With the Russian invasion now in its third week, attention is increasingly focused on the West’s efforts to arm and re-supply Ukrainian forces against an enemy with vastly superior weaponry.
Days after the Biden administration rejected Poland’s proposal to provide Soviet-built MiG-29 fighter jets to the U.S. to give to Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Friday other military equipment was continuing to reach Ukrainian fighters.
“We are working with allies and partners to help get the kinds off capabilities that we know the Ukrainians need and are using very well inside Ukraine,” he said. “Some of that material we have and we are providing. Some of that material we don’t have but we know others have were helping coordinate that as well and that security assistance is flowing.”
That drew a warning from Russia’s deputy foreign minister Saturday who said convoys transporting foreign weapons into Ukraine will become “legitimate targets” for attacks.
Devastating economic sanctions from the U.S. and its allies haven’t stopped Russia’s assault on Ukraine, which resulted in damage to another hospital — this time a cancer hospital in the southern city of Mykolaiv, according to Ukrainian officials.
Several hundred patients were in the hospital during the attack but no one was killed, according to the hospital’s head doctor, Maksim Beznosenko.
And on Saturday, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry accused Russian forces of shelling a mosque in Mariupol where more than 80 children and adults were seeking shelter.
Russia currently appears to be regrouping from recent losses and possibly gearing up for operations against Kyiv. Fighting has intensified close to Ukraine’s capital, where doctors are bracing for the prospect of widespread casualties from war.
Meanwhile, Russia’s economy is in shambles: The ruble has crashed and the Moscow stock market remains closed.
U.S. leaders have hinted the economic pressure is intended to provoke the Russian people to take action against their government.
In the meantime, experts warn the Ukrainian people will continue to suffer, especially if fighting in Kyiv escalates.
“Where that leads, I think, is for an ugly next few weeks in which he doubles down with scant regard for civilian casualties, in which urban fighting can get even uglier,” said CIA Director William Burns, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia.
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► Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said Russian forces shelled a mosque in Mariupol sheltering more than 80 children and adults.
► Russia’s deputy foreign minister warned Saturday that convoys transporting foreign weapons into Ukraine will become “legitimate targets” for attacks.
►Russia announced it will ban Instagram beginning March 14, citing messages on the social media platform encouraging and provoking violent acts against Russians.
► President Joe Biden on Friday called for a removal of normal trade relations with Russia, allowing for new tariffs on Russian imports in yet another effort to ratchet up sanctions over Moscow’s intensifying invasion of Ukraine. Biden said the move will be another “crushing blow” to Russia’s economy.
► Some 1,300 Ukrainian troops have been killed since Russia began its invasion, accorUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
► On Friday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of kidnapping the mayor of the city of Melitopol.
Russian forces shelled a mosque sheltering more than 80 children and adults in the war-ravaged city of Mariupol, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Saturday.
Both the ministry and Ukraine’s first deputy minister of foreign affairs shared images of the mosque to Twitter.
“At this very moment, the (Russian) army is bombing the Magnificent Mosque, which was built in memory of Suleiman the Magnificent and Hürrem Sultan,” Emine Dzheppar, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, tweeted Friday.
The ministry said that Turkish citizens were also hiding in the mosque when it was shelled, which the Ukrainian Embassy in Turkey confirmed. The embassy said a group of 86 Turkish nationals, including 34 children, were among the people who sought safety in the mosque.
– Ella Lee, Associated Press
Convoys transporting foreign weapons into Ukraine will become “legitimate targets” for the Russian Armed Forces, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Russian television Saturday.
“We warned the United States that pumping Ukraine with weapons from a number of countries orchestrated by them is not just a dangerous move, but these are actions that turn the corresponding convoys into legitimate targets,” Ryabkov said on Russia’s Channel One, according to state-run media RIA Novosti.
Western countries have pledged to provide Ukraine with weaponry to support its fight against Russia, but attacks on convoys could make that aid more difficult to offer.
“We’ve actually been flowing more stuff forward, uniforms, protective equipment, some munitions and weaponry,” British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said in a Feb. 28 interview with British Forces radio. “We reach a stage now, though, where because combat operations are ongoing, routes for the Ukrainians to get the stuff into the country are much more challenging.”
The New York Times reported March 6 that in less than a week’s time, the U.S. and NATO transported more than 17,000 antitank weapons into Ukraine from neighboring countries like Poland and Romania. Those weapons had to make the trip to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, by land, as airspace over the country has become a war zone in which Western countries have vowed to steer clear.
– Ella Lee
Zelenskyy asks world leaders to help him free kidnapped Ukrainian mayor
Ukraine President President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on world leaders Saturday to help secure the release of a mayor he says was kidnapped by the Russians.
“We appeal to all world leaders who speak to Moscow – France, Germany, Israel, and others,” he told reporters.
On Friday night, the Ukrainian president announced that Russian soldiers had abducted Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov during their occupation of that city in the southeasternn part of Ukraine.
Zelenskyy said Saturday he raised Fedorov’s fate in talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
“I ask my partners to help in releasing the captive mayor of Melitopol,” Zelensky tweeted. “Prospects for peace talks also discussed. We must stop the aggressor together.”
– David Jackson
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday that about 1,300 Ukrainian troops have been killed since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in late February.
“Some 1,300 military people died in our country, and more than 12,000 in Russia,” Zelensky said, according to the Ukrainian news website Hromadske. “One to ten. I’m not happy that 12,000 of them died. This is not my vision of the world.”
The Ukrainian president had not previously offered a figure for the number of troops killed since the first day of the attack, when he said 137 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were killed with hundreds more wounded.
It’s not clear on what Zelenskyy is basing his estimate of Russian forces killed. Russia has reported only 2,095 casualties – 498 killed and 1,597 wounded – but that was 10 days ago and hasn’t been updated by Moscow. Some Western sources told the BBC the number of Russians killed is closer to around 6,000.
Zelenskyy also claimed that 500 to 600 Russian troops on Friday surrendered to Ukraine’s armed forces, though USA TODAY could not independently verify this information.
– Ella Lee
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke Saturday with Russian President Vladimir Putin urging him to agree an “immediate cease-fire in Ukraine.”
Scholz’s office said the 75-minute call Saturday was part of “ongoing international efforts to end the war in Ukraine.”
It said the leaders of Germany and France called on Putin to begin the process of finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
Further details of the call were not released.
Separately, Scholz spoke earlier Saturday with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to get his assessment of the current situation.
– Associated Press
Propelled by the highest inflation in 40 years and Russia’s war in Ukraine, gas prices are the most expensive in U.S. history, not accounting for inflation.
President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a ban on the U.S. import of all Russian energy products to target “the main artery of Russia’s economy.” But he warned there will be costs at home.
Some Americans told USA TODAY they have already started canceling road trips, carpooling, giving up side gigs, walking to work, streamlining errand runs and doing more shopping online to cut down on driving.
In a report this week, Goldman Sachs strategists warned the war in Ukraine could result in the fifth largest one-month disruption in global commodities markets since World War II.
The U.S. also saw sharp increases in crude oil prices in the 1970s, stemming from the Yom Kippur War and Arab oil embargo in 1973 and the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979.
What can the U.S. learn from its past? “Unlike in the 1970s … we’re really on the verge of a sort of renewable future,” one expert told USA TODAY. Read more.
— Grace Hauck
Russia will ban Instagram beginning March 14, the country’s communications agency Roskomnadzor announced Saturday.
“Messages are circulating on the Instagram social network encouraging and provoking violent acts against Russians, in connection with which the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office demanded that Roskomnadzor restrict access to this social network,” the announcement reads.
Reuters first reported Thursday that Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, would make a temporary change to its hate speech policy to allow users in some countries to call for violence against Russians in the context of the Ukraine invasion. A Meta spokesperson confirmed the matter to several news organizations, adding that the company “still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.”
Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri tweeted the news Friday, calling Russia’s decision to block the social media app “wrong.”
“On Monday, Instagram will be blocked in Russia,” he said. “This decision will cut 80 million in Russia off from one another, and from the rest of the world as ~80% of people in Russia follow an Instagram account outside their country. This is wrong.”
Russia restricted access to Facebook and Twitter on March 4, Forbes reported.
– Ella Lee
Dozens of children have been killed and more than 100 injured since Russia began its invasion, the Ukrainian Office of the Attorney General said Saturday in a Telegram post.
The agency said that 79 children have died during the 16 days Ukraine has been at war with Russia, but the figure is “not final” due to the inability to inspect locations still under attack. Most deaths occurred in the Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Sumy, Kherson and Zhytomyr regions, according to the post.
More than 280 educational institutions also were attacked, of which nine were “completely destroyed, the agency said. Of those institutions, 110 were in the Donetsk region, 28 in the Sumy region and 17 in Kyiv. Ten children’s medical institutions were also attacked, the post says.
“On average, 17 educational institutions are destroyed daily by the occupier during the war,” the attorney general’s office said. “As a result, 7 million children are deprived of the opportunity to study due to active hostilities on the territory of Ukraine and the deliberate destruction of such institutions.”
– Ella Lee
Misinformation and disinformation is easily spreading on social media — here’s the latest from the USA TODAY fact-check team:
MILAN — Italian financial police has seized a Russian-owned superyacht valued at $578 million in the port of Trieste as part of seizures of oligarch wealth to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt the war on Ukraine.
The “Sy A” yacht was identified by Italian police as belonging to belonging to billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko, who made a fortune in fertilizer production and coal energy. It was seized Friday evening.
Video shows police in cars with flashing lights approaching the triple-mast yacht and officers boarding it.
Italian authorities last week seized some $156 million in luxury yachts and villas belonging to Russian billionaires in such picturesque retreats as Sardinia, the Ligurian coast and Lake Como.
– Associated Press
LONDON — Britain’s Defense Ministry says fighting northwest of Kyiv has continued with the bulk of Russian ground forces now around 15 miles from the center of the city.
A daily intelligence update says elements of the large Russian military column north of Kyiv have dispersed. It says this is likely to support a Russian attempt to encircle the Ukrainian capital. According to the brief, it could also be an attempt by Russia to reduce its vulnerability to Ukrainian counterattacks, which have taken a significant toll on Russian forces.
The update says that beyond Kyiv, the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remain encircled and continue to suffer heavy Russian shelling.
– Associated Press
Russia’s space agency has sent NASA and other international partners a letter demanding an end to sanctions, saying they could threaten the International Space Station.
In a tweet Saturday, the head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, said the letter appealed to the space agencies of the United States, Canada and Europe to keep the space station operational.
He illustrated the appeal with a map showing the flight path of the ISS — and a potential fall zone that straddles much of the world but barely touches upon Russia.
Four NASA astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts and one European astronaut are currently on the space station.
– Associated Press
SpaceX’s Starlink network of internet satellites in Earth orbit continues to make its case during real-world crises, this time with the delivery of more hardware to Ukraine.
Mykhailo Fedorov, vice prime minister of Ukraine, this week confirmed his country’s government received its second shipment of Starlink user terminals, each of which include a satellite dish and built-in WiFi router. Non-traditional communications channels, especially satellite-based, are critical during crises like war or natural disasters.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk this month agreed to open up the satellite-based internet service to Ukraine after Russia’s invasion. Users only need the terminal, power, and a device like a smartphone or laptop to access the internet, meaning Starlink’s connectivity is less prone to being knocked out by Russian forces.
– Emre Kelly, Florida Today
As Russian troops accumulate on the outskirts of Kyiv, Dr. Vitaliy Krylyuk said an uneasy calm has settled at the city’s largest downtown hospital.
Doctors at the Kyiv Hospital of Emergency Medicine are tending to conventional injuries such as car crashes and gunshot wounds. But Krylyuk, who spoke with USA TODAY over a video call, fears things will soon worsen if Russian missiles target the city or enemy troops close on the heart of Ukraine’s capital.
“The biggest problem we need to think about is a mass casualty situation,” said Krylyuk, who serves at the Ukrainian Scientific and Practical Center of Emergency and Disaster Medicine, a division of Ukraine’s Ministry of Health. “We’ve never had a mass casualty situation. We know this theoretically, not practically.”
Emergency planners have sought to address gaps that would emerge if the number of people with life-threatening wounds outstripped the hospital’s capacity to care for them. They sought to figure out which hospital entrance to direct ambulances to quickly get patients to hospital beds. Government planners have drafted documents on how to prioritize patients, ensure patients can breathe, secure blood transfusions or notify family members if a loved one is killed or wounded.
— Ken Alltucker
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that if foreign companies shut down production in Russia, he favored a plan to “bring in outside management and then transfer these companies to those who want to work.”
A draft law could allow Russian courts to appoint external administrators for companies that cease operations and are at least 25% foreign-owned. If the owners refuse to resume operations or to sell, the company’s shares could be auctioned off, the ruling United Russia party has said, calling it “the first step toward nationalization.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki criticized “any lawless decision by Russia to seize the assets of these companies,” saying that it “will ultimately result in even more economic pain for Russia.”
“It will compound the clear message to the global business community that Russia is not a safe place to invest and do business,” she said in a tweet, adding that “Russia may also invite legal claims from companies whose property is seized.”
Even before its invasion of Ukraine, Russia was already trying to domesticize its food supply following sanctions it had placed on the European Union in 2014. With little to no fresh food imported from those trading partners, Russia put greater focus on domestic food and importing from friendlier countries like Turkey.
One voice pushing back against confiscating foreign firms’ assets is billionaire metals tycoon Vladimir Potanin, who compared it to the Russian Revolution of 1917, when Communists took power.
“It would set us back 100 years to 1917 and the consequences of a step like this one — global distrust in Russia by investors — would be felt by us for many decades,” he said in a statement Thursday on the social media of his company, Nornickel.
– Associated Press
Contributing: The Associated Press