Zelenskyy evokes tragedies in each nation's past in speeches to Japan and France
Ukraine's president drew parallels between safety at Chernobyl and Japan's Fukushima power plant, and compared the martyred city of Mariupol to Verdun, the French city destroyed by trench warfare.
Here's what else we're following:
Wanted by the FBI: A man wanted in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection was granted asylum by Russian-allied Belarus.
Biden travels to Brussels: The U.S. president and European Union leaders will discuss new sanctions and send a message of strength to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who expected the NATO alliance to be wobbly.
Ukrainian sailors tried to block an oligarch's superyacht: A group of sailors tried to prevent Roman Abramovich's superyacht from docking in Turkey.
An educator in Ukraine reportedly sheltered with 30 kids and then got them to safety
Natalia Pesotska is being praised as a hero in Ukraine, after word emerged that the educator spent weeks with 30 young students in bomb shelters in Chernihiv -- and then brought them all to safety in western Ukraine. The children had been at an orphanage, according to local media outlets.
“This is the example of ordinary people who do extraordinary things,” said Oleksandra Matviichuk, a human rights lawyer who lives in Kyiv.
This is an educator Natalia Pesotska, who risked her life to save the children. She was hiding from the bombing of Russia, and then together with her own children took 30 children from the orphanage in Chernihiv. This is the example of ordinary people who do extraordinary things pic.twitter.com/6Fup07mE9D— Oleksandra Matviichuk (@avalaina) March 23, 2022
Pesotska’s story was highlighted by Tetyana Yasochko, the director of a school in the Chernihiv oblast, who says she was in the shelter with the teacher and the students. Yasochko spoke to the Ukrainian news agency UNIAN.
The children were in a desperate situation with few viable options in Chernihiv, which has been under siege for weeks. But Pesotska responded by bringing her own children to the bomb shelter, where they joined the other kids seeking safety, Yasochko said. The youngest child was 3.5 years old, she added.
The group finally made it to the Ivano-Frankivsk region, south of Lviv, Yasochko said, praising Pesotska for her devotion and courage.
Ireland welcomes thousands of Ukrainian refugees
Ireland, a nation of just 5 million people and one of the furthest European countries from Ukraine geographically, has already welcomed about 10,000 refugees since the war began a month ago.
Marina Spivak is one of them. After a long and arduous journey, she arrived in Ireland earlier this month, where she was welcomed with open arms.
“We're so very happy to stay in Ireland because it's a very kindly people and understand[ing] ... about Ukraine situation and war, and we lost our houses,” Spivak told NPR.
Her home in the northeastern city of Kharkiv was destroyed in the first hours of the war, during a pre-dawn attack on Feb. 24. She rushed with her husband and four children, aged 2-12, to a neighbor’s apartment building with nothing but the clothes on their backs. When that friend’s home was hit four days later, the two families, including seven children, made the 750-mile journey by car to Romania before finally flying to Ireland.
Spivak, who owned a cosmetology and dermatology clinic in Kharkiv, doesn't know when she'll be able to return to Ukraine, where her mother and nephew still live. “I know that many building[s] [are] destroyed now. All center of my city is destroyed now. And I don't know how many years it's [going to take] building my country," she said.
Refugee groups expect that at least 50,000 Ukrainians could settle in Ireland, a number that could double if the conflict intensifies. The Emerald Isle has been eager to help, though the picture is complicated by a long-standing housing crisis and race concerns, said Nick Henderson, who heads the Irish Refugee Council.
“I think people have a lot of affinity and a lot of sympathy and solidarity with Ukrainian people currently,” he told Morning Edition’s A Martínez. “The Russian invasion, as we all can see, is shocking in many ways and people recognize that fact. They see Ukrainians as fellow Europeans, as people who deserve our solidarity and support, and they want to do something to help them.”
But other refugee groups have historically received little recognition in Ireland. In 2010, for example, only about 2% of the population was recognized as refugees, according to Henderson. Many of those other refugees have come from outside Europe, with different ethnic and religious backgrounds. The same number of Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Ireland in just three weeks as have applied for asylum or refugee status in the island nation since 2019.
“While we very much commend the Irish government for their response and the way that they have responded to supporting Ukrainian refugees, it is also worth flagging that and I think a lot of people in the Irish asylum system will be looking across and thinking, ‘Wow, what they've done for Ukrainian people, they could have also done for us when we arrived into Ireland,’” Henderson said. “I think race does have something to do with this.”
Zelenskyy recalls WWI history in his address to the French parliament
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy received a standing ovation from the French parliament today, the latest democratic body to welcome and praise the Ukrainian leader's heroism and courage.
After addressing British lawmakers in the House of Commons, the U.S. Congress, the Israeli Knesset and the German Bundestag, Zelenskiy was beamed in by video link from his Kyiv bunker to the French Assemblée Nationale Wednesday afternoon.
Zelensky immediately compared the martyred city of Mariupol to Verdun, the French city decimated by trench warfare in World War I.
Analysts say Zelensky has effectively compared the plight of his nation to other nations’ great tragedies as a way to alert the international community and gain sympathy.
To the U.S. Congress, Zelensky spoke of 911 and Pearl Harbor, for the French it was Verdun, and for the Israelis, he evoked the Holocaust. He called on the Germans to tear down a new wall that is being built across the continent, a clear reference to the Berlin wall.
“It’s a way to show his knowledge but also to target his audience,” historian Galia Ackerman told BFM French television.
“Zalinsky uses historical references and touches on emotional cultural emblems of each country to reach people.”
French lawmakers were moved as Zelensky recounted the bombing of the maternity hospital in Mariupol on March 9.
He said the mother who had been carried on a stretcher — a photo seen across the world — had lost her child. And she later died too.
“She didn’t see a reason to live in 2022 in Ukraine, in the heart of Europe,” he said. “We could’ve never imagined this.”
Then he asked French lawmakers to hold a moment of silence for her and all the other Ukrainian civilians who have been killed by Russia in the last month.
Zelensky also named and shamed several French companies still doing business in Russia, such as sporting goods store Decathlon, home improvement chain LeRoy Merlin and hypermarket Auchin. Such pressure seems to be working. French oil giant Total announced yesterday it would suspend oil purchases and investment in Russia.
Zelensky said the companies are sponsoring Russia’s war and they have to stop financing the murder of women and children. “We must remember that values are more important than profit,” he said.
“It was a moving and a grave speech,” Socialist party spokesman Boris Vallaud told BFM television.
When I asked if he would support new sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin, the congressman said yes. And he said French companies should pull out of Russia.
“They’ve got to get out,” said Vallaud. “ We have to continue to help Ukraine with weapons and we have to stop doing business with Russia we have to stop being their client and helping them finance their war.”
Zelensky said, with no prospect for peace, his people had to look for truth on the battlefield. “Unity and determination is the only thing that remains to defend our liberty,” he said, “our common liberty. We are fighting for Kyiv for Paris, for Berlin, Madrid, Brussels and Bratislava.”
Zelensky thanked Emmanuel Macron for his efforts and said the French president had shown his leadership by coordinating and communicating constantly with him.
Zelenskiy evoked French attachment to liberty equality and fraternity. “Each word is important for you I feel it and Ukrainians feel it,” he said “We are waiting for France’s leadership to help us put an end to this war.”
Zelenskyy thanks Japan for its sanctions on Russia and warns of a nuclear threat
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Japan Wednesday for its support in sanctioning Russia over its invasion of his country. Zelenskyy made his remarks in the first virtual speech to be delivered by a foreign head of state to Japan’s parliament.
"Japan is the first Asian country that applied pressure on Russia,” he said. “We want this to continue."
He added that "to stop the tsunami of invasion in Ukraine, it is important to introduce a ban on trade with Russia."
Japan has sanctioned Russian banks, institutions and individuals, including President Vladimir Putin himself. While out in front of its neighbors — notably China and South Korea — in sanctioning Russia, Japan has largely tried to stay in step with fellow G-7 members, including its chief ally, the U.S.
It has also paid a price for that. On Tuesday, Moscow pulled out of stalled negotiations over territorial disputes that have prevented the two sides from signing a peace treaty since the end of World War II.
"No one is certain or confident about the future," Zelenskyy told the lawmakers, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who watched the speech on large screens inside the parliament’s chambers.
He also assailed the U.N. Security Council as “dysfunctional” for its failure to act decisively.
Zelenskyy warned that Russia is planning to launch attacks from the restricted zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which Russian troops seized early in the invasion. Zelenskyy provided no evidence for his claim.
But his warning about the perilous state of nuclear power plants in his country would not be lost on a Japanese audience, who know that the March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reports that Prime Minister Kishida plans to visit the city of Hiroshima with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel on Saturday, where they will offer flowers and prayers to the victims of the 1945 U.S. nuclear bombing of the city. Kishida represents Hiroshima in Japan’s House of Representatives.
The report suggests that the joint visit is intended to show the allies’ shared opposition to Russia’s possible use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
Prominent Kremlin adviser Anatoly Chubais has resigned and reportedly left Russia
Anatoly Chubais, a Kremlin envoy best known for his work on post-Soviet economic reforms, has left his position in one of the highest-profile departures from the Russian government in the month since it invaded Ukraine.
Chubais was appointed as a special presidential envoy for sustainable development in December 2020, shortly after resigning as the head of state technology firm RUSNANO. He was previously chief of staff to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and is known for helping transition Russia to a market economy after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Two unnamed sources told Bloomberg on Wednesday that Chubais had resigned and departed from Russia, citing his opposition to the war in Ukraine. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov later confirmed that Chubais resigned from his post, but said his whereabouts were "his private business."
Citing anonymous sources, RBC News reports that Chubais went to Istanbul with his wife. One source said he does plan to return to his homeland.
The title that Chubais held was as a special envoy of the Russian president for sustainable development, working with international organizations. But he is most known for his work in the 1990s, engineering Russia's transition to capitalism.
As NPR's Planet Money recently explained, Chubais was tasked with overseeing mass privatization — a rapid undertaking that paved the way for the rise of the Russian oligarchy, even as many ordinary citizens lived in poverty.
A Jan. 6 fugitive was just granted refugee status in Belarus
Evan Neumann is under federal indictment in the U.S. for more than a dozen charges related to last year’s Capitol insurrection. But Belarus, a Russian ally and neighbor to Ukraine, has granted him asylum, saying he is under its protection indefinitely.
“I am very grateful, and it is bittersweet,” like eating cranberries, Neumann said in a video posted by state media Belta. “So, very happy and very sad at the same time.”
Neumann is currently wanted by the FBI on multiple charges of assaulting police officers during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, including using a metal barricade as a battering ram. But he fled the U.S. one month after the insurrection, traveling to Ukraine before winding up in Belarus. And now Belarus, which is aiding Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, has granted Neumann refugee status.
Have you seen Evan Neumann? He's #wanted by the #FBI for allegedly committing acts of violence against law enforcement personnel at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. He fled the country a month later and may currently reside in Belarus. https://t.co/LrBp2VPxPe pic.twitter.com/IrnOrz0mmk— FBI (@FBI) December 21, 2021
He received his new Belarusian identification document from the department of citizenship and migration office in Brest, with reporters looking on. Belarus claims that the U.S. charges against Neumann are politically motivated. He was granted refugee status almost exactly one year after the first criminal complaint was filed against him last March.
Belarusian officials say that when Neumann was in Ukraine, he became suspicious that he was under surveillance. Taking only a map, a rucksack and some belongings, they said, he crossed the border into Belarus in August of 2021, whereupon he was detained by military personnel. After arriving, he immediately asked for protection.
“Belarus is very nice,” Neumann said, “and I feel safe in Belarus, especially compared to my compatriots in America.”
Asked what he will do now, Neumann replied, “Right now, my plans are to stay in Brest. I have started a life here. Now that I have a document, I would like to travel to Minsk. I have not seen that yet.”
