Russia continues with its Ukraine offensive as its soldiers close in on capital Kiev, drawing condemnations and expansive economic sanctions from the West. Follow our live updates:

N Ambassadors vote during a United Nations Security Council meeting, on a resolution regarding Russia's actions toward Ukraine, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, U.S., February 25, 2022
N Ambassadors vote during a United Nations Security Council meeting, on a resolution regarding Russia's actions toward Ukraine, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, U.S., February 25, 2022 (Reuters)

Friday, February 25, 2022

Russia vetoes UN draft resolution condemning itself over Ukraine

Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution telling Moscow to stop attacking Ukraine and withdraw all troops immediately.

The veto was expected, but the United States and its supporters argued that the effort would highlight Moscow’s international isolation.

The 11-1 vote — with China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstaining — showed significant but not total opposition to Russia’s attack on its smaller, militarily weaker neighbour.

The resolution’s failure paves the way for backers to call for a swift vote on a similar measure in the 193-member UN General Assembly, where there are no vetoes. There was no immediate timetable for a potential Assembly vote.

Spearheaded by the US and Albania, the Security Council resolution would have deplored Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine. 

It called for Moscow to immediately pull out its military and stop using force against Ukraine, and reverse a decision recognising two separatist areas in eastern Ukraine as independent.

Zelenskyy: Russia to storm Kiev tonight

Ukraine’s president said late Friday that Russia will try to “storm” the capital and he vowed to resist, according to media reports.

Russia will use “all available forces to break the resistance. Despicably, cruelly, and inhumanly,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video message on Facebook, according to Ukraine’s official news agency Ukrinform.

“Tonight they will storm,” said Zelenskyy. “I must say quite frankly, this night will be harder than the day.”

“Many cities of our state are under attack — Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv — our boys and girls in the Donbass, the cities of the south, special attention to Kiev,” he said. “We can't lose the capital.”

“The fate of Ukraine is being decided now,” he said.

US, Canada impose sanctions on Putin, Lavrov

The US imposed sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu for Moscow's military operation in Ukraine, US Treasury Department said.

"Following a telephone conversation President (Joe) Biden held with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and in alignment with the decision by our European allies, the United States will join them in sanctioning President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov and members of the Russian national security team," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a news conference earlier.

Canada also announced sanctions on Putin, Lavrov over Ukraine assault and will levy additional sanctions on Belarus and its leaders, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

He also noted that Canada supports barring Russia from the SWIFT banking system.

Earlier, the EU imposed sanctions on Putin and Lavrov, the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced.

UK, Bulgaria joins banning Russian planes

British transport minister Grant Shapps said in a tweet that no Russian private jet can fly in UK airspace or touch down, effective immediately.

"Putin's actions are unlawful and anyone benefitting from Russia's aggression in Ukraine is not welcome here. I've strengthened our ban in the UK so that no Russian private jet can fly in UK airspace, or touchdown – effective immediately," Shapps tweeted.

Bulgaria will ban flights to the country operated by Russian airlines and will close its airspace for all Russian aircraft from Saturday, the transport ministry said late on Friday.

The ministry said the move was a result of the escalation of the military conflict and as a sign of solidarity with Ukraine.

Poland and the Czech Republic also said they were banning Russian airlines from their airspace, while airlines, including IAG owned British Airways and Virgin Atlantic began routing flights around Russian airspace.

UN: Over 50,000 Ukrainians flee country in 48 hours

Tens of thousands of people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian military operation less than two days ago, the United Nations refugee chief said.

Already on Thursday, the UN refugee agency warned that some 100,000 people had been displaced inside the country, and it said large numbers were fleeing into neighbouring countries.

"More than 50,000 Ukrainian refugees have fled their country in less than 48 hours — a majority to Poland and Moldova," Filippo Grandi said in a tweet.

"And many more are moving towards its borders," he said, offering "heartfelt thanks to the governments and people of countries keeping their borders open and welcoming refugees". 

Ukraine: More than 1,000 Russian soldiers killed so far

Ukraine's Defence Ministry said that more than 1,000 Russian servicemen had been killed so far in the Ukraine.

"Russia has not suffered so many casualties during the fighting in any of its armed conflicts since its inception," the ministry said. 

'We are all here,' Ukraine's Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy released a self-shot video from central Kiev vowing alongside key aides to stay and defend the capital against the Russian military operation.

"We're all here. Our military is here. Citizens in society are here. We're all here defending our independence, our country, and it will stay this way," Zelenskyy said standing outside the presidency building. 

Wearing olive green military-style clothing and standing with his prime minister, chief of staff and other senior aides, Zelenskyy appeared to be responding to pressure from Russia's President Vladimir Putin. 

Türkiye to send humanitarian aid convoy to Ukraine

The Turkish Red Crescent and state-run Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) announced that they would send a humanitarian aid convoy to Ukraine. 

The convoy will "address urgent basic needs, coordinating with Red Cross Ukraine," Kerem Kinik, the head of the Turkish Red Crescent, said on Twitter.

"Our teams are being deployed to the region with warehousing tents, family-type tents and mobile catering vehicles," said Kinik, adding that these materials would be given to evacuees and internally displaced people.

For its part, AFAD stated that five trucks of humanitarian aid, including food, blankets, bedding, hygiene materials and tents, would be sent to Ukraine with a humanitarian team.

NATO deploys response units to bolster defences

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance is bolstering its defences with troops and air power on its eastern flank in response to the Russian operation in Ukraine.

He said allies had activated defence plans and "as a result ... are deploying elements of the NATO Response Force on land, at sea and in the air", including thousands more troops and over 100 jets put on high alert in 30 locations, he said. 

NATO making more deployments in east

NATO leaders said they were deploying more troops to eastern Europe after Russia attacked Ukraine, saying that Moscow had lied about its intentions.

"No one should be fooled by the Russian government's barrage of lies," the 30 leaders said in a joint statement after a virtual summit chaired by Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

"We are now making significant additional defensive deployments of forces to the eastern part of the alliance," the statement said, without giving more details.

US: Russia yet to achieve air superiority over Ukraine

A senior defence official said the US assesses that Russia is yet to achieve air superiority over Ukraine amid its military intervention in the former Soviet republic.

"Ukrainian air missile defense systems are still working though they were degraded by strikes," said the US official at a teleconference. "They still have air missile defence capability, including aircraft, not just missile defence, but they also have aircraft in the air that continue to engage and deny air access to Russian aircraft."

Russia is facing more resistance than Moscow anticipated, said the defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested a mixed picture for the Russian effort to press an offensive that Washington and Kiev say is aimed at decapitating the government and installing a puppet regime. 

Ukraine health minister accuses Russian troops of firing on ambulances

Ukraine's health minister accused Russian troops of firing on ambulances in the Zaporizhzhya and Chernihiv regions.

Viktor Lyashko told Ukrainian TV Russian forces also opened fire, in a psychiatric hospital in Chernihiv. 

EU agrees to freeze assets of Putin and minister

With a military intervention in Ukraine off the table for now, countries around the world looked to heap more financial punishment on Moscow, including the European Union's approval of an asset freeze on Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The EU's unanimous decision, part of a broader sanctions package, indicated that Western powers are moving toward unprecedented measures to try to force Putin to stop the brutal attack on Russia's neighbor and from unleashing a major war in Europe.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics tweeted that the 27-nation bloc's foreign ministers adopted the sanctions package and “the asset freeze includes President of Russia and its Foreign Minister.” 

Borrell: Putin, Lavrov on EU sanctions list

The EU's foreign policy chief said the bloc's foreign ministers added Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the EU's sanctions list. 

"President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov are in the list of sanctioned people together with the remaining members of the Duma (Russian parliament) who are supporting this aggression," Josep Borrell told reporters after a meeting of the EU ministers in Brussels. 

Russia barred from Eurovision over Ukraine attack

Russian entertainers will not be permitted to take part in this year's Eurovision Song Contest following the attack on Ukraine, the European Broadcasting Union said.

"The decision reflects concern that, in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s Contest would bring the competition into disrepute," the EBU said in a statement.

In addition to barring any Russian act from participating, Russia residents will also be blocked from voting in the kitschy competition.

"They are completely excluded from the whole event," an EBU spokesman told AFP.

Putin calls on Ukrainian military to seize power from government

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on the Ukrainian military to seize power in their country. 

"I once again appeal to the military personnel of the armed forces of Ukraine: do not allow neo-Nazis and (Ukrainian radical nationalists) to use your children, wives and elders as human shields," Putin said at a televised meeting with Russia's security council.

"Take power into your own hands, it will be easier for us to reach agreement." 

