Live blog: More than 50,000 Ukrainians flee country in 48 hours
Russia continues with its Ukraine offensive as its soldiers close in on capital Kiev, drawing condemnations and expansive economic sanctions from the West. Follow our live updates:
UN: Over 50,000 Ukrainians flee country in 48 hours
Tens of thousands of people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian military operation less than two days ago, the United Nations refugee chief said.
Already on Thursday, the UN refugee agency warned that some 100,000 people had been displaced inside the country, and it said large numbers were fleeing into neighbouring countries.
“More than 50,000 Ukrainian refugees have fled their country in less than 48 hours — a majority to Poland and Moldova,” Filippo Grandi said in a tweet.
“And many more are moving towards its borders,” he said, offering “heartfelt thanks to the governments and people of countries keeping their borders open and welcoming refugees”.
Ukraine: More than 1,000 Russian soldiers killed so far
Ukraine’s Defence Ministry said that more than 1,000 Russian servicemen had been killed so far in the Ukraine.
“Russia has not suffered so many casualties during the fighting in any of its armed conflicts since its inception,” the ministry said.
‘We are all here,’ Ukraine’s Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy released a self-shot video from central Kiev vowing alongside key aides to stay and defend the capital against the Russian military operation.
“We’re all here. Our military is here. Citizens in society are here. We’re all here defending our independence, our country, and it will stay this way,” Zelenskyy said standing outside the presidency building.
Wearing olive green military-style clothing and standing with his prime minister, chief of staff and other senior aides, Zelenskyy appeared to be responding to pressure from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
Türkiye to send humanitarian aid convoy to Ukraine
The Turkish Red Crescent and state-run Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) announced that they would send a humanitarian aid convoy to Ukraine.
The convoy will “address urgent basic needs, coordinating with Red Cross Ukraine,” Kerem Kinik, the head of the Turkish Red Crescent, said on Twitter.
“Our teams are being deployed to the region with warehousing tents, family-type tents and mobile catering vehicles,” said Kinik, adding that these materials would be given to evacuees and internally displaced people.
For its part, AFAD stated that five trucks of humanitarian aid, including food, blankets, bedding, hygiene materials and tents, would be sent to Ukraine with a humanitarian team.
NATO deploys response units to bolster defences
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance is bolstering its defences with troops and air power on its eastern flank in response to the Russian operation in Ukraine.
He said allies had activated defence plans and “as a result … are deploying elements of the NATO Response Force on land, at sea and in the air”, including thousands more troops and over 100 jets put on high alert in 30 locations, he said.
NATO making more deployments in east
NATO leaders said they were deploying more troops to eastern Europe after Russia attacked Ukraine, saying that Moscow had lied about its intentions.
“No one should be fooled by the Russian government’s barrage of lies,” the 30 leaders said in a joint statement after a virtual summit chaired by Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
“We are now making significant additional defensive deployments of forces to the eastern part of the alliance,” the statement said, without giving more details.
US: Russia yet to achieve air superiority over Ukraine
A senior defence official said the US assesses that Russia is yet to achieve air superiority over Ukraine amid its military intervention in the former Soviet republic.
“Ukrainian air missile defense systems are still working though they were degraded by strikes,” said the US official at a teleconference. “They still have air missile defence capability, including aircraft, not just missile defence, but they also have aircraft in the air that continue to engage and deny air access to Russian aircraft.”
Russia is facing more resistance than Moscow anticipated, said the defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, suggested a mixed picture for the Russian effort to press an offensive that Washington and Kiev say is aimed at decapitating the government and installing a puppet regime.
Ukraine health minister accuses Russian troops of firing on ambulances
Ukraine’s health minister accused Russian troops of firing on ambulances in the Zaporizhzhya and Chernihiv regions.
Viktor Lyashko told Ukrainian TV Russian forces also opened fire, in a psychiatric hospital in Chernihiv.
EU agrees to freeze assets of Putin and minister
With a military intervention in Ukraine off the table for now, countries around the world looked to heap more financial punishment on Moscow, including the European Union’s approval of an asset freeze on Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The EU’s unanimous decision, part of a broader sanctions package, indicated that Western powers are moving toward unprecedented measures to try to force Putin to stop the brutal attack on Russia’s neighbor and from unleashing a major war in Europe.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics tweeted that the 27-nation bloc’s foreign ministers adopted the sanctions package and “the asset freeze includes President of Russia and its Foreign Minister.”
Borrell: Putin, Lavrov on EU sanctions list
The EU’s foreign policy chief said the bloc’s foreign ministers added Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the EU’s sanctions list.
“President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov are in the list of sanctioned people together with the remaining members of the Duma (Russian parliament) who are supporting this aggression,”
Josep Borrell told reporters after a meeting of the EU ministers in Brussels.
Russia barred from Eurovision over Ukraine attack
Russian entertainers will not be permitted to take part in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest following the attack on Ukraine, the European Broadcasting Union said.
“The decision reflects concern that, in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s Contest would bring the competition into disrepute,” the EBU said in a statement.
In addition to barring any Russian act from participating, Russia residents will also be blocked from voting in the kitschy competition.
“They are completely excluded from the whole event,” an EBU spokesman told AFP.
Putin calls on Ukrainian military to seize power from government
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on the Ukrainian military to seize power in their country.
“I once again appeal to the military personnel of the armed forces of Ukraine: do not allow neo-Nazis and (Ukrainian radical nationalists) to use your children, wives and elders as human shields,” Putin said at a televised meeting with Russia’s security council.
“Take power into your own hands, it will be easier for us to reach agreement.”
Putin added that Russian servicemen in Ukraine were acting “bravely, professionally and heroically.”
Guards fire shots as Ukrainians try to cram onto evacuation trains
Ukrainian guards fired warning shots to prevent a stampede at Kiev’s central railway station as thousands of people tried to force their way onto evacuation trains.
Crowds were so large that not everyone could get on the trains from the capital to the western city of Lviv as fears of a Russian assault on Kiev mounted.
When a train drew up at a platform, people rushed to the doors, hoping to get on board, some of them with their children and pets.
The guards fired several shots with blanks to disperse the crowd after screams broke out.