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Latest Developments in Ukraine: April 7


Men ride bicycles by a destroyed apartment building in Borodyanka, Ukraine, April 6, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

Recap of April 7
FIGHTING
* Russia said on Thursday it had opened a criminal investigation into allegations by a Russian soldier that he was beaten and received death threats while being held as a prisoner of war in Ukraine.
* Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that Russia had sustained "significant losses" in Ukraine.
* Ukrainian officials reported intensified Russian attacks Thursday on cities and towns in eastern Ukraine as thousands of people fled parts of a region bracing for a major Russian offensive.
DIPLOMACY
* The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday suspended Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council over reports of "gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights" by invading Russian troops in Ukraine.
SANCTIONS
* New legislation passed in the U.S. Senate on Thursday suspends normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, and bans Russian oil and energy imports.
* Russia is facing its most difficult situation in three decades due to unprecedented Western sanctions, but foreign attempts to isolate it from the global economy will fail, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Thursday.
MEDIA
* Russian journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov was attacked Thursday while he was traveling on a train, in an apparent protest at his newspaper's coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
* Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, people have spread information – and misinformation – about the war on social media. VOA’s Ali Siddiqi has the story of how social media posts are affecting the perceptions of young people and beyond.

For the latest developments of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, all times EDT:

10:45 p.m.: CNN reported that 20 of Australia's Bushmaster armored personnel carriers are headed to Ukraine.

8:55 p.m.: “We view voting to suspend a state’s Human Rights Council rights as a rare and extraordinary action,” Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.N. Sergiy Kyslytsya said ahead of the U.N. General Assembly’s vote Thursday to suspend Russia from its Human Rights Council.

“However, Russia’s actions are beyond the pale — Russia is not only committing human rights violations, it is shaking the underpinnings of international peace and security.”

In a vote of 93 to 24 with 58 abstentions, the assembly suspended Russia for its “gross and systematic violations of human rights” and violations of international law committed against Ukraine.

“Unprecedented, historic vote,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told VOA's Margaret Besheer after the vote. “We suspended a permanent member of the Security Council off of the U.N. Human Rights Council. We sent a strong message of support to the Ukrainians. We sent a strong message about human rights.”

8:20 p.m.: Ukrainians in Chernihiv are cleaning up the devastation wrought on their city by the Russian Army after Moscow stopped its attacks and turned its attention to Ukraine's east. Russia's air force bombed residential areas and a church. On April 6, RFE/RL Ukrainian Service correspondent Maryan Kushnir toured the destruction in the city, which is located in northern Ukraine near the borders with Belarus and Russia.

7:55 p.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin has given up on conquering Kyiv, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a congressional hearing Thursday, since Russia’s forces were soundly beaten back by the Ukrainian military.

"Putin thought that he could very rapidly take over the country of Ukraine, very rapidly capture this capital city. He was wrong," Austin told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee in Congress, Agence France-Presse reports. Adding that he thinks Putin is now focused on south and eastern Ukraine.

But the path of the overall war, six weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, remains uncertain, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, told the same hearing.

7:15 p.m.: The World Health Organization has confirmed more than 100 attacks on Ukrainian health services, Agence France-Presse reports.

"As of now, WHO has verified 103 incidents of attacks on health care, with 73 people killed and 51 injured, including health workers and patients," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference, calling it a "grim milestone.

Of the confirmed attacks 89 had impacted health facilities and most of the rest hit transport services, including ambulances.

6:45 p.m.: As part of its energy sanctions against Russia, the Japanese government is considering restrictions on the import of Russian coal, Jiji Press reported on Friday.

Japan will coordinate with the United States and European countries, after the Group of Seven allies pledged in a statement new sanctions on Russia in light of the deaths of many civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, the report said, citing sources.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Thursday that Japan will unveil further sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine as early as Friday after coordinating with G7 allies on further punitive steps.

6:20 p.m.: Germany will need four months to implement a ban on Russian coal under European Union sanctions, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday, Reuters reports.

A German economy ministry report prepared for parliament warned earlier this week that the country would likely have to switch off some of its power plants if it ended Russian coal imports straight away.

An immediate ban on Russian coal imports would lead to "coal shortages after a few weeks," it said.

5:40 p.m.: The U.S. and its allies increase sanctions on Russia to rob it of money to sustain its invasion of Ukraine. But the cutting off or main source of Russia’s cash — energy exports — will take time, U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told Reuters on Thursday.

