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Russia-Ukraine war: Key things to know about the conflict

March 25, 2022 GMT
A man walks on the debris of a burning house, destroyed after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
A man walks on the debris of a burning house, destroyed after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
A man walks on the debris of a burning house, destroyed after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
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A man walks on the debris of a burning house, destroyed after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
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A man walks on the debris of a burning house, destroyed after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on his people to keep up their resistance to Russia’s invading forces, saying “every minute determines our fate, our future, whether we will live.”

During his nightly video address to his people, Zelenskyy said late Thursday that, “With every day of our defense, we are getting closer to the peace that we need so much. We are getting closer to victory.”

He also thanked EU and NATO leaders for pledging more support for Ukraine earlier Thursday and called on EU leaders to fast-track Ukrainian membership in the bloc.

And as Russia continued its bombardment of Ukrainian cities and Ukraine’s forces kept up their stiff resistance, Ukraine accused Moscow of forcibly taking hundreds of thousands of civilians to Russia so they could be used as “hostages” to pressure a surrender. But Russia said they’ve been going of their own free will.

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Here are some key things to know about the Russia-Ukraine conflict:

ARE UKRAINIANS BEING FORCED INTO RUSSIA?

Kyiv and Moscow gave conflicting accounts about whether people were being moved to Russia willingly or whether they were being coerced or manipulated.

Ukraine officials say Russian troops are confiscating passports from Ukrainian citizens then moving them to “filtration camps” in Ukraine’s separatist-controlled east before sending them to various distant, economically depressed areas in Russia. Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine’s ombudsperson, said 402,000 people, including 84,000 children, were moved against their will.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said 6,000 of those forced to Russia were from the devastated port city of Mariupol, and 15,000 more people in a section of Mariupol under Russian control have had their identifying documents confiscated.

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The ministry said the Russians intend to “use them as hostages and put more political pressure on Ukraine.”

But Russian Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said the roughly 400,000 people evacuated to Russia since the start of the war were from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow separatists have been fighting for control for nearly eight years.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE NATO SUMMIT?

Zelensky addressed NATO leaders by video, insisting that Western leaders give Ukraine unlimited help against Russia, which is “without limits using its entire arsenal.”

He said a tiny percentage of the warplanes and tanks controlled by NATO members could make a difference.

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“We can’t just buy those,” Zelenskyy said. “When we will have all this, it will give us, just like you, 100% security.”

Western leaders didn’t meet all his requests, but they pledged new sanctions against Russia and humanitarian aid. Biden said in a statement after the meeting: “We are committed to identifying additional equipment, including air defense systems, to help Ukraine.”

Finland announced it would send more military equipment to Ukraine, and Belgium announced it will add 1 billion euros to its defense budget in response to Russia’s invasion.

Separately, the White House said the U.S. would welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and provide an additional $1 billion in food, medicine, water and other supplies.

Biden said at a news conference that NATO has “never been more united than it is today.”

WHAT IS HAPPENING ON THE BATTLEFIELD?

Ukraine’s navy said Thursday that it sank a large landing ship near the port city of Berdyansk that had been used to supply Russian forces with armored vehicles.

Photos and video after the naval attack showed fire and thick plumes of smoke. Russian TV reported earlier this week that the ship, the Orsk, was the first Russian warship to enter Berdyansk. The port was going to be used to deliver military equipment for the Russians, the report said.

Ukraine also claimed two more ships were damaged and a 3,000-ton fuel tank was destroyed when the Orsk was sunk, causing a fire that spread to nearby ammunition supplies.

Russia claimed to have taken the eastern town of Izyum after fierce fighting.

A local government official in the northern city of Chernihiv said a “catastrophe” is unfolding as Russian troops deliberately target sites where food is being stored. An airstrike there this week destroyed a crucial bridge.

City council secretary Olexander Lomako estimated that more than 130,000 people remain in the city, which had a pre-war population of 285,000, but that Ukraine remains in full control. He said the “Ukrainian flag waves here” and that the city’s ancestors never thought of surrendering to enemies.

“Our generation follows their example. We defend ourselves, whatever it costs us. And we will keep standing. I want the whole world to know,” he said.

HOW IS THE WEST CRACKING DOWN ON RUSSIA?

Western nations continued to crank up the cost of war for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Even as the Russian stock market opened to limited trading Thursday, the Group of Seven leaders announced they are restricting the Russian Central Bank’s use of gold.

The U.S. also announced a new round of sanctions targeting 48 state-owned defense companies, 328 members of the Duma, Russia’s lower parliament, and dozens of Russian elites. The White House said the efforts were designed to blunt Russia’s ability to use its international reserves to fund the war.

Britain on Thursday sanctioned 65 more companies and individuals over the invasion. The targets include Russia’s largest private bank and a woman who the British government says is the stepdaughter of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

WHAT HAS THE AP DIRECTLY WITNESSED OR CONFIRMED?

Shelling was heard in northern Kharkiv on Thursday afternoon, and AP journalists saw an ambulance collecting four bodies near the remnants of rockets. Smoke billowed from neighborhoods and at least one house was destroyed.

In the western city of Lviv, church bells rang out shortly before sunset in a coordinated call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine. At the top of a cathedral, white-smocked volunteers pulled on ropes to set a huge bell swinging. Afterward, one man pointed to a coffin resting against a wall of the bell tower amid the growing darkness. “For Putin,” he said with a smile.

WHAT ABOUT WAR CRIMES?

Dozens of nations met Thursday in The Hague to pledge support for the International Criminal Court’s investigation into whether Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine.

Britain said it was boosting its support for the ICC’s Ukraine probe with extra funds and specialist staff. France announced it will provide magistrates, investigators and experts and 500,000 euros ($550,000) in extra funding.

British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said the meeting was important to show support for a prosecution office that has often been stretched financially. Raab said the meeting also sends a message that these 38 countries “will not stand for impunity in Ukraine.” He said Russian leaders and commanders, whether in Moscow or on the ground in Ukraine, will be held accountable if they commit war crimes.

The meeting came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration made a formal determination that Russian troops have committed war crimes. The U.S. is not a member state of the ICC, but could still help gather evidence.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine