Ukraine faces a new wave of attacks as the battle for Kiev rages on the fourth day of Russia's military campaign in the eastern European country. Here are the latest updates:

High-speed Stingers are very accurate and are used to shoot down helicopters and other aircraft.
High-speed Stingers are very accurate and are used to shoot down helicopters and other aircraft. (AP)

Sunday, February 27, 2022

US to send anti-aircraft Stingers to Ukraine

 The US for the first time has approved the direct delivery of Stinger missiles to Ukraine as part of a package approved by the White House last week.

The exact timing of delivery is not known, but officials say the US is currently working on the logistics of the shipment. The officials agreed to discuss the development only if not quoted by name.

The decision comes on the heels of Germany's announcement that it will send 500 Stinger missiles and other weapons and supplies to Ukraine.

The high-speed Stingers are very accurate and are used to shoot down helicopters and other aircraft. Ukrainian officials have been asking for more of the powerful weapons.

Estonia has also been providing Ukraine with Stingers since January, and in order to do that had to get US permission.

Canada will send an additional $25 million worth of defensive military equipment to Ukraine in an effort to help the country defend against Russia.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly says the equipment includes helmets, body armour, gas masks and night-vision gear.

She says it will be routed through Poland to get there as quickly as possible.

UN votes to hold emergency General Assembly session on Ukraine

The United Nations Security Council has voted to hold a rare emergency session of the General Assembly to discuss Russia's attack on Ukraine.

The meeting will be convened on Monday, and is set to give all 193 members of the global body the opportunity to express their views on the invasion.

Russia voted against the resolution, but under UN regulations it did not have veto power to derail the referral of the war to the General Assembly.

India, China, UAE abstained. 

Ukrainian UN ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya asked for the General Assembly meeting to be held under the so-called "Uniting for Peace" resolution, initiated by the United States and adopted in November 1950 to circumvent vetoes by the Soviet Union during the Korean War.

That resolution gives the General Assembly the power to call emergency meetings when the Security Council is unable to act because of the lack of unanimity among its five veto-wielding permanent members –– the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

"We blocked the draft as it was one sided and imbalanced. There is a need not to push through such schemes but to work to find common ground," Vassily Nebenzia, Russian envoy to UN said. 

EU countries to send 'fighter jets' to Ukraine

EU countries will send "fighter jets" to Ukraine to help it counter the Russian air and land assault, the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said.

"We're going to provide even fighting jets. We're not talking about just ammunition. We are providing more important arms to go to a war," he told a press conference.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has told the EU "they need the kind of fighting jets that the Ukrainian army is able to operate... some member states have these kinds of planes," Borrell said.

Russia admits casualties for first time in Ukraine attacks

The Russian military said that some of its troops were killed and some were wounded in Ukraine, admitting for the first time that it had suffered casualties since the launch of its military campaign.  

Russian Defence Ministry spokesperson Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov said “there are dead and wounded among our comrades,” without offering any numbers, but adding that Russia’s losses were “many times” fewer than those of Ukraine’s forces.

It was the first time Russian military officials mentioned casualties on their side.

Ukraine has claimed that its forces killed 3,500 Russian troops.

Konashenkov also said that since the start of the attack Thursday, the Russian military have hit 1,067 Ukrainian military facilities, including 27 command posts and communication centers, 38 air defense missile system and 56 radar stations.

Konashenkov’s claims and Ukraine’s allegations that its forces killed thousands of Russian troops can’t be independently verified.


Putin nuclear threat linked to Russia's 'halted' offensive: Germany

President Vladimir Putin's decision to put Russia's nuclear weapons on high alert shows his offensive in Ukraine is not going to plan, Germany's defence minister said.

The announcement "crosses another line" and "is to do with the fact that, in his (Putin's) megalomania, the rapid invasion of Ukraine has been halted by Ukraine's brave and determined actions," Christine Lambrecht told public broadcaster ZDF.

EU tightens Russian sanctions, buys weapons for Ukraine

The European Union will tighten sanctions on Russia, target Russian ally Belarus with measures and fund weapons for Ukraine to help it defend itself against Russia's operation. 

"For the first time ever, the EU will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

The bloc will ban Russian state-owned television network Russia Today and news agency Sputnik. Von der Leyen said this was to render them unable to "spread their lies to justify Putin's war and to sow division in our Union".