Putin added that Russian servicemen in Ukraine were acting "bravely, professionally and heroically." 

Guards fire shots as Ukrainians try to cram onto evacuation trains

Ukrainian guards fired warning shots to prevent a stampede at Kiev's central railway station as thousands of people tried to force their way onto evacuation trains.

Crowds were so large that not everyone could get on the trains from the capital to the western city of Lviv as fears of a Russian assault on Kiev mounted.

When a train drew up at a platform, people rushed to the doors, hoping to get on board, some of them with their children and pets. 

The guards fired several shots with blanks to disperse the crowd after screams broke out. 

German president to Putin: 'stop the madness'

Germany's president urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to "stop the madness of this war now." 

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier stressed that "we don't want enmity with the Russian people, quite the contrary", but added that Putin's "wrongdoing cannot go without a clear answer."

Steinmeier, whose post is largely ceremonial but holds moral authority, said that Germany will do its part in deterring Putin from using force against its NATO allies.

The president, who served twice as Germany's foreign minister, said that Putin "should not underestimate the strength of democracies" and Germans shouldn't either.

He said it's good that people are going out to demonstrate and added: "The Russian president should not believe for a second that people in Germany and Europe simply accept this brutal violence." 

Israel allows Ukrainian Jews to migrate amid conflict

Israel said it welcomes the migration of thousands of Ukrainian Jews to Israel amid an escalating conflict with Russia.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Khayyat told reporters that Jews in Ukraine are welcomed to migrate to Israel, adding that the Jewish community in Ukraine is estimated between 120,000 to 150,000 Jews.

Another statement by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office said the political leadership in Israel decided to provide support to the Jewish community in Ukraine and to prepare for allowing them to migrate to Israel.

On Thursday, Haaretz newspaper said the Jewish Agency, a semi-official Israeli body that facilitates Jewish migration worldwide to Israel, was flooded with applications by Ukrainian Jews requesting to flee Ukraine to Israel since the start of the Russian military operations.

According to the daily, the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency are discussing procedures to facilitate and shorten the process for migration to Israel for Ukrainian Jews. 

NATO leaders meet to reassure allies near Russia, Ukraine

US President Joe Biden and his NATO counterparts sought to reassure member countries on the alliance’s eastern flank that their security is guaranteed as Russia’s large-scale attack on Ukraine closes in on the capital, Kiev.

With Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealing for help, NATO members ranging from Russia’s neighbour Estonia in the north down to Bulgaria on the Black Sea coast triggered urgent consultations about their security. Only Hungary refrained.

The leaders, meeting via videoconference, were taking stock of NATO’s own military buildup.

The world’s biggest security organisation previously had around 5,000 troops stationed in the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — and Poland, but has significantly beefed up its defenses over the past three months. 

Defence chiefs of Türkiye, Ukraine discuss latest developments

Türkiye's top defence official spoke to the Ukrainian minister of defence to discuss the latest developments after Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine.

During his phone call with Ukraine's Oleksii Reznikov, National Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Türkiye is "ready to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine and will continue to do its part to ensure peace and tranquility," the Turkish ministry said in a statement.

Earlier, Akar had held a phone call with his British counterpart Ben Wallace to discuss developments in Ukraine, as well as bilateral and regional defence and security issues. 

Venezuela blames US, NATO for Ukraine conflict

Venezuela, a close ally of Russia, blamed NATO and the United States for the crisis in Ukraine. 

Venezuela's foreign ministry said that NATO and the US had violated the Minsk agreements, a 2014 deal aimed at ending a war in Donbas, a separatist region in eastern Ukraine.

"The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela expresses its worry over the worsening of the crisis in Ukraine, and laments the mockery and violation of the Minsk accords on the part of NATO, encouraged by the United States of America," the ministry said in a statement.

"The derailment of these (Minsk) accords has violated international law and created strong threats against the Russian Federation, its territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as impeded good relations between neighbouring countries." 

Ukraine soldiers battle Russian troops in Kiev

Ukrainian forces have fought off Russian troops in the streets of the capital Kiev as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Moscow of targeting civilians and called for more international sanctions.

As Russian forces closed in on the city, Zelenskyy called on Europeans with "combat experience" to take arms and defend Ukraine, saying the West was too slow to help his country.

In Obolonsky, a northern district of Kiev, what appeared to be an advance party of Russia's force left a trail of destruction.

Pedestrians ran for safety and small arms fire and explosions were heard.

The city centre felt like a ghost town.

Intersections around the government district were manned by green armoured vehicles and machine-gun toting soldiers in balaclavas.

Sirens wailed over the cloudy city at jarring intervals throughout the day. Booms of unexplained origin echoed across the deserted streets.

Ukraine said more forces were advancing from the north and northeast of the city.

Since the start of the Russian attacks, 137 Ukrainians, including soldiers and civilians, have been killed. 

Many residents in Kiev fled their homes and took shelter in the city's subway system. 

Russia claims it controls airport near Kiev

The Russian military claims it has taken control of an airport just outside Kiev, as Kremlin forces bear down on the Ukrainian capital.

The claim could not be independently verified.

Taking possession of the airport in Hostomel, which has a long runway allowing the landing of heavy-lift transport planes, would mean Russia can airlift troops directly to Kiev’s outskirts.

Hostomel is just 7 kilometers (4 miles) northwest of the city.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that the Russian airborne forces used 200 helicopters to land in Hostomel and killed over 200 troops belonging to Ukraine's special forces.

Konashenkov claimed that Russian troops suffered no casualties. That contradicts Ukrainian claims that Russian troops sustained heavy casualties in the fighting there. 

Erdogan: NATO should have taken more determined step on Ukraine

 NATO should have taken a more determined step, Türkiye's president said, as the Russian military intervention in Ukraine unfolds.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised the Western stance on the Russian attack on its neighbour, saying it still gives advices as it has offered "plenty of advice until today".

Speaking to reporters after Friday prayers in Istanbul, the president said, "The EU, as well as all the other Western conceptions, unfortunately, have not taken a serious and resolute stance at the moment (in Ukraine)."

On Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's remarks that they were left to fight "alone," Erdogan said that the West's advice and failure to show a determined stance "does not comply with friendship or solidarity." 

China's Xi speaks to Putin, calls for 'negotiation' with Ukraine

China's President Xi Jinping said he supported solving the Ukraine crisis through talks in a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, state media said, after Moscow launched its attack of its neighbour.

In a readout of the call on state broadcaster CCTV, Xi pointed out that the "situation in eastern Ukraine has undergone rapid changes... (and) China supports Russia and Ukraine to resolve the issue through negotiation".

Russian forces have launched a full-scale operation of Ukraine, unleashing air strikes and sending troops deep into the country, after weeks of diplomatic efforts failed to deter Putin from launching the military operation.

Beijing has trod a cautious diplomatic line on the crisis and refused to call it an "invasion" or condemn the actions of Russia, its close ally.

Putin: NATO, US ignore Russia's security concerns

Xi said on the call with Putin it was important to "abandon the Cold War mentality, attach importance to and respect the reasonable security concerns of all countries, and form a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism through negotiations". 

According to the Chinese media readout, Putin outlined the reasons for Russia launching the " special military operation", and told Xi that NATO and the United States had "long ignored Russia's reasonable security concerns".

He also told Xi on the call that Russia was ready to hold "high-level" talks with Ukraine.

As the crisis has escalated, China has been forced to balance its close Russia ties with major economic interests in Europe.

Merkel condemns Russian operation

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Russia's operation in Ukraine marked a "deep rupture in Europe's history following the end of the Cold War" even as her own legacy comes under fresh scrutiny in light of the assault.

Merkel, who led Germany for 16 years until last December and was long seen as the West's key interlocutor with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said she was following the unfolding events with "great worry and sympathy".

The conservative stateswoman said in a statement she wholly supported all the efforts of her Social Democratic (SPD) successor Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Germany's allies to hold Russia to account for its actions.

"There is no justification for this blatant breach of international law, and I wholeheartedly condemn it," said Merkel, who grew up in the former communist East Germany and speaks fluent Russian. 

Kiev residents told to make Molotov cocktails

People in Kiev were told to make Molotov cocktail petrol bombs as they hid in makeshift shelters and basements, awaiting a Russian assault on the Ukrainian capital. 

"Make Molotov cocktails, neutralise the occupier!," the Defence Ministry said, while local authorities told people in the northwestern Obolon area of the city to stay off the streets because "active hostilities" were approaching.

Some residents took refuge in subway stations being used as air-raid shelters, or rushed to basements of apartments blocks or other buildings when air-raid warnings sounded. 

Russia ready for talks if Ukraine 'lays down arms'

Moscow is ready for talks with Kiev if the Ukrainian army surrenders, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said.

"We are ready for negotiations at any moment, as soon as the armed forces of Ukraine respond to our call and lay down their arms," Lavrov said on Friday at a press conference in Moscow.

Lavrov also said Moscow wants to "free Ukraine from oppression", as Russian forces approached Kiev on the second day of the Kremlin's attack.

Russian President Vladimir "Putin took the decision to conduct a special military operation to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine so that, freed from oppression, Ukrainians themselves could freely determine their future," Lavrov said.

Kremlin warns West of retaliatory sanctions

Russia will impose retaliatory sanctions on Western nations on the basis of reciprocity, the Kremlin has said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday sanctions would cause problems for Russia but they would be solvable, as it had reduced its dependence on foreign imports.

He declined to comment on how long Russia's operations in Ukraine, which prompted the sanctions, would last and said questions about Ukrainian civilian deaths should be referred to the military.

Russian forces approach Kiev from north and east: Ukraine

Russian forces are approaching Kiev from the north and northeast, Ukraine's army has said, with rising fears the capital could fall on the second day of Moscow's offensive.

The soldiers are trying to "bypass" the northern city of Chernigiv – where they were "rebuffed" – to attack Kiev, the Ukrainian army said on Facebook on Friday.

They were also advancing on Kiev from the eastern city of Konotop, which is under Russian control, Kiev's army said.

The Ukrainian army earlier said Russian ground forces had been pushing down the west bank of the Dnieper River from Belarus.

It said Russian soldiers were "increasingly choosing to target civilian infrastructure and residential buildings", echoing President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Russia captures key water supply route to Crimea

Russian forces have said they have taken control of a vital canal to supply water to Moscow-annexed Crimea, which has been suffering from shortages for the past eight years.

Crimea received most of its water from Ukraine's Dnieper River via the North Crimean Canal until 2014, when Moscow annexed the peninsula and Kiev authorities blocked the waterway.

Since then, Crimea has been facing severe water shortages, especially during summer droughts. The canal blockade has affected agriculture on the peninsula.

"The joint use of raid detachments and airborne troops in the Crimean direction ensured the exit of Russian troops to the city of Kherson," defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Thursday.

"This made it possible to unblock the North Crimean Canal and restore water supply to the Crimean peninsula." 

Myanmar junta: Russian attack on Ukraine 'justified'

The Russian operation in Ukraine is "justified" and demonstrates Moscow's position as a world power, Myanmar's junta has said, backing its major ally and arms supplier.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said on Friday Moscow's military had "carried out what is justified for the sustainability of their country's sovereignty".

"Russia shows its position to the world as a world power," he added in the statement, which was also released in Russian.

Moscow is a major ally and arms supplier to Myanmar's generals and has repeatedly shielded the isolated country at the United Nations.

Spain evacuates diplomats from Ukraine

Spain has said it evacuated about 100 of its nationals from Ukraine, including its ambassador to the country and remaining diplomatic staff due to Russia's military operation.

"The last remaining staff members of the Spanish embassy are leaving" Kiev including the ambassador, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares told private television Antena 3 on Friday.

They were evacuated along with "a convoy of around 100 Spanish nationals, who had to leave Kiev due to the deterioration of security conditions", he added.

With this operation there are only about 100 Spanish nationals left in Ukraine.

Italy ready to send troops to bolster NATO

Italy is ready to supply an additional 3,400 military personnel to support NATO efforts to contain the crisis prompted by Russia's attack on Ukraine, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said.

Draghi told the Italian parliament that the aim was to put pressure on Russia to withdraw its troops and that Italy was "perfectly in line" with France and Germany on the issue of sanctions.

"Our priority today must be to strengthen the security o four continent and to apply maximum pressure on Russia to withdraw its troops and return to the negotiating table."

UN condemns over 1,800 arrests in Russia

The United Nations has condemned the "arbitrary arrests" of reportedly more than 1,800 people in Russia for protesting the country's attack on Ukraine, urging their immediate release.

"Arresting individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of expression or a peaceful assembly constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of liberty," UN rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters, calling for "the immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained".

Ukraine tells Kiev residents 'active hostilities' approaching

Kiev authorities told residents of the north-western Obolon area to stay off the streets given "active hostilities" were approaching, with rising fears the capital could fall on the second day of the Russian attack. 

"In connection with the approach of active hostilities, residents of Obolon district are asked not to go outside," city council said in an alert on Friday.

Gunfire has been heard in the government quarter of the capital and Russian sabotage teams were seen some 7.5 kilometres from the city centre, the Ukrainian army reported.

Separately, Ukraine's official news agency Ukrinform said the city of Ivankiv, some 82 kilometres northwest of the capital, is facing grave danger from Russian forces. 

Armed clashes have also intensified in the cities of Gostomel, Vorzel and Bucha, it added. 

Ukraine: Chernobyl radiation levels rise

Ukraine’s nuclear agency and interior ministry have said they are recording increased radiation levels from the site of the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

“Radiation starts to increase. It is not critical for Kiev for the time being, but we are monitoring,” the interior ministry said on Friday.

Experts at the state nuclear agency did not provide exact radiation levels but said the change was due to the movement of heavy military equipment in the area lifting radioactive dust into the air.

The still-radioactive site of the 1986 nuclear disaster lies some 100 kilometres from Kiev.

Ukraine: Russia targeting civilian sites

Russia has bombed 33 civilian sites in its assault on Ukraine in the last 24 hours, Kiev's interior ministry has said.

"The Russians say they are not striking civilian objects. But 33 civilian sites have been hit over the last 24 hours," Interfax news agency quoted an official at Ukraine's Interior Ministry, Vadym Denysenko, as saying.

Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces were targeting civilian areas, while stressing that Moscow will have to eventually talk to Kiev.

"They say that civilian objects are not a target for them. But this is another lie of theirs. In reality, they do not distinguish between areas in which they operate," Zelenskyy said in a video on Friday.

Russia denied carrying out missile strikes on Kiev, Russian news agencies cited a defence ministry source as saying.

Russia stripped of hosting the Champions League final 

UEFA has moved this year's Champions League final from St Petersburg to Paris in the wake of Russia's attacks on Ukraine, European soccer's governing body said in a statement.

UEFA also said that the home games of Ukrainian and Russian club and national teams competing in UEFA competitions will be played at neutral venues "until further notice"

Hungary to open humanitarian corridor 

Hungary set to open a humanitarian corridor for citizens from third-party countries like Iran or India fleeing Ukraine, letting them in without visa and taking them to the nearest airport, which is Debrecen.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in a video posted on his Facebook page on Friday that crossing from Ukraine was continuous at five crossing points but cars were queuing for up to 3-5 kilometres on the Ukrainian side.

Russian forces capture Zmiinyi Island

Russia's Defence Ministry has said its forces have captured Zmiinyi Island in the Black Sea, where 82 Ukrainian soldiers surrendered to them.

Ukrainian officials have said all 13 border guards deployed on the island south of the port city of Odessa were killed by arms fire from a Russian warship

Russia 'building up more troops' in Belarus

Ukraine's chiefs of staff has said that Russia was using the Gomel airfield in Belarus to line up troops to assault Kiev due to damage to the Hostomel military airport near the Ukrainian capital.

It said Russian troops were advancing on Kiev from several directions as Ukrainian forces battled around Mariupol in the south and Kharkiv in the north-east of the country

China slams Biden's 'stained by association' remark

China's foreign ministry has hit back against US President Joe Biden's comment that any country that backed Russia's Ukraine operations would be "stained by association".

It was countries that interfered in the domestic affairs of others that would see their reputations stained, ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a daily news briefing on Friday.

British Airways avoiding Russian airspace

British Airways owner IAG, or International Airlines Group, is avoiding Russian airspace for overflights.

It cancelled its flight to Moscow on Friday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson banned Russia's flagship airline Aeroflot from Britain, CEO Luis Gallego said.

Britain has prohibited all scheduled Russian airlines from entering British airspace.

In a tit-for-tat move, Russia's civil aviation authority later banned UK flights to and over Russia.

Clashes reported in Kiev as Russian forces advance

Explosions and gunfire have erupted in a northern district of the Ukrainian capital Kiev, as Russian forces closed in.

Pedestrians ran for safety and small arms fire was heard in the Obolonsky area, and larger blasts could be heard as far away as the city centre.

Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar warned that Ukrainian army units were defending positions on four fronts despite being outnumbered.

Separately, authorities said airborne assault troops of the Ukrainian armed forces were fighting Russian forces northwest of Kiev.

Russian troops entered the city of Sumy near the border with Russia that sits on a highway leading to Kiev from the east.

The regional governor, Dmytro Zhivitsky, said another northeastern city, Konotop, was also sieged. 

He urged residents of the region to fight the Russian forces.

France: Putin has decided to take Ukraine off map

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has accused Russia's President Vladimir Putin of trying to destroy Ukraine's statehood,

"This is total war. Putin has take Ukraine off the map of nations," Le Drian told France Inter radio on Friday.

He added that France was also "worried" about a possible Russian offensive against Moldova and Georgia, two other post-Soviet states.

Meanwhile, France's finance minister said the European Union wants to cut all links between Russia and the global financial system.

Bruno Le Maire also said the option of cutting off Russia from the SWIFT global interbank payments system remained open, but that he viewed this as a "last resort".

Japan to sanction chip exports to Russia 

Japan will impose sanctions on Russia targeting semiconductor exports and financial institutions, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said.

He said on Friday that the world's third-largest economy planned "asset freezes and the suspension of visa issuance for Russian individuals and organisations" as well as asset freezes "targeting Russian financial institutions".

UAE and US discuss Ukraine

The UAE's Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, has spoken with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken via telephone, the US Department of State Website said.

The two sides discussed the importance of building "a strong international response to support Ukrainian sovereignty through the UN Security Council," the statement added on Thursday.

UK: Russia wants whole of Ukraine but army failing

Russia intends to take the whole of Ukraine but the Russian army failed to deliver on the first day, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

"It's definitely our view that the Russians intend to invade the whole of Ukraine," Wallace told Sky on Friday.

Wallace also said Britain would like to cut off Russia from the SWIFT global interbank payments system "that allows the Russians to move money around the world to receive payments for its gas."

Zelenskyy seeks anti-war coalition 

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has spoken with Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda to seek defence assistance from Eastern European members of NATO and help in bringing Russia to the negotiating table, he said on Twitter. 

"We need (an) anti-war coalition," Zelenskyy wrote.

Germany to offer 'troops, air defence systems' to NATO

Germany plans to offer troops, air defence systems and war ships to NATO to strengthen its eastern flank, German magazine Der Spiegel has reported without providing sources.

Germany could send around 150 soldiers and more than a dozen Boxer wheeled armoured vehicles in a timely manner, according to a package that the military has put together for Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht, the media outlet said on Friday.

Germany also plans to offer "Patriot" anti-aircraft missile systems and a corvette and a frigate, it said. A fleet service boat with sensor technology is already on its way to the Baltic Sea, according to Der Spiegel.

ICC may investigate possible war crimes in Ukraine

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan has expressed his concern over the Russian attack in Ukraine and said his court may investigate possible war crimes in the country.

"I remind all sides conducting hostilities on the territory of Ukraine that my office may exercise its jurisdiction and investigate any act of genocide, crime against humanity or war crime committed within Ukraine," Khan said in a statement.

Zelenskyy: Russian sanctions not enough

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that continued Russian aggression against his country shows sanctions imposed on Moscow by the West are not enough.

Zelenskyy said on Friday that the world was continuing to observe what was going on in Ukraine from afar.

Separately, Ukraine's central bank banned payments to entities in Russia and Belarus as well as operations involving both nations' currencies, the regulator said on Friday.

Russia pressed its attack on Ukraine to the outskirts of the capital after unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks from three sides.
Russia pressed its attack on Ukraine to the outskirts of the capital after unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks from three sides. (TRTWorld)

Several explosions heard in Ukraine's capital

Ukraine's capital Kiev has been rocked by several explosions.

The series of blasts were heard at 4.20 am local time [0220GMT] on Friday, the second day of Russia's military assault in the country.

"Attacks on Kiev with cruise and ballistic missiles have just resumed. I heard two powerful explosions," Ukrainian Interior Ministry advisor Anton Herashchenko said on Telegram.

Amid the explosions in Kiev, sirens were heard throughout the city warning the public to seek shelter from Russia's long-feared assault.

While some civilians tried to leave the city, others took shelter in subway stations and basements.

Missile strike hits border post in southeast Ukraine

A missile strike hit a Ukrainian border post in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhya, killing and wounding some guards, the border guard service said.

The region has no land border with Russia, which launched a military operation against Ukraine on Thursday, but is located on the coast of the Azov Sea which the neighbours share. 

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

Source: TRTWorld and agencies