Live updates: U.S. House approves Russia oil import ban bill

The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House overwhelmingly approved legislation that would ban Russian oil imports to the United States, an effort to put into law the restrictions announced by President Joe Biden in response to the escalating war in Ukraine.

Going further than Biden’s import ban on Russian oil, the bill making its way through Congress would also encourage a review of Russia’s status in the World Trade Organization and signal U.S. support for sanctions on Russian officials over human rights violations, as the U.S. works to economically isolate the regime.

Lawmakers in both parties have been eager to act, willing to risk higher gas prices at home in order to support Ukraine with a show of U.S. bipartisanship. The legislation was approved Wednesday, 414-17, and now goes to the Senate.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, who helped draft the bill, acknowledged it may cost more to fill up tanks at home to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tanks abroad.

“It is one way to demonstrate our solidarity,” Doggett said during the debate.


TOKYO — Japanese electronics and entertainment giant Sony is suspending all shipments of its PlayStation video game consoles as well as game software to Russia because of the war in Ukraine.

Launch of “Gran Turismo 7,” a popular racing car game, is being suspended, and the PlayStation store in Russia will close, Sony Interactive Entertainment said in a statement Thursday.

The company “joins the global community in calling for peace in Ukraine,” it said.

Sony, which has movies and music businesses, earlier said it’s halted theatrical releases of its movies in Russia. Sony Group Corp. has also announced US$2 million in humanitarian aid to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the international aid group Save the Children to help war victims.


TOKYO — Japanese machinery and technology company Hitachi Group is suspending exports to Russia and has temporarily stopped manufacturing there.

Hitachi said Thursday products and services related to electric power equipment “indispensable to the daily lives of people” will continue. Operations in Ukraine have resumed by moving employees and families to safer areas, it said.

“Hitachi Group considers the safety and health of all employees and their families as its top priority. In Ukraine, the company is engaged in various activities to realize this goal and hopes that peace will return as soon as possible,” it said.


IRPIN, Ukraine — Hundreds of Ukrainians living in towns occupied by Russian troops on the outskirts of Kyiv fled Wednesday.

Streams of cars — some fixed with white flags — filed down the road, joined by lines of yellow buses marked with red crosses.

The Interior Ministry said about 700 people were evacuated from Vorzel and Irpin. People from three other Kyiv suburbs were unable to leave. Some who managed to get out said they hadn’t eaten in days.

“I forgot when I ate last,” said an Irpin resident who gave only her first name, Olena. “I’m so scared. I need to keep walking.”

Iuliia Bushinska, a Vorzel resident, said: “Occupiers came to our house and they were ready to shoot us.”

“They took away our house, our car, they took away our documents. So we need to start our life from the beginning. We survived things that I never experienced in my life,” Bushinska said.


WASHINGTON — The U.S. government publicly warned that Russia might seek to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, after Russia, without evidence, accused Ukraine of having chemical weapons labs.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki called Russia’s claim “preposterous” and said it could be part of an attempt by Russia to lay the groundwork for using such weapons of mass destruction against Ukraine itself.

“This is all an obvious ploy by Russia to try to try to justify its further premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on Ukraine,” said Psaki.

“Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them.”

Russia has used chemical weapons before in carrying out assassination attempts against Putin enemies like Alexey Navalny and former spy Sergei Skripal. It also supports the Assad government in Syria which has used chemical weapons against its people in a decade-long civil war.


LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the West to impose even tougher sanctions on Russia after the airstrike on the maternity hospital in Mariupol.

“A genocide of Ukrainians is taking place,” Zelensky said Wednesday in his daily late evening video address to the nation. Wearing his now traditional wartime army green, he said the West should strengthen the sanctions so Russia “no longer has any possibility to continue this genocide.”

He said 17 people were injured in the attack, including pregnant women.

Mariupol has been blockaded by Russian troops for nine days. City officials said Wednesday that about 1,200 residents have been killed.

Zelensky again called on Western leaders to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, something NATO members have refused to do for fear of provoking a wider war with Russia. Short of that, Zelensky called for the delivery of more fighter jets to Ukraine, a proposal the Pentagon rejected on Wednesday.

Zelensky said about 35,000 civilians have used humanitarian corridors to flee to western Ukraine to escape the fighting.


NEW YORK — Wall Street titan Citigroup said it would wind down its Russian banking business, with the ultimate goal of finding a seller. But the bank also acknowledged that selling the business may be difficult due to the Russian economy “being disconnected from the global financial system.”

Citigroup had a robust presence in Russia for several years, operating branches in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other major Russian cities. The company also did investment banking and business banking in the region.

Until the business is sold, Citi said it is “operating the business on a more limited basis” and is helping its U.S. and other corporate clients unwind or suspend their businesses in Russia.

Weeks before Russia invaded, Citi had announced it was leaving several Asian markets including Russia as part of a company-wide strategic review of its major markets. Citi is probably the most global of the Wall Street banks, operating consumer banking franchises in Asia, Latin America and Europe.


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon slammed the door Wednesday on any plans to provide MiG fighter jets to Ukraine, even through a second country, calling it a “high-risk” venture that would not significantly change the Ukrainian Air Force’s effectiveness.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Polish counterpart on Wednesday and told him the U.S. assessment. He said the U.S. is pursuing other options that would provide more critical military needs to Ukraine such as air defence and anti-armor weapons systems.

