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Biden says he doesn’t put much stock in Trump’s assessment of Putin

President Joe Biden told a liberal podcast host in an interview that he doesn’t give much weight to former President Donald Trump’s assessment of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I put as much stock in Trump saying that Putin’s a genius as I do when he called himself a stable genius,” Biden said in a brief clip tweeted Saturday by Brian Tyler Cohen, a progressive commentator. The interview was taped Friday, according to Cohen on Twitter.

Biden’s comment came in response to a question he was asked about Trump’s remarks earlier this week in which Trump described Putin as “very savvy” in an interview with a conservative podcast for the decision to recognize two breakaway regions of Ukraine.

“I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of Ukraine — Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful,” Trump said in an interview published Tuesday.

“I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. … We could use that on our southern border,” the former president added.

Two dead, six injured in missile strike that hit apartment building: Ukraine officials

Two Kyiv residents were killed and six injured after a missile hit a high-rise apartment building early Saturday morning, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine said.

Damage included a large hole ripped through the side of the building.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister for foreign affairs, blamed the strike on Russia but NBC News was unable to verify that claim. Russia denies targeting civilians.

An apartment building in Kyiv was damaged after it was reportedly struck by a Russian rocket on Saturday.Daniel Leal / AFP – Getty Images

Kyiv mayor extends nightly curfew until Monday

The mayor of Kyiv has extended a strict curfew until Monday morning as Ukrainian forces battled to keep hold of the capital city, which is under heavy Russian attack.

The curfew will run nightly from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. the following day local time “for more effective defense of the capital and security of its inhabitants,” mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Twitter Saturday, as explosions were heard around the capital. The previous curfew in Kyiv had run from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. local time

All civilians seen on the street during the curfew “will be considered members of the enemy’s sabotage and reconnaissance groups,” Klitschko said.

U.S. official: More than half of Russian forces Putin amassed around Ukraine committed

More than 50 percent of the Russian forces President Vladimir Putin had amassed around Ukraine in preparation for the invasion have been committed inside the country, a senior U.S. Defense Department official said Saturday.

As of Saturday morning, Russians are currently approximate 30 kilometers, or a little under 20 miles, north of Kyiv’s city center, this official said, but stressed that the situation was fluid and will change hour by hour. The heaviest fighting is still in and around the northern city of Kharkiv, the country’s second largest, the official said.

U.S. sees signs of Russian frustration with fierce Ukrainian resistance, senior Defense official says

The U.S. continues to see indications of a viable Ukrainian resistance along with signs that the resistance is stiffer than the Russians expected, senior U.S. Defense Department official told reporters during a background briefing Saturday morning.

The U.S. also has indications that the Russians are increasingly frustrated by their lack of progress particularly in the north around the capital city of Kyiv and Kharkiv, the nation’s second-largest city where Ukrainian troops have dug in amid fierce fighting, the official said.

To date, the Russian military has launched more than 250 missile launches, the official added. Ukraine’s air force, meanwhile, is still flying and the airspace remains contested, not under the control of either country.

There are signs of intermittent internet outages in the country, this official said. Additionally, the U.S. also has seen an uptick in how many people are trying to leave the country.

This official declined to comment on reports that the U.S. offered to evacuate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and that he refused.

Blinken authorizes additional $350 million in military assistance to Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday authorized an additional $350 million in military assistance to Ukraine.

“Today, as Ukraine fights with courage and pride against Russia’s brutal and unprovoked assault, I have authorized, pursuant to a delegation by the President, an unprecedented third Presidential Drawdown of up to $350 million for immediate support to Ukraine’s defense,” Blinken said in a statement.

This aid is the third drawdown of money and brings the total security assistance the U.S. has committed to Ukraine over the past year to over $1 billion, Blinken said, adding that the State Department previously authorized $60 million last fall as the present threat against Ukraine from Russia developed, and a further $200 million in December.

Biden instructed the State Department to release up to $350 million worth of military help to Ukraine on Friday as it fought to beat back a Russian invasion. 

“Yesterday, the President authorized an additional $350 million of military assistance from Department of Defense inventories, including anti-armor, small arms and various munitions, body armor, and related equipment in support of Ukraine’s front-line defenders facing down Russia’s unprovoked attack,” said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby.

Ukrainians tear down road signs hoping to confuse Russian troops

Additional NBC News reporters and producers on the ground say they witnessed road service employees taking down signs at various points along the country, including along the highway route to Lviv, as part of an apparent coordinated effort to confuse Russian forces who may not be familiar with the region.

Ukrainian soldiers barricade roads to protect region around Mariupol

Reporting from provincial roads outside of Ukraine’s key port city of Mariupol Saturday, NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel observed many checkpoints and barricades built by Ukrainian soldiers to protect communities in the region. 

“They’ve been cutting down trees, they’ve been putting stones and earth, piled up in the middle of the roads,” he told NBC News’ “TODAY.” 

He said that the roads were “almost entirely empty” and “very few people here are venturing out of their homes.” 

Ukrainian soldiers were also placing the yellow and blue colors of the Ukrainian flag on their helmets and uniforms in attempts to distinguish themselves from Russian soldiers and avoid friendly fire, he added. 

There have been reports that some Russian soldiers were found to be wearing Ukrainian military uniforms and using similar military equipment to the Ukrainian army, he said. 

Grief, fear and disbelief: Fleeing Kyiv as the Russians close in

Huddled in the basement of a hotel in the heart of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, Oksana Parafeniuk and her husband awoke Friday as sirens blared and Russian shells thudded and crunched.

It was time to flee Vladimir Putin’s advancing army.

She and her husband went to their apartment and quickly gathered clothes, cameras, essential documents, water and snacks.

“People are of course very scared. It’s hard to express… It’s hard to put it into words because it’s insane what’s going on,” Parafeniuk, 32, a photographer and journalist who has worked with NBC News, said. “It seemed like fighting would intensify, and it’s scary.”

Read the full story here

Twitter restricted in Russia amid broader social media crackdown

Russia has begun limiting access to Twitter, with an internet watchdog reporting Saturday that the platform is restricted on many of the country’s major internet providers.

Netblocks, an internet monitoring organization, said in a blog post: “The restrictions are in effect across multiple providers and come as Russian authorities and social media platforms clash over platform rules in relation to the conflict with Ukraine.”

The Twitter crackdown comes after Russia’s media regulator said Friday it would restrict access to Facebook because of its treatment of Russian media organizations.

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, said that Russia ordered it to stop fact checking and labeling Russian state media content, but that the company declined to do so.

Read More: Biden says he doesn’t put much stock in Trump’s assessment of Putin

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