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Scholz demands cease-fire in call to Putin

March 10, 2022

German Chancellor Scholz and French President Macron told the Russian president that any resolution to the war needed to come through negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.

Smoke rises after shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine
Ukrainian authorities said aid workers cannot reach Mariupol due to heavy fightingImage: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo/picture alliance
  • US warns of chemical weapons attack in Ukraine
  • Zelenskyy decries hospital bombing as "genocide"
  • US House approves $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine, European allies
  • EU leaders to discuss economic fallout from Russian attack
  • Ukraine's ex-President Poroshenko tells DW Putin's 'blitzkrieg' has 'failed'

This live updates article has been closed, for the latest on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, please click here

Zelenskyy says Moscow tank attack targeted human corridor

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russian forces of targeting a humanitarian corridor in the city of Mariupol in an operation of "outright terror."

Zelenskyy said that, while some 100,000 people have been evacuated the country's cities in just two days, some city residents have no way out.

The president said he had decided to send a convoy of trucks into the besieged port city with food, water, and medicine. However, he said, "the occupiers launched a tank attack exactly where this corridor was supposed to be."

"They knew what they were disrupting. They have a clear order to hold Mariupol hostage, to torture it, to carry out constant bombardment."

"The world needs to know that. It has to admit it. We are all dealing with a terrorist state," Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy also said the city of Volnovakha was "under attack" in a similar way to Mariupol.

Mariupol's mayor says more than 1,200 civilians had died in 9 days of continuous shelling that have left residents with no water, heat, or communications.

International leaders and Ukraine have accused Russia of a "barbaric" attack on a children's hospital in the besieged city.

Ukraine says Russia shelled nuclear institute

Ukrainian officials say Russian forces have shelled a nuclear research institute in Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, setting buildings on fire.

A shell hit a building where some equipment — including an experimental nuclear reactor — could release radiation if it were damaged, Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine's Interior Ministry, said.

The shelling caused a fire in a neighboring hostel that firefighters brought under control.

Authorities said they had observed no initial change in background radiation.

The Ukrainian parliament's official website had earlier said fighting close to the institute was continuing.

Russian forces have already taken over two nuclear power plants in Ukraine, raising concerns about the security of the nuclear facilities.

Ukraine says it lost contact with Chernobyl nuclear plant 

Ukraine told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it lost contact with the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. 

"Ukraine informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it had lost today all communications with the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), the day after the Russian-controlled site lost all external power supplies," the IAEA said.    

Schröder's mission to Moscow reportedly on Ukraine's request

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has traveled to Moscow to help mediate in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Politico reported on Tuesday.

In an interview with DW, Politico's Executive Editor, Florian Eder said Schröder met President Vladimir Putin on Ukraine's request.

"The Ukrainian side asked Gerhard Schröder to try and build a bridge to Vladimir Putin and to try to negotiate about possible conditions for a ceasefire or something similar," Eder said.

The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, had suggested a week ago that Schröder should mediate between Ukraine and Russia. The former chancellor is a longtime business associate of Kremlin circles and Putin.

Politico's Florian Eder on Gerhard Schröder's reported Moscow visit

Eder added it was "really very much unprecedented" for a former German leader to pursue diplomacy without telling the current government.

"I think very much that he is there on behalf of his own reputation that has been bruised and damaged in the past weeks, and he might hope to be able to repair that a little bit," he said.

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told DW that should the report be accurate, the visit was made without consulting the government. Chancellor Olaf Scholz declined to comment when asked about the report in Versailles.

Schröder's wife, So-yeon Schröder-Kim, has since posted an image of herself in central Moscow.

Estonian prime minister calls for bolstering NATO defense posture

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told DW Thursday that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had fundamentally changed how NATO countries in Europe need to think about their defense strategy.

"We need to increase our spending on defense and we need to go from a deterrence posture to defense plans, as in how do we defend our territory?" she said.

As a small country formerly part of the Soviet Union, with a significant Russian population, Estonia's inclusion into the European Union and NATO membership allow the country security guarantees.

Former Soviet countries like Georgia and Ukraine, both of which have seen Russian troops on their soil this century, enjoy no such guarantees.

"We are members of NATO, so attacking us would literally mean also attacking France, Germany or the United States," Kallas said. "We have collective defense and we are not afraid. We don't see any miitary threats right now to us, and our focus is on helping Ukraine."

'We are not afraid,' says Estonian PM Kaja Kallas

Putin downplays effects of Russia sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said that Russia would find a way to "adapt" to the massive international sanctions and pullouts of Western corporations in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

"We have to get through this period," he said, claiming that the unprecedented sanctions would make Russia stronger. "The economy will undoubtedly adapt to the new situation. This will lead to an increase in our independence, self-reliance and sovereignty," Putin said.

As Western goods and services are cut off from Russia, and shortages loom, Putin tried to reassure Russians that the Kremlin had everything under control.

"It is clear that in such moments people's demands for certain categories of goods always increase, but we have no doubt that we will solve these problems in due course in a calm way and gradually people will find their way," Putin said.           

Speaking to a televised government conference, Putin said the sanctions, in fact, hurt the West more than Russia.

"Their prices are rising, but that's not our fault. It's the result of their own miscalculations. There's no need to blame us," Putin said. "They are telling their citizens to tighten their belts, to dress warmer," Putin said, adding that Russia was continuing to export oil and gas to Europe.

Many European countries continue to be dependent on Russian oil and gas. The US and UK this week said they would ban imports of Russian petroleum products. The EU is exploring ways to wean itself from Russian energy, but has so far held back from including oil and gas in sanctions packages.

Could sanctions against Putin cripple the global economy?

Belarus says it will power Chernobyl

Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear power plant would be powered with energy from neighboring Belarus.

The energy ministry in Minsk made the announcement, according to the BelTA state news agency.

Ukraine's state-run nuclear company said Russian Forces had cut a power line supplying electricity to the site on Wednesday.

Chernobyl no longer generates electricity, but it needs the power to help cool spent nuclear fuel. The UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, reported no critical impact on safety.

Ukraine's state-owned energy firm Ukrenergo criticized Minsk's intervention saying a ceasefire was the best remedy.

"All reports by Russian and Belarusian media on the supply of the Chernobyl power plant from Belarus are a provocation aimed at aggravating the situation," it said in a statement.

Berlin government was unaware of Gerhard Schröder's reported Moscow visit

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Politico reported on Thursday.

He was visiting as part of a mediation effort to end the war in Ukraine, Politico said, referring to "sources familiar with the matter."

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told DW that should the report be accurate, the visit was made without consulting the government.

Last week Chancellor Olaf Scholz called on Schröder to step down from the boards of Russian state-owned energy companies.

Schröder is a longtime business associate of Kremlin circles and Putin. Like Scholz, Schröder is a member of the center-left Social Democrats. His close ties to Russia after leaving politics have embarrassed the party on more than one occasion in recent years.

When asked about the report by journalists on Thursday, Scholz simply replied: "I do not wish to comment on that." 

Klitschko: Kyiv turned into a 'fortress'

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said nearly half of the capital's residents had fled and the capital had been turned into a fortress.

"A little less than 2 million people have currently left. However, Kyiv has been transformed into a fortress. Every street, every building, every checkpoint has been fortified," he said in a televised address. "Even people who in their lives never intended to change their clothes, now they are in uniform with machine guns in their hands."

The former boxing champion said the city was determined not to fall to advancing Russian forces. Russian troops have taken over the outskirts in the north and northwest of the city. More attacks are expected from the northeast.

Chelsea wants sanctions relief

Chelsea Football Club said activities would continue despite the sanctions against its owner Roman Abramovich.

The UK government gave the club a special license to operate under limited terms.

Chelsea said they would ask the government to lift the restrictions, including a ban on new ticket sales.

"This will include seeking permission for the licence to be amended in order to allow the Club to operate as normal as possible," the club said in a statement.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, whose portfolio includes sports, earlier said that the sanctions on Abramovich would "obviously have a direct impact" on Chelsea but would deprive "Abramovich of benefiting from his ownership of the club."

He previously said he would sell the club, but the sanctions make that impossible.

'Putin's idea of blitzkrieg has failed' — former Ukraine president

Ukraine’s former president Petro Poroshenko has told DW that Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine has been a failure.

"Today because of the Ukrainian army, because of our soldiers, because of the unity of Ukrainian people, Putin understands that his idea of blitzkrieg has failed," Poroshenko said.

The former president told Russia to remove its forces from Ukraine and to stop killing Ukrainians.

"Please get out from Ukrainian soil. Please get out your troops. Please stop killing Ukrainians. And this is absolutely firm basis for negotiation," he added.

The former president emphasized that solidarity with allies was now vital and called for "support of Ukraine, not only by finance, not only by political means, but also in their defensive capabilities."

"Putin declared war not only to Ukraine, but the whole West. He declared war against Germany, against us, against Ukraine, against Europe," Poroshenko added.

You can watch the full interview here.

Petro Poroshenko: 'I don't trust Putin'

ECB speeds up exit from bond purchase and warns of higher inflation

The European Central Bank raised its inflation projections and cut its growth outlook owing in large part to Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine.

"The Russian invasion of Ukraine will negatively affect the euro area economy and has significantly increased uncertainty," ECB President Christine Lagarde said.

The bank now sees inflation at more than twice its 2% target this year, climbing to 5.1%, up from 3.2% previously. In 2023 and 2024, the ECB now projects inflation of 2.1% and 1.9%, respectively.

"Energy costs have risen further in recent weeks and there will be further pressure on some food and commodity prices owing to the war in Ukraine," Lagarde said.

The bank said it would accelerate its exit from bond purchases. The purchases aim to keep borrowing costs low for companies and promote business investment and hiring.

The ECB also said its first interest rate hike wouldn't immediately follow the end of asset purchases, as previously indicated.

Russia ban certain exports following Western sanctions

Russia has banned exports of more than 200 types of products and equipment until the end of the year.

"The list includes technological, communication and medical equipment, vehicles, agricultural machinery and electrical equipment, more than 200 types of goods in total," said an order signed by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

Countries in the Eurasian Economic Union won't be affected by the export ban.

Separately, the government also banned the export of forestry and wood products to countries that have imposed sanctions against it over the conflict in Ukraine. In total, 48 countries are affected by this restriction, including EU states and the US.

Harris calls for war crimes probe, Duda says attacks resemble 'genocide'

US Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday said there "absolutely" should be an international war crimes investigation of Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and the bombing of civilians, including a maternity hospital on Wednesday.

Speaking in the Polish capital of Warsaw, Harris expressed outrage over the bombing of the hospital and scenes of bloodied pregnant women being evacuated.

Standing alongside Harris, Polish President Andrzej Duda said, "It is obvious to us that in Ukraine Russians are committing war crimes."

"There are pregnant women, there are children, if you kill ordinary people you throw bombs, rockets, at housing estates, this is barbarism bearing the features of genocide," Duda added.

Harris also praised the Polish people for taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees since Russia invaded Ukraine two weeks ago.

"I've been watching or reading about the work of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and so I bring you thanks from the

American people," she said.

Harris also said the US is prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory, amid suggestions that the Baltic countries are next on Russian President Vladimir Putin's list of countries to attack.

Tui Group ends Russia branding deal

Tui terminated a deal allowing Russia's Alexei Mordashov to use its name after the billionaire was hit by EU sanctions.

Tui Russia was established in 2009 as a joint venture with Mordashov’s Severgroup to expand the travel company in Russia and Ukraine. The oligarch had invested in Europe’s largest holiday travel firm and joined its supervisory board, but was forced to step down last week after the EU sanctions were imposed.

Tui is just one of many companies suspending operations in Russia.

Scholz, Macron demand cease-fire in Putin call

In a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron called for a halt to military action in Ukraine.

Macron and Scholz also told Putin on Thursday that any resolution to the war in Ukraine needed to come through negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, an official said.

Aid convoy for Mariupol turned back due to fighting

An aid convoy heading to the besieged city of Mariupol had to turn back on Thursday due to fighting, said the deputy prime minister of Ukraine, Iryna Vereshchuk.

The convoy was meant to bring in food and medicine and ferry evacuees out. The city's council said in an online post: "Bombs are hitting houses.”

A total of seven safe passages were expected on Thursday. President Zelenskyy said: "We'll pray we can get people out of Mariupol."

On Wednesday, the besieged city witnessed an airstrike that hit a maternity and children's hospital. Three people, including one child, have been killed, city officials said on Thursday.

'A quite extraordinary lack of progress' in Russia-Ukraine talks

Lavrov does 'not believe' nuclear war will start

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he did not believe that Russia's standoff with the West over Ukraine would lead to nuclear war.

"I don't want to believe, and I do not believe, that a nuclear war could start," he told a news conference After meeting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Lavrov also dismissed the prospect of an attack on any Baltic nation, saying the suggestions from the West are "old hoaxes."

The Russian diplomat made no indication of any concessions to Kyiv, reiterating Russian demands that Ukraine be disarmed and accept neutral status. He also blamed the West for intensifying the conflict by arming Ukraine.

Thursday's meeting between the top diplomats was the first since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. There had been previous talks between officials in Belarus, and Lavrov said the door for negotiations had not closed.

"Today's meeting has confirmed that the Russian-Ukrainian format in Belarus has no alternative," he said.

Lavrov did not rule out a possible meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss "specific" issues.

'No progress' toward cease-fire: Ukrainian foreign minister says

Ukraine and Russia made "no progress" towards agreeing on a 24-hour cease-fire after talks in Turkey, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

"It seems that there are other decision-makers for this matter in Russia," Dmytro Kuleba said, in a thinly veiled reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggesting the decision was out of Moscow Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's hands.

Kuleba described his meeting with Lavrov in Antalya as "difficult" and accused his opposite number of bringing "traditional narratives" to the table.

"I want to repeat that Ukraine has not surrendered, does not surrender, and will not surrender," Kuleba said.

Dmytro Kuleba: 'We are ready to seek balanced diplomatic solutions'

YouTube, Google Play halt payment-based services in Russia

Alphabet Inc., which owns YouTube and Google Play store, announced it is suspending all payment-based services in Russia.

The move comes as Western sanctions heighten and a mass exodus of companies leave Russia, posing banking challenges in the countries.

Recently, Google and YouTube had already halted selling online advertisements in Russia, following similar steps by Twitter and Snapchat.

YouTube said in a statement on Thursday: "As a follow-up, we're now extending this pause to all our monetization features, including YouTube Premium, Channel Memberships, Super Chat and Merchandise, for viewers in Russia.”

Content creators will still be able to monetize from their channel, but only from viewers outside of Russia. Free apps on Google Play continue to be accessible.

Ukraine accuses Russia of bombing children's hospital

Ukraine requests more weapons from Berlin

The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany said he hopes for a "very concrete commitment" from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to provide more weapons to his country.

"I will meet the defense minister today, and I hope that we will get a very concrete commitment," Andriy Melnyk told German broadcaster ZDF on Thursday.

In a previous interview with the German DPA news agency, Melnyk referred to air defense systems, and anti-drone firearms, among other weapons.

Melnyk also called for a cease-fire.

"Because up to two weeks today this perfidious, barbaric war has been going on, especially targeting civilians," he added.

Belarus moves to ensure power to Chernobyl

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has instructed specialists to ensure power supply to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, according to the BelTA news agency.

Ukraine had feared a possible radiation leak at Chernobyl amid the ongoing war, but the UN's nuclear watchdog said it saw "no critical impact on security."

Meanwhile, Lukashenko told his Defense Ministry on Thursday that the Belarusian army must prevent any attack on Russian forces "from the rear," BelTA reported.

Ahead of its February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russia used its ally Belarus to practice military drills.

UK adds Abramovich to sanctions list

Britain has placed asset freezes on Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich and Igor Sechin, the chief executive of oil group Rosneft, plus five other Russians.

The UK said the seven oligarchs were added to the sanctions list because of their affiliations to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The seven figures had a collective net worth of £15 billion (€17.87 billion, $19.74 billion).

"There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

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

In addition to Abramovich and Sechin, the others affected were Oleg Deripaska, who has stakes in En+ Group, Dmitri Lebedev, chairman of Bank Rossiya, Alexei Miller, the chief executive of energy company Gazprom, and Nikolai Tokarev, the president of the Russia state-owned pipeline company Transneft.

Mykolaiv 'still under our control,' governor says

Mykolaiv, a strategic city close to the southern port in Odesa, has been under intense fire by Russian forces. But Mykolaiv is "still under our control and we have moved forward," the city's governor, Vitaliy Kim, told DW.

On his take on whether the war will end soon, he said: "The enemy is very exhausted. He has no motivation.  We need more power and more vehicles to attack, that's all."

Mykolaiv governor: 'The enemy is very exhausted'

Top Russia, Ukraine diplomats meet for first time since invasion

Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers have arrived in Turkey for face-to-face talks.  It is the first time the top diplomats have met since Russia invaded its neighbor on February 24.

Officials from Kyiv and Moscow have previously held talks in Belarus but the meeting between Dmytro Kuleba and Sergey Lavrov in Antalya represents the first time Russia has sent a minister for discussions on the conflict.

Ukraine EU membership 'will take time'

Ukraine joining the European Union is not an imminent prospect, according to French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune, as EU leaders gathered in Versailles to discuss the Russian invasion of its neighbor.

"It will take time," Beaune said, after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's plea for Ukraine to be given a fast-tracked membership of the bloc came on the sixth day of the invasion.

McDonald's suspends business in Russia

More than 10,000 Ukrainians flee overnight

More than 10,000 people were evacuated from villages and cities around Kyiv overnight, local media reported.

In addition to areas around Kyiv, evacuees were also leaving along routes in Sumy, and Enerhodar.

On Wednesday, Poland has in total received 1.43 million people from Ukraine since Russia's invasion began, Polish Border Guards said on Thursday.

The number of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine reached over 2.3 million on Thursday, according to the UN.

Families say goodbye at Ukrainian border

Russia pulls out of Council of Europe

Russia will no longer take part in the Council of Europe, the Russian state-owned TASS news agency quoted Moscow's Foreign Ministry as saying on Thursday.

The Foreign Ministry said the NATO alliance and EU countries were undermining the European body designed to uphold human rights, rule of law and democracy.

Ukrainian Paralympic athletes call for peace with raised fists

Ukrainian athletes and officials made an appeal for peace at the Beijing Winter Paralympics on Thursday.

As part of their plea, they unfurled a banner, held a minute's silence and called for an end to the war.

Led by national Paralympic Committee President Valerii Sushkevych, the entire 20-member delegation held up a "peace for all" banner with clenched fists held aloft.

"This one minute is about the thousands of people, including children and others with disabilities, back in Ukraine," said Sushkevych. "If mankind is civilized, then this war must be stopped. People, women and children deserve to live, not die."

Head coach Andriy Nesterenko said: "The Russians have bombed many hospitals and schools ... we need your support today, not later. People who attack civilian areas cannot be human ... we kindly ask for a safe sky over Ukraine."

Ukraine's athletes at the Beijing Paralympics appealed for peace, holding a banner reading Peace for All
Ukraine's athletes at the Beijing Paralympics appealed for peaceImage: Thomas Lovelock for OIS/AP/picture alliance

WHO: 18 medical facilities attacked since invasion

The World Health Organization has confirmed 18 attacks on medical facilities since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

The confirmation comes after Ukraine accused Russia of bombing a children's hospital on Wednesday.

Russia denies bombing children's Mariupol hospital

Russia called a Ukrainian claim that it bombed a children's hospital in Mariupol was "fake news."

Moscow claimed the building was a former maternity hospital that had long been taken over by troops.

"That's how fake news is born," Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia's first deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, said on Twitter, adding that Moscow warned Monday that the hospital was a military object.

"We will definitely ask our military, because you and I don't have clear information about what happened there," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a briefing. "And the military are very likely to provide some information."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of carrying out genocide after Ukrainian officials said Russian aircraft bombed the children's hospital on Wednesday.

At least three people, including a girl, were killed in the attack, local officials said on Thursday.

Ukraine: Russia struck children's hospital

EU leaders to discuss Ukraine at Versailles Palace

EU leaders will meet at the Versailles Palace in France on Thursday in a crisis summit over the war in Ukraine.

"Russia's war of aggression constitutes a tectonic shift in European history," a draft of the meeting's final declaration said.

Leaders will discuss "how the EU can live up to its responsibilities in this new reality, protecting our citizens, values, democracies, and our European model."

Diplomats said that they would discuss ways to boost Europe's self-reliance, especially in the field of energy. The EU imports about 40% of its natural gas from Russia.

Russian gas in German town comes at a cost

US House approves $13.6 billion Ukraine aid bill

The US House of Representatives has approved a $13.6 billion (€12.3 billion) aid bill for Ukraine and European allies.

The bill will also fund the US federal government through September 30.

The part of the bill related to Ukraine included $6.5 billion for sending US troops and weapons to eastern Europe and equipping NATO allies there and another $6.8 billion to care for refugees and provide economic aid to allies.

Carlsberg halts production and sales in Russia

Danish brewer Carlsberg said it was halting production and sales in Russia.

Carlsberg is the world's fourth-largest beer producer.

Last week, Carlsberg announced that it would halt new investments and exports into Russia.

Carlsberg is a majority owner of St. Petersburg-based Baltika Breweries. Baltika Breweries will continue to operate but as a separate business.

Sony halts Playstation operations in Russia

Sony announced on Thursday that it would suspend all software and hardware shipments and operations of the PlayStation store in Russia. 

Sony said that it would donate $2 million (€1.8 million) to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) and the NGO Save the Children.

Zelenskyy: At least 35,000 civilians evacuated

At least 35,000 civilians were evacuated from Ukrainian cities on Wednesday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily video address.

Zelenskyy said three humanitarian corridors had allowed residents to leave the northeastern city of Sumy, the southeastern city of Enerhodar and areas around the capital Kyiv.

He said he hoped more routes would continue on Thursday with routes set to open for evacuation from the southeastern cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha and the eastern city of Izium.

German support for Ukrainian refugees

Rio Tinto reportedly to end commercial relationships with Russian businesses

Reuters reported on Thursday that mining giant Rio Tinto would end all commercial relations with Russian businesses.

"Rio Tinto is in the process of terminating all commercial relationships it has with any Russian business," a spokesperson told the news agency.

German government to help Ukrainian artists

The German federal and state governments are planning to help Ukrainian artists, Federal Culture Commissioner Claudia Roth said after a meeting with state ministers.

"We have already launched a reception program," Roth said.

Roth added that €1 million ($1.1 million) had been set aside for this purpose.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Europe of conducting a "witch hunt" against Russian artists.

Zelenskyy calls for tougher Western sanctions after Mariupol airstrike

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy called on the West to strengthen sanctions on Russia in his daily video address after an airstrike on a maternity hospital in Mariupol.

"A genocide of Ukrainians is taking place," Zelenskyy said. He described the strike on the hospital as a "war crime."

Zelenskyy accuses Russia of genocide in hospital bombing

Zelenskyy said 17 people were injured in the attack on the maternity hospital, including pregnant women. He added that people, including children, were trapped under rubble following the strike.

Mariupol has been blockaded by Russian troops for nine days. Zelenskyy said that this siege was "beyond an atrocity."

Ukraine: Children's hospital destroyed

Summary of events in Ukraine-Russia crisis on Wednesday

The International Monetary Fund greenlit $1.4 million (€1.26 million) in emergency support to help Ukraine deal with its "massive humanitarian and economic crisis."

Germany's conservative Christian parties (CDU/CSU) called on the federal government to stop Russian gas imports via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also dismissed the idea of sending Polish jets to Ukraine via a US base in Germany. 

Scholz: Germany won't send fighter jets to Ukraine

Russia's Defense Ministry acknowledged that conscripts were sent into Ukraine despite prior repeated denials by President Vladimir Putin.

The ministry said it was launching an investigation to punish those who allegedly disobeyed orders not to use conscripts, and that "practically all [conscripts] have been pulled out to Russia."

Russia and Ukraine announced export shifts amid the crisis. Observers said that disruptions to Russian and Ukrainian wheat exports could be devastating to North African and Middle Eastern countries that are highly dependent on both suppliers.

Ukrainian officials accused Russia of bombing a children's hospital and maternity ward in the southeastern port city of Mariupol.

A Mariupol official later said that the city was "on the verge of death" as there was still no humanitarian corridor for residents to evacuate. 

The White House warned that Russia may use chemical or biological weapons as part of a "false flag" attack on Ukraine.

lo,jsi, sdi/wd (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)