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Zelenskyy praises Ukrainian bravery; Russia threatens to ‘scale up missile attacks’ on Kyiv: Live Ukraine updates – USA TODAY

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised his country’s bravery late Thursday and said Ukraine should be proud of having survived 50 days under Russian attack when the Russians “gave us a maximum of five.”

In a video address, Zelenskyy called it “an achievement of millions of Ukrainians, of everyone who on Feb. 24 made the most important decision of their life – to fight.” He added: “But they didn’t know us either. And they did not know how brave Ukrainians are, how much we value freedom. Our opportunity to live the way we want.”

Meanwhile, the storied Russian warship Moskva, whose history goes back to days of the Cold War, sank into the Black Sea on Thursday in the latest blow to Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine.

Losing the vessel, built in Ukraine during the Soviet era and named after the Russian capital, represents a military setback and symbolic defeat for Russia as its troops regroup for a renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine after stumbling in the north.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the Moskva — flagship of the country’s Black Sea fleet — was being towed to port when it “lost its stability due to damage to the hull received during the fire from the detonation of ammunition. In the conditions of stormy seas, the ship sank.” But Odesa Gov. Maksym Marchenko said on Telegram that Ukrainian forces struck the guided-missile cruiser with two missiles.

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Latest developments

►President Joe Biden is not set to visit Ukraine, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told the podcast “Pod Save America” Thursday. 

►International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said the consequences of Russia’s invasion were contributing to economic downgrades for 143 countries.

►Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said his nation had “made considerable efforts to de-escalate the situation, defuse the crisis and rebuild peace.” China has refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine by strategic partner Russia, or even refer to the conflict as a war. 

UN warns 2.7 million people with disabilities at risk in Ukraine

Some 2.7 million people with disabilities are at “grave risk of harm” due to the war in Ukraine, the United Nations warned Friday.

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities said it received reports that people with disabilities, including children, are stranded in homes, residential care institutions and orphanages without necessary medication, food, water or other basic needs. Many have been separated from their support networks, making it more difficult to navigate their surroundings, the committee said. 

The group also warned that women with disabilities are at a greater risk of sexual violence that has been reported across Ukraine. 

The group called on Russia to “immediately” end the war and “observe and respect the principles of international human rights and humanitarian law.”

-Ella Lee

Russia may ‘scale up missile attacks’ on Kyiv

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Friday promised to ramp up “the scale of missile attacks” on Kyiv in response to Ukraine’s “diversions on the Russian territory.”

The statement comes a day after Russian authorities accused Ukrainian forces of launching airstrikes on residential buildings in one of the country’s regions on the border with Ukraine, in which seven people sustained injuries.

According to Russian officials, some 100 residential buildings were damaged in Thursday’s attack on the Klimovo village in the Bryansk region. The Defense Ministry said that the Russian forces in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region shut down a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter that was allegedly involved in the attack on the Bryansk region.

Authorities in another border region, Belgorod, also reported Ukrainian shelling on Thursday.

— Associated Press 

Moscow likely to change naval operation in Black Sea after loss of warship Moskva

Britain’s defense ministry says the loss of Russia’s naval flagship will likely force Moscow to change the way its naval forces operate in the Black Sea.

The Moskva sank after being damaged in disputed circumstances. Ukraine says it struck the vessel with missiles, while Moscow acknowledged a fire on board but not any attack.

In an update posted Friday on social media, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said the Soviet-era ship, which returned to operational service last year after a major refit, “served a key role as both a command vessel and air defence node.”

It said the sinking “means Russia has now suffered damage to two key naval assets since invading Ukraine, the first being Russia’s Alligator-class landing ship Saratov on 24 March. Both events will likely lead Russia to review its maritime posture in the Black Sea.”

— Associated Press

Russia threatens to move nukes  closer if Finland, Sweden join NATO

The entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO would force Russia to strengthen its northwestern borders and place nuclear weapons in the region, Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday. Medvedev noted on his Telegram channel that the length of Russia’s land border with the NATO alliance would more than double. One of Russia’s explanations for its invasion of Ukraine was concern over possible NATO expansion there.

“Naturally, these borders will have to be strengthened. The grouping of ground forces and air defense will be seriously strengthened, and significant naval forces will be deployed in the waters of the Gulf of Finland,” Medvedev wrote, adding that keeping the region’s non-nuclear status is “out of the question.”

Contributing: The Associated Press