A Ukrainian man stands in the rubble in Zhytomyr
A Ukrainian man stands in the rubble in Zhytomyr, following a Russian bombing. Image Credit: AFP

Russia's attack on Ukraine enters its eighth day on Thursday as they have taken over the city of Kherson while continues to wage its war on Kiev and other major Ukrainian cities. Here are the latest developments from the war front:


Biden speaks to Zelensky about power plant fire

US President Joe Biden spoke on Thursday evening with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to receive an update on the fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the White House said in a statement.

Biden joined Zelenskiy "in urging Russia to cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site," the statement said.

Biden also received an update on the situation from the US Energy Department's under secretary for nuclear security, it said.

Ukraine officials say fire at nuclear power plant erupted outside the perimeter

A fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Ukraine, the largest of its kind in Europe, broke out in a training building outside the plant's perimeter after an attack by Russian troops, the state emergency service said in a statement on Friday.

Separately, the plant's director told Ukraine 24 television that radiation security had been secured at the site.

Radiation level 'unchanged' at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

Background radiation levels remain unchanged at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine where a fire has broken out following an attack by Russian military, the RIA news agency cited a plant spokesman as saying.

Separately, RIA quoted Ukraine's emergency service as saying that the fire was outside the station perimeter and one of the blocks at the station had been switched off.

'If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chernobyl!'

A fire has broken out at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine and the Russian army was shelling it from all sides, Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter on Friday after a local mayor also reported a Russian attack there.

Reuters could not immediately verify the information.

"Russian army is firing from all sides upon Zaporizhzhia NPP, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe," Kuleba's tweet said.

"Fire has already broke out. If it blows up, it will be 10 times larger than Chernobyl! Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!" Kuleba wrote, referring to the 1986 accident in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant when the country was part of the Soviet Union, considered the worst nuclear disaster in history.

Google stops all ad sales in Russia

Alphabet Inc's Google said on Thursday that it had stopped selling online advertising in Russia, a ban that covers search, YouTube and outside publishing partners.

The move by the world's top seller of online ads by revenue follows similar pauses in Russia by smaller internet companies Twitter Inc and Snap Inc.

Russian troops shoot at firefighters trying to extinguish fire 

A generating unit at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest of its kind in Europe, has been hit during an attack by Russian troops and part of the station is on fire, RIA news agency cited the Ukrainian atomic energy ministry as saying on Friday.

"Firefighters can't start extinguishing the fire at the Zaporozhzhia nuclear power plant - they are being fired on at point-blank range. There is already a hit on the first power unit," the agency quoted the ministry as saying.

Fire breaks out at Europe's largest nuclear power plant: Officials

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the largest of its kind in Europe, was on fire early on Friday after an attack by Russian troops, the mayor of the nearby town of Energodar said.

There has been fierce fighting between local forces and Russian troops, Dmytro Orlov said in an online post, adding that there had been casualties without giving details.

Earlier, Ukrainian authorities reported Russian troops were stepping up efforts to seize the plant and had entered the town with tanks.

“As a result of continuous enemy shelling of buildings and units of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is on fire,” Orlov said on his Telegram channel, citing what he called a threat to world security. He did not give details.

Reuters could not immediately verify the information, including the potential seriousness of any fire.

US grants deportation relief to Ukrainians

The administration of US President Joe Biden will grant temporary deportation relief and work permits to tens of thousands of Ukrainians who are already in the United States but unable to return to Ukraine due to the military conflict with Russia, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Thursday.

The move will allow Ukrainians in the United States as of March 1 to remain and work legally for a period of 18 months, DHS said, after Russian forces attacked Ukraine. An estimated 75,000 Ukrainians would be eligible to apply for the program, DHS said.

Saudis offer to mediate in Russia-Ukraine conflict

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the Kingdom is ready to act as a mediator between all parties related to the Ukrainian crisis, during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Read more here.

Plane carrying Russians held in Canada

A charter aircraft carrying Russians has been held at the Yellowknife airport in Canada's Yukon territory, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said in a tweet on Thursday.

"We will continue to hold Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine," Alghabra added.

Musk warns Starlink service could be targeted

SpaceX chief Elon Musk warned that there is a high chance that its Starlink satellite broadband service could be "targeted" in Ukraine.

"Important warning: Starlink is the only non-Russian communications system still working in some parts of Ukraine, so probability of being targeted is high. Please use with caution," Musk tweeted.

US to impose sanctions on array of Russian oligarchs

The United States on Thursday will impose sanctions on an array of Russian oligarchs and the Kremlin spokesman, the White House said, as Washington takes aim at those close to Russian President Vladimir Putin in response to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The United States imposed full blocking sanctions on several oligarchs and officials, as well as some of their companies, the White House said. Those designated include Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov, the founder of Russian mining company Metalloinvest, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

The United States will also impose visa restrictions on 19 Russian oligarchs, their family members and associates, the White House said in a statement, and will also issue sanctions against Russian entities and individuals who enable the country's spread of disinformation.

"We want him (Putin) to feel the squeeze, we want the people around him to feel the squeeze," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters

'We are being destroyed,' says Ukraine's Mariupol under Russian siege

Russian forces are trying to blockade the southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, knocking out power, water and heating supplies with bombardment that is preventing residents from fleeing, local authorities said on Thursday.

As Russia's invasion of Ukraine enters its second week, the port city is seeing some of the fiercest fighting with constant shelling for the past 24 hours, Mayor Vadym Boichenko said in a video broadcast.

The city authorities likened the Russian onslaught to Nazi Germany's protracted deadly siege of the then-Soviet city of Leningrad during World War Two.

"Mariupol remains under fire. Women, children and the elderly are suffering. We are being destroyed as a nation. This is genocide of the Ukrainian people," the city's council said in a statement.

German chancellor calls for ceasefire

A ceasefire is urgently needed to help de-escalate the situation in Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday.

He also warned it was of major importance to prevent a direct conflict between NATO and Russia.

At an early stage, the agreed sanctions against Russia showed an effect, Scholz said.

US establishes hotline with Russia

The Pentagon has established a new hotline with Russia's ministry of defence to prevent "miscalculation, military incidents and escalation" in the region as Russia's invasion of Ukraine advances, a US official told Reuters on Thursday.

The United States says it has no troops in Ukraine but it and NATO allies in Europe are worried about potential spillover, including accidents, as Russia's stages the largest assault on a European state since World War Two.

The US and its allies are also channeling millions of dollars worth of weaponry to Ukraine's armed forces, which are using the arms against Russian troops, despite Moscow's warnings against foreign interference.

"The Department of the Defence recently established a de-confliction line with the Russian ministry of defense on March 1 for the purposes of preventing miscalculation, military incidents, and escalation," a senior US defence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirming a move first reported by NBC.

IAEA chief urges end to fighting near nuclear power plant

UN nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi on Thursday called on Russian and Ukrainian troops not to fight in the area of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ukraine’s biggest, after Ukraine reported a battle in the nearby town of Enerhodar.

“Director General Grossi appealed for an immediate halt to the use of force at Enerhodar and called on the military forces operating there to refrain from violence near the nuclear power plant,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

Russia-Ukraine talks conclude

Russia and Ukraine agreed Thursday to create humanitarian corridors for civilians fleeing intensifying fighting as Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow's advance was "going to plan" and to schedule.

The agreement was the only tangible progress from a second round of talks between Moscow and Kyiv, according to an adviser to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, and it was not immediately clear how they would work. A Russian negotiator, nationalist lawmaker Leonid Slutsky, confirmed the initiative and said it would be implemented soon.

The two sides met after the fall of the first major Ukrainian city to Russian forces, with Putin apparently unwilling to heed a global clamour for hostilities to end as the war entered its second week.

Putin again said Russia was rooting out "neo-Nazis", adding during the televised opening of a national security council meeting that he "will never give up on (his) conviction that Russians and Ukrainians are one people".

Russian convoy moving in on key energy hub

The mayor of Enerhodar, site of Europe's largest nuclear plant, says Ukrainian forces are battling Russian troops on the edges of the city.

Enerhodar is a major energy hub on the left bank of the Dnieper River and the Khakhovka Reservoir that accounts for about one quarter of the country's power generation due to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is Europe's largest.

Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of Enerhodar, said Thursday that a big Russian convoy was approaching the city and urged residents not to leave homes.

Nord Stream 2's German unit says may be wound up

The German unit of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline said on Thursday it will probably be wound up after the German government halted the project's certification last week in response to Russia's attack on Ukraine.

"Due to current developments, also at our shareholder Nord Stream 2 AG, Gas for Europe GmbH will probably be wound up," the company said in a statement.

EU agrees temporary protection for Ukraine refugees

The EU has agreed to give temporary protection to refugees fleeing Ukraine, officials said on Thursday after a meeting of the bloc's interior ministers.

European home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, who attended the meeting, tweeted that it was a "historic decision".

"The European Union will accord temporary protection to all those fleeing the war in Ukraine," said French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

Zelensky says if Ukraine falls, Baltic states 'next'

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the West on Thursday to increase military aid to Ukraine, saying Russia would advance on the rest of Europe otherwise.

"If you do not have the power to close the skies, then give me planes!" Zelensky said at a press conference. "If we are no more then, God forbid, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia will be next," he said, adding: "Believe me."

At least 22 killed in air strikes in Chernihiv region

At least 22 bodies have been recovered from rubble in the wake of Russian air strikes in Ukraine's Chernihiv region, the Ukrainian emergency services said in an online post.

It said rescue work was ongoing, without specifying where exactly the attack took place. Earlier the regional governor said at least nine people had been killed by an air strike on two schools and private houses.

Second round of talks under way

A second round of talks between Russia and Ukraine is underway, although prospects for a breakthrouth were unclear. Russian President Vladimir Putin had tough words on a call with France's president.

Ukraine's central bank delayed a scheduled rate decision until conditions normalise. Volkswagen and Ikea became the latest companies to suspend business in Russia as Kremlin forces pressed ahead with their offensive, firing missiles at Kyiv overnight and stepping up their campaign to take key cities on the Black Sea.

With more than a million refugees fleeing to neighboring countries, according to the United Nations, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel over the weekend to NATO member states neighboring Ukraine. The economic fallout for Russia continued to grow. Its central bank banned transferring coupon payments for sovereign debt temporarily, raising the risk for investors that the Kremlin could default. Crude oil hovered at multi-year highs.

Canada slaps 35% tariffs on Russia, Belarus imports

Canada on Thursday revoked special trading status for Russia and Belarus over Moscow's attack on Ukraine, resulting in 35 per cent tariffs being slapped on their imports, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced.

"Canada will be the first country to revoke Russia's and Belarus's most favored nation status as a trading partner under Canadian law," Freeland told a news conference.

As a result, Russia and Moscow-ally Belarus "will be subjected to a tariff of 35 per cent on their exports to Canada," joining North Korea as the only other country that does not benefit from this trading status, she said.

Russian TV channel says it is temporarily halting work

Russian television channel Dozhd (Rain) is temporarily halting its work, its general director said on Thursday, after its website was blocked earlier this week.

Natalya Sindeeva issued a statement after Ekho Moskvy radio station, one of Russia's last remaining liberal media outlets, closed following pressure over its coverage of the war in Ukraine.

"We need strength to ... understand how we can work from here. We really hope that we will return to broadcasting and continue our work," Sindeeva said in the statement published on the channel's website.

Biden seeks $10 billion for aid to Ukraine

The Biden administration is seeking another $10 billion to help protect Ukraine against the Russian attack and an additional $22.5 billion to cover coronavirus pandemic-related expenses, two major additions to budget talks already underway.

The acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Shalanda Young, laid out the need for the supplemental funding in a Thursday blog post. The requests would be additions to a planned budget agreement that Congress is trying to finish before a March 11 deadline.

Young said in the blog post that the money was urgently needed. The $10 billion to Ukraine would be a rapid escalation of the $1.4 billion provided by the United States since 2021, a reflection of the crisis caused by the Russian offensive that began last month. Young said the money would cover "additional humanitarian, security, and economic assistance in Ukraine and the neighboring region in the coming days and weeks."

Last week, Biden administration officials told congressional aides that their requests would include $3.5 billion for the Pentagon and $2.9 billion for humanitarian aid as Russia's attack has caused more than a million Ukrainian refugees to flee their country.


Over 7400 Indians expected to be brought back from Ukraine

Over 7,400 Indian nationals are expected to be evacuated under the 'Operation Ganga' in the next two days, the government said on Thursday.

The Centre has initiated an airlift operation to evacuate Indians, who have found their way to the neighbouring countries of war-torn Ukraine. It has deployed a number of special charter as well as Indian Air Force flights to ferry back the citizens.

On Friday, 3,500 are expected to be brought back, while over 3,900 will be ferried back on Saturday.

As per a Ministry of Civil Aviation statement, a total of 17 flights are expected to land in India -- 15 in New Delhi and 2 in Mumbai -- on Friday.So far, the Centre has brought back over 6,200 citizens, including the 2,185 coming on Thursday alone through 10 special civilian flights, since the evacuation process began on February 22.

On Wednesday, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said that over 4,000 Indian students will be evacuated from Romania in the next three days.

Russia to continue 'uncompromising' fight in Ukraine: Putin to Macron

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed Thursday to continue fighting against what he described as nationalists in Ukraine and said the Kremlin could add to its demands at negotiations if Kyiv stalls talks.

"Russia intends to continue the uncompromising fight against militants of nationalist armed groups," Putin said according to a readout of a call with French leader Emmanuel Macron, which added that attempts to slow conflict talks would "only lead to additional demands on Kyiv in our negotiating position."

Putin also told Macron he disagreed with a speech the French leader gave the day before about Ukraine.

Ukraine delegation headed to conflict talks with Russia

A Ukrainian delegation said Thursday it was en route for a second round of ceasefire talks with Russia on the Belarus-Poland border on the day Ukraine lost its first major city to Russian forces.

"On our way to negotiations with the Russian Federation. Already in helicopters," presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter, posting a photo of himself with lawmaker David Arakhamia in what appears to be a helicopter cabin.

Podolyak posted a photo of himself with lawmaker David Arakhamia dressed in military uniform in what appears to be a helicopter cabin. Arakhamia said on Facebook that Ukraine wants to negotiate humanitarian corridors with Russia.

"We start in two hours," he wrote at around 1200 GMT. Russia's delegation - led by President Vladimir Putin's aide Vladmir Medinsky - said its proposals have to do with "military-technical, humanitarian-international and political" aspects.

Russian forces pressed ahead with their offensive in Ukraine as the war entered its second week, firing missiles at Kyiv overnight and stepping up their campaign to take cities in the coastal south.

Top carmakers suspend operations at Russian plants

Toyota and Volkswagen, the world's two biggest auto manufacturers, said Thursday they would suspend operations at their production facilities in Russia, following the invasion of Ukraine. Toyota said it would halt work at its only factory in Russia and stop shipping vehicles to the country, citing "supply chain disruptions" linked to Moscow's assault on Ukraine and Western sanctions.

The world's top-selling carmaker said its plant in Saint Petersburg produced around 80,000 vehicles last year, mainly for the Russian market - representing just a fraction of the 10.5 million vehicles made worldwide by the Japanese group. Toyota's Saint Petersburg plant employs around 2,600 people, a spokeswoman told AFP, confirming the supply disruption was linked to the conflict. Toyota has no factories in Ukraine but said sales operations in the country had been suspended since February 24, when Moscow launched its assault.

German group Volkswagen also said in a statement it was suspending production at its two plants in Russia "until further notice", as a result of the invasion. Volkswagen, which had already announced a stop to deliveries to Russia, employs around 4,000 people between its two plants in Kaluga and Nizhny Novgorod. Fellow German car manufacturers Mercedes-Benz and BMW have also idled production in Russia, as well as halting vehicle exports to the country.

Western governments, sporting organisations and big companies have cut Russia off or dealt it punishing sanctions over the internationally condemned attack. Other Japanese firms also announced Thursday that they were halting or altering business as a result of the situation.

Honda said it had suspended all exports to Russia "until further notice", though the firm only exports around 3,000 cars and motorbikes a year to the country. Mazda, which sold around 29,000 vehicles in Russia last year, said it had stopped reserving containers for shipments to the country and would continue operating its joint venture factory in Vladivostok until parts run out. Others were more cautious, with Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors saying they were reviewing the situation.

Formula One terminates contract with Russia

Formula One has terminated its contract with the Russian Grand Prix following the country's attack of Ukraine, saying Thursday that Russia "will not have a race" in the future.

F1 already canceled this year's race, which had been scheduled to be held in Sochi on September 25. But following further discussions this week, F1 went a step further and ended a contract which ran until 2025.

"Formula 1 can confirm it has terminated its contract with the Russian Grand Prix," F1 said in a statement. "Russia will not have a race in the future."

Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel and several other drivers said last week they would not have raced in Russia even if F1 had decided to go there.

Ikea suspends Russia, Belarus operations, affecting 15,000 staff

Swedish furniture giant Ikea said Thursday it would suspend its activities in Russia and Belarus, affecting nearly 15,000 employees, 17 stores and three production sites, in response to the war in Ukraine.

"The war has had a huge human impact already. It is also resulting in serious disruptions to supply chain and trading conditions. For all of these reasons, Ikea has decided to temporarily pause operations in Russia," the company said in a statement to AFP.

The suspension mainly concerns Russia, where the Swedish group has been present since 2000 and is one of the largest Western employers.

Operations in Belarus would also be halted, though the country hosts only a few suppliers and has no shops, according to Ikea.

"The devastating war in Ukraine is a human tragedy, and our deepest empathy and concerns are with the millions of people impacted," the company said.

Russia ready to talk, won't stop targeting Ukraine military

Russia's foreign minister says that Moscow is ready for talks to end the fighting in Ukraine but will continue to press its effort to destroy Ukraine's military infrastructure.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the Russian delegation submitted its demands to Ukrainian negotiators earlier this week and is now waiting for Kyiv's response in talks set for Thursday.

Lavrov said that the West has continuously armed Ukraine, trained its troops and built up bases there to turn Ukraine into a bulwark against Russia.

Russia says that made Ukraine a threat to its security.

Russia attacks Ukraine - Day 8 details
Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal/Gulf News | Graphic News

Russian ships, rocket boats approaching Odessa

The Ukrainian Defence Ministry on Thursday announced that Russian ships and rocket boats were approaching the country's third largest city of Odessa located on the northwestern shore of the Black Sea.

"In the waters of the Black Sea, we are observing a landing detachment of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, consisting of four large landing ships accompanied by three rocket boats, advancing towards Odessa," the Ministry said in a statement.

The Ministry also claimed that Ukraine's Armed Forces have neutralised a Russian landing operation near the town of Balovne, the Ukrainska Pravda reported.

While Wednesday night passed peacefully for several regions of Ukraine, Russia on Thursday continued to attack Kharkiv, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

According to Ukrainska Pravda, Ukrainian troops have continued to defend Chernihiv and Nizhyn, but the situation in the Vyshhorod area just outside of Kiev is tense.

Ukraine says 34 civilians killed in Kharkiv region

Russian shelling and attacks on civilian populations killed 34 civilians in Ukraine's eastern Kharkiv region in the past 24 hours between March 2-3, the emergency services said on Thursday.

Separately, the governor of the Ukraine-controlled eastern Donetsk region said the port city of Mariupol, one of the first targets of the Russian attack, was without electricity or water supplies.

UN says at least 227 civilians dead in Ukraine

The UN human rights office says 227 civilians have been killed and another 525 injured in its latest count of the toll in Ukraine in the wake of Russia's military attack that began a week ago.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says the tally eclipses the entire civilian casualty count from the war in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces in 2014 - which left 136 dead and 577 injured.

The rights office admits that the figures so far are a vast undercount. It uses a strict methodology and counts only confirmed casualties. Ukrainian officials have presented far higher numbers.

The rights office said in a statement late Wednesday that "real figures are considerably higher, especially in government-controlled territory and especially in recent days, as the receipt of information from some locations where intensive hostilities have been going on was delayed and many reports were still pending corroboration."

Most of the casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and airstrikes, the rights office said.

Kharkiv, Ukraine
A picture shows damages in a building entrance after the shelling by Russian forces of Constitution Square in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-biggest city. Image Credit: AFP

'Welcome to Berlin': Ukrainian refugees pour into Germany

The loudspeaker announcement is nearly drowned out by the hubbub of passengers spilling out of the train from Warsaw, but it's a message many of them have been longing to hear: "Dear passengers from Ukraine, welcome to Berlin!"

Just over a week after Russia launched an attack on Ukraine, the trickle of war refugees arriving in Germany has swelled into a steady stream.

"The situation has changed dramatically," said Katja Kipping, senator for social affairs in the city state of Berlin.

On Tuesday evening alone, 1,300 refugees arrived in the German capital by train.

Mayor Franziska Giffey expects Berlin, less than 100 kilometres from Ukraine's western neighbour Poland, to take in at least 20,000 Ukrainians in the weeks ahead, and his city is urgently preparing emergency accommodation.

Germany's interior ministry has officially registered more than 5,000 Ukrainian refugees so far. But given the absence of border checks between Poland and Germany the real number is likely higher.

At Berlin's central train station, Ukrainian women and children make up the bulk of those arriving from Poland, having left behind husbands, fathers and sons to join the fight against the advance of Russian troops.

Russian advance stalls outside Ukraine capital, Britain's Ministry of Defense says

Britain's Ministry of Defense says that a Russian military column heading for Kyiv has made "little discernible progress" over the past three days and remains over 30 kilometers from the center of the city.

The column has been delayed by Ukrainian resistance, mechanical breakdowns and congestion, the ministry said in its daily intelligence briefing Thursday.

Despite heavy Russian shelling, the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol remain in Ukrainian hands, the department said. Some Russian forces have entered the city of Kherson, but the military situation remains unclear, it added.

The ministry also noted that Russia has been forced to admit that 498 of its soldiers have been killed in Ukraine and another 1,597 have been wounded. The actual number of those killed and wounded will almost certainly be considerably higher and will continue to rise, it said.

Zelensky calls on Ukrainians to keep up the resistance

In a video address to the nation early Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky 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."

Zelensky 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."

Fitch downgrades Russia's credit rating

Fitch Ratings has downgraded Russia's credit rating, citing a "severe shock" to fundamental conditions due to its attack of Ukraine.

Fitch said the war has raised risks to financial stability and could undermine Russia's ability to service its government debt. It said that, in turn, will weaken the country's finances and slow its economy, further raising geopolitical risks and uncertainty.

Among other factors, the ratings agency noted sanctions imposed by Western countries that are limiting access to foreign currency needed to repay debt and purchase imports and increased uncertainty over Russia's willingness to pay such debts.

Germany to deliver more anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine

Frankfurt: Germany will increase its weapons deliveries to Ukraine following the Russian attack by sending an 2,700 anti-aircraft missiles to the conflict zone, a government source told AFP on Thursday.

The government "approved further support for Ukraine", involving the delivery of STRELA-type anti-aircraft missiles of Soviet manufacture, which were previously used by the army of communist East Germany, the source said.

Germany's first arms consignment of 1,000 anti-tank and another 500 anti-aircraft missiles has already been despatched to the front, the government said on Wednesday.

The move came after Germany reversed its long-standing policy of not sending weapons to conflict zones, a position which has its roots in the country's Nazi-era war guilt.

On Saturday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz recognised that the Russian attack represented a "turning point in history" that compelled Germany to rethink its priorities.

At the same time, Germany pledged to invest 100 billion euros ($111 billion) in the build-up of its own armed forces in the face of the Russian threat.

The government on Saturday also approved the delivery of German-made arms to Ukraine from third countries, including 400 anti-tank rocket launchers sent by the Netherlands.

Before the escalation of the conflict, Germany had only pledged to contribute helmets and offered to help build a field hospital in Ukraine.

Russia hits communications facility in Kyiv, takes town near Kharkiv: Ifax

Russian forces have struck a radio and television centre in Kyiv and captured the town of Balakliya near the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, the Interfax news agency quoted Russia's defence ministry as saying on Thursday.

Russian missiles struck a TV tower in Kyiv this week in what Moscow said was a targeted attack against Ukraine's information warfare.

Third flight with 183 Ukraine evacuees lands in Mumbai

Mumbai: An Air India Express flight from Bucharest, carrying 183 Indians from the war-torn Ukraine, landed here on Thursday, officials said.

The flight IX-1202 with 183 passengers, including an infant, arrived at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport at around 5.40am.

The evacuees were received by Union Minister of State for Railways Raosaheb Danve-Patil with flowers and words of solace as they trooped out lugging their belongings.

Outside the airport, the returnees were given a warm welcome by their families, relatives and friends anxiously awaiting their arrival since midnight.

This was the third flight of evacuees in the past six days to Mumbai and a few more are expected to be operated this week as part of the Operation Ganga launched by India.

Till date, Danve-Patil said around 4,000-5,000 Indians, mostly students have safely returned home and the operations will continue till all those stuck there are brought back.

While one flight from Bucharest is likely to reach here at 1.50am on Friday, another is scheduled from Budapest the same day at 8am, said officials.

Pro-Russian separatists threaten Ukraine's Mariupol with strikes

Moscow: Pro-Russian forces may launch targeted strikes on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol unless Ukrainian forces there surrender, the Interfax news agency quoted Donetsk separatist commander Eduard Basurin as saying on Thursday.

Russia and separatists say they have encircled the city of 430,000 located on the Azov Sea coast.

Explosions reported in Kyiv as Russian assault continues

At least four explosions were reported in Kyiv on Thursday as Russia continued its assault on Ukraine for the eighth day.

Air raid sirens were heard in the capital city following the explosions - two reportedly went off in the city centre, and the two others near a metro station, the BBC reported.

Smoke rises from a building in Kyiv. Image Credit: Washington Post

Footage of the blasts that took place early in the morning shared on social media showed a huge fireball lighting up the sky in the capital.

The targets of the explosions however remained unknown, while there were no confirmation on any casualties or injuries.

Besides Kyiv, intense shelling was also reported in Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine.

Deputy Mayor Volodymyr Matsokin said that the city centre sustained significant damage and that police were injured when a government building was hit, the BBC reported.

India says no report of its students being held hostage in Ukraine

India said on Thursday it had not received any reports of its students being held hostage in Ukraine after Russia accused Ukrainian authorities of forcibly keeping a large group of them in the city of Kharkiv as "human shields.

The northeast Ukrainian city of 1.5 million people has been one of the worst hit by attacks by Russian forces since they attacked last week, and many Indian students have struggled to leave. One Indian medical student was killed by shelling in Kharkiv on Tuesday.

"We note that with the cooperation of the Ukrainian authorities, many students have left Kharkiv on Wednesday," Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a statement.

"We have not received any reports of any hostage situation regarding any student." Ukraine has also denied holding back Indian citizens.

Russia's embassy in India said they were trying to organise an urgent evacuation of a group of Indian students from Kharkiv through a "humanitarian corridor" to Russia, from where they would be flown back to India.

"These students are actually taken hostage by the Ukrainian security forces, who use them as a human shield and in every possible way prevent them from leaving for Russia," the Russian embassy said.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone late on Wednesday to discuss the safe evacuation of Indian students from Ukraine.

Russian casualties arrive at Belarus hospital

A string of seven bus-size Russian military ambulances - their windows blocked with gray shades - pulled up to the back entrance of the main hospital about 48 kilometers from the border with Ukraine, ferrying casualties from the front.

The convoy was part of what residents and doctors said has in recent days become a steady flow of Russian soldiers wounded in fierce fighting around Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, where a Russian advance has stalled in the face of strong resistance.

A doctor at the hospital - which is in southern Belarus's Gomel region, a main staging ground for Russia's offensive - said injured Russian troops began arriving on Monday. "I hope they don't jail me for sharing this," she said.

Brent touches nine-year high, supply issues roil oil markets

Oil prices extended their rally on Thursday, with Brent rising above $118 a barrel as trade disruption and shipping issues from Russian sanctions over the Ukraine crisis sparked supply worries, while US crude stocks fell to multi-year lows.

Brent crude futures rose as high as $118.22 a barrel, the highest since February 2013. The contract was at $116.60 a barrel, up $3.67, or 3.2%, by 0415 GMT.

US West Texas Intermediate crude hit an 11-year high of $114.70 a barrel and was at $113.01 a barrel, up $2.41, or 2.2%.

The gains followed the latest round of US sanctions on Russia's oil refining sector that raised concerns that Russian oil and gas exports could be targeted next.

So far, Washington has stopped short of targeting Russia's oil and gas exports as the Biden administration weighs the impacts on global oil markets and US energy prices.

Ukraine conflict may knock $1 trillion off global GDP

The conflict in Ukraine could knock $1 trillion off the value of the world economy and add 3% to global inflation this year by triggering another supply chain crisis, according to the UK's National Institute for Economic and Social Research.

Supply problems will slow growth and drive up prices, reducing the level of global gross domestic product about 1 percentage point by 2023, the London-based researcher said. Europe's ties to Russia and Ukraine, which are major sources of commodities and energy, leave it more exposed than any other region.

The war will also force European governments to borrow more to pay for an influx of migrants and strengthen their armies, NIESR added. It urged central banks to raise interest rates "only slowly while they assess the impact on confidence and activity of the war and its squeeze, through energy, on real incomes."

Russians besiege Ukraine ports; Refugee count tops 1 million

The number of people sent fleeing Ukraine by Russia's attack topped 1 million on Thursday, the swiftest refugee exodus this century, the United Nations said, as Russian forces kept up their bombardment of the country's second-biggest city, Kharkiv, and laid siege to two strategic seaports.

The tally from the UN refugee agency released amounts to more than 2 per cent of Ukraine's population being forced out of the country in less than a week. The mass evacuation could be seen in Kharkiv, where residents desperate to get away from falling shells and bombs crowded the city's train station and tried to press onto trains, not always knowing where they were headed.

In a videotaped address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Ukrainians to keep up the resistance. He vowed that the attackers would have "not one quiet moment" and described Russian soldiers as "confused children who have been used."

Moscow's isolation deepened when most of the world lined up against it at the United Nations to demand it withdraw from Ukraine. And the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court opened an investigation into possible war crimes.

Missile sets Bangladeshi vessel ablaze in Ukraine port, one dead

An unidentified missile struck a Bangladeshi vessel docked at the Ukrainian port of Olvia on the northern Black Sea, setting it a blaze and killing an engineer on board, the ship owner said.

Bangladesh Shipping Corp. said the MV Banglar Samriddhi was stranded at the port after the Russian attack on Ukraine began. The vessel wasn't carrying any cargo and had 29 crew on board.

"The missile set the vessel ablaze, but it was not clear which side fired the missile - Russian or Ukranian," said Pijush Dutta, executive director of Bangladesh Shipping Corp.

Russian forces take city of Kherson

Russian forces have taken over the Ukrainian city of Kherson, local officials confirmed late Wednesday, the first major urban centre to fall since Moscow attacked a week ago.

"The (Russian) occupiers are in all parts of the city and are very dangerous," Gennady Lakhuta, head of the regional administration, wrote on messaging service Telegram.

A military tank is seen on a street of Kherson. Image Credit: Screengrab/Reuters

Amazon pledges logistics, cybersecurity support for Ukraine

Amazon.com Inc is using its logistics capability to get supplies to those in need and cybersecurity expertise to help governments and companies as part of its support for Ukraine, Chief Executive Andy Jassy said on Twitter on Wednesday.

"Amazon stands with the people of Ukraine, and will continue to help," Jassy said, following Russia's attack that Moscow has called a "special operation." Amazon, which earlier this week pledged to donate up to $10 million for humanitarian efforts, is the latest company to mobilize in offering aid.

Wheat rockets past $11 a bushel for the first time since 2008

File - Combine harvesters unload harvested wheat grain into a truck during the summer harvest on a farm in Tersky village, near Stavropol, Russia.

Wheat futures in Chicago extended their meteoric rally, soaring past $11 a bushel to the highest level since 2008 as the war in Ukraine brings shipments from one of the world's biggest producing areas to a standstill.

Prices of the leading world food staple used in everything from bread to cookies and noodles climbed as much as 7.1% to $11.33 3/4 a bushel before trading at $11.22 by 9:07 a.m. in Singapore.