EU shuts airspace to Russia, bans media

TEHRAN, Feb. 27 (MNA) – Fighting has reached the streets of Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv as Russia presses ahead with its operation days after the Russian President ordered the start of a special military operation.

In a pre-dawn TV address on 24 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin said announced the start of a special military operation in Ukraine after the Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics requested protection from intensified attacks by the Ukrainian army. The Russian leader stressed that Moscow had no plans of occupying Ukrainian territories.

The West imposed fresh sanctions on Russia, aimed at cutting off its largest banks and preventing the country from importing critical technology.

According to the Kremlin, the Russian President ordered troops to suspend the military offensive, awaiting peace talks with the Ukrainian side, but after Kyiv rejected the offer to negotiate, Moscow resumed the operation.

Here are all the latest updates:

EU completely closes its airspace to Russian airlines, bans media

The European Union will shut down its airspace to Russian aircraft, seek to ban Russian state-owned media in the bloc and target Russian ally Belarus with sanctions, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said.

NATO chief calls Putin alert order irresponsible, cites 'dangerous rhetoric'

President Vladimir Putin's move to put Russian forces on high alert is dangerous and irresponsible, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday, according to Reuters.

Moreover, in response to Putin order, White House said that US & NATO 'do not threaten' Russia, adding that Moscow putting its deterrent forces on high alert based on threats that don't exist.

Negotiations between the Russian and Ukrainian sides have begun in Belarus

The talks are taking place in the Gomel region, at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, Russian media have said.

US, NATO do not threaten Russia: White House

US & NATO 'do not threaten' Russia, Washington said, adding that Moscow is putting its deterrent forces on high alert based on threats that don't exist.

Canada, Spain ban Russian Plans

Canada and Spain latest countries to ban Russian planes from their airspace, according to news reports.

Canada’s airspace is closed to all Russian aircraft operators effective immediately, according to the Canadian Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra.

Russian MoD says Ukrainian forces use banned Phosphorus Munitions outside Kyiv 

Ukrainian forces have started using munitions filled with phosphorus near Gostomel Airport outside Kyiv, the Russian Defence Ministry said.

"Desperate to deter the Russian offensive, Ukraine's army has been massively using phosphorus munitions in areas close to Kyiv and near Gostomel Airport. They are using 122 mm D30 howitzers and rockets for BM-21 "Grad" systems made in the Soviet Union," an official spokesman for the MoD, Igor Konashenkov, said, according to Sputnik.

EU shuts airspace to Russia, bans media

Putin puts Russian nuclear deterrence forces on high alert

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the military to put the nation's nuclear deterrence forces on high alert Sunday following "aggressive statements" from NATO.

"Top officials of leading NATO nations indulge in making aggressive statements about our country. Therefore, I am ordering the minister of defence and the chief of the general staff to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into special combat duty mode," Putin said in a briefing with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, Sputnik reported.

NATO, Putin said, has not limited its reaction to Russia's military operation in Ukraine only to "unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere" in the form of sanctions.

EU shuts airspace to Russia, bans media

Ukraine agrees to hold talks with Russia at Belarus border: Zelensky

Ukraine’s president said that Kyiv has agreed to send a delegation for talks with Russian officials on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border.

“We have agreed that the Ukrainian delegation will meet with Russian [officials] without prior conditions on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, in the area of the Pripyat river,” Zelensky said in a statement.

Ukrainian delegation reportedly heading to Belarus for talks

Ukraine's delegation is heading to Gomel in Belarus for the negotiations with Russia, Russian President Putin's aide and head of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, said on Sunday, according to Sputnik. 

The talks are expected to take place in the Gomel region at the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, Belta news agency reported.

This announcement comes just minutes after the deadline previously set by the Russian delegation for the negotiations with Ukraine to begin expired.

The news comes while Ukrainian President Zelensky stated earlier that Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, Istanbul or Baku could become a site for negotiations but not Minsk.

EU shuts airspace to Russia, bans media

Zelensky says he spoke with Belarusian counterpart

Zelensky says he has spoken with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The Ukrainian president’s announcement, issued on his Telegram messaging channel, came after Kyiv rejected talks with Moscow in Belarus.

Zelensky provided no further details of the pair’s talks.

EU shuts airspace to Russia, bans media

Ukrainian MP says Kharkiv back under control

Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko said Kharkiv city is back under full control. “Glory to the soldiers who bravely stood through all these never-ending hours.”

Ukraine has full control of Kharkiv, regional governor Oleh Sinegubov also said on Sunday.

“Control over Kharkiv is completely ours! The armed forces, the police, and the defense forces are working," Sinegubov wrote on the Telegram messaging service.

More European countries close airspace to Russian flights

A string of European countries including Germany and Finland have said they are preparing to close their airspace to Russian planes, mirroring measures already taken by other states on the continent.

Norway, France, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and Iceland were alongside Berlin and Helsinki as the latest to take action.

The UK, Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Romania, as well as Baltic states Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, have also moved to shutter their airspace to Russian planes.

Portugal to supply military equipment to Kyiv

Portugal will send military equipment to Ukraine, including ammunition and grenades, the country’s defence ministry has said.

Lisbon is to dispatch “vests, helmets, night-vision goggles, grenades and ammunition,” the ministry said in a statement on Twitter.

EU shuts airspace to Russia, bans media

Turkey overseeing passage to Black Sea

Turkey called Russia’s attack on Ukraine a “war” on Sunday in a rhetorical shift that could pave the way for the Nato member nation to enact an international pact limiting Russian naval passage to the Black Sea.

Under the 1936 Montreux Convention, Turkey has control over the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits that connect the Mediterranean and Black seas and can limit the passage of warships during wartime or if threatened.

Balancing its Western commitments and close ties to Moscow, Ankara has said the Russian attack is unacceptable but until Sunday had not described the situation as a war.

“On the fourth day of the Ukraine war, we repeat President (Tayyip) Erdogan’s call for an immediate halt of Russian attacks and the start of ceasefire negotiations,” presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter.

Ukraine claims Russia lost around 4,300 soldiers,146 tanks so far

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister has claimed that approximately 4,300 Russian troops have been killed in fighting so far.

Hanna Malyar said in a statement posted on Facebook that the exact number was being clarified but alleged that Ukrainian forces had also destroyed about 146 tanks, 27 aircraft and 26 helicopters.

There was no immediate response to the claims from Moscow.

Street fighting in Ukraine's second city Kharkiv

Street fighting broke out in the center of Kharkiv as Russian troops entered Ukraine’s second-largest city, Oleh Synehubov, the head of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration said Sunday.  

Synehubov urged residents of the eastern city to stay in shelters and not to travel anywhere. Russian vehicles entered the city of Kharkiv on Sunday, he said.

RT released unverified footage that shows fierce street battles allegedly in Kharkiv.

Ukraine says downed missile launched by Russian bomber flying over Belarus

Ukrainian forces have downed a cruise missile launched by a Russian Tu-22 strategic bomber from the territory of Belarus, Valery Zaluzhny, the chief commander of the armed forces, claimed.

Russian delegation arrives in Belarus for talks with Ukrainians

"In accordance with the agreement reached, the Russian delegation, consisting of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence and other departments, including the presidential administration, has arrived in Belarus for negotiations with the Ukrainians. We will be ready to start these negotiations in Gomel," Peskov told reporters.

Russia is ready for talks and is "waiting for the Ukrainians," the Kremlin spokesman added.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said that Minsk has prepared everything necessary for the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in Gomel.

Zelensky, despite Peskov's words about the arrival of the Russian delegation in Gomel, stated that Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, Istanbul or Baku could become a site for negotiations but not Minsk.

Russian MoD says its military destroyed total of 975 Ukrainian military targets

Russia has destroyed at least 975 Ukrainian military targets, the Russian Military of Defence reportedly said. 

Russia says to have besieged two big cities in Ukraine south and southeast

Moscow announced that its troops had “entirely” besieged the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson and the city of Berdyansk in the southeast, as the Russian army pressed ahead with its operation. 

“Over the past 24 hours, the cities of Kherson and Berdyansk have been completely blocked by the Russian armed forces,” defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

Ukrainian official says Russian troops enter Kharkiv

Ukrainian forces were battling Russian troops on the streets of Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv, said regional governor Oleh Sinegubov.

“The Russian light vehicles have broken into Kharkiv, including the city centre,” Sinegubov said. 

Unverified footage shows the streets of Kharkiv as Russian forces are seen entering the city after apparently piercing through defences. The sounds of shooting and explosions can be heard in the city, RT reported. 

EU shuts airspace to Russia, bans media

More than 150,000 fled Ukraine, UN High Commissioner for Refugees says

"More than 150,000 Ukrainian refugees have now crossed into neighboring countries, half of them to Poland, and many to Hungary, Moldova, Romania and beyond," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.

"Displacement in Ukraine is also growing but the military situation makes it difficult to estimate numbers and provide aid," Grandi said in a tweet Saturday.

EU shuts airspace to Russia, bans media

Trump calls US a ‘stupid country’, praises Putin as ‘smart’ 

Former US President Donald Trump repeated his praise of Vladimir Putin as “smart” and called American leaders “dumb” as Russia pressed on with its military operation in Ukraine.

“He’s a brave man, he’s hanging in,” Trump said of Zelensky in remarks at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

“The problem is not that Putin is smart, which, of course, he’s smart,” Trump said. “The problem is that our leaders are dumb… and so far, allowed him to get away with this travesty and assault on humanity.”

“Putin is playing [President Joe] Biden like a drum and it’s not a pretty thing to watch,” he continued.

Special UN General Assembly session on Ukraine due on February 28

A special session of the UN General Assembly to discuss the draft resolution on Ukraine is expected to be held on Monday, February 28, a source in the international organization has told TASS.

"The special session is expected to be held on Monday," the source said.

Earlier, the United States requested holding a procedural vote of the UN Security Council on the issue. The council will gather at 15:00 on Sunday.

On Friday, Russia used its veto power in the UN Security Council to block a resolution proposed by a group of Western countries that would have condemned Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. US Permanent Representative to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said after the session that a relevant document will be brought before the UN General Assembly.

Australia to send weapons to Ukraine via NATO 

Australia will now provide funding to send weapons to Ukraine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced.

"We are already providing significant support in terms of non-lethal aid but I've just spoken to the Defence Minister and we'll be seeking to provide whatever support we can for lethal aid through our NATO partners, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom. We'll be working through those channels because that's the most effective way to do it, they are already providing support in this area," Morrison added.

EU shuts airspace to Russia, bans media

SWIFT system says preparing to implement Western sanctions

According to Reuters, the SWIFT international payments system said on Saturday that it was preparing to implement new Western nations’ measures targeting specific Russian banks in the coming days.

“We are engaging with European authorities to understand the details of the entities that will be subject to the new measures and we are preparing to comply upon legal instruction,” it said in a statement.

Ukraine says Russian troops blow up gas pipeline in Kharkiv

Russian troops have blown up a natural gas pipeline in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s state service of special communications and information protection has said.

Town near Ukraine’s Kyiv hit by missiles, oil depot on fire

Russian missiles have hit the Ukrainian town of Vasylkiv southwest of the capital, Kyiv, setting an oil terminal ablaze, the town’s mayor said in a video posted online.

Russia closes airspace to carriers from Baltics, Slovenia

Russia has closed its airspace to flights operated by carriers from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Slovenia in tit-for-tat punitive measures.

“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.

Germany and Western allies agree cutting Russia out of SWIFT

All Russian banks already subjected to Western sanctions will be excluded from SWIFT, with the possibility open for other Russian banks to be excluded as well, the German government announced on Saturday.

"This is intended to cut off these institutions from international financial flows, which will massively restrict their global operations," the country's spokesperson stated.

The spokesperson added that the Western nations "stressed their willingness to take further measures should Russia not end its attack on Ukraine and thus on the European peace order."

EU shuts airspace to Russia, bans media

Macron asks for withdrawal of Russian troops from Belarus

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the situation in Ukraine, the position of Minsk and involvement in it during a phone conversation, Belarusian state-run agency Belta reported on Saturday.

Macron has asked his Belarusian counterpart to ensure the “withdrawal of Russian troops” from Belarus, the French presidency said.

EU announces new Russia sanctions with US and others, including SWIFT

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said that the EU, along with the US and other Western partners, plans to impose further sanctions on Russia for its attack on Ukraine, including cutting off a number of Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank payments system.

Lufthansa halts flights to Russia for a week

German airline Lufthansa has said it will cancel all flights to Russia and will cease using Russian airspace for the coming week, citing the “emerging regulatory situation”.

“Flights that are in Russian airspace will leave it again shortly,” a spokesperson for the company said, adding that the company was in close contact with national and international authorities and would continue to monitor the situation closely.

Read all the updates from Saturday, February 26, here.


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