Russia-Ukraine latest: Putin orders nuclear deterrence forces on high alert; Zelenskiy says Ukrainian and Russian delegations to meet

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Russia-Ukraine latest: Putin orders nuclear deterrence forces on high alert; Zelenskiy says Ukrainian and Russian delegations to meet” was written by Jem Bartholomew (now), Robert Booth and Samantha Lock (earlier), for theguardian.com on Sunday 27th February 2022 15.29 UTC

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has expressed guarded optimism over news of talks between Russia and Ukraine.

Speaking to CNN on Sunday morning as news of the expected talks at the Belarusian border broke, Thomas Greenfield said: “We’ll look forward to what comes out of those discussions.

“As you know … we leaned in on diplomacy with the Russians throughout this process and we hoped that Putin would find a way to the negotiating table and he made the unfortunate decision of aggression over diplomacy.”

Pressed on whether she believed the announced talks indicated a good faith effort on behalf of Russia, Thomas Greenfield responded: “I can’t get into Putin’s head or into Russian reasoning, so it remains to be seen.”

US smbassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield last week
US smbassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield last week.
Photograph: United Nations/AP

The announcement was also tentatively welcomed by Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, who told the news channel he had “absolute and full confidence” in Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s judgment on “whether it is right to sit down and find a political solution”.

But Stoltenberg also expressed concerns about Russia’s motivations. “It remains to be seen whether Russia is really willing to make some serious compromises and also to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine.”

Stoltenberg characterised Putin’s decision to order Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert as “dangerous rhetoric” and “a behaviour that is irresponsible”.

“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 full fledged invasion of Ukraine, this adds to the seriousness of the situation.”

He added, with reference to recently increased Nato presence in the eastern part of the alliance: “We have to realise we are now faced with a new normal for our security … there will be some long-term consequences and this is just the beginning of the adaptation that we need to do as a response to a much more aggressive Russia.”

Updated

Spain has closed its airspace to Russian flights, alongside at least 15 other European nations.

In a tweet on Sunday afternoon, the Spanish transport ministry said: “Spain will proceed to close its airspace to Russian flights. In line with the cooperation directives agree by the EU, this measure will affect flights operated by the Russian airlines that use Spanish airspace.”

Updated

Russian police detained more than 900 people at anti-war protests in 44 Russian cities on Sunday, independent protest monitoring group OVD-Info said.

That means over 4,000 protesters have been arrested since the invasion, underscoring the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent.

Police officers detain a woman during a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in central Moscow on Sunday.
Police officers detain a woman during a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in central Moscow on Sunday.
Photograph: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Some of the protests on Sunday tied into the anniversary of Putin-critic Boris Nemtsov’s killing seven years ago.

Meanwhile, there have been queues at ATMs in Moscow as people respond to western Swift sanctions.

Updated

Ukraine’s foreign minister: Ukraine-Russia talks with no preconditions ‘already a victory’

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said “we will not give up a single inch of our territory” ahead of talks agreed between the Ukrainian and Russian delegations.

Russia initially said it did not want talks, then said it wanted talks with conditions. Now, after a series of military setbacks that some observers say may have shocked Russian president Vladimir Putin, the conditions have been dropped – which Kuleba said was “already a victory”.

One element of the talks, Kuleba said, are that Belarus agreed it would not use military force against Ukraine “between now and the moment that the talks wrap up”.

Kuleba struck an optimistic tone during the briefing on Sunday, assuring reporters “we will prevail, I’m absolutely confident in that.”

“This is a war between president Putin and the people of Ukraine,” he said, adding: “We are determined to defeat Russia, the same way we defeated the previous monster in Europe 80 years ago.”

He urged allies to provide more military supplies in the battle against Russia.

Kuleba, responding to questions about nuclear attacks, said that if Ukraine was attacked with nuclear weapons it would be “a catastrophe”, but said it would not break the Ukrainian spirit. He said Putin’s order to put nuclear deterrence on high alert was a strategy to raise the stakes ahead of the talks.

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Ukraine foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Photograph: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/Rex/Shutterstock

Updated

Nato chief: Putin’s nuclear rhetoric is ‘dangerous’ and irresponsible

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of Nato, said “this is dangerous rhetoric” over Russian president Vladimir Putin’s order to put the country’s nuclear military deterrence on high alert.

“This is dangerous rhetoric. This is a behaviour which is irresponsible,” Stoltenberg said on CNN.

“And of course when you combine this rhetoric with what they are doing on the ground in Ukraine – waging war against an independent, sovereign nation, conducting full-fledged invasion of Ukraine – this adds to the seriousness of the situation.”

More to come as the US reaches mid-morning on the east coast and the broadcast round begins in earnest. US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield is speaking to NBC.

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg earlier this week.
Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg earlier this week.
Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

Updated

More on the possible meeting between Ukrainian and Russian officials from AP.

It reports that the office of Ukraine’s president has confirmed that a delegation will meet Russian officials as Moscow’s troops draw closer to Kyiv.

The office of the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on the Telegram messaging app that the two sides would meet at an unspecified location on the Belarusian border and did not give a precise time for the meeting, the news agency reports.

The announcement came hours after Russia announced that its delegation had flown to Belarus to await talks. Ukrainian officials initially rejected the move, saying any talks should take place elsewhere than Belarus, where Russia has placed a large contingent of troops.

Updated

WHO: Thousands of lives at risk by falling Ukrainian oxygen supplies

The World Health Organization is worried about supplies of medicinal oxygen to Ukraine, warning the majority of hospitals could run out in 24 hours.

The director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and WHO’s regional director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge, called for a safe passage for supplies, including via a logistics corridor through Poland.

They said: “Trucks are unable to transport oxygen supplies from plants to hospitals across the country, including the capital, Kyiv. 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.”

Updated

In Greece the first of two military transport planes, loaded with defence equipment, has departed from Eleusina for Ukraine. Portable rocket launchers, ammunition and Kalashnikov rifles will be aboard the two C130’s. The shipments will be delivered via Poland.

Athens’ deputy defence minister, Nikos Hardalias, will oversee the dispatch of humanitarian assistance later in the day when two cargo carriers also head for Poland.

The aid comes amid a brewing row between Russia and Greece regarding Athens’ stance over Ukraine. Despite the two Orthodox nations having traditionally strong ties, culturally and politically, Greece has sided firmly with its fellow EU and Nato partners throughout the crisis and given US forces unfettered access to four military bases across the country.

Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has denounced Moscow’s invasion as a violation of international law and called for the violence to end.

Greek fury mounted on Saturday following the deaths of ten members of the country’s large diaspora in Russian air strikes close to Mariupol – home to some 120,000 ethnic Greeks – in south east Ukraine.

On Sunday Russia’s embassy in Athens issued a statement in which it urged Greek politicians, the media and political party leaders to “come round, assume their responsibilities, stop the anti-Russian propaganda and to show level headedness, clarity and seriousness.” It berated Greek officials for failing to show any sympathy for the loss of Russian lives in Donbas and deplored the decision to decorate official buildings and fountains in Athens in Ukrainian colours.

EU officials have noted that the leadership of Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and particularly his intervention by video at the European council on the Thursday night, has been a key driver in a change in approach towards the crisis by the 27 member states and their leaders.

In his appeal for aid during the leaders’ late night summit in Brussels, Zelenskiy had told the EU’s heads of state and government that with Kyiv encircled it may be the last time they would see him.

An EU official said: “I think the intervention by president Zelenskiy will be part of history. It was very emotional, the leaders were deeply impacted, the silence in the room was impressive. A heavy atmosphere.”

They said: “it made the difference to create this dynamic that we see today with leaders approving the transfer of delivery of weapons, Swift being on the list, and my guess is that it will continue”.

“Rational positions”, where leaders looked at their own interests, are also being moved by public opinion, an EU official said.

The consequences are that:

  • Zelenskiy asked Charles Michel, president of the European council, for military equipment on Saturday and 18 member states have made donations, according to an EU official.
  • Under the EU’s ‘European peace facility’ fund, the EU itself will now also fund the donation of “defensive weapons of a lethal nature” to Ukraine, under a proposal that will be put to member states. Those with an historically neutral status will be able to “constructively abstain” so that their financial contribution is spent on other projects.
  • Later today, a proposal on closing down the airspace above the EU for Russian air carriers and prohibiting landing in airports will be put to member states. Around three-quarters of member states have unilaterally done so, an EU official said. This had been resisted until now due to concerns that Russia would respond by closing down its air space to EU carriers.
  • The list of Russian banks that will be cut off from the Swift payments system is being coordinated by the European commission following a significant change of tack from the German government, an EU official said. The commission is seeking to have the move adopted by emergency procedure today.
  • There is no movement by the EU on so-called ‘correspondent banking’, where EU financial institutions act as an agent on behalf of Russian financial institutions. The US and the UK have prohibited all Russian banks from such arrangements. It would be a major step for the EU in killing its annual €80bn of trade with Russia. But the EU is acting to prevent the Russian central bank from converting its euro reserves into Russian roubles.
  • EU interior ministers will have a stock take on the capacity in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary to take in refugees from Ukraine. The EU official said the capacity is “quite huge”.

Updated

US announces £40m humanitarian aid for Ukraine

The United States said on Sunday it is sending nearly $54m (£40m) in new humanitarian aid to Ukraine as it grapples with the Russian invasion.

USSecretary of State Antony Blinken.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AFP/Getty Images

AFP has the details from Washington:

Secretary of state Antony Blinken said the US is focused on Ukraine’s “urgent humanitarian needs as an important part of our response to Russia’s premeditated, unprovoked and unjustified attack.”

This new assistance to be channelled through NGOs includes “provision of food, safe drinking water, shelter, emergency health care, winterization and protection,” Blinken said in a statement.

Blinken said the new assistance will also help aid groups maintain contact between family members who have been separated by the war, “hopefully leading to reunification in some cases.”

Blinken commended neighboring countries for taking in fleeing Ukrainians “and we are engaging diplomatically to support their efforts to keep their borders open and assist those seeking international protection.”

The United States has now provided Ukraine with nearly $405 million in aid since Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014 and seized the Crimean peninsula, the statement said.

Updated

Zelenskiy: Ukrainian and Russian delegations to meet without preconditions

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the Ukrainian and Russian delegations will meet without preconditions.

Breaking news, details to follow.

At least 15 European countries ban Russian flights from airspace

The Italian government announced on Sunday that it was closing its airspace to Russia, following a raft of other EU countries as they tighten sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

The measure involves a ban on all civil or military aircraft coming from Russia or which belong to a Russian company.

“Italy has closed its airspace to Russia,” a statement from the office of the Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, said.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
Photograph: Chigi Palace Press Office/Filip/ANSA/ZUMA Press/REX/Shutterstock

Italy is among 14 EU countries, including France, Belgium, Germany, Finland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Poland to have shut off their airspace to Russian aircraft. The UK shut its airspace off to Russian flights last week.

Moscow responded by closing its airspace to commercial and transit flights from EU countries, with the measure so far aimed at planes linked or registered to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Austrian Airlines said on Saturday it was cancelling flights to Russia and avoiding Russian airspace for at least seven days. Swiss International Air Lines is maintaining flights for now.

Updated

The UK foreign secretary Liz Truss has said she would support Britons wanting to go to Ukraine to help it fight the Russian invasion.

In an interview on BBC One’s Sunday Morning programme, she replied “absolutely” when asked whether she would back anyone wanting to volunteer to help the Ukrainians fighting for their freedom.

She told the programme: “That is something people can make their own decisions about. The people of Ukraine are fighting for freedom and democracy, not just for Ukraine but for the whole of Europe.

“Absolutely, if people want to support that struggle I would support them in doing that.”

Until now there has been almost no evidence of foreigners going to Ukraine to join the battle against the Russian invasion. But on Sunday, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said he would be setting up an international legion for volunteers.

Read the full report from my colleague Andrew Sparrow here.

Putin orders Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert, US attacks ‘unacceptable’ escalation

Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered his military to put the country’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert in response to “aggressive statements” by Nato countries.

The order, which was announced by the state-run Tass news agency, came at a meeting between Putin, defence minister Sergei Shoigu and chief of the general staff of the armed forces of Russia, Valery Gerasimov.

Putin ordered Russian nuclear deterrent forces put on high alert on Sunday.
Putin ordered Russian nuclear deterrent forces put on high alert on Sunday.
Photograph: Alexei Nikolsky/AP

“Senior officials of the leading Nato countries also allow aggressive statements against our country, therefore I order the Minister of Defense and the Chief of the General Staff [of the Russian Armed Forces] to transfer the deterrence forces of the Russian army to a special mode of combat duty,” Putin said in the statement.

It is not immediately clear what the “special mode of combat duty” entailed. Putin has warned foreign countries not to interfere in his ongoing invasion of Ukraine, saying it could lead to “consequences they have never seen”. He has positioned anti-air missiles and other advanced missile systems in Belarus and deployed his fleet to the Black Sea in an effort to prevent a western intervention in Ukraine.

The Russian invasion has left hundreds dead. Russia has launched missile strikes against buildings in Kyiv, Kharkiv and other major Ukrainian cities as it threatens an all-out assault not seen since the time of the second world war.

The US responded that this was an “unacceptable” escalation, US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Sunday.

“It means that President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable and we have to continue to stem his actions in the strongest possible way,” Thomas-Greenfield said in interview with CBS’ Face the Nation.

Updated

Emotional video here of a Ukrainian-German interpreter breaking down in tears while translating Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s speech on Sunday.

The tweet from Ukraine’s former ambassador to Austria features a video of the translator breaking down.

In the speech, among other things, Zelenskiy urged world leaders to strip Russia of its voting power on the UN Security Council and added: “Russia’s criminal actions against Ukraine bear signs of genocide”. Ukraine filed a lawsuit to the UN International Court of Justice at the Hague on Sunday.

He added Russia was bombarding residential areas but warned “we will fight as long as it takes to liberate the country”.

“The past night in Ukraine was brutal, again shooting, again bombardments of residential areas, civilian infrastructure.”

Updated

France becomes the latest country to close its airspace to Russian flights, the transport minister said on Sunday.

“France is shutting its airspace to all Russian aircraft and airlines from this evening on”, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said.

The EU is deciding later on Sunday whether to impose a bloc-wide ban, after many EU countries choose to take the action independently.

Norway and Belgium are among countries who also announced similar measures on Sunday.

Updated

Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett offered his country’s services as a mediator to bring peace to Ukraine in a telephone conversation with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Sunday, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Moscow said the conversation had been an Israeli initiative. The statement added Putin told Bennett that Russia had its delegation in the Belarusian city of Gomel ready to negotiate with Kyiv, but the Ukrainian side had “not seized the opportunity, in a show of incoherence”.

That characterisation was robustly rejected on Sunday by Ukraine. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he remains open to talks in other locations that are not showing aggression towards Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president added that talks in Minsk could have been possible if Russia had not attacked Ukraine from Belarusian territory.

Meanwhile, UK foreign secretary Liz Truss said she doesn’t trust Russian “negotiation” efforts. “Now if the Russians are serious about negotiations they need to remove their troops from Ukraine,” she told Sky News. “They cannot negotiate with a gun to the head of the Ukrainians … So frankly, I don’t trust these so-called efforts of negotiations.”

Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett.
Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett.
Photograph: Reuters

Ukraine wins battle of Kharkiv, governor says

Ukrainian forces have repelled a Russian attempt to seize Kharkiv, the city’s governor claimed on Sunday, following fierce fighting and street battles with advancing Russian troops.

Kharkiv’s governor Oleh Synyehubov said Ukrainian soldiers were now “cleaning up” the eastern city. He said Russian soldiers were surrendering in groups of five to ten and throwing their equipment in the middle of the road.

“Control over Kharkiv is completely ours!” Synyehubov posted on Facebook. “A complete cleansing of the city from the enemy is happening. The Russian enemy is absolutely demoralised.”

Earlier the governor said Russian light military vehicles had broken “into the city” including in central areas. They arrived in the northern suburbs at 8am, he said. He urged all civilians to stay inside. “Citizens of Kharkiv, don’t leave shelter, don’t use transport,” he said.

A Ukrainian soldier smokes a cigarette on his position at an armored vehicle outside Kharkiv, Ukraine on Saturday.
A Ukrainian soldier smokes a cigarette on his position at an armored vehicle outside Kharkiv, Ukraine on Saturday.
Photograph: Andrew Marienko/AP

Videos circulating on social media showed images of Russian troops moving through residential areas and past Soviet-era apartment blocks. Soldiers on foot used armoured vehicles as cover. Their vehicles were marked with Z, the symbol of Russia’s four-day invasion.

But other footage suggested the Ukrainian military had inflicted losses. There were images of a destroyed Russian column and pictures of a firefight in the south-east of the city. A group of Russian soldiers took refuge in an empty school, number 88, witnesses said, close to Traktornyi Zavod subway station.

Ukrainian soldiers armed with Kalshnikovs and grenade launchers sheltered behind a wall and trees, emerging to open fire. There was fighting reported around Shevchenko avenue. In another part of the city local fighters strolled around destroyed Russian vehicles, inspecting the damage and salvaging military equipment.

The attempted Russian operation to seize Kharkiv followed a night of heavy bombardment. At least one multi-storey apartment block was hit. Residents said the attacks were “massive and indiscriminate”, with a missile landing in a children’s playground next to a see-saw.

Artem Volodymyrovich, a 31-year-old English teacher, said Russian units had advanced from the north. They passed Peremoha metro station, the final stop on the city’s green line, and headed towards the centre, he told the Guardian, speaking from a basement shelter.

“Diversionary Russian groups have been getting into Kharkiv. We can hear gunshots. Our army is still in the city. Ukrainians are still in control, volunteers are working, the mayor is in charge, and we are fighting back,” he said, at 11am local time.

Volodymyrovich said he was hiding in a basement together with 30 people, mostly women, children and elderly. One of the group was an electrician who had fixed the power supply, allowing people to charge their phones. It was his third night in a shelter, he said.

“The bombing has been really heavy. The metro stopped working on Thursday afternoon and is now being used as a bomb shelter. The trains have been opened. People are sleeping in them because there isn’t enough space on the platforms.”

The city would defeat occupying Russian forces, he predicted. “I think yes. We are at home. People are fighting for their own homes, their families, their loved ones. It’s invasion for them, defence for us.”

He added: “I’m not a military guy. But if it comes to it I will take a fucking machine gun before I die like this and sit inside being shot, if they storm the basement. Better to die with arms in your hands.”

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, who posted videos of the battle on his Telegram channel, said the Russian army had overreached itself. “Kharkiv will become for Russians a Ukrainian Stalingrad,” he wrote.

It was too early to say on Sunday whether Moscow would mount another attempt to capture Kharkiv – or give up. The brutal bombardment of a city of 1.4m people showed Russia was now deliberately shelling civilians in suburban areas, locals said.

In an address posted online, Ukraine’s president Voldymyr Zelenskiy described the past night as brutal: “Again shooting, again bombardments of residential areas, and civilian infrastructure,” he said.

He added: “Today, there is not a single thing in the country that the occupiers do not consider an acceptable target. They fight against everyone. They fight against all living things – against kindergartens, against residential buildings and even against ambulances.”

He said Russian forces were “firing rockets and missiles at entire city districts in which there isn’t and never has been any military infrastructure. “Vasylkiv, Kyiv, Chernigiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and many other towns in Ukraine are living in conditions that were last experienced on our lands during world war two,” he claimed.

Updated

European Union interior ministers will hold emergency talks later today on aid for Ukrainian refugees arriving in the bloc.

At least 368,000 Ukrainians have already left their country and the number continues to rise, the UN refugee agency said earlier on Sunday. It has warned the conflict could lead to 4m refugees.

Most are fleeing to Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova.

In Poland, there are waits of up to 70 hours to cross the border, according to an internal report by EU officials. The waiting time to enter Slovakia is seven hours and five emergency temporary camps were being constructed this weekend.

A volunteer gives hot tea to Ukrainian woman as tens of thousands refugees from Ukraine enter Poland at border crossing of Medyka, 26 February.
A volunteer gives hot tea to Ukrainian woman as tens of thousands refugees from Ukraine enter Poland at border crossing of Medyka on Saturday.
Photograph: Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

EU home affairs ministers will discuss how to provide humanitarian support in Ukraine. At least 17 EU member states have already offered medical equipment, tents and blankets after Kyiv requested aid from the EU’s civil protection mechanism on 15 February.

“All EU member states are called to respond to the best of their capacities to the request for assistance from the Ukrainian authorities,” states an internal note circulated to national capitals.

EU countries facing the largest numbers of arrivals have also been told they can trigger the aid mechanism to request contributions from other member states to help them manage arrivals.

The ministers will also look at giving a role to the EU’s border agency Frontex and police agency Europol, if refugee numbers continue to grow.

Updated

In a historic announcement to parliament, German chancellor Olaf Scholz has said a fund of €100bn will be set up immediately in order to boost the strength of its armed forces, as well as announcing a sustained increase in defence spending over the coming years.

Scholz admitted that the urgency of the Ukraine crisis had forced the decision to invest in the German military telling the emergency session of the Bundestag “it is clear that we must invest significantly more in the security of our country, in order to protect our freedom and democracy”.

He called it “Germany’s historical responsibility” to ensure that Russian president Vladimir Putin “does not turn the clocks back”.

Long-term, defence spending is to be increased year on year by more than 2% of GDP he said. It is currently around 1.5% with Germany having been under growing pressure for years from its Nato allies, in particular the US, to increase the amount. The existence of the special fund should be anchored in Germany’s constitution, Scholz said, in order to ensure it remained a guarantee beyond the life of the current parliament.

Germany has long been criticised by its allies for its resistance to increasing its defence spending. This position has been reinforced by a strong pacifist sentiment amongst the electorate linked to Germany’s bloody Nazi past. In recent weeks, the country was also under fire for having not offered enough material support in particular refusing to deliver lethal weapons to assist Ukraine to defend itself against Russia.

But a turning point came on Saturday evening when the government made the surprise announcement that it would be sending weapons and other supplies to Ukraine, including 1,000 anti-tank weapons, 500 surface to air Stinger missiles and thousands of gallons of petrol.

The decision marks a historical break with Germany’s post-war pledge to not export weapons to conflict zones.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz receives a standing ovation while addressing an extraordinary session at the lower house of parliament in Berlin, Germany, on 27 February.
German chancellor Olaf Scholz receives a standing ovation while addressing an extraordinary session at the lower house of parliament in Berlin, Germany, on 27 February.
Photograph: Michele Tantussi/Reuters

It has also lifted certain restrictions on German-manufactured weapons being sent to conflict zones from third countries, such as Estonia and the Netherlands.

The announcement to parliament was greeted with relief and surprise, with Scholz receiving a standing ovation on Sunday morning, even as some MPs mainly from the leftwing Links Partei as well as the far-right AfD groaned in disapproval.

During his half-hour address, Scholz said Putin’s decision to launch a cold-blooded war of aggression “marked a turning point in the history of our continent”. The military conflict would be a lengthy one he said, stressing that he saw it as “Putin’s war” and “not a war of the Russian people”. He said the conflict would alter the world. He called it “a catastrophe for Ukraine” but said it would “also prove to be a catastrophe for Russia”.

Scholz issued five “mandates for action”.

  • The first was the delivery of weapons to Ukraine, which he said “can be the only answer to Putin’s aggression”.
  • The second was to support sanctions against Russian interests including the suspension of the Swift payment system.
  • Ensuring that the war does not spill over into other countries, citing the importance of Nato’s article 5.
  • Significant increase in German military spending; as well as other historical strategic changes, including, in effort to decrease German dependence on Russian gas, the construction of two terminals allowing the import of Liquid Petroleum Gas, in the ports of Brunsbüttel and Wilhelmshaven.

This follows his decision last week to suspend approval of the gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, effectively killing the multibillion-euro project.

Finally, Scholz said he was determined to keep up the diplomatic effort. “We need as much diplomacy as possible, without being naïve,” he said, adding that Germany would not refuse to hold talks with Russia. “Even in this extreme situation it is the job of diplomacy to keep open channels of communication,” he said. “Anything else would be irresponsible.”

The decision marks a historical break with Germany’s post-war pledge to not export weapons to conflict zones.
Olaf Scholz. The decision marks a historical break with Germany’s post-war pledge to not export weapons to conflict zones.
Photograph: Hannibal Hanschke/Getty Images

Updated

The deputy commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces Yevhen Moisiuk has issued a video appeal, in Russian, to Russian soldiers:

“Think about why you are here, what are you fighting for, and what you want to achieve? I hope you’ve realised that nobody wants you here and there is no reason for you to be here,” he said.

“Believe me: our cause is just, and you are just a tool in the hands of your government. We are giving you the chance to return to your families, and not to lose your life and dignity.

“Lay down your weapons and put your hands in the air, so that our soldiers and civilians understand that you have heard us. This will be your ticket home. Go and defend your own country, and don’t destroy ours.”

Belarus about to join Russian invasion, says former Ukrainian defence minister

Andriy Zagorodnyuk, Ukraine’s former defence minister, says Belarus is about to declare war on Ukraine, writes Luke Harding in Lviv.

Zagorodnyuk reports:

“Republic of Belarus is highly likely to join the Russian war against Ukraine. On Russian side. There is an information about airborne troopers from Republic of Belarus loaded on the planes to enter Ukraine.

This is a terrible development as it involves a country, which until very recently was a great friend of Ukraine; which people always considered Ukraine as a brotherly nation. Ukraine and Belarus has never been to war one with another in their many hundred years of history.

We believe that the only reason for that decision was personal demand from President of Russia, which completely depends from Putin in its policy.”

Updated

Further defence material will be provided to Ukraine from the Czech government, prime minister Petr Fiala said on Sunday.

Fiala said that he could not give any details on the shipment, Reuters reports, but his government will have an extraordinary session later on Sunday.

The government sent machine guns, assault rifles, other light weapons and ammunition worth 188 million crowns (about £6.4m) on Saturday.

Japan has joined western countries to block many Russian banks from the Swift payment system, prime minister Fumio Kishida said on Sunday.

Kishida added Japan will put sanctions on Russian president Vladimir Putin and extend $100m in emergency humanitarian aid to Ukraine, Reuters reports.

Kishida has condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine, saying it undermines the foundation of the international order.

People demonstrated in Japan’s capital Tokyo and around the world on Saturday to protest against Putin’s invasion.

People hold placards during a protest against Russia’s attack on Ukraine in front of Shinjuku station on 26 February in Tokyo, Japan.
People hold placards during a protest against Russia’s attack on Ukraine in front of Shinjuku station on 26 February in Tokyo, Japan.
Photograph: Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images

Updated

The Pope has said his “heart is broken” over the invasion of Ukraine at his weekly Sunday address in Vatican City.

The head of the Catholic church said: “God is with peacemakers, not with those who use violence,” according to a Reuters reporter at the Vatican.

In words that seemed to take direct aim at Russian president Vladimir Putin, Pope Francis condemned people who “trust in the diabolic and perverse logic of weapons”.

The Pope said there’s an urgent need to open humanitarian corridors for refugees and told people to “welcome them”, after the UN warned there have already been 368,000 refugees and could be as many as 4 million.

Speaking to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday, the Pope expressed his “deep pain for the tragic events” over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Vatican said.

Pope Francis delivers his Angelus prayer from the window of his study overlooking St Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Sunday.
Pope Francis delivers his Angelus prayer from the window of his study overlooking St Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Sunday.
Photograph: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

More countries have imposed airspace sanctions on Russian flights and banned them from their airspaces.

Denmark announced a ban on Sunday and said it is pushing for an EU-wide ban.

Likewise, Iceland, the Netherlands and Italy on Sunday announced similar measures.

Other countries including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany and Poland have blocked airspace to Russian flights, provoking huge Russian detours. On Saturday, Lithuania said it will block Russian flights, cutting a quick route from Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave to Ukraine.

Russia has blocked airspace to a raft of countries in tit-for-tat sanctions.

Updated

UN: Ukrainian refugee numbers reach 368,000

The UN Refugee Agency said the number of people fleeing Ukraine has reached 368,000, Reuters reports, after warning it could rise to as much as 4 million.

People have fled to Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia and Romania.

Ukranian refugees are offered warm clothes as they arrive at the Medyka border crossing, in Medyka, Poland on Saturday.
Ukranian refugees are offered warm clothes as they arrive at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, on Saturday.
Photograph: Visar Kryeziu/AP

Meanwhile, Polish border guards say 156,000 people have crossed from Ukraine in recent days, AFP reports.

“Since the start of the hostilities in Ukraine on 24 February, border guard officers processed a total of 187,800 people at all the crossings with Ukraine,” Poland’s border guards tweeted. (More than 156,000 were Ukraine to Poland crossings, they said.)

“Yesterday alone, a record number of people were processed … including 77,300 into Poland’ from Ukraine, they added.

 

Updated

Zelenskiy: Ukraine files lawsuit against Russia to Hague

Ukraine has filed a lawsuit against Russia to the UN international court of justice at the Hague, president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, the court that settles disputes between states regarding international law.

“Ukraine has submitted its application against Russia to the ICJ,” he wrote on Twitter. “Russia must be held accountable for manipulating the notion of genocide to justify aggression. We request an urgent decision ordering Russia to cease military activity now and expect trials to start next week.”

It follows the president’s claims that Russia’s actions – by bombing kindergartens, residential areas and non-military infrastructure zones – bear the marks of “genocide”.

The goal is to prove Russian president Vladimir Putin is “a main war criminal” of the 21st century, prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova told Ukrainian TV.

Updated

Germany hikes defence spending to €100bn after Russia’s Ukraine invasion

Germany departed from longstanding policy again on Sunday with chancellor Olaf Scholz announcing the government will supply €100bn for military investments from its 2022 budget.

“We will have to invest more in the security of our country to protect out freedom and democracy,” Scholz told lawmakers, receiving a standing ovation. That means Germany will spend over 2% of economic output on defence.

Germany has long-resisted boosting its defence spending after the horrors of the 20th century, with the announcement marking a big policy shift.

On Saturday, Scholz approved military support from the Netherlands to go to Ukraine, and delivered its own anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, breaking another longstanding policy of refusing to send weapons to conflict zones.

“There could be no other answer to Putin’s aggression,” Scholz said.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz (L) receives standing ovation after delivering a government declaration at the German parliament ‘Bundestag’ in Berlin, Germany, 27 February.
German chancellor Olaf Scholz (left) receives a standing ovation after delivering a government declaration at the German parliament in Berlin on 27 February.
Photograph: Clemens Bilan/EPA

Updated

Turkey referred to the Russian invasion as a “war” on Sunday, marking a strengthening of its rhetoric that could pave the way for a blockade of Russian ships through the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits connecting the Mediterranean and Black Sea.

“On the fourth day of the Ukraine war, we repeat president Erdogan’s call for an immediate halt of Russian attacks and the start of ceasefire negotiations,” presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter.

Russian Navy’s Project 22160 Patrol Vessel Dmitriy Rogachev 375 sails through the Bosphorus Strait on the way to the Black Sea past the city Istanbul as Suleymaniye mosque is seen in the backround on 16 February.
Russian patrol vessel Dmitriy Rogachev 375 sails through the Bosphorus Strait on the way to the Black Sea past Istanbul as Suleymaniye mosque is seen in the backround on 16 February.
Photograph: Ozan Köse/AFP/Getty Images

Reuters reports the details from Istanbul:

Under the 1936 Montreux convention, Turkey has control over the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits that connect the Mediterranean and Black seas and can limit the passage of warships during wartime or if threatened.

Balancing its western commitments and close ties to Moscow, Ankara has said the Russian attack is unacceptable but until Sunday had not described the situation as a war.

Kyiv has appealed to Ankara to block any more Russian warships from passing toward the Black Sea, from which Moscow has launched one of its incursions on Ukraine’s southern coast.

But Turkey’s foreign minister said on Friday that Russia had the right under Montreux to return ships to their home base, which could limit any Turkish policy shift.

Turkey has cultivated good ties with both Russia and Ukraine. Any step too far against Moscow could harm its heavy energy and commodity imports and its tourism sector at a time of domestic economic turmoil.

Updated

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar has claimed Russian forces have lost about 4,300 servicemen. It was not possible for the Guardian to immediately independently verify the figure.

Malyar also said on Facebook that Russian troops have lost about 146 tanks, 27 aircraft and 26 helicopters, Reuters reports.

It comes after the Economist reported on Friday: “Despite being outgunned and outnumbered, Ukraine inflicted more casualties in 24 hours than Russia suffered over eight years of engagements in Syria.”

Updated

Really powerful photo shared here by a journalist in Ukraine.

“Thank you mr. Putin for such change in my life from professional journalist to refuge from biggest country in Europe,” she writes.

Russians honour Putin-critic Boris Nemtsov on 7th anniversary of killing

Russians gathered on Sunday morning to lay flowers and mark the seventh anniversary of the killing of Boris Nemtsov, a top Russian opposition figure.

Nemtsov, 55, a former deputy prime minister under ex-president Boris Yeltsin and vocal Kremlin critic under president Vladimir Putin, was shot to death as he walked along the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky bridge near the Kremlin in Moscow late at night on Feb. 27, 2015.

“Boris would have been in shock about this war. We really miss his presence today,” said Tatyana Golika while laying flowers on the bridge.

During his life, Nemtsov has repeatedly spoken out against Russia’s military campaigns, including the country’s wars in Chechnya and Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

“Boris Nemtsov has always been against military conflicts: he collected a million signatures against the war in Chechnya in the mid-90s! He organized anti-war marches in Moscow in 2014 and 2015. Nemtsov Foundation is against the war with Ukraine! Our solidarity is with the Ukrainian people,” Nemtsov’s daughter Zhanna wrote on her Facebook on Thursday following Russia’s invasion.

People lay flowers at the site of Boris Nemtsov’s assassination on Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge.
People lay flowers at the site of Boris Nemtsov’s assassination on Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge.
Photograph: Mikhail Tereshchenko/TASS

In 2017, Chechen gunman Zaur Dadayev and four accomplices received long jail sentences for the killing of Nemtsov near the Kremlin. Dadayev had been under the command of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. Nemtsov’s family has repeatedly criticized the murder investigation for failing to bring the real masterminds to justice.

In a video posted online on Saturday, Kadyrov, who has often described himself as Putin’s “foot soldier,” said Chechen fighters had been deployed in Ukraine.

Updated

Greece will send defence equipment and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, the prime minister’s office said on Sunday.

It follows Greece’s attacks on Russia on Saturday during which 10 ethnic Greeks were killed during its invasion of Ukraine, it said.

Newswire AFP reports the details from Athens:

Two military transport planes were to depart for Poland on Sunday, 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.

The Russian embassy in Athens pushed back on Sunday, saying it did not bomb “inhabited areas and villages”.

In response, Greek foreign ministry spokesman Alexandros Papaioannou on Sunday accused the embassy of “fake news”. “Orthodox bombs killed Orthodox ethnic Greeks,” he said according to AFP, and summoned the Russian embassy.

Prime minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis. On Saturday Athens accused Russia of killing 10 ethnic Greeks during its invasion of Ukraine.
Prime minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. On Saturday Athens accused Russia of killing 10 ethnic Greeks during its invasion of Ukraine.
Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Updated

The European Union is weighing up banning Russian flights in its airspace, an EU official told Reuters.

Foreign ministers will discuss the plans later on Sunday. Many countries have already taken the decision individually but an EU-wide measure could be part of a new package of sanctions.

Romania will send provisions and equipment worth £2.5m to Ukraine and has offered to care for the wounded in military and civilian hospitals, government spokesperson Dan Carbunaru said on Sunday.

The equipment includes: fuel, ammunition, bullet-proof vests, helmets, military equipment, food and water.

Reuters reports the details from Bucharest:

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 north-eastern 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.

Updated

For a round-up of the international response to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s worth checking out this article from my colleagues – which says Putin is increasingly isolated and losing key allies.

Vladimir Putin was facing growing international isolation and the prospect of pariah status on Saturday night as long-term allies dramatically turned against him following the invasion of Ukraine, and western nations planned further decisive military and financial action against Moscow.

As his hopes of a quick victory evaporated in the face of fierce resistance by Ukrainian soldiers and armies of citizen volunteers, Russia’s president was deserted by his key ally, China, and had his ultimatum demanding Kyiv’s surrender defiantly brushed aside by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

In perhaps the most striking development, Germany announced on Saturday night that it would supply Ukrainian troops with 1,000 anti-tank weapons as well as 500 Stinger missiles from its own military reserves …

In further blows to Putin, Hungary’s leader, Viktor Orbán, long seen as friendly towards Moscow, abandoned his support, saying he would back all EU sanctions against Russia, while Turkey was reported to be considering blocking the passage of Russian naval vessels into the Black Sea.

UK foreign secretary Liz Truss said on Sunday that the conflict could be protracted, potentially drawn out for years.

Meanwhile, the UAE said on Sunday it was not “taking sides”, Reuters reports.

The UAE “believes that taking sides would only lead to more violence”, said Gargash, the diplomatic adviser to UAE president Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. “In the Ukrainian crisis, our priority is to encourage all parties to resort to diplomatic action and to negotiate to find a political solution.”

Updated

UK foreign secretary: don’t trust Russian ‘negotiation’ efforts

The UK foreign secretary Liz Truss said she doesn’t trust Russian “negotiation” efforts.

“Now if the Russians are serious about negotiations they need to remove their troops from Ukraine,” she told Sky News. “They cannot negotiate with a gun to the head of the Ukrainians … So frankly, I don’t trust these so-called efforts of negotiations.”

Truss said that this could be the beginning of the end for Russian president Vladimir Putin. She added there will be more sanctions in the coming days and she has compiled a list of oligarchs.

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy is calling for stronger sanctions on the broadcast round this morning.

UK foreign secretary Liz Truss on Thursday.
UK foreign secretary Liz Truss on Thursday.
Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Meanwhile, the UK Ministry of Defence has posted an intelligence update on the conflict, saying Russian forces are bypassing Chernihiv after strong resistance to focus on encircling Kyiv.

“Ukrainian forces have engaged the remnants of Russian irregular forces within the city of Kyiv for the second night in a row, fighting has been at a lower intensity than the previous evening,” it said.

“After encountering strong resistance in Chernihiv, Russian forces are bypassing the area in order to prioritise the encirclement and isolation of Kyiv.”

“Intensive exchanges of rocket artillery overnight have been followed by heavy fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces in Kharkiv,” it added. “Russian forces are continuing to advance into Ukraine from multiple axis but are continuing to be met with stiff resistance from the Ukrainian armed forces.”

Updated

Zelenskiy: Russia is bombarding residential areas

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday that Russia was bombarding residential areas in Ukraine, AFP reports, but warned “we will fight as long as it takes to liberate the country”.

In an address posted online, Zelenskiy said: “The past night in Ukraine was brutal, again shooting, again bombardments of residential areas, civilian infrastructure.”

“Today, there is not a single thing in the country that the occupiers do not consider an acceptable target. They fight against everyone. They fight against all living things – against kindergartens, against residential buildings and even against ambulances.”

He said Russian forces were “firing rockets and missiles at entire city districts in which there isn’t and never has been any military infrastructure”.

“Vasylkiv, Kyiv, Chernigiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and many other towns in Ukraine are living in conditions that were last experienced on our lands during world war two.”

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy makes a statement in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy makes a statement in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday.
Photograph: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters

Zelenskiy urged world leaders to strip Russia of its voting power on the UN Security Council and added: “Russia’s criminal actions against Ukraine bear signs of genocide”.

Updated

Finland will close its airspace to Russian planes, joining a raft of other European countries.

Finland “is preparing to close its airspace to Russian air traffic”, transport minister Timo Harakka wrote on Twitter. Finland shares an 800-mile border with Russia.

Other countries including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany and Poland have blocked airspace to Russian flights, provoking huge detours. On Saturday, Lithuania said it will block Russian flights, cutting a quick route from Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave to Ukraine.

Russia has retaliated and banned multiple countries from its airspace in response to the sanctions.

Meanwhile, Finland is also scheduled to approve the dispatch of a consignment of bullet-proof vests, helmets and a mobile hospital to Ukraine. It has previously approved the shipment of about 40 artillery guns to Ukraine.

Updated

Google has banned RT’s mobile app from its app store, the Russian state-controlled international television network said.

The decision was taken at the request of the Ukrainian government, Reuters reports.

It comes after Google on Saturday said it is pausing monetisation of Russian state-funded media and barring the outlets from running ads across its services.

In addition, Russian media will not be able to buy ads through Google Tools or place ads on Google services such as search and Gmail, spokesman Michael Aciman said.

“We’re actively monitoring new developments and will take further steps if necessary,” Aciman said.

File photo of Google’s UK headquarters in London.
Google’s UK headquarters in London.
Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

This is Jem Bartholomew in London taking over the blog for Sunday. Do get in touch via email or Twitter with tips.

Updated

Summary

Before I hand over to my colleague, Jem Bartholomew, here is where the situation currently stands:

  • Russian troops entered Kharkiv in Ukraine’s north-east at about 8am on Sunday, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister and other officials said. It is the country’s second-largest city.
  • The Ukrainian army said it shot down a cruise missile fired at Kyiv from a Belarusian Tu-22 aircraft this morning.
  • Russian president Vladimir Putin made a brief televised address this morning, marking his first public remarks since Friday. Putin referred to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “special operation to provide assistance to the people’s republics of the Donbas” and saluted the “heroism” of Russian special forces fighting in Ukraine.
  • The Russian delegation claimed it was “ready for talks” with the Ukrainians in Belarus, presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Russia news agency RIA Novosti. Zelenskiy rejected the claims.
  • Google has said it is pausing monetisation of Russian state-funded media and barring the outlets from running ads across its services, according to a statement seen by Reuters.
  • Western allies have agreed to block Russia’s access to the Swift international banking payment system. The US, Canada and key European countries, including Germany, have agreed to remove “selected Russian banks” from the Swift payment system, the countries announced on Saturday.
  • There are reports that a gas pipeline is on fire in Kharkiv after a Russian attack, while an oil terminal in Vasylkiv, south-west of the capital, Kyiv, has also been targeted. The government has warned that smoke from the explosion in Kharkiv could cause an “environmental catastrophe” and advised people to cover their windows.
  • The 13 Ukrainian soldiers who were reportedly killed while defending an island in the Black Sea from an air and sea bombardment – reportedly telling a Russian navy warship to “go fuck yourself” when asked to surrender – may still be alive, according to Ukrainian officials.
  • Britain is preparing a “hit list” of Russian oligarchs to be targeted by sanctions in the coming months, the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, has said.
  • Truss said there would be “nowhere left to hide” for the super-rich allies of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. She told the Sunday Times that new names would be added to the list every few weeks as ministers seek to ratchet up the pressure on Putin.
  • Liquor stores and bars in the US and Canada are targeting Russia’s national drink in a show of unity with the people of Ukraine. Shelves in both countries are being stripped of Russian vodka, with the Republican governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, announcing on Saturday the removal of “Russian-made and Russian-branded spirits from our liquor and wine outlets until further notice”.
  • Japanese billionaire Hiroshi ‘Mickey’ Mikitani has said he will donate $8.7m to the government of Ukraine, calling Russia’s invasion “a challenge to democracy”. The founder of e-commerce giant Rakuten said in a letter addressed to Volodymyr Zelenskiy that the donation of 1bn yen ($8.7m) will go toward “humanitarian activities to help people in Ukraine who are victims of the violence”, Agence France-Presse reported.
  • A Ukrainian company in charge of building and maintaining roads said it was removing all road signs that could be used by invading Russian forces to find their way around the country. The company, Ukravtodor, said in a Facebook post: “The enemy has poor communications, they cannot navigate the terrain. Let us help them get straight to hell.”