Poland had said it was prepared to hand over MiG-29 planes to NATO that could then be delivered to Ukraine, but Kirby said U.S. intelligence concluded that it could trigger a “significant” Russian reaction.


LVIV, Ukraine — Russian aircraft bombed Zhytomyr on Wednesday evening, while artillery fire continued pounding the suburbs of Kyiv and Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city.

In Zhytomyr, a city of 260,000 to the west of Kyiv, bombs fell on two hospitals, one of them a children’s hospital, Mayor Serhii Sukhomlyn said on Facebook. He said the number of casualties was still being determined.

“Oh, this is a hot night,” he said in a video address to city residents. “Russia understands that it is losing strategically, but we have to hold out.”

Russian artillery shelled Kharkiv, destroying a police headquarters, killing at least four people and wounding 15, prosecutors office representative Serhii Bolvinov said on Facebook. He said since the invasion began nearly two weeks ago, 282 city residents have been killed, including six children.

After darkness fell, Russian artillery again began shelling Kyiv suburbs.

“Russian troops are methodically turning our life into a hell. People day and night have to sit underground without food, water or electricity,” the head of the Kyiv region, Oleksiy Kuleba, said on Ukrainian television.


UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations has received official notification from Ukraine that it intends to withdraw about 250 troops serving in the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo as well as military equipment, including some aircraft.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed the withdrawal on Wednesday stressing that every country has a right to withdraw military forces contributed to peacekeeping operations. He acknowledged “the tremendous role Ukraine has played, especially on issues of transport and helicopters.”

Dujarric said it is up to the Ukrainian government to explain why it asked to pull out the troops and the UN will be contacting other countries to replace the troops and equipment in the Congo mission known as MONUSCO which has about 17,800 personnel.

The UN spokesman said Ukrainians remain present in smaller numbers in other UN peacekeeping missions — 13 in South Sudan, 12 in Mali, five in Cyprus, four in Abyei and three in the UN political mission in Kosovo.


WASHINGTON — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that President Volodymr Zelensky has told her that it will take “everybody’s help” in rebuilding Ukraine after the war with Russia.

Pelosi said she had a more than 45 minute call Wednesday with Zelensky. She said the Ukrainian president again asked for U.S. help in sending warplanes, anti-aircraft missiles and tanks to fight the Russian invasion.

But Pelosi said Zelensky also told her: “We’re going to need everybody’s help in rebuilding Ukraine as soon as we end this war.”

Pelosi said she hopes the U.S. can help facilitate the transfer of Soviet-era MiG fighter planes that Ukraine has requested from neighbouring NATO allies. But she noted there’s a school of thought that suggests anti-aircraft missiles could also help Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

The Pentagon has rejected the idea of sending any fighter jets to Ukraine.


UNITED NATIONS — Russia’s “illegal, unprovoked” and “cruel” war against Ukraine is underscoring the many different ways in which peace, security and a stable climate are linked, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said Wednesday.

Kerry told an informal UN Security Council meeting on Climate Finance for Sustaining Peace that “the crisis in Ukraine really does underscore the risks that we face in the current volatile and uncertain energy markets.”

The U.S. special presidential envoy for climate said in a virtual speech that “Russia has attacked a nuclear facility in Ukraine, dangerous in and of itself, risky.”

There was increasing concern Wednesday over the safety of the decommissioned Chornobyl nuclear plant, which Russian troops seized early in the invasion and which lost power and had to revert to backup generators. And there is also concern about the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest in Europe, which Russia seized last week.

The United States is responding by banning the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal, “and many other nations are now rethinking their reliance on Russian energy sources,” Kerry said. The “instability, conflict, death destruction” in Ukraine is happening in the context of “a global existential crisis” of global warming that scientists have warned about for decades, he said.

“We are actually living through the consequences of that crisis,” Kerry said.


WASHINGTON — The United Arab Emirates said Wednesday it will urge OPEC to consider boosting oil output.

The announcement followed a U.S. ban on imports of Russian oil, the latest in a series of sanctions designed to punish Russia for the war in Ukraine. Oil prices have risen sharply since Russia — the world’s third-largest oil producer — invaded Ukraine late last month.

“We favour production increases and will be encouraging OPEC to consider higher production levels,” UAE’s ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, said in a statement posted on his embassy’s website. He said his country believes that stability in energy markets is critical to the global economy.

The UAE is a longtime member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which last week, along with its oil-producing allies including Russia, said it was sticking to its plan to gradually increase oil production rather that opening the spigots further.

The UAE was the world’s seventh-largest oil producing nation in 2020, according to U.S. Department of Energy figures published in December of last year.

Oil prices surged Tuesday after President Joe Biden announced the U.S. ban on Russian oil. But the possibility of increased OPEC output helped send prices tumbling Wednesday. A barrel of U.S. crude oil dropped 11% to US$110.12.


BERLIN — The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said he will travel to Antalya in Turkey on Thursday at the invitation of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as concerns rise over the security of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors.

