Ukraine agrees to meet with Russia Monday; Belarus could join Russian invasion: recaps

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Editor's note: This page recaps the news from Ukraine on Sunday, Feb. 27. Click here to follow the latest updates and news from Monday, Feb. 28, as Russia's invasion continues.

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While Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s nuclear weapons on high alert, more support poured in for Ukraine in its ongoing effort to fend off Russian forces, which on Sunday reached the second-largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

The European Union announced unprecedented new actions against Russia, outlining plans to close its airspace to Russian airlines, fund a weapons purchase to assist Ukraine and ban some pro-Kremlin media outlets, while the Associated Press reported the United States approved the delivery of anti-aircraft Stinger missiles to Ukraine.

Western powers in support of Ukraine could soon be joined by Switzerland, an oftentimes neutral country that on Monday is set to review potential sanctions and asset freezes against Russia, said President Ignazio Cassis via Reuters. Cassis said it was “very probable” the country would follow suit, the outlet reported.

The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday said a delegation would meet with Russian officials for talks near the Belarus border. The discussion was expected to happen Monday morning local time, according to Ukraine’s Deputy Interior Minister Evgeny Yenin via CNN.

Also Monday, both the 193-member U.N. General Assembly and the smaller, 15-member Security Council plan to hold emergency meetings on Russia’s invasion.

Meanwhile, Putin’s order to make his nuclear weapons more ready for launch – made Sunday in response to “aggressive statements” by leading NATO powers and economic sanctions by the West – represents an unnecessary and dangerous move, according to the Pentagon.

A senior Defense Department official said Russia is under no threat from the United States and its NATO allies. The Pentagon is confident it can protect the U.S. and its allies, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is heading towards a fifth day of fighting. According to the Associated Press, Russian troops entered Kharkiv on Sunday, where videos posted on Ukrainian media and social networks showed Russian vehicles moving across the city and a vehicle burning on the street. Residents were urged to stay inside.

A man walks in front of a destroyed building after a Russian missile attack in the town of  Vasylkiv, near Kyiv, on February 27, 2022. Ukraine's foreign minister said on February 27, that Kyiv would not buckle at talks with Russia over its invasion, accusing President Vladimir Putin of seeking to increase "pressure" by ordering his nuclear forces on high alert.
A man walks in front of a destroyed building after a Russian missile attack in the town of Vasylkiv, near Kyiv, on February 27, 2022. Ukraine's foreign minister said on February 27, that Kyiv would not buckle at talks with Russia over its invasion, accusing President Vladimir Putin of seeking to increase "pressure" by ordering his nuclear forces on high alert.

The troops in Kharkiv arrived after Russia unleashed a wave of attacks on Ukraine, targeting airfields and fuel facilities. Two large explosions rocked an area south of the capital just before 1 a.m. local time. Zelenskyy’s office said one of the blasts was near the Zhuliany airport and the other blast hit an oil depot about 25 miles south of the capital, according to the mayor of Vasylkiv via the AP. Russian forces also blew up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv, according to the Ukrainian president's office.

Ukrainian officials said Sunday the civilian death toll has reached 352.

A few things to catch you up on:

THE NEWS COMES TO YOU: Get the latest updates on the situation in Ukraine. Sign up here.

WHY IS RUSSIA INVADING UKRAINE? Could this be the start of WWIII? We explain.

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Russian Central Bank tries to stop ruble's free fall

Russia’s Central Bank has sharply raised its key rate from 9.5% to 20% in a desperate attempt to shore up the plummeting ruble and prevent the run of banks amid crippling Western sanctions over the Russian war in Ukraine.

The bank’s action follows the Western decision Sunday to freeze its hard currency reserves in an unprecedented move that could have devastating consequences for the country’s financial stability. It was unclear exactly what share of Russia’s estimated $640 billion hard currency coffers will be paralyzed by the move, but European officials said that at least half of it will be affected.

The move will dramatically raise pressure on the ruble by undermining the financial authorities’ ability to conduct hard currency interventions to prevent the ruble from sinking further and triggering high inflation. The ruble has sharply dived in early Monday trading.

The Central Bank also ordered a slew of measures to help the banks cope with the crisis by infusing more cash into the system and easing restrictions for banking operations. At the same time, it temporarily barred non-residents from selling the government obligations to help ease the pressure on ruble from panicky foreign investors eager to cash out.

-- Associated Press

A demonstrator holds a placard reading 'no war' during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in front of the Russian embassy in Colombo on February 28, 2022.
A demonstrator holds a placard reading 'no war' during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in front of the Russian embassy in Colombo on February 28, 2022.

More: The enigma of Vladimir Putin: What do we really know about Russia's leader?

Dalai Lama pleas for peace in Ukraine

The Dalai Lama on Monday pleaded for peace and "mutual understanding," and said he was "deeply saddened" by the war in Ukraine.

"War is outdated – non-violence is the only way. We need to develop a sense of the oneness of humanity by considering other human beings as brothers and sisters," the spiritual leader said on his website. "This is how we will build a more peaceful world."

The Nobel peace prize winner also said any problems and disagreements are best resolved through dialogue. "Genuine peace comes about through mutual understanding and respect for each other's well-being," he said.

He also said he hopes peace is swiftly restored.

"We must not lose hope," he said. "The 20th century was a century of war and bloodshed. The 21st century must be a century of dialogue."

-- Terry Collins

Two United Nations sessions scheduled for Monday

The U.N.’s two major bodies -- the 193-nation General Assembly and the more powerful 15-member Security Council -- will hold separate meetings Monday on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a reflection of widespread international demands for an immediate cease-fire and escalating concern for the plight of millions of Ukrainians caught up in the war.

The Security Council gave a green light Sunday for the first emergency session of the General Assembly in decades. It will give all U.N. members an opportunity to speak about the war Monday and vote on a resolution later in the week that U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said would “hold Russia to account for its indefensible actions and for its violations of the U.N. Charter.”

French Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere announced that the Security Council will hold a meeting Monday afternoon on the humanitarian impact of Russia’s invasion, a session sought by French President Emmanuel Macron to ensure the delivery of aid to growing numbers of those in need in Ukraine.

Both meetings follow Russia’s veto Friday of a Security Council resolution demanding that Moscow immediately stop its attack on Ukraine and withdraw all troops. The vote was 11-1, with China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstaining.

– Associated Press

More: Ukraine athletes defend country, demand sanctions for Russia

U.S. Embassy in Ukraine: departing the country may take up to 30 hours

The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine is now urging U.S citizens in Ukraine to try leaving using private transportation options as leaving could in some cases take more than 30 hours.

The embassy said Sunday “conditions may deteriorate” in various parts of the country without any warning due to the escalating Russian invasion.

“Careful consideration should be made to routes and the risks of travel because Ukraine’s roads are in many cases crowded, exposed to combat operations, and infrastructure such as bridges in some locations have been destroyed. Sheltering in place may remain the best option for some,” the embassy said on its website.

Furthermore, embassy officials say that border crossings into neighboring Poland and all main crossing points into Moldova are overwhelmed.

“Some are experiencing extremely long wait times (well over 30 hours in some cases),” the embassy said. “We recommend that, if possible, U.S. citizens consider redirecting to border crossings with Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, which are currently experiencing lower wait times to cross.”

Embassy officials also offered a series of tips including bringing enough food, water and warm clothing. They also urge citizens to carry hard copies of important documents as the U.S. government will not be able to evacuate its citizens from Ukraine.

– Terry Collins

More: Satellite images show damaged airport in Hostomel following strikes

Russian ruble sinks in early trading

The ruble sank nearly 26% against the U.S. dollar early Monday after Western nations moved to block Russian banks from the SWIFT global payment system.

The ruble was trading at a record low 105.27 per dollar, down from about 84 per dollar late Friday.

Over the weekend, Japan joined the moves by the U.S. and other western nations to impose more sanctions against Russia.

Restrictions on the Russian central bank target its access to more than $600 billion in reserves the Kremlin has at its disposal. They hinder Russia’s ability to support the ruble as it plunges in value.

Sanctions announced earlier had taken the Russian currency to its lowest level against the dollar in history.

-- Associated Press

More: What sanctions does Russia face? Here's a list by country

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 28: South Korean activists and Ukrainians attend a rally against Russia attacking Ukraine near the Russian embassy on February 28, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 28: South Korean activists and Ukrainians attend a rally against Russia attacking Ukraine near the Russian embassy on February 28, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea.

US official: Belarus may join Ukraine invasion

A senior U.S. intelligence official says Belarus is expected to send troops into Ukraine as soon as Monday to fight alongside Russian forces that invaded Ukraine last week.

Belarus has been providing support for Russia’s war effort but so far has not taken a direct part in the conflict.

The American official has direct knowledge of current U.S. intelligence assessments and says the decision by Belarus’ leader on whether to bring Belarus further into the war depends on talks between Russia and Ukraine happening in the coming days. The official spoke anonymously to discuss the sensitive information.

Russian forces have encountered strong resistance from Ukraine defenders, and U.S. officials say they believe the invasion has been more difficult, and slower, than the Kremlin envisioned, though that could change as Moscow adapts.

-- Associated Press

More: There may be risk, but the U.S. will likely keep arming Ukraine even if Russia takes Kyiv

Russia rendering Facebook unusable in some places

Russia has apparently rendered Facebook largely unusable across leading Russian telecommunications providers amid rising friction between Moscow and the social media platform.

The London-based internet monitor NetBlocks reports that Facebook’s network of content-distribution servers in Russia was so badly restricted Sunday that “content no longer loads, or loads extremely slowly making the platforms unusable.”

Russian telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor on Friday announced plans to “partially restrict” access to Facebook. That same day, Facebook’s head of security policy had said the company was barring Russian state media from running ads or otherwise profiting on its platform anywhere in the world.

Facebook says it has also refused a request by the Kremlin not to run fact checks related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the platform for users inside Russia.

NetBlocks reported earlier that access to Twitter was similarly restricted Saturday. That was a day after Twitter said it was temporarily halting ads in both Ukraine and Russia.

The Twitter and Facebook restrictions can be circumvented inside Russia using VPN software, just as users do in mainland China.

-- Associated Press

The Ludwigsburg Palace in  Ludwigsburg, Germany, is lit up in the colors of the flag of Ukraine following the Russian attack of Ukraine. Russia is pressing its invasion of Ukraine to the outskirts of the capital after unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks from three sides.
The Ludwigsburg Palace in Ludwigsburg, Germany, is lit up in the colors of the flag of Ukraine following the Russian attack of Ukraine. Russia is pressing its invasion of Ukraine to the outskirts of the capital after unleashing airstrikes on cities and military bases and sending in troops and tanks from three sides.

Canada will investigate Russian flight violating airspace ban

Canada said it will launch an investigation into a Russian-based Aeroflot flight that entered Canadian airspace on Sunday and violated a ban on all Russian flights due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"We are aware that Aeroflot flight 111 violated the prohibition put in place earlier today on Russian flights using Canadian airspace," Transport Canada said in a series of tweets. "We are launching a review of the conduct of Aeroflot and the independent air navigation service provider, NAVCAN, leading up to this violation.

"We will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action and other measures to prevent future violations," the agency added.

Earlier Sunday, Omar Alghabra, Canada's transport minister, that the country's airspace was closed to all Russian aircraft operators.

"We will hold Russia accountable for its unprovoked attacks against Ukraine,” Alghabra tweeted.

– Terry Collins

Biden to hold a call with U.S. allies to discuss Ukraine, Russia

President Joe Biden is scheduled to hold a call with U.S. allies on Monday morning to discuss the latest situation in Ukraine and their coordinated response, the White House said late Sunday.

The call is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. ET. The call comes after Biden ordered the U.S. State Department to release up to an additional $350 million worth of weapons from its stockpile to Ukraine on Friday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Saturday that this third authorization for weapons shipments to Ukraine in less than a year was "unprecedented."

– Terry Collins

Ukraine radioactive site in Kyiv struck by missiles, UN nuclear watchdog

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog says missiles have struck a radioactive waste disposal site in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. So far there are no reports of damage to the buildings or indications of a release of radioactive material.

In a statement late Sunday, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi said Ukrainian authorities informed his office about the overnight strike. Grossi said his agency expects to get the results of on-site radioactive monitoring soon.

The report comes a day after an electrical transformer at a similar disposal facility in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv was damaged.

Such facilities typically hold low-level radioactive materials such as waste from hospitals and industry, but Grossi says the two incidents highlight a “very real risk.” Grossi said if the sites are damaged there could be “potentially severe consequences for human health and the environment.”

– Associated Press

Japanese billionaire to donate over $8 million to Ukraine

Japanese billionaire Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani said he will donate over $8 million to the government of Ukraine, calling Russia’s invasion “a challenge to democracy.”

Mikitani, founder of e-commerce giant Rakuten Group Inc., said Sunday in a letter to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the donation of ¥1 billion (roughly $8.7 million) will go toward “humanitarian activities to help people in Ukraine who are victims of the violence,” the Japan Times reported.

Mikitani said he met with Zelenskyy during a visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in 2019.

“My thoughts are with you and Ukraine people,” Mikitani wrote in his letter. “I believe that the trampling of a peaceful and democratic Ukraine by unjustified force is a challenge to democracy.

“I sincerely hope that Russia and Ukraine can resolve this issue peacefully and that Ukraine people can have peace again as soon as possible,” Mikitani added.

– Terry Collins

Russia-Ukraine talks set for Monday

The office of Ukraine’s president confirmed that a delegation is set to meet with Russian officials as Moscow’s troops continue to target Kyiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office said on the Telegram messaging app that the two sides would meet at an unspecified location on the Belarusian border.

ABC and CNN, each citing Ukrainian officials, reported the talks would take place Monday, which matches a report from Russian state-owned news agency TASS that said the discussions would take place in the morning.

The announcement on Sunday came hours after Russia announced that its delegation had flown to Belarus to await talks. Ukrainian officials initially rejected the move, saying any talks should take place elsewhere than Belarus, where Russia has placed a large contingent of troops.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, expressed hope for prospective peace talks.

"We'll look forward to what comes out of those discussions," Thomas-Greenfield said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

– Associated Press, Jay Cannon and David Jackson

Borrell: EU countries will soon send fighter jets to Ukraine

European Union countries will soon send fighter jets to Ukraine at the Kyiv government’s request to help it counter the Russian air and land assault, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Sunday, according to the AFP news service.

"We're going to provide even fighting jets. We're not talking about just ammunition. We are providing more important arms to go to a war," Borrell said at a news conference.

The military transfer appeared imminent, according to Alexandre Krauss, a senior advisor to the EU Parliament.

“Flying in #Ukraine skies within the hour,” Krauss tweeted at 3:38 p.m. ET, citing Borrell’s announcement.

According to Borrell, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had asked the EU for the planes.

Citing a person familiar with the talks, the Wall Street Journal reported that “discussions are still ongoing” and that any planes would be supplied directly by EU member states and not funded through an arrangement announced earlier for the EU to finance weapons deliveries to Ukraine.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission, announced earlier in the day, that EU members were “stepping up our support for Ukraine. For the first time, the EU will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and equipment to a country under attack. We are also strengthening our sanctions against the Kremlin.”

The announcement came as satellite imagery showed a massive convoy of Russian military vehicles – with some estimates of 3.25 miles long – moving toward Kyiv and about 40 miles away.

– Josh Meyer

US Embassy in Kyiv: $54 million in humanitarian assistance on the way

The U.S. is giving nearly $54 million in humanitarian assistance for those affected by the Russian invasion, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv announced Sunday.

The funding, which comes as thousands of Ukrainians flee Russian invaders, was announced with "the welfare of ordinary Ukrainians in mind," the embassy said in a statement. It includes nearly $26 million from the Department of State and $28 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

More than 200,000 people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries and U.N. officials believe up to 4 million people could leave if fighting continues.

– Jay Cannon

US to send anti-aircraft Stinger missiles to Ukraine, AP reports

The U.S. for the first time has approved the direct delivery of Stinger missiles to Ukraine as part of a package approved by the White House on Friday, the Associated Press reported.

The exact timing of delivery is not known, but officials say the U.S. is currently working on the logistics of the shipment. The officials agreed to discuss the development only if not quoted by name.

FOR SUBSCRIBERS: There may be risk, but the US will likely keep arming Ukraine even if Russia takes Kyiv

The decision comes on the heels of Germany’s announcement that it will send 500 Stinger missiles and other weapons and supplies to Ukraine.

The high-speed Stingers are very accurate and are used to shoot down helicopters and other aircraft. Ukrainian officials have been asking for more of the powerful weapons.

Estonia has also been providing Ukraine with Stingers since January, and had to get U.S. permission in order to do that.

– Associated Press

Neutral Switzerland 'probable' to hit Russia with financial sanctions, president says

After days of fence-sitting, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said on Sunday it was "very probable" that neutral Switzerland would follow the European Union’s lead and sanction Russia and freeze Russian assets in the country.

Reuters reported that Cassis, who was interviewed on French-language Swiss public television, said the nation's seven-member Federal Council would meet Monday and review recommendations by finance and economy officials.

"It is very probable that the government will decide to do so tomorrow, but I cannot anticipate decisions not yet taken," Cassis said, via Reuters.

This general view shows damage to the upper floors of a building in Kyiv on February 26, 2022, after it was reportedly struck by a Russian rocket.
This general view shows damage to the upper floors of a building in Kyiv on February 26, 2022, after it was reportedly struck by a Russian rocket.

Switzerland, a global financial hub and commodities trading center – has so far resisted calls for it to levy sanctions and possibly freeze Russian assets, especially after the EU and U.S. announced sanctions.

“The civilized, democratic world has to stand up to the biggest threat to European security and stability since the Second World War,” Peter Stano, lead spokesperson for EU external affairs, said on Friday. “It affects not only Ukraine. It affects Europe. Switzerland is part of Europe. So we expect our partner, our neighbor, our ally to follow suit in standing up for defending the principles on which our communities and countries are based.”

The oft-neutral country's potential move comes as a surprise to some.

"Switzerland to sanction Russia! Holy crap. A country that was neutral against the literal Nazis. Neutral no more!" tweeted Paul Massaro, a counter-corruption advisor to the U.S. Congress.

It was not known immediately how many wealthy Russian elites, especially oligarchs close to Putin, have stashed money in Swiss banks, known for their strong privacy firewalls. But various leaks of banking documents over the years suggest they have a sizable amount invested in Switzerland.

In 2018, Swiss banks reportedly frozen $1 billion in the accounts of one oligarch alone – Russian metals tycoon Viktor Vekselberg – over fears that they could be fined for doing business with him after Washington levied sanctions against the businessman, the Moscow Times reported at the time.

– Josh Meyer

US Embassy urges Americans in Russia to consider leaving 'immediately'

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said Sunday that American citizens “should consider departing Russia immediately” because of the dramatic drop-off in airline service in and out of the country.

“An increasing number of airlines are cancelling flights into and out of Russia, and numerous countries have closed their airspace to Russian airlines,” a security alert posted to the embassy’s website states. “U.S. citizens should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available.”

The guidance comes after the EU's move to close its airspace to Russian airlines. Russian airline Aeroflot says it cancelled all flights to Europe.

The State Department had already advised Americans not to travel to Russia because of its aggression against Ukraine, as well as the potential harassment of U.S. citizens in the country and the COVID-19 pandemic.

– Deirdre Shesgreen

UN emergency session scheduled for Monday

The U.N. Security Council has voted for the 193-member General Assembly to hold an emergency session on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Monday.

The vote on Sunday to authorize an emergency meeting was 11 in favor, Russia opposed, and China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstaining. That was the exact same vote on a resolution Friday demanding that Moscow immediately stop its attack on Ukraine and withdraw all troops. But in that case, Russia used its veto and the resolution was defeated.

Ukrainian U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya asked for the General Assembly meeting to be held under the so-called “Uniting for Peace” resolution, initiated by the U.S. and adopted in November 1950 to circumvent vetoes by the Soviet Union during the Korean War.

That resolution gives the General Assembly the power to call emergency meetings when the Security Council is unable to act because of the lack of unanimity among its five veto-wielding permanent members – the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France.

– Associated Press

Ukraine civilian death toll hits 352, officials say

The civilian death toll from Russia's invasion of Ukraine has risen to 352, including 14 children, the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal affairs said Sunday. The ministry said 1,684 people had been injured.

The United Nations had announced the civilian death toll had reached 240 by Saturday, but stressed that the actual figure was potentially "considerably higher.”

– Jay Cannon

US urges Americans in Ukraine to find best exit routes

Officials with the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine issued a new advisory Sunday, telling Americans to choose departure routes very carefully if they are trying to flee.

“Ukraine’s roads are in many cases crowded, exposed to combat operations, and infrastructure such as bridges in some locations has been destroyed,” the embassy said in a notice. “Sheltering in place may remain the best option for some.”

Most border crossings into Poland and all main crossing points into Moldova “are severely backed up,” with extremely long wait times – in some cases, more than 30 hours, the embassy said.

“We recommend that, if possible, U.S. citizens consider redirecting to border crossings with Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, which are currently experiencing lower wait times to cross,” the note says. “Note that conditions at each border can change very quickly and wait times can increase at any time without warning.”

– Deirdre Shesgreen

UPS, FedEx halt services in Russia

Shipping giants FedEx and UPS have suspended services to Russia amid the country’s military assault on Ukraine.

UPS said it had halted all international shipments to addresses in Russia as of Feb. 25. FedEx said it was “closely monitoring the situation” and had suspended inbound service to Russia “until further notice.”

Both companies had already stopped service to Ukraine, after Russian troops invaded the neighboring country. Russian troops have now advanced well into Ukrainian territory, reaching its second largest city and encircling the capital, Kyiv.

– Deirdre Shesgreen

McMaster: Putin got ‘more than he bargained for’

Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Sunday that Ukrainians are doing a “tremendous job” defending the country against Russian military attacks.

“I think Putin got a lot more than he bargained for. He's in a very difficult position. And I think anything we can do, obviously, financially, going after his international criminal enterprise with sanctions and so forth is important. But the support for Ukraine's ability to defend themselves is also important,” McMaster told Margaret Brennan on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

The retired lieutenant general also said the seizure of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv is “not in the cards for the immediate future,” but acknowledged the next 72 hours are going to be “really critical.”

– Chelsey Cox

Kyiv mayor: 'We are encircled'

KYIV, Ukraine – As Russian troops draw closer to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv's mayor is both filled with pride over his citizens' spirit and anxious about how long they can hold out.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, after a grueling night of Russian attacks on the outskirts of the city, Mayor Vitali Klitschko was silent for several seconds when asked if there were plans to evacuate civilians if Russian troops managed to take Kyiv.

“We can't do that, because all ways are blocked,” he finally said. “Right now we are encircled."

When Russian troops invaded Ukraine on Thursday, the city of 2.8 million people initially reacted with concern but also a measure of self-possession. However, nerves started fraying when grocery stores began closing and the city's famously deep subway system turned its stations into bomb shelters.

The mayor confirmed to the AP that nine civilians in Kyiv had been killed so far, including one child.

Vitali Klitschko, Kyiv mayor and former heavyweight champion, gestures while speaking during his interview with the Associated Press in his office in the City Hall in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 27, 2022.
Vitali Klitschko, Kyiv mayor and former heavyweight champion, gestures while speaking during his interview with the Associated Press in his office in the City Hall in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 27, 2022.

A Klitschko-ordered curfew began about sundown on Saturday and is to extend until at least 8 a.m. Monday. His order pointedly stated that any unauthorized person outside could be considered a saboteur.

“We are hunting these people, and it will be much easier if nobody is on the street," Klitschko explained, saying that six Russian “saboteurs” were killed Saturday night.

In the last few days, long queues of people — both men and women — were spotted waiting to pick up weapons throughout the capital, after authorities decided to distribute weapons freely to anybody ready to defend the city. There are concerns, however, about arming nervous civilians with little military experience amid warnings of Russian saboteurs disguised as Ukrainian police or journalists.

“To be honest, we don't have 100% control,” said Klitschko. “We built this territorial defense in a short amount of time — but these are patriotic people."

“Right now, the most important question is to defend our country,” he added.

– Associated Press

EU closing airspace to Russia

The top official in the European Union said the bloc will take unprecedented new steps after Russian President Vladimir Putin raised tensions with talk of nuclear weapons.

The EU will close its airspace to Russian airlines, including "the private jets of oligarchs," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“We are proposing a prohibition on all Russian-owned, Russian registered or Russian-controlled aircraft. These aircraft will no more be able to land in, take off or overfly the territory of the EU,” she said.

"For the first time ever, the European Union will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack,” she added.

The EU will also ban pro-Kremlin media outlets Russia Today and Sputnik, she said.

The European Commission's plans followed the announcement earlier in the day that Germany was committing 100 billion euros ($113 billion) to a special armed forces fund and would keep its defense spending above 2% of GDP from now on. The shift underscored how Russia’s war on Ukraine was rewriting Europe’s post-World War II security and defense policy in ways that were unthinkable only a few weeks ago.

The EU’s plan to fund weapons purchases was unprecedented and would use millions of euros to help buy air defense systems, anti-tank weapons, ammunition and other military equipment to Ukraine’s armed forces. It would also supply things like fuel, protective gear, helmets and first aid kits.

– Katie Wadington and AP

On nuclear deterrence: What is DEFCON? What's nuclear deterrence? What to know amid Putin's warning

BP pulls out of Russian oil company

Oil giant BP will walk away from its nearly 20% stake in Russian oil company Rosneft, according to media reports.

BP Chairman Helge Lund issued a statement announcing the exit, as well as the resignation of BP CEO Bernard Looney from the board of the Russian oil firm.

BP has been a shareholder in Rosneft since 2013, according to the BBC.

Sen. Mark Warner: Putin’s invasion a major ‘miscalculation'

Sen. Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Putin “totally underestimated” the resolve of the Ukrainians and the support building worldwide for the Ukrainian people, describing the Russian invasion so far as a major “miscalculation.”

“Remarkably what he's also been able to do his unify the vast majority of us in the Senate, Democrats, Republicans alike,” Warner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And he’s going to pay a high price.”

Warner said Putin over the past few years became “more and more isolated.”