FILE - Wally Adeyemo testifies before the Senate Finance Committee during his confirmation hearing, Feb. 23, 2021, in Washington.
FILE - Wally Adeyemo testifies before the Senate Finance Committee during his confirmation hearing, Feb. 23, 2021, in Washington.

The United States and its allies have "a lot more that we can and we will do" to punish Moscow if Russia fails to halt its invasion, Adeyemo told Reuters in an interview.

5:05 p.m.: The situation in the Ukrainian town of Borodyanka is "significantly more dreadful" than in nearby Bucha, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday, Reuters reports.

The killing of civilians in the town of Bucha, north of Kyiv. have been widely condemned by the West as war crimes, increasing pressure for stricter sanctions against Russia.

Moscow has denied targeting civilians and says images of bodies in Bucha were staged to justify more sanctions against Moscow and derail peace negotiations.

4:32 p.m.: Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, people have spread information – and misinformation – about the war on social media. VOA’s Ali Siddiqi has the story of how social media posts are affecting the perceptions of young people and beyond.

Disinformation Aims to Skew Young People's View of War in Ukraine
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3:56 p.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a press conference Thursday following his participation in a NATO meeting of foreign ministers and others. He spoke about alleged atrocities committed by Russian troops in Ukraine, additional sanctions measures against Russia, as well as security and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

3:22 p.m.: A social media video verified by Reuters and geolocated to an area west of Kyiv appears to show Ukrainian forces shooting and killing a captured and badly wounded Russian soldier. Reuters could not establish the exact date of the video, which was first reported by the New York Times. Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency published footage of the shooting’s aftermath on March 30. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he had not seen the video, but had heard about it. “I want to reassure you that the Ukrainian army observes the rules of warfare... Of course there might be isolated incidents of the violation of these rules and they will be definitely investigated,” he said.

3:09 p.m.: Ninth-grader Alona Zahreba made a video diary of life in the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, showing how they gathered snow when water was cut off, and documenting smoke rising from nearby explosions. She spoke about what life was like in Mariupol, and how she and her family escaped. Current Time, a co-production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA, has her story.

2:51 p.m.: Russia said on Thursday it had opened a criminal investigation into allegations by a Russian soldier that he was beaten and received death threats while being held as a prisoner of war in Ukraine, Reuters reported. Russia's Investigative Committee said the man, identified only by the initial E, was captured after a battle on March 2 in which he was seriously wounded. The soldier, a private, was returned to Russia after a prisoner swap on April 1, it said. Ukraine has said it checks all information regarding the treatment of prisoners of war and will investigate any violations and take appropriate legal action.

2:43 p.m.: Russian journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov was attacked Thursday while he was traveling on a train, in an apparent protest at his newspaper's coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, VOA’s Press Freedom Editor Jessica Jerreat reported. Unknown assailants threw red paint on the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta. One of them yelled, “Muratov, here’s to you from our boys.” Photos shared on social media showed red paint all over the award-winning journalist’s face and body, and across the seats of the train he was traveling on. Muratov suspended his paper’s operation on March 28, after receiving warnings from the Russian media regulator over its coverage of the Ukraine war.

2:16 p.m.: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that Russia had sustained "significant losses" in Ukraine, Reuters reported. "We have significant losses of troops," Peskov told the British channel Sky News in an interview, "and it's a huge tragedy for us." Russia's defense ministry said on March 25, its most recent update, that 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed since the start of the campaign, and 3,825 had been wounded. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said two days later that at least 10,000 Russian soldiers had probably been killed. The United Nations says it has confirmed the deaths of well over a thousand civilians, although the true toll is likely to be far higher.

2:02 p.m.: Workers are starting to clean up Borodyanka a town re-captured by the Ukranian government less than a week ago and they say they have already started finding bodies under the rubble. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.

Borodyanka is One of the Hardest Hit Towns by War in Ukraine
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1:48 p.m.: UN Humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths on Thursday visited the Ukrainian towns of Bucha and Irpin, outside of Kyiv, according to U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric. “Mr. Griffiths described the visit as horrifying. He saw a mass grave with bodies wrapped in plastic, dozens of apartment blocks and houses destroyed, and burned-out cars in the street,” Dujarric said. From Bucha, Griffiths went to Kyiv, where he met with the Prime Minster, two Deputy Prime Ministers, the Minister of Defense, and the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs. “Mr. Griffiths listened carefully to their views and concerns and sought ideas on how to move forward on getting to a humanitarian pause and safe passage for aid deliveries and evacuations. These are topics he also discussed with Government officials of the Russian Federation in Moscow on Monday,” Dujarric said.

1:26 p.m.: Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, thousands of Russian citizens – the majority working in the IT sector – have moved to Armenia. VOA’s Shake Avoyan went to Armenia to find out why and has this story.

Thousands of Russians Move to Armenia Amid Russia’s Aggression in Ukraine
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12:37 p.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba Thursday, and released remarks ahead of their meeting. Blinken spoke of “a tremendous sense of solidarity in support of Ukraine against Russia’s outrageous aggression,” and said the U.S. is “doing everything that we can to continue not only to sustain our support to Ukraine, but to build on it.” Kuleba thanked the U.S. for its assistance so far, and asked that assistance be provided immediately, saying “the issue of timeline is crucial, and I’m looking forward to our conversation today to discuss the timeline of supplies of the weapons which are needed to defend Ukraine.”

12:29 p.m.:

“The General Assembly has sent a crystal-clear message to Russia’s leadership that a government whose military is routinely committing horrific rights violations has no business on the UN Human Rights Council. Gruesome images from Bucha have shocked people around the world. Victims and their families deserve to see those responsible held to account. Investigators from the UN and International Criminal Court should set the wheels of justice in motion by moving swiftly to gather and preserve evidence of war crimes,”

Lois Charbonneau, Human Rights Watch U.N. Director, reacts to the decision of the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday to suspend Russia’s membership in the U.N. Human Rights Council.

12:23 p.m.:

“Today a wrong was righted,”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reacts to the decision of the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday to suspend Russia’s membership in the U.N. Human Rights Council.

12:20 p.m.: A Ukrainian official has provided VOA with exclusive photos of the aftermath of Russia’s five-week occupation of Ukraine’s decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, showing what he says are Russian trenches dug into radioactive soil near a 1986 nuclear accident at the site. VOA’s Michael Lipin, Tatiana Vorozhko, and Igor Tsikhanenka have this report.

11:57 a.m.: The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday suspended Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council over reports of "gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights" by invading Russian troops in Ukraine. The U.S.-led push garnered 93 votes in favor, while 24 countries voted no and 58 countries abstained. A two-thirds majority of voting members - abstentions do not count - was needed to suspend Russia from the 47-member council. The resolution adopted by the 193-member General Assembly draft expresses "grave concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine," particularly at reports of rights abuses by Russia, Reuters reported.

11:44 a.m.:
New legislation passed in the U.S. Senate on Thursday suspends normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, and bans Russian oil and energy imports. Both measures passed by a vote of 100-0, according to VOA’s Congressional Correspondent Katherine Gypson. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer remarked on the legislation, as well as on other Senate initiatives.

11:39 a.m.: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday announced plans to build more nuclear power plants, boost renewable energy production and further tap domestic oil and gas reserves to help the U.K. reduce its dependence on Russian energy, The Associate Press reported. The goal is to build eight new nuclear reactors by 2050, tripling U.K. production of nuclear energy. In addition, the strategy targets a 10-fold increase in production of electricity from offshore wind farms. The government also announced a new round of licensing for oil and gas projects in the North Sea. Other elements include promoting solar power and increasing hydrogen production for use in fuel cells.

11:18 a.m.: The accounts by at least a dozen residents in an apartment complex in the Ukrainian town of Bucha paint a picture of violence and intimidation by the soldiers while they were in the neighborhood, Reuters reported Thursday. The witness accounts and video gathered by Reuters also indicate the Russian soldiers were concerned that even though there was no visible Ukrainian military presence inside Bucha from early March, they could still be targeted by drones or by combatants concealed among the residents. Video shows soldiers in full combat gear with weapons cocked, and they appeared scared and on edge. The accounts also reveal acts of defiance by residents who resented the invaders occupying their city and their apartment complex.

11:01 a.m.: Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias announced Thursday his country will ask the International Criminal Court in The Hague to launch an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine’s southern port of Mariupol, which is home to a large ethnic Greek community. The move came after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Greece's parliament Thursday, urging Athens to use all its diplomatic might to prosecute Russian military and political officials for atrocities he said were being waged not just in Mariupol, but across Ukraine, VOA’s Anthee Carassava reported.

10:46 a.m.: Laden with bags, trolleys and the odd pet, Ukrainians are returning to the capital Kyiv, some tearful, others nervous about going home after Russian troops withdrew from the outskirts of their city, Reuters reported. A week after Russian forces pulled out of villages to the north of Kyiv, leaving behind razed buildings and corpses in some of the streets, officials have warned people not to return to the capital quite yet, fearful of a renewed offensive. Yet for several of those returning on Thursday at the busy main train station in central Kyiv, the desire to see elderly parents or to continue their jobs outweighed any lingering safety concerns.

