As Russia’s war on Ukraine entered Day 10, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a “desperate plea” to U.S. Senators on Saturday to help his country get more planes. The plea comes as Russian forces continued to batter strategic locations with missiles and artillery and after NATO’s refusal to impose a no-fly zone.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meanwhile took aim at such a proposal, saying that Moscow would consider any third-party declaration of a no-fly zone over Ukraine as “participation in the armed conflict.”
Ukrainian officials also said shelling had halted the evacuation of civilians from two cities as a cease-fire deal quickly fell apart just hours after Russia announced it.
The U.N. Security Council scheduled an open meeting Monday on the worsening humanitarian situation.
Here’s a look at key things to know about the conflict Saturday:
UKRAINE MAKES ‘DESPERATE PLEA’ FOR HELP
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a “desperate plea” to U.S. senators on Saturday to help his country get more planes to help the country fight the Russian invasion.
Zelenskyy made the request on a call joined by more than 300 people, including senators, some House lawmakers and aides.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said in a statement that Zelenskyy made a “desperate plea for Eastern European countries to provide Russian-made planes to Ukraine.”
Zelenskyy told senators he needs planes and drones more than other security tools, according to a senior Senate aide granted anonymity to discuss the private meeting.
The U.S. Congress also is working on a $10 billion package of military and humanitarian aide, and Schumer told Zelenskyy that lawmakers hope to send it quickly to Ukraine, the person said.
Zelenskyy also urged U.S. lawmakers to sanction Russia’s oil and gas sector and suspend credit card access, and backed an idea to ban Russian oil imports to the U.S. that’s been gaining support in Congress.
FAILED CEASE-FIRE IN TWO AREAS
The ceasefire announced by the Russian defense ministry on evacuation routes with Ukrainian forces for Mariupol, a strategic port in the southeast, and the eastern city of Volnovakha, was supposed to start “from 10 a.m. Moscow time.” It was unclear as to how long the routes would remain open.
But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office later said the Russians were not holding to the cease-fire and continued firing on Mariupol and surrounding areas. Russia breached the deal in Volnovakha as well, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told reporters.
Russian outlet RIA Novosti carried a Russian Defense Ministry claim that the firing came from inside both communities against Russian positions.
Russian forces have seized two Ukrainian nuclear power plants and are advancing toward a third, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during a call with U.S. senators Saturday.
Zelenskyy said the third plant currently under threat is the Yuzhnoukrainsk nuclear power plant, located 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Mykolaiv, one of several cities the Russians were trying to keep encircled Saturday.
The announcement comes after Russian troops seized the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant — the country’s largest — in the southeastern city of Enerhodar. The attack caused global alarm, evoking memories of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, at Ukraine’s Chernobyl.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said no radiation spikes were detected, however. The chief of the U.N. agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said a Russian “projectile” hit a training center, not any of the six reactors.
Two out of the six reactors at the plant, Europe’s biggest, were operating after Russian forces took control of the site, Ukraine’s nuclear regulator told the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The office of President Emmanuel Macron said France will propose concrete measures to ensure the safety and security of Ukraine’s five main nuclear sites.
ANGER OVER NO-FLY ZONE REQUEST
Zelenskyy criticized NATO for refusing to impose a no-fly zone over his country. In a bitter and emotional speech late Friday, Zelenskyy said the lack of a no-fly zone will completely untie Russia’s hands as it escalates its air attack.
“All the people who die from this day forward will also die because of you,” he warned.
NATO has said a no-fly zone could provoke widespread war in Europe with nuclear-armed Russia, a notion later backed up by comments from Putin, who declared that Moscow would consider such a move a belligerent act.
Speaking at a meeting with female pilots, Putin said Russia would view “any move in this direction” as a threatening intervention. “That very second, we will view them as participants of the military conflict, and it would not matter what members they are,” he added.
WHAT’S HAPPENING ON THE GROUND
Putin’s military launched hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks on cities and other sites across the country. But a vast, mileslong Russian armored column threatening Ukraine’s capital remained stalled outside Kyiv.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces were holding key cities in the central and southeastern part of the country Saturday, while the Russians were trying to block and keep encircled Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv and Sumy.
Ukrainian forces were defending Odesa, Ukraine’s biggest port city, from repeated attempts by Russian ships, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said.
Video released Saturday by the Ukrainian government showed a Russian military plane falling from the sky and crashing, as onlookers on the ground cheer. Firefighters sprayed water on flames and smoke at a structure next to the debris of the plane, which bore a red star and the number 24.
DIRECTLY WITNESSED OR CONFIRMED BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Russia’s days-long assault has caused growing misery in Mariupol, where AP journalists witnessed doctors make unsuccessful attempts to save the lives of wounded children, pharmacies ran bare and hundreds of thousands of people faced food and water shortages in freezing weather.
In comments carried on Ukrainian television, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said thousands of residents had gathered for safe passage out of the city when shelling began Saturday.
Earlier, the Russian defense ministry said it had agreed with Ukraine on evacuation routes out of Mariupol, a strategic port in the southeast, and the eastern city of Volnovakha. Ukraine said Russia had breached the deal. Russia accused Ukraine of sabotaging the effort.
Kyiv’s central train station remained crowded with people desperate to join the more than 1.4 million who have fled Ukraine.
Frequent shelling could be heard from the center of the capital, Kyiv.
In stories and videos posted online, Russian state outlets are falsely claiming that Zelenskyy fled Kyiv. Photos and videos show the Ukrainian president leading his country’s defense.
GETTING BACK TO THE NEGOTIATING TABLE
A third round of talks between Ukraine and Russia will be held on Monday, Ukrainian official Davyd Arakhamia said Saturday.
Arakhamia is head of the parliamentary faction of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party and a member of Ukraine’s delegation at the talks.
He didn’t give further details, including where they will take place. The last round was held in Belarus.
The two sides have been trying to negotiate a cease-fire and safe passage corridors for civilians.
Russia continued to clamp down on independent media reporting on the war, blocking Facebook and Twitter inside the country.
Russia on Friday passed a law foreseeing prison sentences of up to 15 years for spreading what is deemed to be fake information about its armed forces, prompting some Western media to suspend operations within Russia.
Italian state broadcaster Rai and German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF announced on Saturday they were suspending reporting by their correspondents in Russia. The BBC, Bloomberg News and Canadian Broadcasting Company have halted reporting from the country.
Rai said the measure is necessary to “safeguard the safety of its journalists in the place as well as the maximum freedom of information about the country.”
DEEPENING HUMANITARIAN CRISIS
The U.N. World Food Program says millions of people inside Ukraine, a major global wheat supplier, will need food aid “immediately.”
The U.S. Congress is considering a request for $10 billion in emergency funding for humanitarian aid and security needs.
Ukrainian refugees continued to pour into neighboring countries, including Poland, Romania and Moldova.
In Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, hundreds of families, many from Ukraine’s Donetsk region, took refuge in a sports venue. The refugees milled about or tried to relax on cots Saturday while lamenting what they were forced to leave behind.
Refugees also fled to a refugee camp in Siret, Romania, where Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Saturday promised to help them. He said no Ukrainian would be denied entry to his country and pledged food, clothing, transportation and help with personal documents.
The International Organization for Migration says the number of people who have left Ukraine since fighting began has now reached 1.45 million.
The U.N. 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.
Russia has acknowledged that nearly 500 Russian troops have been killed and around 1,600 wounded. Ukraine has not released casualty figures for its armed forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy alleged that 10,000 Russian troops were killed in the 10 days of the war, a claim that could not be independently verified.
Video released Saturday by the Ukrainian government showed a Russian military plane falling from the sky and crashing, as onlookers on the ground cheered.
The U.N. human rights office says at least 351 civilians have been killed and 707 wounded in Ukraine since the start of the invasion. The rights office uses strict methodology and only reports casualties it has confirmed. It said Saturday it believes the real figures are considerably higher.
Ukraine’s State Emergency Service has said more than 2,000 civilians have died, though it’s impossible to verify the claim. More than 840 children have been wounded in the invasion, and 28 have been killed, according to Ukraine’s government.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Poland to meet with the prime minister and foreign minister. The visit comes a day after he attended a NATO meeting in Brussels in which the alliance pledged to step up support for eastern flank members.
In Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was meeting with Putin at the Kremlin. Israel maintains good relations with both Russia and Ukraine, and Bennett has offered to act as an intermediary in the conflict. No details of Saturday’s meeting have yet emerged.
Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council will hold an open meeting Monday on the worsening humanitarian situation in Ukraine.
The United States and Albania requested the meeting, which will hear briefings by U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and Catherine Russell, executive director of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, diplomats said.
The United Nations estimates that 12 million people in Ukraine and 4 million fleeing to neighboring countries in the coming months will need humanitarian aid.
Singapore announced sanctions against Russia becoming one of the few governments in Southeast Asia to do so. The tiny city-state imposed controls on exports or transshipments of military-related or dual-use items considered “strategic goods.”
“The sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of all countries, big and small, must be respected,” said an announcement by the Foreign Ministry.
The wave of global sanctions on Russia could have devastating consequences for energy and grain importers. Russia is a leading exporter of grains and a major supplier of crude oil, metals, wood and plastics.
More companies are suspending operations in Russia, including Apple, Mercedes-Benz, BP, Volkswagen, clothing retailer H&M and furnishings store IKEA.
Spain’s Teatro Real, one of Europe’s major opera houses, said it is canceling a set of upcoming performances by Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet.
Aeroflot, Russia’s flagship carrier, announced that it will halt all international flights except to Belarus starting March 8. That follows a warning by Russia’s aviation agency that airlines with foreign-leased planes risk their aircraft being impounded as part of Western sanctions.
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