Ukraine war: Zelenskyy calls on West to ‘decide quickly’ on Polish fighter planes offer

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Refugees from Ukraine arrive at the train station in Przemysl, eastern Poland, near the Ukrainian-Polish border, March 9, 2022.

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Poland’s prime minister has said its offer to make MiG-29 fighter planes available to Ukraine is now in the hands of NATO and the US.

Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy has appealed to the West to “decide quickly” and “send us planes”, after Washington poured cold water on the idea.

Renewed efforts to rescue civilians from increasingly dire conditions in besieged and bombarded Ukrainian cities were underway on Wednesday.

Follow our live updates below for the latest on the Ukraine war:

13:22Wednesday’s key points:

    Another ceasefire attempt is underway to allow civilians to escape from Mariupol, Sumy in the northeast, Enerhodar in the south, Volnovakha in the southeast, Izyum in the east, and several towns in the Kyiv region.Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki has said the decision on whether to make the MiG-29 planes available to Ukraine as it fights Russia’s invasion is now in the hands of NATO and Washington.The UN’s nuclear watchdog says it sees “no critical impact on safety” after a power loss was reported at the Chernobyl nuclear plant.More than one million children have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded on 24 February, according to the UN’s children’s agency.The EU has announced more sanctions against Moscow and Minsk, targeting Belarusian banks and blacklisting another 160 Russian oligarchs and MPs.For a summary of Tuesday’s developments click here.

13:21Does the EU have a ‘moral duty’ to let Ukraine join the bloc?15:39

Damage in central Kharkiv

15:32Axana Opalenko, 42, holds Meron, 2 months old, in an effort to warm him after fleeing from Ukraine, at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Wednesday, March 9, 202214:56

Mariupol buries dead in mass grave

City authorities in the besieged southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol are burying their dead in a mass grave.

With the city under steady bombardment, officials had been waiting for a chance to allow individual burials to resume. But with morgues overflowing, and many bodies uncollected at home, they decided they had to take action.

A deep trench some 25 metres long has been opened in one of the city’s old cemeteries in the heart of the city. Social workers brought 30 bodies wrapped in carpets or bags on Wednesday, and 40 were brought on Tuesday.

The dead include civilian victims of shelling on the city as well as some soldiers. No mourners were present, no families said their goodbyes.

Mariupol, which nearly half of the population of 430,000 is hoping to flee, has been surrounded by Russian forces for days. Bodies have been lying in the streets, and people have been breaking into stores in search of food and melt snow for water.

Thousands huddle in basements, sheltering from the Russian shells pounding this strategic port on the Azov Sea.

(AP)

14:51

UN nuclear watchdog plays down Chernobyl danger

The International Atomic Energy Agency says it sees “no critical impact on safety” from the power cut at the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine.

The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog said Wednesday that Ukraine had informed it of the loss of electricity and that the development violates a “key safety pillar on ensuring uninterrupted power supply.” But it tweeted that “in this case IAEA sees no critical impact on safety.”

The IAEA said that there could be “effective heat removal without need for electrical supply” from spent nuclear fuel at the site. (AP)

14:46

Civilian evacuations underway from Kyiv suburbs

There were few details by midday on Wednesday’s new effort to establish safe evacuation corridors for civilians in besieged Ukrainian cities.

It was not clear if anyone was able to leave the southern port of Mariupol, where previous attempts to take people to safety have largely failed due to attacks by Russian forces.

But some people did start streaming out of Kyiv’s suburbs, even as air raid sirens repeatedly went off in the capital and explosions could be heard there.

A corridor out of the northeastern city of Sumy was to reopen for 12 hours on Wednesday, using the buses that took people southwest to the city of Poltava the day before, regional administration chief Dmytro Zhyvytskyy said.

Priority was being given to pregnant women, women with children, the elderly and the disabled.

On Tuesday Ukrainian authorities said 5,000 civilians, including 1,700 foreign students, managed to escape from the embattled city of a quarter of a million people.

(with AP)

14:35

Over a million children have fled Ukraine since Russian invasion, UN says

Ten-year-old girl Annamaria Maslovska is one of them.

After bombs started falling in her hometown of Kharkiv, she left her friends, her toys, and her life in Ukraine and set off on a days-long journey with her mother toward safety.

Read more on her story:

Annamaria one of a million children to have fled Ukraine, says UN

14:19

Poland’s offer to supply Kyiv with fighter planes ‘up to NATO’, says Morawiecki

Poland is ready to make its Russian-made fighter jets available to Ukraine, via NATO, Poland’s prime minister said on Wednesday. But he added that it’s a “very serious decision” that should be taken by all NATO alliance members because it affects wider security.

Mateusz Morawiecki’s appeal came as Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskyy called on the West in a new video address to “decide as quickly as possible, send us planes!”

Morawiecki says the decision on whether to make the MiG-29 planes available to Ukraine as it fights Russia’s invasion is now in the hands of NATO and the US.

“Poland is not a side in this war (…) and NATO is not a side in this war,” Morawiecki said during a visit to Vienna. “Such a serious decision like handing over planes must be unanimous and unequivocally taken by by all of the North Atlantic Alliance.”

Morawiecki said talks on the subject are continuing.

Ukraine has been calling on the US and Western countries to provide fighter jets. Poland responded on Tuesday by offering to transfer its planes to a US military base in Germany, with the expectation that the planes would then be handed over to Ukrainian pilots.

The Pentagon reacted by saying it had not been aware of the plan which it finds “untenable”.

(AP, AFP)

13:40

More than 140,000 refugees flee Ukraine in a day

The High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) listed 2,155,271 refugees on its website around 12:00 CET, an increase of 143,959 people than on Tuesday.

The number of Ukrainians to flee the country passed two million the day before, just 12 days after the start of the invasion.

Filippo Grandi, the UNHCR high commissioner, said that it was the fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II.

“I have worked in refugee for almost 40 years, and I have rarely seen such an incredibly fast-rising exodus of people,” said UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi in a video posted to body’s social media account.

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