War in Ukraine live updates: Biden to ban Russian oil imports; more than 2 million have fled Ukraine

Published March 8, 2022 at 8:27 AM EST
A woman sleeps with one arm around a sleeping baby, with another very small child sleeping at her legs
Louisa Gouliamaki
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AFP via Getty Images
A woman walks children across the Ukrainian border at Medyka, Poland.

The U.N. high commissioner for refugees predicts the number of people fleeing will double as the crisis unfolds. President Biden is set to announce a ban on U.S. imports of Russian oil, which accounts for less than 10% of U.S. oil imports.

Here's what we're following today:

The U.S. to halt Russian oil imports: The ban was among the requests for assistance from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a video call with U.S. lawmakers over the weekend.

A sea of refugees: The vast majority of people leaving Ukraine — more than 1 million — have made their way to Poland.

A second Russian general reportedly killed: The Ukraine defense ministry says Russian army Maj. Gen. Vitaly Gerasimov was killed near Kharkiv.

On the ground

Putin says no Russian conscripts are fighting in Ukraine, contradicting recent reports

Posted March 8, 2022 at 12:35 PM EST

The Russian force that’s invading Ukraine is made up only of “professional military personnel,” President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday, as he sought to reassure people whose loved ones are serving in Russia’s military.

“I would like to emphasize that conscripted service personnel are not and will not be taking part in the fighting. And we are not going to additionally call up reservists,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin translation of his remarks for International Women’s Day.

But Putin’s comments are contradicted by reports that officers of Russia’s national guard and OMON riot police were killed or captured in the first week of fighting in Ukraine — reports that recently resulted in angry women challenging a governor in Siberia, accusing officials of being deceptive, using local young men as “cannon fodder” and not warning them that they were being sent into a war zone.

In Russia, OMON units have frequently been used to suppress public dissent. But Radio Free Europe reports that OMON officers from Novokuznetsk, in the Kemerovo oblast in southwest Siberia, died or were taken prisoner after being deployed to Ukraine as part of Russia’s invasion. Images from a battle scene outside of Kyiv showed OMON logos on bloodied gear.

The Russian-language branch of Radio Free Europe recently spoke to a man who said he was still trying to learn the fate of a friend who is an OMON officer based in Novokuznetsk after members of the unit were apparently told they were being deployed for military exercises, not an invasion.

"They told everyone that they were being sent for a training exercise in Belarus," the officer’s friend told RFE. "The last time I talked to him was on the eve of the invasion. He sent me a video saying they'd forced them to take the plates off their vehicles and turn over their phones. That's the last I heard from him."

That version of events jibes with the questions women in Novokuznetsk asked of Sergei Tsivilyov, Kemerovo’s governor.

“Why did they send our boys there?” one woman asked, in a video of the confrontation. In response, Tsivilyov denied that anyone was misled. But he refused to divulge any details, citing the ongoing military operation.

“I know that you are worried about your loved ones,” Putin said Tuesday as he addressed wives, sisters and other relatives. “You can be proud of them, just as the whole country is proud and concerned about them.”

“Only professional military personnel are fulfilling the tasks set to them,” he said, adding that he’s confident they will perform well.

As of late Monday, Ukraine’s defense ministry said, more than 12,000 Russian personnel have died in the invasion of Ukraine. The Russian military has not given frequent updates on the war’s toll. Last week, it said nearly 500 Russian troops had died and nearly 1,600 more were injured.

World reaction

The U.K. plans to phase out Russian oil imports by the end of this year

Posted March 8, 2022 at 12:33 PM EST
A sign lists prices outside of a gas station with a white van parked in front.
Glyn Kirk
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AFP via Getty Images
The price of petrol and diesel fuels are displayed on a board outside an Esso petrol station in Storrington in southern England on Wednesday.

The United Kingdom says it will phase out the import of Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022 — a timeline intended to give businesses and supply chains enough time to replace them.

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced the news in a series of tweets on Tuesday morning ET — as President Biden declared a ban on all U.S. imports of Russian oil, gas and other forms of energy.

Kwarteng stressed that Russian imports make up a relatively small share of the U.K.'s energy sources. Natural gas from Russia makes up about 4% of its overall supply, he said.

"The UK is a significant producer of oil and oil products, plus we hold significant reserves," he wrote. "Beyond Russia, the vast majority of our imports come from reliable partners such as the US, Netherlands and the Gulf. We’ll work with them this year to secure further supplies."

He said that Russian imports make up just 8% of U.K. demand and that businesses should use the rest of this year to find alternatives and "ensure a smooth transition so that consumers will not be affected." The government will support companies in this effort with a new oil task force, he added.

The European Union is also considering moving away from Russian energy supplies. It's far more reliant than the U.K. is on Russia, from which it gets as much as 40% of its natural gas.

The European Commission announced a proposalon Tuesday to cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds this year. Officials outlined a plan to achieve Europe's independence from Moscow's fossil fuels "well before 2030."

"We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas," Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. "We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us."

She added that she will discuss the proposal with European leaders at an upcoming EU summit in France this week.

Meanwhile, Biden said in his remarks that although the U.S. is enacting the ban without other allies — because it is a net exporter of energy — it will work with them to reduce their dependence on Russian energy.

"We will not be part of subsidizing Putin's war," Biden said. "We can take this step when others cannot."

Winter Paralympics

Ukrainian athletes are dominating the Paralympics, despite the uncertainty at home

Posted March 8, 2022 at 11:45 AM EST
Three women in athletic outfits smile while holding fluffy red lantern toys.
Shuji Kajiyama
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AP
Ukraine's winners, gold medalist Iryna Bui (center) silver medalist Oleksandra Kononova (left) and bronze medalist Liudmyla Liashenko celebrate after the women's biathlon middle distance standing event at the 2022 Winter Paralympics on Tuesday.

While Ukraine battles Russian forces at home, its Paralympic athletes are putting up a fight in Beijing. They've swept the podium not once but twice, racking up medals for their homeland despite their distractions and concerns.

Ukraine is second in the medal count behind China as of Tuesday morning ET, with six gold medals and 17 in total. Its athletes dominated the para biathlon events on Tuesday, with the men's and women's teams sweeping the middle distance vision impaired and standing categories, respectively.

Iryna Bui, Oleksandra Kononova and Liudmyla Liashenko won the top three medals in the women's middle distance standing. Later, Ukrainian men took the top five spots in the middle distance vision impaired race, with Vitalii Lukianenko, Anatolii Kovalevskyi and Dmytro Suiarko each making it to the podium.

Organizers say this makes 43-year-old Lukianenko the most successful male para biathlete of all time, having won 14 Paralympic medals — including eight gold — since 2002.

The athletes are using their bittersweet wins to draw attention to the tragedy unfolding at home.

"We would like to dedicate our results and medals to each and every Ukrainian and all the soldiers in the Ukrainian army who protect us," said Bui, according to Japan's Kyodo News. "With our performance, we represent the whole country, and this is our battle, here."

The athletes' hearts are with their families

A skiier lies on her knees with her head on her hands in the snow.
Shuji Kajiyama
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AP
Ukraine's Oleksandra Kononova collapses after crossing the finish line and earning silver in the women's biathlon middle distance standing event on Tuesday.

Many have spoken to reporters about the dual challenge of competing in the Paralympics while worrying about their families at home.

“All my thoughts, my heart and my soul is with my family and with my child,” Kononova told Al Jazeera. “Emotionally it’s very difficult to focus and to concentrate on the race and the competition, so this is the most difficult Paralympic Games for me.”

Some Ukrainian athletes have had to pull out of competitions because of the toll Russia's aggression has taken on their loved ones, Al Jazeera reports. (Paralympic organizers banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competition after the invasion began.)

Liashenko pulled out of her cross-country race after her home in hard-hit Kharkiv was destroyed on Monday, according to team spokesperson Nataliia Harach.

And 19-year-old Anastasiia Laletina withdrew from her biathlon middle-distance sitting race early Tuesday after learning that her father, a soldier in the Ukrainian army, had been imprisoned and beaten by Russian forces.

"She was very upset and couldn’t take part in the race," Harach said, adding that Laletina was resting and getting support from the team's doctor.

Ukraine has been a force at these Games

Six male skiiers hold a large blue and yellow Ukrainian flag on the snow.
Shuji Kajiyama
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AP
Guide Oleksandr Mukshyn, Anatolii Kovalevskyi, Vitalii Lukianenko, guide Borys Babar, guide Oleksandr Nikonovych and Dmytro Suiarko celebrate their sweep in the men's middle distance vision impaired para biathlon at the 2022 Winter Paralympics on Tuesday in China.

Tuesday's podium sweeps weren't the only notable Ukrainian victories of these Paralympics, which started last Friday and end on Sunday.

Ukrainian-born Oksana Masters won Team USA's first gold medal, in the women's biathlon sitting sprint. It's her fifth career Paralympic gold medal and her 11th overall, including both Summer and Winter Games.

The biathlete and cross-country skier was born in Ukraine with birth defects attributed to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and was adopted by an American single mother after living in Ukrainian orphanages for nearly a decade. She has written in social media posts about identifying as both Ukrainian and American and about representing both countries on the podium.

"It has been difficult to find my passion and desire to compete at these Games amid the war my home country of Ukraine is enduring," she wrote in one. "I feel selfish, helpless, and guilty for being here. However, I have always been so proud to be Ukrainian, felt so much pride at the sight of the Ukrainian flag, and now more than ever, I am the proudest to say I am Ukrainian."

Masters says she is donating portions of her prize money to No Child Forgotten, an effort by Global Giving and Bright Kids Charity to support Ukrainian children with disabilities.

Ukrainian athletes took home even more biathlon medals on Tuesday: Grygorii Vovchynskyi won silver in the men's middle distance standing, while Taras Rad earned bronze in the men’s middle distance sitting competition.

Rad told reporters through an interpreter that he plans to return to Ukraine after the Games and will volunteer to help the army if the war is still ongoing.

“I’m always thinking about my family and friends when I am staying at the hotel … but right now, talking about them, I am shaking, I worry a lot about them,” he said.

Getting the athletes to Beijing was 'a miracle' in the first place

A woman moves to embrace a man in a wheelchair, both wearing blue and yellow.
Michael Steele
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Getty Images
Gold medalist Iryna Bui of Team Ukraine celebrates with Valerii Sushkevych, the president of Ukraine’s Paralympic committee, on Tuesday.

Valerii Sushkevych, the president of Ukraine’s Paralympic committee, said last week that the team's arrival in Beijing was "a miracle," noting that some had narrowly escaped Russian bombs as they left the country.

Ukraine's Olympic and Paralympic teams have historically been strong, and Sushkevych told The New York Times this week that the event is typically a time of celebration and camaraderie for the athletes.

But that's not the case this time around, he said.

“I ask the athletes in the morning, ‘Did you sleep?’ I ask another, ‘Did you sleep?’ They say, ‘No, no,' " he said. "They have dull, sad faces. The mood is very difficult. We are all thinking of home.”

Sushkevych told The Times that he and his wife are now figuring out how to get everyone out of China when the Games end, saying they will likely move the 54-person delegation to an undetermined European country as a sort of staging ground — but many questions remain.

"For how long?” he said. “Days? Weeks? Do we stay in hotels, and how do we pay for that? We don’t have the money. We don’t have the answers yet."

Correction: An earlier version of this post reversed the names of Anatolii Kovalevskyi, incorrectly calling him Kovalevskyi Anatolii, and the names of Grygorii Vovchynskyi, incorrectly calling him Vovchynskyi Grygorii. In addition, we said Vitalii Lukianenko has won 14 gold medals. He has won 14 Paralympic medals since 2002 — eight of them are gold.

World response

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address U.K. Parliament

Posted March 8, 2022 at 10:14 AM EST
Zelenskyy speaks in a green shirt and jacket in front of a large blue and yellow Ukrainian flag.
Sergei Supinsky
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AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a press conference in Kyiv on March 3.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to speak to the United Kingdom's House of Commons on Wednesday, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle announced.

British lawmakers voted late Monday to add stronger sanctions against allies of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Zelenskyy will speak from Kyiv via a live video link at noon Eastern time. More than 500 headsets will relay the English translation of his speech to parliamentarians, Willem Marx reports for NPR.

Zelenskyy has been speaking to the Ukrainian and international public often since Russia invaded Ukraine over a week ago. He received a standing ovation after a speech on Feb. 28, in which he urged the European Union to admit Ukraine into the bloc immediately. Zelenskyy also spoke to more than 280 U.S. lawmakers in a call Saturday and asked for more defense aid, including aircraft, and a ban on buying Russian products, such as oil and gas.

President Biden is set to announce a ban on U.S. imports of Russian oil Tuesday morning.

Zelenskyy's speech to Britain's Parliament comes as lawmakers recently voted to slap stricter sanctions on Russia and its allies. The British House of Commons approved new measures designed to keep rich Russian individuals from using U.K. financial institutions and assets to launder money, reports Marx.

The United Kingdom has granted visas to 300 Ukrainian refugees, a number critics say is far too low. Recent estimates suggest 2 million people have fled Ukraine in the 12 days since Russia invaded.

Public reaction

Yo-Yo Ma performs musical protest outside Russian Embassy

Posted March 8, 2022 at 9:57 AM EST
Yo-Yo Ma played an impromptu selection outside of the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Monday, and he followed that up by playing Ukraine's national anthem at the Kennedy Center. He's seen here during a SiriusXM event in Washington in 2018.
Larry French
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Getty Images for SiriusXM
Yo-Yo Ma played Ukraine's national anthem and brought the audience to its feet at the Kennedy Center on Monday.

The famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma made a personal stand with Ukraine on Monday, setting up his instrument on the sidewalk outside of the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., next to an improvised street sign reading, “Zelensky Way.”

Ma was in D.C. to perform at the Kennedy Center on Monday night. At the start of their performance, Ma, pianist Emanuel Ax and violinist Leonidas Kavakos played Ukraine's national anthem — prompting the entire audience to stand in unity. The cellist has recently used his Twitter feed to call for peace in Ukraine and a withdrawal of Russian forces.

The Russian Embassy is on Wisconsin Avenue, a few blocks south of the Washington National Cathedral. It sits behind stone walls and a tall fence, and that’s where Ma was spotted next to the gate, playing his cello for anyone who would listen.

It seems that the renowned musician went largely unnoticed until a passing cyclist stopped in wonder.

“I just asked him — point-blank — are you Yo-Yo Ma?” Ryan Stitt told local TV station WUSA, adding that the two then had a nice chat.

“The thing I remember him saying was, ‘Everyone has to do something,' ” Stitt said.

The Russian diplomatic mission will get another pro-peace message on Wednesday, when the Glover Park Hotel, which sits directly across the street, unveils a 60-foot Ukrainian flag as part of a fundraiser to send humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians affected by Russia’s invasion.

The strip of road outside of the Russian Embassy in Washington is called Boris Nemtsov Plaza, in honor of the Putin critic and opposition leaderwho was murdered near the Kremlin in Moscow in 2015.

On the ground

International Women's Day is a good time to examine the role women play in Ukraine's defense

Posted March 8, 2022 at 9:29 AM EST

NPR's Tim Mak has been bringing us invaluable interviews, observations and updates from Ukraine with his daily Twitter threads.

Today, in honor of International Women's Day, he takes a closer look at what Russia's aggression — and Ukraine's resistance — looks like for female civilians and service members.

"International Women's Day for me is about recognizing women [as] equally capable, skillful, and smart, especially when it comes to national security and defense," Yana Andyol tells Mak from western Ukraine, after leaving her home in Kyiv.

Women make up 20.1% of the total armed forces of Ukraine, Mak says. And across the country, they are volunteering to support the army, prepping Molotov cocktails and taking action in other ways.

Read more here about the view from Ukraine today.

For more stories about women and girls around the world, check out this thread from NPR's Goats & Soda.

Sanctions

Biden is set to ban imports of Russian oil

Posted March 8, 2022 at 9:03 AM EST
Protesters in Boston call for a ban on Russian oil at a rally for Ukraine on Sunday.
Joseph Prezioso
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AFP via Getty Images
Protesters in Boston call for a ban on Russian oil at a rally for Ukraine on Sunday.

President Biden is set to announce a ban on U.S. imports of Russian oil, a White House official tells NPR — the latest move to try to punish Moscow for invading Ukraine. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity ahead of Biden’s announcement, which is slated for 10:45 a.m. ET.

The ban would mark a divergence in U.S. sanctions from those of its allies and partners, most of whom rely on Russian oil and gas for a significant portion of their energy supplies. Until now, Washington had worked in lockstep with European allies to carve out exceptions to its banking sanctions for energy transactions, recognizing the potential for disruptions to hike prices for consumers.

The White House had initially resisted the move, saying it was trying to avoid actions that would reduce global energy supplies or push up prices for Western consumers even more. Oil prices hit a 14-year high on Monday ahead of the announcement, and U.S. gasoline prices are near a national record. Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, inflation — at its highest level in decades — had become the top issue on the minds of voters ahead of elections this November that will determine whether Democrats hold on to their narrow majority in Congress.

The United States counts on Russian oil for less than 10% of its imports, but those sales were too much for many Democrats and Republicans in Congress, who pushed for the ban — which was among the requests for assistance made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a video call with U.S. lawmakers on the weekend.

American officials have been working behind the scenes to try to boost global energy supplies, starting during the weeks leading up to the invasion. The United States and other major energy consumers also jointly released emergency stocks of oil to try to take the edge off markets. U.S. officials visited Saudi Arabia to try to urge the kingdom to pump more oil. And talks aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal have led to optimism that Iranian oil could also lead to a resumption in trade for barrels kept off the market by sanctions.

On the weekend, U.S. officials took the extraordinary step of visiting Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro — a heavily sanctioned authoritarian leader whom Washington does not even recognize as the country’s legitimate president — to talk about energy security. The United States has sanctions blocking dealings with the country’s oil company and central banks. Most of Venezuela’s remaining oil exports go to India and China — with help from Russia.

Read more here.

Refugees

More than 2 million people have now fled Ukraine

Posted March 8, 2022 at 8:38 AM EST
People stand with their children and luggage outside of a white bus.
Sean Gallup
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Getty Images
People arriving from Ukraine wait at the main railway station for a train to take them to Warsaw on Monday in Przemysl, Poland.

More than 2 million Ukrainians have fled their country in the 12 days since Russia began its invasion, according to a tracker from the U.N. refugee agency.

It took a single week for the number of refugees to reach 1 million, on Thursday. That number has increased exponentially, as Russian forces have amped up their shelling of critical and civilian infrastructure.

The 2 million refugees, who are mostly women and children, represent about 4% of Ukraine's population. At least half of them are children, according to UNICEF. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that some 4 million Ukrainians could flee their homeland as the crisis unfolds.

It says it's working with nonprofits and neighboring countries to "ensure safe access to territory for refugees and third-country nationals fleeing from Ukraine, in line with international standards."

The vast majority of refugees — more than 1 million — have been welcomed by Poland, which borders Ukraine to the west. NPR’s Joanna Kakissis reports from Rzeszow that Poland is receiving 100,000 refugees every day, with dozens of reception centers offering hot meals and a place to rest.

Tens of thousands have made their way to Russia, as well as other Eastern European countries like Slovakia, Hungary, Moldova and Romania.

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As NPR has reported, not all refugees are getting the same treatment, with students of color from Africa and South Asia saying they faced discrimination at the Polish border. And the warm welcome extended to most Ukrainians lies in stark contrast to the way many of these same countries have treated previous waves of refugees from places like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Plus, some parts of the world appear more hospitable to Ukrainian refugees than others.

The United States is granting temporary protection from deportation to tens of thousands of Ukrainians already within its borders, while the European Union just introduced similar protections for Ukrainian refugees.

The United Kingdom, however, is facing criticism for granting visas to only 300 Ukrainian refugees so far. That number is up from about 50 on Sunday, the BBC reports.

Refugees seeking a U.K. visa must either have family in the country or a British sponsor for their application. The U.K.'s Home Office says there are some 17,700 family applications in progress.

Some 600 Ukrainians are stuck in the French port of Calais — across the English Channel from Dover — in their efforts to reach the U.K., with the BBC reporting that many say they were turned away for lack of paperwork. British officials said Tuesday that they are opening another French visa application center in Lille, in addition to its primary location in Paris.

Refugee organizations have urged the government to enact fast-track refugee arrangements for Ukrainians fleeing the war.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected calls this week to relax visa requirements for Ukrainians, saying Britain's system is "generous" but requires oversight.

“We are a very, very generous country. What we want though is control and we want to be able to check,” he said, according to Euronews. “I think it’s sensible given what’s going on in Ukraine to make sure that we have some basic ability to check who is coming in.”

But Ben Wallace, the defense secretary, told the BBC on Tuesday that the U.K. needs to accelerate the process of verifying refugees' identities and arranging their visas, noting it was able to do so quickly in the past for Afghan refugees. He said his department would help the Home Office in that effort.

"Can I do more, can the government do more, to speed up the processing of visas? Yes they can. Will we be doing it? Absolutely," he said.

Relief efforts

Ukrainian musicians in the U.S. plan benefit concerts

Posted March 8, 2022 at 8:27 AM EST
Two women post next to each other with the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
Marta Krechkovsky
Natalia Kazaryan and Marta Krechkovsky, pictured in Paris in December 2012.

As Russian tanks closed in on Kyiv, Marta Krechkovsky watched the “horrifying” scenes unfold on the news from her home in Pittsburgh. The violinist, who grew up in Ukraine, has relatives there who fled as buildings were hit near their home.

She will be performing in a benefit concert on April 7 at the Washington, D.C., home of fellow Juilliard alumna Natalia Kazaryan, a pianist. They hope that music will help heal from the horrors of war — and raise funds for families embroiled in the crisis.

“Ukraine is my home country. It's where I took my first steps. It's where I learned how to play the violin from my father. So it is hard to put into words how I feel, what I feel, and how all of the Ukrainians feel in the world,” Krechkovsky said. “It’s hitting so deeply. It’s been very difficult.”

A woman poses in a black dress, leaning against a wooden frame and holding a violin.
Marta Krechkovsky
Marta Krechkovsky, a violinist who grew up in Ukraine, has relatives who fled the country after Russia's invasion.

Her cousin Orest, a violinist with the National Opera of Ukraine, stayed behind.

The pair played violin together as children, performing in family recitals. Now the 43-year-old musician is joining the border guard, taking up arms to defend his country alongside other ordinary Ukrainians who have never held a gun before.

“He can’t just sit still and watch all this unfold, so he just so strongly wants to help,” Krechkovsky explained.

A woman and man pose in front of a blue building with gold domes.
Marta Krechkovsky
Marta Krechkovsky and her cousin Orest, pictured in Kyiv in May 2013, played violin together as children.

For Kazaryan, the war brings back painful memories of another conflict, when Russia invaded her home country of Georgia in 2008.

“I was not in Georgia at the time of the invasion but my relatives were, and my friends and my community and I just felt hopeless as I watched with horror. And the images of tanks rolling into the city is just so triggering for me,” she said.

In addition to the show with Krechkovsky — their first joint recital in a decade — Kazaryan will host another benefit concert on April 3 featuring Zino Bogachek, a Ukrainian violinist and violist who is part of the Washington National Opera’s orchestra.

A brunette woman in a strapless navy dress leans against a wooden red and brown door.
Joe Alisa
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Natalia Kazaryan
Pianist Natalia Kazaryan will host multiple benefit concerts at her Washington, D.C., home next month.

And on Tuesday night, Krechkovsky will join her sister Iryna and other musicians in a virtual concert hosted by Chamber Music | OC in California. All of the proceeds will go to United Ukrainian American Relief Committee. Krechkovsy says they've already raised more than $30,000.

Kazaryan, a mother of two, was especially concerned about shortages of maternal and baby supplies, so all the proceeds from the concerts she is hosting will be donated to the charity Save the Children.

“Music can do what words can't, and it's also a way for artists to feel like they can help, they can contribute, they can bring people together,” Kazaryan said.

Listen to the full story here.

On the ground

Ukraine says it has killed a top-ranking Russian general

Posted March 8, 2022 at 8:23 AM EST
Russian Maj. Gen. Vitaly Gerasimov
Ukrainian defense ministry
The Ukrainian defense ministry released this photo of Russian Maj. Gen. Vitaly Gerasimov in its announcement that Gerasimov died in fighting near Kharkiv.

Russian Maj. Gen. Vitaly Gerasimov died in fighting near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate says in a report that has not been confirmed by Russia’s government. Ukraine says he was killed along with other senior Russian army officers who either died or were wounded in fighting around Kharkiv.

The loss of Gerasimov, a veteran of Russia's military campaigns in Chechnya and Syria, would be a major blow to President Vladimir Putin’s war machine. Ukraine's defense ministry says Gerasimov is the chief of staff and first deputy commander of the 41st Army of the Central Military District of Russia.

Gerasimov has the same last name as Russian Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov. Both men grew up in Kazan and graduated from the higher tank command school, and they're roughly 22 years apart in age. But it's not clear from reports that are available online whether the two are related.

Gerasimov would be the second high-ranking Russian general to be killed in Ukraine. The first was Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, who was recently identified by the Military Review website as the commander of Russia’s airborne forces.