Russia - Ukraine war: gas prices, humanitarian corridors, ceasefire, Kyiv, NATO... | March 5
Russian invasion of Urkaine: latest news
Russian invasion of Ukraine: headlines
- Evacuation of Mariupol postponed over accusations of Russia breaking a partial ceasefire that was meant to allow humanitarian corridors out of Mariupol and Volnovakha.
- Ukraine President Zelenskyy condemns decision not to implement no-fly zone
- Russia ready to "bomb cities into submission", intelligence official tells CNN
- Ukraine can "absolutely" prevail over Russia - US secretary of state
- Gas prices in US soar, however 80% of Americas says US should stop importing Russian oil even if that means higher prices at the pump
What you need to know about the conflict
- How can I support the refugees fleeing war in Ukraine?
- China and Russia said their relationship had "no limits." Is the statement still true?
- What would happen if Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant exploded?
- Prolonged attack threatens the global supply of crops
- Zelenskyy, Zelensky or Zelenskiy? Why spelling is important to Ukrainians
- How long can Russia fight in Ukraine?
Related news articles:
UK intelligence says Russia targeting populated areas
British military intelligence said on Sunday that Russian forces were targeting populated areas in Ukraine but that the strength of resistance was slowing the Russian advance.
"The scale and strength of Ukrainian resistance continue to surprise Russia," British military intelligence said in an update. Russia "has responded by targeting populated areas in multiple locations, including Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol."
"Russia has previously used similar tactics in Chechnya in 1999 and Syria in 2016, employing both air and ground-based munitions," British military intelligence said.
Russia has repeatedly denied that it is targeting civilian areas.
US officials travel to Venezuela for talks
Senior US officials traveled to Venezuela on Saturday to meet with President Nicolas Maduro's government, seeking to determine whether Caracas is prepared to back away from its close ties to Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The trip is the highest-level US visit to Venezuela in years after the two countries broke diplomatic relations amid a campaign of US sanctions and diplomatic pressure aimed at ousting Maduro, a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia claims Ukraine is developing "dirty bomb"
Russian media cited an unnamed source on Sunday as saying that Ukraine was close to building a plutonium-based "dirty bomb" nuclear weapon, although the source cited no evidence.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, with the aim to "demilitarise" and "denazify" its pro-Western neighbour and prevent Kyiv from joining NATO.
The West, dismissing that rationale as a pretext, has responded with harsh sanctions on Moscow and heavy military and other aid to Kyiv.
The TASS, RIA and Interfax news agencies quoted "a representative of a competent body" in Russia on Sunday as saying Ukraine was developing nuclear weapons at the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear power plant that was shut down in 2000.
Ukraine's government has said it had no plans to rejoin the nuclear club, having given up its nuclear arms in 1994 following the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Shortly before the invasion, Putin said in a grievance-filled speech that Ukraine was using Soviet know-how to create its own nuclear weapons, and that this was tantamount to preparation for an attack on Russia. He cited no evidence for his claim.
US gas prices soaring
Gas prices are soaring across the US as the effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine bites on petroleum markets. Gas is now at over five dollars a gallon in some areas around the country, and in California prices over six have been registered. The national average stands at $3.92.
The price of gas has risen every day across the US since Russian forces invaded Ukraine and experts warn that the all-time record high could be broken in the coming days.
However 80% of Americans, according to a survey, would prefer the US to ban the import of Russian oil products even if that means higher gas prices.
Note too that higher gas prices tends to mean higher prices of anything that needs gas in its production or transportation, which is basically most goods and products in the economy.
Visa and Mastercard suspend operations in Russia
The two US payments giants, Visa and Mastercard, are both suspending operations in Russia over the invasion of Ukraine. President Biden welcomed the move (see below). Paypal announced its decision to suspend operations in Russia earlier in the day.
I've been looking for the actual number of users of Mastercard and Visa, but haven't got that number yet, however both companies report that around 4% of their total revenue is from Russia, so that's a fairly sizeable chunk of its business. (Russia, with 146 million people has 1.87% of the world population).
Russia does have a homegrown card payment system, known as MIR, but the withdrawal of Visa and Mastercard is still likely to cause yet more economic disruption to a Russian economy struggling with the sanctions and other measures imposed on it.
Biden's call with Zelenskyy
Here's the readout of President Biden's call with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine:
"President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke this evening with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine. President Biden highlighted the ongoing actions undertaken by the United States, its Allies and partners, and private industry to raise the costs on Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. In particular, he welcomed the decision this evening by Visa and Mastercard to suspend service in Russia. President Biden noted his administration is surging security, humanitarian, and economic assistance to Ukraine and is working closely with Congress to secure additional funding. President Biden reiterated his concern about the recent Russian attack on a Ukrainian nuclear power plant, and he commended the skill and bravery of the Ukrainian operators who have kept the reactors in safe condition. The leaders also discussed the recent talks between Russia and Ukraine."
Polish jets for Ukraine?
If Poland provide fighter jets to Ukraine, the US could then provide planes to make up for aircraft donated, under plans being looked at by the White House. A spokesperson said the US is currently determining what "capabilities we could provide to backfill Poland if it decided to transfer planes to Ukraine."
Poland has MiG fighter jets that Ukrainian pilots (see the Ghost of Kyiv) already know how to fly, meaning they could be operational rapidly once donated.
Zelenskyy pleads with US lawmakers for no-fly zone over Ukraine
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy (here's why it's a yy) spoke to US lawmakers on Saturday and while he thanked the US for the support shown so far, in particular the sanctions placed on Russia, he once again asked for the US to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
The US has so far ruled out putting such a measure in place, saying it could lead to "fully-fledged war in Europe" and Russia has warned they would consider that any country involved in a no-fly zone would be a party to the conflict.
Across the headlines in the last few days has been the Russian convoy that has been rolling towards Kyiv. However, despite being three dozen miles from the city a few days ago, it has yet to reach its target. The drive isn't long, which begs the question: how has the convoy not reached the city? The answer could point to how Russia has prepared for the conflict, and potential deficiencies in otherwise thorough planning stretching back years.
Mariupol siege on edge of disaster
Hundreds of thousands of people are trapped in the southern city, as the ceasefire collapsed after just 30 minutes as Russian troops opened fire on those trying to escape the city.
Mariupol deputy mayor Serhiy Orlov said, "The Russians are continuing to bomb us and use artillery. It is crazy. There is no ceasefire in Mariupol and there is no ceasefire all along the route."
"Our civilians are ready to escape but they cannot escape under shelling."
Putin threat to Ukrainian independence
The current leadership needs to understand that if they continue doing what they are doing, they risk the future of Ukrainian statehood. If that happens, they will have to be blamed for that.
A Saturday morning call between Ukrainian President Zelesnkyy and US lawmaker was supposed to garner further support for Ukraine in its war with Russia. However, making headlines are the actions of two senators which could endanger the life of Zelenskyy.
After being told before the meeting that sharing images of the Ukrainian president during the meeting could put his life at risk, Republican Senators Steve Daines and Marco Rubio posted screenshots to Twitter during the meeting. More than 280 Congressmen and women were in attendance to the Zoom call.
A useful tool to follow the progress if the war
Using a combination of maps and footage from inside Ukraine, The Sunday Times newspaper in the UK has created a digital timeline of events for the first ten days of the conflict.
All parts of the footage has been verified, though you will need a subscription to view it in its entirety.
Israeli PM meets Putin in Moscow
(Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on Saturday to discuss the Ukraine crisis, his spokesperson said.
Israel, home to a substantial population of Russian immigrants, has offered to mediate in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, though officials have previously played down expectations of a breakthrough.
While Israel, a close ally of the United States, has condemned the Russian invasion, voiced solidarity with Kyiv and sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine, it has said it will maintain communications with Moscow in the hope of helping to ease the crisis.
Italian and German public broadcasters suspend reporting in Russia
Italian state broadcaster RAI said today it was suspending operations in Russia to 'protect the safety' of its reporters after Moscow introduced a law threatening prison terms of up to 15 years for spreading what the government terms fake news. Germany's top public broadcasters ARD and ZDF joined them saying they had suspended coverage out of their respective Moscow studios 'for the time being'.
They joined a growing number of international media companies, including Britain's BBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Company and Bloomberg News, to halt reporting in Russia.
"This measure is necessary in order to protect the safety of journalists on the spot and (ensure) maximum freedom of information about the country," RAI said in a statement. It added that news on Russia would be provided by journalists working in neighbouring countries or back in Italy.
Earlier this week the United Nations overwhelmingly voted to pass a resolution decrying the invasion of Ukraine and calling for an immediate end to Russia’s military activities in the country.
The vote on Wednesday saw 141 of the UN’s 193 member states vote in favour of the resolution, while 35 countries opted to abstain from the vote. The only nations to vote against the resolution were Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria, along with Russia.
