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Also: Russia’s RT network can no longer be legally broadcast on Canadian screens, CRTC rules; Slovakia to discuss giving defence systems to Ukraine

This digest has now been archived. Find the latest Russia-Ukraine updates here.

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A woman with a child evacuates from a residential building damaged by shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 16, 2022.STATE EMERGENCY SERVICE/Reuters

Here are the latest updates on the war in Ukraine:

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the U.S. to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine and put Russia under a complete trade embargo in an emotional address to Congress. He compared the current moment to the Japanese bombing of the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. President Joe Biden’s administration has stopped short of providing a no-fly zone.
  • U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned Russia “about the consequences and implications of any possible Russian decision to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine,” the highest level engagement between the U.S. and Russia since the invasion began.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden announced another US$800-million in military aid to Ukraine. Mr. Biden will also head to Europe to discuss the war with NATO allies.
  • Russia’s military forces blasted Kyiv and other major cities Wednesday as they tried to crush a Ukrainian defence that has frustrated their progress nearly three weeks after invading.
  • Ukraine and Russia have expressed cautious optimism about peace negotiations. Moscow has not captured any of Ukraine’s biggest cities since it invaded last month. President Zelensky said negotiations now sound “more realistic.”

  • Damaged vehicles and buildings in Kharkiv city center in Ukraine.Pavel Dorogoy/The Associated Press

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9:05 p.m. ET

Nearly 3,400 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada since Russian invasion

As millions of Ukrainian refugees flee the Russian invasion, flooding into neighbouring countries, Canada’s border agency says 3,368 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada since the start of the war.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is facing calls to make it easier for Ukrainians to travel to Canada by lifting visa requirements – as other countries have – and co-ordinating a special airlift effort from the region.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau said the government will start accepting applications for its new streamlined immigration program for Ukrainians soon. However, he would not commit to an airlift.

-Michelle Carbert , Marieke Walsh , Kathryn Blaze Baum


8:50 p.m. ET

International Court of Justice orders Russia to cease hostilities in Ukraine

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In this photo released by the Ukrainian State Emergency Service press service, firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a market hit by shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 16, 2022.The Associated Press

An international court has ordered Russia to stop the war in Ukraine immediately, leaving enforcement an open question as attacks continue.

The International Court of Justice, the top legal body of the United Nations, voted 13-2 on Wednesday to make the order. A judge from Russia and a judge from China were the only dissenters, saying the court lacks jurisdiction.

Harold Hongju Koh, a lawyer for Ukraine, explained the country’s strategy for making constructive use of the court order, in an interview with The Globe and Mail: Encourage China to advise Russian President Vladimir Putin to negotiate; weaken Mr. Putin’s leverage in negotiations; and push for a UN-authorized peacekeeping force, beyond Russia’s power to veto, that would patrol humanitarian corridors in Ukraine.

The ruling is a kind of injunction – an emergency order – in response to a request from Ukraine, which said Russia falsely accused it of genocide as a pretext for an illegal war. Under the UN’s 1948 Genocide Convention, member states can ask the court to settle disputes over whether a genocide is under way.

– Sean Fine


7:25 p.m. ET

Russian troops stalled outside Kyiv, U.S. defence official says

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Ukrainian soldiers run through a forest, in footage said to show combat with Russian troops near the Kyiv region, in Moshchun, Ukraine in this still image obtained from undated handout video.UKRAINIAN MILITARY TV/Reuters

A senior U.S. defence official said Wednesday that the Russians continue to make little tangible progress across most of Ukraine. The official said Russian forces are still stalled outside Kyiv while continuing to bombard the capital city with missiles.

One key development, said the official, has been increased Russian naval activity in the northern Black Sea, where ships were shelling suburbs of Odesa. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. military assessments, said it’s not clear what the Russians intend to do, but the shelling could be the start of preparations to launch a ground assault on Odesa. Russia has warships and landing ships that carry troops and tanks in the Black Sea.

