US to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing war

ukraine
Us To Welcome Up To 100,000 Ukrainians Fleeing War Us To Welcome Up To 100,000 Ukrainians Fleeing War
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - MARCH 24: US President Joe Biden holds a press conference at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on March 24, 2022. (Photo by Halil Sagirkaya/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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By Natalia Zinets and Vitalii Hnidiy and Jarrett Renshaw

What you need to know right now:

  • In a display of unity, Western leaders meeting for a day of emergency summits of NATO, the G7 and the EU agreed to strengthen their forces in Eastern Europe, increase military aid to Ukraine and tighten sanctions on Russia, as Moscow's assault on its neighbour entered its second month.
  • UNICEF said more than half of Ukraine's children have been driven from their homes.
  • Ukraine said it had destroyed a Russian landing support ship, the Orsk, at the Russian-occupied port of Berdiansk. Video footage, which Reuters was able to confirm was filmed from inside Berdiansk, showed a column of smoke rising from a blaze at a dock. Russian officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
  • Russia's defence minister was briefly shown by state media at a meeting of top officials after dropping out of public view for days during Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Moscow received a list of its diplomats declared "persona non grata", a State Department spokesperson said, in what Russian media said was a response to a U.S. move ousting Russian staff at the United Nations.
  • Ukrainian authorities said about 15,000 civilians had been illegally deported to Russia from besieged Mariupol since Russian forces seized parts of the southern port city. Moscow denies this.
  • German utilities said their country needed an early warning system to tackle gas shortages, a day after Russia ordered the switch of contract payments to roubles, raising the risk of a supply squeeze and even higher prices.
  • U.S. stocks rose following choppy trading abroad on Thursday, and oil prices pulled back, as investors watched a meeting of NATO leaders on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
  • Energy and metals firms led a jump in Russian stocks on Thursday as trading resumed after almost a month's suspension, reflecting soaring global prices for oil, gas and other commodities on fears the Ukraine crisis will threaten supply.


19:46pm: The United States plans to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing Russia's invasion and is pledging $1 billion (€91 million) in new humanitarian aid, the Biden administration said on Thursday after a month of bombardments touched off Europe's fastest-moving refugee crisis since the end of World War Two.

The announcement coincided with U.S. President Joe Biden's meeting with European leaders in Brussels to coordinate the Western response to the crisis.

More than 3.5 million people have fled since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, putting a strain on the neighboring European countries receiving them.

U.S. lawmakers and advocates have urged Biden to do more to help those seeking refuge in the United States.

In the first two weeks of March, seven Ukrainian refugees were resettled in the United States, internal U.S. State Department data seen by Reuters shows.


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19:11pm: Western leaders piled on military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine on Thursday with U.S. President Joe Biden calling Russian leader Vladimir Putin a "brute" and Britain denouncing Moscow's invasion of its neigbour as "barbarism".

At an unprecedented triple summit in Brussels, transatlantic alliance NATO, G7 rich nations and European leaders addressed the continent's worst conflict since the 1990s Balkans wars.

NATO announced new battle groups for four nations in East Europe, while Washington and London increased aid and expanded sanctions to new targets, including a woman London said was the stepdaughter of Russia's foreign minister.

"This single most important thing is for us to stay unified and the world continue to focus on what a brute this guy is and all the innocent people's lives that are being lost and ruined," Biden told reporters in Brussels.

"Vladimir Putin has already crossed the red line into barbarism," added British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, saying the tougher the sanctions the sooner war would end.

The European Union was set to unveil steps to wean itself off Russian energy, something likely to drive up fuel costs even further around the continent. Moscow supplies 40% of the EU's collective gas needs and more than a quarter of its oil imports.


17:44pm: U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday that if Russia were to use chemical weapons in its invasion of Ukraine, the United States would respond.

"We would respond, we would respond if he uses it. The nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use," Biden said at a news conference in Brussels.


16:37pm: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday the European Union needed to "crush" Russia with sanctions over the war in Ukraine, which he said has turned into a "massacre".

"Russia is trying to re-establish the Empire of Evil," Morawiecki said, in a reference to the Soviet Union.


15:15pm: The United States and its allies on Thursday ramped up pressure on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, as Washington imposed fresh sanctions on dozens of Russian defense companies, hundreds of members of its parliament and the chief executive of the country's largest bank.

The U.S. Treasury Department also issued guidance on its website warning that gold-related transactions involving Russia may be sanctionable by U.S. authorities, a move aimed at stopping Russia from evading existing sanctions.

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"Our purpose here is to methodically remove the benefits and privileges Russia once enjoyed as a participant in the international economic order," a senior administration official said, speaking on condition they not be named.

The United States and its allies have imposed several rounds of sanctions, including targeting the country's largest lenders and President Vladimir Putin, since Russian forces invaded Ukraine a month ago in the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two.

Moscow calls the assault a "special operation" to disarm and "denazify" its neighbor.

Among the new sanctions targets are more than 40 defense companies, including state-owned Tactical Missiles Corp and 28 firms to which it is linked, as well as its general director, the Treasury said in a statement.

The Treasury said Washington's action aligned with similar measures taken by the EU, the United Kingdom and Canada.

The Treasury said the conglomerate, which Britain has already hit with sanctions, produces naval systems and weapons that Russia is using against Ukraine, including the Kh-31, a high-speed airborne guided missile that has been employed extensively in Moscow’s offensive.

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Other firms on the new list include manufacturers of ammunition for the Russian military, civilian and military helicopters, and drones that the Treasury said originally were designed for surveillance but have been "repurposed" and used to attack Ukrainian forces.

The Treasury also slapped sanctions on 328 members of the Duma, Russia's parliament, and Herman Gref, the head of Russia's largest lender, Sberbank SBER.MM, who the Treasury said was a close Putin associate.

The United States said last month that U.S. banks must sever their correspondent banking ties - which allow banks to make payments between one another and move money around the globe - with Sberbank, but did not freeze its assets.

The United States on Thursday also targeted 17 board members of Sovcombank, which is also under U.S. sanctions, and Gennady Timchenko, a longtime ally of Putin, his companies and family members.

The official said the United States warned Putin that it would face swift and severe consequences if he invaded Ukraine and they have delivered on that threat. The official noted that the country is facing punishing inflation and economic pain that will push it out of the world’s top 20 economies.


1.50pm: Nato leaders on Thursday agreed to bolster defences, particularly in Eastern Europe, and will deploy four new combat units in Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, US president Joe Biden said in a statement.

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Nato leaders will also develop plans for additional forces and capabilities before their June summit, Biden said in a statement during his trip to Europe to address Russia's invasion of Ukraine.


1.35pm: Ukraine said on Thursday that its troops had pushed back Russian forces from some areas around Kyiv but that Russia had not given up hope of surrounding and seizing the Ukrainian capital.

"In some sectors the enemy was driven back by more than 70 km, in some sectors the enemy is at a distance of 35 km," defence ministry spokesperson Oleksander Motuzyanyk told a televised briefing.

Without citing evidence, he said the Kremlin had been sending additional military equipment to Belarus to reinforce its troops attacking Kyiv.


1.15pm: The G7 group of nations and the European Union will announce a new initiative aimed at stopping Russia from evading Western sanctions, a senior US administration official said.

The United States and G7 will make clear that any transaction involving gold related to Russia's central bank is covered by existing sanctions, the official said.


1pm: The UN Human Rights Office has confirmed that the civilian death toll in Ukraine now exceeds 1,000.


12.5opm: The Russian foreign ministry said on Thursday that Moscow will respond to Poland's expulsion of 45 Russian diplomats, which it said threatened to destroy their already fraught relations.

"Russia will not leave this hostile attack without a response, which will make Polish provocateurs think and will hurt them," the ministry said in a statement.


12.30pm: Britain is assessing Russia's demand for payment for gas in roubles, British prime minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said on Thursday, after president Vladimir Putin said he would invoice "unfriendly" countries in the currency.

The call for payments in roubles was seen as Putin's way of trying to shore up the currency, which has collapsed after the imposition of sanctions on Russia.

"We are carefully monitoring the implications of the Russian demand," the spokesman said.


12.15pm: While Nato is expected to step up support for Ukraine, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has said the alliance will not send troops or planes to Ukraine.

Zelenskiy said he was grateful for the support Ukraine had received from individual Nato member states.


12pm: Russia's pariah status in the international investor community after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine may be behind "unprecedented" cash flows out of China, the Institute of International Finance said on Thursday.

Many emerging market and global investors are faced with steep write-downs of their Russian holdings due to sanctions across the world that were triggered by last month's invasion, which made Russia "uninvestable" for some.


11.45am: The United States and its allies are working on supporting Ukraine with anti-ship missiles, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.

"We have started consulting with allies on providing anti-ship missiles to Ukraine," the official said on the sidelines of the Nato summit in Brussels.

"There may be some technical challenges with making that happen, but that is something that we are consulting with allies and starting to work on."

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy joined Nato leaders via videolink but did not repeat requests for Nato membership or the establishment of a no-fly zone, according to the official.

"The mood overall has been sober, it's been resolute, and it's been incredibly united," the official said of the atmosphere at the summit meeting.


11.30am: Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy appealed to Nato leaders on Thursday to increase military support for his country against Russian forces that he warned would next target alliance members in Eastern Europe including Poland.

Russia "wants to go further. Against eastern members of Nato. The Baltic states. Poland for sure," Zelenskiy said in a pre-recorded video address to a Nato summit which was released in advance by the Ukrainian presidency.

"But Nato has yet to show what the alliance can do to save people," he said.


11.15am: The United States plans to accept up to 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, two sources familiar with the forthcoming announcement told Reuters.

The expected announcement comes as US president Joe Biden meets with European leaders on Thursday to coordinate Western nations' response to Moscow's assault on its neighbouring country.


10.55am: Bulgaria will recall its ambassador to Russia for consultations in response to "undiplomatic, sharp and rude" comments from the Russian ambassador to Bulgaria, prime minister Kiril Petkov said on Thursday.

"We will call back our ambassador from Russia for consultations back to Bulgaria ... Usually when one country calls back its ambassador for consultations, the other should follow and do the same," Petkov said.

Earlier this week in an interview to a Russian TV channel, Russian ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova said that the Bulgarian people did not support the government's rhetoric and position towards what Russia refers to "special operation" in Ukraine.


10.40am: Ukraine is fighting for the security of the whole of Europe and should be a full member of the European Union, president Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Swedish lawmakers on Thursday via video link.

"We are not fighting just for the people of Ukraine, but for Europe's security and we have shown that we deserve to be a fully-fledged member of the EU," Zelenskiy said in an address to Sweden's parliament


Western leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday will agree to strengthen their forces in Eastern Europe and increase military aid to Ukraine as the Russian assault on its neighbour entered its second month.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged people around the world to take to the streets in solidarity with his country, where thousands of people have been killed, millions become refugees, and cities have been pulverised since Russian president Vladimir Putin unleashed his invasion on February 24th.

In Mariupol, the southern port city that has come to symbolise Ukraine's plight, people were burying their dead and queuing for rations in pauses in the bombing.

One woman there, Viktoria, buried her 73-year-old stepfather Leonid, killed when the car ferrying him to a hospital was blown up 12 days ago.

"This guy had taken a seat instead of me, and then they all got blown up in that car," she told Reuters, pointing to the mangled remains of the vehicle.

"It could have been me," she sobbed.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been hiding in basements in Mariupol with no running water, food, medicine or power.

Reuters reached a part of the city captured by Russian forces. No independent journalists have reported from the Ukrainian-held part of the besieged city in more than a week.

Ukrainian officials say they have pushed back the invaders in other areas, including around the capital Kyiv, thwarting Russian hopes of a swift victory.

Ruinous

In Brussels, Western leaders will warn Putin his country will pay "ruinous" costs for invading Ukraine during a series of Nato, G7 and EU summits over Thursday and Friday. U.S. President Joe Biden is among those attending.

Alarmed by the prospect that Russia might escalate the war, the Nato nations will agree to send Kyiv equipment to defend against biological, chemical and nuclear attacks.

"We must ensure that the decision to invade a sovereign independent country is understood to be a strategic failure that carries with it ruinous costs for Putin and Russia," Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau told the EU parliament.

The United States planned to announce more sanctions on Russian political figures and oligarchs, the White House said.

The first U.S. shipment from a new, $800 million arms package for Ukraine will start flying out in the next day or so, a US defence official said.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would boost its forces in Eastern Europe by deploying four new battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia.

Washington said Biden and his European counterparts would announce new sanctions against Russia and measures to tighten existing sanctions. However, EU diplomats played down expectations of major new sanctions.

Zelenskiy, who will address the Nato and EU summits by video conference, said he expected "serious steps" from Western allies. He repeated his call for a no-fly zone, although Western leaders have rejected this as a move that would drag them directly into the war.

The Ukrainian leader, who has won admiration across the West for his leadership under fire, also called on people around the world to demand an end to the bloodshed.

"Come from your offices, your homes, your schools and universities, come in the name of peace, come with Ukrainian symbols to support Ukraine, to support freedom, to support life," he said in a video address.

Humanitarian crisis

After four weeks of conflict, Russia has failed to seize any big city and with its ground advances seemingly stalled has engaged in aerial bombardments of cities, causing a humanitarian crisis. The Kremlin denies targeting civilians.

Although the Kremlin says its operation is going to plan, Russian forces have taken heavy losses and face supply problems.

Moscow calls its actions a "special operation" that it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbour's military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.

The West says this a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war.

Mariupol has been worst hit. Satellite photographs from commercial firm Maxar showed massive destruction of what was once a city of 400,000 people, with residential apartment buildings in flames.

In a part of the city controlled by Russian forces, more than 100 people waited patiently in line on Wednesday for boxes of food and humanitarian supplies being distributed from a truck.

Angelina, a young mother of two, said she had received bread, diapers and baby food.

"It's difficult to leave by bus now. We hope the number of people trying to get out will go down and it will get easier for us to leave," she said.

Ukraine's armed forces chief of staff said on Thursday Russia was still trying to resume offensive operations to capture the cities of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol.

To counter troop shortages, Moscow was moving in fresh units close to the Ukraine border and calling up soldiers who had recently served in Syria, it said.

Zelenskiy repeated he was ready to have a face-to-face meeting with Putin to end the war.

"We are ready to discuss the terms of the ceasefire, the terms of peace, but we are not ready for ultimatums," he said.

Freeze out

International sanctions have frozen Russia out of world commerce. But the biggest loophole is an exception for its energy exports. Some EU member states are resisting calls to ban Russian oil and gas as they rely heavily on them.

EU leaders are expected to agree at their summit to jointly buy gas as they seek to cut that reliance.

Brussels is also aiming to strike a deal with Biden to secure additional US liquefied natural gas supplies for the next two winters.

"The consequences of this war on Europe's security architecture will be far-reaching," the president of the EU's executive, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Wednesday.

"And I am not just talking about security in military terms. But also energy security, and even food security are at stake." - Reuters

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