral meeting, with both sides stressing their strong relationship, and the importance of unity in the midst of Russian aggression against Ukraine. Biden is set to give a speech in Warsaw later Saturday.

Biden recalled a previous trip he made to Warsaw 25 years ago, after advocating for Poland to Join Nato, and said his message then is the same as today: “For your freedom and for ours.”

Biden also reiterated the U.S.’s commitment to NATO’s Article 5.

“The single most important criterion in this time-changing world — so much has changed, not just here, but in other parts of the world — is that NATO’s stay absolutely, completely, thoroughly united. [There needs] to be no separation, and our points of view, and whatever we do, we do in unison, and everyone, everyone comes along,” Biden said.

Biden added: “I’m confident that Vladimir Putin was counting on being able to divide NATO, and being able to separate the Eastern flank from the West. To be able to separate nations based on past histories. But he hasn’t been able to do it. We’ve all stayed together. And so I just think it’s so important that we, Poland and the United States, keep in lockstep the power pursuit.”

Biden also spoke about Poland’s work on the humanitarian side of the crisis, praising the country for taking in so many refugees, but acknowledging that it should not be just on Poland to handle the brunt of the load.

“We do acknowledge that Poland is taking on a significant responsibility that I don’t think should just be Poland, It should be the whole world — all of NATO’s responsibility. The fact that you have so many, so many Ukrainians seeking refuge and this country of Poland,” Biden said.

He added: “We understand that because we have on our southern border thousands of people a day –literally, not figuratively –trying to get into the United States. But we believe that we the United States, should do our part relative to Ukraine as well by opening our borders to another 100,000 people. And with that, and in addition to that, I think it’s important that we are in constant contact, about how we each wish to proceed, relative to what Russia is doing, and how to proceed.

Mar 26, 9:46 am
Biden, Poland’s president hold bilateral meeting

President Joe Biden arrived at the Polish presidential palace Saturday for a bilateral meeting with Polish President Andrjez Duda, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues.

Biden and Duda shook hands and stood shoulder to shoulder as both countries’ national anthems played.

Biden was met by three branches of the Polish military, as the two leaders reviewed the troops. They then headed inside for the meeting.

Biden was joined by a delegation of seven U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who participated in the meeting, according to the White House.

The Polish delegation consisted of six officials, including the ministers of foreign affairs and national defense, according to the White House.

Mar 26, 9:40 am
Biden drops by meeting between US and Ukrainian officials

President Joe Biden dropped by a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and their Ukrainian counterparts Saturday morning.

The meeting between the secretaries lasted for an hour and 46 minutes, according to the State Department.

The two secretaries pledged continued U.S. economic, military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and provided the Ukrainians updates after Thursday’s NATO, EU and G-7 summits.

“The Secretaries and Ministers discussed outcomes of the March 24 extraordinary NATO Summit in Brussels, and the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of the Russian Federation’s increasingly brutal assault on Ukrainian cities and civilian population,” said Ned Price, a spokesperson for the Department of State, in a statement.

In a statement from the White House, Biden reaffirmed the U.S.’s commitment to Ukraine, saying the officials discussed further efforts to help Ukraine defend its territory.

“The President updated the Ministers on U.S. efforts to rally the world in support of Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression, including through the President’s meetings this week in Belgium, and the significant military and humanitarian assistance the United States is providing to Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement.

The White House added: “They also discussed the United States’ ongoing actions to hold President Putin accountable for Russia’s brutal aggression, in coordination with our allies and partners, including through the new sanctions actions announced by the President in Brussels on March 24.

Mar 26, 9:24 am
Unexploded missile near nuclear site in Kharkiv cause for concern, IAEA says

There is an unexploded missile in the immediate vicinity of the nuclear research facility in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s regulatory authority told the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IAEA said it is continuing to monitor the situation.

“The regulator confirmed reports of an unexploded rocket of the multiple launch rocket system 9K58 Smerch ‘detected in the immediate vicinity’ of a nuclear research facility that has previously been damaged by shelling,” the IAEA said in a statement.

It added: “the regulator said ‘constant shelling’ of the area meant that no measures had yet been taken to dispose of the rocket.”

The facility is used for research and development and radioisotope production for medical and industrial applications. The site’s nuclear material cannot sustain a fission chain reaction and the radioactive inventory is low, according to the IAEA.

Eight of Ukraine’s 15 operational reactors, at four sites, are continuing to operate, including two at the Zaporizhzhya power plant. The other reactors are shut down for regular maintenance, the IAEA said.

Mar 26, 8:38 am
136 children have been killed, 199 injured, Ukraine officials say

Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office said that 136 children have been killed in the war and 199 have been injured, as of Saturday morning local time.

The grim update comes on Day 31 of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mar 26, 8:34 am
Russia using artillery to ‘demoralize’ Ukraine’s forces, British Ministry of Defense says

The Russian army is reluctant to engage in large-scale infantry operations, the British Ministry of Defense said Saturday.

“Russia continues to besiege a number of major Ukrainian cities including Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol. Russian forces are proving reluctant to engage in large scale urban infantry operations, rather preferring to rely on the indiscriminate use of air and artillery bombardments in an attempt to demoralize defending forces,” the Ministry of Defense said in a statement posted online.

It added: “It is likely Russia will continue to use its heavy firepower on urban areas as it looks to limit its own already considerable losses, at the cost of further civilian casualties.”

Mar 25, 6:24 pm
Jill Biden meets with Ukrainian pediatric cancer patients

During a visit to Memphis, Tenn., on Friday, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden privately met with two Ukrainian families who have loved ones being treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Four Ukrainian children, ages 20 months to 8 years, as well as 10 of their family members, were airlifted from Poland to St. Jude on Monday to continue treatment, according to Michael LaRosa, the First Lady’s press secretary.

Biden said in remarks during her visit that her “heart has ached watching the videos” of devastation in Ukraine.

“Parents weeping over their child’s broken bones … bodies in the streets. The senselessness of it all is just staggering,” she said.

She added, “When I learned that St. Jude was working with hospitals in Europe to bring some of the Ukrainian children with cancer and their families here, I felt so proud and I wanted to join you in welcoming them. We stand with Ukraine and we’re praying for their families.”

Mar 25, 4:44 pm
Fox News correspondent injured in Ukraine is back in U.S.

Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall is back in the U.S. after suffering serious injuries while reporting in Ukraine, Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott said in a statement.

Hall was hurt in Horenka, outside of Kyiv, on March 14 when his vehicle was hit by incoming fire, Scott said at the time. Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and Ukrainian producer and fixer Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova were killed in the incident.

Scott said Hall has been transferred from the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany to the Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas.

Hall has undergone multiple surgeries, Scott said.

“He remains in good spirits despite everything he has endured,” Scott wrote. “His strength and resiliency in the face of this crisis has been nothing short of extraordinary.”

Mar 25, 3:03 pm
U.S. official: Russians on defensive around Kyiv, now focusing on Donbas

Russian forces around Kyiv have fallen into defensive positions and have stopped offensive ground movements toward the capital city, a senior U.S. defense official said Friday.

“We’re still seeing airstrikes, but not nothing from the ground,” the official said.

The U.S. official said — as Russians also noted Friday — that Russian troops are currently focusing on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, where there’s been heavy fighting.

The Russians “are putting their priorities and their effort in the east of Ukraine, and that’s where still there remains a lot of heavy fighting,” the official said. “And we think they are trying to not only secure some sort of, more substantial gains there as a potential negotiating tactic at the table, but also to cut off Ukrainian forces in the eastern part of the country.”

Also, the official noted that Kherson, a city in southern Ukraine that’s north of Crimea, doesn’t seem to be “as solidly in Russian control as it was before.”

“That would be significant if the Ukrainians were able to take Kerson back,” the official said. “It’s a significant port city. It would also put it much greater risk the Russian positions around Mykolaiv [in southern Ukraine], and again if they have ground desires on Odessa [in southern Ukraine], losing Kherson and therefore putting their troops between Ukrainians, you’ll be sandwiched between Ukrainian forces in Kherson and those in Mykolaiv. … That would put them smack in the middle and that would make it very, very difficult for them to make any kind of ground movement on Odessa. If in fact, that was their plan.”

The U.S. is also seeing indications that the Russians are trying to send in some reinforcements from the breakaway regions of Georgia, the official said.

Mar 25, 2:09 pm
Russian military claims ‘main goal’ of invasion is ‘liberation’ of eastern Ukraine

In a Friday briefing, Russian military officials tried to reshape the narrative of the war, claiming the “main goal” of the invasion — what Russia calls a “military operation” — is to “liberate” Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region and not to seize other parts of Ukraine.

General Sergey Rudskoy, the head of the main operational directorate of Russia’s General Staff, said the main objectives of the “first phase” of the operation have been achieved, meaning Ukraine’s “combat capabilities have been significantly reduced.” Rudskoy said that allows Russia to now focus “on achieving the main goal the liberation of Donbas.”

The Donbas region contains the two Russian-controlled separatist statelets, the self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, the defense of which Russia used as a pretext for invading. Rudskoy claimed Russia has “liberated” 93% of the Luhansk region and 54% of Donetsk.

The Ukrainian city of Mariupol is also within the Donbas region. Russian forces have been relentlessly bombarding Mariupol since the invasion began, destroying homes and leaving thousands of residents trapped.

Rudskoy claimed Russia’s “military operation” had two courses of action: the first being limiting operations to Donbas, but he said that would have allowed Ukraine to constantly reinforce its troops, so he said Russia took a second course of action, attacking cities across the whole country. Rudskoy claimed the course of the war “confirmed the validity” of that decision.

“These actions are carried out with the aim of causing such damage to military infrastructure, equipment, personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the results of which allow not only to shackle their forces and do not give them the opportunity to strengthen their grouping in the Donbas, but also will not allow them to do so until the Russian army completely liberates the territories of the DPR and LPR,” he said.

Rudskoy claimed Russia has successfully blocked Ukrainian cities including Kyiv, Kharkiv and Chernihiv, and that the cities of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are under full Russian control.

He claimed Russia “initially” never had any intention of storming those cities, although he said they “did not rule out such a possibility” now.

“Initially, we did not plan to storm them in order to prevent destruction and minimize losses among personnel and civilians. And although we do not rule out such a possibility, however, as individual groups complete their tasks, and they are being solved successfully, our forces and means will concentrate on the main thing — the complete liberation of Donbas,” he said.

Rudskoy also made the dubious claim that Russia has sought to minimize civilian casualties. The U.N. reports that over 1,000 civilians have died since the invasion began.

-ABC News’ Patrick Reevell

Mar 25, 12:50 pm
Biden says he’s in Poland to see humanitarian crisis firsthand

President Joe Biden, flanked by Poland’s President Andrzej Duda and Samantha Powers of the U.S. Agency for International Development, spoke at a briefing on humanitarian efforts Friday, again calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal.”

“The single-most important thing that we can do on the outset, is keep the democracies united in our opposition, and our effort to curtail the devastation that is occurring at the hands of a man, who quite frankly, I think is a war criminal. And I think we’ll meet the legal definition of that, as well,” Biden said.

Biden said he’s in Poland to see the “humanitarian crisis” “firsthand,” but said he’s disappointed he “can’t see it firsthand like I have in other places.”

“They will not let me … cross the border and take a look at what’s going on in Ukraine,” Biden said. “But, you know, I’m eager to hear from you, the humanitarian community, about what you see, what you’re doing, and where you think we go from here.”

Since the invasion began on Feb. 24, over 3.6 million people have fled Ukraine, with more than 2.2 million of those refugees going to Poland, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Whether it’s food, or a blanket, or cash, or the care for medical teams that we send in, or child welfare specialists, they need it now. They need it as rapidly as we can get it there,” Biden said.

Mar 25, 12:12 pm
Biden tells troops ‘what’s at stake’ is beyond Ukraine

President Joe Biden spoke to members of the 82nd Airborne Division in Jasionka, Poland, Friday, telling them, “What you’re doing is consequential — really consequential.”

“What’s at stake” is beyond Ukraine, Biden said.

“What are your kids and grandkids gonna look like in terms of their freedom?” Biden said. “The last 10 years there have been fewer democracies that have been formed than we’ve lost in the world.”

“What you’re engaged in is much more than just whether or not you can alleviate the pain and suffering of the people of Ukraine,” Biden said.

Biden commended the troops, saying “the rest of the world looks to us, because, you know, we not only lead by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. And your generation combines both. The rest of the world looks at you and sees who you are. They see you are a multiethnic group of Americans that are in fact together and united in one resolve, to defend your country, and to help those who need help.”

Mar 25, 11:12 am
Biden thanks troops in Poland

In Jasionka, Poland, on Friday, President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited American troops, thanking them for working alongside Polish allies.

Biden and Austin first greeted members of the 82nd Airborne Division in a makeshift barbershop.

Biden and Austin then stopped by a mess hall and ended up staying for a slice of pizza.

Biden also shared a story about searching for his son, Beau, in a mess hall in Baghdad, only to find him using his mother’s maiden name — Hunter — on his fatigues.

“I said, ‘Beau, what the hell’s going on?’ His name was Beau Biden, and he was a colonel, I mean, a major, excuse me,” Biden said.

“And I said, ‘What happened?’ And he said, ‘Dad, with the name Biden, everybody thinks something’s going on. So I’m Hunter.’ That was his mother’s maiden name,” Biden said.

Mar 25, 10:29 am
Ukrainian troops have retaken towns, UK intelligence says

Ukrainian troops have been able to retake towns and defensive positions up to 35 kilometers (about 22 miles) east of Kyiv due to counter-attacks and Russian forces falling back on overextended supply lines, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Friday in an intelligence update on the situation.

Ukrainian troops are likely to continue to attempt to push Russian forces back along the northwestern axis from the Ukrainian capital toward Antonov Airport in Hostomel, a suburb of Kyiv, according to the U.K. Ministry of Defense.

In southern Ukraine, Russian forces are still attempting to circumvent the densely populated city of Mykolaiv as they look to drive west toward Odesa, with their progress being slowed by logistic issues and Ukrainian resistance, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said.

Mar 25, 10:25 am
Biden arrives in Poland

U.S. President Joe Biden arrived at Poland’s Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport Friday afternoon, where he will get a firsthand look at the international efforts to help some of the millions of people fleeing Ukraine.

Biden was greeted on the tarmac by four U.S. commanding generals. While in Rzeszow on Friday, Biden will receive a briefing on the humanitarian situation and meet with humanitarian aid groups as well as service members of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.

He will later travel to Warsaw, where he will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda as well as refugees from Ukraine on Saturday.

Mar 25, 10:07 am
US says Russian attacks have capacity to put NATO at risk

U.S. President Joe Biden’s support of NATO battle groups on the eastern flank stems from the belief that Russia’s attacks in Ukraine have the capacity to put the alliance’s territories at risk, according to White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

“We do believe Russian aggression in Ukraine shows a willingness by the Russians to disregard international borders and to disregard the basic rules of the road of the international community that have been built in sustained over the course of seven decades,” Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday.

“It is important in this moment to send a clear message to Russia that the United States and NATO will defend every inch of NATO territory and to deter any thinking that Putin might have about further Russian aggression into NATO,” he said.

Sullivan noted that Belarus’ willingness to station Russian troops on its soil, in particular, has a “significant impact particularly on our NATO allies in the Baltics and Poland.”

Sullivan said Biden has made clear that any diplomatic agreement reached is one that Ukraine will have to determine for itself, meaning Washington is not going to push or pressure Kyiv into any outcome.

Currently, Washington’s priority is to ensure Ukraine has the capabilities to defend itself as Russian forces continue pushing forward, Sullivan told reporters.

Mar 25, 10:02 am
Pope Francis to consecrate Russia, Ukraine

Pope Francis will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Friday, inviting people around the world to join him in the prayer.

“This Act of Consecration is meant to be a gesture of the universal Church, which in this dramatic moment lifts up to God, through His Mother and ours, the cry of pain of all those who suffer and implore an end to the violence, and to entrust the future of our human family to the Queen of Peace,” Francis said in a statement.

He also called for an end to the violence.

Consecration is an act of surrender in which the pope recognizes both Russians and Ukrainians as children of god, and entrusts them to Mary’s care, Father Alexandre Mello, the secretary of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, told Crux.

Mello also said consecration aims to build bridges as the prayer’s goal is to have a healing effect and remind Russians and Ukrainians of their shared roots and identities as children of the same God.

The ceremony is tied to the Marian apparitions in Fatima, Portugal in 1917, in which many Catholics believe the Virgin Mary appeared to three children, asking that the pope consecrate Russia to her immaculate heart.

The Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary will be prayed during the Lenten penitential service in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome which begins at 5 p.m. local time. The pope will start the prayer at around 6:30 p.m. local time and has asked all Catholic Bishops and priests to join him spiritually.

U.S. bishops, including Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., and Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, announced they will be holding consecration ceremonies on Friday.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said he will join in the prayer from his converted monastery in Vatican City, where he has lived since he resigned.

Mar 25, 9:27 am
Biden to meet with Polish president, refugees from Ukraine in Warsaw

U.S. President Joe Biden will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda as well as refugees from Ukraine in Warsaw on Saturday, according to White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Poland on Friday, Sullivan noted that Biden will also deliver a “major address” before departing Saturday.

“He will give a major address tomorrow that will speak to the stakes of this moment, the urgency of the challenge that lies ahead, what the conflict in Ukraine means for the world, and why it is so important that the free world sustain unity and resolve in the face of Russian aggression,” Sullivan said. “He’ll also talk about the context and history of this conflict and where he sees it going from here.”

Upon arrival in Rzeszow, Poland, on Friday, Biden will meet with humanitarian aid groups as well as service members of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, according to Sullivan.

“He will be able to talk through with a range of different humanitarian leaders and experts, both from the region and from the international community as well as the US government experts who are playing a key role in this, on how the efforts are going so far and what further steps need to be taken to make sure that we’re investing those dollars as wisely as possible,” Sullivan said. “He will also have the chance to visit with troops from the 82nd Airborne Division, who have been deployed to Poland to reassure our NATO ally and to deter further aggression on the eastern flank. And he will also get a briefing from the commanders of those units who will have the chance to lay out for him the various tasks and missions that the American troops stationed at the airfield here have been undertaking and continue to undertake.”

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Mar 25, 8:03 am
Ukrainian rescuers work to remove unexploded devices from homes

Video has emerged showing Ukrainian rescuers working to remove unexploded devices from civilian homes amid the Russian invasion.

The video, released Friday by the State Emergency Service of Ukraine and verified by ABC News, shows pyrotechnic units in the northern city of Chernihiv using special equipment to carefully search for and remove unexploded shells, missiles and mines that landed in houses.

The State Emergency Service of Ukraine said it was called in to seize ammunition 18 times over the past day. The agency warned people not to approach the objects because they could explode “at any time” and to immediately report such findings to rescuers or police.

-ABC News’ Victoria Beaule

Mar 25, 7:34 am
Biden departs Brussels for Poland

U.S. President Joe Biden departed Belgium on Friday morning and was en route to Poland for the final leg of his four-day trip aimed at maintaining unity among allies and supporting Ukraine’s defense against Russia.

Biden was seen boarding Air Force One in the European Union’s de facto capital, Brussels, at 6:42 a.m. ET. He is expected to land in Rzeszow, Poland, at around 9:15 a.m. ET, where he will receive a briefing on the humanitarian response to the millions of people fleeing Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s invasion. He will also meet with service members from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Mar 25, 6:36 am
300 dead in airstrike on Mariupol theater, officials say

About 300 people were killed last week in a Russian airstrike on a drama theater-turned-bomb shelter in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, the city’s government said Friday, citing eyewitnesses.

“We didn’t want to believe in this horror,” the Mariupol City Council. said in a statement. “But the words of those who were inside the building at the moment of this terrorist act say the opposite.”

As many as 1,500 civilians had been taking refuge in the grand, columned Donetsk Regional Theatre of Drama in central Mariupol when it was struck on March 16, according to the Ukrainian government. Satellite images showed huge white letters on the pavement in front of and behind the building spelling out “CHILDREN” in Russian — “DETI” — to alert warplanes to those inside.

Video circulating online and verified by ABC News shows the immediate aftermath of the strike on the theater. People covered in dust are seen trying to make their way out of the theater, walking down from the first floor staircase in an area of the building that was still standing at the time.

Since invading Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian forces have been relentlessly bombarding Mariupol, destroying homes and leaving thousands of residents trapped. Ukraine has defied Russia’s ultimatum for its troops to lay down arms and surrender the strategic southeastern port city of 430,000.

-ABC News Patrick Reevell

Mar 25, 5:20 am
Russia claims to have seized 5 more localities in Ukraine

Russia claimed Friday that its forces had captured five more localities in Ukraine.

“The grouping of troops of the Russian Armed Forces advanced another 4 kilometers overnight and captured Batmanka, Mikhailovka, Krasny Partizan, Stavki and Troitskoe,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

Ukraine did not immediately comment on the claim.

Mar 25, 5:10 am
US, EU announce plan to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian gas

U.S. President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced Friday a joint task force to “reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels and strengthen European energy security,” amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Named the “Task Force for energy security,” the group will be chaired by one representative from the White House and one representative from the European Commission. They will work to ensure energy security for Ukraine and the European Union ahead of the next two winters by focusing on two main goals — diversifying liquefied natural gas supplies and reducing demand for natural gas, according to a fact sheet from the White House.

As part of the agreement, the United States will work with international partners to put more liquefied natural gas on the EU market, pledging to make at least 15 billion cubic meters available in 2022, with increases expected going forward.

The White House stressed that the task force would also work with an eye towards clean energy, looking to reduce greenhouse gas intensity of all new liquefied natural gas infrastructure as well as demand for liquefied natural gas by “accelerating market deployment of clean energy measures.” Those measures include expediting planning of clean energy projects, like wind and solar power, and using smart thermostats and heat pumps in homes.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Mar 24, 5:44 pm
Biden meets with European Council

U.S. President Joe Biden’s final meeting in Brussels on Thursday was with the European Council.

“They reviewed their ongoing efforts to impose economic costs on Russia and Belarus, as well as their readiness to adopt additional measures and to stop any attempts to circumvent sanctions,” the White House said in a statement.

The leaders said they willl continue “providing humanitarian assistance, including to neighboring countries hosting refugees, and underscored the need for Russia to guarantee humanitarian access to those affected by or fleeing the violence,” according to the White House.

They also “discussed EU-U.S. cooperation to reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels, accelerate the transition to clean energy, as well as the need to respond to evolving food security needs worldwide,” the White House said.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

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