Live Ukraine Updates: Powerful Explosion Rocks Kyiv Near Railway Station
The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials have reported a powerful explosion in central Kyiv, between the Southern Railway station and the Ibis hotel, an area near Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office told The Associated Press on Wednesday night that it was a missile strike.
Officials said it wasn’t immediately clear how damaging the strike was, whether there were any casualties, or where exactly the missile hit.
The Southern Railway station is one of two stations that make up the main passenger rail complex that thousands have used to flee the war over the past week. The two stations are connected by an overhead corridor that crosses over about a dozen tracks.
The stations are about 2 miles from Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the square that was the site of huge protests in 2014 and 2004.
Russian Convoy Appears Stalled
WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. defense official says the Russian convoy still appears to be stalled outside the city center of Kyiv, and has made no real progress in the last couple of days.
The official on Wednesday said the convoy is still plagued with fuel and food shortages and logistical problems, as well as facing continued fierce resistance from Ukrainians.
He said there has been an increase in the number of missiles and artillery targeting the city, suggesting the Russians are trying to make a more aggressive move to try and take the city.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said Russians have not been able to achieve air superiority and Ukrainian air defenses remain operable and their aircraft continue to fly.
The official said that about 82% of the Russian troops that had been arrayed around Ukraine are now inside the country — just a slight uptick over the last 24 hours, and that Russia has launched more than 450 missiles at various targets in the country.
In other areas of the country, the U.S. official said that the U.S. is seeing preliminary indications that Russian forces are going to try to move south towards Mariupol from Donetsk, in what appears to be an effort to encircle the city.
More US Sanctions on Russia, Belarus
WASHINGTON — The White House has announced additional sanctions against Russia and its ally Belarus, including extending export controls that target Russian oil refining and entities supporting the Russian and Belarusian militaries.
Among Wednesday’s new measures are sanctions targeting 22 Russia defense entities that make combat aircraft, infantry fighting vehicles, electronic warfare systems, missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles for Russia’s military.
The U.S. Commerce Department also announced additional export controls on oil and gas extraction equipment that would hurt Russia’s refining capacity over the long term.
The Biden administration, and Western allies, have largely stayed away from hitting the Russian energy sector to avoid causing tremors to the global supply of energy. The White House, however, said in a statement that U.S. and allies “share a strong interest in degrading Russia’s status as a leading energy supplier over time.”
The latest sanctions imposed on Wednesday include the U.S. closing off its air space to all Russian flights. President Joe Biden previewed that he would making the move in his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.
Russians Halted in Kharkiv, but Shelling Continues
KHARKIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian official says the advance of Russian troops in Kharkiv has been stopped, but that Russians have responded by shelling the city with heavy rocket launchers and air attacks.
“Kharkiv today is the Stalingrad of the 21st century,” said Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Oleg Sinehubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration, said that over the past 24 hours 21 people were killed and at least 112 were injured by Russians.
Explosions on Wednesday thundered on Constitution Square, near the buildings of the City Council and the Palace of Labor. A missile attack also destroyed the building of the regional police department in Kharkiv and the university building, which is located across the street.
Arestovich said that several Russian planes were shot down over Kharkiv.
The Russians used Iskander missile systems to bombard Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Kharkiv, and Chernihiv.
Arestovich said Iskander missile systems can deviate from their target, making them “a danger to civilian objects.”
Both Sides Say They’re Ready to Resume Talks
KYIV, Ukraine — Russia renewed its assault Wednesday on Ukraine’s second-largest city in a pounding that lit up the skyline with balls of fire over populated areas, even as both sides said they were ready to resume talks aimed at stopping the new devastating war in Europe.
The escalation of attacks on crowded cities followed an initial round of talks between outgunned Ukraine and nuclear power Russia on Monday that resulted in only a promise to meet again. It was not clear when new talks might take place — or what they would yield. Ukraine’s leader earlier said Russia must stop bombing before another meeting.
Seven days into the war, roughly 874,000 people have fled Ukraine and the U.N. refugee agency warned the number could cross the 1 million mark soon. The overall death toll was not clear, but Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said more than 2,000 civilians have died. It was impossible to verify that claim.
Countless others have taken shelter underground, as Russia continued its bombardment.
Another attack came Wednesday on Kharkiv, a city with a population of about 1.5 million, and a strike reportedly hit a hospital in the country’s north. A 40-mile (64-kilometer) convoy of hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles advanced slowly the capital of Kyiv, while Russian forces pressed their assault on the strategic southern city of Kherson.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goals are not clear, but the West has warned he may be seeking to topple the government and install a Kremlin-friendly regime.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has decried Russia’s attacks on civilian targets as a blatant terror campaign, while U.S. President Joe Biden warned on Tuesday that if the Russian leader didn’t “pay a price” for the invasion, the aggression wouldn’t stop with one country.
Russia, too, ramped up its rhetoric, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reminding the world about the country’s vast nuclear arsenal. In an interview with Al-Jazeera, he said: “A third world war will be nuclear, and devastating,” according to Russian news sites.
A Russian strike hit the regional police and intelligence headquarters in Kharkiv, killing four people and wounding several, the state emergency service of Ukraine said. It added that residential buildings were also hit, but did not provide further details.
UN General Assembly: Russia Must Withdraw Troops
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly voted Wednesday to demand that Russia stop its offensive in Ukraine and withdraw all troops, with nations from world powers to tiny island states condemning Moscow’s actions.
The vote was 141 to 5, with 35 abstentions. It came after the 193-member assembly convened its first emergency session since 1997.
Assembly resolutions aren’t legally binding, but they do have clout in reflecting international opinion. A Russian veto sank a similar resolution in the more powerful U.N. Security Council on Friday, but the assembly allows no vetoes. Under special emergency session rules, a resolution needs approval of two-thirds of those countries voting, and abstentions don’t count.
More than 90 countries co-sponsored the assembly resolution. It deplored Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine “in the strongest terms” and demanded an immediate halt to Moscow’s use of force and the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. The measure also called on Russia to reverse a decision to recognize two separatist parts of eastern Ukraine as independent.
US Working on Crypto Strategy to Foil Russians
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is working on a “focused tactical strategy” to make certain that cryptocurrency doesn’t become a mechanism that Moscow is able to utilize to avert sanctions, according to a senior administration official.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the yet to be announced move, did not detail an exact timeline for when the new steps on cryptocurrency would be unveiled, but said the area is one of several spaces that the Biden administration officials are looking to shore up as it looks to make certain that sanctions on Russia have maximum impact.
The official said past experiences in Iran and Venezuela with sanctions evasion are informing the administration’s efforts. Additional export controls and new sanction targets are also expected to be unveiled in the days and weeks ahead to counter Russian sanction evasion efforts, the official said.
Officials have already been on the lookout for the use and creation of front companies and alternative financial institutions that Moscow might try to employ to get around sanctions.
China Won’t Impose Financial Sanctions
BEIJING — China’s bank regulator says Beijing won’t join the United States and European governments in imposing financial sanctions on Russia.
China is a major buyer of Russian oil and gas and is the only major government that has refrained from criticizing Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.
Beijing disapproves of the sanctions, which it believes lack a legal basis and “will not have a good effect,” said Guo Shuqing, the chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission.
“We will not join such sanctions, and we will keep normal economic, trade, and financial exchanges with all the relevant parties,” Guo said at a news conference. “We disapprove of the financial sanctions.”
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The United Arab Emirates Doesn’t Want Fleeing Ukrainians
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Ukrainian embassy in the United Arab Emirates says the Gulf country is re-imposing visa requirements on Ukrainians, in an effort to stop anyone fleeing the war against Russia heading there.
The embassy posted on its Facebook page Wednesday that the suspension went into effect March 1. Any Ukrainian passport holders wanting to visit the United Arab Emirates will now need a visa first.
The energy-rich UAE, which relies on Russian and Ukrainian wheat exports, is home to some 15,000 Ukrainian residents among its roughly 8 million foreign residents and 1 million Emirati citizens. Before the coronavirus pandemic, around a quarter-million Ukrainian tourists visited the UAE.
The UAE, like other Gulf Arab states, does not recognize individuals fleeing war and has not permitted refugees from Syria, Iraq and other wars to seek asylum or seek resettlement.
The UAE, which is home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, abstained in a U.N. Security Council vote late last week condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
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Malta Suspends ‘Golden Passports’ for Russians, Belarusians
ROME — European Union member Malta says it is suspending the processing of applications from Russian and Belarusian nationals for its so-called “golden passport” program in the wake of EU sanctions on Russia.
The much-criticized program, which grants citizenship or official residence in Malta, was begun as a lucrative source of income for the tiny island nation in 2014. A government statement on Wednesday also noted that nobody who gained citizenship that way has been found to be on the list of sanctioned individuals.
It said sanctions now make it impossible to perform due diligence on applicants from Russia and Belarus. Under the program, Maltese passports can be obtained with 600,000 euros ($660,000) and three years of residency or 750,000 euros and 12 months of residency, plus a 700,000-euro purchase of property. But investigative reporting in recent years found that the residency requirement wasn’t always fully enforced.
Israel Says It’s Pushing for Diplomatic End to War
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Israel’s president says his country is helping to push for a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine and is offering its services to achieve that.
President Isaac Herzog said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart on Wednesday that Israel is also sending an “unprecedented amount” of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, totaling some 100 tons.
Herzog said the aid is a “moral obligation” and that his country is considering more ways to support the Ukrainian people.
He said a missile attack on the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial in Kyiv “epitomizes the huge pain and suffering of people there” and the “terrible tragedy that we’re seeing unfolding in front of our eyes.”
Japan Will Take in Ukrainian Refugees
TOKYO — Japan’s prime minister says his country will accept refugees from Ukraine, as Russia invades its eastern European neighbor.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters Wednesday that the offer includes Ukrainians who have fled to Poland.
“We plan to start first with those with family and friends in Japan, but we will not stop there and will respond from a humanitarian viewpoint,” Kishida told reporters.
The Japanese offer is unusual, though Japan has accepted refugees before, from various nations, albeit in very small numbers.
Japan has often been criticized for providing a relatively narrow door for migrants wanting to get in. Those policies have become even tighter due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Plane Maker Airbus Cuts off Russia
LONDON — European plane maker Airbus says it has stopped providing support services to Russian airlines and supplying spare parts to the country.
The company said in a statement that the suspension was “in line with international sanctions now in place.”
U.S. rival Boeing has also said it’s putting its operations in Moscow on hold, temporarily shutting its Kyiv office and suspending parts, maintenance and technical support for Russian carriers.
Airbus and Boeing jets account for the vast majority or Russia’s passenger aircraft fleet.
EU Bans Seven Russian Banks From SWIFT
BRUSSELS — The European Union has banned seven Russian banks from the SWIFT global system that underpins cross-border payments.
But it spared two financial institutions in Russia because they are key to transactions for EU energy imports.
The EU left out Gazprombank and Sberbank from its move Wednesday to disconnect parts of the Russian financial industry from the SWIFT secure messaging network.
The exemption of those two banks underscores the bloc’s reliance on Russian energy and the two financial institutions’ central role in managing payments for that business.
The seven banks targeted by the latest EU sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine are: Bank Otkritie, Novikombank, Promsvyazbank, Rossiya Bank, Sovcombank, VEB, and VTB.
Gazprombank and Sberbank are, however, subject to other sets of EU financial sanctions against Russia that began in 2014 when the Kremlin annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea.