Here’s the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war

The Associated Press

Two million people — half of them children — have fled Ukraine in the less than two weeks since Russia invaded the country, officials said Tuesday, as Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II grows by the day.

As the cross-border exodus from Ukraine continued, the humanitarian situation in the country’s besieged cities grew more dire, including the port of Mariupol, where bodies lay uncollected in the streets and hopes for a mass-evacuation of civilians were dashed yet again, Ukrainian officials said.

Several thousand people did manage to leave the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy on buses on Tuesday through one of the humanitarian corridors Russia and Ukraine agreed to Monday. But that happened after overnight shelling killed 21 people in the city, according to the Ukrainian officials, as fierce fighting raged in a huge swath of the country.

Meanwhile, Poland said it would give Soviet-era fighter jets to the U.S. for transfer to the Ukrainian military, which could inflame tensions between Moscow and Washington. And President Joe Biden banned Russian oil imports to the U.S., seeking to further cripple the Kremlin’s ability to finance its invasion.

A refugee child fleeing the conflict from neighbouring Ukraine holds flowers, given out to celebrate International Women's Day, as he sits on a bus, at the Romanian-Ukrainian border, in Siret, Romania, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. It is a global day to celebrate women, but many fleeing Ukraine feel only the stress of finding a new life for their children as husbands, brothers and fathers stay behind to defend their country from Russia's invasion. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Here’s a look at key things to know about the war:

WHAT HAS BEEN DIRECTLY WITNESSED OR CONFIRMED BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS?

Videos showed people boarding buses in Sumy on Tuesday and showed buses marked with a red cross driving along a snowy road as they headed out of the city.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said both sides agreed to a cease-fire from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for the evacuation of Sumy civilians, who were headed southwest to the Ukrainian city of Poltava.

Earlier, a video from Sumy showed rescuers pulling the wounded out of debris following an overnight airstrike. A woman who was trapped under the rubble survived, according to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.

Video also showed women and children in Mariupol gathered in a basement shelter as outgoing artillery fire blazed in the distance. One of the women, Goma Janna, lamented, “Why shouldn’t I cry? I want my home, I want my job. I’m so sad about people and about the city, the children.”

Civilians in Mariupol, a city of roughly 430,000 people, have been without water, heat, sanitary systems and phone service for several days, and many have turned to breaking into shops. The video showed a Ukrainian soldier telling people, “People, please be united. You don’t need to panic. Please don’t steal everything. You will live here together.”

Where a small cache of bottled water has been left on a sidewalk, a soldier said it was for women, children and the elderly, and that men should search for water elsewhere.

A girl sits in the improvised bomb shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine, Monday, March 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

HOW ARE EVACTUATIONS GOING?

Vereshchuk said 5,000 people were evacuated from Sumy to Poltava, including 1,700 foreign students.

The Russian military said 723 people were evacuated from the city, identifying them as mostly citizens of India, with the rest from China, Jordan and Tunisia. It made no mention of Ukrainians among the evacuees.

The planned evacuation of civilians from Mariupol failed because Russian troops fired on a Ukrainian convoy carrying humanitarian cargo to the city that was later going to ferry people out, Vereshchuk said.

The Russian military denied firing on convoys and accused Ukraine of blocking the evacuation effort.

Russia said Monday that civilians would be allowed safe passage out of several cities, including Sumy, Mariupol, Chernigiv, Kyiv and Kharviv. But it wasn’t clear if evacuations happened in those other cities. Repeated attempts to create safe evacuation corridors have failed since last weekend amid continuing fighting and objections to the proposed routes.

Ukrainian officials said a safe corridor did open early Tuesday from Irpin, a city near Kyiv that has been without electricity, water and heat for days. But it wasn’t clear how long it remained open or how many people used it.

WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING ON THE GROUND?

Russian aircraft on Tuesday night bombed residential areas around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and Zhytomyr, to the west of Kyiv, and its military also stepped up its shelling of Kyiv’s suburbs, the Ukrainian emergency services said.

In Malyn, a town of 25,000 near Zhytomyr, the bombing killed at least five people, including two children, and destroyed a textile factory and seven homes, the agency said. Two people died, including a 7-year-old child, in the bombing in Chuhuiv, near Kharkiv.

Ukrainian officials also reported dire conditions in the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel, Irpen, Vyshhorod and Borodianka, including bodies of the dead that couldn’t be buried.

The mayor of Lviv said the city in far western Ukraine was struggling to feed and house the more than 200,000 people who have fled there. The displaced are being housed in the city’s sport halls, schools and other buildings.

In the nearly two weeks since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion, his forces have captured a swath of southern and coastal Ukraine but have seen their advances stopped in many areas, including around Kyiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed that his country would fight Russia’s invasion in its cities, fields and riverbanks.

“We will not give up and we will not lose,” he told Britain’s packed House of Commons via video, evoking the “never surrender” speech that Winston Churchill gave in the darkest days of World War II.

HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN KILLED?

Thousands of people are thought to have been killed, both civilians and soldiers, though the actual number is unknown.

The U.S. believes Russia underestimated the strength of Ukraine’s resistance before launching its invasion and has suffered thousands of casualties, the Biden administration’s top intelligence official told lawmakers Tuesday.

“We assess Putin feels aggrieved the West does not give him proper deference and perceives this as a war he cannot afford to lose,” Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said during a House Intelligence Committee hearing. “But what he might be willing to accept as a victory may change over time given the significant costs he is incurring.”

The U.N. human rights office said Tuesday that it had confirmed that 474 civilians had died and 861 had been wounded in Ukraine since the Feb. 24 start of the war, though it acknowledged that the actual figures are likely much higher. U.N. officials also said Tuesday that 2 million people have fled Ukraine.

WHAT ABOUT AID TO UKRAINE AND SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIA?

The U.S. and its NATO allies have rejected Ukraine’s calls to enforce a no-fly zone over the country so as to avoid direct military engagement with Russia. But Poland said Tuesday that it would give all of its MiG-29 fighter jets to the U.S., apparently agreeing to an arrangement that would allow them to be used by Ukraine’s military, though it wasn’t immediately clear how such a transfer might happen. Ukrainian pilots are trained to fly Soviet-era fighter jets.

Meanwhile, Biden said the U.S. would ban all Russian oil imports, toughening the toll on Russia’s economy even if it will mean rising costs for Americans, particularly at the gas pump. Energy exports have kept a steady stream of cash flowing to Russia despite otherwise severe restrictions it faces.

Hours after Biden’s announcement, Russia’s Central Bank sharply tightened currency restrictions in ways not seen since Soviet times. It ordered the country’s commercial banks to cap the amount clients can withdraw from their hard currency deposits at $10,000 and told them to stop selling hard currency to clients, which will likely foment black market for foreign currency.

Surging prices for oil and other vital commodities, such as wheat used in subsidized bread and noodles, are rattling global markets. Worries are growing that the invasion of Ukraine will upend already tight oil supplies, as Russia is one of the world’s largest energy producers.

Shell, McDonald’s and Adidas became the latest companies to curtail their Russia business dealings. She said it would stop buying natural gas and oil from Russia, while McDonald’s said it would temporarily shutter its 850 restaurants in the country but continue paying its 62,000 workers there, at least for now.