The official said the Russians have launched more than 980 missiles in Ukraine, and they are still flying around 200 sorties per day, although the total goes up and down. Ukrainians are still flying between five and 10 sorties a day.

The official said Ukraine continues to control Brovary and Mykolaiv, but the Russians have largely isolated Chernihiv and Mariupol. Roughly 75 per cent of all of Russia’s battalion tactical groups – which make up their ground forces – are committed to the fight in Ukraine, the official said.

– The Associated Press


6:45 p.m. ET

U.S. trade chief seeks to mitigate impacts from Russia sanctions on U.S.

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United States Trade Representative, Katherine Tai attends a "Break The Silence – Justice for Asian Women" rally in Detroit, March 16, 2022.Paul Sancya/The Associated Press

Western sanctions and other actions to punish Russia over its invasion of Ukraine will impose costs on the United States and its allies, and policy-makers needed to consider how to mitigate those impacts, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on Wednesday.

Tai, asked about effects on U.S. auto makers of revoking Russia’s Permanent Normal Trade Relations status – a move that would allow higher tariffs on imports from Russia – said that the action was aimed at imposing costs on Russia.

“Those consequences are intended to have a cost on Russia. But they also will require us to bear some costs,” Tai told reporters at an SK Siltron silicon wafer plant in Michigan.

“What we need to do – and this is really a key to policy making – is to figure out how to take action that maximizes the consequences for Russia while we figure out how to mitigate the impacts on our economic interests,” Tai said.

She did not provide any specifics on whether certain metals imported from Russia, including palladium, rhodium and platinum used in vehicle exhaust catalytic converters and aluminum increasingly used in vehicle bodies, could be spared from higher tariffs.

She said that Russia’s actions had undermined a long-standing system of global economic integration, with consequences for the global economy.

– Reuters


6:00 p.m. ET

Insurers warned to prepare for more cyber claims during Ukraine conflict

Property and casualty insurers have been told to prepare for an increase in cyber insurance claims as companies in Canada and the United States are at high risk of being online targets for cyberattacks if Russia decides to retaliate against government sanctions.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the federal government has warned Canadian businesses and organizations that the threat of cyberattacks and malicious software has increased. U.S. intelligence officials have briefed Congress on potential threats to homeland security, emphasizing that the most serious threats include cyberattacks.

Cybersecurity experts, government agencies and insurance analysts have voiced concerns that state-sponsored attacks will become more sophisticated in the coming weeks, potentially affecting physical and financial infrastructure in most countries.

Cyber insurance, also known as cyber risk insurance or cyber liability insurance, has seen tremendous growth over the past three years, with premiums totalling more than US$7-billion globally in 2020. The specialty insurance typically covers business owners for financial losses from cyberattacks and hacking.

DBRS analyst Marcos Alvarez published a report last week that said insurers are likely to see increases in cyber claims.

Clare O’Hara, from Toronto


5:15 p.m. ET

Facebook removes more Russia posts claiming children’s hospital bombing a hoax

Facebook on Wednesday removed official Russian posts that falsely claimed reports of Russia bombing a children’s hospital in Ukraine were a hoax, a company spokesperson said, even as similar messages appeared on other social media platforms.

The misinformation, on Russian Embassy Twitter, Facebook and Telegram accounts, circulated even after Twitter Inc and Meta Platform’s Facebook took down posts from the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom for breaking their rules against denying violent events, an Israeli watchdog found..

A survey by the watchdog, FakeReporter, and verified by Reuters showed the posts were still circulated on at least 18 Russian Embassy or ministry Twitter, Facebook and Telegram accounts.

A Meta spokesperson confirmed the company removed the posts after Reuters contacted them early on Wednesday.

Twitter and Telegram did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment. Russian embassies in Costa Rica, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico and Tunisia did not immediately respond to a request for comment about their postings on Facebook.

At least three people including a child were killed in the March 9 air strike on the maternity and children’s hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

– Reuters


5:10 p.m. ET

Pro-Ukrainian movement sweeps orchestral world and beyond

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Ukrainian-Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska led NACO in an unforgettable week of concerts starring Principal Trumpet Karen Donnelly and NACO's Creative Partner Gabriela Montero.Ian Cameron/National Arts Centre

The Ukrainian-Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska began a concert by the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa last week with a full-hearted speech condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine and calling on Western leaders to do more to help the embattled county.

“Ukrainians are fighting for the whole world,” she said. Then, quoting the adage that “music begins where words end,” the guest maestro introduced a rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem.

The solemn moment at Southam Hall is emblematic of a movement currently sweeping the orchestral world and beyond. Concerts are being dedicated to the Ukrainian cause, with the defiant national anthem (Ukraine’s Glory Hasn’t Perished) serving as a stoic rallying point.

In New York on Monday, with the exterior of the Metropolitan Opera House awash in blue and yellow, the colours of the Ukrainian flag, the Met Orchestra and Chorus gave a benefit performance, titled A Concert for Ukraine. A recent episode of Saturday Night Live opened with the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York singing the Ukrainian national anthem. The piece, which began life as the 19th-century poem Ukraine Is Not Dead Yet, was banned when Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union in the early 1920s and revived after the fall of the communist state.

- Brad Wheeler, in Toronto


4:50 p.m. ET

Russian troops destroy theatre in Mariupol

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A Ukrainian serviceman guards his position in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 12, 2022.Mstyslav Chernov/The Associated Press

Ukrainian officials say Russian forces destroyed a theatre in the city of Mariupol where hundreds of people were sheltering.

There was no immediate word on deaths or injuries in what the Mariupol city council said was an air strike on the theatre Wednesday.

The Maxar satellite imagery firm said images from Monday showed the word “children” had been written in large white letters in Russian in front of and behind the building.

Nowhere has suffered more than the encircled city of Mariupol, where local officials say missile strikes and shelling have killed more than 2,300 people. The southern seaport of 430,000 has been under attack for almost all of the three-week war in a siege that has left people struggling for food, water, heat and medicine.

– The Associated Press


4:45 p.m. ET

UN Security Council to vote Friday on Russian efforts for aid access in Ukraine

The UN Security Council is due to vote on Friday on a Russian-drafted call for aid access and civilian protection in Ukraine, but diplomats say the measure is set to fail because it does not push for an end to the fighting or withdrawal of Russian troops.

The draft resolution, seen by Reuters, also does not address accountability or acknowledge Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.

Britain’s UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward described these as “glaring omissions” in a video posted on Twitter on Tuesday and said Russia was “game playing.” She said Britain would not vote for Russia’s draft text.

“Their resolution calls for parties to respect international humanitarian law, but leaves out the fact that Russia is committing war crimes,” she said. “It is their invasion and their actions driving this unfolding humanitarian crisis.”

A Security Council resolution needs at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes by Russia, China, Britain, France or the United States to be adopted. Diplomats said the Russian move would fail because most of the 15 members would likely abstain.

– The Associated Press


4:30 p.m. ET

Russia’s RT network can no longer be legally broadcast on Canadian screens, CRTC rules

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Vehicles of Russian state-controlled broadcaster Russia Today (RT) are seen near the Red Square in central Moscow, Russia June 15, 2018.GLEB GARANICH/Reuters

Canada’s federal broadcast regulator has ruled that RT, a Kremlin-controlled network, can no longer legally be carried on Canadian television screens.

“Freedom of speech and a range of perspectives are a necessary part of our democracy. However, it is a privilege and not a right to be broadcast in Canada.” the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission wrote in its decision on Wednesday.

The CRTC statement added that the regulator is “concerned with programming from a foreign country that seeks to undermine the sovereignty of another country, demean Canadians of a particular ethnic background and undermine democratic institutions within Canada.”

The decision came after an expedited hearing into whether the channel should be allowed on Canadian TV screens, following Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine.

Susan Krashinsky Robertson, from Toronto


4:15 p.m. ET

Slovakia to discuss giving defence systems to Ukraine

Slovakian defence officials expect to discuss a possible transfer of their Soviet-era S-300 air defence systems to Ukraine when U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visits there Thursday, a Slovak military spokesperson said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned the S-300s by name when he spoke to U.S. lawmakers by video Wednesday, appealing for anti-air systems that would allow Ukraine to “close the skies” to Russian warplanes and missiles.

Slovak Defense Ministry spokesperson Martina Koval Kakascikova said Slovaks expect the issue to be on the agenda when Austin comes to Bratislava for talks.

Slovakia has no objections to providing its S-300s to Ukraine, she said. “But we can’t get rid of a system that protects our air space if we don’t have any replacement.”

The S-300s use long-range missiles that are capable of flying hundreds of miles and knocking down cruise missiles as well as warplanes. The Soviet-era anti-air defence systems could be valuable in thwarting Russian air attacks on cities and other targets.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the U.S. would help provide long-range air defence systems to Ukraine, but gave no details. U.S. officials had no comment on any S-300 swap. Three NATO members – Slovakia, Greece and Bulgaria – are reported to have S-300s.

– The Associated Press


3:55 p.m. ET

Biden denounces Putin as a ‘war criminal’

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U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at an event celebrating the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act, inside the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 16, 2022.TOM BRENNER/Reuters

President Joe Biden on Wednesday called Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal as the atrocities in Ukraine mount and the president there begged the U.S. Congress for more help.

“He’s a war criminal,” the president said of Putin as he left an unrelated event. It’s the sharpest condemnation yet of Putin and Russian actions by a U.S. official since the invasion of Ukraine.

While other world leaders have used the words, the White House had been hesitant to declare Putin’s actions those of a war criminal, saying it was a legal term that required research.

But in a speech Wednesday, Biden said Russian troops had bombed hospitals and held doctors hostage. He pledged more aid to help Ukraine fight Russia.

– The Associated Press


3:40 p.m. ET

Ukraine’s national anthem echoes around the world

From the middle of Odesa to the ice before an NHL match, the national anthem of Ukraine — Ukraine’s Glory Hasn’t Perished — has been performed across the world to show solidarity during the Russian invasion. The opening lines of the anthem in English are, "Ukraine is not yet dead, nor its glory and freedom, luck will still smile on us brother-Ukrainians.

The Globe and Mail


2:40 p.m. ET

Ukrainian mayor no longer in Russian custody

The mayor of the southeastern Ukrainian city of Melitopol has been freed after he was seized by Russian forces five days ago, a Ukrainian official said Wednesday.

Andriy Yermak, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, announced the news but did not share details about how Ivan Fedorov became free.

Surveillance video last week showed Fedorov being marched out of city hall apparently surrounded by Russian soldiers.

Prior to the start of the invasion, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration had warned of Russian plans to detain and kill targeted people in Ukraine, with Zelensky himself likely top target.

– The Associated Press


2:22 p.m. ET

Denmark fast-tracks new law to welcome Ukrainian refugees

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A young refugee girl smiles as she sits on a bus after fleeing the ongoing Russian invasion, outside the main train station in Lviv, Ukraine, March 12, 2022.KAI PFAFFENBACH/Reuters

Denmark on Wednesday passed legislation allowing Ukrainians fleeing the war in Ukraine to start working, going to school and receiving social benefits soon after arrival in the Nordic welfare state.

The law, which was fast-tracked in parliament, allows Ukrainian refugees to apply for temporary residency in Denmark for up to two years, effectively bypassing the slower process of applying for asylum.

Integration Minister Mattias Tesfaye said in a statement he wanted the first residence permits to be granted at the weekend.

“After that, it will be a few days before we can start getting Ukrainian refugees as colleagues, and our children will have new schoolmates,” Tesfaye said.

Ukrainians coming to Denmark would be provided with rights similar to those offered to citizens within the European Union, as well as relief and accommodation.

– Reuters


2:10 p.m. ET

‘True patriots from the scum’: Putin warns Russia against pro-Western ‘traitors’

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Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, March 3, 2022.SPUTNIK/Reuters

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday delivered a stark warning to Russian “traitors” who he said the West wanted to use as a “fifth column” to destroy the country.

The Kremlin leader assailed Russians who he said were more mentally in tune with the West than Russia, and said the Russian people would quickly be able to tell the difference between traitors and patriots.

“Of course they (the West) will try to bet on the so-called fifth column, on traitors – on those who earn their money here, but live over there. Live, not in the geographical sense, but in the sense of their thoughts, their slavish thinking,” he told government ministers, three weeks into Russia’s war with Ukraine.

“Any people, and especially the Russian people, will always be able to distinguish the true patriots from the scum and the traitors, and just to spit them out like a midge that accidentally flew into their mouths.”

– Reuters


1:50 p.m. ET

Hit with sanctions, Russia teeters on brink of historic default

The economic cost of Russia’s assault on Ukraine was further exposed on Wednesday as the sanctions-hit country teetered on the brink of its first default on international debt since the Bolshevik revolution.

Moscow is due to pay $117 million in interest on two dollar-denominated sovereign bonds it sold in 2013. But the limits it now faces in making payments, and talk from the Kremlin that it might pay in rubles – triggering a default anyway – has left even veteran investors guessing at what might happen.

One described it as the most closely watched government debt payment since Greece’s default at the height of the euro zone crisis. Others said a grace period that allows Russia another 30 days to make the payment could drag the saga out.

“The thing about defaults is that they are never clear-cut and this is no exception,” said Pictet emerging market portfolio manager Guido Chamorro.

“There is a grace period, so we are not really going to know whether this is a default or not until April 15,” he said referring to the situation if no coupon payment is made. “Anything could happen in the grace period.”

Creditors had not received funds by close of business in London, two sources familiar with the situation said.

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov meanwhile said Moscow had made the payment which had reached the correspondent American bank, and it was now down to Washington to clarify whether settlement is possible.

– Reuters


1:35 p.m. ET

Biden sending more anti-aircraft systems, drones to Ukraine

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President Joe Biden speaks about additional security assistance that his administration will provide to Ukraine in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus in Washington, March 16, 2022.Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press

President Joe Biden said Wednesday the U.S. is sending more anti-aircraft, antiarmor weapons and drones to Ukraine to assist in its defence against Russia.

The president’s comments came as he formally announced his administration was sending an additional $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine, making a total of $2 billion in such aid sent to Kyiv since Biden took office more than a year ago. About $1 billion in aid has been sent in just the last week.

“We’re going to give Ukraine the arms to fight and defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead,” Biden said.

Biden spoke hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a video address to members of U.S. Congress in which he made an impassioned plea for the U.S. and West to provide more help to save his young democracy than world leaders have so far pledged to provide.

– The Associated Press


1:18 p.m. ET

Russia charges three in first known criminal cases for ‘false information’ about war on Ukraine

Russian law enforcement has announced the first known criminal cases against people posting what is deemed to be “false information” about the war in Ukraine.

The Investigative Committee, a law enforcement agency, listed three suspects, including Veronika Belotserkovskaya, who is a Russian-language cookbook author and popular blogger living abroad.

It said Belotserkovskaya made posts on Instagram containing “deliberately false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to destroy cities and the civilian population of Ukraine, including children.”

Belotserkovskaya, whose Instagram profile says she was born in Ukraine, responded to the announcement by writing that “I have been officially declared to be a decent person!”

The other suspects were identified only as a man and a woman in the Tomsk Region of Siberia. The Investigative Committee said they had posted false messages about Russian military operations and casualties and that their homes had been searched.

The invasion of Ukraine is being characterized in Russia as a “special military operation,” not a war. President Vladimir Putin on March 4 signed legislation allowing for jail terms of up to 15 years for posting false information about the military.

– Reuters


12:51 p.m. ET

NATO vows more help for Ukraine, begins planning to adapt to ‘new reality’

The United States and other NATO members said on Wednesday they would keep helping Ukraine fight off Russia’s invasion, while also adapting the alliance’s own security to the “new reality” triggered by the war.

Diplomats and military analysts estimate that NATO allies have sent more than 20,000 anti-tank and other weapons to Ukraine since the invasion started on Feb. 24.

“We remain united in our support of Ukraine,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at an emergency meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels. “We support their ability to defend themselves and will continue to support them.”

NATO countries will continue to deliver weapons to Ukraine even as those deliveries could become the target of Russian attacks, Dutch defence minister Kajsa Ollongren told reporters, adding: “Ukraine has the right to defend itself.”

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” that it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO. Although it has repeatedly said it wants to join to benefit from its protection, Kyiv said on Tuesday it understood it does not have an open door to NATO membership and was seeking other types of security guarantees.

Fearing that an attack on NATO territory was also part of Moscow’s broader military plans, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that defence ministers agreed to tell military commanders to draw up plans for new ways to deter Russia.

Those plans will likely be approved by NATO leaders at a summit in Madrid in June and will also be discussed briefly next Thursday by leaders when they meet in Brussels at allied headquarters in a bid to show unity.

– Reuters


12:25 p.m. ET

‘Heartbreaking decisions’ had to be made in Canada’s response to Ukraine, Trudeau says

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference in Warsaw, Poland. March 11, 2022.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada has had to make “heartbreaking decisions” when it comes to responding to Ukraine’s request for a no-fly zone.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated his request for allied nations to secure the skies over his country in his address to the U.S. Congress this morning after his impassioned speech before the Canadian Parliament Tuesday.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies including Canada have denied Zelensky’s request for a no-fly zone over concerns that it would cross a red line and spark a large-scale international conflict.

Rather, Trudeau says Canada has responded to Ukraine’s request for help with continued deliveries of lethal weapons, humanitarian aid and refugee support.

Trudeau plans to travel to Brussels next week to discuss further support for Ukraine with other NATO nations.

He says the discussion will centre on how to protect lives in Ukraine and globally.

– The Canadian Press


12:01 p.m. ET

Israel’s Bennett emerges as a mediator in Russia-Ukraine war

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has leveraged Israel’s good relations with both Ukraine and Russia and his personal rapport with their leaders to turn himself into an unexpected mediator.

He is one of the few world leaders to speak regularly to both sides. Bennett himself has said little in public about his mediation since making a surprise visit to Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin on March 5. His office says there have been two more phone calls with Putin and six with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Bennett describes his efforts as a moral obligation to do whatever is possible to end the fighting. Underscoring that message, Bennett flew to Moscow to meet Putin on the Jewish sabbath, when observant Jews like himself do not travel unless it is a life-saving situation.

Israel’s ties with Russia and Ukraine run deep. Both countries have large Jewish communities, and over 1 million Jews from the region have moved to Israel since the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago.

– The Associated Press


11:42 a.m. ET

Putin acknowledges sanction pain, says invasion is “going to plan”

President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia would achieve its goals in Ukraine and would not submit to what he called a Western attempt to achieve global dominance and dismember Russia.

Putin said Russia was ready to discuss neutral status for Ukraine, three weeks into a war that has killed thousands of people and forced millions of Ukrainians to flee their homes.

He said that what Russia calls its special military operation was “going to plan.”

In his most explicit acknowledgment of the pain inflicted by Western sanctions, Putin said inflation and unemployment would rise, and structural changes to the economy would be needed. But he promised support to families with children.

“The West doesn’t even bother to hide that their aim is to damage the entire Russian economy, every Russian,” Putin said.

– Reuters


11:19 a.m. ET

U.S. warns Russia against using chemical weapons

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke and Gen. Nikolay Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, spoke by phone on Wednesday, the highest level engagement between the U.S. and Russia since the invasion nearly three weeks ago.

Sullivan warned Patrushev “about the consequences and implications of any possible Russian decision to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine,” according to a White House spokesperson. The White House last week accused China of spreading Russian disinformation that could be a pretext for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces to attack Ukraine with chemical or biological weapons.

– The Associated Press


10:46 a.m. ET

Child refugees prove a challenge for host countries

Thousands of Ukrainian children who have found shelter in hastily converted housing facilities across central and eastern Europe are struggling to come to terms with their new reality as refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of their country.

According to figures released by UNICEF on Tuesday, children account for about half of the more than 3 million Ukrainians who have fled their country, mostly for Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova.

Countries bordering Ukraine have provided sanctuary to a seemingly unending flow of refugees, and their authorities are facing the additional, monumental task of providing long-term mental care to traumatized Ukrainian children.

New arrivals are expected to overwhelm underfunded and poorly managed public schools in tiny Moldova, but also in relatively affluent Poland, where classes are held in Polish, which most Ukrainians do not speak.

Psychologists say young Ukrainian refugees appear unable to comprehend the longer-term nature of their absence from home and separation from their fathers, who are forbidden to leave Ukraine in order to fight in the war.

– The Associated Press


9:35 a.m. ET

Zelensky calls on U.S. to do more to stop Putin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the U.S. to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, transfer more military equipment including fighter jets to his military, and put Russia under a complete trade embargo in an emotional address to Congress.

“This is a terror that Europe has not seen in 80 years,” he said. “Is this too much to ask for a no-fly zone over Ukraine?”

Mr. Zelensky compared the current moment to the Japanese bombing of the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He also quoted Martin Luther King Jr.

“We need you right now. Remember that terrible morning of Dec. 7, 1941 when your sky was black from the planes attacking you? Remember September 11th, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities … into battlefields?” he said. “I have a dream – these words are know to each of you. Today I can say I have a need. I have a need to protect the sky.”

Adrian Morrow


9:35 a.m. ET

Putin-Zelensky meeting should be to seal deal: Russia

Russia said on Wednesday there were no obstacles to a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, but that such a meeting would only take place to seal a specific agreement.

“There are no obstacles to the organization of such a meeting with the understanding that it would not be just for its own sake; it would have to seal concrete agreements which are currently being worked out by the two delegations,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters.

– Reuters


8:15 a.m. ET

Eastern Europe works to integrate Ukrainian refugees

Thousands of refugees from Ukraine crossed into Eastern Europe on Wednesday, where authorities are providing food, social services and school places to help people rebuild their lives away from war.

Three weeks into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there are some signs the exodus is slowing although tens of thousands of people are arriving daily.

More than 3 million people have left Ukraine so far. The front line states – Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Moldova – have been providing help to drive, feed or house refugees.

In Poland, which has taken nearly 2 million people from Ukraine, authorities on Wednesday began issuing national identification numbers to the refugees so they can access social services and benefits, and more easily find jobs.

– Reuters


6:51 a.m. ET

Swiss add more sanctions on Russia to align with EU

Switzerland has adopted more European Union sanctions against Russian individuals and entities.

“Switzerland’s list of sanctions now fully mirrors that of the EU,” the Swiss government said in a statement, adding the individuals sanctioned included further oligarchs and prominent business people whose assets in Switzerland must be frozen as of midday.

– Reuters


6:15 a.m. ET

Mariupol descends into despair

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People take cover from shelling inside an entryway to an apartment building in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, March 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)Evgeniy Maloletka/The Associated Press

Each air strike and shell that relentlessly pounds Mariupol – about one a minute at times – drives home the curse of a geography that has put the city squarely in the path of Russia’s domination of Ukraine. The city is now encircled by Russian soldiers, who are slowly squeezing the life out of it, one blast at a time.

Several appeals for humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians went unheeded, until Ukrainian officials said Tuesday that about 4,000 passenger cars carrying civilians had fled Mariupol in a convoy. Air strikes and shells have hit the maternity hospital, the fire department, homes, a church, a field outside a school. For the estimated hundreds of thousands who remain, there is quite simply nowhere to go.

The surrounding roads are mined and the port blocked. Food is running out, and the Russians have stopped humanitarian attempts to bring it in. Electricity is mostly gone and water is sparse, with residents melting snow to drink. Some parents have even left their newborns at the hospital, perhaps hoping to give them a chance at life in the one place with decent electricity and water.

Local officials have tallied more than 2,500 deaths in the siege, but many bodies can’t be counted because of the endless shelling. They have told families to leave their dead outside in the streets because it’s too dangerous to hold funerals.

– The Associated Press


5:36 a.m. ET

Russia says parts of a compromise deal are close, Ukraine could be like Austria

Russia said on Wednesday that some parts of a possible peace deal with Ukraine were close to being agreed after Kyiv agreed to discuss neutrality,

“Neutral status is now being seriously discussed along, of course, with security guarantees,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said told RBC news.

“Now this very thing is being discussed in negotiations – there are absolutely specific formulations which in my view are close to agreement.”

Lavrov cautioned that the negotiations were not easy but that there was “some hope of reaching a compromise.” He said key issues included the security of people in eastern Ukraine, the demilitarization of Ukraine and the rights of Russian-speaking people in Ukraine.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that a neutral Ukraine with its own army along the lines of Austria or Sweden was being looked at as a possible compromise in talks with Kyiv.

– Reuters


5:15 a.m. ET

Zelensky cautiously optimistic on peace talks

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky struck a cautiously optimistic note over ongoing peace talks with Russia in a Wednesday video address

“It is difficult, but important, as any war ends with an agreement. The meetings continue, and, I am informed, the positions during the negotiations already sound more realistic.”

Moscow has not captured any of Ukraine’s 10 biggest cities since it invaded last month, seeding hope among Ukrainian officials who say the war could end sooner than expected.

A possible point of compromise may be NATO. Zelensky said earlier Ukraine was prepared to accept security guarantees from the West that stop short of its long-term goal of joining NATO. Russia sees any possibility of Ukraine joining NATO as a threat and has demanded guarantees it will never be a member.

– The Associated Press


5:10 a.m. ET

Russian assault on major cities continues

Russia’s military forces blasted Ukraine’s capital region and other major cities Wednesday as they tried to crush a Ukrainian defence that has frustrated their progress nearly three weeks after invading.

Russia rained shells on areas around Kyiv and within the city, where a 12-story apartment building erupted in flames after being hit by shrapnel.

A senior U.S. defence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessment, said the Russians were using long-range fire to hit civilian targets inside Kyiv with increasing frequency but that their ground forces were making little to no progress around the country. The official said Russian troops were still about 15 kilometres from the centre of the capital.

– The Associated Press


12:31 a.m. ET

Zelensky to address U.S. Congress

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address the U.S. Congress virtually on Wednesday.

Nearing the three-week mark in an ever-escalating war, Zelensky has used his campaign to implore allied leaders to “close the sky” to prevent the Russian air strikes that are devastating his country. President Joe Biden’s administration has stopped short of providing a no-fly zone or the transfer of military jets from neighbouring Poland as the U.S. seeks to avoid a direct confrontation with Russia.

Instead, Biden will deliver his own address following Zelensky’s speech, in which he is expected to announce an additional $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine, according to a White House official familiar with the matter. That would bring the total announced in the last week alone to $1 billion. It includes money for antiarmor and air-defence weapons, according to the official.

Late on Tuesday, the White House announced that Mr. Joe Biden will make his first visit to Europe since Russia invaded to discuss the crisis.

The Associated Press


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