Latest Russia-Ukraine updates: Kyiv to hold talks with Moscow

Ukraine news from February 27: Putin puts Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert as Kyiv agrees to negotiations at the Ukraine-Belarus border.

A Ukrainian Territorial Defence fighter examines a destroyed Russian infantry mobility vehicle GAZ Tigr after the fight in Kharkiv [Sergey Bobok/AFP]
Russian forces are waging a multipronged assault on Ukraine [Sergey Bobok/AFP]
  • President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Kyiv will send a delegation of officials for talks “without preconditions” with Moscow at the Ukraine-Belarus border.
  • The European Union approves the closure of its airspace to Russian aircraft as well as further sanctions, including the exclusion of some Russian banks from the SWIFT payment system.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin puts Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert.
  • Kharkiv governor says Ukrainian troops have full control of the country’s second-largest city after street fighting with Russian forces.
  • Kyiv’s mayor says the city is encircled, making evacuations impossible.
  • More than 360,000 people have fled Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s assault, the UN says.

The live blog is now closed; thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for February 27:

Ukrainian military says Sunday was difficult for its forces

The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces described Sunday as “a difficult time” for the military, saying Russian troops “continue shelling in almost all directions”.

In an English-language post on Facebook, the general staff said defence force members in the Vasylkiv military air base southwest of Kyiv were resisting artillery raids and Russian attacks.

Russia’s Aeroflot to cancel all flights to European destinations

Russian airline Aeroflot has said it would cancel all flights to European destinations until further notice after the decision by many countries to close their airspace in protest at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Aeroflot is suspending flights of the European route network from February 28, 2022 until further notice,” the company said on its website.

Saudi crown prince, France’s Macron discuss energy market impact of Ukraine crisis

The Saudi crown prince and French President Emmanuel Macron have discussed the effect of the Ukraine crisis on energy markets, Ekhbariya TV reported.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud stressed in a phone call with Macron the kingdom’s keenness on the stability and balance of oil markets and its commitment to the OPEC+ agreement, the state-owned TV channel added.

Czech FA says ‘no change’ in refusal to play Russia despite FIFA plan

The Czech Football Association has said the Czechs would not play Russia in a World Cup playoff game despite FIFA’s efforts to make Russia an acceptable opponent amid the Ukraine invasion.

“There will be no change in the Czech national team’s … standpoint even after FIFA’s decision to let Russia play at the international level but on neutral grounds, without a flag and anthem,” the Czech FA said in a statement.

US, France urge citizens to leave Russia

The United States and France have issued security warnings to their citizens in Russia.

“US citizens should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available,” the US embassy in Moscow said.

The French foreign ministry said “all French nationals should leave Russia immediately.”

Russia’s invasion kills 352 civilians, 14 children

Ukraine’s health ministry has said 352 civilians, including 14 children, have been killed since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday.

It also said that 1,684 people, including 116 children, have been wounded.

UN Security Council convenes rare emergency meeting

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has voted to hold a rare emergency meeting of the General Assembly on Monday.

France is expected to sponsor a resolution at the UNSC calling for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and a guarantee that humanitarian aid can be delivered to civilians, the presidency announced.

Russia, which blocked a council resolution condemning Moscow’s “aggression” in Ukraine on Friday, is expected to use its veto power.

Ukraine files genocide case against Russia at UN’s top court

Ukraine has launched a case against Russia at the UN’s highest court, accusing Moscow of planning genocide and asking for the court to order Russia to halt its invasion and pay reparations.

The case asks the International Court of Justice, based in The Hague, to indicate “provisional measures” ordering Moscow to “immediately suspend the military operations”.

EU approves closure of airspace, further sanctions

EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell has said the bloc has approved crippling sanctions to Russian financial markets, including the exclusion of some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system.

“We are going after the wealth of Putin’s elite,” Borrell told a news conference in Brussels after a virtual meeting of foreign ministers on the crisis.

The EU has also approved the closure of its airspace to Russian aircraft and unblocked 450 million euros ($500 million) for members states to buy arms for Ukraine.

“We are afraid that Russia is not going to stop in Ukraine, and the Russian influence can start working in the neighbouring countries,” Borrell said.

BP quits Russia in up to $25bn hit

BP is abandoning its 19.75 percent stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft, which accounts for about half of BP’s oil and gas reserves and a third of its production.

Divesting the stake will result in charges of up to $25bn, the UK-based oil and gas giant said, without saying how it plans to extricate itself.

Rosneft condemned BP’s decision, saying 30 years of successful cooperation had been ruined, Russian news agencies reported.

FIFA moves Russia home games to neutral venues, bans flag and anthem

FIFA has responded to the invasion of Ukraine by telling Russia to play home matches at neutral venues and banning its national flag and anthem from matches.

The governing body of world football said Russian teams would play as the “Football Union of Russia”.

It said it would continue dialogue with other sports organisations to determine additional measures “including potential exclusion from competitions”.

Kosovo asks US for permanent military base, NATO membership

Kosovo has asked the US to establish a permanent military base in the country and speed up its integration into NATO after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Accelerating Kosovo’s membership in NATO and having a permanent base of American forces is an immediate need to guarantee peace, security and stability in the Western Balkans,” Kosovo’s Defence Minister Armend Mehaj said on his Facebook page.

Kosovo’s 2008 independence is recognised by more than 110 countries, mainly Western nations, but not by Russia or Serbia.

‘We are encircled’ but full of fight: Kyiv’s mayor

Russian troops are drawing closer to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv’s mayor has said, adding that the capital is now encircled.

Vitali Klitschko said it was impossible to evacuate civilians if Russian troops managed to take Kyiv.

“We can’t do that, because all ways are blocked,” he told The Associated Press news agency. “Right now, the most important question is to defend our country.”

Czechs, Brits refuse to face Russia in World Cup qualifiers

The Czech Republic and England have joined Poland and Sweden in declaring their refusal to play Russia in upcoming football World Cup qualifying matches, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Read more here.

Zelenskyy sceptical of Russia talks

Ukraine’s president is willing to “try” talks with Russia but is sceptical of them.

“I will be honest, as always: I do not really believe in the outcome of this meeting, but let them try,” Zelenskyy said in a video address. He added that if there was a “chance” to end the war, he should take part in the talks.

Ukrainian official says missiles launched from Belarus to Ukraine

Missiles launched from Belarus have hit an airport in Zhytomyr in northern Ukraine, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister said.

Anton Herashchenko, the adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said that Iskander missiles were launched at Ukraine from Belarus at approximately 5pm local time (15:00 GMT).

Ukrainian and Russian officials are due to meet for talks at a venue on the Belarusian border with Ukraine, Zelenskyy’s office said earlier.

Ukraine’s president earlier said he had received “assurances” from his Belarusian counterpart that “missiles, planes and helicopters” would not fly to Ukraine from Belarus ahead of the negotiations.

Putin aiming for full victory by March 2: former minister

Russia’s former deputy foreign minister Andrei Fedorov has said Putin is aiming for a full victory by March 2.

Speaking to Al Jazeera’s Start Here, Fedorov said “everything will depend frankly speaking on the coming two days because, according to my knowledge, Putin orders for complete military operation with a victory by March 2.”

Fedorov added that Moscow was taken aback by Ukraine’s fierce resistance and by the decision on the part of European states – who are largely dependent on Russian gas – to impose harsh sanctions.

“[These measures have] caused a lot of problems over here now,” he said.

EU expects more than 7 million displaced Ukrainians

The EU’s executive has said the number of Ukrainians displaced by the war could be more than 7 million.

“We are witnessing what could become the largest humanitarian crisis on our European continent in many, many years. The needs are growing as we speak,” Janez Lenarcic, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, told a news conference in Brussels.

Russians hold anti-war rallies amid crackdown

Protests at Gostiny Dvor in St Petersburg were still going on as of Sunday night, amid a heavy police presence and OMON special officers in riot gear.

Sources told Al Jazeera the rallies appeared more spread out along Nevsky Prospekt, the main avenue in the city, with at least one group of demonstrators breaking off from the rally and marching down a side street, chanting “No to War!”

OVD-Info, which monitors arrests at protests, said 2,114 protesters had been detained on Sunday.

Police detain a demonstrator during an action against Russia's attack on Ukraine in St. Petersburg, Russia
Police detain a demonstrator during a protest against Russia’s attack on Ukraine in St Petersburg [Dmitri Lovetsky/AP]

Russia admits ‘killed and injured’ troops in Ukraine

Russia’s army admitted for the first time that there were “killed and injured” soldiers among its troops in Ukraine, without saying how many had died there.

“Russian servicemen are showing courage and heroism while fulfilling combat tasks in the special military operation,” Moscow’s army spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on state television.

“Unfortunately, there are killed and injured among our comrades.”

Sweden to send military aid to Ukraine

Sweden will send military aid to Ukraine, including anti-tank weapons, helmets and body armour, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said.

“Sweden is now proposing direct support for Ukraine’s armed forces. It includes 135,000 field rations, 5,000 helmets, 5,000 body shields and 5,000 anti-tank weapons,” Andersson told a news conference.

EU to close airspace to Russia, curb media, target Belarus

The EU will shut down its airspace to Russian aircraft, seek to ban Russian state-owned media in the bloc and target Russian ally Belarus with sanctions, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said.

Von der Leyen has also said that the EU would for the first time finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country under attack, meaning Ukraine.

“This is a watershed moment for our Union,” she said at a news conference in Brussels.

Finland weighs sending weapons to Ukraine

Finland is considering whether to send weapons to Ukraine directly, Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen has said, in what would be a departure from its longstanding policy of not allowing weapons to be exported to war zones.

Kaikkonen also said that Finland, which is not a NATO member and shares a long border with Russia, had given the green light to Estonia to send previously Finnish-owned field guns to Ukraine.

NATO chief slams Putin’s nuclear move as ‘irresponsible’

Putin’s decision to shift Russia’s nuclear forces to a high alert footing amounts to “irresponsible” behaviour, NATO’s secretary-general says.

“This is dangerous rhetoric. This is a behaviour which is irresponsible,” Jens Stoltenberg told CNN.

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

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Stoltenberg said Putin’s announcement was ‘dangerous rhetoric’ [File: Francisco Seco/Pool via AFP]

Putin’s decision could make situation “much more dangerous,” US official warns

A senior US defence official has warned that Putin’s move could make things “much, much more dangerous”.

“It’s clearly, essentially, putting in play forces that, if there’s a miscalculation, could make things much, much more dangerous,” the official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.

World’s largest cargo plane burned in Russian attack

The world’s largest cargo plane, the Ukrainian-made Antonov-225 Mriya, was burned during a Russian attack on a strategic airfield near Kyiv, according to Ukrainian state arms manufacturer Ukroboronprom.

“The Russian occupiers destroyed the flagship of Ukrainian aviation – the legendary An-225 Mriya. It happened at the Antonov airfield in Hostomel near Kyiv,” Ukroboronprom said on its Facebook page.

It added that the plane restoration would cost more than $3bn and take a long time.

Commenting on the incident, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia would “never be able” to destroy Ukraine’s dream of itself as a “strong, free and democratic European state”.

Putin pins responsibility on the West for move to put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Moscow, says Putin has claimed that his move to put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert was triggered by Western powers’ behaviour.

“He blames aggressive statements by NATO leaders and the economic sanctions imposed by the West on Moscow for his decision,” Smith said.

“This is clearly a ratcheting up of the pressure from Putin in response,” he added.

“The United States has said that this is part of a pattern of Moscow manufacturing threats to justify its aggression, while NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has described it as ‘dangerous rhetoric’.”

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Police detain nearly 1,000 at anti-war protests across Russia, monitoring group says

Russian police have detained more than 900 people for participating in anti-war protests held in dozens of cities nationwide, according to protest monitoring group OVD-Info.

The demonstrations, which reportedly took place in 44 cities across Russia, coincided with the seventh anniversary of the murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov.

The latest arrests take the total number of people detained for participating in anti-war protests throughout Russia since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine to more than 4,300, according to OVD-Info.

‘We will not give up a single inch of our territory’: Ukrainian foreign minister

Kuleba says Ukraine will “not give up a single inch of … territory” after agreeing to talks with Russia.

“We go there [to the talks] to listen to what Russia wants to say, we are going without any … preliminary agreement on what the outcome of these talks can be. We are going there to listen and to say what we think of this war and Russia’s actions,” Ukraine’s foreign minister said in a live video address.

“Between now and the moment that the talks are wrapped up, [Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko assured President Zelenskyy that no Belarusian military force will be used against Ukraine,” he added.

“We can only hope that Lukashenko will stick to his word. And between now and the moment when these talks are wrapped up, we will continue to fiercely defend our country, to defeat Russian forces if they try to continue their offensive operations.

“We will continue to defeat them in the territories that they have taken under their control – we will not stop, until we defend our country entirely. So there is nothing bad in talking as such, and if the outcome of these talks is peace, that should be welcomed.

“But we will not, and I want to make it very clear, we will not give up a single inch of our territory.”

An Ukrainian Territorial Defence fighter examines a destroyed Russian infantry mobility vehicle GAZ Tigr after the fight in Kharkiv
Kuleba said Ukrainian forces will ‘continue to fiercely defend’ the country from Russia’s attack [Sergey Bobok/AFP]

EU says 300,000 Ukrainian refugees have entered the bloc so far

At least 300,000 Ukrainian refugees have crossed into the EU since Russia began its offensive, the bloc’s home affairs commissioner has said.

“I am proud of how the European citizens at the borders are showing concrete solidarity with Ukrainians fleeing this terrible, aggressive war,” Ylva Johansson told reporters on her arrival for a special meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels to discuss the fallout of the war in Ukraine.

She added the bloc needs to ready for even larger numbers of arrivals yet.

“I think we need to prepare for millions,” Johansson said.

Ukraine will ‘prevail’ amid Russia’s assault, foreign minister says

Kuleba says Russia’s goal is to “destroy Ukraine as a state”.

“But we will not fall,” Kuleba said in his address.

“This is a war between President Putin and the people of Ukraine. We are determined to fight back fiercely as long as it is needed, to defend our land and our people … and I am sure that we will prevail,” he added.

‘Confusion about location for talks’

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Moscow, says there is “some confusion” about where the Ukraine-Russia talks will take place.

“The Ukrainians are saying these talks will be held near the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, but according to the Russians, they believe, still, that the talks will place in the southeastern city of Gomel in Belarus,” she said.

“There seems to be some confusion about where the location for these talks will be.”

Kyiv to send delegation for talks with Moscow at Ukraine-Belarus border, Zelenskyy says

Ukraine’s president says Kyiv has agreed to send a delegation for talks “without preconditions” with Russian officials on the Ukraine-Belarus border.

“We agreed that the Ukrainian delegation would meet with the Russian delegation without preconditions on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, near the Pripyat River,” Zelenskyy said in a statement after holding a phone call with Lukashenko.

He did not give a precise time for the meeting, but said Lukashenko, a Putin ally, “has taken responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation’s travel, talks and return.”

Putin puts nuclear forces on high alert

Putin has ordered his military command to put Russia’s deterrence forces – a reference to units which include nuclear arms – on high alert, citing aggressive statements by NATO leaders and economic sanctions against Moscow.

“As you can see, not only do Western countries take unfriendly measures against our country in the economic dimension – I mean the illegal sanctions that everyone knows about very well – but also the top officials of leading NATO countries allow themselves to make aggressive statements with regards to our country,” Putin said on state television.

France closes airspace for Russian aircraft

France has announced that it will follow other European countries in shutting its airspace to Russian aircraft to punish the country for invading Ukraine.

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

INTERACTIVE- Airspace closures for Russian aircraft FEB 27

Russia faces sporting fallout over invasion of Ukraine

The consequences of Russia’s war are rippling through the sports world, as athletes and fans express solidarity with Ukraine.

Read more here.

Kyiv’s defence holding firm, mayor says

Kyiv’s mayor says there are no Russian troops in the Ukrainian capital, adding the city’s defence is holding firm against attacks from Moscow’s forces.

“Our military, law enforcement and territorial defence continue to detect and neutralise saboteurs,” Vitali Klitschko wrote on his Telegram messaging channel.


A member of the Territorial Defence Forces of Ukraine is seen at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Kyiv
A member of the Territorial Defence Forces of Ukraine stands guard at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Kyiv [Mikhail Palinchak/Reuters]

Elon Musk says Starlink internet service ‘active’ in Ukraine

SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk says the company’s Starlink satellite broadband service is now “active” in Ukraine, where internet access has been disrupted due to Russia’s assault.

“Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route,” Musk wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Read more here.

Ukraine’s president says he spoke with Belarusian counterpart

Zelenskyy says he has spoken with Lukashenko.

The Ukrainian president’s announcement, issued on his Telegram messaging channel, came after Kyiv rejected talks with Moscow in Belarus, accusing it of allowing Russian troops to enter Ukraine through its territory.

Zelenskyy provided no further details of his talks with the Belarusian president.

Tanks in the middle of Bucha, resident says

Russian tanks are stationed in the middle of Bucha, a city 30km (18 miles) west of Kyiv, a local resident told Al Jazeera by phone.

The man, who wished to remain unidentified, said one of the tanks was standing right outside his house. He claimed Russian servicemen shower the houses on the street with bullets from their assault rifles, but are “afraid” to enter the properties.

Another town, Makarov, 50km (31 miles) west of Kyiv, is “being attacked” by Russian tanks, a resident told Al Jazeera by phone. Her family, including two teenage girls, is hiding in the basement of her house, she said.

The woman also wished to remain unidentified.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Ukraine has full control of Kharkiv, regional official claims

Ukraine has full control of Kharkiv, Sinegubov says.

“Control over Kharkiv is completely ours! The armed forces, the police, and the defense forces are working, and the city is being completely cleansed of the enemy,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging service.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify the regional governor’s claim.

UN refugee agency says more than 360,000 people have fled the country

At least 368,000 people have now fled Ukraine into Poland and other neighbouring countries in the wake of Russia’s invasion, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says.

The number has risen rapidly since Moscow launched its onslaught and is expected to continue to climb quickly.

More European states bar Russian planes from their airspace

A string of European countries, including Germany and Finland, have said they are preparing to close their airspace to Russian planes, mirroring measures already taken by other states on the continent.

Sweden, Denmark and Iceland were alongside Berlin and Helsinki as the latest to take action.

Germany said its ban will last for three months and apply to all Russian flights from 14:00 GMT on Sunday as the screws tighten on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. Only humanitarian flights will be exempt from Berlin’s measure.

The United Kingdom, Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Romania, as well as Baltic states Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, have also moved to shutter their airspace to Russian planes.

INTERACTIVE- Conflict at a glance

As Russia’s assault intensifies, Nigerian students try to flee Ukraine

As Russia’s assault on Ukraine intensifies, international students from Nigeria are scrambling to try and flee Ukraine.

Read more here.

‘Stress and tension’ throughout Ukraine amid hunt for saboteurs

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine, says local officials in Kyiv report that clashes with “saboteurs … [who are] thought to be undercover Russians” are ongoing.

“These saboteurs are set upon by anybody available, that can be civilians with free, hand-out guns, or it can be the security forces,” Simmons said.

“That’s happening a lot and we are hearing that some of the explosions around Ukraine, and some of the attacks, are down to these saboteurs.

“We don’t have full details … but we do know that it is incredibly dangerous anywhere in the country, particularly in Kyiv, not just because of the Russian attacks but because of the level of stress and tension with field operations going on to try to find these saboteurs.”

Greece to send defence supplies to Ukraine

Greece is sending defence supplies to Ukraine in response to a request from Kyiv, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s office says.

Two C-130 military transport planes will carry the supplies to Poland, from where they will be transported onwards to Ukraine, the office said.

The move comes after Athens said on Saturday that 10 Greek nationals had been killed and six others wounded by Russian bombings near the city of Mariupol, in southeastern Ukraine.

World in ‘new era’ after Russian invasion of Ukraine, Scholz says

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says the world has entered a “new era” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In an address to lawmakers at a special parliamentary sitting, Scholz said the central question now confronting Western powers was whether they can muster enough force to check “warmongers” like Putin.

“In essence, it’s a question of whether might can break right,” he said.

EU should fund weapons and fuel for ‘heroic’ Ukraine, Borrell says

The EU’s foreign policy chief says he will propose using the bloc’s funds to help finance weapons and other supplies for Ukraine during a meeting of its foreign ministers later.

“I will propose to [EU foreign] ministers to use the European Peace Facility for two emergency assistance measures,” Josep Borrell said in a statement before the virtual meeting.

“These aim to finance the supply of lethal material to the heroic Ukrainian army, which is fighting with fierce resistance against the Russian invaders and provide urgently needed non-lethal supplies, such as fuel.”

Ukraine lodges case against Russia at UN’s top court

Ukraine has lodged a complaint against Russia at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Zelenskyy says.

Read more here.

Portugal to supply military equipment to Kyiv

Portugal will send military equipment to Ukraine, including ammunition and grenades, the country’s defence ministry has said.

Lisbon is to dispatch “vests, helmets, night-vision goggles, grenades and ammunition”, the ministry said in a statement on Twitter.

“Portugal supports Ukraine, which is defending itself against an unjustified, illegal and unacceptable invasion,” Defence Minister Joao Cravinho said in a separate tweet.

The move means Portugal joins several other Western nations in dispatching military aid to Kyiv as it stares down Russia’s attack.

Putin suspended as honorary president of International Judo Federation

Putin has been suspended as honorary president of the International Judo Federation (IJF), the governing body has announced.

“In light of the ongoing war conflict in Ukraine, the International Judo Federation announces the suspension of Mr Vladimir Putin’s status as Honorary President and Ambassador of the International Judo Federation,” the IJF said in a statement.

A judo blackbelt, 69-year-old Putin is a keen practitioner of the discipline and has co-authored a book titled “Judo: History, Theory, Practice”.

‘We try to do everything we can to help our army’: Dnipro blood bank volunteer

Tatyana, a mother of two children – aged six and nine – and a volunteer at a blood bank in the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine, says the situation in the country is “very scary”.

“We just try to do everything we can now, gathering all our power to volunteer, to do something and help our army,” Tatyana, who declined to give her surname, told Al Jazeera.

“[I came here] because I can’t just sit at home and do nothing,” she added.

“I am going to stay here [in Dnipro] for as long as I can – only if there is a very big danger to my kids will I drive to another region, but for now I’m not going to leave Dnipro … this is my city and I want to do everything I can to keep it safe.”

Turkey calls Russia’s assault a ‘war’

Turkey has called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “war” in a rhetorical shift that could pave the way for the NATO member nation to enact an international pact limiting Russian naval passage to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

Under the 1936 Montreux Convention, Turkey has control over the Dardanelles and Bosphorus Straits that connect the Mediterranean and the Black Sea 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 now had not described the situation as a war.

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

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

Ukrainian official says 4,300 Russian soldiers killed

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister has claimed that approximately 4,300 Russian servicemen have been killed in fighting so far.

Hanna Malyar said in a statement posted on Facebook that the exact number was being clarified, but alleged that Ukrainian forces had also destroyed about 146 tanks, 27 planes and 26 helicopters.

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

Zelenskyy adviser claims military situation largely unchanged

An adviser to Zelenskyy says the military situation has not changed significantly in Ukraine, claiming the country’s armed forces are still in control of the territory west of Kyiv and Russian troops not making any advance in the south.

“The fact that a Russian delegation arrived in Gomel with a proposal to conduct peace talks from a military point of view means only one thing: they have lost the initiative and are now unable to continue active hostilities,” Oleksiy Arestovych said, citing Russia’s push for negotiations in Belarus.

UN refugee agency says more than 200,000 people have fled the country

More than 200,000 people have now fled Ukraine into Poland and other neighbouring countries in the wake of Russia’s invasion, UNHCR says.

The number has risen rapidly since Moscow launched its onslaught and is expected to continue to climb quickly.

Russian president thanks special forces for fulfilling ‘heroic duty’

Putin has thanked Russia’s special forces for their actions in Ukraine, singling out those who are “heroically fulfilling their military duty” for praise.

“Special gratitude to those who these days are heroically fulfilling their military duty in the course of a special operation to provide assistance to the people’s republics of Donbas,” Putin said in a televised address, citing the two breakaway regions – the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) – in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow’s proposals for Belarus talks widely seen ‘as a ploy’

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Moscow, says it seems clear that Russia’s proposals for talks with Ukraine in Belarus are “not going to happen” despite the Kremlin’s apparent insistence over the country as the venue for any such discussions.

“The Kremlin has said that they are ready and willing to have discussions but it seems like they are adamant they want to have these negotiations in Belarus,” Jabbari said.

“And, of course, the Ukrainians have said they are willing to discuss a format for talks … but the location is important [for them] because we know that Belarus is one of the areas have entered into Ukraine from,” she added.

“So it is very unclear what the Russians are thinking, but a lot of people have said that this seems to be yet another ploy [by Moscow], in order to make it appear that the Russians are willing to hold talks.”

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UK says Russia ‘cannot negotiate with a gun to the head of the Ukrainians’

The UK’s foreign secretary has said Ukraine cannot hold talks with Russia while Moscow has troops stationed in the country.

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

Ukrainian president slams Russian ‘terror’

Zelenskyy has urged world powers to scrap Russia’s voting power at the UN Security Council (UNSC), claiming Russian actions in his country verged on “genocide”.

“This is terror. They are going to bomb our Ukrainian cities even more, they are going to kill our children even more subtly. This is the evil that has come to our land and must be destroyed,” the Ukrainian president said in a short video message.

“Russia’s criminal actions against Ukraine bear signs of genocide,” he added.

There was no immediate response from Moscow, which itself has accused Ukraine’s government of carrying out a “genocide” in the country’s war-torn eastern Donbas region, where Russian-backed separatists control swaths of territory.

Russia’s allegation has been roundly dismissed by Ukraine and Western countries.

Belarusian president urges Kyiv to accept Russian offer of talks: Report

Lukashenko has called on Ukraine’s government to sit down and hold peace talks with Russia so that the country does not lose its statehood, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reports.

Ukraine death toll: What we know so far

Many people have reportedly been killed in Ukraine in Russia’s assault, with fighting widespread across the country.

The UN said late on Saturday that it had confirmed reports of at least 64 civilian deaths. However, it added it believed the “real figures are considerably higher” because many reports of casualties remain unconfirmed.

Ukraine’s Health Minister Viktor Liashko had earlier said 198 Ukrainians, including three children, had been killed.

Read more here.

Situation in Kharkiv ‘very fluid’, but Ukrainian forces fighting ‘fiercely’

Maria Avdeeva, the Kharkiv-based research director for Ukraine’s European Expert Association think-tank, has told Al Jazeera that heavy shelling started in the city late on Saturday and continued throughout the night and early this morning.

“I’ve even heard the [sound] of guns on the streets,” Avdeeva said.

“What we know now is that Russia is entering the city in small groups, on lighter military vehicles, and they are [being] destroyed by the Ukrainian military. Some of the groups were already destroyed, they tried to get close to the city centre and we see many images of the destroyed Russian military vehicles on the streets,” she added.

“The situation is very fluid, the Ukrainian military fights back fiercely, and there are also territorial defence units here as well, and these people will also participate in this fight on the streets.”

Russians intend to use Kharkiv as a ‘rear base’

Local authorities in Kharkiv say some light Russian vehicles have managed to enter the city from the northeast, according to Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid.

“It seems the city, from what we understand, is now surrounded from all sides by the Russians and it is difficult for civilians to get out of there,” Abdel-Hamid said from Dnipro.

“Kharkiv is so close to the Russian border, about 40 kilometres (24 miles) from there, and a lot of people that live there are ethnically Russian,” she added.

“There are a lot of commercial links between the two sides and even family links between the two sides, and I think the Russians were quite surprised to see that that city has put up a fight and is resisting.

“The Russians want to use Kharkiv as some sort of a rear base and from there head south, maybe towards here, Dnipro, which is a city that they would like to take.”

A fragment of a destroyed Russian tank is seen on the roadside on the outskirts of Kharkiv
Kharkiv sits near Ukraine’s border with Russia and is home to about 1.5 million people [Sergey Bobok/AFP]

Zelenskyy says Ukraine is ready for peace talks, but not in Belarus

Ukraine’s president says his country is ready for peace talks with Russia, but not in Belarus.

Zelenskyy’s remarks came after the Kremlin said its delegation was ready to meet Ukrainian officials in the Belarusian city of Gomel.

Russia had massed tens of thousands of troops in Belarus prior to its invasion of Ukraine, and Kyiv has accused Moscow of using the country as a staging ground for its invasion.

Ukraine says it downed missile launched by Russian bomber flying over Belarus

Ukrainian forces have downed a cruise missile launched by a Russian Tu-22 strategic bomber from the territory of Belarus, Valery Zaluzhny, the chief commander of the armed forces, says.

Russia claims to have besieged Kherson, Berdyansk

Moscow has claimed its troops have “entirely” besieged the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson and the southeastern city of Berdyansk.

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

Russian troops have entered Kharkiv, regional official says

Ukrainian forces are battling Russian troops on the streets of Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv, Sinegubov says.

“The Russian enemy’s light vehicles have broken into Kharkiv, including the city centre,” the regional governor said. “Ukraine’s armed forces are destroying the enemy. We ask civilians not to go out.”

Videos published by Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection showed several light military vehicles moving along a street and, separately, a burning tank.

Ukrainian soldiers handle equipment outside Kharkiv,
Ukrainian soldiers handle equipment outside Kharkiv on Saturday, February 26 [Andrew Marienko/AP]

China’s envoy to Ukraine postpones evacuation of citizens

China’s envoy to Ukraine has said current conditions in the country mean it is too unsafe to evacuate citizens.

In a lengthy video message on the embassy’s official WeChat account, Chinese ambassador Fan Xianrong sought to dispel rumours he had left Kyiv and reassure Chinese nationals left stranded in the war-torn country.

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

SWIFT preparing to comply with curbs on Russian banks

The SWIFT international payments system says it is preparing to implement Western nations’ new measures targeting certain Russian banks in the coming days.

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

Ukraine says Russian troops have blown up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv

Russian troops have blown up a natural gas pipeline in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s state communications service says.

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 country. Despite the war, Ukraine continues to ship Russian natural gas to Europe.

Ukraine roads company removing road signs to confuse Russians

A Ukrainian company in charge of building and maintaining roads says it is removing all road signs that could be used by invading Russian forces to find their way around the country.

“The enemy has poor communications, they cannot navigate the terrain,” Ukravtodor said in a Facebook post. “Let us help them get straight to hell.”

The company posted an edited photo of a standard road sign in which directions to nearby cities have been replaced with profanities.

‘It was hell’: Long lines of Ukrainian refugees at Poland border

The Polish government says more than 115,000 Ukrainian refugees have crossed its border from Ukraine, most from the main border crossing of Medyka.

Read more here.

INTERACTIVE- Where are Ukrainians fleeing to 26 FEB

Town near Ukraine’s Kyiv hit by missiles, oil terminal on fire

Russian missiles have hit the Ukrainian town of Vasylkiv, southwest of Kyiv, setting an oil terminal ablaze, the town’s mayor says.

“The enemy wants to destroy everything around,” Natalia Balasinovich said in a video posted online.

At least 64 civilians killed in Ukraine: UN

The UN says it has confirmed at least 240 civilian casualties, including at least 64 people killed, in the fighting in Ukraine, although it believes the “real figures are considerably higher” because many reports of casualties remain to be confirmed.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) relayed the count from the UN human rights office, which has strict verification procedures concerning death tolls in conflicts.

OCHA also said damage to civilian infrastructure has deprived hundreds of thousands of people of access to electricity or water, and produced a map of “humanitarian situations” in Ukraine – mostly in the country’s northern, eastern and southern regions.

Ukrainian servicemen pick up a corpse [Daniel Leal/AFP]

Details of financial sanctions are ‘all that matters’

Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, DC, says the decision by Western allies to cut Russia out of the SWIFT global payment system may affect some European countries.

“When it comes to financial sanctions, the details are really all that matters,” she said. “The key here is how many banks are they going to go after – are they going to go after the truly powerful ones,” Culhane said.

“Cutting some banks off would be very bad for those banks … can they do it so that it’s not so bad for the European economy,” she added.

Western allies announced further sanctions on Russia, including cutting off a number of Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank payments system [Chris Helgren/Reuters]

UK says Russian forces limiting social media access for own people

The UK has said that Russian forces restricted access to a number of social media platforms in an attempt to conceal details about the situation in Ukraine from their own people.

“Russian forces are sustaining casualties and a number of Russian troops have been taken prisoner by Ukrainian forces,” the Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update. “They are suffering from logistical challenges and strong Ukrainian resistance.”

Ukrainian tennis player Yastremska flees to safety in France

Ukrainian tennis star Dayana Yastremska has fled her native country and is now safe in France, the 21-year-old said in a social media post.

Yastremska, who has won three WTA titles and been ranked as high as world number 21, says she and her younger sister left Odesa with help from their parents.

“Tired, but my sister and I are safe!” she posted in an Instagram story, which showed their arrival in Romania en route to France. “Thank you France. Ukraine stay strong. We miss you Home, Mum and Dad.”

UN to launch appeal to fund humanitarian operations in Ukraine

Secretary-General António Guterres has announced that the UN will launch an appeal to fund its humanitarian operations in Ukraine.

A UN spokesperson said Guterres spoke with Zelenskyy over the phone.

“The Secretary-General conveyed to the President the determination of the United Nations to enhance humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine,” the spokesperson said.

SWIFT sanctions seek to block Putin from using reserves for Ukraine attack, US official says

The US and its allies are “disarming Fortress Russia” with new sanctions that cut off key banks from the SWIFT financial transactions network and target Russia’s central bank, a senior official in US President Joe Biden’s White House says.

The actions are aimed at preventing Putin from using $630bn in central bank foreign currency reserves to fund the invasion of Ukraine and to defend a plunging rouble.

“Putin’s government is getting kicked off the international financial system,” the official said.

Ukraine is grateful for financial sanctions imposed on Russia: PM

Ukraine is grateful for the latest round of financial sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and its allies, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has said in a Twitter post.

“Thanks to our friends … for the commitment to remove several Russian banks from SWIFT” and for “the paralysis of the assets of the central bank of Russia”, he said.

PM Johnson says UK and allies have taken decisive action against Russia over SWIFT

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the UK and its allies have taken “decisive action” to shut Russia out of the global financial system by cutting its banks’ access to the SWIFT international payment system.

“We have taken decisive action tonight with our international partners to shut Russia out of the global financial system, including the important first step of ejecting Russian banks from SWIFT,” Johnson said on Twitter.

“We will keep working together to ensure Putin pays the price for his aggression.”

What is SWIFT?

The EU, along with the US and other Western partners, has announced further sanctions on Russia, including cutting off a number of Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank payments system.

Ejecting it from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network would cripple Moscow’s ability to trade with most of the world and deal a heavy blow to the Russian economy.

Click here to read Al Jazeera’s explainer.

Russia closes airspace to carriers from Baltics, Slovenia

Russia has closed its airspace to flights operated by carriers from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Slovenia in tit-for-tat punitive measures.

“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.

Germany and Western allies agree to cut Russia out of SWIFT

Germany and its Western allies have agreed to cut Russia out of the SWIFT global payment system, a spokesperson for the German government said, in a third sanctions package aimed at halting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The sanctions, agreed with Canada, France, Italy, the UK, the US and the European Commission, also include limiting the ability of Russia’s central bank to support the rouble.

They will also end the “golden passports” for wealthy Russians and their families, and will target individuals and institutions in Russia and elsewhere that support the war against Ukraine, the spokesperson said.

“The countries stressed their willingness to take further measures should Russia not end its attack on Ukraine and thus on the European peace order,” he added.


Macron asks for withdrawal of Russian troops from Belarus

French President Emmanuel Macron has asked Lukashenko to ensure the “withdrawal of Russian troops” from Belarus, according to a statement issued by his office.

Macron asked the Belarusian leader “to demand as soon as possible the withdrawal of Russian troops from his soil”, and urged him to cooperate with the international community to allow humanitarian aid to the Ukrainian people, the statement said.

EU announces new Russia sanctions with US and others, including SWIFT

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said that the EU, along with the US and other Western partners, plans to impose further sanctions on Russia, including cutting off a number of Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank payments system.

UK’s Johnson says pressure building to cut Russia off from SWIFT

Britain’s Johnson says the world should cut Russia off from the SWIFT payments system and that more countries supported such a move.

“What you have seen just today is more countries joining the call of the UK to use SWIFT,” Johnson said. He said more countries had said they would not block cutting Russia off from SWIFT.

“Things are not going all the way, President Putin,” Johnson said of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Greece says 10 nationals killed in Ukraine

Athens says 10 Greek nationals have been killed and six others wounded by Russian bombing near the key southeastern port city of Mariupol in Ukraine.

“Ten innocent civilians of Greek origin [were] killed today by Russian air strikes close to Mariupol. Stop the bombing now!” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a tweet.

The bombing was on the outskirts of the villages of Sartana and Bugas, and one of the injured was a child, Greece’s foreign ministry said.

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 defence ministry said.

Russian forces have made thrusts into the Ukrainian capital Kyiv before reportedly falling back to the outskirts, facing tough resistance on day three of the invasion.

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

Russian military convoys ‘flooding’ across the 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. “This scene is repeated elsewhere as other convoys are crossing the border into Ukraine on other roads.”

“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.

People in Ukraine’s capital take cover as Russians approach

People in Kyiv have sought safety underground as Russian troops closed in and skirmishes flared on the city’s outskirts.

A curfew was set on the city, due to last through Monday morning, with the relative quiet in the capital sporadically broken by gunfire.

Small groups of Russian soldiers were reported inside Kyiv, but the UK and the US said the bulk of Russian forces were 30km (19 miles) from the city’s centre.

Lufthansa halts flights to Russia for a week

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

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

INTERACTIVE- Why do planes avoid Ukraine airspace

Berlin to Sydney, a global outpouring of support for Ukraine

In a sea of blue and yellow flags and banners smeared with blood-red handprints, protesters around the world have shown support for Ukraine and called on governments to do more to help Kyiv, punish Russia and avoid a broader conflict.

Several hundred people marched through heavy rain in Sydney, Australia, chanting “Ukraine will prevail”, while protesters in Tokyo, Japan, called for Russia to be expelled from the UNSC for the assault on its neighbour.

Protests took place as far afield as Latin America, India, Turkey – but also in Russia, where more than 3,000 people have been detained.

Thousands of people also took to the streets in Europe, with protesters – including many Ukrainians living abroad – in London, Nicosia, Berlin, Athens, Helsinki, Madrid and Milan draping themselves in flags and holding “stop the war” placards.

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

Read all the updates from Saturday, February 26, here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies