Ukrainian refugees near 1.5 million as Russian assault enters 11th day


Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces were carrying out a wide-ranging offensive in Ukraine and had taken several towns and villages, Russian news agency Interfax said.

The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said the military shot down two Russian planes and five helicopters on Saturday and also carried out air strikes against 15 motorized brigades. Reuters had no way to corroborate the claim.

In Kherson, southern Ukraine, the only regional capital to have changed hands since the invasion, several thousand people demonstrated on its main square on Saturday, chanting “Kherson is Ukraine” and demanding Russian forces withdraw.

Eyewitnesses cited by Interfax said Russian troops fired automatic rifles into the air in an unsuccessful attempt to disperse the crowd and later left.

Concerns over nuclear dangers remained after Russia seized Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, with a top US official saying on Friday that Russian troops were about 32km from Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear facility.

Russia was warning the EU and NATO again to stop the “pumping of state-of-the-art weapons systems” into Kyiv, foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said, according to RIA.

Putin, in one of several decrees signed on Saturday, also gave his government two days to draw up a list of nations engaged in “unfriendly acts” towards Russia, its news agencies reported.


The International Monetary Fund warned the conflict would have a “severe impact” on the global economy, driving up energy and grain prices. It said it would weigh Kyiv’s request for US$1.4 billion in emergency financing as early as next week.

Many Russians, reeling from a 30 per cent fall in the rouble’s value, money transfer curbs and the exit of a growing number of Western companies from IKEA to Microsoft, have expressed fear for their economic future.

Software maker Adobe halted Russian sales, while Fortnite-maker Epic Games said it would stop commerce with Russia but not block access to its games, saying the world should keep all communication lines open.

Elon Musk has promised to deliver more Starlink satellite internet terminals to Ukraine next week, Zelenskyy said on Saturday. That could help shore up Ukraine’s internet access but also poses potential security risks, experts say.


Heavy shelling was heard in the background as residents of Volnovakha tried to flee the fighting.

“Help us if you can, we all want to live, we have kids, husbands, we are mothers and fathers, we are also people,” said one local, Larisa. “Where shall I go? What’s on me and a bag of things is all I got. That’s all I have.”

Blinken, following a meeting in Brussels of counterparts from NATO, the G7 and the European Union, met refugees staying in a disused shopping mall in Poland, which has taken in the vast majority of the Ukrainians forced to flee their country.

As night fell, more refugees crossed into Moldova, Blinken’s next stop.

“I’m scared,” one mother fleeing from Odessa said, adding she would keep going to Poland.

The World Health Organization said 249 civilians had been killed so far and 553 injured as of Mar 3. It put the number of refugees at 1.2 million and said another 160,000 people had been internally displaced.

“The human cost is likely much higher as access and security challenges make it difficult to verify the actual number of deaths and injuries,” it said in a statement.

On Sunday, demonstrations were planned in Washington and elsewhere after jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny called for worldwide protests on March 6 against the war.


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