The resolution passed is not legally binding but it does present a formal confirmation of the worldwide outrage and opposition to the Russian invasion. It also highlighted the increasing isolation of Russia on the global stage. Those who voted in favour will hope that the resolution piles more pressure on Moscow to withdraw troops.
Twitter welcomes the city of Kyiv
Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv is now on Twitter. It annnounced itself just a few minutes ago.
'Welcome to the City of Courage, the epicenter of the struggle for freedom and democracy. Ukrainian or not, make your voice heard and fight the Russian aggression! #StandWithUkraine️'
Russian President Vladimir Putin continues his merciless invasion on neighbouring Ukraine, met with condemnation and severe sanctions from the West and other nations opposed to his regime’s actions. On the other side of this for-the-time-being localised war, stands President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a leader that has gained much admiration for his bravery in the David and Goliath battle.
But were you aware that Zelenskyy (if you’ve seen different spelling of his name read below for more info) was a famous comedian in Ukraine before entering politics?
Russia flying out UN diplomats expelled by US
A Russian flight was en route to Washington today to collect Russian diplomats who were expelled this week from their posts at the United Nations over US national security concerns, officials have said. Russia denies the allegations and says it will retaliate for their expulsion.
A Rossiya Special Flight Squadron is flying to Washington from St. Petersburg to bring the diplomats to Russia, foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.
"This plane will bring back home the Russian diplomats whom the Government of the United States has declared personae non grata," Zakharova said over Telegram.
Tensions have flared between Washington and Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine a week ago, fuelling Europe's biggest humanitarian disaster in decades. A State Department spokesperson said the United States approved a flight chartered by the Russian government to fly out Russian diplomats at the United Nations who were expelled for abuse of their privileges of residence.
"This special exception was done in accordance with federal regulations to ensure Russian mission personnel and their families departed by the date we had instructed," the spokesperson said.
Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 showed the Russian flight was due to arrive at Dulles International Airport, outside of Washington, around 2 p.m. ET.
Prayers for peace in Kyiv in sister city Kyoto
Japanese people offer flowers and pray for peace in Ukraine in front of the Ukraine monument at the Kyoto City Office in Kyoto, Japan this afternoon. Kyoto was twinned with Kyiv in September 1971. “Many invaluable lives are being lost in Ukraine at this moment,” Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa said.
(Photo: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)
Sergiy Stakhovsky, a former professional tennis player was on vacation in Dubai with his wife and three children, when he heard the news of the Russian attacks in Ukraine. He is a member of the army reserves and made the difficult decision to go back to his home country and defend the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv, leaving his family in their home in Hungary.
More than 350 civilians confirmed killed in Ukraine so far - UN
At least 351 civilians are confirmed to have been killed in Ukraine since Russian troops invaded on 24 February, and another 707 wounded, although the true numbers are probably "considerably higher", a UN monitoring mission said on Saturday.
Most of the civilian casualties were caused by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and from missile and air strikes, monitors from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said.
"OHCHR believes that the real figures are considerably higher, especially in Government-controlled territory and especially in recent days, as the receipt of information from some locations where intensive hostilities have been going on was delayed and many reports were still pending corroboration," it said.
The mission said hundreds of civilian casualties alleged in the town of Volnovakha - where attempts were under way to open a safe evacuation corridor through encircling Russian forces - were yet to be corroborated.
Evacuations from Mariupol, Volnovakha won't start on Saturday - ICRC
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it understood that evacuations of civilians from Mariupol and Volnovakha in Ukraine would not start on Saturday because of the conflict following Russia's invasion.
"We remain in dialogue with the parties about the safe passage of civilians from different cities affected by the conflict," the ICRC said in a statement. "The scenes in Mariupol and in other cities today are heart-breaking. Any initiative from the parties that gives civilians a respite from the violence and allows them to voluntarily leave for safer areas is welcome."
The Ukrainian government previously said the plan was to evacuate around 200,000 people from Mariupol and 15,000 from Volnovakha and the ICRC is the ceasefire's guarantor.
Ukraine says Russian shelling is blocking evacuations from eastern cities
Ukraine said on Saturday that Russian shelling of eastern cities including the port of Mariupol was preventing residents from evacuating the area in humanitarian corridors agreed at the last round of ceasefire talks. "The ongoing shelling makes it impossible to open humanitarian corridors for the safe evacuation of civilians and the delivery of medicines and food," said a foreign ministry statement. The ministry also said Russian allegations about Ukraine hobbling the evacuations "are not true and are misinformation to justify the criminal actions of the Russian army."