For Russian ally Belarus, the EU will impose a ban on imports of products from mineral fuels to tobacco, wood and timber, cement, iron and steel.

These come on top of a series of sanctions on Russia already unveiled, such as on its energy sector and the exclusion of certain Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system that dominates global payments.

The EU will also finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to Ukraine. 

Russian military gains in Ukraine will not be recognised: G7

Russian military gains in Ukraine achieved through its ongoing campaign will not be recognised, foreign ministers from the G7 club of wealthy nations said in a joint statement.

"Ministers underlined that any change of status achieved by the Russian act of aggression will not be recognised. Ministers agreed to coordinate closely to ensure a broad and strong international condemnation of Russia's unjustifiable behaviour," the statement said.

UN Security Council to meet on Monday

The UN Security Council will hold another emergency meeting on Russia's military operation in Ukraine, diplomats said. 

The session, to be held in New York on Monday at 3:00 pm (2000 GMT), will focus on the developing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, diplomats said.

It was requested by French President Emmanuel Macron and will feature officials from the UN's humanitarian affairs and refugee agencies.

Zelenskyy willing to 'try' Russia talks, but skeptical

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was willing to "try" talks with Russia but was skeptical, as Kiev and Moscow prepare to meet at Ukraine's border with Belarus on the fourth day of Russia's operation.

"I will be honest, as always: I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try," Zelenskyy said in a video address. 

He added that if there was a "chance" to end war, he should take part in the talks. 

Zelenskyy issued the video after speaking with Belarus leader and Moscow ally Alexander Lukashenko. 

Kiev has refused to hold talks in Belarus – where Moscow wants to meet – saying the country was acting as a launchpad for the military campaign.  

PM: Sweden breaks with tradition and delivers arms to Ukraine

Sweden announced it would break its doctrine of not sending arms to countries in active conflict and send military equipment, including anti-tank launchers, to Ukraine.

"My conclusion is now that our security is best served by us supporting Ukraine's ability to defend itself against Russia," Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters.

Andersson said 5,000 anti-tank weapons of the model "Pansarskott 86", a single-use anti-tank launcher known internationally as Bofors AT-4, would be sent to Ukraine.

The decision to send arms, 135,000 field rations, 5,000 helmets and 5,000 pieces of body armour is the first time Sweden has sent weapons to a country in armed conflict since the Soviet Union attacked Finland in 1939, Andersson added.

Swedish media reported that Ukraine had specifically requested the more advanced Robot-57 anti-tank system. 

Over 7M people could be displaced if Ukraine war continues: EU

Russia's war on Ukraine risks displacing "over seven million people", the EU commissioner for crisis management said.

"We are witnessing what could become the largest humanitarian crisis on our European continent in many, many years," Janez Lenarcic told a media conference after a meeting of EU interior ministers focused on the refugee flow out of Ukraine. 

"Currently, the expected number of displaced Ukrainians is over seven million people," he said, but cautioned he was giving only "rough estimates" from the UN because fighting prevented accurate counting. 

66,000 Ukrainian refugees enter Hungary so far

Some 66,000 refugees have entered Hungary from Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian military campaign, with more than 23,000 entering on Saturday alone, according to the Hungarian police and Hungary’s foreign minster. 

Speaking from a border station between Zahony, Hungary and Chop, Ukraine, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that his government would send 100,000 liters (about 26,400 gallons) of gasoline and diesel to Ukrainian authorities for use by paramedics, medical institutions and disaster management.

“Hungary has a role to play in humanitarian disaster response and relief,” Szijjarto said. 

MIT severs ties with Russian school

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is severing ties with a research university it helped establish more than a decade ago in Russia, citing the country's “unacceptable military actions” in attacking Ukraine. 

The Cambridge university said it notified the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow on Friday that it was exercising its right to terminate the MIT Skoltech Program.

Federal law enforcement officials and foreign policy experts have long voiced concerns about the potential for espionage and technology theft arising from MIT's partnership with the school, which has close ties to Russian President Putin’s government, GBH News reported.

Ukraine to meet Russia for talks at Belarus border

Ukraine said it would hold talks with Russia at its border with Belarus – near the Chernobyl exclusion zone – after a call between Zelenskyy and Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko.

"The politicians agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet the Russian one without preconditions at the Ukraine-Belarus border, near the Pripyat River," Zelenskyy's office said. 

Zelenskyy has said he will not hold talks with Russia on the territory of Belarus, where some Russian troops were stationed before attacking Ukraine's northern border.

