Latest Russia-Ukraine updates: Battles rage for Ukraine’s cities

UN refugee chief says internal displacement is also growing as Ukrainian forces battle multi-pronged assault.

Ukrainian soldiers are seen taking positions outside a military facility in Kyiv
Ukrainian forces have faced Russian attacks by land, air and sea [Emilio Morenatti/AP]
  • Kyiv’s mayor imposes a city-wide curfew lasting until Monday morning after fighting reaches the capital’s streets.
  • The United States and its Western allies move to supply Kyiv with weapons as it faces down Russia’s invasion.
  • President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the country’s forces “have withstood and successfully repelled enemy attacks”.
  • Nearly 200 people have been killed so far, including civilians, three of whom were children, according to Ukraine’s health minister.
  • More than 150,000 Ukrainians have fled the country since the beginning of Moscow’s assault, the UN says.
  • Western countries have announced sweeping sanctions on Moscow, including measures targeting President Vladimir Putin himself.

The live blog is now closed; thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for February 26:

Lukashenko and Macron discuss Belarus’s role in Ukraine war, Minsk says

French President Emmanuel Macron and President Alexander Lukashenko – an ally of the Kremlin – have discussed Minsk’s role in the war in Ukraine, the Belarusian leader’s office says.

“The parties discussed Belarus’s position and involvement in the [Ukraine] conflict,” Lukashenko’s office said in a statement. They also talked about “the future of Europe” and “the relationship between Belarus and Russia”, it added.

France to deliver more military equipment to Ukraine

France will send more military equipment, as well as fuel, to Ukraine to help fight off the Russian invasion and slap more economic sanctions on Moscow, the country’s presidential office says in a statement.

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

EU to facilitate delivery of military aid to Ukraine

The European Union will facilitate the delivery of military aid to Ukraine, EU Council President Charles Michel says on Twitter.

“Democratic Ukraine will prevail,” he added.

EU foreign ministers to discuss Ukraine aid, measures against Moscow on Sunday

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has announced that EU foreign ministers will come together for a virtual meeting on Sunday to adopt further measures in support of Ukraine and against “aggression by Russia”.

“I will propose a package of emergency assistance for the Ukrainian armed forces, to support them in their heroic fight,” he said on Twitter, adding that the meeting would start on Sunday at 17:00 GMT.

More than 3,000 arrested at Russian anti-war protests, monitor says

More than 3,000 people have been detained in Russia for participating in anti-war protests since Moscow launched its assault, according to protest monitoring group OVD-Info.

“In the last three days, at least 3,052 people were arrested,” OVD-Info tweeted. It said 467 people were arrested in 34 cities on Saturday alone.

Pope expresses ‘profound pain’ over invasion in call with Zelenskyy

Pope Francis has called Ukraine’s president and expressed his “most profound pain” for the country’s suffering, the Ukrainian Embassy to the Vatican says.

“The Holy Father expressed his most profound pain for the tragic events happening in our country,” the embassy said in a tweet.

The Vatican confirmed the call and in his own tweet, Zelenskyy said he thanked the pope “for praying for peace in Ukraine and a ceasefire”

“The Ukrainian people feel the spiritual support of His Holiness,” he added.

Russian assault on the capital has stalled, adviser to Zelenskyy says as night falls in Kyiv

An adviser to Ukraine’s president has claimed that Russia’s assault on Kyiv is not advancing and that about 3,500 Russian soldiers have been killed or injured since Moscow launched its invasion.

“We are striking the enemy around Kyiv. The enemy is not moving for now,” Oleksiy Arestovych said.

There was no immediate response to the claim from Moscow, and Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the figures provided.

A view of an empty street in Kyiv
Kyiv’s mayor has announced a city-wide curfew, with the measure set to last until Monday morning [Anadolu]

YouTube blocks RT, other Russian channels from generating revenue

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

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

Netherlands to supply anti-tank weapons to Ukraine

The Netherlands will send anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, the country’s defence ministry says.

The Dutch government will supply 50 Panzerfaust-3 anti-tank weapons and 400 rockets, the ministry said in a letter to parliament.

UN chief tells Ukrainian president world body will boost aid

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has spoken with Zelenskyy and told him the world body plans to “enhance humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine”, according to a UN spokesperson.

“He informed the President that the United Nations would launch on Tuesday an appeal to fund our humanitarian operations in Ukraine,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said on Friday that more than $1bn will be needed for aid operations in Ukraine over the next three months as a result of Russia’s attack.

‘A sense of Russia having rolled the dice’: Analyst

Nigel Gould-Davies, senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the United Kingdom-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, says Moscow is “facing setbacks that it did not expect” but retains a “very significant” numerical advantage over Kyiv in military terms.

“It is taking casualties and Ukraine is taking prisoners, including some quite senior, at least one, possibly two, brigade commanders,” Gould-Davies told Al Jazeera from Washington.

