Kyiv March 19, 4:56 a.m.
Moscow March 19, 5:56 a.m.
Washington March 18, 10:56 p.m.
Russia broadened its offensive with a missile attack in Lviv, where Ukrainians had sought safety from the war. Aid groups say they are seeing signs of human traffickers targeting Ukrainian refugees.
President Biden warned China’s leader, Xi Jinping, that there would be “implications and consequences” for providing direct military aid to Russia amid a grinding assault in Ukraine that is increasingly aimed at civilian targets.
The leaders’ nearly two-hour video call came amid intermittent peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, and was the latest example of the international pressure bearing down on Russia’s diminishing circle of allies.
On Friday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia made his first public appearance since ordering the invasion on Feb. 24. He told a crowd in the country’s largest stadium that Russians “have not had such unity for a long time.”
In Ukraine, Russian forces expanded their attacks into the western parts of the country. A Russian missile strike about four miles from the western city of Lviv destroyed several buildings that were used to repair aircraft, shattering the relative calm in that city and stoking fears that the conflict could spread to other countries in Europe.
Here are the latest developments.
Refugees fleeing Russia’s violence in Ukraine are being targeted for sexual exploitation, human trafficking and child abuse, aid organizations say.
Residents in Mariupol, Ukraine, are burying their neighbors. One video verified by The New York Times shows people digging a hole outside an apartment complex with what appear to be covered bodies on the ground next to them. Another video shows the word “morgue” written on the side of a nearby post office in the Cheryomushki neighborhood.
Some people in China are defying government censors in order to criticize Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The dissenting views have been kept alive by readers on social media platforms like Weibo and WeChat.
Three of Ukraine’s tennis stars — Sergiy Stakhovsky, Andriy Medvedev and Alexandr Dolgopolov — have taken up arms to defend their country.
Ukrainian fighters are using a British gift to destroy Russian tanks.
Russia may be heading for a recession, according to the governor of the nation’s central bank. Already, the ruble has lost about 30 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar this year.
The United Nations Security Council was once again the stage for a confrontation between Russia and the U.S. on Friday over allegations of a biological weapons program, which the U.N. said does not exist in Ukraine.
Russia called the emergency meeting to renew its accusations that the U.S. supported and funded a biological weapons program in laboratories in Ukraine. Russia said it had discovered new documents with signatures from a Pentagon official and shared the evidence with council members and the General Assembly.
The U.S. denied the allegations, repeating an assertion that Russia was spreading disinformation and propaganda as well as using false claims of biological weapons as justification for launching its own attack on Ukraine. The U.S. has said it has “proudly” partnered with laboratories in Ukraine for medical research.
“Russia has repeatedly — repeatedly — accused other countries of the very violations it plans to perpetrate,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. “We continue to believe it is possible that Russia may be planning to use chemical or biological agents against the Ukrainian people.”
Last week on March 11, Russia had called a meeting at the Security Council under the pretext of international peace and security and had made similar allegations.
The U.N. chief for disarmament affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, addressed the Council in both meetings last week and on Friday and said the organization was not aware of “any such biological weapons program” in Ukraine. Ms. Nakamitsu said both Ukraine and Russia were signatories to a convention banning the production, storage and usage of biological and chemical weapons.
The United Kingdom’s ambassador to the U.N. and other European Union allies on the Security Council slammed Russia for what they called a “desperate” attempt at promoting false narratives to distract from its isolation after waging an unprovoked war against Ukraine. Russia had attempted and then canceled a vote for a resolution on humanitarian aid because none of the other 14 members of the Council were willing to co-sponsor or vote in favor of it, said diplomats.
Some diplomats said in a statement that Russia had a proven track record of using chemical weapons against dissidents.
“It has used them itself in the U.K. and on its own territory in targeted assassination attempts. By inventing an alternative reality, it seeks to hide its responsibility and cover up its own crimes,” said Nicolas de Rivière, France’s ambassador to the U.N.
Diplomats said Russia’s circulated roster of evidence was 69 pages, and although they believed the information was fabricated, they would still read it. China has maintained that Russia’s “revelations” about biological weapons in Ukraine must be investigated. On Friday, they called again for the U.S. to provide transparent answers to ease concerns.
“Our partners are in complete denial. They won’t accept we are presenting facts not just propaganda,” said Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. “They refuse to recognize that we presented a new set of evidence today.”
As the Security Council remained at an impasse on taking action that would legally bind Russia to end the war, a delegation from Ukraine’s civil society was meeting with diplomats, U.N. officials and journalists in New York.
They came from Ukraine to request more help on multiple fronts — providing military equipment, pressuring Russian diplomats for safe humanitarian aid passages and the presence of more international observers on the ground.
Tetiana Pechonchyk, the head of the Human Rights Centre ZMINA in Ukraine, said a coalition of about 20 organizations focused on human rights — with experience and training that met international criteria — was investigating and documenting the allegations of war crimes by Russia. One woman from the group jumped off the call in the middle of her conversation to rush into a shelter after hearing explosions nearby.
Ms. Pechonchyk said the reports include attacks on civilian infrastructures and ambulances, killing and wounding civilians and children, looting, using people as human shields and, most recently, abduction of at least 25 activists, journalists and local government officials.
Olexandr Pavlichenko, director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, said Russian troops had entered a psychiatric hospital in the town of Borodyanka last week and occupied it for a week, forcing hundreds of patients to remain in their beds. According to Mr. Pavlichenko, Russian troops did not allow medical personnel to enter the building, patients did not have access to food and medicine and the hospital’s basic services were disrupted.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine will address Japanese lawmakers via video link on Wednesday at 6 p.m. local time, the Japanese broadcaster NHK reported. It will be Mr. Zelensky’s first address to a legislative body in Asia.
Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush laid sunflowers at a Ukrainian church in Chicago on Friday, in a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their fight against Russia, they said.
Three Russian astronauts launched to the International Space Station early Friday. A few hours later, their Soyuz spacecraft docked at the space station and, when they boarded the orbiting outpost, they were wearing flight suits of striking colors — yellow and blue, similar to the colors of Ukraine’s flag.
The Russian astronauts did not say anything that would suggest that their clothing was a political statement. Yet it seemed difficult to believe it was happenstance. The outfits worn by astronauts in orbit on a daily basis tend to be subdued. But recent crews from Russia have worn vibrant flight suits of various colors during their arrival, including Yulia Peresild, an actress who arrived on the station in November in a bold red coverall.
Eric Berger, a space reporter at the website Ars Technica, said the flight suits are usually prepared and packed months in advance but that substitutes could have been added among the last items to be loaded on the spacecraft.
Jonathan McDowell, a scientist at the Harvard Center for Astrophysics who closely follows space missions, suggested the colors might actually be those of Bauman Moscow State Technical University, which all three of the astronauts — Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov — attended. An official from the university spoke as a guest on the Russian livestream of the launch on Friday.
Mr. Berger, however, noted that the colors of the flight suit more closely matched those of the Ukrainian flag.
Russia’s space program and some of its partners and customers have been collateral damage of the war in Ukraine and the sanctions that have followed. The European Space Agency suspended on Thursday a mission to Mars that was to launch on a Russian rocket. Earlier this month, OneWeb, a British satellite company partially owned by the British government, canceled launches of its internet satellites that were to travel on Russia’s Soyuz rockets.
Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, has responded with a series of provocative messages on Twitter, including retweeting a parody video that suggested Russia would leave behind Mark Vande Hei, a NASA astronaut who is scheduled to return to Earth in a Russian Soyuz later this month. Mr. Rogozin feuded publicly with Scott Kelly, a retired astronaut who held the record for consecutive days in space by an American until Mr. Vande Hei passed it recently.
In public statements, NASA officials have ignored Mr. Rogozin’s statements and insisted that operations are continuing as usual with their Russian counterparts. They said that there had been no change in plans for Mr. Vande Hei’s return.
A pair of crews will fly SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to the station in the coming month — one a private crew of tourists with the company Axiom, the other a mix of NASA and ESA astronauts.
The New York Times
By Ada Petriczko
Multinational and nongovernmental aid organizations are sounding the alarm about a potential increase in cases of sexual exploitation, human trafficking and child abuse, as the number of vulnerable people fleeing the war in Ukraine continues to rise.
Of the more than 3 million Ukrainian refugees, the majority are women, children and older people, some of whom are unaccompanied and separated from family and friends.
“These groups can be especially vulnerable to the risk of trafficking as they leave their homes unexpectedly and might have their usual family networks and financial security seriously disrupted,” António Vitorino, the director general of the International Organization for Migration said on Wednesday.
Cases of sexual violence and attempts at trafficking have already been reported in the countries neighboring Ukraine, which have taken in the largest number of refugees.
Last week, the police in Wroclaw, Poland, arrested a 49-year-old Polish man on charges of raping a 19-year-old woman from Ukraine who was fleeing the war. According to the police, the man offered the woman shelter through one of many online websites connecting private Polish hosts with Ukrainian refugees.
“She had just escaped from war-torn Ukraine, did not speak Polish, did not know the city and had, in fact, never been to Poland. She had trusted a person who promised to help her,” the police said on Thursday.
More than 1.9 million Ukrainians have found asylum in Poland since the onset of the war three weeks ago. The unprecedented pace and scale gave rise to a grass-roots movement across Polish society, with hundreds of thousands of private individuals offering free shelter and transport to the refugees.
“The vast majority of people who are willing to help have good intentions, but unfortunately there are also those who want to take advantage of this situation,” the mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski, said during a recent news conference.
Homo Faber, a Polish organization working with refugees, has received reports from volunteers about suspicious looking people approaching young Ukrainian women at the border, at reception points or at train stations, offering them work with accommodation on the premises and refusing to register as official hosts.
“Unfortunately, human trafficking, sexual violence, child abuse and forced labor are byproducts of most conflicts,” Anna Dąbrowska from Homo Faber said.
So far, reports are isolated. But, aid organizations say, instances of violence and trafficking are less likely to be reported immediately after a mass displacement.
“It is unrealistic to expect refugees to report such cases as soon as they happen,” said Karolina Domagalska, of Feminoteka, a group that works with survivors of sexual violence. “We know from research that survivors often need time to tell their stories, and on top of that, these people are running away from war, so reporting may not be their first concern.”
A group of 42 Polish aid organizations published a joint appeal last week, calling on authorities to adopt coordinated, systemic measures to assure the safety of refugees. These include creating an official register of hosts and drivers to enable appropriate oversight, providing verified and safe information to the refugees, and creating safe spaces where they can report potential problems.
At the moment, the bulk of aid provided to the refugees rests on the shoulders of volunteers.
“The fact that people are inviting others under their roofs is impressive and heartwarming, but on the other hand, this movement is unregulated and lacks transparency, and, as such, it creates space for abuse,” said Joanna Garnier from La Strada foundation, a nongovernmental group based in Europe and dedicated to fighting human trafficking.
The New York Times
The body of a victim of an airstrike on a residential complex in Kyiv.
Katarina Ivoshenko, 25, with her 19-month-old daughter, Kira, and 7-month-old son, Danilo, in a subway station where the family has been living along with other Ukrainian civilians who fear Russian shelling of civilian areas in Kyiv.
The ruins left by a Russian attack on a residential complex in Kyiv.
People salvaging what belongings they can after a Russian bombardment in Kyiv on March 18.
When the unthinkable became the unforgettable, with Russian forces sweeping into their smaller neighbor intent on bringing it to heel, the world changed permanently for many Ukrainians.
For the past four weeks, photographers with The New York Times and other news organizations have chronicled that ordeal.
Michael Levenson, Megan Specia and Edward Wong
Russian forces extended their bombardments into a relatively unscathed part of western Ukraine on Friday, striking a warplane repair plant about 50 miles from the Polish border, as President Biden warned President Xi Jinping of China not to provide military aid to Russia amid a scramble of diplomatic efforts to end the violence engulfing Ukraine.
During a nearly two-hour video call, Mr. Biden warned Mr. Xi, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, that there would be “implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians,” according to the White House.
But a senior administration official declined to discuss what kind of penalties the United States would impose on China if it provided Moscow with military hardware or offered it financial relief. The official also declined to say how Mr. Xi responded to Mr. Biden’s warning.
“We will continue to watch until we see what actions they take or don’t,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said.
As Russian forces pounded cities and towns across Ukraine, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, and Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, spoke to Mr. Putin, urging him to end the fighting.
But the calls appeared to yield few, if any, results. Speaking to Mr. Scholz, Mr. Putin complained that in intermittent talks between Russia and Ukraine, Kyiv was trying to “drag the negotiations by making a series of new, unrealistic proposals,” according to the Kremlin.
As the diplomatic efforts ground on, Russia broadened its attacks on Ukrainian targets.
A Russian missile strike about four miles from the western city of Lviv destroyed several buildings that were used to repair aircraft, shattering the relative calm in that city, a haven for civilians fleeing the heavy fighting that has engulfed the south and east and that is now gripping Kyiv and its suburbs.
The Lviv strike appeared to be an attempt to weaken the Ukrainian military’s air defenses. According to a local news article in January, the plant had been the only facility in the country that repaired MiG-29 fighter jets for Ukraine’s air force.
Lviv’s mayor, Andriy Sadovy, said that work had already stopped at the plant and that no casualties had been reported.
The Lviv strike was the latest attack on targets in western Ukraine, near the Polish border. On Sunday, a Russian airstrike hit a military base 11 miles from the border with Poland, where NATO forces are stationed on high alert.
Russia’s recent territorial gains have been mostly in the south and east, including areas around the devastated port city of Mariupol, according to Western governments and independent analysts. But Russian forces have also advanced from the southern city of Kherson, which they have captured, toward Kryvyi Rih, closer to the center of Ukraine.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said that its troops and Russia-backed separatists were “tightening the noose” around Mariupol, where residents have been preparing mass graves. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russians were carrying out the “total destruction of civilian infrastructure, housing and livelihoods” in the city.
In the capital, Kyiv, a large explosion from what appeared to be a cruise missile or aerial bombardment blew a crater into the courtyard of a residential building on Friday, in one of the largest strikes to hit a civilian area in the city. At least one person was killed.
But some of the war’s most intensive fighting was taking place in the suburbs outside the city, particularly in Irpin, where Russian and Ukrainian armies are stuck in a savage contest at a gateway to the capital.
In the besieged city of Mariupol, officials reported that at least 130 people had been rescued from the rubble of a theater destroyed by a missile strike Wednesday, but that hundreds — and perhaps as many 1,300 — were still missing.
The attack on the Drama Theater has become a potent symbol of Moscow’s willingness to indiscriminately target civilians; satellite images showed that the word “children” had been written in large white letters in Russian in front of the building and behind it.
“Despite the shelling, despite all the difficulties, we will continue rescue work,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said in a video address Friday.
Mr. Zelensky released his speech just before Mr. Putin made his first public appearance since ordering the invasion last month, addressing tens of thousands of cheering, flag-waving Russians at Moscow’s largest stadium.
Mr. Putin, who was officially marking the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, turned the event into a theatrical display of support for the invasion of Ukraine, telling the crowd that Russians “have not had such unity for a long time.”
The Luzhniki stadium was covered with posters that read “For a world without Nazism,” a reference to one of the Kremlin’s stated reasons for the invasion, to “denazify” Ukraine.
Mr. Putin’s proclamation of national unity has been undercut by the Kremlin’s increasingly fierce crackdown on dissent and the media. Earlier this month, Mr. Putin effectively criminalized public opposition and independent news reporting about the war. More than 14,900 people have been detained at antiwar rallies, according to OVD Info, a rights group that tracks arrests in Russia.
In Ukraine, the death toll and suffering from the war has been worsening as Russia, struggling to capture more territory, has stepped up its bombing of heavily populated areas, striking schools, hospitals and apartment buildings.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have lost access to food, water and heat, and at least 726 civilians, including 52 children, have been killed, according to the United Nations. More than 3.2 million people have fled the country.
Highlighting Russia’s troubles on the battlefield, the British defense intelligence service said on Friday that Russian forces “made minimal progress this week,” and Ukrainian troops around Kyiv had continued to frustrate attempts to encircle the city.
As the war drags on, there is increasing concern of its impact rippling across the globe by causing a global energy crisis and hunger worldwide with the loss of Ukrainian grain exports.
Ukraine’s food supply chain is “falling apart” amid the Russian invasion, and the disruption of food supplies within the country is threatening crucial exports of grain that could undermine global food security, the United Nations said on Friday.