Russia invades Ukraine live updates: 2nd round of talks ends with one agreement: to meet again

Published March 3, 2022 at 8:22 AM EST
An empty shop is pictured in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv on Thursday.
Sergey Bobok
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AFP via Getty Images
An empty shop is pictured in Ukraine's second-biggest city of Kharkiv on Thursday.

The two sides held intense discussions on humanitarian issues such as food, medicine and civilian evacuation, and agreed to meet again "very soon."

Here's the latest on the invasion:

Aid for Ukraine: President Biden is seeking $10 billion from Congress to go toward defense equipment, humanitarian aid, sanctions enforcement and other priorities.

What it's like inside Kherson: A resident tells NPR the city woke to loud explosions, and she sees Russian troops and snipers everywhere. “They’re throughout the city,” she says. “I really miss my life when they weren’t here. I want back those days.”

One million refugees: The number fleeing across the Ukrainian border has reached a grim milestone, according to the U.N. About half are in Poland, with Hungary, Moldova and Slovakia being the other top destinations.

Diplomacy

Ukraine and Russia agree to meet again as a second round of talks ends

Posted March 3, 2022 at 1:47 PM EST

The second round of talks between Ukraine and Russia has ended with an agreement for holding a third round “very soon.”

The head of Ukraine’s delegation Mykhailo Podolyak said Ukraine “unfortunately did not receive the hoped-for results,” but that there was intense discussion of humanitarian issues, such as food, medicine and evacuation of the civilian population. Podolyak added the two sides would establish “channels of communication and engagement” over the humanitarian issue.

The head of Russia’s delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, said the Ukrainian and Russian defense ministries had agreed to establish humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians and agreed on the “possibility” of a temporary ceasefire during humanitarian operations.

Military

Russia has deployed 90% of its pre-staged combat power near Ukraine: U.S. official

Posted March 3, 2022 at 12:41 PM EST
Smoke billows from a destroyed tank on the side of a road, next to bare trees.
Anatolii Stepanov
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AFP via Getty Images
Smoke rises from a Russian tank destroyed by the Ukrainian forces on the side of a road in the Luhansk region on Saturday.

A senior U.S. defense official says Russia has now deployed 90% of the combat power it had pre-staged near Ukraine, and its troops remain "largely stalled" in the north.

Russian forces are making the most progress around the northeastern city of Kharkiv, where they are now near the city's ring road.

In the south, Kherson is widely reported to be under Russian control, although the defense official says the U.S. is not in a position to verify those reports. Russians are advancing on Mariupol from the north and along the coast from the south, but the city is still under Ukrainian control.

The Russian convoy north of Kyiv remains largely stalled, with very little movement in recent days. Cloud cover offers limited surveillance abilities for U.S. and commercial satellites.

Russia has fired 480 missiles since the start of the war: 230 from mobile units in Ukraine, 160 from Russia, 70 from Belarus and a few from the Black Sea.

The U.S. continues to share intelligence with Ukraine, but the official declined to address criticism from some in Congress that the U.S. should be providing more timely intelligence.

On the question of deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure and residential areas, the senior defense official said, "Clearly there’s a willingness to hit civilian infrastructure.”

The official said it’s difficult to assess whether or not the targeting of civilian infrastructure is intentional, but that Russian forces are not only targeting military locations — airfields, barracks and ammunition depots — but also government buildings in places like Kyiv and Kharkiv to “weaken” the Ukrainian government.

World reaction

Ikea and Volkswagen are the latest companies to distance themselves from Russia

Posted March 3, 2022 at 12:29 PM EST
The yellow Ikea logo is shown on a blue building.
Pascal Guyot/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
The Ikea logo is pictured at a shopping mall in Montpellier, southern France in 2013.

Retail stores, cultural events, sporting competitions, oil companies and media platforms around the world are pulling away from Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

That list continued growing on Thursday, with both Ikea and Volkswagen announcing they are pausing operations in Russia, citing its attack and subsequent business disruptions.

"The devastating war in Ukraine is a human tragedy, and our deepest empathy and concerns are with the millions of people impacted," Ikea said in a statement, adding, "It is also resulting in serious disruptions to supply chain and trading conditions."

As a result, the furniture company said, it will be pausing all Ikea Industry production operations in Russia, as well as all imports and exports in and out of Russia and Belarus.

Ikea outlines plans for impacted employees and humanitarian assistance

Dutch holding company Ingka Group — the largest Ikea retailer, which also owns dozens of shopping centers worldwide — has also decided to pause all Ikea retail operations in Russia, but says its "Mega"-branded malls in the country will remain open so that people can access daily essentials like food and medication.

"These decisions have a direct impact on 15,000 IKEA co-workers," the statement continued. "The ambitions of the company groups are long term and we have secured employment and income stability for the immediate future and provide support to them and their families in the region."

Ikea and Ingka also outlined some of the steps they are taking to support those impacted by the war in Ukraine.

For one, the Ikea foundation announced a donation of €20 million (or $22 million) in humanitarian assistance for people displaced by the conflict, in response to an emergency appeal from the UN Refugee Agency.

Inter Ikea Group and Ingka are also each donating an initial €10 million (or roughly $11 million) to "provide support in products and other assistance" to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Save the Children and other local organizations.

Volkswagen halts production in Russia

For its part, the Volkswagen Group expressed its dismay and shock at Russia's offensive, as well as its hopes for an end to violence and return to diplomacy.

It is halting vehicle exports to Russia "with immediate effect" and stopping the production of vehicles in Russia until further notice, following a decision from its management board.

That decision applies to the Russian production sites in Kaluga, which employs some 4,000 people, and Nizhny Novgorod. The company said in a tweet that it will pay for "short-time working benefits" for all affected employees in Russia.

"With the extensive interruption of business activities in Russia, the Executive Board is reviewing the consequences from the overall situation, during this period of great uncertainty and upheaval," it added.

Financial impact

Russia’s credit rating is cut to junk, and the dollar and euro hit new highs vs. the ruble

Posted March 3, 2022 at 12:19 PM EST
A woman leaves a currency exchange office in Saint Petersburg on March, 2, 2022. Russian authorities are scrambling to stem panic as massive sanctions over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine are delivering Russia's worst economic shocks since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Olga Maltseva
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AFP via Getty Images
A woman leaves a currency exchange office in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on Wednesday. Russian authorities are scrambling to stem panic as massive sanctions over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine are delivering Russia's worst economic shocks since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The financial fallout over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine struck another blow on Thursday, as Moody's Investors Service dropped its long-term debt rating for the Russian government from Baa3 to B3 -- a six-notch freefall that leaves Russia’s credit firmly in the “junk,” or non-investment grade status.

Moody's also downgraded the Russian ruble in its short-term ratings, to “not prime.”

Both the dollar and euro again hit all-time highs against the ruble on Moscow’s currency market Thursday, according to Russia’s state-run Tass media. The outlet reports that the dollar had risen by nearly 12% shortly before noon, local time.

The credit ratings agency said multiple factors have soured Russia’s credit rating, from the raft of severe sanctions the U.S., European Union and their allies have imposed on Russia to “significant concerns around Russia's willingness to service its obligations.”

Moody’s took action shortly after another ratings agency, Fitch, also sharply lowered Russia’s credit rating, saying international sanctions have brought “a huge shock to Russia's credit fundamentals,” adding that further sanctions remain a distinct possibility.

Economic turmoil has kept the Moscow stock exchange closed for four consecutive days this week, as Russia’s central bank grasps for ways to bring a sense of stability to a chaotic situation.

The central bank more than doubled its key interest rate to 20% on Monday, after certain banks were cut off from SWIFT, the global system that helps banks carry out secure transactions. A large chunk of Russia's international currency reserves — estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars — has also been frozen by Western authorities.

Political implications

Russia halts rocket engine sales to the U.S. in response to sanctions

Posted March 3, 2022 at 12:09 PM EST
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, carrying America’s newest weather satellite, lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Tuesday. Russia announced on Thursday that it will stop selling its RD-180 engines to the U.S., but ULA said it doesn't expect this to disrupt its launch programs.
John Raoux
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AP
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, carrying America’s newest weather satellite, lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Tuesday. Russia announced on Thursday that it will stop selling its RD-180 engines to the U.S., but ULA said it doesn't expect this to disrupt its launch programs.

Russia will stop supplying rocket engines to the United States in response to sanctions on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

The retaliatory move was announced Thursday by Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency.

“In a situation like this we can't supply the United States with our world's best rocket engines,” Rogozin said on state television. “Let them fly on something else, their broomsticks, I don't know what.”

Rogozin also said Russia will stop servicing the RD-180 engines that are already in the U.S. While the United Launch Alliance, the joint venture space launch company of Boeing and Lockheed Martin does use the RD-180 engines in its Atlas V rocket, the company does not expect this to have an impact on its operations.

“As we manage the transition to the Vulcan launch system, all necessary RD-180 engines to execute the Atlas V flyout are safely stored in our factory in Decatur, Alabama,” ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye told NPR.

ULA was already in the process of moving to its Vulcan system and the Atlas rocket is projected to retire around 2024 or 2025, which will then end the company’s reliance on Russian-made engines.

Russia’s halt on engine exports might not have the desired effect, but this is not the first time the country has suspended sales to the U.S. Moscow took a similar approach in 2014 in response to U.S. sanctions over Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Tensions with Russia have also affected another space venture. A joint European-Russian mission to Mars slated for this year will probably be delayed, the European Space Agency said, citing Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the resulting sanctions imposed by the ESA's member countries.

World reaction

The 'United Nations of cat federations' is temporarily banning Russian cats from its competitions

Posted March 3, 2022 at 11:57 AM EST
A person wearing a red jacket carries a yellow backpack with a grey cat inside.
Bernat Armangue/AP
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AP
A Ukrainian girl and her cat wait at the platform inside Lviv railway station in west Ukraine on Sunday.

First Eurovision, then the Paralympics and now ... cat exhibitions.

Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe), an international cat federation with members in about 40 countries, is banning Russian cats from its competitions for the next three months, joining the growing global backlash to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

FIFe announced this week that it is enacting certain restrictions on cats bred in Russia and belonging to exhibitors who live there, citing the mass destruction and civilian fatalities caused by what it called Russia's "unprecedented act of aggression."

"The Board of FIFe feels it cannot just witness these atrocities and do nothing," it added.

As of Tuesday, no cats bred in Russia may be imported and registered in any FIFe pedigree book outside Russia, and no cats belonging to exhibitors living in Russia may enter any FIFe shows outside the country.

The restrictions are valid through the end of May and will be reviewed as necessary, officials said.

The organization describes itself as "the United Nations of Cat Federations," representing more than 100,000 individual members. It organizes more than 700 shows per year exhibiting more than 200,000 cats, according to its website. FIFe is officially headquartered in Luxembourg.

"The name of FIFe is synonymous with quality and unity," it says in a fact sheet. "It represents the interests of cats on a world-wide basis."

Officials said in their statement that its executive board was "shocked and horrified that the army of the Russian Federation invaded the Republic of Ukraine and started a war."

"On top of that our Ukrainian fellow feline fanciers are desperately trying to take care of their cats and other animals in these trying circumstances," they added.

A million Ukrainians have fled for safety in the week since Russia first invaded, and many have been pictured bringing their cats and dogs with them.

Member of FIFe clubs in countries bordering Ukraine, including Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova, are "lending a helping hand to their Ukrainian breeder friends," the statement continued.

FIFe is also pitching in, with its board deciding to dedicate a portion of its budget to support cat breeders and "fanciers" in Ukraine who are impacted by the conflict. It said it would consult its members in Ukraine and neighboring countries about the best way to do so.

News of the temporary ban elicited a mixed response.

Some social media users scoffed, while others applauded the act of solidarity, as the Washington Postreported. The announcement garnered particular backlash in China, where Business Insider reports the hashtag "Russian cats are banned" went viral on Weibo on Wednesday, receiving some 118 million views in 24 hours.

Member Station Reports
From WESA Pittsburgh

This Pittsburgh church is using pierogi to support efforts in Ukraine

Posted March 3, 2022 at 10:45 AM EST

As WESA's Katie Blackley reports:

Eastern Europeans have been one of the Pittsburgh area’s dominant immigrant groups, dating back to the Industrial Revolution.

One of the ways this culture continues to manifest is food — especially the pierogi. No one loves a pierogi like Pittsburgh does.

A local church is using the money from homemade pierogi to support Ukraine.

Read the full story at WESA

Diplomacy

2nd round of Ukraine-Russia talks will include ‘humanitarian corridors,’ lawmaker says

Posted March 3, 2022 at 10:04 AM EST

The Ukrainian and Russian delegations are meeting Thursday for the second time since Moscow launched a war on its neighbor. The two countries are locked in fierce fighting, as Ukraine targets Russia’s military and Russian forces strike at both military and civilian targets -- including large cities.

Ukrainian lawmaker David Arakhamia posted a photo of himself with Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office, saying they were heading to the meeting. Podolyak also posted an image, showing him sitting in a helicopter alongside Arakhamia.

Neither side has said they expect a breakthrough in the talks. Arakhamia said that at a minimum, Ukraine wants to reach an agreement with Russia on establishing “humanitarian corridors" in Ukraine.

In conflicts in Syria and elsewhere, such corridors have been set up to allow civilians to flee violence and to let aid and medical groups move safely. At least one humanitarian corridor already exists in Ukraine, in the eastern region of Donbas that has been a locus of fighting since Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.

In the hours before the city of Kherson reportedly fell, the city’s mayor pleaded for a humanitarian corridor so its besieged residents could access food and medical supplies.

Assets

France has seized a yacht linked to a sanctioned Russian oligarch

Posted March 3, 2022 at 10:01 AM EST
A person looks out to a port where a large yacht is docked, against cliffs in the background.
Nicolas Tucat
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AFP via Getty Images
Amore Vero, the yacht owned by a company linked to Igor Sechin, is pictured in the shipyard of La Ciotat in southern France on Thursday.

French authorities say they have seized a yacht linked to sanctioned Russian oligarch Igor Sechin.

Sechin served as Russia's deputy prime minister from 2008 to 2012 and is the current CEO of state oil company Rosneft.

He is among the several "elites close to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin" that the U.S. Treasury Department targeted with sanctions last week. The European Union imposed sanctions against Sechin on Monday, calling him one of Putin's "most trusted and closest advisors, as well as his personal friend" and saying the two were in daily contact.

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire announced on Thursday that French authorities had seized Sechin's yacht — named "Amor Vero," or "True Love" in Italian — at the Mediterranean port of La Ciotat on Wednesday.

“Thanks to the French customs officers who are enforcing the European Union’s sanctions against those close to the Russian government,” he said, according to a Reuters translation of his tweet.

The 280-foot yacht had been docked in southern France's La Ciotat since early January, and was set to remain there undergoing repairs through the end of March, CNBC reports. But the French ministry of finance said the yacht was preparing to cast off when authorities began their check, which lasted several hours.

The ministry said it had identified Sechin as the main shareholder of the company that owns the yacht, according to The Guardian.

"As part of the implementation of European Union sanctions against Russia and in support of Ukraine, we seized a first yacht," French Minister at the Ministry of Public Action and Accounts Olivier Dussopt wrote in a tweet translated by France24.

Keep reading for more on the status of other Russian superyachts -- including one allegedly belonging to Putin.

Superyachts head for safe harbor after U.S. and Europe announced sanctions

Citing data from shipping database Marine Traffic, CNBC has reported that at least four Russian billionaires began moving their superyachts toward Montenegro and the Maldives — which doesn't have an extradition treaty with the U.S. — after the U.S. and other Western countries announced a raft of sanctions against Russian oligarchs and financial institutions.

President Biden has repeatedly pledged to pursue the crimes of Russian oligarchs, including in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

"We’re joining with European allies to find and seize their yachts, their luxury apartments, their private jets," he said. "We are coming for your ill-begotten gains."

The following day, the U.S. Department of Justice announced "Task Force KleptoCapture," which it says will enforce sanctions and other financial measures imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, seize the assets of people who violate them and leave no stone unturned in investigating criminal acts that support Russia's aggression.

German authorities deny reports that they seized an oligarch's yacht

France's announcement comes a day after Forbes reported — citing three yacht industry sources — that German authorities in the port city of Hamburg had seized the superyacht of another sanctioned Russian billionaire, Alisher Usmanov.

Hamburg officials have since denied the report, with a spokesperson for its economic authority telling The Guardian that "no yachts have been confiscated. Any order to seize properties subject to sanctions would have to come from higher federal customs authorities, they added.

The yacht in question, named "Dilbar," measures 512 feet long and is valued at $600 million, both outlets report. It can accommodate as many as 24 guests in a dozen suites, as well as up to 96 crew members, according to luxury yacht comparison site YachtCharterFleet.

Putin's alleged yacht is believed to be out of reach

Satellite imagery obtained by CBS Newsshows the superyacht believed to be owned by Putin docked in Kaliningrad, a "highly militarized port in Russian territorial waters" and out of reach of U.S. sanctions. Marine Traffic data suggests "the Graceful," Putin's alleged yacht, left Germany two weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.

On Tuesday, the "hacktivist" group Anonymous took credit for changing the yacht's call sign to "FKPTN" and its destination to "hell."

Politics

Biden asks Congress for $10 billion to help Ukraine and counter Russia

Posted March 3, 2022 at 9:29 AM EST
A U.S. Army helicopter refuels at an airfield in Zamosc, Poland.
Sean Gallup
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Getty Images
A U.S. Army helicopter refuels at an airfield currently being used by the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Zamosc, Poland on Tuesday. U.S. troops are in Poland to bolster NATO's eastern flank.

President Biden is asking Congress for an extra $10 billion in funding to help support Ukraine and the region as the West works to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Office of Management and Budget said on Thursday.

Here’s how the request breaks down:

  • $5 billion to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development for emergency economic and food aid to Ukraine, and help with refugees fleeing the country.
  • $4.8 billion to the Defense Department to help pay for U.S. troops in NATO’s eastern flank, enhanced cyber capabilities, and defense equipment.
  • $91 million to the Treasury Department to help its efforts to enforce sanctions.
  • $59 million to the Justice Department to support its new task force investigating Russian oligarchs.
  • $30 million for the Energy Department to help Ukraine connect to the European electrical grid.
  • $21 million for the Commerce Department to help enforce new export controls on technology exports to Russia.

Congress is working on a spending deal to fund the government through Sept. 30. It recently passed a stop-gap spending bill to fund the government through March 11. This new request would be for emergency funding, on top of that overall spending deal.

On the ground

16,000 foreign volunteers are coming to fight for Ukraine, defense ministry says

Posted March 3, 2022 at 9:22 AM EST

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have rush to enlist in the military in the week since Russia launched a full-scale invasion. And Ukraine’s defense ministry says they’ll soon get more help, from roughly 16,000 military volunteers who it says will soon arrive to help the fight against Russia.

The volunteers come from different countries, the ministry said, without going into detail.

The ministry also updated its accounting of Russian losses, saying the Russian force has lost around 9,000 people, 217 tanks, 30 aircraft and 31 helicopters.

Russia is pounding Ukraine’s largest cities, creating terror and driving more than 1 million people to flee Ukraine for safety. But one Ukrainian man who enlisted after the invasion says the Russian tactics are also making people angry.

"They are trying to spread panic among the civilians, bombing them, but they get different response to such actions," said Volodymyr Omelyan, who enlisted after previously serving as Ukraine's infrastructure minister.

"People are getting furious and people are ready to kill Russians," he said. "Even civilians which never took any kind of gun in their hands."

Some of those signing up to fight are Belarusians. One man named Nikolai whom NPR's Leila Fadel spoke to at a military training center in western Ukraine said he and other Belarusians want to fight Russian forces that are attacking Kyiv and other cities.

"He says he wants to see Russians hanging from every lamp post," Fadel said.

On the ground

A witness describes the danger on Kherson's streets

Posted March 3, 2022 at 8:58 AM EST

Yevhenia Revenko sees Russian tanks on her street and snipers on nearby roofs. But she’s run out of food. She’s got to venture out.

“Right now I’m looking for at least one open shop for buying some food and water,” she tells NPR by phone, breathless, as she scours the streets of her hometown of Kherson, in southern Ukraine, for a shop selling anything to sustain her and her mother.

At one point, the line drops. But she calls back a few minutes later. She’d dashed into a shop, where she found cooking oil and macaroons. She bought as much as she could.

Russian armed forces claim that Kherson is now the first major Ukrainian city to fall under their control. But there’s some confusion over its status. On Wednesday, a senior U.S. defense official said Kherson “is very much a contested city.” On Thursday, city officials and residents told NPR it’s still in Ukrainian control.

There’s a webcam live-streaming video of Kherson’s city hall — which still shows the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag flying out front.

“We check it each day and each night before we go to sleep. We are looking if the flag is still ours,” Revenko says.

In a statement Wednesday, Kherson Mayor Igor Kolykhayev said “armed visitors” had entered city buildings. But he denies negotiating with Russian forces. He also issued an appeal for a “green corridor” to evacuate the injured and bring in food and medicine. He says there have been a number of civilian casualties, including a 14-year-old boy.

Revenko woke up to explosions Thursday.

“It was much louder than usual. I live in an apartment house and it was shaking for a while,” the Ph.D. student says. “When the shaking stopped, I didn’t know whether it was me who was shaking or the house!”

She says some of her friends have confronted Russian troops on the streets of Kherson, yelling at them to go home. Revenko shared with NPR a video, recorded by one of her friends but not verified independently by NPR, that shows a woman waving two Ukrainian flags in front of a row of Russian tanks.

As Revenko spoke to NPR by phone, she narrated the movements of Russian soldiers about 30 yards directly in front of her — and snipers, whom she assumes are Russian, on nearby rooftops.

“They’re throughout the city,” she says. “I really miss my life when they weren’t here. I want back those days.”

Fallout

1 million refugees have fled Ukraine in a single week

Posted March 3, 2022 at 8:36 AM EST
Adults and children walk on the tracks in front of a blue and yellow train.
Christopher Furlong
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Getty Images
Refugees arrive at the Hungarian border town of Zahony on a train that has come from Ukraine on Thursday.

The number of refugees fleeing across the borders of Ukraine has reached a grim milestone, the U.N. said, as Russia's siege of key cities across the country extended into Thursday.

A million people have fled across the borders of Ukraine since Russian forces invaded one week ago, the U.N.'s top refugee official said on Wednesday.

"In just seven days we have witnessed the exodus of one million refugees from Ukraine to neighbouring countries," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi wrote in a tweet.

People stand near boxes of jackets and goods inside a crowded railway station.
Hannibal Hanschke
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Getty Images
People fleeing Ukraine get food, clothing and toiletries at Hauptbahnhof main railway station on Wednesday in Berlin.
A man helps a woman get off a train with her toddler in Lviv, Ukraine.
Daniel Leal
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AFP via Getty Images
A woman holds her child as she arrives from Odessa at a train station in Lviv, western Ukraine, on Thursday.

The new total of refugees from Ukraine amounts to a little more than 2% of the country's total population of 44 million.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), abouthalf of the refugees are in Poland.Hungary, Moldova and Slovakia are the next top destinations, with smaller numbers fleeing to other European countries.

A crowd of people bundled up in jackets walks down a ramp over water, against a foggy sky.
Andreea Campeanu/Getty Images
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Getty Images Europe
People who fled the conflict in Ukraine arrive on the Romanian side of the border in Isaccea, Romania, on Tuesday.
Refugees coming from Ukraine stand outside a shelter tent at the Ukrainian-Romanian border in Siret on Wednesday.
Daniel Mihailescu
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AFP via Getty Images
Refugees coming from Ukraine stand outside a shelter tent at the Ukrainian-Romanian border in Siret on Wednesday.

Grandi added in his tweet: "For many millions more, inside Ukraine, it's time for guns to fall silent, so that life-saving humanitarian assistance can be provided."

Here's how you can support the people of Ukraine.

A man, woman and child, seen from the back, stand holding bags near a sign in a wooded area.
Attila Kisbenedek
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AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainian refugees stand in Lonya, Hungary, close to the Hungarian-Ukrainian border on Wednesday.

Sports

Russian and Belarusian athletes are banned from Paralympics, one day before Games begin

Posted March 3, 2022 at 8:33 AM EST
International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons talks to the media Thursday during a press conference at the 2022 Winter Paralympics. In a stunning reversal, Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from the Winter Paralympic Games for their countries' roles in the war in Ukraine, the International Paralympic Committee said Thursday in Beijing.
Dita Alangkara
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AP
International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons talks to the media Thursday. In a stunning reversal, Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from the Winter Paralympic Games for their countries' roles in the war in Ukraine, the International Paralympic Committee said Thursday in Beijing.

Russian and Belarusian athletes are now banned from the Beijing Paralympics, the International Paralympic Committee said on Thursday — one day before the Games begin.

Multiple countries were threatening not to compete over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Paralympics’ leader also said that a “rapidly escalating situation” made it impossible to guarantee athletes’ safety.

The decision reverses the policy that the Paralympic body announced just one day ago when it said Russian and Belarusian athletes would be allowed to participate in the Games that run from March 4 –13. That stance was in line with an International Olympic Committee recommendation from Monday, in which it said Russian and Belarussian athletes and officials shouldn’t be invited to compete in international events — but the IOC also said that in cases where the timeframe is too short, those athletes could compete under neutral status.

“We are absolutely against their participation,” a U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee spokesperson told NPR on Wednesday.

IPC President Andrew Parsons said on Thursday that “an overwhelming number” of member nations have expressed their positions on the Russian and Belarusian teams.

Like the Olympics, the Paralympics has long insisted that politics and sports should not be mixed. But, Parsons said, “the war has now come to these Games.”

The ban will affect 83 athletes, Parsons said, extending his apologies to them. But he added that if they were allowed to compete, “We will likely not have a viable Games.”

He also said there were real security concerns about the athletes’ village.

“Ensuring the safety and security of athletes is of paramount importance to us and the situation in the athlete villages is escalating and has now become untenable,” Parsons said, without going into detail.

Military moves

Russian forces may have seized their first city as their convoy stalls near Kyiv

Posted March 3, 2022 at 8:15 AM EST
Rubble covers the ground near the entrance of a building.
Sergey Bobok
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AFP via Getty Images
A building entrance was damaged when Russian forces shelled Constitution Square in Kharkiv on Wednesday. That same day, forces claimed control of the southern port city of Kherson.

Russia claimed overnight that the port city of Kherson fell to its control: A spokesperson told NPR that the Ukrainian flag still flew over city hall, but a Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson told the Associated Press that the city was under "complete control" of Russian forces.

If true, that makes Kherson — a strategic port city on a river near the Black Sea — the first city Russia has seized since it invaded Ukraine more than a week ago.

Russian missiles and rockets are continuing to bombard Ukraine's capital and second-largest city, Kyiv and Kharkiv. But a Russian military convoy has been stalled now for three days, some 20 miles north of Kyiv.

There are several reasons behind the convoy's lack of progress, Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman tells Morning Edition. He points to logistics problems involving fuel and food, as well as the fact that the ground isn't frozen, forcing Russians to keep to the roads. There's also resistance from Ukrainian forces — to the surprise of Russian forces as well as American observers.

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"There was a sense just a few weeks ago in the Pentagon that Russian troops might grab Kyiv in as little as two days," Bowman says. "But Ukrainian forces and civilians are putting up a stubborn fight right now, and here we are a week into the invasion."

Listen to Up First here.

Russia has fired more than 450 missiles (many of them short-range) so far, U.S. officials said yesterday. And Bowman says his sources at the Pentagon and elsewhere say "this could only get more intense as the days go on."

U.S. officials are expecting more aggressive missile and artillery fire going forward like we're seeing in Kharkiv. While Russian troops were initially targeting military locations like barracks, fuel supplies and airfields, the city is now taking hits to more of its civilian infrastructure and residential areas.

Bowman says that could be because those places are near military targets. Or it could mean a "much more ugly phase" of the attack, he says, noting that Russia has mounted other indiscriminate attacks in places like Chechnya and Syria.

What else could Russia be planning?

Bowman notes troops are making more headway in the south of Ukraine, where Russian troops from occupied Crimea are joining the fight and several thousand amphibious forces have landed on the coast to move up to Kherson.

With the seizure of Kherson, he says, Russian forces could either move north toward Kyiv or west toward Odessa on the coast. Also, Russian troops pushing into other towns and cities in southern Ukraine could enter the separatist-controlled Donbass region, where half of the Ukrainian army is located, and potentially box their forces in.

But it's still too early to know.