War in Ukraine live updates: 1 in 4 Ukrainians have fled as Russia bombards residential areas
About 10 million Ukrainians — more than the population of the Chicago metro area — are displaced inside the country or living abroad as refugees. Also, a Russian newspaper editor who won the Nobel Peace Prize is auctioning his medal to raise money for Ukrainian refugees.
Here's what else we're following:
Ukraine-Russia negotiations: Representatives from the two sides meet daily, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accuses Russia of coming to the table with nonstarters on his country's independence.
Jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny found guilty of fraud: Navalny, who is already in prison for parole violations, was sentenced to an additional nine years.
Russians are now shelling Mariupol from naval ships, the U.S. says
Russia's push to capture the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol — one of the hardest hit cities in the war in Ukraine — now includes long-range shelling from naval ships in the Sea of Azov, a senior U.S. defense official says.
Russia has as many as seven ships off the coast of Mariupol and several began shelling the city in the past day, the official says .
Russian ground troops are fighting inside the city, but they are continuing to meet tough resistance from the Ukrainians.
The U.S. official said there was no new information on territory changing hands in Mariupol. The official described it as a "dynamic situation" with both sides fighting very hard for control.
Russia's use of naval forces comes as it increases long-range artillery fire throughout Ukraine. It also reflects Russia’s difficulty of advancing on the ground.
If Russia does take control of Mariupol, it would then hold most of the territory stretching from the Donbas region in the east to Crimea in the south.
The war in Ukraine upends qualifying for the World Cup, with Russia barred from the competition
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has led to a multitude of economic and sports sanctions against Moscow. Now, the war has cost Russia a shot at the World Cup.
The war has upended the World Cup qualification process, with both Ukraine and Russia originally set to vie for one of Europe’s final three slots to this year’s finals in Qatar.
UEFA, the European governing body of soccer, has already decided 10 of its 13 slots. Germany, Denmark, France, Belgium, Croatia, Spain, Serbia, England, Switzerland and the Netherlands have already punched their tickets through a series of qualification matches. The final three slots are set to be determined by a playoff system, which kicks off Thursday.
Russia and Poland were originally set to face off, with the winner playing the Sweden-Czech Republic victor days later for one of the coveted three slots. In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Poland refused to play Russia, even if it meant being disqualified from the competition.
“I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues. Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening,” Robert Lewandowski, the captain of the Polish team, said on Twitter.
It is the right decision! I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian National Team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues. Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening. https://t.co/rfnfbXzdjF— Robert Lewandowski (@lewy_official) February 26, 2022
Sweden and the Czech Republic have also refused to play Russia.
FIFA has since decided to grant Poland a bye, and it will now play the winner of Sweden vs. Czech Republic.
Russia’s request for an immediate freeze on FIFA’s ban was dismissed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week — effectively banning Russia from competing in this winter’s premier sporting event.
The ban has also removed Russian club Spartak Moscow from participating in the Europa League competition. Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from multiple sports because of the invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s qualifier against Scotland has also been postponed and will be played in the next FIFA international window this June. The winner will face the victor of Wales vs. Austria match, which will take place this Thursday.
Russia withdraws from WWII peace talks with Japan in response to sanctions
The talks had been aimed at resolving a dispute over four islands, known in Japan as the Northern Territories and in Russia as the Southern Kurils. Russia seized them in 1945 and deported Japanese residents.
Because of the dispute, Japan never signed a peace treaty with Russia formally ending hostilities in WWII.
Russia’s foreign ministry said Monday than it was pulling out of the talks because of Japan’s “openly unfriendly positions.” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shot back, in remarks to parliament Tuesday, that “all the current situations have originated from Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.”
Japan has sanctioned Russian banks, institutions and individuals. It has scrapped Russia’s most favored nation trading status. It has sent nonlethal aid to Ukraine, including bulletproof vests. And it has begun to accept some Ukrainian refugees.
While none of those measures seem terribly tough by international standards, Tokyo is breaking its own precedents and political and economic constraints to do so.
Japan applied only token sanctions to Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea, in part because it still hoped for a deal in its territorial dispute.
Japan is also highly dependent on energy imports. It relies on liquid natural gas (LNG) to generate a third of its electricity, and it gets 9% of its LNG from Russia. Japan says it will look for other, non-Russian sources of LNG, but it has not mentioned a timetable.
Prime Minister Kishida this month said the disputed islands were “occupied illegally by Russia,” reverting to language not used since 2009, when Kishida’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, toned down official rhetoric in an attempt to settle the territorial dispute with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kishida’s tougher line has found strong public support. A Kyodo News poll over the weekend showed 86% of respondents support Japan’s sanctions on Russia, and 91% back accepting Ukrainian refugees.
However, Japan has come under international criticism for taking very few refugees — just over 1% of those who applied in 2020.
