President Biden is headed for NATO’s eastern flank on Friday, when he will meet with his Polish counterpart in Rzeszow, a city some 60 miles from the Ukrainian border. The visit, yet another show of Washington’s solidarity with its transatlantic allies, comes as the United States pledged to open its borders to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and said it would respond “in kind” if Russia uses chemical weapons in its invasion.
While in Brussels on Thursday, Biden and other Western leaders discussed supporting countries neighboring Ukraine — Poland has received more than 2 million displaced Ukrainians — as well as plans to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy. A major initiative that would deliver liquefied natural gas from the United States to the continent is expected to be announced Friday.
The battle for the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, rages on as the war enters its second month, with counterattacks forcing Russian troops into defensive positions, according to U.S.-based military analysts. Ukrainian forces are likely to continue striking logistical assets in territory held by Russia, which would stretch the Kremlin’s supply lines and dampen morale among Russian forces, Britain said in a Thursday intelligence update.
In a video released Friday local time, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised his forces for thwarting Russian advances toward major population centers. “If Russia has known it would face that, I’m sure they would have definitely been afraid to come here,” he said, referring to the fierce Ukrainian resistance.
Here’s what to know
- Biden voiced support for expelling Russia from the Group of 20. Several Western nations have suggested barring Russian President Vladimir Putin from a G-20 summit later this year.
- Roughly half the children in Ukraine — numbering some 4.3 million — have fled their homes since the war, the United Nations Children’s Fund stated Thursday. This tally includes refugees as well as those who are internally displaced.
- The International Atomic Energy Agency is negotiating a deal to ensure the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities. The U.N. watchdog also said Thursday that Ukraine had informed it that Russian shelling in a city near the Chernobyl plant was preventing personnel from rotating shifts.
- Harrowing images of human suffering have been captured across Ukraine. Here are some of scenes from the front lines.
- The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel for updates.
UNDERSTANDING THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE CONFLICT
Boris Johnson said Putin will try to ‘Groznify’ Ukrainian cities. Here’s what that means.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday told BBC Newsnight that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to “Groznify” Ukrainian cities — a reference to the 1999 destruction of Grozny, the Chechen capital, by Russian forces.
Asked about the potential for a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine, Johnson said he’s “not optimistic” Putin wants peace. Instead, Johnson said, “I think he’s decided to double down and to try to Groznify the great cities of Ukraine in the way he’s always tried to do.”
Johnson was referring to the 1999 siege of Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, a breakaway republic that had previously fought off Russian attempts to invade. In October 1999, after Putin had become prime minister, Russian forces surrounded the capital and unleashed relentless bombing and shelling that decimated much of the city, killing thousands and allowing Russia to take control.
Backed by the Russian military, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used the tactic to destroy and take control of Aleppo in 2016.
“I think that’s a tragic mistake,” Johnson said of the situation in Ukraine, “but that’s what [Putin] seems to be doing at the moment.”
Russia has used siege tactics on Ukrainian cities such as Mariupol. Russian forces have surrounded the city, cut off supplies and communications, and constantly shelled the area. Although thousands of residents have been able to escape, Ukrainian officials say thousands have died there.
Adam Taylor contributed to this report.
Biden aides explore rarely used sanctions weapon against Russia
Senior Biden officials are exploring a dramatic escalation of the administration’s sanctions on Russia as the death toll mounts from the war in Ukraine and the impact of existing sanctions on Russia’s economy remains unclear.
To date, the sanctions imposed by the United States have prevented American banks and firms from transacting with Russian banks, oligarchs, defense firms and other parts of the Russian economy. But now White House officials are preparing rarely used measures that would also punish third parties in other countries for interacting with parts of the Russian economy that have been sanctioned by the U.S., according to four people aware of administration conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private talks.
The people familiar with the matter said the step was not likely imminent and that no decision to impose these measures had been made.
How many people have been killed in Ukraine? Here’s what we know.
In the month since Russia invaded Ukraine, military and civilian casualties have soared. But as the war drags on and the battle lines shift, no one — not even the United Nations, Ukrainian government or U.S. or NATO officials — can provide an accurate count of how many people have been injured or killed.
The few public estimates, including from Western officials, are just that — estimates — and vary widely amid the fog of war. Even the United States and NATO appear to differ over how many Russian troops may have died so far in the fighting. On Wednesday, a senior NATO official told reporters in Brussels that between 7,000 to 15,000 Russian forces have been killed.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under NATO ground rules, said the alliance estimates that 30,000 to 40,000 Russian troops have been killed, wounded or captured in Ukraine. It’s an estimate, the official said, based on the assumption that for every soldier killed, three are wounded.
In videos: Moments that captured the world’s attention after Russia invaded Ukraine
A month into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Moscow’s advance has stalled around the capital, Kyiv, but made gains in the Donetsk region.
Here are some striking videos, some of which attracted viral attention, that have emerged from the conflict.
Ukraine alleges forced moves to Russia while Moscow cites influx of refugees
Ukrainian leaders again accused Russian forces of moving people to Russia against their will, while Moscow said hundreds of thousands of refugees have voluntarily fled east amid the war.
The U.N. refugee agency estimates some 270,000 Ukrainians have moved to Russia in the month since the Kremlin began its invasion of Ukraine. Leaders in both Ukraine and Russia give totals closer to 400,000 — but they offer very different explanations for the influx.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs alleged in a statement Thursday that the Russian army has forcibly “deported” Ukrainian citizens, including thousands of residents of Mariupol, the port city devastated by Russian shelling and weeks of siege tactics. The foreign ministry accused Russia of confiscating people’s passports and suggested that the Kremlin wanted hostages to “put more political pressure Ukraine.”
Russian officials, in contrast, say they are helping a wave of refugees, many of them from the eastern Donbas region where some territory is run by pro-Russian separatists. Alexander Chupriyan, the acting head of Russia’s ministry of emergency situations, said daily counts of “refugees from the border areas” crossing into Russia have risen sharply, according to the ministry’s post online.
The United Nations also estimates 113,000 people from the east Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk moved to Russia during a period of several days leading up to the war. Pro-Russian leaders in separatist areas ordered evacuations in February shortly before the invasion, while claiming Ukraine would attack — a manufactured crisis that drew skepticism from many residents.
Here’s the status of Ukrainian cities under Russian attack
- Kyiv: While Ukrainian forces did not regain control of any territory on the northwestern outskirts of the capital, they managed to force their Russian counterparts into defensive positions, analysis from the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest battlefield assessment. One of the first cities to be struck by Russian missiles and rockets when the war began a month ago, Kyiv remains under Ukrainian control.
- Mariupol: In the besieged southern port city, where Russian forces have for weeks conducted heavy shelling, local authorities accused Russian forces that have entered Mariupol of spreading misinformation on evacuation corridors to confuse and intimidate residents. In a Telegram message posted to the city council’s official channel, Russian soldiers broadcast messages that Zaporizhzhia will no longer accept refugees and that Odessa had already fallen, leaving Ukrainians with the sole option of heading to Russia for safety.
- Chernihiv: Russian forces bombed and destroyed a bridge connecting this northern city with Kyiv on Wednesday evening, according a video posted by local authorities and verified by The Washington Post. Chernihiv, which sits near the border with Belarus, has been encircled by Russian soldiers since last week.
- Berdyansk: The Ukrainian navy claimed on Thursday that it had destroyed a Russian landing ship, the Orsk, docked at this Russian-occupied port city. Berdyansk, which has been used by Russia to deliver military supplies in support of its assault on Ukraine, is located about 50 miles southwest of Mariupol. According to video clips verified by The Washington Post, fires and heavy smoke columns could be seen rising from a vessel that matched the description of the Orsk.
Joyce Lee contributed to this report.
Canada sanctions 160 Russian lawmakers; plans to export more energy to Europe
TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that Canada will impose sanctions on 160 members of the Russian Federation Council, the upper house of the country’s parliament, and will ban the export of certain goods to Russia to erode its military capabilities.
Canada’s energy minister, who was in Paris for meetings, also said Ottawa had the capacity to boost oil and gas exports this year to help European allies reduce their dependence on Russian energy.
“Canada and its partners and allies will continue to work in lockstep to hold Putin and Russian leadership accountable and always be there to support Ukraine and its people,” Trudeau told reporters in Brussels, where he was participating in emergency talks with NATO leaders.
Ottawa has levied sanctions on more than 960 people linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin since his annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Over the course of the year, Canada has the ability to increase energy exports by 300,000 barrels daily, the natural resources ministry said Thursday, adding that displacing Russian energy exports would not increase global emissions.
Trudeau said Canada will “continue to be increasing” its defense spending, but he did not provide specific details. The country’s defense spending in 2021 was nearly 1.4 percent of its gross domestic product, short of NATO’s target of 2 percent.
The federal government is expected to unveil a budget next month. Canada’s parliamentary budget watchdog told CTV News this week that the country would need to allocate $15 to $20 billion a year to meet the NATO target.
Cheng reported from Seoul.