Wednesday, February 21

Russia-Ukraine War: What to know about the war in Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its 12th day following what Ukrainian authorities described as increased shelling of encircled cities and another failed attempt to start evacuating hundreds of thousands of civilians from the besieged areas, including the port city of Mariupol.

Russia announced yet another cease-fire and humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to flee Ukraine on Monday, but nothing had happened as of early evening. Two previous cease-fire attempts failed and Russian forces continue to pummel cities with rockets.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for a global boycott of all Russian products, including oil, ahead of a third round of talks between the two countries.

More than 1.7 million people have fled Ukraine. Zelenskyy urged his people to keep resisting, and Ukraine’s foreign minister said more than 20,000 people from 52 countries have volunteered to fight in Ukraine’s new international legion.

Here’s a look at key things to know about the war:


Moscow offered evacuation routes that would lead mostly to Russia and its ally Belarus. Ukraine has rejected the proposed routes to those two countries as “unacceptable.”

Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko blamed Russian artillery fire for halting efforts to evacuate an estimated 200,000 civilians from Mariupol, where food, water and medicine are scarce. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of sabotaging the effort.

Russia has sought to cut off Ukraine’s access to the Sea of Azov in the south. Capturing Mariupol could allow Russia to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.


Russian forces launched hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks, dropping powerful bombs on residential areas of Chernihiv, a city north of the capital, Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said. But a long Russian armored column threatening Kyiv remained stalled.

On Sunday evening, Mykolaiv in the south and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, were also shelled.

Ukrainian forces were also defending Odesa, Ukraine’s largest port city, from Russian ships, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said.

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The Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday announced plans to strike Ukraine’s military-industrial complex and alleged that Ukrainian forces were plotting to blow up an experimental nuclear reactor in Kharkiv and blame it on Russia. The ministry offered no evidence to back its claims, which could not be independently verified.


Zelenskyy continued to call on foreign countries to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Establishing a no-fly zone would risk escalating the conflict by involving foreign militaries directly. Although the United States and many Western countries have backed Ukraine with weapons shipments, they have sent no troops and have rejected the calls for a no-fly zone.

Zelenskyy said in a video address on Sunday that “the world is strong enough to close our skies,” and over the weekend he urged U.S. officials help his country obtain warplanes to fight the invasion and retain control of its airspace.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Sunday that some Ukrainian combat planes had redeployed to Romania and other Ukraine neighbors he didn’t identify. He warned that an attack from planes operating out of those nations could be deemed an engagement by them in the conflict.


In Mariupol, Red Cross officials on Monday were waiting to find out whether a safe corridor had been established to evacuate civilians. Most of the shelling of the besieged city has remained on its outskirts, but shells have also fallen at random in all areas.

For those still in the city, the situation has become increasingly desperate, with shortages of food, water, and power, and some looting that police have ignored. There is no mobile phone service, so accurate news has become a valuable commodity and rumors abound.

Even hospitals have shortages of antibiotics and painkillers, and doctors have been performing some emergency procedures without them.

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Police were going through the city advising people to remain in shelters until they hear official messages broadcast over loudspeakers telling them to evacuate.

In the northern city of Kharkiv, meanwhile, Dmitry Sedorenko described the desperate scramble after his apartment block was struck Monday amid heavy shelling.

“I think it struck the fourth floor under us,” Sedorenko said. “Immediately, everything started burning and falling apart. It became smoky and difficult to see and then the floor fell through. We crawled out of the third floor. There were dead people. We got lucky.”

In Kyiv, the central train station remained crowded with people desperate to leave, and frequent shelling could be heard from the city’s center.


The two sides met for a third round of talks on Monday, according to Russian state media, though hopes for any breakthrough were dim. The countries’ foreign ministers are also scheduled to meet in Turkey on Thursday, according to that country’s top diplomat.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Lithuania and Latvia on Monday to calm any fears that they and Estonia, which he’ll visit Tuesday, have about their security in the event Russia chooses to expand its military operations. The three Baltic countries, which endured decades of Soviet occupation before regaining their independence in 1991, are members of the EU and NATO.

Blinken stressed that the U.S. commitment to NATO’s mutual defense pact is “sacrosanct” and that NATO and the U.S. were discussing stationing troops in the Baltics permanently.

The New Zealand government, meanwhile, said it plans to fast track legislation that will allow it to impose economic sanctions against Russia.

China’s foreign minister called Russia Beijing’s “most important strategic partner” and has continued to refuse to condemn the invasion of Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron is one of the few world leaders who has kept an open line of communication to Putin. In an interview Monday with French news broadcaster LCI, however, Macron criticized Moscow’s offer to open humanitarian corridors to Russia for Ukrainian civilians. “This is cynicism” that is “unbearable,” he said.

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Meanwhile, Russian lawyers snubbed a hearing at the United Nations’ top court about Ukraine’s effort to halt the invasion.


The death toll of the conflict has been difficult to measure. The U.N. human rights office said Monday that it had confirmed the deaths of 406 civilians and wounding of 801 others through the end of Sunday. However, it said it thinks the actual figures are considerably higher.

The World Health Organization said it verified at least six attacks that have killed six health care workers and injured 11 others.

Ukrainian refugees continue to pour into neighboring countries, including Poland, Romania and Moldova. The number of people who have left since fighting began has reached 1.7 million, according to the U.N. refugee agency. Among the multitudes is a Ukrainian youth orchestra.


A growing number of multinational businesses have cut Russia off from vital financial services, technology and a variety of consumer products in response to Western economic sanctions and global outrage over the war.

Two of the so-called big four accounting firms — KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers — said Sunday that they were pulling out of Russia, ending relationships with member firms based in the country.

TikTok said users won’t be able to post new videos in Russia in response to the government’s crackdown on what people can say on social media about the invasion, and American Express announced it was suspending all operations in Russia and Belarus.

Netflix also announced it was suspending its service in Russia.


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