The poll also found that 75% of respondents worried that if Russia’s aggression against Ukraine were allowed to stand, it could embolden China to seize the self-governed island of Taiwan, or islands claimed by both Japan and China in the East China Sea.
A Russian chess champion has been suspended over his pro-war comments
A Russian chess grandmaster and outspoken supporter of President Vladimir Putin has been banned from competition for six months over his recent comments about the war in Ukraine.
The International Chess Federation — known as FIDE — announced on Monday that it would be suspending Sergey Karjakin, saying he had damaged the reputation of the organization and chess itself by supporting Russia's invasion of Ukraine on social media.
A three-person committee unanimously found Karjakin guilty of breaching article 2.2.10 of the FIDE Code of Ethics, as they explained in a 10-page decision.
“The statements by Sergey Karjakin on the ongoing military conflict in Ukraine has led to a considerable number of reactions on social media and elsewhere, to a large extent negative towards the opinions expressed by Sergey Karjakin," officials wrote.
Karjakin has repeatedly shared Russian propaganda and endorsed the war in recent weeks, garnering backlash from fans and losing invitations to a number of Western tournaments. Among his public statements was an open letter to Putin backing the military operation and offering the army his best wishes, according to a translation from Chess24.
In a recent tweet, he said he was asked whether he regretted his public support of the military invasion.
"My answer is simple. I am on the side of Russia and my President," he wrote. "No matter what happens, I will support my country in any situation without thinking for a second!"
The 32-year-old was born in Crimea, the territory that was forcibly annexed by Russia in 2014, and switched from representing Ukraine to Russia in 2009, according to RadioFreeEurope. He previously held the record for the world's youngest ever grandmaster, a title he qualified for when he was 12.
Karjakin is currently ranked 18th in the world, AFP notes, but the ban means he won't be able to participate in the Chess Candidates tournament in Madrid in June. Eight players will face off there, with the winner poised to play Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen next February.
Karjakin called the FIDE's decision "shameful" in a post on Telegram. He said he had no regrets, describing himself as a patriot first and a chess player second.
Russian state-owned news agency TASS reported that Karjakin does not plan to appeal the suspension, but that the Russian Chess Federation will.
In a separate decision, chess's governing decided not to take disciplinary action against another Russian grandmaster, Sergei Shipov. Officials ruled that he did not breach their code of conduct for his pro-war statements because he has a smaller platform and, therefore, smaller potential negative impact on the organization.
“In comparison with Sergey Karjakin, Sergei Shipov is considerably less known and has, therefore, a less powerful platform," they wrote. "The statements made by Sergei Shipov are also of a slightly different and less provocative character than the ones made by Karjakin."
Kajarkin is the first chess player to be sanctioned since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began nearly a month ago. But the sport is one of many that has distanced itself from Russia in recent weeks.
The International Chess Federation had already banned tournaments in Russia and its ally Belarus, as well as barred their flags and anthems from FIDE chess events and terminated sponsorship agreements with their state-controlled companies, as NPR has reported.
A top Ukrainian boxer is choosing his country over an upcoming title fight
A top Ukrainian boxer has turned down a title match abroad in order to remain with his family and defend his country.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasiliy Lomachenko agreed to a deal last month to fight Australia's George Kambosos Jr. — who holds the sport's major lightweight titles and is widely recognized as the undisputed lightweight champion — in Melbourne on June 5. But Russia's invasion of Ukraine has changed his plans.
Lomachenko, 34, joined a territorial defense battalion in Ukraine last month and flew from Greece to his home outside of Odesa to be with his family. Kambosos' promoter, Lou DiBella, told ESPN on Monday that Lomachenko has chosen to stay in Ukraine rather than leave the country for training camp.
DiBella told BoxingScene.com that Egis Klimas, Lomachenko’s manager, told him the news on Monday.
"We commend him. We think the fight he’s fighting is much bigger than boxing," DiBella said. "And our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family, and with the Ukrainian people. What they’re going through, obviously, is far more significant than any boxing match.”
Ukraine's martial law requires men between the ages of 18 and 60 to stay in the country, but ESPN reports that "efforts were being made to allow elite athletes to depart."
DiBella said he and Bob Arum, Lomachenko’s promoter, had been holding out hope that Lomachenko might decide to remain in the fight but were not surprised by his decision.
"We had an inkling the other day, when the [Ukrainian] government had said it was OK [for Lomachenko to fight], but we didn’t hear an affirmative response [from Lomachenko], we had a sense that this was likely," he told Boxing Scene.
Kambosos said in a tweet that he respects Lomachenko's decision and is praying for him and Ukraine. He is now set to face off against American boxer Devin Haney instead.
"Please stay safe and once I wipe the floor with Devin, we will make this fight between two real champions," he added.
Ukraine is home to many top fighters, as ESPN notes. The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, is a Hall of Fame boxer who has said he plans to take up arms to defend against Russian forces. And his brother, fellow Hall of Famer and former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, enlisted in Ukraine's reserve army earlier this month.
Russian court finds Kremlin critic Navalny guilty in fraud case
A Moscow court has found President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critic guilty of fraud, according to Russian state media.
State-owned news agency TASS reported on Tuesday that Moscow's Lefortovo Court found Alexei Navalny guilty of "fresh fraud charges." It has sentenced the opposition leader, who is already in jail, to an additional nine years in a high-security prison.
"Navalny committed fraud, that is embezzlement of other people’s property through deception," Judge Margarita Kotova read from the verdict, according to TASS. State news agency RIA Novosti reports that Kotova was promoted to a more senior judicial position by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.
In addition, journalists from Russia's independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper said Navalny's lawyers were detained by police after the ruling.
The court also charged Navalny with contempt of court, for what TASS said was defamation during a previous unrelated trial.
Prosecutors in this trial — which is one of several criminal cases Navalny faces — accused him of embezzling money that he and his foundation raised over the years and of insulting a judge during a trial last year over his allegedly slandering the World War II vet.
Navalny has denied the allegations, and his supporters paint the case as an effort by the Russian government to keep him in prison for as long as possible.
Prosecutors had sought a sentence of 13 more years. AFP reports that the corruption charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years, while contempt of court is punishable by up to six months. The court is also fining Navalny 1.2 million rubles, or $11,500.
Navalny appeared in court wearing a black prison uniform, listening closely as the judge read out the verdict and smiling at times, according to an AFP reporter who was present.
The trial took place in a makeshift court at a prison colony hours away from Moscow, where Navalny is already serving a two-and-a-half year sentence for parole violations. (His supporters say the trial's location has limited media access to the proceedings, and his lawyers have said they were not allowed to bring cellphones or laptops with case files into the room.)
Navalny was detained in January 2021 upon returning to Moscow from Germany, where he was recovering from a nerve agent poisoning attack that he blames on the Kremlin. His arrest sparked widespread protests across the country. Russian authorities named Navalny and his top allies to its registry of terrorists and extremists earlier this year.
In a post issued to Twitter after the ruling, Navalny cited the HBO series The Wire about life in prison: "You only do two days. That's the day you go in and the day you come out." Navalny said he had worn a T-shirt with that phrase in jail but prison authorities took it away because it was judged it to be "extremist."
In a lengthy Telegram post, Navalny said his team will work to turn his Anti-Corruption Foundation into a “global international organization,” using part of his financial award for the European Parliament's 2021 Sakharov Prize.
“Words have power. Putin is afraid of the truth, I’ve always said this. Fighting against censorship, delivering truth to Russian people remain our priority," he said.
Navalny thanked people for their support, then added: “The best support for me and other political prisoners is not sympathy and kind words, but actions. Any action against Putin’s lying and thieving regime. Any resistance to these war criminals.”
Navalny's spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, shared details about the trial and the fraud and contempt accusations in a series of tweets on Monday.
She said that Navalny was accused of insulting a judge during a previous trial because he used phrases such as "Oh my god" and "This case is fabricated," adding that the prosecutor's expert — who works as a math teacher — reasoned it was not the words he said but the intonation he used that was offensive.
Explaining the fraud charge, she said Navalny is accused of spending the money people gave to his organization (which fights corruption) on extremist and illegal activity, and that out of hundreds of thousands of donors, the government could only get four people to testify against him. She said that all were forced to testify by Russia's Investigative committee through "deceit or pressure" and that one dropped his claims in court. Another witness also retracted his previous testimony during the trial, she added.
Yarmysh concluded by saying that if Navalny could eventually be considered a "recidivist," which will allow authorities to transfer him to a high-security colony much farther from Moscow and with stricter conditions. She said it would be "practically impossible" to keep in contact with him there.
"Without public protection, Alexei will be face to face with those who have already tried to kill him. And nothing will stop them from trying again," she wrote. "Therefore, we are now talking not only about Alexei’s freedom, but also about his life."
She added that while the world's attention is focused on Russia's aggression in Ukraine, "another monstrous crime is being committed inside of Russia." She urged people to spread the word about Navalny's case.
Peace talks continue as Zelenskyy calls for a diplomatic path to ending the war
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for direct peace talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin this past week. Officials from the two countries continue to meet in the hopes of forging a diplomatic path forward.
Zelenskyy has accused Russia of bringing to the negotiation table demands that would set limits on Ukraine's independence.
During an interview with Ukraine's public broadcaster, Zelenskyy said the only way to meet all of Russia's demands would be to rewrite the constitution to set permanent limits on Ukraine's role on the world stage, NPR's Julian Hayda reports.
