Latest on Russia-Ukraine: Russian troops capture port city of Kherson, reports say; Explosions rock Kyiv; ICC opens investigation into war crimes

The latest on Russia and Ukraine from Canada and around the world Wednesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

11:06 p.m. The Northwest Territories’ infrastructure minister says a plane carrying Russian nationals on its way to the High Arctic was grounded Tuesday in Yellowknife.

Diane Archie told the legislature Wednesday that the plane appeared to be on its way to Resolute, Nunavut, with people who were planning to take an overland expedition in a large all-terrain utility vehicle.

Canada closed its airspace to Russian-owned or operated aircraft on Sunday following President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine.

Archie says federal authorities were informed of the landing and it was being investigated by Transport Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency.

Read the full story here.

9:48 p.m.: Bryson Woolsey is trading in his chef’s apron and the luxury of home for ammunition and danger to help people in Ukraine during their time of crisis.

The 33-year-old cook from Powell River, B.C., said he “dropped the frying pan” to answer Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call for foreigners to join an “international brigade” to defeat Russia.

“It’s not my desire to go into combat and just shoot people. That’s not the reason,” he said in an interview. “There’s something happening right now, and I have the capacity to help in some way.”

While heads of state hammer out sanctions to slow down and stop Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, people from all walks of life are answering Kyiv’s call to arms regardless of personal risk and training.

Yet while Ottawa has largely adopted a hands-off approach, saying the decision to fight is up to individuals, some are worried about the potential legal and national security questions of having a large number of Canadians head off to war.


8:10 p.m.: The world has embraced Ukraine, its cause and its camera-friendly president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The world has shunned Russia, its military aggression and its increasingly isolated leader, Vladimir Putin.

But there are still many Russians who offer no apologies for what Moscow calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine and who harbour no doubt about the man who ordered it, writes Allen Woods.

In justifying the decision to dispatch forces into Ukraine, Putin has cited the “genocide” being carried out in the eastern Donbas region, which is home to a Russian-speaking majority. He has referred to the Ukrainian leadership as “neo-Nazis” and “drug addicts.” (Experts say claims of a genocide against Russians in the Donbas region are baseless.)

The depth of Putin’s anger, which has surprised many longtime Kremlin observers, is deep.

As it is for those who continue to back him, despite international condemnation.

Full story from Allen Woods here: The Russia-Ukraine conflict is not in its eighth day, it’s in its eighth year

8 p.m.: The U.N. refugee agency says 1 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion less than a week ago, an exodus without precedent in this century for its speed.

The tally from UNHCR amounts to more than 2 percent of Ukraine’s population on the move in under a week. The World Bank counted the population at 44 million at the end of 2020.

The U.N. agency has predicted that up to 4 million people could eventually leave Ukraine but cautioned that even that projection could be revised upward.

In an email, UNHCR spokesperson Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams wrote: “Our data indicates we passed the 1M mark” as of midnight in central Europe, based on counts collected by national authorities.

On Twitter, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, wrote: “In just seven days we have witnessed the exodus of one million refugees from Ukraine to neighboring countries.”

Syria, whose civil war erupted in 2011, currently remains the country with the largest refugee outflows – at more than 5.6 million people, according to UNHCR figures. But even at the swiftest rate of flight by refugees out of Syria, in early 2013, it took at least three months for 1 million refugees to leave that country.

UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said Wednesday that “at this rate” the outflows from Ukraine could make it the source of “the biggest refugee crisis this century.”

7:40 p.m.: The Przemyśl train station is a spot that’s come to be known in the last six days for its heartwarming scenes of volunteers welcoming tired and hungry refugees with a cup of hot tea and a smile. On a grey Wednesday morning, however, under a brooding, overcast sky, tension is building on the ground.

Yellow-vested volunteers, who days before held their positions alone outside, are now crowded out by a heavy police presence. Officers in green and blue uniforms pace through the parking lot of the square, and tall guards frame the entryway to the platforms, scanning everyone who makes their way in and out of the building.

“It’s really scary now,” says Soufiane, an Algerian volunteer who’s been offering translation services in Arabic, French, English and Polish. The change, he explains, was the immediate result of the actions carried out the night before by a group of alt-right supporters targeting refugees who fled the Russian invasion.

Tuesday evening, a Polish outlet shared video footage of a dozen black-hooded men descending on the train station. Their targets, explained the reporter who was quick enough to pull out her phone when she saw the men rushing the station, were the arriving refugees. But, she adds, only the ones who “looked like they weren’t Ukrainian.”

Among hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine arriving in Poland are Africans, Indians and others lacking Ukrainian passports. Some reported racist treatment by officials on the Ukrainian side.

Full story here from Johanna Chisholm: Mood shifts in Polish border town as alt-right supporters go after dark-skinned refugees from Ukraine

7:40 p.m.: In a video address to the nation early Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave an upbeat assessment of the war and called on Ukrainians to keep up the resistance.

“We are a people who in a week have destroyed the plans of the enemy,” he said. “They will have no peace here. They will have no food. They will have here not one quiet moment.”

Zelenskyy didn’t comment on whether the Russians have seized several cities, including Kherson.

“If they went somewhere, then only temporarily. We’ll drive them out,” he said.

He said the fighting is taking a toll on the morale of Russian soldiers, who “go into grocery stores and try to find something to eat.”

“These are not warriors of a superpower,” he said. “These are confused children who have been used.”

He said the Russian death toll has reached about 9,000.

“Ukraine doesn’t want to be covered in bodies of soldiers,” he said. “Go home.”

Warning: Graphic content

7:30 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden is hailing Wednesday’s vote by the United Nations General Assembly demanding an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops, saying it “demonstrates the extent of global outrage at Russia’s horrific assault on a sovereign neighbor.”

In a statement Wednesday evening, Biden said the U.N. vote recognizes that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “attacking the very foundations of global peace and security — and everything the United Nations stands for.”

7:15 p.m.: Pressure is building on the federal government to make it far simpler for Ukrainians to seek safe haven in Canada with provincial and local lawmakers adding their voices to demands that Ottawa remove barriers to immigration.

Federal immigration officials are already expediting existing applications from Ukrainians seeking to come to Canada either permanently or temporarily. But as the invasion by Russia continues, a greater urgency is being attached not just to processing those files but accepting thousands more people now pouring out of the country as fighting intensifies.

Changes could be coming as early as Thursday as work continues behind the scenes to tweak existing immigration requirements, most notably that Ukrainians need a visa to enter Canada to visit.

Conservatives and New Democrats continued to call for the government to drop that requirement, arguing time is of the essence for people fearing for their lives. Some include members of their own families.

Conservative MP Len Webber cited his relatives having fled the city of Kyiv, although they are not yet out of danger, while Conservative MP Laila Goodridge spoke of a family whose seven children would have safe harbour in Canada if only the visa requirement were removed.

“Over half a million innocent people have already had to leave everything they have ever known, many with just the shirts on their backs,” Goodridge told the House of Commons. “What we are witnessing is a humanitarian crisis. Many are looking for temporary safety here in Canada because, ultimately, Ukraine is home and when it is safe, they will go back home.”

Full story here from Stephanie Levitz: Ottawa pressed to fast-track immigration for Ukrainians

6:50 p.m.: As the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its second week, the call to aid Ukraine in its fight against Vladimir Putin is being answered by an increasing number of people.

From coast to coast, Canadians are donating medical supplies and safety gear, like military helmets. Others are providing cash for defence and humanitarian efforts, even as the Kremlin is stepping up its attacks on Ukrainian resistance.

For a man from Toronto on the ground in Poland, the help for refugees has been more direct, while in Winnipeg a group has collected thousands of kilograms of humanitarian aid — everything from radios to diapers.

Here’s how some Canadian organizations and individuals are aiding Ukraine’s struggle.

Full story here from Omar Mosleh and Jeremy Nuttall: Cash, diapers, or a home in Krakow: here’s what Canadians are contributing to help Ukraine

6:30 p.m.: On Sunday, thousands of people gathered in Toronto for a demonstration against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. High-profile politicians joined the rally, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Conservative MP James Bezan.

Just before 5 p.m., Freeland, who is Ukrainian-Canadian, tweeted a photo with the caption: “We stand united. We stand with Ukraine.”

In the photo, Freeland stands behind a red-and-black scarf featuring the words Slava Ukraini (Glory to Ukraine) written in Ukrainian. On Monday morning, the tweet had been deleted. A new tweet shared the same message with a similar photo from the rally, but this time without the red and black scarf.

The scarf’s colours are polarizing: while black-and-red banners have a storied place in Ukrainian culture, the colours were also found on the flag flown by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, or UPA — a paramilitary organization accused of committing atrocities against Jews and Polish civilians in the Second World War, and associated with the resurgent far right in Ukraine today.

By Tuesday evening, the photo had become the subject of social-media controversy and several right-wing news outlets in Canada and the United States published stories accusing Freeland of marching with a pro-Nazi banner.

Full story here from Richie Assaly: The controversy over Chrystia Freeland and the Ukrainian scarf, explained

6:18 p.m.: Russian forces captured the strategically important hub of Kherson on Wednesday, Ukrainian officials said, making it the first major city to be overcome by President Vladimir Putin’s forces since the invasion began Feb. 24.

The fall of Kherson — a city of 300,000 people, northwest of the Crimean peninsula — is significant because it would allow the Russians to control more of Ukraine’s southern coastline and to push west toward the city of Odessa.

Kherson Mayor Igor Kolykhaev and a senior Ukrainian government official confirmed that Kherson had fallen. Russian forces had encircled the city, said Kolykhaev, and after days of intense fighting, Ukrainian forces retreated toward the nearby city of Mykolaiv.

“There is no Ukrainian army here,” he said. “The city is surrounded.”

About 10 armed Russian officers, including the Russian commander, had entered city hall, Kolykhaev said, and had plans to establish a Russian administrative centre there.

A senior Pentagon official said that Russian forces across Ukraine continued to suffer logistical problems and that Russia’s military leadership had become much more aggressive in targeting civilian infrastructure inside cities.

5:45 p.m.: Vladimir Putin’s meandering rant on the eve of invading Ukraine demonstrated that his deranged torment and bitterness over failing to restore Russia’s imperial greatness has advanced to psychopathological megalomania, writes contributor Charles Burton.

In his 70th year and with more than two decades in power, Putin is obsessed with achieving military dominance beyond Ukraine to the other nations of the defunct Warsaw Pact, at any cost.

Convinced he has been foiled by American treachery, he will not be deterred by massive sanctions that bring great suffering to ordinary Russians. Putin threatens to deploy nuclear weapons if he doesn’t get his way. If we did not take his menacing speeches seriously before, we had better do so now.

Full column here: Time to wake up and take megalomaniacs seriously

5:40 p.m.: The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor opened an investigation Wednesday into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in Ukraine dating back to 2013, but also covering the conflict sparked by Russia’s invasion.

Prosecutor Karim Khan said he launched the probe after 39 of the court’s member states requested an investigation, a process known as a referral.

“These referrals enable my Office to proceed with opening an investigation into the Situation in Ukraine from 21 November 2013 onwards, thereby encompassing within its scope any past and present allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed on any part of the territory of Ukraine by any person,” Khan said in a statement.

“Our work in the collection of evidence has now commenced,” he added.

5:25 p.m.: The UN Human Rights Commission says there have been at least 536 civilian casualties in Ukraine. The numbers include 136 civilian deaths, including 13 kids, and 400 more injured. As these are the only casualties the UN could confirm, the real toll is likely much higher, officials say.

Earlier, Ukraine said that 2,000 civilians have died so far, although that number could not be independently verified.

5:25 p.m.: Less than two weeks ago, Dmytro Pidruchnyi was competing at the Winter Olympics in Ukraine’s national colours. Now he’s wearing a military uniform and ballistic helmet.

Pidruchnyi is a world champion in biathlon, which combines skiing and shooting, and a three-time Olympian. He returned home from Beijing last week just before Russia launched its invasion of his country.

“I’m currently in my hometown Ternopil serving in the National Guard of Ukraine,” he posted on Instagram on Tuesday under a picture in uniform. “This photo was taken during air alarm.”

Pidruchnyi is one of many athletes who have joined up with the Ukrainian armed forces.

5:22 p.m.: Defending democracy isn’t always cheap. Doing the right thing can come with a cost, writes the Star’s editorial board.

Canadians and others, therefore, should not be dismayed when they hear that imposing sanctions and cutting business ties with Russia to punish its government for invading the sovereign nation of Ukraine will mean some economic pain.

Compared to what Ukrainians are suffering right now, the costs will likely be tiny. But, as Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland warned this week, they will be real in the form of lost exports and higher energy prices.

Western countries aren’t prepared to go to war to stop Vladimir Putin’s attempt to bring Ukraine to heel. That’s understandable, given that Russia has the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal and there’s a real chance that Putin might actually use it.

But there are other ways of punishing the Russian leadership. The economic sanctions imposed by Canada and other western countries are the strongest ever used, and they’re getting tougher as governments see how bravely Ukrainians are resisting the invaders and are frankly shamed into acting more boldly.

Individual businesses and institutions, should play their part. So kudos to the approximately 100 Canadian business leaders and investment managers who this week vowed to get out of their Russian investments and urged others to do the same.

Read the editorial here: If punishing Russia on Ukraine comes with costs, it’s a price worth paying

5:25 p.m.: The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor opened an investigation Wednesday into possible war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in Ukraine dating back to 2013, but also covering the conflict sparked by Russia’s invasion.

Prosecutor Karim Khan said he launched the probe after 39 of the court’s member states requested an investigation, a process known as a referral.

“These referrals enable my Office to proceed with opening an investigation into the Situation in Ukraine from 21 November 2013 onwards, thereby encompassing within its scope any past and present allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed on any part of the territory of Ukraine by any person,” Khan said in a statement.

“Our work in the collection of evidence has now commenced,” he added.

4:50 p.m.: A Russian official says troops have taken the Ukrainian port city of Kherson — a claim that the Ukrainian military denies.

The city is under Russian soldiers’ “complete control,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday.

He said that the city’s civilian infrastructure, essential facilities and transport are operating as usual and that there are no shortages of food or essential goods.

Konashenkov said talks between the Russian commanders, city administrations and regional authorities on how to maintain order in the city were underway Wednesday. The claims could not be immediately verified.

A senior U.S. defence official said Wednesday that they have seen claims that the Russians have taken Kherson, but that the Ukrainian military is rejecting that claim.

“Our view is that Kherson is very much a contested city at this point,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to make military assessments.

4:30 p.m.: Most of the world lined up against Moscow at the United Nations on Wednesday to demand it withdraw from Ukraine, as invading Russian forces renewed their bombardment of the country’s second-biggest city, menaced its capital and besieged its strategic ports.

Russia reported its military casualties for the first time since the invasion began last week, saying nearly 500 of its troops have been killed and almost 1,600 wounded. Ukraine did not disclose its own military losses but said more than 2,000 civilians have died, a claim that could not be independently verified.

Envoys from Ukraine and Russia are expected to meet Thursday in Belarus for a second round of talks aimed at ending the fighting. But there appeared to be little common ground between the two sides.

Seven days into Russia’s invasion, the U.N. said more than 870,000 people have fled Ukraine in a mounting refugee crisis on the European continent, while the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency warned that the fighting poses a danger to Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors.

4:08 p.m.: Sweden says four Russian fighter jets violated its airspace over the Baltic Sea on Wednesday.

The four aircraft — two SU-27 and two SU-24 fighters — flew briefly over Swedish airspace east of the island of Gotland, according to a statement from the Swedish Armed Forces.

“In light of the current situation we are very concerned about the incident,” Swedish Air Force chief Carl-Johan Edstrom said. “This is unprofessional and irresponsible behaviour from the Russian side.”

Swedish fighter jets were scrambled and took photos of the Russian jets, the statement said.

“This shows that our readiness is good. We were in place to secure the territorial integrity and Swedish borders,” Edstrom said. “We have total control of the situation.”

3:20 p.m.: The spectre of a war on the other side of the planet haunts this storefront where young Ukrainians are packing up suitcases full of boots, gloves and other protective gear, as well as drones, to be sent to Ukraine to aide the fight against Russia’s invasion.

The equipment is desperately needed in Ukraine as Russian forces continue their assault, which began Feb. 24.

Standing in the middle of the floor full of bags, steeled and mostly silent as he looks over the gear, is 26-year-old Oleh Hlyniailiuk. His plan: to take up to 10 of these suitcases with him on a March 2 flight to Austria and then on to Ukraine by car.

“This is surreal,” the svelte Hlyniailiuk told the Star. “I can’t even fully understand what’s happening right now with me. It’s just got a different reality.”

Full story here from Jeremy Nuttall and Omar Mosleh: As people flee war in Ukraine, some Canadians are travelling there to help fight the Russians

3:15 p.m.: The Dutch are sending rocket launchers for air defence. The Estonians are sending Javelin anti-tank missiles. The Poles and the Latvians are sending Stinger surface-to-air missiles. The Czechs are sending machine guns, sniper rifles, pistols and ammunition.

Even formerly neutral countries like Sweden and Finland are sending weapons. And Germany, long allergic to sending weapons into conflict zones, is sending Stingers as well as other shoulder-launched rockets.

In all, about 20 countries — most members of NATO and the European Union, but not all — are funneling arms into Ukraine to fight off Russian invaders and arm an insurgency, if the war comes to that.

At the same time, NATO is moving military equipment and as many as 22,000 more troops into member states bordering Russia and Belarus, to reassure them and enhance deterrence.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought European countries together, minds concentrated by the larger threat to European security presented by the Russia of President Vladimir Putin.

3 p.m.: A Quebec restaurant has dropped the word “poutine” from some of its branding because the famous dish shares a name with Russia’s president.

Drummondville, Que., diner Le Roy Jucep announced last week on Facebook it was temporarily removing the word “poutine” from some of its online branding to express its “deep dismay” over Russian aggression in Ukraine.

In French, Vladimir Putin’s last name is written and pronounced “Poutine,” exactly like Quebec’s signature dish.

The restaurant has since deleted the post, but its Facebook page still describes it as the inventor of the “Fries cheese gravy” rather than poutine.

2:50 p.m.: Ukrainian officials have reported a powerful explosion in Kyiv, between the Southern Railway station and the Ibis hotel, an area near Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office told The Associated Press on Wednesday night that it was a missile strike.

Officials said it wasn’t immediately clear how damaging the strike was, whether there were any casualties or where exactly the missile hit.

2:50 p.m.: On today’s ‘This Matters’: Russia has been using cyber attacks on Ukraine for years, and now both sides are escalating their use of technology and information warfare amid the ground conflict.

Experts like James Lewis warn that there could be new and innovative uses of strategies like hacking and malware to disrupt forces during this conflict. There are also fears that these digital warfare tactics could spread to other shores where civilian or military infrastructure could potentially be a target.

Listen to today’s episode here: Modern warfare: Cyber attacks, hacking and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict

2:43 p.m.: Some of the nearly 1 million people who have fled Russia’s devastating war in Ukraine in recent days count among society’s most vulnerable, unable to make the decision on their own to flee and requiring careful assistance to make the journey to safety.

At the train station in the Hungarian town of Zahony on Wednesday, more than 200 young Ukrainians with disabilities — residents of two orphanages in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv — disembarked into the cold wind of the train platform after an arduous escape from the violence gripping Ukraine.

The refugees, most of them children with mental and physical disabilities, were evacuated from their care facilities once the Russian assault on the capital intensified.

“It wasn’t safe to stay there, there were rockets, they were shooting at Kyiv,” said Larissa Leonidovna, the director of the Svyatoshinksy orphanage in Kyiv. “We spent more than an hour underground during a bombing.”

The U.N. refugee agency says more than 874,000 people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion last week and the figure is “rising exponentially,” putting it on track to cross the 1 million mark on Wednesday.

Moving from the train in groups of 30, the children — also from the Darnytskyy orphanage in Kyiv — were escorted to buses waiting to take them to Opole, Poland, where they would be settled and receive further care

2:30 p.m.: A senior U.S. defence official says the Russian convoy still appears to be stalled outside the city centre of Kyiv, and has made no real progress in the last couple days.

The official on Wednesday said the convoy is still plagued with fuel and food shortages and logistical problems, as well as facing continued fierce resistance from Ukrainians.

He said there has been an increase in the number of missiles and artillery targeting the city, suggesting the Russians are trying to make a more aggressive move to try and take the city.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said Russians have not been able to achieve air superiority and Ukrainian air defences remain operable and their aircraft continue to fly.

The official said that about 82% of the Russian troops that had been arrayed around Ukraine are now inside the country — just a slight uptick over the last 24 hours, and that Russia has launched more than 450 missiles at various targets in the country.

In other areas of the country, the U.S. official said that the U.S. is seeing preliminary indications that Russian forces are going to try to move south towards Mariupol from Donetsk, in what appears to be an effort to encircle the city.

2:14 p.m.: The White House has announced additional sanctions against Russia and its ally Belarus, including extending export controls that target Russian oil refining and entities supporting the Russian and Belarusian military.

Among Wednesday’s new measures are sanctions targeting 22 Russia defence entities that make combat aircraft, infantry fighting vehicles, electronic warfare systems, missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles for Russia’s military.

The U.S. Commerce Department also announced additional export controls on oil and gas extraction equipment that would hurt Russia’s refining capacity over the long term.

The Biden administration, and Western allies, have largely stayed away from hitting the Russian energy sector to avoid causing tremors to the global supply of energy. The White House, however, said in a statement that U.S. and allies “share a strong interest in degrading Russia’s status as a leading energy supplier over time.”

The latest sanctions imposed on Wednesday include the U.S. closing off its air space to all Russian flights. President Joe Biden previewed that he would making the move in his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.

1:50 p.m.: With the threat of financial sanctions looming, Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich confirmed Wednesday he is trying to sell the Premier League club he turned into an elite trophy-winning machine with his lavish investment.

The speed of Abramovich’s pending exit from Chelsea is striking as he was trying to instigate a plan this past weekend to relinquish some control in order to keep the club under his ownership.

But as Russia’s war on Ukraine entered a seventh day, pressure was growing on the British government to include him among the wealthy Russians to be targeted in sanctions.

“In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club’s sponsors and partners,” Abramovich said in a statement.

Abramovich said he will not be asking to be repaid 1.5 billion pounds ($2 billion) in loans he has granted the club during 19 years of injecting cash to elevate the team into one of the most successful in Europe.

“I have instructed my team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated,” he said. “The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine.”

1:45 p.m. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the second time in the past week as Moscow intensified its invasion of Ukraine.

Putin and Modi on Wednesday reviewed the situation in Ukraine, especially in the city of Kharkiv where many Indian students are stuck, according to a statement from Arindam Bagchi, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson. They discussed the safe evacuation of the Indian nationals from the conflict areas, Bagchi said.

The telephone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Putin came as the U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution demanding that Russia stop war in Ukraine and withdraw all troops.

1:30 p.m. A top aide for Russian President Vladimir Putin says Ukrainians are on their way to Belarus for talks that have been scheduled for Thursday.

“As far as I know, the Ukrainian delegation has already departed from Kyiv, is en route … We’re expecting them tomorrow,” Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian delegation, told reporters Wednesday evening

According to Medinsky, the two sides agreed on the Brest region of Belarus, which borders Poland, as the site of the talks.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office confirmed to The Associated Press that the delegation is on its way, but gave no details on the time of the arrival.

1:20 p.m. (Updated) The Canadian government sent conflicting signals Wednesday about whether it would compensate Canadian companies or industries hurt by sanctions imposed on Russians or Russian companies.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said sanctions “obviously have a cost at home. That’s how international trade works,” he said, echoing a warning a day earlier by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Freeland had said Canadians should be prepared for that impact as the cost of fighting for democracy and a global rules-based order.

But Trudeau suggested in French that because punitive sanctions are necessary to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to reverse his decision to invade Ukraine, the government could try to offset the pain that might be felt here in Canada.

Read the full story from the Star’s Tonda MacCharles

1 p.m. The spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry says 498 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine and 1,597 more sustained wounds.

Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov on Wednesday rejected reports about “incalculable losses” of the Russians as “disinformation” and revealed Russia’s military casualties in Ukraine for the first time since the start of the invasion last Thursday. He assured that families of those killed are receiving all necessary assistance.

Konashenkov also said that neither conscripts, nor cadets have been involved in the operation in Ukraine, dismissing media reports alleging otherwise.

12:40 p.m. France’s National Center for Scientific Research, a huge state-run network of scientists across the country, is suspending all new collaboration with Russian counterparts.

In its announcement Wednesday, the CNRS, as it is known, strongly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It is unacceptable that in the 21st century such a conflict could see the light of day within Europe,” a statement said.

12:30 p.m. As the war in Ukraine pushed into its seventh day, fierce Ukrainian resistance continued to deny the Kremlin the easy victory it had anticipated, even as Russian forces advanced in the south while edging closer to a capital buffeted by fear. They were also intensifying the indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets, potentially altering the war’s dynamics by increasing the human toll.

The Russian military was bearing down on several Ukrainian cities, including Kherson, a port near the Black Sea, whose capture would mark the first major city to come under full control of President Vladimir Putin’s forces since the invasion began Feb. 24. Russia claims it is fully in control of the city, but Ukrainian officials said the municipal government was still in place. Neither claim could be independently verified. Kherson’s mayor said the city was “waiting for a miracle” to collect bodies and restore basic services.

In Kyiv, blasts were reported overnight and Russian forces appeared to be moving to encircle the capital. A military convoy with hundreds of vehicles remained north of the city, a possible prelude to an assault.

12:20 p.m. The U.N. General Assembly voted Wednesday to demand that Russia stop its offensive in Ukraine and withdraw all troops, with nations from world powers to tiny island states condemning Moscow’s actions.

The vote was 141 to 5, with 35 abstentions. It came after the 193-member assembly convened its first emergency session since 1997.

Assembly resolutions aren’t legally binding, but they do have clout in reflecting international opinion. A Russian veto sank a similar resolution in the more powerful U.N. Security Council on Friday, but the assembly allows no vetoes. Under special emergency session rules, a resolution needs approval of two-thirds of those countries voting, and abstentions don’t count.

More than 90 countries co-sponsored the assembly resolution. It deplored Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine “in the strongest terms” and demanded an immediate halt to Moscow’s use of force and the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. The measure also called on Russia to reverse a decision to recognize two separatist parts of eastern Ukraine as independent.

12 p.m. Airplane manufacturer Boeing says it has suspended major operations in Moscow and temporarily closed its office in Kyiv.

The company said in a statement it is also suspending parts, maintenance and technical support services for Russian airlines.

“As the conflict continues, our teams are focused on ensuring the safety of our teammates in the region,” the statement said.

11:45 a.m. Sony is donating $2 million (U.S.) as humanitarian aid to Ukraine though the United Nations Refugee Agency and aid group Save the Children.

The Japanese electronics and entertainment company has already said it will halt theatrical releases in Russia. Upcoming films include Morbius, starring the Marvel comics hero.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been impacted and hope this crisis will be resolved quickly,” Sony Pictures said in a statement.

11:35 a.m. A firm that tracks cryptocurrency transactions says $33.8 million (U.S.) in the digital currency has been donated to Ukraine’s government and non-governmental organizations there since the start of Russia’s invasion, nearly a third of it on Tuesday.

Chief Scientist Tom Robinson of Elliptic said most donations to date have been in bitcoin and ether. Some people are sending nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, to the Ukrainian government’s ethereum account.

Ukraine issued a plea for contributions on Twitter last week. To date, it has received 30,000 donations, including $5.8 million from Gavin Wood, the British programmer who co-founded ethereum. There have been several other donations of more than $1 million.

10:40 a.m. Russian forces Wednesday pressed ahead with a wide-ranging but slow-moving offensive targeting key Ukrainian cities, menacing the capital of Kyiv with a miles-long military convoy, launching deadly strikes on the second-largest city of Kharkiv and apparently breaching a strategic Black Sea port city with tanks and troops.

On the seventh day of an offensive marked by fierce Ukrainian resistance in the face of Russian firepower, the Kremlin said a delegation was ready to hold evening talks with Ukrainian representatives at an undisclosed location. An initial session Sunday on the Ukraine-Belarus border produced no breakthroughs.

With President Joe Biden vowing in his Tuesday night State of the Union address to make Russian President Vladimir Putin pay a heavy price for the unprovoked attack on Ukraine, its defenders — a motley mix of regular army troops and ad hoc civilian militias — braced for an expected full-scale attack on Kyiv, a city of 3 million people.

9:20 a.m. Mariupol’s mayor says the city is suffering from mass casualties and a water outage due to attacks, saying they had been relentless.

“We cannot even take the wounded from the streets, from houses and apartments today, since the shelling does not stop,” Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

Boychenko referred to Russia’s actions as a “genocide” — using the same word Putin has used to justify the invasion.

8:35 a.m. Ukraine’s State Emergency Service says over 2,000 civilians are dead in a week of war, though it was impossible to verify that claim.

8 a.m. Russia renewed its assault Wednesday on Ukraine’s second-largest city in a pounding that lit up the skyline with balls of fire over populated areas.

The continued onslaught against Kharkiv came even as both sides said they were ready to resume talks aimed at stopping the new and devastating war in Europe.

It was not clear when new talks might take place, or where, or what they would yield. Ukraine’s leader earlier said Russia must stop bombing before another meeting.Volodymyr Zelenskyy has decried Russia’s bombardment as a blatant terror campaign.

7:55 a.m. Russian and Belarusian athletes will participate as neutrals at the Paralympics.They will compete under the Paralympic flag and not be included in the medal table.

7:47 a.m. Taking a chance on finding a new life outside of the harrowing reality of war sometimes begins with taking a chance on a stranger. On Tuesday night, that proved to be true for a busload of Ukrainian refugees arriving from the Medyka border crossing.

They are waiting in the parking lot of a defunct grocery store that has since been converted into a temporary relief and rest centre. Inside the buses are refugees who either didn’t have someone there to pick them up, or had no clue where they were headed when they packed up to escape the war only a 15-minute drive down the road from where they now perch.

Outside the bus, men and women stand shoulder to shoulder waving posters — some printed on what looks to be the backs of old pizza boxes — with destinations that could hold the name of their new home.

Read the full story from Johanna Chisholm in Poland

7:45 a.m. Canadians should expect the pain of Western sanctions against Russia to boomerang on our economy, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland warned Tuesday, as Ottawa blacklisted several more of President Vladimir Putin’s top political lieutenants and said Russian oligarchs with holdings in Canada are now in the crosshairs.

After attending a meeting of G7 finance ministers on Tuesday, Freeland said the embattled government of Ukraine presented “creative” ideas of how to ramp up economic pressure on the Russian president.

However, she said, the strategy is unlikely to come without a cost to Canadians.

Read the full story from the Star’s Alex Ballingall and Tonda MacCharles

7:27 a.m. As Russian tanks rolling through Ukrainian cities meet fierce local resistance, some of Canada’s top business leaders are fighting the invasion another way — by pulling their money out of Russia.

More than 100 of Canada’s top business leaders and investment managers have signed a letter vowing to sell off all of their Russian investments, and are calling on others investors to do the same.

The open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Jolie, was written as the deadly toll of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to mount.

Read the full story from the Star’s Josh Rubin

6:14 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is appealing to Jews around the world to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in which significant Jewish sites have been hit.

Zelenskyy made the appeal on Wednesday, a day after a Russian missile strike damaged the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial on the outskirts of Kyiv, where Nazi occupiers killed more than 33,000 Jews over two days in 1941.

Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, said: “I appeal now to all the Jews of the world — don’t you see what is happening? Therefore, it is very important that millions of Jews around the world do not remain silent now.”

Earlier, shelling hit the town of Uman, a significant pilgrimage site for Hasidic Jews.

6:07 a.m.: A Kremlin spokesman says a Russian delegation will be ready on Wednesday evening to resume talks with Ukrainian officials about the war in Ukraine.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Wednesday that “in the second half of the day, closer to evening, our delegation will be in place to await Ukrainian negotiators.”

There was no immediate word from Ukrainian authorities about their plans.

Asked about the location of the talks Peskov said only: “I won’t announce the place ahead of time.”

Peskov said Putin’s culture adviser Vladimir Medinsky remains the main negotiator for Russia.

The first round of talks on resolving the Russia-Ukraine war were held near the Belarus-Ukraine border last Sunday.

They produced no breakthrough, though the two sides agreed to meet again.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused the Kremlin of trying to force him into concessions by continuing to press its invasion.

6:06 a.m.: The Ukrainian embassy in the United Arab Emirates says the Gulf country is reimposing visa requirements on Ukrainians, in an effort to stop anyone fleeing the war against Russia heading there.

The embassy posted on its Facebook page Wednesday that the suspension went into effect March 1. Any Ukrainian passport holders wanting to visit the United Arab Emirates will now need a visa first.

The energy-rich UAE, which relies on Russian and Ukrainian wheat exports, is home to some 15,000 Ukrainian residents among its roughly 8 million foreign residents and 1 million Emirati citizens. Before the coronavirus pandemic, around a quarter-million Ukrainian tourists visited the UAE.

The UAE, like other Gulf Arab states, does not recognize individuals fleeing war and has not permitted refugees from Syria, Iraq and other wars to seek asylum or seek resettlement.

The UAE, which is home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, abstained in a U.N. Security Council vote late last week condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

6:06 a.m.: Pope Francis is thanking Poland for opening its borders and homes to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.

Francis gave a special shout-out to Poland during his Wednesday general audience. The weekly appointment coincided with Ash Wednesday, which Francis has designated as a day for fasting and prayers for peace in Ukraine.

Speaking to Polish pilgrims, Francis said he was “profoundly grateful” for Poland’s gestures of solidarity.

“You are the first ones who have supported Ukraine opening your borders, your hearts, the doors of your homes to the Ukrainians who are escaping the war,” Francis said. “You are generously offering everything necessary so that they can live in a dignified way despite the dramatic moment.”

6:05 a.m.: Russia claims its military has taken control of the area around Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant.

That’s according to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

It said Wednesday it had received a letter from Russia saying personnel at the Zaporizhzhia plant continued their “work on providing nuclear safety and monitoring radiation in normal mode of operation.”

The letter added: “The radiation levels remain normal.”

Zaporizhzhia is the largest of Ukraine’s nuclear sites, with six out of the country’s 15 reactors.

Already, Russia has seized control of the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986.

The IAEA says that it has received a request from Ukraine to “provide immediate assistance in co-ordinating activities in relation to the safety” of Chernobyl and other sites.

6:04 a.m.: Turkey’s foreign minister says Russia has withdrawn a request to send four warships to the Black Sea through the Turkish straits.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday that Moscow had agreed to a “friendly request” by Turkey, a NATO member.

Turkey — which has been trying to balance its close relations with both Ukraine and Russia — announced this week that it will implement an international convention that allows it to shut down the straits to warships belong to warring countries.

The convention provides an exception for warships returning to Black Sea ports they are registered with.

Cavusoglu said three of the Russian ships were not registered with Black Sea naval bases.

6:03 a.m.: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is reversing course, saying his government will also provide offensive military equipment directly to Ukraine.

Those supplies will be in addition to what Spain is already sending through the European Union.

Sánchez told Parliament Wednesday he is changing Spanish policy because other parties were demanding it and because he wanted political unity around the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last week, it sent 20 tons of protective military gear and aid to Kyiv.

Spain contributes to NATO contingents in the Baltics and other allies in eastern Europe.

6:03 a.m.: China says one of its citizens was shot and injured while evacuating from Ukraine.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the incident occurred on Tuesday while the person was leaving on their own. The Chinese Embassy in Kyiv immediately contacted the person to provide assistance.

Wang told reporters at a daily briefing that the injured person is out of danger. He said the embassy is following the person’s progress and will continue to provide aid.

Details surrounding the shooting are unclear, pointing to the chaotic situation as hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and thousands of foreigners seek to escape the fighting.

Beijing has refused to criticize the Russian assault or even describe it as an invasion or war, arguing that NATO and the West had failed to properly address Russia’s “legitimate security concerns.”

As fighting erupted last week, the Foreign Ministry advised its citizens to display a Chinese flag on their vehicles when venturing out. Just two days later, it advised them instead to show no signs of Chinese nationality, apparently reflecting concerns over a hardening of anti-China rhetoric online.

In a phone call Monday with his Ukrainian counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged Ukraine to fulfil its “international responsibility” in ensuring the safety of Chinese nationals.

6:02 a.m.: Videos circulated online of an apparent attack on the regional police and intelligence headquarters in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. It shows a building with its roof blown off and its top floor on fire.

Pieces of the five-story building are strewn across adjacent streets.

The Ukrainian government’s centre for strategic communications released images Wednesday of strikes hitting Kharkiv, with balls of fire lighting up the city skyline over populated areas.

Kharkiv resident Marina Boreiko described strikes hitting a neighbouring building Tuesday, and her shock at seeing bodies lying in the rubble.

“Today I survived a bombing,” she told The Associated Press, repeatedly choking back tears.

“A Russian plane dropped a bomb on the house next door. My boyfriend and I were at home. We felt a strong whistle, and I realized it was flying toward us. We were in the corridor then, and we felt the explosion from there.”

As dust rose up, she said, “the first thing I heard was children crying. Our neighbours have three children and the only thing I was thinking about in that moment was, ‘God not them, please, only not them.’”

6:01 a.m.: The European Union is stepping up aid for Ukraine and is moving toward granting temporary protection to those fleeing Russia’s invasion.

The EU Commission announced Wednesday it will give temporary residence permits to the refugees and allow them rights to education and work in the 27-nation bloc.

The move still has to be approved by the member states, but they already expressed broad support over the weekend.

EU Commission President Urusla von der Leyen says “all those fleeing Putin’s bombs are welcome in Europe. We will provide protection to those seeking shelter and we will help those looking for a safe way home.”

On Tuesday, she already committed at least half a billion euros of the bloc’s budget to deal with the humanitarian consequences of the war in Ukraine.

6:01 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed concern that Russian attacks could threaten holy religious sites and said Russian troops are trying to “erase our history.”

In a speech posted on Facebook, Zelenskyy on Wednesday denounced a Russian strike that hit Holocaust memorial site Babi Yar in Kyiv.

He said: “This is beyond humanity. Such missile strike means that for many Russians our Kyiv is absolute foreign. They know nothing about our capital, about our history. They have orders to erase our history, our country and all of us.”

“What will be next if even Babi Yar (is hit), what other ‘military’ objects, ‘NATO bases’ are threatening Russia? St. Sophia’s Cathedral, Lavra, Andrew’s Church?” he asked, referring to sites in Kyiv held sacred by Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox believers around the world.

Zelenskyy also claimed almost 6,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the invasion began last Thursday. Russia has not released overall casualty numbers and the figure could not be confirmed.

6 a.m.: Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed Wednesday that Russian aviation disabled the main TV tower in Ukraine’s capital in an airstrike, but said the attack did not hit any residential buildings.

Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov did not address deaths from Tuesday’s strike or damage to the adjacent Babi Yar memorial to Kyiv’s Holocaust victims. He said the attack was aimed at disabling Ukraine’s ability to stage “information attacks.”

Ukraine’s State Service for Emergency Situations said the strikes on the TV tower killed five people and left five more wounded. Ukrainian television stations briefly went down after the strike but were later restored.

Konashenkov also said Russian forces had seized the southern city of Kherson. The claim could not immediately be confirmed.

Russian forces have faced tougher than expected resistance since invading Ukraine from three sides last week.

5:59 a.m.: A firm that tracks cryptocurrency transactions says $33.8 million in the digital currency has been donated to Ukraine’s government and non-governmental organizations there since the start of Russia’s invasion, nearly a third of it on Tuesday.

Chief Scientist Tom Robinson of Elliptic said most donations to date have been in bitcoin and ether. Some people are sending nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, to the Ukrainian government’s ethereum account.

Ukraine issued a plea for contributions on Twitter last week. To date, it has received 30,000 donations, including $5.8 million from Gavin Wood, the British programmer who co-founded ethereum. There have been several other donations of more than $1 million.

Elliptic also warned of scammers tricking unsuspecting cryptocurrency holders wanting to donate to Ukrainian causes.

Elliptic is among firms that help law enforcement track cryptocurrency to combat money laundering.

5:59 a.m.: The Biden administration is working on a “focused tactical strategy” to make certain that cryptocurrency doesn’t become a mechanism that Moscow is able to utilize to avert sanctions, according to a senior administration official.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the yet to be announced move, did not detail an exact timeline for when the new steps on cryptocurrency would be unveiled, but said the area is one of several spaces that the Biden administration officials are looking to shore up as it looks to make certain that sanctions on Russia have maximum impact.

The official said past experiences in Iran and Venezuela with sanctions evasion are informing the administration’s efforts. Additional export controls and new sanction targets are also expected to be unveiled in the days and weeks ahead to counter Russian sanction evasion efforts, the official said.

Officials have already been on the lookout for the use and creation of front companies and alternative financial institutions that Moscow might try to employ to get around sanctions.

5:58 a.m.: Sony is donating $2 million as humanitarian aid to Ukraine though the United Nations Refugee Agency and aid group Save the Children.

The Japanese electronics and entertainment company has already said it will halt theatrical releases in Russia. Upcoming films include Morbius, starring the Marvel Comics hero.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been impacted and hope this crisis will be resolved quickly,” Sony Pictures said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Mickey Mikitani, chief executive of Japanese online retailer Rakuten, donated 1 billion yen ($8.7 million) to the Ukrainian government through the embassy in Japan.

Separately, the Foreign Ministry said the Japanese embassy in Kyiv is closing temporarily, with operations transferred to an office in Lviv, western Ukraine.

5:57 a.m.: Ukraine’s Defense Ministry says it has evidence that Belarus, a Russian ally, is preparing to send troops into Ukraine.

The ministry statement, posted on Facebook at midnight, said the Belarusian troops have been brought into combat readiness and are concentrated close to Ukraine’s northern border.

“During the past 24 hours, according to intelligence findings, there has been significant aircraft activity. In addition, there has been movement of a column of vehicles with food and ammunition” approaching the border,” the statement said.

5:57 a.m.: ExxonMobil says it will not invest in new developments in Russia because of Russian military attacks on Ukraine.

The company said in a statement it supports the people of Ukraine as they seek to “defend their freedom and determine their own future as a nation.”

ExxonMobil operates the Sakhalin-1 project on behalf of an international consortium of Japanese, Indian and Russian companies. The company says that in response to recent events, they are beginning the process to discontinue operations and developing steps to exit the Sakhalin-1 venture.

5:56 a.m.: A Russian airstrike hit a residential area near a hospital late Tuesday in Zhytomyr, a city about 85 miles (140 kilometres) west of Ukraine’s capital, Mayor Serih Sukhomlin said in a Facebook video.

Ukraine’s emergency services said the strike killed at least two people, set three homes on fire and broke the windows in the hospital.

Zhytomyr is the home of the elite 95th Air Assault Brigade, which may have been the intended target.

Wednesday 5:55 a.m.: United Airlines said Wednesday it has stopped using Russian airspace for flights between the U.S. and Mumbai and Delhi in India.

An airline spokesperson called the move “temporary,” but gave no further details.

American Airlines has avoided Russian airspace for flights between Delhi and New York by flying south of Russia.

Read Tuesday’s Russia-Ukraine news.

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