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Civilian evacuation efforts hampered by fighting

March 8, 2022

Arguments over routes and allegations of breaches have made it difficult to establish humanitarian corridors allowing civilians to escape besieged cities. The UN says 2 million have managed to flee.

Men carry an elderly woman in a wheelchair
Ukrainian soldiers and militia carry a woman in a wheelchair on the outskirts of KyivImage: Emilio Morenatti/AP Photo/picture alliance
  • US and UK announce bans on Russian oil imports  
  • The number of refugees from Ukraine has hit 2 million, the UN says
  • Ukraine claims top Russian general was killed, Kremlin has not yet commented 
  • Shell is stopping the purchase of oil and gas from Russia
  • McDonald's and Starbucks are temporarily closing their sites in Russia

Catch up on Monday's events as Ukraine rejected humanitarian corridors that lead to Russia

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

Fitch lowers Russia's credit rating

Credit rating agency Fitch further downgraded Russia's sovereign rating from "B" to "C."

Fitch said that a default is imminent amid sanctions and trade restrictions.

"‍Further ratcheting up of sanctions and proposals that could limit trade in energy increase probability of a policy response by Russia that includes at least selective non-payment of its sovereign debt obligations," Fitch said in a statement.

On March 16, Russia is due to pay $107 million (€98 million) in coupons across two bonds. It has a 30-day grace period to make the payments.

Fitch's "C" rating is only one step above default. Credit rating agency Moody previously lowered Russia down to "Ca," which is equivalent to Fitch's "C" rating.

IAEA: Situation of Chernobyl plant staff 'deteriorating'

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that around 210 technicians and local safety staff have been on duty at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant continuously for almost two weeks. 

The current staff has been on duty since the day before Russian forces took over the site, the IAEA said.

Ukraine told the IAEA that the staff had access to food, water and some medicine, but their situation was "worsening."

"I call on the forces in effective control of the site to urgently facilitate the safe rotation of personnel there," IAEA director Rafael Mariano Grossi said.

Grossi said that it was crucial for nuclear safety that staff be allowed to rest and work in regular shifts.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi suspending sales in Russia

US food and beverage giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi have said they will suspend business in Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine. 

"Our hearts are with the people who are enduring unconscionable effects from these tragic events in Ukraine," the Coca Cola Company said in a statement.

Pepsi, whose cola was one of the few Western products allowed in the Soviet Union, said it would continue to sell essential products like milk and baby food. 

The soft drink companies are the latest high-profile Western brands to pull out of Russia, following similar announcements Tuesday by McDonald's and Starbucks. 

Russia offers Wednesday cease-fire for humanitarian corridors

The Russian military said it would offer a cease-fire starting at 10 a.m. local time (0700 UTC) Wednesday to allow civilians to escape from four Ukrainian cities, according to Russia's TASS news agency. 

A senior military official told TASS that information about humanitarian corridors from Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol would be sent to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

Ukraine has yet to respond to the offer. 

Similar attempts to enable safe evacuation of civilians have been only partially successful, with allegations of shelling on some routes, disputes over the routes themselves, and other complications.

Putin’s war: No mercy for civilians?

Poland offers to hand MiG jets to US, for transfer to Ukraine

Poland's Foreign Ministry has said it is "ready" to deliver its Mig-29 planes to the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany, with a view to those planes being eventually given to Ukraine.

"Poland… is ready to deliver its Mig-29 planes to Ramstein airbase and make them available to the US for free and without delay," the foreign ministry said.

It's not clear whether Joe Biden's administration would support such a plan.

Previously, Secretary of State Antony Blinken had downplayed the idea, only to later say it was something "we're looking at very actively." Ukraine's foreign minister had appealed for the jets in a meeting with Blinken on Monday.

Ukrainian pilots are capable of flying Soviet-made Mig fighters.

Some in the US Congress, including leading Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, have pressed for the deal to go ahead.

Poland said it would be willing to immediately negotiate on terms to purchase newer US F-16 jets to replace its aircraft.

McDonald's suspends operations in Russia

US-based fast food giant McDonald's has said it will "temporarily" close restaurants and "suspend operations" in Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine

McDonald's said it "cannot ignore the needless human suffering unfolding in Ukraine,"

"The conflict in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis in Europe has caused unspeakable suffering to innocent people. We join the world in condemning aggression and violence and praying for peace," the company said in a statement.

McDonald's employs 62,000 people in Russia at 850 locations, along with using hundreds of local food suppliers. The company said it would continue paying its employees during the suspension, adding that right now it is "impossible to predict" when restaurants in Russia will reopen.

Coffee giant Starbucks followed suit soon after.

Ukraine's Zelenskyy addresses UK Parliament, receives standing ovation

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the House of Commons by video link Tuesday evening, and received a standing ovation after paraphrasing one of Winston Churchill's famous wartime speeches in vowing his continued resistance of Russia's invasion.

"We will not give up and we will not lose. We will fight to the end, at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost, in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets," Zelenskyy said.

The Ukrainian president added his country was fighting for its survival, and called on UK lawmakers to continue applying pressure on the Kremlin with sanctions.

Zelenskyy's address to a packed house in the Westminster chamber came shortly after the UK announced it would be phasing out imports of Russian oil in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

US, UK announce bans on Russian oil imports

US President Joe Biden has said that the US will no longer import Russian oil.

"We will not be part of subsidizing Putin's war," Biden said. Energy imports provide a vital source of income for the Kremlin.

Biden's announcement comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked Western leaders to include Russian energy imports.

Previously, the White House said Biden would announce measures to "continue to hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine."

Read the full story here

The US announcement comes just after the UK announced it would phase out imports of Russian petroleum products by the end of 2022.

"Businesses should use this year to ensure a smooth transition so that consumers will not be affected," said UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

"The government will also work with companies through a new taskforce on oil to support them to make use of this period in finding alternative supplies," Kwarteng said on Twitter.

Both the US and the UK are less dependent on Russian energy than their partners in the EU.

US estimates between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian troops killed in Ukraine

Intelligence officials with the US Defense Department have said they estimate between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the invasion of Ukraine nearly two weeks ago.

However, General Scott Berrier, director of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, added that the estimated number is "low confidence," as it was complied using a combination of open source data and intelligence sources.

The US estimate is still vastly lower than unverified numbers the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry released earlier Tuesday, saying that some 12,000 "Russian occupying forces" had been killed so far.

We will give Russians a good fight: Ukrainian MP Kira Rudyk

EU plans a two-thirds cut in Russian gas imports by end of 2022

The European Commission has announced a plan to drastically reduce imports of Russian gas in 2022 by finding new supplies, increasing storage capacity, reducing energy consumption and increasing renewable sources.

"By the end of this year, we can replace 100 billion cubic metres of gas imports from Russia. That is two-thirds of what we import from them," Frans Timmermans, the EU Commission vice president in charge of climate policy, told reporters.

The EU says it plans to become fully independent of Russian gas oil and coal by 2030.

"The answer to this concern for our security lies in renewable energy and diversification of supply," said Timmermans. "It's hard … But it's possible."

You can read the full story on the EU's plan here 

EU needs Russian fuel more than US does

Fresh protest held in front of Russian embassy in Berlin

Hundreds of people protested against the war in Ukraine in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin on Tuesday.

The protest had been registered as a solidarity rally for women and their families in Ukraine and Russia on International Women's Day, according to the Berlin police.

Holding self-made banners, the protesters pointed out the increasingly deteriorating situation for women.

Later, many demonstrators moved on to the Brandenburg Gate, where there were also rallies for Women's Day and against the war in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace which was behind organizing a large anti-war protest in Berlin attended by 100,000 on February 27, announced further protests in the capital, Frankfurt and other cities.

US likely to end Russian oil imports

US President Joe Biden is expected to announce a ban on US imports of Russian oil in a further tightening of economic sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. Multiple US media outlets reported that an announcement would follow on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

The White House said Biden would "announce actions to continue to hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine."

Washington's European allies, who are for more reliant on Russian energy are expected to announce less sweeping measures.

Russia accounts for less than 10% of US imports of oil and petroleum products.

The move also follows pleas by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to US and Western officials to cut off the imports from Russia.

UN rights commissioner criticizes 'arbitrary arrests' and free speech crackdown in Russia 

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday criticized vague new laws enabling Russian authorities to arrest and mete out prison terms of up to 15 years for those it accuses of spreading "fake news" by criticizing the war in Ukraine. Michelle Bachelet said it opened the door to further repression of the country's civilian population.  

The "space for discussion or criticism of public policies — including [Russia's] military action against Ukraine — is increasingly and profoundly restricted," Bachelet said.

The high commissioner said Russia had already "arbitrarily arrested" 12,700 people for participating in peaceful anti-war protests since Moscow launched its unprovoked attack on neighboring Ukraine. She also noted that remaining media in the country were required to use only official information and terms. For instance, Russian media are not permitted to call the conflict a "war," instead having to use the Kremlin's preferred term, "special military operation." 

Navalny urges Russians to protest against 'Putin's bloody venture'

Jailed Kremlin-critic Alexei Navalny has posted a 14-part thread on Twitter, condemning President Vladimir Putin's "bloody venture" in Ukraine, while adding "anti-war protests should not be halted under any circumstances."

More than 13,500 citizens across Russia have been detained at demonstrations since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

NATO will 'defend every inch of all allied territory': Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday once more urged Moscow to end its attack on Ukraine, while vowing not to let the conflict spread to other countries.

Stoltenberg said the situation in Ukraine could spiral out of control and that the humanitarian impact of Russia's invasion was devastating, amid what he called credible reports that Russian troops were targeting civilians.

"We have a responsibility to ensure the conflict does not escalate and spread beyond Ukraine," Stoltenberg said, speaking alongside Latvia's President Egils Levits.

He also reiterated that NATO will fulfill its obligations to collective defense under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, the legal basis of the military alliance.

"We will protect and defend every inch of all allied territory," he said.

Ukraine accuses Russia of violating Mariupol humanitarian corridor

Ukraine has accused Russia of launching an attack on a humanitarian corridor that is meant to enable civilians to leave the beleaguered southern port city of Mariupol.

The Foreign Ministry wrote "Cease-fire violated!" on Twitter.

"Russian forces are now shelling the humanitarian corridor from Zaporizhzhia to Mariupol. 8 trucks + 30 buses ready to deliver humanitarian aid to Mariupol and to [evacuate] civilians to Zaporizhzhia," it said. 

The Defense Ministry also asserted that an attack on the corridor was taking place.

"The enemy has launched an attack heading exactly at the humanitarian corridor," it said on Facebook.

"Such actions are nothing other than a genocide," it said.

The reports cannot be independently verified.

Attempted evacuations of civilians from Mariupol have not succeeded on several occasions in recent days, with Kyiv and Moscow blaming each other for the failures.

EU proposes measures to punish Russia disinformation

The European Union's executive has said it will set out a new mechanism to punish disinformation around the world.

Brussels foreign policy chief Josep Borrell cited what he said were lies intentionally spread by Russian state-owned media.

Borrell told the European Parliament it should be possible to freeze assets and ban travel to the bloc of anyone deemed responsible.

The aim, he said, was to highlight such abuses and attempts to mislead as Russia's onslaught against Ukraine continues.

"I will propose a new mechanism that will allow us to sanction those malign disinformation actors," Borrell said.

He explained he was not trying to define what was true or false in news, but to protect against the manipulation of societies.

Borrell specifically referred to the Russian state-owned television network Russia Today and news agency Sputnik.

He described them as examples of "instruments to push this narrative to manipulate and mislead" Russian people over Moscow's invasion.

Moscow was not just bombing houses and infrastructure in Ukraine, Borrell said, but also targeting Russians with fake news and disinformation.

"They are bombing their minds," he said.

The proposal, about which Borrell gave no details on timing, comes after European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen said the EU will ban the channels.

It would entail various EU governments agreeing on the names to target and drawing up legal acts.

Shell says will stop purchase of Russian oil, gas

The UK-headquartered energy giant Shell has apologized for buying Russian crude oil at a discount price last week and says it will stop its involvement with hydrocarbons from Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

The move comes amid intense international pressure for companies to sever ties with Russia.

"We are acutely aware that our decision last week to purchase a cargo of Russian crude oil to be refined into products like petrol and diesel — despite being made with security of supplies at the forefront of our thinking — was not the right one and we are sorry," Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said.

In a statement, the company said it would withdraw from all Russian hydrocarbons, including crude oil, petroleum products, natural gas and liquefied natural gas, ''in a phased manner'' that could take some weeks to complete.

It also said it would shut its service stations and aviation fuels and lubricants operations in Russia.

Ukraine's foreign minister recently slammed the company for continuing to buy Russian oil and do business with President Vladimir Putin's government.

Oil companies turn their backs on Putin

Ukraine's Zelenskyy condemns 'unkept promises' by West

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has denounced what he called the West's unkept "promises" to protect Ukraine from Russian attacks.

Ukraine's air force uses Soviet-made Mig-29 and Su jet fighters, which its pilots have trained on, to fend off Russia's military. It has appealed for more warplanes from Poland to be able to continue the mission.

Zelenskyy said assurances received so far have not been delivered on.

"It's been 13 days we've been hearing promises, 13 days we've been told we'll be helped in the air, that there will be planes, that they will be delivered to us," Zelensky said on a video broadcast on Telegram.

"But the responsibility for that rests also on those who were not capable to take a decision in the West for 13 days," Zelensky added. "On those who have not secured the Ukrainian skies from the Russian assassins."

Establishing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, sought by Zelenskyy, has been rejected by Washington and NATO.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened "colossal and catastrophic consequences" for Europe and the wider world, should a no-fly zone be implemented.

Zelenskyy also said a child had died from dehydration in Ukraine's besieged city of Mariupol. The strategic port has now had no water, power or heating supplies for days.

German federal prosecutors investigating potential Russian war crimes: Justice minister

German federal investigators are examining whether Russian forces have already committed war crimes during their invasion of Ukraine, or might do so in future, German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann has said.

He told the daily Passauer Neue Presse that the prosecutors were currently not investigating any concrete individuals but instead collecting evidence that could at some stage be used in legal proceedings against war criminal suspects.

Buschmann described Russia's war on Ukraine as a “severe violation of international law that nothing could justify,” adding that European justice ministers were acting in concert to ensure that breaches of international law would be rigorously prosecuted.

Ukrainian lawmaker: Russian troops targeting civilians as they 'can't proceed militarily'

Russian troops have begun targeting civilians because "they can't really defeat the Ukrainian Army," Inna Sovsun, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, has told DW.

The "Ukrainian army is actually pushing them back from the position that they first held around the city of Kharkiv. The Ukrainian army is doing unbelievably well, and because of that, they decided that they will target the civilians," she said.

The lawmaker also said there was no credibility to the Russian announcement of humanitarian corridors opening up, so civilians can leave their towns and cities safely amid the ongoing violence.

"They have been lying about those humanitarian corridors in Mariupol," she said. "They did promise humanitarian corridors and then they did the most cruel thing imaginable. They set up land mines in the place where people were supposed to gather to leave. And those were mainly women and small children."

Number of refugees hits 2 million

The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine has reached 2 million, the head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi said on Tuesday. It represents the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. 

Grandi added that a second wave of refugees from Ukraine is likely to be more vulnerable than the first wave,

"If the war continues we will start seeing people that have no resources and no connections," he said at a press conference in Olso.

"That will be a more complex situation to manage for European countries going forward," adding that "even more solidarity" will be needed in Europe and beyond.

12,000 Russian troops killed so far: Ukraine Foreign Ministry

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry says some 12,000 members of "Russian occupying forces" have been killed in fighting since Russia's invasion began on February 24. The figure cannot be independently verified, and Russian sources give a far lower toll.

In a tweet, the ministry also said that more than 1,000 armored vehicles, more than 300 tanks and almost 50 aircraft had been destroyed. 

Russia calls for return to Cold War principle of 'peaceful coexistence': Interfax

Washington and Moscow should again embrace a principle of “peaceful coexistence” similar to that applied during the Cold War, according to a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry cited by the Interfax news agency.

The Foreign Ministry also said it was open to honest and mutually respectful dialogue with the United States and that it still hoped relations between the two countries could return to normalcy, Interfax reported.

Humanitarian corridors opened from several Ukrainian cities: Russian Defense Ministry

Corridors allowing the safe evacuation of civilians from the Ukrainian cities of Cherhihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Mariupol and the capital, Kyiv, were opened on Tuesday morning, Interfax quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as saying.

The Defense Ministry added that Russian forces in Ukraine had introduced a "silent regime" from 07:00 GMT, Russian news agency Interfax reported.

In comments reported by Reuters news agency, Okeksiy Kuleba, governor of the Kyiv region confirmed that evacuations from the town of Irpin near the capital, Kyiv, had begun.

"As of 09:30 (07:30 UTC), more than 150 people have been evacuated and (evacuation) activities are underway,” Kuleba said.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said evacuations from Sumy were underway.

It also called on Russia to respect its cease-fire regarding the humanitarian corridor.

"We call on Russia to uphold its ceasefire commitment, to refrain from activities that endanger the lives of people and to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid," the tweet says.

In a letter to the International Red Cross, Ukraine's deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said there were indications that Russian troops were planning to “disrupt” the corridors.

"Manipulations are being prepared to force people to take another route, which is not coordinated and dangerous," she said.

MSF: Medical supplies running short in Ukraine

Russia's invasion of Ukraine was making it increasingly difficult for doctors to treat the injured, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Tuesday.

The supply of hospitals is no longer as good as it was before the fighting began, MSF's General Director in Germany, Christian Katzer told German public broadcaster ZDF.

Other basic needs, such as food supplies had collapsed in places like Odessa. "Also, important medicines can no longer simply be ordered," Katzer said.

While the MSF has several teams in Ukraine, they were struggling to provide effective aid.
"At the moment, the situation in many areas of Ukraine is still so confusing that it is not really possible to work," he said.

DW's Mathias Bölinger also spoke of the situation in places like Mariupol.

"Mariupol has been shut off for more than a week," he said. "There are no supplies entering the city, infrastructure damaged, no water, no electricity."

"Humanitarian corridors, be people getting out of the city or bringing in relief goods into the city, have failed so far. This is definitely one the places where help is bitterly needed," Bölinger added.

Putin is a 'spent force': UK defense secretary

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has said Russia's President Vladimir Putin will lose significance as a global political force whatever the outcome of his invasion of Ukraine.

"Whatever ... happens, President Putin is a spent force in the world and he is done, his army is done ... and he needs to recognize that," Wallace told Times Radio. "The international community has united against him … he is in a position where he is going to cause huge economic hardship to his people."

Wallace said in another interview, this time with Sky News, that the UK would back Poland if it decided to send fighter jets to Ukraine but warned it might lead to Poland itself becoming a target of military action by Russia and others.

"We would protect Poland, we'll help them with anything that they need," he said. "Poland will understand that the choices they make will not only directly help Ukraine, which is a good thing, but also may bring them into direct line of fire from countries such as Russia or Belarus."

He added that the UK would not send warplanes as they would not be usable by Ukrainian pilots. Poland possesses several Soviet-era combat jets that are familiar to Ukrainian military personnel, among them MiG-29s and Sukhoi Su-25s.

Wallace's comments come ahead of address via video link to the British House of Commons by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the first by a foreign president to the chamber.

Zelenkskyy is expected to make an impassioned plea for more supplies and military support in his speech, scheduled for 17:00 UTC.

Second wave of refugees from Ukraine will be more vulnerable – UNHCR

A second wave consisting of more vulnerable refugees from Ukraine is likely follow the first wave, the head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday.

"If the war continues we will start seeing people that have no resources and no connections," UNHCR head Filippo Grandi said.

"That will be a more complex situation to manage for European countries going forward,” adding that “even more solidarity” will be needed in Europe and beyond.

Refugees fleeing Ukraine will need long-term humanitarian support – IRC

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) said the fallout of the war in Ukraine will need long-term humanitarian solutions to support the high influx of refugees fleeing Ukraine.

"Even if the (war) were to stop right now, there would be a  huge amount of humanitarian need both inside Ukraine which would make people want to leave to find safety," Nancy Dent, Senior Global Communications Officer for the IRC told DW.

"It’s not a situation that’s going to get fixed anytime soon."

She added: "We need people to be guaranteed access to jobs, able to rent houses, to make sure they can really stand on their own two feet again."

Beyond physical support, "the trauma support that they’re going to need is also huge," Dent said.

Approximately 1.2 million refugees from Ukraine have fled to Poland since Russia’s invasion on February 24, including 141,500 on Monday alone, the Polish Border Guard said on Tuesday.

Poland's day care for displaced kids

Rescuers say several dead in Russian airstrike in Sumy as planned evacuation announced

Russian planes attacked civilian housing in the Ukrainian city of Sumy on Monday night, killing at least 21 people, including two children, rescue services said.