Cavusoglu will host a meeting between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers in Antalya as the two-week-long war in Ukraine claims more victims. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi tweeted Wednesday evening that he will attend meetings and hopes “to make progress on the urgent issue of ensuring the safety and security of .Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. We need to act now!”

At the invitation of #Turkey’s Foreign Minister @MevlutCavusoglu I will travel tomorrow to Antalya. In meetings there I hope to make progress on the urgent issue of ensuring the safety and security of #Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. We need to act now!
— Rafael MarianoGrossi (@rafaelmgrossi) March 9, 2022

Concerns rose Wednesday over the safety of the decommissioned Chornobyl nuclear plant, which Russian troops seized early in the invasion and which lost power and had to revert to backup generators. The state communications agency said the power outage could put systems for cooling nuclear material at risk. The site has been under control of Russian troops since last week.

Ukraine’s nuclear regulator said remote data transmission from monitoring systems at Chornobyl has been lost.

The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog said it saw no critical impact on safety at Chornobyl because there could be “effective heat removal without need for electrical supply” from spent nuclear fuel at the site.


SEATTLE — Amazon said it will suspend shipments of products sold on its website to customers based in Russia and Belarus.

The e-commerce giant said late Tuesday in a blog update on its website that it will also suspend Prime Video access for customers based in Russia and will stop taking orders for New World, the only video game the company says it sells directly in the Russia. The retailer added new Russia and Belarus-based third-party sellers won’t be able to sell on its site.

The retailer had said earlier in the day that its cloud computing network, Amazon Web Services, will also stop allowing new sign-ups in Russia and Belarus. Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov had called on the company to stop providing AWS in Russia, suggesting in a letter sent to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos that not doing so could be supporting “bloodshed and disinformation that can be leveraged through digital infrastructures.”


KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he discussed humanitarian corridors and other issues with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday.

Zelensky tweeted that they agreed on “the need to ensure effective humanitarian corridors for civilians” during the call.

Consultations with partners continue. Talked with @eucopresident. Discussed sanctions against the Russian aggressor, the need for coordinated pressure on Russia to ensure the security of civilians, support for in our struggle & ’s membership in the #EU. #StopRussia
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) March 9, 2022

The Ukrainian president noted that he again raised the issue of EU membership for Ukraine and expressed his gratitude for another EU sanctions package against Russia.


WASHINGTON – U.S. gasoline prices hit another record on Wednesday, with the national average rising to US$4.25 a gallon, an overnight increase of eight cents, according to the AAA auto club.

Motorists in California continue to pay the highest prices, with the statewide average at $5.57 a gallon. Prices topped $4.50 in Illinois, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii.

Gasoline prices have been rising for nearly two years, following the trend in oil prices. Production fell at the outset of the pandemic, and producers have not pumped enough oil since then to meet rising demand.

The national average for gas has spiked 60 cents in just the past week, which analysts say is almost entirely due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which led President Joe Biden to announce Tuesday that the U.S. will ban the import of Russian oil.


WASHINGTON – The Pentagon said Wednesday that two U.S. Army Patriot air defence batteries have been shifted from Germany to Poland as a precautionary defensive move.

It said the decision was made by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in consultation with the Polish government, which asked for the Patriots.


TIRANA, Albania – The U.S. Special Operations Command Europe, or SOCEUR, opened its forward-based headquarters in Albania on Wednesday, aiming at enhancing regional stability, its head Maj. Gen. David Tabor said.

A 12- to 15-member Task Force Balkans group will be based in Tirana to coordinate joint and combined exchange training and civil military support element engagements, Tabor said. Tabor said Albania’s central location in the Balkans was behind the decision to open the command there, he said.

It will be the first-ever U.S. permanent military presence in Albania, said U.S. Ambassador in Tirana Yuri Kim.

Albanian senior officials said that opening such a U.S. military office is more important now.

The opening of the command in Tirana “came at the proper moment, at the culmination of the insecurity due to the gloomy situation in the continent after Russian aggression,” said Defence Minister Niko Peleshi.


PRAGUE – The Czech government has agreed to give refugees from Ukraine free access to the labour market without any work permit.

Labour and Social Affairs Minister Marian Jurecka said Wednesday that the refugees will be in a position “of any other citizen” if they want to get a job.

The refugees will only need to get a visa for their stay in the Czech Republic to work. Assistance centres in all regions of the Czech Republic are working around the clock to provide all necessary documents and other initial help, including housing, to the refugees.

It’s estimated some 150,000 people have arrived in the country that doesn’t border Ukraine invaded by the Russian troops.

Jurecka said there are some 350,000 jobs currently available in the Czech Republic.

The government also approved a plan to give all the refugees a financial contribution of US$215 on arrival. They would be able to receive it monthly six times if needed.


NICOSIA, Cyprus – Cyprus said the first 165-ton batch of humanitarian aid for the people of Ukraine has been shipped to Poland via the Greek port city of Thesaloniki.

The foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday that the shipment will reach a European Union logistics hub set up in conjunction with Polish authorities.

The aid – collected mainly from individual donations – includes 88 tons of foodstuffs, sleeping bags, tents blankets and portable toilets, 5,000 pairs of shoes, bottled water, an electricity generator, personal hygiene kits and 14 tons of medical supplies.