10:39 a.m.: The road to Borodyanka is littered with signs of a battle that ended abruptly. An empty tent. Discarded, unused ammunition. A dead pig. Inside the town, the devastation is colossal. Broken glass and mounds of debris surround a row of apartment buildings, most of which are charred and collapsing. As many as 200 people may have died in these artillery strikes, authorities say. VOA’s Heather Murdock has this Reporter’s Notebook story, looking at the aftermath of the battles in Borodyanka.

10:26 a.m.: The Ukrainian town of Borodyanka, 50 kilometers from Kyiv, was severely damaged by Russian air strikes. According to Prosecutor-General Iryna Venediktova, the worst situation with civilian casualties is in Borodyanka. Collapsed buildings have not been cleared and the number of victims has not yet been determined. Levko Stek listened to locals’ stories about what Russian troops in the city, and has this report for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

10:03 a.m.: Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Thursday he’s cautiously optimistic that some NATO member countries will increase their weapons supplies to his country, helping it resist Russia’s invasion, but he urged swift decisions and action, The Associated Press reported. Kuleba declined to say which countries would be providing equipment or what kind they would be, but he said the weapons must get to Ukraine quickly as Russia gears up for a new offensive in the eastern Donbas region. “Either you help us now, and I’m speaking about days, not weeks, or your help will come too late,” Kuleba said.

9:45 a.m.: The United Nations General Assembly will vote on Thursday on a U.S. push to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council over reports of "gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights" by invading Russian troops in Ukraine. A two-thirds majority of voting members - abstentions do not count - can suspend a country from the 47-member council. Libya was suspended in 2011 because of violence against protesters by forces loyal to then-leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Western diplomats are confident they have enough support among the 193-member General Assembly to adopt a resolution to suspend Moscow. The draft text expresses "grave concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine," particularly at reports of rights abuses by Russia.

Explaining the move, announced on Monday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told Reuters, "It is important to say (to Russia) 'we're not going to allow you to continue to act with such impunity and pretend that you respect human rights'." Russia has warned countries that a yes vote or abstention will be viewed as an "unfriendly gesture" with consequences for bilateral ties, according to a note seen by Reuters.

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9:36 a.m.: A former top NATO commander has said Western fears "about nuclear weapons and World War III" have left it "fully deterred" and Vladimir Putin "completely undeterred" as the Russian leader pursues his increasingly brutal invasion of Ukraine. "We have ceded the initiative to the enemy," Philip Breedlove told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reporter Vazha Tavberidze in a recent interview. Breedlove is a retired four-star U.S. Air Force general who led U.S. forces in Europe and served as NATO's supreme allied commander from 2013 to 2016.

9:21 a.m.: Russia is facing its most difficult situation in three decades due to unprecedented Western sanctions, but foreign attempts to isolate it from the global economy will fail, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said on Thursday. Western countries are progressively broadening an array of economic sanctions imposed to try to force Russia to end its military operation in Ukraine and withdraw its forces, Reuters reported. "No doubt, the current situation could be called the most difficult in three decades for Russia," Mishustin told the Duma, or lower house of parliament. "Such sanctions were not used even in the darkest times of the Cold War."

9:11 a.m.: Finland will clarify next steps regarding a possible decision to seek NATO membership in the coming weeks, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters after attending a NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on Thursday. NATO member countries have offered to help Finland with ensuring security during an application process and said they estimate it would take from four months to one year to approve the application, Haavisto added. Support for long neutral Finland for joining NATO has risen since neighboring Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Reuters reported.

8:25 a.m.: On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Japan’s foreign minister, the first ever to attend a NATO ministerial meeting, according to the U.S. ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith. In a tweet, she said that NATO is stronger “when we work with our Asia Pacific partners.”

8:06 a.m.: The mayor of the Ukrainian town of Bucha, Anatoly Fedoruk, says almost 90 percent of the people found dead in the town after Russian forces withdrew had “bullet wounds, not shrapnel wounds,” The Kyiv Independent reported Thursday, quoting the mayor’s interview with Deutche Welle. Three mass graves were also found in the city, he added.

7:42 a.m.: France has summoned Russia’s ambassador over his tweet suggesting that images of civilians killed in Ukraine’s town of Bucha were staged, The Associated Press reported Thursday. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the tweet “indecent.” Thursday’s tweet, which was later removed but had already been reprinted by numerous French media, showed a street in Bucha with a knocked-out tank and numerous journalists, under the caption “film set.” Media covering the war in Ukraine, including The Associated Press, have revealed scenes of horror in the Kyiv suburb with bodies of Ukrainian civilians scattered about the town, which was occupied by Russian troops in March. Moscow derides the reports and images as fakes, but AP and other news outlets have provided evidence to the contrary.

7:15 a.m.: The German government has indications that Russia was involved in the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha based on satellite images, a security source said on Thursday, Reuters reported. German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that the intelligence agency had intercepted radio messages from Russian military sources discussing the killing of civilians in Bucha. "It's true that the federal government has indications of Russian perpetration in Bucha," said the source. "However, these findings on Bucha refer to satellite images. The radio transmissions cannot be clearly assigned to Bucha." The source did not elaborate. The BND foreign intelligence office declined to comment on the matter. A German government spokesperson declined to comment on the Spiegel report.

7:09 a.m.: Germany’s foreign intelligence service claims to have intercepted radio communications in which Russian soldiers discuss indiscriminate killings in Ukraine, the Washington Post reported Thursday. In two separate communications, Russian soldiers described how they question soldiers as well as civilians, and proceed to shoot them, according to an intelligence official familiar with the findings who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity. The findings from Germany's foreign intelligence service, confirmed to The Post by three people briefed on the information, further undermine claims by Russia that atrocities — including in Bucha — are being carried out only after its soldiers leave occupied areas.

7:04 a.m.: The Ukrainian town of Bucha is a crime scene, Mark Krutov and Oleksandra Vagner said in a report for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Increasingly, it is also a worldwide synonym for atrocities that may have been committed by Russian troops during the first six weeks of their assault on Ukraine. RFE/RL reporters, scouring through social-media posts, public lists of dead soldiers, video footage from the devastated town, and other information, have sought to pinpoint some of the military units that were known to have occupied Bucha between the start of the invasion on February 24 and April 1, when it was reclaimed by Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian and Western investigators, meanwhile, are struggling to compile evidence and take witness accounts, as the government pledges to prosecute what it says are war crimes.

6:52 a.m.: People across Russia have expressed mixed reactions to allegations that Russian forces committed war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha. Russian media are denouncing the findings in Bucha as an elaborate hoax – a narrative that international journalists have shown to be false. Reporters with Current Time, a co-production between Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and VOA, asked people across Russia if they had heard what happened in Bucha. Many echoed the Kremlin’s line that images of atrocities were “false” though some Russians expressed shock and called the killings “horrible” while others were too afraid to share their true feelings.

6:47 a.m.: The Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized countries on Thursday condemned "in the strongest terms" what it calls the "atrocities" committed by Russia in the town of Bucha and other areas of Ukraine. "Haunting images of civilian deaths, victims of torture, and apparent executions, as well as reports of sexual violence and destruction of civilian infrastructure show the true face of Russia's brutal war of aggression against Ukraine and its people," foreign ministers from the G7 said in a joint statement. "The massacres in the town of Bucha and other Ukrainian towns will be inscribed in the list of atrocities and severe violations of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights, committed by the aggressor on Ukrainian soil," it added.

6:31 a.m.: The Ukrainian Red Cross Society Thursday appealed to billionaire Elon Musk to contribute some of the funds he is investing in his Starlink project into humanitarian aid, instead. “That will allow us to provide more help and support to the people in Ukraine,” it said on Twitter.

6:18 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an address to the Greek parliament Thursday that his country needs anti-aircraft defense systems, artillery systems, munitions and armored vehicles to hold Russia’s invasion at bay, The Associated Press reported. He called for sanctions on all Russian banks and a ban on Russian ships from entering ports. “We must bring Russia to justice,” he said. Zelenskyy emphasized the destruction wrought on Ukraine’s port city Mariupol, home to a sizeable Greek-Ukrainian community, and urged Greece to help prevent the same fate befalling Odesa, another Ukrainian port city with deep ties to Greece.

6:12 a.m.: As Russia intensifies its military campaign in the east and south, Ukrainian officials are urging citizens to evacuate from three eastern regions Thursday using 10 humanitarian corridors. Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said civilians from the Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions will be able to evacuate to the cities of Zaporizhzhia and Bakhmut, The Associated Press reported Thursday. Vereshchuk said on the messaging app Telegram that it would be possible to travel from Mariupol and Enerhodar to Zaporizhzha by car and from Berdyansk, Tokmak and Melitopol by car and on buses. Civilians in Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna, Girske and Rubizhne in the Luhansk region can evacuate to Bakhmut, a city in the Donetsk region.

