Russian President Vladimir Putin has authorised his troops to carry out a special military operation in Ukraine. Here are the latest updates:

A Ukrainian soldier talks with her comrades sitting in a shelter at the line of separation between Ukraine-held territory and rebel-held territory near Svitlodarsk.
A Ukrainian soldier talks with her comrades sitting in a shelter at the line of separation between Ukraine-held territory and rebel-held territory near Svitlodarsk. (AP)

Thursday, February 24, 2022

EU to sanction Russian banks, energy, others

European Union leaders have put on a united front after a six-hour meeting during which they agreed on the second package of economic and financial sanctions on Russia. 

The EU Council president accused Russia of using "fake pretexts and bad excuses" for justifying its attack on Ukraine and said sanctions will hurt the government. 

The legal texts for the sanctions agreed on are expected to be finalised overnight and be submitted for approval to EU foreign affairs ministers Friday. 

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the package includes targeting 70 percent of the Russian banking market and key state-owned companies. 

She said Russia's energy sector also will be targeted "by making it impossible for Russia to upgrade its refineries." 

And there will be a ban on sales of software, semiconductors, and airliners to Russia. 

READ MORE: In pictures: Protests in Europe, US seek end to Russian assault on Ukraine

Japan, Australia announce additional sanctions on Russia

Japan and Australia have announced new sanctions targeting Russia over its actions in Ukraine. 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the new measures include freezing the assets of Russian groups, banks and individuals and suspending exports of semiconductors and other sensitive goods to military-linked organisations in Russia.

Kishida said: "Japan must clearly show its position that we will never tolerate any attempt to change the status quo by force."

Earlier in the week, Japan suspended new issuances and distribution of Russian government bonds in Japan, aimed to reduce funding for Russia's military. It also banned trade with the two Ukrainian separatist regions.

Meanwhile, Australia imposed more sanctions against Russia targeting several of its elite citizens and lawmakers.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also accused China of throwing Russia a lifeline by easing trade restrictions at a time much of the world is trying to stop the Russian attacks on Ukraine.

Morrison was reacting to a report in The South China Morning Post that China had announced it was fully open to Russian wheat imports. 

Morrison noted that Australia, the United States, Britain, the European Union and Japan are imposing sanctions on Russia, and said China's easing of trade restrictions "is simply unacceptable."

In his words: "You don't go and throw a lifeline to Russia in the middle of a period when they're invading another country."

Macron says Putin was duplicitous with him on phone

French President Emmanuel Macron has said the Russian President Vladimir Putin had been duplicitous in his conversations with him, discussing the details of the Minks agreements over the phone while preparing to invade Ukraine.

"Yes, there was duplicity, yes there was a deliberate, conscious choice to launch war when we could still negotiate peace," Macron told reporters after an EU summit in which he said France would add its own sanction to an EU package. 

READ MORE: Russia’s veto power sits at the centre of Ukraine’s emergency UNSC meeting

Ukraine: Nearly 140 dead on first day of Russian attacks, 316 wounded

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said 137 Ukrainians have been killed after his country came under a large-scale attack from Russian forces.

"Today we have lost 137 of our heroes, our citizens. Military and civilian," Zelenskyy said in a video address, adding that another 316 people had been wounded.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine was "left alone" to fight Russia, adding Russian "sabotage groups" were in capital Kiev. 

"We have been left alone to defend our state," he said in a video address. "Who is ready to fight alongside us? I don't see anyone."

A sombre-looking Zelensky added: "The enemy's sabotage groups have entered Kiev" and urged residents to be vigilant and observe curfew rules.

Ukraine's president declares general mobilisation

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has signed a decree ordering a general mobilisation as his country faces a large-scale attack by Russian troops. 

Conscripts and reservists in all of Ukraine's regions will be called up, according to the decree published by the Ukrainian presidency, which is to be in effect for 90 days.

It comes as attacking Russian forces were pressing deep into Ukraine, from north, south, and the east, claiming dozens of lives and raising the prospect Moscow will march on Kiev as the West imposed punishing sanctions in response.

Zelenskyy also called for "powerful economic and financial sanctions" on Russia, including cutting off SWIFT and imposing an embargo on oil and gas trade.

"Europe's fate is being decided in Ukraine: if (Russian President Vladimir) Putin doesn't get a decent rebuff now, he will move on further," Zelenskyy said, adding that the EU could also help Ukraine with weapons and ammunition and support a UN peacekeeping operation.

UN: Some 100,000 displaced in Ukraine, thousands flee abroad

The UN refugee agency has said around 100,000 people had fled their homes within Ukraine and several thousand more had left the country since neighbouring Russia attacked early on Thursday.

"We believe that some 100,000 people must have already left their homes and may be displaced inside the country, and several thousand have crossed international borders," UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo told the AFP news agency.

Refugee High Commissioner Filippo Grandi had voiced serious concern at the rapid deterioration of the situation as military operations unfolded across Ukraine and urged neighbouring countries to keep their borders open for those seeking safety and shelter.

"We are continuing to closely follow the situation and are reinforcing our operations in Ukraine and neighbouring countries," the agency said.

Kiev: Russian attacks kill 57 Ukrainians

Ukraine's Health Minister Viktor Lyashko has said 57 Ukrainians have been killed as a result of the Russian attack on the eastern European country, and 169 more were wounded. 

Lyashko also said that Ukraine's authorities are repurposing the country's health care facilities to make room for those who need medical assistance because of the hostilities.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's military said that Russian forces aimed to block the Ukrainian capital Kiev while creating a land corridor on the southern coast towards the annexed Crimea peninsula and Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova. 

It said Russia has carried out at least 203 attacks since early morning.

Chernobyl power plant captured by Russian forces

The Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been captured by Russian forces, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office, Mykhailo Podolyak, has said.

"It is impossible to say the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is safe after a totally pointless attack by the Russians," he said.

"This is one of the most serious threats in Europe today," Podolyak said.

Some Russian military massed in the Chernobyl "exclusion zone" before crossing into Ukraine, a Russian security source said.

Russia wants to control the Chernobyl nuclear reactor to signal NATO not to interfere militarily, the same source said.

US to deploy 7,000 more troops to Germany: Pentagon

The United States will deploy 7,000 more troops to Europe, to be based in Germany, in response to Russia's attack of Ukraine, the Pentagon has announced.

"They will deploy to Germany to reassure NATO Allies, deter Russian aggression and be prepared to support a range of requirements in the region," a Pentagon official said, adding that they are expected to depart "in the coming days."

Russia detains nearly 1,400 at Ukraine anti-war protests

Russian police have detained almost 1,400 people at anti-war protests across Russia after President Vladimir Putin sent troops to invade Ukraine, an independent monitor has said.

"More than 1,391 people have already been detained in 51 cities," said OVD-Info, which tracks arrests at opposition rallies.

More than 700 people have been detained in Moscow and over 340 people in the second-largest city Saint Petersburg, the monitor said.

US announces sanctions and export controls against Russia

US President Joe Biden has announced new sanctions on Russia in response to the Moscow's assault on Ukraine, including freezing assets of major banks and cutting off high-tech exports to the country.

"This is going to impose severe cost on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time," Biden said.

He said the steps imposed in coordination with Europe will block top Russian banks from the US financial system and "cut off more than half of Russia's high-tech imports."

Russia unblocks water flow for canal to annexed Crimea

Russian forces have restored water flow to a canal linking the Dnieper River in Ukraine to Moscow-annexed Crimea, a Russian defence ministry spokesperson has said, as Russia pressed ahead with a vast military operation against Ukraine.

Ukraine cut off fresh water supply along the canal that had supplied 85 percent of the peninsula's needs after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. 

The Soviet-era waterway was built to channel water from the Dnieper to arid areas of Ukraine's Kherson region and Crimea.

NATO’s expansion is serious threat, Raisi tells Putin

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call that NATO's expansion was a "serious threat" to the region's security and stability, the semi-official Nour News reported.

"NATO's expansion eastward creates tension and is a serious threat to the stability and security of independent states in various areas," Raisi was quoted saying following Russia's military attack on Ukraine.

"I hope what is happening will benefit peoples and the entire region," he said.

Ivano-Frankivsk city in western Ukraine.
Ivano-Frankivsk city in western Ukraine. (Photo credit: Ulya Pilipets)

'No other way to defend Russia other than attacking Ukraine'

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Moscow had no other choice but to attack Ukraine to ensure Russia's security, speaking hours after his army crossed his ex-Soviet neighbour's borders.

"What was happening left us with no choice," the Russian leader said during a televised meeting with business representatives, adding that "we had no other way of proceeding".

G7 agreed on 'devastating' sanctions against Russia: Biden

US President Joe Biden has said that the G7 group has agreed to impose "devastating" economic sanctions against Russia over its attack on Ukraine.

"This morning, I met with my G7 counterparts to discuss President Putin's unjustified attack on Ukraine and we agreed to move forward on devastating packages of sanctions and other economic measures to hold Russia to account. We stand with the brave people of Ukraine," Biden tweeted.

First day of Ukraine operation successful: Russian military

Russia's defence ministry has said that its military had destroyed 83 Ukrainian land-based targets, the Interfax news agency quoted it as saying.

Russia's defence ministry achieved all its goals in Ukraine for the first day, Interfax reported, citing the ministry.

"All of the tasks assigned to the groups of troops of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation for the day were successfully completed," Defence Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said.

Red Cross fears 'massive' casualties in Ukraine

The Red Cross chief has warned that Russia's attack on Ukraine risked death and destruction at a scale "frightening to contemplate".

Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a statement that Moscow's operation "has sent an ominous chill down my spine."

"We already see the immediate consequences for civilians, with the latest intensification triggering new displacement," he said.

13 civilians, 9 troops killed in south Ukraine region 

Russian armoured columns from Crimea pushed deep into the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson on the first day of their operation, triggering fighting that left at least 13 civilians dead.

Nine Ukrainian soldiers were also killed, the Kherson regional administration said, as the Russian force seized crossing points from Crimea to the mainland and a crossing over the Dnipro river.

British leader orders asset freeze for all Russian banks

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he will aim to cut Russia off from the UK’s financial markets as he announced a new set of sanctions in response to President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine.

The sanctions include freezing the assets of all major Russian banks, including VTB Bank, the nation’s second-biggest bank, Johnson said. Britain also plans to bar Russian companies and the Russian government from raising money on UK markets.

Britain will also ban the export of a wide range of high-tech products, including semiconductors, to Russia and to prohibit the nation’s flagship airline, Aeroflot, from landing at UK airports.

Ukraine leader says Russia captures airfield near Kiev

Russian airborne troops have seized control of the Gostomel airfield, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

He vowed to retake an airfield close to the capital Kiev captured by Russian forces. 

"Enemy paratroopers have been blocked in Gostomel – our troops have been given the order to destroy them," Zelenskyy said in a video address. 

The Gostomel airfield, which is alongside the Antonov airport, is immediately on the northern edge of Kiev, and the fighting there is the closest that Russian forces had got to the Ukrainian capital on the first day of their operation.

This is a declaration of war against the whole of Europe.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Ukraine capital Kiev declares curfew: mayor

Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klitschko has announced an overnight curfew in Ukraine's capital as the country battled to repel a Russian attack.

The former world heavyweight boxing champion said the curfew would last from 2000 GMT to 0500 GMT (10:00PM to 7:00AM local time) and that public transport would stop working during that period.

Metro stations would remain open throughout to serve as bomb shelters, he said.

Turkish-owned ship hit by bomb off coast of Odessa

A Turkish-owned ship has been hit by a bomb off the coast of Ukraine's port city Odessa, Türkiye's Maritime General Directorate said, adding there were no casualties and the ship was safely en route to Romanian waters.

"Upon information that the Marshall Islands-flagged Turkish-owned Yasa Jupiter ship was struck by a bomb off the coast of Odessa, it was learned that the ship has no request for help, is en route to Romanian waters, has no casualties and is safe," the authority said on Twitter. 

Dozens detained at anti-war rallies in Russia

Dozens of people gathering in Moscow and Saint Petersburg to protest against Russia's attack on Ukraine have been detained, according to AFP journalists at the demonstrations.

Riot police at Pushkin Square in central Moscow arrested dozens of people, while around 20 people have been detained in Russia's former imperial capital Saint Petersburg.

US believes Russia planning to 'decapitate' Ukraine's govt

The United States believes that Russia's attack on Ukraine is designed to decapitate Ukraine's government and one of the three main axes of assault is directed at the capital Kiev, a senior US defence official has said.

"It is our assessment that they have every intention of basically decapitating the government and installing their own method of governance, which would explain these early moves," said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

74 military facilities in Ukraine destroyed: Russia

Russia has said that its military had destroyed more than 70 military targets including 11 airfields in Ukraine.

"As a result of strikes carried out by the Russian armed forces, 74 Ukrainian military ground facilities were destroyed," said Igor Konashenkov, a defence ministry spokesman. 

Destroyed facilities included 11 airfields, three command posts and 18 radar stations of the S-300 and Buk-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems, he said.

He said a Ukrainian military helicopter and four drones had also been shot down.

Battle underway for airbase on Kiev outskirts

Russian and Ukrainian forces are battling for control of an airbase on the northern outskirts of Kiev, a senior Ukrainian officer has said, as dozens of attack helicopters swooped on the area.

"Fighting is underway for Gostomel airfield," armed forces chief Valeriy Zaluzhny said in a message posted on Facebook. 

Ukraine military plane with 14 aboard crashes near Kiev

A Ukrainian military plane with 14 people aboard crashed south of Kiev, the emergencies service has said.

The service said it was "still determining how many people died." The incident occurred about 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Kiev, amid reports of several locations around the city coming under attack.

Moscow warns Russians against joining anti-war protests

Russian authorities have warned anti-war sympathisers from gathering for protests, after President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale military operation in Ukraine.

The Investigative Committee in a statement warned Russians of legal repercussions for joining unsanctioned protests related to "the tense foreign political situation".

Ukraine requests closing Turkish Straits for Russian forces

Ukraine's ambassador in Ankara has requested Türkiye to close the Canakkale (Dardanelles) and Istanbul (Bosphorus) Straits to Russian forces.

Vasyl Bodnar said at a news conference that they have made an official request to Ankara to close their airspace and straits to Russia.

Russian forces break into Kiev region

Russian forces have broken through into the north of the Kiev region, Ukraine's border guards have said, staging an attack with Grad missiles on government positions.

An AFP reporter in the northern part of Ukraine's capital also saw several low-flying helicopters flying toward the city, amid reports that an airfield was under attack.

South Korea says will join sanctions against Russia

South Korea will join international economic sanctions against Russia over its "armed invasion" of Ukraine, President Moon Jae-in has said.

"The sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine must be guaranteed," Moon said, in a statement issued by Seoul's presidential Blue House.

South Korea will "support and participate in the efforts of the international community, including economic sanctions", he added, calling Moscow's military attack on Ukraine an "armed invasion".

China 'understands' Russia's concerns on security

Beijing has told Russia's foreign minister it understands Moscow's "reasonable concerns on security issues" over Ukraine, according to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke with his Russian counterpart on the phone, telling him that although Beijing "has always respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries... we have also seen that the Ukrainian issue has its own complicated and unique history". 

Russia's brazen attack will not go unpunished: Canada

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned Russia's "egregious" and "unprovoked" attack on Ukraine, calling on Moscow to immediately withdraw from the country and saying its aggression "will not go unpunished."

"Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms Russia's egregious attack on Ukraine," Trudeau said in a statement.

The Canadian leader called on Russia to "immediately cease all hostile and provocative actions against Ukraine and withdraw all military and proxy forces from the country."

Romania: Putin threatens peace of whole planet

The president of Romania has condemned Russia’s “reprehensible” attack on Ukraine and said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “threatens the peace of the entire planet.”

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said that Russia “chose the reprehensible and completely illegal path of massive armed violence against an independent and sovereign state.”

NATO working on deterrence plan: Stoltenberg

NATO has no "plans" to send alliance troops to Ukraine, its chief Jens Stoltenberg has said.

The alliance would take new deterrence and defence steps after Russia's military operations in Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg said at a media conference.

The plan would include putting over 100 warplanes on high alert and further increase the presence of troops on the alliance's eastern flank.

NATO will hold a video summit on Friday to discuss the Russian operation, Stoltenberg said.

"Russia is using force to try to rewrite history, and deny Ukraine its free and independent path."

Over 40 Ukraine soldiers, nearly 10 civilians killed

More than 40 Ukrainian soldiers and around 10 civilians have died in the first hours of Russia's attacks on Ukraine, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told reporters.

"I know that more than 40 have been killed and several dozen wounded. I am aware of nearly 10 civilian losses," presidential administration aide Oleksiy Arestovych told reporters.

Casualties in attack near Ukraine's Odessa

Eighteen people have died in an air strike on a military base near Ukraine's Black Sea port city of Odessa.

"Eighteen died — eight men and 10 women. At the moment, we are still digging through the rubble," the Odessa regional administration said in a statement.

Ukraine forces say '50 Russian occupiers' killed

Ukraine's military command has said government forces killed "around 50 Russian occupiers" while repulsing an attack on a town on the frontline with Moscow-backed rebels.

"Shchastya is under control. 50 Russian occupiers were killed. Another Russian plane was destroyed in the Kramatorsk district. This is the sixth," the armed forces general staff said on Twitter.

Ukraine breaks diplomatic ties with Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has severed Kiev's diplomatic relations with Moscow.

It marked the first rupture in ties since Russia and Ukraine became independent countries after the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991.

Later, Zelenskyy compared Russia's attack on his country to military campaigns carried out by Nazi Germany during World War II.

"Russia has attacked Ukraine in a cowardly and suicidal way, like Nazi Germany did during World War II," he said in an online briefing, during which he called on Ukrainians to "go out" and "protest against this war".

China calls for restraint, rejects the term 'invasion'

China has rejected calling Russia's moves on Ukraine an "invasion" and said it is closely monitoring the latest situation.

"We call on all sides to exercise restraint to prevent the situation from getting out of control," said Hua Chunying, spokesperson at China's Foreign Ministry.

At a daily media briefing in Beijing, Hua bridled at journalists' characterisation of Russia's actions. "This is perhaps a difference between China and you Westerners. We won't go rushing to a conclusion," she said.

"Regarding the definition of an invasion, I think we should go back to how to view the current situation in Ukraine."

"The Ukrainian issue has other very complicated historical background that have continued to today. It may not be what everyone wants to see."

Five Russian planes, one chopper downed: Kiev military

The Ukrainian military has claimed to have downed five Russian planes and a helicopter in the east of the country near a rebel-held enclave.

"According to the Joint Forces Command, today, February 24, in the area of the Joint Forces operation, five planes and a helicopter of the aggressors were shot down," the army general staff said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced "special military operation" in Ukraine, in a dramatic escalation that drew scathing condemnation by the West.

Ukraine's air defence systems 'eliminated': Russia

Russia's Defence Ministry has said it had neutralised Ukrainian military airbases and its air defence systems.

"Military infrastructure at Ukrainian army air bases has been rendered out of action," the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement carried by news agencies.

Russian ground forces cross into Ukraine

Russia's ground forces have crossed into Ukraine from several directions, Ukraine's border guard service has said.

Russian tanks and other heavy equipment crossed the frontier in several northern regions, as well as from the Kremlin-annexed peninsula of Crimea in the south, the agency said.

It said one of its servicemen died in a shelling attack along the Crimean border, the first officially confirmed military death of the Russian attack.

Moscow-backed Ukraine rebels advancing: Russian army

The Russian army has said Moscow-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine were advancing and had gained territory.

Military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov told state television that forces of the Donetsk People's Republic gained "up to three kilometres" (1.8 miles) in territory and those of the Luhansk People's Republic "advanced one and a half kilometres".

He added that Russia had "high precision weapons" and that Ukrainian civilians had "nothing to fear."

Konashenkov said the Russia-backed rebel troops are "now fighting and inflicting...damage on the enemy".

Ukraine asks Türkiye to close Black Sea waterways to Russia

Ukraine has asked Türkiye to close the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to Russian ships.

Under a 1936 pact, Ankara has control over the straits and can limit warship passages during wartime or if threatened.

"We are calling for the air space, Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits to be closed. We have conveyed our relevant demand to the Turkish side," Ambassador Vasyl Bodnar told a news conference in Ankara.

"At the same time, we want sanctions imposed on the Russian side." 

Belarus says its army not taking part in Russian operation

Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko has said his military is not taking part in the Russian operation in Ukraine, as Kiev said Moscow's troops were entering from Belarusian territory.

Minsk said Putin called Lukashenko in the early hours of Thursday — at around 5:00 am (0200 GMT) — to inform him that Moscow was launching a military operation on Ukraine.

Lukashenko, an ally of Vladimir Ukraine, said the Russian leader told him the "aim" of the operation was to "stop the genocide of the people in the Donetsk and Luhansk republics."

Germany: EU, NATO, G7 to launch 'massive sanctions'

Germany has said the EU, NATO and the G7 would work to hit Russia with severe sanctions.

"We will launch the full package with the most massive sanctions against Russia and we will strengthen our security and our allies," Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

"We have not chosen this situation," she added, but "if we don't stand up to it now, we will pay an even higher price".

Lithuania to impose emergency

EU and NATO member Lithuania has said it will impose a state of emergency after the Russian army's air and ground attack on Ukraine.

"Today I will sign a decree imposing a state of emergency," Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said after a meeting of the national defence council.

Nauseda added that Lithuania would request the activation of NATO's Article 4, which provides for emergency consultations if a member of the alliance is threatened.

World must compel Russia to peace: Zelenskyy

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the country's allies were building a "coalition" against Russian President Vladimir Putin, and urged the world to take measures to force Moscow to stop its attack.

"We are building an anti-Putin coalition," Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter on Thursday, after talks with the leaders of the US, EU, Britain, Germany and Poland. 

"The world must compel Russia to peace," he wrote.

Johnson condemns 'horrific' attack by Russia

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has condemned Russia's "unprovoked" and "horrific" attack on Ukraine, as he prepared to chair an emergency meeting of top ministers and officials.

Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and vowed "the West would not stand by as (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin waged his campaign...," his office said.

"I am appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and I have spoken to President Zelenskyy to discuss next steps," Johnson said on Twitter.

"President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine. The UK and our allies will respond decisively."

Türkiye urges its citizens in Ukraine to stay home

Türkiye has asked its citizens in Ukraine to stay home. "Ukrainian airspace is still closed. At the current stage, we ask that you stay at home or in a safe place and avoid travel," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry added that necessary support and guidance will be provided to those who want to leave the country.

Australia targets Russia with "second phase" of sanctions

Australia has hit Russia with a "second phase" of sanctions over its assault on Ukraine, the first salvo in an expected battery of new international measures to punish Moscow.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned Russia's "illegal invasion" as he announced sanctions against 25 individuals, four entities involved in developing and selling military gear, and restrictions on four financial institutions.

He flagged further waves of sanctions would be imposed "as we identify those responsible for these egregious acts", including against 300 members of the Russian parliament.

France working with allies to "end the war": Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron has strongly condemned Russia's military action against Ukraine and vowed that Paris would work with allies to try to end the conflict.

"Russia must immediately put an end to its military operations," Macron wrote on Twitter, saying Russia had made the decision to "wage war" on Ukraine.

"France stands in solidarity with Ukraine. It stands by Ukrainians and is working with its partners and allies to end the war," he added.

Macron had repeatedly spoken to President Vladimir Putin seeking a diplomatic solution to the standoff but to no avail.

EU to hold Russia 'accountable', readies new sanctions

The European Union has said it will hold Russia "accountable" for its attack on Ukraine and was preparing fresh sanctions that will deal "massive and severe consequences" to Moscow.

"We strongly condemn Russia's unjustified attack on Ukraine," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel each wrote on Twitter.

"In these dark hours, our thoughts are with Ukraine and the innocent women, men and children as they face this unprovoked attack and fear for their lives," they said. 

"We will hold the Kremlin accountable." 

EU leaders are to hold a snap summit later on Thursday.

Russia suspends movement of commercial vessels in Azov sea

Russia has suspended movement of commercial vessels in the Azov sea until further notice, five grain industry sources have told Reuters.

The Azov sea is home to shallow water ports of smaller capacity. "All ships are on 'stop' (in the Azov sea)," one of the sources said.

Russia's state agency for maritime and river transport did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.

Ukraine says military infrastructure under attack 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Russia is attacking his country's "military infrastructure" and border guards, but urged citizens not to panic and vowed victory.

In a video message posted on Facebook on Thursday, Zelenskyy also introduced martial law across the country, adding that he had spoken by phone with US President Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, the Russian defence ministry confirmed it was targeting Ukrainian military infrastructure with precision weapons.

"Military infrastructure, air defence facilities, military airfields, and aviation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are being disabled with high-precision weapons," it said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

'Unjustifiable': Italy condemns Russia's Ukraine move

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has lashed Russia's attack on Ukraine as "unjustified and unjustifiable," saying Europe and NATO were working on an immediate response.

"The Italian Government condemns Russia's attack on Ukraine. It is unjustified and unjustifiable. Italy is close to the Ukrainian people and institutions in this dramatic moment. We are working with European and NATO allies to respond immediately, with unity and determination," Draghi said in a statement.

Germany lashes out at Russia, warns of cost

Germany has blasted Russia's military operation in Ukraine as "a day of shame", and warned that the political and economic consequences for Moscow would be severe.

"Germany condemns in the strongest possible terms this unscrupulous act by President (Vladimir) Putin. Our solidarity goes out to Ukraine and its people," Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement.

Scholz, whose country currently holds the presidency of the G7 forum, urged Moscow to stop its military operation "immediately".

He also spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to express Germany's "full solidarity", government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in a tweet.

Ukraine will defend itself and will win: Minister

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia's Vladimir Putin of launching a "full-scale invasion".

"Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes," Kuleba tweeted.

"This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now."

Weeks of diplomacy and the imposition of Western sanctions failed to deter Putin, who had massed between 150,000 and 200,000 troops along the borders.

"I have made the decision of a military operation," Putin said in a surprise television announcement that sent global tensions soaring

Explosions heard in Ukraine capital, other cities

Explosions rang out before dawn on Thursday in Ukraine's capital Kiev and several cities near the frontline and along the country's coasts.

There were blasts in the Black Sea port city of Odessa, close to the frontline of a Russian-backed rebel enclave and just across the sea from Russian-occupied Crimea.

Explosions also rang out in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, which lies 35 kilometres (20 miles) south of the Russian border and outside the eastern zone where Kiev.

Closer to the eastern war zone, four loud blasts were heard in Kramatorsk, which serves as the Ukrainian government's effective capital for the eastern war zone. 

More blasts rang out in Mariupol, a port on the Sea of Azov which provide a land bridge between Russia and the Kremlin-annexed Crimea peninsula.

'Reckless and unprovoked attack': NATO chief slams Russia

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has denounced Russia's "reckless and unprovoked attack" on Ukraine, warning it put "countless" lives in jeopardy. 

He said NATO allies "will meet to address the consequences of Russia's aggressive actions".

"This is a grave breach of international law, and a serious threat to Euro-Atlantic security. I call on Russia to cease its military action immediately and respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Stoltenberg said in a statement.

Ukraine is not a member of the 30-nation Western military alliance but its attempt to join have angered the Kremlin leader.

Putin has demanded guarantees from NATO and the US that Ukraine would never be granted membership.

Give peace a chance: UN chief to Putin

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a direct plea to Russian President Vladimir Putin late on Wednesday, urging him not to attack Ukraine.

"So, if indeed, an operation is being prepared, I have only one thing to say from the bottom of my heart: President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine," Guterres said at a UN Security Council meeting requested by Ukraine.

"Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died," he added.

Russia begins 'military operation' in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced a "military operation" in Ukraine and warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to "consequences they have never seen."

He said the attack that began on Thursday was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine – a claim the US had predicted he would falsely make to justify an "invasion".

In a televised address, Putin accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia's demand to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and offer Moscow security guarantees. He said Russia's goal was not to occupy Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden denounced the "unprovoked and unjustified" attack on Ukraine and said the world will "hold Russia accountable."

As Putin spoke, big explosions were heard in Kiev, Kharkiv, and other areas of Ukraine.

Ukraine says will defend and win against Russia's 'aggressive war'

Ukraine has called Russian attacks on it an "aggressive war" and vowed Kiev will defend itself and win. 

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russian leader Putin started a full-scale war against Ukraine and strikes on peaceful Ukrainian cities are going on.

"Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes," Kuleba tweeted.

"This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now."

Explosions were heard before dawn in Ukraine's capital Kiev and the eastern port city of Mariupol, shortly after Putin announced an operation to "demilitarise" the country.

AFP correspondents in both cities heard powerful blasts and in Mariupol, close to the frontline and the Russian border, residents reported hearing artillery in the city's eastern suburbs.

Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations implored the Security Council, chaired by Russia, to "do everything possible to stop the war" against his country.

"It is the responsibility of these bodies to stop the war," Sergiy Kyslytsya told a late-night meeting of the 15-member council which began shortly after Putin announced a military operation in Ukraine.

Kyslytsya urged Russia's UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the council, to "call Putin, call (Foreign Minister Sergey) Lavrov to stop (the) aggression."

Biden says US, allies will respond to 'unjustified' attack by Russia on Ukraine

The United States and its allies will respond in a united and decisive way to "an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces" on Ukraine, US President Joe Biden has said after blasts were heard in the Ukrainian capital.

"President (Vladimir) Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering," Biden said in a statement.

"Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring. The world will hold Russia accountable."

Biden said he would announce on Thursday further measures to be imposed on Russia by the United States and its allies.

Russia's Putin orders military operations in Ukraine's Donbass

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced a military operation in Ukraine, claiming it’s intended to protect civilians.

In a televised address early on Thursday, Putin said the action comes in response to threats coming from Ukraine. 

He added that Russia doesn't have a goal to occupy Ukraine. Putin said the responsibility for the bloodshed lies with the Ukrainian "regime."

Putin warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to "consequences they have never seen."

He accused the US and its allies of ignoring Russia's demands to stop Ukraine from joining NATO and offer Moscow security guarantees. He said the Russian military operation aims to ensure a "demilitarisation" of Ukraine.

Putin said all Ukrainian servicemen who lay down arms will be able to safely leave the zone of combat.

Putin warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to "consequences they have never seen."

Whoever tries to interfere with us, and even more so to create threats for our country, our people should know that Russia's response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences that you have never experienced in your history

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Kiev shuts airports, Russia closes huge swath of airspace over eastern Ukraine 

The Ukrainian government is closing airports in eastern Ukraine from midnight through 7 am [local time] because of the confrontation with Russia.

Ukrainian aviation authorities also have declared some airspace in the east to be "danger areas" because of attempts by Russian aviation authorities to seize control of the airspace.

Ukraine acted after Russia issued a ban on civilian air traffic in the airspace over eastern Ukraine.

Russia closed some airspace in the Rostov flight information region to the east of its border with Ukraine "in order to provide safety" for civil aviation flights, according to a notice to airmen.

Meanwhile, a conflict zone monitor said airlines should stop flying over any part of Ukraine because of the risk of an unintended shootdown or a cyberattack targeting air traffic control amid tensions with Russia.

Safe Airspace, which was set up to provide safety and conflict zone information for airlines after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014, said it had increased its risk level to "do not fly".

"Regardless of the actual movements of Russian forces into Ukraine, the level of tension and uncertainty in Ukraine is now extreme," Safe Airspace said on its website.

"This itself gives rise to significant risk to civil aviation."

Blinken says still time for diplomacy

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he believes Russia will invade Ukraine within hours after separatists asked for Russian help to repel "aggression" and as explosions rocked the breakaway eastern city of Donetsk.

Blinken told NBC News he expected Russian forces would attack Ukraine overnight although he still held out hope for diplomacy to pull Europe back from the brink of war.

"Everything seems to be in place for Russia to engage in a major aggression against Ukraine," Blinken said in an interview, adding he could not be precise about time or place.

UNSC members look to act on Ukraine but doomed to fail

United Nations Security Council members are preparing to put forward a draft resolution on Ukraine that will call out Russia over its actions toward its neighbor, said a Security Council diplomat, but the move is doomed to fail.

It will not be adopted by the 15-member council as Russia is a veto power –– along with the United States, France, Britain and China –– but it gives Washington and allies a chance to show that Moscow is internationally isolated over its actions on Ukraine.

"We work on the resolution in the Security Council.

I hope we can move to action in the next hours or days, ... and if we cannot succeed in the Security Council we'll go right away to the General Assembly," said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Zelenskyy: Russia approves offensive against Ukraine

Russia has approved an offensive against Ukraine, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not reply to his invitation to hold talks.

Zelenskyy made the remarks in a 10-minute address posted on Telegram during which he spoke in both Ukrainian and Russian. 

"I initiated a telephone call with the president of the Russian federation. Result: silence," Zelenskyy said in a late-night address.

On the Ukrainian border "nearly 200,000 soldiers are stationed, (as are) thousands of combat vehicles," Zelenskyy said, adding "major war in Europe" could be started by Russia soon.

"I am addressing you Russian citizens as a citizen of Ukraine. We share a more than 2,000 kilometre border, and there are almost more than 200,000 soldiers, thousands of combat vehicles."

Zelenskyy said: "We should stop, before it's too late. If the Russian leadership doesn't want to sit down at the negotiating table, they should sit at the table with  you. Do Russians want war? I'd love to answer this question but the answer depends only on you."

READ MORE: The invasion that never was? What's next for Russia in Ukraine

Ukraine requests urgent meeting of UN Security Council

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has demanded an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council regarding the latest appeal of pro-Russian separatists to Russia for military assistance.

"Ukraine has requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council due to the appeal by Russian occupation administrations in Donetsk and Luhansk to Russia with a request to provide them with military assistance, which is a further escalation of the security situation," Kuleba said on Twitter.

READ MORE: What sanctions have been imposed on Russia and will they be effective?

Ukraine under 'continuous' cyberattack

Ukraine is coming under a "continuous" cyberattack, the state cyber security agency has said, with attacks sharply escalating in the past week.

The agency said the latest strikes temporarily disabled several government websites, including those run by the cabinet of ministers, parliament, the foreign ministry, and the state security service.

It added that it blamed the attack on Russian actors, saying they are "no longer even trying" to hide their identity.

The sites of several ministries and banks went down for the first time last week, with officials suggesting the denial-of-service (DDoS) attack was of Russian origin.

Meanwhile, researchers at cybersecurity firm ESET said destructive software has hit hundreds of computers in Ukraine. 

READ MORE: Russia-Ukraine stand-off: What are Europe’s natural gas alternatives?

Ukraine says Russia evacuates chemical plant in Crimea

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said that Russia had evacuated night-shift staff at the Titan chemicals plant in Crimea.

The chemicals producer is in Armyansk in the northern part of the Ukrainian peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, about 2 km from territory under Ukrainian control.

The Titan plant and the Crimean department of the Russian emergency ministry were not available for comments.

Ukraine's foreign minister said the evacuation of the plant was a possible preparation for another staged provocation by Russia.

"Moscow seems to have no limits in attempts to falsify pretexts for further aggression," he said on Twitter.

Images show new deployments in western Russia near Ukraine

New satellite imagery has shown a number of new deployments in western Russia, many of them within 10 miles of the border with Ukraine and less than 50 miles from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, a private US company has said.

The images showed field deployment, military convoys, artillery and armored personnel carriers with support equipment and troops. 

The images released by Maxar Technologies, which has been tracking the buildup of Russian forces for weeks, could not be independently verified by Reuters news agency.

Kremlin: Ukraine rebels seek Russia's 'help' against Kiev

The Kremlin has said the heads of east Ukraine's breakaway leaders have asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for "help" to "repel aggression" from the Ukrainian army. 

Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the separatist republics "ask the president of Russia for help in repelling the aggression of the armed forces in Ukraine." 

The statement was carried by Russian state news agencies.

Ukrainian parliament approves national state of emergency

Lawmakers in Ukraine have approved a nationwide state of emergency amid fears of an all-out Russian invasion.

The parliament approved Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s decree that imposes the measure for 30 days starting Thursday. 

The state of emergency allows authorities to impose restrictions on movement, block rallies and ban political parties and organisations “in the interests of national security and public order.” 

The document also bans “information materials that could destabilise the situation in the country,” and gives government the right to impose curfews and conduct checks

World facing a moment of peril: UN chief

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has told the General Assembly that the world is "facing a moment of peril" over Ukraine's crisis with Russia.

"If the conflict in Ukraine expands, the world could see a scale and severity of need unseen for many years," he warned the body on Wednesday.

Biden announces sanctions on Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline

US President Joe Biden has announced that Washington will join Germany in imposing sanctions on the Russian Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project in retaliation for Moscow's military pressure against Ukraine.

"I have directed my administration to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG and its corporate officers," Biden said in a statement. 

The measure, targeting one of energy-rich Russia's biggest geostrategic initiatives, comes a day after Germany announced it was halting the controversial project.

Ukraine's state websites, banks hit by another cyberattack

The websites of Ukraine's government, foreign ministry and state security service have been down in what the government said was the start of another massive denial of service (DDoS) attack that began at around 1400 GMT (4PM local).

Ukrainian authorities said this week they had seen online warnings that hackers were preparing to launch major attacks on government agencies, banks and the defence sector.

Ukraine has suffered a string of cyberattacks that Kiev has blamed on Russia. Moscow has denied any involvement.

Ukraine soldier dies in shelling attack: Armed forces

A Ukrainian soldier has died in a shelling attack near the front with the Moscow-backed separatist east, the armed forces said, as fears mount of a Russian invasion.

Ukraine's army did not specify the location of the attack, saying only that one soldier "suffered fatal injuries" and another was wounded in the shelling.

EU calls emergency summit on crisis

The EU will hold an emergency summit in Brussels on Russia's "aggressive actions" against Ukraine, European Council President Charles Michel has announced in a letter to the bloc's leaders.

"It is important that we continue to be united and determined and jointly define our collective approach and actions," he said.

"Therefore, I would like to invite you for a special European Council (summit) on Thursday 24 February, which will take place in person in Brussels and start at 1900 GMT (20:00PM local)."

Ukraine demands security guarantees from West, Russia

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded "immediate" security guarantees from the West and Moscow aimed at averting a feared Russian invasion.

"Ukraine needs security guarantees. Clear, specific, and immediate," Zelenskyy said.

"I believe that Russia must be among those countries giving clear security guarantees."

He warned that the future of European security was being decided in his country's standoff with Russia.

The future of European security is being decided right now, here in our home, in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Russia starts pulling diplomatic staff from Ukraine

Russia has started evacuating personnel from all of its diplomatic facilities in Ukraine.

Russia’s state news agency on Wednesday reported that the embassy in Kiev confirmed the evacuations have begun.  

An Associated Press photographer in Kiev saw the flag was no longer flying over the embassy building in the city.

Moscow also has consulates in Kharkiv, Odesa and Lviv. 

Ukraine security council calls for state of emergency

Ukraine's top security official has said the country would impose a state of emergency on all of its territory, apart from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions where it has been in place since 2014.

Oleksiy Danilov said the emergency state would last 30 days and could be extended for another 30 days. The security council has approved the plan.

The measure, which must be formally approved by parliament, requires stepped-up document and vehicle checks, among other measures.

Danilov also said Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had not discussed the development of nuclear weapons, something Vladimir Putin has said posed a strategic threat for Russia.

Putin says Russia's interests 'non-negotiable'

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Moscow was ready to look for "diplomatic solutions" amid raging tensions with the West over Ukraine but stressed that the country's interests were non-negotiable.

"Our country is always open for direct and honest dialogue, for the search for diplomatic solutions to the most complex problems," Putin said.

But he added: "The interests of Russia, the security of our citizens, are non-negotiable for us."

He praised the battle-readiness of the Russian army and said the country would continue to develop state-of-the-art weapons.

We will continue to develop advanced weapon systems, including hypersonic and those based on new physical principles, and expand the use of advanced digital technologies and elements of artificial intelligence.. Such complexes are truly the weapons of the future, which significantly increase the combat potential of our armed forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Ukraine asks citizens to leave Russia

Kiev's foreign ministry has urged Ukrainians to refrain from travelling to Russia, and asked those in that country to leave immediately.

It said the growing threat of Russian "aggression" meant that it would be increasingly difficult to provide consular services for Ukrainian citizens in Russia.

Between two and three million Ukrainians are believed to be living in Russia today.

Pope warns of 'increasingly alarming scenarios'

Pope Francis has said "increasingly alarming scenarios" were emerging in Ukraine and threatening "the peace of all" amid fears of a Russian invasion.

"I ask all of the parties involved to abstain from any action that could cause still more suffering for the population," the pontiff said at the end of his weekly general audience on Wednesday.

Francis also said next Wednesday, which is Ash Wednesday in the Christian calendar and the beginning of the period of Lent, would be a "day of fasting and of prayer for peace".

China accuses US of fuelling tensions

China has accused the United States of "raising tensions" and "creating panic" over the Ukraine crisis, shortly after Washington announced sanctions against Moscow and said it would continue to supply weapons to Ukraine against a Russian invasion.

"If someone is adding fuel to the fire while blaming others...then that behaviour is irresponsible and immoral," foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters on Wednesday.

She said China had "called on all parties to respect and attach importance to each other's legitimate security concerns, strive to resolve issues through negotiation and consultation, and jointly maintain regional peace and stability".

Taiwan condemns Russia over Ukraine standoff

Taiwan's president has condemned Russia for ordering troops into rebel-held regions in Ukraine, and claimed the crisis was being used to hurt morale on the island, which has long been under the threat of a Chinese invasion.

"Our government condemns Russia's violation of Ukraine's sovereignty... and urges all parties to continue to resolve the disputes through peaceful and rational means," President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday.

Self-ruled democratic Taiwan has watched the Ukraine situation closely, as China claims sovereignty over the island and has vowed to seize it one day.

Minister: Germany can do without Russian gas

Germany can meet its energy needs without Russian gas, its economy minister has said.

Asked on public radio if Europe's largest economy could do without natural gas deliveries from Russia, currently its largest supplier, Economy Minister Robert Habeck responded on Wednesday: "Yes, it can."

On Tuesday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the approval of the controversial NordStream 2 pipeline from Russia would be suspended in response to President Vladimir Putin's decision to recognise two breakaway regions of Ukraine.

Libya urges Russia to withdraw forces from Ukraine

Libya has urged Russia to withdraw all its forces from Ukrainian territories and from Ukraine’s borders.

“The Government of Libya joins the international community’s call on Russia not to launch a military attack against Ukraine. We reaffirm our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Libya’s Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.

The country also refused to recognise the independence of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic nor the Luhansk People’s Republic.

It called on Russia to use the language of diplomacy and dialogue instead of violence and war. 

One Ukrainian soldier killed, six wounded

The Ukrainian military has said one soldier had been killed and six wounded in shelling by pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine in the past 24 hours as ceasefire violations remain at a high level.

The military had recorded 96 incidents of shelling by separatists over the past 24 hours compared with 84 a day earlier. 

It said separatist forces used heavy artillery, mortars and Grad rocket systems.

Civilians arrive in Russian capital Moscow after Russia’s decision to recognize the Donetsk region as an independent state.
Civilians arrive in Russian capital Moscow after Russia’s decision to recognize the Donetsk region as an independent state. (AA)

Australia, Japan slap Russia with sanctions

Japan is imposing sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, including prohibiting the issuance of Russian bonds in Japan and freezing the assets of certain Russian individuals, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said.

Kishida, who also called on Russia to return to diplomatic discussions, said he did not see a significant impact on energy supplies in the short term from the current situation and said further steps would be considered should the situation worsen.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison also imposed sanctions on some Russian individuals, announced travel bans and targeted financial sanctions over Moscow's moves in eastern Ukraine. 

"Australians always stand up to bullies, and we will be standing up to Russia, along with all of our partners," he said.

"I expect subsequent tranches of sanctions, this is only the start of this process."

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Venezuela announces support for Russia

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has firmly announced his support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, amid what he described as plans by the West to "surround Russia militarily and strategically".

Maduro discussed the escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine for more than half an hour during the meeting with his cabinet.

"President Putin denounced before the UN Security Council that they  (NATO) intend to surround Russia, pointing all NATO weapons at Russia in order to attack and destroy it when the conditions are right," Maduro said.

"And what does the world expect from President Putin, that he should stand idly by and not act in defence of his people? That is why Venezuela announces its full support to President Vladimir Putin."

Biden-Putin summit is 'certainly' not being planned now

A possible meeting between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is "certainly" not an option at the moment, the White House has said.

"At this point, it certainly is not in the plans," said White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, who added that a de-escalation of conflict with Ukraine would be needed for such a summit.

READ MORE: What options does Russia have to invade Ukraine?

READ MORE: Nord Stream 2 is key in energy chess game between Russia and the West

Blinken cancels Geneva meeting with Russia's Lavrov

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has cancelled plans to meet his Russian counterpart in Geneva later this week as Russia presses ahead with recognition of separatist regions of Ukraine and sends troops there.

Russia's actions indicated Moscow was not serious about a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis, Blinken said during a joint press conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at the State Department.

As a result, he said he had called off his Thursday meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Echoing President Joe Biden, Blinken said Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to recognise the independence of Ukraine's Donbass region was a violation of international law. And, he said the placement of Russian troops there constituted the beginning of an invasion.

Although he held out hope for a peaceful resolution through diplomacy, he said he did not believe a meeting with Lavrov would be productive at this time.

Kuleba, for his part, said Ukraine "strongly" believes that the time for imposing sanctions on Russia and its leadership is now, to prevent a further invasion.

"The world must respond with all its economic might to punish Russia for the crimes it has already committed and ahead of the crimes it plans to commit. Hit Russia's economy now, and hit it hard," he said.

READ MORE: The US provoked the Russian invasion to maintain its global primacy

UN chief concerned by 'perversion of peacekeeping'

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he was "concerned about the perversion of the concept of peacekeeping" after Moscow ordered Russian troops into eastern Ukraine to "keep the peace."

"When troops of one country enter the territory of another country without its consent, they are not impartial peacekeepers. They are not peacekeepers at all," Guterres told reporters.

The United States has dismissed Russia's justification to deploy troops as "peacekeepers" as "nonsense."

READ MORE: Explainer: What to know about Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions

Canada imposes sanctions on Russia

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced economic sanctions on Russia, saying Moscow's actions against Ukraine were "a further invasion of a sovereign state, and it is completely unacceptable."

"We will ban Canadians from engaging in purchases of Russian sovereign debt. And we will apply additional sanctions on to state-backed Russian banks and prevent any financial dealings with them," Trudeau said, announcing a series of measures.

Ukraine calls up reservists, launches programme of 'economic patriotism'

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he was calling up reservists for a special period but ruled out a general mobilisation after Russia announced it was moving troops into eastern Ukraine.

Zelenskyy said he was still pursuing diplomatic ways out ofthe crisis and welcomed Türkiye's willingness to participate in multilateral talks, but said Ukraine would not cede any territory to Russia.

Addressing the nation after a cross-party meeting inparliament, Zelenskyy announced a programme of "economic patriotism" that included incentivising local production and value added tax cuts on gasoline. 

Romania says it can host 500,000 refugees if Russia invades Ukraine

Romania can host over 500,000 Ukrainian refugees if the country is invaded by Russia, Defence Minister Vasile Dincu has said.

Speaking to the press, Dincu said Romania does not expect a huge migrant flow to the country but is prepared to receive more than 500,000 refugees if necessary.

Dincu said the Defence Ministry and the Interior Ministry got together to designate areas to shelter refugees along the border in case of a war between Russia and Ukraine.

Urging Romanians to stay calm, Dincu said there will be no war on their land.

He said conditions for an armed conflict have appeared, adding: "I hope diplomats will continue to talk, not soldiers."

Biden announces first tranche of Russia sanctions

US President Joe Biden has announced what he called the "first tranche" of sanctions against Russia, including steps to starve the country of financing, saying Moscow had started an invasion of Ukraine.

"We're implementing full blocking sanctions on two large Russian financial institutions; VEB and their military bank," Biden said in a White House address, adding that the sanctions will target Russian sovereign debt.

"The measures also would target financial institutions, and Russian elites," the US leader added.

He declared that Moscow had flagrantly violated international law in what he called the “beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Biden said more sanctions could be on the way if Russia's President Vladimir Putin proceeds further.

Ukraine soldier killed, six wounded in war-torn east

A Ukrainian soldier has died and six received injuries in clashes with Moscow-backed rebels in the separatist east, the army said, as fears grow that Russia is preparing to invade.

"One soldier was killed" as a result of shelling from separatist-held areas in the Luhansk region, military spokesman Pavlo Kovalchuk told AFP news agency.

Russia says to evacuate diplomats from Ukraine soon

Russia has said it would soon evacuate its diplomatic staff from Ukraine "to protect the lives and safety (of diplomats)" after lawmakers allowed President Vladimir Putin to use force abroad, Moscow's foreign ministry said.

The diplomats have received threats and that its embassy and consulate has been under "repeated attacks", the ministry added.

Russia has also established diplomatic relations with Ukraine's separatist-controlled regions, recognised by Putin as independent this week, according to the ministry.

Pentagon chief calls on Putin to avoid full-blown "war of choice"

Russian President Putin can still avoid a full-blown war of choice, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the start of talks at the Pentagon with Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

"Mr Putin can still avoid a full-blown, tragic war of choice," Austin told Kuleba, adding: "We will continue to work closely with you."

Before reporters were escorted from the room, Kuleba said: "My message is simple: (a) strong Ukraine is the best deterrence of Russia."

Russia planning further invasion of Ukraine: Stoltenberg

Russia has not stopped planning for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine since recognising the independence of separatist enclaves, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said.

"Every indication is that Russia is continuing to plan for a full-scale attack of Ukraine," Stoltenberg told a news conference, adding that "more and more of the forces are moving out of the camps and are in combat formations and ready to strike."

"We continue to call on Russia to step back ... it's never too late not to attack," he added.

The NATO chief called the military action a “further invasion" of Ukraine by Russia which had already invaded its neighbour in 2014.

Stoltenberg said NATO put it its response force on higher readiness several weeks ago and has 100 jets on high alert and 120 ships at sea.

EU to sanction Russian individuals and entities

European Union foreign ministers have agreed to sanction 27 Russians and entities after Moscow recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, as well banks, the defence sector and limiting Russian access to European capital markets.

All members of Russia's Duma, parliament's lower house, will be hit with EU sanctions, which typically involve travel bans and asset freezes.