“So Russia will be motivated now to accelerate the forces that it brings to this conflict,” he added. “So far, it has been using about less than half of the total forces it has mobilised and prepared for this [invasion]. So in numerical terms, it is quite clear that Russia has a very, very significant advantage.

“But the really impressive aspect of Ukraine’s resistance so far is how strong and how wide it has been … there is a sense of Russia having rolled the dice.”

INTERACTIVE- Ukraine Russia head-to-head

Zelenskyy says he welcomes potential move to cut Russia off from SWIFT

Ukraine’s president has said he welcomes the prospect of Russia being disconnected from “global financial civilisation” as Western powers move to roll out punishing sanctions on Moscow over its attack on Ukraine.

EU member states are reportedly nearing an agreement on excluding Russia from the SWIFT global payments system.

“Our diplomats fought around the clock to inspire all European countries to agree on a strong and fair decision to disconnect Russia from the international interbanking network. We also have this victory,” Zelenskyy said in a video message.

“This is billions and billions of losses for Russia – a tangible price for this vile invasion of our country … Ukraine won the attention of the entire civilised world. And the practical result? Here it is – SWIFT… Disconnecting from global financial civilisation,” he added.

Germany to supply Ukraine with anti-tank weapons, missiles

Germany’s government has approved the delivery of a batch of weapons to Ukraine in a major policy U-turn, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz calling Russia’s invasion of the country a “turning point”.

Berlin will supply Kyiv with 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles from its military’s stocks.

“The Russian invasion marks a turning point. It is our duty to support Ukraine to the best of our ability in defending against Putin’s invading army,” Scholz said on Twitter.

Read more here.

Biden approves $350m in military aid for Ukraine

The US will provide an additional $350m worth of military aid to Ukraine, the country’s secretary of state has announced, following approval of the package from President Joe Biden.

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

Washington had already drawn from US weapons stocks to supply Ukraine in the final months of 2021 and then again in December. In total, during the past year the US has committed more than $1bn in security assistance to Kyiv, Blinken said.

Ukraine has been asking for Javelin anti-tank weapons and Stinger missiles to shoot down aircraft.

Germany in favour of ‘targeted and functional’ SWIFT curbs on Russia

Germany is in favour of imposing “targeted and functional” restrictions on Russia’s access to SWIFT, its foreign and economy ministers have said.

“We are urgently working on how to limit the collateral damage of decoupling from SWIFT in such a way that it affects the right people. What we need is a targeted and functional restriction of SWIFT,” Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in a joint statement.

Read more on SWIFT here.

Greece says six nationals killed in Ukraine

Athens says that six Greek nationals have been killed and six others wounded by Russian bombing near the key southeastern port city of Mariupol.

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

The bombing took place on the outskirts of the villages of Sartana and Bugas, the foreign ministry said. It added that a child was among those wounded.

Photos: Ukrainians flee en masse

Masses of Ukrainians are fleeing from Russia’s invasion, with many exiting the country via its western borders in search of safety.

Take a look here.

Ukrainian refugees are seen arriving at a train station in Hungary
Ukrainian refugees arrive in Zahony, Hungary [Anna Szilagyi/AP]
Two young girls are seen waiting at a checkpoint in Hungary
Sisters wait at a checkpoint run by local volunteers in Beregsurany, Hungary, after arriving from Ukraine [Anna Szilagyi/AP]
Refugees from Ukraine are seen arriving at the Medyka border crossing in Poland
Refugees from Ukraine arrive at the Medyka border crossing in Poland [Visar Kryeziu/AP]

Russian military convoys ‘flooding’ across the Russia-Ukraine border

Al Jazeera’s Rania Dridi, reporting from the city of Volgograd, in southwestern Russia, says military units in the area are being deployed across the border with Ukraine.

“Convoys of Russian military gear continue to flood across the Russia-Ukraine border; armoured gear and vehicle-mounted missiles,” Dridi said.

“The convoys will take part in the ongoing military operations, the fiercest of which is currently raging on the Donbas front,” she added, citing the region in eastern Ukraine where Russian-backed separatists control swaths of territory.

“This scene is repeated elsewhere as other convoys are crossing the borderline into Ukraine on other roads.”

Twitter says its site is being restricted in Russia

Twitter has said it is aware its service is being restricted for some people in Russia, adding it is working to keep the site safe and accessible.

Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks reported that the social media platform had been restricted on leading networks.

The throttling came after Moscow said on Friday that it was partially limiting access to Facebook, accusing it of “censoring” Russian media. It was not immediately clear what Russia’s restrictions on Facebook would involve.

Berlin discussing export of RPGs to Ukraine via a third country

Germany’s government is in talks over approving the delivery of 400 rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) to Ukraine via a third country but no final decision on whether to do so has been taken, the country’s defence ministry says.

If carried through, the move would signal a major policy shift after Berlin faced criticism for refusing to send weapons to Kyiv, unlike other Western allies.

Germany has a longstanding policy of not exporting weapons to warzones, rooted partly in its bloody 20th-century history and resulting pacifism. Countries aiming to onpass German weapons exports need to apply for approval in Berlin first.

Berlin is also still to decide on a request from Estonia regarding the passing on of old GDR howitzers to Ukraine. Finland had bought the howitzers in the 1990s after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and later re-sold them to Estonia.

‘Increasing fears’ as Russian forces advance on Ukraine’s cities

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Dnipro, says there are reports of Ukrainian forces in the key southeastern port city of Mariupol preparing to defend it from a possible Russian assault.

“Witnesses [in Mariupol] are telling us that there are what they describe as increasing numbers of Ukrainian paramilitaries on the streets, helping the Ukrainian army to defend the city from what we understand is a push by Russian forces from the west,” Stratford said.

“We know that the city has also suffered heavy shelling from the east,” he added.

“We’ve also been speaking to people fleeing the area north of Crimea, around the city of Kherson. People are alleging that Russian forces that have taken control of some of those towns are preventing Ukrainian citizens from leaving there.”

“There are increasing fears about the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of civilians, who are trying to put as much distance as they can between them and the Russian forces advancing on Ukrainian cities, as the front lines become increasingly blurred.”

Russian army ordered to broaden Ukraine advance

The Russian army has been given orders to broaden its offensive in Ukraine “from all directions” after Kyiv refused to hold talks in Belarus, the country’s defence ministry says.

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

UN refugee chief says 150,000 Ukrainians have fled the country

More than 150,000 Ukrainians have fled the country since the start of Russia’s invasion, the UN’s high commissioner for refugees has said.

“Displacement in Ukraine is also growing but the military situation makes it difficult to estimate numbers and provide aid,” Filippo Grandi tweeted.

‘Atmosphere of tension’ grips Ukraine’s countryside

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from a highway in central Ukraine, says there is an “atmosphere of tension” in the country’s rural areas.

“There are lots of checkpoints, barricades being put up and military reserves about,” Simmons said.

“They look stressed, and they’re looking for saboteurs,” he added. “There have been saboteurs arrested and killed … and, of course, it is dangerous for anyone on the streets, civilians or otherwise, because of that.”

A view from a city ‘frozen in horror’

Maria Avdeeva, a resident of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, has written a first-person account of Russia’s invasion for Al Jazeera.

“This city of 1.5 million people, 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Russian border, where I was born and raised, is frozen in horror,” she writes. “The streets are deserted. The shelling continues.”

Click here to read the full account.

US official claims Russian forces frustrated by ‘viable’ Ukrainian resistance

Russian forces are becoming increasingly frustrated by what Washington believes is “viable” Ukrainian resistance, a US defence official has said.

“We know that they have not made the progress that they have wanted to make, particularly in the north. They have been frustrated by what they have seen is a very determined resistance,” the official claimed, without providing evidence. “It has slowed them down.”

Ukraine open to talks, but not Russian ultimatums, Zelenskyy’s advisor says

Kyiv has denied suggestions from the Kremlin that it is refusing to negotiate a ceasefire with Russia, but says it is not ready to accept ultimatums or unacceptable conditions.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, told the Reuters news agency that Ukraine has prepared a negotiating position but was being confronted with impractical negotiating conditions from Moscow.

“It was yesterday that the aggressive actions of the armed forces of the Russian Federation escalated, up to evening and night mass air and missile strikes on Ukrainian cities,” he said. “We consider such actions only an attempt to break Ukraine and force it to accept categorically unacceptable conditions.”

EU should speed Ukraine’s path to membership, Poland’s president says

The EU should speed Ukraine’s path to membership, Polish President Andrzej Duda has said, adding that Kyiv should also have access to funds from the bloc for reconstruction.

“Poland supports an express path for Ukraine membership in the European Union,” Duda wrote on Twitter.

“Candidate status should be granted immediately and membership talks initiated immediately thereafter,” he added. “Ukraine should also have access to EU funds for reconstruction. This is what Ukraine deserves.”

Russia’s Chechen leader says his forces deployed in Ukraine

Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s Chechnya region and an ally of Putin, says Chechen fighters have been deployed in Ukraine.

In a video posted online, Kadyrov claimed that units from the North Caucasus region – a constituent republic of Russia – had suffered no losses so far.

He alleged that Russian forces could easily take large control of Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, but that their task was to avoid mass loss of life.

Zelenskyy thanks Turkey for military, other support

Ukraine’s president has thanked his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan for Ankara’s “military and humanitarian” support, saying a “ban on the passage of [Russian] warships to the Black Sea” was very important for his country.

Turkey, which controls the Dardanelles and Bosphorus Straits that link the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, has not publicly announced any ban on Russian warships using the channels despite Kyiv’s urgent requests that it take such a measure.

On Friday, Turkey’s foreign minister said that under the 1936 convention covering the matter, Ankara could not bar warships returning to a home base in the Black Sea from passing through the straits. Russia has a major naval base in the Black Sea.

Russia bars flights from Bulgaria, Poland, Czech Republic

Russia has closed its airspace to flights from Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic in a series of tit-for-tat moves.

“Air carriers of these states and/or registered in them are subject to restrictions on flights to destinations on the territory of the Russian Federation, including transit flights through the airspace of the Russian Federation,” the federal air transport agency, Rosaviation, said.

The move came after all three countries closed their own airspace to Russian carriers. Several other European nations have taken the same move, including Estonia, Latvia and Slovenia.

“There is no place for planes of the aggressor state in democratic skies,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas tweeted.

Kremlin says offensive resumed after talks about talks broke down

Russian troops have started advancing into Ukraine again after Putin allegedly paused Moscow’s offensive in anticipation of talks with Kyiv that failed to materialise, the Kremlin says.

Speaking to reporters at a news briefing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Ukraine’s leadership of “refusing to negotiate”.

On Friday, Peskov said Putin was ready to send a delegation of officials to Belarus, where Russia has stationed thousands of troops, for talks. He later claimed Kyiv had proposed Warsaw as a venue instead and that negotiations over a potential meeting ended without an agreement because the Ukrainian side went silent.

“Since the Ukrainian side refused to negotiate, the advance of the Russian forces resumed this afternoon,” Peskov said at Saturday’s news briefing.

Hungary won’t block any sanctions against Russia, Orban says

Hungary will support all EU sanctions against Russia and will not block any punitive measures against Moscow, Prime Minister Viktor Orban says.

“Hungary made clear that we support all the sanctions, so we will block nothing, so what the … [leaders] of the EU are able to agree, we accept it and we support it,” Orban told reporters in English on the Ukraine-Hungary border.

“This is the time to be united, it’s a war,” he added.

Orban’s right-wing, nationalist government has been at odds with the EU in recent years over a number of issues.

Romania on edge as Russia invades Ukraine

Despite assurances from Romania’s leadership, many in the Eastern European nation – a NATO member since 2004 – fear wider Russian attacks.

Read more here.

Ankara calls for Moscow to stop its assault

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has urged Moscow to stop its attack, according to a statement issued by his ministry.

The ministry said Cavusoglu made his appeal during talks by phone with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. It added Cavusoglu had reiterated during the call that Ankara was ready to host the Russian and Ukrainian leaders for peace talks.

UN refugee agency says nearly 120,000 Ukrainians have fled the country

Nearly 120,000 people have fled Ukraine into Poland and other neighbouring countries in the wake of Russia’s invasion, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has said.

The agency added the number was rising as people continue to grab their belongings and rush to escape from Moscow’s deadly onslaught.

Ukraine’s army tells civilians to build barricades, use petrol bombs to stop Russian troops

Ukraine’s army has called on the country’s civilians to stop the advance of Russian troops by any means necessary.

“Cut down trees, build barricades, burn tyres … Use everything available” the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement posted on Facebook.

The statement also encouraged Ukrainians to assemble and use petrol bombs against Moscow’s forces.

“The occupiers must understand that they are not wanted here and that they will be resisted in every street,” it said.

Members of the Territorial Defence Forces of Ukraine are seen receiving weapons to defend the city of Kyiv
Ukrainian civilians have been supplied with weapons and encouraged to fight to defend the country from Russia’s invasion [Mikhail Palinchak/Pool via Reuters]

UNHCR says 160,000 people displaced

UNHCR’s representative in Ukraine has warned the displacement of more than 150,000 people in the country marks “just the beginning” of a looming humanitarian crisis.

“People are fleeing from eastern, southern and northern Ukraine towards the centre and west of the country … they are on the road and on trains,” Karolina Lindholm Billing told Al Jazeera from Kyiv.

“It’s very difficult to get evidence of how many people have been internally displaced, but we estimate that it is at least 160,000,” she added. “The human suffering is going to be enormous.”

Ukrainian forces have ‘withstood and repelled attacks’, Zelenskyy says

Zelenskyy says Ukraine’s military has “withstood and successfully repelled enemy attacks” as battles continue to rage nationwide.

“Fighting continues in different cities and regions of our country,” the Ukrainian president said in his latest video message.

Zelenskyy added that Kyiv and other key towns nearby were still under the control of the army.

“We have ruined their plans,” he said, before again appealing to Ukrainian civilians to resist the Russian invasion.

“Each Ukrainian should keep one thing in mind: if you can stop and destroy the occupiers – do it. Everyone who can come back to Ukraine – come back to defend Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said.

France seizes Russian cargo ship in the English Channel

French sea police have seized a ship that authorities suspect belongs to a Russian company targeted by EU sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, according to an official.

Captain Veronique Magnin of the French Maritime Prefecture said the “Baltic Leader” – a cargo vessel – was headed from Rouen, in Normandy, for the Russian city of Saint Petersburg.

It was stopped in the English Channel and diverted to the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France in the early hours of Saturday morning, Magnin added. She said ongoing checks were being carried out by customs officials and the ship’s crew was “being cooperative.”

The Russian embassy in France is seeking an explanation from authorities over the seizure, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted the embassy as saying.

‘This war will last,’ warns France’s Macron

Macron has warned the world must brace for a long war between Russia and Ukraine.

“I can tell you one thing this morning – it is that this war will last,” he told France’s annual agriculture fair, one of the main fixtures on the country’s political calendar.

“This crisis will last, this war will last and all the crises that come with it will have lasting consequences,” the French president added.

Kyiv mayor imposes curfew until Monday

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has imposed a stricter curfew in the Ukrainian capital as Russian troops press in on the city.

The measure will extend from 5pm local time on Saturday until 8am local time Monday morning, Klitschko’s office said in a statement.

It added the new rules were needed to help rid the city of “the enemy’s sabotage and reconnaissance groups”.

A previous curfew imposed two days ago lasted from 10pm until 7am local time each day.

Medvedev says Moscow does not ‘especially need’ diplomatic ties with the West

Moscow does not “especially need” diplomatic ties with the West anymore, ex-president and top security official Dmitry Medvedev has said.

“It’s time to padlock the embassies and continue contacts looking at each other through binoculars and gun sights,” Medvedev said in comments on his verified page on Russian social network VK.

He also shrugged off sweeping sanctions imposed on Moscow in the wake of its incursion.

“The sanctions are being imposed for one simple reason – political impotence arising from their (the West’s) inability to change Russia’s course,” Medvedev said.

“[They] will not change a thing,” he added, suggesting the measures gave Russia a good reason to pull out of dialogue with Western powers on arms control.

Poland says about 100,000 people have crossed from Ukraine

About 100,000 people have entered into Poland from Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion, the country’s deputy interior minister has said.

The figure includes 9,000 people who had crossed since 7am local time (06:00 GMT) on Saturday, Pawel Szefernaker told a news conference.

Poland, an EU member state, was already home to more than one million Ukrainians before Russia’s attack began and has seen a throng of refugees head for its borders since the assault began.

Read more here.

Internet in Ukraine disrupted as Russian troops advance

Internet connectivity in Ukraine has been badly affected, particularly in the southern and eastern parts of the country where fighting has been heaviest, NetBlocks says.

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

“We currently observe national connectivity at 87 percent of ordinary levels, a figure that reflects service disruptions as well as population flight and the shuttering of homes and businesses since the morning of the 24th,” Alp Toker, the observatory’s director, told Reuters.

Air raid near Zaporizhzhia causes ‘utter panic’

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine, says the situation in the area is “very tense” after a recent air raid near a checkpoint blocking access to the city.

“The situation here 10 minutes ago was of utter panic. A fighter jet passed very low overhead and a sudden obviously huge explosion,” he said.

“The situation is very tense indeed. On our way to this checkpoint, we saw trenches being dug and what looked like civilian defence forces setting up along with the army to defend bridge positions. This city is of huge significance, it has a massive hydroelectric plant in it – so very important civilian infrastructure,” Stratford added.

“We also understand that there is significant fighting in the east along the separatist-controlled line.”

Poland will not play World Cup match with Russia

Poland will not play a World Cup qualifying football match against Russia next month because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the president of Poland’s Football Association has announced.

“In light of the escalation of the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, the Polish national team is not going to play a match against Russian Republic,” Cezary Kulesza said on Twitter. “This is the only right decision.”

Russia is due to host Poland in the semi-finals of its strand of the World Cup playoffs on March 24 and, if its team advances, is scheduled to host either Sweden or the Czech Republic on March 29 in the Path B final.

Read more here.

Residents donate blood in Ukrainian city of Mariupol

Dozens of residents have made their way to Mariupol’s hospital to donate blood while Ukrainian forces block the southeastern city’s main roads with trees in a bid to stave off Russian forces.

“Heavy fighting is taking place near Mariupol,” Podolyak, Zelenskyy’s adviser, told a news briefing. “But there is no chance that Mariupol will surrender or be captured.”

Ukraine’s health minister puts death toll at nearly 200 people

Ukraine’s health minister says 198 people, including three children, have been killed so far amid Russia’s assault.

A further 1,115 people have been wounded, among them 33 children, Viktor Lyashko said in a statement on Facebook.

Paramedics take cover as an air-raid siren sounds, near an apartment building damaged by recent shelling in Kyiv
Paramedics take cover in Kyiv amid Russian air raids [Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

Ukrainians crowd Kyiv’s train stations

Masses of people have headed to Kyiv’s train stations as they desperately attempt to escape the city and flee Russia’s assault.

“We have been trying to leave all day since this morning but as you can see it’s unrealistic,” a young girl at one station in the capital told Al Jazeera.

Russian regulator warns local media over war coverage

Russia’s communications regulator has accused 10 local media outlets of falsely depicting what Moscow has termed its “special military operation” in Ukraine and distributing false information about events in the country.

Roskomnadzor, the regulator, ordered a number of independent media outlets including television channel Dozhd and Echo of Moscow radio to delete the offending information or face restricted access to their websites and media resources.

It called on the outlets to remove reports describing Moscow’s attack on Ukraine as an “assault, invasion, or declaration of war”.

Zelenskyy calls for Ukraine to be granted EU membership

Zelenskyy has called for his country to be admitted to the EU.

“It is a crucial moment to close the long-standing discussion once and for all and decide on Ukraine’s membership in the EU,” the Ukrainian leader wrote on Twitter.

Zelenskyy added he had discussed “further effective assistance” as well as “the heroic struggle of Ukrainians for their free future” with European Council President Charles Michel.

Ukraine embassy staff evacuating from Moscow, Latvia says

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

“It was their plea, we readily agreed. We are assisting them in the process and help with settling down,” ministry spokesperson Janis Bekeris said.

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

Fighting continues but Kyiv ‘is under control’

Podolyak, Zelenskyy’s adviser, says Ukrainian forces have been able to mount a strong defence of the capital.

Russian forces are still trying to move a large number of troops and equipment into the city, and fighting continues to take place on its outskirts, Podolyak was quoted as saying by Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency.

“Both in the city itself and on the outskirts of Kyiv, the situation is under control,” he said.

Russia: Over 800 Ukrainian military infrastructure sites destroyed

Russia has crippled the operations of more than 800 Ukrainian military infrastructure sites so far, the country’s defence ministry says.

Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said 14 military airfields, 19 command posts, 24 S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems and 48 radar stations had been destroyed. In addition, eight Ukrainian naval boats were hit, he said.

Smoke and flames rise in the night sky during the shelling near Kyiv.
Russia claims it is only targeting military infrastructure in Ukraine, but Kyiv has reported civilian deaths [Gleb Garanich /Reuters]

Ukrainian foreign minister calls for Russian oil embargo

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called for a full isolation of Russia, including an embargo on the purchase of Russian crude oil.

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

Damage to residential building near Kyiv airport

Kyiv’s mayor says a missile has hit an apartment building in the city, but that no casualties have been immediately reported.

Klitschko said the missile slammed into a high-rise building on the capital’s southwestern outskirts, near Zhuliany airport. He said that rescue workers were heading to the site.

Read more here.

Kyiv apartment building hit by strike
Kyiv apartment building hit by raid [Al Jazeera screengrab]

Poland, Lithuania and Germany to discuss sanctions on Russia

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda will meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin to discuss sanctions on Russia, Polish government spokesperson Piotr Muller says on Twitter.

“At the initiative of Prime Minister Morawiecki a meeting will be held in Berlin today. Prime Minister Morawiecki together with the President of Lithuania will hold talks with the German Chancellor,” Muller said in a tweet.

“The European Union must immediately adopt a package of ruthlessly harsh sanctions against Russia.”

Russia suspends space launches from French Guiana over sanctions

Russia is suspending space launches from French Guiana and withdrawing its technical personnel in response to EU sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the space agency says.

“In response to EU sanctions against our enterprises, Roskosmos is suspending cooperation with European partners over organizing space launches from the Kourou cosmodrome and withdrawing its technical personnel… from French Guiana,” Dmitry Rogozin, chief of the Russian space agency, said on Telegram.

Russia targets Ukraine military infrastructure with cruise missiles

The Russian army has targeted Ukraine’s military infrastructure with air and sea-based cruise missiles, the country’s defence ministry says.

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

The ministry also said its troops have captured the Ukrainian city of Melitopol, in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region.

‘We won’t put down weapons’: Zelenskyy vows to fight on in Kyiv

The Ukrainian president recorded a video address outside his presidential office in Kyiv urging residents not to believe in “fakes” about the surrender of the Ukrainian army.

“I am here. We will not put down any weapons. We will defend our state, because our weapons are our truth,” Zelenskyy said, denouncing as disinformation claims that he had surrendered or fled.

Read more here.

Biden signs order to give Ukraine $600m in military assistance

US President Joe Biden has signed a memorandum to provide up to $600m in “immediate military assistance” to Ukraine.

The order directs Secretary of State Antony Blinken to provide “immediate military assistance to Ukraine” of up to $250m “in assistance without regard to any provision of law”.

A further $350m was allocated “in defence articles and services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training,” the order said.

‘Extraordinarily awful night’ on Kyiv

Ukraine’s capital witnessed relentless bombardment by Russia’s Air Force, shuddering the city with ballistic missiles, Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons said.

“Here in the capital, the force of the conflict has reached a seismic level,” he said, speaking from Kyiv.

“During the night, everyone has take some form of shelter, most of them below the ground, some of them in whatever form of handy shelter people could get. No one slept properly tonight.”

Ukraine reports fresh air, cruise missile strikes

Ukraine’s military command said areas near the cities of Sumy, Poltava and Mariupol were hit by air raids on Friday, with Russian Kalibr cruise missiles launched at the country from the Black Sea.

Russian and Ukrainian forces clash near Kyiv

Russian and Ukrainian forces have clashed on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, as authorities urged citizens to help defend the city from advancing Russian forces.

Meta to bar Russian state media from running ads, monetising on platform

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

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

He added, “We are now prohibiting Russian state media from running ads or monetizing on our platform anywhere in the world.”

Read more here.

Day three of Russian attack on Ukraine: What we know so far

A roundup of key events that took place on the third day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can be found here.

Japan considering imposing sanctions against Belarus

Japan is considering imposing economic sanctions on Belarus, in line with the US, for its support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, two government officials with knowledge of the matter have told Reuters news agency.

It was not immediately clear which individuals or entities would be targeted by such sanctions. The officials said Tokyo will coordinate with other members of the Group of Seven (G7) industrial powers.

Japan has announced sanctions on Russia over the invasion, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida terming Moscow’s moves an unacceptable violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and international law.

Russian troops attack Kyiv military base, are repelled, Ukraine army says

Russian troops attacked an army base in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv but the assault was repelled, the Ukrainian military has said in a Facebook post.

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

Frequent artillery blasts heard in Kyiv: Witness

Frequent artillery blasts could be heard in Kyiv, coming from an unspecified location some distance from the city centre, the Reuters news agency reported, citing a witness.

‘Nazi-style course of action’: Ukraine blasts Russia at UNSC meet

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN has railed against Russia at a meeting of the UN Security Council, calling the Russian invasion “a Nazi-style course of action”.

Sergiy Kyslytsya also accused Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia of violating Security Council rules by continuing as president of the council during votes and actions that concerned his country.

For his part, Nebenzia thanked the Security Council members who did not support a draft resolution condemning Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which he described as anti-Russian.

“Your draft resolution is nothing other than yet another brutal, inhumane move in this Ukrainian chessboard,” Nebenzia said after the vote.

Read more here.

Guatemalan president orders return of ambassador to Russia

Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei has said that he has ordered the return of the Central American country’s ambassador to Russia, adding that his government rejected Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Giammattei had earlier expressed “full support for the sovereignty of Ukraine as like-minded countries and stand in solidarity with its people and government”.

UN chief says Russian soldiers should ‘return to their barracks’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on soldiers in Russia’s war on Ukraine to “return to their barracks”.

“We must never give up. We must give peace another chance,” he told reporters after Moscow vetoed a UN resolution condemning its “aggression” in Ukraine.

Australia seeks to join global move to hit Putin with sanctions

Australia seeks to join others in imposing direct sanctions on Putin and has extended its punitive financial measures to members of Russia’s parliament and more oligarchs, Foreign Minister Marise Payne has said.

“It is an exceptional step to sanction leaders, but this is an exceptional situation,” Payne said at a press conference, adding that the government is seeking advice on how to follow other nations in the move.

“Vladimir Putin has unparalleled personal power over his country and he has chosen to go to war against a neighbour that posed no threat to Russia, because he wants to reverse history and take away the freedom and the democracy that the Ukrainian people chose for themselves.”

In its new sanctions, Payne said Australia will target 339 members of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament and eight more oligarchs. The new measures follow a series of Australian sanctions announced earlier in the week.

Ukraine says two commercial ships hit by Russian missiles near Odesa port

Ukraine has said Russian warships shelled a Moldovan-flagged chemical tanker and a Panamanian-flagged cargo ship due to load grain near the Odesa port in the Black Sea.

A total of three non-military vessels have now been hit since the start of the invasion. On Thursday, the Turkish-owned Yasa Jupiter cargo ship was struck off Odesa.

Ukraine’s president says Russia will try to ‘storm’ Kyiv overnight

Zelenskyy has said that Russian troops would attempt to take the capital city, Kyiv, during the night.

“I have to say absolutely openly. This night will be more difficult than the day. Many cities of our state are under attack,” Zelenskyy said in a video address to the nation.

“Special attention on Kyiv – we cannot lose the capital,” he added in the clip released by the presidency.

“I am turning to our defenders, male and female, on all fronts: this night the enemy will use all the forces it has to crush our defence in a treacherous, harsh and inhumane way,” he said. “Tonight they will attempt a storming,” he added, in an apparent reference to the capital.

White House asks Congress for $6.4bn for Ukraine crisis

The White House asked Congress to approve $6.4bn in aid to address the Ukraine crisis, including $2.9bn in security and humanitarian assistance and $3.5bn for the defence department, Biden administration and congressional aides have said.

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

Russia ‘cannot veto our voices’, US envoy to UN says

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US envoy to the UN, has said that Russia “will not veto accountability” shortly after Moscow vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning its attack on Ukraine.

“Russia can veto this resolution, but cannot veto our voices,” she wrote on Twitter.

Moody’s puts Russia, Ukraine ratings on review for downgrade

Moody’s said it has put the credit ratings of Russia and Ukraine on review for a downgrade.

There are “serious concerns” around Russia’s ability to manage the disruptive impact of new sanctions on its economy, public finances and financial system, the ratings agency said.

Russia currently has an investment-grade rating of Baa3; a downgrade will lower its rating to junk status. Ukraine has a B3 rating and Moody’s said an extensive conflict could pose a risk to the government’s liquidity and external positions, given the country’s sizeable external maturities in the coming years and the reliance of its economy on foreign-currency funding.

Russia vetoes UN Security action on Ukraine, China abstains

Russia has vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution that would have deplored Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, while China abstained from the vote – a move Western countries view as a win for demonstrating Russia’s international isolation.

The United Arab Emirates and India also abstained from the vote on the US-drafted text. The remaining 11 council members voted in favour. The draft resolution is now expected to be taken up by the 193-member UN General Assembly.

russia UNSC
Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, attends a United Nations Security Council meeting on a resolution regarding Russia’s actions towards Ukraine [Carlo Allegri/Reuters]

Russia’s invasion ‘threatens international system’, US envoy to UN says

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US envoy to the UN, has accused Russia of threatening the international system with its invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia’s latest attack on our most fundamental principles is so bold, so brazen that it threatens our international system as we know it. We have a solemn obligation to not look away,” she told the UN Security Council.

Echoing Biden’s comments from earlier this week, Thomas-Greenfield said Russia is engaged in a “war of choice” in Ukraine.

“Russia chose to inflict untold suffering on the Ukrainian people and on its own citizens,” she said. “Russia chose to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty, to violate international law, to violate the UN Charter.”

Russia will ‘most likely veto any resolution’: Amnesty chief

Agnes Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, has said that Russia “will most likely veto any resolution” at the UN Security Council meeting.

“If the UNSC is paralysed, it is up to the entire membership to step up,” she said.

She called for the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution denouncing Russia’s “unlawful attack” and “calling for an end to all violations of humanitarian law and human rights”.

“The lives, safety and wellbeing of millions of civilians is at stake,” she added, though a UNGA resolution would be non-binding.

IMF says Ukraine requested emergency funding

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Ukraine has requested emergency funding.

Georgieva said the IMF will “work closely with the authorities to support Ukraine” in all ways it can.

“Beyond Ukraine, the repercussions of the conflict pose significant economic risks in the region and around the world,” she added in a statement. “We are assessing the potential implications, including for the functioning of the financial system, commodity markets, and the direct impact on countries with economic ties to the region.”

Canada to impose sanctions on Russia’s Putin

Canada is imposing sanctions on Putin and Lavrov, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said.

“We will be imposing sanctions on President Putin and his fellow architects of this barbaric war, his chief of staff and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov,” Trudeau told a news conference. “These men bear the greatest responsibility for the death and destruction occurring in Ukraine.”

Canada will also levy additional sanctions on Belarus and its leaders for “abetting” Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Trudeau said.

He also expressed support for barring Russia from the SWIFT international financial messaging system.

Ukraine and Russia are discussing place and time for talks: Reports

Ukraine and Russia are discussing a place and time for talks, Zelenskyy’s spokesman has said.

“Ukraine was and remains ready to talk about a ceasefire and peace,” spokesperson Sergii Nykyforov said on social media.

Ukrainian diaspora in US, Canada rallies against ‘surreal’ attack

The Ukrainian diaspora in the US and Canada is demonstrating, fundraising and organising social media campaigns, as well as calling on their elected leaders to act after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Read more here.

Bulgaria closes its airspace to Russian carriers

Bulgaria will ban flights into the country operated by Russian airlines and will close its airspace to all Russian aircraft from Saturday, the country’s transport ministry has said.

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

INTERACTIVE- Why do planes avoid Ukraine airspace

US to provide additional security aid to Ukraine, Pentagon says

The US will provide additional security assistance to Ukraine, the Pentagon has said, adding it was determining the best way to deliver that support.

“I’ll be very clear here: We are going to provide additional security assistance for Ukraine. We will. How that is going to be done is still being worked out,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said during a news briefing, adding: “The airspace over Ukraine is contested.”

UK bans Russian private jets from its airspace

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

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

Poland and the Czech Republic also said they were banning Russian airlines from their respective airspace, while other air passenger carriers, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, began routing flights around Russian airspace.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

Read all the updates from Friday, February 25, here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies