BBC announces it will resume English reporting from Russia

The United States banned imports of Russian oil following Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine as thousands tried to flee the country’s cities through humanitarian corridors with limited success as the pursuit Russian shelling and artillery fire cut off some of the escape routes.

Live briefing: Russia invades Ukraine

Consult the RFE/RL live briefing on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and how Kiev is fighting back and the West is reacting. The briefing presents the latest developments and analysis, updates throughout the day.

As the 13th day of Russia’s attack on its neighbor was again clouded by reports of targeted residential areas, US President Joe Biden on March 8 announced a ban on imports of oil and other energies from Russia, putting pressure on his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, who is being pushed further and further into isolation as he crushes sanctions imposed by countries around the world.

In line with Washington’s decision, Britain said it would also phase out Russian oil by the end of the year while the EU, which is heavily dependent on Russian energy supplies, planned to cut imports of gas by two-thirds.

Oil and gas exports make up a significant portion of Russia’s budget revenue and are a key source of foreign currency to defend the rouble.

The U.S. ban on Russian oil imports adds to existing concerns about the legal and financial risks associated with buying and trading Russian energy, says Ben Cahill, energy analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Russia could see its oil exports – which stood at around 5 million barrels a day – fall sharply, he said.

“It’s part of a bigger challenge for Russia. All over the world – whether it’s Europe, the United States or even Asia – a lot of people just don’t want to take Russian oil and [oil] products,” even though it is a cheaper alternative, Cahill told RFE/RL.

Russia could be forced to cut oil production if it cannot find buyers, he said. China “cannot absorb” all of the Russian oil and gas currently going to the West and will not pay the same high prices the Europeans have historically have, Cahill said.

Meanwhile, Western companies have continued their exodus from Russia, with the oil giant Shell announces its releasewhile global fast food icon McDonald’s and Starbucks coffee have joined more than 200 other companies that have operations suspended indefinitely in Russia.

Biden said the Russian military may continue to “cut its lead at a horrible cost, but it’s already clear: Ukraine will never be a victory for Putin.”

“Putin may be able to take a city, but he can never hold the country,” he said.

Some buses in Sumy managed to transport hundreds of civilians out of the besieged Ukrainian city through a humanitarian corridor, but thousands in the southern city of Mariupol were still trapped when their route out of the city was blocked, the government blaming the Russia to bomb the region.

The evacuation came hours after Russian airstrikes on Sumy killed 21 people, including two children, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office. At least four Ukrainian soldiers were also killed, according to the army.

Mariupol has been without water, heating, sanitation or telephone for several days, one of the most desperate scenes of this war which has lasted for almost two weeks. About 200,000 people – almost half of the population of 430,000 – hope to flee the city.

“The enemy launched an attack heading exactly towards the humanitarian corridor,” the ministry said. Facebookadding that the Russian army “did not let children, women and the elderly leave the city”.

UN officials reported on March 8 that 2 million people had fled Ukraine since the start of the unprovoked Russian attack on February 24, triggering Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Since the start of the invasion, more than 400 civilian deaths have been recorded by the UN human rights office, which said the real number is likely much higher as it continues to address the situation.

Elsewhere, efforts continued to evacuate the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, which residents say came under some of the most intensive Russian shelling overnight.

Around 3,000 people have been brought to safety from the besieged Ukrainian town of Irpin so far, authorities say.

WATCH: Thousands of people are trying to flee the Ukrainian town of Irpin for the capital, Kiev, nearly 25 kilometers away. Ukrainian forces blew up bridges near the town to stop advancing Russian tanks. Current Time filmed local residents trying to escape Russian bombardment and flee by any means possible.

As Russia’s initial plan for a quick strike to overthrow the government appears to be failing and signs of growing discontent in Russia with the war, senior US intelligence officials have warned Putin that he may push even further and intensify its offensive in the country.

“Our analysts believe that Putin is unlikely to be deterred by such setbacks and could instead escalate,” said US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. says an audience on global security threats in the United States House of Representatives.

Corridors for civilians to escape and help to reach besieged areas were the main topic of talks between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations, but their opening was not very successful.

Kiev has called the corridors Moscow’s publicity stunt, as many roads lead to Russia or its ally Belarus.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called for the expansion of humanitarian corridors and increased support from the Red Cross to help keep them open and get people out of harm’s way.

In a video address from an undisclosed location on March 8, he said a child had died of dehydration in Mariupol, a sign of despair among the city’s people.

Later on March 8, he posted a selfie video of himself standing near the presidential offices in Kyiv, with piles of sandbags, a snowy fir tree and a few cars in the background. It was the second video in 24 hours showing him near the country’s seat of power.

In a soft voice, he said, “The snow has fallen. It’s that kind of spring. You see, it’s that kind of wartime, that kind of spring. Hard. But we’ll overcome.”

WATCH: RFE/RL has acquired drone footage believed to be of Russian truck-mounted Grad rockets launched in Ukraine’s Kyiv region on March 5. The footage was reportedly shot by volunteers helping the Ukrainian army. The group would not give a more precise location for security reasons.

Zelenskiy again pleaded for air support from Western countries, which NATO and its allies had previously ruled out for fear of a major escalation in the conflict.

But in a potentially major policy shift, Poland said on March 8 it was ready to hand over all of its MiG-29 planes to a US air base in Germany and urged other NATO members with the same type of Russian-made warplanes to do the same to allow the alliance to meet and make a decision on whether to send offensive weapons to Ukraine.

Many NATO countries, as well as other Western allies, have so far only supplied defensive weapons to Kiev amid threats from Moscow that this would make the donors a direct party to the conflict and therefore open to retaliation.

The Ukrainian army, meanwhile, said on March 8 that it had succeeded in slowing down the Russian attack, saying that although “the enemy continues an offensive operation, the pace of advance of its troops has slowed considerably. “.

The Ukrainian General Staff declared early on March 8 that Ukrainian forces were still defending their positions in the southern, eastern and northern sectors of the country and that Kiev and the northern city of Chernihiv were still in Ukrainian hands.

The statements could not be independently verified.

The UN refugee chief said on March 8 that the number of people fleeing Russia’s advance into Ukraine had reached 2 million.

Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, made the remarks at a press conference in Oslo after visiting Moldova, Poland and Romania, all of which have hosted refugees flooding in from Ukraine. since Russia invaded the country on February 24.

Grandi said that, by comparison, the Balkan wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo saw “maybe 2-3 million people, but over an eight-year period”.

While other parts of the “world have seen this,” Grandi added, “in Europe it’s the first time since World War II.”

More than 1.2 million of these refugees crossed into neighboring Poland, including 141,500 on March 7, the Polish border guard said on March 8.

Russia and Belarus should not be allowed to host, bid for or be awarded international sporting events following the invasion of Ukraine, the United States and its allies said in a statement. declaration released by the US State Department on March 8.

The statement calls on international sports federations to limit sponsorship opportunities for companies linked to the Russian and Belarusian governments.

The statement was signed by officials from 37 countries, including the UK, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Belgium and the United States. China, India and countries in Latin America and Africa were not listed as participants in the declaration.

The statement urged the international sports community to show “solidarity with the Ukrainian people”.

Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has been widely condemned and has left Russia largely isolated internationally. Belarus has been a key staging area for Russian forces.

Russia’s central bank announced on March 8 that citizens with foreign currency accounts would not be allowed to withdraw more than $10,000 until September 9 and said banks could not sell hard currency.

The bank, which earlier today announced a series of measures to help financial market participants hit by foreign sanctions, said in a statement that regardless of the foreign currency held by customers in their accounts, withdrawals would be paid in US dollars.

With reporting from Reuters, AFP, AP, TASS, BBC and dpa