"This package of sanctions that has been approved by unanimity by the member states will hurt Russia, and it will hurt a lot," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told a news conference alongside France's foreign minister at a meeting in Paris.

White House calls Russian moves on Ukraine an invasion

The White House has begun referring to Russian troop deployments in eastern Ukraine as an “invasion” after initially hesitating to use the term, a red line that US President Joe Biden has said will result in the US levying severe sanctions against Moscow.

“We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine,” said Jon Finer, principal deputy national security advisor.

“An invasion is an invasion and that is what is underway.”

Lawmakers give Putin permission to use force outside Russia

Russia’s upper house of parliament has given President Vladimir Putin permission to use military force outside the country upon his request to utilise the Russian army to support separatists in Ukraine.

That could presage a broader attack on Ukraine after the US said an invasion was already underway there.

Putin: Ukraine peace agreement 'does not exist' anymore

Russian President Putin has said that Western-brokered peace agreements seeking to end a conflict in eastern Ukraine no longer existed, after he recognised the independence of the ex-Soviet country's separatist regions.

"The Minsk agreements do not exist now, we recognised the DNR and LNR," Putin said, using the abbreviations for the separatist regions in Donetsk and Luhansk.

He also called for international recognition of Crimea as part of Russia, an end to Ukraine’s NATO membership bid and a halt to weapons shipments there.

Ukraine minister urges EU to promise future membership

Ukraine's foreign minister has urged European Union member states to promise his country future membership in the bloc in response to Russia's attempts to isolate it.

"I called on the EU to put aside all the hesitation, all the reticence and skepticism that exists in European capitals and to give Ukraine the promise of future EU membership. That time has come," Dmytro Kuleba said.

"The best strategic decision Europe can make right now is to literally take Ukraine into itself."

HRW fears Russia will repeat Syria 'war crimes' in Ukraine

Human Rights Watch has highlighted Russia's track-record for bombing civilian infrastructure in Syria's conflict and voiced fear "war crimes strategy" could be repeated in Ukraine if the conflict escalates further.

Following Moscow's recognition of two self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine, HRW chief Kenneth Roth cautioned that the region could "be on the verge of a significant armed conflict".

Hungary to deploy troops near its border with Ukraine

Hungary is set to deploy an unspecified number of troops near its border with Ukraine, for both security purposes and humanitarian tasks, Hungary's defence ministry said on the government's official Facebook page.

Several countries in Eastern Europe have made preparations for potentially hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Ukraine if a crisis with Russia escalates.

UK sanctions five Russian banks, three individuals

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK will sanction five Russian banks and three high net worth individuals including Gennady Timchenko after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised two breakaway regions of east Ukraine.

"Today, the UK is sanctioning the following five Russian banks: Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank, and we're sanctioning three very high net worth individuals," Johnson told parliament.

The individuals concerned -- Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg -- will be banned from travelling to Britain and all UK individuals and entities will be banned from dealing with them and the banks.

The country also announced asset freezes and travel bans on high-profile individuals with close ties to President Putin.

It is absolutely vital that we hold in reserve further powerful sanctions ... in view of what President Putin may do next.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Putin pledges uninterrupted gas supplies as sanctions loom

Russia will continue uninterrupted natural gas supplies to world markets, Putin has pledged, after Germany halted a key gas pipeline's certification over Moscow's troop deployment to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

"Russia aims to continue uninterrupted (gas) supplies, including liquefied natural gas, to the world markets, improve related infrastructure and increase investments in the gas sector," Putin said in written remarks for a gas summit in Qatar.

Europe secures some 40 percent of its gas needs from Russia and was looking into approval of a newly-built Nord Stream 2 undersea gas pipeline which connects Russia with Germany.

EU, US welcomes Germany's decision to halt Nord Stream 2

Europe's energy supply would not be affected if the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline designed to bring Russian gas to Germany was halted, since the pipeline is not yet operating, the European Commission has said.

"Nord Stream 2 is not yet functioning, is not supplying energy to Europe. It's not a different source of energy, it's a different pipeline for an existing supplier... There's no change in the current situation," a Commission spokesperson told a regular press briefing.

The White House welcomed Germany’s decision and said that US sanctions would be announced soon.

READ MORE: Germany: Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia suspended

EU proposes Russia sanctions targeting banks, market access

The EU is set to target banks financing Russian operations in Ukraine's separatist territories following Moscow's recognition of their independence, and hit Moscow's access to European financial markets.

The proposed sanctions, which also include blacklisting officials and hitting trade with the breakaway regions, will be formally submitted later in the day, said a statement from EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel.

The measures have to be approved by all 27 EU members states.

Western leaders allege Russia sending troops to east Ukraine

Western leaders have said that Russian troops have moved into rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine after Putin recognised their independence.

But some indicated it was not yet the long-feared, full-fledged invasion.

Russia is not planning to send troops to eastern Ukraine "for now" but will do so in case of a "threat", Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko earlier said, after Moscow's parliament ratified cooperation deals with Ukraine's separatist republics.

NATO announces urgent meeting with Ukraine envoy

NATO has announced an "extraordinary" meeting with Ukraine's envoy after Russia recognised two separatist regions in the east of the country as independent.

A statement from the alliance said NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg would brief media after the talks with non-NATO member Ukraine.

China concerned about 'worsening' Ukraine situation

China is concerned about the "worsening" situation in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said, repeating his call for all parties to show restraint and resolve differences through dialogue.

The legitimate security concerns of any country should be respected, Wang, who is also a Chinese state councillor, told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a telephone call, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The situation in Ukraine is worsening," Wang told Blinken. "China once again calls on all parties to exercise restraint."

Iran urges 'restraint' in Ukraine crisis, blames West

Iran has urged "restraint" from both Russia and Ukraine while blaming the United States and NATO for the sharp escalation of tensions.

The Islamic Republic of Iran calls on all parties to exercise restraint and avoid any action that could aggravate tensions

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Ministry spokesperson Said Khatibzadeh added that "unfortunately, the interventions and provocative actions of NATO and mainly the US have complicated the situation in the region.

"We are following the issues related to this country with sensitivity."

UK to immediately impose hard economic sanctions on Russia

Britain will immediately impose hard economic sanctions on Russia, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

"We will immediately institute a package of economic sanctions," Johnson told reporters.

The sanctions, he said, would be "targeted not just at entities in Donbass and Luhansk and Donetsk, but in Russia itself - targeting Russian economic interests as hard as we can."

Ukraine reports two soldiers killed, 12 wounded

The Ukrainian military has said two soldiers have been killed and 12 wounded in shelling by pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine in the past 24 hours.

The military said on its Facebook page it had recorded 84 cases of shelling by separatists who it said had opened fire on about 40 settlements along the front line using heavy artillery.

Ukraine has accused Russia of provoking the violence, saying Moscow used it as a pretext to formally recognise eastern Ukraine as independent and move its troops into the region.

Servicemen of Ukrainian Military Forces walk along tranches on their position on the front line with Russia backed separatists, near Novognativka village, Donetsk region.
Servicemen of Ukrainian Military Forces walk along tranches on their position on the front line with Russia backed separatists, near Novognativka village, Donetsk region. (AFP)

US, allies lambast Russia over Ukraine at UN Security Council

The United States and its allies rounded on Russia during an emergency Security Council session, denouncing Vladimir Putin's recognition of rebel-held areas in Ukraine.

They termed Russian deployment of troops in the two breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine as a gross violation of international law and "pretext for war."

Ukraine's ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya insisted that his country's borders remain "unchangeable" despite Russia's actions.

Addressing the council, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield heaped scorn on Putin's assertion that the Russian troops would take on a peacekeeping role in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas.

China at UN urges restraint by all sides

China has called for restraint by "all sides" to avoid further escalation in the Ukraine crisis, urging a diplomatic solution during an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting.

"All parties concerned must exercise restraint and avoid any action that may fuel tensions. We welcome and encourage every effort for a diplomatic solution," said Zhang Jun, China's ambassador to the UN.

Civilians evacuated from Donetsk and Luhansk, located in Donbas region, arrive in Rostov, Russia following their evacuation.
Civilians evacuated from Donetsk and Luhansk, located in Donbas region, arrive in Rostov, Russia following their evacuation. (AA)

US to announce sanctions against Russia

The United States is coordinating with allies and will announce new sanctions against Russia.

"Tomorrow, the United States will impose sanctions on Russia for this clear violation of international law and Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity," US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said after a UN Security Council meeting.

Russia remains 'open to diplomacy': envoy

Russian envoy to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said Moscow remains "open to diplomacy" but stressed the need to defend separatist areas from what he dubbed Ukrainian aggression.

"We remain open to diplomacy for a diplomatic solution," he said during an emergency UN Security Council meeting. 

"Allowing a new bloodbath in the Donbass is something we do not intend to do."

Russian envoy to UN, Vasily Nebenzya

Türkiye urges its citizens to leave eastern Ukraine

Türkiye has "strongly" urged its citizens to leave eastern regions of Ukraine.

"In the light of the latest developments, we strongly urge our citizens to leave the Eastern regions of Ukraine. We recommend our citizens to contact our Embassy in Kiev when necessary," said the Turkish Foreign Ministry in a statement.

Japan says its ready to join US-led sanctions on Russia

Japan said it stood ready to join the United States and other G7 industrialized nations in slapping sanctions on Russia, should President Vladimir Putin order an invasion of Ukraine.

The confirmation by the world's No. 3 economy comes as the crisis in Europe deepens, with the Russian leader on Monday ordering troops into two breakaway regions in Eastern Ukraine that Russia now recognises as independent states.

READ MORE: World reacts to Russia's recognition of Ukraine regions as 'independent'

Monday, February 21, 2022

Military vehicles including tanks, APCs seen on Donetsk outskirts

Columns of military vehicles including tanks and armoured personnel carriers have rolled on the outskirts of Donetsk, the capital of one of two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised them as independent states.

Reuters news agency, citing its witness, said no insignia were visible, but the appearance of the vehicles came hours after Putin signed friendship treaties with the two separatist regions and ordered Russian troops to deploy on what Moscow called a peacekeeping operation.

Reuters reporters in Donetsk had not seen tanks on the streets in previous days.

President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into two rebel-backed regions of eastern Ukraine, sparking fears of a wider conflict in the region.
President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into two rebel-backed regions of eastern Ukraine, sparking fears of a wider conflict in the region. (TRTWorld)

Ukraine's borders remain 'unchangeable' despite Russian action

Ukraine's borders remain "unchangeable" regardless of Russia's recent actions, Kiev's ambassador to the United Nations has told the Security Council.

"The internationally recognised borders of Ukraine have been and will remain unchangeable regardless of any statements and actions by the Russian Federation," Sergiy Kyslytsya said during an emergency meeting called after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised the independence of two rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine.

He demanded Russia "cancel recognition" of two eastern breakaway regions and end occupation of Ukrainian territories. 

Russia tells UN it won't allow 'bloodbath' in Ukraine's Donbass

Russian envoy to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya has said Moscow remains "open to diplomacy" but stressed the need to defend separatist areas from what he dubbed Ukrainian aggression.

"We remain open to diplomacy for a diplomatic solution," he said during an emergency UN Security Council meeting. 

"However, allowing a new bloodbath in the Donbass is something we do not intend to do."

Nebenzya also warned Western powers to "think twice" and not worsen the situation in Ukraine.

Russia's order to deploy 'peacekeepers' in eastern Ukraine is 'nonsense'

Russia's order to deploy "peacekeepers" in eastern Ukraine is "nonsense," Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the United Nations has told Security Council meeting, adding that Moscow's recognition of the breakaway eastern regions was a part of its attempt to create a pretext for a further invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking at an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Ukraine, Greenfield said the consequences of Russia's actions will be dire across Ukraine, Europe and worldwide and that the humanitarian toll will expand significantly if Moscow invaded further.

Putin wants the world to travel back in time, to a time when empires ruled, this is not 1919

US envoy to UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield

Zelenskyy: Russia has destroyed peace efforts 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of wrecking peace talks and ruled out making any territorial concessions in an address to the nation.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine was committed to peace and diplomacy after Russia formally recognised two Russian-backed separatist regions as independent on Monday evening.

He said Ukraine is "not afraid of anything or anyone."

The president said Ukraine was expecting "clear and effective" steps from its allies to act against Russia and called for an emergency summit of the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France.

We are committed to the peaceful and diplomatic path, we will follow it and only it. But we are on our own land, we are not afraid of anything and anybody, we owe nothing to no one, and we will give nothing to no one

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Australia asks Russia to move its troops behind its own borders

Australia will be in lockstep with its allies on any sanctions on Russia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said.

Russia should unconditionally move its troops behind its own borders and stop threatening its neighbours, Morrison said during a media briefing.

"It's unacceptable, it's unprovoked, it's unwarranted ...some suggestion that they are peacekeeping is nonsense," Morrison said.

Tanks seen in Donetsk

A Reuters news agency witness has seen columns of military vehicles including tanks on the outskirts of Donetsk, the capital of one of the breakaways east Ukraine regions.

UNSC to meet urgently on Ukraine crisis

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting over Ukraine.

The meeting comes at the request of Ukraine, the United States and six other countries. Russia, which currently holds the rotating council presidency, has scheduled it for 9 pm [New York time.]

Yet undetermined is whether the meeting will be open or closed.

Ukrainian UN ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said in a letter to his Russian counterpart that Kiev is requesting the urgent meeting because Putin's actions violate Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, the UN Charter, and a 2014 UN General Assembly resolution.

It is virtually certain the Security Council will not take any action or issue any statement because Russia has veto power.

Türkiye: Russia's recognition of Ukraine regions 'unacceptable'

Türkiye has assailed Russia's recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent, calling it a violation of international agreements and Ukraine's territorial integrity.

"The decision of Russia to recognise the Donetsk and Luhansk Republics amounts to a clear violation of not only the Minsk agreements but also Ukraine's political unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

"We find Russia's so-called decision to be unacceptable and reject it," the ministry said, calling on all sides to respect international law.

NATO member Türkiye, which shares a maritime border with both Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, has good ties with both its neighbours, and has offered to mediate the crisis, while warning Moscow against invading Ukraine. Ankara also opposes sanctions on Russia.

READ MORE: Ukraine’s ‘revolution of dignity’ was a 'point of no return'https://twitter.com/DeptofDefense/status/1496168397293465601

We find Russia's so-called decision to be unacceptable and reject it

Turkish Foreign Ministry
Pro-Russian activists react on a street as fireworks explode in the sky, after Russian President Putin signed a decree recognising two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities, in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk,  February 21, 2022.
Pro-Russian activists react on a street as fireworks explode in the sky, after Russian President Putin signed a decree recognising two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities, in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, February 21, 2022. (Reuters)

US, allies request emergency UNSC meeting on Ukraine

The United States and allies including France have requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Russia's recognition of separatist territories in Ukraine as independent, diplomats told the AFP news agency.

The countries behind the request for the meeting, based on a letter from Ukraine to the UN, also include the United Kingdom, Ireland and Albania, the same sources said.

It is up to the rotating presidency of the Council, currently held by Russia, to formally schedule the meeting.

READ MORE: How a tiny breakaway state called Transnistria can alter the Ukraine crisis

OSCE reports more than 3,000 ceasefire violations 

Monitors from the OSCE European security body have reported more than 3,000 new ceasefire violations in east Ukraine, a high for the year that came ahead of Russia's decision to recognise separatist regions there.

In a daily report based on information received by Sunday evening, the OSCE reported 2,158 new violations in the Donetsk region and another 1,073 in neighbouring Luhansk.

Russia now has right to build military bases in eastern Ukraine

Russia has acquired the right to build military bases in Ukraine's two breakaway regions under new agreements with their separatist leaders there, according to a copy of an agreement signed by President Putin published on Monday.

Russia and the breakaway regions also plan to sign separate agreements on military cooperation and protection of borders, according to draft laws that Russia's State Duma lower house of parliament will consider. 

READ MORE: Russia's Putin recognises Ukraine breakaway regions as independent

US assures support to Ukraine

US President Joe Biden has condemned a decision by Russian President Putin to recognise two breakaway regions of Ukraine as he spoke to world leaders following the latest developments in the crisis.

"Biden strongly condemned Russian President Putin's decision to purportedly recognise the "independence" of the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine," on a call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the White House said.

Biden also "updated President Zelenskyy on the United States' response, including our plan to issue sanctions. President Biden reiterated that the United States would respond swiftly and decisively, in lock-step with its Allies and partners, to further Russian aggression against Ukraine."

Biden also discussed with France's Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Olaf Scholz "how they will continue to coordinate their response on next steps", according to another statement.

Putin orders Russian troops to eastern Ukraine's breakaway regions

President Vladimir Putin has ordered his Defence Ministry to dispatch Russian peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine's two breakaway regions, according to a decree published after Moscow recognised their "independence" from Kiev. 

In two official decrees late on Monday, Putin instructed the ministry to assume "the function of maintaining peace" in so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics.

Russia recognised both regions as independent statelets, defying Western warnings that such a step would be illegal and kill off long-running peace negotiations.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies