U.S. halts deportations to Ukraine, Russia and 7 other European countries
The Biden administration has suspended deportation flights to Ukraine, Russia and seven other European countries in the region due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, two people familiar with the pause told CBS News on Thursday.
In a statement, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed a suspension of deportation flights to Ukraine.
By Camilo Montoya-Galvez
Meet the American teen tracking Russian oligarchs’ jets
Jack Sweeney first attracted public attention after starting a Twitter account devoted to tracking Tesla founder Elon Musk’s private plane. Now the teenage college student has a new pet project involving another set of billionaires: publicizing the movements of private jets owned by Russian oligarchs.
By Aimee Picchi
Graham warns Russia will “wind up in the dark” over invasion
Senator Lindsey Graham told “CBS Mornings” Vladimir Putin needs to be held accountable for the destruction and loss of life happening in Ukraine.
Graham suggests a “multiple front approach” when it comes to Putin and his fighters—including hitting them with economic sanctions and helping the Ukrainians
“I want every military commander and every pilot to know in Russia that if you carry out these atrocities against the Ukrainian people, you do so at your own peril. You’re going to wind up in the dark,” said Graham.
By Analisa Novak
U.S. sets up deconfliction channel with Russia to avoid incidents
A U.S. official confirmed to CBS News the U.S. and Russia have set up a deconfliction communications channel between U.S. European Command and the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The channel was set up in an effort to avoid incidents and miscalculations between U.S. and Russian forces.
By David Martin
U.S. sanctions more Russian elites, including Putin’s spokesman
The White House announced Thursday it will be expanding the list of Russian elites close to Russian President Vladimir Putin who are being sanctioned, cutting the oligarchs off from the U.S. financial system and freezing their assets in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The individuals targeted in the latest round of sanctions are: Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary; Nikolai Tokarev, president of the state-owned pipeline company Transneft; Boris Rotenberg; Arkady Rotenberg; Sergei Chemezov; Igor Shuvalov; Yevgeniy Prigozhin, financier of the Internet Research Agency; and Alisher Usmanov, one of Russia’s wealthiest billionaires whose super yacht was seized by German authorities, according to the White House.
The sanctions also apply to their family members.
The U.S. is also imposing visa restrictions on 19 oligarchs and 47 of their family members and close associates, the White House announced.
Twenty-six people based in Russia and Ukraine and seven Russian entities will also be sanctioned in connection with Russia’s efforts to spread disinformation about its aggression in Ukraine.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that in choosing which Russian oligarchs to sanction, the Biden administration looks at their proximity to Putin.
“We want him to feel the squeeze. We want the people around him to feel the squeeze,” she said, adding more oligarchs will likely be sanctioned.
By Melissa Quinn
U.S. official says over 90% of Russia’s pre-staged combat power now inside Ukraine
More than 90% of the combat power Russia built up along Ukraine’s borders ahead of its invasion is now committed inside Ukraine, according to a senior U.S. defense official.
The Russian forces remain largely stalled in their advance in the north, according to the official. The main forces are still about 25 kilometers (15 miles) outside of Kyiv, the same place they were two to three days ago. It is still the U.S. assessment that Russia intends to surround Kyiv on all sides, according to the official.
The stall comes from a number of factors, including logistics and sustainment problems like running out of fuel and food as well as stiff resistance from the Ukrainians.
There are indications that morale among the Russian troops is flagging, and the U.S. has seen reports of Russians intentionally punching holes in their vehicles’ fuel tanks. Many of the troops, according to the official, might not have been told they were going into combat.
The Russians have launched more than 480 missiles, according to the official. More than 230 of the Russians’ missiles have been launched from within Ukraine using mobile launchers.
By Eleanor Watson
Macron predicts “worst is yet to come” in Ukraine, after call with Putin
As Ukrainian and Russian delegations met for direct talks in Belarus, telephone diplomacy aimed at ending Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his neighboring country also continued at the highest level on Thursday. Putin called French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the situation — their third call since the invasion started on February 24.
The conversation followed Macron’s address to the French public Wednesday night, in which he called Putin’s claims that he was combating “Nazism” in Ukraine a lie. The Kremlin said Putin told Macron during their “frank exchange” that he could not agree with him on that point.
