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Russia-Ukraine war: Key things to know about the conflict

The Russian invasion of Ukraine entered its third week on Thursday, with Russian forces continuing to bombard major cities.

Satellite photos show that a massive Russian convoy that had been mired outside the Ukrainian capital since last week has fanned out into towns and forests, with artillery pieces moved into firing positions

Thousands of people have been killed and more than 2.3 million have fled the country since Russian troops crossed into Ukraine on Feb. 24. Besieged cities have been suffering from shortages of food, medicine, heat and electricity.

The foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine met on Thursday in a Turkish resort but weren’t able to find common ground. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said concerns expressed about civilian casualties are “pathetic shrieks” from Russia’s enemies. He even denied that Ukraine has been invaded.

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Here are some key things to know about the war:

WHAT HAS THE AP DIRECTLY WITNESSED OR CONFIRMED?

RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR
Russia-Ukraine war: Key things to know about the conflict
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Russia continued its heavy bombardment of Mariupol on Thursday, hitting the fire department’s headquarters, a university building and other structures.

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Firefighters rescued a woman from a destroyed building and tried to save a seriously injured boy who was pinned under the rubble. A firefighter grabbed the boy’s hand and his eyes blinked but he was otherwise still.

Mariupol’s streets were empty, with most people sheltering indoors. One man, Aleksander Ivanov, pulled a cart with his possessions while searching for a place to stay after a mortar round destroyed his home.

The city of 430,000 has been without food supplies, running water and electricity for 10 days. Ukrainian officials say about 1,300 people have died, including three in the bombing of a maternity and children’s hospital on Wednesday.

At the Brovary Central District Hospital on the eastern outskirts of Kyiv, a 14-year-old girl named Katya lay in bed with the covers pulled up to her neck. She and her father, who was still in surgery, were shot as the family was trying to evacuate.

Katya’s mother, identified only as Nina, stood by her side. Her voice caught as she described their ordeal.

“From the forest, there came a single shot,” she said. “Then we stopped (the car) and then massive shooting began. My husband started to drive fast over the tire spikes in the road. We drove on with flat tires, and my husband was hit in the head and two fingers were blown off. My daughter was shot in the hand.”

ARE PEOPLE BEING SAFELY EVACUATED?

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 100,000 people have been evacuated during the past two days from seven cities under Russian blockade in the north and center of the country, including the Kyiv suburbs.

But he said the Russian refusal to allow evacuations from Mariupol, a port city in the south, was “outright terror.”

“They have a clear order to hold Mariupol hostage, to mock it, to constantly bomb and shell it,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation.

More than 2.3 million people have fled the war in Ukraine and an estimated 1.9 million are displaced within the country, a U.N. official said Thursday.

WHAT ABOUT RUSSIA’S CLAIMS THAT BIOWEAPONS ARE BEING DEVELOPED IN UKRAINE?

The U.N. Security Council will meet on Friday to discuss Russia’s claims that the United States is conducting “military biological activities” in Ukraine.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki Psaki called the claim “preposterous.”

“This is all an obvious ploy by Russia to try to justify its further premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on Ukraine,” Psaki tweeted.

Zelenskyy said the accusation itself is a bad sign.

“That worries me very much because we have often been convinced that if you want to know Russia’s plans, they are what Russia accuses others of,” he said in his nightly address to the nation.

WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING ON THE GROUND?

Satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies showed the 40-mile (64-kilometer) line of vehicles, tanks and artillery that had stalled outside Kyiv has been redeployed, with armored units seen in towns near the Antonov Airport north of the city. Some of the vehicles also moved into forests, Maxar reported.

U.S. officials said Ukrainian troops have blasted the convoy with anti-tank missiles.

Ukrainian forces slowed or stopped a Russian advance that was trying to encircle Kyiv from the north to the west, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said Thursday night. It said Ukrainian forces also drove Russians out of Baklanova Muraviika, a village that sits on a road to the capital.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said about 2 million people — half the residents of the Ukrainian capital’s metropolitan area — have left the city, which has become a virtual fortress.

“Every street, every house … is being fortified,” he said in televised remarks. “Even people who in their lives never intended to change their clothes, now they are in uniform with machine guns in their hands.”

Russia has deployed more than 150,000 troops and retains large and possibly decisive advantages in firepower, despite facing fierce Ukrainian resistance and global financial pressure aimed at crippling its economy.

Russian forces on Thursday shelled a nuclear research institute in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, setting buildings on fire, said Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Interior Ministry.

Firefighters managed to extinguish the blazes, but Gerashchenko said a shell hit a building that houses equipment that could release radiation if it were damaged. According to the president’s office, there has been no change in the background radiation.

Russia’s deputy energy minister, Yevgeny Grabchak, said Thursday that power was restored to the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant.

Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters Thursday in Vienna that the nuclear watchdog had ”scheduled physical inspections” of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, though he would give no details on how or when the inspections would take place.

ARE VOLUNTEERS FROM OTHER NATIONS HELPING UKRAINE DEFEND ITSELF?

The Ukrainian government says about 20,000 foreigners have joined the so-called International Legion for the Territorial Defense of Ukraine. They are given weapons to fight when they arrive. Among them are about 100 of the several thousand Americans who asked to join the fight, a Ukrainian official said.

U.S. volunteers are a small subset of foreigners seeking to fight for Ukraine, who in turn comprise just a tiny fraction of the international assistance that has flowed into the country.

Ukraine’s military attaché to Washington, Maj. Gen. Borys Kremenetskyi, said the volunteers are “not mercenaries who are coming to earn money” but are ”people of goodwill who are coming to assist Ukraine to fight for freedom.”

The U.S. government discourages Americans from going to fight in Ukraine, which raises legal and national security issues.

Borys Wrzesnewskyj, a former Liberal lawmaker in Canada who is facilitating recruitment there, said about 1,000 Canadians have applied to fight for Ukraine.

WHAT’S THE VIEW FROM INSIDE RUSSIA?

During a televised meeting with Kremlin officials on Thursday, Putin addressed the Western sanctions that have caused the ruble to crash and led many major companies to leave Russia.

“The economy will certainly adapt to the new situation,” Putin said.

The list of companies that have stopped operating in Russia grew Thursday, with German fashion brand Hugo Boss temporarily closing its stores and U.S.-based hotel chains Hilton and Marriott closing their Moscow offices, though their Russian hotels are owned and operated by franchisees and will stay open.

Goldman Sachs said it would close its operations in Russia entirely, making it the first major Wall Street bank to do so since Russia invaded Ukraine. And JPMorgan Chase said it was “unwinding” its Russian banking business.

Meanwhile, Twitter launched a privacy-protected version of its site to bypass surveillance and censorship after Russia restricted access to its service in the country.

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