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What is happening in Ukraine and why?

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Latest news updates

Ukraine update, Tuesday 12 April

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russian troops of setting booby traps in people’s cars and houses before they left Ukraine’s northern regions.

Talking about Russia’s “shameful invasion”, Mr Zelensky claimed that Ukrainian forces are removing “several thousand” traps every day.

“They consciously did everything to make the return to these areas… as dangerous as possible,” he said. “And I believe this should also be considered as a war crime of Russian troops. They deliberately did everything to kill or maim [cripple] as many of our people as possible, even when they were forced to withdraw from our land. Without the appropriate orders, they would not have done it.”

Although Russian forces have left the north of the country, they are headed for the eastern Donbas region, where fighting is expected to get more intense over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, Mr Zelensky’s wife, Olena Zelenska (pictured), has been talking about how their children haven’t seen their father since the war started nearly 50 days ago, and how she wanted the world to be kind to Ukrainian refugees.

“Ukrainians did not want to leave their homes,” she said. “They didn’t plan on being refugees, so treat them as one of your own. The main thing these mothers and children dream of is to return home, to reunite their families. So help them adapt, please – home, work, school for children – until they can return.”

Picture credit: President of Ukraine

Ukraine update, Monday 11 April

More than 50 people were killed in the Russian rocket attack on Ukraine’s Kramatorsk train station on Friday (pictured), officials have said. The number could still be higher, as rescuers are still searching the rubble.

“I can’t imagine what kind of person takes the decision to launch a missile into a place where civilians are gathering,” a surgeon at the local hospital told the BBC. “It just cannot be explained.”

The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said this morning that Russia’s continued use of unguided bombs is “greatly increasing the risk of further civilian casualties”.

The effects of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine are going to be felt for many years. More than 4.5m people have now fled Ukraine to escape the war, and experts at the World Bank say that Ukraine’s economy is expected to shrink by more than 45% this year.

“Ukraine needs massive financial support immediately as it struggles to keep its economy going and the government running to support Ukrainian citizens who are suffering and coping with an extreme situation,” said the World Bank’s Anna Bjerde.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of lying constantly about everything it was doing in Ukraine, and refusing to admit it had done anything wrong. “When people lack the courage to admit their mistakes, apologise, adapt to reality, learn, they turn into monsters,” he said. “And when the world ignores it, the monsters decide that it is the world that has to adapt to them.”

“Nothing will help Russian cowardice,” he added. “The day will come when they will have to admit everything. Admit the truth.”

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Friday 8 April

At least 30 people are reported to have been killed this morning, after two Russian rockets hit Kramatorsk train station in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine. Thousands of people have gathered there in recent days, waiting for trains to take them away from the fighting (pictured).

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that his forces will concentrate on the eastern Donbas region, so that’s where most of the fighting is going to be in the next phase of the war. The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said this morning that all Russian forces in the north of Ukraine have now left the country and gone back to Russia and Belarus. The MoD says it’ll be at least a week before those troops can get to Donbas.

Although Russia has been trying to cover up its lack of progress in Ukraine, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov admitted yesterday that the country has suffered “significant losses” and that it has been a “huge tragedy” for Russia.

At the United Nations (UN), 93 countries voted to kick Russia off the Human Rights Council. Given the constant reports of Russia’s horrific actions in Ukraine, many might be surprised to see that 24 countries (including China, North Korea and Iran) voted for Russia to stay on the council.

The vote was “an important and historic moment”, said US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. “Today, the international community took one collective step in the right direction. We ensured a persistent and egregious [shockingly bad] human rights violator will not be allowed to occupy a position of leadership on human rights at the UN.”

“The Russian state and the Russian military are the greatest threat on the planet to freedom, to human security, to the concept [idea] of human rights,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message to his people.

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Thursday 7 April

This morning, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (pictured) is meeting with members of the NATO group of countries (which includes the UK and US) to ask for more crucial military supplies. “I came here today to discuss three most important things: weapons, weapons, and weapons,” he tweeted.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his illegal invasion of Ukraine, Western countries are increasing efforts in their economic war against Russia.

More sanctions (restrictions) have been placed on Russia and its banking system, which will seriously harm the country’s economy. The US said yesterday that the last 15 years of economic progress in Russia would be wiped out this year and that the country “will very likely lose its status as a major economy”.

Members of the European Union (EU) have also proposed seizing Russian money held in EU banks, then using it to help pay to rebuild Ukraine’s towns and cities when the war is over.

However, since the war started, Russia has been paid billions of pounds by many EU countries for supplying them with gas and oil. It’s not very easy for countries to suddenly switch suppliers of things like gas, but many in Ukraine think that the EU isn’t trying hard enough, because countries don’t want to risk running out of fuel and damaging their own economies.

“Some politicians are still unable to decide how to limit the flow of dollars and euros to Russia from the oil trade,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “But that’s why people go into politics: to solve such problems, difficult tasks. If you are not capable, then you shouldn’t have started political activity.”

