Russia-Ukraine news from February 28: UN General Assembly held its first emergency session in decades over Ukraine.
The live blog is now closed; thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for February 28:
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said his country may allow Ukrainians to come to Brazil through a humanitarian visa.
In an interview with TV channel Jovem Pan, the president said the country will do whatever is possible to receive Ukrainians in Brazil.
The White House said barring Russian flights over the United States is not off the table but there had not been a decision made on the matter.
“No option is off the table,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters. Psaki noted there are a lot of US airlines that fly over Russia to get to Asia and other parts of the world. “We factor in a range of factors,” she said.
The European Union has imposed sanctions on 26 more Russians, including oligarchs, senior officials and an energy insurance company, bringing the total of people targeted to 680.
EU headquarters said those listed include “oligarchs and businessmen active in the oil, banking and finance sectors,” government officials, top military brass and “propagandists who contributed to spread anti-Ukrainian propaganda and promote a positive attitude towards the invasion of Ukraine.”
The United States has ordered twelve members of Russia’s mission to the United Nations to leave America for engaging in non-diplomatic activities.
“Those diplomats that have been asked to leave the United States were engaged in activities that were not in accordance with their responsibilities and obligations as diplomats,” Deputy US Ambassador Richard Mills told the UN Security Council, without elaborating further.
On the fifth day of fighting, Ukrainian forces claim Russian troops have slowed their advance but are still aiming for Kyiv, while Russia reported progress in the south.
Naval battles were raging around the Black Sea port of Odessa as well as near Ochakiv and Chornomorsk. Russia was still trying to organise a naval landing at Mariupol on the shores of the southern Sea of Azov.
Ukraine said it was still is holding Kharkiv, 500 kilometres east of Kyiv, despite Russian bombardments. The Ukrainian army said three Russian missiles targeted Kyiv. One was intercepted.
Russia said it was besieging the cities of Kherson and Berdyansk close to Crimea. Ukraine confirmed Berdyansk has been occupied by Russian soldiers.
The office of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has said it will seek court approval to open an investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
“The next step is to proceed with the process of seeking and obtaining authorisation from the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court to open an investigation,” Prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement.
The European Union agreed for the first time to jointly finance weapons deliveries to a third country to help Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion, EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said.
A number of European countries including Norway, Italy and Finland have announced they will provide arms to Ukraine.
Russia’s foreign ministry has said those supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine will bear responsibility should they be used during Russia’s military campaign there.
The ministry added that the steps the European Union has taken against Russia will not be left without a harsh response.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey will will use its authority over the Turkish Straits under the 1936 Montreux Convention to prevent the Russia-Ukraine “crisis” from further escalating.
Under the convention, Turkey can stop foreign warships from going through the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus during a war. Ukraine asked Turkey to implement the treaty and bar access to Russian warships.
Erdogan criticised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but has also said his country “won’t give up” on its relations with either Moscow or Kyiv.
British oil giant Shell has announced in a statement to the London Stock Exchange that it plans to sell its stake in all joint ventures with Russia’s state-owned oil company Gazprom.
Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov has appealed to Russian soldiers, saying they will receive full amnesty and monetary compensation if they lay down their weapons.
“Those of you who do not want to become a murderer and die can save yourselves,” he said in a post on social media.
Ukraine’s ambassador has told a rare emergency session of the United Nations General Assembly that if his country is crushed, international peace and democracy are in peril.
“Have no illusions. If Ukraine does not survive, we cannot be surprised if democracy fails next,” Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “the guns are talking now, but the path of dialogue must always remain open.”
The meeting was the assembly’s first emergency session in decades. It came ahead of a vote this week to isolate Russia by deploring the “aggression against Ukraine” and demanding its troops stop fighting and withdraw.
The United States has imposed sanctions on Russia’s central bank and other sources of wealth, further punishing Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
The measures block any transactions involving Russia’s central bank, finance ministry or national wealth fund.
Last week, Washington imposed several rounds of sanctions, including against Russian President Vladimir Putin and major banks.
UEFA has ended its long-standing sponsorship partnership with Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom.
The sponsorship deal has been in place since 2012 and has been reported to be worth around 40 million euros per season.
The FIFA Council and the UEFA Executive Committee have suspended all Russian football teams, whether national representative teams or club teams, from participation in both competitions until further notice.
