Russia-Ukraine (March 24): Zelenskyy Asks EU Leaders for Quick Membership

By Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
March 24, 2022 Updated: March 26, 2022

The latest on the RussiaUkraine crisis, March 24. Click here for updates from March 23.

Zelenskyy Asks EU Leaders for Quick Membership

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked EU leaders for working together to support Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia, including Germany’s decision to block Russia from delivering natural gas to Europe through the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

But he lamented that these steps weren’t taken earlier, saying there was a chance Russia would have thought twice about invading.

He then appealed to the EU leaders, who had gathered Thursday in Brussels, to move quickly on Ukraine’s application to join the bloc. “Here I ask you, do not delay. Please,” Zelenskyy said by video from Kyiv. “For us this is a chance.”

He then listed the 27 member countries, noting those he said were “for us.” He appealed to Germany and particularly to Hungary not to block Ukraine’s bid.

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UN Votes to Condemn Russia for Humanitarian Crisis in Ukraine

The U.N. General Assembly has approved a resolution blaming Russia for a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and urging an immediate cease-fire and protection for millions of civilians and the homes, schools, and hospitals critical to their survival.

Thursday’s vote on the resolution was 140–5 with only Belarus, Syria, North Korea, and Eritrea joining Russia in opposing the measure. There were 38 abstentions, including China.

The resolution deplores Russia’s shelling, airstrikes, and “besiegement” of densely populated cities, including the southern city of Mariupol, and demands unhindered access for humanitarian aid.

The vote was almost exactly the same as on the March 2 resolution the assembly adopted demanding an immediate Russian cease-fire and withdrawal of all its forces and demanding protection for all civilians and infrastructure indispensable to their survival. That vote was 141–5 with 35 abstentions.

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Russia Offers Safe Passage to Stranded Ships

The Russian military says it will offer safe passage to foreign ships that have been stranded in Ukrainian ports.

Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said Thursday that Russia is offering to allow foreign vessels to gather in the Black Sea 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of the port of Illichivsk and then follow an 80-mile-long (129-kilometer-long) “humanitarian corridor” to safety. He added that the safe route will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Moscow time (0500 to 1600 GMT) starting Friday.

He said that 67 ships from 15 countries have been stranded in Ukrainian ports. Mizintsev charged that those ships have been unable to leave due to the threat of Ukrainian shelling and the presence of sea mines deployed by the Ukrainian forces.

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Ukraine’s Military Claims It Destroyed Large Russian Warship

A Russian landing ship was destroyed and two other ships were damaged in the Ukrainian port city of Berdyansk, according to Ukrainian officials.

The Ukrainian military posted a video on March 24 that claimed its forces destroyed the Orsk.

“The Orsk large landing ship of the Black Sea Fleet of the occupiers has been destroyed in the port of Berdyansk captured by Russia,” the Ukrainian navy said on Facebook.

Russia’s military hasn’t issued a public comment in response, and The Epoch Times couldn’t immediately verify the claim.

Russia’s armed forces confirmed earlier this week that the ship had docked in Berdyansk, a Black Sea port city, to deploy military equipment, according to the state-run TASS news agency.

Read the full article here

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Biden Does Not Rule Out Ukraine’s Territorial Concessions

President Joe Biden told reporters at the NATO headquarters on Thursday that If Ukraine wishes to give up any territory in order to negotiate an end to the conflict with Russia, that’s its own choice that Washington is going to respect.

That’s “a total judgment based on Ukraine,” Biden said in response to the question if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy needs to cede any territory to get a ceasefire with Russia.

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Russian Ally Belarus Warns of World War III

Belarus’ leader has warned that a Polish proposal to deploy a Western peacekeeping force in Ukraine could trigger World War III.

President Alexander Lukashenko pointed Thursday at Poland’s offer of a peacekeeping mission made last week, saying “it will mean World War III.”

“The situation is very serious and very tense,” he added.

Lukashenko’s comment follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s warning at the start of the invasion of Ukraine that any foreign interference with Moscow’s military action would trigger an immediate Russian response that will lead to “the consequences you have never seen in your history.” A few days after the start of the invasion, Putin ordered to put Russia’s nuclear forces on special regime of combat duty.

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Biden Says He Prefer Russia Out of G20

President Joe Biden says that he wants Russia out of the G-20.

Biden made the comments during a press conference Thursday in Brussels following a series of urgent NATO meetings on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The G-20, or Group of Twenty, is an intergovernmental forum of 19 countries and the European Union that works on major global issues. He said he raised the issue Thursday with other world leaders.

Biden said that he would prefer Russia is removed from the group, but should Indonesia or other nations disagree, he would ask that Ukraine leaders be allowed in for conversations.

Biden and Western allies on Thursday pledged new sanctions and humanitarian aid in response to the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

However, Indonesia’s deputy central bank governor Dody Budi Waluyo on Monday said at a seminar Indonesia’s position was always one of neutrality, but noting the risk of divisions over the issue said it would use its G20 leadership to try to resolve any problems.

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US to Welcome 100,000 Ukrainian Refugees

The United States will allocate $1 billion in humanitarian aid to Ukraine while welcoming up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing from the conflict under a new plan announced by the White House on Thursday.

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Moscow and Kyiv Exchange Military and Civilian Prisoners: Ukrainian Official

Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk says Ukraine and Russia exchanged a total of 50 military and civilian prisoners Thursday.

Vereshchuk said in a statement on social media that Ukraine exchanged 10 “captured occupiers” for 10 Ukrainian troops.

She also claimed that Ukraine had handed over 11 civilian Russian sailors who Ukraine had rescued from a sinking ship off Odesa, in return for 19 Ukrainian civilian sailors from a Ukrainian search and rescue boat. The boat will also be returned via Turkey, she said.

There have previously been reports of local prisoner exchanges on a smaller scale than those announced by Vereshchuk. They included a swap of nine Russian soldiers for a captured Ukrainian mayor. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday two prisoner swaps had taken place but didn’t provide details of when they happened or who was involved.

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Ukrainian Official Claims Citizens Are Being Forced Into Russia

Ukraine claims more than 400,000 of its citizens have been forcibly taken to Russia.

Ukrainian Ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova said at a briefing Thursday that the Ukrainians were taken by Russian troops from Mariupol and other besieged Ukrainian cities. The number includes 84,000 children. She claims they are held in primitive conditions with little food and water.

Donetsk Region Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko also claimed that Russians are taking Ukrainians’ passports and taking them to filtration camps where Russian FSB counterintelligence agency officers conduct security checks before moving them to various distant areas in Russia.

Kyrylenko claimed that Mariupol’s residents had been long deprived of information and the Russians feed them false claims about Ukraine’s defeats to persuade them to move to Russia.

Russian officials reported Wednesday that over 384,000 Ukrainians had voluntarily traveled to Russia where they were being offered accommodation and payments.

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Germany Calls for EU Energy Emergency Plan

In response to the Russian president’s demand that “unfriendly” countries should pay for gas in rubles, the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) has called for an agreement at the European level on an emergency protocol in response to Moscow’s announcement of the new gas payment mechanism.

“There are certain and serious signs that we are heading towards a deterioration in the gas supply situation,” the head of BDEW Kerstin Andreae said on Thursday, according to Prime news agency.

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NATO Issues Statement Laying Out ‘Defense Readiness’ Against Russia

NATO on Thursday issued a lengthy statement laying out its defense readiness doctrine against Russia, condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine “in the strongest possible terms.”

“We, the Heads of State and Government of the 30 NATO Allies, have met today to address Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the gravest threat to Euro-Atlantic security in decades. Russia’s war against Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe and is causing enormous human suffering and destruction,” said the statement ahead of a summit in Brussels.

The NATO statement called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “immediately stop this war” and withdraw its military from Ukraine and also urged Russia to “call on Belarus to end its complicity.”

Read the full article here 

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Kremlin Disputes Reports Russian Defense Minister Has Gone Missing

The Kremlin has disputed reports and speculation that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was missing amid the weeks-long conflict in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also told reporters Thursday that Shiogu hasn’t been seen in public appearances because he doesn’t have time.

“The Minister of Defense now has a lot of worries. A special military operation is underway,” Peskov said, referring to Russia’s description of the conflict in Ukraine. “Of course, now is not quite the time for media activity, this is quite understandable,” he said in response to a question about Shoigu’s health and whereabouts.

Read the full article here

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G7, US Announce New Sanctions Against Russia

Group of Seven leaders have announced they are restricting the Russian Central Bank’s use of gold in transactions, while the United States announced a new round of sanctions targeting more than 400 elites and members of the Russian State Duma.

Previously, sanctions against Russian elites, the country’s Central Bank, and President Vladimir Putin did not impact Russia’s gold stockpile, which Putin has been accumulating for several years. Russia holds roughly $130 billion in gold reserves, and the Bank of Russia announced on Feb. 28 that it would resume the purchase of gold on the domestic precious metals market.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration announced more sanctions targeting 48 state-owned defense companies, 328 members of the Duma, Russia’s lower parliament, and dozens of Russian elites. The Duma as an entity was also named in the new sanctions.

The G-7 and the European Union also announced a new effort to share information and coordinate responses to prevent Russia from evading the impact of sanctions that western nations have levied since the Feb. 24 invasion.

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Lavrov’s Stepdaughter on New UK Sanction List

Britain is sanctioning 65 more companies and individuals over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The targets include Russia’s largest private bank and a woman the British government said was the stepdaughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the new round of sanctions target strategic industries, banks, and business elites. Among those sanctioned are Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest private bank, and Alrosa, the world’s largest diamond mining company.

The UK also targeted billionaires Eugene Markovich Shvidler, who has close ties to Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich and Herman Gref, the chief executive of Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank.

Polina Kovaleva, who was described as Lavrov’s stepdaughter, was also sanctioned as the UK broadens the scope of its sanctions to reach people linked to those responsible for “Russian aggression.”

Britain said it has sanctioned more than 1,000 individuals and companies since the invasion. All of the named entities will have their UK assets frozen, and individuals will be banned from traveling to or from Britain.

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NATO Extends Stoltenberg Term for a Year Due to Russia’s War

NATO leaders are extending the mandate of Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg for an extra year to help steer the 30-nation military organization through the security crisis sparked by war in Ukraine.

Stoltenberg posted on Twitter Thursday that he is “honored” by the decision of NATO leaders to extend his term until Sept. 30, 2023.

The former Norwegian prime minister was named to NATO’s top civilian post in October 2014. It’s the second time that his term of office has been extended. His mandate was due to expire in September.

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Zelenskyy Pleads for More Aid

Ukraine’s president has pleaded with NATO to provide his embattled nation with military assistance.

In a video address to the NATO summit Thursday, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine needs “military assistance without limitations,” as Russia is “using its entire arsenal” against the country.

Zelenskyy urged NATO to provide Ukraine with “1 percent of all your planes, 1 percent of all your tanks.” “We can’t just buy those,” Zelenskyy said. “When we will have all this, it will give us, just like you, 100 percent security.”

Ukraine is also in dire need of multiple launch rocket systems, anti-ship weapons, and air defense systems, Zelenskyy said. “Is it possible to survive in such a war without this?” he asked.

“It feels like we’re in a gray area, between the West and Russia, defending our common values,” Zelenskyy said emotionally. “This is the scariest thing during a war—not to have clear answers to requests for help.”

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Kremlin Says Russia’s Latest Expulsion of US Diplomats Is Forced Measure

The Kremlin said on Thursday that Moscow’s latest expulsion of U.S. diplomats was a forced measure, after Washington last month said it was expelling 12 Russian diplomats at the country’s U.N. mission in New York over national security concerns.

The United States Embassy in Moscow on Wednesday received a list of its diplomats that were declared “persona non grata” in what Russian media said was a response to the U.S. move at the United Nations.

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Moscow, Tehran Developing SWIFT Alternative: Iranian Ambassador

Tehran and Moscow have been cooperating to connect their interbank messaging systems in order to bypass the SWIFT financial transactions network, Kazem Jalali, ambassador of Iran to Russia, said on Thursday.

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‘We Will See Who Is Our Friend,’ Zelenskyy Says as Western Leaders Meet

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Western nations gathering in Brussels on Thursday to take “serious steps” to help Kyiv fight Russia’s invasion, as an unprecedented one-day trio of NATO, G7, and EU summits got underway.

The hectic day of summitry, aimed at maintaining Western unity, kicked off at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

While leaders promised to step up support for Ukraine, EU diplomats played down expectations of major new sanctions on Russia, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg repeated that the alliance will not send troops or planes to Ukraine.

“At these three summits we will see who is our friend, who is our partner and who sold us out and betrayed us,” Zelenskyy said in a video address released early on Thursday.

He said he expected “serious steps” from Western allies, repeating calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine and complaining that the West had not provided Ukraine with planes, modern anti-missile systems, tanks or anti-ship weapons.

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Biden, Western Allies Open 1st of 3 Summits on Ukraine Crisis

President Joe Biden and world leaders have opened the first in a trio of summits in Brussels focused on pressuring Russia to end its war in Ukraine.

Europe’s diplomatic capital is hosting an emergency NATO summit as well as a gathering of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and a summit of the 27 members of the European Union.

Biden is attending all three meetings, beginning with NATO.

The president and the leaders of other NATO countries met for a group photo memorializing their urgent gathering before they went into the meeting, which was expected to last for several hours.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg opened Thursday’s meeting by saying the alliance is determined to continue to ratchet up the costs on Russia.

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Kremlin: Bulgaria Will Pay for Russian Gas in Rubles, ‘Whether They Like It or Not’

Moscow addressed the concerns of European countries on Thursday about the plan to switch settlements for gas delivery from euros to rubles.

In response to the Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic who said that Moscow’s decision would create many problems, because Bulgaria, the country through which gas supplies to Serbia and Hungary is delivered, was unwilling to switch to rubles in gas payments, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that the issue is closed, and Bulgaria will have to pay in rubles “whether they like it or not.”

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Russia Stocks Jump as Trade Resumes After Month-Long Break

Russia’s stocks jumped on Thursday, the first day of trading in almost a month in the wake of its troops entering Ukraine, with gains in commodity stocks offset by a drop in a flagship bank and airline, in volatile trading backed by the promise of support from sovereign wealth fund money.

The government said on March 1 it would channel up to 1 trillion roubles ($10.5 billion) from its rainy-day National Wealth Fund (NWF) to buying Russian stocks roiled by a massive sell-off last month.

It was not clear if that money was being used yet, however, and the finance ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The markets are gradually reopening after President Vladimir Putin sent his forces into neighboring Ukraine four weeks ago, leading to sweeping sanctions being imposed by Western capitals and countermeasures taken by Moscow.

Read the full article here 

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Zelenskyy Addresses Swedish Parliament

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has invited Sweden to help rebuild his country as he marked one month of the Russian invasion during an address to the Swedish parliament.

“This is a month now,” Zelenskyy said during a speech by video link Thursday. “We have not seen a destruction of this scale since World War II.”

He called on “Swedish companies and state to come rebuild” the country.

His speech was broadcast live before members of the 349-seat Riksdagen which gave him a standing ovation.

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Russian Ambassador Says Poland Blocked His Embassy’s Bank Accounts

Russia’s ambassador to Warsaw said on Thursday that Poland had blocked the Russian embassy’s bank accounts on the basis that they might be used to finance terrorist activity or launder money.

“Our accounts have been blocked by a decision of the finance ministry, and then by a decision of the Polish prosecutor,” the TASS news agency quoted Ambassador Sergey Andreev as saying on Russia’s Channel 1 state television.

He said the reason given for the move was that “funds from our accounts could allegedly be used for laundering of illegally obtained money or for financing terrorism.”

Poland’s foreign ministry on Wednesday said it was expelling 45 Russian diplomats suspected of working for Russian intelligence. Russia called the accusation baseless.

Asked about the expulsion of Russian diplomats and whether the Russian embassy’s funds had been frozen, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday: “I can only say in general terms that we have been dealing with the freezing of funds of the Russian Federation.”

Relations between Russia and Central European countries that once formed part of its sphere of influence have long been fraught but the Ukraine conflict has significantly increased fear and suspicion of Moscow’s intentions.

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it called a special operation to degrade its southern neighbor’s military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists.

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Russian Stock Market Resumes Limited Trading

The Russian stock market has resumed limited trading under heavy restrictions, almost one month after prices plunged and the market was shut down following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Trading of a limited number of stocks including energy giants Gazprom and Rosneft took place under curbs that are meant to prevent a repeat of the massive selloff that took place Feb. 24 in anticipation of Western economic sanctions. Foreigners cannot sell and traders are barred from short selling, or betting prices will fall. The benchmark MOEX index gained 8 percent in the first minutes of trading.

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UK Johnson Accuses Putin  of Crossing ‘Red Line’

NATO leaders are refusing to rule out retaliation against Russia should it launch a chemical weapons attack on Ukraine—but British Prime Minister Boris Johnson thinks Moscow has already gone too far.

“The reality is that (President) Vladimir Putin has already crossed the red line into barbarism,” Johnson told reporters Thursday as he arrived for a summit of NATO leaders.

Johnson says that “it’s now up to NATO to consider together the appalling crisis in Ukraine, the appalling suffering of the people of Ukraine, and to see what more we can do to help the people of Ukraine to protect themselves.”

As an organization, NATO is not providing weapons to Ukraine. The 30-nation alliance refuses to send troops to Ukraine, either for combat or peacekeeping, and has said it will not deploy aircraft to protect civilians or police any no-fly zone.

But member countries are providing weapons and other assistance, individually or in groups.

De Croo warns that “if chemical weapons or anything else could be used, that would have definitely grave consequences.” No NATO leader has elaborated yet on what that might mean.

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Renault Suspends Russia Operations After Backlash

French carmaker Renault announced Wednesday night it is suspending “activities at the Renault Moscow plant” with immediate effect.

The move came hours after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke virtually to the French parliament, calling on Renault and other French companies with a Russian presence to stop indirectly supporting the war against Ukraine.

The Renault Group board of directors met Wednesday to decided to halt production at the plant that produces Arkana, Kaptur, Duster, and Nissan Terrano SUVs amid mounting criticism of its foothold in the Russian Federation.

However, the lion’s share of the group’s Russian presence goes through its subsidiary AvtoVAZ, through which it sold nearly 500,000 vehicles in Russia in 2021.

Renault said that AvtoVAZ is not immediately withdrawing, but it’s “assessing the available options, taking into account the current environment, while acting responsibly towards its 45,000 employees in Russia.”

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France Claims Successful ASMP Nuclear Missile Test

France’s defense ministry announced Wednesday the country successfully tested the modernized version of its nuclear missile, the Air-Sol Moyenne Portée.

In a statement, it said that it was tested “without a military payload” and was fired from a Rafale twin-engine, multirole fighter aircraft that took off from Cazaux Air Force Base 120 in southwestern France.”

The medium-range air-to-ground nuclear ASMP missile, developed by arms manufacturer MBDA, represents part of the air component of the French nuclear deterrence. The announcement comes at the height of the war in Ukraine, as some observers fear the potential for a military escalation by Russia.

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India Says US, Russia Ties ‘Stand on Their Own Merit’ Despite Ukraine War

India has friendly relations with both the United States and Russia that stand on their own merit, the foreign ministry told parliament on Thursday, in reply to a query whether the Ukraine war had affected ties.

Over the past decade, India has grown closer to the United States in the face of a resurgent China across the border, but Russia remains its biggest arms supplier.

India is the only major country close to the United States that not to have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or imposed any sanctions on it.

“India has called for immediate cessation of hostilities and return to the path of diplomacy and dialogue with respect to the conflict in Ukraine,” junior foreign minister Meenakashi Lekhi told parliament.

“India has close and friendly relations with both the U.S. and Russia,” she added. “They stand on their own merit.”

This week, President Joe Biden said India was the only one of the Quad group of nations that was “somewhat shaky” in acting against Russia. Aimed at containing China, the grouping consists of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States.

After a visit this week to New Delhi, a U.S. diplomat said the country stood ready to help India with more supplies of military hardware and energy to reduce its reliance on Russia.

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Stoltenberg: Chemical Attack Would Change War

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says any chemical attack by Russia on Ukraine would change the course of the war but he is not saying whether NATO would take military action.

Asked whether a chemical weapons attack is a red line for NATO, Stoltenberg said, “I will not speculate beyond the fact that NATO is always ready to defend, to protect, and to react to any type of attack on a NATO-allied country.”

Stoltenberg says “any use of chemical weapons would fundamentally change the nature of the conflict. It would be a blatant violation of international law, and it will have widespread and severe consequences.”

His remarks Thursday came as he arrived at NATO headquarters in Brussels to chair a summit of the military organization’s 30 national leaders, including President Joe Biden.

Moscow has denied the allegation of using chemical weapons.

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Ukrainian Navy Claims Destroying Russian Landing Ship in Southeastern Ukraine

Ukraine’s navy on Thursday reported destroying Russia’s large landing ship, Orsk, near the port city of Berdyansk.

A short Facebook statement about the ship was accompanied with photos and videos of fire and thick plumes of smoke in the port.

The Russian military has not commented on what happened to the ship.

Berdyansk has been under Russian control since Feb. 27.

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Zelenskyy Calls for ‘Unrestricted’ NATO Aid

Speaking on the eve of the NATO summit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the alliance to provide “effective and unrestricted” support to Ukraine, including any weapons the country needs to fend off the Russian invasion.

“We ask that the alliance declare that it will fully assist Ukraine to win this war, clear our territory of the invaders, and restore peace in Ukraine,” he said late Wednesday during his nightly video address to the nation.

Zelenskyy will speak to the NATO summit by video, the president’s office said.

He appealed to Western countries to stay united in the face of what he says are Russia’s efforts to “lobby its interests” with “some partners” to bring them over to its side.

“We will see who is a friend, who is a partner, and who has sold out and betrayed us,” he said. “Together we should not allow Russia to break anyone in NATO, the EU or G-7, to break them and drag them to the side of war.”

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Esteemed Theater Director Taken by Russians

Russian troops who occupy the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson seized one of the country’s most prominent theater directors “in a fascist manner” and took him to an unknown location, Ukraine’s Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said.

Witnesses said nine Russian military vehicles pulled up to the home of Oleksandr Kniga early Wednesday and led him out. The Russians warned neighbors that if they came out of their homes, they would be killed, the witnesses said.

“The whole world should know about this!” Tkachenko said on Facebook.

Kniga, 62, is one of the most important and respected theater directors in Ukraine. He founded the international theater festival Melpomene of Tavria.

He was among many in Kherson who oppose the Russian occupation. On Monday, Russian troops used stun grenades and fired in the air to disperse a protest.

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Russia to Expel More American Diplomats

The U.S. State Department says Russia has begun the process of expelling several more diplomats from the U.S. embassy in Moscow.

The department said it received a list of diplomats on Wednesday who have been declared “persona non grata” by the Russian foreign ministry. It didn’t say how many diplomats were affected by the order, which generally results in the expulsion of those targeted within 72 hours.

The Russian foreign ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan on Monday to protest President Joe Biden’s description of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal” over the invasion of Ukraine. After that meeting, Russia warned that it was close to severing diplomatic relations with the United States, which would be an unprecedented move.

The State Department called Wednesday’s move “Russia’s latest unhelpful and unproductive step” in relations between the countries. It urged Russia “to end its unjustified expulsions of U.S. diplomats and staff.”

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Russian Move on Ukraine Aid Fails at UN Security Council

A Russian-drafted call for aid access and civilian protection in Ukraine that does not mention Moscow’s role in the crisis failed at the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, with only Russia and China voting yes and the remaining 13 members abstaining.

“If Russia cared about the humanitarian situation, it would stop bombing children and end their siege tactics. But they haven’t,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward told the council after the vote. Russia denies attacking civilians.

A Security Council resolution needs at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, Britain, France, or the United States to be adopted. Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused those who abstained on Wednesday of doing so “for political reasons.”

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Britain Giving Ukraine Thousands More Missiles

Britain will send thousands more missiles to Ukraine’s government as Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Western allies to boost the supply of military aid to Ukraine.

Johnson is traveling to Brussels on Thursday for talks with NATO and leaders of the Group of Seven. He is expected to provide further details of the new British aid during the visit, including the donation of 6,000 more missiles comprising anti-tank and high-explosive weaponry.

“The United Kingdom will work with our allies to step up military and economic support to Ukraine, strengthening their defenses as they turn the tide in this fight,” Johnson said.

Britain has already sent more than 4,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.

Jack Phillips, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.