Maksym Kozytsky, the governor of Lviv, said: “In my opinion, from the West there is a policy of double standards and cowardice… And cowardice leads to tragedies.”

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Wednesday 6 April

Satellite images have provided more evidence that Russian troops slaughtered innocent civilians in the town of Bucha. The mass killings in Bucha and other towns have shocked the world, but Russian officials have denied responsibility for the killings, saying that the claims are “fake news” and that Ukraine placed the bodies in the streets after Russian forces had left the area.

However, satellite images taken before Russian troops moved on show that there are bodies in the street, in the same position as they were seen in days later.

There have also been further reports of Russian soldiers looting houses and shops. Video footage has shown Russian soldiers over the border at a post office in Belarus packaging up e-scooters and even large goods such as washing machines, so they can be sent back to Russia.

“The Russian militaries are openly looting the cities and villages they have captured,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech to the United Nations (UN) Security Council (pictured). “This is looting of the highest scale. They steal everything from food to gold earrings they just rip out with blood.”

The Security Council is the part of the UN that has “responsibility for maintaining international peace and security”. It has been criticised by many people for many reasons over the years, but one of the main ones is that it has five permanent members who all have the power of ‘veto’ over any proposal. That means if just one member says no to something, it won’t happen – and Russia is one of the five permanent members (alongside the UK, US, France and China).

So even though Russia is meant to help maintain peace, it has started an illegal war, killed thousands of civilians and destroyed large parts of Ukraine’s towns and cities. Mr Zelensky asked the Security Council to change how it operates so that Russia can’t veto any criticism of its actions, but none of the permanent members have been removed before, and most law experts say it would be almost impossible to do so.

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Tuesday 5 April

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has visited Bucha, the town where hundreds of civilian bodies have been found. Wearing body armour and surrounded by soldiers, Mr Zelensky (pictured) warned that even worse scenes may be discovered in other areas that were taken over by Russian troops.

He said in areas that Russian forces still control, the invaders will now be trying to “hide the traces of their crimes”.

Later today, he is scheduled to address the United Nations.

In response to the killing of civilians by Russia, many countries have decided to expel Russian diplomats (officials who represent Russian interests abroad). Both the EU and the US have also stated that new sanctions (restrictions) on Russia’s economy will soon be put in place.

Russia has claimed that the killings in Bucha are “fake”. It says that Ukraine is lying about what has happened to make Russia look bad.

Ukraine says that it is now preparing for a new round of attacks from Russia’s forces in the east and south. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has said that this phase of the invasion could go on for months.

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Monday 4 April

After Russian troops were forced to pull back from certain towns and villages around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, the bodies of hundreds of civilians have been found in the town of Bucha and elsewhere. Ukraine has accused Russian forces of booby-trapping the bodies to try to kill more people. The United Nations has called for an independent investigation into the deaths.

Our picture shows Ukrainian troops inspecting the main street in Bucha, which is littered with destroyed Russian tanks.

“I want every mother of every Russian soldier to see the bodies of the killed people in Bucha, in Irpin, in Hostomel,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “What did they do? Why were they killed? What did the man who was riding his bicycle down the street do? Why were ordinary civilians in an ordinary peaceful city tortured to death?”

Mr Zelensky said that the Russian soldiers blamed for the deaths have “no soul, no heart. They killed deliberately and with pleasure.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Russia’s despicable attacks against innocent civilians in Irpin and Bucha are yet more evidence that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and his army are committing war crimes in Ukraine.”

“Putin is desperate, his invasion is failing,” Mr Johnson added.

Meanwhile, fighting is still going on in Mariupol, the port city that has already been almost completely destroyed by Russian attacks. It’s seen as a key target for Vladimir Putin’s Russian forces, but Ukrainian soldiers are still resisting the attacks and remain in control of the centre of the city.

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Friday 1 April

President Vladimir Putin’s Russian forces are still targeting Kyiv and Chernihiv with missiles, days after Russian officials said they would reduce their attacks on both cities. However, Ukrainian troops have retaken two villages to the south of Chernihiv. They’re both along one of the main supply routes to Kyiv, which will make it easier for Ukrainian forces to transport weapons and aid.

The BBC’s Jeremy Bowen is in one of the areas outside Kyiv where Russian forces have been pushed back, and has found disturbing evidence that suggests Russian soldiers killed more than ten civilians on one stretch of road only 200 yards (183m) long. One of the killings was spotted by a Ukrainian drone in early March and caused outrage around the world, as it appeared to show a man with his hands up being shot and killed. He was later identified as Maksim Iowenko. His wife Ksjena was still in their car and was also killed.

Our picture shows Ukrainian soldiers on patrol in a village outside Kyiv, next to a huge crater caused by two missiles.

Yesterday, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace hosted a conference of 35 countries to discuss how they could help Ukraine with its most urgent needs. As well as aid, the countries want to send better air defence systems, armoured vehicles and heavy weapons.

“Today’s donor conference demonstrates the international community’s determination to support Ukraine in the face of President Putin’s illegal and unprovoked invasion by Russian forces,” said Mr Wallace.

