Russia expands military offensive ahead of UN meeting
As civilian and military deaths mount in Ukraine, the United States is expected to intensify its flood of economic coups against Moscow on Friday and Russia plans to advance its talking points at the UN Security Council.
The United States should move forward to revoke Russia’s permanent normal trade relations status, which would allow new tariffs on Russian imports. President Joe Biden is expected to make the announcement on Friday, according to a source familiar with the decision. This decision will require congressional action.
A diplomatic confrontation is also expected at the UN Security Council on Friday. Russia asked the meeting to discuss its allegations regarding “US military biological activities on the territory of Ukraine.”
The Biden administration has forcefully denied that claim, saying Moscow could lay the groundwork for its own attack.
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“This is exactly the kind of false flag effort that we warned Russia might launch to justify a biological or chemical weapons attack,” Olivia Dalton, spokeswoman for the US mission to the United Nations, said Thursday evening. United.
On Friday, Russian airstrikes hit near airports in western Ukraine, including one on Lutsk airfield that left two Ukrainian servicemen dead and six injured, according to the head of the surrounding region of Volyn, Yuriy Pohulyayko. Air raid alerts were also sent to Ivano-Frankivsk residents seeking shelter, Mayor Ruslan Martsinkiv said. The eastern town of Dnipro was also targeted for the first time. One person was killed in three strikes early on Friday, Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Heraschenko said.
The strikes came after Russian forces attacked the Ukrainian city of Mariupol as civilians face increasingly harsh conditions with scarce food, fuel and electricity. The bodies are buried in mass graves.
Meanwhile, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday and informed Putin that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, with whom Niinistö also spoke on Friday, was ready for direct talks with Putin.
►The World Health Organization said on Friday it had verified 29 attacks on health facilities, workers and ambulances in Ukraine, which left 12 dead and 34 injured.
►The United Kingdom on Friday extended its economic sanctions against Russia, targeting the 386 Russian lawmakers who recognized two regions in eastern Ukraine as independent.
►Congress passed $13.6 billion in humanitarian aid for Ukraine and its allies as part of a larger spending package that received bipartisan support from the Senate on Thursday.
►The Kremlin showed great confusion in its response to international outrage over the bombing of a children’s hospital. An official said the hospital had been emptied of patients and was being used as an extremist base. Later, Russia completely denied responsibility and claimed the attack was staged.
► According to the UN refugee agency, more than 2.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country, including more than 1.4 million via Poland. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Thursday that around 100,000 people had fled in the past two days through evacuation corridors.
►The Ukrainian nuclear regulator said on Friday that the electricity supply to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had not yet been restored, Reuters reported. The news comes after the The International Atomic Energy Agency has declared On Thursday, Ukrainian nuclear regulators informed the agency that they had lost contact with the Chernobyl plant. A Russian bombardment also targeted a nuclear research facility in Kharkiv.
Satellite photos show 40-mile Russian military convoy on the move
The line of vehicles, tanks and artillery was outside the Ukrainian capital but had been blocked for days before the new movement. Images from Maxar Technologies showed armored units near Antonov Airport and vehicles in forests with towed howitzers in position to open fire, Maxar reported.
Jack Watling, a researcher with a British defense think tank, the Royal United Services Institute, said it appeared the convoy was moving west around the city to the south as Russian forces were probably aimed at a “siege rather than an assault” on Kiev. the The UK Ministry of Defense said Russian troops were likely trying to “reset and reposition” with further operations in Kyiv likely.
Zelenskyy fears Russia may use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has denied Russia’s accusation that Ukraine is preparing to attack with chemical or biological weapons, and he said the accusation itself is a bad sign.
“It worries me a lot because we have often been convinced that if you want to know Russia’s plans, that’s what Russia accuses others of,” he said in his nightly address to the nation.
Russia said it uncovered plans to create secret labs in Ukraine to produce biological weapons.
“I am a reasonable person. The president of a reasonable country and a reasonable people. I am a father of two children,” Zelenskyy said. “And no chemicals or other weapons of mass destruction were developed on my land. The whole world knows that.
His comments came as the United States and other Western leaders expressed similar concerns that Russia hinted as its possible next step in using such weapons in the war in Ukraine.
One night two weeks ago in southwestern Ukraine, children inside a Jewish orphanage felt the ground shake and saw lights flashing strangely. Bombs were falling just a mile from their home, shattering their safe world and sending them fleeing into darkness.
The children, most in pajamas and without shoes, rushed out of the orphanage and crowded onto buses for the Moldovan border as the Russian army launched its invasion of Ukraine.
The trip, which ultimately took the children to Romania, left them in tears and confusion: Where would they call home now? Read more.
State Department vows to hold Russians accountable for war crimes
The United States has seen “very credible reports” of deliberate attacks by Russians against Ukrainian civilians that would be considered a war crime under international law, State Department spokesman Ned Price.
This could include the recent assault on the Maternity and Children’s hospital complex which killed 3 people as well as strikes against schools, residential buildings, public buses and ambulances, he said.
Price said the United States would do everything possible to hold accountable every Russian political leader, military commander and military who participates in a war crime. “Criminal prosecution is a possibility,” he added.
The United States has the ability to conduct its own thorough investigations and will support appropriate international investigations, Price said.
News broke last week that WNBA star Brittney Griner had been arrested by Russian authorities and was facing drug trafficking charges.
Like many WNBA stars, Griner played overseas the offseason to earn up to four times the salary she receives playing for the Phoenix Mercury. She was returning to her team in Russia, UMMC Ekaterinburg, when she was reportedly found with vape cartridges in her hand luggage at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. The Russian customs service said the cartridges contained cannabis-derived oil, which could carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Friends, family and US officials are trying to get Griner out of Russia, but diplomatic relations between the countries are said to be nearly non-existent since Russia invaded Ukraine. It’s unclear whether Griner’s stature as a well-known international sports figure from the United States will help or hurt his situation. Read more.
— Jenna Ortiz, Dana Scott and Emily Horos, Arizona Republic
Contribute: The Associated Press