"Enemy planes insidiously attacked apartment buildings," a Telegram statement from the rescuers said.

Dmytro Zhyvytskyi, the head of Sumy's regional administration, put the civilian death toll at 10, and said four soldiers were also killed in "unequal combat with the Russian military."

The information cannot be independently verified.

The report comes as Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced on TV that civilians would be able to start leaving the city at 08:00 UTC (10 a.m. local time) under an agreement with Russia on the establishment of a "humanitarian corridor."

Sumy, some 350 kilometres (217 miles) east of the capital, Kyiv, has been at the center of fierce fighting between Ukrainian troops and invading Russian forces.

Kyiv residents fear Russia might storm the capital

DW's Mathias Bölinger, reporting from the Ukrainian capital, said people in Kyiv have known that they are a "prime target from day 1 and that Russians would eventually try to storm the capital or to close the ring around the capital."

Russian forces remained stalled outside of Kyiv as soldiers and volunteers fortified the capital.

"We haven’t seen the Russian line advancing in days," Bölinger said. "The sites of fighting are still the same and we aren't seeing any significant advances."

He added that there was "of course, fear that Russia might regroup and try to storm the capital."

Hundreds of checkpoints and barricades designed to thwart a takeover have been put in place.

"People here in the capital have prepared," Bölinger said. "There's a lot of military in the streets, and roadblocks, etc. But also, many people have fled the capital. There are very few people on the streets. Most people who go out don’t stay a long time on the streets."

Map - What parts of Ukraine are controlled by Russian troops?

Ukraine's Lviv appeals for help as refugees pour in

The mayor of Lviv has called for assistance as the far western Ukrainian city struggles to accommodate and feed the tens of thousands of people who have fled there from regions under attack from Russian troops.

"We really need support,'' Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said. He said his city needed, among other things, big tents equipped with kitchens to prepare food for the more than 200,000 refugees who have arrived in the city.

Hundreds of thousands more people could arrive if humanitarian corridors are opened up to allow the evacuation of civilians from besieged cities.

The historical city, which is the main transit point for those fleeing just across the border to Poland, had a population of 700,000 before the war and was a popular tourist destination.

Some 1.7 Ukrainians have now left their country, many through Lviv, amid what the UN has described as the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

G7 agriculture ministers to discuss impact of war in Ukraine on food security

Germany says it will host a virtual meeting of agriculture ministers from the G7 group of wealthy democratic nations to discuss the impact that the Russian invasion of Ukraine could have on world food security.

The German minister of agriculture and food, Cem Özdemir, said the meeting on Friday would also focus on how to stabilize food markets.

"The food supply in Germany and the EU is safe, but larger shortages can be expected in some countries outside the EU, especially where they already exist today because of problems such as drought," he said in a statement.

But he warned that higher prices for agricultural products could not be ruled out in industrialized countries, either.

Özdemir said he had invited the Ukrainian agriculture minister to join the talks as well, along with representatives of the European Commission and international organizations.

Ukraine is the world's fifth largest exporter of wheat, and Russia the largest. Together, they account for about 30% of traded wheat globally.

Russia offers new cease-fire, proposes humanitarian corridors

Russia is offering a new Ukraine cease-fire for Tuesday, Moscow's ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia said on Monday.

Nebenzia read a statement from Moscow which offered a cease-fire from 10 am Moscow time (0700 GMT), which would allow for the opening of humanitarian corridors to evacuate citizens from Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol.

"This proposal doesn't have any demands about the citizens being sent necessarily to Russia, into Russian territory," Nebenzia said.

"There's also evacuation offered towards Ukrainian cities to the west of Kyiv, and ultimately it will be the choice of the people themselves where they want to be evacuated to," he added.

Russia had previously offered to open humanitarian corridors leading to Russian and Belarusian territory, an offer which Kyiv rejected. Ukraine preferred instead that evacuees be sent to western parts of the country, where shelling is not taken place.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been skeptical of Russian offers for a cease-fire, as previous attempts to evacuate civilians safely have failed.

Western Ukraine braces for possible attack

Cosmetics firm Estee Lauder suspends activities in Russia

Cosmetics firm Estee Lauder said on Monday it was suspending all commercial activities and closing all its stores in Russia.

It will also suspend brand sites and shipments to its retailers in Russia, the company said in a statement.

The statement said that the firm had committed $1 million (€920,000) to relief efforts in Ukraine.

Estee Lauder added that it would continue to provide compensation and support its employees in Russia at this time.

US Congress close to deal on Ukraine aid

The US Congress was on Monday getting close to a deal on a bill to provide Ukraine with billions of dollars in emergency aid.

Proposed US aid for Ukraine and its European allies has grown beyond $12 billion (€11 billion), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said the assistance would pay for refugees, medical and food supplies, weapons transfers to Ukraine and aid for NATO allies.

The bill would also fund the government through to September 30 and provide funds for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Republicans said negotiations are mostly stalling around the COVID-19 funds.

Ukraine rejects Russia's corridor offer

Japan freezes Russian assets as firms withdraw personnel 

Japan's finance ministry announced on Tuesday that the country had frozen the assets of an additional 32 Russian and Belarusian officials and oligarchs.

The ministry said that Japan was also banning exports of oil refinery equipment to Russia, as well as of Belarus-bound general-purpose items that could be used by its military.

Japanese firms have also started withdrawing personnel from Russia, newspaper The Nikkei reported on Tuesday.

The withdrawal followed a warning issued by the Japanese government due to the war in Ukraine.

The Nikkei reported that Toyota had stopped production at its manufacturing plant in St. Petersburg, while Nissan, Subaru and Mitsubishi Motors were also preparing to recall staff from Russia.

Other Japanese firms in Russia, such as Japan Tobacco, Daio Paper and Nippon Express Holdings, have reduced their staff in the country.

Ukraine claims to have killed Russian general

Ukraine's military intelligence agency said that a Russian general, identified as Vitaly Gerasimov, was killed in fighting around the city of Kharkiv.

According to Ukraine, Gerasimov had fought in Syria and Chechnya and participated in the Russian seizure of Crimea in 2014.

Christo Grozev, the executive director of Netherlands-based investigative journalism organization Bellingcat, said Gerasimov's death was confirmed by a Russian source. 

The Russian government has not yet commented on the matter.  

Australia imposes new sanctions on Russian 'propagandists'

Australia's Foreign Ministry announced new sanctions on "Moscow's propagandists and purveyors of disinformation" on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that Australia was sanctioning "10 people of strategic interest to Russia for their role in encouraging hostility towards Ukraine."

"This includes driving and disseminating false narratives about the 'de-Nazification' of Ukraine, making erroneous allegations of genocide against ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, and promoting the recognition of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic as independent," Payne said

According to the statement, financial sanctions will be imposed on the Russia's armed forces, and six senior Russian military commanders will be met with both financial sanctions and travel bans.

"Together with partners, we will drive Russia out of our economies, supply chains and airwaves," Payne said.

World Bank approves $723 million package for Ukraine

The World Bank announced on Monday that its executive board had approved a $723 million (€665 million) package of loans and grants for Ukraine. 

The World Bank said the funds would help the Ukrainian government provide critical services, including wages for hospital workers, pensions and social programs.

Included in the package are guarantees from the Netherlands and Sweden, grants from the UK, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania and Iceland, and parallel financing from Japan.

Summary of events in Ukraine-Russia crisis on Monday

Delegates from Russia and Ukraine met in Belarus on Monday for a third round of talks.

Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said that the two sides had achieved "small positive [developments]" regarding the logistics of humanitarian corridors. Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said Moscow's expectations were "not fulfilled."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused the Russian army of impeding the evacuation of civilians. He refused to leave the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, saying he was "not afraid" as the fighting rages on.    

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that conscripts and reservists were not being sent to Ukraine, and that Russia was deploying "professionals" that were carrying out "fixed objectives."

The Pentagon said on Monday that Russia is recruiting Syrians to fight in Ukraine, but did not specify how many.

Ukraine takes Russia to court

Meanwhile, the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands heard arguments from Ukraine asking the court to stop Russia's attack on the country. Russia refused to attend the proceedings. 

The UN also called for safe passage of humanitarian aid supplies on Monday. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfeld said the world should be ready for a "very long and very difficult road ahead" in Ukraine.    

EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said up to five million refugees could flee to the European Union. 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that Germany would keep energy deliveries exempt from sanctions on Russia, citing the need to ensure Europe's energy supply and maintain the activities of German businesses.

Ukrainians seek shelter in Germany

wmr,jsi,tj,sdi/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)