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Ukrainian soldiers stand next to a burnt military truck in a street in Kyiv AP/PA Images
AS IT HAPPENED

As it happened: Fighting in Kyiv continues as demonstrations take place across Europe

The latest developments on day three of Russia’s assault on Ukraine.

LAST UPDATE | Feb 26th 2022, 6:00 PM

HERE WERE THE latest developments as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continued for a third day.

This morning’s main developments: 

  • Ukrainian soldiers have beaten back a Russian attack in Kyiv only hours after President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Moscow would attempt to take the city before dawn.
  • Zelensky has released a self-shot video from central Kyiv alongside key aides saying, “I am here… We will defend our state, because our weapons are our truth”.
  • Russia says it is bombarding Ukraine’s military infrastructure with air- and sea-based cruise missiles.
  • Ukraine says it is battling with Russian armoured units in two locations between 40 and 80 kilometres north of Kyiv.
  • The United States and the European Union have added Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to their sanctions list. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also says he is planning “imminent” sanctions against them.
  • NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said the alliance is deploying its rapid response forces to bolster defences in Eastern Europe. 
  • Tweeting this morning, Ukraine foreign affairs minister Dmytro Kuleba has re-iterated his call for other nations to isolate Russia, including the expulsion of ambassadors.

Hello.

Hayley Halpin here, I’ll be keeping you up to date with all the latest developments on the situation in Ukraine throughout the morning. 

A high-rise apartment block was hit by a missile overnight in Kyiv.

Emergency services said the number of victims was “being specified” and that an evacuation was underway.

They posted a picture online of the tower block with a hole covering at least five floors blasted into the side and rubble strewn across the street below.

Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko wrote online that the building had been hit by a missile.

He said in a video that the night had been “difficult”, with Russian “sabotage groups” in the capital.

He insisted that there were no regular Russian troops in Kyiv, but said they were trying to enter from several directions.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted a picture of the damaged apartment block.

“Kyiv, our splendid, peaceful city, survived another night under attacks by Russian ground forces, missiles. One of them has hit a residential apartment in Kyiv,” he wrote.

He urged the international community to “fully isolate Russia, expel ambassadors, (introduce an) oil embargo, ruin its economy.”

“Stop Russian war criminals!” he added.

The Russian military said today it had targeted Ukraine’s military infrastructure using cruise missiles fired from the air and sea.

Russia’s ambassador in Ireland Yuri Filatov has said his expulsion is up to the Irish government and he “can leave any time”. 

During an interview with RTÉ’s Six One News yesterday evening, Filatov was asked about the potential of him being expelled.

“You might ask your Government, it’s up to them. I can leave any time,” he said.

His comments come after Tánaiste Leo Varadkar yesterday said the expulsion of the Russian ambassador has not been ruled out.

Social media

Facebook has restricted Russian state media’s ability to earn money on the social media platform.

“We are now prohibiting Russian state media from running ads or monetizing on our platform anywhere in the world,” Nathaniel Gleicher, the social media giant’s security policy head, said on Twitter.

He added that Facebook would “continue to apply labels to additional Russian state media.”

Facebook’s parent company Meta said yesterday that Russia would hit its services with restrictions after it refused authorities’ order to stop using fact-checkers and content warning labels on its platforms.

Social media networks have become one of the fronts in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, home to sometimes misleading information but also real-time monitoring of a quickly developing conflict that marks Europe’s biggest geopolitical crisis in decades.

“Yesterday, Russian authorities ordered us to stop the independent fact-checking and labelling of content posted on Facebook by four Russian state-owned media organizations,” Meta’s Nick Clegg said in a statement. “We refused.”

His statement came hours after Russia’s media regulator said it was limiting access to Facebook, accusing the US tech giant of censorship and violating the rights of Russian citizens.

These are some of the scenes in Kyiv this morning following a night of fighting. 

ukraine-invasion A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

ukraine-invasion An apartment building damaged following a rocket attack on the city of Kyiv AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

ukraine-invasion Ukrainian soldiers investigate debris of a burning military truck is seen on a street in Kyiv Efrem Lukatsky / PA Images Efrem Lukatsky / PA Images / PA Images

ukraine-invasion Debris of a burning military truck on a street in Kyiv AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

The UN refugee agency said more than 120,000 Ukrainian refugees have left the country since Russia began its attack.

The UN deputy high commissioner for refugees, Kelly Clements, said in an interview on CNN that the situation was expected to get worse.

“We now see over 120,000 people that have gone to all of the neighbouring countries,” she said.

“The reception that they are receiving from local communities, from local authorities, is tremendous. But it’s a dynamic situation. We are really quite devastated, obviously, with what’s to come.”

Most are heading to Poland and Moldova, but some are also arriving in Romania, Slovakia and Hungary.

Poland will not play their 2022 World Cup play-off with Russia in Moscow on 24 March due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the president of the Polish football federation has said.

“It is time to act. Due to the escalation of the Russian Federation’s aggression in Ukraine, the Polish team does not envisage playing the play-off against Russia,” wrote Cezary Kulesz, adding it was the “only correct decision”.

He said he would work with the Swedish and Czech federations – the winners of their match would have to play in Russia if the latter beat Poland – to present a unified position to Fifa.

198 civilians, including three children, have been killed so far by Russian forces attacking the pro-Western country, Ukraine’s health minister has said.

“Unfortunately, according to operative data, at the hands of the invaders we have 198 dead, including 3 children, 1,115 wounded, including 33 children,” Health Minister Viktor Lyashko wrote on Facebook.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is “pleased even more allies have come forward with defensive and humanitarian aid” for Ukraine.

“We must stand with the Ukrainian people as they defend their country and democracies everywhere.”

The Czech Republic is to donate machine guns, automatic and sniper rifles, pistols and ammunition valued at €7.6 million to Ukraine, the defence minister has said.

“The government on Saturday approved further help to Ukraine, which is facing a Russian attack,” Minister Jana Cernochova said in a tweet.

“The defence ministry will also take care of transport to a place set by the Ukrainian side. Our help is not over,” she added.

In January, Prague had donated 4,000 artillery shells worth €1.5 million.

Maia Mikhaluk, a resident of Kyiv, has described the damage in Ukraine’s capital as “surreal” after sharing photographs of children playing in the rubble of a decimated tower block.

The part-time photographer shared photos of damaged buildings near a play area in the Darnytskyi region of Kyiv. 

“It’s shocking. It’s surreal to be taking these pictures in Kyiv, in the capital of a European country, right in the centre of Europe,” she told PA. 

“You can see a building destroyed, you can see lives destroyed. Those shards of glass are like shards of people’s lives.” 

russian-invasion-of-ukraine A photo of two children in the midst of rubble caused by an explosion in Kyiv Maia Mikhaluk / PA Images Maia Mikhaluk / PA Images / PA Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has this morning spoken on the phone to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

After the conversation, Zelenskyy confirmed that Italy supports disconnecting Russia from SWIFT.

SWIFT’s messaging system allows banks to communicate rapidly and securely about transactions, and cutting Russia off would cripple its ability to trade with most of the world.

Iran has been disconnected from the system in the past over its nuclear programme, while Moscow has been developing domestic financial infrastructure to counter just such a threat, including the SPFS system for bank transfers and the Mir card payments system.

Cutting off Russia could complicate remaining trade with Europe, including natural gas imports vital to the continent’s energy supply as well as oil shipments.

A senior Russian official has warned that Moscow could react to western sanctions over its attack on Ukraine by opting out of the last remaining nuclear arms pact and freezing western assets.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, shrugged off a set of crippling sanctions the US, the EU and other allies slapped on Russia as a reflection of western “political impotence”.

He said the sanctions could offer Moscow a pretext for a complete review of its ties with the West, suggesting Russia could opt out of the New Start nuclear arms control treaty that limits US and Russian nuclear arsenals.

Medvedev also raised the prospect of cutting diplomatic ties with western countries, saying “there is no particular need in maintaining diplomatic relations” and adding “we may look at each other in binoculars and gunsights”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has this morning urged Germany and Hungary to back severing Russia from the SWIFT banking system to punish Moscow for invading his country.

“There is already almost full support from the EU countries to disconnect Russia from SWIFT. I hope that Germany and Hungary will have the courage to support this decision,” Zelensky said in a video address posted online.

Zelensky also said Ukraine’s force had halted the Kremlin’s push to capture Kyiv and oust him and urged Russians to pressure leader Vladimir Putin to stop the invasion.

“We’ve derailed their plan,” he said, stressing that the Ukrainian army was in control of the capital Kyiv and main cities around it.

He also thanked Russians who spoke out against the war and asked them to keep up the pressure on the Kremlin, saying: “Simply stop those who are lying to you, lying to us, lying to the entire world.”

The UK Ministry of Defence has tweeted an intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine, saying: “Russian forces have continued their advance on Kyiv with the bulk of their forces now 30km from the centre of the city.

“Russia has yet to gain control of the airspace over Ukraine, greatly reducing the effectiveness of the Russian Air Force.

“Ukrainian Armed Forces continue to put up staunch resistance across the country.

“Russian casualties are likely to be heavy and greater than anticipated or acknowledged by the Kremlin.”

