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Latest Developments in Ukraine: March 1

A local resident stands at the window as smoke raises from the burning building after the Russian shelling in the town of Chasiv Yar, the site of the heaviest battles with the Russian troops, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Feb. 27, 2023.
A local resident stands at the window as smoke raises from the burning building after the Russian shelling in the town of Chasiv Yar, the site of the heaviest battles with the Russian troops, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Feb. 27, 2023.

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

The latest developments in Russia's war on Ukraine. All times EST.

11:30 p.m.: The EU is looking to allocate an additional $1.07 billion for urgently needed ammunition for Ukraine as Kyiv burns through vast numbers of shells, according to a proposal seen Wednesday by Agence France-Presse.

Ukraine's Western backers are scrambling to ramp up supplies of 155 mm shells as they warn Kyiv faces critical shortages in the face of a grinding Russian offensive.

European officials estimate that Ukrainian forces are using up to 7,000 shells per day, while Moscow's troops are firing around 50,000.

In a bid to speed ammunition to Ukraine, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell is proposing using $1.07 billion in joint funds to get member states to dig into their stockpiles.

The money would come from the bloc's European Peace Facility that has dedicated about $3 billion toward arming Ukraine since the start of the invasion last February, the document circulated to EU states said.

11 p.m.: Colonel Smak and his team of Ukrainian volunteers have managed to destroy three attack drones Russia launched on Kyiv, shooting them down with ancient Red Army machine guns, Agence France-Presse reports.

"The first drone was in October. It flew during the day, so it was clearly visible. We opened fire on it when it entered our sector," says the unit's commander, whose call sign "Smak" means zest.

Unlike cruise missiles, they fly relatively slowly and their small engine is noisy, so soldiers can track them by sight and sound.

"The other two flew on the night of January 1, after New Year. It was dark, but our colleagues shone spotlights and used thermal imaging cameras, so we spotted them and shot them down. I personally shot at them with a machine gun," says Smak, a grey-bearded 49-year-old.

As well as Kalashnikovs, the group is equipped with two Degtyaryov machine guns, originally used by the Soviet Red Army in the late 1920s, which have a distinctive large round magazine.

Smak leads a team of 80 civilian volunteers, some retired and others working, who keep watch for drones day and night.

There are around a dozen such units monitoring the sky above Kyiv, as part of the territorial defense force.

10:30 p.m.: The signature sauce has changed and the ingredients have been tweaked, but the "Big Hit," which went on sale in Russia this week, is a tasty alternative to the McDonald's Big Mac it is replacing, several customers told Reuters.

McDonald's closed its Russian restaurants soon after Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine last February, eventually selling to a local licensee, Alexander Govor, who unveiled the new brand in June.

That deal imposed restrictions on the color scheme and products that the successor chain Vkusno & tochka, or "Tasty & that's it," can use.

Big Macs, McFlurry's and the Golden Arches were all a no go, as was the McDonald's-style Big Mac sauce.

"They've completely revamped it," student Mikhail Proskunenkov told Reuters on Wednesday. "They've added more greens, changed the sauce. In principle, it's cool and different, but I still miss the old Big Mac."

Another customer, Edgar Vardanyan, was lavish in his praise: "I can 100% say that it has got better. I think the ingredients have changed a little, the sauce has become tastier."

10 p.m.: A spate of drone attacks that Russian authorities blamed on Ukraine has targeted areas in southern and western Russia, reflecting the Ukrainian military's growing reach as the war enters a second year, The Associated Press reported.

On Tuesday, a drone hit an oil refinery in the southern port of Tuapse in Russia's Krasnodar region, damaging some equipment but missing oil reservoirs. Some Russian reports identified it as an Israeli-made Aerostar drone.

Another drone, reportedly a massive Soviet-built jet-powered Tu-141 Strizh, fell into a field in the neighboring region of Adygea, damaging a farm building.

Finally, a drone crashed on the edge of a forest close to a gas compressor station near the village of Gubastovo, less than 100 kilometers southeast of Moscow. While it inflicted no damage, the drone appeared to target a major natural gas pumping facility and marked the closest strike yet to the Russian capital.

While the attacks didn't seem to inflict any significant damage, their number and scope cast a new challenge to Russia as it tries to turn the tide of the war by pressing an offensive in eastern Ukraine.

Some observers say that Tuesday's attacks could be a rehearsal for a broader Ukrainian attack on facilities deep inside Russia.

Ukrainian officials have not claimed responsibility for any of the attacks.

9:35 p.m.: Half of the people polled in Switzerland favor relaxing the country's military neutrality to allow the transfer of Swiss-made arms to Ukraine by third countries, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a poll published Wednesday.

The issue of Switzerland's long tradition of neutrality has been under debate since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine just over a year ago.

While the wealthy Alpine country, which is not a member of the European Union, has followed the bloc's lead on sanctions targeting Moscow, it has so far shown less flexibility on its strict military neutrality.

Despite pressure from Kyiv and its allies, Switzerland has so far refused to allow countries that hold Swiss-made weaponry to re-export it to war-ravaged Ukraine.

But Wednesday's poll indicated that half the population would back a relaxation of that rule.

8:41 p.m.: Moldova and Romania pledged on Wednesday to boost economic ties following Russia's invasion of neighboring Ukraine, and Bucharest reiterated support for Chisinau's bid to join the European Union, Reuters reported.

On his first trip abroad since taking office last month, Moldovan Prime Minister Dorin Recean held talks with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and Prime Minister Nicolae Cuica.

Moldova has been hit hard by the economic fallout of the war in Ukraine, which borders both Moldova and Romania, and tensions with Russia have risen over the war in Ukraine and the tiny former Soviet republic's EU accession bid.

"Business on both banks of the Prut speaks the same language," Recean told a joint news conference with Cuica, referring to a river on the border between Romania and Moldova, and the countries' mutual use of Romanian.

"We will soon integrate our financial markets and Bucharest's capital market will be accessible to Chisinau. I call on entrepreneurs from both banks of the Prut to develop business and use all the economic potential."

Recean said talks also covered regional security and that Moldova, which is highly dependent on Russian gas, was considering signing long-term contracts on gas and electricity supplies from Romania.

7:52 p.m.: Former Soviet satellite Slovakia has been a NATO member since 2004, but the reality of belonging to the world's biggest military alliance really kicked in after Russia's invasion of Ukraine a year ago.

The small central European country now hosts thousands of NATO troops while allied aircraft patrol its skies, allowing Bratislava to consider becoming the first nation to send fighter jets to neighboring Ukraine — getting rid of its unwieldy Soviet-era planes at the same time.

Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad is grateful.

"I would say that the Slovak Republic is a more secure country in a less secure world," Nad told The Associated Press in an interview in Bratislava.

"We remember well what it was like to have occupiers on our territory," he added, referring to the 1968 Soviet-led military invasion of former Czechoslovakia — from which Slovakia split peacefully in 1993, four years after the communist regime fell.

The country of 5.4 million hosts a battlegroup with troops from the United States, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, as NATO moved to reassure members on its eastern flank worried about a potential Russian threat.

7:21 p.m.: Ukrainian Olympic athletes will be allowed to train on German soil in preparation for the 2024 Paris Games, Germany's interior ministry announced on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported.

"We want to make our contribution, to help Ukrainian sportsmen and women in their preparation," German Sports Minister Nancy Faeser said in a statement.

Ukrainian athletes will be allowed to access Olympic training bases across Germany in preparation for the Olympics and Paralympics.

At the end of January, Ukrainian Sports Minister Vadym Gutzeit estimated that 220 Olympic athletes or coaches have been killed, while at least 320 training bases and facilities have been destroyed since the war began in February 2022.

Ukraine won one gold, six silver and 12 bronze medals at the 2021 Tokyo games, along with 98 medals including 24 gold at the Paralympics.

6:50 p.m.: Burned-out Russian tanks seized by Ukrainian forces last year have gone on display in recent days in the capitals of the three Baltics states, where Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians are turning out to view them and snap photos in sympathy with the Ukrainians defending their homeland, The Associated Press reported.

But among those visiting the tanks are also members of the countries' sizeable ethnic Russian minorities, some of whom placed flowers and lit candles to commemorate the fallen Russian soldiers and express support for Moscow.

The Russian gestures of support for Russia's side in the war have set off some arguments, and at least one fist fight in Vilnius — underlining the tensions that are simmering in the Baltic nations between the Baltic majorities and the countries' Russian minorities.

6 p.m.: Finland's parliament on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining NATO, ahead of ratifications from Hungary and Turkey, increasing the likelihood it will enter the alliance before Nordic neighbor Sweden, Agence France-Presse reported.

Both Finland and Sweden dropped their decades-long policies of military non-alignment and applied to join the trans-Atlantic defense pact last May, in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

However, Sweden has had several diplomatic spats with NATO member Turkey, which threaten to delay its membership bid and chances of joining at the same time as Finland.

Finnish lawmakers approved legislation affirming that Finland accepts the terms of the NATO treaty by 184 votes against seven, with one abstention and seven MPs not being present.

Joining NATO requires ratification from its 30 members, and Hungary and Turkey remain the holdouts.

Hungary began debating Finland and Sweden's NATO application bids on Wednesday, with the ratification set for between March 6 and 9, although delays are expected.

5:05 p.m.: The year-long Russian war in Ukraine took center stage on the eve of a G-20 foreign ministers' meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday with the EU foreign policy chief saying its success would be measured by what it could do to help end the conflict, Reuters reported.

Russia said it would use the meeting to tell the world who, according to Moscow, was responsible for the political and economic crises the world finds itself in.

Germany responded by saying it would counter Russian "propaganda" at the G20 meeting. Washington said it was important the G20 continue to call out Russia.

The foreign ministers' meeting comes days after a meeting of finance chiefs of G20 countries in Bengaluru that was also overshadowed by the Ukraine conflict.

Delegates at the Bengaluru meeting wrangled over condemning Russia for the war, failed to reach a consensus on a joint statement and settled instead for a summary document.

"This war has to be condemned," Josep Borrell, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told reporters.

4:14 p.m.: Ukrainian forces are fiercely resisting a Russian attempt to seize the small city of Bakhmut and are throwing massive extra reserves into the bloody battle, Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia's Wagner mercenary force, said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Prigozhin's men have spearheaded the assault in eastern Ukraine for months with Moscow regarding Bakhmut, which it calls by its Soviet-era name of Artyomovsk, as a useful stepping stone to seize bigger cities like Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

"The Ukrainian army is throwing extra reserves into Artyomovsk and trying to hold the town with all their strength," Prigozhin said in a message released by his press service.

"Tens of thousands of Ukrainian army fighters are putting up furious resistance. The bloodiness of the battles is growing by the day."

Speaking separately, Ukraine's armed forces said Russian troops were advancing near Bakhmut, while President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said all fronts were under control.

Reuters was unable to immediately verify the latest accounts.

3:22 p.m.: Russia may continue to exchange information with the United States on issues related to their nuclear forces even after Moscow suspended its participation in the last remaining arms control pact between the two countries, a senior Russian diplomat said Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russia has given the U.S. Embassy formal notice about the New START treaty's suspension after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the decision into law on Tuesday.

Ryabkov noted that Russia and the U.S. had confidential discussions on matters related to the pact in recent days. He said Moscow could remain open to such exchanges in the future.

"We will communicate and exchange information when necessary," Ryabkov said in comments carried by Russian news agencies.

The Russian diplomat emphasized that Russia will not end the suspension "at least until our American counterparts show readiness to abandon their hostile policy toward Russia, primarily concerning the developments in Ukraine."

2:33 p.m.: Ukraine said it has survived a months-long winter onslaught of Russian strikes on water and energy infrastructure on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported.

Since October, Russia has been pummeling key facilities in Ukraine with missiles and drones, disrupting millions of people's water, heating and electricity supplies.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukraine had overcome "winter terror" brought against his country by Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

"We survived the most difficult winter in our history. It was cold and dark, but we were unbreakable," Kuleba said in a statement.

Aid organizations had warned at the beginning of winter that the targeted campaign would force a new wave of migration to Europe and that Ukraine's priority would be survival through the months of freezing temperatures.

