Number of refugees fleeing Ukraine reaches 1.5 million

The last:

  • The number of Ukrainian refugees is 1.5 million; The UN agency warns that “many more” could be moved.
  • Officials in the port city of Mariupol say the shelling has again prevented civilians from leaving.
  • Bombs were dropped on residential areas of Chernihiv, north of the capital, according to Ukrainian officials.
  • The IMF will assess Kyiv’s request for emergency financing of $1.4 billion.

More than 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees have crossed into neighboring countries in the space of 10 days, the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, the UN High Commissioner said on Sunday. United for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

The number was announced as Kiev pressed the West to toughen sanctions and deliver more weapons to repel Russia’s attack, which is now in its 11th day.

In a CBC interview Rosemary Barton live On Sunday, Grandi said the escalating conflict could displace “much more” than the current number of refugees.

A Ukrainian soldier assists in the evacuation of civilians on Sunday near Irpin, Ukraine. (Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images)

Moscow and Kiev have traded blame for Saturday’s failed ceasefire to allow civilians to flee Mariupol and Volnovakha, two southern towns besieged by Russian forces. Ukraine said further talks were scheduled for Monday, but Russia was less definitive.

A second attempt to evacuate civilians from Mariupol failed on Sunday after local authorities said Russian forces were continuing to shell the port city.

“It is extremely dangerous to get people out in such conditions,” the city council said in an online statement.

Capturing Mariupol could allow Russia to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.

People who were able to flee Ukraine have spread into neighboring Moldova, Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.

What else do we report on the ground?

  • Ukraine’s national security service said on Sunday that Russian forces in Kharkiv fired rockets at a physics institute containing nuclear materials and a reactor.
  • Russian forces launched hundreds of missile and artillery attacks across the country, including bombs dropped on residential areas in Chernihiv, north of the capital Kiev, Ukrainian officials said. They said a column of Russian armored vehicles threatening the capital remained stuck outside Kiev.
  • Ukrainians fleeing the town of Irpin, just outside Kyiv, were caught in shelling by Russian forces on Sunday and forced to dive for safety, witnesses said. Irpin, about 25 kilometers northwest of the capital, has seen intense fighting in recent days. US news outlets said at least three people were killed – a woman and two children, but Reuters said it could not independently verify what happened.
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian forces were holding key towns in the center and southeast of the country, while the Russians were trying to blockade and keep Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv and Sumy surrounded.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency said Russian forces are tightening their grip on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s largest, which they seized last week. The agency’s director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said on Sunday that Ukrainian staff members are now required to seek approval for any operation, even maintenance, from the Russians.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Moldova on Sunday, pledging support for the small, Western-leaning former Soviet republic, which is also facing an influx of refugees from neighboring Ukraine.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau left for Europe on Sunday, stopping first in London for a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to discuss ways to provide further support to the ‘Ukraine. He will also meet other European leaders during the week.

“Chase this evil out of our cities”

Meanwhile, Zelensky called on those in areas occupied by Russian troops to fight.

“We need to get out and drive this evil out of our cities,” he said in a speech on Saturday evening.

WATCH | Ordinary Ukrainians learn to use guns to join the fight against Russia:

Ordinary Ukrainians learn to use guns to join the fight against Russia

In the basement of a community center, ordinary Ukrainian citizens learn to use a rifle – many for the very first time – in a bid to join the fight against the Russian invasion. 1:40

In a televised address on Sunday, Zelensky said Russia was preparing to bomb another southern city, Odessa, on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast.

He also renewed calls for foreign countries to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying “the world is strong enough to close the skies to us”.

NATO countries have ruled out policing a no-fly zone, which would prevent any unauthorized aircraft from flying over Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Moscow would consider any third-party declaration of a no-fly zone over Ukraine as “participation in the armed conflict”.

British military intelligence said on Sunday that Russian forces were targeting populated areas in Ukraine, comparing the tactics to those used by Russia in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016. But they said Ukrainian resistance was slowing progress .

“The scale and strength of the Ukrainian resistance continues to surprise Russia,” British military intelligence said.

Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilian areas.

“Attacks on health facilities or workers violate medical neutrality and constitute violations of international humanitarian law,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on Twitter, saying the WHO had confirmed attacks on “several” health centers, causing several deaths and injuries.

He made no mention of Russia in his tweet.

Putin compares sanctions to a ‘declaration of war’

Putin, who calls the invasion a “special military operation”, reiterated that he wants a neutral, “demilitarized” and “denazified” Ukraine. He compared Western sanctions “to a declaration of war”.

“This is not just a military operation, but a war that leads to death, destruction and misery,” Pope Francis said in his weekly address to crowds gathered in St. -Rock.

A sports venue destroyed by shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, is seen on Saturday. (Yurii Kochubei/Associated Press)

Ukraine and Western countries denounced Putin’s motives as a baseless pretext for invasion and imposed sweeping sanctions aimed at isolating Moscow and crippling its economy.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, after meeting with the US Secretary of State on the Ukraine-Poland border on Saturday, said he expected new sanctions and weapons for Ukraine in the next days.

WATCH | Ukrainian president pleads with US senators for planes and drones to fight Russia:

Ukrainian president asks US senators to have planes and drones to fight Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a “desperate plea” for planes on Saturday during a call with more than 300 people, including US senators. He also pushed NATO to impose a no-fly zone on his country. 3:58

The United States promised to send more weapons and said it could step up sanctions. President Joe Biden has requested US$10 billion in emergency funding to respond to the crisis.

Washington is working with Poland as Warsaw plans to supply fighter jets to Ukraine, the White House has said.

Zelensky asked for help securing planes from European allies during a video call with U.S. lawmakers. He again called for more deadly aid, a ban on Russian oil, a no-fly zone and an end to Visa and MasterCard privileges in Russia.

Corporate withdrawals

Visa and MasterCard later announced they would suspend credit card operations in Russia, the latest in a dramatic series of corporate withdrawals following the invasion.

Seeking to mediate, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Putin in the Kremlin on Saturday and later spoke with Zelensky.

“We continue the dialogue,” Zelensky tweeted after the call.

Russia has asked the EU and NATO to stop the “pumping of advanced weapons systems” from Kiev, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, according to RIA.

Russia says Ukraine is working on nuclear weapons

Russian media quoted an unidentified source on Sunday as claiming that Ukraine was close to making a “dirty bomb” using plutonium, although the source did not cite any evidence.

Shortly before the invasion, Putin said Ukraine was using Soviet know-how to create its own nuclear weapons, and that this amounted to preparing for an attack on Russia.

WATCH | Why Putin Led Russia To War And Won’t Back Down:

Why Putin Led Russia To War And Won’t Back Down

Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine without heeding the advice of those around him, according to longtime observers. This decision and the course of the campaign, including the threat of nuclear weapons, challenge his mindset. 8:05

The Ukrainian government has said it has no intention of joining the nuclear club, having given up its nuclear weapons in 1994 following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The International Monetary Fund has warned that the conflict will have a “serious impact” on the global economy, pushing up energy and grain prices. He said he would assess Kyiv’s request for $1.4 billion in emergency funding as early as this week.

People hold Ukrainian flags as they watch the Angelus noon prayer recited by Pope Francis from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican on Sunday. (Andrew Medichini/Associated Press)

The Ukrainian military said more than 11,000 Russian soldiers had been killed so far and 88 Russian planes shot down. Reuters could not corroborate the claim.

Hundreds of civilians killed to date

Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières said it was getting more emergency supplies to Ukraine as hospitals faced shortages.

More than 350 civilians were killed, according to the UN human rights office, and hundreds more injured.

Demonstrations were planned for Sunday in Washington and elsewhere after imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny called for global protests on March 6 against the war. Demonstrations took place in Chile, Paris and Israel on Saturday.

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