Those working on the mediation process say Putin isn't willing to meet with Zelenskyy directly for talks yet, as the negotiating sides are not close enough to an agreement, reports The New York Times.
Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner says he will donate his medal for Ukraine relief
Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov has announced he will auction off his Nobel Peace Prize medal to raise money for Ukrainian refugees.
Muratov was one of two winners of last year's Nobel Peace Prize, along with Philippine journalist Maria Ressa. He is the editor-in-chief of the Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian newspaper known for its critical and investigative coverage of the country's politics and social affairs.
Muratov announced his decision on the newspaper's website on Tuesday.
"Novaya Gazeta and I have decided to donate the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Medal to the Ukrainian Refugee Fund," he wrote, according to Google's English translation. "There are already over 10 million of refugees. I ask the auction houses to respond and put up for auction this world-famous award."
He also called on Russia to stop combat fire, exchange prisoners, provide humanitarian corridors and assistance, release the bodies of the dead and support refugees.
On the individual level, he said, people can "share with refugees, the wounded and children who need urgent treatment what is dear to you and has a value for others."
Muratov previously pledged that he would "not take or receive even one single cent" of the money that came with the peace prize, telling the United Nations that the newspaper held an editorial board meeting to determine how to distribute it.
They decided to donate it to several causes, including a health foundation that helps journalists, a foundation that supports children with serious rare diseases, a children's hospice in Moscow, a clinic that treats children with leukemia and the Anna Politkovskaya Prize Foundation — which was established in the memory of a Novaya Gazeta journalist who was murdered in 2006.
Many independent news outlets in Russia have been forced to shutter since the invasion of Ukraine because of a new law that criminalizes war reporting that is at odds with the Kremlin's narrative.
Novaya Gazeta announced earlier this month that it would remove content about the war in Ukraine from its website and social media channels, citing censorship and legal threats from the government. But it said it would continue to report on the consequences Russia is facing as a result of its actions.
It said the move was taken to balance the interests of readers with the freedom of its staff.
“Military censorship in Russia has quickly moved into a new phase: from the threat of blocking and closing publications (almost fully implemented) it has moved to the threat of criminal prosecution of both journalists and citizens who spread information about military hostilities that is different from the press releases of the Ministry of Defense,” the paper said in a message to readers, according to Reuters. “There is no doubt that this threat will be realised.”
Millions of people have fled to western Ukraine. Some share their experience with NPR
Some 10 million Ukrainians — or about a quarter of the country's population — have fled the war in nearly a month, according to the United Nations. They are now either displaced inside of the country or living abroad as refugees.
For reference, we are talking about more people than the entire Chicago metropolitan area.
While the Pentagon says Russia's offensive has largely stalled, artillery and missile strikes on residential areas have forced more people to flee. But that's not easy nor is it always an option.
People are coming from all over the country
Many are coming from the capital, Kyiv, and eastern parts of the country that have been contested for nearly a decade now.
Others are coming from Mariupol, the southeastern port city that we've been hearing so much about. Russian forces have surrounded the city — where there is no access to food, electricity and water — and have shelled civilian targets including a hospital and a school and a theater, where people were taking shelter. Ukraine has rejected Russia's calls to surrender Mariupol, so the shelling has continued.
Sullivan says a few thousand people are managing to escape each day through what Ukrainians call "green corridors," or designated routes that are set up to get people to safety. Sullivan says the country has buses set up to take people out, while others pack into cars and hope for the best.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reads off the total number of people evacuated each day by these corridors in his nightly remarks. On Monday, it was about 8,000.
It's a different picture for aid groups
While many refugees are leaving their homes for western Ukraine and other neighboring countries, aid groups are having a difficult time getting in.
A representative from the U.N. told NPR over the weekend that it has been challenging to negotiate setting up these humanitarian corridors: Parties can't agree on important details, and many streets are hard to pass through because of damage or blockages.
And in Mariupol, they can't get in at all.
The road to safety can be extremely dangerous
Lviv has been relatively safe for the past four weeks, which is why many people are heading there. But what does that journey actually look like? Sullivan has been talking to Ukrainians who she says "pretty uniformly describe it as totally terrifying."
One of the people she spoke with is 29-year-old Natalia Khrystianuk, who arrived from the Kyiv region where fighting has been intense. She says Russian troops occupied her village, entered people's homes, went through her phone and threatened to kill her when they found she had sent text messages critical of Russians.
Khrystianuk decided then that she wanted to leave, so she grabbed what she could — mostly clothes for her 3-year-old daughter — and prepared to catch a bus that came to her village last week to bring people to safety. She says she and her neighbors were walking to the bus holding white flags when the shelling started.
Soldiers told her to hide in a ditch. She laid there for three hours, shielding her daughter and watching rockets fly overhead. They eventually made it to Lviv, where Sullivan says they might not know where they're sleeping, but at least they're alive.