Turkey moves to restrict entrance to Black Sea

TEHRAN, Feb. 28 (MNA) – Ukraine on Sunday agreed to hold talks with Russia on the Belarus border shortly after Valdimir Putin ordered his defence chiefs to put the country's nuclear "deterrence forces" on high alert amid increasing Western pressure.

On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a special military operation based on a request from the heads of the Donbass republics. The Russian leader stressed that Moscow had no plans to occupy Ukrainian territories and the goal was to demilitarize and denazify the country. Russia’s Defense Ministry reported later that the Russian Armed Forces were not delivering strikes against Ukrainian cities. The ministry emphasized that the Ukrainian military infrastructure was being destroyed by precision weapons and there was no threat to civilians.

The West imposed sanctions on Russia, aimed at cutting off its largest banks and preventing the country from importing critical technology. A string of European countries including Germany, Finland, Norway, France, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and Iceland have said they are preparing to close their airspace to Russian planes, mirroring measures already taken by other states on the continent.

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.

According to Russia's TASS news agency, talks between Ukraine and Russia are due to begin on Monday morning near the Belarusian border.

Here are all the latest updates:

Turkey moves to restrict entrance to Black Sea

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists his country “won’t give up” on its relations with either Russia or Ukraine, but says it will implement an international convention that allows Turkey to shut down the straits at the entrance of the Black Sea to the warships of “belligerent countries.”

The 1936 Montreux Convention gives Turkey the right to bar warships from using the Dardanelles and the Bosporus during wartime. Ukraine has asked Turkey to implement the treaty and bar access to Russian warships.

US imposes sanctions on Russia’s central bank

The United States has imposed sanctions on Russia’s central bank and other sources of wealth, further punishing Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

The measures block any transactions involving Russia’s central bank, finance ministry or national wealth fund.

Last week, Washington imposed several rounds of sanctions, including against Russian President Vladimir Putin and major banks.

FIFA, UEFA suspend all Russian football teams

The FIFA Council and the UEFA Executive Committee have suspended all Russian football teams, whether national representative teams or club teams, from participation in both competitions until further notice.

UEFA also ended its sponsorship with Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Ukraine applies to join European Union

Zelensky says he has signed an application for Ukraine to join the European Union.

The documents “are on the way to Brussels,” Andrii Sybiha, head of Zelensky’s office, said on his official Facebook page.

Ukraine-Russian peace talks end 

Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine have reportedly finished.

Russian and Ukrainian officials agreed to meet in the southeastern Belarusian city of Gomel on Monday for talks aimed at halting the fighting in Ukraine and resolving the crisis, Sputnik reported.

The Russian and Ukrainian sides have found some points of contact from which common positions could be built on, Vladimir Medinsky, the head of the Russian delegation, has told reporters.

"Talks with the Ukrainian side which lasted about 5 hours have just concluded. We discussed in detail all the items on the agenda and found some common points on which we can predict common positions," the official said.

First and foremost, this included agreement to continue negotiations. "The next meeting will take place in the coming days on the Polish-Belarusian border. There is a corresponding agreement on this," Medinsky said. "Until then, each delegation - the leadership of each delegations will consult on each of the negotiating positions with the leadership of their respective country," he noted.

Mikhail Podolyak, an advisor to the head of Ukrainian President's Office, confirmed that the possibility of a second round of talks in the near future was discussed.

"The two sides identified a number of priority topics on which certain decisions have been outlined. In order for them to have an opportunity to be implemented...the parties are leaving for consultations in their respective capitals. The possibility of a second round of negotiations in the near future was discussed, during which these topics will receive concrete, practical development," Podolyak said.

UK bans Russian vessels from its Ports

British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Monday ordered all UK seaports to turn away Russian vessels, in response to the situation in Ukraine.

Putin signs special economic measures decree on US, allies 

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree "On the application of special economic measures against the United States and countries that have joined them," the Kremlin press service reported.

Exporters must sell 80 percent of foreign exchange earnings credited from 1 January 2022, the Kremlin press service said, citing the decree.

