European ambassadors met in Brussels today to debate the European Commission’s proposal on new sanctions against Russia as Russian forces stepped up attacks in Ukraine.
According to an EU source, there is an agreement to adopt this package very quickly, but there are many technical questions, which the source says is “normal as it is a very compact package”.
Meanwhile, the US also announced a new set of sanctions, including targeting the adult daughters of Russian President Vladimir Putin and major Russian financial institutions.
On the ground in Ukraine, the number of civilian casualties continues to rise.
If you’re just reading up now, here’s what you need to know today:
civilian casualties: At least 1,563 civilians have been killed since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The UN agency has so far registered 3,776 civilian casualties in Ukraine, 1,563 killed and 2,213 injured, it said in its latest update posted Wednesday.
At least 89 people, including four children, have been killed in Kiev and 167 houses damaged since the start of the Russian invasion, the Kiev city government wrote in a statement on a verified Telegram page on Wednesday. Another 398 people, including 20 children, were injured in the war.
Since February 24, Russian troops have damaged 44 schools in Kiev, 11 administrative buildings, 26 kindergartens and an orphanage.
The government urged its residents not to lose vigilance and take shelter at the first signs of air raid sirens.
To the ground: The city of Severodonetsk has been heavily shelled, the head of the military administration of the Luhansk region said on Wednesday, adding that 10 high-rise buildings in the city were on fire.
“The Russians have fired at Severodonetsk – ten high-rise buildings are on fire,” regional governor Serhii Haidai said on Telegram. “Information about victims is being clarified.”
While the shelling did not hit any strategic or military facilities, it did hit a factory workshop in Lysychansk and a house in Rubizhne, Haidai said.
Russian forces had hit towns and villages in the Luhansk region a total of 81 times last night, Haidai added.
The US assesses that Russian forces have completely withdrawn from areas near Kiev and Chernihiv to “reconsolidate and recover in Belarus and Russia,” a senior US defense official said.
The official also said Russia has still not “secured” Mariupol, despite isolating the city.
Russia has now fired more than 1,450 missiles at Ukraine since the invasion, the official said.
NATO head predicts conflict in Ukraine could continue “long”: Although Russia is now focusing its attack on eastern Ukraine, NATO has seen “no indication” that Putin’s aim to control the entire country has changed, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters before a meeting in Brussels of foreign ministers from NATO allies, Stoltenberg also warned that the war in Ukraine could last for years.
“We have not seen any indication that President Putin has changed his ambition to control all of Ukraine and also to rewrite the international order, so we have to be prepared for the long term,” he said. “We have to be realistic and realize that this could go on for a long time, for many months or even years.”
NATO foreign ministers will meet on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss increased aid to Ukraine.
sanctions: The US takes additional steps to increase economic pressure on Russia and Putin following horrific footage from the Ukrainian city of Bucha, announcing new sanctions on Wednesday against Russian financial institutions, as well as some people, including Putin’s adult daughters and the wife and daughter of his Secretary of State.
“Today, we are dramatically escalating the financial shock by imposing full lockdown sanctions on Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, and its largest private bank, Alfa Bank,” a senior government official said.
Sberbank owns nearly a third of the total assets of the Russian banking sector, the official noted, adding that the US has now completely blocked “more than two-thirds of the Russian banking sector”.
Second, the senior official announced: “In agreement with the G7 and the EU, we are announcing a ban on new investments in Russia.” That will be carried out with an executive order signed by US President Joe Biden.
The United States will not participate in G20 meetings in which Russia participates, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Wednesday.
Speaking to the House Financial Services Committee, Yellen said she had made that position clear to other finance ministers in the group.