Ukrainian officials warn Kiev residents that fighting is underway against Russian forces, who are storming towards the capital on the third day of Moscow's military campaign. Here are the latest updates:

SWIFT, or the
SWIFT, or the "Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication," is a secure messaging system that facilitates rapid cross-border payments, making international trade flow smoothly. (Reuters)

Saturday, February 26, 2022

EU, US decide to disconnect Russia's banks from SWIFT

The European Union, along with the United States and other Western partners, has announced further sanctions on Russia for its attack on Ukraine, including cutting off a number of Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank payments system.

SWIFT is the world's main international payments network.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Brussels would propose to freeze the assets of the Russian central bank, in a major escalation of sanctions against Moscow following the incursion of Ukraine.

Von der Leyen also said the EU would remove "certain" Russian banks from the SWIFT payment system, in response to a key demand of Kiev.

Germany also announced that Berlin would sanction individuals and institutions inside and outside of Russia who are "war supporters." 

US and Western allies have also made clear that they are prepared to take further measures to punish Russia for its incursion into Ukraine.

'Putin will decide how much cost is willing to pay' - US official

Extraordinary Western sanctions to cut Russian banks from the global system and hobble the country's central bank make Moscow a financial "pariah" facing a ruble in "freefall," a senior US official.

"Russia has become a global economic and financial pariah," he said, and the Russian central bank now "can't support the ruble."

"Only Putin can decide how much more cost he is willing to bear," the official said, adding that a task force will "hunt down" Russian oligarchs' "yachts, jets, fancy cars and luxury homes."

Germany's Lufthansa won't fly over Russia

German airline Lufthansa said it will cancel all flights to Russia and will cease using Russian airspace for the coming week, citing the "emerging regulatory situation".

"Flights that are in Russian airspace will leave it again shortly," a spokesperson for the company said, adding that the company was in close contact with national and international authorities and would continue to monitor the situation closely.

Separately, Germany's transport minister said he is in favour of closing Germany's airspace to Russian aeroplanes and has ordered that all necessary measures be put in place, the transport ministry said in a Tweet.

UN pledges to advance humanitarian aid to Ukraine

The United Nations told Ukraine that it will work to increase humanitarian assistance in the wake of the Russian incursion.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, conveyed the "determination of the United Nations to enhance humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine," according to a statement released by the UN.

In addition, the chief of the global body told Zelenskyy the UN would launch on Tuesday an appeal to fund its humanitarian operations in Ukraine.

The UN's refugee chief said on Friday that more than 50,000 people had fled the country in the last 48 hours.

The UN's emergency relief coordinator also asked for aid workers' to have "safe, unimpeded access" to carry out humanitarian operations in Ukraine "as soon as the security allows."

Major cities are under assault by Russia, including the capital Kiev, and are at risk of being cut off from vital supplies.

EU to discuss new emergency assistance to Ukraine

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted that “I am convening a virtual meeting of EU foreign ministers tomorrow at 18.00 (Central European Time, 1700 GMT) to adopt further measures in support of Ukraine, against aggression by Russia.”

Borrell says he will propose to the ministers that they endorse “a package of emergency assistance for the Ukrainian armed forces, to support them in their heroic fight.”

It will be the third time the ministers have met in a week. Previously they endorsed two packages of sanctions; one raft targeting Russians involved in the recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, and another hitting Russia’s economy and freezing the assets of its president and foreign minister.

France to deliver more military equipment to Ukraine

France will send more military equipment, as well as fuel, to Ukraine to help fight off the Russian attack and will also slap more economic sanctions on Moscow, the French presidency said.

The new sanctions would encompass "national measures to freeze the financial assets of Russian figures," as well as "new measures" to be taken "with European partners concerning the SWIFT" interbank system, the Elysee said in a statement.

Separately Belgium has announced it was providing 2,000 machine guns and 3,800 tonnes of fuel to the Ukrainian army.

The Dutch defence ministry said it had delivered sniper rifles and helmets, while 200 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles would be on their way as "soon as possible."

Germany approves weapon deliveries to Ukraine in a U-turn

Germany has approved the deliveries of anti-tank rocket launchers to Ukraine, a government source said, in a U-turn from its longstanding policy of banning weapon exports to conflict zones. 

German army will transfer 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 "Stinger" class surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine to help it in its battle against Russia's attack, the government said. 

The anti-tank launchers will be delivered via the Netherlands, which purchased the equipment from Germany but required Berlin's green light to transfer the weapons to Kiev.

Besides the anti-tank launchers, 14 armoured vehicles have been approved for Ukraine.

Up to 10,000 tonnes of fuel will also be transferred through Poland to Ukraine, said the source, adding that other "possible support services is now being examined." 

Ukraine: About 3,500 Russian troops killed or injured

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia's attack on Kiev was not advancing and that around 3,500 Russian soldiers had been killed or injured so far in Moscow's assault on Ukraine.

"We are striking the enemy around Kiev. The enemy is not moving for now," said Oleksiy Arestovych. 

YouTube blocks RT, other Russian channels from generating revenue

YouTube has suspended multiple Russian channels, including state-funded media outlet RT, from generating revenue on the video service, following a similar move by Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc.

"In light of extraordinary circumstances in Ukraine...we’re pausing a number of channels’ ability to monetize on YouTube, including several Russian channels affiliated with recent sanctions," YouTube, which is operated by Alphabet Inc's Google, said in a statement. 

Pentagon: Russian forces 'frustrated' by stiff Ukraine resistance

Russian forces are being slowed and frustrated by unexpectedly stiff resistance from Ukrainian troops, keeping them well outside Kiev, a senior US defence official said.

According to Pentagon information, Russia now has at least 50 percent of its massive force inside Ukraine. 

But the force is making slow progress on its original three-front thrust due to unexpectedly stiff resistance, the official told reporters, on grounds of anonymity.

"We have indications that the Russians are increasingly frustrated by their lack of momentum over the last 24 hours, particularly in the north parts of Ukraine," the official said. 

The United States and Western allies are still able to deliver arms into the country to bolster the Ukraine military, and Washington plans to send more in the coming days to help them fight both Russian attacks on the ground and the air, the official said.  

Russia closes its airspace for Romanian airliners

Russia closed its airspace for Romanian airliners "due to unfriendly decisions by Romanian aviation authorities", Russian federal aviation agency Rosaviatsiya said. 

Earlier Romania said it would ban Russian airlines from its airspace, joining other countries in central Europe doing the same after Russia attacked Ukraine.

Russian troops destroy Ukrainian dam that blocked water to Crimea

Russian troops have destroyed a concrete dam built in Ukraine's Kherson Region in 2014 to cut off water to Crimea, the RIA news agency quoted the governor of Russian-annexed Crimea Sergei Aksyonov.

Ukraine cut off the fresh water supply to Crimea by damming a canal that had supplied 85 percent of the peninsula's needs before Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014.

The Soviet-era canal was built to channel water from the River Dnieper to arid areas of Ukraine's Kherson region and Crimea. 

Twitter says its site is being restricted in Russia

Twitter is being restricted for some users in Russia, the social media company said in a tweet.

On Friday, Moscow said it was partially limiting access to Meta Platforms Inc's Facebook, accusing it of "censoring" Russian media.

Twitter said it was working to keep its service safe and accessible. It did not immediately respond to a question on whether Russia had communicated with the company about any actions.

Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks reported that Twitter had been restricted on leading networks. A Reuters reporter in Moscow on Saturday said the site was slow and had difficulties sending tweets.

Civilians killed by Russian shelling in east Ukraine's Donetsk

Russian shelling has killed 19 civilians and injured 73 more in Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, the Interfax news agency reported citing regional administration.

"On February 26, as a result of Russian shelling, 19 civilians were killed, 73 people were injured," Interfax quoted Pavel Kirilenko as saying on social media. 

Lithuania closes its airspace to Russian airlines

Lithuania will ban Russian airlines from using the Baltic nation's airspace because of Russia's military operation in Ukraine, the government said.

Lithuania is the shortest route from mainland Russia to its Kaliningrad exclave, sandwiched between NATO members Lithuania and Poland on the Baltic Sea's eastern coast. 

Russia's anti-war lobby goes online

The head of Russia's state-run RT television is in no doubt. If fellow citizens oppose President Vladimir Putin's action in Ukraine then they are no longer Russians.

Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the English language international news network, is never one to mince her words and is used to making cutting remarks on Twitter in defence of Putin who she refers to simply as "leader".

"If you are ashamed of being Russian now, don't worry, you are not Russian," was her summation of the anti-war movement at home. 

Several thousand Russians demonstrated against the Russian assault on Ukraine, but the police reaction was the usual one when it comes to Kremlin critics: hundreds of arrests.

So the anti-war movement has moved online, where it is beginning to make itself heard and to garner support, some of it high-profile.

Ukrainian flags adorn profile pictures and teary-eyed emojis are scattered liberally among the online statements. The hashtag #NoToTheWar was trending on Twitter.

US official: Over half of Russian troops deployed on borders now inside Ukraine

More than half of the Russian forces amassed near Ukrainian borders are now inside Ukraine, a senior US defence official said, the third day of the Russian military operation in the former Soviet republic.

Ahead of Russia’s military attacks, the US and Western nations accused Moscow of placing more than 150,000 troops near Ukraine and planning an intervention.

“We’d estimate that about more than 50 percent of the Russian force that Mr. Putin had arrayed in Ukraine (...) has been committed inside Ukraine,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters.

The official said Russian forces are facing “the stiffest resistance” in the north of Ukraine, but “a little less resistance” in the south. 

According to the official, Russian forces are approximately 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of the capital Kiev.

Greece says six expats killed in Ukraine, summons Russian ambassador

Greece said that six Greek nationals had been killed and six others wounded by Russian bombing near Mariupol in Ukraine, and that it had summoned Russia's ambassador to the foreign ministry on Monday after a verbal demarche.

The bombing took place in the outskirts of Sartana and Bugas villages and one of those injured was a child, the foreign ministry said.

"The death of our nationals creates grief and anger for this unacceptable Russian attack against civilians," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a statement.

The foreign ministry condemned the continuing attacks against civilians, expressing its "deepest grief" in a statement after reporting four expat deaths in Bugas on top of two killed in Sartana earlier.

Russian forces ordered to broaden Ukraine attacks

The Russian army has been given orders to broaden its military operation in Ukraine "from all directions", after Kiev refused to hold talks in Belarus, Moscow's defence ministry said in a statement.

"After the Ukrainian side rejected the negotiation process, today all units were given orders to develop the advance from all directions in accordance with the operation's plans," Russian army spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

Russian units were given the order to resume their attacks from all directions after a pause on Friday, the RIA news agency quoted the ministry. 

Echoing similar comments by the Kremlin, the ministry said Friday's pause had been made in anticipation of talks between Moscow and Kiev but the military operation resumed after Ukraine refused to negotiate.  


Russian official issues stark threats to the West

Moscow may respond to Western sanctions by opting out of the last nuclear arms deal with the US, cutting diplomatic ties with Western nations and freezing their assets, a senior Russian official warned as Russia's ties with the West dived to new lows over its Ukraine operation. 

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia's Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, also warned that Moscow could restore the death penalty after Russia was removed from Europe's top rights group — a chilling statement that shocked human rights activists in a country that hasn't had capital punishment for a quarter-century.

The sanctions placed new tight restrictions on Russian financial operations, imposed a draconian ban on technology exports to Russia and froze the assets of Putin and his foreign minister, a harsh response that dwarfed earlier Western restrictions. 

Washington and its allies say that even tougher sanctions are possible, including kicking Russia out of SWIFT, the dominant system for global financial transactions. 

Russia bans 'invasion' and 'assault' in media

Russia's communications regulator ordered independent media to remove reports describing Moscow's attack on Ukraine as an "assault, invasion, or declaration of war" or face being blocked and fined. 

As Russian forces moved into Kiev, Moscow's defence ministry also said that Russian media should stick to the official version of events.

In a statement, the communications watchdog accused a number of independent media outlets of spreading "unreliable socially significant untrue information" about the shelling of Ukrainian cities by the Russian army and civilian deaths.

These included television channel Dozhd and the country's top independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, whose editor Dmitry Muratov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year.  

Ukraine to establish special hotline for families of Russian soldiers

Ukraine's Defence Ministry will establish a special hotline called "Return alive from Ukraine" for the families of killed or captured Russian soldiers, an official said, as fighting between forces of the two countries continues.

The communication line will be established for the "mothers, fathers, wives, grandparents, Russian occupiers," according to Anton Gerashchenko, adviser at the Internal Affairs Ministry.

"On this phone line, you can find out whether your relatives are still alive, taken prisoner, injured, and you can decide when and how to take the body of your deceased relative," he said. 

"If your loved one is in our captivity, you can leave a short message for your husband, son," Gerashchenko added. 

Türkiye urges Russia to halt Ukraine military operation

Türkiye has called on Russia to halt its military operation in Ukraine.

Escalation is not in anyone’s best interest, Türkiye's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in a phone call.

Cavusoglu reiterated Türkiye's willingness to host talks between Russia and Ukraine, according to Türkiye's Foreign Ministry.

Russia is ready to work closely with all constructive forces for the resolution of the Ukrainian crisis in the interests of peace and stability, the Interfax news agency quoted Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

Lavrov made the comments in the phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Cavusoglu.

Türkiye making efforts for immediate ceasefire, Erdogan tells Zelenskyy

Türkiye's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a phone call that Ankara is making efforts for an immediate ceasefire.

In a statement, the Turkish Presidency said Erdogan also expressed condolences for Ukrainians killed in the Russian attack.

Kremlin says Ukraine refused peace talks

The Kremlin has accused Ukraine of prolonging the military conflict by refusing to negotiate as Russia pressed on with its military operation of the pro-Western country.

"In connection with the expected negotiations, the Russian president yesterday afternoon ordered the suspension of the advance of the main forces of the Russian Federation," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a conference call.

"Since the Ukrainian side refused to negotiate, the advance of the Russian forces resumed this afternoon." 

Polish PM slams Western, German 'egoism' amid war in Ukraine

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki slammed Western countries such as Germany for displaying "unyielding egoism" in the face of Russia's war in Ukraine, saying "crushing sanctions" were needed.

"There is no time today for the kind of unyielding egoism that we see in certain Western countries, including here in Germany unfortunately," Morawiecki said in Berlin ahead of a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

"That is why I came here... to shake the conscience of Germany. So that they finally decide on sanctions that are actually crushing," he told Polish reporters.

Official Kremlin website down amid war in Ukraine

The official website of the Kremlin, the office of Russian President Vladimir Putin, , was down, following reports of cyberattacks on various other Russian government and state media websites. 

Internet in Ukraine disrupted as Russian troops advance

Internet connectivity in Ukraine has been affected by the Russian attacks, particularly in the southern and eastern parts of the country where fighting has been heaviest, internet monitors said.

Russian forces captured the southeastern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, Russia's Interfax news agency reported, as Moscow launched coordinated cruise missile and artillery strikes on several cities, including the capital Kiev.

Connectivity to GigaTrans, Ukraine's main internet provider, dropped to below 20 percent of normal levels before returning to higher levels in the early hours of Friday morning, according to internet blockage observatory NetBlocks. 

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials released more information about an alleged Belarusian cyberespionage operation they said was targeting personal email accounts belonging to Kiev's forces.

In a Facebook post, Ukraine's Computer Emergency Response Team said the hackers were targeting not just Ukrainians but also Poles, Russians, and Belarusians as well - including several Belarusian media organisations.

Kiev mayor extends curfew

The mayor of Kiev extended a curfew in the Ukrainian capital, which is under heavy Russian attack for a third day as Moscow's forces press their military campaign in Ukraine.

The prolonged curfew will last from 5 pm until 8 am every day to ensure the more effective defence of the city and the safety of its people, mayor Vitaly Klitschko wrote on Twitter, as gunfire, explosions and sirens resounded around the capital.

The previous curfew in Kiev, a city of three million people, had run from 10 pm till 7 am.

Blinken announces $350 million new military aid to Ukraine

The United States is providing Ukraine with $350 million in additional military assistance to fight off the Russian military operation, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced.

"This package will include further lethal defensive assistance to help Ukraine address the armored, airborne, and other threats it is now facing," Blinken said in a statement. 

Zelenskyy: Ukraine has 'derailed' Russian attack plan

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine's forces had halted the Kremlin's push to capture Kiev and oust him and urged Russians to pressure leader Vladimir Putin to stop the military campaign.

Speaking in a new video address, Zelenskyy accused Moscow of seeking to overthrow him and establish a puppet state in Ukraine.

"We've derailed their plan," the 44-year-old leader said, stressing that the Ukrainian army was in control of the capital Kiev and main cities around it.

Zelenskyy said Russians have deployed "missiles, fighters, drones, artillery, armoured vehicles, saboteurs, and airborne forces" against Ukraine and have hit "residential areas."

Zelenskyy said Ukrainians had been fighting against Russians troops in a number of cities including the southern city of Odessa, the northeastern city of Kharkiv and the capital Kiev. The western city of Lviv and other cities in western and central Ukraine have been targeted with air strikes, he said. 

Ukrainian, Russian troops fight in streets of Kiev

Ukrainian forces repulsed a Russian attack on Kiev but "sabotage groups" infiltrated the capital, officials said as a defiant President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed Ukraine would never give in.

On the third day of a military operation that Ukraine said has killed 198 civilians including three children, Russia also brushed off the barrage of Western sanctions and said it had fired cruise missiles at military targets.

Wearing olive green military-style clothing and looking tired but determined, Zelenskyy spoke in a video message posted on his Twitter account.

"I am here. We will not lay down any weapons.

We will defend our state, because our weapons are our truth," he said.

"Our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children and we will protect all of this." 

Netherlands, Norway move Ukraine embassies to Poland

The Netherlands and Norway said they were moving their embassies in Ukraine to Poland after Russia's military operation of the pro-Western country.

Their decision came a day after Sweden decided to close its mission in Ukraine.

"Ambassador Jennes de Mol and his team will immediately move to Jaroslaw, on the Polish side of the border with Ukraine, to continue their work there," the Dutch foreign ministry said in a statement.

Norway said its embassy in Kiev was "temporarily closed and will operate until further notice" from Warsaw.

Around 100,000 Ukrainians enter Poland amid Russian assault

Some 100,000 people have crossed into Poland from Ukraine since Russia launched attacks on his neighbour on Thursday.

This includes 9,000 people who have entered since 7:00 am (06:00 GMT) on Saturday, Poland's Deputy Interior Minister Pawel Szefernaker told a news conference.

"Since 7 am the Ukrainian side has closed part of the lanes for cars and allowed pedestrian traffic," Szefernaker told reporters.

"The queue on the Ukrainian side should decrease."

European Union member Poland, which has the region's largest Ukrainian community of about 1 million people, has seen a throng of refugees at its borders since the Russian attacks began.

Russia bans Polish, Bulgarian, Czech airlines from its airspace

Russia has banned airlines from Bulgaria, Poland and Czech Republic from flying to and over its territory in response to similar moves by those countries, the Russian civil aviation authority said.

Earlier this week, Russia banned all British airlines from its airspace in retaliation for London's ban on flights to Britain by Russian flag carrier Aeroflot.

Russian troops build up on Ukrainian border in Kiev region

Russian troops have been building up on the Ukrainian border in the Kiev region, local governor Oleksiy Kuleba said.

Kuleba said 71 people were currently wounded in hospitals in the region, including soldiers and civilians on Saturday.

Earlier President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine's force had halted the Kremlin's push to capture Kiev and oust him.

"We've derailed their plan," the 44-year-old leader said in a new video address, stressing that the Ukrainian army was in control of the capital and main cities around it.

UAE calls for immediate de-escalation of hostilities in Ukraine

The United Arab Emirates has called for an immediate de-escalation and cessation of hostilities in Ukraine at a meeting of the UN Security Council, state news agency WAM said.

It expressed "particular alarm at the consequences for civilians present in Ukraine, as well as for the region, and for the international community," WAM added.

Zelenskyy: Ukraine still in control of Kiev

Zelenskyy has said that Kiev was still under Ukrainian control.

"We have withstood and are successfully repelling enemy attacks.

The fighting goes on," he said in a video message posted on his social media.

"We already have almost full support from EU countries for disconnecting Russia from SWIFT. I hope that Germany and Hungary will have the courage to support this decision. We have the courage to defend our homeland, to defend Europe," Zelenskyy added.

France, Italy to support disconnecting Russia from SWIFT

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi will support disconnecting Russia from the global SWIFT payment system, the leader of a main coalition party said.

"Mario Draghi confirmed Italy will support banning Russia from SWIFT," Enrico Letta, leader of the PD, wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

There was no immediate comment from the prime minister's office.

In addition, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had supported cutting off Russia from SWIFT in a phone conversation with him.

Meanwhile, Slovakia will send military material worth $2.9 million (2.6 million euros) and other aid worth 8.4 million euros to Ukraine, local media reported on Saturday.

Medvedev: Russia no longer needs diplomatic ties with West 

Russia doesn't really need diplomatic ties with the West after it imposed sanctions on Moscow over what he called Russia's military operation in Ukraine, former president and top security official Dmitry Medvedev said.

Medvedev, writing on social media, said it was time to "padlock the embassies."

He said Moscow would continue its operation in Ukraine until it achieved goals defined by President Vladimir Putin.

France intercepts cargo ship in Channel heading for Russia

French naval forces have intercepted in the Channel a cargo vessel loaded with cars heading for Russia's Baltic port city of Saint Petersburg after sanctions agreed by the EU against Russia, officials said.

The Russian-flagged Baltic Leader, which had set sail from the French city of Rouen, was escorted to the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer by French forces, the maritime prefecture told AFP news agency. 

It is suspected of belonging to a company targeted by EU sanctions against Moscow, it added.

The Russian embassy in France is seeking explanations from the French authorities over the cargo ship's seizure, Russia's RIA news agency reports.

Children among scores killed in Ukraine

At least 198 people, including three children, have been killed so far by Russian attacks, says Ukraine's Health Minister Viktor Lyashko.

"Unfortunately, according to operative data, at the hands of the invaders we have 198 dead, including 3 children, 1,115 wounded, including 33 children," Lyashko wrote on Facebook.

It was unclear whether he was referring only to civilian casualties.

An air raid siren was heard in Kiev at about 11:20 am local (0920 GMT) on Saturday, according to witnesses, as Russian forces close in on the Ukrainian capital.

Earlier, a high-rise apartment block was hit by shelling in Kiev as fighting raged between Russian attackers and Ukrainian forces.

Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said that the building had been hit by a missile. No casualties from the strike have been reported so far.

However, Klitschko said 35 people, including two children, were injured in night fighting as of 6:00 am local time (8:00 GMT).

France to provide defensive military equipment to Ukraine

France has decided to send defensive military equipment to Ukraine to support the country against Russia's attacks.

"You can imagine that shipping the equipment is complicated at the moment," a spokesman for the French army's Chief of Staff told reporters at a briefing.

The army spokesman said that the issue of sending offensive arms was still under consideration.

Poland refuses to play World Cup match with Russia

Poland will not play a World Cup qualifying soccer match against Russia next month because of Russia's attacks on Ukraine.

The president of Poland's Football Association, Cezary Kulesza, said on Saturday that the association was in talks with its Swedish and Czech counterparts regarding playoff matches set for March to fill a slot for the World Cup.

Slovakia: Embassy staffers from Kiev arrive in Romania

Slovakia's embassy staff from Kiev have arrived in Romania, Slovak Defence Minster Jaroslav Nad said on Twitter.

"The evacuation cars of the Slovak mission from Kiev, joined by colleagues from Slovenia's mission, safely crossed the border into Romania," Nad said on Saturday morning.

Russia to seize foreigners' funds in retaliation

Moscow will respond to the seizure of money of Russian citizens and companies abroad by seizing funds of foreigners and foreign companies in Russia, RIA news agency quoted Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the security council, as saying.

Russia does not rule out nationalising the assets of companies registered in the United States, European Union and other "unfriendly jurisdictions", Medvedev was quoted as saying on Saturday.

Russia warns local media over Ukraine coverage

Russia's communications regulator has accused 10 local media outlets of falsely depicting what Russia calls a special military operation in Ukraine and distributing false information about events there.

Roskomnadzor, the regulator, ordered the media to delete the offending information or face restricted access to their websites and media resources.

Czechs to ship weapons, ammunition to Ukraine 

The Czech government has approved of sending weapons and ammunition worth $8.57 million (188 million crowns) to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian attacks.

The shipment, which includes machine guns, assault rifles and other light weapons, will be delivered by the Czech side to a location picked by Ukraine, the Czech Defence Ministry said.

"Our help is not over!" the ministry said on Twitter.

UK: Russians have not taken Melitopol

UK armed forces minister James Heappey has said that Britain did not believe Russian forces had captured the southeastern Ukrainian city of Melitopol.

"All of Russia's day one objectives... and even Melitopol, which the Russians are claiming to have taken but we can't see anything to substantiate that, are all still in Ukrainian hands," Heappey told BBC radio.

Russian troops claimed to have captured Melitopol, Interfax news agency cited Moscow's defence ministry as saying.

Alongside Mariupol, fighting is under way near the southern Ukrainian cities of Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Odessa, says Mikhail Podolyak, the adviser to the Ukrainian president.

"Heavy fighting is taking place near Mariupol," Podolyak told a briefing earlier. "But there is no chance that Mariupol will surrender or be captured."

Meanwhile, municipal administration of Ukraine's northeastern city of Sumy said fighting was under way on its streets, urging residents to stay home.

Latvia: Ukraine embassy staff evacuating Moscow

The staff of Ukraine's embassy in Moscow is evacuating to Latvia, the Latvian foreign ministry told Reuters news agency.

"It was their plea, we readily agreed. We are assisting them in the process and help with settling down," Latvian foreign ministry spokesperson Janis Bekeris said on Saturday.

He declined to say whether the embassy staff had already arrived in Latvia, citing security concerns.

Ukraine: More than 3,500 Russian soldiers killed

Some 14 warplanes, eight helicopters, 102 tanks, 536 armoured vehicles, and more than 3,500 soldiers belonging to the Russian forces were shot down, Ukrainian authorities said.

“Estimated losses of Russian troops include 14 aircraft, 8 helicopters, 102 tanks, 536 armoured vehicles, 15 artillery, and the 'Buk' missile system,” said a statement by the Ukrainian General Staff.

Mikhail Podolyak, the adviser to the Ukrainian president, said in a statement about the situation in his country that clashes continue in the cities of Kherson, Mykolaiv, Odesa, and Mariupol.

Pointing out that the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the police are keeping the situation under control across the country, Podolyak stressed that the situation in Kiev "is also under control.”

"As of this (Saturday) morning, more than 3,500 Russian soldiers were killed and 200 were taken prisoner," Podolyak said.

Russian missiles strike Ukraine's Kiev

A high-rise apartment block was hit by shelling overnight in Kiev as fighting raged between Russian attackers and Ukrainian forces, emergency services said.

The authorities said on Saturday that the number of victims was "being specified" and that an evacuation was underway.  

They posted a picture online of the tower block with a hole covering at least five floors blasted into the side and rubble strewn across the street below.

Earlier, a Reuters news correspondent reported two missiles hitting areas southwest of Kiev's city centre, one landing in the area close to the Zhulyany airport.

Another witness said the missiles hit the area near the Sevastopol square. Gunfire was also reported close to the government quarters in Kiev.

Ukrainian authorities have warned residents that street fighting is underway against Russian forces, and urged people to seek shelter.

Ukraine calls for Russian oil embargo

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has called for a full isolation of Russia, including an embargo on the purchases of Russian crude.

"I demand the world: fully isolate Russia, expel ambassadors, oil embargo, ruin its economy," Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Zelenskyy: Western partners sending weapons to Ukraine

Zelenskyy has said that "partners" were sending weapons to help Kiev fight Russian troops, adding he had spoken by phone with French leader Emmanuel Macron.

"A new day on the diplomatic frontline began with a conversation with Emmanuel Macron," Zelenskyy tweeted. 

"Weapons and equipment from our partners are on the way to Ukraine. The anti-war coalition is working!"

Meanwhile, shelling was heard in central Kiev, a Reuters news correspondent reported, following reports of gunfire in the same area and an attack on a military base in the Ukrainian capital.

Russia suspends space launches from French Guiana 

Russia is suspending space launches from French Guiana and withdrawing its technical personnel in response to EU sanctions over Moscow's attacks on Ukraine, the country's space agency said.

"Roskosmos is suspending cooperation with European partners over organising space launches from the Kourou cosmodrome and withdrawing its technical personnel... from French Guiana," Dmitry Rogozin, chief of the Russian space agency, said on messaging app Telegram.

Rogozin said the move comes "in response to EU sanctions against our enterprises."

Russia 'targets' Ukraine military infrastructure with missiles

The Russian ministry said Moscow has used air- and ship-based cruise missiles to carry out overnight strikes on military targets in Ukraine.

"During the night, the armed forces of the Russian Federation launched a strike with long-range precision weapons using air- and sea-launched cruise missiles against the military infrastructure of Ukraine," defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in televised remarks.

Interfax earlier reported that Ukrainian troops are in control of Kiev's hydroelectric power plant to the north of the Ukrainian capital.

Japanese cargo ship hit by missile off Ukraine

A cargo ship owned by a Japanese firm has been hit by a missile off the coast of Ukraine in the Black Sea, local media reported.

According to the Japanese news agency Kyodo, one of the crew members of 20 Philippines nationals was injured in the Panamanian-registered cargo ship Namura Queen.

The firm said the ship is heading to Türkiye for damage assessment.

The Ukrainian authorities said the missile was fired by Russian forces, according to media reports.

Zelenskyy refuses to leave, urges Ukraine to 'stand firm'

Zelenskyy has urged the country to “stand firm” against attacks by Russia, refusing American help to evacuate.

"We will not put down weapons, we will defend our state," he said in a video on Saturday on Twitter.

This comes amid growing signs that Russia may be seeking to overthrow Ukraine’s government, which US officials have described as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ultimate objective.

Russian forces attack capital Kiev, heavy fighting underway

Russian troops attacked an army base located on a main avenue in Kiev but the assault was repelled, the Ukrainian military has said.

Separately, the Interfax Ukraine agency said Russian soldiers were trying to capture one of the city's electricity generating stations.

Hours earlier, Zelenskyy had predicted Russian troops would mount an assault overnight.

"Military criminals of Russia attacked one of the military units in Kiev on Victory Avenue. The attack has been fought back," the armed forces of Ukraine said in an English-language posting on Facebook.

It gave no details and the report could not immediately be confirmed. Peremohy, or Victory, Avenue is located just to the west of the centre of Kiev.

UN aviation body 'condemns' Russian use of Ukraine airspace

The UN's civil aviation body has condemned the "violation" of Ukraine's territory and airspace after Russia attacked.

The 36 states on the International Civil Aviation Organization Council (ICAO) "condemned the violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a United Nations Member State, including its airspace," the agency said in a statement after a meeting of its governing body.

It said the attack also violated Article 1 of the Chicago Convention, which established the ICAO as well as the rules of airspace rights and air travel and security.

US to impose sanctions on Putin and Lavrov

The United States has said it would impose sanctions on Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, following similar announcements by Britain and the European Union in the wake of Moscow's attack on Ukraine.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said a travel ban would be part of the sanctions.

Following the measures, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Russian television that "we have reached the line after which the point of no return begins."

Meta to restrict Russian state media on platform

Meta Platforms Inc is barring Russian state media from running ads or monetising on its platform anywhere in the world, the parent company of social media giant Facebook has said.

"We also continue to apply labels to additional Russian state media," its security policy head, Nathaniel Gleicher, said on Twitter. "These changes have already begun rolling out and will continue into the weekend."

France to send 500 troops to Romania

France is to deploy 500 military personnel as part of NATO forces to Romania after Russia attacked neighbouring Ukraine, the army chief of staff has said.

"NATO has decided to reinforce its presence to send a very clear sign of strategic solidarity, to position forces in Romania," Thierry Burkhard told Radio France Internationale and broadcaster France24.

Japan unclear of sanctioning Russian leadership

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said he spoke with his US counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on the phone.

He said they agreed they must respond to Russia's attack against Ukraine properly to prevent it from becoming “a wrong lesson” because of its potential influence in Asia and the Indo-Pacific region.

Hayashi declined to comment if Japan plans to join the US, Britain and the European Union in imposing sanctions on Putin and Lavrov. Hayashi said Japan will stay in close touch with other Group of Seven (G-7) members and other international leaders while watching the developments.

Hayashi told reporters that he and Blinken reaffirmed their commitment to work closely with the rest of international society and they agreed it is necessary to reject Russia's unilateral act to change the status quo.

US in talks with India over Ukraine

The US is in discussions with India over its position on the Russian attack on Ukraine, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, as New Delhi has yet to clearly condemn Moscow's assault.

"We continue to engage with the Indians," she told reporters.

In telephone talks with Putin on Thursday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for an "immediate cessation of violence," his office said — but he did not explicitly condemn Moscow's military operation.

India has historically had close ties with Russia, and Moscow is a major supplier of arms to the South Asian nation.

On Friday, India abstained during a UN Security Council vote over a resolution stating that the group of countries "deplores in the strongest terms" Russia's "aggression" against Ukraine and which would have demanded the immediate withdrawal of its troops.

UN chief calls Russian troops to 'return to their barracks'

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on Russian forces in Ukraine to "return to their barracks."

"Soldiers need to return to their barracks. Leaders need to turn to the path of dialogue and peace," he told reporters after Moscow vetoed a UN resolution deploring its "aggression" in Ukraine.

"It is important to remember that the UN is not just the chamber behind me. It is tens of thousands of women and men around the world," he said. 

"Standing, delivering, extending a lifeline of hope."

Ukraine shots down Russian fighter jets

Ukraine shot down two Russian fighter jets, an IL-76 aircraft and a helicopter, Ukrainian officials said.

The head of the Vinnytsia Regional State Administration, Serhiy Borzov, said on social media that Ukraine shot down a Russian SU-25 fighter jet near Kalynivka in the Vinnytsia region.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Facebook that Ukrainian air defence systems shot down an IL-76 aircraft carrying paratroopers from the Russian airborne troops in the Vasylkiv region.

Located near Kiev, Vasylkiv is 35 kilometres (22 miles) from Kiev.

Ukrainian Air Force said that the country's S-300 air defence missile system shot down a Russian helicopter and a SU-25 fighter jet in Donbass.

Australia increases sanctions on Russian leadership

Australia ramped up sanctions against Russia for attacking Ukraine, targeting oligarchs and members of parliament while preparing to join allies in directly punishing Putin.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia was imposing financial sanctions on eight oligarchs close to Putin and on the 339 members of parliament who were the "facilitators" of the attack.

Key figures in the Belarussian government were also being sanctioned for "abetting the invasion," she told reporters.

Payne said she was seeking advice to enable Australia to join allies in sanctioning Putin and Lavrov.

"It is an exceptional step to sanction leaders but this is an exceptional situation," she said.

Australia had previously announced sanctions on eight of Putin's top security advisors, 25 individuals, four military equipment entities and four financial institutions.

US seeks $6.5B fund from Congress for Ukraine

The White House has asked Congress to approve $6.4 billion in aid to address the humanitarian and security crisis in Ukraine after Russia assaulted the country this week, Biden administration and congressional aides said.

"In a recent conversation with lawmakers, the administration identified the need for additional US humanitarian, security, and economic assistance to Ukraine and Central European partners due to Russia's unprovoked and unjustified invasion," an official from the White House Office of Management and Budget said.

The request included $2.9 billion in security and humanitarian assistance and $3.5 billion for the Department of Defense.

For all the updates from Friday (February 25) click here

For all the updates from Thursday and Wednesday (February 24 and 23) click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies