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Politics

Biden Hits Russia with New Sanctions, Says Putin “Chose” War

February 24, 2022

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a new round of sanctions targeting Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, charging that Russian leader Vladimir Putin “chose this war” and that his country will bear the consequences of his action.

The sanctions target Russian banks, oligarchs and high-tech sectors, Biden said. The United States and its allies will block assets of four large Russian banks, impose export controls and sanction oligarchs.

Biden also said the U.S. will be deploying additional forces to Germany to bolster NATO after the invasion of Ukraine, which is not a member of the defense organization.

The penalties fall in line with the White House’s insistence that it would look to hit Russia’s financial system and Putin’s inner circle, while also imposing export controls that would aim to starve Russia’s industries and military of U.S. semiconductors and other high-tech products.

“Putin is the aggressor,” Biden said. “Putin chose this war, and now he and his country will bear the consequences.”

Biden, for now, held off imposing some of the most severe sanctions, including cutting Russia out of the SWIFT payment system, which allows for the transfers of money from bank to bank around the globe, or Russia’s energy sector.

Biden announced the sanctions while Ukraine’s government reported mounting casualties as Russian forces attack from the east, north and south.

Biden spoke to Americans from the White House hours after holding a virtual meeting with the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Italy and Japan. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also joined the meeting.

The president also met with his national security team on Thursday morning in the Situation Room as he looked to flesh out U.S. moves in the rapidly escalating crisis.

While Biden described the sanctions as severe, Ukrainian officials urged the U.S. and West to go further and cut the Russians from the SWIFT financial system.

“We demand the disconnection of Russia from SWIFT, the introduction of a no-fly zone over Ukraine and other effective steps to stop the aggressor,” Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a tweet.

The Biden administration, however, has shown some reluctance to cut Russia from SWIFT, at least immediately, because of concerns the move could also have enormous ramifications for Europe and other Western economies. Biden, answering questions from reporters, appeared to push a decision on SWIFT to European allies.

“It is always an option but right now that’s not the position that the rest of Europe wishes to take,” Biden said. He also contended that the financial sanctions he announced would be more damaging to Russia.

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Ukrainian Emergency Situation employees stand in a shelter during Russian shelling, in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

UNITED NATIONS — Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations has asked the president of the 193-member General Assembly to prepare for an emergency session in the coming days in light of Russia’s military aggression.

Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya tweeted Thursday that the meeting should be held under the so-called “Uniting for Peace” resolution. The resolution gives the General Assembly the power to call emergency meetings to consider matters of international peace and security when the Security Council is unable to act because of the lack of unanimity among its five veto-wielding permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote Friday on a resolution condemning Russia in the strongest terms possible for attacking Ukraine and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all its forces — knowing that Russia will veto the legally binding measure, according to a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

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ROME — Addressing fellow G-7 leaders, Italian Premier Mario Draghi warned that the crisis over Ukraine “could last for a long time, we must be prepared.”

He thanked U.S. President Joe Biden for sharing intelligence in recent weeks. He also had praise Thursday evening for the European Commission for putting what he called “a good proposal of sanctions on the table.”

Italy is “completely aligned with France, Germany and the European Union” on sanctions, he said.

“We must be united, firm, decisive and we must re-affirm in every possible moment our full support to Ukraine,’’ Draghi said in his G-7 remarks, according to the premier’s office.

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JERUSALEM — Israeli police say they arrested four people suspected of scrawling anti-Putin graffiti on the gate of the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv during a protest.

Several hundred people staged a demonstration outside the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv on Thursday over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Another smaller protest was held outside the Russian consulate in the northern port city of Haifa.

Israel is home to a large population of immigrants former Soviet Union and their descendants who arrived in the 1990s and 2000s.

Israel maintains good relations with both Ukraine and Russia and has tried to avoid involvement in the conflict. Earlier on Thursday Israel’s foreign minister condemned Russia’s invasion.

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Demonstrators gather in support of the Ukrainian people, in Paris, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.  (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

UNITED NATIONS — Repeating a plea for Russia to halt its invasion of Ukraine, the U.N. chief said Thursday the world body was freeing up $20 million for urgent humanitarian needs in the country.

“Stop the military operation. Bring the troops back to Russia,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at U.N. headquarters. He called the offensive wrong and unacceptable, but not irreversible.

“It’s not too late to save this generation from the scourge of war,” Guterres said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the assault is meant to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have been fighting the government for nearly eight years. The U.S., however, said ahead of time that Russia would try to justify an invasion by falsely claiming that the rebel-held areas were under attack.

The U.N. said Thursday it was relocating some of its roughly 1,500 staffers in Ukraine. However, Guterres reiterated that the U.N. will continue providing aid to people in the country, “regardless of who or where they are.”
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BRUSSELS — Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said European Union leaders need to adopt sanctions that will be strong enough to impact the Russian economy and the country’s military industrial complex.

“We don’t need sanctions that bark, we need sanctions that bite,” De Croo said upon his arrival at an urgent meeting of EU leaders in Brussels to discuss a new package of measures targeting Russia.

De Croo said the main goal of the sanctions should be to make it hard for Russian financial institutions to access international markets.

Asked whether Russia should be expelled from the Swift payment system financial system that moves money from bank to bank around the world, De Croo said he is open for discussions on that topic.

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he spoke with President Zelenskyy and says Canada is imposing more severe sanctions.

The sanctions will target 58 people and entities connected to Russia, including members of that country’s elite and their families, the paramilitary organization known as the Wagner Group and major Russian banks.

The measures, announced Thursday after Trudeau attended a virtual G-7 meeting, will also affect members of the Russian Security Council, including key cabinet ministers.

Canada is also cancelling existing export permits for Russia and will not issue new ones.

Trudeau also says the federal government will be prioritizing immigration applications for Ukrainians who want to come to Canada and is launching a dedicated telephone line for anyone who has any urgent questions about immigrating from Ukraine.

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KYIV, Ukraine — An adviser to Ukrainian president says that Ukraine has lost control over the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant after a fierce battle.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said the condition of the plant’s facilities, a confinement shelter and storage of nuclear waste is unknown.

A nuclear reactor in then-Soviet Ukraine exploded in April 1986, spewing radioactive waste across Europe in the world’s worst nuclear disaster. The exploded reactor has been covered by a protective shelter to prevent radiation leak and the entire plant has been decommissioned.

Podolyak said that after “absolutely senseless attack of the Russians in this direction, it is impossible to say that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is safe.”

He charged that Russia may mount provocations there and described the situation as “one of the most serious threats to Europe today.”

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NEW DELHI, India — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin late Thursday night and appealed for an “immediate cessation of violence,” his office said in a statement.

Modi called for efforts to return to diplomatic discussions, saying the “differences between Russia and the NATO group can only be resolved through honest and sincere dialogue.”

Modi also expressed concern over Indian citizens in Ukraine – officials earlier in the day said some 4,000 out of the 20,000 Indian nationals had been evacuated with efforts on to bring the rest back home.

The conversation between the two leaders comes hours after the Ukraine envoy in New Delhi urged Modi to contact Putin, saying the country “has a special relationship with Russia and New Delhi can play a more active role in controlling the situation.”

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WARSAW — Some of the first refugees from Ukraine have arrived in European Union member Poland by road and rail.

A scheduled train from Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine arrived Thursday afternoon in the Polish town of Przemysl, near Ukraine’s western border, carrying a few hundred passengers.

The passengers of various ages, arriving with bags and backpacks, told The Associated Press they were fleeing war. Some live in Poland and were returning urgently from visits to their homeland.

The chief of Poland’s border guards, Gen. Tomasz Praga, said there was a visible increase in the number of people wanting to cross into Poland.

Officials said Poland has prepared at least eight centers with food, medical care and places to rest.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that “innocent people are being killed” in Ukraine and appealed to the Poles to extend every possible assistance to the Ukrainians who have found themselves in need of help.
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Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street as he makes his way to the parliament to make a statement, in London, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would aim to cut Russia off from the U.K.’s financial markets as he announced a new set of sanctions in response to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The sanctions include freezing the assets of all major Russian banks, including VTB Bank, the nation’s second-biggest bank, Johnson said Thursday. Britain also plans to bar Russian companies and the Russian government from raising money on U.K. markets.

Britain will also ban the export of a wide range of high-tech products, including semiconductors, to Russia and bar the nation’s flagship airline, Aeroflot, from landing at U.K. airports.

The slate of sanctions comes days after Johnson was criticized for acting too cautiously in response to Russian aggression earlier this week.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.K., Vadym Prystaiko, earlier called on world leaders to ban trade in Russian oil and gas and block foreign investment in the country.

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MOSCOW — The Russian Defense Ministry has formally confirmed that its forces have moved into Ukraine from Crimea.

Until Thursday’s statement Russia had said only that it unleashed a barrage of air and missile strikes on Ukrainian air bases, air defense batteries and other military facilities.

The ministry said it has destroyed a total of 83 Ukrainian military facilities. Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov confirmed that Russian ground troops advanced toward the city of Kherson northwest of the Crimea peninsula.

Kherson sits on water reservoir used in the past to provide the bulk of fresh water for Crimea until Ukraine cut it with a dam in 2017 in response to Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Konashenkov said Thursday’s move allows the resumption of the water supply to Crimea.

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BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has made a televised address to the nation condemning the Russian attack on Ukraine sharply and vowed that Russian President Vladimir Putin “will not win.”

Scholz said Thursday evening that “we will not accept this violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia” and vowed to imply severe sanction together with Germany’s allies.

Regarding the military attack on Ukraine, Scholz stressed that Putin “is on his own. It was not the Russian people who decided to go to war. He alone bears full responsibility for it. This war is Putin’s war.”

The chancellor said that “Putin should not underestimate NATO’s determination to defend all its members. That applies explicitly to our NATO partners in the Baltic States, in Poland and in Romania, in Bulgaria and in Slovakia. Without ifs and buts. Germany and its allies know how to protect themselves.”

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UNITED NATIONS — A senior U.S. official says the U.N. Security Council is expected to vote Friday on a resolution condemning Russia in the strongest terms possible for attacking Ukraine and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all its forces — knowing that Russia will veto the legally binding measure.

The United States believes it is very important to put the resolution to a vote to underscore Russia’s international isolation, and emphasizes that the veto will be followed quickly by a resolution in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly where there are no vetoes, the official said Thursday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

“This is a first step in how the U.N. responds to this premeditated war of choice that Russia has chosen to take, and we will see action in the General Assembly in the coming days,” he said, adding that it is part of a much broader, coordinated response that includes steps the Biden administration and its allies are taking.

The resolution is drafted under Article 7 of the U.N. Charter, which can be enforced militarily, according to the official.

In this handout photo taken from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Zelenskyy declared martial law, saying Russia has targeted Ukraine’s military infrastructure. He urged Ukrainians to stay home and not to panic. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensnkyy has urged Moscow to end hostilities, adding that Russian airborne troops have been checked outside Kyiv.

“It wasn’t Ukraine that chose the path of war, but Ukraine is offering to go back to the path of peace,” he said Thursday.

He said a Russian airborne force in Hostomel airport outside Kyiv, which has a big runway, has been stopped and is being destroyed.

The Ukrainian leader said many Russian warplanes and armored vehicles were destroyed but didn’t give numbers. He also said an unspecified number of Russian troops was captured.

He said a difficult situation is developing in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city just over 20 kilometers from the Russian border. In the north the Russians are slowly advancing toward Chernihiv, Zelenskyy said.

He appealed to global leaders, saying that “if you don’t help us now, if you fail to offer strong assistance to Ukraine, tomorrow the war will knock on your door.”

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says he was “forced” to order a military action in Ukraine because of the Western refusal to heed Russian security demands.

Speaking at a Kremlin meeting with businesspeople Thursday, Putin said the military action was a “forced measure” that stemmed from rising security risks for Russia.

He said that he was surprised by the West’s “intransigence” regarding Moscow’s security demands. “I was surprised that didn’t move a millimeter on any issue,” he said. “They have left us no chance to act differently.”

Turning to Western sanctions, he said “Russia remains part of the global economy and isn’t going to hurt the system that it is part of as long as it remains there.”

“Our partners should realize that and not set a goal to push us out of the system,” he said in an apparent warning to the West.

A man holds a dog as he walks past a damaged house following Russian shelling, in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

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BERLIN — Group of Seven leaders have strongly condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

The German government, which currently heads the G7, put out a joint statement after a virtual leaders’ meeting Thursday, vowing to bring “forward severe and coordinated economic and financial sanctions.”

It called “on all partners and members of the international community to condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms, to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine, and raise their voice against this blatant violation of the fundamental principles of international peace and security.”

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HELSINKI — Baltic NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have received the first batches of U.S. military troops and equipment promised this week by U.S. President Joe Biden in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.

An undisclosed number of U.S. F-35 fighters landed Thursday afternoon at NATO’s air base in Amari, near Estonia’s capital Tallinn, Estonian media reported. F-35 fighters were reported to have arrived also at NATO’s air base in Lithuania.

On Wednesday evening, the first 40 American soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived in Latvia, Latvian media reported.

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People waiting for a Kyiv bound train spread on a platform in Kostiantynivka, the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

A senior U.S. defense official says Thursday’s attack by Russia appears to be the first phase in what will likely be a multiple phased, large-scale invasion.

The official said it began around 9:30 p.m. U.S. eastern time, with land- and sea-based missile launches. The official said that roughly more than 100 missiles, primarily short-range ballistic missiles, but also medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles and sea-launched missiles, were launched in the first few hours of the attack.

The official said the Russians are moving on three axes: From Crimea to Kherson, from Belarus toward Kyiv, and from the northeast to Kharkiv.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it’s not clear how many Russian troops are in Ukraine now, and the main targets of the air assault have been barracks, ammunition warehouses, and 10 airfields. The official said Russian ground forces began to move in to Ukraine from Belarus around 5 a.m. Eastern time.

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People hold placards, Ukrainian flags and a Union flag as they attend a demonstration outside Downing Street, in London, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

LONDON — Hundreds of protesters have gathered in London to urge Britain and other democracies to step up action against Russia.

Ukrainians living in the U.K. and activists gathered outside Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office Thursday, singing the Ukrainian national anthem and holding placards that read: “Putin! Get out of Ukraine.”

Natalia Ravlyuk, a volunteer who helped organize the protest, said they wanted the “toughest sanctions and total isolation of Russia now.”

“We feel very angry, we feel very anxious and we feel betrayed by democratic states because we have been talking about this war for eight years,” she said. “They just need to wake up and stop Putin now.”

Earlier dozens of protesters also gathered outside the Russian embassy in London.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations migration agency says it’s ready to respond to emerging humanitarian needs in Ukraine.

Antonio Vitorino, director general of the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, said: “IOM … is committed to staying and delivering vital assistance to the people of Ukraine and stands ready to respond to the emerging humanitarian needs in the country and the region, in close coordination with governments and partners.”

“Eight years of conflict in Ukraine have displaced over 1.4 million people who now rely on assistance to meet their daily needs,” he said in a statement. “This escalation will only deepen the humanitarian needs and compound the suffering of millions of families.”

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In this handout photo taken from video released by Ukrainian Police Department Press Service, Military helicopters apparently Russian, fly over the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (Ukrainian Police Department Press Service via AP)

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian forces are trying to seize the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

The plant was the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident when a nuclear reactor exploded in April 1986, spewing radioactive waste across Europe. The plant lies 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the capital of Kyiv.

The exploded reactor has been covered by a protective shelter to prevent radiation leak and the entire plant has been decommissioned.

Zelenskyy said on Twitter that “our defenders are giving their lives so that the tragedy of 1986 will not be repeated.” He added that “this is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe.”

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BUCHAREST, Romania — The interior ministry in Moldova, which shares a long border with Ukraine, says the country has set up two temporary centers to manage an influx of refugees.

The ministry said the centers, in Palanca and Ocnita in northern Moldova, are meant to “provide basic humanitarian, legal and food assistance to immigrants” for a period of 72 hours.

It said that the border has “been crossed by 6,937 people, of which 3,000 are Ukrainian citizens,” but didn’t specify over what period.

The ministry said that medical staff and social workers will be available to assist refugees, and that the country’s immigration office is ready to handle any asylum applications.

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BOSTON — Ukraine’s cybersecurity service has reported continuing cyberattacks and said cellular networks were saturated with voice calls, suggesting people used text-messaging.

A distributed-denial-of-service attack that knocked some government websites offline Wednesday continued and there were sporadic internet outages across the country, said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for the U.S. network management firm Kentik Inc.

Measures to blunt the attacks were having some success, however, as major government websites including the defense and interior ministries were reachable Thursday.

Madory said Ukraine’s internet was “under severe stress presently.” Some cybersecurity experts said prior to the invasion that it might be in the Kremlin’s intelligence — and information war — interests not to try to take down Ukraine’s internet during a military attack.

Ukraine’s cybersecurity service published a list on its Telegram channel of known “active disinformation” channels to avoid.

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reviews the honor guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Sandor Palace in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, Feb 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Anna Szilagyi)

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine and for the first time laid responsibility directly on Moscow for the tensions and violence in Hungary’s eastern neighbor.

“Together with our European Union and NATO allies, we condemn Russia’s military action,” Orban said in a video on Facebook.

A member of the European Union and NATO that borders Ukraine, Hungary under Orban has pursued close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a point of concern for many of Hungary’s western partners.

While Hungary’s government has urged a peaceful resolution to the conflict through diplomacy, high-ranking officials until now avoided condemning Russia’s actions directly.

Orban said Thursday that the number of Ukrainian refugees approaching Hungary’s borders was likely to grow. He said Hungary is “prepared to care for them and will be able to meet this challenge quickly and effectively.”

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s military chief says Ukrainian troops are fighting the Russian army in in the north and the south.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi said a battle was raging Thursday near the Hostomel air base 7 kilometers (less than 5 miles) northwest of the capital, Kyiv.

He said that in the south, fighting was going on near Henichesk, Skadovsk and Chaplynka.

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JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister has offered humanitarian aid to Ukraine, but stopped short of issuing a public condemnation of Russia’s attack.

Naftali Bennett said “our hearts go out to the citizens of Ukraine, who got into this situation without any wrongdoing on their part” during a speech Thursday.

Earlier in the day Israel’s foreign minister issued a formal condemnation of Russia’s attack.

Bennett made no direct reference to Russia in his speech at a military officers’ graduation ceremony, but offered humanitarian aid to Ukraine and urged Israeli citizens to leave the country.

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VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is still holding out hope for negotiations after Russia attacked Ukraine.

The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said in a statement that “there is still time for good will, there is still room for negotiation, there is still room for the exercise of a wisdom that prevents the prevalence of partisan interests, protects the legitimate aspirations of each and saves the world from the madness and horrors of war.”

The Vatican has been loathe to call out Russia by name, for fear of antagonizing the Russian Orthodox Church, a key focus of Francis’ ecumenical efforts.

The Vatican issued Parolin’s statement as the head of the largest eastern rite church in communion with Rome, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, was in a bomb shelter under the Cathedral of the Resurrection in Kiev along with many other people, his office in Rome said.

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Smoke and flame rise near a military building after an apparent Russian strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

MOSCOW — Russia’s Defense Ministry says the Russian military has destroyed 74 Ukrainian military facilities, including 11 air bases.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered that Ukrainian servicemen be treated “with respect” and those who lay down their weapons offered safe corridors.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the loss of a Su-25 attack jet due to “pilor error.”

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BERLIN — The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has expanded its recommendations following the Russian attack on Ukraine to warn operators against flying over Moldova and Belarus and “exercise caution” over large parts of Russia.

EASA already had warned of high risks to civilian aircraft over Ukraine early Thursday morning. In an update, it cited a notice issued by Moldova closing its airspace for all flights due to the Ukrainian crisis.

It pointed to “a risk of both intentional targeting and misidentification of civil aircraft.”

It said that operators also should “exercise caution” when operated in airspace controlled by Moscow and Rostov-on-Don in Russia “due to heightened military activity which may include launches of mid-range missiles penetrating into controlled airspace.”

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BERLIN — Germany’s economy minister says the country is putting in place additional measures to safeguard its energy supply amid the escalating tensions with Russia.

Germany gets about half of its natural gas and coal and about a third of its oil from Russia.

Robert Habeck told reporters in Berlin Thursday that measures already taken to fill gas reserves would ensure that “we will get safely through the winter.”

“Further measures have been put in place for the next winter”, he said, including legally requiring the owners of gas storage facilities in Germany to fill them during the summer.

Habeck said Germany’s national oil reserve would be sufficient for 90 days, should that need to be tapped, though so far there has been no cut in supplies.

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BRUSSELS — A top European Union official is pledging to make Russia suffer with “massive and targeted sanctions” that will particularly hit the country’s elite.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the package of EU measures will include financial sanctions that will severely limit Russia’s access to the capital markets and have a severe impact on all sectors of its economy.

She said ahead of an EU summit Thursday that “these sanctions will suppress Russia’s economic growth, increase the borrowing costs, raise inflations, intensify capital outflow and gradually erode its industrial basis.”

Von der Leyen said the package also will aim to limit Russia’s access to crucial technologies.

She said that “our measures will weaken Russia technological positions in key areas, actually from which the elite makes most of their money.” She cited high-tech components and “cutting-edge software.”

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WARSAW, Poland — The parliament in Poland, a nation on NATO’s eastern flank which borders Ukraine and Belarus, strongly denounced Russia’s attack on Ukraine and vowed its support to Ukraine.

Members of the Sejm, or lower house of parliament, approved by acclamation a statement condemning Russia. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Thursday will go down in history as “the day Russia chose war,” attacking another nation for no reason.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador Mark Brzezinski sought to assure Poland that, as a NATO member, the country is safe.

Brzezinski noted in an interview on TVN24 television that there are now 10,000 U.S. soldiers in Poland. More than half were deployed in recent weeks amid the Russian threats.

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Norway’s prime minister says that a planned NATO drill in Norway next month “was not a response to the events in Ukraine.”

From March 13, Norway is scheduled to host the Cold Response exercise with thousands of NATO troops taking part. The exercise has been planned for months and Russia was invited to observe it.

The Scandinavian country shares a nearly 200-kilometer (124-mile) land border with Russia.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said that Norway has long managed to maintain a pragmatic neighborly relationship. He said that “we will continue to have contacts” with Russia.

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French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a media conference at an EU Africa summit in Brussels, Friday, Feb. 18, 2022. (Johanna Geron, Pool Photo via AP)

PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron says France and its European allies did everything to try to head off the attack on Ukraine. He said that they will show “no weakness” in their response.

Macron said in a televised address to the nation Thursday that Russia’s attack is a “turning point in European history” and as a result “there will be profound consequences for our continent and changes in our lives.”

He said that “to this act of war, we will reply without weakness, we will reply calmly and in a determined and united manner.”

“We have tried everything to avoid this war but it is here and we are ready,” Macron said.

He said that sanctions will be “proportionate” to Russia’s military operations, targeting its economy and its energy sector.

“We will show no weakness,” Macron said. “We will take all measures necessary to defend the sovereignty and stability of our European allies.”

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — The Slovak government has authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 soldiers to help guard the border with Ukraine following Russia’s attack on Slovakia’s eastern neighbor.

The defense ministry said Thursday they will be used if there is a massive wave of refugees.

The government said Slovakia is also ready to open more border crossings with Ukraine if needed.

Slovania last week lifted all coronavirus restrictions for potential refugees coming from Ukraine in the case of a Russian invasion.

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ROME — Italian Premier Mario Draghi says Russia’s attack on Ukraine has made dialogue with Moscow “impossible.” He is demanding that Putin “immediately stop the bloodshed and withdraw military forces.”

Speaking after an urgent Cabinet meeting on Thursday, Draghi said Russia’s operation “concerns all of us, our way of living freely, our democracy.”

He said Italy, which has kept its embassy in Kyiv open, fully supported “very strong” sanctions against Russia and was coordinating with NATO and EU allies to beef up security on NATO’s eastern flank. He said that “we are reinforcing our already significant contribution to the military deployments in all the most directly exposed Allied countries.”

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A woman reacts as she waits for a train trying to leave Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

HELSINKI — Latvian authorities say three Russian television channels will have their right to broadcast in Latvia suspended for several years with immediate effect. They cited the channels’ incitement to hatred against Ukraine, justification of war and spreading of disinformation on Ukraine, Latvia and other countries.

Latvia’s National Electronic Mass Media Council said Thursday that there will be a ban on broadcasts of the Rossija RTR channel for five years, Rossija 24 channel for four years and TV Centr International for three years.

European Union and NATO member Latvia is urging other European nations to make a similar decision.

“We are calling on all European Union member countries to use the evidence we have collected, follow our example and ban these three (Russian) channels in the entire territory of the EU,” said the council’s chairman, Ivars Abolins.

He said that “in the last several years, we have closed 41 programs associated with Russia. Unfortunately, other European countries have not done the same.”

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GENEVA — The head of the U.N. refugee agency is warning of “devastating consequences” of Russia’s military action in Ukraine and calling on neighboring countries to keep their borders open for people fleeing the fighting.

Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, pointed to “reports of casualties and people starting to flee their homes to seek safety” without elaborating.

He said in a statement that UNHCR had stepped up its operations and capacity in Ukraine and its neighboring countries, without providing details.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, says that “Russia’s key goal is clear: to oust the Ukrainian leadership and stir up as much panic as possible.”

Podolyak said Thursday the Russians “want to cut off part of the country and they moving in in big convoys.”

He said that “we are seeing attempts to estabilize the situation in big cities, including Kyiv and Kharkiv.”

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Russia’s military actions in Ukraine violate international laws and amount to a “heavy blow” to regional peace and stability.

In an address to an international gathering in Ankara on Thursday, Erdogan said Turkey — which has enjoyed close ties to both Russia and Ukraine — “sincerely regrets” that the two countries are confronting each other.

“We reiterate our call for a resolution of the problems between Russia and Ukraine, with which we have deep historical ties and friendly relations, through dialogue, within the framework of Minsk agreements,” Erdogan said. He was referring to deals that aimed to restore peace in eastern Ukraine.

The Turkish leader said Turkey would “do its part to ensure the safety of everyone living in Ukraine,” including Turkish citizens and Crimean Tatars, with whom Turkey shares ethnic and cultural bonds.

——

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Russian President Vladimir Putin has “unleashed war in our European continent” and Britain “cannot and will not just look away.”

In a televised address Thursday, Johnson said the U.K. and its allies will agree a “massive package of economic sanctions designed in time to hobble the Russian economy.”

“Our mission is clear: diplomatically, politically, economically and eventually militarily, this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure,” Johnson said.

He is expected to give more details about new sanctions later Thursday.

“A vast invasion is underway by land by sea and by air,” Johnson said. “(Putin) has attacked a friendly country without any provocation and without any credible excuse.”

The prime minister also said that the West must collectively end its dependence on Russian oil and gas, which “for too long has given Putin his grip on western politics.”

——

GENEVA — The head of a Nobel Peace Prize-winning anti-nuclear group says a warning from Russian President Vladimir Putin to anyone who might meddle in Russia’s attack on Ukraine amounted to a threat to “launch a nuclear war.”

Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, was referring to the Russian leader’s comments as the attack began that “whoever tries to impede us, let alone create threats for our country and its people, must know that the Russian response will be immediate and lead to the consequences you have never seen in history.”

Fihn, whose group won the Nobel prize in 2017, said Russia had manufactured a “false justification” for its military action in Ukraine and said Putin’s warning was “basically to launch a nuclear war.”

She alluded to recent tests by Russia of intercontinental ballistic missiles and hypersonic missiles, saying that they smacked of “basically the Russian military practicing mass-murdering civilians.”

BUCHAREST, Romania — The president of Romania has condemned Russia’s “reprehensible” attack on Ukraine and said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “threatens the peace of the entire planet.”

Romania borders Ukraine and is a member of NATO and the European Union. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said that Russia “chose the reprehensible and completely illegal path of massive armed violence against an independent and sovereign state.”

Iohannis said that Romania, a country of about 19.5 million people, is ready to deal with economic and humanitarian consequences that the conflict could generate.

He stressed that Romania will not be drawn into the military conflict in Ukraine and said Romanian authorities will take “absolutely all the necessary measures” to ensure the safety of the country’s citizens.

——

PRAGUE — Czech President Milos Zeman, who has been a leading pro-Russian voice among European Union leaders, has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “an unprovoked act of aggression.”

Zeman said in an address to the nation that “Russia has committed a crime against peace.”

A week ago, Zeman said that warnings of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine were a failure by CIA. He said repeatedly he didn’t believe Russian wanted to attack Ukraine.

“I admit I was wrong,” Zeman said Thursday. “An irrational decision by the leadership of the Russian Federation will cause significant damages to the Russian state.”

He called for harder sanctions against Russia, declaring that “it’s necessary to isolate a lunatic and not just to defend ourselves by words but also by deeds.”
BRUSSELS — NATO’s secretary-general says Russia has launched war on Ukraine and shattered peace on the European continent.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Feb 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

Jens Stoltenberg called for a summit of NATO alliance leaders for Friday.

Stoltenberg said that “this is a deliberate, cold-blooded and long-planned invasion.” And he charged that “Russia is using force to try to rewrite history.”

Russia launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine earlier Thursday, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling. Ukraine’s government said Russian tanks and troops rolled across the border.

HELSINKI — NATO member Lithuania, which has borders with Russian ally Belarus and Russia’s exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, has declared a state of emergency effective early Thursday afternoon due to the situation in Ukraine.

The decree signed Thursday by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda steps up border protection. It gives authorities, among other things, the right to check and inspect vehicles, persons and luggage in the border area.

Lithuania also borders fellow NATO and European Union members Poland and Latvia.

——

This photo shows a view of the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday announced a military operation in Ukraine and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences you have never seen.” (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has called on Russia to halt what it describes as “unfair and unlawful” actions in Ukraine.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement on Thursday said the Russian attacks were “unacceptable” and that Turkey “rejects” them.

“This attack, beyond destroying the Minsk agreements, is a grave violation of international law and poses a serious threat to the security of our region and of the world,” the ministry statement said, referring to deals that aimed to restore peace in eastern Ukraine.

The statement added that Turkey opposes moves that “change borders through the use of weapons.”

——

BERLIN — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine, calling it a “dark day for Europe” and expressing his country’s “full solidarity with Kyiv.”

Scholz said in a statement at the chancellery in Berlin on Thursday that new sanctions to be imposed on Russia by Germany and its allies would show that “Putin has made a serious mistake with his war.”

Addressing NATO allies in eastern Europe, Scholz said Germany understood their worries in light of the latest developments and stands by its commitments within the alliance.

Scholz said he and French President Emmanuel Macron proposed soon holding an in-person meeting of the heads of government of NATO member states.

——

People watch a TV reporting the crisis in Ukraine during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

BRUSSELS — NATO has agreed to beef up its land, sea and air forces on its eastern flank near Ukraine and Russia after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a military offensive in Ukraine.

NATO ambassadors said in a statement after emergency talks Thursday that “we have increased the readiness of our forces to respond to all contingencies.”

While some of NATO’s 30 member countries are supplying arms, ammunition and other equipment to Ukraine, NATO as an organization is not. It will not launch any military action in support of Ukraine.

Countries closest to the conflict – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland – are among those to have triggered rare consultations under Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty, which can be launched when “the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the (NATO) parties is threatened.”

“We have decided, in line with our defensive planning to protect all allies, to take additional steps to further strengthen deterrence and defense across the Alliance,” the envoys said in a statement. “Our measures are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory.”

——

KYIV, Ukraine — An adviser to Ukraine’s president says that Russian forces forged 10-20 kilometers (6-12 miles) deep into the Chernihiv region of northern Ukraine and are regrouping to continue the offensive.

But Oleksiy Arestovich said Thursday that “Kyiv is under reliable protection” and “they will face tough battles.”

Arestovich said that fighting is going on 4-5 kilometers (2 ½-3 miles) north of Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, in the country’s northeast. He said Ukrainian troops destroyed four Russian tanks there.

The adviser said that Russian troops that moved into Ukraine from Russian-annexed Crimea are trying to advance toward Melitopol and Kherson.

——

This photo shows a view of the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

JERUSALEM— Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine as “a grave violation of the international order.”

Lapid told reporters on Thursday that Israel is prepared to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine and urged Israeli citizens to leave the country.

“Israel is a country well-versed in war. War is not the way to resolve conflicts,” he said, adding that there was still a chance for a negotiated solution.

——

BUCHAREST, Romania — Moldova’s president says the country’s Supreme Security Council has decided to ask parliament to introduce a state of emergency following Russia’s attack on neighbouring Ukraine.

President Maia Sandu said Thursday that Russia’s attack on Ukraine is a “flagrant violation of international norms.”

Sandu urged Moldovan citizens in Ukraine to return home. Moldova, a former Soviet republic and one of Europe’s poorest nations, has a population of around 3.5 million and is not a NATO member.

There are now concerns in Moldova that the neighboring conflict could trigger an influx of refugees. Sandu said that “at the border crossing points with Ukraine there is an increase in traffic flow.”

She added that “we will help people who need our support. At this moment, we are ready to accommodate tens of thousands of people.”

——

KYIV, Ukraine — An adviser to Ukraine’s president says about 40 people have been killed so far in the Russian attack on the country.

Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that several dozen people have been wounded.

He didn’t specify whether the casualties included civilians.

Zelenskyy said the Ukrainian authorities will hand weapons to all those willing to defend the country.

“The future of the Ukrainian people depends on every Ukrainian,” he said, urging all those who can defend the country to come to the Interior Ministry’s assembly facilities.

——

ANKARA, Turkey — Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey has called on the NATO member country to close its airspace and to shut down the straits at the entrance of the Black Sea to Russian ships.

“We are calling for the airspace, Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to be closed,” Ambassador Vasyl Bodnar told reporters on Thursday. “We have conveyed our relevant demand to the Turkish side. At the same time, we want sanctions imposed on the Russian side.”

A 1936 convention gives Turkey control over the straits connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, and allows it to limit the passage of warships during wartime or if Turkey is threatened.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan convened an emergency security meeting to discuss the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Turkey, which enjoys close relations with both Ukraine and Russia, had been pressing for a diplomatic solution to the tensions.

——

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president says his country has cut diplomatic ties with Russia after it was attacked.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the decision to rupture ties with Moscow on Thursday after it launched a massive air and missile attack on its neighbor and Russian forces were seen rolling into Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials say the country’s military is fighting back and asked for Western defense assistance.

——

KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian presidential adviser says that Russian forces have launched an attack on Ukraine from the north, east and south. The adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said “the Ukrainian military is fighting hard.”

Podolyak said Thursday that “our army is fighting back inflicting significant losses to the enemy.” He said that there have been civilian casualties, but didn’t give details.

He said that “Ukraine now needs a greater and very specific support from the world — military-technical, financial as well as tough sanctions against Russia,” he said.

Another adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia has targeted air bases and various other military infrastructure.

——

BEIJING — China’s customs agency on Thursday approved imports of wheat from all regions of Russia, a move that could help to reduce the impact of possible Western sanctions imposed over Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.

The two governments announced an agreement Feb. 8 for China to import Russian wheat and barley after Russian President Vladimir became the highest-profile foreign guest to attend the Beijing Winter Olympics.

China’s populous market is a growth area for other farm goods suppliers, but Beijing had barred imports until now from Russia’s main wheat-growing areas due to concern about possible fungus and other contamination.

Russia is one of the biggest wheat producers but its exports would be vulnerable if its foreign markets block shipments in response to its attack on Ukraine.

Thursday’s announcement said Russia would “take all measures” to prevent contamination by wheat smut fungus and would suspend exports to China if it was found.

——

BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister says that “we woke up in a different world today.”

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a televised statement that “after months of preparing lies and propaganda, President Putin decided today to let his threats be followed with terrible deeds.”

Baerbock said that “the Russian government is breaking the most elementary rules of the international order in front of the eyes of the world.”

Baerbock said German diplomats remaining in Kyiv would leave the capital. A decision would be made whether the embassy could resume its work from Lviv.

——

MOSCOW — Security camera footage shows a line of Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukraine from Russian-annexed Crimea.

Russian troops launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine on Thursday. President Vladimir Putin cast aside international condemnation and sanctions and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would lead to “consequences you have never seen.”

——

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is urging global leaders to provide defense assistance to Ukraine and help protect its airspace from the “aggressor.”

Zelenskyy said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has unleased a war with Ukraine and the entire democratic world.” He added that the Russian leader “wants to destroy our state, everything that we have built.”

He praised the nation’s soldiers, hailing their courage and urged civilians not to panic.

“We are starting the creation of an anti-Putin coalition,” he said. “I have already urged global leaders to slam Putin with all possible sanctions, offer large-scale defense support and close the airspace over Ukraine for the aggressor.”

“Together we must save Ukraine, save the democratic world, and we will do it,” Zelenskyy said.

——

BEIJING — World stock markets have plunged and oil prices surged by nearly $6 per barrel after President Vladimir Putin launched Russian military action in Ukraine.

Market benchmarks tumbled in Europe and Asia and U.S. futures were sharply lower. Brent crude oil jumped to over $100 per barrel Thursday on unease about possible disruption of Russian supplies.

The ruble sank 7.5% to more than $87 to the U.S. dollar. Earlier, Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index fell 1.8% to an eight-month low after the Kremlin said rebels in eastern Ukraine asked for military assistance.

Investors already were uneasy about the possible impact of the Federal Reserve’s plans to try to cool inflation.

——

BEIJING — China’s Foreign Ministry is repeating calls for talks to resolve the worsening crisis in Ukraine, while refusing to criticize Russia’s actions and accusing the U.S. and its allies of worsening the crisis.

Spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters Thursday that “the Ukraine issue is complex in its historical background … what we are seeing today is the interplay of complex factors.”

Hua said China still hopes “that the parties concerned will not shut the door to peace and engage instead in dialogue and consultation and prevent the situation from further escalating,”

Although China has not endorsed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of independence for Ukraine’s separatist areas or his decision to send Russian forces there, Hua said China “called on parties to respect others’ legitimate security concerns.”

Hua said that “all parties should work for peace instead of escalating the tension or hyping up the possibility of war” — repeating the language China has consistently used to criticize the West in the crisis.

Hua asked: “Those parties who were busy condemning others; what have they done? Have they persuaded others?”

Hua did not describe Russia’s actions as an invasion or directly refer to the movement of Russian forces into Ukraine.

——

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron, who had labored until the last minute for a diplomatic solution, says that “France firmly condemns Russia’s decision to wage war” and is promising support for Ukraine.

Macron said Thursday that “Russia must end its military operations immediately.” He spoke by phone to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who demanded “united European support” for Ukraine, according to a statement from the French presidency.

Macron said France is “working with its partners and allies to end the war.”

——

BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s defense ministry says that two F-16 aircraft from the Romanian military on a NATO air policing mission intercepted a Ukrainian Air Force plane that had entered Romanian airspace, and escorted it to an airbase in Bacau.

The ministry wrote that the Romanian planes “strictly applied national procedures and international rules applicable in such situations, through the interception and visual identification of the aircraft entering the Romanian airspace.”

The ministry said that the Ukrainian military pilot made himself available to Romanian authorities on Thursday morning.

——

BRUSSELS — The European Union says it is planning the “strongest, the harshest package” of sanctions it has ever considered at an emergency summit Thursday, as the Russian military attacked Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that “the target is the stability in Europe and the whole of the international peace order, and we will hold President (Vladimir) Putin accountable for that.”

“We will present a package of massive and targeted sanctions to European leaders for approval,” she said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called it the “strongest, the harshest package” ever considered.

——

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Western allies will not stand by as Russia attacks Ukraine.

In an early morning call, Johnson told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that he was appalled by events in Ukraine, according to a statement released by the prime minister’s office.

“The Prime Minister said the West would not stand by as President Putin waged his campaign against the Ukrainian people,” Johnson’s office said in the statement.

Johnson added that Ukraine was in the thoughts of everyone in the U.K. “during this dark time.”

——

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are condeming the Russian operation in Ukraine as a “crime against Ukrainian people.”

In a joint statement, the three countries’ foreign ministers condemned strongly “the open large scale Russian aggression against the independent, peaceful and democratic Ukraine.”

They called it “a blatant violation of the international law, of all international norms and a crime against Ukrainian people that we condemn.”

Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto said the Russian move is “an attack on the security order throughout Europe.”

___

MOSCOW — The Russian military says it has knocked out Ukraine’s air defense assets and airbases.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the Russian strikes have “suppressed air defense means of the Ukrainian military,” adding that the infrastructure of Ukraine’s military bases has been incapacitated.” It denied the claims that a Russian warplane was shot down over Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military, meanwhile, reported that it has shot down five Russian aircraft while fending off the Russian attack on the country.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he unleashed an attack on Ukraine in a televised address early Thursday, drawing international condemnation.

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