War in Ukraine: Zelenskyy plans to address Congress as Russian strikes kill more Ukrainian civilians

Published March 14, 2022 at 8:14 AM EDT
A half-dozen rooms are seen from above without a roof in a damaged building.
Sergey Bobok
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AFP via Getty Images
Firemen work to clear the rubble and extinguish a fire by a heavily damaged building after a Russian rocket exploded in Ukraine's second city Kharkiv on Monday.

Nearly 600 civilian fatalities have been confirmed in the last three weeks, including a U.S. journalist. Officials from Ukraine and Russia met via video in a fourth round of talks, while the U.S. held high-level talks with China after reports that Russia had asked China for military assistance.

Here's what we followed today:

Airstrikes in western Ukraine: Air raid sirens were sounding repeatedly in Lviv, causing new alarm among residents and those who have fled from Russian attacks farther east.

Pregnant woman in Mariupol dies: The photo of the woman on a stretcher being carried from the shelling of a maternity hospital was shared widely.

Chechen lead Ramzan Kadyrov says he is in Ukraine: The strongman and Putin ally claims he directed Chechens on the ground with Russian forces near Kyiv.

United Nations allocates $40 million to help Ukraine

Posted March 14, 2022 at 2:49 PM EDT

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said he will allocate $40 million in additional emergency funds to help Ukrainians as Russia’s invasion of their country continues.

The money will go toward critical supplies including food, water, medicine and cash assistance to people inside the country.

“Ukraine is on fire and being decimated before the eyes of the world. This tragedy must stop,” Guterres said in a tweet. “We need an immediate cessation of hostilities and serious negotiations based on the principles of the UN Charter and international law.”

While speaking outside a meeting of the Security Council, Guterres said the impact Russia’s war is having on civilians is “reaching terrifying proportions,” with countless women and children being killed.

Zbigniew Rau, the chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, told the group that Russia has deliberately targeted schools and hospitals as if humanitarian law doesn’t exist.

Roads and airports have also been destroyed by Russian forces. Access to water and electricity has also been cut for hundreds and thousands of people, Guterres said.

“With each passing hour two things are increasingly clear. First, it keeps getting worse and second whatever the outcome, this war will leave no winners, only losers,” he said.

On the ground

More than 160 private cars managed to flee Mariupol on Monday

Posted March 14, 2022 at 2:13 PM EDT
Russia's invasion of Ukraine takes a toll on Mariupol.
Evgeniy Maloletka/AP
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AP
A woman walks past a burning apartment building after shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Sunday.

People desperate to leave the besieged city of Mariupol safely fled in more than 160 private vehicles, the Mariupol City Council said on Monday.

The vehicles left the seaside town heading along the coast to Berdyansk, southwest of Mariupol. From there, the civilian convoy was to move inland toward Zaporizhzhia, where vital assistance, from first aid to help finding further accommodation, awaits them.

The cars safely reached Berdyansk and were continuing to move in the direction of Zaporizhzhia the council said on its Telegram feed. It said it has confirmation that an agreed-upon humanitarian corridor in the area was holding.

Mariupol has suffered terribly during the Russian attack, as aerial footage posted by the paramilitary group the Azov Battalion shows. The city council reposted the video on their Telegram page.

More than 2,500 people have died in Mariupol, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday, citing city authorities. That's according to CNN.

Casualty estimates such as that have been hard to come by and nearly impossible to independently confirm, due to the chaotic and dangerous conditions in Ukraine.

On the ground

Ukraine is prepared for attacks near its western borders, deputy prime minister says

Posted March 14, 2022 at 2:00 PM EDT
Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olga Stefanishyna, speaks during a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General, after their bilateral meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on January 10, 2022. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP) (Photo by JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images)
JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olga Stefanishyna, speaks during a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General, after their bilateral meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on January 10, 2022. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP) (Photo by JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images)

Kyiv is still under Ukrainian control despite more than two weeks of Russian attacks aimed at capturing the capital city. But Russia fired on a military base in western Ukraine, near the border with Poland, over the weekend, killing more than 30 people.

Now, Russian forces appear to be preparing for a new attempt to take the seat of power.

Olga Stefanishyna, Ukraine's deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, told Morning Edition's Leila Fadel that the attacks in the west were not a surprise.

“We were prepared for any kind of scenario, including assaults on the western part of Ukraine,” Stefanishyna said. “Putin is, again, raising the stakes in the negotiations before the next round of bilateral talks. He has started to put ultimatums which are going beyond [the] Ukrainian border.”

Stefanishyna said Putin’s ultimatums aim to discourage other nations from cooperating with Ukraine and dismantle threats about the implementation of a no-fly zone. NATO and the United States have made it very clear that they will not implement a no-fly zone because it would be seen as direct combat with Russia, thereby risking a wider war.

Of that decision, Stefanishyna said, “It's very important not to think what would be the consequences of taking it, but rather thinking what would be the consequences of not taking it.”

The deputy prime minister still holds out hope for an initiative to stifle Russia’s air defense as its forces continue to attack civilians.

“The position of NATO was precise and clear," Stefanishyna said. "But still, there is also a U.N. platform who could still make this decision, even having Russia in the security council. So it is still legally possible to take this decision and also to protect the sky for humanitarian purposes. And in that regard, there should be no difference between Russia and Iran or any other country.”

According to Stefanishyna, more than 30 rockets targeted the training base near the border with Poland, the largest in Ukraine. Many were taken down by Ukraine's anti-air defense system.

“This shows that there is no secure area," she said. "They have the capacity, but we have the highest level of preparedness.”

Russian forces have taken two Ukrainian officials as hostages since the start of the invasion. Fadel asked Stefanishyna if she had any concern for her own security.

“We do not really put a line between officials and the citizens of Ukraine who are suffering enormously. They have been assassinated. The woman have been raped and many were killed. Many, many children were left without their parents and families. Many children have died. This is a crime against humanity. This is not a war. This is a terror.”

Russian forces are regrouping outside Kyiv, but made no appreciable advances over the weekend or today, a senior U.S. defense official said.

“I have the full confidence that Kyiv is standing on its two legs, and Kyiv will resist at any price,” Stefanishyna said.

On the ground

Russian strikes haven't hampered U.S. and NATO efforts to send weapons to Ukraine

Posted March 14, 2022 at 1:02 PM EDT

A senior U.S. defense official said Russia’s airstrikes over the weekend in western Ukraine have not hampered U.S. and NATO efforts to send weapons to Ukraine.

Those weapons have been going into Ukraine from the west, where there is no Russian military presence. The Russian strikes, which killed more than 30 people at a Ukrainian military base near the border with Poland, were seen as sending a message to the U.S. and NATO.

But the U.S. official said it would be a "wrong conclusion" to say that the strike had an impact on the U.S. effort to assist Ukraine. The official said U.S. military aid continued to flow to Ukraine, part of a $350 package authorized by President Biden a couple weeks ago. “We are fast at work on filling that out,” the official said.

The Biden administration authorized an additional $200 million over the weekend.

The U.S. said the Russian attack on western Ukraine was carried out by "more than a couple dozen" air-launched cruise missiles fired from Russian air space. The official noted that even if there was a no-fly zone over Ukraine, it would not have been able to prevent this attack.

On the ground, there’s still heavy fighting in many parts of the country, but Russia made no appreciable advances over the weekend or today.

peak 2022

Yes, Elon Musk did just challenge Putin to a fight

Posted March 14, 2022 at 12:15 PM EDT

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is offering to fight Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that if he wins, Putin will have to withdraw his military forces from Ukraine.

“I hereby challenge Владимир Путин to single combat,” Musk tweeted, using Cyrillic in an apparent bid to make sure Putin understood him. He added, “Stakes are Україна” -- Ukraine.

The tweet quickly gained wide notice and a bit of backlash, as critics accused Musk of using a catastrophic event to draw attention to himself through outlandish statements.

But the billionaire insisted that he is serious, going so far as to direct a follow-up tweet at the Kremlin with the question, “Do you agree to this fight?”

Musk has previously sided with Ukraine in its war to repel Russia’s invasion, including sending terminals to set up his Starlink satellite-based internet service in Ukraine.

Law

Australia, Netherlands launch a new case against Russia over 2014 passenger jet downing

Posted March 14, 2022 at 12:04 PM EDT
Four people stand next to a broken airplane wing in a field.
Dmitry Lovetsky
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AP
In this Aug. 1, 2014, file photo, Australian and Dutch investigators examine a piece of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 plane in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.

Australia and the Netherlands are pursuing a new legal case against Russia for its alleged role in the downing of a commercial flight in 2014, citing the continued need to hold Moscow accountable following its invasion of Ukraine.

The two governments initiated legal proceedings in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on Monday, according to a statement from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The case centers on the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

The passenger jet crashed over Ukraine on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July 2014, killing all 298 people on board — most of whom were from the Netherlands.

International investigators concluded that the flight was shot down by a Russian Buk missile that had been transferred into rebel-held eastern Ukraine, though Moscow has repeatedly denied involvement.

Australia and the Netherlands have formally held Russia responsible since 2018. Morrison said that Russia unilaterally withdrew from negotiations in October 2020 and has refused multiple requests to return to the table ever since.

"The Russian Federation’s refusal to take responsibility for its role in the downing of Flight MH17 is unacceptable and the Australian Government has always said that it will not exclude any legal options in our pursuit of justice," Morrison said.

He noted that Dutch prosecutors are also trying four individual suspects in absentia. The Netherlands has also sued Russia at the European Court of Human Rights.

The Dutch government said in a separate statement that the countries have also notified the U.N. Security Council of their latest move.

"The government will continue to do everything in its power to call Russia to account for the downing of flight MH17 and to uphold the international legal order," said Dutch foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra. "We cannot and will not allow the death of 298 people, including 196 Dutch nationals, to go unanswered. The current events in Ukraine underscore the vital importance of this."

Dutch officials said this development is unrelated to Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine. Instead, they painted it as the carefully prepared and recently finalized result of consultations between Australia and the Netherlands, after Russia pulled out of talks. But Morrison drew a more direct connection between the two.

"Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine and the escalation of its aggression underscores the need to continue our enduring efforts to hold Russia to account for its blatant violation of international law and the UN Charter, including threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty and airspace," he said.

Social media

Demand for VPN web access in Russia soared by 2,000% ahead of Instagram ban

Posted March 14, 2022 at 11:29 AM EDT
Visitors to Instagram's Russian website were greeted Monday with a "Request forbidden" notice, after the popular social media platform was blocked.
Screenshot by NPR
Visitors to Instagram's Russian website were greeted Monday with a "Request forbidden" notice after the popular social media platform was blocked.

Russians no longer have access to Instagram through official channels as the Kremlin tightens its grip on media. But it seems that many Russians are looking for ways around the ban: demand for virtual private networks, or VPNs, shot up by more than 2,000% on Sunday, according to Top10VPN, a digital privacy company.

“Demand for VPN services peaked at 2,088% on March 13 compared to the average daily demand in the week leading up to the invasion of Ukraine,” reports Top10VPN, which is based in the U.K.

Russians can use VPNs to try to elude censorship and website bans, and to avoid web traffic throttling that regulators have sometimes imposed to hobble sites they deem unfriendly.

The Instagram.ru site became inaccessible Monday, with visitors greeted by a “Forbidden” notice.

The Instagram ban is the Putin regime’s latest step to control information about its invasion of Ukraine. It's also a retaliation against Meta, Instagram’s parent company, for loosening its speech standards around Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to allow posts within Ukraine to include calls for violence against the invaders.

The ban affects 80 million Russians, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said, adding, “This is wrong.”

“The Russian government has decided to block Instagram in Russia,” Mosseri said, “cutting off millions of people from loved ones and friends around the world. We know that over 80% of people in Russia on Instagram follow an account from outside of Russia.”

Before the ban took effect, Russian influencers bid tearful farewells to their followers, saying that Instagram was a main part of their lives and incomes.

World reaction

Squatters have taken over a London mansion linked to a Russian oligarch

Posted March 14, 2022 at 10:50 AM EDT
A line of police stands outside of a mansion, where people and banners are on the balconies.
Chris J Ratcliffe
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Getty Images
Police officers in riot gear arrive at the building reportedly belonging to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripsaka on Monday in London.

Squatters have taken over the London mansion suspected of belonging to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire who has been sanctioned by both the United States and the United Kingdom.

Riot police arrived at the luxury property in Belgrave Square on Monday after squatters entered the mansion and covered it with flags, SkyNews reports. Footage from the scene shows a Ukrainian flag hanging from one window, and handwritten banners reading "This property has been liberated" and "Putin go f*** yourself."

Westminster Police said on Twitter that officers arrived at the property around 1 a.m. local time after being called, and made contact with "a small number of people inside." It added that specialist officers were on the scene and would determine the appropriate next steps based on "the safety of the officers and those inside and ... the large and complex nature of this property."

"Officers have completed a search of the property in Belgrave Square and are satisfied there are no protestors inside," the department said two hours later. "We continue to engage with those on the balcony as we balance the need for enforcement with the safety of all involved."

The BBC has identified the squatters as belonging to a group called the London Makhnovists. The name references Ukrainian anarchist Nestor Makhno, who revolted against the Russian White Army in 1917-1923.

"By occupying this mansion, we want to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine, but also the people of Russia who never agreed to this madness," they said in a statement reported by Reuters and other outlets. "You occupy Ukraine, we occupy you."

The group added that the mansion would "serve as a centre for refugee support" and that it would target other properties as well.

Reuters reports that London High Court documents from 2007 identified Deripaska as the beneficial owner of the Belgrave Square mansion. The previous year, a judge said the property — along with another house he owned outside of London — was worth the equivalent of $52 million.

People stand in front of a mansion where a blue banner says "This property has been liberated."
Chris J Ratcliffe
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Getty Images
Protesters occupy a building reportedly belonging to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripsaka on Monday in London..

The squatters' occupation comes less than a week after the U.K. government targeted Deripaska and six other Russian oligarchs with a raft of sanctions including an asset freeze and travel ban.

Deripaska has stakes in EN+ Group, a major extractives and energy company that owns UC Rusal, one of the world's biggest aluminum producers. U.K. officials said he has an estimated net worth of roughly $2.6 billion and a "multi-million pound property portfolio" in the U.K.

The U.S. sanctioned Deripaska in 2018 for operating in the energy sector of Russia's economy and "having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation."

U.S. officials said at the time that he had also been investigated for money laundering, and accused of "threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering."

"There are also allegations that Deripaska bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman, and had links to a Russian organized crime group," it added.

Deripaska sued over the sanctions in 2019, but a U.S. judge dismissed the suit last June.

According to Reuters, Deripaska said before the U.K. imposed its sanctions that peace was needed as soon as possible in Ukraine, and that Russia would be different after the conflict.

Diplomacy

Zelenskyy to deliver a virtual address to Congress on Wednesday

Posted March 14, 2022 at 10:10 AM EDT
A giant screen displays an image of Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking through a video link to people a peace rally for Ukraine on Saturday Florence, Italy.
Carlo Bressan
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AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks through a video link to people a peace rally on Saturday in Florence, Italy. He will address the U.S. Congress on Wednesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will give a virtual address to the U.S. Congress on Wednesday morning.

Zelenskyy already spoke to many lawmakers over a Zoom call on March 4, as the U.S. Congress seeks to help his country fend off an invasion from Russia.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that hosting the address will help convey lawmakers’ support to the people of Ukraine “as they bravely defend democracy.” They said Congress is committed to passing legislation that will hobble the Russian economy, as well as provide assistance to Ukraine.

Last week, Congress approved a bill that provided $13.6 billion for military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

More than 248,000 people entered Ukraine since the start of the war, officials say

Posted March 14, 2022 at 10:01 AM EDT
Women and children who have fled war-torn Ukraine walk to board a train to transport them to Przemysl main train station after crossing the Polish-Ukrainian border on March 10, 2022 in Medyka, Poland.
Omar Marques
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Getty Images
Women and children who have fled war-torn Ukraine walk to board a train to transport them to Przemysl main train station after crossing the Polish-Ukrainian border last month.

More than 248,000 people have returned to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, according to Ukraine’s border guard service.

On Sunday alone, more than 17,000 people — nearly 14,000 of whom were Ukrainian — entered the besieged country.

“Most of them are men who are ready to fight against the aggressor,” the agency said in a statement. “We are thankful to our compatriots!”

Some people traveling into Ukraine are helping to defend the country against Russian military forces, while others venturing into the conflict zone include humanitarian aid workers and journalists.

Still, the vast majority of those moving across Ukraine’s border are fleeing the violence.

The UN Refugee Agency estimates that 2.8 million people have been displaced due to the ongoing fighting in Ukraine, the majority of whom are crossing into neighboring Poland, which is a NATO member.

More than 62,000 people left Ukraine on Sunday, according to the border guard service, with about 41,000 of them going to Poland.

Shared humanity

7 Ukrainian refugees are taken in by a Russian immigrant in Germany

Posted March 14, 2022 at 9:42 AM EDT
People who fled the war in Ukraine wait to be called to board a humanitarian train to relocate them to Berlin on March 13, 2022 in Krakow, Poland. More than half of the 2.5 million Ukrainians fleeing war have crossed into neighboring Poland since Russia began a large-scale war on Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Omar Marques
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Getty Images
People who fled the war in Ukraine wait to be called to board a humanitarian train to relocate them to Berlin on Sunday in Krakow, Poland. More than half of the 2.5 million Ukrainians fleeing war have crossed into neighboring Poland since Russia began a large-scale war on Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Three women and four kids who fled Russia’s war on Ukraine have a new temporary home in Germany, after a Russian immigrant offered them space in his small apartment.

The seven refugees spent five days trekking from Uman in central Ukraine to Poland and then to Aschaffenburg in Bavaria, where Ilya Lyalkov, 30, opened his home to them, according to public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk. He's lived in Germany for 18 years.

Lyalkov's apartment is only 40 square meters -- about 430 square feet. But he agreed to host the Ukrainians soon after Russia’s invasion began at the request of his mother, who is acquainted with one of the women, the news outlet reports. He's been helping them fill out applications for government aid, a process that could end with their finding new housing.

In addition to squeezing seven people into his apartment, Lyalkov made another change: He took down a Russian flag that had been hanging in his living room. It’s been replaced by a smaller Ukrainian flag, with the word FRIEDEN — “peace” — written on it.

World reaction

Ireland is welcoming Ukrainian students and teachers to its schools

Posted March 14, 2022 at 9:40 AM EDT
Close to 3 million refugees have left Ukraine since Russia invaded last month. Schools in Ireland are preparing to welcome Ukrainian students and teachers.
Christopher Furlong
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Getty Images
Close to 3 million refugees have left Ukraine since Russia invaded last month. Schools in Ireland are preparing to welcome Ukrainian students and teachers.

Some 2.8 million Ukrainians have fled their homeland since Russia invaded late last month, according to a tracker from the United Nations refugee agency.

The vast majority have gone over the western border to Poland, followed by other Eastern European nations. But many are also making their way to Western Europe, where some countries are still figuring out how best to accommodate them.

For example: After facing widespread criticism for initially granting only 300 refugee visas, United Kingdom officials announced over the weekend that they will place no cap on the number of Ukrainian refugees who can live with host families.

Hosts will receive the equivalent of roughly $457 a month from the government — if they can house refugees for a minimum of six months — through the new "Homes for Ukraine" initiative, whose website launches today.

Meanwhile, in Ireland, officials are taking steps to welcome Ukrainian students and teachers into their school system.

The Irish Times reported on Saturday that Ukrainian teachers will be fast-tracked through the registration process in order to teach in Irish schools, a move aimed at meeting the needs of the Ukrainian families arriving within its borders in the coming weeks and months.

Officials expect between 80,000 and 100,000 Ukrainian nationals to move to Ireland, the newspaper reports, with a third likely to be children.

Education Minister Norma Foley cited the need to draw on the expertise of Ukrainian teachers and language-speakers to help students integrate into Irish classrooms.

“The Teaching Council is working closely with the Department to assist and prioritise the registration of any Ukrainian nationals who arrive in Ireland and who are teachers," a spokesman for the Department of Education said, according to The Times.

Foley has said her department is working on several ways to make sure Ukrainian refugees can continue their education in Ireland.

According to the Irish Independent, that includes maintaining a database of which schools have space for more students, establishing a helpline for principals and making resources like English language teaching and psychological supports available to schools.

Citing a group representing English-language support teachers,The Times reports the government has faced criticism for falling short in this area even before Russia's invasion of Ukraine sparked a refugee crisis.

Aftermath

The pregnant woman from the iconic Mariupol photo has died. Many more are at risk

Posted March 14, 2022 at 8:35 AM EDT
A woman lying on a stretcher, with her head turned towards the camera, is carried through rubble outdoors by several first responders in uniform.
Evgeniy Maloletka
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AP
First responders and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from a maternity hospital that was damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Wednesday. The woman and her baby have since died.

After Russian forces shelled a maternity hospital in Mariupol last week, images of the destroyed building and distraught evacuees made headlines around the world.

One particularly memorable photo shows a pregnant woman lying bloodied on a stretcher, being carried through the bombed-out courtyard by several first responders. The scene, seen as embodying Russia's aggression toward innocent civilians, was shared widely.

The woman and her baby have since died, the Associated Press reported on Monday.

The unidentified woman suffered a crushed pelvis and detached hip in Wednesday's attack and was rushed to another hospital on the front lines.

"Realizing she was losing her baby, medics said, she cried out to them, 'Kill me now!' " the AP reports.

Surgeon Timur Marin told the AP that medics delivered the baby via cesarean section but saw "no signs of life." They were unable to save the mother's life after more than 30 minutes of resuscitation efforts, he added.

Medics said that at least the woman's husband and father came to retrieve her body, so that she would not end up in one of the city's mass graves.

Ukrainian officials said last week that three people — including a child — died in the maternity hospital attack, and 17 others were injured.

Another pregnant woman, famously photographed descending the ruins of a staircase with cuts on her face and wearing a pair of pajamas, gave birth to a daughter on Friday.

More than 4,300 births have occurred in Ukraine since Russia first invaded less than three weeks ago, and 80,000 Ukrainian women are expected to give birth in the next three months, according to a joint statement from UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the U.N. Population Fund.

The groups said on Sunday that oxygen and medical supplies — including those for managing pregnancy complications — are running "dangerously low."

The high-profile assault on Mariupol's hospital is far from the only one of its kind, with the World Health Organization documenting 31 attacks on health care since Russia's invasion. They have killed and injured civilians, destroyed facilities and ambulances and disrupted access to essential services, the groups said.

They called for an immediate end to all attacks on health care in Ukraine, describing attacks on vulnerable patients and dedicated healthcare workers “an act of unconscionable cruelty."

“The health care system in Ukraine is clearly under significant strain, and its collapse would be a catastrophe," the officials wrote. "Every effort must be made to prevent this from happening … International humanitarian and human rights law must be upheld, and the protection of civilians must be our top priority."

The U.N. says some 596 civilians were killed and 1,067 injured between Feb. 24 and Saturday, though it believes the actual figures are much higher. As of Saturday morning, 85 children had been killed and more than 100 injured.

On the ground

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov says he is in Ukraine

Posted March 14, 2022 at 8:16 AM EDT
Two mean sitting across from each other leaning forward on a desk.
ALlexey Nikolsky
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AFP via Getty Images
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2019.

Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov says he is in Ukraine, directing Chechen fighters who are helping Russia’s invasion force close near Kyiv. Kadyrov posted video and messages showing him meeting with soldiers. He also promised to hunt down Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Kadyrov posted the short video to his Telegram channel, and he then mocked media reports that Ukrainian officials were attempting to track him down. Kadyrov gave new details about his movements, saying the video was filmed in Hostomel — an early focus for Russian forces intent on capturing the Antonov airport.

The Chechen president added that he had recently been 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) outside of Kyiv, and he suggested that he is now even closer to the capital.

Kadyrov is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, helping him keep Chechnya under Moscow’s control. It appears that he’s not the only Chechen leader in Ukraine: Adam Delimkhanov, a Russian parliament deputy, is also helping the Russian invasion. Both Kadyrov and Delimkhanov have been accused of serious human rights abuses.

On the ground

More talks are set for today after Russia's bombardment of western Ukraine

Posted March 14, 2022 at 8:02 AM EDT
Three people in red jackets crouch down on the ground in a wooded area.
Dan Kitwood
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Getty Images
Paramedics find low ground after an air-raid siren sounds on Sunday on the outskirts of Novoiavorivsk, Ukraine.

Russian forces stepped up their deadly assaults in western Ukraine over the weekend, hitting a military site just 15 miles from the Polish border in an attack that killed at least 35 people and wounded more than 100.

And Ukraine's civilian death toll continues to rise, with nearly 600 fatalities confirmed in the last three weeks. That now includes U.S. video journalist Brent Renaud, who Ukrainian officials say was killed on Sunday while reporting on fighting in a suburb of Kyiv.

Catch up on more news roundups from Saturday and Sunday here.

This week kicks off with more diplomatic talks on the agenda. Officials from Ukraine and Russia will meet today via video, while U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will meet with China's top diplomat following reports that Russia has asked China for military assistance.

NPR's Lauren Frayer spoke toMorning Edition from the western city of Lviv. Many refugees from many other parts of Ukraine have fled to the western region for safety, since it was relatively unscathed — until now. Do attacks like yesterday's bring fears that Russia's war is widening?

"Yeah, well, we just spent five hours in the basement in a bomb shelter this morning, if that's any indication," Frayer said. "Air raid sirens are going off pretty constantly here, a huge increase from past days. These are airstrikes in the west, but Russian ground forces are still believed to be hundreds of miles away from here — so we're hoping this is not a new front in a ground war. The latest airstrikes, though, have definitely caused panic in the west of Ukraine."

NPR's Ryan Lucas drove out to the site of yesterday's strike to speak with villagers who remain on edge. One elderly man told him that everyone is very anxious that anything could happen. Frayer adds there are fears that stray munitions could hit a NATO nation, which would pull other countries into the war.

Frayer also got through to a city official in Mariupol, which she said was surprising since phones haven't been working for several days. The official, Petro Andrushchenko, told her that the city is still without electricity or gas, and he personally has one day of food left.

"It's absolutely terrible. It's absolutely destroyed now," he said, describing the view from his window. "It's more like ruin from historical movie about World War II. But it's the real time."

Andrushchenko says he's hoping to get some civilians out of the hard-hit city today if Russian attacks pause, but that it wasn't yet safe to do so. Frayer could hear the pounding of artillery behind him as they spoke.

There's always hope that today's talks could lead to some sort of lull in the violence, Frayer says, but notes that this is the fourth round of talks involving the same negotiators. It is a different format, however, taking place on video instead of in person. They could last two days, through tomorrow.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy released a video early this morning saying he's optimistic for the talks, and crediting them with facilitating some of the humanitarian corridors through which thousands of civilians have been able to evacuate so far.

"But thousands and thousands more are still waiting," Frayer says.