"For residents participating in foreign economic activity to carry out the mandatory sale of foreign currency in the amount of 80 percent of the amount of foreign currency credited starting from 1 January 2022 to their accounts in authorised banks on the basis of foreign trade contracts concluded with non-residents and providing for the transfer of goods to non-residents, the provision of services to non-residents, performance of work for non-residents, transfer to non-residents of the results of intellectual activity, including exclusive rights to them, no later than three working days from the date this decree comes into force,” according to the decree.

According to the decree, Russian residents are banned from transferring foreign currency to their accounts or deposits in foreign banks.

The decree comes into force from the date of publication.

Ukraine solution possible only if Russia's security interests considered: Putin tells Macron

The Russian side is open to negotiations with Ukraine's representatives, and hopes that these talks will yield the desired results, Russia's President Vladimir Putin said during a phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday.

While the French head of state expressed hope for the swift resolution of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine via dialogue and talks with Kiev, Putin pointed out that such resolution would only be possible if Russia's legitimate security interests are taken into account, such as recognition of Russia's sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula, as well as demilitarisation and denazification of the Ukrainian state and ensuring its neutral status.

Putin also stressed that Russian troops do not threaten civilians and do not conduct strikes against civilian targets in Ukraine.

Special UN General Assembly session on Ukraine opens with a minute’s silence

The UN General Assembly is convening in New York City for a special session on the situation in Ukraine.

"We are all gravely concerned about the fast-deteriorating situation and ongoing military action in Ukraine," said UNGA Assembly president Abdulla Shahid.

Swiss adopts EU sanctions on Russia, Putin & officials

Swiss government adopts EU sanctions on Russia, against President Vladimir Putin, other officials due to situation in Ukraine, reports Russia state media Sputnik.

Russian nuclear triad takes up standby alert duty with reinforced staff, Shoigu tells Putin

Russia's ground, air and submarine-based nuclear deterrent forces have begun standby alert duty with reinforced personnel, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has informed President Putin, Russian media have said.

Russia restricts flights of airlines of 36 countries 

Russia, as a response to a ban the European states placed on the operation of flights of Russian aircraft, has limited the operation of flights via the airlines of 36 states, the Federal Air Transport Agency said, according to Sputnik.

Kiev demands Russia withdrawal from all Ukrainian territories, incl. Crimea 

 Kiev demands withdrawal of all Russian troops including from Crimea and Donbass in delegation talks, the Zelenski office has said, according to RT.

Russia can withstand sanctions: kremlin

The Kremlin on Monday said Russia's economic reality had changed but saw no reason to doubt the effectiveness and reliability of the central bank, which hiked interest rates to 20% as it sought to shield the economy from unprecedented Western sanctions.

US calls for evacuation of non-emergency embassy staff in Moscow

The US has authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency employees, family members at Embassy in Moscow, the state department says.

Moreover, according to RT, the US Treasury prohibits citizens from transactions with Russian Central Bank, and National Wealth Fund and Finance Ministry.

Bulgaria defense minister to be sacked over remarks on Ukraine

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on Monday he would sack Defence Minister Stefan Yanev after Yanev's reluctance to describe the Russian attack on Ukraine as a war prompted calls for his removal, Reuters reported.

Japan allocates additional $100 million aid to Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Japan additionally allocated $100 million to the already approved aid of $100 million to help Ukraine.

“Talked with Prime Minister of Japan @kishida230. Thanked for a strong support to 🇺🇦 in countering aggression. Japan allocates $100 million to the already approved aid of $100 million, fully supports tough sanctions against Russia. Thank you! A truly global anti-war coalition works,” he said in a tweet.

Several Russian media websites hacked by anonymous group

Anonymous group claimed Monday that they'd hacked several Russian media websites, including the Russian Forbes website, Russian bBsiness Daily Kommersant's website and TASS. The latter confirmed to Sputnik that the hack took place.

More than 5,00,000 civilians fled Ukraine conflict: UN

More than half a million people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its military operation five days ago, with more than half fleeing into Poland, the United Nations said Monday.

"More than 500,000 refugees have now fled from Ukraine into neighbouring countries,” UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi said in a tweet. 

Russia-Ukraine talks begin at Belarus border

Talks between Ukraine and Russia have started at the Belarussian border, Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak has told the Reuters news agency.

Earlier the Ukrainian president’s office said the main goal for the discussions was an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine.

Russia to respond to nations banning flights from their airspace

Russia will respond to European bans on air travel, will be guided by the principle of reciprocity and its own interests, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"Of course, there will be answers. The guiding principle will be the principle of reciprocity. And, of course, our own interests will be put at the forefront," Peskov told reporters.

According to Dmitry Peskov, Russia has the necessary potential to compensate for the damage from the sanctions.

"These are heavy sanctions, they are problematic, but Russia has the necessary potential to compensate for the damage before these sanctions," Peskov said.

Russia, in response to Western sanctions, will do what is in its interests, Dmitry Peskov added.

"Russia's responses will be built mainly from the point of view of expediency and our own interests ... We will do what is in our interests," Peskov said.

EU to send fighter jets to Ukraine

Ukraine’s appeal for fighter jets has reportedly been successful after European Union Foreign policy chief Josep Borrell confirmed that the EU will provide fighter jets to Kyiv.

"We’re going to provide fighter jets. We’re not talking about just ammunition. We are providing more important arms to go to war," Borrell said

NATO stepping up support for Ukraine

NATO member states are “stepping up” their support for Ukraine by providing Kyiv with air-defence missiles and anti-tank weapons, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says.

Stoltenberg said in a tweet that the United States-led alliance was also providing Ukraine with “humanitarian and financial aid”.

Zelensky requests immediate EU membership for Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelensky once again appealed to the European Union to accept Ukraine as a member state via a special procedure.

"We appeal to the European Union regarding immediate accession of Ukraine via a new special procedure. We are grateful to our partners for being with us, but our goal is to be with Europeans and, most importantly, be with them as equals," Zelensky said in a video address on his Telegram channel.

Ukraine says 'immediate ceasefire, withdrawal of Russian troops' key issue of talks

Ukrainian President's office has said its main goal of talks with Russia is an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Russian troops. 

Ukraine delegation arrives at negotiations place with Russia

According to the latest reports, the Ukrainian delegation arrived at the place of negotiations with Russia by helicopter. 

Chairman of the "Servant of the People" faction David Arakhamia, Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksiy Reznikov, Advisor of the Head of the President's Office Mikhail Podolyak, First Deputy Head of the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group Andrey Kostin, Member of the Parliament Rustem Umerov and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Nikolai Tochitsky are part of Ukrainian delegation for peace talks with Russia in Belarus.

Russian forces take over two towns in southeast Ukraine: Report

Russian forces have reportedly taken over the towns of Berdyansk and Enerhodar in Ukraine's southeastern Zaporizhzhya region.

Ukraine denies Russian troops in control of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Ukraine’s state-run nuclear company Energoatom has denied reports that Russian forces have seized control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, according to a report by the Interfax Ukraine news agency.

UK Treasury imposes sanctions against Central Bank of Russia

The UK government has announced it intends to take further restrictive economic measures against Moscow over the developments in Ukraine by targeting the Central Bank of the Russian Federation (CBR).

The move, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in coordination with the Governor of the Bank of England, is taken "in concert with the US and the European Union", says the statement.

It is implemented in order to prevent the CBR from "deploying its foreign reserves in ways that undermine the impact of sanctions imposed by us and our allies, and to undercut its ability to engage in foreign exchange transactions to support the Russian rouble."

The UK Government has emphasised that it will ensure that all necessary steps will to bring into effect restrictions to prohibit any UK natural or legal persons from undertaking financial transactions involving the CBR, the Russian National Wealth Fund, and the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation. The UK Government intends to make further related designations this week, working alongside our international partners.

Syria supports Russia's operation in Ukraine

Western countries broke their promises to stop NATO’s eastward expansion and left Russia with no choice, Syrian Presidential Advisor Bouthaina Shaaban said in an interview with the Al Ekhbariya TV channel.

"The West failed to keep its promise concerning NATO’s eastward expansion and left Russia with no choice," she pointed out. "Had not Russia made the move, it could have suffered far more serious damage," Shaaban noted.

"Would the US let its neighboring country Mexico make an alliance with Russia?" she added.

According to the Syrian presidential advisor, "mankind needs to realize its need to establish a new world order" based on respect for the sovereignty of countries and international law.

"The world is fed up with Western hegemony," Shaaban emphasized.

Platform for Russia-Ukraine negotiations in Belarus prepared: Belarusian FM

The platform for the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in Belarus has been prepared, Belarusian foreign ministry spokesman Anatoly Glaz said on Monday, according to Sputnik. 

"The platform for negotiations between Russia and Ukraine in Belarus has been prepared, the arrival of delegations is expected," Glaz said, as quoted by the state-run Belta news agency.

The Belarusian side is ready to organize the process at any moment, the diplomat said, adding that the negotiations will begin as soon as all the delegations arrive at the meeting place.

Turkey to discuss Ukraine's demand to close Bosphorus strait

The Turkish Cabinet chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will discuss Ukraine's demand to close the Bosphorus strait for Russian warships on Monday.

Canada to send additional $25 million in protective military gear to Ukraine

The federal government committed to send at least $25 million in additional non-lethal military aid to Ukraine.

The deliveries will include helmets, body armour, gas masks and night vision gear. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said she was coordinating with her Polish counterpart to deliver shipments through the NATO member.

Myanmar supports Russian actions in Ukraine

Myanmar supports Russian actions with respect to Ukraine, including Moscow’s special military operation, and maintains that Russia has the right to defend its national interests, a spokesman for the Myanmar military Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, told Sputnik.

US to send anti-aircraft stinger missiles to Ukraine

South Korea joins SWIFT sanctions against Russia, bans exports of strategic items

South Korea has decided to tighten export controls against Russia by banning exports of strategic items, and join Western countries’ moves to block some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system, Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

FINA cancels World Junior Championships in Russia

Swimming’s global governing body FINA has called off the World Junior Swimming Championships that were set to take place in Kazan, Russia, in late August.

FINA said it had made the decision to cancel the biennial event after consulting athletes and stakeholders.

“FINA will not be holding any future events in Russia if this grave crisis continues,” the group added in a statement.

US to send anti-aircraft stinger missiles to Ukraine

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

US to send anti-aircraft stinger missiles to Ukraine

UN cannot ensure arrival of Russian delegation with Lavrov to UNHRC in Geneva: Zakharova

"The UN cannot ensure the arrival of the Russian delegation to Geneva for a meeting of the Disarmament Committee and the Human Rights Council, and this is the answer of the UN Secretary General," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

"Considering that now the countries that border us, the countries of Europe, have closed the skies for the passage of Russian aircraft, then, accordingly, of the board by which the Russian delegation should arrive in Geneva on Tuesday. I repeat once again: not participating in the exhibition of works and achievements, and not even in a conversation about very important environmental issues, but about the most urgent, the most important — disarmament and human rights," she added.

Australia to provide lethal military equipment to Ukraine

The Australian government said that it will provide lethal military equipment to Ukraine.

Australia has imposed sanctions on more than 350 Russian individuals, including Russia's Putin since Thursday. It has also targeted with sanctions 13 individuals and entities in Belarus, including that country’s defense minister, Viktor Khrenin.

Blasts reported in Ukraine’s Kyiv, Kharkiv

Blasts were heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and in the major city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection has said.

Kyiv had been quiet for a few hours prior to that, it said in a brief statement on the Telegram messaging app.

Meanwhile, air raid sirens were also heard in capital Kyiv, reports said.

EU chief says bloc wants Ukraine as member

Ukraine belongs in the European Union and the bloc would like to see the country be a part of it in time, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has told Euronews.

“Indeed over time, they belong to us. They are one of us and we want them in,” Von der Leyen said.

Her comments came hours after the 27-nation EU decided to supply weapons to Ukraine, a first in the bloc’s history.

US to send anti-aircraft stinger missiles to Ukraine

Zelensky tells UK’s Johnson that Next 24 hrs crucial for Ukraine

Ukranian President Zelensky told UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson by telephone that the next 24 hours are crucial for Ukraine, according to a Downing Street spokesperson.

Johnson said the UK and its allies would do everything possible to guarantee that defensive aid reached Ukraine, the spokesperson said in a statement.

Read all the updates from Sunday, February 27, here.

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