“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine,” UEFA said in a statement.
“Both Presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people.”
FIFA and UEFA suspend Russian clubs and national teams from all competitions.
Full statement: ⬇️
— UEFA (@UEFA) February 28, 2022
The movement of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has called for a campaign of civil disobedience to protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Putin declared war on Ukraine and is trying to make everyone think that Ukraine was attacked by Russia, that is, by all of us. But that’s not right,” the Navalny team wrote on its Twitter account.
“We must show that we do not support the war. We call on Russians to show civil disobedience. Do not be silent.”
Zelenskyy says he has signed an application for Ukraine to join the European Union.
The documents “are on the way to Brussels,” Andrii Sybiha, head of Zelenskyy’s office, said on his official Facebook page.
The application was largely symbolic, however, as the process could take years. EU membership must be unanimously approved by all members.
Ukraine has been weakened by endemic corruption for many years, making the benchmarks of approval extremely hard to reach.
The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association (AMEJA) has called on all news organisations to be mindful of implicit and explicit bias in their coverage of the war in Ukraine.
The organisation said it tracked examples of racist news coverage that ascribes more importance to some victims of war over others.
“This type of commentary reflects the pervasive mentality in Western journalism of normalising tragedy in parts of the world such as the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and Latin America,” AMEJA said.
The first round of talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations held at the border with Belarus has ended.
The outcome of the negotiations was not made public. The talks carried on for several hours and broke down twice, Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull said, adding that the length of the meeting “suggests they had something to talk about.”
Negotiators from Ukraine and Russia will return to their capital cities for consultations. The Russian delegation head, Vladimir Medinsky, said the two sides had “agreed to keep the negotiations going.”
The head of the regional administration in Kharkiv, Oleg Synegubov, has said that at least 11 people were killed and dozens of others wounded during Russian rocket attacks on the eastern Ukrainian city.
The city, Ukraine’s second-largest, has become one of the major battlegrounds since Moscow launched its invasion.
Synegubov said Russian forces were firing artillery at residential areas of Kharkiv where there are no Ukrainian army positions or strategic infrastructure.
“This is happening in the daytime, when people have gone out to the pharmacy, for groceries, or for drinking water. It’s a crime,” he said.
It was not immediately possible to independently verify the casualty figures. Earlier Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko said Russian rocket bombardments on Kharkiv on Monday had killed dozens of people.
The European Union faces an existential task to reduce its dependency on Russian oil and gas and move to renewable sources and hydrogen in the wake of Moscow’s attack on Ukraine, the bloc’s foreign policy chief says.
“Energy will not be out of this conflict, like it or not,” Josep Borrell told a news conference in Brussels.
“We have a dependency on Russian gas … and it is an existential policy to reduce this dependency,” he added, before warning the switch would not be easy.
About one-third of the natural gas used by the EU is currently supplied by Moscow.
French President Emmanuel Macron has told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to halt Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, his office said.
Macron also urged Putin to stop all attacks on civilians in Ukraine, preserve the country’s civilian infrastructure and provide safe access to key roads, especially south of the capital, Kyiv, his office added.
“President Putin confirmed his willingness to commit on these three points,” the Elysee palace said, adding that Macron and Putin also agreed to stay in contact during coming days.
In its own statement on the talks, the Kremlin said Putin had told Macron that a settlement on Ukraine was only possible if Kyiv was neutral and “demilitarised” and if Russian control over the annexed Crimean Peninsula was formally recognised.
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has observed a minute of silence for Ukraine as it opens a special emergency session to discuss Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.
UNGA President Abdulla Shahid led the UN’s 193 members in the moment of meditation before calling for “an immediate ceasefire” in the conflict.
As Russia’s war on Ukraine continues, questions about what Putin is trying to achieve are mounting.
Read Al Jazeera’s analysis on the Russian leader’s possible aims here.
Switzerland’s president says his country, which is traditionally neutral, will adopt all of the sanctions imposed by the EU on Russia.
“This is a big step for Switzerland,” Ignazio Cassis told a news conference after the Alpine nation had for days hesitated over whether to join with Western powers and move to economically punish Moscow for its assault on Ukraine.
Finance Minister Ueli Maurer told reporters that the holdings of those figuring on Brussels’ blacklist, including President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had been “frozen with immediate effect”.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says its executive board has recommended that international sport federations ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from participating in events.
The board said in a statement that in cases where it proves impossible to prevent athletes from the two countries competing, such as if there is insufficient time to give notice or for other “organisational or legal reasons”, they should be prevented from doing so under their nations’ banner.
“No national symbols, colours, flags or anthems should be displayed,” it added.
IOC Executive Board recommends no participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officialshttps://t.co/XZyLIi11XR
— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) February 28, 2022
Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine, says reports of deadly Russian attacks in the eastern city of Kharkiv are “truly disturbing”.
“[There have been] heavy attacks in the northeast of the city on very compacted, densely populated civilian neighbourhoods, with lots of tall apartment buildings and so on,” Hull said.
“There is no question whatsoever that these are anything but targeted attacks on a civilian neighbourhood,” he added.
“There are lots of pictures [on social media] showing explosions and suggestions that grad rocket fire has been used, others that bombs have been dropped by the air, and there are lots of [videos showing] flashes that indicate secondary explosions and the use of cluster munitions in amongst all of that.”
Russia has a system that can replace the SWIFT global payments system internally, the governor of the country’s central bank says.
Elvira Nabiullina told a news conference that all banks in Russia will fulfil their obligations and all funds on their accounts are secured.
The United States, European Union and United Kingdom have all agreed to block selected Russian banks from the SWIFT system, which facilitates moving money around thousands of banks and other financial institutions worldwide.
Putin has denounced the West an “empire of lies” while discussing Russia’s economy with Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and other top officials following the imposition of sweeping sanctions against Moscow, according to the Kremlin.
“[Mishustin] and I discussed this topic, naturally bearing in mind the sanctions that the so-called Western community – as I called it in my speech, the ’empire of lies’ – is now trying to implement against our country,” a transcript of the meeting quoted Putin as saying.
Russia’s defence ministry says its strategic missile forces and Northern and Pacific fleets have been placed on enhanced combat duty in line with an order from Putin, according to a report by the Interfax news agency.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin that “shifts on duty at the command posts of the Strategic Missile Forces, the Northern and Pacific Fleets, and the Long-Range Aviation Command began to carry out combat duty with reinforced personnel”, Interfax quoted the ministry as saying.
Guards intercepted a group of saboteurs plotting a suspected attack on one of Ukraine’s best known religious sites, the St Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv, a spokesman for the site has said.
Ukrainian church leaders have been at odds with Russia after Ukraine formed a new Orthodox church in January 2019, pushing away centuries of ties to Moscow.
The new church’s leader, Ukrainian Metropolitan Epifaniy, was thought to be “among the targets of Russian terror”, spokesman Yevstratiy Zoria said in a statement.
The US has suspended operations at its embassy in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, Secretary of State Antony Blinken says.
Blinken added in a statement that Washington had also authorised non-essential staff at the US embassy in Russia to leave the country.
“We took these steps due to security and safety issues stemming from the unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces in Ukraine,” he said.
Read story here.
U.S. Embassy Minsk has suspended operations.https://t.co/dT8kQQO8wl
— U.S. Embassy Minsk (@USEmbBy) February 28, 2022
As the Russian offensive enters its fifth day, Al Jazeera has put together a series of infographics showing where battles are taking place and the human cost of war, as hundreds of thousands of refugees stream out of Ukraine.
Click here to take a look.
EU defence ministers are set to discuss plans later to jointly finance deliveries of weapons worth 500 million euros ($560m) to Ukraine, and these will include a range of defensive arms aimed at helping assist Kyiv’s efforts to repel Russian forces, the bloc’s foreign policy chief says.
“Member states have to provide these arms, they have to coordinate with what they are doing … with these resources,” Borrell said in advance of the virtual meeting of the bloc’s defence ministers.
“The fight is fierce, Kyiv is resisting … and Russia is paying a high toll in number of casualties, but we have to provide the munitions, we have to provide the high-calibre guns and anti-tank equipment. Also fuel … for the tanks, for the planes, all that has to be coordinated.”
I am convening today the EU defence ministers, to discuss the latest situation on the ground in #Ukraine in view of Russia’s unprovoked assault.
We will discuss further urgent needs & coordinate our assistance, with help of the clearing house managed by the EU Military Staff.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) February 28, 2022
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who owns England’s Chelsea football club, has accepted a Ukrainian request to help negotiate an end to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, his spokeswoman says.
“I can confirm Roman Abramovich was contacted by the Ukrainian side for support in achieving a peaceful resolution, and that he has been trying to help ever since,” the spokeswoman said.
“Considering what is at stake, we would ask for understanding as to why we have not commented on either the situation as such or his involvement.”
The development was first reported by the UK’s Jewish News newspaper, which said Kyiv had reached out to Abramovich through his Jewish contacts in Ukraine in order to seek his assistance.
Dozens of people have been killed by Russian rocket attacks on the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko says.
“Kharkiv has just been massively fired upon by grads [rockets]. Dozens of dead and hundreds of wounded,” Herashchenko said in a post on Facebook.
There was no immediate comment from Moscow on Herashchenko’s remarks, and Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify his claim.
Ukraine’s president says Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has agreed to provide Kyiv with $100m of aid, on top of existing financial support.
“A truly global anti-war coalition works,” Zelenskyy tweeted after the pair spoke by phone.
Kishida said separately that Tokyo will join the international sanctions effort on Russia’s central bank and impose sanctions on Belarusian individuals and organisations including President Alexander Lukashenko given the country’s “evident involvement in the invasion” of Ukraine.
The developments came after former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Sunday that Tokyo should weigh whether to seek a nuclear sharing arrangement similar to NATO’s nuclear deterrence policy following Russia’s assault on its neighbour.
Talked with Prime Minister of Japan @kishida230. Thanked for a strong support to 🇺🇦 in countering aggression. 🇯🇵 allocates $100 million to the already approved aid of $100 million, fully supports tough sanctions against Russia. Thank you! A truly global anti-war coalition works.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) February 28, 2022
The website of Russian state news agency TASS appears to have been hacked, the Reuters news agency reports, with its regular site replaced with an anti-war message and calls to stop Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We urge you to stop this madness, do not send your sons and husbands to certain death,” the message read, Reuters reported, citing checks from several different devices.
“Putin is forcing us to lie and is putting us in danger … It’s not our war, let’s stop him!” it continued.
Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Moscow, says Ukraine and Russia “seem very, very far apart on what they want out of the talks”.
“Russia, we already know, has asked for an unconditional surrender of the Ukrainian forces,” Smith said.
“Vladimir Putin has called on the Ukrainian forces to overthrow the government of Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said he does not recognise the current Ukrainian government as democratic, even though Zelenskyy was elected with 73 percent of the vote in 2019,” he added.
“And it seems Russia is continuing fighting, even while these talks are taking place … so both sides are very far apart and it is hard to see how they can come to an agreement on a ceasefire.”
More than 500,000 people have fled Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion, Filippo Grandi, the UN’s high commissioner for refugees, says.
The latest and still growing count had 281,000 people entering Poland, more than 84,500 in Hungary, about 36,400 in Moldova, more than 32,500 in Romania and about 30,000 in Slovakia, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said.
The rest were scattered in unidentified other countries, Mantoo added.
The number of people seeking refuge in other states has risen rapidly since Moscow launched its onslaught and is expected to continue to climb quickly.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s office has expressed concern over reports some of the country’s citizens residing in Ukraine have been prevented from accessing transport services as they bid to flee Russia’s offensive.
“We understand the pain [and] fear that is confronting all people who find themselves in this terrifying place. We also appreciate that those in official positions in security and border management will in most cases be experiencing impossible expectations in a situation they never expected,” Buhari’s office said in a series of tweets.
“But, for that reason, it is paramount that everyone is treated with dignity and without favour. All who flee a conflict situation have the same right to safe passage under UN Convention and the colour of their passport or their skin should make no difference.”
Click here to read more on Nigerian nationals’ efforts to exit Ukraine in search of safety.
STATE HOUSE PRESS RELEASE
STATEMENT ON NIGERIAN AND CITIZENS OF OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRIES IN #UKRAINE
— Presidency Nigeria (@NGRPresident) February 27, 2022
Talks between Ukraine and Russia have started at the Belarussian border, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak has told the Reuters news agency.
Kyiv had earlier said its goal for the discussions was an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has called for international unity to end Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Speaking to his country’s parliament, Rutte said the world’s free and democratic states were “united in their rejection of this invasion and support for [the] Ukrainian people”.
“We must stop Russia’s aggression, Putin’s aggression, jointly with our partners and allies,” he added.
Tens of thousands of people have fled to Romania from Ukraine in search of safety since the beginning of Russia’s invasion.
Click here to take a look at the relief effort under way on the Romanian side of the border.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry says it has evacuated at least 499 of the country’s citizens from Ukraine in recent days.
The ministry said in a statement that a further 160 citizens were awaiting evacuation at the Ukraine-Poland border, and an additional 21 were currently en route to the Ukraine-Hungary border.
Ukraine is home to roughly 7,000 Pakistanis under normal circumstances, the ministry said, including at least 3,000 students. Most of those individuals had already left the country before Russia launched its invasion, it added.
Reporting by Al Jazeera’s Asad Hashim in Islamabad.
Zelenskyy has asked the EU to immediately admit Ukraine as a member state via a special procedure.
“Our goal is to be with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be equal. I’m sure that’s fair. I am sure we deserve it,” he said in a video speech shared on social media.
Nikolay Mitrokhin, a Russia expert and researcher at Germany’s Bremen University, says Russia’s offensive has “practically stopped on all fronts”.
“A large morning assault on [the eastern city of] Kharkiv has been repelled and an attempt to enter Kyiv from the [town of] Irpen [to the west] has been stopped,” Mitrokhin told Al Jazeera.
“Russia’s strategic position … is deteriorating rapidly. The Russian military is suffering great losses,” he added.
Mitrokhin identified three possible angles from which Moscow’s forces may, however, refocus their efforts and attack – on Kyiv from the north, on the southern port city of Odesa and on the eastern city of Poltava.
Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.
Russia’s state communications regulator has ordered Alphabet Inc’s Google to immediately restrict access to information posted as part of Google Ads that it claims contains inaccurate information about casualties sustained by Russian forces and Ukrainian civilians.
Roskomnadzor said it had sent a letter to Google demanding that the offending materials be removed and said it would block internet resources that publish such information.
Moscow has steadily ramped up efforts to control the narrative concerning its invasion of Ukraine playing out in news media and on tech platforms since launching its attack.
The UN’s human rights chief says at least 102 civilians have been killed since Russia launched its invasion, with a further 304 injured, but warns the real figure is feared to be “considerably higher”.
Michelle Bachelet said most of the deaths were a result of the use of “explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and air strikes”.
“The real figures are, I fear, considerably higher,” she told the opening session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, which earlier agreed to hold an urgent debate on Ukraine later this week.
Bachelet added that about 422,000 Ukrainians have now fled their homeland, with many more displaced within the country.
NATO member states are “stepping up” their support for Ukraine by providing Kyiv with air-defence missiles and anti-tank weapons, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says.
Stoltenberg said in a tweet that the US-led alliance was also providing Ukraine with “humanitarian and financial aid”.
I just spoke with President @ZelenskyyUa & commended him for the bravery of the people & armed forces of #Ukraine. #NATO Allies are stepping up support with air-defence missiles, anti-tank weapons, as well as humanitarian & financial aid.
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) February 28, 2022
Russia’s defence ministry has appealed to Ukrainian civilians to leave the capital, Kyiv, as Moscow presses ahead with its offensive.
“We are appealing to Kyiv’s population to leave the city on a certain road that we can guarantee safe passage, I want to reiterate that Russian troops are only hitting military targets,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a televised address.
Lithuania’s government has said it will ask prosecutors at the International Criminal Court to investigate “war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine”.
“There is new material coming in every day, but we have enough of it by now to file the request,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said in a televised cabinet meeting.
As Western powers roll out sweeping economic sanctions on Moscow, many Russians believe they are being unfairly punished for Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine
Read more here.
Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from Lviv, says Moscow “has not given any hint or indication” that it intends to step back from its key demands ahead of the Russia-Ukraine talks.
“These demands include the neutrality of Ukraine, guarantees that it will never join NATO and that Kyiv recognise the declared independence of breakaway regions in the east of the country,” Hull said, citing the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR).
“And you can probably include in that recognition that Crimea is officially part of Russia after it was annexed [by Moscow] back in 2014; most of the world and certainly Ukraine does not recognise that,” he added.
“This Ukrainian delegation is certainly not going to accede to those demands and it seems highly unlikely that the Russians are suddenly going to withdraw their forces and therefore it is hard to see quite where these talks have to go.”
Ukrainian officials have arrived for talks with Russia at the Ukraine-Belarus border, Zelenskyy’s office said in a statement.
The delegation from Kyiv includes Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov and presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak among others, the statement said.
“The key issue of the talks is an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops from Ukraine,” it added.
The negotiations are expected to get under way imminently.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has said he will move to sack the country’s defence minister after his reluctance to describe the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a war prompted calls for his removal.
Petkov said his centrist coalition government will hold talks later on Monday to decide on Stefan Yanev’s dismissal and line up a potential replacement.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin has called for all sides to remain calm and avoid further escalation after Putin put his country’s nuclear deterrent on high alert
Wang, speaking at a regular daily media briefing, also reiterated China’s view that all countries’ legitimate security concerns should be taken seriously.
Beijing has previously called for Russia’s concerns over NATO’s expansion eastward in recent decades to be addressed.
But in a move that Western countries viewed as an indication of Russia’s international isolation, China abstained from voting on a draft UN Security Council resolution last week that would have deplored Moscow’s invasion, rather than vetoing it.
Ukraine’s state-run nuclear company Energoatom has denied reports that Russian forces have seized control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, according to a report by the Interfax Ukraine news agency.
Last week Russian forces gained control over the site of the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Al Jazeera’s Hull, reporting from Lviv, says the talks between Kyiv and Moscow are due to begin in about “two hours”.
“The delegations we understand, are arriving … We don’t know who makes up these delegations but they are described as fairly high-level, though clearly not leader level,” Hull said.
“And they are set to take place on the Ukraine-Belarus border in a place called Pripyat … the so-called ghost town at the centre of the exclusion zone close to the Chernobyl reactor that was abandoned at the time of the disaster there in 1986,” he added.
“Apparently, that is the potentially rather eerie setting for these talks, but it is not clear what the form of the talks is, how long they will last, or indeed what even is on the table.”
The venue for upcoming talks between Russia and Ukraine has been readied, Belarusian state-run news agency Belta reports, quoting a spokesman for the country’s foreign ministry.
Anatoly Glaz said the talks will begin as soon as delegations from both sides arrive at the venue, Belta reported.
Russian forces’ advance on Kyiv has been slowed by logistical failures and fierce Ukrainian resistance, the UK’s defence ministry says.
“The bulk of Putin’s ground forces remain more than 30km to the north of Kyiv, their advance having been slowed by Ukrainian forces defending Hostomel airfield, a key Russian objective for day one of the conflict,” the ministry said.
“Logistical failures and staunch Ukrainian resistance continue to frustrate the Russian advance.”
Heavy fighting continues around Chernihiv, a city in northern Ukraine, and the northeastern city of Kharkiv, the defence ministry said in an intelligence update posted on Twitter. Both cities remain under Ukrainian control, it added.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on Ukraine pic.twitter.com/6WoxBkatNt
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) February 28, 2022
Experts warn the West’s economic response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may not be enough to force Putin to change course.
“New sanctions are designed to bog Russia down in the long-term, but not to impose enough pain for Putin to pull out of Ukraine” Nikolas Gvosdev, a Russia expert and editor of world affairs journal Orbis, told Al Jazeera.
Read more here.
The Ukrainian military says Russian troops have slowed down their assault.
“The Russian occupiers have reduced the pace of the offensive, but are still trying to develop success in some areas,” the general staff of the armed forces said.
The Vatican is ready to “facilitate dialogue” between Russia and Ukraine to end the war, its top diplomat has said.
Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who ranks second only to the pope in the Vatican hierarchy, told Italian newspapers that “despite the war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine” he was “convinced there is always room for negotiations”.
The UL says it is taking further measures against the Russian central bank.
“The UK Government will immediately take all necessary steps to bring into effect restrictions to prohibit any UK natural or legal persons from undertaking financial transactions involving the CBR [Russian Central Bank], the Russian National Wealth Fund, and the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation,” the government said.
Singapore intends to impose “appropriate sanctions and restrictions” on Russia, foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan has told the country’s parliament, The Straits Times newspaper reported.
“Singapore intends to act in concert with many other like-minded countries to impose appropriate sanctions and restrictions against Russia,” The Straits Times quoted Balakrishnan as saying.
He said Singapore, a major financial and shipping hub, would impose export controls on items that could be used as weapons to harm or subjugate people in Ukraine, the report said.
South Korea has decided to tighten export controls against Russia by banning exports of strategic items, and join Western countries’ moves to block some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system, Seoul’s foreign ministry said.
Belarus is preparing to send soldiers into Ukraine to support Russia’s invasion in a deployment that could begin “within hours”, Ukraine’s Kyiv Independent news website reports, citing unnamed sources.
A US administration official also told the Washington Post that Belarusian forces would Russian troops.
“It’s very clear Minsk is now an extension of the Kremlin,” the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.
The Russian rouble has plummeted to a record low against the US dollar amid an accelerating Western-led campaign to punish Moscow economically.
Read more here.
The UN nuclear watchdog says missiles have hit a radioactive waste disposal site in Kyiv, but there are no reports of damage to the buildings or indications of a release of radioactive material.
In a statement, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi said Ukrainian authorities informed his office of the overnight attack and the agency expects to receive the results of on-site radioactive monitoring soon. A day earlier, an electrical transformer at a similar disposal facility in the eastern city of Kharkiv was damaged.
Such facilities typically hold low-level radioactive materials such as waste from hospitals and industry, but Grossi said the two incidents highlight a “very real risk.” He added that if the sites are damaged there could be “potentially severe consequences for human health and the environment”.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno says Japan has been asked by Western nations to join in with measures blocking Russia from the SWIFT global payments system and is working with them to make the moves effective.
He said Japan will continue to cooperate with other nations, including the Group of Seven, but declined to comment when asked about sanctions on the Russian central bank.
US President Joe Biden will host a call with allies and partners on Monday morning at 11:15am ET (16:15 GMT) to discuss the latest developments in Russia’s attack on Ukraine and to coordinate a united response, according to the White House.
Swimming’s global governing body FINA has called off the World Junior Swimming Championships that were set to take place in Kazan, Russia, in late August.
“FINA will not be holding any future events in Russia if this grave crisis continues,” the group said in a statement, saying also it had decided to cancel the biennial event after consulting athletes and stakeholders.
Switzerland-based FINA added that it would provide whatever practical support it could to members of the aquatics family impacted by Russia’s invasion.
Robert Hunter, a former US ambassador to NATO, said Putin’s decision to put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert is meant as a warning to the West not to get involved.
“This is a psychological ploy to try to increase his leverage, as he decides how far he wants to go in Ukraine,” Hunter told Al Jazeera.
“I don’t believe it’s a threat at all, because the Russians would have just as much to lose, if not more, if they went in this direction.”
The two largest media companies in Canada have decided to drop Russian state TV channel RT from their cable offerings.
Rogers spokesman Andrew Garas said Russia Today will no longer be available on its channel lineup as of Monday. The Bell media company also is removing RT.
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has commended the action, saying Russia has been conducting warfare in Ukraine since 2014 and information warfare across the world. He added RT is the propaganda arm of Putin’s government that spreads disinformation.
The Australian government says it will provide lethal military equipment to Ukraine to help it resist the Russian invasion but gave no details on what material it may be sending.
The move follows an offer on Friday of non-lethal military equipment, medical supplies and a $3m contribution to a NATO trust fund for the country.
Australia has imposed sanctions on more than 350 Russian individuals, including Putin, since Thursday. It has also targeted with sanctions 13 individuals and entities in Belarus, including that country’s defence minister, Viktor Khrenin.
Blasts were heard in the capital Kyiv and the major city Kharkiv, Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection has said.
Kyiv had been quiet for a few hours prior to that, it said in a brief statement on the Telegram messaging app.
The Ukrainian Tennis Federation has urged the International Tennis Federation to immediately expel Russia and Belarus.
The federation said the action was warranted given Russia and Belarus’ “unprecedented, cynical and bloody” attacks on Ukraine over the past four days.
Belarusians have voted to allow the country to host nuclear weapons, results show, as part of a package of constitutional reforms.
The vote to change the constitution, passed by 65 percent according to official data, could see nuclear weapons on Belarusian soil for the first time since the country gave them up after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Ukraine’s health ministry says 352 civilians, including 14 children, have been killed since the beginning of Russia’s invasion.
It also said 1,684 people, including 116 children, have been wounded.
Jim Walsh, an expert in international security and a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program, said NATO and the US have to take Putin’s announcement on placing Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert “seriously”.
“If an adversary goes on nuclear alert, and you are a target of that, then you’re going to begin to make preparations in case your adversary moves higher along the alert chain,” Walsh told Al Jazeera. “But I think politically, it’s hard to believe that anyone takes it seriously,” he said.
“My guess is … that, in particular, people in the Pentagon, military officials, are reaching out to their counterparts in Russia in quiet closed conversations. I think back channel communication, reassurance – that’ll be the main emphasis, at least in the US and in NATO, because there’s obviously no reason for this to escalate into a nuclear war,” he added.
Alphabet Inc’s Google confirmed it has temporarily disabled in Ukraine some Google Maps tools that provide live information about traffic conditions and how busy different places are.
The company said it took the action for the safety of local communities after consulting with sources, including regional authorities.
The European subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned Sberbank is likely to fail in the wake of sanctions, the European Central Bank has said.
“The European Central Bank (ECB) has assessed that Sberbank Europe AG and its two subsidiaries in the banking union, Sberbank d.d. in Croatia and Sberbank banka d.d. in Slovenia, are failing or likely to fail owing to a deterioration of their liquidity situation,” the ECB said in a statement.
Ukraine belongs in the EU and the bloc would like to see the country be a part of it in time, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has told Euronews.
“Indeed, over time, they belong to us. They are one of us and we want them in,” Von der Leyen said.
Her comments came hours after the 27-nation EU decided to supply weapons to Ukraine, a first in the bloc’s history.
US company Maxar Technologies has released a series of new satellite images that appear to show a large deployment of Russian ground forces, including tanks, moving in the direction of Kyiv, from approximately 64km (40 miles) away.
The images showed a deployment comprised of hundreds of military vehicles and extending more than 5km (3.25 miles).
The convey was northeast of the Ukrainian city of Ivankiv and included fuel, logistics and armored vehicles including tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery, Maxar said.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has declined to condemn Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, while departing from his government’s official stance at the UN to say Brazil would remain neutral.
Bolsonaro, a far-right populist, recently snubbed US entreaties not to visit Putin in Moscow ahead of the invasion, and angered Western allies by saying he was “in solidarity with Russia”, without elaborating.
At a press conference, Bolsonaro said Russia and Ukraine were “practically brother nations”. “We will not take sides, we will continue being neutral, and help with whatever is possible,” Bolsonaro said.
Zelensyy told the UK prime minister by telephone that the next 24 hours are crucial for Ukraine, according to a Downing Street spokesperson.
Johnson said the UK and its allies would do everything possible to guarantee that defensive aid reached Ukraine, the spokesperson said in a statement.
The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces described Sunday as “a difficult time” for the military, saying Russian troops “continue shelling in almost all directions”.
In an English-language post on Facebook, the general staff said defence force members in the Vasylkiv military airbase southwest of Kyiv were resisting artillery and other attacks.
Talks between the Russian and Ukrainian delegations will begin in the morning on Monday, a source has told Russian news agency TASS.
“It is not a postponement. The meeting will begin in the morning. The reason is the Ukrainian delegation’s logistics,” the source said.
Ukrainian and Russian officials are due to meet for talks at a venue on the Belarus border with Ukraine, Zelenskyy’s office said earlier.
Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.
Read all the updates from Saturday, February 27, here.
FIFA and UEFA suspend Russia’s national and club teams from all international football competitions after backlash.
More than half a million people have fled Ukraine since Russian forces invaded the country, according to the UN.
The Russian president is facing an unexpected level of resistance, but is determined to continue on a belligerent path.
Follow Al Jazeera English:
Latest Ukraine news: Guterres says dialogue must remain open – Al Jazeera English
Russia-Ukraine news from February 28: UN General Assembly held its first emergency session in decades over Ukraine.