Putin says Western sanctions are akin to declaration of war
President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Western sanctions on Russia were akin to a declaration of war and warned that any attempt to impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine would be tantamount to entering the conflict.
Putin reiterated that his aims in Ukraine are to defend Russian speaking communities through the 'demilitarisation and de-Nazification' of the country so that it became neutral. Ukraine and Western countries have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for the invasion he launched on 24 February and have imposed a sweeping range of sanctions aimed at isolating Moscow.
"'These sanctions that are being imposed are akin to a declaration of war but thank God it has not come to that," Putin said, speaking to a group of women flight attendants at an Aeroflot training centre near Moscow.
NATO has rejected Kyiv's request for a no-fly zone, on the grounds it would escalate the war beyond Ukraine. Putin said there were no conscripts involved in the military operation, which he said was being carried out only by professional soldiers. "There is not one conscript and we don't plan for there to be," Putin said. "Our army will fulfill all the tasks. I don't doubt that at all. Everything is going to plan."
Putin dismissed concerns that some sort of martial law or emergency situation could be declared in Russia. He said such a measure was imposed only when there was significant internal or external threat. "We don't plan to introduce any kind of special regime on Russian territory - there is currently no need," Putin said. His government has clamped down on protests in Russia against the war.
"Russia's aggression in Ukraine has caused humanitarian crisis of an unimaginable scale. Our priority is organizing effective aid to hundreds of thousands and very soon to be millions of refugees. Poland has already received up to 700,000 refugees and will continue to do so for everyone that needs it - regardless of their nationality, race or religious creed. The attack on Ukraine has already transferred to Europe and it's sense of security. Poland decided to immediately raise it's defence spending budget to 3% of it's GDP, beginning next year"
Russia caps individuals' money transfers abroad
Russia's central bank has capped the amount of money Russians can send to family and relatives abroad at $5,000 per month, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Saturday, citing a letter from the regulator. Russian authorities have taken a series of measures to curb capital outflows amid Western sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia's attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant - and the fire it caused - has underlined the dangers of nuclear energy. But it's a power source that can help solve our carbon-emissions problem. As humanity attempts to limit global warming and, with it, the adverse effects of climate change, nuclear power has a role to play in providing a sustainable, low-carbon energy source.
Pregnant women and mothers with their newborn babies hide at the basement of a maternity hospital in Odessa, video shared by journalist Oleksiy Matsuka.
Russian airlines with foreign-leased planes told not to fly abroad from Sunday
Russia's state aviation authority on Saturday recommended Russian airlines with foreign-leased aicraft to suspend flights of passengers and cargo abroad from Russia from Sunday 6 March and from foreign countries to Russia starting on Tuesday 8 March. The European Union, Britain and United States and some other countries closed their airspace starting next week, part of a package of punitive measures after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russia's flagship carrier Aeroflot will stop all flights abroad with the exception of those to Belarus from Tuesday 8 March, the TASS news agency quoted the company as saying on Saturday.
Italy seizes oligarchs' villas and yachts in initial swoop
Italian police have seized villas and yachts worth at least 140 million euros ($153 million) from four high-profile Russians who were placed on an EU sanctions list following Moscow's attack on Ukraine, sources said on Saturday.
A police source said a villa owned by billionaire businessman Alisher Usmanov on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, and a villa on Lake Como owned by state TV host Vladimir Soloviev, had both been seized. In addition, sources confirmed that yachts belonging to Russia's richest man, Alexey Mordashov, and Gennady Timchenko, who has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, were impounded overnight in northern Italian ports.
Russian oligarchs are believed to have bought numerous villas in choice Italian locations over the past 20 years and sources said more assets were expected to be seized in coming days as Western states implement massive sanctions to try to force Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. Italian banks were instructed by the Bank of Italy's financial intelligence division on Friday to urgently let it know of all measures taken to freeze the assets of people and entities placed on the EU list.
Uzbekistan-born metals and telecoms tycoon Usmanov is well known in Italy for owning multiple properties on Sardinia, while Italian media say Mordashov owned a villa worth some 66 million euros ($72 million) on the same island. Taking into account the assets of his whole family, Forbes magazine estimates that Mordashov had an estimated net worth of $29.1 billion before sanctions hit. His 65 metre (215 ft) yacht the 'Lady M' had a price tag of 65 million euros and was impounded in the northwest port of Imperia, while Timchenko's boat Lena was worth some 50 million euros and was seized in nearby Sanremo, a judicial source said.
