Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met with G-7 and NATO leaders in Brussels, one day after the U.S. announced new penalties on Russia that included a ban on all new investment in the country and sanctions on President Vladimir Putin's daughters.
"I came here today to discuss three most important things: weapons, weapons, and weapons," Kuleba said in a tweet.
Reports of rape and torture against civilians by Vladimir Putin's forces drew strong condemnation from G-7 members, who voted to remove Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
The atrocities also galvanized action in the U.S. where the Congress voted to strip Russia of its most favored nation trading status and to ban its oil and gas imports. U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to quickly sign both into law.
EIU warns Asia-Pacific remains vulnerable to fluctuations in commodity prices, despite less direct exposure to the war
Asia-Pacific countries may be less exposed to the war in Ukraine compared with other regions, but they could still see less direct hits in areas ranging from commodities to tourism and weapons, according to a new report from the Economic Intelligence Unit.
Russia and Ukraine account for a significant proportion of global supply of some food commodities, such as wheat and fertilizer. Any jump in prices will be a concern for Asia, given the region's high levels of dependence on energy and agricultural commodity imports, warned the EIU.
Russia is also the world's second-largest arms supplier and is a major source of arms for China, India and Vietnam, the research firm pointed out.
The report also listed which countries in Asia-Pacific would be most and least affected.
— Weizhen Tan
Biden has authorized more than $1.7 billion in security aid to Ukraine since war began
The Biden administration has approved more than $1.7 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia's invasion in late February, according to the White House. The U.S. has provided a total of $2.4 billion to Ukraine since the beginning of Biden's presidency.
The Pentagon also confirmed that all of the anti-armor and anti-air systems from the two weapons packages announced in March have been delivered to Ukraine. The Defense Department added that the U.S. is working to "identify additional weapons systems to help the Ukrainian military."
Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy has requested "longer-range anti-aircraft systems," the Pentagon said.
More than 30 nations have sent Ukraine security assistance. Here is the firepower the U.S. has committed thus far, according to the Defense Department:
— Amanda Macias
Pro-Russian forces fight in Mariupol
Pro-Russian forces search houses and inspect streets in the southern port city of Mariupol.
U.S. ambassador to UN references devastating photo in highlighting the toll Russia's war has taken
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield shared a somber observation on the life-shattering toll Russia's war in Ukraine will take long after the conflict ends.
"Yesterday, I saw a photo, taken by an AP photojournalist in Kyiv, that has stuck with me in particular. It's of a six-year-old boy, standing in a garden next to his mother's grave," Thomas-Greenfield said in her address to the international forum.
She said the photo stuck with her because, "one day, Ukraine's infrastructure will be rebuilt and the rubble will be cleared," referencing the eventual end to Russia's war. "But there will be no way to rebuild the lives that Russia has destroyed. We cannot bring back those who have perished, Ukrainian mothers, fathers, sons and daughters," she said.
"Right now, the world is looking to us. They are asking if the United Nations is prepared to meet this moment," Thomas-Greenfield said. She thanked fellow members of the international body for voting to strip Russia of its membership on the Human Rights Council. "They are wondering if we are a platform for propaganda and a safe haven for human rights abusers or if we are prepared to live up to our highest ideals, enshrined in the UN Charter."
— Amanda Macias
Biden welcomes UN 'historic' vote suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council
President Joe Biden welcomed the "overwhelming" and "historic" United Nations General Assembly vote that stripped Russia's membership on the Human Rights Council.
"The United States worked closely with our Allies and partners around the world to drive this vote because Russia is committing gross and systemic violations of human rights," Biden wrote in an evening statement.
The images we are seeing out of Bucha and other areas of Ukraine as Russian troops withdraw are horrifying. The signs of people being raped, tortured, executed — in some cases having their bodies desecrated — are an outrage to our common humanity," Biden wrote, adding "Russian forces are committing war crimes."
— Amanda Macias
Congress votes to ban oil and gas imports from Russia
The U.S. Congress voted to ban oil, gas and coal imports from Russia as part of a governmentwide effort to squeeze Russia's economy in response to Moscow's brutal invasion of Ukraine.
The House approved the bill in a 413-9 vote. The Senate passed it unanimously earlier in the day. It will head to Biden's desk for his signature.
The legislation codifies an executive order Biden issued last month to bar energy imports from Russia. The bill would make it more difficult for a future president to reverse Biden's action.
— Christina Wilkie
UN says 63 children are among the 1,611 civilians killed in Ukraine
The United Nations has confirmed 1,611 civilian deaths and 2,227 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbor on Feb. 24.
Of those killed, the UN has identified at least 63 children.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights adds that the death tolls in Ukraine are likely higher, citing delayed reporting due to the armed conflict.
The international body says that most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missile and airstrikes.
— Amanda Macias
Blinken downplays U.S. is withholding weapons from Ukraine
Secretary of State Antony Blinken downplayed concerns that the U.S. was withholding weapons explicitly requested by Ukraine.
"They're coming forward with new systems that they think would be helpful and effective," Blinken told reporters at NATO headquarters following a two-day ministerial meeting.
"We put our own expertise to bear, especially the Pentagon to help determine what indeed we think could be effective. What Ukrainians will be ready to use as soon as they get it, and what we actually have access to and can get to them in real-time," he said, adding that the U.S. is working expeditiously to get appropriate weapons to Ukraine quickly.
Blinken's comments echo those of U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley. Austin and Milley told lawmakers this week that some weapons systems on Ukraine's wish list require months of training in order to operate.
Earlier in the day, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters that he urged allies to catalyze the delivery of their arms commitments.
"Either you help us now, and I'm speaking about days not weeks, or your help will come too late," Kuleba said.
— Amanda Macias
'We're doing everything possible' to hold Russia accountable, U.S. Ambassador to UN says
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told NBC News' Andrea Mitchell that the U.S. and its allies are doing "everything possible" to hold Russia to account for its war in Ukraine.
Thomas-Greenfield, who spoke with Mitchell moments after the international forum voted to suspend Russia's membership in the Human Rights Council, praised her fellow U.N. members for "condemning the Russians."
"We've had two votes in the General Assembly in which we have condemned Russia and supported Ukraine and even in the Security Council, we have isolated the Russians," she said.
"I know if you're sitting on the ground in Ukraine and you're watching your people die, it looks as if we're not doing enough but we're doing everything possible to ensure that the Russians are held accountable for this," Thomas-Greenfield said.
— Amanda Macias
Blinken details reports of rape and torture by Russian soldiers in Ukraine
EDITOR'S NOTE: This post contains graphic descriptions and a photo of atrocities that U.S. and European officials say were committed by Russian troops in Ukraine.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken detailed several apparent war crimes committed by Russian troops, some of which had not been widely reported.
Blinken, speaking at the NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels, said the body of Olga Sukhenk, the 50-year-old mayor of Motyzhyn, outside of Kyiv, "was found in a shallow grave along with her hands bound, alongside the bodies of her husband and son. They were last seen alive being taken away by Russian soldiers." A reporter with the BBC visited the grave, and a photographer for the Associated Press captured images of the horrific scene (below).
"In Kharkiv," said Blinken, "a woman was sheltering in a school with her 5-year-old daughter and neighbors when a Russian soldier picked her out and forced her to accompany him to an empty classroom. He cut her face and neck with a knife, threatened to kill her and raped her repeatedly at gunpoint."
"In Bucha, a woman described how Russian soldiers forced her and around 40 other people to gather in a small square," Blinken said. "The soldiers brought five young men there and ordered them to kneel, then the Russians shot one of them in the back of the head. He turned to those gathered and said of the victim, and I quote, 'This is dirt. We're here to cleanse you from the dirt.'"
Ukrainian forces liberated Bucha on April 1. Blinken said that, so far, authorities have discovered 410 murdered civilians in Bucha alone.
"With each day more and more credible reports of rape, killings, torture are emerging," said Blinken. "For every Bucha, there are many more towns Russia has occupied and more towns it is still occupying --- places where we must assume Russian soldiers are committing atrocities right now."
--- Christina Wilkie
U.S. Congress votes to revoke Russia's 'most favored nation' trade status
The U.S. Congress voted to revoke Russia's "most favored nation" trade status, opening the door to punishing tariffs on a range of Russian goods.
The Senate earlier Thursday unanimously passed the bill, which also would sever the normal trade relationship with Russian ally Belarus. The House then approved it in a 420-3 vote, sending it to President Joe Biden's desk.
The vote in Congress is a formal step to revoke normal trade relations.
The U.S. effectively severed its working trade relationship with Moscow in the weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine. Last month, Biden moved to ban Russian imports of Russian oil, seafood, diamonds and vodka.
— Thomas Franck
'We expect a big battle in Donbas,' NATO chief says
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance believes the war in Ukraine will intensify near the eastern Donbas region in the coming days.
"We expect a big battle in Donbas, a big Russian offensive," Stoltenberg told reporters following a two-day in-person meeting of foreign ministers at NATO's headquarters in Brussels.
"We don't see a Russian retreat. What we see is Russia, regrouping and repositioning their forces. Moving out of northern Ukraine but at the same time moving those forces to the east," Stoltenberg said, adding that the 30-member strong alliance is working to provide additional weapons to Ukraine ahead of Russia's renewed surge in the east.
Stoltenberg declined to detail the weapons systems the alliance has delivered to Ukraine, citing operational security concerns.
— Amanda Macias
UN votes to remove Russia from Human Rights Council
The United Nations suspended Russia from its seat on the Human Rights Council on Thursday.
Members voted 93 in favor and 24 against, while 58 abstained.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield introduced the proposal earlier in the week following accusations that Russian troops tortured and killed Ukrainian civilians in Bucha, a suburb near Kyiv.
Libya is the only country to be suspended from the 47-member Geneva-based council. The North African country was suspended in 2011 after a violent crackdown against protesters by forces loyal to then-leader Muammar Gaddafi.
— Amanda Macias
Finland is formally assessing potential NATO membership
The government of Finland is moving ahead with a formal assessment of whether to apply for NATO membership, and will present its findings to parliament next week, the Finnish foreign minister said in Brussels.
For decades, the Nordic nation that borders Russia has resisted invitations to join the North Atlantic security alliance. But Russia's invasion of Ukraine has forced it to reconsider, and public opinion in Finland has swung in favor of joining NATO. Watching Russian troops invade peaceful, sovereign Ukraine has created "a situation in which we may need cooperation," said Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, referring to NATO.
Haavisto said that if Finland's parliament approves its application for NATO membership, it would expect member states to swiftly vote on the application. "It is clear that in this global political situation, we are ready to hurry up and put pressure on all NATO members" to quickly vote to accept Finland into the alliance, said Haavisto.
Finland shares an 800-mile border with Russia, and the Kremlin for years has tacitly threatened that if the country decides to join NATO, it would become a target for possible Russian aggression.
--- Christina Wilkie
'Either you help us now ... or your help will come too late,' Ukrainian foreign minister says
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged allies to speed up the delivery of weapons as Russia prepares to intensify its fight in eastern Ukraine.
"Either you help us now, and I'm speaking about days not weeks, or your help will come too late," Kuleba told reporters at NATO's headquarters in Brussels.
"I have no doubt that Ukraine will have the weapons necessary to fight. The question is the timeline. This discussion is not about the list of weapons. The discussion is about the timeline when do we get them and this is crucial," he said, adding "people are dying today, the offensive is unfolding today."
When asked about Kuleba's comments, NATO Secretary-General said that "allies are providing and are ready to do more when it comes to military support."
— Amanda Macias
UN slated to vote on suspending Russia's Human Rights Council membership
The 193-member U.N. General Assembly is due to vote on suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council. The meeting is slated to begin at 10 a.m. ET.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield introduced the proposal earlier this week after accusations that Russian forces killed Ukrainian civilians in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv.
A resolution to strip Russia of its membership in the Geneva-based council would require support from two-thirds of the voting members.
The 47 members that make up the Human Rights Council, which are expected to uphold high human rights standards, serve for three years and are not eligible for immediate reelection after two consecutive terms.
— Amanda Macias
Italian Red Cross convoy of refugees from Ukraine arrives in Turin
82 people originally from the Donbass and suffering from various medical conditions were evacuated from Lviv by the Italian Red Cross in collaboration with the Ukrainian Red Cross. Once in Italy the refugees will be distributed to three regions; Piedmont, Trentino and Puglia.
Russian soldiers used civilians as human shields, witnesses say: Report
Russian soldiers used civilians as human shields against incoming Ukrainian fire, witnesses in the northern Ukrainian village of Obukhovychi told the BBC.
Residents of the village said Russian troops went from house to house, rounded up some 150 people at gunpoint, and held them in a school gym as protection for Russian troops.
"They took us from the cellars where we were hiding and forced us out," Lydmila Sutkova, one of the villagers, told the BBC. "Old ladies, children, everyone. It was terrifying. They broke open the doors of anyone who wouldn't open up."
Another villager, Maryana, said, "I was afraid that we would all be shot in that gym. I was scared for my daughter. I don't have the words."
Russia's foreign ministry has not responded to a CNBC request for comment.
— Natasha Turak
G-7 members condemn Bucha atrocities, say Russia should be suspended from UN Human Rights Council
The G-7 major economies issued a joint statement that squarely held Russia responsible for atrocities against civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, where at least 300 dead bodies were found on streets and in