Our live coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine has moved here.
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made an impassioned appeal to the Russian people in a video posted on social media, asking them to resist their country's disinformation as the devastating invasion of Ukraine continues.
Schwarzenegger said he was "sending this message through various different channels" for Russian citizens and soldiers, and hoped his message about the atrocities committed by its government and military would break through. The video posted on Twitter has more than 16 million views.
"Ukraine did not start this war. Neither did nationalists or Nazis," he said. "Those in power in the Kremlin started this war."
Russian President Vladimir Putin and government officials have made false accusations toward Ukraine as their motivations for the invasion, baselessly saying the country must "deNazify."
"There are things that are going on in the world that are being kept from you, terrible things that you should know about," Schwarzenegger said.
"I know the Russian people are not aware such things are happening, so I urge the Russian people and the Russian soldiers in Ukraine to understand the propaganda and the disinformation that you are being told. I ask you to help me spread the truth."
He heavily criticized the Russian government for the invasion, saying they "lied not only to its citizens but to its soldiers" for the reasons behind the war.
Russian-backed rebels from the breakaway Luhansk People’s Republic in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region have taken control of government buildings in the city of Rubizhne.
Luhansk is one of two separatist regions backed by Russia, along with Donetsk. Both regions are split between parts controlled by Ukraine and by pro-Moscow separatists.
In videos posted Thursday to the official channel of the People's Militia of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), a uniformed soldier says, "We are located next to the administration of the city Rubizhne. The flag of the (LPR) is flying here now. This means for the local residents that, if the war hasn’t ended yet, then it’s in its final stages."
In another video, the soldier is seen standing in the Rubizhne mayor’s office and is later seen placing a flag of the LPR on the roof of the government building. After an explosion is heard, he says: "That’s more shelling, from the Ukrainian side."
Ongoing attacks: Shelling continues in Rubizhne, Luhansk regional administrator Serhiy Haidai said in a clip from an interview with local media.
In the clip posted to his Telegram channel late Thursday, Haidai said, "The enemy is simply destroying all the cities."
"It’s not even selective anymore. Earlier they were shelling more or less selectively, today they are firing deliberately, quadrant after quadrant," he added.
"People have been in basements for two weeks. Some have bomb shelters. If there’s a factory nearby, there are good, strong bomb shelters there."
Up to 1,200 people are in some bomb shelters, he said.
Delivering aid is difficult with constant firing, he said, but added that with the help of Ukraine's presidential office, there will be an attempt to create an evacuation corridor later in the week to deliver supplies to large cities.
Accounts of destruction: On Tuesday, Haidai said the Russian military destroyed a boarding school for visually impaired children in Rubizhne, in addition to a hospital, three other schools and "other military facilities."
Four people were killed during the military strike, he said.
CNN cannot independently confirm the deaths, or that the schools, hospital or facilities were hit.
Australia on Friday announced new sanctions against 11 Russian banks and government entities, according to a statement from Foreign Minister Marise Payne.
Payne said Australia will continue to work with its partners to coordinate sanctions and to "constrain funds for President (Vladimir) Putin’s unlawful war."
"Today’s listing includes the Russian National Wealth Fund and the Russian Ministry of Finance. With our recent inclusion of the Central Bank of Russia, Australia has now targeted all Russian Government entities responsible for issuing and managing Russia’s sovereign debt," she said.
"The majority of Russia's banking assets are now covered by our sanctions along with all of the entities that handle Russia’s sovereign debt."
Oligarchs targeted: Payne also announced new sanctions against Russian oligarchs Viktor Vekselberg, and Oleg Deripaska, the head of aluminum company Rusal, which owns 20% of Australia’s Queensland Alumina company.
Australia is “deeply committed to imposing high costs on Russia,” Payne said, reiterating Canberra's “unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and for the people of Ukraine.”
China’s Commissioner for Foreign Security Affairs, Cheng Guoping, met with Russia’s Ambassador to China, Andrey Denisov, on Thursday, according to China’s Foreign Ministry.
In a short statement released on Friday morning, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Cheng “briefed” Denisov on China’s “Two Sessions Meetings” and “exchanged views on China-Russian relations, counter-terrorism and security cooperation.”
There was no mention in the statement of Russia's war in Ukraine.