Ukraine's athletes put a difficult week behind them as they clinched seven medals including three golds in biathlon to move to the top of the medal table on an emotional first day at the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympics on Saturday.
Donetsk regional chief says evacuation postponed as Russians not observing ceasefire
The head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, has announced that the evacuation of Mariupol has been delayed as Russians military forces are not observing the temporary ceasefire declared by both sides earlier on Friday.
“EVACUATION OF PEACEFUL POPULATION FROM MARIUPOL POSTPONED!” Kyrylenko posted on Twitter. “Due to the fact that the Russians do not observe the regime of silence and continue shelling of Mariupol and its environs, for security reasons, the evacuation of the population has been postponed.”
As Russian troops stormed the nuclear facility at Zaporizhzhia, Ukrainian officials warned an accident there would be ten times worse than Chernobyl.
Fox News' Tucker Carlson has faced a backlash over comments supporting Putin in the lead up to the Russian invasion. Has he changed his tune?
Musk says Starlink asked to "block Russian news sources"
Elon Musk says the Starlink satellite company, which is run by Musk's SpaceX, has been asked to "block Russian news sources". In a tweet on Friday, the tech billionaire said the request had been made by "some governments", but clarified that Ukraine was not among these administrations. He said he had declined to, adding he would not do so "unless at gun point".
Russia ready to "bombard cities into submission"
CNN has quoted a senior Western intelligence official as saying Russia is preparing to “bombard cities into submission”, in an escalation of the war that could lead to increased civilian casualties.
"It's a very crude approach," the official said. "The heavier weapons are not just heavier in the weight, they're also heavier in terms of the damage that they can inflict. And they're far less discriminant."
"Take people with you, fill the transport as much as possible"
Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration, has pleaded with civilians to do everything they can to help as many others out of the cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha, where Russians have agreed to a temporary partial ceasefire to open a humanitarian corridor.
“Take people with you, fill the transport as much as possible,” Kyrylenko said on his Twitter account. “It is STRICTLY FORBIDDEN to deviate from the route of the humanitarian corridor. There will be several stages of evacuation in a few days so that everyone can do it.”
Kyrylenko added: "We are negotiating with the Russian side to confirm the regime of silence along the entire route of evacuation of civilians from Mariupol. I emphasize again: believe only the OFFICIAL information."
Blinken: Ukraine can "absolutely" defeat Russia
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he is “absolutely” convinced that Ukraine can prevail over Russia “over time”.
In an interview with the BBC, Blinken said: “Of course it’s true that the weight of the Russian military, if it puts everything into it, far exceeds that of what Ukraine’s able to muster. But I don’t think you can fully evaluate what the will of the Ukrainian people is, and the impact that that has. And think about it this way, too. If it’s the intention of Moscow to try somehow to topple the government and install its own puppet regime, 45 million Ukrainians are going to reject that. One way or the other.
“Over time, absolutely [I’m convinced Ukraine can win]. I can’t tell you how long this will go on, I can’t tell you how long it will take. But the idea that Russia can subjugate to its will 45 million people who are ardently, ardently fighting for their future and their freedom, that does not involve Russia having its thumb on Ukraine, that tells you a lot.”
UK intelligence update on Ukraine war
In its latest intellgience update on the war in Ukraine, the UK’s Ministry of Defence says the rate of Russian air and artillery strikes has been lower over the past 24 hours. It adds that Ukraine remains in possession of the key cities of Kharkhiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol, but says it is “highly likely” that the cities are “encircled by Russian forces”.
Ukrainian confirmation of partial ceasefire
Here is the confirmation from Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelenskyy, of the partial ceasefire:
Russian statement confirming partial ceasefire
This is the Russian defence ministry's statement earlier on Saturday, confirming the partial ceasefire to allow two humanitarian corridors to be opened up. "From 1000 am Moscow time (0700 GMT), the Russian side declares a ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to leave Mariupol and Volnovakha," the ministry said, per Reuters, which cited Russian news agencies. Ukraine has also confirmed the ceasefire.
Russia-Ukraine war: live updates
Good morning and welcome to AS USA's live blog on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where a partial ceasefire has been declared on Saturday, to allow humanitarian corridors out of the cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha. We'll bring you more on that, and all the other main developments in Ukraine, throughout the day.