War in Ukraine: High-level talks between Russia and Ukraine fail to make progress

Published March 10, 2022 at 8:14 AM EST
Vice President Harris and Polish President Andrzej Duda hold a press conference in Warsaw on Thursday.
Aleksey Filippov
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Pool/AFP via Getty Images
A Ukrainian serviceman says goodbye to his girlfriend before departing at the central train station in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on the way to the capital city of Kyiv on Wednesday.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he proposed plans to create humanitarian corridors. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after the talks, "We will define Ukraine's destiny by ourselves." Also, the U.K. sanctioned prominent Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and blocked his plan to sell Chelsea Football Club, and Ukraine has legalized handguns — but only for use against Russians.

Here's what we're following today:

Harris in Poland: The vice president is in Warsaw today and will be in Bucharest tomorrow as a signal of U.S. support for allies on NATO’s eastern flank.

Abramovich sanctioned: The U.K. alleges that he is closely involved with several Russian individuals and entities that have played a role in destabilizing Ukraine.

Ukrainian civilians prepare to defend their cities: A new law in Ukraine legalizes the broad use of pistols and other guns to boost resistance.

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Diplomacy

How Russia's war in Ukraine could end, according to Condoleezza Rice

Posted March 10, 2022 at 2:14 PM EST
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, wearing a green dress and black sweater, sits in a white chair talking to someone in a suit.
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Getty Images North America
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits "FOX And Friends" on Nov. 5, 2014, in New York City.

When it comes to Russia's war on Ukraine, what can we learn from the past — and apply in the future?

Morning Edition host Rachel Martin spoke to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a lifelong Soviet specialist who now serves as the director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Asked how the war could end, Rice says: "I will give you my hopeful scenario, which is that: The Russians have had enough, that they recognize that the goal of overthrowing the Zelenskyy government, bringing the Ukrainian people into submission is not going to be realized. And that Vladimir Putin, who after all controls the narrative inside Russia at this point, decides that he is going to dress this up as victory."

Listen to their conversation here and read highlights below.

Two weeks after its invasion, Russian forces are escalating their attacks on civilians without making major progress in Kyiv. Was this war predictable?

I don't think that the war as it has unfolded was predictable, but I think that it was predictable that [Russian President] Vladimir Putin would eventually try and realize, through some means, his dream of reconstituting, really, the Russian Empire. So perhaps he thought this was his last chance to pull Ukraine back from the West.

What was unpredictable, maybe even to Vladimir Putin, was that this would be such a hard slog for the Russian armed forces, which have not been able to subjugate the Ukrainian people despite the extraordinary force that they've thrown at them.

And so he miscalculated. But ... I do think that to come to this point there is something going on with him that is less calculating, less rational in a sense, than before.

Ukraine's military and civilians are putting up a fierce resistance. Is Putin prepared to occupy a democratic country?

This has to be a moment of truth, if you will, in Russia ... you know they're a little bit familiar with insurgencies, and they know that they can be very, very tough. It's hard to imagine that they want to try to actually bring their soldiers into the center of a city like Kyiv and watch 60-year-old women shoot their soldiers every time they come around the corner. That won't be a pretty picture.

It looks to me that what they're trying to do instead is bomb the population into submission, make it so difficult for the Ukrainian people that eventually the Ukrainian leadership — just to save their people — will have to negotiate in some way.

Ukraine's president has been calling for the West to implement a no-fly zone over his country, but the Biden administration says doing so could trigger a "full-fledged war" in Europe.

No-fly zones are a very, very serious undertaking ... you'd probably have to suppress Russian air defenses, you would have to be prepared to shoot Russian aircraft out of the sky if, in fact, they were attacking. And so I do think it risks wider war.

If I could wave a magic wand and go back a little bit and arm the Ukrainians more quickly and more fully, with the kinds of munitions that we now see going in — maybe even earlier with air power that could have done this. But I think that at this point, a no-fly zone is probably, wisely, not in the offing.

On the infamous 2019 phone call between former President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Trump (who was later impeached over that call) appeared to withhold military assistance in exchange for a Ukrainian investigation into his potential 2020 rival, now-President Joe Biden.

This should have started after the Crimea invasion in 2014. That's when the arming of Ukrainian forces should have started.

I have said publicly that I think that the call was inappropriate ... but the Trump administration actually did then arm Ukrainians with lethal weapons, for the first time in our history. And so had we continued that and maybe accelerated it, we might be in a better position now.

The U.S. recently rejected a Polish plan to share its fighter jets with Ukraine, highlighting the complexity of giving Ukrainians air power without stoking conflict. Should NATO supply them with aircraft?

It is hard, once the war has begun, to figure out how to get ... aircraft to the Ukrainians, because they're going to have to fly from somebody's air bases, and one can understand why the Poles might feel that that would make them a target.

I'm not on the ground and familiar with the ins and outs of the real difficulties they may be facing in getting the planes there. But I do think that we need to figure out a way to continue to deny the Russians air superiority.

The good news is they haven't been able to establish air superiority. If we can continue to get javelins and stingers into [Ukraine], the Russians [are] gonna have a tough fight trying to fly low. So while I hope they can find a way to get the fighter aircraft there, to enhance Ukraine's capabilities, I hope we can also accelerate this ground-to-air war that appears to be at least bringing down some of the Russian air force, and particularly their helicopters.

What is the most likely scenario for how this conflict ends?

I will give you my hopeful scenario, which is that: The Russians have had enough, that they recognize that the goal of overthrowing the Zelenskyy government, bringing the Ukrainian people into submission is not going to be realized. And that Vladimir Putin, who after all controls the narrative inside Russia at this point, decides that he is going to dress this up as victory.

What would a Russian victory mean for the liberal world order?

It's disastrous for the liberal world order, it's disastrous for Europe, it's disastrous for all the values that we hold dear. And that's why we can't let Ukraine lose.

Ukraine is the last defensible territory between the Russian military and our [NATO] Article 5 commitments to the Baltic states and Poland and Romania. And so I think we have to throw everything at it that we can — that the administration believes will not widen the war — and do it as quickly as we can.

And I just want to say one other thing: This is not the fault of the Russian people, and I ache for them. ... For 30 years they have come out of their isolation — the ability to travel, and the ability to go to school in California and in London and in Boston, and this is a horrible time for them, too.

My greatest hope is that when this is over — and God willing it will be over — that Vladimir Putin does not think he can continue to be president of Russia. Because who can imagine Vladimir Putin ever again walking into No. 10 Downing Street or into the White House? This is an isolated Russia, and once we've hopefully helped Ukraine, saved independent Ukraine, we have to turn to the question of what is Russia's future.

Social media

Russia’s new media landscape: VPN demand grew by 1,092%, and VKontakte sees record video use

Posted March 10, 2022 at 1:27 PM EST

March 8 was a record day for Russian social media platform VKontakte, which says it handled an unprecedented 1.75 billion video views — another sign of its rapid growth in the two weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine. But there are also signs that Russians are trying to find news outside of state-approved networks, despite restrictions on media.

VKontakte already had a large reach before the war began. But its daily audience has grown by 300,000 users in the past two weeks, the company said.

As it announced the growth, the Russian company didn’t mention that part of the spike could be explained by the lack of competition. Russian censors have banned Facebook and other popular sites, and a number of companies, from YouTube to TikTok, have restricted Russian state media in Europe and imposed limitations in Russia.

Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor also moved against foreign social media networks, and Russia banned news reports that aren’t favorable to its military.

Against the backdrop of those restrictions, demand in Russia for virtual private networks (VPNs) surged — peaking at 1,092% on March 5, compared to the daily average in the week before the Feb. 24 invasion, according to Top10VPN, a British-based digital privacy company. Russians can use VPNs to try to get around censorship and communication shutdowns.

Demand for VPNs in Russia eased a bit early this week, Top10VPN said. But as of Wednesday — the day Russia’s military attacked a maternity hospital in Ukraine —demand had grown again, 956% higher than it was before the war.

Business

All three major music labels have now suspended operations in Russia

Posted March 10, 2022 at 12:56 PM EST
 The logo of Universal Music Group as seen on a building. Universal Music Group announced on Tuesday that it is suspending operations in Russia. Both Sony Music and Warner Music made similar announcements on Thursday.
Valerie Macon
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AFP via Getty Images
Universal Music Group announced on Tuesday that it is suspending operations in Russia. Both Sony Music and Warner Music made similar announcements on Thursday.

The entertainment exodus from Russia is continuing. Both Sony Music and the Warner Music Group announced Thursday that they would be suspending operations in Russia.

All three of the U.S. major music labels have now ceased operations in the country: Universal Music Group was the first to do so with its announcement on Tuesday.

In Sony’s announcement, the company directly acknowledged the war in Ukraine.

“Sony Music Group calls for peace in Ukraine and an end to the violence,” the company statement said. “We have suspended operations in Russia and will continue our support of global humanitarian relief efforts to aid victims in need.”

Warner Music is majority-owned by Len Blavatnik, an oligarch who is often described as a British-American businessman and philanthropist after becoming a naturalized dual-citizen of both countries. Blavatnik was born in Ukraine and raised in Russia to a Jewish family.

In its statement, Warner Music said it would continue humanitarian efforts. The company has said it is supporting the International Committee of the Red Cross and has a direct link to a donation page on its Instagram profile.

"Warner Music Group is suspending operations in Russia, including investments in and development of projects, promotional and marketing activities, and manufacturing of all physical products,” the company said in a statement sent to NPR. “We will continue to fulfill our agreed upon obligations to our people, artists, and songwriters as best we can as the situation unfolds. We remain committed to supporting the humanitarian relief efforts in the region.”

Music labels aren’t the only entertainment entities moving away from Russia. Major Hollywood studios, including Warner Brothers and Sony Pictures Entertainment, have said they aredelaying the release of new blockbusters in Russia.

The gaming industry has done the same.

Sony said Wednesday it would stop all sales of PlayStation consoles in Russia and disable the PlayStation Store. Microsoft did the samewith its Xbox consoles and online services last week.

Electronic Arts also said it would “stop sales of our games and content including virtual currency bundles, in Russia and Belarus while the conflict continues.”

On a larger scale, Nintendo announced Tuesday that “in light of recent world events,” it was delaying the release of Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp to all markets. The game was scheduled to come out on April 8.

Correction: An earlier version of this story characterized Len Blavatnik as a "Russian oligarch." A spokesperson representing Blavatnik objected, pointing out that Blavatnik was born in Ukraine during the Soviet era. The spokesperson also objected to the term "oligarch." NPR reported on Blavatnik's history and his disdain for the word "oligarch" in this 2017 story.

Russian foreign ministry insists pregnant woman in hospital attack photos ‘has some very realistic make-up’

Posted March 10, 2022 at 11:42 AM EST
British newspapers on Thursday reflect international reaction to the report of an airstrike on Mariupol hospital in Ukraine on Wednesday.
Alastair Grant
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AP
British newspapers on Thursday reflect international reaction to the report of an airstrike on Mariupol hospital in Ukraine on Wednesday.

Facing widespread condemnation for its attack on a maternity hospital in Ukraine, Russia’s government acknowledges that it carried out the airstrike — but it insists the facility was being used as a paramilitary base. An injured pregnant woman seen being helped out of the site “actually played roles” in the photos, Russia’s embassy in the U.K. said.

The woman is Marianna Podgurskaya, the embassy said, adding that she is a beauty blogger. An Instagram account belonging to a woman in Mariupol identified as Podgurskaya corresponds to many details from the attack, including her advanced pregnancy — which she was documenting through photos.

The woman suffered a cut over her eye and was seen carrying items down a hospital staircase littered with debris after the attack. A different pregnant woman is seen in photos that made international headlines as men carried her on a stretcher through the bombed-out hospital’s courtyard.

The embassy said Podgurskaya “has some very realistic make-up,” implying she was not actually injured in the attack. That tweet and others quickly set off a streak of angry replies from people refuting the Russians’ account.

“She actually played roles of both pregnant women on the photos,” the ministry said. But even a casual glance at the images show the two women have different features, are wearing different clothes and have suffered different injuries.

Ukrainian officials say the attack killed three people, including a child, and injured at least 17 other people. They say many of the building’s occupants were able to reach a shelter before the building was hit. In its own version of events, Russia’s foreign ministry says the hospital was being used as a “human shield” by the Azov Battalion, a paramilitary regiment that has long fought Russian separatists.

World response

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says U.S. is looking to end war in Ukraine, not expand it

Posted March 10, 2022 at 10:55 AM EST
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the goal is to end the war in Ukraine, not to expand it when talking about the potential of a no-fly zone.
Jim Watson
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AFP via Getty Images
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the goal is to end the war in Ukraine, not to expand it when talking about the potential of a no-fly zone.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is continuing his calls for the Western world to implement a no-fly zone over his country, but U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said doing so could result in a larger war — something the Biden administration wants to avoid.

“Introducing American service members in Ukraine, on Ukrainian territory or American pilots into Ukrainian airspace, whether on a full or on a limited basis, would almost certainly lead to direct conflict between the United States, between NATO's and Russia, and that would expand the conflict,” Blinken said on Wednesday during a visit with Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

Truss shared a similar position during her visit to the State Department.

“The reality is that setting up a no-fly zone would lead to a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia, and that is not what we are looking at,” Truss said. “What we are looking at is making sure that the Ukrainians are able to defend their own country with the best possible selection of anti-tank weapons and anti-air defense systems.”

Images and videos of the destruction happening in Ukraine, including a children’s hospital in Mariupol, are hard to view. Truss called the attack on the hospital "abhorrent, reckless and appalling."

Blinken said the goal is to "end this aggression" and prevent more deaths, but noted that getting involved would effectively bring NATO into conflict and in direct opposition to Russia.

"We want to make sure that it’s not prolonged to the best of our ability; otherwise it’s going to turn even deadlier, involve more people, and I think potentially even make things harder to resolve in Ukraine itself," he said.

Not all lawmakers are OK with the Biden administration’s position.

At a hearing this week, California Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat, said, “We’re going to watch a genocide happen in Ukraine if we don’t create our own red lines.”

On the ground

Today in Tim Mak tweets: A granny's call for a no-fly zone, the race to save pets and more

Posted March 10, 2022 at 10:20 AM EST

NPR reporter Tim Mak has a fresh Twitter thread of updates and anecdotes from Ukraine.

These are some of the topics he's covering this morning:

  • The destruction in Mariupol. Russian forces bombed a maternity hospital in the southeastern port city on Wednesday, wounding at least 17 people and killing three, including a child. The images are devastating, and Mak points out that observers of Russia's aggression in Syria would say it's a standard part of the playbook.
  • Calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Valentyna, a 67-year-old grandmother who had evacuated from Kyiv to western Ukraine, stopped Mak on the street to express her support for a no-fly zone. "We just ask the world. We suffer for no reason," she said. "We want to go home. I cry every day and say I want to go home. It is very difficult."
  • People who refuse to leave their pets behind. Mak also met a dog named George the Great, who hurt his paw before being evacuated from Kyiv. He notes that the relationship goes both ways: Ordinary Ukrainians are rescuing animals from danger, while support animals are providing them comfort.

  • Freelance reporters operating solo. Mak has also met freelance reporters, who he says are coordinating logistics and covering a war for as little as $250 a story.
  • Scenes from the road. A shy child in a purple jumpsuit, roadside billboards extolling the heroism of Ukraine's armed forces, a classic rock song and more.

Read it all here.

Business

Goldman Sachs is the 1st major Wall Street bank to pull out of Russia

Posted March 10, 2022 at 10:14 AM EST
The Goldman Sachs logo.
Richard Drew
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AP
Goldman Sachs says it's winding down its operations in Russia, Wall Street's first major departure from the country.

Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. says it's shuttering its operations in Russia, two weeks after the country first invaded Ukraine.

The move marks Wall Street's first major departure from Russia, joining a growing list of retailers, oil companies, cultural events and sporting competitions to suspend operations in the country.

"Goldman Sachs is winding down its business in Russia in compliance with regulatory and licensing requirements," a spokesperson told NPR in a statement. "We are focused on supporting our clients across the globe in managing or closing out pre-existing obligations in the market and ensuring the wellbeing of our people."

Bloomberg broke the news on Thursday, daysafter it reported that a portion of the investment bank's staff was temporarily relocating from Moscow to Dubai. 

Check this page for updates to this story throughout the day.

Diplomacy

High-level talks between Russia and Ukraine yield no major progress

Posted March 10, 2022 at 9:17 AM EST
A crowd of reporters speak to a woman in a red suit wearing a face mask.
Ozan Kose
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AFP via Getty Images
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova speaks to media as the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers meet for talks in Antalya, Turkey, on Thursday.

The foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia on Thursday met in the highest-level negotiations between the two nations since Russia invaded eastern Ukraine more than two weeks ago. The talks, held in Antalya, Turkey, were the fourth set of diplomatic discussions thus far, and like the previous efforts, failed to lead to any significant breakthroughs to end the violence.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he proposed plans to create humanitarian corridors out of Mariupol and a 24-hour cease-fire.

He and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did not reach any agreements.

"We will define Ukraine's destiny by ourselves," Lavrov said at a press conference after the meeting. Lavrov dismissed reports of Russian forces targeting civilians as propaganda and justified an attack on a Ukrainian hospital because, he said, it was overtaken by Ukrainian extremists.

Read more here.

On the ground

A child died in Russia’s attack on maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine says

Posted March 10, 2022 at 9:10 AM EST
Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday. A Russian attack has severely damaged a maternity hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials say.
Evgeniy Maloletka/AP
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AP
Ukrainian emergency employees and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from the damaged by shelling maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday. A Russian attack has severely damaged a maternity hospital in the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials say.

Three people died in Russia’s air strike that devastated a hospital complex in Mariupol, including one child — a girl — Ukrainian officials say. At least 17 people were wounded in the attack, which came as many Mariupol citizens were awaiting word of a humanitarian corridor that might carry them to safety.

The attack on a working maternity hospital and other medical buildings in the complex is beyond an atrocity, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. In a national address, he said the hospital could not have posed a threat to anyone.

“What kind of country is this - the Russian Federation, which is afraid of hospitals and maternity hospitals and destroys them?” he asked, at times switching to Russian in an effort to reach the public in Russia. Referring to Russia’s excuse for invading its neighbor two weeks ago, he added, “What was that? Was it the denazification of the hospital?”

Zelenskyy said on Thursday that the attack was covered on Russian TV — but in a distorted way.

“It was on their talk show. But not a word of truth was said. The Russians were lied to that there had been no patients in the hospital and no women or children in the maternity hospital. The Russians were lied to that ‘nationalists’ had allegedly taken up positions there.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday that maternity hospital No. 1 in Mariupol was in fact an operations base for the Azov Battalion, a paramilitary regiment that for years has fought Russian separatists.

Video from inside the hospital shows a series of brightly painted rooms, their floors littered with broken glass and debris. In one room, a tiny pink changing pad still sat atop its table, with supplies tucked underneath. Small mattresses and what looks to be a crib were also splayed on the floor.

The attack on the hospital was a war crime, Zelenskyy said. He pledged to hold anyone who is misleading the Russian public responsible.

“War crimes are impossible without the propagandists who cover them up,” he said. “I want to tell them one thing: you will bear responsibility just as all those who give orders to bomb civilians.”

The Russians’ plan, the president said, is to create “a humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine.” And that part of their effort is succeeding, he said.

Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians to keep resisting and fighting the Russian force. And he pledged, “After the war, after our victory, we will rebuild everything that was destroyed.”

Media

Nordic newspapers aim to counter propaganda by translating war articles into Russian

Posted March 10, 2022 at 8:58 AM EST
The National Museum in Copenhagen is decorated in Ukrainian colors on Thursday. Editors of three major newspapers in Denmark, Sweden and Finland released a joint statement saying they will publish war news in Russian to counter propaganda.
Liselotte Sabroe
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Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images
The National Museum in Copenhagen is decorated in Ukrainian colors on Thursday. Editors of three major newspapers in Denmark, Sweden and Finland published a joint column saying they will translate their war news into Russian to counter propaganda.

Top Nordic newspapers have developed a plan to get reliable news to Russian readers, in response to stringent new laws that have stifled independent reporting and disrupted media operations within its borders.

The leaders of three major newspapers in Denmark, Sweden and Finland say they will translate some of their coverage of the war into Russian to keep people there informed, the Associated Press reports.

“Our aim is to give Russians impartial and reliable news,” the editors-in-chief of Denmark’s Politiken, Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter and Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat wrote in a joint column, according to Sweden's English-language news site,The Local. “Ukraine’s tragedy cannot be communicated to the Russian public through propaganda channels."

It's been less than a week since the Russian government passed new legislation making it illegal to publish information that counters the Kremlin's narrative about the war in Ukraine — including the very act of calling it a "war" or "invasion." Journalists could face fines and up to 15 years in jail.

Several Western outlets have since suspended their work in Russia, while other journalists have left the country altogether.

On top of that, as NPR's Charles Maynes reported on Monday, nearly all remaining independent Russian media outlets — including the Echo of Moscow radio station and Dozhd, or TV Rain — have shut down in recent days after the Kremlin accused them of spreading disinformation. Russia is also restricting social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Editors described their new initiative as a bid to counter pro-Kremlin propaganda about Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

“Russian mothers need to know that their sons have been sent into the unknown, that innocent civilians have been killed and wounded, that millions of Ukrainians have been forced to flee their own country, and that millions of Ukrainian children have had their childhoods destroyed,” they wrote.

On the ground

Ukraine’s national police urges civilians to use their guns to attack Russians

Posted March 10, 2022 at 8:35 AM EST
Members of the public are given weapons training at an administration building in Lviv, Ukraine, on March 07, 2022. Ukraine's government is urging people to take up arms against Russia's invading force -- even passing a law that removes liability for anyone who's fighting the invaders.
Dan Kitwood
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Getty Images
Members of the public are given weapons training at an administration building in Lviv, Ukraine, on Monday. Ukraine's government is urging people to take up arms against Russia's invading force -- even passing a law that removes liability for anyone who's fighting the invaders.

A new law in Ukraine legalizes the broad use of pistols and other guns to boost resistance against the Russian invasion. It also frees them of criminal liability in using those guns, similar to how soldiers are viewed under the law.

Ukraine’s national police is spreading word of the new law, saying citizens have a sacred duty to defend their country. It’s also reminding people that guns are only to be used against occupying forces, not for crime.

Private citizens in Ukraine are normally only allowed to own guns if they have a specific reason, such as hunting, target shooting or personal protection. Owners have to renew licenses and registration. But the country lacks an overall legal statute on guns, and enforcement of the rules has long been inconsistent — especially in recent years, with fighting persisting in eastern Ukraine.

The relaxed gun laws are only in effect during martial law; the emergency legislation says people will have to turn in their weapons within 10 days of martial law being lifted.

International reaction

Vice President Harris visits Poland to talk with allies about how to help Ukraine

Posted March 10, 2022 at 8:16 AM EST
VP Harris and Polish President Duda stand at podiums in from of Polish and American flags.
SAUL LOEB/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
US Vice President Kamala Harris and Polish President Andrzej Duda hold a press conference in Warsaw, Poland, Thursday.

Vice President Harris and Polish President Andrzej Duda on Thursday decried Russia for its attacks on Ukrainian hospitals.

Harris said the world had witnessed “atrocities of unimaginable proportion” with the attacks, and said the United States and Poland were unified “in partnership and solidarity” to support Ukraine’s humanitarian and security needs. Duda spoke about the “barbarous aggression” from Russia, saying it had “the features of a genocide,” noting particularly the bombing of a maternity hospital in Ukraine.

“It is obvious to us that, in Ukraine, Russians are committing war crimes,” Duda said.

Harris expressed support for the ongoing war crimes investigation. “Absolutely there should be an investigation, and we should all be watching,” she said.

Harris is in Warsaw today and will be in Bucharest tomorrow as a signal of U.S. support for allies on NATO’s eastern flank.

She is talking to leaders about what else they can do to help Ukraine and its neighbors, which are grappling with an exodus of Ukrainians fleeing the country.

Harris and Duda were asked about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s request for fighter jets in the wake of the U.S. rejection of the Polish proposal to share its fleet.

“The United States and Poland are united in what we have done and are prepared to do to help Ukraine and the people of Ukraine, full stop,” Harris said. She said the U.S. military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine would be ongoing, noting the $13.6 billion passed by Congress last night. She said the situation required being “nimble and swift” in providing assistance.

Duda said Poland was providing assistance “as best we can,” but emphasized Poland was a member of NATO and needed to consider the security of NATO as a whole. “We decided to put those jets at the disposal of NATO, not expecting anything in return,” he said. “But we wanted NATO as a whole to make a common decision.”

Harris’ visit happens to coincide with a public break between the United States and Poland over how to respond to Ukraine’s request for Russian-made fighter jets that its pilots know how to fly. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed support for the idea on Sunday.

On Tuesday, Poland surprised Washington by publicly proposing to send its fleet of MiG fighter jets to the U.S./NATO base in Ramstein, Germany. But the Pentagon has now rejected the idea altogether, saying it risked being seen as “escalatory” by Moscow.

Harris said the United States would give another $50 million through the UN World Food Program to help with humanitarian aid for Ukrainians. She also spoke about the new security and humanitarian funding passed by Congress.

Duda thanked President Biden, Harris and the U.S. Congress for humanitarian assistance and the "effective sanctions" on Russia, saying the U.S. was in the "vanguard" of the sanctions, which he said were working. He said more sanctions were needed.

Duda said Poland has received 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine in private homes and in hotels, praising Polish people for their help. He said he had asked Harris for help because of high fuel prices. “I’m going to be hugely grateful for any form of support,” he said.

Sanctions

The U.K. sanctions Roman Abramovich, halting his plan to sell Chelsea Football Club

Posted March 10, 2022 at 8:02 AM EST
A white-haired man in a green jacket stands in front of a window.
Paul Gilham
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Getty Images
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich looks from the stands during a match in London in 2016.

The United Kingdom announced another raft of sanctions on Thursday, targeting seven oligarchs with links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Among them is Roman Abramovich, who the British government says has an estimated net worth of $12 billion and is "one of the few oligarchs from the 1990s to maintain prominence under Putin." The businessman also owns Chelsea Football Club, the Premier League team that has transformed into a world powerhouse under his two decades of ownership.

Abramovich has previously denied being close to Putin and doing anything meriting sanctions, multiple outlets have reported. But the U.K. alleges that he is closely involved with several Russian individuals and entities that have played a role in destabilizing and undermining Ukraine, and says he benefitted financially from that involvement.

"This includes tax breaks received by companies linked to Abramovich, buying and selling shares from and to the state at favourable rates, and the contracts received in the run up to the FIFA 2018 World Cup," it wrote. "Therefore, Abramovich has received preferential treatment and concessions from Putin and the Government of Russia."

After coming under pressure following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Abramovich said earlier this month that he was transferring "stewardship and care" of the club to the trustees of its charitable foundation.

He then announced last week that he would sell the club and put the net proceeds into a new charitable foundation that will benefit "all victims" of the war in Ukraine, with the Guardian reporting there has already been interest from several parties.

The new sanctions appear to deal a blow to that plan, as they effectively freeze Abramovich's assets and prohibit his transactions with U.K. individuals and businesses. They also ban him and any of his vehicles from traveling to the U.K.

Government officials acknowledged that these particular sanctions will impact the soccer community, and say they are taking steps to protect it.

"Today’s sanctions obviously have a direct impact on Chelsea & its fans," tweeted culture secretary Nadine Dorries. "We have been working hard to ensure the club & the national game are not unnecessarily harmed by these important sanctions."

The government issued a special license on Thursday enabling the club to continue certain soccer-related activities, like playing matches, paying staff and allowing existing ticket-holders to attend matches — all while, as Dorries put it, "depriving Abromovich of benefitting from his ownership of the club."

She acknowledged that this development "brings some uncertainty," but promised the government would keep working with clubs and the league to keep them in play.

"Football clubs are cultural assets and the bedrock of our communities," she added. "We're committed to protecting them."

The U.K. government says Thursday's sanctions are part of its ongoing efforts to isolate Putin and his associates in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine, and to undermine his efforts by hurting the Russian economy.

"Today’s sanctions are the latest step in the UK’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian people," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement. "We will be ruthless in pursuing those who enable the killing of civilians, destruction of hospitals and illegal occupation of sovereign allies."