Instagram Users in Russia Told Service Will Cease From Midnight
Instagram users in Russia have been notified that the service will cease from midnight on Sunday after its owner Meta Platforms said last week it would allow social media users in Ukraine to post messages such as “Death to the Russian invaders.”
An email message from the state communications regulator told people to move their photos and videos from Instagram before it was shut down, and encouraged them to switch to Russia’s own “competitive internet platforms.”
Meta, which also owns Facebook, said on Friday that the temporary change in its hate speech policy applied only to Ukraine, in the wake of Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.
The company said it would be wrong to prevent Ukrainians from “expressing their resistance and fury at the invading military forces.”
The decision was greeted with outrage in Russia, where authorities have opened a criminal investigation against Meta and prosecutors on Friday asked a court to designate the U.S. tech giant as an “extremist organisation.”
The head of Instagram has said the block will affect 80 million users. Russia has already banned Facebook in the country in response to what it said were restrictions of access to Russian media on the platform.
Ukraine’s Largest Steel Firm Says Shells Hit Avdiivka Coke Plant
Ukraine’s largest steel company Metinvest said shells hit the territory of its Avdiivka coke plant on Sunday, damaging some of its facilities.
Earlier, the general prosecutor’s office said five rockets had hit the plant, which had already suspended operations in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Metinvest, majority-owned by Ukraine’s richest man and business magnate Rinat Akhmetov, said nobody was hurt in the shelling, which hit two coking shops and other areas.
The site’s thermal power plant, which supplies heat to the neighboring town of Avdiivka, has stopped working, it said.
Avdiivka is one of the largest coke plants in Europe and the major manufacturer of coke for steel-making in Ukraine.
Ukraine Has Started Using Clearview AI’s Facial Recognition During War
Ukraine’s defense ministry on Saturday began using Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology, the company’s chief executive told Reuters, after the U.S. startup offered to uncover Russian assailants, combat misinformation, and identify the dead.
Ukraine is receiving free access to Clearview AI’s powerful search engine for faces, letting authorities potentially vet people of interest at checkpoints, among other uses, added Lee Wolosky, an adviser to Clearview and former diplomat under U.S. presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
The plans started forming after Russia invaded Ukraine and Clearview Chief Executive Hoan Ton-That sent a letter to Kyiv offering assistance, according to a copy seen by Reuters.
Clearview said it had not offered the technology to Russia, which calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation.”
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense did not reply to requests for comment. Previously, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation said it was considering offers from U.S.-based artificial intelligence companies like Clearview. Many Western businesses have pledged to help Ukraine, providing internet hardware, cybersecurity tools, and other support.
Tens of Thousands Protest in Berlin Against War in Ukraine
Up to 30,000 men, women, and children joined an anti-war demonstration in central Berlin on Sunday, with many waving Ukrainian flags or holding banners with slogans opposing the Russian invasion.
Gathering near the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of a divided Germany during the Cold War, protesters—including people in wheelchairs and toddlers in pushchairs—walked through the streets of Berlin, at times chanting and singing.
Slogans on posters and banners included “Stop Putin,” “Stop War,” “Russian soldiers go home,” and “Solidarity with Ukraine!”
“Above all, it’s extremely important for Ukrainians to see that we will not forget them, not in two weeks and not after that,” said protester Helene Krass.
“If we take to the streets every other Sunday for a year that’s okay too,” she said.
Some demonstrators even backed deliveries of weapons to Ukraine. The Russian invasion has prompted Germany to break a post-World War II taboo of not supplying arms to conflict zones and is now sending Ukraine anti-tank weapons and Stinger surface-to-air missiles from its military stocks.
“Sanctions can be introduced which hit the economy and that’s important but we should also consider what’s of help to the Ukrainian army in times of war and sadly, it’s weapons,” said another protester.
Police said between 20,000 and 30,000 people joined the demonstration, less than half the 100,000 who took to the streets two weeks ago, according to police.
Ukraine Says Chernobyl Power Line Restored
Ukraine says it has restored a broken power line to the Chernobyl power plant, the scene of a nuclear meltdown in 1986, which is held by Russian troops.
Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said that “heroes” from the national power grid company managed to restore the connection. The power is used to run pumps which keep spent nuclear fuel cool to prevent radiation leaks.
Ukraine said Wednesday that power had been cut to the site and that there was enough diesel fuel to run on-site generators for 48 hours. The International Atomic Energy Agency played down concerns, saying it saw little risk of the pools containing the spent fuel overheating even without electricity.
Belarus said Thursday it had set up an emergency power line to Chernobyl from its nearby border.
White House: NATO Will Respond ‘With Full Force’ If Russia Attacks
NATO will respond “with full force” if Russia attacks any of the alliance’s territory, said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday.
The incident would trigger NATO’s Article 5, which says an attack on one NATO nation would be considered an attack on all allies, he told CBS News. Sullivan did not say how severe the attack would have to be to trigger the provision.
“All I will say is that if Russia attacks, fires upon, takes a shot at NATO territory, the NATO alliance would respond to that,” he said, adding that the White House “has been clear repeatedly that the United States will work with our allies to defend every inch of NATO territory, and that means every inch.”
At the same time, Sullivan noted that the “escalation risk with a nuclear power is severe, and it is a different kind of conflict than other conflicts the American people have seen over the years,” Sullivan also told CNN. “As things stand today, the United States has not adjusted our nuclear posture, but it is something that we monitor day by day,” he continued to say.
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US Journalist Brent Renaud Killed in Ukraine, Kyiv Police Says
American journalist and filmmaker Brent Renaud was shot and killed in a combat zone near Kyiv, Ukraine, the region’s police chief said on Sunday.
Andrey Nebitov, who heads the National Police in the Kyiv region, accused Russian troops of killing Renaud in Irpin, a northwestern suburb of Kyiv. The town has been the target of heavy shelling by Russian forces over the past week.
“A 51-year-old world-renowned media correspondent was shot in Irpin today,” Nebitov wrote on Facebook, adding that “another journalist is injured.”
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Bus Full of Ukrainian Refugees Overturns in Italy; One Woman Dead
ROME—A bus carrying Ukrainian refugees overturned on a major highway in northern Italy at dawn on Sunday, killing a young mother, Italian firefighters and news reports said.
Italian state TV said there were also five people injured, but none of the injuries was serious, in the crash on the A14 highway near Forli’, a town in the Emilia-Romagna region in northeastern Italy. It said the rest of those aboard were safely evacuated.
The bus landed on its side on a grassy slope just beyond a highway guardrail and near a farm field. Firefighters used two cranes in an operation to set the bus upright and remove it after helping the survivors get out of the bus.
The cause of the crash is under investigation. Highway Police official Andrea Biagioli said there were no skid marks.
“It could have been (the driver) suddenly falling asleep,″ Biagioli told state TV, stressing that in any case no cause had yet been determined.
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Russia and Ukraine Give Brightest Assessment yet of Progress in Talks on War
Russian and Ukrainian officials gave their most upbeat assessments yet on Sunday of progress in their talks on the war in Ukraine, suggesting there could be positive results within days.
Separately, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Russia was showing signs of willingness to engage in substantive negotiations about ending a conflict in which thousands have died. More than 2.5 million people have fled.
Ukraine has said it is willing to negotiate, but not to surrender or accept any ultimatums.
“We will not concede in principle on any positions. Russia now understands this. Russia is already beginning to talk constructively,” Ukrainian negotiator and presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in a video posted online.
“I think that we will achieve some results literally in a matter of days,” he said.
RIA news agency quoted a Russian delegate, Leonid Slutsky, as saying the talks had made substantial progress.
“According to my personal expectations, this progress may grow in the coming days into a joint position of both delegations, into documents for signing,” Slutsky said.
Neither side indicated what the scope of any agreement might be.
Ukraine Is Working With Israel and Turkey to Set up Talks With Russia, Says Negotiator
Ukraine is working with Israel and Turkey as mediators to finalize a location and framework for peace negotiations with Russia, Ukrainian presidential adviser and negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said on Sunday.
“When it is worked out, there will be a meeting. I think it won’t take long for us to get there,” he said on national television.
Ukraine’s Mariupol Says City’s Last Reserves of Food and Water Are Running Out
Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol is running out of its last reserves of food and water, the city council said on Sunday, adding that Russian forces blockading the city continued to shell non-military targets.
“People have been in a difficult situation for 12 days. There is no electricity, water or heating in the city. There is almost no mobile communication. The last reserves of food and water are running out,” it said in an online statement.
Russia Counts on Sanctions Help From China; US Warns Off Beijing
Russia said on Sunday that it was counting on China to help it withstand the blow to its economy from Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine, but the United States warned Beijing not to provide that lifeline.
Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said sanctions had deprived Moscow of access to $300 billion of its $640 billion in gold and foreign exchange reserves, and added that there was pressure on Beijing to shut off more.
“We have part of our gold and foreign exchange reserves in the Chinese currency, in yuan. And we see what pressure is being exerted by Western countries on China in order to limit mutual trade with China. Of course, there is pressure to limit access to those reserves,” he said.
Western countries have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia’s corporate and financial system since it invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it calls a special military operation.
But U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington was warning the Chinese regime not to provide it.
“We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing, that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions, evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them,” Sullivan told CNN.
“We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country, anywhere in the world,” added Sullivan, who is due to meet China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Rome on Monday.
Russia Strikes Military Base Near Polish Border, 35 Dead, Ukraine Says
A Russian air strike on a large Ukrainian military facility near the border with NATO member Poland on Sunday killed 35 people and wounded 134, a local Ukrainian official said, as other officials reported intense Russian attacks around the country.
Britain said the incident, just 15 miles from the Polish border, marked a “significant escalation” of the conflict. U.S. President Joe Biden has said NATO would defend every inch of its territory if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spills over into member states of the Western defense alliance.
Ukraine said foreign military instructors have previously worked at the Yavoriv International Center for Peacekeeping and Security, but a NATO official said there were no personnel from the alliance there. It was not immediately clear whether any non-NATO states might have representatives there.
Regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said Russian planes fired around 30 rockets at the facility, adding that some were intercepted before they hit. At least 35 people were killed and 134 wounded, he said.
Nearly 125,000 People Evacuated via Humanitarian Corridors in Ukraine, Says Zelensky
Nearly 125,000 people have been evacuated via humanitarian corridors from conflict zones in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Sunday.
“Today the key task is Mariupol,” he said, adding that a humanitarian supply convoy was now only 50 miles (80 kilometers) away from the besieged port city where more than 400,000 people are trapped.
Global Response by Central Banks to Ukraine Crisis Not Required: Head of Australian Reserve Bank
The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Phillip Lowe, doesn’t believe a global coordinated financial response to the Ukraine conflict is required.
Lowe said that while central banks worked closely together during the global financial crisis, the current situation was entirely different.
“[They worked together in the global financial crisis] because financial markets had frozen and central banks needed to unfreeze those financial markets,” he told the inaugural Banking Conference hosted by the Australian Banking Association on March 11.
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Russia Claims Ukraine Is Not Letting People Flee
A Russian official on Saturday blamed Ukraine for humanitarian corridors for civilians trying to leave the country not working.
According to Russian National Defense Command Centre head Mikhail Mizintsev: “the Russian Federation for the eighth time provided humanitarian corridors in the Kiev, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol directions, one humanitarian corridor to the Russian Federation, and another one—through the territories controlled by the Kiev authorities towards the western borders of Ukraine.”
According to Mizintsev: “There are already 2,638,989 of them (people wishing to evacuate to Russia) with specific names and addresses from almost two thousand settlements in Ukraine.”
Mizintsev claimed this data is being used by the Security Service of Ukraine units “to detect all calls, conduct mass total checks, detentions and arrests, searches, and interrogations. People are constantly forced to make excuses for their desire to receive protection in Russia.”
Zelensky: Russia Trying to Create ‘Pseudo-Republics’
Russia is trying to create new “pseudo-republics” in Ukraine to break his country apart, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address to the nation on Saturday.
Zelensky called on Ukraine’s regions, including Kherson, which was captured by Russian forces, not to repeat the experience of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Pro-Russian separatists began fighting Ukrainian forces in those eastern regions in 2014.
“The occupiers on the territory of the Kherson region are trying to repeat the sad experience of the formation of pseudo-republics,” Zelensky said.
“They are blackmailing local leaders, putting pressure on deputies, looking for someone to bribe,” he said.
City council members in Kherson, a southern city of 290,000, on Saturday rejected plans for a new pseudo-republic, Zelensky said.
Jack Phillips, Bill Pan, Rebecca Zhu, Reuters, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.