Live updates: 2 million refugees flee Ukraine, UN says

2022-03-08 11:59:45

The latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine war:

GENEVA — The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine reached 2 million on Tuesday, according to the United Nations, the fastest exodus Europe has seen since the Second World War.

“Today the outflow of refugees from Ukraine reaches two million people. Two million,” Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, wrote on Twitter.

The update came as a new effort to evacuate civilians along safe corridors finally got underway Tuesday. The route out of the eastern city of Sumy was one of five promised by the Russians to offer civilians a way to escape the Russian onslaught.


TOKYO — Japan says it has suspended the assets of 32 more Russian and Belarusian individuals as part of international sanctions against Russia.

The additional sanctions announced Tuesday target 20 Russians including head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov, deputy chiefs of staff and a press secretary for President Vladamir Putin’s govenment, and deputy chairmen of the state parliament. The list also includes business executives with close ties to Putin and his administration such as Volga Group, Transneft, the Private Military Company Wagner and USM Holdings, according to a statement jointly issued by the foreign, finance and trade ministries.

The sanction targets also included 12 Belarusian officials and business executives, including Belarus’ National Olympic Committee President Viktor Lukashenko, as well as 12 organizations in Russia and Belarus.

Officials said Japan is also banning exports of oil refinery equipment to Russia and general purpose goods to Belarus that could be used to strengthen the country’s military capability.


WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s prime minister is calling for even tougher sanctions against Russia in order to dismantle President Vladimir Putin’s war machine.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made his comments as he departed Warsaw for visits to NATO countries Britain and Norway.

He told reporters that strengthening NATO’s eastern flank and pushing for more sanctions would be the main topics of discussion. In particular, Morawiecki wants to urge other European countries to replace Russian crude oil and gas with deliveries from other countries.

“In order to hit Russia effectively, our blow must be consistent and long-term if military action continues,” Morawiecki said.

Poland has been building a gas pipeline, Baltic Pipe, meant to import gas from Norway.

He called Baltic Pipe “a symbol of Poland’s sovereignty, of Poland’s independence from Russia, from gas blackmail … everything which has made it possible for Putin to build a war machine.”


TALLINN, ESTONIA — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is wrapping up a short tour of the three Baltic states aimed at reassuring the former Soviet republics that NATO will guarantee their security as Russia’s war with Ukraine rolls on unabated.

Blinken was meeting with senior Estonian officials in Tallinn on Tuesday, a day after hearing appeals from both Lithuania and Latvia for more support and greater U.S. and NATO troop presence to deter a feared Russian intervention.

“We will defend every inch of NATO territory if it comes under attack,” Blinken said Monday in Riga. “No one should doubt our readiness. No one should doubt our resolve.”

Leaders in all three Baltic states have expressed grave concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions for former Soviet bloc countries that are now allied or otherwise linked to the West.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said the Russian invasion of Ukraine had shown the Baltic countries in particular the need to bolster air and coastal defences. He added Latvia would like its security cooperation with NATO to be “more efficient.”

Lithuanian President Gitanes Nauseda told Blinken in Vilnius that a policy of deterrence was no longer enough and that “forward defence” was now needed. He predicted that “Putin will not stop in Ukraine if he will not be stopped.”


KYIV, Ukraine — Safe corridors intended to let civilians escape the Russian onslaught in Ukraine could open Tuesday, officials from both sides said, though previous efforts to establish evacuation routes crumbled amid renewed attacks and it was not clear how large the operation would be if it happened.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Tuesday that both sides agreed to a ceasefire from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Ukraine time (0700-1900 GMT) for the evacuation of civilians from the eastern city of Sumy.

The first convoy with evacuated civilians in buses or private cars is to leave at 10 a.m. (0800 GMT), on a single route toward the Ukrainian city of Poltava. She said Russia’s Defence Ministry agreed to this in a letter to the International Red Cross.

Those being evacuated from Sumy include foreign students from India and China, she said. The corridor will also be used to bring humanitarian aid into Sumy, she said.

She reiterated that Russian proposals to evacuate civilians to Russia and Belarus were unacceptable. She didn’t elaborate on the possibility of evacuating Ukrainians toward western Ukraine.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council said that refugees fleeing in Ukraine was “the fastest-growing displacement crisis I have witnessed in my 35 years as a humanitarian worker.”

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the humanitarian group, said that “every second the war forces a person to flee across Ukraine’s borders, and countless are displaced within the country.”

The Oslo-based agency, which has been in Ukraine since 2014, said it was launching an aid plan to support 800,000 people inside Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

NRC’s humanitarian response plan calls for US$82 million and appealed to donors “to dig deep into their pockets to find new funding” and added do “not take resources from other crises.”

Egeland said that human suffering is “at unprecedented levels across the world — from Afghanistan to Central Sahel — and Ukraine is the latest in a long list of crises with record humanitarian needs.”


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The head of the World Health Organization’s Europe office says it has confirmed 16 attacks that have affected the provision of health care in Ukraine in the fighting since Russia’s invasion in the country began nearly two weeks ago.

Dr. Hans Kluge also told reporters Tuesday that Ukrainian health authorities have “remarkably” maintained COVID-19 surveillance and response since the invasion began on Feb. 24, though they reported 731 deaths related to the pandemic over the last week.

Kluge warned that “sadly, this number will increase as oxygen shortages continue” — with older people disproportionately affected. Treatment with oxygen is an important part of the response for people whose respiratory systems have been harmed by coronavirus infection.

The WHO Europe chief also said broken supply lines are harming the ability to treat conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and diabetes. Catherine Smallwood, senior emergency officer for WHO Europe, said the attacks on health care in Ukraine have led to at least 9 deaths and 16 injuries.


LONDON — Britain’s defence secretary said Tuesday that there are reports Ukrainian special forces destroyed over 20 Russian helicopters on the ground overnight as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to face logistical problems and fierce resistance.

Russia’s advance toward the capital, Kyiv, continues to face pressure from Ukrainian forces around the nearby towns of Hostomel, Bucha, Vorzel and Irpin, the U.K. Defence Ministry said in an intelligence update released late Monday. In addition, a lengthy Russian column remains stuck on the road north of Kyiv.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Russian forces are becoming more and more desperate in the face of such military and supply holdups, leading to “indiscriminate shelling” of civilians.

“We’ve also recognized that probably the biggest single casualties, so far in the war, are Russian military soldiers who have been let down by appalling leaders, appalling leadership and appalling plans. And now you see them, literally, at large scales dying.”


WASHINGTON — The World Bank says it has approved more than US$700 in emergency support for Ukraine.

Dubbed FREE Ukraine, it includes nearly $500 million in loans and guarantees and $134 million in grants, with Japan promising another $100 million in financing. The aid is meant to help the Ukrainian government pay wages of hospital workers, pensions and other social programs. Bundling the aid into a package is intended to streamline and speed the provision of the funding, the World Bank said in a statement.

“The World Bank Group stands with the people of Ukraine and the region,” World Bank President David Malpass said. “This is the first of many steps we are taking to help address the far-reaching human and economic impacts of this crisis.”

The World Bank also said it is preparing a $3 billion package of support for Ukraine and the region to help it cope with the flood of displaced people fleeing the fighting.


TOKYO — U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel praised Japan’s latest sanctions on Russia’s oil refining industry and on Belarus Tuesday.

Japan has frozen the assets of Russian and Belarusian officials and banned the new issue and distribution of Russian government bonds, acting in unity with the U.S. and other Group of Seven industrialized nations. Japan is also banning exports of oil-refining equipment to Russia.

“We applaud the Kishida government’s leadership today to target Russia’s oil refining sector with strict export controls,” Emanuel said in a statement.

The moves help restrict Russia’s access to revenue that supports Vladimir Putin and his war on Ukraine, he said.

“These new actions, implemented in close unity with the United States and other partners, demonstrate Japan’s resolute commitment to stand together with the Ukrainian people and against Putin’s vicious regime,” said Emanuel.


ISLAMABAD — Pakistan sent an aircraft to Poland on Tuesday to evacuate more than 300 Pakistanis who escaped fighting in Ukraine.

Pakistan International Airlines says most of them are students.

Pakistan has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, even as it has denounced war as a solution to differences and called for negotiations and a ceasefire. Prime Minister Imran Khan met with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin just hours after the Russian leader sent tanks into Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Pakistan abstained from last week’s UN General Assembly vote condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


TOKYO — Japanese automaker Nissan is planning to halt production at its plant in Russia because of “logistical challenges.”

Nissan Motor Co. did not provide a specific date but said Tuesday production will stop “soon.” Its plant in St. Petersburg produced 45,000 vehicles last year, including the X-Trail sport utility vehicle.

The Yokohama-based manufacturer said the safety of its employees is its top priority.

Nissan earlier stopped exports to Russia.


LVIV, Ukraine — Russian aircraft bombed cities in eastern and central Ukraine overnight, Ukrainian officials said. Shelling pounded suburbs of the capital, Kyiv.

In Sumy and Okhtyrka, to the east of Kyiv near the Russian border, bombs fell on residential buildings and destroyed a power plant, regional leader Dmytro Zhivitsky said. He said there were dead and wounded but gave no figures.

Bombs also hit oil depots in Zhytomyr and the neighbouring town of Cherniakhiv, located west of Kyiv.

In Bucha, a Kyiv suburb, the mayor reported heavy artillery fire.

“We can’t even gather up the bodies because the shelling from heavy weapons doesn’t stop day or night,” Mayor Anatol Fedoruk said. “Dogs are pulling apart the bodies on the city streets. It’s a nightmare.”

The Ukrainian government is demanding the opening of humanitarian corridors to allow people to safely leave Sumy, Zhytomyr, Kharkiv, Mariupol and suburbs of Kyiv, including Bucha.


LVIV, Ukraine — The mayor of Lviv said the city in far western Ukraine is struggling to feed and house the tens of thousands of people who have fled here from war-torn regions of the country.

“We really need support,” Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said.

More than 200,000 Ukrainians displaced from their homes are now in Lviv, filling up sport halls, schools, hospitals and church buildings. The historical city once popular with tourists had a population of 700,000 before the war.

The mayor said the city needs big tents equipped with kitchens so food can be prepared.

Hundreds of thousands more people could arrive if humanitarian corridors are opened up from cities now under siege from Russian troops.

The embassies of the U.S. and EU countries also moved to Lviv from Kyiv before the invasion.

Lviv is the main transit point for those fleeing just across the border to Poland. Many of the 1.7 million Ukrainians now abroad passed through the city. The United Nations has called the situation the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War.


LVIV, Russia — A Russian general was killed in the fighting around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which Russian forces have been trying to seize since the invasion began, the Ukrainian military intelligence agency said.

It identified him as Maj. Gen. Vitaly Gerasimov, 45, and said he had fought with Russian forces in Syria and Chechnya and had taken part in the seizure of Crimea in 2014.

It was not possible to confirm the death independently. Russia has not commented.

Another Russian general was killed earlier in the fighting. A local officers’ organization in Russia confirmed the death in Ukraine of Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, the commanding general of the Russian 7th Airborne Division.

Sukhovetsky also took part in Russia’s military campaign in Syria.


CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian government says it is placing sanctions on Moscow’s “propagandists and purveyors of disinformation” who legitimatize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement on Tuesday her government was sanctioning 10 “people of strategic interest to Russia” for their role in encouraging hostility toward Ukraine.

“This includes driving and disseminating false narratives about the ‘de-Nazification’ of Ukraine, making erroneous allegations of genocide against ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, and promoting the recognition of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as independent,” Payne said, referring to separatist regions of Ukraine.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had been accompanied by a widespread disinformation campaign, both within Russia and internationally, she said.

“Tragically for Russia, President (Vladimir) Putin has shut down independent voices and locked everyday Russians into a world characterized by lies and disinformation,” Payne said.

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