The Kremlin said Kyiv was responsible for civilians' suffering stemming from the massive outages because it had refused to capitulate to Moscow's war demands.

1:20 p.m.: The battle for Bakhmut is showing in sharp relief a decade-long covert conflict in Russia's armed forces, The Kyiv Independent reports.

The regular Russian military is on side, and on the other side is the Wagner Group, Russia's most high-profile mercenary outfit. Wagner was founded by Evgeny Prigozhin, a confidante of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian generals have despised Prigozhin for years, but things recently came to a head when Prigozhin publicly criticized the leadership of Russia's defense ministry while portraying himself and Wagner as the only competent force fighting in Ukraine.

Prigozhin criticized Russian forces' retreats in Kharkiv and Kherson in the fall of 2022.

12:30 p.m.: Ukraine has dealt “another major defeat” to Russian President Vladimir Putin by surviving the winter cold, despite Russia’s continued attacks against civilian energy infrastructure, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter on March 1, according to RFE/RL.

Kuleba also thanked Kyiv’s allies for “standing by Ukraine.”

The comment came as fierce fighting continued in and around Bakhmut, where Ukrainian defenders have faced a relentless onslaught of Russian attacks. Ukraine’s military reported another increase in assaults against the city in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.

11:15 a.m.: Scientists in Ukraine say the war there has contaminated the soil in large areas of farmland and may hinder the country’s agricultural production for decades to come.

A report published Wednesday by Reuters says researchers looking at soil samples from taken from the recaptured Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine found “high concentrations of toxins such as mercury and arsenic from munitions and fuel are polluting the ground.”

The scientists at Ukraine's Institute for Soil Science and Agrochemistry Research estimated that the war has degraded at least 10.5 million hectares of agricultural land across Ukraine so far.

“Two dozen experts who spoke with Reuters, including soil scientists, farmers, grain companies and analysts, said it would take decades to fix the damage to Europe's breadbasket -- including contamination, mines and destroyed infrastructure -- and that global food supplies could suffer for years to come,” the report said.

The Soil Institute’s director, Sviatoslav Baliuk, said damage could reduce Ukraine’s grain harvest by 10 to 20 million tons per year – up to a third of the country’s pre-war output.

10:15 a.m.: Russia said Wednesday it would only agree to extend the Black Sea grain deal, which allows grain to be safely exported from Ukrainian ports, if the interests of its own agricultural producers are considered, Reuters reports.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered by the U.N. and Turkey last year, expires on March 18 and cannot be extended unless all parties agree. Russia has already signaled its dissatisfaction with parts of the deal.

Russia's agricultural exports have not been specifically targeted by Western sanctions, but Moscow says restrictions on its payments, logistics and insurance industries are a "barrier" to it being able to export its own grains and fertilizers.

9:00 a.m.: The Ukrainian military has not made a decision to withdraw from the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut, a military spokesperson told CNN Wednesday.

Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the Eastern Grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said if the threat to Ukrainian personnel and operational situation is greater than the need to hold the city, Ukraine will withdraw the troops.

"I can say that there is no such decision now,” he said.

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said earlier that Ukraine may pull back from the city, which has been under steady Russian attack.

8:35 a.m.: Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko begins a three-day state visit to Beijing, RFE/RL reports.

Lukashenka is a key Kremlin ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. And his trip is an attempt to offset Belarus’s political and economic reliance on Moscow, which has grown even more dependent on Russian energy, security, and financial assistance following large-scale anti-government protests in 2020 and Minsk’s increased international isolation since the war in Ukraine started.

It’s an opportunity for Lukashenka to court Chinese investment and comes as the authoritarian leader has moved carefully during the yearlong war. Belarus has hosted Russian troops and was a launching pad for Moscow’s invasion, though it has refrained from committing its forces to the grinding conflict.

“This visit has symbolic meaning for Lukashenko, and it can help lend some credibility to the idea that he isn’t as isolated as he was in the past,” Katsiaryna Shmatsina, an expert on Belarusian politics at Virginia Tech university, told RFE/RL.

