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War updates: Kremlin cracks down on more independent news outlets

Russian anti-war protests continue despite crackdown
The Ukrainians and Russians are trading blame over the failed evacuations in Mariupol
The Ukrainians and Russians are trading blame over the failed evacuations in Mariupol
Deutsche Welle

Deutsche Welle   |   Published 06.03.22, 06:44 AM

Kremlin cracks down on more independent news outlets

Several independent online news outlets on Sunday were blocked or forced to shut down in Russia due to new repressive laws.

The Russian news site Mediazona, which covers the police and justice system, said that it had been told to delete its website.

"We were prepared for this. In recent days, military censorship has been effectively introduced in Russia, and there are almost no independent media left in the country. We understand all our risks, but we continue to work — this is our duty to our readers and to ourselves,'' Mediazona said in a statement.

The new law, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, criminalizes what the Kremlin considers to be "fake" reports, with those found guilty facing up to 15 years in prison.

Russian authorities have repeatedly denied reports of civilian casualties in Ukraine and have even claimed attacks on residential areas were carried out by the Ukrainians themselves.

Even Novaya Gazeta, whose editor-in-chief Dimitry Muratov won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, has said it has also had to stop reporting on the war.

Russian anti-war protests continue despite crackdown

People took to the streets in major Russian cities on Sunday to call for an end to the war in Ukraine despite thousands of arrests and increasing threats from the Kremlin. 

The Anti-Corruption Foundation, the non-profit organization set up by jailed activist Alexei Navalny, shared videos of protests in Saint Petersburg and Moscow on social media.

Russian authorities have tried to repress anti-war sentiment in the country as well as reports of Russian losses, which they have branded as "fake news."

Police have also been arresting thousands of people at the anti-war demonstrations. The independent Russian human rights group OVD-Info has been keeping a tally of the number of arrests which on Sunday surpassed 10,000, according to their count, but this figure cannot be independently verified.

US says reports of Russian war crimes are 'credible'

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said reports that Russia has deliberately targeted civilians, and thus has committed war crimes, are "very credible."

"We've seen very credible reports of deliberate attacks on civilians, which would constitute a war crime," Blinken told CNN.

Blinken has been visiting NATO member states in Eastern Europe that have been receiving Ukrainian refugees. He spoke on Sunday from Moldova, a former Soviet state that is neither part of NATO nor the EU.

Mariupol cease-fire once again falls apart

The second attempt at a cease-fire at the Ukrainian coastal city of Mariupol for the evacuation of civilians has failed, Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Ukraine's interior minister, said on Telegram.

"The second attempt at a humanitarian corridor for civilians in Mariupol ended again with bombardment from the Russians," he wrote.

A reporter for the German broadcaster ZDF, Katrin Eigendorf, confirmed the report. "The announced cease-fire, that was supposed to allow people to be evacuated from Mariupol, has failed," she said. "They have opened fire again — against civilians."

An earlier report from Russian news sources, citing Russian-backed separatists, had claimed that some 300 people had been evacuated during the ceasefire.

Russian forces have surrounded the city and the civilians trapped there are facing a lack of water, food, heating and electricity.

Protesters in Berlin call for an end to the war

Anti-war protesters in Berlin have begun marching through the German capital under the motto "Stop Putin — Stop the War."

The demonstration was organized by Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, German and other activist groups, local newspaper Berliner Zeitung reported.

Berlin saw vast numbers of people take to the streets last weekend in protest against the Russian invasion, with some reports putting the number of participants at half a million people.

"I have just been informed about a missile strike on Vinnytsia. Eight rockets ... The airport was completely destroyed," he said.

Earlier, there had been reports that emergency services were trying to extinguish fires at the airport.

Pope calls for end to 'rivers of blood and tears' in Ukraine

Pope Francis has called for an end to the fighting in Ukraine, saying that “there are rivers of blood and tears flowing” in the country.

"This is not just a military operation, but a war that sows death, destruction and suffering," Francis told worshippers in St Peter's Square in Rome, thus challenging Russia's claim that its invasion of Ukraine is a mere “special mission.” However, as he has failed to do in all the 11 days of the conflict so far, he did not condemn Russia by name for its assault.

Francis also said he had sent two cardinals to Ukraine, saying that “the Holy See is willing to do everything to put itself in service for peace.”

The two are Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almsgiver, who has been dispatched with aid, and Cardinal Michael Czerny, who is head of the papal office that deals with migration, charity, justice and peace.

Turkey calls for 'urgent ceasefire'

Turkish state news agency Anadolu on Sunday reported that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for urgent steps to be taken to ensure a ceasefire.

Erdogan is reported to have said this during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Turkish president is also reported to have called for the opening of a humanitarian corridor and a peace agreement to be signed.

According to Russia's Foreign Ministry, Putin said that the operation "is going according to plan and in accordance with the schedule."

The statement went on to say that there was willingness from Russia to have dialogue with Ukrainian authorities, and called for a "more constructive approach" from Kyiv.

More than 1,000 anti-war protesters arrested in Russia: OVD-Info

More than 1,000 people protesting at Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine were detained at protests on Sunday in 29 cities across Russia, an independent Russian-based group monitoring protests said.

OVD-Info said some of these arrests took place in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok and the Siberian city of Irkutsk.

It said that as of 1140 UTC, at least 9,478 protesters had been arrested since the invasion began on February 24.

Russia has harsh anti-protest legislation entailing high penalties for offenders.

So far, this fact and Moscow's growing censorship of international media outlets challenging the Kremlin's narrative of a legitimate military action have meant that anti-war protests in Russia have not reached the dimensions of those in many other countries. However, protests have nontheless have been taking place regularly across the nation.

The Interior Ministry warned on Saturday that any attempt to hold unauthorized rallies would be prevented and the organizers held liable.

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has called for daily protests in Russia and across the world against the invasion.

Russia continues to pump gas through Ukraine

Russian gas is still flowing through pipelines that run through Ukraine and into central Europe, the state-owned company Gazprom said on Sunday according to Russian news agency Interfax.

Over 100 million cubic meters of gas is expected to flow on Sunday.

"Gazprom fulfills the supply of Russian gas for transit through the territory of Ukraine at the usual capacity and according to the requirements of European consumers," company spokesperson Sergei Kupriyanov was quoted as saying.

Despite the raft of sanctions aimed at the Russian economy, European countries continue to buy their gas from Moscow, even fearing that the Kremlin may turn off the tap in retaliation.

Other gas pipelines that supply Ukraine have been damaged, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without access.

Shortly after Russia launched its invasion, Germany canceled the controversial Nord Line 2 pipeline that was set to pump more gas directly into Germany, bypassing Ukraine and other countries.

Berlin also said it would speed up its detachment from relying on Russian fossil fuels.

Zelensky warns of 'historic crime' in Odesa

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday that Russian forces were preparing to bombard the major port city of Odesa.

"This is going to be a military crime. This is going to be a historic crime," he said in a televised address.

Russian troops entering Ukraine from the Crimean peninsula — territory occupied by Russia since 2014 — have advanced along the coast, having taken control of Kherson and laid siege to other coastal cities, but so far Odesa has largely been spared.

The population of Odesa is close to 1 million people, including both Ukrainian and Russian speakers as well as sizeable Bulgarian and Jewish minorities. It has also been a hotspot for Russian tourists.

"Russians have always come to Odessa. They have always felt only warmth in Odessa. Only sincerity. And now what?" Zelensky said in his address.

Over 1.5 million people flee Ukraine: UN

The number of refugees who have crossed the border from Ukraine into neighboring countries has surpassed 1.5 million, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said on Twitter.

The number of refugees has risen rapidly in the first 10 days of the conflict. Grandi said it is "the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II."

People fleeing the invasion have crossed into various countries, with the majority entering EU member state Poland. Warsaw says that almost 800,000 people have arrived since the beginning of the conflict.

Moldova, which shares a large border with Ukraine but is not an EU member state, said that 250,000 people, including 30,000 children, had crossed into the country and that it needed urgent international assistance to support them.

Greece also said on Sunday that some 3,700 people had arrived in the country from Ukraine. Around 100,000 ethnic Greeks live in Ukraine and Athens has pledged extra support to evacuate them. Many Ukrainians also moved to Greece after the fall of the Soviet Union and many of the new arrivals were reportedly staying with relatives, dpa new agency reported

Ukraine conflict could 'last months, if not years': UK deputy PM

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday that opponents of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine will have to show "strategic stamina" if they want Russian President Vladimir Putin to fail.

"Our mission with our allies is to ensure Putin fails in Ukraine, and it's going to take some time — we're talking about months, if not years,” he told UK broadcaster Sky News.

When asked about Putin's seeming veiled threat of possibly using nuclear weapons, Raab said, "(Putin's) got a track record as long as anyone's arm of misinformation and propaganda ... this is a distraction from what the real issues are at hand — which is that it's an illegal invasion and it is not going according to plan."

Just under a week ago, Putin ordered his military to put Russia's nuclear deterrence forces on high alert. It remains unclear exactly what this means on the ground and is seen by many as the response of a leader frustrated at the progress of his military plans amid strong Ukrainian resistance.

Ukraine claims big Russian losses

The general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces has put the number of Russian troops killed so far at 11,000. The number stood at 10,000 on Saturday, the military said. DW is unable to verify those figures.

Russian authorities on Wednesday claimed that a much lower number of soldiers had been killed in the invasion — fewer than 500.

On the 11th day of the war, Russian gains include the key city of Kherson in the south. Russian forces have also surrounded the cities of Kharkiv — Ukraine's second-largest city, Mykolaiv, Chernihiv and Sumy. But these remain largely or partly in Ukrainian hands.

A mileslong convoy of Russian troops and equipment that had been headed to the capital Kyiv is still blocked on the highway, according to recent reports.

Ukraine's main port city Odesa is also still under Ukrainian control, with local forces holding out against Russian ships in the Black Sea.

The dpa news agency cited the Defense Ministry in Moscow as saying that Russian troops and separatist rebels from Luhansk and Donetsk had advanced some 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) and taken control of five towns and villages.

Mariupol to make second attempt at evacuations

The city council of Mariupol, the port city close to Ukraine's eastern border with Russia, has announced a new cease-fire with the Russian forces currently surrounding the city.

The planned pause in hostilities will last from 12 p.m. local time (1000 UTC) until 9 p.m on Sunday. The authorities are hoping to evacuate the 400,000 people who are trapped in the city without access to food, water and heating.

The announced cease-fire follows a failed attempt on Saturday that was abandoned after both the Ukrainians and Russians accused each other of violations during the agreed period.

WHO condemns attacks on health care facilities in Ukraine

The World Health Organization confirmed several attacks on health care centers in Ukraine, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted on Sunday.

The attacks led to multiple deaths and injuries, he added.

Ghebreyesus said that they were investigating other similar reports and condemned the attacks on health care facilities and workers, saying they ''breach medical neutrality and are violations of international humanitarian law.''

'Fierce' fighting in Mykolaiv: Ukrainian military

Airstrikes and fighting continued in Ukraine on Sunday amid Russia's invasion, with the Ukrainian military reporting "fierce battles" with Russian troops around the southern city of Mykolaiv.

The city is important strategically, as it controls the road to the key Black Sea city of Odesa.

This comes as Russia reported that it had destroyed Ukraine's Starokostiantyniv military air-base with long-range weapons. The report has not been verified.

Fighting is also continuing for the northern city of Chernihiv, while an expected Russian advance on Kyiv has reportedly been preceded by airstrikes on the towns of Bucha and Irpin that have forced civilians to flee.

The situation in the Black Sea city of Mariupol, which is now without water or power amid Russian shelling, has meanwhile been called “catastrophic” by the organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Officials in the city said they had to delay the evacuation of civilians on Saturday after an agreed cease-fire broke down, but Moscow has contradicted their version of events, saying that it was Ukrainian “nationalists” preventing the civilians leaving.

Scholz meets Israel's Bennett in Berlin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Berlin on Saturday evening, German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said.

The 90-minute conversation between the leaders focused on Bennett's talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Saturday, Hebestreit said in a statement. 

The goal remains to end the war in Ukraine as quickly as possible, Hebestreit added. 

Bennett met Putin in Moscow on Saturday, after having coordinated the meeting with the United States, France and Germany, according to an Israeli official.

Israel, at the behest of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, has offered to mediate in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, though officials have played down expectations of any major breakthrough. 

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty closes Russian operations

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) suspended operations in Russia after local tax authorities initiated bankruptcy proceedings against the US-funded broadcaster's Russian entity on Thursday and police intensified pressure on its journalists, RFE/RL said in a statement.

"It is with the deepest regret that I announce the suspension of our physical operations in Moscow today. This is not a decision that RFE/RL has taken of its own accord, but one that has been forced upon us by the Putin regime's assault on the truth," RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly said in the statement.

"Following years of threats, intimidation and harassment of our journalists, the Kremlin, desperate to prevent Russian citizens from knowing the truth about its illegal war in Ukraine, is now branding honest journalists as traitors to the Russian state," Fly added.

Zelensky speaks with Biden

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that he spoke on the phone with US President Joe Biden on Sunday.

 "As part of the constant dialogue, I had another conversation with @POTUS," Zelensky said."The agenda included the issues of security, financial support for Ukraine and the continuation of sanctions against Russia."

Minister: Germany will take in refugees from Ukraine regardless of nationality

In an interview for the German weekly Bild am Sonntag, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said Germany will take in refugees from Ukraine regardless of their nationality.

"We want to save lives. That doesn't depend on the passport," Faeser said.

"The vast majority of those who fled are Ukrainian nationals. People from other countries who already had a permanent right of residence in Ukraine bring this status with them," Faeser explained.

"They don't have to go through a complex asylum procedure either."

Faeser described European cooperation in helping refugees from Ukraine as "historic."

The minister's statement came amid reports, including from the United Nations, that non-white people have faced racist and xenophobic treatment while trying to flee Ukraine.

Zelensky urges Ukrainians to fight

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Ukrainians to drive Russian troops out of the country.

"We have to go outside! We have to fight! Whenever there is an opportunity," Zelensky said in a video message.

Zelensky added that ordinary, unarmed people had opposed Russian units in several cities, including the southern port city of Kherson. He said it was important to prevent the establishment of more pro-Russian so-called "people's republics" on Ukrainian territory similar to the two currently self-declared in eastern Ukraine.

Addressing the people of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Zelenskyy said that if Russians "have not erased you memory through propaganda, if your eyes are not closed in fear - fight, for your rights, you freedom, for Ukraine."

Summary of events in Ukraine-Russia crisis on Saturday

Russia said it resumed attacks on the cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha after having accused Ukraine of breaking the cease-fire deal. Ukraine claimed that Russian shelling had not stopped after the cease-fire was announced.

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukrainian forces of sabotaging the cease-fire effort, claiming that the actions of Ukraine's leadership called into question the future of the country's statehood.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke with the US lawmakers over Zoom, calling for it to support a no-fly zone over Ukraine and making a "desperate plea" for the US to send more planes.

Over 1.3 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began at the end of last month. 

Credit card companies Visa and MasterCard announced separately that they were suspending operations in Russia.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, offering to mediate to end the war.

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