The latest on Russia and Ukraine from Canada and around the world Friday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
7:50 a.m. They’re preparing to replace the paper menus with electronic ones at Gastroli, a chic wine bar in central St. Petersburg.
Printing prices for food and drink is impractical when the costs of running a restaurant in Russia creep up every day.
The economic sanctions and export controls, the airspace closures making it impossible to plan shipments and deliveries, the steep drop in the value of the Russian currency.
7:30 a.m. Canadian financial institutions had hundreds of millions of dollars invested in Russian companies that were hit by the federal government’s sanctions in response to the invasion of Ukraine last week.
A Star analysis of most recent publicly declared financial data found that Canadian banks and investment firms held almost $200 million in stock in seven sanctioned Russian companies, including Gazprom, Sberbank and VTB Bank.
This value, however, has dropped by more than half in the last month, as both the Russian stock market tanked and the ruble tumbled in value.
7:15 a.m. Russia President Vladimir Putin has displayed “irrationality” in his invasion of Ukraine, prompting NATO countries to reject Ukraine’s calls for a “no-fly” zone so as not to escalate the conflict into a direct war with Russia, says Canada’s top diplomat.
Speaking to the Toronto Star’s editorial board after travelling from Poland to Brussels ahead of meetings Friday with NATO foreign ministers, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said NATO leaders are determined to reinforce the alliance’s eastern flank.
“There are still lots of things on the table” to respond to Russia’s aggression and to exert “maximum” pressure on Putin, she said.
6:30 a.m.: The Ukrainian state nuclear company said three Ukrainian troops were killed and two wounded in the Russian attack.
6:29 a.m.: UNICEF says that about 500,000 children have been forced to flee their homes in Ukraine over the past week due to Russia’s invasion, calling the exodus “unprecedented in scale and speed.”
“If the violence (doesn’t) stop, many, many more children will be forced to flee their country in a very short space of time,” James Elder, a spokesman for the United Nations Children’s Fund, said Friday. “And we fear many more will be killed.”
He said UNICEF is sending large amounts of humanitarian supplies to Ukraine to help those in need and also providing emergency training to pediatricians who are being sent to the region.
“They’re preparing for a mass casualty of children,” he said, adding that the training included a triage system for treating children.
6:28 a.m.: Poland’s pharmaceutical authorities say customers are asking whether they should take iodine to protect against radiation, after a nuclear plant in neighbouring Ukraine was targeted by invading Russian troops.
Tomasz Leleno, spokesman for Poland’s Main Pharmaceutical Chamber, said Friday that pharmacists and doctors are advising against that, because iodine may cause more harm than good if used without consulting a doctor.
The United Nations atomic watchdog said there has been no release of radiation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after a building on the site was hit by Russian shelling.
But the development has alarmed Poles. Sale of iodine solution had already surged last week, after Russian troops took control of Ukraine’s idled Chernobyl nuclear plant, where there was an accidental meltdown in 1986.
After Chernobyl, many people in Poland, especially the young, took iodine, as some experts claimed it could shield against radiation.
6:27 a.m.: The U.N.’s top human rights body has voted overwhelmingly to appoint a three-person panel of experts to monitor human rights in Ukraine, where Russian forces are invading.
The Human Rights Council voted 32-2, with 13 abstentions, to pass a resolution that was presented by many Western countries and others who have spoken out against Moscow’s attack on its neighbour.
Only Russia and Eritrea opposed the resolution, with China abstaining.
The vote Friday was the culmination of an urgent debate called by Ukraine, during which most council members lambasted Russia.
Many Western envoys sported blue or yellow ties, scarves, jackets or ribbons on their lapels, in a reference to the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Far-flung countries such as Gambia and Malaysia spoke out against the invasion.
The result testified to growing international isolation of Russia: On Monday, five countries — including China — had voted against Ukraine’s effort to convene the urgent debate.
Ukraine’s ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko, her eyes red with emotion, told delegates after the vote: “I thank all those who voted for the right course.”
6:25 a.m.: Earlier, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned attacks on a major nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
Trudeau said late Thursday that he had spoken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about “the horrific attacks at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.”
“These unacceptable attacks by Russia must cease immediately,” Trudeau said on Twitter.
U.S. President Joe Biden also spoke with Zelenskyy late Thursday about the shelling of the plant in the eastern Ukraine city of Enerhodar.
Earlier, the White House said Biden joined Zelenskyy in urging Russia to “cease its military activities in the area and allow firefighters and emergency responders to access the site.”
6:21 a.m.: The head of the United Nations’ atomic agency a Ukrainian nuclear plant was hit by a Russian “projectile” but that the building that was hit was not part of the reactor.
Earlier reports conflicted over what part of the plant was affected by a fire. Nuclear plant spokesman Andriy Tuz told Ukrainian television overnight that shells fell directly on the facility, and set fire to reactor that is not operating and to an administrative training building.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said Friday that the building hit was “not part of the reactor.”
He said that the Ukrainians are still in control of the reactor.
He added: “What we understand that this projectile is coming from the Russian forces. We do not have details of what kind of projectile it is.”
He said there has been no release of radiation and that the fire had been extinguished. He said two people on the site were injured in the fire.
He said that only one reactor is operating at about 60%.
The head of the United Nations’ atomic watchdog says there has been no release of radiation at the Ukrainian nuclear plant that was targeted.
International Atomic Energy Agency director-general said that the agency has been in contact with the Ukrainian nuclear regulator and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after a building on the site was hit.
That caused a fire that was extinguished. Rafael Mariano Grossi said two people on the site were injured in the fire.
He said that the operator and the regulator say the situation “continues to be extremely tense and challenging.”
6:19 a.m.: Europe’s largest nuclear power plant was hit by Russian shelling early Friday, sparking a fire at one of its six reactors and raising fears of a disaster that could affect all of Central Europe for decades, like the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown.
Concerns faded after Ukrainian authorities announced that the fire had been extinguished, and while there was damage to the reactor compartment, the safety of the unit was not affected.
But even though the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is of a different design than Chernobyl and is protected from fire, nuclear safety experts and the International Atomic Energy Agency warn that waging war in and around such facilities presents extreme risks.
One major concern, raised by Ukraine’s state nuclear regulator, is that if fighting interrupts power supply to the nuclear plant, it would be forced to use less-reliable diesel generators to provide emergency power to operating cooling systems. A failure of those systems could lead to a disaster similar to that of Japan’s Fukushima plant, when a massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed cooling systems, triggering meltdowns in three reactors.
The consequence of that, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, would be widespread and dire.
“If there is an explosion, that’s the end for everyone. The end for Europe. The evacuation of Europe,” he said in an emotional speech in the middle of the night, calling on nations to pressure Russia’s leadership to end the fighting near the plant.
“Only urgent action by Europe can stop the Russian troops. Do not allow the death of Europe from a catastrophe at a nuclear power station.”
6:19 a.m.: As the West condemns Russian President Vladimir Putin has vocal supporters in China, where the ruling Communist Party tells its people they are fellow targets of U.S.-led harassment.
“If Russia is destroyed, we will be next. This is for sure,” said Wang Yongchun, a retiree in Beijing. “The United States wants to dominate the world.”
Such comments reflect the stance of a ruling party that is the closest thing Putin has to a major ally: The war should stop but the United States is to blame.
President Xi Jinping’s government has tried to distance itself from Russia’s offensive but avoided criticizing Moscow. The government has offered to act as mediator and denounced trade and financial sanctions against Russia.
Ruling party control of all Chinese media and intensive internet censorship make it hard to gauge public opinion. But what the party allows online and requires media to publish make clear what it wants the public to think.
6:17 a.m.: A fire at Europe’s biggest nuclear plant ignited by Russian shelling has been extinguished, Ukrainian authorities said Friday, and Russian forces have taken control of the site.
There was damage to the compartment of reactor No. 1 at the Zaporizhzhia plant in the city of Enerhodar, but it does not affect the safety of the power unit, the regional military administration said in a statement. It added that operational personnel are ensuring its safety. No information was immediately available about casualties. Ukrainian officials said that radiation levels in the area weren’t at dangerous levels.
The shelling of the plant came as the Russian military pressed their attack on a crucial energy-producing Ukrainian city and gained ground in their bid to cut off the country from the sea. As the invasion entered its second week, another round of talks between Russia and Ukraine yielded a tentative agreement to set up safe corridors to evacuate citizens and deliver humanitarian aid.
6:17 a.m.: The already-challenging path to bringing home Americans jailed in Russia and Ukraine is likely even more complicated now with a war overwhelming the region and increasingly hostile relations between the United States and the Kremlin.
Marine veteran Trevor Reed and corporate security executive Paul Whelan are each serving lengthy prison sentences in Russia, but their families have long held out hope for some sort of deal — including a possible prisoner exchange — that could get their loved ones home.
Now, though, that seems a much harder ask.
“I can’t help but think that this is not going to help Trevor get released sooner, obviously,” Reed’s mother, Paula Reed, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
6:16 a.m.: A fire broke out early Friday at a complex in southern Ukraine housing Europe’s largest nuclear power plant after Russian troops fired on the area, the Ukrainian government said.
Security camera footage verified by The New York Times showed a building ablaze inside the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex near a line of military vehicles. The videos appeared to show people in the vehicles firing at buildings in the power plant. Ukraine’s state emergency service later said the blaze went out after 6 a.m.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine accused the Russian military of deliberately attacking the complex and said an explosion there would have been “the end for everybody, the end of Europe.”
Friday 6:14 a.m.: Russian forces shelled Europe’s largest nuclear plant early Friday, sparking a fire as they pressed their attack on a crucial energy-producing Ukrainian city and gained ground in their bid to cut off the country from the sea.
Leading nuclear authorities were concerned — but not panicked — about the damage to the power station. The assault triggered phone calls between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and U.S. President Joe Biden and other world leaders. The U.S. Department of Energy activated its nuclear incident response team as a precaution.
The attack on the eastern city of Enerhodar and its Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant unfolded as the invasion entered its second week and another round of talks between the two sides yielded a tentative agreement to set up safe corridors to evacuate citizens and deliver humanitarian aid.
Nuclear plant spokesman Andriy Tuz told Ukrainian television that shells were falling directly on the facility and had set fire to one of its six reactors. That reactor is under renovation and not operating, but there is nuclear fuel inside, he said.
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