Zelenskyy calls on EU member nations to stop buying Russian oil
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday called on European Union member nations to stop importing oil and other energy resources from Russia.
“We need an oil embargo and a concrete readiness from Europe to reject all of the energy sources from Russia,” Zelenskyy said in his daily video message. “The European Union has to stop sponsoring the Russian war machine.”
Zelenskyy added that he spoke to President Biden Joe on Wednesday. The two leaders discussed “bringing to justice all of the Russian soldiers and their commanders who committed war crimes” as well as seeking “international cooperation” around this goal.
“I am grateful to all our defenders, men and women, who hold their positions and accustom Russian soldiers to the idea that this war against Ukraine can only end in Russia’s strategic loss — sooner or later,” Zelenskyy said. “Either the Russian leadership will truly seek peace, or as a result of this war, Russia will leave the international arena forever.”
Experts weigh in on Biden’s claim of genocide
It was the first time he had leveled the accusation of “genocide” against his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, for the atrocities committed by his forces in Ukraine. But President Joe Biden was clear about why he did so.
He said would be up to international lawyers to decide whether what was happening in Ukraine qualified as genocide, “but it sure seems that way to me.”
But was his claim of genocide valid?
U.N. Secretary-General says no chance at humanitarian cease-fire in Ukraine
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says there is no chance at the moment for a humanitarian cease-fire in Ukraine, as the United Nations was seeking.
But he told reporters Wednesday that the U.N. has made a number of proposals to Russia on the possibility of local cease-fires, humanitarian corridors, and the evacuation of civilians, “and we are waiting for an answer.”
Guterres sent U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths to Moscow and Kyiv as his special envoy to seek a humanitarian cease-fire, but he said, “at the present moment, a global cease-fire in Ukraine doesn’t seem possible.”
He said the U.N. proposals to Russia are aimed at minimizing “the dramatic impact” of Russia’s war against Ukraine on civilians and include creating “a mechanism” involving Russia, Ukraine, the United Nations and eventually other humanitarian bodies to permanently manage local cease-fires, humanitarian access and evacuations to avoid incidents and failures.
As for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reported comment Tuesday that negotiations with Ukraine are at a “dead end,” Guterres said, “I will remind you that we are in an Easter period and the Easter period is about resurrection.”
Biden calls Ukraine’s Zelenskyy, vows $800 million more in weapons
President Joe Biden said he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday to share that he was authorizing an additional $800 million in weapons.
“This new package of assistance will contain many of the highly effective weapons systems we have already provided and new capabilities tailored to the wider assault we expect Russia to launch in eastern Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement.
“We cannot rest now. As I assured President Zelenskyy, the American people will continue to stand with the brave Ukrainian people in their fight for freedom,” Biden added.
Zelenskyy said in a tweet following the call that the leaders had discussed “Russian war crimes” and “additional package of defensive and possible macro-financial aid,” and “agreed to enhance sanctions.”
Biden said Tuesday that he considers Russia’s actions in Ukraine to be genocide, going a step further rhetorically than he has in the past.
The two leaders last spoke on March 30, following Biden’s trip to Europe.
Switzerland joins new sanctions targeting people, companies in Russia
GENEVA — Switzerland is joining a raft of new sanctions targeting people and companies in Russia over President Vladimir Putin’s military campaign in Ukraine, including his two adult daughters.
The Federal Council on Wednesday adopted new measures against Russia and Belarus, a key ally of Moscow, that mirror similar measures adopted last week by the European Union. Switzerland, which has long prided itself on its neutrality, is not among the EU’s 27 member states.
Switzerland had already lined up with previous EU sanctions. The fifth and latest package of measures focuses on finance, transport and trade — notably bans on imports of coal, wood, cement, seafood and vodka that “serve as important sources of revenue for Russia,” the government said.
An extra 200 people or entities were also sanctioned including Russian oligarchs and their families, as well as Putin’s adult daughters, Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson decries Macron’s assertion that Russians and Ukrainians are ‘brothers’
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko decried French President Emmanuel Macron’s Wednesday assertion that Russia’s actions in Ukraine did not amount to “genocide” because Russians and Ukrainians are “brothers.”
Nikolenko called Macron’s remarks “disappointing.”
“Ukraine and Russia are historically close for objective reasons, but the myth of two fraternal nations of Russia and Ukraine began to collapse after the occupation of Crimea and aggression in Donbas in 2014,” he said. “This myth was finally destroyed when the first Russian missiles flew to Ukrainian cities in February.”
He added that “brotherly people” do not kill children, shoot civilians or destroy the houses of their brothers.
1.4 million people in eastern Ukraine without running water, UNICEF says
As many as 1.4 million people in eastern Ukraine do not have access to piped water, and another 4.6 million people across the country are at risk of losing their water supply, UNICEF has warned.
The use of explosive weapons and fighting has caused at least 20 separate incidents of damage to water infrastructure and threatens to cause more to a water network that was already in peril, according to UNICEF.
“Water is essential for life and a right for everyone,” said Osnat Lubrani, United Nations resident coordinator in Ukraine. “The health risks, particularly for children and the elderly, caused by water stoppages are severe, as people are forced to use dirty water sources, resulting in diarrhea and other deadly infectious diseases.”
Thousands of people in Mariupol have been forced to use dirty water sources, UNICEF reported. Major cities across Donetsk and Luhansk are also cut off from water supplies, and an additional 340,000 people will lose water if a reservoir in Horlivka runs dry.
Countries that ‘undermine’ Russia sanctions could face consequences, Yellen warns
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is warning that countries that undermine the sanctions the United States and its allies have imposed on Russia will face consequences for their actions.
“The unified coalition of sanctioning countries will not be indifferent to actions that undermine the sanctions we’ve put in place,” Yellen says in prepared remarks to be delivered at the Atlantic Council on Wednesday.
Yellen, leaving open the question of what the consequences could be, says Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine has “redrawn the contours” of the global economy, which includes “our conception of international cooperation going forward.”
Her speech at the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan U.S. think tank, comes one week before the world’s finance ministers and central bank governors convene in Washington for the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Group Spring Meetings.
‘Music helps people’: Musicians play on while seeking safety
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region has been one of the hardest hit during this war, with casualties estimated in the hundreds and evacuees estimated in the thousands.
One of those evacuees is Igor Shapovalov, the musical director of the Luhansk Philharmonic Orchestra. He’s now in Lviv, living in a dormitory for musicians with his wife and daughter.
“For us it’s very, very dangerous, very hard life for our heart,” Shapovalov said. “It’s this aggression from Russia. It’s like, for me, I don’t understand. I think it’s Putin. It’s really crazy.”
Twelve members of the Luhansk orchestra have made it to the relative safety of Lviv. But 10 of their musicians stayed behind — an ongoing concern for all those musicians who did get out.
Now, those who were able to flee are picking up their instruments and doing what they do best, playing concerts again, in Lviv.
“I think because the music helps people and it helps for feeling good things for people,” Shapovalov said. “To be happy, we listen to music. We have a trauma, we listen to music. Every time, it help for people.”
Russia warns Western weapons transports in Ukraine will be considered ‘legitimate military targets’
Russia’s deputy foreign minister said Wednesday that Western weapons transports in Ukraine would be considered “legitimate military targets” by Moscow.
” In the context of Washington’s reckless support for the militant aspirations of the (Kyiv) regime with its large-scale pumping of modern weapons, any full-scale contacts with the U.S. administration on the situation around Ukraine seem meaningless,” Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with TASS. “We warn you that the U.S.-NATO transports with weapons following the Ukrainian territory are considered by us as legitimate military targets.”
“We bring the Americans and other Westerners to the understanding that attempts to slow down our special operation, inflict maximum damage to Russian contingents and formations of the DPR/LPR (Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic) will be severely suppressed,” he said.
Ryabkov had issued a similar warning back in March, saying the U.S. had been warned that Russia would see the deliveries of Western weapons to Ukraine as targets.
Russia can redirect energy exports away from West, Putin suggests
Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested Moscow can easily redirect exports of its energy resources away from the West to countries “where they are really needed” and boost domestic consumption of oil, gas and coal.
“When it comes to Russian oil, gas and coal, we will be able to increase their consumption on the domestic market, stimulate the deep processing of raw materials,” Putin said in a televised meeting to discuss the development of the Russian Arctic, Reuters reported. “We will also increase the supply of energy resources to other regions of the world where they are really needed,” he added.
It comes after the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia imposed bans on Russian oil imports in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Putin said those moves had “provoked a real energy crisis” in Europe. “Of course we are also facing problems but this opens up new opportunities,” he said.
Finland’s parliament to debate NATO membership as soon as next week, PM says
Finland’s parliament is set to debate joining NATO as soon as next week, Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced in a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, as both countries weigh security guarantees in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The government will deliver a report to the parliament outlining various security options for Finland, which will be deliberated upon after the Easter break, she said on Wednesday. Joining NATO would open Finland to potential risks from Russia, including cyberattacks, but the country is prepared and it must not let “fear influence our choices,” she said.
The Nordic country shares a 832-mile border with Russia and has been a NATO partner since 1994. “The difference between being a partner and being a member is very clear and will remain so,” Marin said.
“There is no other way to have security guarantees than under NATO’s deterrence and common defense as guaranteed by NATO’s Article Five,” added Marin.
Russia has broken international humanitarian law in Ukraine, OSCE says
Russia has committed human rights abuses and broken international humanitarian law during its invasion of Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has found.
In a report released Wednesday by the security organization, the OSCE said independent experts had found clear patterns of International Humanitarian Law violations by Russian forces in Ukraine.
The report said experts had found credible evidence suggesting that violations concerned even the “most fundamental human rights,” including the “right to life, prohibition of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment.”
“Taken as a whole, the report documents the catalog of inhumanity perpetrated by Russia’s forces in Ukraine,” Michael Carpenter, the United States ambassador to the OSCE, said in a separate statement.
“This includes evidence of direct targeting of civilians, attacks on medical facilities, rape, executions, looting, and forced deportation of civilians to Russia,” he said.
ICC prosecutor meets Ukrainian Prosecutor General in Kyiv
A prosecutor for the International Criminal Court met with Ukraine’s prosecutor general in Kyiv on Wednesday.
The ICC said in a tweet that Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan and Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General Iryna Venediktova had agreed that “deepening engagement and further strengthening partnerships” was “crucial to delivering accountability” for possible international crimes committed in Ukraine.
The ICC is independently investigating potential war crimes committed by Russian forces during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
U.K. adds 206 new listings to Russia sanctions
The British government has added 206 new listings to its sanctions against Russia.
The U.K.’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office announced the development in an update to its sanctions list on Wednesday.
It did not immediately outline which individuals or entities were specifically targeted in the new listings.
Over 100,000 waiting to be evacuated from Mariupol, mayor says
Over 100,000 people are still awaiting to be evacuated to safety from the besieged city of Mariupol, its mayor said in a televised interview on Wednesday.
In the same interview, Vadym Boychenko said Russian forces had deployed an unconfirmed “substance” on the city on Tuesday.
“Yesterday they flew unmanned aircraft into our territory… and dropped a small amount of this substance, which struck our boys,” the mayor said. “Unfortunately, we cannot take samples to prove what it was,” he said.
NBC News was unable to independently verify the claim.
Boychenko said residents in two settlements on the outskirts of the city had complained of “bad taste and deteriorating health” and were forced to leave their homes.
Fake BBC News video pushes anti-Ukraine disinformation
Anti-Ukraine disinformation in the form of a fake BBC News video spread across social media on Wednesday.
The video, mocked up with a BBC News logo and using a similar graphics style to the U.K.’s national broadcaster, pushes baseless claims that Ukraine was behind the recent attack on the Kramatorsk railway station.
BBC journalists warned that the video was not from their outlet.
Similar claims seeking to pin violence on Ukraine have circulated on social media from profiles that have routinely trafficked in Russian talking points, though the fake BBC video appears to be among the most advanced disinformation released in relation to the war.
BBC News said it is trying to have the fake videos removed from social media.
An aerial view captured on Tuesday shows the besieged city of Mariupol during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Estonia’s PM says it’s ‘becoming clear’ Russia’s actions in Ukraine amount to ‘genocide’
Estonia’s prime minister has said it is “becoming clear” that atrocities carried out by Russian forces in Ukraine amount to “genocide.”
“Looking at the Kremlin’s words and deeds, it’s becoming clear that Russia’s crimes committed in Ukraine can amount to genocide,” Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in a tweet Wednesday.
Her comments came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered an address before Estonia’s Parliament, during which he accused Russia of using phosphorus bombs in its attacks on Ukraine, a claim for which he did not provide evidence and which NBC News has been unable to independently verify.
Kallas said that “all those guilty must face justice and be punished accordingly,” adding that “Estonia will support investigations every way we can.” In a separate post, she thanked Zelenskyy for his appearance and appeared to address his calls for tougher sanctions, saying “tough energy sanctions” against Russia were essential to stop “funding Russia’s aggression.”
Lebanese bakeries on their last 10 days of wheat supply, union leader says
Both Egypt and Lebanon are facing severe wheat shortages as the conflict in Ukraine disrupts its wheat exports.
Bakeries in Lebanon have begun to shutter while others have seen long queues as the country’s national trade union warned businesses may only have wheat supplies to last for the next 10 days.
Meanwhile, Egypt said earlier this month that local wheat supplies were expected to last for around two and a half more months as it awaits supply from local harvests.
Both Egypt and Lebanon are highly dependent on Ukraine for their wheat and fertilizer imports, which have been disrupted by the ongoing conflict. Prices for wheat have also skyrocketed since the beginning of Russia’s invasion.
Russian users sue Netflix for leaving market
Russian Netflix users have sued the streaming giant for exiting the market, demanding $726,000 in compensation, the state news agency RIA Novosti reported Wednesday.
“Today, a law firm representing the interests of Netflix users filed a class action lawsuit against the American Netflix service with the Khamovnichesky District Court of Moscow,” RIA Novosti said, citing the law firm Chernyshov, Lukoyanov & Partners.
“The reason for the lawsuit was a violation of Russian users’ rights due to Netflix’s unilateral refusal to provide services in Russia,” it said.
Netflix had suspended all its services and future projects in March following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Scores of foreign companies, from streaming to retail, have either suspended their services or barred sales in Russia.
A woman walks as firefighters try to extinguish a fire after a missile hit a building on the outskirts of Kharkiv on Tuesday.
Russia claims over 1,000 Ukrainian marines surrendered in Mariupol
Russia claimed Wednesday that more than 1,000 Ukrainian marines had surrendered in the besieged city of Mariupol.
Major Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian defense ministry, said 1,026 marines from the 36th Marine Brigade had surrendered to Russian forces at a metal plant in the city.
Russia’s claim came hours after Ukrainian local media reported troops holding out against Russian attacks. NBC was not able to independently verify Russia’s claims.
In his latest update on the situation in Mariupol, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych did not mention any mass surrender, instead saying the brigade had managed to link up with other Ukrainian troops in the city.
“In Mariupol, units of the 36th Marine Brigade, as a result of a complex and very risky maneuver, broke through to join the Azov regiment,” he wrote in a statement on Facebook. “In general, the city’s defense system has grown and strengthened,” he wrote.
Ukraine’s defense ministry has not commented on Russia’s claims.
Mariupol has been under siege for weeks since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, which has caused severe shortages of food, water, heat and electricity within the city.
7 dead in Kharkiv after a day of shelling, governor says
Seven people have died in the past 24 hours from heavy shelling in Kharkiv, leaving 22 civilians injured, including three children, Gov. Oleh Sinegubov announced Wednesday.
“Russians continue to terrorize civilians. Over the past 24 hours, the occupying forces have struck approximately 53 artillery and MLRS strikes,” he said in a Telegram post, referring to multiple launch rocket system missiles. NBC News was not able to independently verify the attacks or the reported death toll.
Sinegubov said a 2-year-old boy who had been injured in shelling a few days ago had also died in a hospital.
He said Ukrainian armed forces were “constantly fighting” in the southeast direction of Izyum in the Kharkiv region to “prevent the enemy from passing to Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”
China’s trade with Russia slows but outpaces overall growth
China’s overall trade with Russia grew more than 12 percent from a year before, outpacing overall growth in China’s exports and imports even as it slowed down from February since the invasion.
Chinese customs data Wednesday showed that the growth in shipments to and from Russia dipped to 12.76 percent in March, worth $11.67 billion, compared to 25.7 percent in February, according to Reuters. It still beat China’s total growth in March of 7.75 percent in its trade with all countries and regions, the news agency said.
Beijing, a major importer of Russian oil, gas, coal and agricultural commodities, has refused to call Russia’s attack on Ukraine an invasion and has rebuked the West for imposing sanctions on Moscow.
U.S. climate envoy calls for renewable energy push amid Russian aggression
U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has urged countries to boost renewable energy production amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“Now is the time to accelerate the transition to an independent and a clean energy future. President Putin cannot control the power of the wind or the sun,” Kerry said in his opening speech at a climate conference in Palau on Wednesday.
Russian provides 40 per cent of Europe’s gas supply.
Ukraine warns risk of Russia using chemical weapons remains ‘high’
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar has warned that the risk of Russia using chemical weapons in the war remains “high.”
“It is too early to return, including to the capital,” she said in an interview with Ukraine’s Parliamentary TV channel on Wednesday. “And we must not forget that today in the country, there is a high risk of the use of chemical weapons by Russia, because they are considering such scenarios.”
U.S. and U.K. officials have said they’re investigating unconfirmed reports of chemical weapons being used in an attack on the port city of Mariupol. NBC News has not been able to verify the reports.
A priest and the relative of a civilian man, whose body was exhumed from his yard, react in Gostomel village in Kyiv region Tuesday.
Presidents of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia go to Kyiv in support of Ukraine
The presidents of Poland and the Baltic states are headed to Kyiv in a show of support for Ukraine, the latest leaders to visit the Ukrainian capital amid Russia’s attack and invasion of the country.
Estonian President Alar Karis tweeted Wednesday that they will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The visit comes days after European Union officials and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Kyiv in separate trips.
Russian forces had occupied areas around Kyiv and attacked the city after launching an invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, but after facing setbacks have since withdrawn from around the city.
Pentagon officials have said they expect those forces to be resupplied, and possibly used elsewhere in the country. Zelenskyy has warned of a ramped-up Russian offensive in Ukraine’s east.
Russia’s appointment of a new war commander represents new bid to centralize control, U.K. says
Russia’s recent appointment of Army Gen. Alexander Dvornikov as the commander of the war in Ukraine represents a bid to centralize “command and control” after a lack of coordination hampered Moscow’s invasion, the British defense ministry has said.
In an intelligence update published Wednesday, it said that “ineffective pre-war planning” and Ukrainian resistance have forced Russia to reassess its operations, refocusing its offensive in the eastern region of Donbas.
Dvornikov, who has previous led operations in Syria, has commanded Russia’s southern district which borders Ukraine’s Donbas region since 2016, it said.
No humanitarian corridors to open after Ukraine says Russia violated cease-fire
Humanitarian corridors will not open Wednesday in Ukraine after Russia violated a cease-fire and blocked evacuation efforts, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Wednesday.
In a post on Telegram, she said that the Russian military had blocked evacuation buses in Zaphorizhzhia and violated a cease-fire in the eastern region of Luhansk.
Ukrainian officials have repeatedly accused Russia of hampering humanitarian efforts, especially out of the besieged port city of Mariupol, where thousands of residents remain without access to food, water, electricity and other essentials.
“All this creates such a level of danger on the routes that we have to refrain from opening humanitarian corridors today,” she said.
New satellite images show Russian troops advancing on Ukraine’s east
New satellite images appear to show Russian troops advancing on Ukraine’s east this week, as British and European officials warn Moscow is preparing to mount a fresh offensive in the region.
The images, captured by Maxar Technologies, a U.S. defense contractor, show Russian forces continuing to move into eastern Ukraine on Monday.
Military deployments were observed along the 14K-34 highway and a corridor leading from Soloti and Valuyki in western Russia toward the border with Ukraine, the company said.