Polish Deputy Interior Minister Pawel Szefernaker has said 100,000 people have crossed the border into Poland from Ukraine since Russia’s invasion this week.

“From the onset of warfare in Ukraine through today, along the entire border with Ukraine, 100,000 people have crossed the border from Ukraine into Poland,” Szefernaker told reporters in the border village of Medyka, southeastern Poland.

He said 90% of the refugees have concrete places to go in Poland, such as the homes of friends or family, but that the remainder are seeking help at nine reception centres set up along the border.

The centres offer meals and medical care, a place to rest as well as any necessary information.

medyka-podkarpackie-poland-25th-feb-2022-people-are-seen-waiting-for-their-relatives-at-the-border-crossing-in-medyka-ukrainian-refugees-at-the-medyka-border-crossing-on-the-second-day-of-the-ru Ukrainian refugees at the Medyka border crossing Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Poland, which was already home to an estimated 1.5 million Ukrainians before Russia’s invasion and which has expressed steadfast support for Ukraine, has so far seen the bulk of those fleeing Ukraine cross into its territory.

French naval forces have intercepted in the Channel a cargo vessel loaded with cars heading for the Baltic port city of Saint Petersburg.

The Russian-flagged Baltic Leader, which had set sail from the French city of Rouen, was escorted to the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer by French forces, the maritime prefecture told AFP.

It is suspected of belonging to a company targeted by sanctions.

A French customs patrol vessel backed by a police surveillance ship and a navy patrol boat stopped the Baltic Leader, said Veronique Magnin of the regional prefecture.

The 127-metre (417-foot) vessel is “strongly suspected of being linked to Russian interests targeted by sanctions,” she said, adding that while such a measure was “rare” it is “a sign of “firmness”.

A spokesperson for the Russian embassy in Paris told the TASS news agency the boat’s captain had telephoned the embassy, which  then contacted the French authorities to ask for an explanation of the incident.

US President Joe Biden has signed a memorandum to provide up to $600 million in “immediate military assistance” to Ukraine.

It’s Nicky Ryan here, briefly taking over from my colleague Hayley.

I wanted to bring you details of a piece we’ve just published on the site.

Cathal Berry, a TD and a former soldier with the Irish Army’s Ranger Wing, has suggested that Ireland send some of its stockpiles of anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military has received training in the use of such weapons from Western countries in recent weeks and months, and they have seen extensive use against Russian tanks and other armoured vehicles.

I asked him about how the move would represent a significant shift away from established Irish policies of neutrality. He said:

If people are happy to see 40 million people being slaughtered and do nothing about it, then we shouldn’t, but if you want to do something about it, we should help a fellow neutral country to protect themselves.

The Irish Anti-War Movement has previously called for Ireland to refrain from fanning the flames of this conflict.

Read the piece in full here.

The Prime Minister of Estonia has confirmed that her country is the latest to ban Russian airlines from its airspace.

The Czech Republic, Poland and Bulgaria announced similar moves in the past few days.

Kyiv’s curfew is being tightened again.

It comes amid widespread claims of Russian ‘saboteurs’ in the city.

Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said that to improve the defence of the capital the curfew will be extended from 5:00 pm to 8:00 am local time between today and Monday.

“All civilians who are on the street during the curfew will be considered members of the enemy’s sabotage and reconnaissance groups,” Klitschko wrote in an online post.

Many journalists are still on the ground in Ukraine, reporting firsthand on the increasingly fraught situation as Russian troops advance further.

Among those are RTÉ’s Tony Connolly and Bram Verbeke. Yesterday they made the reluctant decision to leave Kyiv for a more western city.

You can read it in full here, but first a quick extract

Then I saw David Mohren, the tireless Radisson manager in the lobby. What should we do, I asked?

His response was blunt and pivotal. Rather than the hotel remaining a last hold out for journalists who could keep reporting the situation, it now looked like a declining asset.

“We need to think of getting ourselves out,” said David gravely. It was clear that the heroic operation to keep it going was on borrowed time. He was running out of staff, and, presumably, resources.

Russia is now retaliating against moves by some countries to ban Russian flights from their airspace.

It’s responding in kind, by banning flights from Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic.

“Air carriers of these states and/or registered in them are subject to restrictions on flights to destinations on the territory of the Russian Federation, including transit flights through the airspace of the Russian Federation,” the federal air transport agency Rosaviation said.

The measure is set to go into effect from 3 pm local time on Saturday.

Hello, Hayley Halpin back here to bring you through the next few hours. 

European Union energy ministers are to hold an extraordinary meeting in Brussels on Monday, with several member states heavily dependent on Russian gas exports.

France’s ecological transition minister Barbara Pompili will chair the afternoon talks.

The EU has toughened its sanctions against Russia, but has not extended them to energy or excluded it from the global SWIFT inter-banking system.

Russian gas accounts for a high share of energy supplies in Germany, Hungary and Italy.

Ukraine-Russian negotiations

The Kremlin has accused Ukraine of prolonging the military conflict by refusing to negotiate as Russia pressed on with its invasion of the pro-Western country.

“In connection with the expected negotiations, the Russian president yesterday afternoon ordered the suspension of the advance of the main forces of the Russian Federation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a conference call.

“Since the Ukrainian side refused to negotiate, the advance of the Russian forces resumed this afternoon.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, have tweeted their support of Ukraine. 

“In October 2020 we had the privilege to meet President Zelenskyy and the First Lady to learn of their hope and optimism for Ukraine’s future,” they tweeted from their @KensingtonRoyal account. 

“Today we stand with the President and all of Ukraine’s people as they bravely fight for that future. W & C”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the United States is providing Ukraine with $350 million in additional military assistance to fight off the Russian invasion.

“This package will include further lethal defensive assistance to help Ukraine address the armored, airborne, and other threats it is now facing,” Blinken said in a statement.

Bord Gáis Energy Theatre has said it “stands firmly behind the people and nation of Ukraine” and has taken the decision to cancel the upcoming performances of Swan Lake by St Petersburg Ballet Theatre. 

These shows were scheduled to take place from 29 March to 3 April. 

“We hope for a diplomatic, swift and more peaceful resolution to this tragic attack,” the Theatre said in a statement. 

“We will be in touch with customers in the coming days with more information and we appreciate your patience at this time.”

This evening’s scheduled performance of the Royal Moscow Ballet at the National Opera House has been cancelled. 

Protests are taking place for a third day in a row outside the Russian Embassy in Dublin. 

The UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has “cancelled the visas of the Belarusian Men’s Basketball Team who were due to play in Newcastle tomorrow night”.

“The UK will not welcome the national sports teams of those countries who are complicit in Putin’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of #Ukraine,” Patel tweeted. 

Russian media

Russia has ordered its media to remove reports describing its attack on Ukraine as an “assault, invasion, or declaration of war” or face being blocked and fined.

As Russian forces moved into Kyiv, Moscow’s defence ministry also said that Russian media should stick to the official version of events.

In a statement, the Russian communications watchdog accused a number of independent media outlets of spreading “unreliable socially significant untrue information” about the shelling of Ukrainian cities by the Russian army and civilian deaths.

These included television channel Dozhd and the country’s top independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, whose editor Dmitry Muratov was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

Citing a request from the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Russian communications regulator said the media outlets – that also include Echo of Moscow radio -will be blocked unless they remove the “unreliable information”.

“Roskomnadzor also launched an administrative investigation into the dissemination of unreliable publicly significant information by the above-mentioned media,” the watchdog said.

The offence is punishable by a fine of up to five million rubles ($60,000), it said.

Roskomnadzor also said that “reliable information” could be found in “official Russian information outlets”.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence is asking people to remove the names of streets, cities and villages from road signs in their regions. 

The Ministry said this should be done to “confuse and disorient the enemy”.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has slammed Western countries such as Germany for displaying “unyielding egoism” in the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine, saying “crushing sanctions” were needed.

“There is no time today for the kind of unyielding egoism that we see in certain Western countries, including here in Germany unfortunately,” Morawiecki said in Berlin ahead of a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

“That is why I came here … to shake the conscience of Germany. So that they finally decide on sanctions that are actually crushing,” he told Polish reporters.

People have also gathered outside the GPO in Dublin this afternoon in protest over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Sweden will not play Russia in the 2022 World Cup play-offs because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the football federation has said.

Sweden would have to beat the Czech Republic and Russia overcome Poland for them to face each other on 29 March in Russia.

Earlier today, the Poles said they would not play the Russians in Moscow on 24 March for the same reason.

Kyiv curfew

Kyiv authorities are imposing a day-and-night curfew until Monday morning.

“The curfew in Kyiv will start on Saturday at 5pm (3pm Irish time) and end at 8am (6am Irish time) on Monday,” city authorities said on Telegram, adding that “all civilians that are on the streets during the period of the curfew will be considered members of sabotage groups of the enemy”.

That’s all from me, Hayley Halpin, for today. 

My colleague Eoghan Dalton will take you through the next few hours. 

The UK’s Ministry of Defence has tweeted an intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine, saying that the Russian advance has “temporarily slowed” partly owing to “acute logistical difficulties” for its forces.

The ministry said: “The speed of the Russian advance has temporarily slowed likely as a result of acute logistical difficulties and strong Ukrainian resistance.

“Russian forces are bypassing major Ukrainian population centres while leaving forces to encircle and isolate them.

“Overnight clashes in Kyiv are likely to have involved limited numbers of pre-positioned Russian sabotage groups.

“The capture of Kyiv remains Russia’s primary military objective.”

Appeal to India

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “political support” at the UN after New Delhi abstained from a Security Council vote, AFP is reporting.

India is currently on the UN’s top body but — along with China and the UAE — did not vote on a resolution last night that deplored Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine and demanded the immediate withdrawal of its troops.

Russia vetoed the resolution using its power as a permanent member of the council.

In a tweet today, Zelensky said he had spoken with Modi and told him that “More than 100,000 invaders are on our land.”

“Stop the aggressor together!” he posted.

India has neither explicitly condemned Moscow’s actions, nor called them an invasion, instead repeatedly referring to “developments” in Ukraine.

India’s foreign ministry released a statement later Saturday, calling it a “conflict situation” and saying Modi had “reiterated his call for an immediate cessation of violence and a return to dialogue”.

A senior US defence official has reportedly said more than 50% of Russian combat power arrayed along Ukraine’s borders is estimated to have entered the country.

That is up from a US estimate on Friday that a third of the Russian force had been committed to the fight.

The official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, would not say how many Russian troops that amounts to inside Ukraine, but the US had previously assessed the total Russian force amassed near Ukraine at more than 150,000 personnel.

The defence chief said advancing Russian forces were roughly 30 kilometres (18 miles) outside Kyiv as of Saturday, and that an unspecified number of Russian military “reconnaissance elements” had entered the capital.

Eggs have been thrown at the Russian embassy in London during pro-Ukrainian protests outside the building.

Hundreds gathered calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw from Ukraine in demonstrations outside the embassy in Kensington, as well as Downing Street earlier this afternoon.

Waving flags, banners and placards, protesters sang the Ukrainian anthem and chanted “Putin stop war”, “Putin go home” and “free Ukraine”.

Fianna Fáil’s backbench Oireachtas members have signed a petition seeking the expulsion of the Russian ambassador Yury Filatov.

The 32 TDs and senators have made the demand as a show of support for Ukraine in response to the “unlawful invasion by President Putin”.

The petition includes names of prominent backbench TDs including Jim O'Callaghan, Barry Cowen and Willie O'Dea.

German support 

Germany has approved the deliveries of 400 anti-tank rocket launchers to Ukraine in a U-turn from its longstanding policy of banning weapon exports to conflict zones, reports AFP.

“Given the Russian attack on Ukraine, the government is prepared to release urgently needed material for the defence of Ukraine,” a German government source said in a statement.

The anti-tank launchers will be delivered through the Netherlands, and will join 14 armoured vehicles already approved for Ukraine.

Up to 10,000 tonnes of fuel will also be provided.

Kyiv has for weeks been pleading with Germany to send armaments to help it to face down an invasion by Russia.

Berlin’s obstinate refusal until now to approve weapon deliveries, and a previous decision to send only 5,000 helmets, had sparked anger and mockery.

There have been emotional scenes in England’s Premier League as players for Manchester City and Everton entered the pitch draped in Ukrainian colours.

Both sides have Ukrainians in their lineups and the gesture drew tears from City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko. Everton’s Vitalii Mykolenko has written on social media this week about the worry of being unable to help his parents back home.

In the video below, Manchester City enter first and Everton follow, led by their captain, Ireland international Séamus Coleman.

Journalists wounded in northeast

Two Danish journalists sustained gunshot wounds after unknown gunmen targeted their car in Ukraine Saturday, their employer has said.

Reporter Stefan Weichert and photographer Emil Filtenborg Mikkelsen “were rapidly taken to hospital and are out of danger”, the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet said.

The two had been reporting near the northeastern city of Okhtyrka, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the Russian border.

They were wounded despite wearing bullet-proof vests.

The newspaper, which was employing them both as stringers, said it was in touch with Denmark’s foreign ministry and a private company to evacuate them.

‘Turning point in history’ – German chancellor 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point in history, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Saturday as his government approved the delivery of a huge batch of weapons to Ukraine in a major policy U-turn.

“In this situation, it is our duty to support Ukraine to the best of our ability in its defence against (Russian President) Vladimir Putin’s invading army,” said Scholz, stressing that Germany “stands closely by Ukraine’s side”.

We’re going to wrap up this liveblog for now. Thanks for staying with us throughout today. Our coverage will continue on the site.

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