(NEW YORK) — Russian forces are continuing their attempted push through Ukraine from multiple directions, while Ukrainians, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, are putting up “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.
The attack began Feb. 24, when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation.” Heavy shelling and missile attacks, many on civilian buildings, continue in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, as well as major cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Mar 30, 7:39 am
Ukrainians attempt to save animals from abandoned zoo near Kyiv
Ukrainians are attempting to rescue exotic animals from an abandoned zoo near the capital.
Vitaly Mukhanov told ABC News that he had volunteered to help bring supplies to Ukrainian soldiers when he came across the Yasnohorodka family ecopark, about 30 miles outside Kyiv. The park appeared to have been damaged by shelling and the animals, including camels and ostriches, were left with no food. Some were injured, while others were dead.
Videos and images Mukhanov took of the scene and posted on Facebook on Monday quickly went viral and he said he was subsequently contacted by the zoo’s owner, who asked if he could help.
In one of the videos, Mukhanov comes across a wounded ostrich. The bird appeared to be taking its last breaths as he gently stroked its head.
“You can see from the images that the animals were in a very bad way,” Mukhanov told ABC News. “The town nearby was liberated from the Russians two days ago, so the owner is now returning to the zoo and they hope to evacuate the animals in the next couple of days.”
Mukhanov said he has since returned to western Ukraine to get more supplies, but he was told that veterinarians were due to visit the Yasnohorodka family ecopark on Tuesday to provide care to some of the animals.
Mar 30, 7:18 am
Explosion rings out near Russian city of Belgorod
A missile hit a temporary Russian military camp near the border with Ukraine late Tuesday, according Russian state-owned news agency TASS.
TASS, citing a source, reported that preliminary data shows the camp, just outside the Russian city of Belgorod, was fired on from the Ukrainian side. However, Ukraine has denied responsibility and instead blamed the incident on Russian error.
Belgorod Oblast Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a statement that blasts occurred in the village of Krasny Oktyabr, about 19 miles southwest of Belgorod. He did not cite a cause of the incident, saying he was awaiting a report from the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Video circulating online and verified by ABC News shows an explosion in Krasny Oktyabr on Tuesday night. The cause of the blast was unknown.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk alleged that “an unauthorized detonation of ammunition” took place at a warehouse of the Russian Armed Forces in Belgorod.
“This is an example of typical for Russians neglect of safety precautions and mass use of dangerous ammunition of the Second World War,” Vereschuk said at a press briefing Wednesday.
Belgorod is about 50 miles north of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, which Russian forces have shelled heavily in recent weeks.
Mar 30, 6:11 am
Russia bombards Chernihiv hours after claiming to curb assault
Air raid sirens sounded off across almost all of Ukraine overnight and into early Wednesday, hours after Russia said it would scale back its military operations around Kyiv and Chernihiv.
Russian forces bombarded the besieged northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv as well as Khmelnytsky Oblast in western Ukraine, while several missiles were shot down over the capital, Kyiv, according to Vadim Denisenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian interior minister. The damage and any casualties were still being assessed Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, the Luhansk Oblast has been under heavy shelling for days, Denisenko said.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine confirmed Wednesday that the Russian military continues to withdraw part of its troops from near Kyiv and Chernihiv, and are possibly “regrouping units to concentrate the main efforts in the eastern direction.” However, the General Staff said it believes the real goals of the so-called withdrawal are a rotation of individual units, misleading Ukraine’s military leadership and creating an erroneous idea about Russia’s refusal from the plan to encircle Kyiv.
Mar 30, 5:27 am
Over four million refugees have fled Ukraine: UNHCR
More than four million people have been forced to flee Ukraine since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24, according to the latest figures from the United Nations Refugee Agency.
The tally from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) amounts to just over 9% of Ukraine’s population — which the World Bank counted at 44 million at the end of 2020 — on the move across borders in 35 days.
More than half of the refugees crossed into neighboring Poland, UNHCR figures show.
Mar 30, 3:41 am
Russian authorities may ‘single out and detain’ Americans in Russia and Ukraine, US warns
The United States is warning that Russian authorities “may single out and detain U.S. citizens” in both Russia and Ukraine.
The warning came Tuesday as the U.S. Department of State issued new travel advisories for the two warring countries.
The State Department previously warned Americans in Russia that they could be targets for harassment by Russian authorities. But the latest advisory makes it explicit that U.S. citizens could be “singled out,” “including for detention.”
The State Department has also previously warned Americans against traveling to Ukraine to join the fight against Russian forces, pointing to statements from Russian authorities that anyone detained while fighting will not be considered a lawful combatant. That could mean mistreatment or worse, according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
“There are continued reports of U.S. citizens being singled out and detained by the Russian military in Ukraine and when evacuating by land through Russia-occupied territory or to Russia or Belarus,” the latest advisory for Ukraine states.
Both Russia and Ukraine have been on the State Department’s “Travel Advisory Level 4 – Do Not Travel” for months, as tensions ratcheted up and with little to no diplomatic presences on the ground.
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