Updated

Zelenskiy urges all foreign citizens to join Ukraine in war against Russia

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy is asking foreign citizens around the world to join in the war against Russia.

A statement on the presidential website reads:

The president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskiy is addressing all citizens of the world, friends of Ukraine, peace and democracy. Anyone who wants to join the defence of Ukraine, Europe and the world can come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals.”

According to Regulation on Military Service in the Armed Forces of Ukraine by citizens of their countries and stateless persons approved by Decree of the President of Ukraine #248 of June 10, 2016, foreigners have the right to join the Armed Forces of Ukraine for military service under Contract of a voluntary basis to be included in the Territorial Defence Forces of the Armed Forced of Ukraine, the statement adds.

A separate subdivision is being formed of foreigners entitled the International Legion for the Territorial Defence of Ukraine. There is no greater contribution which you can make for the sake of peace.”

People return to Ukraine to help defend against Russian invasion, in Medyka.
People return to Ukraine to help defend against Russian invasion, in Medyka.
Photograph: Bryan Woolston/Reuters

Updated

Ukraine’s presidential adviser, Mikhail Podolyak, has also offered a response to the Russian delegation’s claim it is “ready for talks” with Ukraine in Belarus.

Podolyak said the Russian delegation arrived to Gomel, a city in south-eastern Belarus, knowing it is pointless.

He reiterated that Zelenskiy’s position remains the same – only real talks, zero ultimatums.

Updated

Volodymyr Zelenskiy rejects Russian claim it is ready for talks in Belarus

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has responded to claims made by the Russian delegation that it is “ready for talks” with Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov earlier told reporters the Russian delegation had arrived in Belarus for talks and are “now waiting for the Ukrainians”.

In a national address on Sunday morning, Zelenskiy said he remains open to talks in other locations that are not showing aggression towards Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president added that talks in Minsk could have been possible if Russia had not attacked Ukraine from Belarusian territory.

Earlier, we reported that the Ukrainian army said it shot down a “winged rocket” fired at Kyiv from a Belarusian Tu-22 aircraft this morning.

“The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine a few minutes ago shot down a winged rocket launched in the capital of Ukraine from the territory of the Republic of Belarus by a TU-22 plane,” commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, said in a statement about 9am local time.

“This is another war crime of the Russian Federation and Russia,” he added.

Updated

Russian delegation says ‘ready for talks’ with Ukraine in Belarus

The Russian delegation has reportedly arrived in Belarus for talks with the Ukrainians, presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Russia news agency RIA Novosti.

According to him, the delegation included representatives of the ministry of foreign affairs, the ministry of defence and other departments, including the presidential administration.

“The Russian delegation is ready for talks, and we are now waiting for the Ukrainians,” Peskov said.

The Belarusian foreign ministry said it had prepared everything necessary for the meeting and were now engaged in resolving protocol issues.

Updated

Russian president Vladimir Putin has made a brief televised address this morning, marking his first public remarks since Friday.

Putin referred to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “special operation to provide assistance to the people’s republics of the Donbas” and saluted the “heroism” of Russian special forces fighting in Ukraine.

Interfax news agency reports Putin as saying:

I pay special tribute to those heroically performing their military duty during the special operation to provide assistance to the people’s republic of Donbas these days.”

Updated

The Ukrainian army has said it shot down a “winged rocket” fired at Kyiv from a Belarusian Tu-22 aircraft this morning.

“The Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine a few minutes ago shot down a winged rocket launched in the capital of Ukraine from the territory of the Republic of Belarus by a TU-22 plane,” Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, said in a statement about 9am local time.

“This is another war crime of the Russian Federation and Russia,” he added.

Zaluzhnyi did not provide further detail surrounding what kind of weapon was used.

The Russian advance in Kharkiv is reportedly being met with fierce resistance.

Videos circulating across social and Ukrainian media showed images of military trucks driving through the city early Sunday.

Oleg Synegubov, head of the Kharkiv regional state administration, said that light military vehicles had “broke into the city” in a Facebook announcement about one hour ago.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said there was “heavy fighting” on the streets alongside video purporting to show enemy armoured cars on fire.

Synegubov urged residents to seek shelter and not go outside.

Updated

Air raids are sounding again in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv this morning, reports suggest.

An air raid siren was heard around 8am, a Reuters correspondent reported.

Russian troops enter Kharkiv

Russian troops have entered Kharkiv in Ukraine’s north-east, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister and other officials have said. It is the country’s second-largest city.

In a statement on his official Telegram account, Anton Gerashchenko said there was fighting in the centre of the city and in the area of the Hydropark.

“A group of special forces of the Russian Federation has just burst into the city through Alekseevka. On the street,” Gerashchenko said.

Oleg Sinegubov, the chairman of the Kharkiv regional state administration, announced “there has been a breakthrough in light equipment including in the central part of the city”, according to the Kyiv Independent. He urged local residents to remain in shelters.

Olga Tokariuk, a freelance correspondent in Kyiv, posted a video of a burning tank in a location purported to be Kharkiv to her Twitter this morning.

Updated

Popular American late-night live television show Saturday Night Live has made a powerful tribute to Ukraine by beginning the programme with a song from the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York.

Cast members Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong introduced viewers to the choir who sang Prayer for Ukraine.

Ukrainians are waking for the fourth day since Russia invaded and words of defiance are dominating social media this morning.

“It’s another morning in Ukraine and Russia still can’t advance in Kyiv,” Illia Ponomarenko, defence reporter at the Kyiv Independent writes.

“Even when we are attacked and everything around us is burning, we continue to work,” Ukraine’s armed forces tweeted early on Sunday.

In case you missed it earlier, a powerful video posted to social media shows a Ukrainian citizen attempting to stop a Russian tank with his body weight.

The man first climbs on to the tank before hopping down and attempting to push it back with his arms. When that fails, he kneels in front of the tank in a desperate bid to stop its advance.

The moment, captured in Bakhmach in northern Ukraine, is one of a string of defiant acts caught on video showing unarmed Ukrainians confronting Russian soldiers.

 

Here’s a quick snap from Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, praising his country for their resistance.

Updated

Reports are coming in from Ukrainian media of clashes with Russian saboteurs in the capital, Kyiv overnight.

The Kyiv Independent quotes Mykola Povoroznyk, first deputy head of Kyiv City State Administration, as confirming reports.

Updated

Meanwhile, protests are continuing across the world in support of Ukraine.

From Sydney, Australia to London, UK and Vancouver, Canada, people have poured into city streets in their thousands to demand more action from their governments in holding Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine.

Protesters hold placards and flags during a rally against the war in Ukraine in Melbourne, Australia, on 27 February.
Protesters hold placards and flags during a rally against the war in Ukraine in Melbourne, Australia, on 27 February.
Photograph: Diego Fedele/AAP
A person holds a sign at Jack Poole Plaza reading “Ukraine needs your support” at a rally in Vancouver, British Columbia on 26 February.
A person holds a sign at Jack Poole Plaza reading “Ukraine needs your support” at a rally in Vancouver, British Columbia on 26 February.
Photograph: Ryan Walter Wagner/ZUMA Press Wire Service/REX/Shutterstock
Protesters hold placards and flags during a rally against the war in Ukraine in Melbourne, Australia.
Protesters hold placards and flags during a rally against the war in Ukraine in Melbourne, Australia.
Photograph: Diego Fedele/EPA

Swift preparing to implement measures targeting Russian banks

The Swift international banking payment system has said it is preparing to implement western nations’ new measures targeting certain Russian banks in coming days after western allies agreed to block Russia’s access to the service.

In a statement, it said:

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.”

The move comes after the US, Canada and key European countries, including Germany, agreed to remove “selected Russian banks” from the Swift payment system.

The decision is expected to have a significant impact in Russia, and further afield. Sergei Aleksashenko, a former deputy chairman of Russia’s central banks, said “there is going to be a catastrophe” on the Russian currency market on Monday. “I think they will stop trading and then the exchange rate will be fixed at an artificial level just like in Soviet times,” he added.

Michael Farr, chief executive of financial consulting firm Farr, Miller & Washington, said of the impact on global markets: “This could be a surprise that is not taken very well if it means a slowdown in international trade.”

NBC News foreign correspondent, Raf Sanchez, who is currently in Moscow said his hotel asked him to “settle the bill early” because “they aren’t sure if credit cards are going to work once SWIFT sanctions kick in.”

Updated

Snake Island defenders may still be alive, Ukraine’s State Border Guard says

The Ukrainian soldiers who defended an island in the Black Sea from an air and sea bombardment – reportedly telling an officer on board a Russian navy warship to “go f*** yourself” when asked to surrender, are believed to still be alive according to Ukrainian officials.

There were 13 border guards stationed on Snake Island, a roughly 16-hectare (40-acre) rocky island owned by Ukraine that sits about 186 miles (300km) west of Crimea, when Russian troops bombed the island on Thursday.

All 13 soldiers were believed to have died after refusing to surrender, Ukrainian officials announced.

However, in a recent statement, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said:

We [have a] strong belief that all Ukrainian defenders of Zmiinyi (Snake) Island may be alive.

After receiving information about their possible location, the DPSU together with the Armed Forces of Ukraine are conducting work on identifying our soldiers.”

If you missed our earlier report, you can read it below.

 

Google bars Russian state-funded media from receiving money for ads

Google has said it is pausing monetisation of Russian state-funded media and barring the outlets from running ads across its services, according to a statement seen by Reuters.

Russia’s state-owned media outlet RT and other channels will be barred from receiving money for ads on their websites, apps and YouTube videos, similar to a move by Facebook after the invasion of Ukraine.

Citing “extraordinary circumstances,” Google’s YouTube unit said it was “pausing a number of channels’ ability to monetise on YouTube.”

These included several Russian channels affiliated with recent sanctions, such as those by the European Union.

Ad placement is largely controlled by YouTube.

Google added later that it was also barring Russian state-funded media outlets from using its ad technology to generate revenue on their own websites and apps.

In addition, the Russian media will not be able to buy ads through Google Tools or place ads on Google services such as search and Gmail, spokesman Michael Aciman said.

“We’re actively monitoring new developments and will take further steps if necessary,” Aciman said.

On Wednesday, the European Union unveiled sanctions on individuals such as Margarita Simonyan, whom it called RT’s editor-in-chief and “a central figure” of Russian propaganda.

Videos from affected media will also come up less often in recommendations, YouTube spokesperson Farshad Shadloo said. He added that RT and several other channels would no longer be accessible in Ukraine after a Ukrainian government request.

Gas pipeline and oil terminal on fire after overnight attacks

A blaze at an oil terminal in the Ukrainian town of Vasylkiv, about 30km, or 18 miles, southwest of the capital, Kyiv, overnight.

The town’s mayor, Natalia Balasinovich, said Russian missiles hit the oil storage area southwest of the air base’s main runway in a video posted online. The National News Agency of Ukraine later confirmed the reports.

Photographs and video posted online showed large flames rising under the night sky.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the the Ministry of Internal Affairs, said on Telegram.

The missile attack was carried out on the Vasilkovskaya oil depot of the KLO company. Rescuers have already left for the scene of the tragedy. Most likely, there were no casualties. It will burn for a long time. The environmental damage will be colossal.”

The mayor of Vasylkiv, Natalia Balasinovich, also confirmed that rockets hit the oil depot, and a strong fire started.

 

The blaze prompted authorities to urge residents to close their windows to avoid breathing in smoke and harmful substances.

A natural gas pipeline was also blown up in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, after a Russian attack, the Ukrainian state service of special communications said.

A mushroom-shaped explosion was shown in a video it posted on the Telegram messaging app.

It was not immediately clear how important the pipeline was and whether the blast could disrupt gas shipments outside the city or the country.

Updated

Summary

As dawn breaks in Kyiv and multiples towns and cities across Ukraine wake to find scenes of destruction, here is where the situation currently stands:

  • Western allies have agreed to block Russia’s access to the Swift international banking payment system. The US, Canada and key European countries, including Germany, have agreed to remove “selected Russian banks” from the Swift payment system, the countries announced on Saturday.
  • There are reports that a gas pipeline is on fire in Kharkiv after a Russian attack, while an oil terminal in Vasylkiv, south-west of the capital, Kyiv, has also been targeted. The government has warned that smoke from the explosion in Kharkiv could cause an “environmental catastrophe” and advised people to cover their windows.
  • The 13 Ukrainian soldiers who were reportedly killed while defending an island in the Black Sea from an air and sea bombardment – reportedly telling a Russian navy warship to “go fuck yourself” when asked to surrender – may still be alive, according to Ukrainian officials.
  • Britain is preparing a “hit list” of Russian oligarchs to be targeted by sanctions in the coming months, the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, has said.
  • Truss said there would be “nowhere left to hide” for the super-rich allies of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. She told the Sunday Times that new names would be added to the list every few weeks as ministers seek to ratchet up the pressure on Putin.
  • Liquor stores and bars in the US and Canada are targeting Russia’s national drink in a show of unity with the people of Ukraine. Shelves in both countries are being stripped of Russian vodka, with the Republican governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, announcing on Saturday the removal of “Russian-made and Russian-branded spirits from our liquor and wine outlets until further notice”.
  • Japanese billionaire Hiroshi ‘Mickey’ Mikitani has said he will donate $8.7m to the government of Ukraine, calling Russia’s invasion “a challenge to democracy”. The founder of e-commerce giant Rakuten said in a letter addressed to Volodymyr Zelenskiy that the donation of 1bn yen ($8.7m) will go toward “humanitarian activities to help people in Ukraine who are victims of the violence”, Agence France-Presse reported.
  • A Ukrainian company in charge of building and maintaining roads said it was removing all road signs that could be used by invading Russian forces to find their way around the country. The company, Ukravtodor, said in a Facebook post: “The enemy has poor communications, they cannot navigate the terrain. Let us help them get straight to hell.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Hits: 303