A close advisor to Macron said the French president was “not optimistic” after his hour-and-a-half-long phone call with Putin.
“There is nothing reassuring in what he [Putin] said today,” the advisor told reporters in Paris, adding that it was clear to Macron from the conversation that “the worst is yet to come” in Ukraine.
- Did Macron get the long table for refusing a Russian COVID test?
Sources at Macron’s office said Putin had made it clear that he wants all of Ukraine to be under Russia’s control. One source said Macron told Putin to stop lying to himself, saying: “Either, you are telling yourself stories, or you are looking for a pretext. Either way, what you are telling me is not in line with reality and cannot justify either the current violence, nor the fact that your country will pay dearly because it will end up isolated, weakened, and under sanctions for a very long time.”
But the sources insisted there was no tension between the two leaders as they spoke, noting that Macron had used the familiar “tu” for “you” when addressing Putin, rather than the formal “vous.” Putin also used the informal pronoun, they said.
The sources added that Macron was keen to keep the dialog going “in order to save lives, and to obtain humanitarian concessions” from Russia.
That, despite Putin’s insistence on Thursday that he will continue his offensive against Ukraine until he rids it of a government he claims is run by “neo-Nazis” and criminals.
By Elaine Cobbe
Ex-Ukraine defense minster calls for no-fly zone: “It’s badly needed now”
A former Ukrainian defense minister called for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine or small zones over its capital of Kyiv and the country’s nuclear facilities.
“The destruction of nuclear power stations would be disastrous for the whole Europe,” Anatoliy Grytsenko told CBS News on Thursday. “It’s really needed. It’s badly needed now.”
Grytsenko acknowledged the risks the U.S. and NATO have raised in potentially having to enforce a no-fly zone, but he said it’s needed to avoid a humanitarian disaster and civilian deaths.
“On the ground, we will cover by our forces,” he said. “They are suffering. They are dying, but it’s our duty to protect our country, and the only way to protect now, to help us is closing the skies.”
In addition to Ukraine’s active-duty military and reserves, including Grytsenko’s son, a first lieutenant, the former defense minister said 100,000 civilians with military experience are fighting in the war.
“They will kill whatever is coming to their homes, their streets, their working places,” he said, “because it’s our land, it’s our people and we have to fight for that, and they will fight.”
By Alex Sundby
Ukraine, Russia agree to create safe corridors
A member of Ukraine’s delegation in talks with Russia says the parties have reached a tentative agreement to organize safe corridors for civilians to evacuate and for humanitarian supplies to be delivered.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky who took part in Thursday’s talks in Belarus near the Polish border, said that Russia and Ukraine reached a preliminary understanding that cease-fires will be observed in areas where the safe corridors are established.
By Associated Press
U.N. says confirmed death toll in Ukraine up to 249 but accepts true figure likely “considerably higher”
The U.N. Human Rights office in Geneva (OHCHR) reported an increase in civilian casualties in Ukraine on Thursday, saying 249 civilians had been killed and 553 injured between February 24, when Russia’s invasion began, and the evening of March 3.
Most of the casualties were caused “by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and missile and airstrikes,” OHCHR said in a statement.
“There has also been substantial damage to a significant number of civilian objects, including a hospital, schools and kindergartens,” High Commissioner of Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Thursday. “Essential infrastructure has been heavily damaged – cutting off critical supplies and services, including electricity, water and access to healthcare.”
The U.N. human rights office said it believed the “real figures are considerably higher, especially in Government-controlled territory and especially in recent days, as the receipt of information from some locations where intensive hostilities have been going on was delayed and many reports were still pending corroboration.”
Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said Wednesday that at least 2,000 civilians had been killed by Russia’s assault, including 21 children.
By Pamela Falk
Putin’s dwindling options and isolation fuel fears about his next moves
Observers of the Kremlin have noted that Vladimir Putin, a former intelligence officer previously known for his restraint, has appeared uncharacteristically agitated, delivering meandering screeds and publicly lashing out at his aides.
“He was always cold, calculating and ruthless. You know, a KGB man through and through,” said Mike Vickers, a former undersecretary of defense for intelligence, special operations officer and CIA officer who played an instrumental part in arming the Afghan insurgency during the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s. “But he’s now more emotional, more erratic, more rambling, I think more reckless, perhaps from increasing self-isolation and confidence in himself.”