7:40 a.m.: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed doubt Wednesday about how serious Russia and China are about achieving peace in Ukraine, citing a lack of substantive steps by either to back up statements showing support for a peace effort, according to reports by Reuters and The Associated Press.

Speaking during a visit to Uzbekistan, Blinken told reporters that if Russia were genuinely prepared to engage in meaningful diplomacy to end its aggression, then the United States would be quick to engage in that effort. But he said Russia’s actions, including President Vladimir Putin’s demands that Ukraine recognize Russia’s control over parts of Ukrainian territory, show Russia is not interested in that path.

“The real question is whether Russia will get to a point where it is genuinely prepared to end its aggression and do so in a way that is consistent with the United Nations charter and its very principles.”

6:55 a.m.: The AP reports Ukraine’s military might pull back from the eastern stronghold of Bakhmut as Russia presses an offensive to capture the city. An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday that Ukraine could strategically roll back its troops from the devastated city, adding, “We’re not going to sacrifice all of our people just for nothing.”

6:05 a.m.: Agence France-Presse reported that Belarus president and close Kremlin ally Alexander Lukashenko said during a visit to China Wednesday that his country fully supports an initiative put forward by Beijing to achieve peace in Ukraine.

"Today's meeting is taking place at a very difficult time, which calls for new, unorthodox approaches and responsible political decisions," Lukashenko told China's President Xi Jinping.

"They should be aimed at first and foremost preventing a slide into a global confrontation that will see no winners," he said.

"That is why Belarus is actively coming up with peace proposals, and fully supports the initiative on international security you have put forward," Lukashenko told Xi in remarks released by his aides.

He also said that Belarus wanted to increase technological cooperation with China.

5:45 a.m.: Reuters reported that a Polish government official said on Wednesday that Russia was behind a hacking attack that blocked users' access to the online tax filing system, amid persistent high tensions between Warsaw and Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

Western officials say the Russian government is a global leader in hacking and uses cyber-espionage against foreign governments. Moscow has consistently denied that it carries out hacking operations.

"Russians are responsible for yesterday's attack, it must be made clear. We have information that makes it very likely that this was the adversary," Janusz Cieszynski, an official responsible for digitalization, told broadcaster Polsat News.

The Russian embassy in Warsaw said in an emailed response requesting comment that it is "already used to the fact that in the West you can now accuse Russia of anything without evidence. This is another such case in the well-known style of saying it is 'highly likely'."

Cieszynski said the attack had consisted of distributed denial of service but that there had been no leaking of taxpayers' data.

"This is an attack that blocks access to the site but does not block security and put our data at risk," he said.

5:15 a.m.:

4:50 a.m.: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held talks with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in New Delhi on Wednesday, a day before attending the G-20 foreign ministers meeting, Indian and Russian officials said according to Reuters.

The two ministers assessed the current security situation in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and ironed out issues on the use of local currencies for settling trade, said a senior Russian official.

Lavrov is scheduled to meet his Chinese, Bangladeshi and South African counterparts later on Wednesday, the official added.

"We will urge our constructive colleagues in the G-20 to convert to national currencies, to align clearing and settlement mechanisms, and to create independent insurance plans and transport routes," the Russian embassy in New Delhi said in a statement ahead of the meetings.

"We will describe in detail Russia's actions to reduce these threats and diversify foreign economic ties and logistics corridors."

India has refused to blame Moscow for the Ukraine conflict, while seeking a diplomatic solution and sharply boosting its purchases of Russian oil.

4:15 a.m.: Reuters reported that Hungarian President Katalin Novak urged lawmakers on Wednesday to ratify Finland and Sweden's NATO entry "as soon as possible" as deputies started debating the motions after months of the bills being stranded in parliament.

Sweden and Finland applied last year to join the transatlantic defense pact after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. But all 30 NATO members need to back the applications and Sweden has faced objections from Turkey for harboring what Ankara considers to be members of terrorist groups.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday talks with Sweden and Finland over their NATO membership bids would resume on March 9, although he said Sweden had still not fulfilled its obligations under a memorandum signed last year.

With Hungary's ratification process stranded in parliament since July, nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban aired concerns about Sweden and Finland's NATO membership for the first time last Friday.

Among other criticisms, he has accused both countries of spreading "outright lies" about the health of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary.

"It is a complex decision, with serious consequences, so careful consideration is necessary," Novak said on Facebook.

"My position is clear-cut: in the present situation, the accession of Sweden and Finland is justified. I trust the National Assembly will make a wise decision as soon as possible."

Nationalist Orban said more talks were needed between parliamentary groups before lawmakers vote on the membership bids, which they will begin debating on Wednesday.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto on Tuesday said Hungary intends to send a parliamentary delegation to Finland on or around March 9 to discuss the Nordic nation's pending NATO membership.

Orban's chief of staff on Saturday said a vote on ratification may take place only in the second half of March.

3:30 a.m.: The Russia-Ukraine conflict will form an important part of discussions at a G-20 foreign ministers meeting, but host India is confident that economic challenges created by the war will get equal attention, India's foreign secretary said on Wednesday according to Reuters.

"Yes, given the nature and the developing situation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, it will be an important point of discussion," Vinay Kwatra, India's top diplomat, told reporters on Wednesday, as foreign ministers arrived in New Delhi for the meeting.

"Questions relating to food, energy and fertilizer security, the impact that the conflict has on these economic challenges that we face," among others, would also receive "due focus," Kwatra said.

The meeting will be attended by 40 delegations including Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang.

After a welcome dinner later on Wednesday, discussions will be held on Thursday.

G20 includes the wealthy G7 nations as well as Russia, China, India, Brazil, Australia and Saudi Arabia, among other nations.

The meeting comes days after a meeting of finance chiefs of G-20 countries in Bengaluru which was overshadowed by Russia's war in Ukraine.

2:10 a.m.:

1:45 a.m.: Denmark's parliament on Tuesday adopted a controversial bill to abolish a public holiday to put more money toward its military, a priority following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reported.

After weeks of protests against the government plan, 95 MPs voted in favor and 68 against.

Denmark's left-right government coalition, in power since December and led by Social Democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, announced plans in January to scrap the religious holiday known as Great Prayer Day and observed since the 17th century.

The cancellation would provide $427 million more to state coffers, thanks to an additional 7.4 hours of labor per worker, according to the government.

1:15 a.m.:

12:55 a.m.: Ukraine has sent an appeal to the U.N. and Turkey to start negotiations on extending a grain export deal, but there has been no response, a Ukrainian government source said on Tuesday.

Yuriy Vaskov, Ukraine's deputy minister of restoration, told Reuters last week that Kyiv would ask all sides to start talks to roll over the deal, seeking an extension of at least one year that would include the ports of Mykolaiv.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by the U.N. and Turkey last July allowed grain to be exported from three Ukrainian ports. The agreement was extended in November and will expire on March 18 unless an extension is agreed.

A major global grain grower and exporter, Ukraine's grain exports were down almost 27% at 31.8 million metric tons in the 2022/23 season as of February 27, impacted by a smaller harvest and logistical difficulties caused by the Russian invasion.

Ukraine exports around 3 million metric tons of agricultural products a month under the deal, but Vaskov said Ukraine was able to export 6 million metric tons a month from the ports of Odesa region and boost it to 8 million metric tons if Mykolaiv joins.

12:01 a.m.: Finland's parliament moved closer Tuesday toward accelerating its bid to join NATO, increasing the likelihood that it would leave its neighbor Sweden behind to rapidly enter the trans-Atlantic defense pact, Agence France-Presse reported.

A vote is scheduled by Finnish MPs on Wednesday afternoon for speeding up the ascension process, as the two countries have the backing of all but two of NATO's 30 members, the holdouts being Hungary and Turkey.

Many Finnish lawmakers have pushed for legislation affirming that Finland accepts the terms of the NATO treaty even before elections on April 2.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that Ankara now looks favorably on Finland's bid.

While passing the bill does not mean that Finland will automatically join NATO after ratification by Turkey and Hungary, it puts in place a deadline for how long it can wait for Sweden.

Some information in this report came from Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press and Reuters.

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