Ukraine’s government has accused Russia of war crimes for deliberately targeting civilians during its invasion of Ukraine. New satellite photos show a massive, 40-mile convoy of Russian tanks and armored vehicles stretching from the Belarusian border to the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Ukrainian officials say troops from Belarus have joined Russia’s invasion. Elsewhere, Russia’s military has begun shelling residential areas of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Today a Russian missile struck Kharkiv’s local government building, leaving a massive crater in the city center, known as Freedom Square. Another Russian assault on Monday destroyed a children’s clothing factory in Kharkiv.
Kharkiv resident: “This is a residential area with no military object, and people lived very close to this building, where the missile hit.”
Human rights groups say Russia has used thermobaric weapons in its assault. These so-called vacuum bombs are the most powerful non-nuclear explosives used in warfare. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch documented a Russian cluster bomb attack on a hospital in eastern Ukraine that killed four civilians and injured another 10 people. A United Nations treaty banning the use of cluster munitions has been signed by over 100 nations — although Russia, Ukraine and the United States have refused to sign on to the prohibition.
On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of war crimes for deliberately targeting civilians. He spoke after Russian and Ukrainian officials met on the Belarusian border to discuss a possible ceasefire. Those talks failed.
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “These talks took place while our territory, our cities were being bombed and shelled. We could see the synchronization of the shelling with the negotiation process. I believe that in this unsophisticated way Russia is trying to apply pressure. Don’t waste our time. We do not accept such tactics.”
Earlier today, President Zelensky addressed the European Parliament by video link. On Monday, he called on the European Union to grant Ukraine immediate membership to the 27-nation bloc.
At The Hague, a prosecutor for the International Criminal Court said Monday he will launch an investigation into possible war crimes or crimes against humanity committed by Russia in Ukraine. At the United Nations, the General Assembly began an emergency session Monday to debate a draft resolution calling on Russia to end its military campaign. This is U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “Yesterday Russian nuclear forces were put on high alert. This is a chilling development. The mere idea of a nuclear conflict is simply inconceivable. Nothing can justify the use of nuclear weapons.”
The oil and gas giant Shell said Monday it will exit its joint ventures with Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom. Shell has about $3 billion invested in Russian operations. This follows a similar move by BP to offload its Russian operations, as other oil companies, including ExxonMobil and Total, come under pressure to divest.
In Moscow, Russia’s central bank more than doubled its interest rate to 20% to prevent the further collapse of Russia’s currency after governments around the world imposed sanctions. The value of the ruble dropped to less than 1 U.S. cent on Monday. That’s about one-twentieth of the ruble’s value in 2014, before Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The United Nations warns some 4 million refugees could leave Ukraine in the coming weeks. Filippo Grandi is the U.N. high commissioner for refugees.
Filippo Grandi: “As we speak, there are 520,000 refugees from Ukraine in neighboring countries. This figure has been rising exponentially, hour after hour, literally, since Thursday.”
More than half of those who’ve fled have crossed Ukraine’s western border into Poland. Foreign nationals report they’ve been barred from crossing even as Ukrainian citizens have been welcomed with open arms.
India’s government has dispatched ministers to Ukraine’s borders after Indians seeking to cross into Poland reported they were turned around and told to go to Romania instead. Citizens of several African countries report they were pushed back from Poland because they are Black. This is Ellie Mboma, a student from Congo.
Ellie Mboma: “We had to stay outside, exposed to the freezing weather that they have here. Nobody tells us where we can find shelter, and we are left out in the cold.”
Last November, Poland massed troops along its border, firing tear gas and water cannons to block thousands of refugees — most of them from the Middle East — from crossing into Poland, where they were seeking asylum in the EU. That contrasts with about 300,000 Ukrainian refugees welcomed to Poland within just the last several days.
Major international news outlets are facing backlash over racist comments made by correspondents comparing the invasion of Ukraine to conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and other regions outside of Europe. Correspondents from Al Jazeera English, The Telegraph, CBS News and others have suggested Ukrainians and their resistance are more worthy of sympathy because they’re “civilized” and white. This is Charlie D’Agata, senior correspondent of CBS News, speaking on air Friday.
Charlie D’Agata: “This isn’t a place, with all due respect, you know, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades. You know, this is a relatively civilized, relatively European — I have to choose those words carefully, too — city where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it’s going to happen.”
The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association condemned such comments as “orientalist and racist.” The group added, “This type of commentary reflects the pervasive mentality in Western journalism of normalizing tragedy in parts of the world such as the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. It dehumanizes and renders their experience with war as somehow normal and expected.”
In Australia, torrential rains and record flooding have inundated the eastern states of Queensland and New South Wales, killing at least eight people and forcing tens of thousands to evacuate. Residents could be seen taking refuge on rooftops as the fast-rising waters submerged their homes. This is the premier of New South Wales.
Premier Dominic Perrottet: “Simply because your community has not flooded in the past does not mean that it will not flood over the course of this week. What we are seeing today is unprecedented, and the advice that we have received is that we would expect things to get worse over this period of time.”
Back in the United States, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in a case brought by coal companies against the Environmental Protection Agency. Coal executives are challenging the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act. Justices with the court’s conservative majority appeared sympathetic to arguments that the Obama and Biden administrations exceeded their authority when the EPA — and not Congress — sought to regulate greenhouse gasses.
President Biden is set to address a joint session of Congress this evening in his first State of the Union address. Ahead of Biden’s speech, the Pentagon called up several hundred National Guard soldiers; meanwhile, police re-erected a security barrier on Capitol grounds that was first set up last year in the wake of the January 6 insurrection. Far-right groups have announced plans for a “trucker convoy” protest outside the State of the Union, modeled after protests that paralyzed the Canadian capital for weeks. Those plans are in doubt after several trucks involved in the so-called People’s Convoy crashed in Oklahoma on their way to Washington, D.C.
In California, a father fatally shot his three children Monday during a supervised family visit at a church near Sacramento. The shooter also killed a person who may have been supervising the visit, before taking his own life. The mother of the children reportedly had a restraining order against the father, which should have prevented him from obtaining a firearm. The children were 9, 10 and 13 years old. In the past seven days there have been over 700 gun-related deaths in the U.S., according to the Shock Market, a new online tool that tracks gun violence.
A Democrat-led bill in Congress that would have codified abortion rights into federal law has been blocked in the Senate. Conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin joined Senate Republicans who used the threat of a filibuster to block the Women’s Health Protection Act. The legislation was approved by House Democrats last year in response to a wave of state laws almost completely banning abortions. This is Washington Democratic Senator Patty Murray.
Sen. Patty Murray: “Republicans have made it abundantly clear they want a world in which they, as politicians, get to decide what women can do with their bodies, their lives and their futures. That is not what the vast majority of Americans want. The vast majority of Americans want a country where the very personal, individual decision about pregnancy is — wait for it — up to the individual.”