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Ukraine war live updates: Biden hosts top EU official as Ukraine reels from hypersonic missile attacks

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Zayarny family evacuates near Bakhmut

The Zayarny family, who live in the village of Minkivka, four kilometers from the Bakhmut frontline, evacuates. The sound of artillery and the movement of Ukrainian troops is unrelenting.

Olya Bondarenko, 52, and Sasha Zayarny’s wife, 54, accompanied by Sasha’s father, Ivan Zayarny, 85, made the decision to evacuate and return home to their relatives in the town of Slovyansk on 9 March 2023. 

Jose Colon | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The evacuation of the Zayarny family, who live in the village of Minkivka, four kilometres from the Bakhmut frontline. 

Jose Colon | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The sound of artillery and the movement of Ukrainian troops is unrelenting. 

Jose Colon | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The sound of artillery and the movement of Ukrainian troops is unrelenting. 

Jose Colon | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The evacuation of the Zayarny family, who live in the village of Minkivka, four kilometres from the Bakhmut frontline. 

Jose Colon | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Olya Bondarenko, 52, and Sasha Zayarny’s wife, 54, accompanied by Sasha’s father, Ivan Zayarny, 85, made the decision to evacuate and return home to their relatives in the town of Slovyansk on 9 March 2023. Evacuations from Min’kivka.

Jose Colon | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

— Jose Colon | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

UN experts alarmed by Wagner Group’s recruitment of prisoners to fight in Ukraine

A mural depicting the Wagner Group’s logo in Belgrade, Serbia.

Srdjan Stevanovic | Getty Images

U.N. experts said they were “deeply disturbed” by reports that Russia’s Wagner Group is transferring prisoners serving time in Russian detention facilities to fight in Ukraine.

They said the Wagner Group has allegedly recruited prisoners that are both Russian and foreign nationals.

“Wagner Group recruits are alleged to have participated in human rights and humanitarian law violations in the context of the ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine,” the experts said, “including enforced disappearances of Ukrainian soldiers and officers captured during hostilities with Ukrainian forces.”

The experts added that in some cases the recruits are forced into fighting for the Wagner Group and are not allowed to speak to family members or lawyers.

— Amanda Macias

Zelenskyy denies Russian claims that Ukraine was behind Nord Stream explosions

Climate scientists described the shocking images of gas spewing to the surface of the Baltic Sea as a “reckless release” of greenhouse gas emissions that, if deliberate, “amounts to an environmental crime.”

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected Russia’s claims that Kyiv was involved in the September explosions that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines. The Npipelines run under the Baltic Sea between Russia and Germany.

Zelenskyy said that Russia was spreading the claim in order to slow down international aid to Ukrainians.

Earlier this month, Denmark, Sweden and Germany informed the United Nations of their plans to jointly investigate the attack. Russia has previously complained about being excluded from European probes into the Nord Stream explosions.

— Amanda Macias

Zelenskyy meets with Finnish prime minister in Kyiv to discuss EU membership

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (R) poses for a photo with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (L) as they hold a joint press conference after their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine on March 10, 2023. (Photo by Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Muhammed Enes Yildirim | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin in Kyiv to discuss Russia’s war and his country’s path to joining the European Union.

Marin told Zelenskyy that Helsinki will continue to support Ukraine’s membership in the European Union, according to a Ukrainian readout of the meeting. Ukraine became an EU candidate country in June.

Marin also reaffirmed Finnish commitment to Ukraine amid the Kremlin’s war and vowed to “participate in the recovery, reconstruction and modernization of Ukraine, including in the green transition, digitalization and telecommunication, education, energy and energy-efficiency, waste and water processing, construction, planning and infrastructure.”

— Amanda Macias

Wagner Group chief says there are more than 40 recruiting centers operating in Russia for war in Ukraine

A repainted mural depicting the logo of Russia’s Wagner Group on a wall in Belgrade, Serbia, on Jan. 19, 2023.

Darko Vojinovic | AP

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, said that the mercenary force has opened recruiting centers in more than 40 cities across Russia.

“There will now be new fighters who will go along with us side by side to defend their country and their family. To build our common future and protect the memory of the past,” Prigozhin said in an update on social media.

“Despite the colossal resistance of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, we will move forward. Despite the sticks in the wheels that are stuck in us at every turn, we will overcome this together,” Prigozhin added, according to an NBC News translation.

— Amanda Macias

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says Ukraine war will end ‘at negotiating table’

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hosts the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy at number 10 Downing Street on February 8, 2023 in London, England, Britain. 

Dan Kitwood | Reuters

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he will support Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to be in the “best possible place” to negotiate with Russia when the time comes.

“We’re providing training to use those capabilities. That’s all under way, as well as just helping defend themselves against the attacks that they’re facing, particularly on their critical national infrastructure. Now, that should be everyone’s focus,” Sunak said while on the Eurostar train to Paris ahead of a summit with French leader Emmanuel Macron.

“Of course, this will end as all conflicts do at negotiating table, but that is a decision for Ukraine to make,” he added. “And what we need to do is put them in the best possible place to have those talks at an appropriate moment that makes sense for them. But at the moment, the priority has got to be giving them the resources the training and the support they need to push forward and create advantage on the battlefield.”

— Natasha Turak

New U.S. intelligence indicates Russia is attempting to destabilize Moldova, White House says

John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, answers questions during the daily press briefing at the White House on March 2, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Win Mcnamee | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The White House said new U.S. intelligence indicates that Russia is “seeking to destabilize” the eastern European country of Moldova.

“We believe Russia is pursuing options to weaken Moldova and its government with the eventual goal of seeing a more Russian-friendly administration in the capital,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on a conference call with reporters.

“I want to emphasize that the Moldovan government is resilient and working effectively to counter these threats,” Kirby said, adding that the Biden administration is working with allies to bolster Moldova’s defenses.

The landlocked country of Moldova, which is slightly larger than the state of Maryland, borders Ukraine and Romania and was once part of the Soviet Union.

— Amanda Macias

NATO chief says allies should wrap up the ratification process for Sweden and Finland

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a joint press conference with the Swedish prime minister in Stockholm on March 7, 2023, following a meeting with all Swedish party leaders who are in favor of a Swedish NATO membership.

Jonathan Nackstrand | AFP | Getty Images

Representatives from Finland, Sweden and Turkey met for a third time with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the expansion of the military alliance.

“Finland and Sweden have taken unprecedented steps to address legitimate Turkish security concerns. It is now time for all allies to conclude the ratification process and welcome Finland and Sweden as full members of the alliance ahead of the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius,” Stoltenberg said at the beginning of the meeting, according to a NATO readout.

The push to add Sweden and Finland to the world’s most powerful military alliance comes as Russia’s assault on Ukraine amplifies fears of other countries in the region. Moscow, long wary of NATO expansion, has opposed the two nations’ plans to join the alliance.

Both Finland and Sweden already meet many of the requirements to be NATO members. Some of the requirements include having a functioning democratic political system, a willingness to provide economic transparency and the ability to make military contributions to NATO missions.

However, all 30 NATO members must approve a country’s bid for it to be accepted into the alliance. Turkey and Hungary have not signed ratification documents to bring Finland and Sweden into the alliance.

— Amanda Macias

Biden hosts top EU official at White House

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen (L) speaks with US President Joe Biden. Both are meeting in D.C. Friday.

Leon Neal | Getty Images News | Getty Images

President Joe Biden will welcome the European Union’s top official, Ursula von der Leyen, to the White House this afternoon.

“The leaders will review the strong cooperation between the United States and the European Union to support Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and democracy and to impose costs on Russia for its aggression,” the White House wrote in a statement.

Earlier in the week, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that additional Russian sanctions measures would also be a discussion on the table between Biden and Von der Leyen.

The two are also expected to discuss trade and ways to reduce the European Union’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels and energy.

Read the full story here.

— Amanda Macias

Five ships leave Ukrainian ports under Black Sea Grain Initiative

A photograph taken on October 31, 2022 shows a cargo ship loaded with grain being inspected in the anchorage area of the southern entrance to the Bosphorus in Istanbul.

Ozan Kose | AFP | Getty Images

Five ships carrying 97,600 metric tons of grain and other food products have left Ukrainian ports, the organization overseeing the export of agricultural products from the country said.

The vessels are destined for the Netherlands, Libya and the U.K., and are carrying corn, barley, rapeseed, soybeans and sunflower seeds.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered in July among Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, eased Russia’s naval blockade and saw three key Ukrainian ports reopen. The deal is set to expire this month.

So far, more than 780 ships have sailed from Ukrainian ports.

— Amanda Macias

Switzerland says it will not change policy prohibiting arms re-exports to Ukraine

Switzerland will continue its long-held policy of prohibiting Swiss-made weapons from being re-exported to a third country, its government said Friday, even as calls from Western allies mount to send arms to Ukraine.

“The Federal Council is committed to the values of Swiss neutrality and will continue to work to ensure the benefits of neutrality are realized,” the council said in a statement, as quoted by Reuters.

— Natasha Turak

Kharkiv governor says critical energy and water “almost completely restored” after attacks

Kharkiv governor Oleh Synyehubov said that “the energy system has suffered significant damage” in the eastern Ukrainian city after it was hit in a wave of Russian missile and drone attacks Thursday.

“Nevertheless, critical infrastructure has already been restored in the city, and water supply has been almost completely restored,” Synyehubov wrote in a post on the Telegram messaging app. Public transport however remains closed, he added.

A Russian military spokesperson confirmed that its strikes hit targeted Ukrainian critical infrastructure in several cities across the country.

— Natasha Turak

Wagner group appears to be taking ‘tactical pause’ in Bakhmut, think tank says

Forces of the Russian mercenary group Wagner — thousands of whom have been fighting in Ukraine — are believed to be taking a “tactical pause” in the eastern city of Bakhmut, which has been entirely destroyed by fighting, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank.

“The Wagner Group’s offensive operation in eastern Bakhmut appears to have entered a temporary tactical pause and it remains unclear if Wagner fighters will retain their operational preponderance in future Russian offensives in the city,” the ISW wrote in a Twitter post.

The bloody battle for Bakhmut has been waging for months and has been likened to a “meat grinder” for the volume of casualties being produced by the fighting there. Moscow says Ukrainian forces are surrounded, which Kyiv denies.

Ukrainian officials say they are determined to hold the ravaged city, because a Russian victory there would mean a direct access route for its forces to the rest of Eastern Ukraine.

— Natasha Turak

Ukraine reels from barrage of Russian hypersonic missile attacks

A view of bus depot after an artillery attack as one killed and another wounded in Volnovakha on the Russian-controlled territory on March 09, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

At least nine people in Ukraine are confirmed to have been killed by a wave of Russian hypersonic missile attacks fired Thursday. It is the first time Russia has used its powerful Kinzhal missiles, which can get past air defense systems, since the early months of its invasion — and the most intense day of strikes since late January.

The strikes hit critical Ukrainian energy infrastructure, which local emergency services are working rapidly to fix.

Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said of the attack: “High-precision long-range air, sea and land-based weapons, including the Kinzhal hypersonic missile system, hit key elements of Ukraine’s military infrastructure.”

Ukraine’s military said it had not been able to intercept the six Kinzhal ballistic missiles.

“This was a major attack and for the first time with so many different types of missiles,” a Ukrainian military spokesperson was cited by Reuters as saying. “It was like never before.”

— Natasha Turak

Maxar satellite images show before and after photos of the battle of Bakhmut

Maxar satellite images depict how the battle of Bakhmut has changed the landscape near the city.

Before: Images show only a handful of craters in fields just east of Bakhmut, Ukraine

Maxar satellite “before” imagery showing a only handful of craters in fields just east of Bakhmut, Ukraine. Please use: Satellite image (c) 2022 Maxar Technologies.

Maxar | Getty Images

After: Photos show hundreds of craters in the fields.

Maxar satellite imagery showing hundreds of craters in fields just east of Bakhmut, Ukraine. Please use: Satellite image (c) 2022 Maxar Technologies.

Maxar | Getty Images

Man killed, another wounded in Volnovakha, Ukraine

A man was killed, and another wounded, after an artillery attack in Volnovakha, Ukraine.

A view of bus depot after an artillery attack as one killed and another wounded in Volnovakha on the Russian-controlled territory on March 09, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

A view of bus depot after an artillery attack as one killed and another wounded in Volnovakha on the Russian-controlled territory on March 09, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

A body lays on the ground at bus depot after an artillery attack as one killed and another wounded in Volnovakha on the Russian-controlled territory on March 09, 2023.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

— Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

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