Ukrainian leaders say civilians are increasingly suffering and dying as Russia’s assault on Ukraine enters its third week.
Several hospitals have been attacked, around two million people have fled the country and others are struggling to leave. On the outskirts of Kiev, hundreds of residents of towns occupied by Russian troops fled on Wednesday. Some said they hadn’t eaten in days, while others told harrowing war stories.
“The occupiers came to our house and they were ready to shoot us,” said Iuliia Bushinska, a resident of Vorzel. “They took our house, our car, they took our papers. So we have to start our life over from the beginning. We survived things that I never experienced in my life,” Bushinska said.
The Biden administration warned on Wednesday that Russia could signal its intention to escalate the conflict further. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said recent statements by Russia have raised concerns that it could use “chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or create a false flag operation using them.” .
Meanwhile, the United States has increased economic pressure on Russia: The House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to enshrine in law a ban on U.S. imports of Russian oil and energy products that President Joe Biden imposed to punish Moscow. He also channeled $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine as part of a larger spending bill.
But despite repeated pleas from Ukrainian leaders, U.S. defense officials have moved further away from military demands that the Biden administration says could escalate the conflict: a NATO-backed no-fly zone in over Ukraine and plans to bring planes to Ukraine.
►Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are due to meet in Turkey on Thursday, the highest-level meeting between the two sides before the conflict began. Turkish President Recep Erdogan said he hoped “the meeting between ministers will pave the way for a permanent ceasefire”, according to The Guardian.
►The World Health Organization said it had confirmed 18 attacks on medical facilities since the start of the Russian invasion.
► Russian artillery continues to bombard the suburbs of Kiev. Oleksiy Kuleba, the head of the Kyiv region, said: “Russian troops are methodically turning our life into hell. Day and night people have to sit underground without food, water or electricity.”
► President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said around 35,000 civilians have used the humanitarian corridors to flee to western Ukraine to escape the fighting.
► The Pentagon on Wednesday seemed keen to move beyond what had become an awkward disconnect with a NATO ally: a Polish proposal to equip Ukraine with MiG fighter jets. Defense officials said it would run a “high risk” of escalating war.
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VISUALS:Mapping and tracking the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Russian strike against maternity hospital in Ukraine sparks outrage
A Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol left 17 injured on Wednesday, another on civilians as the Kremlin continues its assault on Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy tweeted that Russian troops launched a “direct strike” on maternity. He called it an “atrocity” and said: “People, children are under the wreckage.”
“How much longer will the world be an ignorant accomplice in terror,” Zelenskyy tweeted. “Close the sky now!” Stop the killings! You have power but you seem to lose your humanity.
The attack on the Mariupol hospital complex was widely condemned by refugee and humanitarian advocates.
– Rick Rouan, Joey Garrison and Maureen Groppe
Vice President Harris on clean-up mission with Poland
Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in Warsaw on Wednesday, hours after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Polish leaders the United States does not support the transfer of additional fighter jets to the military. Ukrainian air, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.
“We believe the best way to support Ukraine’s defense is to provide them with the weapons and systems they need most to defeat Russian aggression, especially anti-armour and air defense,” Kirby said.
Harris wants to show that the United States is firmly united with its NATO allies in supporting Ukraine.
“This trip comes at an important time as the United States continues to show unity with our NATO allies and provide support to the people of Ukraine in response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,” tweeted Harris after landing in Warsaw.
– Maureen Groppe, Josh Meyer and Rebecca Morin
US citizens among those who volunteered to fight in Ukraine
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has given the small country’s embassy in Washington an unexpected role: a recruiting center for Americans who want to join the fight.
Diplomats working at the embassy in a townhouse in Georgetown are receiving thousands of offers from volunteers seeking to fight for Ukraine, even as they work on the much more pressing issue of securing weapons to defend against increasingly brutal violence. Russian assault.
“They really feel that this war is unjust, unprovoked,” said Ukraine’s military attache, Major General Borys Kremenetskyi. “They feel they have to go help.”
American volunteers represent only a small subset of foreigners seeking to fight for Ukraine, who in turn represent only a tiny fraction of the international aid that has flowed into the country. Yet it is a reflection of the passion, supercharged in the age of social media, that the attack and mounting civilian casualties have sparked.
“These are not mercenaries who come to make money,” Kremenetskyi said. “These are people of good will who come to help Ukraine fight for freedom.”
The US government discourages Americans from going to fight in Ukraine, which raises legal and national security issues.
– The Associated Press