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Biden heads to Europe with more sanctions for Russia

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President Joe Biden flies to Europe on Wednesday for an emergency NATO summit, the U.S. president’s first trip abroad since Russia invaded Ukraine, an offensive now stalled with Ukrainian cities under bombardment and the besieged port of Mariupol in flames, according to Reuters. 

Biden, due to arrive on Wednesday evening, will meet NATO and European leaders in an emergency summit at the Western military alliance’s Brussels headquarters. The leaders are expected to roll out additional sanctions against Russia on Thursday. Sources said the U.S. package would include measures targeting Russian members of parliament.

Biden will also visit Poland, which has taken in most of the more than 3.5 million refugees who have fled Ukraine and served as the main route for Western supplies of weapons to Ukraine.

Four weeks into a war that has driven a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes, Russia has failed to capture a single major Ukrainian city, while Western sanctions have ostracized it from the world economy.

Russian forces have taken heavy losses and are stalled for at least a week on most fronts by supply problems and fierce Ukrainian resistance, failing in what Western countries say was an attempt to seize Kyiv and swiftly depose the government. Moscow says its “special military operation” to disarm its neighbour is going to plan.

It denies targeting civilians but has turned to siege tactics and bombardment of cities, causing massive destruction and many civilians deaths.

Worst hit has been Mariupol, a southern port completely surrounded by Russian forces, where hundreds of thousands of people have been sheltering since the war’s early days, under constant bombardment and with no access to food, water or heat.

New satellite photographs from commercial firm Maxar released overnight showed massive destruction of what was once a city of 400,000 people, with columns of smoke rising from residential apartment buildings in flames.

No journalists have been able to report from inside the Ukrainian-held parts of the city for more than a week, during which time Ukrainian officials say Russia has bombed a theatre and an art school used as bomb shelters, burying hundreds of people alive. Russia denies targeting those buildings.