Last night, as the 36th day of the war came to an end, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted another of his regular video updates. “The passage of time is somehow not even noticed,” he said. “Every day and every night has become virtually the same for us. All this March and five days of February, the invaders have been trying to break in and gain a foothold in our house from different directions – from land, from the sky, from the sea. There is so much evil in them, so much thirst for destruction that it reminds not of people, but of something otherworldly; some monsters that burn and loot, attack and try to kill.”

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Thursday 31 March

Despite Russia saying that it would reduce its attacks on Chernihiv, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said this morning that “significant Russian shelling and missile strikes” on the city have continued.

A military expert claimed yesterday that Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t being told the truth about how his war isn’t going to plan. The remarks came in a speech by Sir Jeremy Fleming, the director of GCHQ, a UK Government intelligence agency. Sir Jeremy said that Putin had “massively misjudged” the strength of his armed forces, and also “misjudged the resistance of the Ukrainian people”. Ukraine’s citizens are all pitching in to defend their country however they can – including the woman pictured, who has been helping to sew bulletproof vests in what used to be a garden furniture workshop before the war.

Sir Jeremy added that Putin’s plan is “failing” but his advisers aren’t being honest about the lack of success in capturing Ukraine’s key cities because they’re “afraid to tell him the truth”.

The GCHQ boss also said British spies have learned that Russian soldiers are refusing to obey orders and even deliberately destroying their own gear. He also said that they have even accidentally shot down some of their own aircraft.

Today, the Red Cross has got the Russian military to agree to create a safe “corridor” for a delivery of aid to the city of Mariupol, which has been almost completely destroyed by Russian attacks. A convoy of 45 buses is taking aid and hoping to rescue people on the way out, but it’s thought that there are around 170,000 people trapped in the city, so the buses will only be able to take a tiny fraction of the population.

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Wednesday 30 March

This morning’s updated figures from the United Nations (UN) show that the number of Ukrainians fleeing their country has passed four million. More than 2.3m of those people are in Poland, which is nearly four times as many as have been taken in by any other country.

There are some small glimmers of hope that an agreement can be reached in the latest peace talks, which began yesterday. Russia said that it would “reduce” its attacks on Kyiv and Chernihiv, although many experts think this is simply because Russian President Vladimir Putin has realised that his invasion is failing because his forces are too spread out and suffering heavy losses. Russian troops are now more concentrated in eastern parts of Ukraine, so it’s also possible that the fighting will get worse in those regions.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, didn’t seem convinced by the Russian promises. “The enemy is still in our territory. The shelling of our cities continues,” he said last night. “Mariupol is blocked. Missile and air strikes do not stop. This is the reality. These are the facts.”

He added that although there were positive signals from the peace talks, “these signals do not silence the explosion of Russian shells.”

At least one of those shells hit the school in Mariupol that you can see in our picture. The UN said yesterday that an incredible 40% of the buildings in Mariupol have been “completely destroyed”.

Dame Barbara Woodward, the UK’s representative at the UN, made a statement at a UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine yesterday. “Almost every UN Member State is now suffering because of Russia’s war,” she said, adding that many places are now at risk of famine, due to the war causing increases in food and fuel prices around the world. “Russia’s appetite for war is taking food off the world’s table. For the suffering to end, Russian bullets and bombs must stop, and Russian tanks and troops must go home”.

Picture credit: Getty

 

Ukraine update, Tuesday 29 March

Many of today’s front pages are filled with the extraordinary story of an alleged poisoning at peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine earlier this month. Three people suffered symptoms including sore eyes and peeling skin. Two of those were on the Ukrainian side, including an MP, while the third was Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who has close connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The investigative organisation Bellingcat says that it spoke to a doctor and two chemical weapons experts, who said that the symptoms were the same as someone would get if they’d been poisoned by chemical weapons. Experts have suggested that the low dose wasn’t meant to kill, just to send a warning. Russia has been known to kill opponents by poisoning, although no-one has owned up to the alleged attack yet.

Last night, President Volodymyr Zelensky sent another of his regular video messages to his fellow Ukrainians, with news of some success against the Russian invasion.

“Wise people of a strong country! Today we have good news,” he said. “Our defenders are advancing in the Kyiv region, regaining control over Ukrainian territory… However, it is too early to talk about security in this part of our region. The fighting continues… This is a ruthless war against our nation, against our people, against our children.”

He also said that at least 143 children are known to have died due to Putin’s assault on Ukraine. Unfortunately, the real number is likely to be much higher, as many victims have been trapped beneath rubble when houses and flats have collapsed after being bombed. Many more have been injured, including 13-year-old Milena (pictured), who was hit by a bullet while trying to leave the city of Mariupol. You can see that the window has been covered by sandbags to protect patients and staff from flying glass in case the hospital is bombed.

There have been many reports of Russian soldiers abandoning their vehicles and giving up on the war, and now officials in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, have reported that one Russian soldier surrendered and gave up his tank in exchange for £7,500 and the chance to become a Ukrainian citizen. The Ukrainian government has previously offered hundreds of thousands of pounds for Russian pilots to give up their planes.

Picture credit: Getty

 

Ukraine update, Monday 28 March

Ukraine and Russia are set to hold yet more peace talks tomorrow and Wednesday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that he is willing to commit to Ukraine being neutral in the future, rather than joining the NATO group of countries. One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main excuses for starting the war is that he doesn’t want Ukraine to become a NATO member.

However, the Ukrainian president is not prepared to stop fighting to protect his country from the illegal invasion. “Ukraine is united in its desire to live freely, to live independently and for the sake of its own dreams, not other people’s sick fantasies,” he said at the weekend.

He also gave an interview to several Russian journalists, but the Russian authorities tried to make sure that people in Russia couldn’t find out what he said. The Russian government is “afraid of a relatively short conversation with several journalists,” Mr Zelensky said. “Well, if there is such a reaction, then we are doing everything right, then they are nervous. Apparently, they have seen that their citizens have more and more questions about the state of affairs in their country.”

The government-controlled media in Russia is still insisting on calling the illegal war a “special military operation” and claiming that attacks are not targeting civilians, even though the whole world can see that many hospitals, schools, houses and blocks of flats are being destroyed by Russian forces. Our picture shows a woman in Mykolaiv inspecting the wreckage of her home, which was destroyed by Russian shelling.

Picture credit: Getty

 

 

Ukraine update, Friday 25 March

Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has forced more than half of Ukraine’s children to leave their homes, UNICEF said yesterday. Around 1.8 million children have fled the country, while another 2.5 million are seeking shelter in other parts of Ukraine.

“This is a grim milestone that could have lasting consequences for generations to come,” said UNICEF’s Catherine Russell. “Children’s safety, wellbeing and access to essential services are all under threat from non-stop horrific violence.”

However, there are signs that Ukrainian forces are starting to strike back at valuable Russian targets, including destroying a ship that was landing tanks, soldiers and weapons in the port of Berdiansk. Russian forces have been halted in most places, and even pushed back in some areas, especially around the capital, Kyiv. Military experts say this means that Russia will have to focus more resources on defending its supply lines, which will leave fewer soldiers to attack Ukrainian territory. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday that Russia’s invasion has “already failed”.

This morning, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sent a video message (pictured) to his people to mark the 30th day of the war. “It’s been a month!” he said. “If Russia had known it would face that, I’m sure they would have definitely been afraid to come here.”

And all of us here at First News want to say a massive thank you to all of our readers and schools who have done such amazing work to raise money for our Ukraine Schools Appeal. You’ve already raised more than £51,000 and donations are still coming in! All of the money is going to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, and the details are at the top of the page if you or your school want to get involved.

Picture credit: Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukraine update, Thursday 24 March

This morning, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK was sending another 6,000 defensive missiles to Ukraine, plus another £25m for Ukraine’s military. The missiles include anti-tank weapons, which have been very successful so far in helping to hold back Russian forces.

“We cannot and will not stand by while Russia grinds Ukraine’s towns and cities into dust,” the prime minister said. “The United Kingdom will work with our allies to step up military and economic support to Ukraine, strengthening their defences as they turn the tide in this fight. One month into this crisis, the international community faces a choice: we can keep the flame of freedom alive in Ukraine, or risk it being snuffed out across Europe and the world.”

The announcement comes on the day that leaders of the 30 NATO countries meet to discuss their next steps (pictured). NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was set up after World War Two and each member pledges to come to the aid of any other member that is attacked. One of President Vladimir Putin’s main reasons for invading Ukraine is that he doesn’t want Russia’s neighbour to join NATO.

NATO has described the war as “the most serious security crisis in a generation” and says that there is a “new sense of urgency” for NATO countries to spend more money on defence. If that does happen, many people will worry where that money will come from, and that it will affect other longer-term priorities, such as dealing with the climate crisis.

Picture credit: Getty

 

Ukraine update, Wednesday 23 March

The head of the United Nations, António Guterres (pictured), had some harsh words for Russia yesterday, as he called on President Vladimir Putin to end the “absurd” war against Ukraine.

“This war is unwinnable”, he said. “Sooner or later, it will have to move from the battlefield to the peace table. The only question is: How many more lives must be lost? How many more bombs must fall? How many more Mariupols must be destroyed? How many more Ukrainians and Russians will be killed before everyone realises that this war has no winners – only losers?”

Guterres went on to talk of the “appalling human suffering and destruction in cities, towns and villages” and constant bombardments that have “terrorised civilians”.

“The Ukrainian people are enduring a living hell,” he added, “and the reverberations [echoes or effects] are being felt worldwide with skyrocketing food, energy and fertiliser prices threatening to spiral into a global hunger crisis”.

The effects of sanctions (restrictions) on Russia’s economy are being felt too, with reports of Russians taking a total of £8.7bn out of bank accounts last month, due to fears that the economy will collapse and they could lose their money. Queues at cash machines are becoming more common in the country. As well as shortages of food, there are also shortages of many medicines in Russia now too, so Putin’s war is starting to endanger the health and lives of his own people.

There are wildly differing figures for how many troops have been killed in the war, but it’s claimed that around 10,000 Russian soldiers have died. Russia says the numbers are much lower, but many people think that Putin doesn’t want to admit to his people how badly the war is going and how many Russian lives are being lost.

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Tuesday 22 March

The scenes of devastation in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol show that there is very little of the city that hasn’t been affected by the Russian bombing. Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to take the city, as it sits on a vital route between other Russian-controlled areas. Taking Ukraine’s ports also allows Russian forces to cut off Ukraine’s supplies, as well as supply Russian troops more easily.

Many people are sheltering in basements without food, water or heating. One 27-year-old woman, Victoria, managed to escape to a nearby village and told the BBC about the desperate situation in Mariupol.

“Three children I know died of dehydration [lack of water],” she said. “It is the 21st century and children are dying from dehydration in my city. They are starving now.”

Although Mariupol is thought to have taken more damage than any other Ukrainian city, Russian forces continue to destroy civilian targets around the country. Although Putin and the Russian government insist that they’re only targeting military sites, that is clearly a lie. Our picture shows the mangled remains of a shopping centre in Kyiv that was destroyed this week, killing at least eight people. Many countries have openly accused Russia of committing war crimes.

Russia has demanded that people in Mariupol and other cities surrender, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that the country will never give up any of its cities.

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Monday 21 March

Around ten million Ukrainians have now been forced to leave their homes because of the invasion by Russian forces. Figures from the UN show that nearly 3.5m have left the country, while another 6.4m are what’s known as ‘internally displaced’, which means they’ve had to leave home but are still in Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have refused a demand from Russia to surrender the city of Mariupol (pictured), which has been one of the worst affected by the constant missile strikes and shelling. It’s estimated that around 90% of the buildings in the city have been damaged or destroyed. Around 300,000 civilians are still trapped in the city without water, power or food, and Ukrainian MP Dmytro Gurin has accused Russia of trying to starve the city so that people will surrender.

It’s still not known how many survivors there are in the Mariupol theatre that was bombed last week, as rescuers are struggling to clear the rubble to get into the basement where most of the people were sheltering.

Today’s news is also full of reports that Russia has targeted an art school in Mariupol where around 400 women, children and old people were sheltering. There’s no word yet on how many people have survived the attack.

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Friday 18 March

Until early this morning, the city of Lviv in the west of Ukraine hadn’t been touched by the war. It had mostly been in the news because it was a hub for Ukrainian refugees heading the short distance to safety in Poland. However, early this morning an aircraft repair facility there was hit by several Russian missiles. Our picture shows the huge cloud of smoke from the explosions spreading across Lviv. It’s also thought that by targeting an area so close to Poland, Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to warn Western countries not to help Ukraine.

Turkey has been acting as a go-between to try to strike a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine, and Putin listed his demands in a phone call to the Turkish president yesterday. As well as saying that he doesn’t want Ukraine to join the UK and US in the NATO group of countries, he also wants the country to get rid of many of its weapons so that it can’t be a military threat to Russia. Although since it’s Russia that is using its weapons to kill thousands of Ukrainians, it seems like Ukraine isn’t really the threat in the region.

For Ukraine, one of Putin’s most offensive demands is the “denazification” of the country, meaning he wants to get rid of the Nazis he claims run Ukraine. Although there are small numbers of people in Ukraine with Nazi-like ideas, the same could unfortunately be said of many other European countries. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is also Jewish and had relatives who were killed by the Nazis in World War Two, so claiming that Ukraine is run by Nazis is especially offensive to him. Many experts have also pointed out that people in Ukraine have much more freedom than they do in Russia.

There’s still no news on how many people survived the Russian bombing of the theatre in Mariupol (see yesterday’s update, below), but there are early reports that some of the people sheltering in the basement have survived. Rescuers are still trying to clear enough rubble so that they can get into the basement.

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Thursday 17 March

Although the Russian army is much bigger and has better equipment than Ukraine’s, President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has “largely stalled on all fronts”, the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said this morning.

The MoD’s update goes on to say that “Russian forces have made minimal progress on land, sea or air in recent days and they continue to suffer heavy losses.”

Even though many Ukrainian cities are being slowly destroyed by Putin’s forces, the Russian government is continuing to lie to its people and the world about what is happening. Russia’s TASS news agency claimed this morning that: “this operation is not targeted at the civilian population”, adding that “the Russian Defence Ministry said the Russian forces were not attacking Ukrainian cities.” Both of those claims are quite clearly false, as the thousands of pictures and videos coming out of Ukraine prove, including this picture showing a block of flats in Kyiv that was badly damaged by Russian shelling.

Russian bombs have also destroyed a theatre in Mariupol, where at least 1,000 people, including children, were sheltering from Russian attacks. It’s not clear yet how many were killed, as most are thought to have been in the basement and could have survived. Rescuers are still trying to clear the rubble to reach them.

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Wednesday 16 March

The latest figures from the United Nations show that a staggering three million people have now left Ukraine to escape the war. Many are getting trains from the western city of Lviv to Poland, including the woman and children pictured here. Her husband is waving goodbye because he’s heading back east to help defend his country.

Although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that proposals in peace talks with Russia are starting to “sound more realistic”, President Vladimir Putin’s forces are still destroying large parts of Ukraine’s towns and cities. In the port city of Mariupol alone, at least 2,400 civilians are known to have been killed, but the real figure is expected to be much higher. The city has now gone two weeks without water, electricity or gas, and temperatures at night are falling well below zero. The conditions mean that diseases are starting to spread, but getting medical attention is difficult because many hospitals have been bombed. There are also reports today that one hospital has been taken over by Russian soldiers.

Mr Zelensky also seemed to suggest that Ukraine may have to accept that it won’t be able to join NATO, a group of Western countries that pledge to defend each other if they are attacked. One of Putin’s main reasons for starting the war is that he doesn’t want Ukraine to join NATO. If Ukraine had been able to join NATO before now, it’s unlikely that Russia would have attacked it, as that would have meant the US, UK and other countries coming to Ukraine’s rescue.

The Russian journalist who was arrested after protesting against the war on live TV (see yesterday’s update, below) has now been released. She was fined 30,000 roubles (about £200) and says that she was questioned for 14 hours without being allowed to see a lawyer.

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Tuesday 15 March

Today is the 20th day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but there’s still no sign that peace talks are getting anywhere. Vladimir Putin’s forces continue to batter many of Ukraine’s major cities, with more reports this morning of blocks of flats in Kyiv on fire after being hit by missiles. Even though targeting civilians in war is a crime, it doesn’t seem to be stopping Putin from ordering the attacks.

Putin has a very tight grip on Russia’s media, which means that anyone watching Russian TV is getting a very one-sided view of what’s going on in Ukraine. But there were extraordinary scenes on Channel One last night, when an editor there interrupted a live news broadcast (pictured) by holding up a sign that said: “No war, stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here.” Propaganda is heavily biased or made-up information spread to promote a cause.

The editor’s name is Marina Ovsyannikova, and before her protest she recorded a video that she uploaded to social media. “I’m ashamed that I allowed myself to tell lies from the television screen,” she said. “Ashamed that I allowed Russians to be turned into zombies.”

The director of the news show cut away to another story, but Ovsyannikova’s protest will have been seen by many people in Russia. Although Putin’s government can control what people in Russia read on the internet as well, many in Russia are finding ways to access blocked sites, or speaking to friends in other countries to find out what’s really going on.

Ovsyannikova was arrested, but in her video she urges Russian people to protest and says that “they can’t imprison all of us”.

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Monday 14 March

The war in Ukraine has now reached the west of the country, which until this weekend hadn’t been targeted by Vladimir Putin’s Russian forces. Several missiles hit a military base in Yavoriv, which is only a few miles from the border with Poland. The attack killed at least 35 people, and many think it was a deliberate message from Putin for other countries to stay out of the war. The base has been used in the past by Western countries to train Ukrainian forces.

The number of people fleeing the war in Ukraine is starting to have serious impacts on nearby countries. A total of 2.7m people have now left the country, including around a million children. The majority of refugees (1.65m) are in Poland, and the prime minister and the mayor of Warsaw, the capital city, have asked for help, saying that the country is struggling to cope. All kinds of buildings in Poland have been turned into makeshift shelters, with beds squeezed in wherever they can go, such as in this shopping centre in Młyny (pictured).

The UK Government is today expected to announce more details of a scheme that will allow people to house Ukrainian refugees in their own homes. The Government will give people £350 a month towards the costs. However, since most of the refugees are women and children, experts have said that the Government needs to make sure that the homes will be safe for them.

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Friday 11 March

This morning’s updated figures from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) show that more than 2.5m people have now fled the war in Ukraine. Over 1.5m of those have crossed the border into Poland. To give you an idea of how many people that is, the population of Birmingham, the UK’s second-biggest city, is 1.16m.

The world of sport was again sucked into the war, when the UK Government placed sanctions (financial restrictions) on Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club. Chelsea are the current Club World Cup and Champions League holders, and one of the biggest and wealthiest clubs in the world. The sanctions mean that none of Chelsea’s teams (men’s, women’s and youth) can buy or sell players, and can’t even sell tickets for matches. It also means that Abramovich can’t sell the club as he planned to. The point of the sanctions is to try to put financial pressure on Russia and its citizens, in the hope that Putin will stop the war.

Abramovich is one of seven Russians who were sanctioned by the UK yesterday. The UK Government said it was due to their close business links with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands,” said Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. “They should hang their heads in shame.”

There are fears that Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv, could soon be completely surrounded by Putin’s forces and cut off. But Ukrainian soldiers and citizens are preparing to make a stand. Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, said that the city “has been transformed into a fortress”. Members of the public have been pitching in to dig trenches and build barricades (pictured). And if you’re going to put up a fight, Klitschko is a good man to have on your side, as he’s a former world heavyweight boxing champion. So is his brother, Wladimir, and both have vowed to protect their country.

The war is also starting to have more knock-on effects around the world. As well as causing fuel prices to rise, it is also affecting food supplies, leading to more price increases. Russia and Ukraine together provide about 30% of the wheat that is sold around the world. The Red Cross has warned that this is only making conditions worse in the civil war in Yemen, where 16.2m people are already struggling to get enough to eat. “Over the past year, food prices have skyrocketed across Yemen, leaving more than half of the country in need of food assistance,” the Red Cross said. It also said that things are being made worse in Yemen because the world’s attention has moved on to other things, such as the war in Ukraine.

Picture credit: Getty

Ukraine update, Thursday 10 March

The headlines about Ukraine today are dominated by news of a Russian airstrike that hit a hospital in Mariupol. The parts that took most damage were the children’s ward and the maternity ward, which is where pregnant women are looked after.  

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the attack a “war crime”. A large number of civilian buildings in Ukraine’s towns and cities have been hit by rockets and bombs as a result of President Vladimir Putin’s attacks on the country. The Ukrainian Minister of Education says that at least 211 schools have been damaged or destroyed. 

Ukrainian and Russian officials are due to meet today for more peace talks, but there seems little hope so far of an agreement.  

The Ukrainian military said this morning that Russia’s advance is slowing down across the country. It also claimed that more and more Russian soldiers are deserting (running away). 

Ukraine’s fightback has been helped by donations of weapons from around the world, and UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said yesterday that Britain will send high-tech laser-guided Starstreak missiles to help Ukraine forces shoot down Russian helicopters and planes.  

The constant attacks haven’t broken the spirit of the Ukrainian people. Even in the capital city Kyiv, which is being constantly bombarded by Russian forces, musicians took to the streets yesterday to stage a defiant concert in front of anti-tank defences (pictured). 

Ukraine update, Wednesday 9 March

Although the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, is continuing his assault on Ukraine, an increasing number of reports suggest that things aren’t going his way. Anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons supplied by Western countries are helping Ukraine to fight off the Russian advance. Ukraine’s military has released several videos showing Russian planes and helicopters being shot down. 

The weather this week could also make things more difficult for Russian forces, with snow on the way and temperatures expected to drop as low as -20°C. However, the freezing weather will make things much more difficult for Ukrainian civilians too, as many have already been without power and heating for a week. The UN said yesterday that more than two million people have now fled Ukraine, but many are still unable to leave due to Putin’s bombardment of major cities. 

Tuesday afternoon also saw the House of Commons in London packed, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a live speech via video. He received a standing ovation after the speech, which deliberately echoed some of former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famous words from World War 2.  

“We will not surrender, we will not lose, we will go to the end,” Mr Zelensky said. “We will fight at sea, we will fight in the air, we will protect our land. We will fight everywhere… and we will not surrender.” 

Mr Zelensky’s defiance is matched by that of his people. Lots of reports from Ukraine have shown how determined the people are to fight, including 22-year-old Oleksiy, who said to the BBC’s Clive Myrie: “I am prepared to die for my country, for what I love. Putin doesn’t understand we don’t want his authority, his world. All of us here know what we want: the right to live our own lives, the right to choose who leads us. That’s our right, not Moscow’s.” 

 

Ukraine update, Tuesday 8 March

The United Nations (UN) has said that at least 406 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since the war started, including 15 children. But since it’s always difficult to get accurate figures during a war, the UN says the actual numbers will be “much higher”.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces continue to target civilian areas of lots of major cities in Ukraine, including hospitals and schools. The World Health Organization says it has confirmed 16 attacks on healthcare facilities, and is investigating reports of many more. 

The UN has called on both sides to open safe “corridors” for civilians to leave Ukraine, as the fighting means that many people are stuck in areas that are being bombed. Ukraine has dismissed Russia’s offer to open corridors into Russia and Belarus. Belarus is one of the only countries in the world that is friendly to Russia, and it has allowed Russia to base troops there and launch attacks from its territory. 

More than 1.7m people have already left Ukraine, with many more trying to get out. However, many of the people left behind in Ukraine are struggling due to food supplies running out, as well as a lack of power, heating and running water. One man who spoke to the BBC from Kherson says that the only food he has left is crisps and chocolate.  

Many of those people on the move have also taken their pets, and lots of them need medical treatment, so vets in countries such as Poland (pictured) are working really hard to see huge numbers of cats, dogs and other animals.

Meanwhile, Russia has threatened to cut off its gas supply to Europe. Many countries rely on Russia for large amounts of oil and gas and want to stop buying fuel from Russia, but Russia says it will turn off the supply altogether if they do. This could lead to global prices for oil and gas climbing even higher, which would see many people’s energy bills going up.   

 

Ukraine update, Monday 7 March

In just ten days since the fighting began, more than 1.5m people have now fled Ukraine. The United Nations has said that it is “now the fastest growing refugee crisis since World War 2”. The situation is putting huge pressure on Poland, which has seen more than 885,000 cross its border from Ukraine.

Russia has been heavily criticised for not allowing people to escape safely. Attempts to get large numbers of civilians out of Mariupol were cancelled twice due to Vladimir Putin’s Russian forces continuing to bombard the city. The people of Mariupol have had no running water or electricity for the last five days, so people are desperate to leave. Food and bottled water are running out.

Vladimir Putin’s forces have said they will open some routes for Ukrainian refugees, but only into Russia or Belarus. Russian troops have been launching some attacks on Ukraine from Belarus, so it seems unlikely that many people from Ukraine would want to flee into Belarus or Russia.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it has confirmed that several attacks have targeted healthcare facilities in Ukraine. Deliberately targeting medical buildings and workers is illegal under international law. There are always accidents and mistakes during wartime, but the huge number of civilian targets that have been hit by rockets and mortar fire is a sign that Vladimir Putin is deliberately targeting ordinary people.

Putin keeps a tight grip on Russia’s media and the internet, and reports from the country have shown that people aren’t getting the truth about the invasion. But there are ways that people can still access independent news, and this is fuelling protests. More than 4,300 people in 44 Russian cities were said to have been arrested yesterday (Sunday) for protesting against the war.

And, in positive news, the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal has now topped £100m in the UK alone, as the world pulls together to support Ukraine.

Ukraine update, Fri 4 March

As the war in Ukraine continues, nearly 1.2 million people have now fled Ukraine into neighbouring countries. More than half a million of those are in Poland. The United Nations (UN) estimates that four million people might leave Ukraine in the coming weeks.

One of the most heartwarming moments of this crisis came when trainloads of refugees ended up in Berlin, Germany. Hundreds of locals stood at the train station with signs saying that they would let refugees stay in their homes.

Although Ukraine isn’t part of the European Union (EU), Ukrainian refugees have been given the right to live and work in the EU for the next three years. It’s the first time the EU has ever used what’s known as the Temporary Protection Directive, and it also gives refugees from Ukraine the right to get medical treatment. It’s usually quite hard for refugees to live a normal life when they make their way to a new country, but this should make things much easier for them.

Kherson, in the south of Ukraine, has become the first city to fall under the control of the Russian army. It’s a small but important port and is close to Crimea, the southern region of Ukraine that has been occupied by Russian forces since 2014. The mayor of Kherson said that Russian troops have put a curfew on the city, and people are terrified to leave their homes.

Although deliberately targeting civilians in a war is illegal under international law, hundreds of Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the last week. Schools, hospitals and buildings such as theatres and gyms have been badly damaged or destroyed, as well as a TV broadcasting tower. The International Criminal Court has already said that it has started an investigation into “war crimes and crimes against humanity” that have taken place as a result of President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

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Ukraine explainer video

video

Sky Kids FYI presenter Braydon explains what is going on in Ukraine, explaining the background to the war and why it hasn’t just come out of the blue, but has a long history.

Troops have attacked Ukraine from the north, east and south, including several attempts to enter Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. Russian forces control some sections inside Ukraine’s borders, but Ukrainian troops have put up a tough fight and stopped Russia’s first attempts to take over Kyiv. However, lines of Russian tanks several miles long have been seen headed towards Kyiv. Russian missiles have hit lots of civilian areas in Kyiv and other cities, including Kharkiv, the second-largest city.

Although Russia’s military is much bigger and has better equipment, Ukrainian troops are fiercely defending their country. They are also being helped by many civilians who have bought weapons and taken shooting lessons in recent months. Some Ukrainian businesses have even stopped producing goods so that they can make weapons instead.

How to talk to children when the news is scary.

  • Don’t try to turn off the news when there is bad news. Sadly, in the technological world in which we live, adults are no longer in control of how children access information. News comes at us 24 hours a day from dedicated news channels, radio, the internet, and newspaper headlines. Even if you manage to shield your children from all of that, things that happen in the news will be talked about in the school playground or lunch hall. Better that your child is armed with the real facts than hearing exaggerated, second or third-hand versions. Information is better than misinformation.
  • Even if your child doesn’t mention bad news, don’t assume they are not troubled by it. They may be worrying quietly inside. Explain simply what has happened, taking care not to use sensationalised words that tend to be used by the national press.
  • First News covers good and bad news in the paper and on our daily online news channel, First News Live! Use our content, made especially for children, as a platform to talk to children about the news. It is always created to explain what has happened but to offer reassurance, too.
  • Remind them that there is much more good news than bad news happening. And that there are many more good people than bad people.
  • Reassure them that they are safe here in the UK. And that there are lots of security and defence experts working hard to settle the issues in Ukraine. Tell them that this hasn’t just happened out of nowhere and read our explainer with them. Knowledge is power.
  • Remind children that the best way to stay safe is to take care in their own daily lives. Children are more likely to have an accident in their own home than when they are out and about.
  • Hold them a little bit closer and for a little bit longer

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