But Kiev said Lukashenko assured Zelenskyy that "all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarus territory will remain on the ground during the travel, negotiations and return of the Ukrainian delegation".

Putin has said that a Russian delegation was currently in the Belarusian city of Gomel. 

Moscow has wanted to hold the talks in Kremlin-aligned Belarus.

Zelenskyy, refusing to travel to Minsk, said Kiev had proposed "Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, Istanbul, Baku" as options to Russia. 

EU escalates sanctions on Russia

The EU announced swingeing new sanctions against Russia over its attack on Ukraine, closing its airspace to Russian aircraft and banning Russian state media outlets broadcasting in the bloc.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, announcing the measures, also said the European Union was taking the unprecedented step of financing arms to Ukraine, and was hitting Russian ally Belarus with sanctions for facilitating the assault.

Medical oxygen running out in Ukraine, WHO warns

Ukraine is running out of oxygen supplies that critically ill people need, the World Health Organization said, calling for safe passage for emergency imports as combat rages.

"The oxygen supply situation is nearing a very dangerous point in Ukraine. Trucks are unable to transport oxygen supplies from plants to hospitals across the country, including the capital Kiev," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge said in a statement.

"The majority of hospitals could exhaust their oxygen reserves within the next 24 hours.

Some have already run out. This puts thousands of lives at risk."

Ukraine says will not 'capitulate' at Russia talks

Ukraine's foreign minister said that Kiev would not buckle at talks with Russia over its operation, accusing Putin of seeking to increase "pressure" by ordering his nuclear forces on high alert.

"We will not surrender, we will not capitulate, we will not give up a single inch of our territory," Dmytro Kuleba said at a press conference broadcast online.

Fighting raged in Ukraine on day four of a Russian military campaign that has sent shockwaves around the world.

Ukraine said it would hold talks with Russia "without preconditions" at its Belarus border after Moscow had earlier demanded Kiev's military lay down their arms before negotiations could begin. 

NATO chief: Putin nuclear alert 'dangerous' and 'irresponsible'

Putin's decision to place his nuclear forces on alert amounts to "irresponsible" behaviour, NATO chief said.

"This is dangerous rhetoric. This is a behaviour which is irresponsible," the alliance's secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg told CNN amid heightened tensions over the Russian operation in Ukraine.

"And, of course, if you combine this rhetoric with what they're doing on the ground in Ukraine, waging war against the independent sovereign nation, conducting a full-fledged operation in Ukraine, this adds to the seriousness of the situation," he added. 

Ukrainian army claims regaining control in Kharkov

Ukraine has regained control of Kharkov, the country's second-largest city, after fighting with Russian forces, the regional governor said.

Kharkiv’s Governor Oleh Synyehubov made the statement on Telegram, saying Ukrainian armed forces including police and defense units had full control of the city, and were "cleansing" the city from the enemy.

According to footage in circulation, heavy clashes erupted between Ukrainian forces and Russian army in the city late Saturday.

Separately, Ukrainian government ombudsman Lyudmyla Denysova accused Russia of killing civilians by targeting residential areas, hospitals, kindergartens and schools. 

EU says needs to prepare for millions of refugees from Ukraine

The European Union needs to prepare for millions of Ukrainian refugees arriving in the bloc, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said. 

Thousands of Ukrainian civilians, mainly women and children, have fled into neighbouring countries since Russia's operation, the biggest on a European state since World War Two, began last Thursday.

At least 300,000 refugees had already arrived in the EU by Sunday and many more were likely to come, Johansson said.

"I think we need to prepare for millions," she told reporters in Brussels, where the bloc's home affairs ministers gathered for a special meeting to discuss the fallout of the war in Ukraine. 

Two of Russia's billionaires call for peace

Two Russian billionaires, Mikhail Fridman and Oleg Deripaska, called for an end to the conflict triggered by Putin's military operation on Ukraine, with Fridman calling it a tragedy for both countries' people.

Billionaire Fridman, who was born in western Ukraine, told staff that the conflict was driving a wedge between the two eastern Slav peoples of Russia and Ukraine who have been brothers for centuries.

"I was born in Western Ukraine and lived there until I was 17. My parents are Ukrainian citizens and live in Lviv, my favourite city," Fridman wrote in q letter, excerpts of which Reuters saw.

"But I have also spent much of my life as a citizen of Russia, building and growing businesses. I am deeply attached to the Ukrainian and Russian peoples and see the current conflict as a tragedy for them both."

Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska, used a post on Telegram to call for peace talks to begin "as fast as possible".

"Peace is very important," said Deripaska, who is the founder of Russian aluminium giant Rusal, in which he still owns a stake via his shares in its parent company En+ Group. 

Putin puts Russia's nuclear deterrent forces on high alert

Putin has ordered Russian nuclear deterrent forces put on high alert amid tensions with the West over his military campaign in Ukraine. 

Speaking at a meeting with his top officials, Putin asserted that leading NATO powers had made “aggressive statements” along with the West imposing hard-hitting financial sanctions against Russia, including the president himself.

Putin ordered the Russian defence minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty.”

“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country," Putin said in televised comments.

His order raised the threat that the tensions with the West over the war in Ukraine could lead to the use of nuclear weapons. 

Russia demands Google restore access to its media YouTube channels

Russia's state communications regulator said it had written to Alphabet Inc's Google and demanded that access to Russian media's YouTube channels be restored on Ukrainian territory.

The regulator, Roskomnadzor, said it wanted all restrictions imposed on the Russian-language YouTube channels of media outlets RBC, TV Zvezda and Sputnik to be removed. 

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

Portugal, Romania pledge military equipment to Ukraine

Portugal is to send military equipment to Ukraine, the defence ministry said, joining other Western nations in dispatching help to the eastern European country under Russian attack.

Lisbon is to dispatch "vests, helmets, night-vision goggles, grenades and ammunition of various calibres", the ministry said in a statement in the early hours on Twitter.

"Portugal supports Ukraine, which is defending itself against an unjustified, illegal and unacceptable invasion," Defence Minister Joao Cravinho said in another tweet.

Romania said it would send three million euros worth of "fuel, bullet-proof vests, helmets, munition, and other military equipment" to Kiev.

Bucharest's defence ministry said that 11 Romanian military hospitals were also ready to take in wounded Ukrainians.

Putin accuses Ukraine of wasting 'opportunity' for talks

Putin has accused Ukrainian authorities of wasting "an opportunity" to hold talks after Moscow's attack on its pro-Western neighbour.

The Kremlin said that Putin had briefed Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett about "the course of a special military operation to protect Donbass". 

During the call, the statement said, he "also noted that the Russian delegation is in the Belarus city of Gomel and is ready for negotiations with representatives of Kiev, who, showing inconsistency, have not yet taken advantage of this opportunity".

Bennet for his part proposed that Israel act as a mediator in talks between Russia and Ukraine "in order to halt the hostilities", the Kremlin said.

Bennett's office said the two men "discussed the situation between Russia and Ukraine".

'Heartbroken' Pope urges help for Ukraine, condemns warmongers

Pope Francis called for humanitarian corridors to help refugees out of Ukraine and said those who make war should not be deluded into thinking that God is on their side.

Speaking to people in St Peter's Square, some holding large Ukrainian flags, Francis also said his "heart is broken" by the war and condemned those who "trust in the diabolic and perverse logic of weapons". 

UN nuclear watchdog to hold emergency meeting

The UN nuclear watchdog's 35-nation Board of Governors will hold an emergency meeting about Ukraine, where war is raging in a country with four operational nuclear power plants and various waste facilities including Chernobyl.

Board members Canada and Poland called the meeting at the request of Ukraine, which is not on the Board, diplomats said. International Atomic Energy Agency member states that are not on the Board, like Ukraine, can call a Board meeting but the possible range of topics is wider if a Board member calls one.

"The IAEA Board of Governors will hold a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the current situation in Ukraine," the IAEA said in a statement, confirming a report by Reuters.

Italy makes immediate payment of 110M euros to Ukraine

Italy has transferred an immediate payment of 110 million euros ($120 million) to Ukraine's government "as a sign of solidarity and support", Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio announced on Twitter.

"I've informed my colleague Dmytro Kuleba that I've just signed a resolution for the immediate payment of 110 million euros to the government in Kiev, as a sign of solidarity and support from Italy to a people with whom we have fraternal relations," Di Maio tweeted.

In a longer post on Facebook, the minister said that Ukraine was under siege and under continuous bombardment by the Russians for no fault of its own.

"Peace is the goal towards which we continue to work every day and we respond to Russian arms with sanctions," Di Maio said.

