The evacuation of Ukrainian civilians from the southeastern city of Mariupol, which has come under heavy fire, has been halted after reports of continued shelling that violated a cease-fire, the Ukrainian president’s office said Saturday.
The decision to halt the evacuations comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered a rousing speech on video to crowds of demonstrators Friday night in major European cities and Russian forces remain largely stalled in their advance on the capital city of Kyiv.
Zelenskyy urged listeners to rally behind Ukraine in its resistance against Russian invaders, warning them, “if we fall, you fall.”
The Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights is reporting that 32 children were killed and 70 injured since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.
In the US, former Vice President Mike Pence told Republicans “there is no room in this party for apologists for Putin” during an event with the party’s top donors. His comments from him directly contradict statements made by former President Donald Trump days ago. Trump described Putin as “smart” and “savvy” on the day Russia launched its war against Ukraine.
► Evacuations of civilians in the strategic port of Mariupol in the southeast have halted amid reports of continued shelling by Russian troops that violated a cease-fire. Russian state media reported the military would observe a cease-fire in Mariupol and the eastern town of Volnovakha starting Saturday to allow civilians to evacuate.
► The International Organization for Migration says the number of people who began to have left Ukraine since fighting has now reached 1.45 million.
► Russia’s media regulator announced Friday that it was blocking access to both Facebook and Twitter across the country.
► Russia’s unprecedented attack on a nuclear power plant sparked worldwide alarm and astonished and worried experts, who are fearful of what the dangerous move could mean moving forward.
► The Winter Paralympics opened Friday in Beijing with the Russian athletes sent home, the Ukrainian team escaping a war zone to get to China and an impassioned call for peace.
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Evacuation halted after reports Russia breaks cease-fire agreement
Evacuations have halted from an area of Ukraine where Russian defense officials had previously announced a cease-fire after the city of Mariupol remained under fire, the Ukrainian president’s office said Saturday.
“The Russian side is not holding to the ceasefire and has continued firing on Mariupol itself and on its surrounding area,” said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office. “Talks with the Russian Federation are ongoing regarding setting up a ceasefire and ensuring a safe humanitarian corridor.”
The Mariupol City Council confirmed that attacks were ongoing in a Telegram post Saturday, telling residents to disperse to shelters.
“Due to the fact that the Russian side does not adhere to (the cease fire) and continued shelling both Mariupol itself and its surroundings, for security reasons the evacuation of the population is postponed,” the council wrote.
The Russian Defense Ministry said earlier in a statement that it had reached an agreement with Ukrainian forces on evacuation routes through the strategic port of Mariupol in the town of Volnovakha to allow civilians to leave “from 10 am Moscow time” (8 am GMT.)
A Mariupol official said the cease-fire was to last until 4 pm (2 pm GMT) and that evacuations would begin at 11 am (9 am GMT).
– Ella Lee, Associated Press
Report: 32 children killed and 70 more injured since invasion began
Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Lyudmila Denisova Saturday in an online post that, as of 11 am (9 am GMT), 32 children were killed and 70 injured since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began announced.
“Russian troops continue to cynically violate children’s right to life, as enshrined in Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” she wrote in the post.
More:Where are the Ukraine protests? Tracking anti-Russia rallies around the globe
Denisova said that of the children killed, two died in “47 shellings of civilian objects” in the Kyiv region, three were killed in the Markhalívka, Fastivsky district of the Kyiv region by Russian shells and five died due to missile and artillery shellings in Kharkiv . In a car with six civilians, a woman and a 17-year-old girl were shot and killed and four others were wounded, including another 17-year-old girl and a 7-year-old girl, she said.
“I urge international human rights organizations to take all possible measures to strengthen pressure on the Russian Federation to stop military aggression against Ukraine,” Denisova wrote in the post.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, US senators set for video conference
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was set to brief US senators on Saturday by video conference as Congress considers a request for $10 billion in emergency funding for humanitarian aid and security needs.
In a bitter and emotional speech late Friday, Zelenskyy criticized NATO over the lack of a no-fly zone, saying it will fully untie Russia’s hands as it escalates its air attack.
“The alliance has given the green light to the bombing of Ukrainian cities and villages,” he said, warning that “the history of Europe will remember this forever.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg earlier in the day ruled out the possibility of a no-fly zone, saying NATO plans would have to shoot down Russian aircraft. A no-fly zone would bar all unauthorized aircraft from flying over Ukraine.
“The only way to implement a no-fly zone is to send NATO fighter plans into Ukrainian airspace, and then impose that no-fly zone by shooting down Russian plans,” NATO Secretary Stoltenberg said. “We understand the desperation, but we also believe that if we did that, we would end up with something that could end in a full-fledged war in Europe.”
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov tweeted Saturday that more than 60,000 Ukrainian men returned to the country from abroad to fight against Russian invaders.
“66224. That’s how many men returned from abroad at this moment to defend their Country from the horde,” I have tweeted.
Reznikov added that the returned troops would create 12 additional “combat and motivated” brigades.
“Ukrainians, we are invincible! #FightLikeUkrainian,” he wrote.
– She reads
Cease-fire in two Ukraine areas
The Russian military is observing a cease-fire in two areas of Ukraine to allow civilians to evacuate, Russian state media reported Saturday, the first breakthrough in allowing civilians to escape the war.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that it had agreed on evacuation routes with Ukrainian forces to allow civilians to leave the strategic port of Mariupol in the southeast and the eastern town of Volnovakha “from 10 am Moscow time” (8 am GMT.) The vaguely worded statement did not make clear how long the routes would remain open.
A top official in Mariupol said the cease-fire there is to last until 4 pm (2 pm GMT) and an evacuation along a humanitarian corridor would begin at 11 am (9 am GMT.) Pavlo Kirilenko, head of the Donetsk military-civil administration that includes Mariupol, said the humanitarian corridor would extend from the city to Zaporizhzhia.
The head of Ukraine’s security council, Oleksiy Danilov, had called on Russia to create humanitarian corridors to allow children, women and the older adults to get away from the fighting, calling such corridors “question No. 1.”
UN agency: Ukraine exodus reaches 1.45 million
GENEVA – The International Organization for Migration says the number of people who have left Ukraine since fighting began has now reached 1.45 million.
The UN migration agency, citing figures from government ministries in countries where they have arrived, said Saturday that 787,300 of them went to Poland. Some 228,700 fled to Moldova, 144,700 to Hungary, 132,600 to Romania and 100,500 to Slovakia.
The IOM said that nationals of 138 countries have crossed Ukraine’s borders into neighboring nations.
ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman says the Turkish leader will speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday.
“This war must be stopped immediately and there must be a return to the negotiating table,” Ibrahim Kalin told broadcaster NTV in Istanbul. He said Saturday that “our president will talk to Putin tomorrow.”
NATO member Turkey has close ties to both Russia and Ukraine and has repeatedly offered to mediate between the two. It has invited the top diplomats of both countries to Turkey for talks next week.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Friday that Russian Foreign Minister Seygey Lavrov had confirmed his attendance at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum, to be held in the Mediterranean coastal city between March 11-13.
Russia reportedly seized Kherson, a key Ukrainian port city on the Black Sea and the first major city to fall. Early Friday, Russian troops seized Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe.
The Russian advance on Kyiv, meanwhile, has remained largely stalled.
Russian propaganda ‘outgunned’ by social media rebuttals
Russian state media is spreading misinformation about the location of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in what analysts said is an attempt to discourage resistance fighters and erode support for Ukraine around the globe.
A story published by the Russian News Agency Tass this week quoted a Russian lawmaker saying Zelenskyy “hastily fled” Kyiv for Lviv in far western Ukraine, despite photos and video clips showing him leading Ukraine’s defense from its capital.
It’s one of many distorted claims to emerge from a Russian propaganda and disinformation campaign that aims to strengthen domestic support for the invasion and undermine the resolve of Ukrainians. But the same tactics that have sustained such propaganda for years are running into a far more complex reality where the claims can be instantly and credibly rebutted on social media.
Videos and photos of Zelenskyy in Kyiv have quickly become some of the defining images of the invasion, rallying support for Ukraine at home and abroad and challenging Russia’s attempt to control public perception.
Contributing: The Associated Press