WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department confirmed Thursday that an American citizen was killed in a Russian attack on the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv.
The department did not immediately confirm the identity of the American, who was at least the second U.S. citizen to be killed in the conflict, after the killing of journalist and filmmaker Brent Renaud last week.
Chernihiv police said on Facebook there was a heavy artillery attack on the city and a U.S. citizen was among the civilians killed.
In Chernihiv, a city north of Kyiv, at least 53 people had been brought to morgues over the past 24 hours, killed during heavy Russian air attacks and ground fire, the local governor, Viacheslav Chaus, told Ukrainian TV on Thursday.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Some survivors emerge from Mariupol theater hit by Russian airstrike; casualties unclear
— Twenty-one people were killed in a Russian attack on a school and community center in northeast Ukraine
— U.N. Security Council to meet ahead of vote on Russian humanitarian resolution
— Biden flatly calls Putin a war criminal, but investigations for determining that have only begun
— Cheap but lethal Turkish drones bolster Ukraine’s defenses
— Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for more coverage
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS TODAY:
WASHINGTON — U.S. refugee officers have been sent to Europe to help screen Ukrainian refugees who might want to come to the U.S. But American officials expect the vast majority will want to return to their homeland.
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas also said that Customs and Border Protection agents along the U.S.-Mexico border have been instructed to allow Ukrainians to enter the country to seek asylum even as most people are turned back under a public health order instituted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 3 million people have fled Ukraine following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. More than half have gone to Poland. Most of the rest are in the surrounding countries of Eastern Europe, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
Mayorkas told reporters Thursday that U.S. refugee officers have been sent to the region to work with the U.N. and determine whether some Ukrainians may seek to come to the U.S. through the refugee program. But he and other administration officials are not expecting many will want to come.
“The vast majority of Ukrainians are displaced in the countries in that region, with the hope, understandably, of being able to return to their country,” the secretary said.
KYIV, Ukraine — A girl in a Kyiv hospital bed appeared stunned and cried during a visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday.
The unidentified patient told of people offering their support on TikTok.
“We have occupied TikTok,” Zelenskyy quipped.
He presented the girl with a large bouquet of pink and white flowers as soldiers stood guard.
MARIUPOL, Ukraine — Row upon row of windowless shells of burned and shrapnel-scarred apartment buildings loomed in Mariupol as snow flurries fell Thursday.
One resident told of having nothing to eat and no way to contact her mother in Makiivka, a city 50 miles (80 kilometers) north, to tell her she was alive.
“We are trying to survive somehow,” said the resident, Elena, who didn’t provide her last name. “There is no connection, just nothing. It is cruel. My child is hungry. I don’t know what to give him to eat.”
Cars, some with the “Z” symbol of the Russian invasion force in their windows, drove past stacks of ammunition boxes and artillery shells. Others waited in long lines of traffic or got around on foot, pushing carts and baby carriages.
A land mine could be seen on the ground. Smoke rose from the city’s skyline.
HERE ARE TODAY’S KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Ukraine’s president cites Sept. 11, urges U.S. Congress to help his country
— U.S. President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal”
— The Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has descended into despair
— U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to discuss a possible transfer of Soviet-era S-300 air defense systems to Ukraine
Go to https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine for updates throughout the day.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
MARIUPOL, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say Russian forces destroyed a theater in the city of Mariupol where hundreds of people were sheltering.
There was no immediate word on deaths or injuries in what the Mariupol city council said was an airstrike on the theater Wednesday.
The Maxar satellite imagery firm said images from Monday showed the word “children” had been written in large white letters in Russian in front of and behind the building.
Nowhere has suffered more than the encircled city of Mariupol, where local officials say missile strikes and shelling have killed more than 2,300 people. The southern seaport of 430,000 has been under attack for almost all of the three-week war in a siege that has left people struggling for food, water, heat and medicine.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to discuss a possible transfer of Soviet-era S-300 air defense systems to Ukraine this week when he visits Bulgaria and Slovakia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy mentioned the S-300s by name when he spoke to U.S. lawmakers by video Wednesday, appealing for anti-air systems that would allow Ukraine to “close the skies” to Russian warplanes and missiles.
NATO members Bulgaria, Slovakia and Greece have the S-300s, which are able to fly hundreds of miles and knock out cruise missiles as well as warplanes.
Any such transfer could be a three-country swap, with the U.S. or other NATO country providing Patriots or other air defense systems to make up for any S-300s passed on to Ukraine.
Slovakia has no objections to providing its S-300s to Ukraine, Slovak Defense Ministry spokesperson Martina Koval Kakascikova told The Associated Press. “But we can’t get rid of a system that protects our airspace if we don’t have any replacement.”
The anti-air defense systems could be valuable in thwarting Russian air attacks. Ukraine already has a few S-300s, but wants more.
U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the U.S. would help provide long-range air defense systems to Ukraine, but gave no details. U.S. officials had no comment on any S-300 swap.
BERLIN — A group representing dozens of European electricity grid operators says Ukraine and Moldova have been successfully synchronized with the transmission systems of continental Europe, allowing them to decouple from Russia.
Belgium-based ENTSO-E said Wednesday that the grids of Ukraine and Moldova were linked to the Continental European Power System on a trial basis following an emergency request by those countries last month.
ENTSO-E, whose 39 members operate the world’s largest interconnected electrical grid, said the move means it will be able to support the countries in maintaining the stability of the Ukrainian and Moldovan power systems.
The two countries were previously part of the Integrated Power System that also includes Russia and Belarus. This made Ukraine technically dependent on Russia’s grid operator despite there having been no electricity trade between the two countries even before the Russian military assault last month.
Experts say the switch will allow energy suppliers in continental Europe to supply electricity to the Ukrainian market.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Wednesday called Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal as the atrocities in Ukraine mount and the president there begged the U.S. Congress for more help.
“He’s a war criminal,” the president said of Putin as he left an unrelated event. It’s the sharpest condemnation yet of Putin and Russian actions by a U.S. official since the invasion of Ukraine.
While other world leaders have used the words, the White House had been hesitant to declare Putin’s actions those of a war criminal, saying it was a legal term that required research.
But in a speech Wednesday, Biden said Russian troops had bombed hospitals and held doctors hostage. He pledged more aid to help Ukraine fight Russia.
KYIV, Ukraine — Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko says Russian shelling damaged several residences in the city’s Podil neighborhood, just north of the city center and about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) from the so-called “government quarter” that holds the presidential palace, president’s office and other significant offices.
Officials did not immediately release additional details about the attack, including whether there were any casualties.
Kyiv residents have been huddled in homes and shelters amid a citywide curfew that runs until Thursday morning, as Russia shelled areas in and around the city. Earlier, a 12-story apartment building in central Kyiv erupted in flames after being hit by shrapnel.
KYIV, Ukraine — The mayor of the southeastern Ukrainian city of Melitopol has been freed after he was seized by Russian forces five days ago, a Ukrainian official said Wednesday.
Andriy Yermak, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, announced the news but did not share details about how Ivan Fedorov became free.
Surveillance video last week showed Fedorov being marched out of city hall apparently surrounded by Russian soldiers.
Prior to the start of the invasion, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration had warned of Russian plans to detain and kill targeted people in Ukraine, with Zelenskyy himself likely top target.
SIRET, Romania — Refugees fleeing the Russian invasion continued to arrive at the Romanian border town of Siret on Wednesday.
A nearby sports hall has been turned into a shelter for families that includes numerous children.
Mihaita Musteata, a social worker and volunteer at the center, said many of those arriving have been twice displaced.
“We’ve had some people who’ve lost their home a second time,” Musteata said. “They first lost their home in Donbas, then moved to Kyiv, and now they lost that home too.”
Musteata said most of the refugees are headed elsewhere, but more Ukrainians have decided to remain in Romania and plan to return to Ukraine “if the war ever stops.”
Alexandra Stoleriu, a 19-year-old volunteer, said the children at the shelter do not fully understand what has happened to their country.
“I think they are better here,” Stoleriu said. “We are trying to calm them, to play with them, to give them food or anything, if they want something. We are here to support them.”