6:08 a.m.: Ukrainian officials reported intensified Russian attacks Thursday on cities and towns in eastern Ukraine as thousands of people fled parts of a region bracing for a major Russian offensive, according to the Washington Post. The governor of the Kharkiv region, Oleh Synyehubov, said on Telegram that artillery and mortar fire hit houses and infrastructure and that at least 15,000 people have fled towns in the region. He called on residents to leave two areas near territory under the control of pro-Russian separatists. The governor said earlier…“at the moment ... no centralized evacuations” have been organized from the Kharkiv region, home to Ukraine’s second-largest city, but that his administration would inform residents if this changes.

5:59 a.m.: More than 100,000 people still need to be evacuated urgently from Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said on Thursday, describing the situation in the Russian-besieged Ukrainian port city as a humanitarian catastrophe, Reuters reported. "The remaining more than 100,000 people are praying for rescue - a full-scale evacuation is needed," he said on national television. Deputy Prime Minister Irena Vereshchuk announced agreement with Russia on opening 10 safe corridors, mostly in southern and eastern Ukraine, but said residents trying to leave the besieged city of Mariupol would have to use their own vehicles.

5:48 a.m.: Spurred by reports of Russian atrocities outside Ukraine’s capital, and alarmed at signs that Russia’s invasion force is about to escalate assaults in eastern Ukraine, many civilians in that region are fleeing while they can, the New York Times reported Thursday, quoting local officials.

“The cities of the Luhansk region are in ruins,” warned one eastern governor. “Thousands of residents have not yet left. Get out of the way!” Russian forces now control 60 percent of the town of Rubizhne, in the Luhansk region, according to the governor there, Serhiy Haidai, who said the attackers had scaled up their offensive this week. “Evacuations are taking place under the roar of enemy guns,” Mr. Haidai wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday, saying that approximately 30,000 people had left the region since Russia invaded, the New York Times reported.

In Kramatorsk, a city in the north of the Donetsk region, photos showed crowds of people huddled at a platform in a central train station, the New York Times reported. At least two people were killed and five injured when Russian forces launched a strike on a humanitarian aid site in the town of Vugledar in the Donetsk region, according to Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Donetsk governor.

5:44 a.m.: Al Jazeera reports that Ukraine hopes to open 10 humanitarian corridors Thursday.

5:33 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the United Kingdom says that Russian forces are focusing on eastern Ukraine and that strikes "are likely intended to degrade the ability of the Ukrainian military to resupply and increase pressure on the Ukrainian government."

5:12 a.m.: Agence France-Presse reported that France has summoned the Russian ambassador over an "obscene and provacative" Bucha tweet. The tweet referred to the scenes of death and destruction in the area as a "film set," suggesting they'd been staged.

4:47 a.m.: The New York Times reported that Austria is expelling four Russian diplomats, the latest nation to do so.

4:07 a.m.: Agence France-Presse reported that British energy giant Shell will write off up to $5 billion as it cuts ties with Russia.

3:37 a.m.: Al Jazeera, citing the mayor of Bucha, Ukraine, reported that 90% of the civilians killed by the Russians in the town were shot, not shelled.

3:03 a.m.: Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted ahead of Thursday's NATO ministerial: "The only way to avert Russian war expanding beyond Ukraine is to provide us with the fullest support. Maximum sanctions. All the weapons. The policy of ‘not provoking Putin’ has failed badly in past years. Help us contain this evil now or risk Putin testing the article 5 later."

Speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels, he said, "My agenda is very simple. It has only three items on it. It's weapons, weapons and weapons," Agence France-Presse reported.

2:35 a.m.: Speaking to CNN, Ukrainian parliament member Sviatoslav Yurash said Bucha and the horrors reported there may just be the beginning. “You will see much more horror on your TV screens," he told CNN's Jake Tapper. "We are seeing the horror in real life. We cannot but state our utter shock at the fact this is possible in our time."

2:06 a.m.: The New York Times reports that organizers for the Boston Marathon have banned runners from Russia and Belarus.

1:43 a.m.: The U.S. Senate will take up legislation Thursday to end normal trade relations with Russia and to ban the importation of its oil, The Associated Press reported.

12:02 a.m.: The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday night to call for a war crimes investigation into alleged atrocities in Ukraine, The New York Times reported.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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