"The European Union and all of its allies must form a common front."

Germany vows full solidarity with Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz assured Ukraine full solidarity in its war with Russia.

"As democrats, as Europeans, we stand by your side - on the right side of history. Germany stands today with Ukraine, our thoughts and our sympathies lie with the victims of the Russian war of aggression,” Scholz said in his government statement during a special session of the German parliament on the Russian attack on Ukraine.

He defended the government's decision to supply German arms to Ukraine. "There could be no other answer to (Russian President) Putin's aggression."

The German government made a historic shift on Saturday and now wants to deliver weapons from its military stocks to Ukraine. 

Ukraine lodges case against Russia in The Hague

Ukraine has lodged a complaint against Russia at the International Court of Justice in The Hague to get it to halt its offensive.

"Russia must be held accountable for manipulating the notion of genocide to justify aggression," Zelenskyy declared in a tweet.

"We request an urgent decision ordering Russia to cease military activity now and expect trials to start next week."

Germany, other EU countries close airspace to Russian flights

Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Finland and Iceland have announced their decision to close their airspace for Russian air traffic.  

They joined the list of others — such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Poland — who have forced westbound Russian planes to make enormous diversions.

Germany will close its airspace to Russian planes and airlines for three months, its transport ministry said. 

Humanitarian aid flights are excluded from the ban, a spokesperson for the ministry said.

Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced a similar move by his country. "Our European skies are open skies. They're open for those who connect people, not for those who seek to brutally aggress," he tweeted.

Russia has responded by closing its own airspace to flights operated by carriers from EU Baltic countries. No EU-wide ban on Russian flights has been announced, and EU countries are deciding themselves for their sovereign airspace.

UN: About 368,000 people have fled Ukraine

Some 368,000 people have fled abroad from the fighting in Ukraine, the UN refugee agency has said, citing data provided by national authorities.

"The current total is now 368,000 and continues to rise," the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said via Twitter.

Poland's border guards said more than 156,000 people had crossed into the EU member from Ukraine in the days since Russia began its military operation.

UK: Conflict could last a 'number of years'

The Russia-Ukraine conflict could last a "number of years" and the world needs to be prepared for Moscow "to seek to use even worse weapons", British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned.

"I fear this will be a long haul, this could be a number of years. Russia have strong forces and we know the Ukrainians are brave, they are determined to stand up for their sovereignty and territorial integrity and they are determined to fight," Truss said.  

Truss told SkyNews there could be no talks with Russia over Ukraine while Moscow has troops in its neighbour.

"Now if the Russians are serious about negotiations they need to remove their troops from Ukraine. They cannot negotiate with a gun to the head of the Ukrainians...So frankly, I don't trust these so-called efforts of negotiation," she said.

Google 'pauses' Russian state media monetisation

Google is the latest US tech giant to prevent Russian state media from earning money on its platforms in response to Moscow's attacks on Ukraine. 

It follows similar moves by its YouTube subsidiary and Facebook.

"In response to the war in Ukraine, we are pausing Google monetisation of Russian state-funded media across our platforms," a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

Russia: 975 objects of Ukraine's military infrastructure hit

The number of Ukraine's military infrastructure disabled by the Russian Armed Forces reached 975 over the past day, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The ministry said it used high-precision sea- and ground-based cruise missiles to hit the targets.

Among them are 23 control and communication centres, three radar posts, 31 S-300, Bu k M-1 and Osa anti-aircraft missile systems, and 48 radar stations.

Ukraine: Russia lost some 4,300 men

Russian forces have lost about 4,300 servicemen in Ukraine, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar has said, adding however that the number was being clarified. 

She also said on her Facebook page that Russian troops lost about 146 tanks, 27 aircraft and 26 helicopters.

Czech team not to face Russia in World Cup play-off

The Czech Football Association has said the national team would not play Russia in a potential 2022 World Cup play-off in March.

"The Czech national team will in no case play a potential game against Russia in the World Cup play-offs," the Czech FA said in a statement, following the same decision by Sweden and Poland.

The Czechs would have to beat Sweden away and Russia would have to beat Poland to set up a clash between the two countries on March 29.

Greece to send 'defence equipment', aid to Ukraine

Greece is to send Ukraine "defence equipment" and humanitarian aid, the prime minister's office has said, after Athens accused Russia of killing 10 ethnic Greeks during its Ukraine offensive.

Two military transport planes were to depart for Poland, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' office said in a statement, without adding further details about what equipment they would be carrying.

A separate shipment of humanitarian aid was also to be sent the same day, accompanied by Deputy Defence Minister Nikos Hardalias, it added.

Romania to send fuel, ammunition to Ukraine

Romania will send provisions and equipment worth $3.38 million (3 million euros) to Ukraine and has offered to care for the wounded in military and civilian hospitals, government spokesperson Dan Carbunaru has said.

Provisions to be sent include fuel, ammunition, bullet-proof vests, helmets, military equipment, food and water, he added.

In cooperation with Ukrainian border authorities, Romanian ambulances will pick up children, pregnant women and the elderly waiting in long queues to cross the border into Romania at the northeastern Siret crossing, speeding up the process, he said.

Local authorities in border counties have already sent buses carrying food, blankets and winter clothes to Solotvyno and Chernivtsi just across the Ukrainian border.

IAEA to hold emergency meeting

The UN nuclear watchdog IAEA's board of governors will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday on the situation in Ukraine, diplomats have said.

One diplomat told Reuters the agenda item would be "the safety, security and safeguards implications of the situation in Ukraine".

Another said it was called by Canada and Poland, which are members of the 35-nation board, at the request of Ukraine, which is not on the board.

UAE favours 'negotiations'

The United Arab Emirates wants to encourage a political solution in the Ukraine conflict and taking sides would only encourage violence, a senior UAE official has said.

"The UAE has a firm position regarding the United Nations, international law and the sovereignty of states, rejecting military solutions," Anwar Gargash, the diplomatic adviser to UAE President Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, posted on Twitter.

"In the Ukrainian crisis, our priority is to encourage all parties to resort to diplomatic action and to negotiate to find a political solution."

Turkish nationals evacuated from Ukraine return

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has arranged the evacuation of Turkish nationals by land though Romania and Bulgaria due to the closure of the Ukrainian airspace.

Evacuated Turkish nationals entered Türkiye through northwestern Hamzabeyli Border Gate at the Turkish-Bulgarian border, and will be transferred to Istanbul by bus.

Ukraine rejects Belarus talks, proposes other locations

Zelenskyy has rejected a Russian offer of talks in Belarus, saying Minsk itself is complicit  in Moscow's attacks on his country.

But he left the door open to talks in other locations, in what would be the first negotiations since Russia started its military operation on February 24.

"Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, Istanbul, Baku. We proposed all of them," Zelenskyy said in an address posted online.

Earlier on Sunday, the Kremlin said its delegation was ready to meet Ukrainian officials in the Belarusian city of Gomel. 

A Russian delegation had arrived in Belarus, a Kremlin spokesperson was quoted by the Ifax news agency as saying.

Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the delegation included officials from the foreign and defence ministries, and Putin's office.

Meanwhile, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko asked Kiev to sit down and hold talks with Russia so that Ukraine does not lose its statehood, Russia's RIA news agency reported.

Türkiye to focus on 'peaceful resolution'

Türkiye’s diplomatic actions and coordination with allies will always focus on how to achieve a quick and peaceful resolution of the Ukraine crisis, Fahrettin Altun, Turkish Presidency's Director of Communications, has said.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, he stressed that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has offered to mediate talks between Russia and Ukraine as Türkiye has "strong relations with both countries".

"We have repeatedly called for a diplomatic solution, but the war is a reality right now. The international community’s lack of unity over a number of regional and global issues has been a major problem just like it has over the Russia-Ukraine crisis," he added.

"This conflict brings us face to face with two tragedies," he said.

The first, he said, is the humanitarian challenge and Türkiye will do what’s necessary. "Just as we have been the leader on this front in other regional conflicts, we’ll do the same in this one."

"The second tragedy is the relentless attacks on truth. We are fully aware and working to confront disinformation and misinformation campaigns. In this war of information, we will stand with truth regardless of its source."

UN reports at least 64 civilian deaths in Ukraine

At least 64 civilians have been killed and more than 160,000 are on the move after Russian troops entered Ukraine this week, a United Nations relief agency has said.

"As of 5:00 pm on 26 February, (UN human rights office) OHCHR reports at least 240 civilian casualties, including at least 64 dead," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a status report.

It added the actual figures were likely to be "considerably higher".

Damage to civilian infrastructure has left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity or water. Hundreds of homes had been damaged, while bridges and roads hit by shelling, it said.

It cited the UN refugee agency as saying more than 160,000 people had been internally displaced and more than 116,000 forced to flee into neighbouring countries.

Zelenskyy: Past night was brutal for Ukraine

Zelenskyy has repeated his allegation that Russia was hitting residential areas and said Moscow's actions verged on "genocide".

"The past night in Ukraine was brutal, again shooting, again bombardments of residential areas, civilian infrastructure," he said in address posted online.

"This is terror. They are going to bomb our Ukrainian cities even more, they are going to kill our children even more subtly. This is the evil that has come to our land and must be destroyed." 

"Russia's criminal actions against Ukraine bear signs of genocide," he added, urging the world to scrap Russia's voting power at the UN Security Council.

Gazprom: Gas exports via Ukraine to Europe continue

Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom has said Russian gas exports via Ukraine to Europe continues normally, in line with requests from customers.

It said requests for gas via the route stand at 107.5 million cubic metres as of Sunday.

China envoy postpones evacuation of citizens

China's envoy to Ukraine has said current conditions are too unsafe to evacuate citizens, days after the embassy said it would prepare plans to help people leave after the Russian attack.

In a video message on the embassy's official WeChat account on Sunday, Chinese ambassador Fan Xianrong sought to dispel rumours he had left Kiev and reassure Chinese nationals left stranded.

"We must wait until it is safe before leaving," said Fan from his office, seated in front of a Chinese flag and what appeared to be a fold-out camp bed frame.

Russian troops enter Kharkiv city

Russian troops have entered Ukraine's second largest city Kharkiv and fighting was under way there on the streets.

"The Russian enemy's light vehicles broke into the city of Kharkiv," head of the regional administration Oleg Sinegubov said in a Facebook post on Sunday, urging residents not to leave shelters.

"The Ukrainian armed forces are eliminating the enemy," said Sinegubov.

The city administration in Kiev, 400 kilometres (250 miles) to the west, said the capital remained completely under the control of Ukrainian forces despite clashes with "sabotage groups".

Meanwhile, Ukraine also said its forces downed a cruise missile that was launched by a Russian Tu-22 strategic bomber from the territory of Belarus.

Russia claims to have besieged two big cities in Ukraine 

Moscow has claimed its troops have "entirely" besieged the southern Ukrainian cities of Kherson and Berdyansk in the southeast.

"Over the past 24 hours, the cities of Kherson and Berdyansk have been completely blocked by the Russian armed forces," defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a blast was heard to the west of the Ukrainian capital Kiev city centre on Sunday.

It came minutes after an air raid siren was heard around 08:09 am local (0609 GMT), a Reuters correspondent reported.

Ukraine 'establishing' legion for volunteers from abroad

Ukraine is establishing a foreign "international" legion for volunteers from abroad, Zelenskyy said on Sunday.

"This will be the key evidence of your support for our country," Zelenskyy said in a statement.

Ukraine: Missiles hit Vasylkiv town

Russian missiles have hit the Ukrainian town of Vasylkiv southwest of the capital, Kiev, setting an oil terminal ablaze.

"The enemy wants to destroy everything around," the town's mayor, Natalia Balasinovich, said in an online video on Sunday.

Photographs and video online showed large flames rising in the night sky. Authorities warned residents of toxic fumes.

Also on Sunday morning, Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine's Luhansk province said an oil terminal was blown up by a Ukrainian missile in the town of Rovenky.

Earlier, the Ukrainian president’s office said Russian forces had blown up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.

The State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection warned that the explosion could cause an “environmental catastrophe”, and advised residents to cover their windows with damp cloth or gauze and to drink plenty of fluids.

Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Iryna Venediktova, said the Russian forces were unable to take Kharkiv, where a fierce battle is underway. The city of 1.5 million is located 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Russian border.

Ukraine pipeline operator says gas transit is normal

The transit of Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine continues normally and the pipeline has not been damaged by any blasts, Ukraine's gas pipeline operator said on Sunday.

Earlier, Ukrainian officials had said Russian troops blew up a gas pipeline in the northeastern region of Kharkiv, but it was unclear if the affected section was part of a transit pipeline or a regional distribution network.

Putin hails 'heroism' of Russian special forces

Putin has congratulated members of special forces on their professional holiday, saying they fought "heroically" in Ukraine.