The aid is a “tangible demonstration of the solidarity of Cyprus to the Ukrainian people,” the ministry said. Freight costs were covered by the ministry.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed Ukrainian “nationalists” for hampering the evacuation of civilians from besieged Ukrainian cities.

The Kremlin said that Putin discussed the situation in Ukraine in Wednesday’s phone call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, with a “special emphasis given to the humanitarian aspects.” It said that Putin told Scholz about Russian “efforts to organize humanitarian corridors for civilians to exit areas of fighting and attempts by militants from nationalist units to hamper safe evacuation of people.”

Ukrainian officials said that the continuous Russian shelling has derailed efforts to evacuate civilians from areas affected by fighting.


LONDON – British American Tobacco said it has suspended all planned capital investment in Russia but continues to operate there, even as many other Western brands announce they’re halting all business in the country because of the Ukraine invasion.

The company, one of the so-called Big Four tobacco producers, said Wednesday that it has a “duty of care” to all its 2,500 employees in Russia. BAT said it’s focusing on its locally produced tobacco products in Russia, where it has substantial manufacturing and has been operating since 1991.

“Furthermore, we are scaling our business activities appropriate to the current situation, including rationalising our marketing activities,” the company said, adding it’s complying with all international sanctions related to the conflict.

The company said it is “deeply concerned about the conflict in Ukraine,” where it employs 1,000 people and has suspended all business and manufacturing.

In contrast, another major tobacco producer, Imperial Brands, said earlier Wednesday it would halt all operations in Russia, including production at its factory in Volgograd and ceasing all sales and marketing activity.

Separately, S&P Global Ratings said it has suspended commercial operations in Russia. The credit rating agency said it would maintain analytical coverage from outside Russia.


LYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say a Russian strike has hit a children’s hospital and maternity facility in the besieged southeastern port city of Mariupol.

A statement on the city council’s social media account on Wednesday said the hospital suffered “colossal” damage.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted that there were “people, children under the wreckage.” He called the strike an “atrocity.”

The deputy head of Zelensky’s office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said authorities are trying to establish the number of people who may have been killed or wounded.

Mariupol. Direct strike of Russian troops at the maternity hospital. People, children are under the wreckage. Atrocity! How much longer will the world be an accomplice ignoring terror? Close the sky right now! Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to be losing humanity. pic.twitter.com/FoaNdbKH5k
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) March 9, 2022


GENEVA — The international Red Cross says civilians caught up in places affected by fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces should have “broader relocation alternatives” for evacuation — including to other parts of Ukraine — beyond the Russian government’s offer to take them into Russian territory.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which in particular is trying to arrange evacuations of civilians from the hard-hit port city of Mariupol, made the comments Wednesday after Russia offered in recent days to allow safe-passage corridors for Ukrainian civilians across the Russian border. Ukrainian authorities have rejected that idea.

ICRC has said authorities on both sides need to agree on any evacuation plan, and evacuations should be voluntary for the civilians concerned.

Some civilians might refuse evacuation “if the only escape route available to them implies resettling in the Russian Federation or the Republic of Belarus,” said ICRC spokesman Jason Straziuso in an email, referring to Russian ally Belarus. “In the view of the ICRC, civilians affected by the hostilities should be given broader relocation alternatives, including within Ukraine itself.”


NEW YORK — Russia has admitted that conscript soldiers have been sent into Ukraine and that some have been captured by Ukrainian troops.

The admission comes after President Vladimir Putin vowed that conscripts would not be deployed and that Russian forces would rely on professional troops.

Defence Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that “unfortunately there have been detected several instances of the presence of conscript-service military personnel” with units in Ukraine but that “almost all” of them had been recalled to Russia.

He added that some conscripts were taken prisoner by Ukrainian forces while serving in a logistics unit and efforts are under way to free them. Konashenkov didn’t specify how many conscripts had served in Ukraine or how many were captured.


LONDON — Ukraine’s ambassador to Britain has urged the government to suspend visa requirements for Ukrainians fleeing the war, after the U.K. acknowledged fewer than 1,000 visas have been handed out so far.

Vadym Prystaiko told lawmakers that “if you can vote for some temporary releasing of us from these rules, to allow people to get here, we will take care of (them).”

Britain’s Conservative government says it is prepared to take in hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine. But as of Wednesday the number of visas issued was just below 1,000.

European Union nations are allowing Ukrainians to live and work for up to three years without having to go through a formal asylum-seeking process. The U.K., which left the bloc last year, isn’t waiving the paperwork, saying applicants must submit biometric data for security reasons.

Ukrainians arriving at the English Channel port of Calais have been told to apply at British missions in Paris or Brussels, while others say they are waiting days for appointments at U.K. embassies in eastern Europe.

The British government says it is setting up a new visa centre in Lille, northwest France, that will start work on Thursday.


ROME — Italy will let refugees arriving from Ukraine who have applied for a residency permit to work, either for employers or in self-employment, including seasonal work.

The existing quotas for foreign workers based on nationalities will be lifted for the Ukrainians fleeing the war in their homeland, Premier Mario Draghi told lawmakers.

As of Wednesday, nearly 24,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war had arrived in Italy, mainly through the Italian border with Slovenia. Of those, 9,700 are minors.

All the refugees will be required to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they aren’t already or take a swab test every 48 hours. In Italy, those 5 years and older can be vaccinated against COVID-19.

In terms of integration measures, children will be able to attend Italian schools. Draghi cautioned Italians to keep in mind that measures for the refugees will be needed not for days or months but “perhaps for far longer.”


GENEVA — The World Health Organization says it has documented 18 attacks on health facilities, workers and ambulances since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the UN health agency has delivered 81 metric tons of supplies to Ukraine and is now establishing a pipeline to send further equipment. To date, Tedros said WHO had sent enough surgical supplies to treat 150 trauma patients and other supplies for a range of health conditions to treat 45,000 people.

Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, acknowledged that sending medical supplies to Ukraine was unlikely to make a big difference.

“This is putting bandages on mortal wounds right now,” he said.

WHO chief Tedros said some of the main health challenges officials were facing in Ukraine were hypothermia and frostbite, respiratory disease, heart disease, cancer and mental health issues. He added that WHO staffers have been sent to countries neighbouring Ukraine to provide mental health support to fleeing refugees, mostly women and children.


LONDON — The European Union is working on sending communications equipment to Ukraine after the country asked Brussels for help to keep telecom networks running.

The EU “received a request from our Ukrainian friends and we’re in the process of coordinating on that,” French digital minister Cedric O said Wednesday.

The minister said EU officials discussed aid in the form of electronic and computer equipment that they could offer Ukraine to ensure the country’s telecom and administrative networks “continue as normally possible.”

He did not go into details but said it was all civilian equipment “necessary to keep an administration up and running.”

As the Russian offensive grinds on, Ukraine’s ability to maintain telecommunications in some areas is in question as cellphone networks went down in the besieged port city of Mariupol.


BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is indicating that he doesn’t favour supplying old MiG fighter jets to Ukraine.

Poland late Tuesday offered to give the U.S. 28 MiG-29 fighter planes for Ukraine’s use. U.S. officials said the proposal was “untenable,” but they would continue to consult with Poland and other NATO allies.

Scholz was asked Wednesday whether Germany would be prepared to allow such a delivery, and whether he feared being drawn into the conflict by a jet delivery via the United States’ Ramstein Air Base in Germany — which Poland had proposed.

Scholz noted that Germany has given Ukraine financial and humanitarian aid, as well as some weapons. He added: “otherwise, we must consider very carefully what we do in concrete terms, and that most certainly doesn’t include fighter planes.”


LONDON — Britain’s defence minister says Russia’s military assault on Ukraine will get “more brutal and more indiscriminate” as President Vladimir Putin tries to regain momentum against fierce Ukrainian resistance.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told British lawmakers that Russia was seeking to use mercenaries from the Wagner Group in Ukraine, calling that a sign of “desperation.”

The Wagner Group, owned by a confidant of Putin, has been accused by Western governments and UN experts of human rights abuses in Africa and involvement in the conflict in Libya.

Wallace said the group was “responsible for all sorts of atrocities in Africa and the Middle East. And the fact that Russia is now trying to encourage them to take part in Ukraine, I think, is a telling sign.”

Western intelligence officials are concerned that Russia plans to use violence to terrorize the population and deter protests in areas of Ukraine under its control. A European official told the AP that Russia was considering “aggressive measures” including “violent crowd control, repressive detention of protest organizers” and even public executions.


BERLIN — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Canada will soon send Ukraine “highly specialized equipment.”

Trudeau said during a visit to Berlin that Zelensky also accepted an invitation to address the Canadian Parliament during Wednesday’s conversation. Zelensky spoke to the British Parliament on Tuesday.

Trudeau said Canada will be able to start sending “in the coming days” equipment including cameras used in drones. He acknowledged that “there are challenges at the borders in terms of getting equipment securely across and into Ukrainian hands, but we are working through that.”


ROME — Luxury Italian car maker Ferrari says it has decided to suspend production of vehicles for the Russian market for now.

Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna said the company “stands alongside everyone in Ukraine affected by this ongoing humanitarian crisis.” He said “we cannot remain indifferent to the suffering,” adding that Ferrari is “playing our small part alongside the institutions that are bringing immediate relief to this situation.”

The company is donating 1 million euros to support Ukrainians in need.


BERLIN — The International Atomic Energy Agency says it sees “no critical impact on safety” from the power cut at the decommissioned Chornobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine.

The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog said Wednesday that Ukraine had informed it of the loss of electricity and that the development violates a “key safety pillar on ensuring uninterrupted power supply.” But it tweeted that “in this case IAEA sees no critical impact on safety.”

The IAEA said that there could be “effective heat removal without need for electrical supply” from spent nuclear fuel at the site.

IAEA and #Ukraine nuclear regulator agree that loss of power at #Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant would not have a critical impact on essential safety functions at the site. https://t.co/iaCd3hBaZG pic.twitter.com/QYuzLmspVW
— IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency (@iaeaorg) March 9, 2022


MARIUPOL, Ukraine — City authorities in the besieged southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol are burying their dead in a mass grave.

With the city under steady bombardment, officials had been waiting for a chance to allow individual burials to resume. But with morgues overflowing, and many corpses uncollected at home, they decided they had to take action.

A deep trench some 25 metres long has been opened in one of the city’s old cemeteries in the heart of the city. Social workers brought 30 bodies wrapped in carpets or bags Wednesday, and 40 were brought Tuesday.

The dead include civilian victims of shelling on the city as well as some soldiers. Workers with the municipal social services have also been collecting bodies from homes, including some civilians who died of disease or natural causes.

No mourners were present, no families said their goodbyes.


LONDON — Dutch brewer Heineken, TV company Discovery and the Universal Music Group have joined the corporate exodus from Russia over the Ukraine invasion.

Heineken said Wednesday it will stop the production, advertising and sale of the beer brand in Russia. The company said it stands with the Ukrainian people and called the Russian government’s war “an unprovoked and completely unjustified attack.”

“We will take immediate steps to ring-fence our Russian business from the wider Heineken business to stop the flow of monies, royalties and dividends out of Russia,” said Heinken, which earlier stopped all new investments and exports to Russia.

Discovery said in a brief statement that it decided to “suspend the broadcast of its channels and services in Russia.” The indefinite suspension is set to take effect by the end of Wednesday.

Universal Music Group said late Tuesday that it’s suspending all its operations and closing its offices in Russia, effective immediately.

Earlier Wednesday, Imperial Brands became the first of the so-called Big Four tobacco producers to halt all operations in Russia. It said the move includes halting production at its factory in Volgograd and ceasing all sales and marketing activity in the country.


LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities say the decommissioned Chornobyl nuclear plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, has been knocked off the power grid. Emergency generators are now supplying backup power.

The state communications agency says the outage could put systems for cooling nuclear material at risk.

The cause of the damage to the power line serving Chornobyl was not immediately clear, but it comes amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The site has been under control of Russian troops since last week.

Ukrainian grid operator Ukrenerho said that according to the national nuclear regulator, all Chornobyl facilities are without power and the diesel generators have fuel for 48 hours. Without power the “parameters of nuclear and radiation safety” cannot be controlled, it said.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the grid supplying electricity is damaged and called for a ceasefire to allow for repairs.


BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — The Slovak government has approved a plan for NATO service members to be deployed in Slovakia. The move is part of NATO plans to strengthen the alliance’s eastern flank following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Slovak Defence Ministry said on Wednesday that up to 2,100 troops could be deployed to help boost his country’s defence capabilities. It will be the first such a long term deployment of NATO troops in the country.

Germany will contribute up 700 soldiers, including the Patriot air defence system, and up to 600 troops will come from the Czech Republic and 400 from the United States. The Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia will also send their troops.

The plan still need approval from the Parliament where the ruling coalition has a majority.


WARSAW, Poland — Poland is ready to make its Russian-made fighter jets available to Ukraine, via NATO, Poland’s prime minister said Wednesday. But he added that it’s a “very serious decision” that should be taken by all NATO alliance members because it affects wider security.

Premier Mateusz Morawiecki says the decision on whether to make the MiG-29 planes available to Ukraine as it fights Russia’s invasion is now in the hands of NATO and the U.S.

“Poland is not a side in this war (…) and NATO is not a side in this war,” Morawiecki said during a visit to Vienna. “Such a serious decision like handing over planes must be unanimous and unequivocally taken by by all of the North Atlantic Alliance.”

Morawiecki said talks on the subject are continuing.

Ukraine has been calling on the U.S. and Western countries to provide fighter jets. Poland responded on Tuesday by offering to transfer its planes to a U.S. military base in Germany, with the expectation that the planes would then be handed over to Ukrainian pilots. The Pentagon reacted by saying it had not been aware of the plan which it finds “untenable.”


BRUSSELS — European Union countries have agreed to slap further sanctions on Russia, targeting oligarchs and their relatives who played a role in the invasion of Ukraine.

In addition to measures already adopted targeting President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s financial system and the country’s high-tech industry, the EU imposed new sanctions on 160 individuals and added new restrictions on the export of maritime navigation and radio communication technology. The extra measures are also aimed at Russia’s ally Belarus.

The French presidency of the European Council said they will exclude three Belarussian banks from SWIFT, the dominant system for global financial transactions.


KYIV, Ukraine — Civilians from besieged towns northwest of Kyiv worked their way toward the capital Wednesday, crossing over a small river via a damaged bridge.

The bridge area has come under sporadic mortar fire in recent days, with civilians killed. But there was little shelling reported in the area Wednesday morning, so civilians took their chance to leave their homes in the hope of finding safety.

Firefighters pulled an elderly man in a handcart, and police helped others across. A soldier held a child’s hand. A woman carried her cat.

One resident of the town of Irpin described four days without heat, electricity, water or cell phone connections. Others came from neighboring Bucha.

The route from Irpin and Bucha to Kyiv is part of a humanitarian corridor announced by Ukrainian authorities Wednesday.

Thousands have been entering Kyiv via this route in recent days, with many then taken to the railway station for onward evacuation by train to Ukraine’s west.

“We have a short window of time at the moment (for evacuations). Even if there is a ceasefire right now, there is a high risk of shells falling at any moment,” said Yevhen Nyshchuk, actor and former culture minister, now a member of Ukraine’s territorial defence forces.


KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says efforts are under way to evacuate some 18,000 people from the capital Kyiv and embattled towns near it.

He said Wednesday the efforts are part of broader evacuation attempts by multiple humanitarian corridors within Ukraine, and warned Russian forces against violating ceasefire promises.

He appealed again for foreign air support, saying “send us planes.” Western powers have sent military equipment and beefed up forces on Ukraine’s eastern flank, but have been wary of providing air support and getting drawn into a direct war with Russia.

He also issued an appeal, unusually in Russian, to urge Russian soldiers to leave.

“Our resistance for almost two weeks has shown you that we will not surrender, because this is our home. It is our families and children. We will fight until we can win back our land,” he said. “You can still save yourselves if you just go home.”


LONDON — Britain has impounded a private jet it suspects of being linked to a Russian oligarch, and tightened aviation sanctions against Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Wednesday the Luxembourg-registered plane had been seized at Farnborough Airport in southern England while U.K. authorities tried to unravel its ownership.

U.K. officials believe the Bombardier Global 6500 jet is connected to billionaire oil tycoon Eugene Shvidler. It arrived in the U.K. from New Jersey last week and had been due to fly to Dubai on Tuesday.

Britain has banned Russian-owned or operated planes from its airspace, but Shapps said the government was still working to close some “loopholes.”

The government announced late Tuesday it was toughening sanctions to include “the power to detain any aircraft owned by persons connected with Russia.” Britain also banned the export of aviation- or space-related items and technology to Russia.


MARIUPOL, Ukraine — The besieged Azov Sea port city of Mariupol has seen some of the most desperate scenes of the war, with civilians struggling without water, heat, basic sanitation or phones for several days.

With water supplies cut, people have been collecting water from streams or melting snow.

The representatives of Ukraine’s Red Cross are trying to deliver first aid to those who need it the most, but resources are scarce.

“There is no heating, electricity, water, natural gas … In other words there is nothing. no household commodities. The water is collected from the roofs after the rain,” says Aleksey Berntsev, head of Red Cross of Mariupol.

People sheltered in underground basements, anxiously waiting for news of evacuation efforts as they struggled to survive in a city where bodies have been left uncollected on the streets.

Berentsev said that apart from delivering aid, giving local residents information is one of the most important task they are undertaking.

“Sometimes information is more important for the people than food,” he says.

Power cuts mean that many residents have lost internet access and now rely on their car radios for information, picking up news from stations broadcast from areas controlled by Russian or Russian-backed separatist forces.


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand lawmakers have unanimously passed a bill to impose economic sanctions on Russia.

Unlike many countries that had already imposed sanctions, New Zealand’s laws didn’t previously allow it to apply meaningful measures unless they were part of a broader United Nations effort. Because Russia has UN Security Council veto power, that had left New Zealand hamstrung.

The new law, which was rushed through in a single day, targets those in Russia associated with the invasion, including oligarchs. It will allow New Zealand to freeze assets and stop superyachts or planes from arriving. Lawmakers said it would stop New Zealand becoming a safe haven for Russian oligarchs looking to avoid sanctions elsewhere.


LONDON — British defence officials say Russia’s assault on Kyiv has failed to make progress but several Ukrainian cities continue to suffer heavy shelling.

In an update posted on social media Wednesday, the Ministry of Defence said “fighting north-west of Kyiv remains ongoing with Russian forces failing to make any significant breakthroughs.”

It said the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol remain encircled by Russian forces and are being heavily shelled.

The ministry said Ukraine’s air defences were holding up against Russian aircraft, “probably preventing them achieving any degree of control of the air.


BEIJING — China says it is sending humanitarian aid including food and daily necessities worth 5 million yuan (US$791,000) to Ukraine while continuing to oppose sanctions against Russia over its invasion.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters an initial batch was sent to the Ukrainian Red Cross on Wednesday with more to follow “as soon as possible.”

China has largely backed Russia in the conflict and Zhao reiterated Beijing’s opposition to biting economic sanctions against Moscow.

Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing that “wielding the stick of sanctions at every turn will never bring peace and security but cause serious difficulties to the economies and livelihoods of the countries concerned.”

He said China and Russia will “continue to carry out normal trade cooperation, including oil and gas trade, in the spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.”

China has sought to blame the U.S. for instigating the conflict, citing what it calls Washington’s failure to adequately consider Russia’s “legitimate” security concerns in the face of NATO expansion.


LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities have announced a 9 a.m.-9 p.m. ceasefire along several evacuation routes for civilians in besieged or occupied cities, though it is unclear whether Russian forces will respect it.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russian authorities on Wednesday confirmed the ceasefire along the evacuation corridors to Ukrainian counterparts and the Red Cross.

She said the routes lead out of Sumy in the northeast, Mariupol on the Azov Sea coast, Enerhodar in the south, Volnovakha in the southeast, Izyum in the east, and several towns in the Kyiv region.

All the corridors lead to sites elsewhere in Ukraine that are currently held by the Ukrainian government.

The route out of Sumy, on the Russian border, is the only one that has been used successfully so far, allowing for the evacuation of 5,000 people on Tuesday southwest to the city of Poltava.

Ukrainian officials released videos Wednesday showing trucks and buses with red cross symbols heading to besieged cities.


BERLIN — The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross says he hopes that corridors to evacuate civilians from under-fire cities in Ukraine will begin to work better after a sputtering start.

ICRC President Peter Maurer told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio on Wednesday that his organization has been working for days to bring the warring parties together and encourage them to hold detailed military-to-military talks on enabling civilians to flee.

Maurer said it’s important that agreements succeed “because the military units stand close to each other and the smallest uncertainty, as we have seen in recent days, leads instantly to exchanges of fire, and that makes the escape routes impossible.”

He added: “We hope that it will work better today; in any case, we are talking to the parties and, above all, the parties are talking to each other — that is the most important thing at the moment.”

But, pressed on how confident he is, he added: “I really can’t speculate. But we hope that today a large number can at least get to safety at least from some cities.”


Russia’s Defence Ministry says it has thwarted a large-scale plot to attack separatist-held regions of eastern Ukraine.

Defence Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov on Wednesday cited from what he claimed was an intercepted Ukrainian National Guard document laying out plans for a weekslong operation targeting the Donbas region.

Konashenkov said in a televised statement: “The special military operation of the Russian armed forces, carried out since Feb. 24, preempted and thwarted a large-scale offensive by strike groups of Ukrainian troops on the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, which are not controlled by Kyiv, in March of this year.”

He did not address Russia’s shelling, airstrikes and attacks on Ukrainian civilians or cities, Russian military casualties or any other aspect of its bogged-down campaign.

Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation,” and official statements about the war have focused almost exclusively on fighting and evacuations in the separatist-held regions, where Russian-backed forces have been fighting Ukraine’s military since 2014.


LVIV, Ukraine — The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces says the country is building up its defence of key cities in the north, south and east as Russia’s advance has stalled.

In a statement early Wednesday, it said that forces around Kyiv are resisting the Russian offensive with unspecified strikes and “holding the line.”

The Ukrainian general staff said that in the northern city of Chernihiv, Russian forces are placing military equipment among residential buildings and on farms.

And in the south, it said Russians dressed in civilian clothes are advancing on the city of Mykolaiv.

Meanwhile, the administration of the northeastern border city of Sumy says further civilian evacuations are planned Wednesday.

In a Telegram post, regional administration chief Dmytro Zhyvytsky says a safe corridor will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 22 buses that traveled the day before from Sumy southwest to the city of Poltava would return Wednesday afternoon to pick up more people seeking to flee. Priority will go to pregnant women, women with children, the elderly and the disabled.

Sumy is on the Russian border and has seen deadly shelling in recent days. The Sumy-Poltava route is the only one successfully used so far for humanitarian evacuations, and some 5,000 people, including 1,700 foreign students, were brought out Tuesday. Other evacuation efforts stalled or were thwarted by Russian shelling.


LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s energy minister said Russian forces that now control a Ukrainian nuclear plant are forcing the exhausted staff to record an address that they plan to use for propaganda purposes.

Russian troops have been in control of the Zaporizhzhia plant, the largest in Europe, since seizing it an attack on Friday that set a building on fire and raised fears of a nuclear disaster. It was later determined that no radiation was released.

Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said on Facebook that about 500 Russian soldiers and 50 pieces of heavy equipment are inside the station. He said the Ukrainian staff are “physically and emotionally exhausted.”

Russia describes the war as a “special military operation” and says it is conducting targeted attacks. Halushchenko’s reference to propaganda appears to refer to Russian efforts to show it is not endangering Ukrainian civilians or infrastructure.


WASHINGTON — Additional air defence capabilities are the number one priority for Ukraine’s military right now, the country’s U.S. defence attache, Maj. Gen. Borys Kremenetskyi, said Tuesday after returning from a meeting at the Pentagon.

“It can be ground based air defence systems. It can be fighter jets, whatever possible,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He said there are countries around the world that have Soviet-produced air defence systems that the Ukrainians already know how to operate. “The U.S. government can also motivate those countries to provide us this equipment,” he said.

They also need additional anti-tank, anti-armor weapons and coastal defence capabilities to defend against Russian ships at the south.


UNITED NATIONS — Natalia Mudrenko, the highest-ranking woman at Ukraine’s UN Mission, is accusing Russia of effectively holding civilians “hostage,” and says “the critical situation” in Mariupol and other cities demands immediate action by world leaders and humanitarian and medical organizations.

She told a UN Security Council meeting Tuesday on women in conflict that civilians, mostly women and children, “are not allowed to leave and the humanitarian aid is not let in.”

“If they try to leave, Russians open fire and kill them,” Mudrenko said, her voice shaking with emotion. “They are running out of food and water, and they die.”

The Russian military has denied firing on convoys and charged that the Ukrainian side was blocking the evacuation effort.

Mudrenko said a 6-year-old girl died Monday in the besieged city of Mariupol on the Azov Sea, “alone in the last moments of her life as her mother was killed by Russian shelling.”

On Tuesday in the Mykolaiv region, she said “Russian occupiers fired at a van with a group of female teachers of the local orphanage (and) three of them were killed.” She said there are also “cases of child sexual violence committed by occupiers.”

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