As Russia unleashed a new round of strikes in Kyiv and Lviv on Friday, President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke for nearly two hours about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine as the United States seeks to sway China from support of Russia.
China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement about the video call that conflict was “not in anyone’s interest.” But the country also renewed criticism of sanctions against Russia and avoided using the terms “war” or “invasion.”
The White House said Biden “described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia.” After the call, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki wouldn’t say whether China weighed in on providing support to the Kremlin or if the country would denounce Putin’s actions in Ukraine. She said the U.S. would be closely watching any actions by the Chinese.
China is among a number of nations, including India and South Africa, that have remained neutral or critical of NATO, keeping ties with Russia as western countries seek to cut off Moscow from the global community as much as possible.
With the invasion in its fourth week, Russian strikes targeted a residential building in Kyiv, killing one and injuring 19, according to emergency services and mayor Vitali Klitschko, and a military aircraft repair facility in Lviv.
The strike in Lviv was the closest Russia has come to striking the center of the western city. The Ukrainian air force’s western command said it shot down two of the six missiles fired at the city from from the Black Sea. Lviv, near the Polish border, has largely been spared from the worst of the fighting, but a strike at a training facility last weekend killed nearly three dozen people. A bus repair facility was also targeted Friday, mayor Andriy Sadovyi said.
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Meanwhile, around 130 were rescued form the bombed theater in the southeastern city of Mariupol, said Ludmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian parliament’s human rights commissioner. More than 1,300 people remain under the rubble, Denisova told Ukrainian television on Friday. The theater had been used as a bomb shelter before Russia attacked it amid its siege of the port city.
The fighting has led more than 3.27 million people to flee Ukraine and 6.5 million displaced within the country, the U.N. estimates. More than 2 million people have gone to Poland, the country’s border agency said Friday. The death toll remains unknown, though Ukraine has said thousands of civilians have died.
Among the most condemned attacks of the Russian invasion was last week’s airstrike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol that killed three people and left 17 injured.
The World Health Organization says that’s just one of 43 confirmed attacks on hospitals and health care facilities by Russian forces since the war began. Those aggressions have killed 12 and injured 34.
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►Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush visited a Ukrainian church in Chicago to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Both donned yellow and blue ribbons, the colors of the Ukraine’s flag, and laid two bouquets of sunflowers at the church.
► Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Friday said his country would formally submit a proposal for a peacekeeping and humanitarian mission in Ukraine at a NATO summit next week. Denmark indicated it would be ready to join a similar mission.
►In a coordinated move Friday, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania ordered the expulsion of Russian embassy staff members in the Baltic countries. Bulgaria also said 10 Russian diplomats were “persona non grata” and demanded their expulsion.
►The Ukraine military says it has captured about a thousand Russian servicemen and that an estimated 14,000 more have been killed in battle. Meanwhile, the U.N.’s human rights office said Friday 816 civilians have been killed and 1,333 injured – likely an undercount – since the start of the invasion.
►In an evening address to the nation Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked President Joe Biden for additional military aid but avoided detailing specifics over concerns of tipping Russian forces.
►Europe won’t be attempting to send its first rover to Mars this year because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the European Space Agency confirmed Thursday. The mission was a collaboration with Roscosmos, Russia’s state space corporation.
► French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to lift the siege of Mariupol, allow humanitarian access and order an immediate cease-fire during a 70-minute phone call, Macron’s office said. Earlier in the day, Putin had a conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who also pressed for an immediate cease-fire.
►Dozens of European lawmakers called on the Nobel Peace Prize Committee to reopen nominations so Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine could be nominated for the honor.
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LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian forces are blockading Ukraine’s largest cities to create a “humanitarian catastrophe” with the aim of persuading Ukrainians to cooperate with them.
He says Russians are preventing supplies from reaching surrounded cities in the center and southeast of the country.
“This is a totally deliberate tactic,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime video address to the nation, filmed outside in Kyiv, with the presidential office in the lamplight behind him.
He said more than 9,000 people were able to leave besieged Mariupol in the past day, and in all more than 180,000 people have been able to flee to safety through humanitarian corridors.
He again appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold talks with him directly. “It’s time to meet, time to speak,” he said. “I want to be heard by everyone, especially in Moscow.”
He noted that the 200,000 people Putin gathered in and around a Moscow stadium on Friday for a flag-waving rally was about the same number of Russian troops sent into Ukraine three weeks ago.
Zelenskyy then asked his audience to picture the stadium filled with the thousands of Russians who have been killed, wounded or maimed in the fighting.
— Associated Press
LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine lost access to the Azov Sea during Russia’s siege of the southern port city of Mariupol, the Ukrainian General Staff said late Friday.
Mariupol is the key commercial port on the Azov Sea, which is connected to the much larger Black Sea by a narrow strait.
The General Staff said the Russian forces were still trying to storm Mariupol and the fighting was ongoing. It was unclear from its statement whether the Russians have seized the city.
— Associated Press
Vladimir Putin appeared at a huge flag-waving rally at a Moscow stadium Friday and lavished praise on his troops fighting in Ukraine, three weeks into the invasion that has led to heavier-than-expected Russian losses on the battlefield and increasingly authoritarian rule at home.
“Shoulder to shoulder, they help and support each other,” the Russian president said of the Kremlin’s forces in a rare public appearance since the start of the war. “We have not had unity like this for a long time,” he added to cheers from the crowd.
The show of support amid a burst of antiwar protests inside Russia led to allegations in some quarters that the rally — held officially to mark the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which was seized from Ukraine — was a manufactured display of patriotism.
Several Telegram channels critical of the Kremlin reported that students and employees of state institutions in a number of regions were ordered by their superiors to attend rallies and concerts marking the anniversary. Those reports could not be independently verified.
Moscow police said more than 200,000 people were in and around the Luzhniki stadium. The event included patriotic songs, including a performance of “Made in the U.S.S.R.,” with the opening lines “Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, it’s all my country.”
A British defense official on Friday said Russia’s strategy in the war was becoming one of attrition as it has not moved as swiftly as it once estimated it would.
The shift comes as Russia has not claimed major Ukrainian cities quickly and has begun to attack more civilian infrastructure, said Chief of Defense Intelligence Lt. Gen. Jim Hockenhull.
The shift “will involve the reckless and indiscriminate use of firepower. This will result in increased civilian casualties, destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure and intensify the humanitarian crisis,” he added.
An American man was killed in a Russian attack on the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, where he was seeking medical treatment for his partner. The death of Jim Hill was reported Thursday by his sister.
“My brother Jimmy Hill was killed yesterday in Chernihiv, Ukraine. He was waiting in a bread line with several other people when they were gunned down” by Russian military forces, his sister, Cheryl Hill Gordon, wrote on Facebook. “His body was found in the street by the local police.”
Ukrainian officials reported that 10 people were killed Wednesday in Chernihiv while standing in the bread line.
At a U.N. Security Council meeting on Friday, Russia will not ask for a vote on its humanitarian resolution concerning Ukraine and instead will discuss its claims of U.S. “biological laboratories” in Ukraine, which the United States has said are baseless.
Russian U.N. ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Thursday he wouldn’t seek a vote on the humanitarian resolution, which U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield called “farcical” and “doomed to fail.”
Last week, Russia discussed its claims about the alleged biological laboratories in Ukraine, but the United States responded, calling the allegations disinformation.
“We know if Russia really cared about humanitarian crises, the one that it created, it could simply stop its attacks on the people of Ukraine,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that he agrees with President Joe Biden that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine.
“Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime,” he said at a White House news briefing. “I find it difficult to conclude that the Russians are doing otherwise.”
Blinken’s comments came a day after Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal.” Thursday, Biden called Putin “a murderous dictator, a pure thug who is waging an immoral war against the people of Ukraine.”
Describing the recent attack on Ukrainians waiting in bread lines and the bombing of a theater where children were sheltered, Blinken said the U.S. is helping document potential war crimes for prosecution.
Asked what should happen to Putin if he’s found guilty, Blinken said he won’t get ahead of the investigation, but he promised there will be consequences.
“I can say with conviction that there will be accountability for any war crimes that are determined to have occurred,” he said.
— Maureen Groppe
The House of Representatives voted Thursday in a bipartisan effort to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, a decision the Senate is also likely to pass.
The House voted overwhelmingly, with a vote of 424-8, to revoke a “most favored nation” status for Russia. If passed, the suspension would be mostly symbolic: earlier sanctions of Russian oil, gas, and coal imports already cut around 60% of American imports.
The Thursday vote would make certain steel, aluminum, and plywood items more expensive to import.
— Celina Tebor
Contributing: The Associated Press
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