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Residents of Irpin evacuating on foot in front of a damaged church and a burnt out car. Alamy Stock Photo
AS IT HAPPENED

As it happened: US bans Russian oil as Poland donates fighter jets to US to be given to Ukraine army

Keep up-to-date with developments throughout the day.

LAST UPDATE | 8 Mar 2022

THESE ARE THE latest developments:

  • People are continuing to flee besieged cities. Ukraine accused Russia of attacking one humanitarian corridor leading from the beleaguered southern port city of Mariupol. 
  • More than two million people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion less than two weeks ago, the United Nations has said. 
  • Ukraine’s military claimed this morning that a Russian general, Vitaly Gerasimov, had been killed in fighting near Kharkiv.
  • Poland is to hand its Mig-29 fighter jets to the US, under a reported scheme that would see the planes given to Ukraine. The US said the move was a surprise.
  • The US said it would ban Russian oil imports and the UK said it would phase them out this year, over Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine
  • Invoking Churchill, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told British MPs that Ukraine “will fight to the end. On the sea and in the air, we will fight for our land whatever the cost.”
  • Zelenskyy also said today that he is no longer pressing for Nato membership for Ukraine, one of the main bones of contention with Moscow. You can learn more about Nato and Ireland’s involvement in it in our latest podcast episode on it.
  • Energy giant Shell has said it will stop buying Russian oil and natural gas. It also plans to shut down service stations in the country.
  • Here at home, an online portal for people who are in a position to offer accommodation to Ukrainian refugees who arrive in Ireland has received over 6,000 pledges since it opened yesterday.

Good morning, Orla Dwyer here with details of the latest developments in Ukraine. 

Here’s a quick catch-up on the situation so far today:

  • Ukraine’s military has claimed that Russian general Vitaly Gerasimov was killed in fighting near Kharkiv.
  • Russia’s plans to open humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to flee is a publicity stunt, Kyiv said.
  • The UN said 1.7 million people have fled Ukraine, making it the fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II.
  • Ukrainian servicemen and fleeing residents have described ferocious fighting on Kyiv’s northwestern edge.
  • At least nine people, including two children, died in an ‘enemy’ air strike on the city of Sumy, some 350 kilometres east of Kiev, Ukrainian rescue services said.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said he is not sending conscripts or reservists to fight and that “professional” soldiers fulfilling “fixed objectives” are leading the war in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address UK Parliament later today.

download Gaiduk Oxana went to Poland with her daughter, but has decided to return to Odessa where her husband stayed to fight. Hannah McCarthy Hannah McCarthy

Ukrainians at the Polish border have told journalist Hannah McCarthy why they’re returning to their country – many to collect children or their belongings. 

Gaiduk Oxana is a civil servant at the Department of Social Services in Odessa, a port city that lies on the coast of the Black Sea. 

She went to Poland with her daughter but has decided to return to Odessa where her husband stayed to fight.

“I am afraid, but I owe it to my homeland,” she said. “I have a husband there and we will defend our homeland together.”

The head of the UN’s refugee agency has said he expected the number of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine to top two million in the next two days.

“I do think that we will pass the two million mark today or maybe at the latest tomorrow. So it doesn’t stop,” Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Oslo.

Around 1.7 million people have fled the country so far. 

People fleeing to Ireland

A portal opened yesterday for people who want to register and offer accommodation to Ukrainian refugees arriving in Ireland.

Such was the demand for the site that it crashed – but not before over 1,300 people had registered their interest in housing refugees. The website is back up and running now.

Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman said that his department is currently developing a policy to make sure that people are housed in suitable accommodation. 

However, he would not be drawn on whether or not background checks or garda vetting of prospective homeowners would be done. 

“There’ll be checks undertaken of all accommodation offers to ensure that the accommodation is habitable and also of course in terms of particularly where accommodation is shared, I think it is important that there are checks,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland. 

Some more details have emerged about an air strike in Sumy, a Ukrainian city where a humanitarian corridor was to be set up today.

At least nine people, including two children, were killed in the air strike near the Russian border, Ukraine’s rescue services said.

The corridor from Sumy to Poltava is designed to evacuate civilians but Ukraine’s vice prime minister accused Russia of planning to disrupt the route.

Sumy, 350 kilometres east of Kyiv, has experienced heavy fighting for days.

The number of people in Ukraine who have fled the country over the war has hit the two million mark. 

The head of the UN’s refugee agency Filippo Grandi confirmed the figure on Twitter this morning.

This is the fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II. 

The UK has been hit with criticism in recent days over the number of Ukrainian refugees it has taken in. 

Just 300 visas have been issued out of a total of 17,700 family scheme applications that have been started, 8,900 of which have been submitted.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace acknowledged that the UK government needs to move quicker and said he is offering Ministry of Defence support to speed up the work.

UK Labour said the numbers being admitted are “shockingly low”, while senior Tory MP Simon Hoare said it is “simply not good enough”.

Ireland has waived visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees entering the country and 1,800 people have arrived so far. 

Russia opposition leader Alexei Navalny said the question of whether Russian people actually support Putin’s “hideous war” will “largely define Russia’s place in the history of the 21st century”. 

“It’s one thing if Putin killed Ukrainian civilians and destroyed life-critical infrastructure with full approval from the Russian citizens,” he said on Twitter.

However, it’s a whole different story if Putin’s bloody venture is not supported by the society.

Navalny is the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation in Russia which conducted four online polls around this, each recently surveying 700 people in Moscow. 

These results indicated there is an increasing percentage of Russians who view Russia as the aggressor and the number of those considering the country as a peace-maker is decreasing. 

On 25 February, the day after Putin launched the invasion, 29% of those surveyed said Russia was an aggressor. This increased to 53% by 3 March. 

Almost 80% of those surveyed agreed that there should be an immediate end to all military operations and engage in peace talks. 

In an update on the muddled situation with humanitarian corridors, Ukraine has accused Russia of violating the route aimed at enabling civilians to leave the southern port city of Mariupol.

“The enemy has launched an attack heading exactly at the humanitarian corridor,” the defence ministry said on Facebook, adding the Russian army “did not let children, women and elderly people leave the city.”

Late last night, Russia named Mariupol as one of four cities where evacuation corridors would be opened.

According to Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs, the EU is set to propose a new round of sanctions to target wealthy Russians and some Russian parliament members who voted in favour of war measures. 

War crimes

anti-war-protest-toulouse Demonstrators wrapped in a Ukrainian flag. Patrick Batard Patrick Batard

Germany’s federal prosecutor has now opened a probe into suspected war crimes by Russian troops since the invasion of Ukraine, amid international outrage over attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure.

“We will collect and secure all evidence of war crimes,” Justice Minister Marco Buschmann told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.

Germany’s federal prosecution office in Karlsruhe has opened a so-called structural investigation to begin collecting evidence, he said.

If you want to read more about what exactly constitutes a war crime, and whether Putin could face trial over the invasion, our reporter Céimin Burke took a look at that last week.

Simon Coveney has previously said that Russia’s actions are “war crimes and they should be called that”. 

The United Nations has said more than two million people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion less than two weeks ago. 

Poland alone has received nearly half of all those fleeing Ukraine, with Tuesday’s figures showing that 1.2 million had crossed into the country in the past 13 days.

Hungary meanwhile has taken in nearly 191,350 people, Slovakia 140,745 and Russia itself has seen 99,300 people cross over from Ukraine, the data showed.

Moldova and Romania had each received over 82,000 refugees each, according to data gathered on Sunday, while over 210,000 people who have fled into neighbouring countries have already moved on to other European nations, UNHCR found.

Just in: Energy giant Shell has said it will stop buying Russian oil and natural gas. It also plans to shut down service stations, aviation fuels and other operations in Russia. 

Our reporter Lauren Boland is in Strasbourg today, where Irish MEP Grace O’Sullivan described Russian gas as “blood-red”:

O’Sullivan also told reporters that she stands by Ireland’s neutral position as it gives the country “a particular position in Europe and across the world”.

“I think the Irish are seen as being an honest broker, as they say here, and I think there is a place for us to maintain our neutrality,” she said.

Carla Melki, emergency coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), has just returned to Moldova from Odessa, in southern Ukraine. The city is now preparing for an attack and a siege and some medicines are already running short.

For those who remain in the city, “everyone is preparing for the worst,” she said.

“Those who remain do not move much. Despite this, moving around is complicated due to the traffic jams around the very many Ukrainian security forces checkpoints in the city.

“There is a curfew at night and sirens sound several times a day. While we were there, we heard several explosions in the distance, but we did not know what caused them or where they came from.

“Most shops are closed, the sale of alcohol is prohibited, fuel is rationed, and cash withdrawals are limited.

“The city is clearly preparing for an attack and a siege. With nearly one million inhabitants, Odessa is the third-biggest city in Ukraine. It is also home to one of the country’s most strategic port. So no one has any illusions about what will happen next.”

Some 120,000 refugees from Ukraine have already fled over the border to Moldova. The nearest border crossing for residents of Odessa is Palanca, normally about a two hour drive from the city. Currently it can take up to 24 hours to cross the border.

The National Police of Ukraine have opened more than 1,100 criminal proceedings against the Russian military.

The State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine (SSCIP) said that most of the proceedings are for violating the laws and customs of war and for sabotage. 

Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba has issued an appeal to all global businesses to stop or suspend their operations with or in Russia. 

In a statement on Twitter, he said doing so would mean “refusing to finance its violence, murders, and crimes against humanity”. 

You can read his full appeal below. 

Returning to Strasbourg, our reporter Lauren Boland watched The European Parliament debating foreign interference in EU democratic processes this morning. 

Referring to Russia, Polish MEP Radosław Sikorski said that those who “promote their propaganda” or “give space to their media and social media outlets” should be breaking the law.

He also told his colleagues that what Putin is doing in Ukraine “means that we need to get serious about European defence at last”. 

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg has said Russia’s armed forces may be deliberately targeting civilians as they try to flee the military assault on Ukraine.

He said: “There are very creditable reports of civilians coming under fire as they try to evacuate. Targeting civilians is a war crime, and it’s totally unacceptable.”

He told reporters in Latvia that the humanitarian impact of the almost two-week war “is devastating”, adding: “We need real humanitarian corridors that are fully respected.”

Asked what Nato can do to help, Stoltenberg said: “We have a responsibility to ensure the conflict does not spread beyond Ukraine.”

The alliance is boosting its defences to ensure that members near Russia and Ukraine are not next on Moscow’s target list.

The Kyiv Independent is reporting that the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has said that Moscow ally Belarus may be preparing to send troops to Ukraine.

According to the publication, the General Staff said that Belarus has regrouped its forces and deployed some to the Ukrainian border near the southwestern city of Brest and the village of Aleksandrovka in the Gomel Oblast region.

The UN human rights office says it has confirmed 474 civilian deaths in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on 24 February.

The office said today that the number of confirmed civilian injuries stands at 861.

The UN office uses strict methodology and only reports casualties it has been able to verify.

It acknowledged that the real figures are much higher, in part because intense fighting has delayed its receipt of information and many reports still have to be corroborated.

Biden to announce ban on Russian oil imports

US President Joe Biden is expected to announce a ban on US imports of Russian oil today, in the latest sanction in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, according to US media.

Biden is set to speak at 3.45pm GMT to “announce actions to continue to hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine,” the White House said.

The administration had been under increasing pressure from US lawmakers to take the step.

An online portal for people who are in a position to offer accommodation to Ukrainian refugees who arrive in Ireland has received over 6,000 pledges since it opened yesterday.

Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman has thanked all those who have registered so far, saying: “Incredible solidarity and support from the Irish public for people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine”. 

In Strasbourg, our reporter Lauren Boland has been listening to Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly speaking about the EU’s dependence on Russia for fossil fuels.

“If we weren’t as dependent on them, you’d cut them off in the morning”, he said. 

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted to say he and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had discussed the latest on the war in Ukraine with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Macron said that President Xi “supported our action towards reaching a ceasefire and ensuring the people have access to humanitarian aid”. 

Residents in Odessa are pictured today adding their signatures to an appeal to Nato to close the airspace over Ukraine. 

odesa-ukraine-march-08-2022-odesa-residents-leave-their-signatures-under-an-appeal-to-nato-to-close-the-airspace-over-ukraine-odesa-southern-ukraine-photo-by-nina-lyashonokukrinformabacapr Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

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Ukrainian ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova has said that three adults were killed and three children wounded when an anti-personnel mine exploded under their car on a road in the Chernihiv region north of Kyiv.

It is believed to be the first time during the conflict that civilians have been killed by a landmine, Denisova told AFP.

She also stressed that using anti-personnel mines against civilians is barred by international law.

Reuters is reporting that a second convoy of evacuees has left the Ukrainian city of Sumy.

The news agency said Ukraine’s deputy presidential chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko confirmed that they left through a “humanitarian corridor” created under the temporary ceasefire agreement with Russia.

Regional authorities said earlier today that the ceasefire had mostly held, allowing a first wave of evacuation of civilians, including 1,000 foreign students, it added. 

Independent TD Cathal Berry has written a letter to the Ceann Comhairle asking if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy could be invited to address a joint sitting of the Oireachtas. 

Berry earlier raised the matter with Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dáil, who said he would have no issue with it.

Berry said he had discussed the issue with the Ukrainian Ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko, who he said is “very much in favour of the initiative” and plans to raise it with Zelenskyy’s office. 

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The US Defense Department has told lawmakers that it estimates between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in Moscow’s nearly two-week-old invasion of Ukraine.

Asked at a House Intelligence Committee hearing how many Russian troops have died to date in the military operation, Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, said “somewhere between two (thousand) and 4,000.”

However, Berrier did add that the estimate is considered “low confidence” because it was put together using a combination of intelligence sources and open source data.

US bans Russian oil imports over Ukraine invasion

US President Joe Biden has announced a ban on Russian oil imports in retaliation to its invasion of Ukraine.

He added that the ban will also include gas and energy imports from the country.

“We made this decision in close consultation with our allies and our partners around the world, particularly in Europe, because a united response to Putin’s aggression has been my overriding focus,” Biden said in a televised statement.

However, he said he understands that some European allies will not be able to make the same move due to their dependence on Russian oil.  

Ukraine says no longer insisting on NATO membership

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he is no longer pressing for NATO membership for Ukraine, a delicate issue that was one of Russia’s stated reasons for invading its pro-Western neighbour.

In another apparent nod aimed at placating Moscow, Zelenskyy said he is open to “compromise” on the status of two breakaway pro-Russian territories that President Vladimir Putin recognised as independent just before unleashing the invasion on 24 February.

“I have cooled down regarding this question a long time ago after we understood that … NATO is not prepared to accept Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in an interview aired Monday night on ABC News.

“The alliance is afraid of controversial things, and confrontation with Russia,” the president added.

Referring to NATO membership, Zelenskyy said through an interpreter that he does not want to be president of a “country which is begging something on its knees.”

Russia has said it does not want neighbouring Ukraine to join NATO, the transatlantic alliance created at the start of the Cold War to protect Europe from the Soviet Union. It sees NATO enlargement as a threat, as it does the military posture of these new Western allies on its doorstep.

Putin now wants Ukraine to recognise Donetsk and Lugansk as sovereign and independent.

When ABC asked him about this Russian demand, Zelenskyy said he was open to dialogue.

“I’m talking about security guarantees,” he said.

He said these two regions “have not been recognized by anyone but Russia, these pseudo republics. But we can discuss and find the compromise on how these territories will live on.”

“What is important to me is how the people in those territories are going to live who want to be part of Ukraine, who in Ukraine will say that they want to have them in,” Zelenskyy said.

“So the question is more difficult than simply acknowledging them,” the president said.

“This is another ultimatum and we are not prepared for ultimatums. What needs to be done is for President Putin to start talking, start the dialogue instead of living in the informational bubble without oxygen.”

Echoing Churchill, Zelenskyy tells UK parliament ‘we will fight to the end’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has given an address to a full House of Commons, telling UK MPs “we will fight to the end”

“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,” he said.

Addressing the parliament via video link, Zelenskyy said “we do not want to lose what we have, what is ours, our country Ukraine”.

According to the English language translation on Parliament TV, Zelenskuy said: “Mr Speaker, all the Members of Parliament, ladies and gentlemen, I am addressing all the people of the United Kingdom and all the people from the country with a big history.

“I am addressing you as a citizen, as a president, of also a big country, with a dream and big effort.

“I would like to tell you about the 13 days of war, the war that we didn’t start and we didn’t want. However we have to conduct this war, we do not want to lose what we have, what is ours, our country Ukraine.”

Concluding his speech, Zelenskyy thanked Boris Johnson by name and called on the UK for more support.

Speaking through a translator, he said: “We are looking for your help, for the help of Western counties. We are thankful for this help and I am grateful to you Boris.

“Please increase the pressure of sanctions against this country [Russia] and please recognise this country as a terrorist country.

“Please make sure sure that our Ukrainian skies are safe.Please make sure that you do what needs to be done and what is stipulated by the greatness of your country.”

russian-invasion-of-ukraine Zelenskyy addressing MPs in the House of Commons via videolink PA PA

Responding to the speech made by Zelenskyy, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons: “Never before in all our centuries of our parliamentary democracy has the House listened to such an address.

“In a great European capital now within range of Russian guns President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is standing firm for democracy and for freedom.”

During his speech, Zelenskyy also told UK MPs that “over 50 children have been killed”.

According to the English language translation on Parliament TV, Zelenskyy added: “These are the children that could have lived but these people have taken them away from us.

“Just the same way you once didn’t want to lose your country when the Nazis started to fight your country and you had to fight for Britain.

“Thirteen days of this struggle … at 4 o clock in the morning we were attacked by cruise missiles. Everybody woke up and people with children…”

He added: “We have been fighting for our country, with our army…. Russian forces demanded that we lay down arms, we need to continue fighting.”

“Ukraine were not looking to have this war. Ukraine has not been looking to become big but they have become big over the days of this war. We are the country that are saving people despite having to fight one of the biggest armies in the world. We have to fight the helicopters, rockets.”

He added: “The question for us now is to be or not to be. Oh no, this Shakespearean question. For 13 days this question could have been asked but now I can give you a definitive answer. It’s definitely yes, to be.

“And I would like to remind you the words that the United Kingdom have already heard, which are important again. We will not give up and we will not lose.”

BBC to resume English-language reporting from Russia

The BBC said it would resume English-language broadcasting from Russia from this evening, after suspending its reporting as it examined tough new media laws.

“After careful deliberation, we have decided to resume English-language reporting from Russia this evening after it was temporarily suspended at the end of last week,” it added.

More than 2,000 people fleeing Ukraine have arrived in Ireland so far

The Journal’s Rónán Duffy reports that about two-thirds of arrivals are staying with family members here while about 640 people are staying in hotels.

Children make up about 40% of the people arriving here from Ukraine.

EU warns of trafficking threat to children fleeing Ukraine

A top EU official has warned the bloc needs to ensure unaccompanied children fleeing the war in Ukraine do not fall victim to people traffickers.

“We need to be aware that there are people, criminals, that could try to use this situation,” EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson told the European Parliament in Strasbourg. “There’s a huge risk of unaccompanied children being victims of trafficking.”

The EU has for the first time triggered its protection mechanism granting the refugees crossing over its border the right to stay and work in the bloc, as more than two million people have now fled Ukraine. 

The vast majority of those arriving are women and children as men are called up for military service.

“We need to do more to protect the children,” Johansson said.

On Sunday, Slovak police said an 11-year-old Ukrainian boy crossed the border into EU member Slovakia with just a plastic bag, a passport and a telephone number written on his hand.

Ukraine began evacuating civilians from the northeastern city of Sumy under a deal with Moscow to hold fire and set up humanitarian corridors in cities besieged by Russian forces.

Dozens of buses ferry the evacuees to the city of Lokhvytsia, around 150 kilometres to the southwest in Ukrainian-held territory.

The city was home to thousands of international students, including Irish medical student Racheal Diyaolu who left the city and his heading to the EU border.

India is running Operation Ganga to evacuate its 20,000 Indian nationals in Ukraine. India’s Ministry of External Affairs said this afternoon that all Indian students living in Sumy had been evacuated. 

McDonald’s temporarily closing 850 restaurants in Russia

McDonald’s said it is temporarily closing all of its 850 restaurants in Russia in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The burger giant said it will continue paying its 62,000 employees in Russia, but in an open letter to employees, McDonald’s president and CEO Chris Kempckinski said closing the stores is the right thing to do because McDonald’s can’t ignore the “needless human suffering in Ukraine”.

McDonald’s owns 84% of its Russian restaurants.

In a recent financial filing, the company said Russia and Ukraine contributed 9% of the company’s revenue last year.

Back to Strasbourg now where our reporter Lauren Boland has been listening to the EU’s standing rapporteur on Ukraine.

Michael Gahler called on the European Union to impose an embargo on the import of Russian fossil fuels.

You can read Lauren’s full report from the European Parliament here.

The New York Times, which today announced its editorial staff was pulling out of Russia over Moscow’s punitive new media law, has published an updated map of the war in Ukraine.

Moscow’s forces have laid siege to Ukrainian cities and cut off food, water, heat and medicine in a growing humanitarian disaster, but for days, attempts to create corridors to safely evacuate civilians have stumbled amid continuing fighting and objections to the proposed routes.

Nearly two weeks into the fighting, Russian forces have captured a stretch of southern and coastal Ukraine but have seen their advances stopped in many areas — including around Kyiv, the capital — by Ukrainian fighters targeting Moscow’s armoured columns.

The below map shows how Russian forces have advanced so far, and the Ukrainian line of defence. You can view the map live here.

russian-spy-ring Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

A number of staff members at the Russian Embassy in Dublin are in Ireland under expired visas, the Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed.

The issue arose as a result of measures introduced during the peak of the Covid-19 crisis, Niall O’Connor reports.

Irish student Racheal Diyaolu still in Ukraine, hopes to reach EU  border soon 

The family of Irish medical student Racheal Diyaolu, who had been trapped in a city in northeastern Ukraine, have said she won’t reach the EU border today.

Rachael and the group of eight she is travelling with had trouble with their vehicle, according to a video posted on Racheal’s sister Christiana’s Twitter page.

“We’ve had a few difficulties today but we’re hoping to go to the EU border soon and safely get to our respective countries,” Racheal said in the video from Ukraine.

politics-ukraine Press Association Images Press Association Images

Here is a summary courtesy of AFP of the situation on the ground, based on statements from both sides, Western defence and intelligence sources and international organisations.

  • The east

Kharkiv remains in Ukrainian hands despite increasingly intense Russian bombardment and the city is likely now surrounded, according to Western sources.

Russian forces are also pressing an offensive through the Russian-backed separatist Donetsk and Lugansk regions although how far they have penetrated remains unclear.

There has been heavy fighting around the city of Sumy in northeast Ukraine. Civilians began to be evacuated through a humanitarian corridor after 21 people, including two children, were killed in Sumy overnight.

  • Kyiv and the north

Kyiv remains under Ukrainian control, despite heavy bombardments, although Western observers point to a major Russian column of hundreds of vehicles outside the city.

Russian forces appear to be attempting to complete an encirclement of the city by moving towards its southern outskirts.

Civilians on foot took an unofficial escape route out of the bombarded Kyiv suburb of Irpin northwest of the centre.

Ukrainian forces also retain control of the northern town of Chernigiv, which has seen heavy civilian casualties in recent days and appears to be encircled.

  • The south

Russia has besieged the strategic southern city of Mariupol and attempts to evacuate an estimated 200,000 civilians from the city have so far failed.

Taking the city would allow Russia to link forces, pushing north from the annexed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea with their forces from the east.

The famed port city Odessa remains under Ukrainian control and has so far been spared fighting. But Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was aware of intelligence that Russia planned to bomb the city.

Russian forces last week took the southern city of Kherson, just north of Crimea, and there is now heavy fighting for control of the city of Mykolayiv to the northwest.

  • The west and centre

The west of Ukraine remains largely spared from the fighting. The main western city of Lviv has become a hub for foreign diplomatic missions, journalists and Ukrainians seeking safety or wanting to leave the country.

Zelenskyy said Sunday the civilian airport in the central city of Vinnytsia was destroyed by Russian rockets. Rescue services said five civilians and four soldiers were killed.

  • Casualties and refugees

The United Nations said today it had recorded 474 civilian deaths in Ukraine, including 29 children, although the true toll could be far higher.

Ukraine and Western sources claim that the Russian death toll is far than Moscow has so far admitted to.

Ukraine says more than 12,000 Russian soldiers have been killed while the US Defense Department says it estimates between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian soldiers have died.

Russia’s only official toll, announced last Wednesday, said 498 Russian troops had been killed in Ukraine.

Over 2 million refugees have fled Ukraine since the invasion, more than half going to Poland, according to the UN refugee agency.

Israel to provide temporary refuge to some 25,000 Ukrainians

The Press Association reports that Israel will provide temporary refuge to some 25,000 Ukrainians outside of its Law of Return, under which all Jews are eligible for citizenship.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said in a statement that 20,000 Ukrainians who were in Israel without legal status before the outbreak of fighting will be shielded from repatriation “until the danger subsides”.

Another 5,000 Ukrainians will initially be granted three-month visas and will be allowed to work if the fighting continues beyond then. Ukrainians can apply for the programme online through the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s website.

Israel expects to absorb around 100,000 Ukrainians through its Law of Return, under which Jews from anywhere in the world can come to Israel and get citizenship.

Established in the wake of the Holocaust, Israel views itself as a refuge for Jews fleeing war and persecution worldwide. But it has been reluctant to absorb non-Jewish immigrants, including Africans fleeing conflict and poverty.

Poland ‘ready’ to hand its Mig-29 jets to US

Poland has said it will give all of its MiG-29 fighter jets to the United States, apparently agreeing to an arrangement that would allow them to be used by Ukraine’s military.

Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly Soviet-era fighter jets.

Poland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs said that it wants the United States to provide Poland with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities in return.

“The Polish Government also requests other NATO Allies – owners of MIG-29 jets – to act in the same vein,” the statement said.

Russia announces humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine for tomorrow morning

Moscow has announced a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine for Wednesday morning to carry out the evacuation of the civilian population, Russian news agencies reported.

“From 10am MSK (7am GMT) on 9 March 2022, the Russian Federation is declaring a ‘regime of silence’ and is ready to provide humanitarian corridors,” a cell of the Russian defence ministry charged with humanitarian operations in Ukraine said.

Civilian evacuations took place this morning, in particular from the town of Sumy, where two convoys left during the day. Evacuations also took place outside the capital Kyiv.

But attempted evacuations from the port town of Mariupol have failed on several occasions in recent days, with both Kyiv and Moscow blaming the other side for the failures.

Good evening everyone. Gráinne here steering the Liveblog for the next while after my colleague Adam Daly clocked off for the night. 

This is the new Liveblog photo, by the way – it’s a striking one. 

irpin-ukraine-8th-mar-2022-residents-of-irpin-seen-evacuating-away-from-the-frontline-on-foot-in-front-of-a-damaged-church-and-a-brunt-out-car-thousands-of-residents-of-irpin-have-to-abandon-their Residents of Irpin evacuating on foot in front of a damaged church and a burnt out car. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Some striking photos here of the House of Commons applauding Zelenskyy – who gave a speech that has been widely praised as “historic”.

Here’s a full read back over it.

Coca-Cola and Starbucks are the latest multinational to say it will suspend its Russia operations.

A plot twist on Poland’s offer of those fighter jets:

The United States says it was caught off guard when Poland announced it was prepared to provide Mig-29 fighter jets under a reported scheme for Ukraine, a US official said.

“I was in a meeting where I ought to have heard about that just before I came [to a Senate hearing], so I think that actually was a surprise move by the Poles,” Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told US lawmakers.

Asked by a senator whether US officials coordinated ahead of time with Poland before Warsaw made its announcement, Nuland said: “Not to my knowledge.”

An incredible photo here from Christ McGrath of Getty Images.

The family of Irish medical student Racheal Diyaolu, who was living in the city of Sumi in northeastern Ukraine, have said that her progress toward the EU border was “slowed down considerably” today due to car troubles.

Racheal’s sister Christiana said the 19-year-old had planned to cross either the Polish or Moldovan border today but the car she and eight others are travelling in suffered several punctures.

ProPublica’s Craig Silverman has a piece on Russian-language videos spreading on social media that claim to debunk Ukrainian disinfo are actually spreading disinformation and disguising it as factchecking. 

Fake-bunking, as someone else called it.

US intelligence chiefs have branded Russia’s Vladimir Putin an “angry,” isolated leader grappling for global clout, frustrated about how his Ukraine invasion has not gone to plan, and lobbing provocative nuclear threats at the West.

The long-standing president in Moscow has been “stewing in a combustible combination of grievance and ambition for many years,” CIA Director William Burns told US politicians.

“I think Putin is angry and frustrated right now. He’s likely to double down and try to grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties,” Burns said.

Russia has suspended the sale of foreign currencies until 9 September, its central bank said, amid unprecedented economic sanctions on the country following its offensive in Ukraine.

Between 9 March and 9 September, “the banks will not be able to sell foreign currencies to citizens,” said the statement, which added that Russians would however be able to change foreign currencies into the local ruble unit during that window.

Nord Stream 2 is dead, says US offical

A senior US Government official has called Nord Stream 2, a massive gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, dead after multiple rounds of sanctions against the Kremlin.

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told US lawmakers that she didn’t think it would ever be revived.

“I think Nord Stream two is now dead,” Nuland said.

It is a hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea, I don’t think it will ever be revived.

We’re going to wrap up the liveblog here for the evening everyone, but further breaking news on the war in Ukraine will be covered on The Journal‘s main site. 

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