“This looks like a major strategic blunder that the potential losses way outweigh the gains,” Vickers added during a recent episode of CBS News’ “Intelligence Matters“ podcast. “And so I think in that sense, he really is a different man now, and therefore potentially more dangerous.”
By Olivia Gazis
Lawmakers gather for a “quick and tense session” in Ukraine’s “most targeted building”
Lesia Vasylenko, a member of Ukraine’s Parliament, said in a tweet on Thursday that she and other lawmakers had gathered for a “quick and tense” session in Kyiv to vote on “defense and security laws” despite regular Russian shelling of the capital city in recent days.
“Parliament sits in person today to vote essential defence and security laws. A quick and tense session. We sing the national anthem in unity as we begin our session in the most targeted building in all of Ukraine,” Vasylenko said in the tweet.
On Monday, Vasylenko joined CBS News for a live interview from a location just outside the capital as it was hit by Russian artillery.
“I’m actually preparing now for bedtime, and my children are sleeping under the stairs,” she said, explaining that she would not flee Kyiv because she had sworn an oath to serve the people of her country, “because I am Ukrainian, and my biggest value in life is freedom.”
By Tucker Reals
“We support Russia” billboards appear briefly in Iraq’s capital
Billboards expressing support for Russian President Vladimir Putin as he wages a brutal war against Ukraine briefly popped up in the heart of the Iraqi capital late on Wednesday, only to be removed a few hours later. The billboards were placed in Baghdad’s upscale Jadiriyah district, a short distance from the U.S. Embassy and the heavily fortified “Green Zone.”
They bore an image of Putin with a slogan reading: “We Support Russia,” signed by the “Friends of the President.”
The Russian Embassy in Baghdad published a picture of the huge backlit banner on its twitter feed, with the words: “In the streets of Baghdad.”
It’s not clear who was behind the billboards, but some reports said they were likely ordered by pro-Iranian groups. Iran enjoys wide influence in Iraq, and retains the allegiance of many Iraqi political parties and armed militias.
Moscow and Tehran have forged an increasingly close alliance in recent years. On Tuesday, the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed the United States for instigating the war waged by Russia in Ukraine, saying “the U.S. dragged Ukraine to where it is now.”
It was also unclear whether the billboards were removed by ordinary citizens acting out of a rejection of Russia’s war in Ukraine, or civic works acting on orders from Baghdad authorities.
By Khaled Wassef
Satellite image shows super yacht linked to Putin out of reach of sanctions
As Europe and the U.S. bear down with a raft of aggressive sanctions targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin, the super yacht he is believed to own has found safe harbor in a highly militarized port in Russian territorial waters.
Satellite imagery obtained by CBS News shows the yacht docked at a port in Kaliningrad, near Russia’s nuclear weapons operations.
Experts say Putin’s luxury vessel has become a symbol not only of his vast hidden wealth, but also of how challenging that money has been to find.
“He’s a KGB agent, so he’s crafty. He knows how to hide when he needs to,” said John Smith, former director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which administers and enforces all foreign sanctions.
Data from MarineTraffic, a global intelligence group, shows Putin’s alleged yacht, the Graceful, left Germany two weeks before the invasion of Ukraine.
Click here to read the full story.
- Catherine Herridge, Michael Kaplan, Andrew Bast, Jessica Kegu
Direct talks resume between Russian and Ukrainian officials in Belarus
An advisor to Ukraine’s president confirmed on Thursday that he and several other aides were back in Belarus, “talking to Russian representatives” in a second round of direct talks.
“The key issues on the agenda,” Ukraine presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said in a Twitter post, were an “immediate ceasefire,” a longer-term armistice, and the opening of “humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians from destroyed or constantly shelled villages/cities.”
He posted the message on Twitter with a photo showing himself along with Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and Ukrainian lawmaker David Arakhamia making up the Ukrainian delegation sat opposite Russian officials.
A first round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials earlier this week brought no results, but they agreed to meet again. Russia has not specified its demands in the negotiations, but Putin’s regime has thus far indicated no willingness to back down from its stated goal of “the demilitarization and denazification” of its neighbor.
Many take that to mean that Putin’s assault on Ukraine will not stop until he’s toppled President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Western-backed government.
By Tucker Reals
U.K. says 5 cities in eastern Ukraine now surrounded by Russian forces
The British Ministry of Defense released a map on Thursday showing its latest “Defence intelligence update” on the positions and directions of advance of Russia’s invading forces in Ukraine.
The map showed five cities in the east of the country, from Chernihiv, Konotop and Sumy in the north, down to the country’s battered second city of Kharkiv and then on to the southern port of Mariupol, labeled as “assessed encirclement” by Russian forces.
The British intelligence did not reflect the reported seizure by Russian forces of Kherson, in the south of Ukraine, despite reports from both Russian defence officials and regional Ukrainian leaders suggesting it had been taken.
The map also indicated little change in the position of Russia’s large column of troops that has been stalled about 20-30 miles north of capital Kyiv for several days.
By Tucker Reals
Biden administration asks Congress for $10 billion in new assistance for Ukraine
The Biden administration is asking Congress to add at least $10 billion in new spending for humanitarian assistance and military operations related to Ukraine — a sharp uptick in requested spending from just a few days ago. Two people familiar with the request confirmed the figures to CBS News. The new spending is part of a broader ask that includes a $22.5 billion request for spending related to the COVID-19 pandemic and work to prepare for future pandemics.
Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, made the formal request for supplemental funding for “critical assistance” to Ukraine and the response to COVID-19 in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent late Wednesday.
Of the $10 billion the Biden administration is seeking in assistance for Ukraine, $4.8 billion would go to the Defense Department to support U.S. troop deployments to neighboring countries in support of NATO efforts and provide more military equipment to Ukraine.
The request also includes $5 billion for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development to boost security and economic assistance to Ukraine and regional allies, of which $2.75 billion would provide humanitarian assistance.
Click here to read more.
- Ed O’Keefe, Melissa Quinn
Mother who fled Donbas in 2014 travels over 600 miles to shelter kids from another Russian invasion
More than 1 million Ukrainians have fled their homes to seek shelter in other countries from Russia’s punishing airstrikes and ground invasion. Tens of thousands more have been displaced but remain inside Ukraine, including one mother and her three children who finally reached safety in the city of Lviv — more than 600 miles west of their home.
Kateryna Stoyanova traveled to Lviv from Zaporizhzhia, where she said the Russian army was fast approaching. When they got “really close,” she said, they got on a train and left.
“The air raid sirens were permanently on and people were told to go to shelters,” she told Reuters. “For a few days me and my kids kept on going down to the shelters — I do not know how many times.”
Click here to read the full story.
By Li Cohen
Crew dead and missing after 2 international cargo ships hit by blasts off Ukraine’s southern coast
An Estonian-owned cargo ship sank Thursday off the southern Ukrainian port of Odesa after an explosion, the vessel’s manager told the Reuters news agency. It happened as Bangladeshi officials said one of that country’s cargo ships was hit by a missile in the same region, killing a crew member.
Two crew members from the Estonian vessel “Helt” managed to escape the sinking ship and get into a life raft, but four others were unaccounted for, Igor Ilves, managing director of the Vista Shipping Agency, told Reuters.
“The vessel has finally sunk,” he said, adding that it might have struck a sea mine. It was not clear if Russian or Ukrainian forces were responsible for the explosions that hit the two ships.
Bangladeshi officials told Reuters earlier on Thursday that a missile had hit the Banglar Samriddhi, a cargo ship sailing under the nation’s flag, while docked at the Ukrainian port of Olvia. Olvia is an inland industrial port between the coastal city of Kherson, which Russia says it has seized from Ukraine, and Odesa to the west, which is coming under heavy attack by Russian artillery.
Bangladesh’s junior minister for shipping, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, told Reuters that 29 crew were aboard the vessel, which has been stuck at Olvia since Russia launched its invasion a week ago. He told Reuters the ship was carrying cement products bound for Italy.
An engineer onboard was hit in the attack late on Wednesday and died, Chowdhury said, but the other 28 members were safe.
By Tucker Reals
Ikea suspends Russia, Belarus operations, affecting 15,000 staff
Swedish furniture giant Ikea said Thursday it would suspend its activities in Russia and Belarus, affecting nearly 15,000 employees, 17 stores and three production sites, in response to the war in Ukraine.
“The war has had a huge human impact already. It is also resulting in serious disruptions to supply chain and trading conditions. For all of these reasons, Ikea has decided to temporarily pause operations in Russia,” the company said in a statement to AFP.
Russian forces continue tightening noose around major Ukrainian cities in south
Despite mounting unconfirmed reports of desertions and troops being taken captive by Ukrainians across the country, Russia’s invading forces continue closing in on Ukrainian cities, with reported successes in strategic southern towns in particular.
CBS News foreign correspondent Chris Livesay reported on Thursday that at least one Ukrainian official said the major Black Sea port city of Mariupol was surrounded. Britain also said the key port was encircled by Russian forces.
Russia claims to have captured the city of Kherson, meanwhile, and after U.S. and Ukrainian officials denied the city had fallen completely into Russian hands on Wednesday, its governor said Thursday that Putin’s troops had taken control of the regional administrative building.
By Tucker Reals
Video appears to show Holocaust survivors cursing Putin from a bomb shelter in Kyiv
A video shared widely on social media Thursday shows elderly Ukrainian Jews who identify themselves as Holocaust survivors making impassioned pleas for peace from a bomb shelter in Kyiv. Recalling their experiences in Ukraine’s capital during the Second World War, they demand that Russian President Vladimir Putin remove his forces from Ukraine and stop his artillery barrage on the country, repeating in unison “we want peace!”
CBS News cannot independently verify the video, which had been seen almost 1 million times after being tweeted by retired U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, former director for European affairs for the U.S. National Security Council.
“Holocaust survivors in a bomb-shelter in Ukraine, cursing Putin and asking for peace,” Vindman labelled the clip.
One of the elderly women in the video identifies herself as Lukash Tamara Oleksiivna. She says she was born in 1939 and lived in Kyiv before World War II started. She describes the current bombardment of the city as “a horror.”
“Putin, I wish for you to die. Leave us you b*****d,” she says to the person recording the video, before everyone in the shelter chants, “we want peace!”
- Madeleine Richards
Kyiv mayor says situation “difficult but under control,” huge blasts were Ukraine downing Russian missiles
The Mayor of Kyiv, former pro boxer Vitali Klitschko, said Thursday that the situation in the Ukrainian capital was “difficult but under control,” adding that there were no new casualties reported overnight and that huge explosions seen overnight were Ukrainian air defenses striking down Russian missiles.
CBS News senior foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata had just finished doing a live shot in Kyiv late Wednesday night when the sky behind him lit up. Less than a minute later there was a large blast and another flash of light.
CBS News correspondent Chris Livesay said the overnight shelling did damage part of Kyiv’s main train station, and a residential apartment building on the outskirts of the city was also destroyed. Many of Kyiv’s residents, along with those in many other large Ukrainian cities, have spent recent nights huddled into in bomb shelters, basements and underground metro stations to escape the artillery barrage.
By Tucker Reals
China denies telling Russia to delay Ukraine invasion until after Olympics
China on Thursday denounced a report that it asked Russia to delay invading Ukraine until after the Beijing Winter Olympics as “fake news” and a “very despicable” attempt to divert attention and shift blame over the conflict. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin also repeated China’s accusations that Washington provoked the war by not ruling out NATO membership for Ukraine.
“We hope the culprit of the crisis would reflect on their role in the Ukraine crisis, take up their responsibilities, and take practical actions to ease the situation and solve the problem instead of blaming others,” Wang told reporters at a daily briefing. “The New York Times report is purely fake news, and such behaviors of diverting attentions and shifting blames are very despicable.”
The Times article cited a “Western intelligence report” considered credible by officials.
Russian President Vladimir Putin met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing on Feb. 4, hours before the Games’ opening ceremony. Following that, the sides issued a joint statement in which they declared “friendship between the two states has no limits, there are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.”
China is the only major government that hasn’t criticized Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and has also ruled out joining the United States and European governments in imposing financial sanctions on Russia, instead endorsing the Russian argument that Moscow’s security was threatened by NATO’s eastern expansion.
China abstained in Wednesday’s U.N. General Assembly emergency session vote to demand an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops.
By Associated Press
Top Russian diplomat says it’s the West fixated on “nuclear war,” not Moscow
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday accused Western politicians of fixating on nuclear war, one week after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine and days after President Vladimir Putin — in a televised meeting with his top defense officials — said he was putting his own nuclear forces on high alert.
“It is clear that World War Three can only be nuclear,” Lavrov said in an online interview with Russian and foreign media. “I would like to point out that it’s in the heads of Western politicians that the idea of a nuclear war is spinning constantly, and not in the heads of Russians.”
“I assure you that we will not allow any provocations to throw us off balance,” Lavrov added.
Putin ordered Russia’s nuclear forces onto high alert Sunday, accusing the West of taking “unfriendly” steps against his country.
Moscow has the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear weapons and a huge cache of ballistic missiles which form the backbone of the country’s deterrence forces.
On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the U.S. military had decided to postpone a test launch of the nuclear-capable Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile that was scheduled for this week, in an effort to de-escalate tensions with Russia.
Japan, long criticized for unwelcoming stance, says it will take in some of those fleeing Ukraine
Long criticized for being unfriendly to refugees, Japan has said it’s moving to rapidly accept some of the 1 million people who have fled Ukraine. At least initially, priority will be given to friends or relatives of the nearly 2,000 Ukrainians already on resident visas here.
While Japan allowed in fewer than 50 of the nearly 4,000 people who sought asylum in 2020, there is precedent for large-scale humanitarian resettling: After the Vietnam War, Japan took in thousands of refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
“This is an emergency. Japan will accept people who need protection,” Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa said during a parliamentary session this week, according to the Japan Times. “We will accept the relatives of Japanese nationals as much as possible.”
By Lucy Craft
France seizes superyacht linked to Russian oligarch
The French government on Thursday said it had seized a luxury superyacht belonging to a company linked to Igor Sechin, the chief executive of Russian energy giant Rosneft and a close confidant of President Vladimir Putin.
The vessel, Amore Vero, was seized in the French harbor of La Ciotat on the Cote d’Azur as part of European Union sanctions against Russia and is owned by a company in which Sechin is the main shareholder, the French finance ministry said.
Huge Russian convoy still bogged down on way to Kyiv, British officials say
Britain’s Ministry of Defense says that a Russian military column heading for Kyiv has made “little discernible progress” over the past three days and remains over 19 miles from the center of the city.
The column has been delayed by Ukrainian resistance and mechanical breakdowns and congestion, the ministry said in its daily intelligence briefing Thursday.
Despite heavy Russian shelling, the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol remain in Ukrainian hands, the department said. Some Russian forces have entered the city of Kherson, but the military situation there remains unclear, it added.
By Associated Press
Russian liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy shuts down
The Ekho Moskvy radio station — a symbol of new-found media freedom in post-Soviet Russia — said Thursday it would shut down after being taken off the air over its coverage of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
“By a majority vote of the Ekho Moskvy board of directors, it was decided to liquidate the Ekho Moskvy radio station and website,” its editor-in-chief, Alexei Venediktov, said on Telegram.
Russia on Monday blocked the Ekho website and took the station off the air for what it said was the spreading of “deliberately false information” about the war in Ukraine.
Venediktov said Russia’s media regulator requested that Google delete Ekho Moskvy’s app from its store.
The past year has seen an unprecedented crackdown on independent and critical voices in Russia that only intensified after the start of the invasion of Ukraine.
Russian media have been instructed to only publish information provided by official sources, which describe the invasion as a military operation.
At the same time, the government is preparing to tighten its repressive legal arsenal.
On Friday, lawmakers will consider a bill providing for up to 15 years in prison for any publication of “fake news” concerning the Russian armed forces.
Ekho Mosvky — which is majority-owned by Russia’s energy giant Gazprom — was founded in 1990 during the final days of the Soviet Union.
It had established itself as one of the country’s leading liberal media outlets.