“When you are an authoritarian leader, and you’re only hearing from people that want to say to the boss, hey, you're right. I think that leads to miscalculation. I think that is what has happened in the case of this invasion in Ukraine.”

– Joey Garrison

US ambassador: No US 'boots on the ground' in Ukraine

As she made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows, United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield made clear that the U.S. response to the invasion of Ukraine will not include American troops or air personnel.

"The president has made clear that we're not going to put boots on the ground," Thomas-Greenfield said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Thomas-Greenfield said that mandate includes no patrols of any "no-fly zone" in the region.

The U.S. will provide whatever assistance it can to Ukraine, working with NATO partners, she said, but: "We're not going to put American troops in danger. So that means we're not going to put American troops in the air as well. But we will work with the Ukrainians to give them the ability to defend themselves.”

– David Jackson

Russian troops stalled outside Kyiv

The main force of Russian assault aimed at Kyiv remained stalled Sunday about 18 miles from the city’s center, hindered by stiff Ukrainian resistance and Russia’s own problems providing fuel and supplies for its troops, according to a senior Defense Department official.

There are indications of some fighting inside Kyiv and that Russian troops in Ukrainian military uniforms have appeared there, said the official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

The officials described Ukrainian resistance as stiff and creative around Kyiv and Kharkiv. Meantime, fuel shortages and logistics problems for Russian troops are most acute near Kharkiv.

The war is a major operation for Russia’s military, a complex mission that it does not have recent experience mounting, the official said. It’s unclear if the shortages in materials represent a failure in planning or execution. However, the official said Russian officers are expected to learn and adapt to its logistical problems.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, there are troubling indications that Russia is encircling the city of Chernihiv, northeast of Kyiv, and could be planning to besiege it, the official said. There are increasing rocket attacks there, imprecise weapons that can kill civilians and damage infrastructure.

Overall, Russian President Vladimir Putin has committed two-thirds of the combat forces he deployed against Ukraine is now inside the country, the official said.

Russia has launched more 320 ballistic missiles into Ukraine during the four-day war. There are some indications that several ballistic missiles have failed to launch.

– Tom Vanden Brook

U.S.: Putin ‘can be assured’ of tougher sanctions

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said Sunday the U.S. will continue to apply stiffer economic sanctions against Russia as Putin escalates fighting in Ukraine.

"We are continuing to assess what we can do moving forward," Thomas-Greenfield said on NBC’s "Meet the Press." "And the Russians can be assured that we will continue to put more and more sanctions as they continue to press more on the Ukrainian government.”

U.S. and Western allies have cut some Russian banks out of the SWIFT financial system but stopped short of a complete removal.

“They will feel the pain,” she said, adding there are also actions the U.N. can take.

“We can isolate them. We can isolate them in the United Nations. We can isolate them in U.N. specialized agencies. They are feeling that isolation.”

– Joey Garrison

NATO leader: Russia must make 'serious compromises' in peace talks

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said if peace talks are to succeed, Russia must be willing to make "serious compromises" and "respect the sovereignty of Ukraine."

Stoltenberg told CNN's "State of the Union" that Putin's decision to put his nuclear forces on high alert is not a good sign.

It "just adds to the very aggressive rhetoric" of Russia, the NATO leader said.

– David Jackson

Ukraine ambassador: Russia committing ‘war crimes’

Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States accused Russia of committing war crimes in its attack on her country.

Ambassador Oksana Markarova said Sunday that Russian troops are using heavy missiles and heavy artillery to attack Ukraine’s infrastructure, as well as hospitals and kindergartens. Many children have been killed, and one entire family was shot in their car, she said.

“Nothing is off limits to them,” Markarova said on ABC’s "This Week." “What we see is a full-fledged war, with war crimes on the ground.”’

Asked whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is safe, Markarova offered no information on his whereabouts but added, “He is as safe as our country.”

She spoke shortly after Zelenskyy’s office confirmed that a delegation will meet with Russian officials. Marakova said Ukraine is ready “for any peace talks that would stop the war and get them out from our country.” But the Ukrainians will not surrender, she said.

– Michael Collins

A couple embrace prior to the woman boarding a train leaving for western Ukraine, at the railway station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. The U.N. refugee agency says nearly 120,000 people have so far fled Ukraine into neighboring countries in the wake of the Russian invasion. The number was going up fast as Ukrainians grabbed their belongings and rushed to escape from a deadly Russian onslaught.
A couple embrace prior to the woman boarding a train leaving for western Ukraine, at the railway station in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. The U.N. refugee agency says nearly 120,000 people have so far fled Ukraine into neighboring countries in the wake of the Russian invasion. The number was going up fast as Ukrainians grabbed their belongings and rushed to escape from a deadly Russian onslaught.

Cotton: West must stop ‘pussyfooting around’ on sanctions

Sen. Tom Cotton on Sunday called on the Biden administration and American businesses to provide “no support whatsoever” to Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine.

“We can do more than prayers and hashtags and lining up building storage,” he said on ABC’s "This Week." “It's time for the president and some of our European partners to quit pussyfooting around.”

Cotton appealed to the Biden administration to increase its sanctions on Russian banks, arguing that while the administration says it has sanctioned 80% of Russian banks, Russian President Vladimir Putin “controls 100% of banks.”

The Arkansas Republican also blamed Western nations for underestimating Putin’s ambition.

Despite a strong condemnation of Putin, Cotton stopped short of condemning former President Donald Trump, who has called Putin “smart” and his plan both “savvy” and “genius.” Cotton repeatedly said he does not speak for other politicians.

