European ambassadors met in Brussels today to debate the European Commission’s proposal on new sanctions against Russia as Russian forces ramped up attacks in Ukraine.
According to an EU source, there is an agreement to adopt this package very quickly, but there are a lot of technical questions, which “is normal as it is a very dense package,” according to the source.
Meanwhile, the US also announced a new round of sanctions, including targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin's adult daughters and major Russian financial institutions.
On the ground in Ukraine, civilian casualty numbers continue to rise.
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Civilian casualties: At least 1,563 civilians have been killed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The UN agency has recorded 3,776 civilian casualties in Ukraine so far: 1,563 killed and 2,213 injured, it said in its latest update posted Wednesday.
In Kyiv, at least 89 people have been killed, including four children, and 167 homes damaged since the beginning of the Russian invasion, Kyiv City State Administration wrote in a statement on a verified Telegram page on Wednesday. Another 398 people, including 20 children, were injured in the war.
Since Feb. 24, Russian troops have damaged 44 Kyiv schools, 11 administrative buildings, 26 kindergartens and an orphanage.
The administration urged its residents not to lose vigilance and to take shelter at the first signs of air alarms.
On the ground: The town of Severodonetsk has been heavily shelled, the head of the Luhansk region's military administration said Wednesday, adding that 10 high-rise buildings in the town were on fire.
"The Russians fired on Severodonetsk — 10 high-rise buildings are on fire," regional governor Serhii Haidai said on Telegram. "Information about casualties is being clarified."
While the shelling did not hit any strategic or military facilities, it did hit a factory workshop in Lysychansk and a house in Rubizhne, Haidai said.
Russian forces had hit towns and villages of Luhansk region a total of 81 times over the previous night, Haidai added.
The US assesses that Russian forces have completely withdrawn from areas near Kyiv and Chernihiv to “reconsolidate and refit in Belarus and in Russia,” according to a senior US defense official.
The official also said Russia has still not “secured” Mariupol despite isolating the city.
Russia has now launched more than 1,450 missiles against Ukraine since the invasion, the official said.
NATO head predicts Ukraine conflict could continue "for a long time": Although Russia is now concentrating its assault on eastern Ukraine, NATO has seen “no indication” that Putin's aim of controlling the whole country has changed, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters before a meeting in Brussels of foreign ministers of NATO allies, Stoltenberg also warned the war in Ukraine could last for years.
“We have seen no indication that President Putin has changed his ambition to control the whole of Ukraine and also to rewrite the international order, so we need to be prepared for the long haul,” he said. “We have to be realistic and realize that this may last for a long time, for many months or even years.”
The foreign ministers of NATO countries are meeting Wednesday and Thursday to discuss ramping up support for Ukraine.
Sanctions: The US is taking additional actions to increase economic pressure on Russia and Putin following horrific images from the Ukrainian city of Bucha, announcing new sanctions Wednesday on Russian financial institutions, as well as some people, including Putin’s adult daughters and the wife and daughter of his foreign minister.
“Today we’re dramatically escalating the financial shock by imposing full blocking sanctions on Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, and its largest private bank, Alfa Bank,” a senior administration official briefing reporters said.
Sberbank holds nearly one-third of Russia’s total banking sector assets, the official noted, adding that the US has now fully blocked “more than two-thirds of the Russian banking sector.”
Second, the senior official announced, “In alignment with the G7 and the EU, we’re announcing a ban on new investment in Russia.” That will be implemented with an executive order signed by US President Joe Biden.
The United States won't participate in G20 meetings that Russia is participating in, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Wednesday.
Speaking at the House Financial Services Committee, Yellen said she'd made that position clear to other finance ministers in the group.