Russian athletes out of Paralympics in stunning, rapid reversal
In a stunning about-face, Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from the Winter Paralympic Games for their countries’ roles in the war in Ukraine, the International Paralympic Committee said Thursday in Beijing.
The about-face comes less than 24 hours after the IPC on Wednesday announced it would allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete when the Games open on Friday, but only as neutral athletes with colors, flags and other national symbols removed.
The IPC received immediate criticism for its initial decision. It was termed a betrayal that sent the wrong message to Russia’s leadership. The IPC also said it was evident that many athletes would refuse to compete against Russians or Belarusians, creating chaos for the Paralympics and damaging their reputation.
IPC President Andrew Parsons, in announcing the initial measures Wednesday in a Beijing news conference, sympathized openly with the Ukrainian people but said his actions were constrained by his organization’s rules and the fear of legal action.
Parsons said almost the opposite in announcing his reversal, noting his constituents had pushed back.
“In the last 12 hours, an overwhelming number of members have been in touch with us,” Parsons said in a statement. “They have told us that if we do not reconsider our decision, it is now likely to have grave consequences.”
Parsons added: “What is clear is that the rapidly escalating situation has now put us in a unique and impossible position so close to the start of the Games.”
The IPC now joins sports like soccer, track, basketball, hockey, and others that have imposed blanket bans on Russians and Belarussians.
By Associated Press
Grim numbers keep growing as war hits one week mark
More than 1 million people have fled Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, making it the swiftest refugee exodus this century, the United Nations said Thursday. That amounts to more than 2% of Ukraine’s population being forced out of the country in the war’s first week.
Russia reported its military casualties for the first time in the war Wednesday, saying nearly 500 of its troops had been killed and almost 1,600 wounded.
That stood in stark contrast to Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelensky claiming Wednesday night that roughly 9,000 Russian troops had lost their lives.
Ukraine didn’t disclose its own military losses but said more than 2,000 civilians have died, a claim that couldn’t be independently verified. A government official said there were at least 21 children among the dead.
But the U.N. human rights office said late Wednesday that 227 civilians have been killed and another 525 injured.
The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says the tally eclipses the entire civilian casualty count from the war in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces in 2014, which left 136 dead and 577 injured.
The rights office admits that the figures so far are a vast undercount. It uses a strict methodology and counts only confirmed casualties.
The rights office said in a statement late Wednesday that “real figures are considerably higher, especially in government-controlled territory and especially in recent days, as the receipt of information from some locations where intensive hostilities have been going on was delayed and many reports were still pending corroboration.”
Most of the casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and airstrikes, the rights office said.
U.S. State Department says Russia “engaged in a full assault on media freedom and the truth”
The U.S. State Department on Wednesday said Russia’s “efforts to mislead and suppress the truth of the brutal invasion are intensifying.”
“At home, the Kremlin is engaged in a full assault on media freedom and the truth,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. Price accused the Kremlin of throttling multiple social media platforms within Russia and said the country’s communications authority is blocking the websites and broadcasts of certain independent outlets, such as Radio Ekho Moskvy and Dozhd TV.
Price added that Russian parliament on Friday will consider a bill that would make the publication of “unofficial” reporting on the invasion punishable with 15 years in prison.
“The people of Russia did not choose this war. Putin did,” Price said. “They have a right to know about the death, suffering and destruction being inflicted by their government on the people of Ukraine.”
By Jordan Freiman
Ukrainian women describe giving birth in the middle of Russian invasion
For many women in Ukraine, the deadly Russian invasion came as they were preparing to bring new life into the world. Now, they’re giving birth in a war zone.
“We are living in real hell,” Alena Shinkar, a pregnant woman in Kyiv, told Reuters on Wednesday. She is staying in the cellar of a maternity hospital, along with many other expecting and new parents.
“I heard the explosion and women scream. The war started. And I could not believe. I thought it was some nightmare,” she said. “But it is what it is. This is how we are living.”
By Li Cohen
Number of refugees fleeing Ukraine has reached 1 million, U.N. says
One million refugees have fled Ukraine and entered neighboring countries since Russia’s invasion began just one week ago, according to the U.N.’s refugee agency.
The World Bank estimated Ukraine’s population to be 44 million in 2020, according to The Associated Press.
By Jordan Freiman