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Today’s news briefs on Russian war on Ukraine

Here are the latest news briefs concerning the Russian invasion and destruction of Ukraine.

Ukrainian president speaks virtually with U.S. Senate, House members

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared by video to the assembled U.S. Senate on  Saturday. As the civilian death toll mounts across the country as Russia purposely bombs non-military targets, he chided the Biden administration for not not embracing a no-fly zone and for weak sanctions against Russia. Many of the 280 US senators and House members Saturday present were visibly emotional hearing details of the invasion’s carnage.

“If you had started sanctions months ago, there would not have been war,” he said during the just under one-hour call, a Senate source told The Post.

Zelensky thanked the US for the assistance it has already sent, and pleaded for additional American military aid for his besieged country.

“These are devils that are doing this,” Zelensky said of the invading Russian troops, GOP Sen. Steve Daines of Montana told Fox News.

Dozens of lawmakers unmuted themselves to thank Zelensky for his bravery as the call came to an end – with some pledging “Slava Ukraini” — Glory to Ukraine, according to the Senate source.

“He said we either need a no-fly zone or we need to be given planes, that was the basic message,” said Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY). “If NATO is not going to provide a no fly zone, then provide planes. And that is something where NATO can help.”

“I will do all I can to help the administration to facilitate their transfer,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised in a statement issued after the call was complete.

An exasperated Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleads with U.S. lawmakers to do more.

Schumer praised Zelensky, saying, “Mr. President, we are inspired by you and the strength and courage of the Ukrainian people.”

“The people of New York and its large Ukrainian community stand with you,” he added.

Zelensky scheduled the 9:30 a.m. call with the lawmakers ahead of Congressional debate over a request for a $10 billion emergency funding package that would provide humanitarian aid and security assistance, NBC News reported.

Ukraine Says Southeast Evacuations Halted

The Ukrainian president’s office says civilian evacuations have halted in an area of the country where Russian defense officials had announced a cease-fire.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said the evacuation effort was stopped because the city of Mariupol remained under fire on Saturday.

“The Russian side is not holding to the ceasefire and has continued firing on Mariupol itself and on its surrounding area,” he said. “Talks with the Russian Federation are ongoing regarding setting up a ceasefire and ensuring a safe humanitarian corridor.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said earlier in a statement it had agreed on evacuation routes with Ukrainian forces for Mariupol, a strategic port in the southeast, and for the eastern city of Volnovakha.

But a city official reported that shelling continued in his area Saturday despite the deal, a sign of the fragility of efforts to stop fighting across the country.

Russia Announces Ceasefire in 2 Ukraine Areas for Evacuations

The Russian military is observing a ceasefire in two areas of Ukraine to allow civilians to evacuate, Russian state media reported Saturday, but there was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine. It would be 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 a.m. Moscow time.” The vaguely worded statement did not make clear how long the routes would remain open.

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.”

Video of Russian attack on a school:


Musk Says Starlink Told to Block Russian News

SpaceX founder Elon Musk says the company’s Starlink satellite internet service was “told by some governments (not Ukraine) to block Russian news sources.”

“We will not do so unless at gunpoint. Sorry to be a free speech absolutist,” Musk said in a post on Twitter.

Earlier this week, Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation thanked Musk for providing equipment to access Starlink.

Mykhailo Fedorov thanked SpaceX founder Elon Musk for the equipment in a Twitter post accompanied by a photo of boxes on the back of a truck. Federov had publicly requested the service.

Musk replied with his own tweet saying: “You are most welcome.”

The tech billionaire has said Starlink was “active” in Ukraine and more equipment to use it was on the way.

Starlink is a satellite-based internet system that SpaceX has been building for years to bring internet access to underserved areas of the world. It markets itself as “ideally suited” for areas where internet service is unreliable or unavailable.

Russia breaks ceasefire


US B-52 Bombers Fly in Country Bordering Ukraine

U.S. B-52 bombers flew over a country that borders Ukraine, the U.S. military announced March 4.

The B-52 Stratofortress aircraft conducted a long-range “integration flight,” according to U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa.

The bombers took off from a base in England and headed to Germany to conduct an exercise alongside U.S. and German troops known as joint terminal attack controllers, who call strikes down from forward positions in the field.

The training mission included training in conjunction with Romania, a NATO ally that shares a border with Ukraine.

A critical opportunity to integrate and train with our allies and partners, especially during this difficult time,” Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa and NATO’s Allied Air Command, said in a statement.

Blinken Arrives in Poland for Talks on Ukraine War

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting southeastern Poland near the border with Ukraine as the war enters its 10th day. Blinken arrived in Rzeszow on Saturday for talks with top Polish officials and was to visit a frontier post to meet Ukrainian refugees later in the day.

Blinken was meeting Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau a day after attending a NATO foreign minister’s meeting in Brussels at which the alliance pledged to step up support for eastern flank members like Poland to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Although NATO has ruled out establishing a no-fly zone over non-member Ukraine, it has significantly boosted both military and humanitarian assistance. Rzeszow is about 80 km (50 miles) from the Ukrainian border and its airport has become a hub for flights carrying such aid.

Aeroflot Will Halt All International Flights Except to Belarus

Aeroflot, Russia’s flagship carrier, has announced that it will halt all international flights except to Belarus starting March 8.

The move by Russia’s biggest state-owned airline comes after the country’s aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, recommended that all Russian airlines with foreign-leased planes halt both passenger and cargo flights abroad.

It cited a high risk of foreign-leased planes being impounded as part of Western sanctions that ban leasing of planes to Russia.

Rosaviatsiya’s recommendation doesn’t apply to Russian airlines that use Russian planes or foreign planes that aren’t at risk of being impounded.

It also doesn’t apply to foreign airlines from countries that have not imposed sanctions on Russia and have not shut down their airspace for Russian planes. Aeroflot’s statement Saturday cited “circumstances that hinder operating flights” as a reason for its move.

Aeroflot said it would cancel return tickets for passengers who are scheduled to depart Russia after March 6 and travel back after March 8. Those with one-way tickets will be allowed to fly up until March 8. Earlier this week, S7, Russia’s biggest private airline, announced that it was halting all international flights starting Saturday.

White House: Not Advocating for Russian Regime Change

The White House says it is not advocating to displace Vladimir Putin, in response to comments from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggesting the Russian president should be “taken out.”

Graham posted on Twitter Thursday that the only way the Russian conflict with Ukraine will end “is for somebody in Russia to take [Putin] out.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki went against Graham’s comments during a press briefing Friday afternoon.

“That is not the position of the United States government and certainly not a statement you’d hear come from the mouth of anybody working in this administration,” Psaki said. “We are not advocating for killing the leader of a foreign country or regime change. That is not the policy of the United States.”

Psaki has said throughout the Russian invasion into Ukraine that “a door to diplomacy remains open” with respect to Putin.

Countries Flood Ukraine With Military Support

After Russia fired shots on Ukraine on Feb. 24, President Volodymyr Zelensky shared a video two days later saying he needs “ammunition, not a ride,” referring to the United States’ offer of asylum to the besieged head of state.

Since then, 15 countries have sent military hardware to Ukraine amid Russia’s further invasion.

The majority of arms and supplies from ally nations are being sent via Ukraine’s 310-mile border with Poland, which has become an important lifeline both for supplies and equipment, and refugees looking to flee the conflict.

Some border nations have chosen not to allow military equipment bound for Ukraine to pass through their territory out of fear of Russian retaliation.

–Wire services