Some context: The meeting comes amid claims by senior US officials — including Secretary of State Antony Blinken — that Russia has asked China for military support and economic assistance for its invasion of Ukraine.
On Monday, a Western official and a US diplomat told CNN the US has information suggesting China has expressed some openness to providing Russia with requested military and financial assistance as part of its war on Ukraine.
Both China and Russia have denied that Moscow asked for military assistance.
US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will discuss Russia's invasion of Ukraine Friday, according to a White House statement Thursday.
South Korea will close its temporary embassy in Lviv due to “escalating military threats” near the western Ukrainian city, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday.
Heightening military threats near Lviv made it difficult for the temporary embassy “to function and to secure safety of its staff,” the statement said.
South Korean moved its embassy in Ukraine from the capital, Kyiv, to Lviv, on March 3.
It is also operating temporary offices in Chernivtsi, southwestern Ukraine, and in Romania, which will remain open.
As of Thursday, 28 South Korean nationals are in Ukraine, excluding embassy workers and those in the Crimean Peninsula, according to the presidential Blue House.
Though Russia's invasion has stalled in most areas of Ukraine, troops have made progress in the south of the country by using the same tactics they deployed in Syria, said Mason Clark, lead Russia analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.
Russia's attack on the coastal city Mariupol, where hundreds of thousands of people have been trapped by relentless bombarding for weeks, is "ripped from the Syria playbook," Clark said.
These tactics include "specific neighborhood-by-neighborhood targeting," less precise weapons that take a more brutal toll, and hitting civilian infrastructure.
"They're very intentionally targeting water stations and power supplies and internet towers and cell phone towers and that sort of thing, in a very deliberate attempt to make it more difficult for the defenders to hold out and try and force them to capitulate," Clark said.
“It’s the same approach the Russian forces have taken in a number of cities in Syria, such as Aleppo and Palmyra,” he added. “You also then have the frankly deliberate war crimes that Russians are committing, such as targeting that drama theater in Mariupol that was housing refugees, which unfortunately tracks with what Russian forces have done in the past, both in Syria, as well as in previous wars in Georgia and Chechnya.”
The city of Aleppo was reduced to ruins during the Syrian civil war, with air offensives that killed and maimed scores of civilians. Hospitals were destroyed, and entire housing blocks reduced to rubble.
If Mariupol falls, that could be the "next major change in the war, because it'll free up a lot of Russian forces that are currently deadlocked in that operation, including some of the best units of Russia's Southern Military District that could potentially resume further operations,” he added.
The accounts of Russia's military issues and ineptitude during its three-week-long invasion of Ukraine are too numerous to list.
The proof of Russia's military problems is in a video of Russian tanks, stuck in a line, being destroyed by Ukrainians — and in reports of Russian combat deaths, which already may be anywhere from 3,000 to more than 10,000.
If those death tolls are toward the higher end — and we really don't know — it has been noted that would mean Russian deaths to date could be more than US military combat deaths during 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan combined, although the total death tolls from those conflicts were far greater than just US military deaths.
There are numerous accounts of Russian soldiers surprised to learn they had been sent to war.
But an incapable Russian army is not entirely good news.
"Failing militaries can be even more dangerous than successful ones," writes Kori Schake, director of foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute, in The Washington Post.
It is exactly their incompetence that could make this war so devastating, she argues.
"There's reason to worry that the ineptitude and lack of professionalism that Russian forces have displayed in the first three weeks of the conflict are making fighting considerably more brutal for civilians than a more competent military would — and increasing the prospects that the war escalates."
Read the full analysis:
The Russian military continues to face logistical problems in its “faltering invasion of Ukraine,” Britain's Ministry of Defence said in a statement on Thursday.
In its latest intelligence update, the ministry said Russian forces were being prevented from resupplying “forward troops with even basic essentials such as food and fuel,” due to their inability to control Ukrainian airspace and challenges on the ground.
Russian forces have been reluctant to maneuver across the country, the ministry said, but did not provide additional details on its knowledge of Russia’s strategic moves.
“Reluctance to maneuver cross-country, lack of control of the air and limited bridging capabilities are preventing Russia from effectively resupplying their forward troops with basic essentials such as food and fuel,” the ministry said.
“Incessant Ukrainian counterattacks are forcing Russia to divert large numbers of troops to their own supply Iines. This is severely limiting Russia’s offensive potential.”