Russia invades Ukraine live updates: The U.N. votes overwhelmingly to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine
More Russian missile strikes and shells are hitting Ukrainian cities, with tremendous damage reported. Twenty-one people have been killed in Kharkiv as a result of what appeared to be a Russian rocket attack. Russia claims it has taken over the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, but Ukrainian officials sharply dispute this. They say they fear Russia is targeting Ukrainian civilians.
Here's what we're following today:
United Nations vote: In an emergency session, the General Assembly voted 141-5 to condemn Russia and demand that it end its war in Ukraine.
Ukraine accuses Russia of terror: The Kremlin is relying on “the criminal tactics of long-range shelling of peaceful cities,” Ukraine's defense minister said.
Russia shuts down media critics: Authorities have blocked two leading Russian media outlets over their critical coverage of the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainians risk everything to go home: While hundreds of thousands have fled the country, many are crossing back to join the fight.
Russia's convoy is stalled, but the U.S. only expects a temporary reprieve for Kyiv
A senior U.S. defense official confirms that the huge Russian military convoy north of Kyiv has stalled.
The official cited multiple reasons, including “stiff Ukrainian resistance and shortages of food and fuel.” But, the official went on to say, “We believe they (the Russians) will learn from these missteps and stumbles."
Throughout Ukraine, the Russians “continue to be bedeviled by these logistic and sustainment issues.” Also, the Russian forces don't appear to be coordinating their attacks as well as expected.
The U.S. estimates that Russia has now deployed 82 percent of its forces that were positioned outside Ukraine, up from an estimated 80 percent on Tuesday.
Russians have now fired more than 450 missiles since the war began last Thursday, with increased targeting on cities. The Russian military “has decided to be much more aggressive in its targeting of Kyiv, targeting infrastructure.” The northeastern city of Kharkiv remains under assault, but there’s “no appreciable move” by Russian forces.
In the south, Russia is making measured advances. Both Russia and Ukraine are claiming control of the city of Kherson. U.S. officials say only that Kherson "is very much a contested city at this point." In the sky nationwide, air space is still contested. Russia has not achieved air superiority, according to the official.
Ukrainian tennis star puts her hand on her heart after beating Russian opponent
Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina defeated Russia’s Anastasia Potapova at the Monterrey Open on Tuesday night, in a match that was charged with extra importance because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine less than a week before.
Svitolina wore her country’s blue and yellow for the first-round match, and she celebrated her win by repeatedly putting her hand over her heart.
“All the prize money that I’m going to earn here is going to the Ukrainian army, so thank you so much for your support,” she said, drawing a load ovation from the crowd.
The Ukrainian said she was sad about the war raging in her country, but also focused on doing well.
“I was on a mission for my country," she said.
Svitolina and Potapova met at the net for a handshake after her straight-set victory. While the outcome of the match was never in real doubt — Svitolina, the world No. 15, is the top seed at this tournament in Mexico — earlier on Tuesday, it wasn’t certain whether the Ukrainian would agree to take the court against the Russian.
Svitolina said on Monday that she would refuse to play any Russian or Belarusian athletes if they were allowed to compete under their countries’ flag. She said that she and other Ukrainian pros had submitted a request to the women’s and men’s tours as well as the International Tennis Federation, calling for “a clear position” that mirrors guidance from the International Olympic Committee.
“I do not blame any of the Russian athletes,” Svitolina said in a note she posted online. “They are not responsible for the invasion of our motherland. Moreover, I wish to pay tribute to all the players, especially Russian and Belarusians, who bravely stated their position against the war. Their support is essential.”
Around midday Tuesday, the sport’s organizers issued a joint statement saying they’re following the IOC’s lead. They also suspended plans to hold a tournament in Moscow this October, and said that while individual players can still compete on the pro circuit, they can’t do so under the Russian or Belarusian flag. The organizations also suspended both countries from international team competitions.
Russia makes its 1st announcement of substantial casualties in Ukraine
In its first acknowledgement of substantial casualties in Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry announced 498 Russian troops have been killed and 1,597 injured in the “special military operation.”
The announcement comes shortly after the head of the Russian delegation to talks with Ukraine said negotiations will resume Thursday morning.
According to the Russian state-run news agency RIA-Novosti, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Al Jazeera that “President Zelenskyy has declared his readiness or, more accurately, his wish to receive a security guarantee. I believe this is a positive step."
"Our negotiators are prepared for a second round of discussions about such guarantees with the Ukrainian representatives,” he added.
U.N. General Assembly votes to demand that Russia end its war in Ukraine
The United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday approved a nonbinding resolution condemning Russia for invading Ukraine and demanding that it end its war with the country.
The vote came after a series of speeches during which the majority of countries called on Russia to stop the violence in Ukraine, which has continued for nearly one week.
Sergiy Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.N., urged countries to vote in favor of the resolution in an emotional address that ended with applause from the chamber.
“It’s already clear that the goal of Russia is not an occupation only. It is genocide,” Kyslytsya said.
Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., asked members to vote against the resolution and said Western powers were exerting pressure on other countries to vote in favor of it. Belarus and Syria were among the countries that spoke out against the measure.
Ultimately, the resolution passed overwhelmingly, by a vote of 141 to 5 with 35 abstentions.
“The truth is that this war was one man’s choice and one man alone: President Putin. It was his choice to force hundreds of thousands of people to stuff their lives into backpacks and flee the country,” said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. “The United States is choosing to stand with the Ukrainian people."
The measure's passage showed that "a global anti-Putin coalition has been formed and is functioning," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a tweet after the vote.
"The world is with us. The truth is on our side. Victory will be ours!" Zelenskyy added.
On Friday, Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution denouncing its invasion of Ukraine.
The Justice Department's new task force is going after Russian oligarchs
Making good on President Biden’s promise to go after Russian oligarchs, the Justice Department on Wednesday unveiled “Task Force KleptoCapture.” It will enforce the sanctions, export restrictions and other financial measures that the U.S. and its allies have imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the department will use all of its authority to seize the assets of people who violate the sanctions and will leave no stone unturned in investigating criminal acts that support Russia’s aggression. The task force will also target attempts to use cryptocurrency for evading sanctions and laundering money.
The U.S. is focused on using asset seizures and civil forfeitures to cut off resources to Russia. But the Justice Department said it will also work to make arrests and prosecute criminal offenses. It noted that someone convicted of a charge brought by the task force could end up with a 20-year sentence.
Biden announced in Tuesday night's State of the Union speech that he was assembling a task force to go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs, saying, "We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.”
Now you can get NPR's Ukraine news and analysis in podcast form
NPR reporters in the newsroom and on the ground are covering the day-to-day developments and deeper context of Russia's offensive in Ukraine in many formats — online, on the radio, on social media and in podcasts.
And now there's another way to get news and analysis, on demand and in your ears.
The new podcast State of Ukraine will publish multiple times a day, breaking down the state of the invasion through conversations with reporters, politicians and other voices. It's especially great for those moments when your eyes and fingertips need a break from scrolling.
"We'll discuss the conflict's past, its possible futures, and what each new development means for the rest of the world," its creators write. Read more about what — and who — you can expect to hear in the weeks ahead.
The podcast launched Wednesday. It already dropped several episodes — each less than 10 minutes long — providing a window into where things stand in the city of Lviv, who exactly is taking the train into Ukraine right now and what a foreign policy expert thinks could be guiding Putin's decision-making process.
Updates and observations from an NPR reporter traveling across Ukraine
Investigations correspondent Tim Mak is part of the NPR's intrepid team of reporters on the ground in Ukraine.
He has been documenting his discussions and experiences in massive Twitter threads that run throughout each day. It's become an essential part of our morning reading routines, as All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro remarked today.
In today's Twitter thread: During his journey through the Ukrainian countryside, Mak observed increasingly fortified checkpoints made of heavy sandbags and concrete blocks, overseen by guards who are "more professional" and "not as jumpy" as they were a few days ago.
"Much like the emotions of the guards at checkpoints, the battle lines appear to be stabilizing — at least for now," he writes.
Russian troops remain stalled in their attempt to advance into central Kyiv, he says, adding that the "flow of dramatic information" about Russian advances appears to have slowed, even amidst reports that Russian troops have ramped up their bombardments on civilian areas across Ukraine.
"As we drove through Ukraine, I saw professional soldiers gathering with heavy rucks, preparing to step off," Mak writes. "One soldier embracing what appeared to be his mother, who won’t let go of him. He’s smiling as if to say ‘that’s enough mom’ while a cigarette burns in his right hand."
Here are some more scenes from the road:
Moscow shuts down Russian media outlets over their critical coverage of the war
Russian authorities have blocked two leading Russian media outlets over their critical coverage of the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine.
The Echo of Moscow radio station earned its name covering the collapse of the USSR — becoming a beloved liberal talk radio institution.
Dozhd, or TV Rain, made similar inroads with its broadcasts of protests against Vladimir Putin's Russia 20 years later.
Now, both have been targeted by Russia’s government for their coverage of the war in Ukraine.
Prosecutors argue that both outlets provided "deliberately false information" about what the Russian government calls a peacekeeping "special operation" and should face restrictions.
The government's content regulatory body had previously threatened media outlets with fines or blockage should they employ the words "war" or "invasion" to describe the Russian campaign, which the Russian authorities falsely portray as a humanitarian mission in support of Russian speakers in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
As the news broke late Tuesday in Russia, Echo of Moscow’s longtime FM 91.2 signal turned to a hiss.
TV Rain’s website also went down but was still available via YouTube stream. The government had previously labeled the channel a "foreign agent" and removed it from cable providers.
Both outlets reject the government accusations and say they’ll appeal the decision.
TV Rain editor-in-chief Tikhon Dzyadko also announced Wednesday that he and "several other staff members" had left the country pending the court ruling out of concern for their safety.
Independent media outlets are no stranger to pressure from the Kremlin. Here's more on the recent obstacles TV Rain has faced.
For Ukrainians traveling back home, protecting family and their country outweigh the risk
While an estimated 650,000 people have fled Russia's invasion and crossed into neighboring countries, some Ukrainians are going the other way and are traveling home to join the fight.
A train carrying Ukrainians heading back left Poland on Tuesday for the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, where Russian troops and bombardments haven't reached.
NPR's Leila Fadel, Arezou Rezvani and Graham Smith caught the train and asked those aboard why they're traveling toward the war that so many are fleeing.
For many, reaching family still in Ukraine was worth it.
On the train to Lviv, Ukraine. Those traveling on this train from Poland are going back to get loved ones or “defend them.” pic.twitter.com/ZBoZC3mbB1— Leila Fadel (@LeilaFadel) February 28, 2022
Sviataslav Vovk, wearing a Yankees cap, said he was coming from Poland.
Vovk said he was going back to visit his parents and "defend them." He said he's ready to fight and didn't have a real choice. He told NPR that he wouldn't be able to forgive himself if he stayed in Poland knowing his parents were in Ukraine.
"I saw that people that came from Ukraine, I was helping them, and I saw that terrible situation in the eyes of the people," Vovk said.
"And I understand that my parents feel the same so I can't just leave them."
Also on the train was Jenny, who asked NPR not to use her last name. She was seated with a group who at first appeared to be old friends, but they actually had just met while waiting to board. They shared chocolate, and Jenny said the war had served to unite Ukrainians.
She was in Milan, Italy, on a trip when Russia invaded Ukraine, and is heading back to her teenage son in Lviv.
Jenny said she was surprised so many people were returning to the country at war. She estimated the overwhelming majority she'd seen were men, but some women like her were traveling back, too.
"It's probably those people who really have something to save, to protect and to see their future in Ukraine," she said.
She isn't sure Lviv will remain safe, but she isn't sure Poland and other countries will stay safe from Putin either.
Ukrainian defense minister says cities are suffering from Russian terror
“The nature of events is changing,” Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said in an update on his country’s fight against Russia’s invading forces.
The situation “is getting worse” for Russia’s military, with more soldiers and officers captured, Reznikov said. But, he added, Russia is now relying on “the criminal tactics of long-range shelling of peaceful cities.”
More military aid continues to arrive in Ukraine, Reznikov said, in the form of U.S.-made Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Javelin anti-tank missiles, as well as Turkish-made Bayraktar drones.
“Europe is becoming our rear and is supplying what is critical for defense,” he said. “We are at the forefront of the free world.”
Russian airstrikes and shelling are hitting residential buildings, schools and maternity hospitals, Reznikov said — actions that he said are both cowardly and amount to terrorism.
“Many of our cities and villages are now suffering from Russian terror,” he said, citing attacks on Kharkiv, Mariupol and Kherson, a port city in southern Ukraine.
“This is one more piece of evidence that no ‘Russian world’ exists,” he added. “That is a Nazi ideology in the heads of a handful of maniacs who still hold power in Russia. Meanwhile, there are Ukrainian citizens, who speak different languages, go to different churches and houses of worship, but stay together and heroically resist the Russian occupiers.”
In its own update, the Russian defense ministry said on Wednesday that its military is making large advances in the rebellious Ukrainian territories of Luhansk and Donetsk, adding, "The Russian Armed Forces took Kherson regional center under full control."
The Russian military also acknowledged its strategy of trying "to suppress information attacks against Russia," saying it had disabled Kyiv's large TV tower, as well as using "high-precision weapons" to strike "technological facilities of the Security Service of Ukraine and the 72nd Main Centre for Psychological Operations." The tower resumed broadcasting onWednesday, NPR's Tim Mak reports.
Reznikov said he had a long conversation with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday.
“Even the experienced American military is delighted” with how Ukraine has been able to slow down or divert elements of Russia’s invasion, he said.
According to the Pentagon's recap of that call, Austin emphasized that the U.S. and its allies are united "in our resolve to support Ukraine, including through the continued provision of defensive security assistance."
Broadcasts resume from Kyiv's TV tower after Russian strikes
Russia’s attempt to take out a key communication tower in Ukraine seems to have failed.
After Russian strikes hit Kyiv’s main TV and radio tower on Tuesday, Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said that the control room had been hit and that TV channels would not work “for some time,” according to Interfax.
But many channels were able to resume broadcasts on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the owner of the tower told NPR's Tim Mak.
At least five people were killed in the strikes that also hit the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center. The strikes on the site where Nazis killed between 70,000 and 100,000 people — almost all of Kyiv’s Jewish population — between 1941 and 1943 has led many world leaders to further condemn Russia’s actions.
Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, voiced “vehement condemnation” of the attack, saying, “Sacred sites like Babi Yar must be protected.”
“The security and wellbeing of civilians must be universally and absolutely respected. We continue to follow with grave concern the outrageous acts of aggression being perpetrated against civilian targets in Ukraine,” the center said.
Israel’s foreign minister also condemned the attacks but did not name Russia in his tweet.
Russian police jail kids who took flowers and ‘No to War’ signs to Ukraine's embassy
The handmade signs read “нет войне” — No to War. That’s the message five children, ages 7 to 11, were carrying to Ukraine’s embassy in Moscow, where their mothers planned to lay a bunch of flowers on Tuesday. But instead, the police detained the kids and parents, putting them in a holding cell.
Putin is at war with children. In Ukraine, where his missiles hit kindergartens and orphanages, and also in Russia. 7 y.o. David and Sofia, 9 y.o. Matvey, 11 y.o. Gosha and Liza spent this night behind bars in Moscow for their ‘NO TO WAR’ posters. This is how scared the man is. pic.twitter.com/eSenU1D5Ut— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) March 2, 2022
The police officers shouted at the parents, threatening that the “brave moms” would lose their parental rights, according to Alexandra Arkhipova, who posted photos and a video of the ordeal on her Facebook page.
The case got the attention of Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who shared images of the children and said it was another sign of the toll Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine is taking on children.
Referring to Putin as he discussed the kids being detained in Moscow, Kuleba said, “This is how scared the man is.”
The website OVD-info, which monitors potential police abuses in Russia, posted a video of what it said was the moment of the arrest. In the footage, a child’s cries can be heard echoing down the street where several police vehicles were massed.
Arkhipova, who is a senior researcher at RANEPA university, says the two mothers are Ekaterina Zavizion and Olga Alter. She says they were arrested along with their kids, Liza, 11, Gosha, 11, Matvey, 9, David, 7, and Sofya, 7.
The group was initially told they might have to spend the night in a cell. But, Arkhipova said, they were released and are now facing potential court dates and fines.
“Right now, we need the help of the community, help of journalists and human rights activists,” she added.
The Moscow children’s signs included images of what, for now at least, seems like an impossible equation: a Russian flag followed by a plus sign and a Ukrainian flag, equaling a heart.
As of Monday, Russian authorities had detained roughly 6,400 anti-war demonstrators since the start of the invasion last week, according to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny calls for daily global protests against Putin
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is urging people around the world to stage daily protests against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which he described as "an aggressive war ... unleashed by our obviously insane czar."
Navalny was jailed last January upon returning to Moscow from Germany, where he had been recovering from a nerve poisoning attack he blames on the Kremlin. Putin has denied Navalny was poisoned, even though international medical investigators determined he was poisoned with a Soviet-developed chemical agent and Navalny himself reportedly duped a Kremlin agent into revealing details of the assassination attempt.
His imprisonment and subsequent hunger strike sparked a wave of anti-Putin protests across Russia last spring — as well as a renewed crackdown on his supporters and associates, many of whom have since left the country. The 45-year-old faces several criminal cases, with his latest trial opening last month.
"They say that someone who cannot attend a rally and does not risk being arrested for it cannot call for it. I'm already in prison, so I think I can," Navalny wrote.
Noting that "Putin is not Russia," Navalny praised the thousands of Russians who were detained for protesting the war and urged people around the world to follow suit.
"Wherever you are, in Russia, Belarus or on the other side of the planet, go to the main square of your city every weekday and at 2 pm on weekends and holidays," he wrote. "If you are abroad, come to the Russian embassy. If you can organise a demonstration, do so on the weekend."
Navalny also urged protesters not to be discouraged by the threat of detention, writing that "each arrested person must be replaced by two newcomers." He said they must fill prisons and paddy wagons in order to stop the war — even if that process takes time to ramp up.
"Yes, maybe only a few people will take to the streets on the first day. And in the second — even less," he said. "But we must, gritting our teeth and overcoming fear, come out and demand an end to the war."
Read the whole Twitter thread here:
1/12 We - Russia - want to be a nation of peace. Alas, few people would call us that now.— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) March 2, 2022
Here's what Biden said about Russia in his State of the Union address
President Biden delivered his first formal State of the Union address on Tuesday night, in which he spoke about Ukraine, inflation, the coronavirus pandemic and a four-point "Unity Agenda."
Here are five takeaways from his speech.
Much of the world's attention has been focused on Russia's invasion of Ukraine for the last week, and last night was no exception — the conflict was a major throughline of the proceedings, from Biden's remarks to the audience members and to ubiquitous blue and gold accessories and clothing.
"Ukrainian blue and gold was a hard-to-miss symbol of unity in a deeply polarized Congress with lots of members donning blue-and-gold flags and lapel pins," NPR's Domenico Montanaro writes. "The president's defiant tone on the crisis elicited several moments of bipartisan applause, something rare in this partisan age."
You can find more key moments and takeaways from NPR reporters at this State of the Union blog. Below are some of the points Biden made about the war in Ukraine and the global response.
- Biden highlighted American diplomacy and unity, and Ukraine's ambassador to the U.S. got a standing ovation.
- He noted that sanctions on Russia are driving up global oil prices, but he promised to use "every tool at our disposal" to protect American consumers.
- The U.S. joined a growing number of countries banning Russian aircraft from its airspace.
- Biden promised support for Ukraine and NATO allies in the region but stressed he will not send U.S. troops to engage with Russian forces in Ukraine.
The EU Commission proposes temporary protection status for Ukrainian refugees
The European Commission today released details of its“temporary protection directive,” which would ensure that Ukrainians fleeing from war would be allowed to legally stay in the EU for up to two years.
This would apply to all EU member states and would enable Ukrainians to legally work and their children to attend local schools in the areas where they reside.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week, an estimated 650,000 people have fled to neighboring EU states. The temporary protection directive is scheduled to go to EU member states tomorrow for approval.