Russian attack on nuclear plant draws condemnations

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This image made from a video released by Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant shows bright flaring object landing in grounds of the nuclear plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine

This image made from a video released by Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant shows bright flaring object landing in grounds of the nuclear plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine

Russian forces seized a Ukrainian nuclear power plant early Friday as the conflict enters its second week and troops close in on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

Follow The Hill’s live coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine below:

US condemns Russia attack on nuclear plant: ‘reckless and dangerous’

12:48 p.m.

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield condemned Russia’s attack on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine as “reckless and dangerous,” calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw troops from the plant and cease his military attack on Ukraine.

“Russia’s attack last night put Europe’s largest nuclear power at grave risk. It was incredibly reckless and dangerous. And it threatened the safety of civilians across Russia, Ukraine and Europe,” Thomas-Greenfield said during an emergency U.N. security council meeting Friday. “Nuclear facilities cannot become part of this conflict.”

– Morgan Chalfant

Cruz criticizes Graham over Putin assassination comment

12:40 p.m.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is among the Republicans criticizing a remark by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that appeared to call for the assassination of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“This is an exceptionally bad idea. Use massive economic sanctions; BOYCOTT Russian oil & gas; and provide military aid so the Ukrainians can defend themselves. But we should not be calling for the assassination of heads of state,” the Texas senator said in response to Graham.

Graham has asked if there was a “Brutus” in Russia who might “take this guy out.”

“You would be doing your country – and the world – a great service,” Graham said in a tweet.

– Caroline Vakil

Latvia to rename Russian embassy road to Independent Ukraine street

11:35 a.m.

Latvia will rename the street where the Russian embassy is located in the Latvian capital Riga to Independent Ukraine Street, Reuters reports.

The party coalition that governs Riga announced its agreement to change the street name Friday.

The move comes a day after Lithuania announced it would change the road its Russian Embassy is on to Heroes of Ukraine Street.

–CHLOE FOLMAR

Biden to speak with Polish president, meet with Finland’s leader

10:05 a.m.

President Biden will hold a phone call with Polish President Andrzej Duda on Friday morning, the White House said, which is certain to focus on Russia’s unfolding war in Ukraine.

Poland is among a handful of NATO countries that share a border with Ukraine, where Russia has launched a large-scale invasion. Biden has deployed thousands of troops to Poland and other allies in Europe, though not Ukraine, to fortify NATO’s eastern flank amid the conflict. Ukraine is not a member of NATO.

The call won’t be Biden’s sole engagement with a foreign leader on Friday. He is also scheduled to welcome Finnish President Sauli Niinistö to the White House Friday afternoon.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also traveling to the region this week and is scheduled to be in Poland to meet with officials there on Saturday to discuss security assistance.

–MORGAN CHALFANT

Turkish official seeks talks with Ukraine, Russia diplomats

10 a.m.

A Turkish official said the country is seeking to have Russian and Ukrainian diplomats meet for talks from March 11 to March 13 at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Friday the Turkish government wants to mediate talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, The Associated Press reported.

Lavrov confirmed he would participate in the negotiations, but Kuleba has not said if he would be able to go, according to Çavuşoğlu.

–LEXI LONAS

NATO says it won’t police no-fly zone over Ukraine

9:55 a.m.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance won’t police a no-fly zone over Ukrainian airspace despite pleas from the country’s government.

“Allies agree that we should not have NATO planes operating over Ukraine airspace or NATO troops in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told reporters following a meeting of NATO’s foreign ministers.

The comment echoes similar responses to the idea of a no-fly zone given by the Biden administration this week. Ukrainian officials were on Capitol Hill Monday pressing lawmakers to back a no-fly zone as Russian planes target hospitals and other civilian targets.

But the administration quickly rejected the idea, arguing that it requires the U.S. Air Force to shoot down Russian airplanes flying into Ukrainian airspace.

Stoltenberg echoed these concerns on Friday, arguing that the alliance would have to send fighter planes into Ukrainian airspace to enforce the no-fly zone.

“We understand the desperation, but we also believe that if we did that, we’ll end up with something that could end in a full fledge war in Europe, involving many more countries and causing much more human suffering,” Stoltenberg said. “So that’s why we make this painful decision to impose heavy sanctions, provide significant support, stepping up support, at the same time not involving NATO forces.”

–JORDAN WILLIAMS

Ukraine, former UK prime minister seeking tribunal to prosecute Putin

9:50 a.m.

Ukraine and the former prime minister of the United Kingdom are seeking a tribunal to prosecute Russian President Vladimir after his invasion of Ukraine.

“This act of aggression by Russia … cannot go uninvestigated, unprosecuted and unpunished,” former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, The Associated Press reported. “Putin must not be able to escape justice.”

A war crimes investigation into Russia’s actions has already been announced by the International Criminal Court.

“We are fighting against an enemy who is much stronger than us. But international law is on our side,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said, supporting the call for a tribunal.

–LEXI LONAS

Ukraine takes back city of Bucha

9:45 a.m.