"Special gratitude to those who these days are heroically fulfilling their military duty in the course of a special operation to provide assistance to the people's republics of Donbas," Putin said in a televised address on Sunday.

Ukraine requests ICRC to repatriate Russian soldiers' bodies

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said it is aware of requests by Ukraine’s UN ambassador and others to repatriate the bodies of Russian soldiers killed, but has no numbers.

Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya tweeted on Saturday that Ukraine has appealed to ICRC “to facilitate repatriation of thousands of bodies of Russian soldiers” killed in Ukraine. An accompanying chart claimed 3,500 Russian troops have been killed.

Kyslytsya tweeted that parents in Russia should have a chance “to bury them with dignity.” “Don’t let Putin hide scale of tragedy,” he urged.

Laetitia Courtois, ICRC’s permanent observer to the United Nations, told The Associated Press on Saturday night that the current security situation “is a primary concern and a limitation for our teams on the ground”, and “we therefore cannot confirm numbers or other details”.

Over 10,000 Arab students stranded in Ukraine

Thousands of young Arabs who took up studies in Ukraine are appealing to be rescued from a new nightmare — Russia's attack on the country.

More than 10,000 Arab students attend university in Ukraine, drawn to the former Soviet republic by a low cost of living and, for many, the lure of relative safety compared with their own troubled homelands.

Many have criticised their governments for failing to take concrete measures to repatriate them, and sought refuge in basements or the metro system. Few dared to cross the border into neighbouring Poland or Romania in search of sanctuary.

Among Arab countries, Morocco has the largest number of students in Ukraine, with around 8,000 enrolled in universities, followed by Egypt with more than 3,000.

"We left Iraq to escape war... but it's the same thing in Ukraine (now)," Ali Mohammed, an Iraqi student told AFP by telephone from the western city of Chernivtsi. "We are demanding to go home. We are waiting to be rescued," he said.

According to an Iraqi government official, there are 5,500 Iraqis in Ukraine, 450 of them students.

SWIFT waits for legal instruction to remove Russian banks

The SWIFT international payments system said it was preparing to implement Western nations' new measures targeting certain Russian banks in coming days.

"We are engaging with European authorities to understand the details of the entities that will be subject to the new measures and we are preparing to comply upon legal instruction," it said in a statement.

The Western allies announced the moves in a joint statement as part of a new round of financial sanctions meant to “hold Russia to account and collectively ensure that this war is a strategic failure for Putin."

The central bank restrictions target access to the more than $600 billion in reserves that the Kremlin has at its disposal, and are meant to block Russia's ability to support the ruble as it plunges in value amid tightening Western sanctions.

Russia shuts airspace to planes from four more nations

Russia is closing its airspace to planes from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Slovenia, a move that comes as Moscow’s ties with the West plunge to new lows over its attack on Ukraine.

Russia’s state aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, announced early Sunday that the measure was taken in retaliation for the four nations closing their airspace for Russian planes.

On Saturday, the agency also reported closing the Russian airspace for planes from Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic in response to them doing the same.

Macron presses Lukashenko to get Russian troops out of Belarus

French President Emmanuel Macron has asked his Belarus counterpart to demand that the country, Ukraine’s neighbour, quickly order Russian troops to leave, claiming Moscow has been given the green light to deploy nuclear arms there.

In a phone conversation Saturday, Macron denounced “the gravity of a decision that would authorise Russia to deploy nuclear arms on Belarus soil,” a statement by the presidential palace said.

Macron told Alexander Lukashenko that fraternity between the people of Belarus and Ukraine should lead Belarus to “refuse to be a vassal and an accomplice to Russia in the war against Ukraine,” the statement said.

Belarus was one of several axes used by Russia to launch attacks on Ukraine, with Belarus the point to move toward the capital Kiev, a senior US defence official has said.

Macron has pushed persistently to try to claw out a ceasefire amid the attack, using the telephone to talk to all sides, diplomacy and sanctions by the European Union.

Elon Musk makes Starlink available for Ukraine

SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk said that the company's Starlink satellite broadband service is available in Ukraine and SpaceX is sending more terminals to the country, whose internet has been disrupted due to the Russian incursion.

"Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route," Musk tweeted.

He was responding to a tweet by a Ukrainian government official who asked Musk to provide the embattled country with Starlink stations.

“@elonmusk, while you try to colonize Mars — Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people!" Ukraine’s vice prime minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, tweeted.

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

For all the updates from Saturday (February 26) click here

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