“To meet this commitment, we are considering the full range of legal pathways to the United States,” the official said, which includes US refugee admissions program, parole and immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.
The official said the White House will not have to ask Congress to expand the current cap on annual refugees — which is currently set at 125,000 for fiscal year 2022 — because it is more a “long-term commitment” and there will be other avenues to enter the United States for many of those Ukrainians.
“We still have a significant capacity within the 125,000 so we don’t currently envision the need to go beyond that,” the official said.
The official said that the administration is working to expand and develop new programs with “a focus on welcoming Ukrainians who have family members in the United States.”
There will be an emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable among the refugee populations, including members of the LGBTQI+ community, those with medical needs, journalists and third country nationals.
“By opening our country to these individuals, we will help relieve some of the pressure on the European host countries that are currently shouldering so much of the responsibility,” the official added.
9:25 a.m. ET, March 24, 2022
US will announce sanctions on over 300 members of the Russian Duma, Biden administration official says
From CNN's Allie Malloy
The United States on Thursday will announce new sanctions against over 300 members of the Russian Duma and more than 40 Russian defense companies, a senior administration official told reporters.
The official added that the EU and G7 will also announce a new sanctions evasion initiative that’s “designed to prevent circumvention or backfilling” of sanctions.
Asked by CNN’s Phil Mattingly for examples of the sanctions evasion initiative, a senior administration official said, in part, it will blunt the Central Bank of Russia’s ability to deploy international reserves by making clear that any transaction involving gold is prohibited — which prevents the ruble from being propped up.
“The overall message here is we have taken historic steps in imposing costs on Russia, now let’s make sure we are fully aligned and getting the maximum impact from the measures we have implemented,” the official said.
Asked about the expected joint energy strategy that is expected to be announced Friday, administration officials wouldn’t go into detail but said “it’s something we’ve been working on for some time and I think it’s going to be a meaningful step forward in terms of accelerating Europe’s diversification away from Russian gas.”
9:09 a.m. ET, March 24, 2022
Economic fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine is spilling over to the rest of the world
From CNN’s David Goldman
As Russian soldiers bear down on Ukraine, increasingly desperate Ukrainians are running out of food and medicine. The economic fallout from the invasion is beginning to spill over to the rest of the world, too.
Forecasts for global growth are being slashed and the chance of a US recession in 2023 has risen to 35%, according to Goldman Sachs.
But war in Europe is no longer a theoretical, off-in-the-future concern for economists to discuss in research papers and notes to investors. It's tangible. It's here. And it's causing pain for millions.
Sanctions and other supply-chain disruptions have sent consumer prices surging across the world as oil and other commodity prices have spiked. Soaring gas and diesel prices are also adding to the cost of food, heightening fears that the world is on the brink of a hunger crisis.
France's government is considering food vouchers to help residents afford to eat. A commodities trading company said diesel is in such short supply it may soon have to be rationed.
Ukraine's president to NATO: Give us just 1% of what you have
From CNN's Andrew Carey and Yulia Kesaieva in Lviv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has told the NATO leaders meeting in Brussels that Ukraine needs just a fraction of the alliance’s combined firepower.
“You can give us 1% of all your planes. One percent of all your tanks. One percent!” he said in an address on Facebook.
“You have thousands of fighter jets, but we have not been given one yet … we turned [to you] for tanks so that we can unblock our cities … you have at least 20,000 tanks … but we do not have a clear answer yet,” Zelensky said.
He appealed to leaders to make the necessary decisions to make it happen.
“We can't just buy [these items]. Such a supply depends directly on NATO's decisions, on political decisions,” Zelensky said.
He also said NATO leaders should acknowledge what Ukraine’s armed forces have demonstrated in the war against Russia.
“Please, never tell us again that our army does not meet NATO standards. We have shown what standards we can reach. And we have shown how much we can give to the common security of Europe and the world," Zelensky said.
9:05 a.m. ET, March 24, 2022
Emergency summits are underway in Brussels. Here's what to expect — and what not to
From CNN's Kevin Liptak
Historic, emergency summits are underway in Brussels as US President Joe Biden works to rally the West behind a strategy to confront Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
What's happening this morning:
World leaders, including Biden, arrived at NATO headquarters on Thursday morning, posing for a brief family photo before entering a lengthy closed-door session.
Biden did not stop to speak on his way in; other leaders made brief remarks and took questions. We have not heard from Biden yet today.
The NATO session currently underway was expected to focus partly on what to do if Russia deploys a chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapon. US officials have quietly been mapping out potential ways the US could respond if Russian President Vladimir Putin took such an extreme step.
Other topics — including new sanctions on Russia, NATO’s force posture, and military assistance to Ukraine — are all expected as part of the last-minute diplomatic burst.
What to expect later today:
While Biden's at NATO headquarters, he will meet with the leaders of the G7, where new sanctions are expected to be announced. Biden is expected to take a G7 family photo at 9:10 a.m. ET (2:10 p.m. local time) before the meeting, which takes place at 9:15 a.m. ET (2:15 p.m. local time).
Biden will then head to the European Council, where the issue of European dependence on Russian energy is expected to dominate. He arrives at 11:20 a.m. ET (4:20 p.m. local time) and will hold a meeting with European Council President Charles Michel. The European Council Summit begins at 12 p.m. ET (5 p.m. local time).
Biden then heads back to NATO headquarters for a 3 p.m. ET (8 p.m. local time) news conference.
What leaders won't do:
As the snap NATO summit got underway, leaders heard a call for more help from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who addressed the gathering virtually. He stopped short of issuing his usual request for a no-fly zone. But he did say Ukraine needs fighter jets, tanks and better air defenses.
Western leaders would not implement a no-fly zone even if Zelensky reiterated calls for it. US and NATO officials have repeatedly said that it would risk provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin and sparking a wider war with Russia. Western allies have also found it difficult to take more aggressive steps, such as providing Russian-made fighter jets to Ukraine or deciding to cut themselves off from Russian energy supplies, which could potentially cripple Russia's economy.
European leaders have also outlined their own limitations in punishing Russia. While the US has imposed a ban on imports of Russian energy products, Europe remains far more dependent and has stopped short of cutting itself off completely.
Qatar will stand "in solidarity" with Europe by continuing supplying gas, energy minister says
From CNN’s Becky Anderson, Mostafa Salem and Adam Pourahmadi in Doha
Qatar will stand “in solidarity with Europe” and will not divert gas contracts to other customers, even if it means losing on possible financial gains, Qatari Energy Minister Saad Al Kaabi told CNN’s Becky Anderson in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
The energy-rich Gulf monarchy supplies some European countries with gas in the form of divertible contracts, which means they are able to divert supply across to other customers.
“We're not going to divert [contracts] and will keep them in Europe, even if there is financial gain for us to divert away, we would not do that,” Al Kaabi said. “That's in solidarity with what's going on in Europe,” he said.
Still, the minister rejected imposing sanctions on Russia’s energy sector, saying “energy should stay out of politics” and reiterated that completely stopping Russian gas supply to Europe is “not practically possible.” The minister also said that his nation is not “choosing sides” in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Earlier this week, top German officials, including Economy Minister Robert Habeck, visited Qatar for talks on supplying long-term gas to Europe in the midst of Russian energy uncertainty. Reports surfaced of a deal between Qatar and Germany on gas supply; however, the Qatari minister denied that a deal had been reached.
“We have not agreed a long-term agreement with Germany yet, but we're willing to discuss with the companies that we have been discussing to put a long-term agreement in place potentially. This is a commercial agreement between commercial entities,” Al Kaabi said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates last week in an attempt to sway both nations into increasing oil supply into the market despite a deal with Russia capping oil supply. The two countries have spare capacity to possibly ease a global oil deficit, but both gulf nations have so far remained committed to the OPEC+ deal with Russia — even after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Qatar, which withdrew from OPEC in 2019 after a diplomatic rift with its neighboring countries said they are not planning on returning to the cartel. Al Kaabi, however, still supported supply moves by the organization, calling their plan “very sensible.”
8:40 a.m. ET, March 24, 2022
Top Russian military leaders have declined calls from US military leaders, Pentagon says
From CNN's Barbara Starr
Senior Russian military leaders have declined calls from their US counterparts since before the invasion of Ukraine began, the Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.
"Over the past month, Secretary Austin and Chairman Milley have sought, and continue to seek, calls with their Russian counterparts. Minister Shoigu and General Gerasimov have so far declined to engage. We continue to believe that engagement between U.S. and Russian defense leaders is critically important at this time," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.
CNN has previously reported that the last known time Austin last spoke with Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu was on February 18. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley last spoke to the Chief of Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov on February 11.
8:38 a.m. ET, March 24, 2022
US expected to accept up to 100,000 refugees fleeing crisis in Ukraine
From CNN's Kevin Liptak
The United States plans to accept up to 100,000 refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, a person familiar with the decision says -- a major step toward easing a brewing humanitarian crisis in Europe.
President Joe Biden was expected to unveil the decision as he travels in Europe to rally support behind a united approach to the crisis.
Leaders from Poland in particular have called on the US to expedite the processing of refugees with family in the US.
More than 3.6 million people have now fled Ukraine, according to the latest update from the UN Refugee Agency.