The city of Bucha is back under Ukrainian control after it was taken by Russians over the course of the invasion.

A video posted by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense showed Ukrainian soldiers raising the country’s flag over the city after winning a fight to regain control.

The flag was lifted in a ceremonial act outside the City Council of Bucha.

–LEXI LONAS

Airbnb suspending operations in Russia, Belarus

9:40 a.m.

Airbnb has announced that it will suspend all operations in Russia and Belarus.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, who has added a Ukrainian flag to his name on Twitter in solidarity with the country, tweeted the news Thursday night, shortly after Russian infantry attacked the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant near Energodar, Ukraine.

Airbnb previously housed more than 20,000 Afghan refugees in the span of six months, boosting its goal number to 40,000 on Feb. 22.

The news of Airbnb’s suspension of operations in Russia and Belarus comes amid increasing diplomatic pressure against Russia to retreat from Ukraine.

–CHLOE FOLMAR

Russian parliament passes law to punish journalists for ‘fake’ news

8:40 a.m.

Russia’s parliament on Friday passed a law that makes publishing “fake” news a crime, according to multiple reports.

If enacted, the law would punish any journalist who contradicts Moscow’s official statements on the war in Ukraine with punishments resulting in up to 15 years in prison.

Under the new law, journalists must verify their reports on the invasion of Ukraine with official Russian government sources.

The law comes as Moscow has also restricted access to several international news outlets, such as the BBC and Deutsche Welle.

In addition to penalizing journalists who publish prohibited content, individuals could also face criminal charges for reposting content on social media that does not follow the Kremlin’s guidelines on depicting the war, reports the Post.

–MAUREEN BRESLIN

Ukrainian operator says employees at seized nuclear plant are working at ‘gunpoint’

8:20 a.m.

The operator of the Ukrainian power plant that was captured by Russians on Friday said the employees of the facility are now working at “gunpoint.”

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was seized by Russia and a fire was extinguished at the facility in its training center.

Petro Kotin, the head of the state-owned nuclear power site in Energoatom, said in a Telegram post that Russian troops “entered the territory of the nuclear power plant, took control of the personnel and management of the nuclear power plant,” CNN reported.

“The station management works at invaders’ gunpoint,” Kotin said, according to CNN.

Russia has falsely blamed Ukraine for the attack on the facility and says it is operating normally.

–LEXI LONAS

US Embassy calls Russian attack on Ukrainian nuclear plant ‘a war crime’

8:15 a.m.

The United States Embassy in Ukraine on Friday called the Russian attack on the Ukrainian nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia a “war crime.”

“It is a war crime to attack a nuclear power plant. Putin’s shelling of Europe’s largest nuclear plant takes his reign of terror one step further,” wrote the embassy, responding to the attack that broke out into fire Friday. The fire has since been extinguished.

Russian forces took control of the power plant shortly after the strikes. The fire is believed to have been ignited by the strike of a Russian projectile, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The six reactors at the nuclear power plant have enough energy to power four million homes and they were reported as undamaged in the strike and international monitors said they did not detect any increased spike in radiation, according to a report by CBS News.

–MAUREEN BRESLIN

Graham calls for ‘somebody in Russia’ to take Putin out

8:10 a.m.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday called for “somebody in Russia” to take out Russian President Vladimir Putin amid the invasion of Ukraine.

“Is there a Brutus in Russia? Is there a more successful Colonel Stauffenberg in the Russian military?” Graham posted on Twitter, referring to the assassin of Julius Caesar and the attempted assassin of Adolf Hitler, respectively.

“The only way this ends is for somebody in Russia to take this guy out. You would be doing your country – and the world – a great service,” Graham added.

Graham’s tweet came as Russia and Putin face accusations of committing war crimes with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and U.S. officials saying the Russian president has been targeting civilian areas such as hospitals and schools.

Graham’s comments quickly drew rebukes on Twitter by Republicans and Democrats, who found it irresponsible for a U.S. official to call for the death of a leader of another country.

“Seriously, wtf?” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted. “I really wish our members of Congress would cool it and regulate their remarks as the administration works to avoid WWlll. As the world pays attention to how the US and it’s leaders are responding, Lindsey’s remarks and remarks made by some House members aren’t helpful.”

Fellow GOP Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) also decried Graham’s comments.

“This is an exceptionally bad idea. Use massive economic sanctions; BOYCOTT Russian oil & gas; and provide military aid so the Ukrainians can defend themselves,” Cruz tweeted. “But we should not be calling for the assassination of heads of state.”

–LEXI LONAS

Fire out as Russia seizes Europe’s largest nuclear plant

8 a.m.

A fire is out at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as Russian forces have taken control of Europe’s largest nuclear site.

Officials said the fire that started in the training center of the facility has been extinguished and Russian troops had taken over after an intense day of fighting, Reuters reported.

The fire and damage that occurred was believed to be started by a Russian projectile according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Russia has falsely blamed Ukraine for the fire at the facility.

Russia also seized the Chernobyl nuclear plant at the beginning of the invasion.

–LEXI LONAS

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