– Ella Lee

‘This is a different Putin’: Rice says Putin ‘erratic’

Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said Russian President Vladimir Putin recent behavior is a departure from her past encounters with the “cold and calculating” leader.

“This is a different Putin,” Rice, who served under former President George W. Bush, said on "Fox News Sunday." “He seems erratic… He has descended into something I have not seen before.”

While Rice said the prospect of peace talks was promising, she urged Ukraine to follow the advice of former President Ronald Reagan.

“Trust but verify,” she said. “It’s always a good thing if there is a chance (at peace),” she said.

– Kevin Johnson

More: A song of defiance: Ukraine's national anthem being heard all over the world

Psaki: Putin 'manufacturing threats' to justify attack on Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to put nuclear deterrent forces on high alert is another example of the Russian leader “manufacturing threats” to justify aggression against Ukraine, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday.

“We’ve seen him do this time and time again,” Psaki said on ABC’s "This Week." “At no time has Russia been under threat from NATO.”

“This is all a pattern from President Putin,” Psaki said, “and we’re all going to stand up” to him.

– Michael Collins

Condoleeza Rice: Putin faces unexpected reality in Ukraine

Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said Russian President Vladimir Putin may have “bitten off more than he can chew” perhaps forcing early peace talks.

Rice, speaking on "Fox News Sunday," said Putin likely believed that he could "waltz" into Ukraine.

“But the reality has been quite different.”

– Kevin Johnson

Romney casts the war as a battle of 'good and evil'

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, cast Ukraine's defense against the Russian invasion as a battle of "good and evil," and called for more sanctions on the "evil regime" of Vladimir Putin.

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Romney also said he hopes Putin will use potential peace talks with Ukraine as an opportunity to back off.

"He made a huge error," Romney said of Putin. "This is not going well for him."

– David Jackson

More: Mapping and tracking Russia's invasion of Ukraine

‘A thug and despot’: Putin to feel pain of new financial sanctions

Removing Russia from a global banking network as part of a new round of sanctions “will make a big difference” in isolating the Kremlin, said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

The U.S. and its allies Saturday cut Russia from the key financial messaging network known as SWIFT, in an escalation of its sanctioning campaign.

Klobuchar called Putin “a thug and a despot,” who misjudged the world’s reaction to Russia aggression.

– Kevin Johnson

An Ukrainian Territorial Defence fighter examines a destroyed Russian Armoured personnel carrier (APC) after the fight in Kharkiv on Feb. 27, 2022. Ukrainian forces secured full control of Kharkiv on Feb. 27, 2022 following street fighting with Russian troops in the country's second biggest city, the local governor said.
An Ukrainian Territorial Defence fighter examines a destroyed Russian Armoured personnel carrier (APC) after the fight in Kharkiv on Feb. 27, 2022. Ukrainian forces secured full control of Kharkiv on Feb. 27, 2022 following street fighting with Russian troops in the country's second biggest city, the local governor said.

'Unacceptable': Thomas-Greenfield says Putin escalating conflict in Ukraine

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Sunday that Vladimir Putin’s decision to put nuclear deterrent forces on high alert indicates the Russian president is “continuing to escalate” the war in Ukraine in a way that is “unacceptable.”

Speaking on CBS’ "Face the Nation," Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. is using “every possible lever” to stop Russia’s invasion of its neighbor and that the U.N. Security Council will meet later Sunday.

“I’m not surprised at this information because Putin has tried every means possible to actually put fear in the world in terms of his actions. It just means that we need to ramp up up our actions at the U.N.”

When asked whether there’s a threat of chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, Thomas-Greenfield responded: “Certainly nothing is off the table with this guy.”

– Sean Rossman

Putin orders nuclear deterrent forces on high alert

Russia President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian nuclear forces Sunday to be on high alert, a dramatic escalation of tensions with the West that brought immediate condemnation from the U.S. as Russia continues its full-scale assault on Ukraine.

Putin, announcing the move on Russian state television, called it a response to “aggressive statements” and tough financial sections from NATO countries. The extraordinary step raises the threat of nuclear warfare entering the conflict in Ukraine, a scenario the White House has previously said it has not assessed.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, condemned the action as “unacceptable" in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Putin directed the Russian defense minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of combat duty” during a meeting with top officials.

“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country,” Putin said in televised comments.

At the onset of the conflict with Ukraine, Putin warned that any nation that would “hinder us” will face" such consequences that you have never encountered in your history,” although he did not elaborate what he meant.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

-- Joey Garrison, Associated Press

Kyiv eerily quiet after explosions

The capital, Kyiv, was eerily quiet after huge explosions lit up the morning sky and authorities reported blasts at one of the airports. Only an occasional car appeared on a deserted main boulevard as a strict 39-hour curfew kept people off the streets. Terrified residents instead hunkered down in homes, underground garages and subway stations in anticipation of a full-scale Russian assault.

“The past night was tough – more shelling, more bombing of residential areas and civilian infrastructure,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. “There is not a single facility in the country that the occupiers wouldn’t consider as admissible targets.”

An armed civil defense woman holds a Kalashnikov assault rifle while patrolling an empty street due to a curfew in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022.
An armed civil defense woman holds a Kalashnikov assault rifle while patrolling an empty street due to a curfew in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022.

Videos posted on Ukrainian media and social networks showed Russian vehicles moving across Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city. The images showed Russian troops roaming the city in small groups. In one image, Ukrainian troops were seen firing at the Russians and damaged Russian light utility vehicles abandoned nearby.

The images underscored the determined resistance Russian troops face while attempting to enter Ukraine’s bigger cities. Ukrainians have volunteered en masse to help defend the capital, Kyiv, and other cities, taking guns distributed by authorities and preparing firebombs to fight Russian forces.

– Associated Press

Zelenskyy asks UN top court to halt Russian invasion, says Moscow 'manipulating the notion of genocide'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of manipulating the notion of genocide to justify invading its neighbor and urged the International Court of Justice to hold trials.

Located in The Hague, the Netherlands, the ICJ is the main judicial arm of the United Nations.

In this photo taken from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation in Kyiv, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022.
In this photo taken from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the nation in Kyiv, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022.

"Russia must be held accountable for manipulating the notion of genocide to justify aggression. We request an urgent decision ordering Russia to cease military activity now and expect trials to start next week," Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter.

The ICJ rules on disputes between states, including responsibility for breaches of international law. It is not linked to the International Criminal Court, also based in The Hague, which holds individuals accountable for atrocities.

– Caren Bohan and Associated Press

Zelenskyy is a lion of a leader | Opinion

“I need ammunition, not a ride.” Those are the words proclaimed by Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. In the midst of terrible death and destruction and the most egregious threat to Europe since World War II, Ukrainians are teaching the rest of the world a lesson about freedom, resolve and love of country.

When offered an escape from Kyiv, allegedly by the United States, the 44-year-old Ukrainian president immediately rejected the notion and demonstrated selfless leadership and a portrait of courage generally reserved for Hollywood.

Many leaders would have abandoned ship, putting their own personal safety above that of their countrymen. Zelenskyy, on the other hand, is taking a stand for freedom, boldly demonstrating that freedom is worth fighting for; that a government of, by and for the people is worth defending.

– August Pfluger (Read more of August Pfluger's column.)

NHL star Alex Ovechkin called over over stance on war

Hockey Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek has called for the NHL to "immediately suspend contracts for all Russian players" amidst Russia's deadly invasion of Ukraine.

The 57-year-old Czech also had some choice words for Washington Capitals' Russian-born star Alex Ovechkin, a supporter of President Vladimir Putin.

Hasek, who played in the NHL for 16-seasons and is widely considered one of the best goaltenders of all time, called Ovechkin an "alibist," a "liar" and a "chicken (expletive)" after Ovechkin failed to publicly denounce Putin and his country's aggression.

– Cydney Henderson

Ukraine rejects location for talks with Russia

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country is ready for peace talks with Russia but not in Belarus.

Speaking in a video message Sunday, Zelenskyy suggested meeting in Warsaw, Poland; Bratislava, Slovakia; Istanbul; Budapest, Hungary; or Baku, Azerbaijan. He said other locations are also possible but made clear that Ukraine doesn’t accept Russia’s selection of Belarus, which Russia has used as a staging ground for its invasion.

The Kremlin said Sunday a Russian delegation had arrived in Homel, Belarus, for talks with Ukrainian officials. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the delegation includes military officials and diplomats.

– Associated Press

Russia's cutting off port access

Russia was working Sunday to limit strategic strategic ports along the Ukraine’s coastline stretching from the border with Romania in the west to the border with Russia in the east. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said Russian forces had blocked the cities of Kherson on the Black Sea and the port of Berdyansk on the Azov Sea.

Russia’s military also put increasing pressure on strategic ports in the south of Ukraine, blocking the cities of Kherson on the Black Sea and the port of Berdyansk on the Azov Sea.

Cutting Ukraine’s access to its sea ports would deal a major blow to the country’s economy.

-- Associated Press

Russia targets Ukraine airfields in next phase

Russia unleashed a wave of attacks on Ukraine targeting airfields and fuel facilities in what appeared to be the next phase of an invasion that has been slowed by fierce resistance. The U.S. and EU responded with weapons and ammunition for the outnumbered Ukrainians and powerful sanctions intended to further isolate Moscow.

Huge explosions lit up the sky early Sunday south of the capital, Kyiv, where people hunkered down in homes, underground garages and subway stations in anticipation of a full-scale assault by Russian forces.

-- Associated Press

Where are Russian military forces? Tracking the Ukraine invasion

'You cannot defeat a whole nation'

On Sunday morning, Ukranian writer Illarion Pavliuk plans to set out on a dangerous journey to help his countrymen as explosions rock Kyiv, and outgunned Ukrainian forces continue to maintain control of their capital.

Pavliuk is not a solider, but he does have a military background. In 2015, he was an intelligence volunteer in the war in Eastern Ukraine. And yet, this is what Ukraine has become – a country where internationally acclaimed artists are forced to kiss their children goodnight before they go off to defend their homeland from the occupying force. "We will never give up and we are going to win this war. You cannot defeat the whole nation. And Ukrainians are absolutely united as a nation now."

His words are haunting and powerful, with his children in the background.

"What can I tell you about this war? It is difficult to say a couple of words," he says. "I would never ever imagine my four children dropping their toys and running to sit in the thickest doorway in the house because of cruise missiles above our city; ballistic missiles.

"And I would never imagine this and I will never forgive Russia."

– Carli Pierson, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine agrees to meet with Russia; ruble plunges: recaps