War rages in Ukraine for the 16th day on Friday as Russian troops besiege and bombard cities in the biggest attack on a European nation since World War Two, which has also led to the biggest refugee crisis since then. Follow the latest developments from the war zone:
Images show Russian military units continuing to deploy closer to Kyiv
Satellite images taken on Friday showed Russian military units were continuing to deploy closer to Ukraine's capital Kyiv and were firing artillery toward residential areas, a US private company said.
Maxar Technologies said multiple homes and buildings were on fire and widespread damage and impact craters could be seen throughout the town of Moschun, northwest of Kyiv.
Reuters could not independently verify the images.
Maxar said one image showed elements of a Russian artillery battalion actively firing in a southeasterly direction, a bright muzzle flash coming from one of the guns. It said it could not confirm the battalion's targets, but that the damage observed in Moschun was about 7km southeast of the artillery deployment.
Another image showed long lines of cars carrying people trying to flee Kyiv, and another showed that fires continued to burn at Antonov Airport.
Russian forces bombarded cities across the country on Friday and appeared to be regrouping for a possible assault on Kyiv as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said his country had reached a "strategic turning point" in the conflict.
US accuses Russia of violating 'nuclear safety principles'
The United States has accused Russia of violating nuclear safety principles, saying it was concerned by "continued Russian firing on nuclear facilities" in Ukraine but added that there were no signs detected yet of any radiological release.
"We are monitoring reports of damage to a research facility in Kharkiv. Near-term safety risk is low, but the continued Russian firing on nuclear facilities must cease", US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on Friday on Twitter.
US, NATO rushing weapons into Ukraine
The United States and NATO are shipping weapons into Ukraine at break-neck speed, including highly sensitive items such as shoulder-fired missiles called Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems (MANPADS) that can take down aircraft.
The Western arms deliveries, another one of which is expected to arrive in the coming hours, have been vital to enabling Ukrainians to fight the invading Russians forces far more effectively and fiercely than US intelligence expected.
But moving those amounts of weaponry into the largest conflict in Europe since World War Two carries with it risks that some could fall into the wrong hands — a possibility the West has considered.
“Frankly, we believe that risk is worth taking right now because the Ukrainians are fighting so skillfully with the tools at their disposal and they’re using them so creatively,” a senior US defence official said on Friday when asked about that danger.
US imposes new sanctions on Russian oligarchs, leaders and elites
The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on more Russian oligarchs, leaders and elites, targeting members of the lower house of parliament and billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, among others, as Washington increases pressure on Russia over its attack on Ukraine.
Those hit with sanctions on Friday include 10 people comprising VTB Bank’s board, 12 members of the Duma and family members of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the US Treasury Department said in a statement.
The Treasury accused those targeted of having supported Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine.
“Treasury continues to hold Russian officials to account for enabling Putin’s unjustified and unprovoked war,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in the statement.
UN warns Russia over potential war crimes
The UN warned Russia Friday that attacks that target civilians were banned and could amount to war crimes, as it raised the use of cluster bombs in Ukraine.
The UN human rights office said Friday it was gravely concerned by the rising death toll in the conflict following Russia's full-scale assault of Ukraine on February 24.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 564 civilians killed and 982 injured, though it acknowledged that the actual figures are "considerably higher".
"We remind the Russian authorities that directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects, as well as so-called area bombardment in towns and villages and other forms of indiscriminate attacks, are prohibited under international law and may amount to war crimes," OHCHR spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell said.
Biden, European allies move to strip Russia of trade status
US President Joe Biden said the US and its allies would strip Russia of routine trade benefits, adding to the financial pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin over his attack of Ukraine.
The Group of 7 nations and the European Union also will take the first step toward implementing similar measures, which would have a more dramatic impact upon the Russian economy.
Biden called the actions "another crushing blow to Russia's economy," which already has been pummeled by comprehensive financial sanctions.
"The free world is coming together to confront Putin," the president said in remarks from the White House.
The president will need congressional approval to alter Russia's trade status, ending what's called "permanent and normal trade relations" and treating the country as a pariah along with nations like Cuba and North Korea.
The European changes also must be approved by national legislatures.
In a largely symbolic move, the administration also plans to ban imports of Russian seafood and alcohol, which amounted to $550 million last year. And Biden intends to prohibit the US exports of luxury goods favoured by the wealthy Russian oligarchs who support Putin.
The US already has halted imports of Russian oil and energy products, which made up about 60 per cent of the $26 billion in goods American buyers imported from Russia in 2021.
Two-way trade between the EU and Russia amounts to $700 billion a year.
Allied sanctions imposed to date already have taken a toll on the Russian economy. The ruble has plunged, the country's stock market has been shut for more than a week, and foreign corporations are fleeing.
The president said the allies also will seek to deny Russia the ability to borrow from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
"Putin is the aggressor and he must pay the price," the president said.
Biden warns direct NATO-Russia clash would trigger 'World War III'
President Joe Biden again ruled out any direct intervention by the United States to halt Russia's attack of Ukraine on Friday, warning that such conflict pitting the NATO alliance against the Kremlin "is World War III."
"We will not fight a war against Russia in Ukraine," Biden said in a speech at the White House, refuting increasingly desperate calls from Kyiv for NATO to intervene against the Russian assault.
NATO chief says Ukraine needs more than 'bare minimum' humanitarian corridors
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that humanitarian corridors constituted the "bare minimum" of what Ukraine needs at this moment, and called on Russia to withdraw its forces and engage in diplomatic efforts in good faith.
Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of a forum in Antalya, Turkey, Stoltenberg said talks between the warring parties were important, but added any real solution was dependent on Russia withdrawing its troops.
"I continue to believe it is important that we work hard for a political, diplomatic solution," Stoltenberg said. "The bare minimum is to establish humanitarian corridors where people can get out and humanitarian aid can get in." He said the nuclear rhetoric from Russian President Vladimir Putin was "dangerous" and "reckless", and reiterated that NATO would not send troops or jets into Ukraine despite the repeated appeals from Ukrainian officials.
Stoltenberg said he understood "the desperate situation" but deploying soldiers or imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine "would most likely... escalate the war to a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia," he added.
Erdogan: World should have spoken up in 2014
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested that the war in Ukraine could have been avoided had the world spoken out against Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea.
"Would we have faced such a picture if the West, the whole world, had raised their voices?" Erdogan asked. "Those who remained silent in the face of Crimea's invasion are now saying some things."
Erdogan spoke Friday at a diplomacy forum near the Turkish Mediterranean city of Antalya, where the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met a day earlier for talks facilitated by Turkey's foreign minister.
Erdogan said Turkey would continue its efforts for peace.
EU eyes doubling Ukraine military aid as war spurs defence push
The European Union on Friday eyed an extra 500 million euros for military support for Ukraine and fresh sanctions on Russia, as Moscow's war spurred vows to bolster the bloc's defences.
EU leaders meeting for a summit in France's Palace of Versailles described Moscow's attack on Ukraine as a wake-up call for the 27-nation bloc to take a more muscular approach to ensuring its security.
"There's no denying the fact that two weeks ago we woke up in a different Europe, in a different world," European Council chief Charles Michel said.
The EU's executive put forward a proposal to double its financing for sending weapons to Ukraine to one billion euros as the West scrambles to back Kyiv's forces in the face of the Kremlin's onslaught.
Alongside further arms supplies, EU leaders also said they were readying a fresh round of economic punishment as they look to keep up pressure on Putin over the attack.
The West has already hit Moscow with a barrage of unprecedented sanctions but the EU has so far failed to agree to follow the US lead in hitting Russia's key oil and gas exports.
French President Macron said he would talk to Putin again in the coming hours with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Macron warned the Kremlin leader of further "massive sanctions" if he steps up the bombing or seeks to beseige Ukraine's capital Kyiv.
"In that case, nothing is off the table, nothing is taboo," Macron said.
"We will do whatever we deem to be effective and useful to halt Russia in its aggression."
Finland's president called for humanitarian corridors in phone call with Putin
Finland's President Sauli Niinisto and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed the need for humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians in Ukraine in a phone call on Friday, the Finnish president's office said in a statement.
Zelensky says EU 'should do more' for Ukraine
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday the European Union "should do more" for his embattled country, a day after EU leaders doused its hopes of quick accession to the bloc.
"The European Union should do more. It must do more for us, for Ukraine," he said in a video statement on Telegram. "The decisions of politicians must coincide with the mood of their people."
Stocks rally after Putin says some progress in Ukraine talks
Stocks extended their gains on Friday after Russian President Vladimir Putin said there had been some progress in Moscow's talks with Ukraine, although the rally was not enough to stop shares heading for their fifth consecutive weekly loss.
Putin did not provide any details and recent talks between the two countries have not made much headway.
The war in Ukraine, now in its third week, and the prospect of central banks tightening monetary policy to tame inflation just as the global economy begins to slow has sent financial markets on a rollercoaster ride with wild swings up and - mostly down.
Putin sees 'certain positive shifts' in talks with Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday some progress had been made in Moscow's talks with Ukraine, while the Kremlin said the conflict would end when the West took action to address Moscow concerns.
At a Kremlin meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Putin said Western sanctions would not hinder Russian development and that Russia would end up stronger.
He then said Ukrainian negotiations were taking place practically every day.
"There are certain positive shifts, negotiators on our side tell me," Putin said. "I will talk about all of this later."
Lukashenko told Putin that both of them were from Soviet generations which had endured sanctions and that the Soviet Union had developed well.
"You are right," Putin said. The Soviet Union lived all the time under sanctions but it developed and made colossal achievements."
The Kremlin said on Friday the conflict in Ukraine would end when the West took action over Russia's repeatedly raised concerns about the killing of civilians in eastern Ukraine and NATO enlargement eastwards.
"We need to find a resolution to these two questions. Russia formulated concrete demands to Ukraine to resolve those questions," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Russian strikes hit western Ukraine as offensive widens
Russia widened its military offensive in Ukraine on Friday, striking near airports in the west of the country for the first time, as observers and satellite photos indicated that its troops, long stalled in a convoy outside the capital Kyiv, were trying to maneuver to encircle the city.
With the attack now in its third week, the US and its allies prepared to step up their efforts to isolate and sanction Russia by revoking its most favoured trading status. The move comes amid mounting outrage after a deadly airstrike hit a maternity hospital in the key Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, under an increasingly constricting 10-day-old siege.
The new airstrikes in western Ukraine were likely a message from Russia that no area was safe, Western and Ukrainian officials say Russian forces have struggled in the face of heavier-than-expected resistance and supply and morale problems. So far, they have made the most advances on cities in the south and east while stalling in the north and around Kyiv.
Strikes on the western Lutsk airfield killed two Ukrainian servicemen and wounded six people, according to the head of the surrounding Volyn region, Yuriy Pohulyayko. In Ivano-Frankivsk, residents were ordered to shelters after an air raid alert, Mayor Ruslan Martsinkiv said.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russia used high-precision long-range weapons Friday to put military airfields in Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk "out of action." He did not provide details.
New satellite photos, meanwhile, appeared to show a massive Russian convoy outside the Ukrainian capital had fanned out into towns and forests near Kyiv, with artillery pieces raised for firing in another potentially ominous movement.
The 64-kilometer line of vehicles, tanks and artillery had massed outside the city early last week, but its advance appeared to stall as reports of food and fuel shortages circulated.
Eastern Europe's aid effort under strain as Ukraine refugees keep arriving
Eastern Europe's volunteer-driven aid effort to help Ukrainians was showing signs of strains of Friday, with some cities running out of accommodation as the number of refugees passed 2.5 million and fierce fighting continued unabated.
Relief work in frontline states - Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Moldova - has mainly been shouldered by ordinary citizens volunteering to drive, cook or house refugees, with the help of non-governmental organisations and local authorities.
But with the war now in its third week and the number of refugees continuing to swell, it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide sufficient help.
2.5 million people flee Ukraine
The International Organization for Migration says 2.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia attacked more than two weeks ago.
IOM spokesman Paul Dillon said in a text message that the figures, taken from national governments, were up to date through Friday morning.
He said that more than 1.5 million refugees have gone to neighboring Poland and that some 116,000 of the refugees are "third-country nationals,'' not Ukrainians.
The UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, also gave the 2.5 million total for refugees and said his agency estimates that about two million people are displaced inside Ukraine as well.
Putin backs plans to send volunteer fighters to Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday backed plans to allow volunteers, including from abroad, to fight in Ukraine, where he has sent thousands of Russian troops in what he calls a "special military operation".
"If you see that there are people who want on a voluntary basis (to help east Ukraine's separatists), then you need to meet them halfway and help them move to combat zones," Putin told Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu during a televised security council meeting.
"As for the supply of arms, especially Western-made, which ended up in the hands of the Russian army, of course I support the possibility of transferring them to the military units of DNR and LNR," Putin said referring to the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics in Ukraine's east.
Putin also ordered that Shoigu prepare a separate report on strengthening Russia's western borders "in connection to the actions that NATO countries are taking in this direction".
Ukraine to try humanitarian routes again
Ukrainian authorities announced plans for several evacuation and humanitarian aid delivery routes Friday, with the support of the Red Cross.
The top priority remained freeing people from the besieged city of Mariupol and getting aid to its hungry, thirsty, freezing and terrified population.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a video message that Ukrainian authorities are trying yet again Friday to send aid into Mariupol and bring evacuees out to the city of Zaporizhzhia. Repeated previous attempts have failed, as aid and rescue convoys were targeted by Russian shelling.
Vereshchuk said buses would be sent Friday to multiple Kyiv suburbs to bring people to the capital, and to bring aid to those staying behind.
She also announced efforts to create new humanitarian corridors to bring aid to people in areas occupied or under Russian attack around the cities of Kherson in the south, Chernihiv in the north and Kharkiv in the east.
Turkish air company Pegasus suspends flights to and from Russia for 2 weeks
Turkish Pegasus Airlines decided to cancel all its flights to and from Russia from March 13 for two weeks amid financial sanctions imposed on Russia over its military operation in Ukraine.
"Due to operational risks under these conditions, all our flights to and from Russian Federation have been temporarily suspended as of March 13, 2022 (including) until March 27, 2022," the company said in a statement, adding that such measures were forced due to sanctions on insurance, leasing and other operations on flights to and from Russia.
According to the statement, all passengers on flights to the Russian cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Mineralnye Vody, Grozny, Makhachkala and Krasnodar between these dates can change tickets for free or receive a full refund.
The newest wave of EU sanctions introduced against Moscow over its military operation in Ukraine banned the sale of aircraft and parts to Russian companies and obliged leasing companies to take back all leased planes from Russia.
Civilian targets hit in Ukraine's Dnipro
Civilian targets came under Russian shelling in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro Friday, killing one, emergency services said, in what appeared to be the first direct attack on the city.
Early on Friday, "there were three air strikes on the city, namely hitting a kindergarten, an apartment building and a two-story shoe factory, starting a fire. One person died," the emergency services said in a statement.
US Congress passes budget including $14 billion for Ukraine
The US Congress passed a huge omnibus 2022 spending bill Thursday including almost $14 billion in humanitarian and military aid to war-torn Ukraine, as its attack by Russia entered its third week.
Lawmakers had been facing the latest in a series of shutdown showdowns, with government funding due to expire at midnight Friday into Saturday, meaning thousands of workers would have been sent home without pay.
With the deadline fast approaching, senators in the legislative body's upper chamber followed their House of Representatives colleagues, who green-lit the $1.5-trillion package on Wednesday.
"We're keeping our promise to support Ukraine as they fight for their lives against the evil Vladimir Putin," Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Senate Democrats, said in a statement.
"With nearly $14 billion in emergency aid, Congress will approve more than double what the administration originally requested."
Government funding regularly becomes a contentious issue in the United States, as the rival Democrats and Republicans play out a high stakes staring contest over their competing priorities for the coming financial year.
On three previous occasions during President Joe Biden's tenure, lawmakers have delayed passing a full fiscal year spending plan in favor of extending Trump-era policies.
US Senate poised to pass Ukraine aid, government funding
A majority of the US Senate on Thursday voted to approve legislation providing $1.5 trillion to keep the federal government operating beyond this week and $13.6 billion to help Ukraine in its fight against Russia's attack.
Voting continued on the bill that next would go to President Joe Biden for signing into law.
US warns Russia on foreign corporate assets
The White House is warning Russia against taking steps to seize the assets of US and international companies that have announced plans to suspend operations in Russia or to withdraw from the Russian market in response to Vladimir Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine.
Jen Psaki, the press secretary, was responding to reports in Russian and other news media about a proposal to nationalize the property of major foreign companies that are leaving Russia.
Psaki says Thursday on Twitter that such a step would be a throwback to 1917 and that Russia will have to live for decades with investor distrust. She says Russia also could face legal claims from companies whose property is seized.
Psaki says the White House stands with American companies that are making what she called “tough decisions” about the future of their Russian operations.
The Russian newspaper Izvestia reported Thursday that the government and the general prosecutor’s office were considering a proposal to nationalize foreign companies that have announced they are pulling out of Russia because of the crisis in Ukraine. The newspaper said it had a list of nearly 60 companies, including IKEA, McDonald’s, Apple, Microsoft, IBM and Porsche, among others.
WHO advises Ukraine to destroy pathogens in health labs to prevent disease spread
The World Health Organization advised Ukraine to destroy high-threat pathogens housed in the country's public health laboratories to prevent "any potential spills" that would spread disease among the population, the agency told Reuters on Thursday.
Biosecurity experts say Russia's movement of troops into Ukraine and bombardment of its cities have raised the risk of an escape of disease-causing pathogens, should any of those facilities be damaged.
Like many other countries, Ukraine has public health laboratories researching how to mitigate the threats of dangerous diseases affecting both animals and humans including, most recently, COVID-19. Its labs have received support from the United States, the European Union and the WHO.
Ukraine says civilians unable to leave Mariupol on Thursday
Not a single civilian was able to leave the encircled Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Thursday as Russian forces failed to respect a temporary ceasefire to allow evacuations, Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on national television.
Efforts to send food, water and medicine into the city failed when Russian tanks attacked a humanitarian corridor, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address.
"This is outright terror ... from experienced terrorists," he said. "The world needs to know this. I have to admit it - we are all dealing with a terrorist state." Zelensky said Ukrainian authorities managed to evacuate almost 40,000 people on Thursday from five other cities.
UN Security Council to convene Friday at Russia's request
The United Nations Security Council will convene on Friday at Russia's request, diplomats said, to discuss Moscow's claims, presented without evidence, of US biological activities in Ukraine.
The United States has dismissed Russian claims as 'laughable,' warning Moscow may be preparing to use chemical or biological weapons.