Neumann, 49, had been living in Mill Valley, Calif., north of San Francisco. The Justice Department says that he confronted law enforcement officers at the western side of the Capitol, allegedly asking them, “I’m willing to die, are you?”
Shortly afterward, he broke down barricades and used his fists and the metal object to strike officers. He allegedly assaulted at least four different officers over the course of several hours, according to the federal indictment against him. He was identified to the FBI by a tipster who reportedly said they were a family friend.
Poland to expel 45 suspected Russian spies
Security officials in Poland say more than four dozen Russian diplomats have been identified as suspected spies and should be expelled. Russia’s ambassador says there is no basis for the accusation.
A spokesman for Poland’s internal security agency says it compiled a list of 45 suspected Russian spies that was passed to the country’s foreign ministry. The list includes officers of the special services of the Russian Federation and people cooperating with them who have diplomatic status in Poland.
Russia’s foreign ministry says it will retaliate.
"They will have to go," Ambassador Sergey Andreev told journalists outside of the foreign ministry after he was summoned there, The Associated Press reported. "This is a sovereign decision by the Polish side and they have the right to their own decision."
After criticism, Nestlé suspends nonessential brands like KitKat and Nesquik in Russia
Nestlé, one of the world's biggest food companies, says it is further restricting its operations in Russia. The company announced the move Wednesday, days after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy publicly criticized it for continuing to do business there.
The Swiss conglomerate said its activities in Russia will focus solely on providing essential food — such as infant food and hospital nutrition — as opposed to making a profit.
"Going forward, we are suspending renowned Nestlé brands such as KitKat and Nesquik, among others," it said. "We have already halted non-essential imports and exports into and out of Russia, stopped all advertising, and suspended all capital investment in the country. Of course, we are fully complying with all international sanctions on Russia."
Nestlé added that it is not expecting to be profitable in Russia, but will donate any profit it does make to humanitarian relief organizations.
It faced growing criticism in recent days for remaining in Russia, even as many international companies and global brands have suspended operations in the country, and, in some cases, its ally Belarus.
Last week, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal tweeted that he had spoken to Nestlé's CEO about the consequences of remaining in the Russian market, but that he did not appear to understand.
"Paying taxes to the budget of a terrorist country means killing defenseless children & mothers," he wrote. "Hope that Nestlé will change its mind soon."
Talked to @Nestle CEO Mr. Mark Schneider about the side effect of staying in Russian market. Unfortunately, he shows no understanding. Paying taxes to the budget of a terrorist country means killing defenseless children&mothers. Hope that Nestle will change its mind soon.— Denys Shmyhal (@Denys_Shmyhal) March 17, 2022
Zelenskyy doubled down on the criticism of Nestlé in a speech that was broadcast to the people of Switzerland on Saturday, as CBS News and others have reported.
"'Good food. Good life.' This is the slogan of Nestlé. Your company that refuses to leave Russia," he said. "Even now — when there are threats from Russia to other European countries. Not only to us. When there is even nuclear blackmail from Russia."
The company was quick to defend itself, with a Nestlé spokesperson telling CNN that it had "significantly scaled back" its activities in Russia, including stopping all imports and exports except for essential products, like baby food. It is no longer making investments or advertising its products there, and does not make a profit from its remaining activities, the spokesperson added.
"The fact that we, like other food companies, supply the population with important food does not mean that we simply continue as before," Nestlé said. "We are still one of the few active food companies in Ukraine and sometimes even manage to distribute food in Kharkiv," referring to Ukraine's second-largest city, which has been especially hard hit by Russian shelling in recent days.
Nestlé has some 5,800 employees in Ukraine and about 7,000 in Russia.
On Wednesday, the company said it has already contributed hundreds of tons of food supplies and "significant" financial assistance to the people of Ukraine and refugees in neighboring countries, efforts that it said will continue.
A page onNestlé'swebsite details what it is doing to help Ukraine. Those actions include partnering with the local Red Cross and area food banks to distribute essential food, beverages and pet food to refugees leaving the country, and providing emergency food supplies for young children in accordance with World Health Organization guidelines.
7,000 escape Mariupol, but humanitarian corridors break down in other besieged areas
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says Ukrainian and Russian officials have repeatedly worked out agreements to send evacuation buses and humanitarian supplies into areas that have been cut off by the fighting.
Some of the convoys have been successful. For instance, Vereshchuk says they were able to get roughly 7,000 people out of the besieged city of Mariupol on Tuesday.
But another convoy to Kherson couldn’t get past the first Russian checkpoint and had to turn around.
Things went far worse at a village west of Mariupol, where Vereshchuk says 11 buses along with their drivers were seized by Russian soldiers and now, in her words, are being held “hostage.”
“Unfortunately, the occupying forces violated the agreement today (Tuesday) and did not allow buses to evacuate Mariupol residents from the village of Nikolske and the village of Melekino,” Vereshchuk said.
Germany's chancellor says NATO will not heed calls to enter the war
Ahead of parliamentary debate about Germany’s budget, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he has heard the calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, as well as the rationale for a NATO peacekeeping force but said he will not heed these calls and NATO will not enter this war. Anything else, he said, would be irresponsible.
Scholz also said sanctions on Russia should not hit Europe harder than they hit Russia.
He added that halting Russian energy imports into Germany cannot be accomplished overnight and that diversifying Germany’s energy sources, accelerating the rollout of renewables and investing in the country’s grid are more important than ever.
Ukrainian sailors tried to block a Russian oligarch's yacht from docking in Turkey
Two superyachts linked to Russian oligarch and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich have reportedly docked in the sanction-free waters of Turkey in recent days, though not without protest.
The Solaris yacht left Montenegro last week and traveled southeast to Turkey, avoiding European waters and arriving at the port city of Bodrum on Monday, Reuters reported, citing shipping data.
There, the 460-foot yacht was met by a small group of young Ukrainian sailors who tried to block it from reaching the dock. Video footage from the BBC, CNN, SkyNews and others shows people on a small boat, waving Ukrainian flags and chanting "no war in Ukraine."
Güldenay Sonumut, a producer for Sky News, tweeted footage of several people sitting in a boat bobbing in the water, chanting "Go away!" at the massive yacht in front of them.
A tiny team but they made quite some waves.— Güldenay Sonumut (@Guldenay007) March 22, 2022
Say hi to the Ukraine National Sailing Youth Team who were not afraid to get on their boat and protest Russian Oligarch Roman Abramovich's mega-yacht entering #Bodrum Marina in Turkey.#UkraineRussiaWar #UkraineSailingTeam pic.twitter.com/rvQMolAwuC
They have been identified as students of the Odesa Children and Youth Sailing School, also known as the Optimist Sailing Club. The BBC says the team had left Ukraine before Russia invaded last month to compete in an annual competition in Turkey.
Coach Paulo Dontsov told CNN that it was the full team's decision to protest, telling the BBC that their aim was to make supporters of the war uncomfortable. He said the Turkish coast guard eventually arrived and asked the dinghy to move slightly farther away.
"We talked with them and they were polite," he added. "They said that they realized why we're doing this, but we should do it with keeping the rules of their country."
Sky News reports that the protesters were temporarily detained after the incident and that Abramovich is not believed to have been on board the yacht at the time.
The Solaris is currently docked in Bodrum, according to the tracker Marine Traffic. And a second superyacht linked to Abramovich also arrived in Turkey this week.
Citing Turkish media, ABC News reports that a yacht named Eclipse docked at a port in the resort town of Marmaris. Unnamed sources told Reuters that Abramovich and other wealthy Russians are looking to invest in Turkey amid mounting sanctions from Western countries.
Turkey has criticized Russia's invasion of Ukraine but has said it won't introduce sanctions because it sees them as counterproductive.
French President Macron spoke with Putin again and urged a cease-fire
French President Emmanuel Macron continues to stay in contact with both his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts in his push for a cease-fire. Despite the lack of progress, Macron is convinced the dialogue must continue.
Macron initiated the call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which lasted an hour.
On Tuesday, in a video address to a humanitarian forum in Brussels, Macron called Russia’s bombing of densely populated areas in Ukraine completely unacceptable and a gross violation of international humanitarian law.
Since the invasion began on Feb. 24, French officials say, Macron has spoken with Putin eight times and with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whom Macron calls regularly to assure him of his support, 14 times.
Zelenskyy is set to address the French Senate today.
Russian forces destroy a bridge linking Chernihiv to evacuation and aid routes
Chernihiv, a city that’s been under siege since the first days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, now has one less connection to safety after an attack destroyed a key bridge that linked it to evacuation and aid routes.
Ukrainian media outlets circulated video from the scene, showing the ruined bridge.
The loss won’t prevent aid from reaching Chernihiv, Vyacheslav Chaus, the head of the regional government, said in a video, he filmed at the scene. Because of persistent Russian shelling, the city has no electricity or water service, and its gas supplies are also disrupted.
Chernihiv Mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko accused the Russians of intentionally targeting hospitals, which are treating hundreds of wounded.
“It is important to understand what methods are used by Russia when conducting hostilities in Chernihiv,” he said, according to news outlet Ukrinform. “Their tactics is to intentionally destroy civilians and infrastructure facilities. It has nothing to do with the targeted fire on military infrastructure facilities.”
Chernihiv is about 90 miles north-northeast of Kyiv. Its mayor says about half the population has fled — and officials have watched the death toll rise every day.
“We bury about 40 people per day,” he said, according to Ukrinform. “Prior to the war, we buried an average of eight people per day.”
Biden heads to Europe, where leaders will put on a united front against Russia's war
Almost exactly a month after Russia invaded Ukraine, President Biden is traveling to Europe — starting with Brussels today — to meet with world leaders about the conflict. He will attend an emergency NATO summit and a G-7 meeting and speak to the European Council.
"This is just the latest push to try to keep Western leaders moving in lockstep in this crisis," NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith explains. "We've seen the president be very deliberate in his moves on sanctions to make sure everyone was on the same page, even at times moving more slowly than Congress would have liked."
Leaders are expected to discuss sanctions, energy security and humanitarian aid
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that Biden will join U.S. allies in imposing further sanctions on Russia, as well as tightening existing sanctions by cracking down on evasion and strengthening enforcement. They will also work together on longer-term adjustments on NATO force posture on the eastern flank, announce joint action on enhancing European energy security and moving away from Russian gas, he added.
We can also expect them to announce more humanitarian assistance for Ukrainians who remain in the country, as well as those who have become refugees.
Keith says Biden also wants to talk about China's close relationship with Russia and whether Russia should be allowed to stay in the G-20, a group of the world's largest economies. Notably, Russia was kicked out of what was formerly the G-8 after it annexed Crimea in 2014.
The in-person trip sends a visual message of unity
Many world leaders have been speaking to each other by phone or video call in recent weeks. What's the significance of them meeting face to face?
"There is a moment at the beginning of all of these kinds of meetings, one that to me has always seemed like this awkward photo-op," Keith says, referring to the formal "family photo" in which heads of state are typically lined up on stairs or risers.
Jim Townsend, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO, says that photo is actually an important signal of unity.
"Townsend told me that this moment matters," Keith said. "It matters to people in Europe who are really nervous about this conflict, and it sends a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who expected the NATO alliance to be wobbly. And instead, so far, it has stuck together."
Ukraine wants help from NATO, but it's a delicate balancing act
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will also speak to the joint NATO session, albeit remotely. He has addressed the U.S. and other countries by video in recent weeks and pushed for Ukraine to join NATO and also get more defensive support from the alliance.
Keith says there will likely be more announcements on military equipment out of these meetings. Ian Lesser, vice president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, tells her that NATO is under increasing pressure from Ukraine to take action, but may not have much appetite for it.
"The alliance is trying to figure out how to navigate putting maximum pressure on Russia and providing maximum support for Ukraine, which isn't a NATO member, without making a move that could escalate the conflict," Keith explains.